Faithful Politics

Being faithful with our politics, not political with our faith.

The Supremacy of Scripture in Political Theology

Scripture is our ultimate authority. For the Believer, this simple statement seems basic enough. Christians of all walks throughout history have affirmed this austere truth, with only a few minor exceptions. But what does it mean for the Bible to be our ultimate authority? More specifically, what does it mean for the Bible to be our ultimate authority in our political engagement?

Too often in life we unknowingly let our backgrounds and biases influence our decision making, especially in the realm of politics. What we grew up with, what we were taught in school, what we find trendy, all of these factors collide with each decision we make. But as Christians we claim to hold to a higher standard, an unmovable standard: the Bible. We proudly claim that the Bible is the centerpiece of our lives, and if we are asked, we would also affirm that the Bible is our guide when it comes to our political involvement. Tragically, however, it seems that this is not entirely true. For many of us the stream flows the wrong way. Our political outlook influences our interpretation of Scripture instead of the other way around.

In their popular work, Jesus for President, Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw attempt to carve a framework for a political theology. Using an immense amount of Scripture citations, they try to convince the reader that their political philosophy is a truly biblical one. But in numerous places we find them bending and abusing Scripture in order to make it fit their desired outcome. God refusing to let David build the Temple is said to be because Yahweh likes sleeping in a tent and being close to poor people, instead of what the passage really says, that David had too much blood on his hands to erect God’s Holy Temple. The tragedy of this example isn’t found in the fact that the authors are saying God loves the poor, for that can certainly be proved from countless other places. Rather, it is the disrespect, the bending of the text to make it say what they want to hear that is truly startling. But we cannot merely point the finger at these two men as if the blame stopped there. All too frequently our pastors, politicians and friends, yes, even ourselves, succumb to the same temptation, the temptation to hear our own voice louder than Scripture’s.

At the core this problem is a result of pride, the temptation to believe that our way of thinking is best. And by the looks of things, we are all infected. This infection is spread through the social enclaves that we are all a part of. We surround ourselves with likeminded people, people who also read the Bible the way we do, encouraging us to keep making the same hermeneutical errors. But there is a solution, and it is called the Body of Christ. The Body is incredibly diverse. Full of people from all backgrounds and biases; backgrounds and biases different from our own. And bumping into these people not only helps us work through our biases, but it also has the same affect on them. This principle only serves to highlight how important it is that we all adhere to the unmoving standard of Holy Scripture. We can work towards unity in the body, even in our politics, but only if we agree to approach the Bible humbly, allowing God’s word to shape our lives instead of a blind following of our chosen political philosophy.

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  1. Well said friend. I'd love to hear more details of what you thought was stretching scripture in Jesus For President. I just read it once through when it came out and felt it seemed fairly accurate in it's scripture backing.
    What did you think of their view of Revelations as a commentary on their current events, not an end times apocalyptic reading?

    Still dig your post and count on you and others to be the Body of Christ pushing and pulling me from wandering down my own beaten path.


  2. Ariah, thanks for your kind words, it is great to hear from you!

    As for "Jesus for President," there are so many examples of them abusing Scripture, I feel a little like a mosquito in a nudist colony, I don't know where to begin! The core of the problem comes down to their basic hermeneutic, they read Scripture as if its central theme is God's opposition to power and power structures, then after they put that rabbit into their hat, they can then impress everyone with what they pull out. But the Bible is not about God's opposition to power, it is about God's plan for Salvation History.

    Similarly it is popular right now for people to say that Christ's central theme was the poor, or helping the oppressed, when clearly Christ's main theme was a proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven. Poverty and oppression are certainly subsets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but they are not the central theme. Whenever anyone abuses the Bible in either one of these ways the Church has a responsibility to correct such errors.

    As for their view of Revelation, to be honest I haven't got that far yet in the book. I was telling Keane the other day that this is absolutely the worst book I have ever read, and it takes me a while to get through it when I have to put it down after several pages before I break something! But from my classes I am familiar with that argument, usually it comes from equating the Beast with Caesar and other similar comparisons. But properly understanding the genre of Revelation (apocalyptic) shows that in addition to pointing out similarities with current events it is also addressing the end of time.

    Sorry this is so long! Hope you and your family are doing well.


  3. So, I know it will turn into a book, but I'd love a point by point or just chapter by chapter summary of your rebuttals.

    I really appreciated what you just wrote, and I feel like I should take a second read of the book with fresh eyes and your perspectives in mind.

    I agree with your point that the basic hermeneutic is about salvation, not about God's opposition to power, and I guess I didn't see them saying it was that over salvation, just that opposing the powers is a secondary but very important theme. Maybe they go to far and I missed it.

    I'll be eager to hear your thoughts on the Revelations chapters.

    Have you ever read Walter Wink, The Powers That Be? Maybe put that on your list next. I read that a while back (before "helping the oppressed" was popular, at least I think it was before) and it shaped some of my theological views. I'd be really curious as to what you think of it's perspective.

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