Friday, October 10, 2008

How Should We Then Vote?

In his article entitled "Church or Political Action Committee?" Michael Horton contrasts the evangelical, Catholic, and Reformed positions with respect to the role of church in the political arena. Concerning the former he argues that, despite the media's portrayal of church leaders like Rick Warren's P.E.A.C.E. Plan as a departure for evangelicals into broader and deeper political waters than its former leaders like Jerry Falwell swam, it is really nothing new. Men like nineteenth-century revivalist Charles Finney have been there and done that (Finney actually insisted that the church was a society of moral reformers).

Catholics, according to Horton, have "always advocated a broad and active role of the church in cultural affairs," comparing it with Protestant liberalism and its "mandate to create just societies."

As far as the involvement in political affairs of Reformed churches is concerned, Horton asks:

"What makes us think that the church as an institution can meet all of the legitimate needs for community, neighborhood, and social concern that God has designed to be spread across the insitutions that he ordained in creation? Why must one conclude that because they have been entrusted with the special ministry of Word and sacrament and the special message that is 'the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes,' pastors and churches are called to solve every human problem? What authorization do pastors or churches have to endorse candidates and pronounce on public policies?"
This position is a direct result of the Reformed understanding of ecclesiastical authority. If ministers of the Word are authorized only to proclaim rather than legislate, then it follows that our statements be limited to what the Word of God actually says. This being the case, we have no warrant to opine from the pulpit concerning this or that civil issue. In fact, some have argued that to (ab)use the ministry in this way actually serves to trivialize the sacred and sacralize the secular.

The gospel, in other words, is too precious to be exchanged for an earthly party agenda, whether on the left or the right.