In my last post, I suggested that the role of the pulpit in preparing a congregation for the upcoming presidential election is more complex than simply identifying relevant biblical values at stake in the election and offering corroborating textual support. Instead, we need to offer a theological matrix whereby the believer may successfully identify the most relevant concerns and weigh them appropriately. In short, it is the pastor’s responsibility to develop and communicate a biblical worldview that allows the believer to recognize and promote God’s expectations in areas where specific biblical guidance is not forthcoming. Note the following:
(1) The matrix begins with the realization that, in this dispensation at least, the spheres governed by Caesar and the church, respectively, are distinct (Matt 22:21). The church has no place in normalizing the legislation, adjudication, or execution of civic initiatives; nor has civil government any place in normalizing the doctrine and praxis of the church.
(2) This does not mean, however, that the church is prohibited from speaking to civic issues. Since the Scriptures contain information relative to civil structures and God’s purposes for instituting them, it follows that the pastor who preaches the “whole counsel of God” must necessarily address God’s intentions relative to human government just as surely as he must necessarily address God’s intentions relative to His other major civil institution: the family.
(3) The Scriptures effectively describe believers as being citizens of two kingdoms—citizens of heaven and participants of this world’s civic structures. Christians are both members of churches and citizens of nations. But it is important to note that these two spheres, while in some senses independent of one another, both fall under the broad jurisdiction of our sovereign God—and he has told us in his Word how both spheres (which he himself has designed—Rom 13:1) are ideally to function.
(4) This being concluded, the first function of the pulpit relative to the American presidential election is to inform believers what God explicitly expects human government, following the dictates of natural law, to accomplish. This information may be discovered in NT texts such as Romans 13:1–7; 1 Timothy 2:1–2; and 1 Peter 2:13–17. Specifically detailed here are the following functions of civil government:
- Civil government is to correctly distinguish what is wrong from what is right and to employ appropriate means to inhibit the former (capitally and militarily, as necessary) and establish the latter (Rom 13:3–5; 1 Pet 2:14).
- Civil government is to maintain a civic milieu that allows God’s ecclesiastical sphere to operate freely (1 Tim 2:2; 1 Pet 2:15). This function probably includes additional spheres (e.g., the social and economic spheres), but the Scriptures specifically mention only one of these spheres: the ecclesiastical sphere.
- Civil government is to collect taxes to achieve these goals (Rom 13:6–7; Matt 22:21).
I hasten to add that this list is by no means described as comprehensive in nature. Further, the texts in view demand submission even if civic governments exceed these appointed purposes. What is important, however, is that these are God’s only explicitly revealed purposes for his creation of human government. God’s people need to know this. And the pulpit is a viable place for communicating this.
(5) The second function of the pulpit relative to the American presidential election is to encourage God’s people to apply due diligence to select the candidate who is most likely to accomplish God’s revealed purposes for civil government. While pastoral tact and knowledge of one’s specific audience must of course govern the specificity with which a pastor will accomplish this second function, I have found this clip from a recent sermon delivered by John MacArthur to be instructive to this end.
Conclusion: To summarize, then, the pastor’s function relative to the presidential election differs very little from his function relative to any responsibility that church members have in the civil realm. He exposes the relevant texts, fits his discoveries into a theological system/worldview, and suggests appropriate applications.