Review: Grudem, Politics According to the Bible

politics

Grudem, Wayne. Politics According to the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.

This book was a pleasure to read. It combined warm piety with robust, pinpointing analysis. It addressed almost every relevant issue. As it was written in 2010, it is dated in a few respects, but even then it is quite interesting for the snapshot approach for where it sees America going. Indeed, I found myself reading the section on the Supreme Court, and Grudem’s passionate call for pro-life justices, at the same time that Justice Kavanaugh was being assaulted by the Principality of Moloch.

Grudem bases Govt in the Noahic covenant. There must be government to carry out the death penalty, as the family couldn’t do it. In God’s requiring death as the maximum possible penalty (demand a reckoning) he logically established the validity of lesser penalties for lesser crimes.

He somewhat cooks the evidence for a democratic govt. I believe there are cases where a democratic govt is wise, but the Bible ultimately doesn’t care. He is correct that popular involvement is a good thing in policy, but that can be found under a variety of systems. In any case, 50% + 1 of the population can tyrannize a minority as effectively as any monarch.

He has a great section on a godly patriotism. Nations are legitimate because: God has established nations on the earth (Gen. 10Acts 17:26Job 12.23). Nations divide and disperse govt power throughout the earth, providing a check against a one-world govt (110).

Patriotism is good because: A sense of belonging to a community. Sure, our primary sense of belonging is to the church. Gratitude for the benefits a nation provides. Gratitude is a virtue and should be practiced. A shared sense of pride in the achievements of others. This isn’t my glorying in their achievements, but my rejoicing in their achievements. A sense of pride for the good things a nation has done. A sense of obligation to serve the nation under the commonweal.

Ethic of Life

He has a moving defense of pro-life. He also deals with issues like ectopic pregnancies, which nuance is often beyond the typical AHA screeds.

My only quibble is that he never really defines what personhood is. He ties it indirectly with the image of God, and that’s true, but we really don’t have a definition. He also takes guys like Jim Wallis to task. When pacifists say, “Abortion is bad but we should care about all these life-issues,” what they are really doing is changing the subject and avoiding the question.

The reader is also encouraged to consult John Frame’s Doctrine of the Christian Life, pp.717-732, which Grudem also references.

Civil Govts Should Define Marriage for All Citizens

Govt is to restrain evil, bring good to society, and bring order to society (221). Marriage, therefore, falls under this rubric. Further, no other institution has the jurisdiction to do this for an entire society (221). Without such a definition, there would be a proliferation of children due to polygamy.

Economics

Thesis: The Bible defends a system where property belongs to the people (262). This is implied in 8th commandment.

“On reason why communism is so incredibly dehumanizing is that when private property is abolished, govt controls all activity. And when govt controls all activity, it controls what you buy, where you will live, what job you will have (and therefore what job you are allowed to train for, and therefore where you will go to school), and how much you will earn. It essentially controls all of life, and human liberty is destroyed” (262).

God’s giving property to human beings is found in our being in the image of God. Economic development is also tied into the image of God. We develop and produce more of the goods from a land. Materialism is bad, but material productivity is good. “When the wealth of a nation increases, it becomes easier to fulfill many of God’s commands” (271).

National Defense

Grudem gave the standard just war treatment. He also dealt with the thorny issues of pre-emptive strikes, wiretapping, and interrogation. Did a fine job. I’m not as bothered by wiretapping as others, simply because I have always known the govt did it.

I can even go with a more positive view of the CIA, provided we make a few provisos.

So what about “interrogation?” Simply causing “discomfort” to someone doesn’t count as torture. Here are several things that are always wrong to do to an enemy:

1. To commit actions that are in themselves always immoral, such as raping a prisoner, or cutting off fingers, toes

2.To deny medical treatment

3.To carry out acts of sadistic humiliation

4.To attempt to force a prisoner to violate religious convictions that pose no threat to the U.S. or its defense

5.To carry out actions that would shock the conscience of a U.S. court and cause lasting physical damage

Here are things that are acceptable:

1. Acute pain that causes no permanent damage (ie. pressure points, etc.) .The Bible approves of the infliction of pain to compel right action in children, why not terrorists? (Prov. 13:24; see also 22:15; 23:13–14; 29:15).

2. Sodium Pentathol

3. Waterboarding – performed on our own troops in SERE training, Senate rejected amendment to make illegal, no permanent damage caused when used within appropriate guidelines. Obama issued executive order to cease its use.

Problems with Grudem’s Analysis

He says that John Frame and Vern Poythress are theonomists (66). That is incorrect. They have published books criticizing theonomy, especially Poythress. Yes, they have stronger views on God’s law than say, RTS Jackson. But they aren’t theonomists.

In his otherwise fine chapter on the Supreme Court, Grudem bemoans that our founders would never have dreamed of such judicial activism (135). This isn’t entirely true. Certainly, even the more radical founders like Hamilton would have looked in horror upon a Ginsberg, but the Federalist Papers certainly give the Supreme Court that power, at least implicitly. Grudem restricts his analysis and never considers the pointed arguments of The Anti-Federalist Papers.

This book was written before the rise of ISIS, so much of his analysis on the future of the Middle East must be taken with a grain of salt. He argues that Muslim nations can function as democracies and that this would stop radical Islam. The problem is that the nations he mentions have long promoted terror and do not allow religious liberty to Christians (Turkey, Pakistan, etc.).

About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
This entry was posted in American Evangelicalism, Book Review, Economics, politics, theology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Review: Grudem, Politics According to the Bible

  1. cal says:

    It seems you’ve totally lost your mind on this one.

    Like

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