Politics According to the Bible? image

Politics According to the Bible?

At this year's Together on a Mission conference in Brighton, I was part of the team that took three seminars reflecting on different Christian authors. Having looked at John Piper and NT Wright’s understanding of justification, and then Bill Johnson’s view on healing, the lot fell to me to lead the discussion of Wayne Grudem’s Politics According to the Bible.

I’m afraid I gave it a fairly harsh review, for, despite Grudem’s greatly appreciated contribution to Newfrontiers, I felt there were significant limitations in this volume.
One of the issues we kept circling back to was the extent to which Grudem was an unwitting slave to his political presuppositions. To me, this seemed very obvious, and I would have been more comfortable had Grudem titled the book “Grudem’s Political Theology” as this would have made it clear it reflected his views, rather than the more definitive sounding Politics According to the Bible. On issues such as national defence, the environment and the economy it seemed to me that Grudem was working much more from cultural presuppositions than from balanced exegesis.
The challenge we chewed on, however, was to what extent we too were slaves to our own presuppositions. You see, it tends to be relatively easy to spot the presuppositions of others, but much more tricky to identify one’s own.
A good example of this would be the attitude to firearms. Grudem has a very culturally American (or a certain strand of American) approach to guns, which he acknowledges his British friends might find odd. In the UK, our cultural presupposition is that guns are bad, and people shouldn’t have them, whereas a large proportion of the American electorate are ‘pro-gun’.
I was reflecting on this having given the seminar and remembered the quote by George Orwell that, “That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer’s cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.” Now Orwell was a famous lefty, not an American neo-con, but his understanding was that an armed citizenry was a safeguard against oppressive government.
Which is rather challenging to normal British lefty presuppositions.
I consider Politics According to the Bible to be a significantly flawed book, but to what extent is that a reflection of my presuppositions banging up against Grudem’s presuppositions? To what extent is the typical snooty European reaction to American conservatism more one of culture than rational analysis? It can be hard to say.
As this is a blog post I am meant to bring things to a conclusion with some pithy observation (rather as the sainted Wilson did in his post on the seminar he led at TOAM). However, I’m not sure I can do so – other than to observe that we all need to be jolly careful about our presuppositions! Practically, this might mean we read NT Wright as well as John Piper, Don Carson as well as Bill Johnson, and Jim Wallis as well as Wayne Grudem. It might also mean that we are prone to expressing generosity towards one another more quickly than criticism.
I think it means these things – but I still don’t much like this book!

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