Conservative Christian, Liberal Politics?

   I’ve been waiting for a book like this for a long time: Carl Trueman’s Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative.  I’ve often felt out-of-place among Christians when it comes to politics, since I don’t buy the scare tactics and logic of Fox News and those talk shows like it, since I don’t equate Christianity and American capitalism and ideals, and since I hesitate to vote Republican.  The premise of Trueman’s book sold me from the outset.  Here it is.

“Conservative Christianity does not require conservative politics or conservative cultural agendas” (p. xix).

Here are a few more parts that I appreciate.  Trueman says that one reason he wrote the book is because he’s afraid the evangelical church is “in danger of alienating a significant section of its people…through too tight a connection between conservative party politics and Christian fidelity” (p. xx).  Furthermore,

“The gospel cannot and must not be identified with partisan political posturing” (p. xxv).

“I believe that on certain issues there is no obviously ‘Christian’ position” (p. 18).

“The politics of nations and the destiny of God’s people, the church, must never be identified.”  “We have no basis for absolutizing the social organization and the attendant institutions, practices, and values of our passing present than anybody in ages past” (p. 35, 67).

“Christians must realize that capitalism has brought great goods in its wake; but it is not an unmixed blessing, and some of the things about which Christians become most hot under the collar, from the reshaping of the family to the ease of access to abortion, are not unconnected to the system that they often admire with so little critical reflection” (p. 77).

In this book, Trueman talks about the “unbiased” new reporting of Fox (I chuckle just writing that) and shows that Fox isn’t all it’s cut out to be.  He also talks about capitalism with a level (and not idolatrous) head and wrestles with the odd notion of America as God’s nation.  I also appreciated the part where he explains the lack of logic and reason in political arguments – politics in America is more about looks and style than real political agenda (how else could Sarah Palin actually get a vote?).  He also argues well, in my opinion, that politics isn’t as black and white (Republican v Democrat) as many commentators and Americans like to think. 

I’ll be getting a few extra copies of this book to give out; I really think this should be in the library of solid Christians who are also into politics.  It is an easier read, and just 110 pages.  Also, the price is right – $5.99 right now at the WTS bookstore.  Enjoy it, even if you disagree!

shane lems

18 thoughts on “Conservative Christian, Liberal Politics?”

  1. I just received my copy in the mail. This has whetted my appetite to dive in! Also makes a nice follow-up to the quotes from Newbigin you posted yesterday.

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  2. I like this blog, but I was discouraged by this particular post. I was especially bothered by your comment that the only reason Sarah Palin (note, I am NOT a supporter) received votes was because of looks and style, implying that she doesn’t represent a concrete agenda (which is factually untrue, by the way). I’m sorry that you are uncomfortable with conservative politics, but I think that was a disrespectful comment. Now, I would agree that there is a lack of logic and reason in political discourse, but how else could Barack Obama get elected? See how petty that statement is? By stating it that way, you’re engaging in the same discourse you’re critical of. You are a better thinker than that, and I would encourage you to consider rephrasing the above.

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    1. David:

      Point well taken. I was being a bit crass on purpose; it was meant to be sarcastic and a bit cynical (note the context of the statement). I didn’t mean any disrespect. In fact, you could put a whole host of other political names in that comment. Even if I overstated the point, I think it is valid, however – no ugly woman with well-reasoned ‘above the belt’ politics will ever get elected President (would she?). Also (I ask this in a gentle tone) would you have reacted if I had used the name of a very liberal Democrat instead of Palin?

      I do encourage you to read the book; Trueman makes those cases in a much better way than I can! I will change the post if I broke a commandment, by the way. I don’t see that I have, but I’m not perfect.

      Hope this helps
      shane

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      1. Thanks,

        I did find it helpful. I didn’t catch the tone correctly, so that was my bad. It’s a sticky subject to be sure, and I have to admit, if you would have stuck Al Franken’s name in there, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. Thanks for the reality check.

        We’re in a hot political climate now, so kudos for posting this and being willing to take the heat.

        You guys do a great job here, and I will get the book. Cheers!

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  3. I read this article over several times just to be sure it was truly as bizarre as I initially perceived it to be!
    It is puzzling to me whether Mr. Trueman or Mr. Lems is either deaf, blind, apathetic or simply ignorant.
    Why not buy copies of Obama’s books to give away as well? Fantasy clearly seems to interest you and accuracy is of minimal importance at best.
    The American public has slept soundly in our Lord and Savior’s magnanimous blessings on our nation for over a century allowing lthe ugly Leviathan in DC to grow far beyond what our Constitution outlines. It may now be nearly impossible to recover our freedom (s) once again.
    We have allowed the incredibly miserable choices (for the most part) that we are presented with each election cycle, whether Demopublican or Republocrat. We must passionately and humbly pray similarly to Daniel 9:1-19 while yet living in a time akin to Daniel 4:17.

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    1. Hi Larry. Thanks for stopping by.

      You’re welcome to disagree, but I’m not sure how this comment really adds to the discussion here in the reading room: “It is puzzling to me whether Mr. Trueman or Mr. Lems is either deaf, blind, apathetic or simply ignorant.”

      Maybe where you’re from, these aren’t considered to be cheap pot-shots, but most of us tend to see this sort of response as fairly unhelpful. How about fill in some of the details to your critique of Trueman and Lems rather than a brief allusion to the book of Daniel?

      I happen to agree with you; the federal government is completely out of control and needs to be trimmed back. (Yes, I have libertarian leanings.) But frankly, my belief that this is important has next to nothing to do with my confessional convictions. I think it is just smarter … good natural law-type stuff.

      Go ahead and fill us in on some of your ideas here. We’re more interested in dialogue than in bald assertions. Criticise away, just make sure to show your work and do so in a spirit of open-minded discussion.

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    2. Hi Larry,
      I don’t think Shane is advocating a particular political view. What I think he’s trying to say is whatever your view happens to be, you need to do two things:

      #1. Make sure you think thoughtfully and critically about your political views, whatever they are, and not just buy into everything your favorite political source says unconditionally. Just because the source claims to be christian doesn’t make it perfect, or even the better choice. We must not idolize our ideologies or political theories, which being creations of man are always imperfect (and yes, this even includes the constitution, which I love dearly!)

      #2. Remember that other God fearing, Bible believing christians may have come to different conclusions about these issues, and you shouldn’t view them as evil or ignorant just because that is the case. I imagine the political views of the early church fathers (if they really had much of them) would seem very strange to us today. :-)

      Anyway, that’s my general take on the issue anyway. The book sounds like a really interesting read to me.

      Pat

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  4. Hello Shane and Andrew,
    I was sort of chuckling as I read this post realizing you had gotten a couple of comments already. Taking a deep breath, I clicked on the comments, to see you had gotten yourself into. LOL

    This is one of the reasons I like your blog. It’s an adventure!

    I did, however, have something of a knee-jerk reaction, to this one statement in particular:

    “The politics of nations and the destiny of God’s people, the church, must never be identified.”

    Since I am not reading this in the context of Trueman’s book, I may not be understanding this statement accurately. But it seems that it is a very dangerous business to completely segregate national politics and Biblical thinking in which the destiny of God’s people is always (or at least should always be) in view. Being Evangelical Christians, of which, there are many politicians who would profess to be thus, how could we ever abandon that identification? We are either bound to the world, or we are bound to Christ, and therefore slaves either to righteousness or unrighteousness.

    Many of the founding fathers of The United States certainly did identify these two categories together, insomuch that they believed the success of this nations politics relied on God’s people being faithful to their Master.

    Anyway, please correct me if I am misunderstanding Trueman’s meaning here. And thank you for your blog and your transparency.

    God Bless!
    Brandon

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    1. Brandon;
      Appreciate the tone, brother. We do try to get people to think, and this time I wasn’t afraid to ruffle a few political feathers (or slap around the sacred political cow, as someone once said) to get you all to think! I wasn’t trying to be a maverick (pun intended). We’re thankful for interlocutors like yourself.

      Trueman isn’t arguing for Christians to leave their presuppositions at the door when engaging in politics. He was, however, calling into question some widespread assumptions that the US is God’s favored nation. Go to Amazon and check out the Patriot’s Bible – you can see parts of it online (let me know when you do – I’d love to see/hear your reaction!). That is exactly what Trueman was completely against: putting a list of the fifty states and bits of the US constitution in the opening pages of a Bible, and Colin Powell’s words next to Jesus’ in John 3.

      The danger with melding the Church with a certain nation, political party, or cultural ideology is this: what happens when the nation, political party, or cultural ideology sputters and falls? The Church becomes the laughingstock. Some people used to think the feudal system was ‘Christian,’ but it wasn’t. We should be careful not make the same mistake with capitalism and democracy. Though we can be very thankful for the freedoms that we have (including prayers for peace and engaging in community service to protect our freedoms) the gospel and the church can survive without the U.S.

      One more item for thought: I could be wrong here, but based on my studies, the cult of Mormonism would absolutely love the Patriot’s Bible.

      Hope this helps, Brandon. Again, thanks for the charitable tone. We appreciate your comments!

      shane

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      1. Shane,
        Thank you for the kind words. And also for expounding a little more on Trueman’s meaning here. It definitely makes more sense to me now.

        Also, I went to Amazon…

        I hate thematic Bibles! I think it’s as cheap as using movie clips in the worship service to get people interested in the message. Why do we think that God’s Word needs help to be more appealing?

        As I started looking through “The American Patriots Bible” (btw, a title that has too many qualifiers) I realized that it is trying to sell propaganda rather than the Gospel. It might have been a good concept if it had been an American history book with a Biblical perspective, but not a Bible with an American perspective. There is way too much pride in it. I could go into examples from what I read that I will not belabor here…except for one, and this one I think is epidemic in the American enculturated churches of today. What shocked me about this quote is it’s order; from the Introduction:

        “If you love America and the Scriptures, you will love this Bible.”

        I believe that the ideology that was once America was born out of a reverence for the Scriptures, and now with the quote above, it would seem that the Scriptures have become second (at best) and subject to the American ideology of today.

        In short, I agree with you. God is not a side-taker, He is the great I AM. He is nothing more, but isn’t that really everything? Something of a paradox perhaps.

        Thanks again Shane! I hope I didn’t go into more of a rant than was welcomed, but I certainly wanted to let you know what I thought of the APB.

        Blessings,
        Brandon

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  5. Hey guys, I’m sure you don’t want this to degenerate into a debate on Sarah Palin, but here goes…

    I voted for McCain/Palin in 2008, but I think your comment was right on and not at all disrespectful. Ms. Palin lost all credibility with me when she resigned in the middle of her term as governor to become fabulously wealthy as a TV talking head and celebrity speaker. Her rise has much more to do with our entertainment-driven celebrity culture than it has to do with serious engagement with the issues. Witness her recent appearance on Dancing With the Stars. To put it another way, she’s no Margaret Thatcher.

    For all the contempt directed at Nancy Pelosi, at least she spent decades paying her dues in public service before getting to where she is now.

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  6. For those who are interested in learning more about Trueman’s new book, Kevin DeYoung has an appreciative, yet nuanced and critical at several key points review of Republacrat. Here’s the link–http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/10/19/republocrat-a-review/#comments.

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  7. Shane,

    I’m teaching on the 2 Kingdoms right now in my adult Sunday School class, so I was particularly interested in this book, but I have very limited time right now.

    So, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind answering 3 questions for me (I’m posting them here because I think the answers may also be helpful for your readers):

    1) Does Truman directly address Christian Liberty in relationship to these issues? I’ve read quite a bit on this topic recently and that is one area that I find either implied or, sadly, lacking.

    2) Does Truman distinguish between the institutional church and individual Christians with regards to interaction in the public sphere?

    3) In your estimation, would this be an appropriate book for a fairly standard adult Sunday School class to think through together or is the tone too…confrontational for that kind of setting?

    Thanks for taking up this discussion on your blog. I think, as we all plug along together on this, we need to give serious consideration to how we, as Christians, engage the public sphere.

    I’m hoping that as Christians bring their Christian commitments to the public sphere in the months ahead (May this book be helpful in that!) that they will explicitly bring their commitments to the 5th and 9th commandments as well. What a testimony to the Lord Christ that would be if we were always careful to render honor to whom it is due and to take special care to articulate one’s opponent’s arguments correctly when critiquing them!

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    1. Matt: A few quick answers to your questions.

      1) He touches upon stewardship and vocation, but there is no specific section devoted to Christian liberty. At the same time, though a section on liberty would have been helpful, I think he was thinking in the realm of Christian liberty since he kept noting how an orthodox faith doesn’t always result in the same political stance, and we should realize that and not make politics too black and white.

      2) Not specifically. He does mention that the church shouldn’t take political stances and he does mention that Christians can, but he doesn’t elaborate deeply on the spirituality of the church (again, though I do think it is in the back of his mind).

      3) I’d use it for an adult Sunday school class – realizing that it’ll ruffle some political feathers. I think it would be a great discussion guide, hopefully to help people think seriously about politics and their profession of faith (as you hinted at well). The book would be a great catalyst to use in applying Christian liberty to the political realm.

      Thanks for the comments,

      shane

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