Grudem’s “Politics” – A Review

  I just finished Wayne Grudem’s Politics According to the Bible, so I thought I’d write a brief review while it is still on my mind.  In case you haven’t heard of it, this 600 page book was published in 2010 by Zondervan.  The subtitle is “A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture.”  Since it is such a large book, I can’t really give an exhaustive review here, but I can state the basics.

The structure of Politics is as follows: Grudem first lists what he thinks are five wrong views about the relationship between Christians and government.  He then gives his position that Christians should influence government and how they should do so.  After that, Grudem gives a biblical outline of government and the Christian worldview.  Grudem says the Bible teaches the importance of liberty, separation of powers, the need to obey authority, and what the government’s “sword” is (among other things).  At the end of this section he also explains the role of the Supreme Court and how it has become far too powerful (in his opinion).

The bulk of this book is dedicated to specific political issues in America.  Here are a few things Grudem tackles: abortion, capital punishment, marriage, pornography, school vouchers, private property, Social Security, the free market, global warming, nuclear weapons, just war, the CIA, the United Nations, immigration, freedom of speech and religion, earmarks, tariffs, and tort law (among many others).  The last short section of the book is where Grudem talks about the media, the difference between Republicans and Democrats, and how this all applies to Christians in the United States.

There are many strengths in this book.  It is well written, easy to read, and the format is outstanding (Grudem’s chapter outlines and divisions are helpful).  Grudem has certainly done his homework; I was amazed at all the detailed issues that he discussed and explained (from cap and trade to health care to farm subsidies to affirmative action).  I actually learned a lot in this book – it got me up to speed on the political landscape in the United States.  And I do agree with quite a few of Grudem’s positions in this book; I think he generally did a good job presenting his position and backing it up logically and with biblical concepts.  Some parts of this book are pretty much ethics discussions, which I also appreciated.

At the same time, there are also many weaknesses in this book.  First of all, the title, Politics According to The Bible, is absolutely incorrect. While Grudem does from time to time give clear biblical teaching on a subject (such as marriage, capital punishment, obedience to authority), other times his proof-texts are less than helpful (i.e. in his immigration discussion, his explanation of democracy, and separation of powers).  I think it is safe to say Grudem misused (or stretched) Scripture from time to time as he was attempting to solidify his positions.  I realize that sometimes Grudem was arguing his position from a general Christian worldview and informed reason, but there were times he used texts in a way I was not at all comfortable with.

Furthermore, I don’t think there is a “biblical” view of automobile emission regulation, a free market, or school vouchers (for just three examples of many).  The title of this book should be: “Politics According to Grudem’s Well Informed Christian Perspective,” or “Politics From the Perspective of A Thoughtful Conservative Republican American Christian.”  Those titles, however, aren’t as catchy!

I didn’t agree with Grudem’s premillennial “take” on some issues.  He is also very much pro-Israel in a nearly dispensational way (though Grudem is not a dispensationalist).  It was very clear in this book that Grudem does not agree with President Obama, the Democratic Party, and the media (he sounded like Sean Hannity from time to time!).   I also think he over-used the Romans 13 phrase where Paul says governments are “for your good.”  It is true, of course, but what is “good” for citizens is not always as black and white as Grudem makes it look.

Having given these substantial critiques, I still must say I’m glad I read it.  I enjoyed reading the book because even when I disagreed, Grudem’s arguments made me re-think some issues.  To be sure, this book is only for Americans and it will be outdated very soon, but it is a decent resource.  Even though I would not recommend it as the definitive Christian book on politics, and even though I think there are major weaknesses in it, it is generally helpful in certain areas.  If you’re going to read it (or if you have read it), forget about the title and treat it like a decent political resource written by an intelligent conservative American Christian.  And don’t forget to read other viewpoints and angles on these issues!

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

rev shane lems

sunnyside, wa

3 Replies to “Grudem’s “Politics” – A Review”

  1. Thanks for your review, brother. My wife tells me that growing up Catholic she and her family were told which political positions to take by their local priest. I think some on the political right who are Christians are amazed that other Christians may disagree with their views. Christian liberty is pretty important in this area. We do Christian liberty a disservice when we make the Bible into a political manual on specifics, I think. David vanDrunen is so good on this in his book, “Living in God’s Two Kingdoms.” This can also develop into a type of political idolatry, or idolatry of power; Tim Keller is good on this subject in his book, “Counterfeit Gods.”

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