Friday, October 26, 2012

How Should Christians Vote?, by Tony Evans


Pastor Tony Evans tackles the timely question: How should Christians vote? I confess I don't know much about Evans--I know he travels in Evangelical circles (and is a chaplain for Dallas's NFL and NBA teams), but as far as I know he is neither a renowned expositor of Scripture nor a student of political theory or philosophy, so it's not terribly surprising that his answer to this question lacks nuance.

Not that he's all wrong. His main point is also his strongest--namely, that Christians should be less concerned with loyalty to any particular party and more concerned with loyalty to God and His Word.  Drawing on his love of sports, Evans compares Democrats and Republicans to the opposing teams on a football field, and exhorts Christians to identify not with either 'team', but with the referees who decide which team 'wins' on various issues at various times. It's not the greatest metaphor, to be sure, but encouraging Christians to let go of party loyalty and start thinking in terms of what God's position is on a particular issue is by no means a bad thing. So far, so good.

However, Evans seems to assume that anything lauded in Scripture should necessarily be applied in the political context. The fact that the Bible endorses or condemns a particular behavior does not necessarily mean that that behavior should be encouraged or penalized by the government, and Evans provides no framework for deciding which issues merit government involvement.

Evans also has very strong beliefs about limited government. Which is fine--I myself have pronounced Libertarian, small government, states' rights leanings. But Evans doesn't just have opinions; he takes the position that the concept of limited government is biblically mandated. I have no idea how he arrived at that conclusion, since none of the governments in Scripture--from the theocracy of Israel to the tyranny of Rome--is particularly 'limited'. I think there's an excellent case to be made for limited centralized government as the best system from a pragmatic perspective. However, from a biblical perspective, I don't think that you can necessarily condemn any specific form of government as categorically wrong.

I was also struck by Evans apparent belief that a return to biblical law will cure all America's ills. In the opening passage, he opines that since people and families look to the bible to identify the source and solution to their problems, so too should the nation. Which is sort of true. But it doesn't follow that every problem you have is necessarily the result of transgressing some biblical command. Your family might be going through hard times because that's what happens sometimes. The Lord is still sovereign, and He's still working for His glory, but the Bible won't provide a 'solution' to your cancer. So, too, I am reluctant to assume that all problems facing the nation today are the result of specific sins or sinful policies. There certainly are some sinful policies, and sinful choices certainly do result in negative consequences. But even if America did everything right, that wouldn't guarantee blessing and freedom from hardship. That's not how it works.

One final note: there isn't even a whisper of the gospel in this book. It's all law, from cover to cover. I get that he's talking politics, and we do not expect the gospel to be applied in the public context. We can't legislate the gospel; we can only legislate the law. But the book is written explicitly to Christians, and as Christians, everything we do--including voting--is to be informed by and seen through the lens of the gospel. Yet Evans never addresses this. He may be assuming it--assuming that all his readers already know and believe the gospel--but he never talks about how the gospel affects the way we think about politics and how we make decisions about voting.

I took advantage of the audiobook version offered as a free download from ChristianAudio this month, and I kind of wish I hadn't. It's just under three hours long, but I bet I could have read through the hard copy (96 pages) in a lot less time, and taken notes in the margin. Also, I really did not care for Mirron Willis's narration. He over-enunciated his consonants (except the letter 'r', which he swallowed), particularly between words. It was really quite distracting. I'm not entirely sure why he did this--he's narrated a lot of books and even won a few awards, and his delivery in the samples I listened to sounded nothing like this book. It may have been the director's choice and not his, but either way, the result was not good. Then again, it was free, so I guess you get what you pay for.

Bottom line: Evans is right that God's opinion should matter a lot more than the party line, and we should examine the Bible to discern what that opinion is. But beyond that, his view of politics is both simplistic and, in my opinion, mistaken.

[NOTE: I have passed long the book to someone with more expertise, in the hope that he will be able to provide a more intelligent criticism than mine. If and when such analysis is available, I will post the link here.]

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