Christians and Politics: Williams and Whitefield

I thank the publishers for sending me a review copy of The Politics of Witness by Allan R. Bevere. When I have time I will be reading and reviewing it, especially in the light of the discussion relating to my post Is every Christian in politics a “Dominionist”? But I am likely to be too busy to do this for the next few days.

Meanwhile I have a couple of links and quick thoughts to share on the subject of Christians in politics.

Archbishop Rowan WilliamsRachel Marszalek, newly ordained in the Church of England, reports on a visit to her diocese by the “notorious” Archbishop Rowan Williams. Part of her post is about a talk by the Archbishop “Making a Witness in the Public Square”. Here are some of his words as summarised by Rachel:

When you come into the body of Christ, you are to be loyal to God’s vision for the human race, over and above ethnic, National and even, swallow hard, family loyalties. It calls you also to be loyal to something that has not yet happened. For the Roman Empire this was seen as a rival claim. But we can not be loyal Roman citizens and in choosing not to be, death was the consequence for some. Christians work out a theology of citizenship which means that the country itself can not be treated as a god. …

The Roman Empire got it wrong in seeing Christianity as a rival claim. But the church was a great, big organisation. It was one legal system against another. The church has to step back and not compete for territory.

Rowan anchored much of what he spoke about in the work of William Stringfellow… Rowan quoted from ‘Conscience and Obedience,’ written in the late 1970s. …

When is it right not to obey the law, asks Stringfellow…when the law seems to be going in the opposite direction to God’s vision. Stringfellow proposes vocal advocacy – we do this and we take the consequences. Civil disobedience is not something Christians should never consider. We have to be able to say to the state – by what authority can you do this if it defies a Godward direction?

What can I say? Rowan Williams clearly wouldn’t endorse the kind of conservative Christian involvement in US politics which has been much discussed, and misrepresented, in recent weeks. But he would also reject the idea that Christians should keep out of political discussions and retreat to their own communities. These are thoughts I will bear in mind as I read Bevere’s book.

George WhitefieldMeanwhile Scot McKnight writes about Politics and Religion, the American Odyssey. A large part of this post is a discussion of the role of George Whitefield in pioneering Christian political action in North America. He finishes with some questions about how far Whitefield’s example can be followed today (emphasis as in the original):

Many may be uncomfortable with Whitefield’s attention to political issues in England and the USA, but there’s a big question here we need to discuss: Can a Christian pastor completely ignore the political? While the Anabaptist vision, as compared with the Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed views, may prefer more separation from the State and political issues, can the Christian preacher ever avoid the implications of the gospel for politics?

I will ponder these questions, and maybe some time I will attempt to answer them.

0 thoughts on “Christians and Politics: Williams and Whitefield

  1. Peter, I had previously mentioned that I was going to read the memoirs of C.Peter Wagner, Wrestling with Alligators, Prophets, and Theologians. The memoir was interesting, but left some areas unclear. There is no doubt he believes in Dominionism. He believes man was given dominion over the animals according to Genesis, and he is right, but his interpretation of taking back from Satan is questionable.
    Mr. Wagner’s position on Theocracy and Dominionism as mentioned in the media and in various other websites is not as clearly defined as those who have more radical or conservative ideas than he. he does believe along with members of the NAR that their is a necessity to have apostles within all leadership positions
    within the 7 mountains. The question for the US is can pastors perform the function of leading a flock without encouraging the dismantling of freedom while preserving their basic beliefs, and those of their flock. I believe that Mr. Wagner is honest in believing that those of the NAR are just good Christians and that there is no leadership,but there is a concensus of ideas that he may not accept or want to accept. Religion and Politics make very bad bedfellows.

  2. Vincent, your statement “There is no doubt he believes in Dominionism” is meaningless unless we can agree on a definition of “dominionism”. If that means only that “man was given dominion over the animals”, then it is surely uncontroversial (apart from the gender language) at least among Christians. If it means what some have claimed, that Wagner advocates Christians taking over the government by unconstitutional means, then I am sure he does not believe in it. What he believes is presumably something between these two extremes, and that is what we need to explore.

    When Wagner talks about ” apostles within all leadership positions within the 7 mountains”, does he mean church leaders also working in those fields, or does he just mean individual Christians called to work in those areas? That is a key difference.

    But just because someone is a church leader and involved in politics, that by no means implies that they advocate a theocracy. Consider the example of Thomas Hooker, a pastor who was politically active in precisely the opposite direction, to separate church and state.

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