The Church is not a Political Action Committee

Dr. D.G. Hart has posted a good article interacting with critics of two kingdom theology. While I disagree with Dr. Hart on the the extent to which the Scriptures speak to matters of civil ethics, nevertheless I agree with him entirely on the principle of the Spirituality of the Church.

The Scriptures teach that the magistrate is required to uphold the whole of the Moral Law as it applies to the civil sphere, and the church must proclaim this truth as it is found in Scripture. But the church is not a political action committee! It would be a shame to the name of Christ and an overthrow of jurisdiction for His Church to behave as though she were a political entity.

It is a common error amongst erstwhile Reformed evangelicals to think that the Church has a duty to do whatever any individual Christian may do. Christians as citizens in the civil sphere ought to be involved in politics to whatever extent they are able, and to shape their politics in keeping with the Scriptural standard of civil ethics. But it would be an abuse of the authority Christ has left in His church for her officers to convene Synods and Councils as though she were a political party calling a convention.

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2 thoughts on “The Church is not a Political Action Committee

  1. Indeed, Mr. Hamilton. There is a sense in which there are “two kingdoms” in that each is a separate sphere not ruled by the other; this, however, does not negate the magistrate working toward the same end of the upholding of the moral law; the magistrate in his sphere, the church in hers. Thank God for the the Westminster Standards (1647) and, more foundationally, the Scriptures from which those principles and that system of doctrine were derived. May the Lord grant us reformation that we’d have magistrates who would rule as those ruled by Christ.

  2. Agreed, Josh! Of course, I think we’d both say that the Moral Law is not the end in itself for either sphere, but rather a divinely appointed means to an end. The Church’s calling is primarily and directly a Gospel calling of grace which makes use of the moral law as the condemning agent of God to cause sinners to fly to Christ, the standard of thankfulness and love in sanctification, and more indirectly a support to the cause of the magistrate in restraining civil evil. The magistrate’s calling is not primarily a Gospel calling, but more directly a calling of restraining public evil, with an indirect (i.e., non-interfering and non-usurping) role of upholding and preserving the work of the Gospel ministry of the Church by removing obstacles to her calling and seeing that she is preserved and well established.

    God, the Supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him over the people, for his own glory and the public good; and to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil-doers. (WCF 23.1)

    The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God. (WCF 23.3)

    And…

    Synods and councils are to handle or conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or by way of advice for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate. (WCF 31.5)