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1.  Christian politics must always be principled and comprehensive.

In politics, whether in the legislative chambers or in the executive branch of government, political issues come and go, and they usually require highly focused attention.  One day the issue is defence policy, another day it may be welfare or education, the next it is monetary policy.  Issues will often come to public attention in a crisis situation, as a matter of urgency.  Even without a crisis, diverse opinions will be voiced and the time for weighing evidence and making decisions will be short.  These are not the circumstances in which Christian officials will have time to construct a political philosophy and a comprehensive framework for evaluating specific issues.  They will have to rely on what they already know and on the expertise of others.  The groundwork of Christian thinking must have already been laid.  The principled vision must already control the actors.  The ability to relate each issue to the principles of justice involved must already belong to the decision-makers. 

Christian Politics in the 21st Century
James W. Skillen
One thing we know for sure about politics in the next century is that Jesus Christ will still be Lord over all authorities on earth.  This is the confession that Christians have made from the beginning.  Whether living under democratic or authoritarian governments, whether persecuted or free, Christians have trusted that Christ rules the world both for judgement and for blessing.  God's kingdom embraces the whole world, the entire creation.  We also believe that because of God's patience the climax of Christ's kingdom lies in the future and will come by God's decision, not ours. Christian politics in the 21st century must grow from this faith.  It will build on this confession: that Christ is Lord over all, and that the full and final revelation of his government is still to come.
Time for creative Christian thinking and engagement

What does this confession mean for us today - for Christians in every other corner of the world? The first thing it means is that we need to engage in new and creative thinking about Christian political responsibility.  During most of the last 2000 years, Christian thinking about politics took shape in contexts that have either disappeared or are no longer predominant.  With few exceptions, open societies with representative and constitutionally limited governments are new to the world: less than 100 years old in most places where some form of democracy is now practised.
No longer relevant for us are the arguments developed during the western Middle Ages to justify the Roman Church's superior authority over governments.  Nor may we allow the idol of nationalism, which still grips the hearts of many Christians in Europe, the United States, and all over the world, to be our guide.  Ideologies inspired by the longing for liberation from foreign colonialists or military conquerors are also inadequate to fashion the Christian framework we need to define just governments after liberation.  And many practices that have helped promote economic growth and distributive welfare within countries are insufficient or irrelevant for establishing international practices that will be economically just.
This transition moment in human history offers Christians a tremendous opportunity to pray and work together in new ways for new political understanding, for an understanding that will allow us to become more faithful witnesses in politics to the God who rules the world through Jesus Christ.
Three competing visions

When we stop to ask about Christian politics in the 21st century, we should remind ourselves that after the recent collapse of international communism, there are three major visions of the world's future that still compete for the human heart.  I speak here of world-transforming visions of global unity - of how all peoples on earth should eventually be united. 

The dominant vision appears to be the human-centred one generated by western secularism: the vision of a world organised for the purpose of achieving perpetual economic and technological growth, governed by enlightened elite who seek to satisfy humanity's common desire for peace and prosperity.  A second vision of the world's future is that of Islam - of the world brought to submission before God on Muslim terms.  The third vision is the biblical one.  It is the vision of Christ's king-dom fulfilled.  As Paul explains to the Corinthians, this will come when Christ has reconciled all things to God and has defeated every evil, including death that stands in the way (I Cor. 15:24-8).  Christ's kingdom, organised for the glory of God, embraces everything that is human, including all technological, economic, and political dimensions of life.  But it will be achieved not by secular design or by Islamic quest, but by God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our political challenge as Christians is to learn how to exercise our earthly political responsi-bilities in obedience to Christ.  What does this mean?  How should we conduct ourselves politically between the times of Christ's first and second comings?  In most countries around the world, Bible-believing Christians are a minority.  But whether a minority or a majority, it should make no difference as regards the principles Christians appeal to in exercising the political responsibilities they have.
Gaining a Christian perspective on politics

Far too many Christians have, for too long, approached politics as if it lies outside their primary responsibility as Christians.  When the distinction is drawn between "church" and the "world," for example, it usually implies that politics, economics, science, technology, and mass media are part of "the world."  The Christian life is thus confined to personal piety, to church activities, to family prayer and Bible study.  From this point of view, a Christian's engagement in politics or business is seen as a step into the secular world where Christian principles may apply to one's personal behaviour but not to the structures and functions of the political order or the corporation.
From a biblical point of view, this dualistic distinction between church and world, between the sacred and the secular, is mistaken.  Christ is lord of the whole world, over every dimension of creation.  Non-Christian aims and purposes may predominate in politics, business, and the public media, but that does not mean these areas of life exist outside God's standards for creaturely life or outside the domain of Christ's kingdom.  To the contrary, from a Christian point of view, we should see that, in Christ, believers have been called to bring every thought, every activity, every responsibility, captive to Christ.  All of life is God's creation and is claimed by Christ.  Or if we want to insist that the word "secular" means what it originally meant in Latin, namely, "of or pertaining to this world," then even the church is a secular institution.  In either case, our conclusion will be the same: everything in all creation, including everything secular, belongs to God and comes under Christ's sacred authority and claim of ownership.
Christian politics, therefore, must amount to more than the attempt to maintain upright personal behaviour in a non-Christian environment. It must mean more than crusading for a few moral causes by political means. Christian politics must be about politics in its entirety.  It must be about defining the very nature of government - about the structure, limits, and policy responsi-bilities of government.  Our personal piety and heart-deep dedication to Jesus Christ should work their way out in the way we seek to obey God with all the political responsibilities we bear as public officials and as citizens.
When we approach politics this way, we can see that the political arena is neither neutral nor non-religious.  Rather, it is a world shaped by the religiously deep drives, commitments, and habits of a culture.  Politics is organised by the vision of life that controls citizens and governments.  Our challenge now is to avoid the easy path of simply going along with democratic, economic, and technological changes as they occur.  Instead, our challenge is to develop a coherent Christian political perspective that will allow us to make judgements about the justice and injustice of the changes taking place.  Even more, we should be seeking, as Christians, to exercise as much leadership as possible - leadership in our national parliaments, in our governments, in international organisations - to propose principled policies and changes in political structures that advance justice domestically and internationally.
Zak Benjamin
Come Dine.
We should not fear that such a bold approach would give the appearance that we are trying to inject Christianity where it does not belong.  Other religions, including humanist secularism, are seeking to lead and direct society and politics.  Religions are what constitute and direct people's lives.  They encompass and drive different cultures and their institutions. And what we find throughout the world today is that different religions are increasingly competing with one another within the same society.  Few places on earth have only one religion that integrates the entire culture.  Christians, therefore, must take their faith seriously in political life as most other religions do.
If Christians mistakenly assume that their religion can be confined to private and personal life, they will fail to come to grips with the various religious visions that are competing to shape their society and its politics.  In fact, those who operate with a privatised understanding of Christianity will not be sufficiently aware that they themselves are being shaped by religions other than Christianity.  In public life they develop the habit of accommodating themselves to other religious visions that take the lead in shaping politics and society.  This is what has happened over a long period of time in the United States.  Most American Christians hold to some form of civil religion, or liberal progressivism, or economic materialism in public life.  They do not realise how their lives have become divided between Christian faith and competing religious visions.  They have become double-minded by accepting the division of reality into the sacred and the secular, into private Christianity and public secularity.
We must fight to overcome this dualism in the 21st century.  We must encourage one another to build communities of coherent Christian witness, communities of obedience to God in Christ through whom we can work to develop thoroughly Christian approaches to politics, business, science, and the media.  The body of Christ is a community that cannot survive without wholeheartedly living out of the Spirit of Christ, as branches living in the vine, which is Christ.  If Christians try to follow two spirits or two or more "ways of life," they deny the truth of Christ and they will not bear fruit.  They will be cut off as dead branches.  Our entire way of life, including political life, must exhibit the religion that binds us, the lordship of the Christ who owns us, the Creator-Redeemer in and through whom all things exist and by whom all things are being reconciled to God.

Christian citizens and public officials need to think and work together to generate ideas, strategies, and reform proposals.  Without the full-time labours of Christians dedicated to developing a Christian approach to politics, Christian citizens will be dependent on the thinking, strategies, and reform proposals generated by people with other views of life.
What should characterise Christian politics in the next century?

When Christians make the commitment to change their approach to politics so that it becomes part of their wholehearted service to God, what should they expect?  What kind of politics should they be calling for in the 21st century?  On what basis will they be joining together, as Christian citizens, to labour in the political arena of God's world?

For our purposes today, allow me to make five brief points.
1.  Christian politics must always be principled and comprehensive.

In politics, whether in the legislative chambers or in the executive branch of government, political issues come and go, and they usually require highly focused attention.  One day the issue is defence policy, another day it may be welfare or education, the next it is monetary policy.  Issues will often come to public attention in a crisis situation, as a matter of urgency.  Even without a crisis, diverse opinions will be voiced and the time for weighing evidence and making decisions will be short.  These are not the circumstances in which Christian officials will have time to construct a political philosophy and a comprehensive framework for evaluating specific issues.  They will have to rely on what they already know and on the expertise of others.  The groundwork of Christian thinking must have already been laid.  The principled vision must already control the actors.  The ability to relate each issue to the principles of justice involved must already belong to the decision-makers. 

The Big Picture Volume 1, Lent 1999 p.6