I’m spending the day (powered by the Greek God omelette) writing about Paul & politics.
That Paul was little concerned with politics is a predominant view and many may prefer to hold to it in a day when Christian faith is so badly integrated with public political life.
In a few talks over the next year, I’ll be arguing that Paul is quite intensely interested in politics. He regards the Kingdom of God–a comprehensive religio-economic-political order– to have arrived in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and the sending of the Spirit.
God has gathered together his church—a political reality—among whom he is present by his Spirit. Further, God has installed Jesus Christ as Cosmic Lord, a political title and office. Paul, then, has a thoroughly political vision, and his chief concern is Jesus and the new society he has created in his death and resurrection.
Just how this works out, however, is anything but “politics as usual.”
4 thoughts on “Paul & Politics”
This is where I think some of the church errs left and right. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, so we shouldn’t view earthly politics with the same lenses we as unbelievers would.
I think it is intrinsic good when a spiritually well educated church affects their societies, but, I think this is primarily via Christ “stirring the king’s heart” positively as His church is in a mode of properly honoring Him.
I think our spiritual lives and prayers for our leaders have 1,000,000X the positive effect on society our votes and political activism would in other words.
For example, IF the North American church was really squared away in 1600, you would never have dreamt of Christians here owning humans and exploiting them like we did do.
All the political activism and screaming and voting didn’t change anything. Massive killing levels changed the USA(holding slaves, not character wise, it took another century for that) . I see that as a divine judgment on us, too.
Look forward to reading more from you on this subject, Tim. Some years ago I read with great interest the volumes edited by Richard Horsley about Paul and the Roman Empire, and I think Justin Hardin’s recent monograph (Galatians and the Imperial Cult) has something very interesting to say about the socio-political setting of Galatians. My question is: Where in Paul’s letters does he refer to these realities and what does he expect his hearers to do in those contexts? I think his language on righteousness-justice may well be an interesting place to look at.
It’s not clear Paul’s view of the Kingdom of God and Rome was ‘political’.
Given Daniels eschatological views of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome, and Paul’s knowledge of scripture, his view could have been decidedly NOT political, and instead also eschatological.
We just recognize it as such, because we don’t see in old covenant prophecy, what Paul did.
I think that we (in the West) separate religion and politics in a degree that the classical world and particularly the ANE never thought of separating. Thus when someone suggests that Paul was political, we have problems conceiving that. I also think much of the problem is that we have depoliticized the gospel, so that it is just or primarily about how to save an immaterial soul, and not about the whole person being saved now for in-breaking Kingdom of God.
When the early Christians proclaimed Jesus is Lord, they were sometimes accused of treason. When they said that there is only one God, they were accused of atheism. But those categories were conceived of differently than ours, so we have trouble understanding the charges.
Anyone who has ever lived in the modern Middle East know that religion and politics are still very much related in ways that seem foreign to the West.
I’m looking forward to seeing where you take this discussion, as well. I definitely thing we’ve done a poor job of putting faith and politics together in this country.
Grace and Peace,