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“Jesus would not be for government mandated universal healthcare.”

I have been very disappointed to see quite a few evangelicals (especially of the “young, restless, reformed” stripe) supporting and defending more government involvement in daily life, including government mandated universal health care.

J.P. Moreland provides an excellent biblical case here for limited government.

While preaching at a large church, I asked the congregation, “Do Jesus and the Bible teach things that are relevant to science and evolution, to assessing secular psychology, to economics and the role of money in life, to history, literature, art and sports?” Heads nodded approvingly around the congregation. I then asked, “Do Jesus and the Bible teach things that are relevant to politics?” A deafening silence ensued. I went on to say that while Jesus is neither a Democrat nor Republican, there are things he taught about morality, the state, and the church which a believer should factor into his political, social, and cultural thinking and practice. And some of these teachings of Jesus could favor one political party over another. So we should ask, “What did Jesus teach, and more generally what does the Bible teach, that is relevant to a believer’s view of politics and the state?”

In what follows, I shall argue that, when properly interpreted, biblical teaching implies a minimal government with a specific function to be mentioned shortly. I will begin by describing the three-way worldview struggle in our country and explain why two of those worldviews have a vested interest in big government. I will then present a biblical methodology for getting at scriptural teaching about the state. I will apply that methodology to support the claim that Israel’s ethical policies in the Old Testament are better analogies for the church/covenant community than for the government, and in this context I will clarify the role that “defining terms of address” plays in my discussion. I will then distinguish negative and positive rights and argue that the best texts for unpacking biblical teaching about the state are two: four key New Testament texts and the obligations placed on pagan nations by the Old Testament prophets. I will try to show that these key texts depict the state as a protector of negative rights and not a provider of positive rights. Thus the scriptures support a limited view of government and its function.

Next, I will turn to a description of the decisive feature of New Testament ethics in general, and Jesus’s ethics in particular, namely, virtue ethics with voluntary adherence to the love commands. I will show that, given this ethic, the state may be able to show mercy, but it cannot show compassion due to both the nature of the state and the nature of compassion. I will close with a brief treatment of the importance of Natural Moral Law in the state’s fulfilling of its God-given role so as to avoid a theocracy. And I will examine the charge that commitment to the Natural Moral Law makes one an intolerant bigot.

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Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

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