Transcending Partisan Politics is Sectarian

Evangelical Protestants suffer from a tic. It is an unwillingness to identify with a political party. Evangelical writers about politics can spot the defects of both the left and the right, though they don’t often calculate which side has the most flaws. They act as if Christians really are above politics. When believers follow the Bible, they will not have to settle for either what liberals or conservatives propose.

A couple examples: the first on race.

The danger is that Christians who rightly reject the first (conservative) view as sub-biblical will merely pick up the second (progressive) view uncritically and use the terminology that it provides. But both are secular, reductionistic and simplistic. The Bible’s account of justice includes both individual and systemic dimensions—and more. We are not merely individual and social, but also soul and body. Indeed, the term “world” (kosmos) in the New Testament has not only a material reality (as in God loving the world of human beings, John 3:16), but also a spiritual reality, an inevitable tendency to make counterfeit gods out of good created things (1 John 2:15-16). “Doing justice” on the basis of the biblical view will include extraordinary prayer and evangelism along with everything else. The biblical view of justice gives full weight to both personal responsibility and social structures while based on a rich understanding of human life that goes well beyond the world’s reductionistic alternative views.

The second on communism.

Liberation theology, which puts a Christian face on Marxist social analysis, retains an enormous mystique on the Christian left. This isn’t because left-leaning Christians admire Stalin but because they are profoundly skeptical of the alternative to communism: economic systems built on property and contract rights protected by the rule of law. These systems produce economic growth, but as wealth has grown we’ve also seen a growing worldliness and materialism in our cultures. Christians on the left (most famously Gregory Paul) point to the radical economic community of the church in Acts 2–5 and ask if this doesn’t implicitly delegitimize market systems of price and exchange.

Right-leaning Christians, meanwhile, often seem indistinguishable from secular conservatives. They rail against communism, yet almost none of them seems to have read serious theological analysis of communism—not even from anti-communist Christians like Chambers. In almost every case, their top priority is to protect free markets and economic growth rather than oppose the atheistic inhumanity of the communist worldview. And their zeal to defend free markets often leads them to downplay, or even celebrate, the worldliness and crass materialism that have been associated with economic growth.

Why is the church haunted by communism, even though in Christ crucified we already possess the real answer to the world’s suffering and injustice? Because the church hasn’t put a Christian economic ethic into practice systematically. We need, but don’t know how to develop, an organized and operational Christian economic life.

Actually, the Amish have developed an economic system by some measures. But even their herculean efforts to retain Christian solidarity depends on the “English’s” society of property, currency, a legal system, and the political process that functions in, with, and around economic systems. Talk about systemic.

This does not mean that Christian academics should refrain from connecting dots between revelation (general and special) and politics or economics. What it does mean is that Christians trying to be Christian about everything, including politics and economics, separate themselves from the institutions most responsible for those areas of society. Christian w-w thinking is really a product of a ghetto that is isolated from bodies of learning and institutional structures in which political and economic decisions are made.

It is functionally Amish. Is that where New Calvinists want to be? Sectarians on the margins?

8 thoughts on “Transcending Partisan Politics is Sectarian

  1. If you don’t find the sweet spot that connects the dots of yourself as a member of “the church” and yourself in  “the culture” that agrees to kill to keep “the economy” in a way that agrees with Hart’s version of the brothers Niebuhr, then Hart will accuse you of being (wanting to be) Amish sectarian.

    Proto—For the Amish, their  gospel is their community Ordnung or order, the rules they follow to remain in good standing. This is the path to salvation and yet they spend half their time circumventing it…

    Separatism when wed to the Reformed 2k “no laws from Jesus or from Moses”  theology is no longer separatism or it won’t be for long. When the Magisterial Reformation doctrine of Vocation is embraced and work is sanctified, when building a business and seeking profit is confused with  Kingdom building – the spirit of accommodation will soon come to dominate.  Money is always corrupting but when you embrace a theology that sanctifies it and when you pursue a doctrine that confuses faithfulness with safety and success then you’re on a dangerous path…..He praised the assassination of Qassem Soleimani,  misrepresented the situation in China, and argued for the grace and legitimacy of ‘cultural Christianity’. He thinks godliness is gain and that the Kingdom is those who are justified not needing to suffer or die when instead they can have others to kill for them


  2. Hart rejects any kind of change (such as abolitionism or iconoclasm ) as “postmillennialism” .   William F. Buckley popularized Voegelin’s phrase “Don’t immanentize the eschaton!”  .  Voegelin identified a number of similarities between ancient Gnosticism and the beliefs held by the Communists  (who were resisted by the white nationalists –Nazis– to maintain their way of life).

    “The problem in history, hence, arises only when a Christian transcendental fulfillment becomes immanentized. Such a fulfillment is theoretical fallacy.”

    2 Peter 3:  9 The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with all of you, not wanting any of you to perish but all of you to come to repentance. 10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief…. Since these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness 12 as you wait for and hasten  the coming of the day of God….13 based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.


  3. Mark McCulley,
    Your comments don’t make any sense, don’t engage with the article, and seek to promote some other blog without any context. I recommend trying to make sense, engage with the article, and only promote another blog when it actually makes sense (see first suggestion).


  4. Is it “sectarian” for a Christian person to be unwilling to identify with one of only two status quo parties? 
    In his effort to throw “evangelicals” under the bus, is DGH identifying with the Amish who are leaving the local (transcendent?) farm and voting for one of the parties?

    Obama—The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change.

    Frederick Douglass—“between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference.”

    Robert E Lee—“The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.”

    Old School Dabney argued that it was God who created racial difference and, as a result, “it was plainly impossible for a black man to teach and rule white Christians to edification.” Dabney predicted that black ordination would “bring a
    mischievous element in our church, at the expense of driving a multitude of valuable members and ministers out.” (“amalgamation to mix the race of Washington and Lee, and Jackson, with this base herd brought from the pens of Africa” .)

    Revelation 13: 10 If anyone is destined for captivity,
    into captivity they go.
    If anyone is to be killed with a sword,
    with a sword they will be killed.
    This demands the patience and faith of the saints.

    Hebrews 11: 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in animal skins, destitute, and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered without their own property in deserts and on mountains, hiding in holes in the ground. 39 All these were justified through their faith, but they did NOT receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for US, so that THEY would not be made perfect without US.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mark,

    Darryl is simply pointing out the ridiculousness of evangelicals who pretend to be above the fray and noting that to actually get anything done in real life, especially in politics, you have to pick a party to side with. I doubt that he cares if its a major party or a third party.

    The whole “Biblical Christians are too conservative for the Democrat party and too liberal for the Republican Party” or “To be a Christian is to be neither Democrat nor Republican, at least not all the way” ideas propounded by people such as Keller are true enough, but the statements themselves are banal and obvious to anyone except the most hardcore partisans. And at the end of the day, the Christian if he is going to vote has to align somehow with a party or a party platform, otherwise, nothing is ever accomplished.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ::::Summarizing for a friend::::

    Some Christians criticize political party alignment as sectarian.
    The Old Life points out an irony:
    Excluding political party alignment from Christianity is also sectarian.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The point of these lofty appeals is always to disingenuously equivocate social and economic policies that, while maybe unsavory, are not odious to Christianity to ones that are often by design utterly inimical to it in a sorry attempt to justify breaking the only voting bloc in the country that represents any Christian interests, however imperfect it may be.

    Liked by 1 person

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