politics

A Biblical Framework for Understanding Politics

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This November, you’ll have the opportunity to vote for your elected leaders. How should your faith inform your vote? Before you can answer this question, you first need a biblical framework for understanding what politics is and why you need it.

With that in mind, let’s trace the biblical storyline with an eye toward politics and the public square.

Consider the biblical account of creation. From it, we learn that Adam and Eve lived in right relationship with God, with each other and with the created order. This interconnected web of rightly ordered relationships encapsulated God’s design for his people to flourish alongside of one another, experiencing harmony and delight in their common life. And even if sin had never entered the world, we would have needed government to help order our common life together, to coordinate things such as which side of the road to drive on.

After the fall, God’s creational design was corrupted and misdirected. In the aftermath of the first couple’s sin, humanity experienced broken relationships with God, each other and the world.

  • Rather than being in loving fellowship with God, we are born predisposed to reject God, competing with him in an attempt to be Lord over his universe.
  • Instead of living in loving fellowship with each other, we experience social brokenness in the form of murder, rape, adultery, ethnocide, slavery and terrorism, to name a few.
  • Instead of living in perfect mutual reciprocity with God’s creation, we treat his creation badly, and his creation supports our life imperfectly.

In other words, sin has created a situation in which government would need to take on the additional responsibility of restricting evil while promoting the common good (Rom. 13:1-5; 1 Pet. 2:13-14).

In the West, most countries are governed by some form of democracy, in which “we the people” have a real say in government. We have the opportunity to gather in the public square to discuss and debate matters which concern the whole society.

And yet, because we are finite human beings and sinners, often we do not achieve consensus. We disagree with one another on many of the most important issues in our shared public life, we have difficulty achieving justice for all, and we wage our debates in the most unhelpful and uncivil of manners.

Because of Christ Jesus’ redemption, we find ourselves sent back into the public square in a wholly new way.

However, because of Christ Jesus’ redemption, we find ourselves sent back into the public square in a wholly new way. We have been reconciled to God and seek to live in reconciled relationships with each other and with God’s world. We want to put our Christian convictions to work in the political realm, helping to foster justice for our cities, states and nation.

We do these things out of love for the Lord and obedience to him. However, we also do it out of love for our fellow citizens and as a witness to them. As we employ our Christian love and conviction in the public square, we are providing a preview of a future era when Christ will return and reign as King over a new heavens and earth.

We are providing a preview of a future era when Christ will return and reign as King.

So when you go to the polls this November, you’ll vote for a fallen candidate in a fallen political system and governs a fallen country. Yet you can vote with confidence — knowing that God can use you in his plan of redemption.

This post is adapted from Dr. Ashford’s new book, Every Square Inch. Details>>

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  • politics
  • public square
Bruce Ashford

Bruce Riley Ashford is a Professor of Theology & Culture at Southeastern Seminary. He is the author or co-author of six books, including The Gospel of Our King (Baker, 2019), Letters to an American Christian (B&H, 2018), One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics (B&H, 2015), and Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians (Lexham, 2015).

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