Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Politics and the SBC pt. 1

Since its inception the SBC has dealt with politics, both in its own ranks as well as in the American and global political scene. Many have been quick to point to this as a striking flaw within the convention. Some have even said or implied that if we could rid the SBC of politics, we would be able to focus on the real issues.

I must confess that there is a certain appeal to the cries of those who advocate an end to the political strivings of the convention. In this series of posts I will discuss what I believe about politics and the SBC.

First, let us first look at a definition of politics and briefly sketch their role (if any) within the SBC and its churches. The word politic comes from the Greek politicas, which refers to civic matters (FYI, this word is not found in the NT). The root word is polis meaning city (this root appears in several variations in the NT). This word is also the subject of Aristotle’s 4th Century BC work Politics, which concerns itself with the proper “structure, organization, and administration of the state” (see politics). This is also the same root from which we get the word “polity” (i.e., how the church is governed).

Politics is also commonly used today to refer to those who are shrewd or even cunning or manipulative. This is what we often think of when someone is accused of “playing politics.”

So we have two strikingly different definitions of politics. I believe that both are important and will be discussed in this series of blog posts. The first definition is the one I will discuss second, and the second is the one I will discuss first.

Here’s the thesis :The Church in America must stop playing politics, but must not retreat from the political realm altogether.

First, we must stop playing politics.
Last month Jeremy Roberts posted about the political parties in the SBC. Recently, we’ve seen dueling confessions and seemingly endless arguments about a few issues that seem to keep coming up regularly. There is also the recurrent issue of the personal biases and attacks on and by prominent members of the current factions.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that debate should not go on, but I am saying that we should not allow it to become such a focal point that we are sidetracked from our mission as a church. Allow me to present some scripture that is relevant to the current issues at hand.

Paul exhorts believers to avoid foolish controversies.
2 Timothy 2:23-26 says:
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

This passage is particularly applicable to Christian leaders. He is specifically referring to the “man of God” one who serves as an ambassador for Christ. He exhorts us, not to avoid debates, but to pick our battles. We are not to engage in the fights that ultimately only hurt the body, but obviously we must be able to correct those who are teaching falsehoods or are leading people astray. Paul tells us the correct way to do that too: “with gentleness.” The goal is that those who are leading others astray might repent and become free “from the snare of the devil” (v.25-26).

We are also commanded to build up the Body of Christ
1 Corinthians 10:23-24 says:
“’All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.’”
And vv.31-33 say:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”

Here Paul is discussing the issue of eating the meat that had been sacrificed to idols. The meat wasn’t the main issue. Paul wasn’t so much concerned about cheap steaks as he was with the consciences of the believers and the unity of the church. Some could eat the meat in clear conscience, yet others could not—to them it was sin. Therefore, Paul tells us not to seek our own good, but the good of others. If eating certain meats or drinking certain beverages, or engaging in certain amoral (neither inherently good nor bad) acts causes disunity or sin in the body of Christ (the church) then it shouldn’t be done! This to me is the strongest argument for abstinence from alcohol. It’s not about how alcoholic it is, it’s about our testimony (to both believers and unbelievers) and about if it honors God. Since I can honor God and build up the body of Christ without partaking of alcohol –that is what I will continue to do. I mention a specific example, but you can see that the issue of building up the body applies to all that we do. If blogging does not build up the body of Christ, then we must find something else to do with our time and energy. Something that pleases God. I do happen to believe that I can honor God and encourage believers through my blog, which is why I do it.

Finally, we must accomplish the mission we have been given. The goal is to make disciples for Christ. The goal is not to be teetotalers or wine connoisseurs; not to worship men or tear them down; our goal is to build up the body of Christ as we live godly lives and train others to do so.

Where does politics enter into that? My point is that we ought not play politics within the body, yet in my next post I will discuss my views on the church’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the political realm and how I believe we can continue to build up the body and further God’s kingdom.


Kevin Bussey said...

Amen! Well said.

jasonk said...

Very well said.
However, I'm not sure its very feasible. Asking the SBC to not be involved in politics is like asking the Cardinals to stop dabbling in baseball ;>)
Great post Matt.