I have previously been a bit critical of some earlier blog entries by Tom Ascol. But today he nails a crucial point. Here's the money quote:
Beyond this, I believe that American Christians actually have a responsibility to be involved in the political process to promote justice and goodness. Let me try to explain the direction of my thinking about this.
Does the Bible give directives to civil rulers and monarchs? Even the most convinced pietist would, I think, agree. Romans 13:1-7 not only calls for Christians to submit to civil authorities but it also states that civil authorities are under God's authority and are therefore accountable to Him to reward good and punish evil. The Old Testament abounds with examples of God holding rulers accountable for the way they rule. This is true not only of the kings of Judah and Israel but also the kings of pagan nations.
If we lived under a monarchy we would have not only the right but the duty to call on the monarch to govern justly, knowing (whether he acknowledged it or not) that he is God's servant and obligated to reward good and punish evil.
But we do not live in a monarchy. We live in a democratic republic. Who is our civil king? We are. The citizens. We are citizen-kings. Thus we have not only the right but the responsibility to use the political process established by the republic to promote that which is good and restrict that which is evil. Citizen-kings should advocate good laws and decry bad ones. We should hold elected officials responsible for the trust we vest in them. Citizen-kings are responsible to work for justice and goodness in society.
Exactly! We are citizen-kings who "have not only the right but the responsibility to use the political process established by the republic to promote that which is good and restrict that which is evil." We should "advocate good laws and decry bad ones". We are "responsible to work for justice and goodness in society," by political means as well as by every other lawful means, primarily by the preaching of the gospel but not restricted to this.
So far I've largely (though not exclusively) staked the case for Christian political activism in terms of Christian liberty. (Steve Camp clearly denies us this liberty as citizens in a free society.) The above is just one of many ways you can make a positive case: it is precisely our form of governement which ensures our responsibility here, one which we would not have under a monarchy or imperial Rome.
It is also in the spirit of the comments about Calvin received and posted by Scott Klusendorf:
"As Calvin recognized, once Christians actually had the power to be kings, even in some little way, they took on the responsibility that goes with kingship. Christian responsibility towards government is discussed in but a few places in the New Testament. The most notable example is in Romans 13. Romans 13 begins with the instruction to submit to governing authorities (13:1). The purpose of such authorities is to punish evil from verse 4 and to promote social order and good. (verse 3.) It follows, then, that if Christians are part of the governing authorities—as indeed every Christian in the United States is—they must fulfill God’s will for government by punishing evil and promoting good. Calvin saw no basis for the view that the Christian who is in a position to change society and laws can shirk that responsibility."