Why Government Can’t Save You: An Alternative to Political Activism
By John MacArthur
Word Publishing, 2000, 192 pages
Readers of this blog know one of my pet peeves is “Christian nationalism.” The Puritans came to this continent beginning in 1620 determined to set up a theocracy in which faith and government were inseparably intertwined. It’s hard to fault them because church-state symbiosis had been the model since Christianity was made the state religion of the Roman Empire in 380 AD. The Puritans set the stage for the very popular notion, preached from pulpits for 400 years, that Colonial America, followed by the American nation, were in a unique, covenant relationship with God akin to God’s covenant relationship with Israel recorded in the Old Testament. Bible passages meant strictly for ancient Israel were regularly misapplied to the United States. What resulted were abuses and attitudes that were contrary to the Gospel and Gospel outreach. It was taken for granted by most that America was a “Christian nation” regardless of the spiritual condition of individual souls.
Alarmed by the increasing secularization of the nation in the 1960s and 70s, evangelicals took up the battle cry to stem the tide. Baptist pastor, Jerry Falwell, vowed to “lead the nation back to the moral stance that made America great.” In the push to fight the culture battles and defend morality and “Judeo-Christian principles” via the political process, the church’s focus on the Gospel was relegated to the back burner. Falwell and others eagerly embraced conservative religious unbelievers as allies in the fight against advancing secularism, thus promoting religious ecumenism. The politically-liberal lost were increasingly perceived as “the enemy” rather than as a mission field. The idea of government becoming some kind of cultural savior took hold in the minds of many. Believers were tempted to support America’s “civil religion” in which the bond of national citizenry and shared belief in a nebulous “supreme being” took precedence over the exclusively genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I recently heard about this book via some negative comments from a discernment ministry apologist who still strongly believes in the notion of America as a “Christian nation.” In “Why Government Can’t Save You,” Pastor John MacArthur responds to churches and individual evangelicals caught up in culture/morality battles. MacArthur reminds believers, with examples from the Old and New Testaments, that, yes, we should be model citizens, although our primary citizenship is in Heaven and that our focus should be on the Gospel and evangelization rather than on promoting nationalism and legislating morality.
- Political Involvement: a Christian Perspective
- Our Responsibility to Authority
- The Biblical Purpose of Government
- Our Tax Obligation
- Jesus’ Lesson on Tax Exemptions
- Supporting Our Leaders: How and Why
- Daniel’s Uncompromising Civil Service
- Paul’s Example Before Worldly Authorities
- How to Live in a Pagan Culture
- Appendix: Citizenship in Heaven: a Sermon by Charles Spurgeon (this excellent sermon can be found online here)
- Study Guide
The book’s message of limited political engagement for believers runs counter to the historical and still very popular notion of America being a “Christian nation,” however, nineteen years after this book was published, with America becoming that much more secularized, there are more believers who are willing to concede that the Falwellian crusade to “reclaim America for Jesus” was wrong-headed and that the focus should now be on the Gospel and Gospel outreach.
Highly recommended. Order from Amazon here.