Back on April 18th I preached a sermon on Matthew 22:15–22 titled “Religion, Politics, and Money.” In this post, I’d like to rehearse some of the points I made, and then share with you what I take into consideration before I vote.
First, let’s review three of the five points of application I made.
The government is a God-ordained institution. After creating people in his image, God said “let them have dominion” (Gen. 1:26), and “fill the earth and subdue it” (v. 28). These words highlight a key biblical truth: “God not only reigns over people; he also reigns through people.” Consequently, human government—even if it is not explicitly Christian—is good. Order is better than anarchy. Because government is a God-ordained institution, and because God reigns over people and through people, we have certain obligations to the government:
- We obey the law (Rom. 13:1–7).
- We pay taxes (Matt. 22:21).
- We pray for those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1–2).
- We honor our leaders (1 Pet. 2:13–17).
Nevertheless, I also stated that we cannot give our unqualified support to the government. I appealed to Acts 4 and 5 for biblical support. When the governing authorities forbid Peter and John from preaching in Christ’s name, they respond: “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). Hence, the main point I sought to bring out in my message was that while we have certain responsibilities to the government, our undivided allegiance belongs to God alone. Our duty to Caesar is not ultimate; obedience to God is.
I also said that Christians may need to modify their political views because of their commitment to Christ. I appealed to Simon the Zealot as my biblical example because the Zealots refused to pay taxes to the Roman government. But in Matthew 22:21, Jesus says, in effect, “Pay your taxes.” Conclusion? Simon the Zealot needed to modify his political views. While I realize there may not be an exact parallel between the Zealots and contemporary Christians, I used this example to exhort our congregation to bring every thought, every ideology, and every policy captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
This exhortation provokes a question I did not address in my sermon: Should Christians only support those in government who advance biblical values?
To answer this question, I consulted with other pastors and theologians to broaden my perspective and sharpen my thinking. Here’s what I’ve concluded:
First, Christians may choose to abstain from voting altogether. Although I think Christians should participate in elections, I do not believe it is a biblical requirement. As far as I and the other pastors and theologians I brainstormed with can tell, Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:15–22 mean that we need to pay taxes, but do not demand that we vote. That said, Christians who participate in the political process must remember that no candidate will advance our values perfectly.
As one who chooses to participate in elections, here’s what informs how I vote:
My theology of creation and the created order inform how I vote. To see my thought process, my theology of creation and the created order lead me to affirm the following theses and their entailments:
Thesis 1: Humans are created and dependent beings who inhabit a world with a built-in structure to it spoken into existence by a wise and good Creator. Three entailments follow: 1) As creatures, human beings receive reality; 2) we receive the created order as a gift; 3) we must bring our lives into conformity with the created order. Human beings do not give nature its shape.
Thesis 2: The doctrine of creation—as well as Christ’s incarnation and resurrection—leads Christians to affirm the fundamental goodness of creation and embodied life. Entailment: We should embrace rather than extinguish life.
Thesis 3: The doctrine of creation implies that our God-given genders of male and female are gifts to be received. Entailment: The terms male and female are not social constructs but rooted in God’s design (Gen. 1:26–28).
Thesis 4: According to Scripture, human beings are created and dependent (Gen. 1–2), but also fallen (Gen. 3). Entailment: Human beings seek to exercise their reason autonomously and aim to unshackle themselves from their creatureliness.
Thesis 4 brings us to our current cultural moment. We no longer see ourselves as bound by “natural law.” Rather, we believe that we give nature its order. Legal scholar O. Carter Snead rightly notes that contemporary American public policy regards human beings as “atomized individual wills” inhabiting bodies. As a result, politicians advance policies that militate against human flourishing and harm people. Hence: I cannot in good conscience support political candidates who work to put these kinds of policies in place.
Together with the point above, my theology of marriage informs how I vote. To keep this brief: Marriage is neither a human invention, nor a social convention, but a creation ordinance established by God as a heterosexual, monogamous, permanent relationship (Gen. 2:24). The man and woman leave their family of origin, unite together in marriage, and form a new family. Accordingly, the state does not have the right to redefine marriage because the state is not the author of marriage. It is crucial for Christians to see that marriage is not “an intimate personal relationship” with sex. It is not merely a strong emotional connection between two (or more) people. I believe Christians should support and defend a strong marriage culture. Hence: I cannot in good conscience support political candidates who work to undermine traditional marriage.
Given my comments, some readers may be thinking, “Joe, based upon what you have written, it’s clear that you think Christians should only support Republican candidates?”
My response is: Not necessarily. I know there are Democrats who agree with what I wrote above and therefore oppose the leftward lurch of their party. But as things currently stand, the Democratic party is largely beholden to several ideologies* that I believe conflict with the Christian worldview in significant ways and that threaten to imperil the rights of Christians to live out the implications of their worldview. Here I am thinking of the LGBTQ+ revolution, critical theory (and its offshoots), intersectionality, and identity politics. They also tend to treat the Supreme Court as another policy-making body.
At this point others may be muttering under their breath: I, too, affirm the doctrine of creation and support traditional marriage, but I also value immigration, gun control, and an equitable tax system (to name only a few).
So, here’s my conclusion: Choosing to participate in the political process requires Christian wisdom, which means prayerfully deciding which cultural, moral, and policy issues to prioritize.
As for me, I prioritize what I wrote above.
*For the sake of clarity, I am using the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary‘s definition of “ideology”: “Ideal or abstract speculation; in a depreciatory sense, unpractical or visionary theorizing or speculation” (2nd ed. ), s. v. “ideology.”
 Jeremy R. Treat, The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 55.
 The medieval theologian Anselm (1093–1109) memorably stated that human nature was exalted in the incarnation. See his Cur Deus Homo, in Anselm: Basic Writings, trans. and ed. Thomas Williams (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2007), 1. 8 (253).
 James K. A. Smith, Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017), 154, says the resurrection of Christ is an affirmation of creation.
 O. Carter Snead, What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020), 5, 8, 65–105. In contemporary public life, “Persons are identified with and defined by the exercise of their will—their capacity for choosing in accordance with their wants and desires. Thus, this conception of personhood decisively privileges cognition as the indispensable criterion for membership in this category of beings. In this way, it appears to be dualistic, distinguishing the mind from the body. The mind and will define the person, whereas the body is treated as a contingent instrument for pursuing the projects that emerge from cognition and choice” (69–70). For more on this point see Robert P. George’s essay, “Gnostic Liberalism” here.
 As an example, see Abigail Shrier, “Male Inmates in Women’s Prisons,” Wall Street Journal (June 1, 2021): A17.
 Katherine Shaw Spaht, “The Current Crisis in Marriage Law, Its Origins, and Its Impact,” in The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, & Morals, eds. Robert P. George & Jean Bethke Elshtain (Dallas: Spence, 2006), 239.
 As the late Antonin Scalia wrote, “A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.” See his “Dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges,” in American Conservatism: Reclaiming an Intellectual Tradition, ed. Andrew J. Bacevich (New York: The Library of America, 2020), 306. Interested readers should also consult Scalia’s essay, “Mullahs of the West: Judges as Moral Arbiters,” which you can find here: scalia.indd (rpo.gov.pl)