Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wise as Serpents

This was in the June Record of the Free Church of Scotland.

Wise as Serpents

I am writing this two weeks before the General Election. By the time your read it a new government will be in office . Various organisations have been encouraging Christians to examine the policies being advocated by the various parties, to write and question candidates, attend hustings and examine the voting records of MPs seeking re-election. It is certainly right that candidates be questioned on issues of special concern to Christians like pro-life, euthanasia and the restrictions on freedom of conscience and speech. This is especially the case when all the major parties seem to be fighting over the same central ground and presentation seems to sway the opinion polls more than policy.

One Christian initiative in the election campaign is Westminster 2010: Declaration of Christian Conscience ( We are told that
“ Westminster 2010 is a declaration aimed to appeal to UK Christians of all denominations who subscribe to the historic Christian faith and who hold orthodox Christian beliefs about life, marriage and conscience.” The declaration pre-able says, “Protecting human life, protecting marriage, and protecting freedom of conscience are foundational for creating and maintaining strong families, caring communities and a just society. Our Christian faith compels us to speak and act in defence of all these.”

I have been happy to sign the declaration as have over 36,000 others at the time of writing. But whenever any Christians take an initiative there are always those who are unhappy. Christian Concern For Our Nation have backed this initiative and I have a friend who works there. She tells me that some Christians will not sign because it means making common cause with Roman Catholics and others they do not wish to stand alongside. Indeed any person identifying themselves as a Trinitarian Christian could sign the declaration.

I fear such objectors signing have not understood what it means to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves when it comes to political involvement. In fact I suspect many of them to also be of the pietistic mindset which regards politics as a dirty game in which Christians should not really be involved. After all, they would ask, is not our calling to change the world through preaching the gospel? I agree that the Great Commission is the calling of the church as church. But Christians have various callings to follow in this fallen world . The sphere of politics is not excluded. As Abraham Kuyper, the theologian and pastor who became prime minister of The Netherlands said, “In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare,'That is mine!'.”

Politics is the art of the possible. One will not find it possible to be wise in this art unless you understand the distinction the late Francis Schaeffer made between co-belligerents and allies; ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice.' A reformed Christian will not be an ally of the Roman Catholics in evangelism but should be a co-belligerent with then, standing together protesting outside the abortion clinic and I trust signing the Westminster Declaration.

Back in 1986 I had my first real experience of political campaigning when some local Christians wanted to protest against the plans of our newly elected local authority to have a policy for sexual equality in education. This proposed policy stated among other things that homosexuality is equally valid. When we formed the Ealing Parents Action Group to challenge this folly, I made sure it was not named as a Christian lobby group. I hoped for co-belligerents from Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs in the borough.

Let us be wise in finding nests of co-belligerent serpents for effective political action. Let us not be left as a few isolated doves whose cries remain unheard.

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