Recent years have shown deep distress and division in the political nature of our relationships – not just outside of the church, but inside the church too. The trend is concerning, not because two people hold different views or those views may or may not be biblical, but because it reveals a heart attitude: many people are more inclined to look to government as a savior. The climate of dissension in the church over politics is deeply troubling. Jonathan Leeman, editorial director at 9Marks and an occasional lecturer at conferences and seminaries, has brought forth a book to address that very topic: How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age.
The author notes, “Our rights may have come from God, but we’ve made them god” and with this in mind, he embarks on an intense look into the Christian engagement with politics. The book is complex, as one would expect from the fact that the author has five proposed goals:
Goal 1: To rethink faith and politics
Goal 2: To invest political hopes in the church
Goal 3: To learn to be before to do
Goal 4: To prepare for battle and rage
Goal 5: To become less American and more patriotic
Following some introductory information and chapters, Leeman continues with an additional seven chapters each arranged around one topic (the heart, the Bible, government, churches, Christians, and justice). Each examines the relationship with each and a right attitude Christians should have towards politics based upon God’s fundamental principles. As one would expect, he often draws readers’ attention to Genesis 9 and Romans 13, however, he utilizes much more of the Bible from principles to examples.
Jonathan Leeman writes to provoke a personal examination of one’s political views and involvement in conjunction with the Scripture. He does not write in such a way to tell each reader what his or her convictions must be in specific areas (tax reform, immigration policy, healthcare, etc.). Instead, he asks that readers start at nothing, taking no preconceived notions with them. This is a unique and difficult approach, but a necessary one. Therefore, he examines what Scripture has to say in order to use that as a basis for each individual to define his or her own political views, define his or her involvement in politics, and define which areas are those of personal conscience.
The author is able to do this not because he is imposing personal convictions upon readers, but because he is imposing the gospel on them. Readers are confronted with the truths of the gospel and God’s word and the implications that has upon the politics one subscribes to. Leeman does well at navigating through complex issues in order to demonstrate areas of gospel-importance (and thus non-negotiable) versus those areas in which biblical arguments can be made for varying views (and thus subject to personal conscience). His examination indicates that “we don’t want a government that thinks it can offer redemption, but a government that views its work as a prerequisite for redemption for all its citizens.” In his thorough research, he draws readers to a correct involvement in politics, both corporately and individually, for the purposes of furthering God’s kingdom.
In many ways, this is a book of hermeneutics in that its examination of politics requires a hermeneutical structure of interpretation and application of Scripture. The uniqueness of the topic combined with the elevation of the gospel gives readers an opportunity to learn how to interpret Scripture in the process of examining Leeman’s overall purposes. As a result, we have a book that is very practical because he either lays out key behaviors that readers should have (such as how they act as ambassadors for Christ) or key qualities that should be present (such as for a good government or a rightly engaged church).
Jonathan Leeman’s unique qualifications to write this book aide readers in gaining a better understanding about the connection between faith and politics. As one who ministers in the heart of the political capital of the United States and interacts much with the insiders combined with one who is deeply grounded in his faith as a Christian, he is able to open the window for readers to get an accurate view. I have not read many books (only some articles) on this ever-pressing topic, but I can say that this one is exceptional and as Christians become more conflicted about the two, it becomes a necessary book. I would especially recommend it to church leaders as a tool to help them navigate this difficult topic and to instill some of the principles in their own church.
To purchase a copy of How the Nations Rage click here.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced in any way by the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book. It is the result of my own reading of it.