Evangelicals: Be Wary of Saying 'Thus Saith the Lord'

Rob Schwarzwalder | Family Research Council | Thursday, August 15, 2013

Evangelicals: Be Wary of Saying 'Thus Saith the Lord'

Sometimes, we Evangelicals talk too much. Case in point: the battle over immigration reform.

There are biblical principles concerning the foreigner relevant to immigration reform, surely, but to state dogmatically that opposing or supporting a specific legislative effort is a matter of fidelity to Scripture is irreverent.

Consider the Senate “Gang of Eight” bill that passed the upper chamber. It is highly complex, and rather than one simple plan is, instead, a 1,200-page compendium of proposals and policies. It is legislation, not sacred text. Honorable followers of the Lord Jesus Christ can disagree over the wisdom of its many provisions and whether or not to endorse the measure or fight it.

However, to suggest that Evangelical Christians either must support or oppose it as a matter of fidelity to God and His Word is the height of pretense. The church, as the church, lacks the expertise to comment on issues beyond the parameters of Scripture, including the intricacies of federal legislation. We can teach what the Bible says about justice and human dignity, compassion for the vulnerable, adherence to the rule of law, etc., but to extrapolate from these principles that Christians either must or must not support the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” (that’s the full and cumbersome title of the Senate-passed bill) as a matter of obedience to their Lord is to risk placing words in the mouth of God.

The church loses credibility when it assumes a prophetic mantle to comment on things outside of its expertise, including the highly sophisticated nuances of border enforcement law, etc. The pattern of a non-Evangelical body, the National Council of Churches, is instructive. The NCC now is an ineffective aggregation of old-line Protestant denominations nearing bankruptcy.  Much of this can be traced to the fact that over the decades, its leaders felt compelled to take "the" Christian position on every imaginable issue (even the deportation of young Elian Gonzalez to Cuba in the late 90s). By doing so, the NCC became one more annoying, opinionated, unctuous interest group that had to be courted and placated and was then used and co-opted by the Left  It squandered its prophetic voice and functionally is now irrelevant to the public policy debates in D.C.

A handful of public policy issues have rather clear and distinct implications for legislation if one takes the Bible seriously. Any measure to allow elective abortion-on-demand, based on a host of Scriptures about the sanctity of unborn life, merits opposition. Similarly, measures that indisputably alter the very definition of marriage or that clearly violate our God-given religious liberty, should find little argument among believing Christians.

But on a host of issues – immigration reform, voucher-funded education, nuclear arms reduction, agriculture policy, carbon emissions, to name just a handful – Christians can speak with authority concerning what biblical principles are relevant but when it comes to claiming that a specific bill represents the will of our Savior, we ought to guard our mouths, pens, and hearts.

Additionally, just as there are “weightier provisions of the law” (Matthew 23:23), so are some public policy matters much more significant than others. Those that most immediately and profoundly affect human life and dignity surpass in importance protecting a critically endangered species like the Hawksbill Turtle. The latter was made by our Creator and is valuable to Him; yet children aborted in the womb and women sold into sexual slavery are more valuable than many sparrows – or turtles.

We must be very careful, as Evangelicals, only to say "thus saith the Lord" on things concerning which the explicit teaching of Scripture is clear. Principles of immigration reform can be deduced from the Bible; barring something within it that directly violates a biblical command, opposition to or support for any specific immigration overhaul likely cannot.

“The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,” the writer of Hebrews tells us. Let us therefore wield it with great care, less in our self-righteous enthusiasm we cut one another much too deeply as we debate issues of law and policy.

Rob Schwarzwalder is senior vice president of the Family Research Council.