Voting in a democratic society is an inestimable privilege, but at times it can seem like an overwhelming burden. Every election season, I must decide where I stand on a wide variety of issues I know woefully little about. Suddenly I find myself wishing I were an expert in economics, ethics, environmental science, international diplomacy, and a host of other subjects just so I can render an intelligent decision!
As with other decisions in life, I try to make my voting decisions in accordance with my religious principles. Yet with almost every issue, both sides appeal to the teaching of the Bible to justify their particular viewpoint. Some of these biblically-based arguments I may find compelling; others seem like a bit of a stretch. But why? Is my acceptance or rejection of these arguments based on my own sound exegesis and clear reasoning? Or am I simply more likely to respond to certain kinds of Biblical appeals because of my own uncritical assumptions, emotional reactions, and the influence of my religious community? Sometimes I wonder.
Thankfully, I only have to worry about how I cast my own vote. Those of you in a position of religious leadership—pastors, rabbis, seminary professors, and teachers—may find yourself being asked for guidance when it comes to how your people should vote. Worse still, you may be asked questions about economic policy by congregants who know more about economics than you do, questions about medical ethics by doctors and nurses, questions about the environment by those who have made it their study, etc. How can you help the people under your care apply the Bible to their political decisions without getting in over your head?
One resource that attempts to address these kinds of questions is Wayne Grudem's Politics According to the Bible. This new Accordance resource sets out to develop a political philosophy guided by the teaching of the Bible and then apply it to today's pressing political issues. Grudem begins by discussing the proper relationship between religion and government, critiquing five views he considers problematic (Chapter 1) and then promoting what he sees as a "better solution" (Chapter 2). Next he surveys "what the entire Bible teaches about civil government" (Chapter 3) and then lays out what he understands to be a "Biblical Worldview" (Chapter 4). Grudem ends this section of "Basic Principles" by discussing the proper role of the courts (Chapter 5).
After laying this foundation, Grudem devotes the rest of the book to specific political issues, organized under broad topical heads. For example, a chapter on the protection of life deals with everything from abortion to euthanasia to capital punishment. A chapter on economics deals with everything from private property to business to taxes to healthcare. Each of these discussions is relatively concise and self-contained, enabling you to look up an issue without having to read the book from cover to cover. These discussions are helpful in pointing back to the foundational principles discussed earlier in the book, while also introducing specific details about the issue being discussed. Thus, even if you don't agree with Grudem's conclusions, you can use this resource to get a concise summary of the issue and to find passages of the Bible which speak to it.
The Pastor's Study series of blog posts has been immensely popular—so much so that on the weeks I missed getting one posted, people on the Accordance forums would anxiously ask if the series was over. I've now run out of guest posts by individual pastors, but I want to keep the series going by asking a little less of a lot more of you. Are you a pastor who would like to contribute to the next Pastor's Study post but who doesn't have time to write a dissertation about your sermon-prep workflow? Then read on:
Most pastors don't have the money to spend on resources they'll never end up using, so I want the next Pastor's Study post to provide helpful advice on which Accordance resources you pastors have found most helpful. Specifically, I'm interested in the resources which have surprised you by becoming more helpful to you than you originally anticipated. So here's my question:
Have you ever bought an Accordance module you thought would be somewhat helpful, only to find that it has become one of your most valuable resources? Something you thought you would use occasionally which you now find yourself consulting all the time? If so, what are those modules and why do you think they have exceeded your initial expectations?
I asked this question on the forums over the weekend and have already gotten a couple of helpful responses, but I'm looking for more. You can add your own response in the comments on this post or in the forum thread I just linked to. All I ask is that you give me a brief description of why you originally purchased the module, how it has exceeded your expectations, and why you would recommend it to other pastors. Please also include your name and title as you would like it to appear in the blog post.
Thanks for your help.