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What I’m Reading: Why the Cross Can Do What Politics Can’t

The modern church is in danger of losing its way. Indeed, much of it already has, and we’ve lost our message along with it. Christians paste political bumper stickers on our cars and post candidates’ signs in our yards in order to “save our nation,” yet we’re conspicuously quiet when it comes to saving our neighbors. We piously condemn Constantine or the Crusaders for trying to spread Christianity with military might, even as we rely on political rather than spiritual power in our own day.

Erwin Lutzer does a great job both diagnosing and treating our “civil religion” with his book Why the Cross Can Do What Politics Can’t. It’s a clarion call to Christians to get back to the eternal and inspired message of the gospel rather than their party’s most recent talking points. Of course, Lutzer isn’t calling for political pacifism. He urges Christians to vote and utilize our God-given influence. I agree, as I said in my last post. Yet, he reminds us that the hope of people is Christ, not conservative politics. Here are some of the books highlights:

“Today, it is tempting to wrap the cross of Christ in the flag, to equate the American dream with God’s dream for this nation. We have attached a myriad of agendas to the cross of Christ, often clouding the one message that the world needs to hear with clarity and power. Ask any average American what Christians believe and he will give you multiple answers, some correct, others misleading. Few will say that the central doctrine of Christianity is that Christ came into the world to save sinners.” (8)

“[W]e are not in a cultural war but a spiritual conflict.” (40)

“Christians have always been in danger of rendering to Caesar that which is God’s.” (41)

“[F]undamentalists/evangelicals have always been critical of the theological liberals who ceased preaching the gospel in favor of political and social action. Incredibly, the same charge can now be laid at the feet of the evangelical community, with its emphasis on political muscle, watchdog organizations, and boycotts. The concerns are different, but the methods are the same.” (46)

“I grieve because for many observers the cross of Christ appears to the world as a dilapidated bulletin board cluttered with a whole host of issues!” (51, emphasis his)

“Unfortunately, many Christians define Christianity in moral rather than doctrinal terms. Thus when a mainline denomination chooses to ordain homosexuals, the evangelicals among them throw up their hands, shouting, ‘Something must be done! Our denomination has become liberal!’ In point of fact, the denomination became liberal many years earlier when it no longer believed in the binding authority of the Scriptures and ceased preaching the law and gospel.” (140)

“Nor is the devil afraid of our political involvement. He knows that political victories cannot directly promote the kingdom of God. More people are not converted, nor is our witness more powerful because we have elected the right people to represent us. What is more, any ‘Christian’ victories might be overturned in the next election. Only what is done for Christ has eternal repercussions that can never be lost. The message of the cross, no matter how seemingly insignificant, brings more permanent change than the most lauded political victory.” (148)

Finally, regarding the fact that Christians are often joined with Catholics, Jews, and Mormons on moral issues like homosexuality, gambling, and abortion, Lutzer aptly notes that “issues which have such widespread support cannot possibly be the primary mission of the church.” (49, emphasis his)

It’s an enjoyable and timely read. You need to read it. And if you’re a pastor, you need to read it twice.


7 Responses

  1. I think the reason people put more emphasis on politics than religion is because in American politics, you get the choice between two candidates or issues where as when it comes to religion there are so many sides and view points its impossible to understand or believe any but your own. I guess its easier to pick a side then it is to stand on your own…

  2. very edifying

  3. I heard Dr. Lutzer mention this book on the radio. I hope to get a copy of it soon. I was so glad to hear him make a stand on this issue. It boggles my mind that so many Christians are ignorant of the Biblical fact that morality cannot be legislated by man.

    Psalm 146:3 and Jeremiah 17:5

  4. […] confidence in politicians and misplaced focus on political agendas (as I discussed briefly here). I hope it will be helpful to you and glorifying to […]

  5. […] what I believe to be the dangers of politicizing Christianity, especially for church leaders. (link 1, link 2) The two studies converge remarkably, for Wycliffe is known for both his political and […]

  6. […] Why the Cross Can Do What Politics Can’t, a book by Erwin Lutzer with a similar message, written from a more intentionally biblical and […]

  7. […] Lutzer, Why the Cross Can Do What Politics Can’t, p. 41. The entire book is […]

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