On March 10, 2020, Crossway published a booklet called How Can I Love Church Members with Different Politics? by Jonathan Leeman and Andy Naselli. Here is my review.
For background, Jonathan Leeman is one of the leading SBC pastors arguing that you can be supportive of the Democratic Party and that this should not be considered a problem for Christians.
At mark 48:00 to 53:00 of the following video, Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman explain their views about church members voting for Democrats in national level elections.
Christians with common sense and basic moral reasoning abilities understand that Leeman’s teaching here is unacceptable.
While there are true things in the book, I found the following ideas troubling:
1. The authors consider the following three political issues to be Christian-freedom issues:
Universal health care as a “human right.”
A “progressive income tax.”
Christians voting for pro-abortion candidates supposedly concerned about “whole-life considerations.” (This phrase refers to the idea that the Democratic Party’s other policies are of such a high importance that a Christian could be justified in voting for a Democrat who is pro-abortion.)
Their rationale is that (in their view) we cannot be sure what God thinks about each of these topics.
2. The authors claim that the vast majority of political judgments are disputable matters for the Christian, thus being “Christian-freedom issues” and not being the kind of issue about which to divide fellowship or exercise church discipline.
Within the context of American politics in 2020, the “political judgments” in question would be the official political platforms of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The authors believe the majority of political issues (moral principles over which the two major parties are disagreeing) are in fact Christian-freedom issues (a.k.a disputable matters).
3. The authors claim that our churches are meant to be “communities of political rivals working together.”
They want outsiders to look at a church and be amazed that there are church members who are committed Republicans and Democrats and who are getting along and considering one another to be obedient Christians.
4. The authors make little attempt to offer principles for understanding which kinds of political issues are worth dividing over.
Leeman and Naselli seem to be clear enough that a church member should not be allowed to support abortion, but they make clear their conviction that for nearly every other political issue we do not — and cannot — know God’s view, therefore it would be morally wrong to judge someone for having a differing view.
Why This Book Is Dangerous
While the authors seem to be promoting grace and unity, in fact their approach results in churches having no unity around moral principles affecting society. They silence God. And they silence any who would claim that the Bible does give clear, rational principles sufficient for establishing the purpose and limits of a government.
Their outlook results in a false moral judgment against any person who wants to claim that Scripture does have clear and inescapable points of application for modern political questions beyond the obvious ideas that “murder is wrong,” or “a fetus is a person.”
If taken seriously, this book will destroy the Christian witness and reduce churches to the sub-Christian.
Sadly, among loosely Reformed churches in the United States, Jonathan Leeman and the 9Marks organization are still considered as trustworthy authorities and as voices for biblical wisdom. This booklet and other resources like it have found their way into countless churches across the country. The views held by such men are now the default positions of “conservative” pastors.
Some pastors may argue that churches need to take a neutral approach to political issues, as Leeman (ostensibly) models. And they may say this approach is necessary in order to preserve “the church’s gospel witness.” But, where this approach to church leadership prevails, exactly the opposite happens. The church that fails to teach its people moral reasoning has lost its gospel witness.