Senior Fellow Post by Dr. Jeffery J Ventrella
In today’s 24-hour news cycle, political banter is virtually unavoidable and a lot of what we hear is distasteful. Consider a few recent examples:
- Robert De Niro spewing crude language toward POTUS at the Tony Awards
- A race-baiting often-politico clergyman claiming he’s only “anti-termite” not anti-Semitic
- Popular TV comedians mocking the looks of a disfigured Navy veteran seeking a Congressional office
- The entire SCOTUS nomination process where the Senate’s “advice and consent” role has become “search and destroy” the character of the “wrong party’s” nominee
Political speech seems increasingly ugly, distasteful, uncivil, vulgar, immature, and counterproductive . . .
The perception is that political engagement at best produces a Pyrrhic victory, and at worst comprises a foolish Pickett’s charge, distracting from, undermining, or erecting barriers to, the Gospel and being “Gospel-centered.”
And, given those [perceived] parameters, it’s no wonder that non-engagement by some well-meaning Christians is increasingly justified by claiming politics “is NOT a Gospel issue; let’s just avoid politics and pursuing power for the Gospel’s sake.”
At such cultural moments, Christians may be tempted to conclude that politics is dirty and no Christian should be involved in law & public policy.
Yet, what if politics, rather than being dirty, is instead a good work? What if the Gospel not only has political implications, but IS in some sense inherently political. In short, what if politicsIS a gospel issue?
While today’s believers seem to hold a welter of opinions about such things, the Apostle Paul approaches such things with refreshing clarity:
dAll Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that ethe man of God2 may be complete, fequipped gfor every good work.
Let’s do some sanctified thinking: Are the public square and the common good, including Politics, areas that could benefit from teaching? Is there something to be learned? Are there politically-tethered concerns that need correcting? Would those working in these arenas benefit from “training in righteousness?” Is Politics a good work fitting for engagement by Jesus’ followers? Are such things proper concerns of the institutional church and her ordained spokesmen?
If the Gospel is in some sense political and if politics comprises a good work, it follows that Scripture will impact our approach to this good work as a Gospel effort. So, is the Gospel political?
The Gospel’s Cultural Context: A Political Climate
The early Christians, though pious, knew nothing of a truncated privatized faith. Rather, their faith had public traction precisely because it was lived publicly, including being clear about ultimate authority on heaven and earth, which is an inherently political notion.
Consequently, we see boldness attached to the earliest public expressions and applications of theology, even at great personal (and political!) risk. Consider Peter’s proclamation:
It is one thing to express a religious preference – this was certainly common in Rome’s polytheistic culture. However, it was quite another to proclaim and promote an exclusivism of one’s religious convictions. This underlies Peter’s point.
This exclusivism spawned a response from the legal and political realm, in what may be the first “speech codes.” Note how the public officials responded:
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, e“We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you fintend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, g“We must obey God rather than men. [sermon excluded]
Certainly, this narrative reflects “Gospel implications.” And yet, looking closely, there does exist political implications given the cultural context. The Roman and Jewish opposition was not merely personal or subjective; it was institutional and stemmed from official objective political commitments. Those commitments clashed with the political commitment which underpins the Gospel: Christ’s Lordship.
Peter no doubt chose his words to effectuate maximal listener impact. These words, especially Acts 4:12, are latently loaded politically because they mimic and thereby directly confront words uttered by the most powerful political man in the world at the time: Caesar Augustus, who had proclaimed just a few years earlier:
“Salvation is to be found in none other [except] Augustus, and there is no other name given to men in which they can be saved.”
As one scholar explained, this formed the predicate for an inevitable cultural and pollical clash that we see manifesting itself just a few years later:
As Ethelbert Stauffer, in Christ and the Caesars, points out, Augustus saw himself as “the world’s saviour who was to come.”When, in the year 17 B.C., “a strange star shone in the heavens, he saw that the cosmic hour had come, and inaugurated a twelve-day Advent celebration, which was a plain proclamation of Virgil’s message of joy: ‘the turning-point of the ages has come.’” The political order embodied and manifested the divinity inherent in being, and salvation was therefore in and through this high point of power, Caesar. “Salvation is to be found in none other save Augustus, and there is no other name given to men in which they can be saved.” Conflict between Christ and Caesar was thus escapable.
Christ’s coming in this cultural context precipitated a clear, public, and unmistakable political clash. . .
And Peter succinctly and infallibly by the Spirit puts it in the correct perspective, echoing and referencing – yet almost mocking – Caesar’s proclamation and inscription. In this political and cultural “smack down,” there can be only one ultimate authority. Peter tells us this is Jesus, not Caesar and this point is a radical, subversive, and inescapably political claim.
Politics and political currency are real and Politics is necessary, and Politics is inevitable, BUT Politics and political power are penultimate, NOT ultimate – that’s the Gospel’s cultural message and context.
Nevertheless, just because the Gospel is ultimate and politics is penultimate does not mean that the Gospel is apolitical or that Jesus’ followers can be indifferent to politics. The cultural context dictates – and will always so dictate – otherwise. Jerusalem will always clash with Athens, as Tertullian remarked. And, part of that clash is inherently political.
The Gospel’s Creational Context: A Political Climate
Christianity as a Worldview IS Political in a real sense and therefore engaging in Law & Public Policy is a legitimate and first order calling. As such, working in this arena is just as spiritually legitimate as so-called “full time gospel-centered ministry.” This is true not only given the Gospel’s Cultural context, but also because of its Creational context.
Paul in addressing those living in the heart of Caesar’s realm (Rome), first articulates cosmology – the structure of real reality and the Gospel’s creational context. He does this before tackling technical theological themes like justification, sanctification, election, perseverance, et al. It is this cosmological context that provides foundational points for rightly assessing and understanding law and politics. And, this demonstrates the inherent political character of the Gospel. Or put differently, one cannot disavow politics and simultaneously claim to be “Gospel-centered,” if one take’s Paul’s cosmology seriously.
Paul’s Cosmology, that is, Twoism teaches two things: (1) Reality and therefore, Law has an inherent structure; and (2) there can be no neutrality with respect to that structure. This is the Gospel’s creational context and it too is unmistakably political.
FIRST: Paul sets forth a two option cosmology—what’s real reality—and this impacts what comprises Law (Romans 1:18-32):
EITHER: Reality is TWO comprised of the Creator and Everything Else (Creation); OR Reality is ONE: Monism, a single metaphysic, expressed in a myriad of ways.
Paul’s further point: One’s Cosmology – one’s understanding of “reality” — relates to behavior and therefore impacts Law, Jurisprudence, and Policy. Worldview correlates with ethics.
Here’s why: The Twoist reality is that God is Holy, that is, utterly other from Creation. There exists a Creator-Creature distinction. The Creator alone is independent, as Paul affirms during his engagement in the Pagan public square. He commences and roots his argument is creation/cosmology:
The God who made the world and everythingin it, being Lord [a serious political term] of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,  nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,
This establishes another exclusive claim: Only God is transcendent and therefore, ONLY His Law is truly transcendent.
Consequently, in this cosmology, this view of reality’s structure, the creation, including its positive law and politics, is therefore necessarily dependent on and derivative from this independent transcendent God:
” ‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
” ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Therefore: because the Creator alone is transcendent (holy and independent), His Law will necessarily and properly be transcendent: the “Law ABOVE the Law” . . . Sometimes Called Natural Law. This structure generates implications for understanding and rightly ordering Law and Politics.
As Oliver O’Donovan explains:
“The state exists in order to give judgment,”O’Donovan argues, “but under the authority of Christ’s rule it gives judgement under law, never as its own law” (DN, 233). The revelation of God in Christ has a relativizing effect on the powers that be: “The legislative activity of princes, then, was not a beginningin itself; it was an answer to the prior lawmaking of God in Christ, under which it must be judged. Christendom in effect refused the classical commonplace that the ruler was ‘living law,’ his personal authority indistinguishable from the authority of the law he gave” (DN, 234).
And so from the matrix of Christendom “we witness the birth of constitutional law”: “Law not only proceeds from the ruler; it precedes him. His own legitimation must be a matter of appeal to law” (DN 236). 33
The earthly political authority is only derivatively political because it stems from an ultimate political authority: Christ the Lord. Accordingly, all earthly authority, including political authority, though generally legitimate, must be derived “from above” as Jesus told the politician Pilate (Jn. 19:11) – it is NEITHER autonomous NOR independent – and it either aligns and coheres with the higher law or it doesn’t.
Writing in 1981, one commentator put it this way, again using starkly biblical—and inescapably political–terminology:
Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the first and final assertion Christians make about all of reality, including politics. Believers now assert by faith what one day will be manifest to the sight of all: every earthly sovereignty [States, Nations, et al] is subordinate to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.
Politics per se cannot possibly be “dirty” because Christ Himself holds a political office from which all earthly authority derives: He is Lord.
Another scholar put it this way:
Christian faith is either relevant to all of life or it is relevant to none of it: the claims of God are either total, or He is not God. To ask Christianity to stay in its own territory is to ask it to stay in all of life.
—including cultivating a faithful presence in the public square for Law, Policy, Politics, and the Common Good.
What is the aim or telos of that faithful presence, if rightly ordered? What should be the trajectory of rightly ordered political power? In what thematic direction should Christians propose and seek to influence Policy?
Daniel Driesbach describes the vector and motif of a God-shaped (and Gospel-shaped!) faithful presence in the Political and legal sphere:
The cause of liberty is the cause of God; God favors and approves the cause of liberty, and tyranny and arbitrary rule are offensive to Him. Indeed, a state of tyranny, slavery, or sin represents a disordering of God’s moral structure of a purposeful universe. Slavery, in particular, was often depicted as a condition worse than death. Liberty, in short, is the most cherished possession of a free, civilized people. The discourse on liberty emphasized that liberty must be distinguished from license.
HOW then should we act politically, given this creational-normative context? Douglas Farrow crystalizes this by noting the impossibility of political neutrality and then identifies Christians’ political marching orders in light of that reality:
First, we must offer a potent and relentless critique of our society’s habitual evasion of truth. What we need to point out to our fellow citizens, . . . is that man is not and cannot be philosophically or theologically neutral. Neither then can politics, if politics means to be human. There is no presuppositionless political sphere, no sphere in which nothing is directly implied about the nature of God or of man. There is no polis that has no determinate loves, that makes no commitments, that renders no firm judgment of good and evil, that no God or gods.
This is the inescapable political implication of the Christian faith. It is Christian secularism. The state does not address the Church or the Christian citizen with an independent authority capable of overruling the law of God, whether as natural law or as the law of Christ. The state, indeed, does not address any citizen with such an authority. The state performs a limited service (both to God and to civil society) and can lay claim only to a limited and derivative jurisdiction. Where is steps beyond that, or presumes to have its authority without being under authority, it does so without any moral warrant and its laws are not morally binding, as [Pope] Leo declares in his encyclical On the Nature of Human Liberty.
[A]re we really to suppose that the state functions best when it concerns itself as little as possible with what is actually right or wrong, good or evil, conducive to happiness or unhappiness?
Put differently, Christians cannot commend publicly what God condemns scripturally if “good” and “evil” are to retain any functional meaning.
John Murray takes these points and describes the institutional church’s role, you know, that institution charged with stewarding the Gospel, which is supposedly not political? He taught that it was in fact the church’s role to speak into such circumstances, including using political and legal categories because those categories express how moral convictions are expressed, proposed, and applied in the public sphere:
When laws are proposed or enacted that are contrary to the Word of God, it is the duty of the church in proclamation and in official pronouncement to oppose and condemn them…It is misconception of what is involved in the proclamation of the whole counsel of God to suppose or plead that the church has no concern with the political sphere. The church is concerned with every sphere and is obligated to proclaim and inculcate the revealed will of God as it bears upon every department of life.
Consider this thought experiment in light of these admonitions: Understanding the inherent political nature of the Gospel and God’s concern for liberty and the public square, you promote the Common Public Good and actually achieve the following:
- The Sick Healed
- The Dead Raised
- The Lepers Cleansed
- The Demons Cast Out
What an indisputable contribution to the Common Good!!! And, this is exactly what happened to the early disciples as they too took this inherently political Gospel into the public square –Yet with an utterly unanticipated [yet deeply political] response:
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. . . . andyou will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
NOTE: The first thing one MUST understand about faithfully engaging the public square is this: There exists an irreducible offense to the Gospel, when it’s LIVED and ACTED Upon . . . And, that offense is often manifested politically.
Faithful Christians must dispense with the myth that “If we ONLY did Christianity the right way, no one would get offended.” The reality is this: One can catalyze, facilitate, and contribute to the COMMON GOOD and will STILL encounter opposition, conflict, and strife, particularly from society’s political operatives: Courts, governors and kings.
And yet, this sort of engagement is part and parcel of living an increasingly mature Christian life. And, that maturing faith will encounter conflict in the political realm, as John Frame notes:
Christian maturity is tested by its willingness to go against the odds, to go against the intellectual and practical fashions in the service of the King. It is easy enough to be a Christian when that merely requires us to be nice people. But love for Jesus which is motivated by his great sacrifice, requires far more. It calls upon us to renounce what Scripture calls the “wisdom of the world,” the fashionable ideas and practices of our society, and to count them as rubbish for the sake of Christ. We honor those like Noah, who built an ark though the world scoffed; like Abraham, who set aside the evidence of his senses and the laughter of his own wife to believe that God would miraculously provide a son; like Moses, who stood up to Pharaoh and brought him the word of God; like Daniel, who faced lions rather than worship an earthy king; like Peter and John, who told officials that “we must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29).
The clash that occurs often manifests itself – as we mature – in public conflict with political entities and their agents. Recall that Christians are deemed Ambassadors — a stark political term — who represent a world-rivaling political entity, God’s Kingdom, and its Sovereign, the Lord. And, that Kingdom is the telos of the Gospel’s consummation. This reality verifies the Gospel’s inherent political character.
The Gospel’s Consummational Context: A Political Climate
The Gospel’s context is not only Creational and Cosmological. Nor is that context only Cultural. It is also Consummational. History is not Lord as Hegel posited; rather God is the Lord of History because the Lord of Creation is the Lord of History and history’s aim: Consummation.
To appreciate this contextual aspect of the Gospel, one must ask: What’s inevitable? This can be a tricky inquiry because answers can be driven not by “facts,” but by plausibility narratives or structures, the now trendy “Overton Window”.
For example, during the Cold War, virtually no one thought that the Soviet Bloc would fall; virtually everyone thought that Soviet oppression was inevitably permanent. As Anne Applebaum catalogued:
Until it actually happened, few analysts – even fiercely anti-Soviet analysts – had believed that revolution was possible within the Soviet bloc. Both communists and anticommunists, with a very few exceptions, had assumed that Soviet methods of indoctrination were invincible; that most people believed in the propaganda without question; that the totalitarian educational system really would eliminate dissent; that civic institutions, once destroyed, could not be rebuilt; that history, once rewritten, would be forgotten.
Soviet totalitarianism’s reign over Europe, however was NOT inevitable, even though it seemed to be the ONLY plausible scenario . . . Why?
Answer: Those who contended against Soviet domination operated according to a different plausibility narrative; Soviet domination was NOT ultimate according to this alternative account and therefore, it was NOT inevitable.
And, the same is true in our cultures as the restoring and renovating Kingdom of God comes in some measure, propelled in part by God’s fidelity in answering these prayerful petitions, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth” . . . coupled with “deliver us from evil.” Accordingly,
- A Culture of Death is NOT Inevitable
- A Culture of Broken Sexuality and Redefined Matrimony is NOT Inevitable
- A Culture of Censored and Stigmatized Religion – Belief as well as Exercise – is NOT Inevitable
Why? Because as Christians, we have been told what actually IS inevitable, for example:
“Woe to him who builds a town with blood
and founds a city on iniquity!
 Behold, is it not from the Lord of hosts
that peoples labor merely for fire,
and nations weary themselves for nothing?
 For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
It’s crucial to understand the Christian – not Hegelian – view of History flowing from a Christian worldview and driving to the Consummation, as Christopher Dawson summarizes:
It is essential above all to recover the traditional Christian conception of history: first, the doctrine of the transformation and re-creation of humanity in the Incarnation; secondly, the traditional Christian theory of the successive world ages as progressive stages of revelation; thirdly, the ideal of the expansion of the Kingdom of God by the incorporation of the nations in the Kingdom and the enrichment of the Christian tradition by the various contributions of different national cultures and traditions; fourthly, in relation to this, the idea of a providential preparation through which all the positive elements in the pre-Christian and non-Christian world find their fulfillment in the Kingdom of God.
So, in view of these things, HOW should we think about the cultural, political, and legal future?? Where are we culturally? Is this an apt description, accurately reflecting the usual cluster of headlines, tweets, and blogs:
“An army of evils besiege the life of the family: the infidelity of the husband, the stubbornness of the wife, the disobedience of the child; both the worship and the denigration of the woman, tyranny as well as slavery, the deduction and the hatred of men, both idolizing and killing children; sexual immorality, human trafficking, concubinage, bigamy, polygamy, polyandry, adultery, divorce, incest; unnatural sins where by men commit scandalous acts with men, women with women, men with boys, women with girls, men and women and children with each other, people with animals; the stimulation of lust by impure thoughts, words, images, plays, literature, art, and clothing; glorifying nudity and elevating even the passions of the flesh into the service of deity—all of these and similar sins threaten the existence and undermine the well-being of the home.”
This certainly sounds like today’s headlines and Culture War tweets – however, this was penned over a century ago. There’s a crucial lesson here: We too often get caught up in the extant historical or cultural moment and thereby lose sight of the larger context. We must, particularly as we contemplate and engage in the public square with its political accouterments, maintain not only “what [currently] is,” that is, the present crisis, but what is actually inevitable: the Consummational context of the Gospel.
God creates, God redeems, and God restores, all of which is ultimately consummated. This is the story, God’s story as He relates to His Creation. What is the narrative arc of that story? Do we “get” that story via the Internet, blogs, or tweets? No, we get it from God Himself. So, again, What IS God’s narrative arc?
Briefly outlined, Scripture teaches us that God is the Victorious One and that His Victory via Redemption:
- Occurs antithetically, that is, along the lines of the Antithesis God Himself places in History. Conflict, ordained of God, serves redemption:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
- Occurs progressively, that is, incrementally, by regeneration and rule, not revolution and rebellion:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
- This Redemption Produces in some measure a Christian Culture:
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
Thus, as God moves in History bringing redemption to the entire fallen cosmos, one aspect will necessarily be cultural transformation. And, part of cultural transformation will necessarily manifest itself politically and socially, that is, not merely or solely in the hearts of believers.
Scripture’s witness both anticipates this transformation and describes its inauguration as an aspect of the coming and ruling of Christ, the Messiah via His Kingdom.
For example, before Christ, the coming redemption is depicted as gloriously expansive as childless Abraham is told he will be the father of numerous nations. The Psalms comfort those suffering and struggling with a sure promise that one day, political efforts to oppose the Anointed One’s loving rule will be stifled, and that rulers and even entire nations will submit to Him. Redemption’s political dimension is explicit, not exclusive, but explicit.
Daniel speaks of successive kingdoms that supplant one another – again political and legal collectives. And, note, the final and enduring kingdom, “the God of heaven will set up” and it is thus a kingdom “cut . . . by no human hand.” It is Messiah’s Kingdom. And, this kingdom not only supplants, it expands.
The New Testament puts meat on the Old Testament’s anticipatory skeleton. Consider Matthew’s witness. After Jesus explains that given certain signs, one may properly conclude that the Kingdom has arrived in His work and person, He then explains the nature and character of that now present Kingdom.
This Kingdom will grow quantitatively. It also will have qualitative impact as it does so. As it develops, Jesus informs us that this expansion is global: it is like a wheat field (not a tare field) and the field is the entire world.
And, as history moves to the Consummation, this Kingdom’s promised victory is historically manifested to some degree prior to the glorious Second Advent. Paul teaches that as Christ reigns He subdues His enemies:
For he must reign [at the Father’s right hand] until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The author of Hebrews provides similar comfort:
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 
Accordingly, Paul can confidently assure 1st century believers that Satan, the Adversary, is crushed—in History BY these same believers, as predicted in Genesis 3:
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
This is an application of the Consummational perspective of the living the Gospel. As Joe Boot notes expanding on John’s metaphor of Jesus being the Light:
The light exposes the spiritual antithesis at work in the world and we are promised that darkness cannot overcome its illuminating presence. [John 1:5] The works we are called to do are also works of light, which are kingdom works grounded in truth and righteousness, or justice. Nothing in scripture limits these works of light to ecclesiastical activities; indeed, these works are the totality of our life, because “we are his workmanship.”
John informs us that this constitutes the very reason the Son of God came, particularly targeting the devil’s demonic works:
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
And, what in history replaces these destroyed demonic works? Good works, works God prepared for those living the Christian life faithfully in history:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 
And for Paul, ameliorating lawlessness and unrighteousness is not limited to curing souls, or families, or congregations. In his Cultural, Creational, and Consummational view, law and politics should impact the public square as well.
This Story of the transformational Christian Mission, while perhaps sounding “triumphalist” to the 21st century’s supposedly “gospel-centered” ears, has in reality been standard fare at least since Paul; it’s the “usual story,” linking Creation, Culture, and Consummation.
In closing, consider a yuletide tradition: singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. As Bishop N.T. Wright notes, the libretto invokes Rev.11:15, but where and how it uses it is often underappreciated:
Christian mission means implementing the victory that Jesus won on the cross.Everything else follows from this.
The point is that this victory – the victory over all the powers, ultimately over death itself – was won through the representative and substitutionary death of Jesus, as Israel’s Messiah, who died so that sins could be forgiven.
When Georg Frideric Handel set scripture passages to music in his oratorio Messiah, this text [Rev.11:15] from Revelation was used in his “Hallelujah Chorus,” a powerful celebration of the kingdom of God on earth as in heaven.
But my point is not just this chorus itself. What matters even more is where the chorus comes in the work as a whole. The selection and arrangement of texts were not random. The oratorio divides into three parts: first, the hope for the Messiah, and his birth and public career; second, his death and resurrection and the worldwide preaching of the gospel; third, the resurrection of the deadand the joy of the new creation. The “Hallelujah Chorus” celebrates the fact that the true God now reigns over the whole world, so that their kingdoms have become his; and it is placed not at the end of the third and final part, but at the end of the second part.
This reflects closely the view of mission held by many in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (the first performance of Messiah was in 1742). First would come the worldwide kingdom, achieved through the preaching of the gospel; then, and only then, the final resurrection. The aim of “mission” was therefore then to bring the nations into submission to God the Creator and to his Son, Jesus the Messiah. That is, after all, what Psalm 2 had indicated as the divine purpose. And Psalm 2, speaking of the dramatic divine victory over all enemies, was the text set immediately before the “Hallelujah chorus.” It was quite clear what view of “mission” was being advocated.
This mission, so beautifully framed by Handel, is decidedly political: (1) it rests on a political foundation, that is, on God who is the Sovereign- Creator; (2) it confronts and subdues political cultures that mistakenly and arrogantly presume their own ultimacy; and, (3) it moves toward a consummation resulting in the full-orbed manifestation of a political entity, the Kingdom of God.
The Gospel therefore is, and cannot not be, a Political matter – to claim otherwise is to truncate the Good News and to deny what God Himself promises: to equip us for every good work, including works of law and policy which are thus inescapably “Gospel issues.” And this is infallibly good and hopeful news, despite the rancorous twitter-verse and the sour-faced 24-hour news cycle.
 To be clear, the issues explored here are not invitations to fuel partisan enmity and no current political party ought to be wholly or uncritically baptized as being fully “Christian.” Yet, it is also true that if a partisan political party embraces and promotes ethical views that are fundamentally antithetical to Christian morality such as promoting the “right” to take innocent life or undermining the creational norm of marriage, Christians ought not support that party or candidates that align with those ethical evils. In short, any initiative or candidate which commends or condones publicly as a policy what God condemns scripturally is rightly suspect.
 2 Tim. 3:16, 17 (ESV)
 For an analysis of this last inquiry, see Jeffery J. Ventrella, Politics and the Pulpit: What Does God Require? (Coulterville, CA: Lulu, 2015).
 Acts 4:12 (ESV)
 Steven D. Smith, Pagans & Christians in the City: Culture Wars from the Tiber to the Potomac, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018), especially chapter 3
 Acts 5:27-33 (ESV)
 Quote by Ethelbert Stauffer: Christ and the Caesars, pp 81-89. Philadelphia: Westminister Press 1955
Rousas John Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order (Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1978), 64. Notice also that Luke links and contrasts Caesar Augustus with “good news” – Luke 2:1, 10
 Quote by Ethelbert Stauffer: Christ and the Caesars, pp 81-89. Philadelphia: Westminister Press 1955
Rousas John Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order (Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1978), 64
 Romans, especially 1:18-32.
 See generally, Peter Jones, One or Two—Seeing a World of Difference (Escondido, CA: Main Entry Editions, 2010).
 See the encounter of Paul with the Greek intelligentsia at the Areopagus reported in Acts 17.
 Acts 17:24-26 (ESV)
 Acts 17:28 (ESV)
 James K. A. Smith, Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017), 100, 101
 See, Romans 13.
 For a more in-depth jurisprudential exploration of the implications of this point, see, Jeffery J. Ventrella, “Christ, Caesar, and Self: A Pauline Proposal for Understanding the Paradoxical Call for Statist Coercion and Unfettered Autonomy,” in Bradley C.S. Watson, editor, Diversity, Conformity, and Conscience in Contemporary America (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2019), 55-
 D.A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmanns Publishing Company, 2008), 203 quoting Richard John Neuhaus.
 And He’s NOT running for Re-Election!
 R.J. Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come, (Vallecito, CA: Thoburn Press, 1970), 178.
 Daniel L. Dreisbach, Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017), 203
 Douglas Farrow, Desiring a Better Country: Forays in Political Theology (London, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015), 57-58
 Douglas Farrow, Desiring a Better Country: Forays in Political Theology (London, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015), 95-96
 Douglas Farrow, Desiring a Better Country: Forays in Political Theology (London, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015), 90
 See also, note 5.
 Quoted in D. James Kennedy, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 240.
 And, Jesus’ warning is plainly not idiomatic nor a “one off” as the subsequent Acts 5 encounter makes plain.
 John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R 2008), 728,729.
 2 Cor. 5:20 (ESV)
 Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 (New York: Anchor Books, 2012), 460
 Matthew 6:10, 13 (KJV)
 Habakkuk 2:12-14 (ESV) and many similar passages.
 Herman Bavinck, The Christian Family (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Library Press, 2012), 22
 Genesis 3:15 (ESV)
 Isaiah 9:6, 7 (ESV); Cf., Isaiah 65
 Isaiah 11:9 (ESV)
 While well intended, teaching that constricts Christ’s rule to the believer’s heart is a Gnostic move, not a Christian move.
 See, Genesis 12 ff.
 Psalm 2: Kings and rulers – political operatives – seek to oppose the law of the anointed one by “bursting their [God and His anointed] bonds.” God laughs at their efforts. Then David counsels these leaders that wisdom consists in serving – not opposing – this coming King.
 Psalm 72 describes the increasing fruits of this prayer-answering reality until the “whole earth be filled with his glory!” (v. 19)
Compare Ezekiel’s picture of a holy river expanding and deepening from the Temple, (Chapter 47).
 Matthew 12:28 (ESV)
 Matthew 13:31, 32, like a mustard seed (ESV)
 Matthew 12:33, like a lump of leaven (ESV)
 Matthew 13:38 (ESV)
 1 Cor. 15:25 (ESV)
 Hebrews 10:12,13 (ESV)
 Romans 16:20 (ESV)
 Brian G. Mattson, Cultural Amnesia, (Billings, MT: Swinging Bridge Press, 2018), citing Joseph Boot, vii, viii
 1 John 3:8 (ESV)
 Eph. 2:8-10 (ESV)
 Titus 2:13–14 (ESV)
See e.g., 1 Tim. 1:8-10 (ESV)
 “The kingdom [or “kingdoms,” KJV or NKJV] of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
 N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2016), 358
 And, this understanding is not only Reformational: “The positive expressions are pervasive and conspicuous, if we are inclined to notice them. So we see Christian religion enlisted in the consecration of kings and emperors. . . .The acknowledgement of Christianity as an authority is evidence in the political rhetoric of the medieval period in which, even as kings battle the church, they defer to and enlist Scripture and Christianity in their own cause.” Steven D. Smith, Pagans & Christians in the City: Culture Wars from the Tiber to the Potomac, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018), 213.