Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., recently gave a talk (video above) to his congregation on politics and the local church.
Here is the broad outline:
- Things feel tense.
- We are united.
- We have differences.
- We’ll be fine.
He enumerated three levels of unity in the church:
- Salvific matters: unity around the Gospel (matters of salvation; necessary moral entailments of the gospel—church attendance, adultery, abortion)
- Church matters: unity around those things needed to have a church (who are the subjects of baptism, when and how will we meet on the Lord’s Day).
- Disputable matters: areas in which we can both differ and yet be covenanted together in a local church, persevering peacefully and edifyingly even through our differences (meat sacrificed to idols, drinking alcohol, the American Revolution, the ultimate hope for Israel).
He lists four reasons challenges to thinking well on these issues:
- Sin is so deceptive.
- Christians disagree.
- Action sometimes precedes agreement.
- We can be paralyzed for fear of being epically wrong!
He then helps the congregation think through questions like:
- How important are our differences?
- Are the political differences we are experiencing today like slavery was? Do they rise to the level of salvation?
- If our differences are not at the level of salvation, are our political differences at the level of those things we must agree on in order to have a church (subjects of baptism, when and how we will meet)?
- Or are they matters about which we can sustain disagreement (
- At which level are various political differences best understood?
Some recommended resources:
- 9Marks Journal, “Pastoring through Political Turmoil“
- Greg Gilbert and Kevin DeYoung, What Is the Mission of the Church?
- Jonathan Leeman, How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age
- Andy Naselli and J. D. Crowley, Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ
- Andy Naselli and Jonathan Leeman, How Can I Love Church Members with Different Politics?