Evangelisation or Politics: A False Dichotomy

24 February 2022


A review of “Why Government Can’t Save You“, by John MacArthur (Word Publishing, 2000). Are Christians meant to focus solely on the spiritual life and evangelisation, not getting involved with social justice and political enterprises?

I enjoy many of the books by John MacArthur. He often writes sensibly and incisively. However, in this book, I think he forces us into a wrong understanding of the issue of Christian social involvement.

While John MacArthur acknowledges that Christians should not escape cultural and political involvement altogether, his basic thesis is that our main calling is “spiritual” (evangelisation, worship, etc.) while other tasks (social reform, political participation, etc.) are at best only of limited value and at worst are “worldly” and a waste of time.

Thus the essence of his argument is to make a dichotomy — in my view, a false dichotomy — between spiritual work like evangelisation and earthly activity like cultural renewal. He just sees these as polar opposites and forces Christians to make a choice. What is it, evangelisation or social reform? What is it, doing things God’s way, or man’s way?

Do Both

But many, including myself, see this as a false dilemma. We believe that Christians are to do both. It is not a question of either-or but both-and. That has always been the case with the Christian church throughout history.

Wherever Christian missionaries went, they both preached the Gospel and did social good. Hospitals, education, prison reform, improvement of the welfare of women and children, etc. have been part and parcel of the Christian mission. Thus the Christian church has been at its best when it has been up to its ears in social reform.

MacArthur would have us believe that attempts to alleviate social wrongs are a diversion or worse. I am glad William Wilberforce did not heed the advice of those who said he was wasting his time, or being unspiritual, when he took on the slave trade because of his Christian conviction of the dignity of all human life.

If he had listened to the naysayers like MacArthur, we would still be fighting slavery today. I am glad Wilberforce ignored such advice and fought what looked to many to be a losing battle. Thus today we do not have to re-fight the battle over slavery (at least not in the West).

God’s Kingdom

The point is, the Christian message is to be holistic — all areas of life are to come under God’s sovereignty. That means being salt and light in a dying and decaying world. Of course we don’t give up on evangelisation. Of course people need inner transformation. But that does not mean we stop doing what is right, whether that means working in a secular job to feed our children, or running for political office to be salt and light. Whatever God calls us to do, we should do it.

MacArthur simply forces us into an either-or position that Scripture does not require of us. For a better discussion of the Christian’s role in society, see the works by Charles Colson or Janet and Craig Parshall.


Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo by Soul Winners For Christ from Pexels.

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  1. Kon Michailidis 24 February 2022 at 10:54 am - Reply

    You are right Bill, it must be ‘both – and’. The best current example of not only the need to do both, but of being empowered to do both is Mario Murillo in the USA. He is running amazing revival meetings at this very moment as I am writing this where thousands are being radically and gloriously saved, healed and delivered.
    He is also preaching a powerful message from the pulpit and on other platforms about the need for involvement of the church in social and political issues. He excoriates pastors who are not being active, saying that they are failing and calling them to repent.
    It is wrong to encourage pastors to remain in their false, passive, non-involved positions and call it being spiritual, especially at this time when fundamental issues such as freedom are at stake.
    Pastors should repent for not getting involved and should encourage their flock to be politically and socially involved.
    It is not much good complaining about the state of families, sexuality, abortion etc. as many Christians who don’t believe in social and political involvement do, when they were silent at the time these things were being played out in the political arena and they thought they were too spiritual to be involved in politics.

    If we are truly serious about revival, we need to understand that getting people saved without the social and political institutions being changed is not enough. We must have revival that brings reformation and transformation of society. That is becoming a harder task as more and more Christians are drawing back from political and social involvement.

  2. Dick Nicholls 24 February 2022 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Thankyou Bill, and Kon
    I just add, it’s so important to recognise ministries of all sorts even if it’s not like ours.
    Kingdom people are truly in this together.
    The attitude that you are correcting, is so prevalent and one reason why Christian leadership is rare on issues of freedom, faith, family and life.
    God bless you Bill and other courageous leaders to speak truth to “politics “. (In the footsteps of Isaiah and Co.)

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