Christian Statesmanship and Choosing Politics as a Major at CCU

Many think that the phrase “Christian Statesman” is an oxymoron. Those who do not only believe that these two subjects don’t belong together, but they also echo an old sentiment that it is impolite to bring up the subjects of religion or politics in a social setting because they are too controversial! When the famous British writer and essayist G. K. Chesterton encountered this viewpoint, he was flabbergasted and gave his famous reply: “I never discuss anything else except politics and religion. There is nothing else to discuss!” At CCU, we side with Chesterton. We not only speak of both, but point out the essential relationship between the two. More than that, we encourage students to seriously consider politics as a major and public life as a calling.

I’d like to first talk about why politics is so important. Second, to address how our program in politics differs from other schools. And third, address the topic of Christian statesmanship.

Why politics matters

First, why is politics, and a major in politics, for Christian students important? As I said, there are many voices, even within the church, urging us to stay away from this topic. It is too polarizing, they say. Or, as was said a generation earlier, it is too messy and dirty a business for Christians to be involved with. Those who shy away from the topic, somehow think they will therefore not be involved. But let two voices from the past wake you from your lethargy. The first voice is that of a famous American president: Abraham Lincoln. As Lincoln said, “if you pay taxes, you are involved in politics.” The other voice, from Leon Trotsky, the Ukrainian-Russian Marxist revolutionary. He is reputed to have said, “you might not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.” And today, as tax rates are going up, and politics is intruding into our personal lives as never before, both voices have proved to be prophetic.

It was the late Jewish political writer Charles Krauthammer, in his book Things That Matter, who spoke eloquently and urgently about the importance of politics and of not opting out of the political process. Krauthammer said, “If we don’t get politics right, everything else risks extinction.”[1] He said, “You can have the most advanced of cultures. But get your politics wrong, however, and everything stands to be swept away. This is not ancient history. This is Germany 1933.”[2] He went on to say that we should know “politics, because of its capacity, when benign, to allow all around it to flourish, and its capacity, when malign, to make all around it wither.” This is no abstraction. We see it in North Korea.[3] Krauthammer added, “Politics is the moat, the walls, beyond which lie barbarism. Fail to keep them at bay, and everything burns. The entire 20th century with its mass political enthusiasms is a lesson in the supreme power of politics to produce ever expanding circles of ruin.”[4]

Early American president John Adams, echoed this when he said, “I study politics and war so that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics, and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce … in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, etc.”[5]

At CCU, we do not believe our politics is the ultimate answer to life’s great questions and problems, but we are political. We ultimately believe in a king—king Jesus, and we wait for his return and his coming kingdom. We know that our own political solutions will not ultimately save us, nevertheless, we believe that it is an important sphere of life that Christians must be active in as salt and light. We hold a dual citizenship. Our ultimate citizenship is in the kingdom of God, but for the time being we are citizens of an earthly kingdom as well and must seek its good.

Why do we care about public policy and political thought at CCU? Because we love our neighbor, and because we care about human flourishing, that’s why. While the gospel of Jesus Christ is always our first message, we believe the Christian worldview provides a comprehensive understanding of reality. It speaks to all areas of life, including political engagement. It brings a vital transcendent and moral perspective to public life. In fact, One of CCU’s Strategic Priorities is: “Impact our culture in support of traditional family values, sanctity of life, compassion for the poor, Biblical view of human nature, limited government, personal freedom, free markets, natural law, original intent of the Constitution and Western civilization.”

How our program in politics differs from other schools

CCU’s program in politics is different from other college programs in four ways.

First, it balances political thought with political practice. You will study the history of how our government was formed. You will learn how it works today. You will read the great political philosophers and wrestle with their ideas. But you will also have ample opportunity for practical involvement locally and nationally through the Centennial Institute and its internships. Few Christian colleges have a think tank like the Centennial Institute.

Second, you will be exposed to a wider spectrum of political thought that will include Christian and conservative thinkers. When I studied at a secular university, I basically minored in political thought. In our classes we read Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Hobbes, Locke, Mill, Engels, Marx, Marcuse. But there was a great omission: e didn’t spend much time on Augustine. Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Burke, Kuyper, Kirk and Voegelin. We basically skipped over the American founding fathers as well. This was a huge and irresponsible omission. We don’t take that approach here at Colorado Christian University. Here we will give you a wider exposure and you will be glad for that.

Third, in studying politics at CCU you will go beyond faddishness to first principles. This was another frustration in studying at a secular college. With progressivism, everything keeps changing definitions keep shifting. What is proper changes incredibly fast. It was exasperating trying to keep up with all the changes, let alone make sense of everything. At CCU, however, your focus will not be on faddishness, but on political wisdom. This will set you apart and serve you well for a lifetime. You will learn about human nature, reality, and the order of creation. You will ground your politics in what Russell Kirk called “permanent things.”

Fourth, at CCU we are interested in producing not politicians, but Christian statesmen. Politicians are primarily interested in in power, in themselves, and the next election. Statesmen are interested in the welfare of the nation. They take the long view.

Christian statesmanship

Unlike previous generations, these days we don’t hear much about Christian statesmanship. The progressive news media constantly decry “Christian nationalism.” I suspect that by that they would throw the idea of Christian statesmanship into that bucket. So let me be clear about exactly what I mean. A Christian statesman, and I am applying this phrase to both men and women, is someone who is committed to Jesus Christ, but who loves their country. This love of country compels him or her to stand for truth, justice and righteousness in government.

Let’s break this down into four characteristics of Christian statesmanship. First, a Christian statesman trusts in Jesus Christ as savior and Lord. He or she is a Christian. They have come to that place in life where they have repented of their sin, they have put their trust in Christ’s atoning sacrifice, they have personally received Christ as Savior. They are guided by his Word, filled with his Spirit, and desire to make their moments count for Christ and his kingdom.

Second, a Christian statesman is someone who loves his or her country. Not arrogantly, not idolatrously. They do not mistake their nation for the kingdom of God, because it is God’s eternal kingdom which demands their highest loyalty.

Nevertheless, they still love their homeland, want to serve it and see it prosper.

Third, a Christian statesman is shaped by moral and spiritual wisdom and a Christian worldview. They are guided by a set of foundational principles that they will not compromise for personal gain. They will rise above partisan politics in thinking about the good of the whole country.

And fourth, because of all this, a Christian statesman will be compelled to courageously take a stand for what is true, just and right in government.  They know that nations are ultimately dependent upon God and his blessing for their prosperity. And they know that kings, leaders and nations will have to give an account to God.

Examples of Christian Statesmen

Let me give you some examples of Christian statesmen. Instead of focusing on our own country, and men like Patrick Henry, George Washington and John Jay, let me focus on three lesser known examples from other countries.

William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce (pictured) was a British statesman who lived from 1759-1833. He began his career in politics in 1780 when he was elected to parliament. By his own confession he was mainly focused on himself, but five years into his public service he experienced a powerful religious conversion and this dramatically changed his outlook. As a young Christ follower, he regularly visited pastor and hymn-writer John Newton to seek advice. Wilberforce wondered: should I now leave politics and go into the ministry? Newton, the former slave trader who himself was radically converted, and the famous author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” advised Wilberforce to stay in parliament and serve God there.

Two major issues grabbed Wilberforce’s attention—the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners. He formed a working group known as the Clapham Sect and together they brought major reforms to British society—the reform of prisons, the creation of a free colony in Sierra Leone for former slaves,

the founding of The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and a 30-year campaign to banish the slave trade. Finally, at the very end of his life, three days before his death, parliament passed The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire. Though opposed at first, Wilberforce was later honored with a burial in Westminster Abbey.

Edmund Burke

Another important Christian statesman was Edmund Burke who lived from 1729-1797. Burke was from British Ireland. He was an economist, a philosopher, and a politician—he served in parliament from 1766-1794. Burke wrote and spoke about the importance of virtue and faith as underpinning the moral stability of the state.

His mother being Catholic, and his father a Protestant, he embraced what might be called “mere Christianity.” Burke opposed slavery, he also questioned parliament’s right to tax the American colonies as they did, and supported the rights of American colonists to resist. Burke also supported Catholic emancipation in Britain. However, he is most known in history for his staunch opposition to the French Revolution. Unlike the American Revolution, he believed that the French Revolution was a radical revolution. In his famous book, Reflections on the Revolution in France, he wrote about how it was the offspring of the radical, anti-Christian Enlightenment. It was an attack on a civilization whose basis was Christianity. It sought to upend all its laws, institutions and traditions. He said it was destroying the very fabric of society, including the church. Burke warned against its dangerous abstractions and also condemned the persecution of Christians during the French Revolution. You’ll recall that the French Revolution became a model for radical cultural revolutions of the 20th century, including the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Because of his book Reflections, Edmund Burke is regarded as the philosophical founder of modern political conservativism.

Abraham Kuyper

A final, lesser-known Christian statesman to consider is the Dutchman, Abraham Kuyper who lived from 1837-1920. Kuyper became Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905. Before that he was a pastor, a journalist,

a theologian, a university president, and a politician. As pastor he established the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, the second largest denomination in the nation. As educator he founded the Free University of Amsterdam. As professor and theologian he wrote as a neo-Calvinist, while at the same time vigorously denouncing the theological modernism of his day. As politician he founded what was known as the Anti-Revolutionary Party, standing against the secular principles which inspired and drove the French Revolution. Kuyper promoted school choice in the Netherlands, petitioning for federal funding of all schools—Protestant, Catholic and secular. It was Kuyper who promoted the idea of having a Christian worldview, which is reflected in his famous saying that, “There is not one square inch, in the whole of creation, over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry—Mine!”

These three Christian statesmen were by no means perfect men. They all needed a savior. But they were what we call “world changers.” They were the Christian statesmen of their day. We can learn much from their lives.

Our hope is that through CCU’s politics program, God will raise up a new generation of Christian statesmen and stateswomen at CCU, world changers who hear God’s call to serve him in public life. There is nothing oxymoronic about it. Perhaps he is calling you!

[1] Charles Krauthammer, Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics (New York: Crown Forum, 2013), 129.

[2] Krauthammer, Things That Matter, 2.

[3] Ibid., 2.

[4] Ibid., 2.

[5] John Adams, Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 12 May 1780.
Categories: CCU, Church History, Politics