Politics according to Grudem

Politics according to Grudem

Politics – According to the Bible
A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture

I have been putting off writing a review of this book. I owe an enormous debt to Professor Grudem because his was the first systematic theology that I read cover to cover. It was a really engaging book because he didn’t duck out of the juicy bits of theological discussion (at the time for me these were: speaking in tongues, prophecy, etc). I loved the way he seemed to know everything – he had a definite opinion on every subject from the order of events for Jesus to return, to the roles of men and women in the home, he seemed to be as confident and as sure about these things as he was about the atoning work of Christ and the reality of the resurrection. Other views on the end times, roles of women, baptism, were summarily dismissed with numerous Bible texts that showed the superiority of Professor Grudem’s views. This is just what I wanted – a champion who could take on all foes and so I lapped it up and I used this mighty tome as a discipleship tool to induct other teenagers in the essentials of the Christian faith.

You might wonder why a UK Christian would bother engaging with Professor Grudem’s book which is clearly aimed at a US audience. But Grudem’s influence is global and he has quite a following in the UK, he has been visiting political leaders in countries like Albania with a seminar called 50 Factors Within Nations that Determine Their Wealth or Poverty, of which this book is a written version, he has also been lecturing emerging leaders across Europe to explain with his views on global warming. So this is not an irrelevant book to engage with from a UK context. (See the video below which is an admiring eulogizing of Grudem sung by a UK evangelical student group).


Dr Grudem is adamant that this book is clearly derived from the Bible . His title proclaims that this is “politics according to the Bible” in other words Grudem is confident he has done his homework and as someone who is very clear on the issue of not just the infallibility of Scripture but the inerrancy of the Bible – it is a primary value to Dr Grudem that his book is exegetical that its conclusions flow from the clear teaching of the Bible. Indeed he explains:

“as with any written document, it is always possible for a hostile reader to lift biblical statements unfairly out of their contexts and announce that “this is what the Bible teaches,” but this is done with no attention to responsible principles of interpretation and no awareness of the place of specific verses within the broad sweep of historical development throughout the Bible.” P.57

I believe Dr Grudem to be a faithful man seeking to apply the Bible to the contemporary church. It is therefore with some regret that I must register some major misgivings not just with this book but with Dr Grudem’s theological and hermeneutical method demonstrated in this book.
As an author I know what it is like to receive unfair and uncharitable reviews of my books, so I want to give this book a fair reading, the book is encyclopedic in its size and breadth, so a blow by blow account of the book is not possible, rather a panoramic description will be provided. We must of course start with the good. So I would like to share 5 things that I value about this book.

  1. Encouragement for Christians to engage in Political life– the book starts with a passionate call for Christian engagement with political life. This is to be commended – as many Christians have evacuated the world of politics for fear of getting dirty.
  2. Challenging pietistic disengagement that stems from a “trust Jesus and be forgiven of your sins and grow in holiness and go to heaven” reductionist gospel. (p45) Dr Grudem helpfully challenges the pietistic gospel that only has an interest in saving souls not demonstrating the reign of God over all creation.
  3. A recognition that Christendom is not an appropriate model for political engagement.
  4. A willingness to engage with tricky subjects: gun ownership, torture, pacifism etc.
  5. A recognition that you should vote on the issues rather than simply supporting a Christian candidate because they are Christian (p.66)

Structure of the Book

The book breaks down into 2 main sections:

Part One

lays down basic principles of Christian political engagement, arguing against faulty views of the church and politic engagement.

Part Two

looks at specific issues in the following order:

Protection of life – including: Abortion, Euthanasia, Capital Punishment, Ownership of Guns
Marriage – including Polygamy, Homosexuality, Divorce
Family – including “governments should encourage married couples to bear and raise children”, Spanking
Economics– including: Private property, Economic development, Free market regulations, the rich and the poor, taxes
The Environment– including: the current state of the earth’s resources, carbon fuels etc
National Defence – including just war theory and pacifism
Foreign Policy – including Israel, the interrogation of detainees, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

This is certainly a wide-ranging book. You can probably tell from the ordering of the chapters where Dr Grudem is going with what some would see as a predictable emphasis on traditional hot-button moral majority questions. But Dr Grudem cannot be accused of ducking volatile issues and he is to be commended for encouraging Christians to think through these important subjects.


I will limit myself to three areas of critique:

1. Style and Scripture

Dr Grudem’s normal mode of scriptural engagement is prooftexting. So for example in his section arguing that the carrying of concealed firearms will help to bring about a safer society Grudem relies on one text

Luke 22:36-38 “But now let the one who has a money bag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one….”

He defends this text from other texts for example when Jesus tells peter to put away his sword or when Jesus said “all who take up the sword will perish by the sword.” But there is no engagement with the Bible’s wider teaching on peace, on beating swords into ploughshares, on Jesus’ lack of weapons, on the practice of the early church. This single text is the basis by which Grudem argues that the ownership of weapons is acceptable Christian behaviour in fact it is to be encouraged. Grudem marshalls numerous statistics to argue that it is a open and closed case that gun ownership makes for a safer society. He does admit that UK Christians will see this issue differently but he warns the UK church

“things are not as peaceful as they might seem. The recent situation is such that, surprisingly the rate of violent crime(with or without guns) per capita in the UK is now about twice as large as the rate in the United States.”

Grudem argues that gun control laws do not reduce gun crime and in several places they have lead to an increase in crime. There is no engagement with statistics that claim the opposite, (for example in Australia gun control laws have been very successful) it is presented as a clear open and shut case. There is no serious engagement with theologians who would take alternative opinions. There is very little theology here, just a prooftext and some statistics.

One of the things that I enjoyed about Grudem’s systematic theology as a young person was that Grudem did not sit on the fence about anything, he had clear views and made a persuasive case for all of them. But looking back it almost feels like everything was a primary issue of Grudem – there is no sense of “Christians differ on these issues, I maybe in the wrong here and so these are not issues that we need to divide over” instead Grudem seems to have very little respect for other views – there is a sense of omniscience in his writing – a sense that Grudem believes the Bible to be crystal clear on all the issues he looks at.

It is true he does present a caveat in the introduction of his book:

Do I think that everyone who tries to follow the Bible will agree with my understanding of these issues? No. In a book that covers sixty political topics, many readers will agree with me in some sections and disagree with me in others. Many Christian readers who accept the authority of the Bible might argue for alternative positions that they think are better supported from the overall teaching of the Bible. That is fine with me, for I think we grow in our understanding by discussing and reasoning with one another (in a civil manner!)… I also want to say that I do not hold with equal confidence every position I support in this book. On some issues I think the overall teaching of the Bible is clear, direct, and decisive, such as the idea that civil governments are set up by God to punish evil and reward good (chap. 3) or the idea that laws in a nation should protect people’s lives, particularly the lives of preborn children (chap. 6).

This caveat is made but still it does not feel clear in the body of the text, it would not have taken much to signal which issues he feels there is room for disagreement on. He does seem pretty adamant and committed in his statements on global warming, the superiority of free market capitalism, ownership of guns – I was not aware of these being seen as a matter of interpreting difficult passages but rather Grudem appears to present the Bible being clear on these issues.

There is very little engagement with views from the history of the church or from the global church. Grudem is of course entitled to his opinion and I am not criticizing Grudem for not agreeing with my political opinions – I am concerned that he makes the dogmatic claim in the title of this book makes that this is “politics according to the Bible” and he doesn’t try to engage with other opinions.

2. Syncretism

– in his chapter on economics, Grudem argues that personal ownership of private property is a fundamental assumption of the Bible. He then goes on to argue that this puts the Bible in direct contradiction of Marxism. It appears to me that any kind of socialism is seen by Grudem as subChristian. He argues that one of government’s primary responsibilities is to promote economic growth in a nation as it is “morally good and part of what God intended in putting human beings on the earth” p.269 I could not find an engagement with why we should be thinking about an individual nation states economic prosperity rather than the overall prosperity of the world. Grudem describes the free market as

“a wonderful, God given process in human societies through which the goods and services that are produced by the society (supply) continually adjust to exactly match the goods that are wanted by the society (demand.)

He recounts how he traveled with his young family through communist Europe as a means to demonstrate the superior capitalist free market economies compared the ‘drab” and “people’s faces appeared drained of hope or any joy in life” p.277

This feels like propaganda for small government republicanism. I have driven through parts of affluent North America where people’s faces look drained of all hope or any joy of life – for me to use this as a reason to conclude that free market economics is a wicked system and then back it up with a proof text such as “the disciples shared all things in common” (acts 2;44) would seem sub biblical imposition of a political system on the text. But Grudem continually takes this approach. It feels like syncretism – allowing the cultural context he is in to determine his reading of scripture. Now of course all of us are vulnerable to this and so allowing other Christian voices, and the sweep of the Biblical narrative to direct us is surely a helpful corrective to avoid this kind of eisogesis.

He takes a similar view on the environment arguing against a radical environmentalism that wants to leave nature untouched and “undeveloped.” There seems little space given to moderate environmentally minded evangelicals whilst Grudem fights the radical groups. Grudem argues

“Did God create an earth that would run out of essential natural resources because of human development?… There is no hint that mankind will ever exhaust the earth’s resources by developing them and using them wisely” p.329

Grudem argues “ there is no good reason to think we will ever run out of any essential natural resource…” He then cites reams of statistics to support his case. He summarises

  • “Long term trends show that human beings will be able to live on the earth, enjoying every increasing prosperity, and never exhausting its resources”p.332
  • Buying Recycled Paper is a waste of time. p.348
  • Pesticides are not a problem. p.352
  • Coal resources will last for 1500 years p.357

Grudem argues that concerns about nuclear power are “based on irrational fear led by Hollywood style fiction, the green lobbies and the media. These fears are unjustified and nuclear energy from its start in 1952 has proved to be the safest of all energy sources” p. 359 (safer than windpower, hydroelectric power, geothermal energy…)?

“There is no virtue in always seeking to reduce our energy use.” p.360

Some say a picture tells a thousand words:

Fukushima nuclear plant , Japan

With respect to global warming, Grudem asks the question “Did God design a fragile earth or a resilient one?… should Christians believe that God has actually designed the earth to be this fragile in response to human activity.” Grudem clearly insinuates that the fears of the environmentalists are a challenge to a fundamental understanding of God’s ability to create a resilient planet. There is a problem with this argument – it seems pretty water tight. But by this argument nuclear weapons do not exist or have a greatly exaggerated potential impact on human life, because God did not create a world that is fragile enough to be vulnerable to human activity.

Grudem argues that “scientific opinion is strongly divided about global warming” this is not what Sojouners argue: More than 95 percent of scientists working in the disciplines contributing to climate studies accept that climate change is almost certainly being caused by human activities.”

The controversial aspects of this book include:

  1. Rubbishing the claims that human interaction has anything to do with climate change.
  2. Arguing for the carrying of concealed firearms.
  3. Arguing for the use of torture, particularly waterboarding on terror suspects.
  4. Arguing that freemarket capitalism is the only biblically justifiable economic system.
  5. Arguing against a welfare state.

All of us are vulnerable to being influenced by our cultures, our upbringing and cultural location makes us vulnerable to seeing the Bible through our preferences, political persuasions. The best way to test our views would be to expose them to the whole biblical narrative rather than selecting prooftexts. If you work hard you can make the Bible say almost anything you want – how many of us have had conversations with Jehovah’s witnesses that use an identical prooftexting hermeneutic. They impose a theological system on the Bible that means they miss the point of its narrative. If we are not careful the Bible ends up being a mascot to support our own ideologies rather than allowing scripture to shape us.

I was disappointed by this book it feels divisive, and lacks a wider theological awareness that you would expect of a thinker of Grudem’s caliber. Should it perhaps be retitled: Politics according Grudem, a one sided polemical text book?




22 thoughts on “Politics according to Grudem

  1. Agnes says:

    An interesting review. I haven’t read the book, so my comments simply refer to the impression I get from your review. I’m surprised and disappointed that Grudem seems to tackle political issues as if the answer in scripture is obvious, because it’s not. I know Christians with very different political persuasions, and each of them are convinced that their view is biblical, and can draw on Scripture to back their views. There will always be controversy over Christianity and politics. So, I would like to read a book which addresses these controversies and looks at both sides of the arguments in a balanced way (though is this possible, as someone writing a book about politics is clearly passionate about it and is likely to be strongly biased one way or the other) and then leave it to the reader to decide on some ambiguous issues, rather than claiming ‘this is what the bible says and that’s that’. Grudem’s views are all valid, but they’re not the only views and shouldn’t be presented as such. If he is so convinced of his arguments then surely he should engage with counter arguments and refute them?
    Thanks for your review.

    1. krishkandiah says:

      Thank Agnes – I wrote / editted a book that was aimed at an entry level audience but worked with three christian MPs with very different political philosophies. It was called: Just Politics – http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1850788650/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=theocca-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=1850788650

  2. Thomas Staunton says:

    I was given “Politics According to the Bible” for Christmas last year. I gave it skim, was pretty disappointed and put it down again. One of the things I really appreciated about Grudem’s Systematic Theology was when he disagreed with someone view you got a thorough discussion of that view and decent response from Grudem. Also on some controversial issues like parts of eschatology he steps back from giving too hard a view himself. In contrast I felt Grudem punches at straw men in PATTB. For example he fails to engage with much of the literature by Bible believing Christians on issue such as poverty, pacifism and the environment. He seems to be saying at times you are either a Marxist, a militant feminist, a radical green activist or you have the same political views as Grudem.

    Like Krish I thoroughly respect a lot of Grudem’s theology, I would recommend his books on doctrine, his commentaries and his work of gender roles. I massively respect him as a man old enough to be my Grandfather and a great good for the church. I guess this is what made me so sad. It seems that this book is captive to the same sort of either or politics that America can be stereotyped as having where there is no middle ground and both sides are happy to paint a simple “you’re with me or you’re a left/right wing extremist.”

    Just a final note, both me and my Sister in law are both left wing in our political outlook, she’s also an Atheist. Over Christmas knowing I’d been given the book she asked me what I thought of it. Having explained my misgivings she said that she’d expected that to be the slant on any Christian book on politics. For her being a Christian is pretty much the same as being right wing which makes Jesus less attractive to her. I don’t think my Sister in law needs to change her entire political persuasion to become a Christian. Grudem seems to come close to implying she does.

  3. Mark Meynell says:

    Thanks Krish – you’ve done a really good job here – I do hope that people will build on this further…

  4. Michael Ots says:

    Krish, thanks. I heard Grudem at NWA last year and felt then that every issue for him seemed to be black and White and a matter of first importance. I much preferred Don Carson the year before who was much quicker to acknowledge differences of opinion and seemed much more gracious towards those he disagreed with.

  5. I think Dr. Grudem needs to come live on the Cape Flats in Cape Town for a few years. He might change his mind about carrying weapons shortly after.

  6. Simon Hall says:

    Thanks for this review. The title offers a great deal and now I am reluctant to buy it: you are much more reflective than me, so I think it would upset me too much!

    I am currently reading Colossians Remixed, which effectively challenges Grudem’s assumptions straight from the Bible, and implicitly casts him as an ambassador for the Empire of Mammon.

    At some point Christians from around the world are going to have to confront America’s sense that it is God’s chosen nation. The quotes you use from Grudem’s book feel quite arrogant. I remember the innocent faces of small town Americans on the TV, completely mystified by 9/11, because they couldn’t understand why anyone would hate America. Grudem does not have the excuse of innocence/ignorance: he is well-travelled, and one trusts he has seen more of the world than luxury hotels and conference centres.

    Americans will no doubt claim this is just a Manchester United effect: we’re all jealous. But the reality is that America is 1970s Leeds United: winning through violence and cheating (and I’m a Leeds fan).

    And why is he using statistics? If something is biblical, it is biblical. Using statistics to back up Bible verses shows I have no confidence in the Bible. Since I can prove statistically that the pentecostal movement is the fastest growing part of the global church, does that mean Grudem should become a pentecostalist?

    Thanks again.

  7. étrangère says:

    Hey Krish, helpful review, in that you put your finger on the hermeneutical problem.

    ‘But looking back it almost feels like everything was a primary issue of Grudem – there is no sense of “Christians differ on these issues, I maybe in the wrong here and so these are not issues that we need to divide over” instead Grudem seems to have very little respect for other views’

    Grudem’s prooftexting frustrated me when I was reading his Systematic as a RW – I would look up the verses and find they had nothing to do with the topic in question, if taken in the Bible’s theological sweep. But one thing I did appreciate, was that on some secondary questions, he considered various views before expounding his own. That is not the model of most authors of Systematic Theologies! You have to consider the type of book he was writing, and what is usual for it: in this case, Grudem was unusual by explaining some of the arguments for views he didn’t hold, rather than just expounding his own. Of course, I didn’t think he was fair to amillenialism and covenantal paedobaptism, but in a way, I didn’t expect him to be – those weren’t his views. (Incidentally, I found his hermeneutic, etc., for proposing his view of gender roles just as frustrating – and that was despite broadly agreeing with his view!) At least he mentioned other views as evangelical alternatives to his own. That said, the same doesn’t seem to apply when it comes to his consideration of UK/European evangelicals and environment care – he seems quite dismissive. I don’t know whether he believes that God cursed the earth and made it subject to frustration, awaiting its liberation from bondage to decay. He seems to think it should already have the glorious freedom of the children of God, and sustain humans indefinitely. I wonder, by the same argument, if God wouldn’t have made a world with atmospheric pressure and water enough to flood the whole earth?

    Have you read Carl Trueman’s ‘Republicrat’? I’d be interested in your reflections there, by contrast (perhaps?!) with Grudem!

    1. krishkandiah says:

      thanks for your comment Rosemary, would love to read Repuplicrat – havent got a copy yet. I agree we need to understand the type of book Grudem was writing – and we now need to consider the global readership his book now has.

  8. graham brown says:

    Sounds like he might bring the intellectual fire power the Sarah Palin campaign will need, but I doubt he could get it into snappy phrases that she can write on her hand.
    Oh dear, I must be a socialist red in tooth and claw. Is there a separate part of heaven or needn’t I bother worrying?

    Loved the You Tube clip, by the way.

  9. Bos says:

    Very useful description of the book, and respectful to Grudem. I feel Grudem’s book seems like an attempted justification for a political stance that I think has been shown to be selfish and may yet prove hubristic.
    Problem with a review like this is that I don’t think it’s fair to judge a book without reading it – but now I don’t want to read it!

  10. AndyB says:

    I saw the book in the shops, and it sickened me. The conclusion was that on every single subject, the Republican party had the more Christian policies – a statement which simply does not make any sense whatsoever. I could have been tempted to buy the book just so I could burn it…

  11. Tim Davy says:

    Hi Krish, thanks for this review. I’ve not read the book but wanted to note something on the environmental issue. It seems to me that we need to recognise something fundamentally different between the biblical writers’ worldview of their relationship with creation and our own. It is only in the last few decades that humanity has had the capacity to impact creation to the extent that we have. In biblical times (especially OT) their relationship with the world around them was much more immediate and, often, threatening; e.g., would the crops fail this year because of a lack of rain?
    Nature was something that could effectively destroy you and there was very little we could do about it (humanly speaking at least). The very notion that humanity could impact the environment on a macro scale (as happens now) would seem completely alien to them. So no wonder it was not an issue they thought about.
    So I think the environmental debate needs to come from a different angle; as you say, taking the whole narrative into account. People may be interested in Gordon Wenham’s helpful article on the Bible and the environment, which I’ve found useful. There’s a link here: http://bibleandmission.redcliffe.org/2010/01/15/old-testament-and-the-environment/

    Thanks again Krish, as ever you model balance and respect without pulling your punches.

  12. Credit for Grudem for trying to think through Biblically what a Christian approach to politics should be, even if he doesn’t do a very good job of engaging with other views and being aware of the influence of his own cultural context.

    I’m not sure that Christians in the UK are actually any better than the Religious Right at developing a ground-up Christian take on politics – we tend to absorb our political assumptions from the culture around us just as much as American Christians. Christians across the political spectrum tend to react to particular issues rather than having a comprehensive vision of the common political good. The difference is that politics in the UK isn’t as polarised around religion and moral issues in the same way – I do think the situation in the UK is healthier for not being polarised in that way.

    Left and right define justice in different ways. For someone like Grudem, he brings an assumption that the free market = social justice. That’s an obvious case of eisegesis to us Brits looking in on American culture from the outside.

    But I think it’s just as much a case of eisegesis to assume that justice equals the trendy left-leaning social justice issues, such as having a strong welfare state, environmentalism, equal rights and so on.

    The steps needed to go from understanding what the Bible says, discerning the principles taught, and applying them in a modern context, are much trickier than both left and right leaning Christians tend to assume.

    The difference between left and right is not whether we should seek justice, but what justice looks like and how we get there – in particular, how much of a role can and should the state play? Accusing the right of selfishness or the left of jealousy isn’t helpful political debate. We need to recognise good intentions on both sides, while being aware of the temptations and moral dangers on both sides too.

    What we need is people who are both rooted in the Bible, but also engaged with political theory and philosophy, who can work out Christian approaches to politics from the Bible up, engaged with contemporary political thought and issues. We need Christians with the vision of Marx or Adam Smith to articulate large Christian understandings of politics.

  13. Nate McCooey says:

    Greetings Krish,

    Thank you for providing such an honest and thoughtful review. I haven’t read all of Mr. Grudem’s systematic theology material, but I have read enough to know what he’s all about from a theological standpoint and understand why he is so respected in that community. I found your review to be helpful because you clearly stated your areas of disagreement with Mr. Grudem’s arguments, yet you gave him credit where it is due (in this case his theological writings) and did not resort to personal attacks. But this book just smacks of right-wing political posturing and one man’s belief that the Republican Party is indeed the “Party of God,” as President Bush said so many years ago.

    Admittedly, I have not read the book in its entirety, and honestly I don’t have the desire to, either. I have read a handful of sections in it though, and unfortunately they have made me want to dismiss Mr. Grudem as a renegade crank when it comes to some of his views. For instance, in one part he discusses section 501(c)(3) of our tax laws, which has to do with tax exemptions for non-profit organizations and the fact that this status can be revoked if they engage in extensive political lobbying. (NPOs) He starts off on the right foot by admitting that this applies to a variety of NPOs. (Those whose purposes are religious, charitable, scientific, etc. in nature.) However, he then does a complete 180 and tries to turn this into an exclusive attack on the American Christian church, quoting extensively from the website of the Alliance Defense Fund with nary an original thought of his own, not to mention only one politically-inspired Scripture paraphrase at the very end. He makes it seem as if the U.S. government is secretly listening in on the sermons of congregations across the country, ready to pounce at the slightest mention of any candidate’s name and rip away their tax-exempt status, which is insane. In this instance, he reminds me of those who say Christians in America are “persecuted,” when they surely are not. Being called a “backwoods Bible-thumper” or what have you by an atheist is not persecution. Neither is our government choosing to remain a secular republic as opposed to becoming a theocracy. These are the same people who say ridiculous things like there is a “War on Christmas” going on in the U.S. (You hear this every year from the likes of Bill O’Reilly and other ultra-conservative pundits.) Yes, political correctness is getting out of hand in this country. I’m not arguing that point. But to take that and try to compare it to, say, the feeding of Christians to lions by the Romans is pathetic. If these folks want to experience what REAL persecution is all about, why don’t they go preach the gospel in some areas of the Philippines, where a friend of mine has done mission work in the past. THEN we can have a real discussion about who is being persecuted.

    Then, there are other areas of the book where he is on the completely wrong side of physical science research in many fields. Going with the global warming issue, he states that the warnings about it are based on flawed scientific method and such. I’m not suggesting that the words of those in the scientific community are infallible or anything, but their conclusions and consensus seem pretty solid from all I have read. If Mr. Grudem wants to challenge this, fine, but he might want to do so directly to the three dozen or so organizations which have unanimously found warming to be a real, largely man-made threat. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change) On top of that, much of his argument is based on the work of the infamous global warming denier Bjorn Lomborg, who wrote “The Skeptical Environmentalist” about a decade ago. Problem is, late last year Mr. Lomborg actually reversed his own position on the issue, and even wrote a new book about his thoughts. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/30/bjorn-lomborg-climate-change-u-turn, http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_upshot/20100831/sc_yblog_upshot/noted-anti-global-warming-scientist-reverses-course) So for Mr. Grudem, it’s more or less “too little, too late” with respect to this issue.

    Mr. Grudem is also incorrect from a social science standpoint in many areas. For instance, he concludes that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime. This is patently false, or at least that’s what much research on the subject shows. The fact is that the death penalty may deter crime on a very limited level, perhaps scaring some people away from committing a murder (although let’s face it, how many people avoid murdering someone else just because it’s illegal?), but on a general level it does not because of the length of the appeals process. In some cases, it can be ten years or more between the time a convicted felon is sentenced to death row and the time when they are actually executed. Just look at the case of convicted cop killer (or innocent political prisoner, depending on your views) Mumia Abu-Jamal. The man has been on death row since the 1980s. Here we are 30 years later, and because of various legal challenges he is still alive. This is just one reason why capital punishment fails as a deterrent. Classical deterrence theory states that, in order for a punishment to be an effective deterrent, it must be 1) swift, 2) severe, and 3) certain. The death penalty is indeed the most severe possible punishment for a crime, but it fails on account of factors 1 and 3, due to the length of time between sentencing and execution and the possibility of being exonerated by DNA evidence, respectively. (Criminology major here, in case it isn’t obvious. :-D) If anyone wants to read more about this particular subject, I strongly recommend “The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment,” by Franklin Zimring.

    My apologies for the long-winded comment, but I wanted to vent some of my own personal frustrations with the book. If Mr. Grudem were to title his work “My Political Views according to the Bible,” or something to that effect, I wouldn’t have such an issue with it. But the title suggests that his opinions are the final Biblical word on the matter, and if anyone dares to disagree with his conclusions then they are not a true Christian. He is blatantly trying to do what many in BOTH political parties are doing today and that is politicizing the faith, which I believe is dangerous. Incidentally, there is a good discussion going on in some comments on a particular Amazon review of this book, some of which have to do with your own review, Krish: http://www.amazon.com/review/R3AHXPWUKCM23O/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0310330297&nodeID=&tag=&linkCode=#wasThisHelpful

    If anyone would like to hear an excellent sermon about the believer’s role in the political realm, I strongly suggest watching this: http://jerrygillis.com/messages/?id=243&show= It’s a message titled “Jesus and Politics” given by Rev. Jerry Gillis, senior pastor of a non-denominational church out here called The Chapel at Crosspoint. Enjoy!

    In Christ,

  14. Richard says:

    Thanks for the review. I have to confess that I don’t think there is a biblical view of politics, rather we need to factor in the concept of common grace and natural law. I much prefer David VanDrunen’s Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms and Oliver O’Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations.

  15. Si says:

    I think a lot of people here are often falling into the opposite error to the ones that Grudem is being accused of – being partisan and eisegeting in the other way. Caleb Woodbridge has made this point above in more detail and far better than I can. It’s especially bad if you haven’t heard/read Grudem’s thought process on these issues but are sniping from the sidelines (someone said above about Grudem thinking that Americans are God’s chosen people – that’s totally not true. He does feel that they, as a country, have been amazingly blessed by God in everything from founding worldview to natural resources to immigration and that these things should be held onto, but that’s far from being God’s chosen people who can do no wrong).

    I’ve been listening to the Adult Sunday School lessons that Grudem has done from this book – a lot of it is prefaced with “this is something we can disagree on, but this is why I believe this view is wrong/right” – he’s recently been urging people to read Jim Wallis’ book (which is an apologetic for the Democratic party along similar lines to Grudem), which he feels is totally wrong on it’s conclusions, but shows that there are other ways that Christians think on the issues. In his books he doesn’t have to engage with dissenting views as he does in front of 200 people in his church, so perhaps he doesn’t – I’ve not read it, only heard the lectures.

  16. Krish,

    Interesting review.

    I too have read the book and whilst I have some concerns about Grudem I think you are being a bit unfair on him.

    On your point about Style and Scripture you criticise Grudem for using the one verse to justify his view that carrying weapons is fine but you yourself fail to explain how then we are to understand this verse. In other words it will not do to simply say Grudem is wrong you need to present a coherent alternative reading for the verse as it is there in Scripture and Grudem’s reading of it prima facie makes sense. So what’s your alternative reading?

    A similar point could be made about your Syncretism critique. If I remember correctly, Grudem argues for the free market capitalism because of the prevailing disposition in Scripture of private ownership arising out of passages like Exodus 20:15,17. He then contrasts this with Marxist philosophy which champions the abolition of private property. So the issue is, has Grudem arrived at right applications of Scripture from his exegesis of Exodus 20 or not? For you to just charge him with Syncretism whilst failing to provide an alternative reading of Exodus 20 or providing an alternative economic system grounded in Scripture is at best unfair and at worst malicious.

    Kip’ Chelashaw

  17. Stephen Gray says:

    I’m currently halfway through the book, and I think you’ve got it spot on Krish. Its very noticeable that Grudem doesn’t give any consideration to alternative political views. And when presenting the practical (as opposed to biblical) arguments for his views, he frequently makes shoddy use of statistics. The overall impression I got is that this is a book that’s being written by somebody who’s gone well outside his area of expertise (much like Dawkins writing about religion).

    As to the commenter who pointed out that Grudem recommends Jim Wallis’ Gods Politics as presenting the Democrat point of view, Wallis heavily criticises both of the major US parties, whilst Grudem is partisan all the way through.

    When I’ve finished the book, I’ll probably write a multi-part critique on my own blog – engaging with it in a more detailed way than Krish can in a single post review. Hopefully I’ll manage to be full of grace in writing it, and won’t convey much of the frustration I’ve felt reading certain parts.

  18. Nose says:

    I’ve perused this book and was disgusted. It is one thing to say, “I am a Christian and these are my political beliefs.” It is quite another to suggest that the Bible provides clear and unequivocal (party-line) answers to current-day political questions.

    Grudem’s book may succor some number of right-wing US Christians, but will turn away (needlessly) a larger number who will have to shake the suspicion that Christianity and the American Republican Party are one and the same.

    Poorly done, Grudem.

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