I Pledge Allegiance To….

Over the last few weeks I have been answering some common questions about Christianity and Culture. Today I turn my attention to the other subject one is never supposed to talk about in a proper setting. Thankfully this isn’t a proper setting – so lets talk politics!

How does Christian allegiance intersect with national allegiance? Does national allegiance pose a challenge to Christian values in any way?

In Christ and Culture Revisited (a book that I have mentioned several times in the last few weeks), D.A. Carson succinctly articulates his position when he says that

The texts (i.e. the Scriptures) encourage good citizenship within the Empire while insisting on the Christian’s primary allegiance to a heavenly citizenship. The proclamation of the gospel transforms people….sooner or later such transformation will either improve the state or excite its opposition. (172)

I wholeheartedly agree with Carson’s position.

Throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament (and also in the exilic period) there is definitely a sense that one is to submit to the authorities that God has placed above oneself. In the modern day this can range from teachers, to police officers, to the federal government. However, it is also clear from the Bible that one’s primary allegiance is to God himself, anything else would be idolatry.

The Bible is clear that one’s primary allegiance is to God alone, anything else would be idolatry.

Usually this is not a problem, the government (at least in the United States) does not usually legislate in such a way that Christians are forced to choose to act in a Christian manner or in an American manner. However when such legislation does occur, Christians have the responsibility of refusing to bow the knee before anyone other than God. It is in these situations that Christians must express the fact that their allegiance is not towards America but to God. One such situation that immediately comes to mind is immigration. The immigration debate is often framed in light of what is best for America, but as a Christian who believes that my allegiance is to God and his purposes before it is to America and its purposes there are situations where I will have to deviate from American foreign policy. This deviation from American policy will likely be unpopular in the eyes of those (even Christians) who think in terms of what is “best” for the United States. It might even incite opposition from these people, but that is to be expected. In my opinion, this is an issue of idolatry. Who or what is worship directed to? Is it to God or is it to our state?

Some questions for you to chew on (courtesy of an anonymous friend at Church):

  1. In the lives of Daniel and his friends, we see that they clearly obeyed the laws of the land in almost every circumstance, despite the fact that Babylon was clearly their enemy…
    1. Are there any laws you find yourself being tempted to disregard? If so, why?
    2. How does it detract from our witness when we are not living in submission to authorities?
  2. As Christ followers, our sole allegiance is to God, and there is a limit to our submission to our country.
    1. Keeping in mind the examples of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago, what are 2 or 3 examples of when we should stand against our own government?

Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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