The modern conservative movement came to life in the 1950s around William F. Buckley Jr. and National Review. Only 30 years later, Ronald Reagan and the Heritage Foundation brought it into the mainstream. When Newt Gingrich and congressional Republicans took back Congress in 1994, it looked like that in less than 50 years modern conservatism was well on its way to becoming America’s guiding principle of governance.
Today, it is obvious that was not the case. Not only has it not taken over America, but conservatism is not even the guiding principle within the Republican Party. In fact, conservatism, if we define it as a commitment to free markets and individual liberty, is struggling to stay afloat in the world of intellectual thought and think tanks on the right.
We are not going to examine here all the different politicians and institutions claiming to be conservative that really are not. Besides the amount of time it would take, it would really miss the point. We don’t need to spend time calling Americans back to conservatism; we need to call them to faith in Jesus.
Revival Through the Word of God
Texas and the United States are in desperate need of revival. But it has to be more than we saw with the short-lived conservative revival that started seventy years ago. Buckley was a Christian and it clearly informed how he approached public policy. But he never really sought to bring the whole counsel of God to bear in his fight against liberalism.
I have worked in public policy for over 30 years. And for all of that time, I have worked closely with other Christians in Texas and across the country. And like with Buckley, the public policies we proposed and implemented more often than not comported with Scripture. While that is a good thing, it is not enough today. In fact, it never really was.
Our recent, enlightenment-driven practice of not specifically bringing God’s Word to public policy debates means over the last 70 years conservatives have essentially engaged in a massive educational effort. Now don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with educating Americans on conservative principles. In these days of tweets, sound bites, and CNN, Americans need a lot of educating. However, the steady collapse of our country into insanity has given Christians clear direction that we need more than conservatism.
What this country needs is a massive evangelical effort, the only way of bringing about what Americans really need: a change of heart. The way to contribute to this in the political realm is not only to promote policies that are in submission to God’s wisdom, but also to explain those policies using God’s Word.
A Culture in Rebellion
Most liberals who believe that abortion is a choice, genders are fluid, and humans–along with the rest of the universe—are the products of random chance have hearts that are in rebellion against God. They are determined to cover up the evidence of His work and to create a suitable object of worship in His place—the state. These rebellious souls don’t know God and are in desperate need of hearing His Word. And while that certainly includes the Gospel, it also includes the whole counsel of God on public policy issues. God works in strange ways. It may be that hearing His Word applied to issues such as homelessness, the poor, and education may be what God uses to give liberals (Democrats, Socialists, etc.) new hearts with which they will love and serve Him.
To be sure, rebellion against God is not a partisan issue. There are plenty of people who identify as conservative or libertarian who have hearts that hate God. They too are engaged in the attempted coverup and replacement of God. Some of these—we might call them unbelieving moderate Republicans—might do so, for instance, by attempting to take economic growth out of the hands of God and turn it over to an amalgam of big government and big business. The libertarians might claim that the autonomous self without government (or God) is the solution to our problems. Whether Republicans or Independents, these people also need to hear the heart-changing Word of God in the context of the public policy debate. Education alone will not move them to drop their idol-building endeavors.
Christians also need to hear God’s Word as applied to public policy issues. Too many Christians today have abandoned the application of God’s Word to the sphere of civil government and public policy. There are two consequences that come from this. First, Christians deprive themselves of the whole counsel of God. Second, the church has in practice abandoned an unbelieving culture in desperate need of God’s Word—much like ancient Israel failed to witness to and love the Gentiles as God had commanded them (Leviticus 19:33-34).
We should not be surprised then, as we look at the culture around us, that things have gone so wrong. For this is what happens when we walk in disobedience to God’s commandments. In this case, commandments such as:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:27–28 ESV)
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18–20 ESV)
Why does the church act as if they are not—in Christ—to seek dominion over the earth and subdue it. If the Old Testament is a bit dated for some, how can Christians claim obedience to God if they are not teaching the nations to obey all that Christ has commanded them? Nations—including their pagan rulers—must obey God. Christians who refuse to explain this to them are disobeying God by refusing to disciple the nations.
Bringing God’s Word to the Nations
Worship in the center of the Christian life. Thus repenting of the disobedience of not teaching the nations must start in the pulpit. Christians must be equipped with the Word of God preached, taught, prayed, and sung if they are to faithfully speak prophetically to the culture.
Yet there are options for Christians who are not being equipped in their churches. The best one might be to find a new church. Failing that, there are a number of great resources available to Christians to begin their own education. Here are two book lists I put together that might serve as a starting place: A Christian, Liberty-Minded Reader on Culture, Science, Governance, and Economics and Knowing Christ and His Kingdom: A Bibliography.
While the work of the institutional church is the place to start, we must also bring the whole counsel of God into the sphere of civil government. To this end, conservative politicians and institutions must start using God’s Word to build and bolster their arguments in public policy debates.
For instance, Texas legislators this session should have been using the Bible to help Texans understand why we suffered the massive winter blackout. Likewise, consulting the Bible would have helped shore up support for opposing the budget monstrosity the Texas Legislature is about to pass. Similarly, conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Texas Public Policy Foundation should not just quote Locke, Madison, and Friedman in their research papers but also Isaiah, Paul, and Calvin.
Please note that I am not suggesting that the Texas Legislature, TPPF, and other civil institutions must all become explicitly Christian institutions. Instead, I am suggesting that they acknowledge in their words—along with their analyses and actions—that the triune God is the Creator and Ruler of all things. So that they behave like the nations and kings in Revelation 21:24 do in relation to the Christian church: “By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (ESV).
God’s Word is true; it will provide wisdom and insight into our policy problems lacking in secular analyses. His Word is also powerful; it will change the hearts and minds of many of those who promote government policies that stand in rebellion against God. Employing God’s Word in our public policy debates is necessary to help overcome the destructive and chaotic forces in our culture. For as God tells us in verses 10-11 of Isaiah 55:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (ESV)
This is a commentary published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to firstname.lastname@example.org.