Question [composite of several]: In the Q&A section for September you allow Pope Pius XII to take a hit for his lack of action on behalf of the Jews in the face of the Holocaust...then in your very next answer you defend your position for non-social action....Mr. Hunt, in all honesty, do you, a man who is virtually entirely silent regarding the evils of our society, really think if you had lived in Nazi Germany you would have behaved any differently...? Our Lord...told the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate that we should help those who are victimized by the world, the flesh and the devil. ...The distinction you make between the Apostles “preaching the gospel” and “actively working toward improving morality and social justice” is a specious distinction. They and biblical exemplars like Daniel did indeed use ‘the opportunity to exercise great moral influence over whole societies.”...I believe there is room in the Christian mission for service in one’s community that does not compromise the gospel....God is not content with personal devotion or individual righteousness (morality), but seeks people who also look out for the interests of others....John the Baptist was beheaded finally for speaking out against Herod’s choice of a wife and I believe this is one supporting scripture that shows we can comment on political issues.
Response: Of course, we can “comment on political issues,” but that doesn’t prove we should. This is a subject we have dealt with before, but since it seems to be of great and continuing interest, we will address it once again. I’m not dogmatic on this and not above correction, but I would like that correction to come from clear teaching and example in the Scriptures and not opinion. John the Baptist rebuked an evil ruler who, instead of being corrected, took John’s head. If this had any influence for good upon the general populace of that day, we aren’t told of it.
Is it not possible that John made a mistake which caused his until then fruitful ministry to be cut short? Had he not violated Christ’s wise counsel, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine” (Mt 7:6)? Why should we imagine that ungodly political leaders and their followers would welcome moral correction?
How can we escape the fact that Jesus, who was alive and preaching throughout Israel at that very time, never once rebuked Herod (or Caesar, et al.) for anything? Not once for anything! Since Christ left us an example to follow (1 Pt 2:21) and told His disciples, “Follow me” (Mt 4:19, etc.), shouldn’t we consider His total absence of political and social activism an example that we are to follow? If not, why not?
Yes, Daniel is often mentioned (along with Joseph and others) as having exercised great “moral influence over whole societies.” But did he? We certainly find no hint of that in Scripture. Joseph didn’t convert Pharaoh or anyone else in Egypt that we know of except his own wife. There was no improvement in Egypt either morally or spiritually nor does the Bible indicate that Joseph even attempted that. Yes, no doubt it was through Daniel that Nebuchadnezzar came to believe in God (4:37), but that didn’t deliver Babylon from paganism, nor is there a hint that Daniel won any of the king’s other advisors or citizens to God. While we are told that “God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs” (1:9), and it is clear that Darius had great affection for Daniel, there is no suggestion that either the prince or Darius came to believe in God. In fact, Darius always spoke to Daniel of “thy God, whom thou servest continually” (6:16,20) and referred to “the God of Daniel” (6:26) without indication that he himself had come to know the true God.
I find not one scripture upon which to base the idea that Joseph or Daniel wielded a powerful moral influence over either Egypt or Babylon. If they had, surely the Bible would have told us. If anyone was in a position to lead a movement of social and political action it was these two, yet there is no hint that they did so. In each case, they had a personal testimony only, did not attempt to change the moral climate as a whole, and were in positions of leadership in order to protect God’s people, not to change either the politics or morals of the country.
We, too, should have a clear testimony and should stand true to our Lord and His Word as individuals on the job, at home, or wherever we are. But as for organized political and social action, there is a total absence of it in Scripture. Should we not take the lack of this on the part of Christ and both the Old Testament saints and the early church as an example for us to follow?
As for the Good Samaritan, this was the individual action of one person helping someone he encountered who was in serious physical need and whose life was probably endangered. Certainly we ought to help all those whom we encounter who are in need to the extent of our ability. We don’t read, however, that the Good Samaritan campaigned to get others to do likewise, or set up an organization to seek out and help those in similar need across Israel or the Middle East, much less that he pressured the government to clean up its own behavior toward the needy. Nor did the Apostles or the early church engage in such activity.
Nor can I agree with you that there is only a specious difference between preaching the gospel and political and social action. The former saves the soul; the latter does not. We are commanded to preach the gospel to everyone and everywhere, but never told to engage in political and social action. We have abundant examples of the former throughout Scripture, and not one of the latter. These are not specious differences!
As for the Pope (and your question of what I would have done had I been living in Germany at that time), he was not an ordinary citizen living in Germany and his actions should not be judged as though he were. He was a moral leader with worldwide influence. Moreover, far from being an ordinary person, the Pope claims to be the Vicar of Christ. Yet he was silent in the face of the wholesale slaughter of Christ’s brethren, the Jews, God’s chosen people. Furthermore, the Pope is a very powerful political leader. Ambassadors from every major country come to him seeking favors. Whereas protests by ordinary citizens would have done nothing except get them, too, sent to extermination camps, the Pope was in a position of leadership and great influence and perhaps the only one in the world who could have rebuked Hitler with some effect, but didn’t even do so privately.
Do I speak out today against the evil in society? I certainly warn audiences, Christian and non-Christian, of the evils of society, with most emphasis upon the satanic traps that destroy the soul. Have I pointed out the evil of Clinton and other political leaders? Yes, but I don’t spend much time on that, knowing that it is fruitless. Our entire government is corrupt because of the sin, selfishness and deceit in every human heart and which political leaders have a greater opportunity to indulge. But I don’t waste time trying to clean up government. The only real hope is for these men and women to believe the gospel. I support those whom God has put in the position of having the ear of leaders and who seek to win them with the gospel. And in such cases, it should be clear that trying to improve their morals with no real foundation for doing so would not be fair to them because it would still leave them on the way to hell, nor would it be productive for society in the long run.