Book Review: Churches that Make a Difference
By Ronald J. Sider, Philip N. Olson, and Heidi Rolland
Reviewed by Flynn Cratty
“Fourth, the authors betray a lack of discernment about the place of political advocacy in the life of the church. In recent years, many evangelicals have expressed a desire to talk about more than abortion and marriage. The authors of Churches That Make a Difference take this several steps further, highlighting churches that advocate for improved public transportation, more favorable zoning laws, and a larger Earned Income Tax Credit. These policy proposals may all have merit, but there is no biblical position on the Earned Income Tax Credit. Churches should speak publicly on political issues only when they can speak with the authority of the Scriptures, because that's the only authority Christ has given the church.”
As you can see, this is part of a book review. The book being reviewed is co-authored by Ronald Sider. As such, you can be almost sure that it will have problems, since Sider is given to a sort of watered-down North American version of liberation theology - which, we should note, is not a truly Christian theology.
Our reviewer also disagrees with important points in the book he is reviewing. But he takes an approach in his critique that is both too common, and very misguided. The reviewer’s response to “political advocacy” on the part of churches is to claim that much of such advocacy is misplaced because, for many issues, “there is no biblical position.”
While in some cases this might be true, his example is not a good one. He claims “there is no biblical position on the Earned Income Tax Credit.”
This is false. Here is why. Biblical teaching prohibits all kinds of theft. The Earned Income Tax Credit is a form of theft. Therefore, Biblical teaching does have something to say about the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Some would dispute that this policy is a form of theft. But whenever it involves forced wealth redistribution, it crosses the boarder into theft. While it might be legal for me to get a ‘refund’ check from the government even when I have paid no taxes, that ‘refund’ is taken from by neighbors by force and delivered to me. That is a classic case of theft, and the fact that it is legal does not change the moral case, nor the Biblical teaching about such moral cases.
Christians who fail to point this out are not ‘salt’ or ‘light.’ They are just dupes of our immoral culture.