3 ways Christians can view politics as good works

June 10, 2019

Some Christians maintain that they are not able to participate or serve in government faithfully as a Christian. They might say that politics is inherently dirty and corrupt. Therefore, to engage in politics sullies us and our witness. Or perhaps they will claim that government is a secular institution which cannot be mixed with our commitment to live by faith.

However, I would argue that this is not the case. Political involvement can be a good enterprise for Christians to engage in. One way which can help us think through this biblically is to view political involvement through the lens of good works.

What are good works?

First, we must ask what good works are. In John 6:28-29, Jesus is asked, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" He answers, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." Therefore, as Martin Luther put it in his Treatise on Good Works, faith in Jesus Christ is "the first and highest, the most precious of all good works.”

Yet, as Christians, we also understand that genuine faith in Christ produces subsequent good works (James 2:14-26). The Apostle Paul, while emphasizing that that our salvations comes by grace alone through faith alone, nevertheless also tells us that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” (Eph. 2:8-10)

So, when we think of good works, we must not only think of our faith in Christ but also the works which proceeds from our faith.

A helpful definition of good works is given in the The Heidelberg Catechism. Question 91 asks, "But what are good works?" It answers, "Only those which proceed from a true faith, are performed according to the law of God and to his glory; and not such as are founded on our imaginations, or the institutions of men." This definition rightly captures three essential elements of good works: that they proceed from our faith in Christ, uphold God’s law (what makes them ‘good’ works), and are done with the purpose of glorifying God, not ourselves. By upholding these 3 principles, we can avoid our works being guided by our own vain imaginations or being done in accordance with man’s rules and institutions as opposed to God’s.

Politics as good works?

Can works done in the political sphere measure up to such a definition? I believe they can. Let’s look at each of the 3 principles laid out in the Heidelberg:

1. Proceeds from a true faith

Can works in politics proceed from true faith? To answer this, we have to evaluate the nature of government itself. Romans 13 says that the governing authorities are "instituted" and "appointed" by God (vv.1-2), being called God's "servant" (v.4) and "ministers of God" (v.6). The reason God establishes government is to maintain moral order in society, to punish evil, and to promote good (Rom. 13:3-4; 1 Pet. 2:14).

Even back in Genesis 9:6, we can see a prototype of government when God commands Noah, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” God intended mankind, on some level, to use the power of the sword for good. Thus, the foundation and purpose of government are God-ordained, and therefore are good. There seems to be nothing in government’s nature that would intrinsically prevent Christians from being able to do works in the political sphere.

2. Performed according to the law of God

Can works in the political arena be performed according to the law of God? It would seem that if government is given a God-ordained purpose, then it can be carried out in such a way that it pleases him. We are given examples in Scripture of righteous kings like David and Josiah, ministers in government who follow God’s law like Daniel and Nehemiah, and even godly citizens such as Paul.

Of course, we must also recognize that Scripture and history are replete with governments and people who use the power of the sword unjustly and do not uphold the law of God. This does not negate the fact that the power of the sword can be used in accordance with God’s will.

3. Performed for God’s glory

Can political works be done for God’s glory? If one has a heart after the Lord like David, and one’s actions coincide with God’s law, then the glorification of God would be a natural byproduct. However, with the nature of media today, it seems even more difficult to keep political leadership separated from self-aggrandizement. Yet, it is not intrinsic to political leadership any more than it is for a businessman to be greedy. Is the temptation always there? Yes. But can one still have a heart to glorify God and serve him faithfully in those capacities? Yes. The key to this endeavor, as in all things, is to saturate your heart in God’s Word and the fear of the Lord (Deut. 17:19-20; 2 Sam. 23:3-4).


Because government has a God-ordained foundation and purpose, Christians are able to enter the political sphere with confidence that they can do good works in their various capacities, either as an elected or appointed official through governing or as a citizen through voting. Like other good works, Christians should seek to approach their political works through the lens of their faith as a Christian. By doing this, their political works will be motivated by the desire to uphold God's law with the result being God's glorification. Though many difficult theological and ethical questions will arise, who is better equipped than Christians full of God’s Spirit to help sort through our modern cultural and political context?

Neal Hardin

Neal Hardin grew up in Murrieta, CA before getting his BS in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Utah in 2012. Following that, he worked as an engineer for 4 years at a steel mill before the Lord called him to pursue a seminary education in 2016. Neal is currently a … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24