Book Review

How should Christians navigate politics?

Lessons from Jonathan Leeman’s "How the Nations Rage"

June 14, 2019

Politics has become increasingly contentious as both parties move farther away from each other. Christians are left uncertain in this atmosphere: Which party should I most associate with? How should I speak with others about politics? How do I make sense of this? How the Nations Rage offers a path for Christians to navigate this polarizing climate. Author, Jonathan Leeman, seeks to equip the Church to engage the public square through a biblical, rather than political, lens. As politics continues to divide the culture and the Church, How the Nations Rage offers a way for Christians to stand in the gap and serve as a bridge to unity.

“The story of politics,” Leeman states, “is the story of how you and I arrange our days, arrange our relationships, and arrange our neighborhoods and nations to get what we most want—to get what we worship” (p. 25). The book provides a full view of the battle between “gods” that takes place in the public square. And in it, Leeman lays out practical goals, steps, and principles Christians should follow in the realm of politics in a very clear and concise way. Furthermore, he does an incredible job of rooting all eight chapters in the Word of God and applying them to the life of the church.

Biblical justice

From cover to cover Leeman shows how the fuller view of biblical justice will always be seen through the church fulfilling the commands of God, rather than solely on legislation passed in the public square. In the chapter on justice, Leeman explains, “Pick any point of division you want (abortion, immigration, race politics, or others), and behind that division you’ll find at least two sides with different versions of what justice requires” (p. 203). One form of justice is called, respecting rights, which leads to “identity politics.” The other view of justice focuses on God’s justice, which emphasizes God’s moral standards applied to our conduct with humanity. Leeman concludes by explaining, “We might be popular or unpopular. But our political task is the same: love your neighbor, share the gospel, do justice” (p. 234).

An embassy of ambassadors

Anyone familiar with the Nine Marks “Building Healthy Churches” series will already be familiar with the analogy of the church as an embassy. In chapter 6, Leeman explains that as an embassy of God’s kingdom, the church is inherently political. We represent one nation residing in another nation and heaven’s rule as it will be revealed in the end times. Therefore, the Church must be multiethnic and multinational, and should maintain a bipartisan prophetic voice. This analogy clearly highlights how churches represent the kingdom of God within the existing nations of the world. Furthermore, Leeman uses the illustration of Christians as ambassadors, which is life-giving and empowering, as it encourages believers to engage in the public square primarily as kingdom citizens, not republicans, democrats, or even Americans.

Everyday politics

By rooting the Christian’s political engagement in the Church, Leeman is able to bring political involvement back to the grassroots level. In chapter 6 Leeman shares, “Real politics begins not with your political opinions but with your everyday decisions, not with public advocacy, but with personal affections, not all by your lonesome but with people” (p.135). In a social media age where there are videos, memes, and talking heads in abundance, it is easy to hide behind computer screens and be “digital activists.” But true political engagement begins with everyday decisions with people in the real world. Even from a policy perspective, this rings true in the Church. Local churches who have a benevolence ministry or include in their membership covenants that the church care for one another practically have a welfare policy on the books. Does your church seek to pursue racial justice or reconciliation within its body? Then it has a policy on race. Churches demonstrate their policies on various political issues through ministry decisions.

A worship issue

Along the same lines, politics carries with it significant religious implications. How the Nations Rage dissects the fact that behind every political policy in the public square is a “god” seeking to self-justify the group it represents. It is key for Christians to understand that our worship impacts every aspect of our lives, including the public square and politics involves everything we do, because at its core is a desire for worship. The biggest difference between the Christian’s role in politics is that we do not seek worship of the self, but of the triune God of the universe who alone is able to bring about true justice and righteousness. Where political agendas emphasize hope in self-justification and salvation through legislation, we speak prophetically and say true hope and salvation are found in Christ.


The book could have been improved by 1) taking a deeper dive into the dangers of partisan Christianity and 2) unpacking in greater detail what involvement looks like within a political party. Leeman clearly and repeatedly warns against the error of capitulation, worldliness, and the church playing partisan politics. However, historical examples demonstrating how these errors lead to a loss of church witness and a misrepresentation of Jesus are absent. In our current political climate where some people see Christian and Republican as interchangeable terms, this would have been helpful.

In conclusion, How the Nations Rage is comprehensive and one of the best popular-level books on the topic of Christians engaging in the public square. This book should be read by Christians in all walks of life but would be particularly useful for young believers, college students, and young professionals engaging in the public square for the first time. It is also a great resource for pastors, elders, deacons, and small group leaders who want to equip their people to engage a culture where orthodox Christianity is quickly moving to the margins of society.

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