"Preaching and Politics" - A New Book by WRF Member, Dr. Tim Trumper

May 26, 2009

Tim J. R. Trumper, Preaching and Politics: Engagement without Compromise (Wipf and Stock, 2009)

Synopsis: "Today's culture war raises questions about pulpit ministry; the answers to which are often assumed but rarely thought through. Drawing on his transatlantic studies of both politics and theology, scholar-pastor Tim Trumper weighs the various homiletical approaches to political engagement. In doing so, he eschews the predominant apolitical and party-political tendencies of the day, preferring a mediating biblical-political approach that upholds the sanctity of the preacher's calling and the expository method of preaching. The result is a tract for our times, one that calls for the sermonic preeminence of the Kingdom of Heaven and the prophetic application of its lessons to the church and the world."

Sample paragraphs: From Chapter 1, "A Middle Way: The Method of the Biblical-political Approach"

The Apolitical Approach

Characteristic of the apolitical approach is a reticence to speak in detail of the deteriorating social, cultural, and political situation of the day. Preachers of this outlook may have a high view of Scripture, but express this reticence by curtailing the scope of the teaching and application of Scripture to issues that are distinctively and exclusively spiritual. This narrowing of the content of preaching is achieved either by forgoing the consecutive exposition of the Word in favor of a diet of individual texts, by hyper-spiritualizing its content, or by refusing to follow through on certain more sensitive or controversial implications of Scripture. The obvious result is that the apolitical preacher has no audible voice in the culture war.

The Party-political Approach

Alternatively, those utilizing the partisan approach frequently substitute addresses on relevant historico-political/party-political topics for the exposition of the Word. They forget, in the words of Karl Barth, that "preaching must not be a welling up of our own speech. In both form and content it must be exposition of scripture."  I recall, for example, reading a most fascinating autobiographical sketch by Ian R. K. Paisley, founder of Free Presbyterianism in Northern Ireland, and, until recently, the undisputed leader of the province's Unionism. Gripped by the account I was nevertheless left with a nagging doubt as to whether the pulpit is the place for the "four windows" on his remarkable life. Likewise there come to mind those (often televised) "sermons" of the admirable figure, the late D. James Kennedy, which deal with topics such as the Christian roots of America and the history of evolution.

The Biblical-political Approach

The drawbacks of the apolitical and party-political approaches call for a third option, one that mediates between them and does so because it actually has the best biblical credentials. Outworked through expository preaching, the biblical-political approach maximizes the importance and pursuit of the truth relevant to the church and to society. If the Bible supplies more politically relevant information than the apolitical with their narrow soteric and pietistic concerns might imagine, it stops well short of either certifying the credentials of any given political system (certainly biblically incompatible systems such as Fascism and Communism), or of serving as a party-political document or handbook. Somewhere in between there lies a path that may be trodden toward a balanced utilization of the Bible that is culturally and politically relevant, but is underpinned by the treatment of the Bible on its own terms.

Author's Biography: Tim J. R. Trumper (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh) is Senior Minister of Seventh Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan (www.7thref.org). Previously he taught systematic theology at Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, and has pastored in South-East Pennsylvania. He is a member of the World Reformed Fellowship as is the congregation of Seventh Reformed Church.


“In this book Dr. Trumper has done a superb job of identifying the crucial questions that a preacher must consider with respect to the relationship between preaching and the political process. Not only that, Dr. Trumper has provided clear Scriptural guidance to all Christians - preachers and non-preachers alike - who genuinely desire to honor their Lord by living according to the unchanging Word of God in the rapidly changing world that we now inhabit. And, as with any good sermon, Dr. Trumper provides concrete examples, which bring his analysis to bear with biblical force both on those with Republican leanings and on those with Democratic leanings. This is an outstanding book!"

Samuel T. Logan Jr., International Director
The World Reformed Fellowship

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