If Daniel and Joseph – or Nehemiah for that matter – were civil servants in Brussels today, what might they say to us about our responsibility towards the European Union?
All three of these men rose to high levels of service under pagan governments. Yet they sought to honour God in all they did. And God used them to disciple some of the world’s most powerful rulers.
Back in 1992, some 50 evangelical leaders from western Europe gathered in Brussels to learn about the EU and to understand how Biblical Christians should respond to developments coming out of the European capital. That gathering grew into what has become the annual New Europe Forum, ‘seeking biblical directions on social, political and economic issues in Europe today’. [See: www.hfe.org/networks/network.php?network_id=13]. Today many within the ten new member states of the EU are wanting more understanding on these same questions.
I have pulled out of my files the Brussels Affirmation that we drew up back then, and found it to be remarkably current. Perhaps it needs updating here and there, and I’d be glad to receive your feedback. Sir Fred Catherwood, former vice-president of the European Parliament, and a leading evangelical voice, had addressed the gathering, giving his talk the ominous title of ‘Europe: a house swept clean’. Europe, he warned, had been swept clean of fascism and communism over the past fifty years, but it would be the responsibility of Christians to ensure that a spiritual vacuum was not left for seven worse demons to return.
That in itself is good reason why Christians should exercise their democratic rights to vote in the upcoming European parliament elections. If a good proportion of Christians voted for candidates of character, given the usual apathetic turnout, they could have a very disproportionate influence on the outcome.
So with a few editorial adaptations, here again is the Brussels Affirmation:
We, a group of evangelical leaders from various organisations and churches in Europe, affirm:
1. our need to re-evaluate our attitudes towards the process of European union in general and the European Union in particular, and to repent from our apathy towards involvement in this process;
2. that the institution of government, whether of the single nation-state or multi-national (as with Rome or the EU) is a God-ordained sphere of authority (Romans 13:1-7);
and that civil servants and politicians are called ‘ministers of God’ (diakonos – Romans 13:4), and are to be obeyed when operating within their God-given authority;
3. that we as Christians have a primary duty to pray for such government officials, both of nation-states and of the EU, for wise and just government, so that conditions of social ‘quiet and peace’ might facilitate the preaching of the gospel (1 Tim 2:1-4);
and that the power of the gospel has both preserving (salt) and saving (light) dimensions, and therefore we must apply God’s Word to every sphere of life affected by sin, including political, economic and social issues;
4. that the original vision of the EU was not primarily economic, but rather, consistent with biblical values, aimed to reconcile the warring European nations into a true community of nations, laying aside their ‘tribal squabbles’;
5. that in the real world, results do not always follow intentions, and that several areas of concern need ongoing monitoring:
a) the tendency for economic and material values to dominate the decision-making process of the EU;
b) a potentially alarming democratic deficit in these decision-making processes, which could lead to misuse of power;
c) the speed of developments in recent years which increases this danger of autocratic decision-making;
d) the possibility for non-biblical worldviews to dominate the spiritual values which will guide the New Europe;
6. that we must explore and grasp the numerous opportunities created by the process of European union, for:
a) evangelism and mission in those lands with limited freedom of worship;
b) collective action towards aiding the rebuilding of the newly liberated central and eastern European lands;
c) evangelical Christians to help shape the character and values of the emerging new Europe;
7. that issues challenging European union and true community today, such as racism, nationalism, the rise of Islam, the influx of refugees, and the environment, can only be sufficiently responded to from a biblical perspective, which transcends race, nation and culture, offers a secure hope allowing for tolerance to rival worldviews, calls God’s people to hospitality and compassion, and requires wise stewardship of earth’s resources.
Can we still say ‘amen!’ to most of this?
Till next week,