Defending Jeff Sessions, borders and the rule of law
There was a time when Southern Baptists supported Christian politicians, wise immigration policies and the rule of law. That time is past. Today, Christians as epitomized by the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention insult a great Christian politician like Jeff Sessions, mock the need for borders and ignore the rule of law in a rush to assuage the Feels of today’s progressive elite.
Soundbites have replaced theology. (Just look at Russell Moore’s appearance on CNN.)
We must change that.
Christians, especially Southern Baptists, must acquaint themselves with the Bible and apply it appropriately to politics. Routinely, Russell Moore and his ilk exploit biblical ignorance with claims like “Jesus was a so-called illegal immigrant.” That is false.
But we must go beyond exposing their false narratives and discover a robust and correct political theology. We must understand the purpose of the state. (I’ve written about that before here.) But in particular, there are two issues that must be highlighted: God’s purpose for the state and God’s reason for how it acts.
God’s purpose for the state
As Christians, we believe God ordained government for a purpose—so that all may live their lives in safety (I Tim 2:1-2) under an orderly system that punishes bad and rewards good (Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17). (Check out this article for more on the proper view of the state.)
Getting the state right is important. As one scholar explained about I Tim 2, “The motif that Christians will benefit by a right attitude to the State is clearly present in each occurrence of the tradition. The mission motive should also not be excluded, especially in the present passage. In such a situation Christians will be able to live a life that will not bring reproach from outside (cf. Fee, 63; 1 Th 4:1f.; cf. van Unnik 1980:307–22).”
The legendary New Testament scholar C.E.B. Cranfield claimed if the government does its job, then the church’s job is made easier.
“It is implied that God wills the state as a means to promoting peace and quiet among human beings, and that God desires such peace and quiet because they are in some way conducive to human beings’ salvation. It is God’s purpose that the state should, by restraining chaotic tendencies of human beings’ self-assertion, maintain those outward conditions under which the gospel may be preached to all and sundry without hindrance.”
So, it would seem that proper enforcement of the law helps the spread of the Gospel. Therefore, it becomes a Gospel issue for Christians to lobby for the enforcement of immigration laws already on the books. That’s a Gospel agenda for the ERLC to implement.
Christians can argue for changing immigration laws, but in the interim, Jeff Sessions was correct–obeying the law is imperative and part of God’s orderly plan for the world. Citizens in the US must obey the law or suffer the penalty. How much more so should foreigners seeking entry obey the law!
Southern Baptist theologians attacking Sessions are missing the point. As long as the law is not unjust (and it is hard to make the case that permissive US immigration laws are unjust), then enforcement and the rule of law is part of God’s good plan for man.
Enforcing the law is a Gospel issue.
 I. Howard Marshall and Philip H. Towner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, International Critical Commentary (London; New York: T&T Clark International, 2004), 421.
 C. E. B. Cranfield, The Christian’s Political Responsibility According to the New Testament, SJT 15 (1962), pp. 176-192. (Also in Cranfield’s The Bible & Christian Life).