Let Me Tell You How to Vote

NickImage

Churches have no business addressing political questions. Their work is to proclaim the whole counsel of God. Christian individuals, however, are responsible to act upon moral and spiritual concerns before they address merely temporal ones. Matters of principle should take precedence over matters of preference. Therefore, part of the church’s business is to instruct the people of God in those moral principles that they must apply in their political decisions. In other words, while churches should not tell their members who to vote for, they should teach them how to vote.

In every political race, many issues will surface that are not moral in nature. Christians may certainly take account of these issues, but non-moral issues should never be allowed to take priority over moral ones. For example, a candidate’s religious beliefs and affiliation may be matters of interest, but they do not typically determine how well an elected official will govern. Christians might better vote for an unbeliever with just policies than to vote for a fellow-saint whose policies are naïve or misguided.

Governments have no moral duty to manage the economy (in fact, it is doubtful that they can ever do better than simply to get out of the way). Governments have no moral duty to create jobs. Governments have no moral duty to increase the wealth of their nations. Governments have no moral duty to supply the financial or medical needs of their citizens. Governments do not even have a moral duty to educate children.

Citizens may wish that their governments would do some or all of these things for them. Since these are (at best!) matters of convenience, however, they must not be the primary issues that Christians consider when they are deciding for whom to vote. Rather, such issues must take a very distant second place to genuinely biblical and moral concerns. The following are eight biblical concerns that Christian people should weigh as they consider their voting choices.

Reputation for integrity

The Bible teaches that when the wicked rule, the people mourn (Pr. 29:2). The personal character of political candidates is fundamental to their ability to serve in office. A candidate whose word cannot be trusted is one who cannot govern well. Integrity is particularly important when it comes to a candidate’s sworn word. For example, a man who will violate his marriage oath is one who will violate his oath of office.

Right to life

From the time that government was established (probably Gn. 9:6), its most important duty has been to protect the lives of the innocent. Civil authorities must use their power to defend those who are too weak to defend themselves. No one is more innocent than the unborn, who are clearly presented as human persons in Scripture (Ps. 51:5). No candidate is worth a vote who will not work to end the holocaust of abortion on demand.

Rule of law

The clear teaching of the Bible is that law binds civil authorities. Any law that contradicts God’s law is, of course, unjust (Ac. 5:29). More than that, rulers are bound by the law of the land that they rule (Ez. 5:13; 6:1-7; Ac. 16:36-38). In the United States, the Constitution is the highest law of the land. But a Constitution that can mean anything that a few justices want it to mean is exactly the same as no Constitution at all. Christians should support candidates who will read the Constitution for what it says, not for what they think it should say. Most of all, Christians should support candidates who will only appoint or confirm judges who will abide by the meaning of the Constitution itself.

Restraint of evil

One of the most important functions of government is to restrain evil (Rm. 13:3-4). Externally, this means that the government must both maintain a strong defense against national enemies and control the country’s borders against intrusion. Internally, it means that government must enforce retributive justice against criminals.

Respect for property

The right to private property is protected by God Himself (Ex. 20:15). Few rights are more fundamental than this one. There is nothing immoral about wealth (though the rich often display immoral attitudes and practices). Governments behave immorally when they disintegrate the accumulation of wealth through “progressive” taxes on income, estates, and capital. Christians should support candidates who resist the pressure to make the government an expression of envy and an agent of economic redistribution.

Recovery of moral responsibility

God makes able-bodied people responsible for their own welfare (2 Th. 3:10). He has ordained the institution of work, and He expects mature people of every station to earn their living. In the case of those who are overcome by circumstances beyond their control, God has ordained institutions such as family (including extended family) and church (a second family for believers) as agencies of support. Such institutions can both provide help and hold individuals accountable. The tendency to cast government in the role of provider inevitably uncouples assistance from accountability and, consequently, is deeply immoral. It is especially dangerous when the government’s activity supersedes the role of the family and negates its responsibility.

Recognition of Israel

God has not canceled His blessing for those who bless Israel, nor His curse for those who do not (Gn. 12:3). While the modern state of Israel is not equivalent to the biblical Israel, it is a subset. Christian respect for and friendship to Jewish people ought to include support for the existence, autonomy, and liberty of Israel.

Responsible use of nature

God has given humans dominion over nature and has authorized humanity to subdue the natural world. Pristine preservation of nature is the opposite of what God intends. We must use nature responsibly. While we do not wish to pollute or defile, we recognize that the earth has been created for the use of humans. Contemporary “environmentalism” often thwarts this divine design and must not be assisted or advanced by governmental regulation or policy.

Christian people must not be driven by material concerns. Their primary interests are not economic. Their duty is to seek first the kingdom of God, so their primary attention must not be directed toward what a candidate will do about the economy or Social Security. Biblical principles should take priority over personal preferences at the polls, just as they should in every area of life.

Psalm 2, C.M.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Why did the nations join to slay
The Lord’s anointed Son?
Why did they cast his laws away,
And tread his gospel down?

The Lord, that sits above the skies,
Derides their rage below;
He speaks with vengeance in his eyes,
And strikes their spirits through.

“I call him my Eternal Son,
And raise him from the dead;
I make my holy hill his throne,
And wide his kingdom spread.

“Ask me, my Son, and then enjoy
The utmost heathen lands:
Thy rod of iron shall destroy
The rebel that withstands.”

Be wise, ye rulers of the earth,
Obey th’ anointed Lord,
Adore the King of heav’nly birth,
And tremble at his word.

With humble love address his throne;
For if he frown, ye die:
Those are secure, and those alone,
Who on his grace rely.

[node:bio/kevin-t-bauder body]

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There are 5 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

A nice summary of conservative attitudes... and of how thinking Christianly about government tends to correlate with thinking conservatively.

A lot of points in this post, though. I think the case can be made that governments do have a moral obligation to pursue the prosperity of their nations--on the premise that nations that are not prospering tend to be nations that are weakening and declining, which is not conducive to their survival. Either you're growing or you're shrinking... thrive or die.

This also struck me as a little odd, though it's a quibble:
"Churches have no business addressing political questions."
Then, a couple sentences later...
"Therefore, part of the church’s business is to instruct the people of God in those moral principles that they must apply in their political decisions. In other words, while churches should not tell their members who to vote for, they should teach them how to vote."

It seems to me that telling people how to vote is "addressing political questions."
The first sentence is one I would never make in this day when many are preaching apoliticalism. Most political questions are moral questions and all moral questions that involve more than a single family are political questions.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Kevin Bauder wrote:
Therefore, part of the church’s business is to instruct the people of God in those moral principles that they must apply in their political decisions. In other words, while churches should not tell their members who to vote for, they should teach them how to vote.

It seems to me that telling people how to vote is "addressing political questions."
The first sentence is one I would never make in this day when many are preaching apoliticalism. Most political questions are moral questions and all moral questions that involve more than a single family are political questions.


Maybe he's trying to distinguish electoral politics from politics as you are using it.

Also, it seems to me that "teach[ing people ] ... how to vote" is different from "telling people how to vote." If they are taught how to vote by using biblical morals to make decisions, they won't need to be told how to vote in each election (which is what I think he was trying to get at).

I also don't think he meant in the first sentence that the pastor should try to connect the moral principles directly to political decisions, rather that if God's people are taught the correct moral principles AND their value and priority, then it will necessarily affect their political decisions.

Dave Barnhart

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

A great article that describes the premises of good goverment.

It is interesting to note that Pastors and Churches took a huge role in standing up to British tyranny upon the citizens of the colonies. It led to the founding and the establishment of this Nation.

JVanDelinder's picture

Good article. I appreciate your sentiment. That is the general approach we take from the pulpit.

I would agree with Aaron's comments. I think the wording of the first sentence is unfortunate. I would not agree with that statement absent heavy qualification. When I read the first sentence, I thought, "So does the church have no business addressing _________ questions? (about five or six other realms of conduct immediately crossed my mind)

Once you explained further, it seems that you where restricting the term 'political' to that which deals strictly with governance issues that have no moral connection.

Thanks again for the article.

Jeremy Van Delinder
Church Planter, Pastor
North Hills Baptist Church
Round Rock (Austin), TX

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

... it's clear enough later, what he meant.
He's just usually so precise, so that one surprised me a bit.
"No business addressing political questions" means, no doubt, "addressing purely political questions" or something along those lines.
But not much is purely political, for reasons already mentioned.

A difficulty here is that many who aren't all that interested in political process are not aware of how often big ideas (and biblical ideas) relate to what's being squabbled over. So questions appear to be purely political when they are actually moral, social, ethical, etc.
Seemingly technical fights like redistricting can often be traced back to larger, ideology-driven agendas... with varying degrees of certainty.

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