How Then Shall We Vote?

From Theologically Driven. Posted with permission.

With the election hard upon us, it is a good time to be reminded that nothing we do can rightly be divorced from the sufficient governance of Christian Scripture. No pockets of neutrality exist in any sphere of life, including our politics. While the battery of issues facing voters today is exceedingly complex, one option always proves better than the rest—and it is safe to say that were the incarnate God to join us in the polling booth next week, he would be able, in his perfect wisdom, to discern in every case the best possible option in view of all the facts available.

Of course, we possess neither all the facts nor the wisdom necessary to perfectly harmonize and synthesize those facts. As a result, we Christians tend to vote provincially, and we do not all vote the same. This does not mean (necessarily) that one voting bloc is sinning and the other is not. Still, moral ought does exist in politics: there are some choices that are better than others, and some choices that are flat out wrong.

Most Christians will admit this, conceding that the Bible should inform our voting decisions at some level. We can’t vote for a platform of pure evil. But platforms of pure evil are rare: all candidates exhibit at least some common grace, and a goodly percentage of them are sincere in pursuing what is, at least in their best opinion, most advantageous to their jurisdiction or to the country.

In their various stewardships of common grace, however, politicians tend to privilege certain virtues over others, and we voters do the same. Some of us privilege national security, others economic stability, others moral values, job security and a safe workplace, education, freedom, protecting the environment, assisting the disenfranchised (whether ethnically, generationally, medically, or financially), or the advance of the gospel. All of these are arguably good things, and if asked to do so, we could all arrange them in an pecking order ranging from the issues most important to me to the issues least important to me.

In Christian ethics, however, the unaided self is never awarded such broad liberties. Instead, the Scriptures are declared to be the Norma Normans non Normata,* sufficient for every expression of godliness. Obviously, the Scriptures do not give us the names of the best candidates, but they do give us more guidance than a list of “good stuff that you can prioritize however you want.” Specifically, the Scriptures offer us a short list of duties of government commended in Scripture as duties of government that take precedence over all other “good things” that our government might accomplish. These primary duties include …

1. The protection of citizens from violent death.

This is the sole occasioning concern that led to God’s original establishment of human government (Gen 9:6), and it has been a primary reason for the formation of nearly every human government since. And lest there be concern that this purpose has been usurped, we see Paul revisiting this theme, asserting that the emblem of human government is the “sword” of protection/justice leveled against “wrongdoers” (Rom 13:4). The first concern of any government is to protect its citizens from violence. Peter concurs (1 Pet 2:14).

2. The establishment of an environment in which the gospel can advance.

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul urges believers to pray that their governors would create an environment where believers may pursue holiness and godliness without harassment (1 Tim. 2:2); an environment conducive to the announcement and embrace of the gospel (v. 4). Note that Paul does not expect the state to establish or even to favor the Christian religion, but he expresses hope for a climate in which the Gospel is able to flourish without restriction. This being Paul’s primary hope and only recorded prayer for human government, it follows that this is a primary duty of human government.

3. Finally, the promotion of moral good.

This theme, found in both Paul and Peter’s calls for governors to commend those who do good (Rom 13:3–4, 1 Pet 2:14­–15), is the broadest of God’s prescribed purposes for government. The specific “good” is not given, but the word group used here (ἀγαθός - agathos) favors the nuance of beneficence over the nuance of righteousness. As such, government is to praise and encourage, by its policies, the private practice of charity and benevolence, and thereby serve as a societal “minister of good.”

This is by no means an exhaustive list of things that human government may legitimately do; indeed, the Bible seems to allow the government to assume rather broad powers. But by privileging these three concerns, the Scriptures offer specific guidance to Christian voters today about what should be their principal voting concerns.

*The norming norm which cannot be normed.

3208 reads

There are 6 Comments

Mark_Smith's picture

when your pro-life politician, whom your fellow Christians love because he attends all the prayer meetings, is a flat out liar as seen by his deliberate deception of facts on the campaign stump, campaign ads, closing government aid to truly needy children and adults, and even has deceived by inflating campaign donation numbers with phony loans from his rich lieutenant governor?

 

In other words, is there ever a point where being pro-life gets counteracted by other unbiblical forms of social injustice, lying, etc.

Rob Fall's picture

we could only wish to have your problem.

Mark_Smith wrote:

when your pro-life politician, whom your fellow Christians love because he attends all the prayer meetings, is a flat out liar as seen by his deliberate deception of facts on the campaign stump, campaign ads, closing government aid to truly needy children and adults, and even has deceived by inflating campaign donation numbers with phony loans from his rich lieutenant governor?

 

In other words, is there ever a point where being pro-life gets counteracted by other unbiblical forms of social injustice, lying, etc.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Wayne Wilson's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

when your pro-life politician, whom your fellow Christians love because he attends all the prayer meetings, is a flat out liar as seen by his deliberate deception of facts on the campaign stump, campaign ads, closing government aid to truly needy children and adults, and even has deceived by inflating campaign donation numbers with phony loans from his rich lieutenant governor?

 

In other words, is there ever a point where being pro-life gets counteracted by other unbiblical forms of social injustice, lying, etc.

I'm sure there's a point, but what you are pointing out here is standard American politics. If you don't like him, fight him in the primaries.  Otherwise, hold your nose and pull the lever. If you're talking about state assemblies or congress, individuals in our system are less important than party.  

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Mark_Smith wrote:

when your pro-life politician, whom your fellow Christians love because he attends all the prayer meetings, is a flat out liar as seen by his deliberate deception of facts on the campaign stump, campaign ads, closing government aid to truly needy children and adults, and even has deceived by inflating campaign donation numbers with phony loans from his rich lieutenant governor?

In other words, is there ever a point where being pro-life gets counteracted by other unbiblical forms of social injustice, lying, etc.

There is not always a good choice on the ballot. Sometimes we have to do our best to figure out which leader is likely to do the least harm (possibly helpful: on voting for "the lesser of two evils"). That said, some of what you've described there would land a leader in jail if the alleged facts are verifiable... so that would simplify things!

Bert Perry's picture

To Mark's question, I've seen a lot of Republicans whose morals leave something to be desired, but Democrats generally support not only legal infanticide (which ought to be enough to disqualify them from any office including dogcatcher IMO), but also gun control, the Health Insurance Deform Act (Obamacare), welfare without work requirements, legalization of illegal immigrants, and a host of other things that indicate to me that the Democratic Party platform is, in Walter Williams' words, an implementation of "Thou shalt covet" and a repudiation of "Thou shalt not kill" and "thou shalt not commit adultery."

Get me a pro-life, pro-gun Democrats who pledges to repeal Obamacare and re-implement welfare reform, as well as refuse to caucus with Harry Reid in the Senate, and then it would be a little bit more difficult of a question.  But with the current crowd, I have to pull the lever for a guy who broke his promise not to run against Aaron Miller in the primaries because that man's opponent is a stalward supporter of abortion, gun control, and Obamacare.  Like Jim notes, it's a lesser evil question, not whether we've got unalloyed good.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.