Friday, 25 April 2008

The Bible And Democracy (Part 4)

Previous posts: one, two, three

What does the Bible have to say about the merits of different systems of government? This, after all, is the key question. The way I hear democracy being spoken about in our society, we would think that it had been handed down from heaven on a plate. Should Christians agree with this way of thinking? Is it indeed endorsed by God in this way?

God's word is a fully sufficient revelation of the mind of God, for all that we need to know to please him in all things and avoid sin. It doesn't tell us which brand of toothpaste to buy, because that in itself is a question of no moral significance. It does, though, contain sufficient information for us to know what kind of service God requires in every legitimate area of human life. "All scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for rebuke, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished for all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Government is very definitely a legitimate area of human life. "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. There is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained by God ... Render to all therefore what is due to them: taxes to whom taxes are due, custom to whom custom ..." (Romans 13:1-8). Who was Paul thinking of in particular in that passage? The government, of course - to which other "higher power" do we pay taxes? God's spokesmen, then, asserted that governments derive their authority from God.

Human government is part of God's order for the world. Anarchy is utterly contrary to God's being and will. God is a God of order and a God of authority. There is authority within the Godhead; the Son, though co-equal with the Father, willingly and joyfully submits to his will. God's being is in perfectly harmony throughout. Authority was part of the order God created from the beginning; there was a difference between the unfallen man and the unfallen woman. Both were equal in bearing the image of God, but as there has always been authority within the Godhead, so God made the man responsible for the woman and gave him authority to bear the duties accompanying that responsibility (1 Corinthians 11:7-8, 1 Timothy 2:12). More than that, Adam was made responsible as a head for the entire human race. It was not because Eve sinned that the world was cursed - it was because he was (Romans 5:12-21). God has ordained that different individuals will hold different levels of authority in his world.

A small aside: If government flows from God, and is essential to the created world, then some popular theories of government cannot be true. Government cannot be by the necessary consent of the people. Eve did not vote for Adam, and you did not choose your father - God placed you under their authority. Government is not a social contract; it is a divine imposition.

Having established that government is a topic which the Bible is concerned with - it is not an arbitrary human invention and that we are justified in asking the question "what does the Bible say about democracy?" - we can now start looking more into the details.

To be continued...

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