Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Democracy (part 5)

Previous posts: one, two, three, four.

The most fundamental point when we think about what the Bible has to say about government in general is an obvious one, but often missed. Today we live in pluralistic societies, where democracy is lauded as the Saviour and harbinger of all that is right and good. (This is a climate which too many Christians have uncritically absorbed, failing to compare the assumptions in it to Scripture - assumptions regarding human nature and the nature of God.) The basic fact, though, when thinking about rule (krasis) is that God is an absolute and arbitrary dictator. He is, in the literal sense of the word, a despot (despot comes from the Greek despotes, and means an absolute ruler).

Now, I suppose that some readers' instinctive reaction will be to recoil in horror at the last couple of sentences, because of the way I've phrased them. In contemporary political rhetoric, phrases like arbitrary dictator are reserved for people like Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin who set up the most miserable regimes. I could have used more familiar words, like "God is a the sovereign ruler of everything", and you'd maybe not have that reaction! But ultimately, when talking about the final rule of the universe, on the throne there is one with far more power - and also happily far more benevolence - than even the most totalitarian of human rulers.
34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and my understanding returned to me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that lives for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: 35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he does according to his will in the army of heaven, and  among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What are you doing? (Daniel 4)

11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will: (Ephesians 1)

9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: (Isaiah 46)
The ultimate government of the universe is not democracy - it is theocracy. God rules. In fact, it is now a Christocracy, because Jesus has received all power in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18ff). That is a present fact.

This means that for a Christian, democracy can only be a temporary preference. There may be reasons for thinking it better than the alternatives during the present time and circumstances; but it is only for a time, and it is only for the lower reaches of government in God's order - at the top of the system, the Saviour reigns without a rival. The God-ordained structure for this universe is that an all-wise and all-powerful one - a benevolent dictator - rules it;. One day, when Jesus returns, every knee shall bow to him (Philippians 2:10-11), not because he will get 100% of the vote in a democratic election, but because everyone will be compelled to recognise that he is the rightful ruler of heaven and earth. Hence, Christians have to feel fairly ambivalent about democracy - its days are numbered, and we're glad of it.

Next time: Rendering to Caesar

No comments: