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How Should Christians Vote!
By tony evans
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2012 Anthony T. Evans
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGod's System of Civil Government
Many, if not most, Christians begin with the wrong question of who they should vote for rather than the more important question of how they should vote. Asking the correct question is fundamental to knowing how to arrive at the correct answer.
If you were to come to me with your personal life in shambles and you didn't know which way to turn, and you said, "Tony Evans, help me," I would open up my Bible, identify the cause of your personal dilemma, and speak God's truth about your situation—giving you God's resolution for whatever it is that you are facing.
If you were to come to me with your family life in shambles with both you and your spouse seeking a divorce because of chaos in your home, and you said, "Tony Evans, help me," again I would open up my Bible, identify the cause of your familial dilemma, and present to you God's solution for whatever it is that you are facing.
If you were a pastor of a church and you came to me with your deacons or elder board because your church was in shambles, everyone was arguing, and your congregation was confused, and you said, "Tony Evans, help us," I would open the very same Bible that I used to help the individual and the family, and I would identify the cause for the chaos based on the Word of God, seeking to prescribe biblical solutions for the calamity in your church.
In other words, Scripture would not only solve the individual and family divisions, but it would also solve the ecclesiastical confusion. This is because Scripture holds the final and authoritative answer on all of life's concerns. In fact, every question facing us today has two answers: God's answer and everyone else's. And when those two differ, everyone else is wrong.
Yet where do we often go for answers as a nation when there is chaos in our country? Where do we turn for solutions when we are experiencing moral, social, and economic decline at a rate that is able to destroy our country before our youngest generation even has a chance to grow up? What do we do when divisions, debt, and our own internal protests across our land threaten what little stability we have left?
What most Christians do, unfortunately, is change books. When it comes to politics and elections, far too many Christians spend more time appealing to family, history and tradition, culture, racial expediency, and personal preference than they do to what the Bible teaches. While Scripture is good enough for individuals, families, and churches, it seems that somehow it has been deemed insufficient for how we respond to politics and government.
Yet the same book that can restore a person, home, or church is the very same book that can restore and transform our nation. Friend, we don't need to change books. In fact, it is precisely because we have changed books that the chaos in our country has gotten worse than ever before.
It astounds me that in all of the talk permeating the airwaves, around watercoolers, over dinners, and among Christian friends concerning the elections, candidates, parties, and platforms—how little a biblically based theistic worldview seems to enter the equation. God may get dropped in here or there on one issue, or perhaps two. But that is not good enough. Unless God and His revealed Word is the overarching influencer and rationale over how our electoral decisions are made as believers, then we cannot expect God to be the overarching influencer in our nation. Nor can we expect God to pour out His blessings on us as a country when He has been similarly marginalized, and at times even dismissed, from the equation.
My fellow believers, it is time to return to the Book. It is time to look to the one source that holds the answers for how our country should operate, the Bible. And to do so, I want to start with the foundational principle upon which all else should rest concerning how a Christian should vote. This principle is located in the book of Romans where we read, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God" (Romans 13:1, emphasis added).
God is in charge, and alone sits as the ultimate government over His creation. All other governments are then to reflect His ultimate rule. It is as straightforward, and as complex, as that. Scripture tells us clearly that there is no authority apart from God. Not only that, but we read that any governing authorities put in place have been established by God. Now that doesn't mean that the people filling the positions within the governing authorities are intentionally serving God or that their decisions are in line with God— because many, if not most, are not. But the institution of governmental authority has been created, decreed, and established by God underneath His sovereign control.
For this reason, God cannot be removed from believers' involvement or representation in government because laws are made based on belief systems. Since the Christian's belief system or worldview is to be derived from the Bible, then out of necessity it should inform our politics and therefore should inform our vote.
A quick word on sovereignty before we move on because an accurate understanding of this principle is critical to formulating a believer's worldview on voting. Sovereignty simply means that God is accountable to no one. All things are either caused by Him or permitted by Him. To acknowledge His sovereignty means to recognize His jurisdiction, along with the validity of His supremacy, over every area of life (Psalm 103:19; Romns 11:36).
What humanism often does is offer an insufficient understanding of the sovereign purpose and work of God. These systems attempt to box God into a government confined within the perspective of man. Yet when humanity is used as the starting point for interpreting and interacting with God's creation, faulty theology and sociology emerge as mankind attempts to fashion God into the image of man. As a result, socialism and communism, in particular, use government to suppress religion to such a degree as to leave the one true God out entirely.
The other extreme are those civilizations which, in the name of their religion, create bondage. Many of these "ecclesiocracies," and even so-called theocracies, in the Middle East and elsewhere allow people the opportunity to express their faith in the religion that the government has decreed as lawful—but that expression is mandated. That is not freedom. Rather, that is oppression.
Oppressive religious rule occurs when government-mandated civil religion is used to rule over people, frequently without the consent of the governed. It includes rule by mandate of an institutional religious hierarchy, and is often resisted by its subjects.
Yet God never forces obedience to His rule. As the supreme ruler, He has allowed the freedom to obey or disobey according to mankind's choices within the sovereign lines of His boundaries. The boundary lines of God's sovereignty are the non-negotiable areas He has established. It is similar to the boundary lines on a football field. In between the boundary lines on the football field, there is given the freedom to call the plays. Likewise, God has given mankind the freedom to make decisions on the field of life.
Of course, disobedient decisions will result in consequences that are oftentimes inherent in the very activity itself (Romans 1:18–32). But in His sovereignty, God has allowed mankind to serve as representatives within His governing systems, for good or for bad.
Keep in mind that God's sovereignty allows Him to even use that which is not cooperating with Him (the bad) in order to move things to where He wants them to go.
Yet while God is able to turn things around, that does not mean that we are to intentionally disregard God's rule. Rather, as the originator of governing authorities and as the sovereign authority over all, what God has to say regarding culture, social order, and government supersedes all else and should be the basis upon which all of our decisions, as followers of Christ, are made. In other words, as a Christian, you cannot discuss government without discussing God. This is because government is a divinely ordained institution.
Problems arise when people adopt the institution of government but dismiss the divine Ruler over government. Many people want "God bless America" today. They just don't want "One nation under God." The issue is that you can't have one without the other.
God has given us the freedom to choose whether or not we will be one nation under Him—whether we will recognize His rule and operate underneath it. But with that choice comes either "God bless America," or not. God only promises to bless the nation that recognizes His authority (Psalm 33:12).
Freedom means you get to control the choice, but because God is the sovereign ruler over His creation you don't get to control the consequences. He will rule by either endorsing your choice, or He will rule by allowing you to have the consequences of a decision made against Him.
For example, those who favor the legality of abortion on demand are making a choice against God's law not to take an innocent human being's life. God has given people the freedom to disobey Him in making this choice antithetical to what He says. And He has even given our government the freedom to issue a law that makes the murder of an unborn child legal in their system.
However, God's viewpoint on the wrongful exercise of this freedom by shedding innocent blood is given to us in the book of Genesis where we read, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man" (Genesis 9:6). We also read in Proverbs that God hates "hands that shed innocent blood" (Proverbs 6:17). In Deuteronomy, God curses the one who "taketh reward to slay an innocent person" (Deuteronomy 27:25 KJV). And in Isaiah 49:1 and elsewhere in Scripture, we see God clearly recognizing the child while in the womb: "The LORD called Me from the womb; from the body of My mother He named me."
When the governing representatives of the people legalize the shedding of innocent blood (as a for-profit business, nonetheless) then they have placed themselves, and those they represent, in the direct line of God's judgment. An attack on the life of another is an attack on God Himself as humanity has been made in His image (Genesis 9:6).
As a result, there is a price tag for legalizing the shedding of innocent blood. The more unborn babies are murdered in our land, the more we can expect violence in our culture as well. Because when a culture goes against God's laws, God will allow that culture to experience the consequences of the breaking of that law—in this case the resultant devaluing of life as well as the effects of that devaluing.
The real issue at hand is how God is going to respond to a culture when the majority of the people seek to veto Him. God has made it clear that He is the ultimate authority, and everyone else is the delegated authority, for good or for bad.
The Bible tells us that we are all "under God." We read in Psalms that "The Low has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all" (Psalm 103:19). In Daniel, it says that "the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind" (Daniel 4:17) and that "it is Heaven that rules" (Daniel 4:26).
Scripture clearly distinguishes for us in these places and in many others that God's rule operates universally over every thing, every nation, every person, and every system, whether that be political, economic, educational, or familial. Yet while there is one ultimate Ruler, there are multiple rulers who have been put in place in order to rule. That is why Paul tells us to be in subjection to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1)—plural—as we read earlier in Romans.
The reason for the plurality in governing authorities is that the division of power provides the best environment for the fair dispersement of power underneath the ultimate ruler, God. Just like at the Tower of Babel, when mankind tried to unite in order to usurp or reach God's rulership in the heavens, God resisted their attempt at a centralized world power (Genesis 11:1–9).
It is in dividing up governing authorities that both checks and balances are put in place against evils arising within a sinful humanity such as tyranny and dictatorships. That is why our founding fathers separated the judicial from the legislative and also from the executive branches. Since God exists as both unity and diversity (Trinity), human government has been established to reflect that pattern by being unified in their purpose while being diversified in their spheres of responsibility. The division of power is the biblical and optimal way for maximizing God's position as the ultimate authority. Government cannot be all things to all people. Only God can be everything for the people. When the state seeks to adopt such a role, it is seeking to emulate God.
The Four Systems of Government
Under God's rule, He has created governmental systems that consist of four distinct realms: individual, family, church, and civil government—each having specific, limited spheres of responsibility and jurisdiction. Since God alone is the ultimate authority, no human government can be. The first governmental system is also the most important of all four. This is because if this form of government is out of place, then the other three will reflect it. Likewise, if this form of government is functioning properly, the other three will reflect that as well.
The first and foundational form of government instituted by God is self-government. The goal of self-government is to govern oneself according to the principles and precepts found in God's law. When individuals are living life in light of an attitude of self-government, then there is less of a need for anyone or anything else to govern them. In Ecclesiastes, God makes it clear what the fundamental piece of self-government entails, and that is the fear of Him. We read,
The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14).
The next type of government that God prescribes in Scripture is family government. God established the family as the foundation of civilization (Genesis 1:26–28). The Bible tells us that Christ is the head of the husband (Ephesians 5:23), and the husband is the head of the wife (1 Corinthians 11:3), and that parents are the head over their children (Ephesians 6:1). Scripture goes on to lay out the governing principles in relation to the marriage covenant and family unit. The saga of the nation is the saga of its families written large.
Along with individual and family government, God has also ordained church government. The church leaders, as members of the ecclesia (the governing body set up by Jesus Christ on His behalf), are to govern matters that apply to the church and/or church members, and serve as the moral conscience of the government. This role is crucial since the progress of a nation is directly related to the state of its morality (Proverbs 14:34).
The fourth system of government instituted by God in His kingdom rule on earth is civil government. Civil government is that system that has been set in place to create and maintain a righteous and just environment in which freedom can flourish. It is a representative system designed to manage society in an orderly fashion. Yet it is to do so without interfering with, negating, or contradicting God's other governing agencies. Civil government is to support, not replace, the institutions of family and church government so that self-government, and therefore maximum freedom, can be experienced.
Paul emphasizes the primary purpose of civil government in the continuation of his discussion in Romans 13 when he says,
Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God: and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.
Excerpted from How Should Christians Vote! by tony evans Copyright © 2012 by Anthony T. Evans. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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