Every election year there’s drama. This year is no exception! What has been unexpected is the evangelical polarization over how to approach elections. Here’s my take on the two main approaches:
1. Elections are holy (character and issue absolutism). This group is in severe mourning over the lack of Christian character in both parties’ candidates. Their voting strategy is to vote for the most Christian candidate and if our political parties don’t nominate one then write one in or don’t vote in protest of immorality. The candidate analysis equation here multiplies character by issues, and no doubt this year despair is the only conclusion. (Check out Al Mohler for a sample of this perspective).
The problem with this view is that elections aren’t holy. Our government, although founded on freedom of worship and a broadly Christian worldview, is not explicitly Christ centered and does not exist to make and mature disciples of Jesus. As Kevin DeYoung said,
…we should realize that if we vote at all we are voting for less than our ideal candidate. As long as Jesus isn’t on the ballot every Christian is voting for someone less than our perfect candidate.
In every single election we could write in a candidate with better character than the given options.
2. Elections are unholy (functionalism or pragmatism). This group says, essentially, we shouldn’t expect a Christian candidate, so we should vote for the lesser of two evils. It has been accused of being pragmatic and de-emphasizing character. Nonetheless, some theological heavyweights have landed here (check out Wayne Grudem’s post).
The problem with this view is that elections are holy. Our Christian faith should influence how we vote. Character does matter.
Perhaps we’re missing another set of Biblical truths to help us wade through this moral crisis. In the Bible we find not only the character requirements for followers of Christ, but also God’s purposes for government. The New Testament passages that touch on government assume that said government will be filled with rulers who do not have faith in Jesus. Yet such a government can still fulfill God’s purposes for government in general.
When we understand God’s purposes for government, we can ask the most important question of a candidate: will they effectively lead our government in fulfilling these purposes? It is possible that the candidate best capable to lead our government to this ends is not a Christian.
From the Bible, we learn that government exists to:
1. Foster Good for Society (Romans 13:3-4a)
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.
2. Enable Worship (1Tim. 2:1-2)
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, or kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
3. Punish the Wicked (Romans 13:4)
But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
4. Uphold Justice (Micah 3:1)
Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice?
5. Protect the Weak (Ps. 82:3-4)
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
I would be thrilled if the best candidate was a legit, born again disciple of Jesus. I would love for our president to be a person of high integrity, and a role model for our children. Would a Spirit filled Christian be ideal to lead a government in fulfilling those purposes? Absolutely. Yet, as you know, most of the time those candidates aren’t nominated.
Nonetheless, every election is an opportunity to nudge our government, by small degrees, towards God’s purposes. So, rather than take my ballot and go home, I choose to cast my vote for the candidate I believe will best lead our country’s government in fulfilling God’s purposes for government.
In the end, elections are both holy and unholy. As we vote, we must remember to trust our sovereign God with regard to his plan for the universe and these United States:
Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,to whom belong wisdom and might.He changes times and seasons;he removes kings and sets up kings;he gives wisdom to the wiseand knowledge to those who have understanding;he reveals deep and hidden things,he knows what is in the darkness,and the light dwells with him.