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From The Baptist Testimony – Volume 58 Number 5 September/October 2012
by Kevin T. Bauder
Churches have no business addressing political questions. Their work is to proclaim the whole counsel of God. Christian individuals, however, are responsible to act upon moral and spiritual concerns before they address merely temporal ones. Matters of principle should take precedence over matters of preference. Therefore, part of the church’s business is to instruct the people of God in those moral principles that they must apply in their political decisions. In other words, while churches should not tell their members who to vote for, they should teach them how to vote.
In every political race, many issues will surface that are not moral in nature. Christians may certainly take account of these issues, but non-moral issues should never be allowed to take priority over moral ones. For example, a candidate’s religious beliefs and affiliation may be matters of interest, but they do not typically determine how well an elected official will govern. Christians might better vote for an unbeliever with just policies than to vote for a fellow-saint whose policies are naïve or misguided.
Governments have no moral duty to manage the economy (in fact, it is doubtful that they can ever do better than simply to get out of the way). Governments have no moral duty to create jobs. Governments have no moral duty to increase the wealth of their nations. Governments have no moral duty to supply the financial or medical needs of their citizens. Governments do not even have a moral duty to educate children.
Citizens may wish that their governments would do some or all of these things for them. Since these are (at best!) matters of convenience, however, they must not be the primary issues that Christians consider when they are deciding for whom to vote. Rather, such issues must take a very distant second place to genuinely biblical and moral concerns. The following are eight biblical concerns that Christian people should weigh as they consider their voting choices.
Reputation for Integrity
The Bible teaches that when the wicked rule, the people mourn (Pr. 29:2). The personal character of political candidates is fundamental to their ability to serve in office. A candidate whose word cannot be trusted is one who cannot govern well. Integrity is particularly important when it comes to a candidate’s sworn word. For example, a man who will violate his marriage oath is one who will violate his oath of office.
Right to Life
From the time that government was established (probably Gn. 9:6), its most important duty has been to protect the lives of the innocent. Civil authorities must use their power to defend those who are too weak to defend themselves. No one is more innocent than the unborn, who are clearly presented as human persons in Scripture (Ps. 51:5). No candidate is worth a vote who will not work to end the holocaust of abortion on demand.
Rule of Law
The clear teaching of the Bible is that law binds civil authorities. Any law that contradicts God’s law is, of course, unjust (Ac. 5:29). More than that, rulers are bound by the law of the land that they rule (Ez. 5:13; 6:1-7; Ac. 16:36-38). In the United States, the Constitution is the highest law of the land. But a Constitution that can mean anything that a few justices want it to mean is exactly the same as no Constitution at all. Christians should support candidates who will read the Constitution for what it says, not for what they think it should say. Most of all, Christians should support candidates who will only appoint or confirm judges who will abide by the meaning of the Constitution itself.
Restraint of Evil
One of the most important functions of government is to restrain evil (Rm. 13:3-4). Externally, this means that the government must both maintain a strong defense against national enemies and control the country’s borders against intrusion. Internally, it means that government must enforce retributive justice against criminals.
Respect for Property
The right to private property is protected by God Himself (Ex. 20:15). Few rights are more fundamental than this one. There is nothing immoral about wealth (though the rich often display immoral attitudes and practices). Governments behave immorally when they disintegrate the accumulation of wealth through “progressive” taxes on income, estates, and capital. Christians should support candidates who resist the pressure to make the government an expression of envy and an agent of economic redistribution.
Recovery of Moral Responsibility
God makes able-bodied people responsible for their own welfare (2 Th. 3:10). He has ordained the institution of work, and He expects mature people of every station to earn their living. In the case of those who are overcome by circumstances beyond their control, God has ordained institutions such as family (including extended family) and church (a second family for believers) as agencies of support. Such institutions can both provide help and hold individuals accountable. The tendency to cast government in the role of provider inevitably uncouples assistance from accountability and, consequently, is deeply immoral. It is especially dangerous when the government’s activity supersedes the role of the family and negates its responsibility.
Recognition of Israel
God has not canceled His blessing for those who bless Israel, nor His curse for those who do not (Gn. 12:3). While the modern state of Israel is not equivalent to the biblical Israel, it is a subset. Christian respect for and friendship to Jewish people ought to include support for the existence, autonomy, and liberty of Israel.
Responsible Use of Nature
God has given humans dominion over nature and has authorized humanity to subdue the natural world. Pristine preservation of nature is the opposite of what God intends. We must use nature responsibly. While we do not wish to pollute or defile, we recognize that the earth has been created for the use of humans. Contemporary “environmentalism” often thwarts this divine design and must not be assisted or advanced by governmental regulation or policy.
Christian people must not be driven by material concerns. Their primary interests are not economic. Their duty is to seek first the kingdom of God, so their primary attention must not be directed toward what a candidate will do about the economy or Social Security. Biblical principles should take priority over personal preferences at the polls, just as they should in every area of life.
This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder (Email), Research Professor of Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary and is reprinted with the permission of the author.