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Should a Christian Vote?

In case you missed the memo (and by memo I mean the thousands of ads, the news coverage, and the rallies), or you are one of my foreign country readers, we have an election coming up in this country.  So the next few days I want to discuss voting on this site.  Not just voting in general, but voting from a Christian perspective. I really want to hear your thoughts on the issue so feel free to leave comments.

The normal objections to a Christian voting might be as followed (if you have others feel free to share them and then give your opinion on their legitimacy):

1.  Christians cannot provide support to evil.  The basic argument is that since no candidate or party platform is perfect, then voting is choosing the lesser of two evils.  And by definition the lesser of two evils, still has some evil, therefore the Christian is endorsing evil.

Here are some problems I have with this reasoning. First, what if a truly moral candidate is presented.  Second, the argument seems to go too far.  Providing support for a nation through taxes allows nations to do activities that could be considered evil.  Rome did not live up to Christian moral standards but Jesus told people to pay their taxes. Finally, what about voting on amendments and propositions.

2. It doesn’t matter because God appoints leaders. This means there is no need for us to vote.

The problem I see with this argument is that it is too simplistic.  For instance it leaves out the fact that God can use a leader as a judgment on the people’s sinfulness or apathy.  Second, just because God is in control does not mean we are removed from responsibility.  God is the one who gives the increase in evangelism, but it does not mean that we have no responsibility to spread the Word.

3.  Christians are not of the kingdom of this world. This argument I believe is no longer as strong as it used to be.  But the argument basically goes that our concern is not with the here and now, but with the future world.

I think a new emphasis within Christianity, concerning our responsibility to live for Christ now,  has diminished this argument.  God is still concerned about the now.  Also this fails to recognize that Christians should seek to have a government that is most aligned with areas that make the Christian faith possible and the spreading of the gospel accessible.

On the positive side, Why should we vote?

1.  We have the ability to limit evil in this world.  Let’s be honest there is evil in our world.  Let’s also be honest that voting CAN have the ability to limit that evil through electing people who pass legislation which places limits on evil.

2.  We have the ability to cultivate proper soil for evangelism. When you study the parable of the sower, you are left with a stunning conclusion (read my thoughts here). That conclusion is soil (i.e. the person) matters in the reception of the gospel.  If we can vote in such a way that leads the nation down a path that makes individuals more receptive to the gospel, then I think we should vote.

Okay, I want to turn it over to you.  Why do you, or why do you not vote?

Don’t forget to check out the other posts from the last few days. Also check back tomorrow for part 2.

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17 Comments

  1. Excellent post. I agree completely. We have been blessed with a privilege and a duty here in this country to stand up for Biblical principles through our votes. God appoints the governing authorities, and in this country he has chosen us, the voters.

  2. EXCELLENT! One major difference between the nature of the world in which the New Testament was written and the reality of America is that no nation existed in that day and time that recognized its citizens as the ones holding the power over government, thus being the government through their elected representatives, rather than servants of an elite few who held governmental offices or ward of the state. Because we inherited this unique situation in the history of the earth, we as Christians have a RESPONSIBILITY to be informed and vote in such a way to help further the kingdom of God. One way that the kingdom of God is furthered or hindered by elections is clearly experienced by me as I go about raising funds in this present economy, likely caused and certainly exacerbated by current politicians. Because of the present economic situation, many churches cannot even keep supporting some of their present missionaries, much less take upon the support of new missionaries, like myself. So, we cannot stick our head in the sky in some big pie and live in heaven while we are still on earth. We have every responsibility to be good citizens, and to be a good citizen in America means to vote responsibility according to godly and Christian values.

  3. Be sure to check out the November issue of THINK magazine, as it also addresses this subject. Here is a PDF file of the November issue: http://www.focuspress.org/files/908/File/112010.pdf

  4. Thank you for sharing yourself, and for seeking dialogue with others. “Iron sharpens iron.” I would offer 2 considerations.

    1. U.S. democracy and the kingdom of God are two very different things with two fundamentally different approaches to life. Democracy, by definition, gives people the space to govern themselves, according to their will. The kingdom of God requires each person to be totally loyal to Jesus as Messiah, King, and Lord, and requires a lifestyle according to God’s will. In short, U.S. democracy is about the will of the governed people; the kingdom of God is about the will of God in Jesus Christ. So, by all means, vote, and vote responsibly and with integrity, but you cannot legislate other people to God. It must be their free-will choice.

    2. Throughout history, Christianity has thrived the most when its opposition has been the greatest — that is, in hostile soil. The reverse has also been true: Christianity has been the weakest and most threatened when it has attempted to survive in a culture that allows, endorses, or favors it. After all, Jesus himself planted seed in interesting soil — tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, and so on. The moral of his society wound up being the most opposed to his radical message and lifestyle.

    Grace and peace,
    Daniel

  5. Wesley

    October 28, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks Daniel. I would agree with both of your statements 100%. In fact I’m going to deal with number 1 even more so in this series on the idea of what government can and cannot do.

    The second point is true as well. Although it seems Paul still prayed that Christians would be able to have peace (1 Timothy 2).

    Jeremiah–I have always argued that what we have today and what they have back then are different and thus that needs to be taken into consideration as we try to apply the principles we find in Scripture to a democracy.

  6. I find another reason to vote is in the example prayer that Jesus taught His disciples. In that prayer, He teaches that His disciples should pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. If disciples truly seek the will of God to be done on earth, we should do whatever is available for us to do to provide that God’s will be done. This of course would include righteous living and equipping of saints in the churches so that they might enact God’s will. This also would include the involvement of Christians in the voting process to choose leaders who might better support God’s will to be done in our country. God clearly in involved in the government as He provides leaders. In our country, we have the opportunity to be involved in the choosing of leaders. If our choices can help provide for God’s will to be done in our country and that is something that we should desire and pray for, then let’s do our part by voting.

  7. Wesley

    October 28, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Well said Adam.

  8. When Christians become active in speaking out against evil in government and voting accordingly, some people claim we should keep our religion out of politics. I deny the premise on which that view is based, but my main point is that such a view is not a proper statement of the issue. Christians are not the ones who have left our sphere of interest. The problem is that politicians have made a full-scale invasion into the realm of religion and morals! In that realm Christians are not only permitted but obligated to act. I believe this includes the right to vote. But whether or not an individual Christian chooses to vote, we must all find some means to speak out for decency and Divine truth.
    And regardless of how the government responds to our efforts, we must continue to live faithfully before God, even if we must suffer at the hands of government officials.

  9. Wesley

    October 29, 2010 at 9:21 am

    You make a good point John concerning how politics intersect with religious truth. I think when it does that it is all the more clear that we need to voice God’s standard to the nation.

  10. Hello,
    I wanted to challenge you on this post. This will sound a little more polemical than the spirit with which it is offered. Hopefully we can benefit from the dialogue.

    I see your first point, about paying taxes, as a bit of a non sequitur. Supporting candidates through votes or contributions is not the same as paying taxes. One main difference is that we are commanded to pay taxes, which falls more under the category of submission, ad we are not commanded to vote. People have the “right” to vote, but do not have the obligation.

    Your second argument is too difficult to prove. We could ask if one could imagine Jesus or Paul voting, but there is no analogous situation to give a definitive answer.

    As to your last two points, i would challenge you to offer some examples of voters ever changing the government to be more Christ-like. The great irony is that many of the changes for the good throughout the history of our country (civil rights, equality for women, etc…) were opposed by many, sometimes a majority, of religious conservatives (of which I am one).
    And your final point, that we can make the world more “receptive to the gospel” gives me trouble for a couple reasons. The first, which I would think you would agree with, is that the gospel is “power” (Rom 1:16), so I don’t believe it needs any help from governmental policies. The second is that what you are claiming is impossible to define. How exactly would that happen? If we elect nothing but Christians to office, how would that make the country more receptive to the gospel?
    I look forward to hearing back from you.
    Jim Canada

  11. Wesley

    October 29, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Thanks Jim for leaving your comments I did not feel like they were overly polemic.

    I probably should have nuanced my points a little clearer, and would have in more formal writing.

    First, let me say they way I’m using the word “should” not with the idea of a moral obligation. I do not believe a Christian “must” vote (i.e. if you do not it is sin).

    Second, you seem to limit voting to only voting for a candidate. You never addressed the idea of ballot measures.

    Three, it is possible for Christians to go through voting cycles and not find candidate worthy of their support. If that is the case then do not vote. But there is a difference between that and going to the idea that Christians should not vote.

    Four, I think Scripture does place upon the government the responsibility to punish evildoers and reward those who do good, for the purpose of limiting the evil that we see in the fallen world. Now as members of a democratic republic we in a real sense are the government and thus that responsibility falls on our shoulders if it can be done.

    Fifth, my final point concerning making the soil more receptive is taken from the clear implication of the parable of the sower that the receptor plays a role in how the seed is received. I also believe that society influences the receptor. Therefore IF certain measures can bring about a society that produces people that are more receptive to the gospel, THEN we should vote for that. I do not mean to leave the idea that the power is not in the gospel.

  12. Thanks for the response Wesley,

    As far as the distinction between ballot measures and candidates, it doesn’t make a difference for me. I don’t think it is wrong for Christians to vote. What I am convinced is that there is a paradigmatic flaw in believing that we can accomplish “kingdom principles” in the voting booth.
    I think we would all do well to read the writings of Stone and Lipscomb again and see how their views were shaped. I don’t agree with all they had to say on this issue, but the country hadn’t yet arrived at the Christian=Republican and Democrat=Atheist milieu that we currently find ourselves in.
    Politics says the answer is in political power and strength – Jesus says that His strength is made perfect in weakness.

    Jim

  13. Wesley

    October 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I have read Lipscomb on the issue. I think we need to put him in context some though. Lipscomb pre-Civil War was very much in belief that government was a way to bring change in our world. In fact I think he put too much hope in the government. The civil war, and all that went with it, changed Lipscomb’s view of government (as I’m sure it would us all). I think Lipscomb, however, swung too far. Which is often the case, we as humans seem to go from extreme to extreme.

    My approach is that the government plays a legitimate role in society. It was established by God to play that role. My conviction is the role is to limit evil and promote good. Governments have often times failed in this role, but it doesn’t make them illegitimate. Now our system of government allows us to voice our views on how governments can accomplish their legitimate role. This is why I vote (if there is a candidate or measure worth voting for).

    And you make a great point in saying that we should not hold the view that someone cannot be faithful to God and vote differently then we do, since that person is hopefully trying to make the same informed decision that we are trying to make. For instance I have had individuals vote for someone who was not as adamantly pro-life because they felt the other policies they supported went farther in stopping abortion than did the pro-life persons, who promises to do something, but never does. Also I have had individuals state that a candidates view on war was something they felt was just as immoral as his opponents view on abortion. The point that I’m making and I think you are making, to which I agree Jim is that a certain party is not God’s party. (This doesn’t even take into account pro-life democrats, or pro-choice republicans).

    I think we need to engage the issues and choose the candidate we believe best encompasses God’s view of government. And if there is not one worth your vote then don’t vote.

  14. Alethea Trujillo

    January 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Why do I vote? Because I’m a Christian. Otherwise I wouldn’t care. Because I’m a Christian, the issues become very important to me.

  15. One of the strongest reasons why Christians should abstain from the electoral process was not mentioned in your posting. I refer to the connection between the political system and war.

    “The primary reason why a Christian should not exercise their right to vote is this : their witness against Christian participation in war. The logic is simple. Abstaining from the political process is the only consistent position for a conscientious objector to war. Conscientious objection to war is the only consistent position for a disciple of Jesus. Ergo, the only consistent position for a Christian is to abstain from the political process.” (quote from the book ‘Blood Guilt: Christian Responses to America’s War on Terror,’ New Covenant Press, 2011, pg. 277. See http://covenant.nu )

    There’s an excellent chapter in this book (Chapter 18) that explains why Christians should not vote.

  16. I am a young mother and I was in Sunday school one morning and we were talking about our lessons. One of the members brought up a scenario about a show, then we started talking about voting. Towards the end on the conversationi brought up that I feel ignorant because I don’t vote. I feel that voting is the way of the world, and God told us to be in the world and not of the world. One lady asked me do I think it’s wrong not to vote and then she asked do I know what people stood for so we can have the ability to vote? It was a little hard for me.to truly explain how I feel about the subject. So to the first question I said not and to the second I really didn’t explain well, so it made me in a since look very ignorant in my eyes. Yes we do have the ability to eliminate evil but how many people really want to be 100% positive. Ignorance is bliss. Telling people of God’s word, too many are stiffnecked and coldhearted.

  17. Russell Crabtree

    August 2, 2015 at 1:17 am

    Christians shouldn’t vote, because it makes them responsible. remember Waco? Even on small stuff. Would Jesus ask police to remove prostitutes from his street? Leaders wouldn’t need taxes if someone, or the government ran businesses and made money. Forcing taxes is evil. Do you want a part of that?

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