Jesus Christ vs Democracy
by Christopher Hawk
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Democracy is unbiblical. It perverts the purpose of the Church when the Church gets involved. It carries the spirit of antichrist in its inherent rejection of God. And current world events make democracy likely soil for that spirit to infect the world for especially heightened catastrophe in these last days.
This essay is not comprehensive. It is meant to offer Biblical evidence for the Church to secede from democratic systems, and other world systems for that matter. Much more could be added to offer evidence for such a conclusion.
My hope is that the Church can look to God for its eyes to be opened and see the death grip the stronghold of democracy has on the Church. ‘Stronghold of democracy’ seems a heavy phrase, but my prayer is that this essay will give cause to pray and think and meditate on the matter.
In 1 Samuel 8, the Israelites, disgusted with their current form of government in the form of the judges, demanded that God give them a new political system like the other nations. As the next several chapters make very clear, this demand was a rejection of God. God granted this request with a prophecy of the role the king would play. The king would not be a solution to their problems. Only their obedience to and faith in God would solve their problems (as the failure of the judges makes clear). The granting of their demand for a king would prove this to be true. While God allowed the Israelites to choose their own political system, He would be the one to choose its representative. In Saul, God chose a man that was perhaps physically menacing, but had no confidence in himself whatsoever for the task (1 Samuel 9:21, 10:21-22). This is most likely why God chose him. God would be able use him. His arrogance in his own qualities would not get in the way of what God wanted to do. Of course, that all changed, but at the time of his calling, Saul was a humble man. While many of the Israelites accepted God’s choice of king, there was a number that did not accept Saul. This group that did not accept him is referred to as ‘the children of Belial’ (1 Samuel 10:27)—‘Belial’ referring to wickedness, worthlessness, and even the devil himself in the New Testament. It is not clearly stated why this group despised Saul. It could be that they despised him because he was the embodiment of their rejection of God. Perhaps they took their holiness to an extreme and wouldn’t accept that God would allow Israel to replace Him in such a way. But this isn’t likely. Why would they be referred to as ‘children of Belial’ in such a case? More likely, their intent was to further reject God in despising God’s choice of king. Saul wasn’t worthy. They could have chosen a more worthy representative than God chose. In this sense, they were early proponents of democracy. We want the freedom to make all the choices ourselves because God just messes it up. In this case, the desire to take that original rejection of God a step further equates with a heart that desires to remove God from the sphere of influence completely.
Many of the prophecies concerning Jesus proclaim that He would be the King that would lead Israel into glory—but not only Israel; the rest of the world would be swept up as well. Obviously, with the first coming of Jesus, such prophecies did not find pure fulfillment. Such fulfillment will be made manifest in the second coming of Jesus. But concerning Christ and kingdoms at His first coming, some insight can be gleaned as to what God intended for the Church regarding government—within the Church itself and the Church’s relationship to governments of the world.
Isaiah 50:4 indicates that Jesus would be taught directly by God. But Luke 2:46-49 suggests that He may have perhaps gleaned something from the priests of that day as well. With such a large chunk of the life of Jesus missing from the record, we don’t know whether it was a common practice for Him to converse with the Jewish leaders. Verse 46 indicates that He did listen to what they had to say, and that he was interested in what they had to say in that he was asking them questions. Later, in Luke 4:16-20, we see that He was familiar with participating in the Jewish services. But in Mark’s documentation of what would be assumed to be the same event, the reaction of the people indicates that His establishment with the priestly group is unfounded. He was not known as a brilliant prophet among the people. He was a laborer—a carpenter—and did not engulf Himself with the religious system of the Jews. He participated as a commoner perhaps, but the evidence points to the conclusion that Jesus was a lay person when His ministry began. He was raised within the culture and religion of the day, He showed an interest in it, but He remained pure from any deeper involvement. And He clearly dissociates Himself from His ‘own nation’ in John 18:35-36. As Jesus came to create a new Kingdom, He was not a participant of God’s old kingdom or nation. In this sense, God has chosen this new King and has even established the Kingdom itself. Jesus wasn’t a participant of the Jewish system. He was a heretical figure in the eyes of that system, a revolutionary figure. That system knew He had come to overthrow it—and not just at His second coming, but even at His first coming. There is no indication that His disciples were absorbed in the old system. In fact, He chose followers who were not attached to that system. He chose lay people. This doesn’t mean that He wasn’t calling the attached Jews away from the old system, for His purpose was indeed to call them away from the old and into the new. Their maintained attachment to the old system betrayed their disconnect from God.
But if He was calling them away from the old system, the old kingdom, the old covenant for their nation—in the here and now—what was He calling them to? Certainly not to merge into the Gentile system of government until His return as a physical King over all the earth. In Mark 10:41-45, He clearly draws a line between His Kingdom and the kingdoms of the Gentiles. He was calling them to walk out in faith, to prepare the way for His second coming, not merged with their old system or Gentile institutions. They were called to set themselves apart, with Christ as their head and King.
This brings us to the inevitable conflict that will arise with such a scenario—being in this world but not of this world. There are a few areas of conflict documented in Scripture, such as the questioning of Christ’s loyalty in the testing of whether He would pay tribute money to Caesar. Here we see Him again drawing a line between His Kingdom and those of the world.
Being in this world but not of this world, and being clearly told to be separate from the old Jewish system and the Gentile systems, how are we, as citizens of God’s Kingdom and newly made foreigners in our physical surroundings, supposed to interact with the systems of authority of the world? In Titus 3:1, Paul tells Titus to tell those under him ‘to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready for every good work.’ It doesn’t say to infiltrate worldly power or to be infiltrated by worldly power. It says to not resist worldly power. It says to submit. John 18:10-11 adds a bit of clarity to this. Peter attempted to resist the Jewish leaders in their plan to arrest Jesus. But what good would it have been to the Kingdom had his efforts been successful? How would the Kingdom of God be proven to be any different than the kingdoms of the world? Peter wasn’t ready for the good work that his subjection in such cases could prove to be. And Peter learned his lesson well, as in 1 Peter 2:13-17, he clarifies this subject. In response to people like he once was, who would attempt to force the Kingdom of God by natural means, he tells them to submit to the ordinances of man for the Lord’s sake, just as the Lord did. Verses 15-16 say, ‘for so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness but as servants of God.’ We are not to have a spirit of defiance against the governments of the world. We are not to overthrow them as such will be accomplished at Christ’s second coming and not before. We are to love our enemies, which in the times of the New Testament Church would have included government leaders.
The Church for the most part functioned as a body properly separated from the institutions of the world. It did not manipulate those world systems in attempts to reflect what the Kingdom might look it. They knew such display was for the Church, not world governments. They acted as foreigners in their own physical surroundings, just as a tourist might function in a foreign nation—honoring its rulership and not trying to manipulate it. But with Constantine, that all changed.
Prior to Constantine, the Church faced persecution, so no Christian would have been in a governmental position without compromising who they were. The Church was free from the systems of the world—both Jewish and Gentile—and was therefore able to function as the independent system Christ intended it to be (independent from the world, dependent upon God). But Constantine’s conversion in 312 flipped the world Christians had been familiar with upside down. Suddenly, they could worship freely. They could spread the Gospel freely. The Kingdom was expanding. Or was the Kingdom expanding? Conversion is easy when the power structure supports it. on one hand, one could say that the Kingdom benefited by such acceptance of the faith. But on the other hand, it could be argued that the state co-opted the Church. The state watered it down. The state absorbed the power of the Church into itself. Over time, the Church and the state became, for all intents and purposes, one and the same. The power of God left the Church as the Church turned to the state for its power. Centuries pass in which we see little evidence of the Church looking anything like the New Testament Church. The small pockets of Holy Spirit influenced life corresponded with dissociation from the established church and the state, for to dissociate from the one, one had to dissociate from the other as well.
Enter the Christian Reformation of the 16th century. We see prophetic voices in vessels such as Luther, Calvin, etc. We see a new exodus, not physical, but spiritual—an escape from the iron grip of the state corrupted church. And through this exodus, we find a sort of chaos. As this remnant is exiting the old system, it has no clue how to function apart from the old. We see strict taskmasters such as Luther and Calvin who have a hard time letting go of the legalism of the old system; and we also see the other extreme in folks like Coppe and the Brethren of the Free Spirit, who had a hard time embracing legalism of any kind—sin is justified by grace in their eyes. The old system perverted the Gospel to such a degree that they rejected all of its teachings.
So, how does this newly transformed Church function? It seeks to recreate the old system, to co-opt the old system, unfortunately. Or, maybe more concisely, the old system seeks to re-appropriate the new. With the variety of social and political upheavals occurring at the time, it would have been easy to lump all of the causes into the single cause of one instigator. During this time, we see a new economic model being birthed—that is, capitalism. So along with pockets of secession from the old system based on doctrinal grounds, there were pockets of resistance to this emerging economic order. We also see a rise in nationalistic sentiment during this time, which also serves to weaken the old order. From the point of view of the old system, this ragtag group of subverts must be lumped into one category. Fighting one enemy is easier than fighting a multitude.
There is little doubt that God had ordained the time of the old system to be over. But what if the ones who were to bring an end to the old system decide to maintain it instead? We can look at this from one of two different angles: in the natural, or in the spiritual. We can look at the old system as the enemy since it had co-opted and transformed the Church for his purposes. His desire is to destroy the Church. So, considering our concern is with the Church, we’ll look at this through spiritual eyes.
When the enemy sees that his efforts are being foiled, that revival for God is spreading like wildfire, what does he do? He resorts to mass persecution. But what does he do when, because of that persecution, those wildfires grow even more fierce? He goes back to square one and begins what he began in 312—he begins to co-opt the Church anew.
The process moves fairly slowly, but through concessions, the enemy woos the Church back into the fold of the old system. He knows that if the Church’s focus is on the state, if its power is tied to the state, the Church will eventually die.
Enter democracy. Amid cries for religious liberty, the old system offered such concessions. It should be noted that the New Testament Church did not concern itself with such causes as ‘religious liberty.’ There is no indication that religious liberty was even an expectation it held. Jesus never indicated that the Church should ever expect to have a cozy relationship or partnership with world systems. In fact, He indicated the opposite—that world systems would persecute the Church. Alongside this He tells the Church to keep faith—that in times of persecution, He would be its strength. The Church would have the freedom to choose its primary source of strength, power, and sustenance. When Jesus commented on the spectacles the Pharisees made of tithing and praying, He said that what they wanted was the reward of man, the praise of man. They got it. And that is all they would get. Likewise, if the Church seeks its power from the state, that is the power it will receive as God will—eventually, at any rate—pull back to show the emptiness of that power. The cry for ‘religious liberty’ is nothing but a compromise with the state: please don’t kill or arrest me for worshiping my God or sharing my faith. It is requesting from the state the freedom to worship. Does the law of the state transcend the law of God? To seek religious liberty is to seek compromise. Democracy is the epitome of compromise. Given the fact that no nation-state is made up fully of Christians purely devoted to the Father’s business, unbelievers are inevitably given equal status in the governing institution of democracy. That said, when the Church involves itself—and when members of the Church involve themselves individually—it becomes unequally yoked with unbelievers, as Paul warned the Church against in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15. Interestingly, Belial is referenced again in verse 15, just as in 1 Samuel 10:27.
Democracy in America
In these last days, democracy is spreading across the world, in many cases through violent means. Oftentimes it is forced upon nations. In his declaration of Human Rights Day on December 10, 2004, then-President George W. Bush stated that, ‘Freedom and dignity are God’s gift to each man and woman in the world. During this observance, we encourage all nations to continue working towards freedom, peace, and security, which can be achieved only through democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.’ From a purely Christian standpoint, this statement can easily be dissected and shown to be just one more of the propagandistic claims of all American politicians. The statement was made, of course, in the midst of two foreign wars, which he claimed would help make the middle east safer for the spread of democracy. We must keep in mind that, for most of our history, the spread of democracy has been nearly as important as the spread of the Gospel. In fact, it could be argued that our conception of the two is that they are one and the same. And this is basically what then-President Bush’s comment claims. We need not look far beyond American politicians to understand the type of rhetoric a false Christ—or the false Christ—might employ.
His quote is a good summary of what democracy is for so many Americans, its church included. It is the gift from God—that we have to work to receive. ‘Freedom’ and ‘dignity’ are the gift of God, yet they can only be achieved ‘through democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.’ What then-President Bush is saying as democracy’s megaphone is that God’s gift of freedom can be achieved without Christ. We can work for it. In his State of the Union address of 2003, Bush documents the uphill battle America faces domestically. But there is nothing to fear. Hope is here in the ‘power, wonder-working power in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people.’ Certainly, the pure religion of James 1:27 is partially exemplified in the surrounding sentences of his speech, but the source of the power is again misplaced. Jesus Christ is once again replaced by democracy.
Such replacements of Christ with democracy are not off-the-cuff remarks. The wording of such statements is well planned and potentially prophetic. Is God letting us hear such statements to urge us to grasp something? Jesus spoke in cryptic parables to reach the ones whose ears were open to hear. Those grasping their strongholds would be left to their strongholds. Is God speaking through the leaders of America to the church in America for the same purpose?
From President Barack Obama, we hear similar language. It’s not about what God can do. Of course, God is given token mention in his speeches since every American president virtually has to give lip service to God in order to be elected and stay in office—or at best to avoid the wrath of the people. So President Obama gives God a nominal place in his office, but the focus—the power—is in the American people. Democracy. It’s about what we can do. YES WE CAN!
Perhaps it’s time for the prayer of Psalm 9:19-20 to be answered in our day. Psalm 81:11-12 gives an explanation of so much of the judgment the world has had to face. We don’t turn to God. We turn to our own devices. We cry to God. We plead with God. But we don’t repent. We don’t turn from trying to have our own way. So God lifts his grace from us and lets our own way fail us. Isaiah 57:13’s ‘companies’ or ‘collection of idols’—depending on the translation—could easily be replaced with ‘Constitution’ or ‘democracy’.
I believe God is calling us to take Him seriously. It is time. It is time for us to leave Egypt and move where He leads, into what He created us to be—not as a nation-state but as the Church.
It is projected that Islam will become the majority religion in much of the west in the next few decades. Democracy will be the pedestal for it to take the world. The worldly weapon of democracy—the rule of law—has not worked for the Church. It has given us ‘blessings’ comparable to those of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22), but it has not offered any form of substantive hope for the Church. The harm has greatly outweighed the blessing. We must move on to the weapons that God has given us. Perhaps Islam will rule the world from the seats of state power. That’s okay. The world is not for us to rule and conquer in that fashion at this time. It is for us to love and allow the Holy Spirit to move through us to reach the world. Having personal attachments to world systems as we do now disallows us that mighty weapon of God. It is time for the Church to wake up and arise! Long ago, the Church passed off its responsibility to the governments of the world. We have transformed a personal, cultural, and national Kingdom into a merely personal Kingdom. The cult of individualism has infected the Church. God is interested in transformed hearts. But the outward appearance of righteousness without inward righteousness is grounds for judgment as the prophets and Jesus made clear on many occasions. While the liberal side rejects God by turning to government for provision, the conservative side thinks it can appease God by creating outward appearances of righteousness through ‘righteous’ law. This ought not be how the Church functions. Law does not change hearts.
Could it be that what is holding the Church in America back from mighty revival is our tendency to keep the gospel at a purely personal level? When we bring matters of culture under the authority of worldly governments, we are casting out God from the sphere of cultural influence. Sure, He can change us individually but we still miss the mark culturally as a community. Historically, since the foundation of the Church, the use of government to carry out the ‘socialistic’ provisions as documented in the Acts of the Apostles, and the use of government to bring about righteousness in the people of a nation have tended to lead to horrific scenarios. We’ve lost sight of what the Church is. The Church in America is not the nation or the government. The nation and the government are worldly foundations—inherently. The Church consists of the unified people dedicated to and led by our Lord Jesus Christ. By our very lives, we should be bringing people to the Lord.
I don’t know how an alternative will look. I don’t know precisely what the next step will be if the Holy Spirit convicts a remnant to ‘come out of her’ in this context. I do believe God is leading me to share this message—a very simplified message. I pray hearts will be opened and revelation will be given. I pray strongholds will be broken. I pray the Church will remove itself from its unequal yoke with the world in the context of democracy. I pray that the Holy Spirit can use this message despite its shoddiness and roughness. I pray that God will redeem His Church. Thank You Jesus! Show us where to go, Lord!
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