Has Living in a Pluralistic Society Prevented Violence?

Image by Sage Chimera

Fellow contributor to Caffeinated Thoughts, Adam Graham, has issued a challenge to my recent post about whether Christians should vote for unbelievers such as Mitt Romney, and whether principled pluralism is a good thing. I appreciate a good volley, and Adam is a worthy opponent, but I must reject his arguments on several grounds.

Mr. Graham spends a considerable amount of time attempting to make the argument that the experiment of principled pluralism has proven to be an unassailable victory for mankind over inter-Christian warfare, as if that kind of “warfare” has been the predominant kind of war in history. He even seems to paint the Protestant Reformation as the key turning point leading to what he calls fratricide:

 

“Then once came the reformation, we began beheading and killing each other in the name of Christ, Christians used the state as a fratricidal weapon to murder each other in the name of the Bible, in the name of God. That is the history of much of the reform and counter-reformation, of Kings and Queens being killed, of the persecution of Anabaptists, Puritans, separatists, Catholics, and a wide variety of dissenters…. However, I will cast my vote in the finest American tradition that has allowed our nation to become an unprecedented source of missionaries and missions across the Earth while at the same time avoiding the religious strife and bloodshed that has dominated much of the Earth”

This Readers Micro-Digest version of history ignores the fact that persecution has always been the plight of the church and that early Protestant pre-reformers such as John Hus, John Wycliffe and William Tyndale all suffered under Catholic persecution prior to the Reformation. The record of secular or atheistic governments has been much worse. The 20th Century was long history of bloodshed by the Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Vietnam, to name just a few. We have not avoided that bloodshed in spite of what Graham says.

If the practical results of having a Constitution devoid of Christianity were the most important argument, I would simply point out that this godless document has not prevented the murder of millions of unborn children and perhaps has sustained it. If Christian lawyers had been able to appeal to a document truly based upon Christianity, perhaps the killing would have been stopped in its tracks years ago. (The same will be true when the high court eventually upholds homosexual “marriage” as it will likely do).

But the practical results are not all that Graham proffers in order to defend his plan to vote for Romney.

“David Shedlock is concerned about the effects of a Mormon President on our country. I would note that we once had a President who literally rewrote the Gospel to exclude the resurrection of Christ. Somehow, we survived that. The Gospel and the Church are not so weak as David Shedlock would suggest.”

I don’t recall lamenting that the church could not survive a Mormon presidency, nor did I say the church is weak, as Graham intimates. In my book, I instead suggested that “I’d rather sit under a thousand Mormon presidents than hear one more minister deny the gospel by affirming that Mormonism is a Christian religion.” Indeed Christians have thrived under the most pagan of rulers. It is not the power of a Romney presidency and Mormonism that bother me. It is the rank disregard of any Biblical guidance in voting by professing Christians that is so disturbing.

Graham does not deny that Psalm 2 gives us the qualifications of kings; he only implies that we voters are allowed to vote for kings that do not qualify. He also seems to limit these qualifications to “pagan” kings in Communist or Islamic countries, as if unbelieving kings in a Western culture are okay. He by extension seems to imply that Obama and Romney are not pagans, though the one believes that all “gods” are equally god, and the other believes he shall become a god, like he believes many others shall.

There are many passages which deal with qualifications besides Psalm 2:

Exodus 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness.

I have written elsewhere, “How will the fear of God make governors more able to carry out their duties? First, it will make them rule justly (1Sa 23:3). It will also keep them from ruling with an iron fist or with cruelty (Neh. 5:15), make them personally generous (Acts 10:2), give them respect for the disabled and the aged (Lev. 19:14, 32) and help them to see the plight of the poor and the immigrant (Lev. 25:35f).”

Proverbs 29:2 2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Proverbs 16:12 It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.

Proverbs 31:8 (A Proverb for Kings) Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. (Note that this says “all”, and I believe this disqualifies candidates who believe it is okay to kill some unborn babies, such as Romney, as well as those like Obama who would defend none of the babies)

Graham says that Christians must live peaceably with whomever God places in office, which I agree with wholeheartedly.  But this is similar to the command to live peaceably with the unbelieving spouse that a new believer finds him or herself living with:

I Corinthians 7:15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace

But the Scriptures teach that they are not allowed to seek such an unbeliever as a husband or wife, for it is wrong to be “unequally yoked”. How much less should believers seek to be bound to an unbelieving civil magistrate?  If Romney becomes president, I will honor him in that position. I will not mock him any more than I did Barack Obama. But I cannot ask God to place over me a pagan king.

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Comments

  1. says

    I’ll respond briefly in the comments:
    “This Readers Micro-Digest version of history ignores the fact that persecution has always been the plight of the church and that early Protestant pre-reformers such as John Hus, John Wycliffe and William Tyndale all suffered under Catholic persecution prior to the Reformation. “Certainly, there were Catholic persecutions during the pre-Reformation  era, during the Inquisition. This doesn’t  assail my point that a God-fearing government that recognized truth’s about God but allowed for religious freedom without establishing religious tests for office/”The record of secular or atheistic governments has been much worse. The 20th Century was long history of bloodshed by the Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Vietnam, to name just a few. We have not avoided that bloodshed in spite of what Graham says.”

    That’s because these have been godless Governments which is not what the United States established. It seems like this is mis-stating argument to say that completely secular governments are good. I never said that. Nor does the fact that we can show secular regimes kill with a lot more efficiency and a a lot less thought than the regimes of the Reformation and pre-reformation era where the Church and State were conjoined. This is not an argument to go back to the good old days of burning heretics because the church killed ;ess. America historically provides a happy medium where peace and freedom can and have co-existed.

    “If the practical results of having a Constitution devoid of Christianity were the most important argument, I would simply point out that this godless document has not prevented the murder of millions of unborn children and perhaps has sustained it. If Christian lawyers had been able to appeal to a document truly based upon Christianity, perhaps the killing would have been stopped in its tracks years ago. ”

    The more “Christian” Status of Constitutions and legal traditions in Europe hasn’t stopped them from legalizing abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage. It’s what happens when People’s hearts wax wanton. If our Constitution were more explicitly Christian, it would not matter given the legal philosophy that dominates our court system.  They’ve ignored and torn down those parts of the Constitution that they do not like.

    “Graham does not deny that Psalm 2 gives us the qualifications of kings; he only implies that we voters are allowed to vote for kings that do not qualify.” 

    I do deny that Psalm 2 gives us qualifications for Kings.  It’s the Psalmist’s reflection on the actions of the Heathen against God and his people. The problem with much of what Shedlock does here is that he’s taking scripture apart from its context to make it say things it was never meant to say and to address things it never addresses.

    Exodus 18, for example, quotes Jethro giving advice to Moses, the main thrust of which was to delegate authority to others rather than trying to run the nation himself. To take this as proof for absolute command to never vote for anyone other than an orthodox Protestant in the 21st Century is not a right dividing of the Word. “Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.”

    The Proverbs are truisms and really provide no guidance on how to vote in an election where two candidates both have serious flaws. 

    What we seem to be getting is the use of “hot verses” as Haddon Robinson calls them to create support a pre-existing position rather than to tell us what God’s Word really is saying and talking about.

    We should also state there a wide gulf in pre-suppositions here. David presupposes that our nation has been wrong from the beginning. That we ought to be a theocracy of some sort with a very explicitly religious constitution and restrictions to ensure that only Christians can be leaders. I tend to think our Constitution represents something remarkable that has been a blessing to our nation and that we’ve fallen into trouble because of our disregard for it and our overall cultural decline.

    .

    • David Shedlock says

      Yes, our nation has been wrong from the beginning (as have all nations, including Israel) because we are nations made up of unredeemed sinners). No, I an not calling for a theocracy, far from it. In fact, I am suggesting that all utopian dreams of a Christian state or Christian nation are full of folly. The only Christian nation is the Church and even she retains some flaws, but we have hope – that she will be made a beautiful bride, without spot or wrinkle.  This hope will keep us from putting our trust in politics or our vote or our country or our constitution: all which are vain.

      It is our duty to avoid being slimed by this world.

      By suggesting that there are no Scriptures to judge who may lead us you are advocating the idea that we can vote for homosexuals, Marxists, atheists, pagans, or advocates of any kind of perversion, false doctrine or tyranny, as long as the other guy is a little worse. I reject the notion. If you reject it, please point me to the verses that would forbid one from voting for the person I just suggested. 

      • says

        David, with going to the point of Homosexuals, Marxists, and pagans, you’re raising a bit of red herring. I might as well ask you why the scriptures you cite couldn’t be used for a Baptist to refuse to vote for a Pentecostal.

        I think there are issues where scripture provides specific guidance, but then there are other issues of our modern life where we don’t have specific direction and we have to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, not take square peg scriptures and put them into round holes.

        And in some parts of the world, Christians have had little choice but to support candidates who were not Christians but who would not persecute the church as much. 

        And if you look through the book of Kings and Chronicles, you’ll see that God believe there were bad kings and then there were really horrendous kings. In order to take the House of Ahab out of the way, God chose Jehu even though Jehu continued to sacrifice at the Shrines in Bethel and Dan.  He said that there were some kinds who did worse than all of those who had been before them and then there were kings that were just bad. 

        So, I think scripture suggests that we should avoid the really horrendous leaders whose pride, arrogance, and wickedness bring God’s anger even if means we have someone place who is not all that great either.

      • David Shedlock says

        It is not a red herring at all. I am asking a simple question. Is there a standard by which you would say this person or that person is unqualified to be president and I refuse to vote for either candidate?

  2. says

    Interesting discussion.  It seems to me that there are many things the Bible speaks to that may not necessarily be spelled out in a single verse.  The Bible definitely places a high value on character and integrity, and love/respect for one’s fellow man.  If a candidate for office doesn’t come at least somewhat close to meeting such high standards (whether the candidate is a professing Christian or not), I don’t believe it would be compatible with biblical values to vote for him or her–especially if the candidate has a long history of deceit, as Romney does.