The Forum

The Forum

The Christian and Politics

Dear Mr. G.:

In regard to the Forum section of the October 1961 issue of Food for the Flock, Mr. A. G. C. hardly takes a realistic view of politics and the exercise of the vote.

Mr. A. G. C. makes a serious error in generalizing that politics is strictly out for the Christian. Surely when a true statesman makes a decision in the public interest, amidst the opposing pressure of many lobbies and factions, this cannot be for (self) glory. If anything, there is a strong need for Christians in this area of civil service who would more likely tend to be real statesmen. Surely a Christian can suffer spiritual (?) defeat in any occupation. It is expected, of course, that this Christian in politics would not compromise his testimony, as it should be in any job.

As for the exercise of the vote, did not the Apostles themselves cast lots for Matthias in Acts 1:26? It seems that the vote together with prayer is the best way for election. Mr. A. G. C. seems to believe that by our voting we are going against the express command of our rulers, in the third paragraph of his letter. I believe Mr. A. G. C. has interpreted the verses he selected to fit what he is trying to show, rather than expositionally working from the verses themselves.

I, a student at New York University, write you, the Editor, not for rebuke but as a warning that this kind of extra-scriptural thinking can only hurt the reputation of the assemblies and also the character of the assembly Christians who are the primary readers of your magazine.

Perhaps a Letter to the Editor section in Food for the Flock would encourage and provoke thought mechanisms in the readers, rather than having them accept everything handed to them.

Sincerely in Christ,
G. K.

* * *

It is not suitable to publish all communications on this subject. Letters have been received from older and more mature Christians as well as from younger and less experienced ones. Some of these are excellent, but others prove the statement of Elihu, “Great men are not always wise, neither do the aged understand judgment” (Job 32:9). Still others call to remembrance an intensive discussion between a young chemist and an older and much more experienced engineering executive. During the debate, the illogical reasoning of the younger man became obvious. At the close, graciously and humorously the older put his hand on the shoulder of the younger and with a broad smile asked, “Do you know the difference between a young and an old man?” “Well, what?” enquired the younger. “O, really not very much,” said the experienced executive, “Only, an old man knows that he does not know; whereas, a young man does not know that he does not know.”

A strict biblical exegesis of Acts chapter one would not result in a parallelism between the choice of Matthias and the election of a political candidate, as some apparently imagine. There is a marked contrast in purpose, candidates, electors, and methods.

The purpose for which Matthias was chosen was simply to complete the original number, as Peter said, “Of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us.” The purpose did not involve politics or statesmanship. The chosen man was to be a witness of the events in the life of Christ, not a legislator.

The candidates were not from contending parties nor were they contributors to conflicting systems of government. In fact, the two brethren were passive throughout the entire proceedings.

The electors were the Apostles themselves. What a contrast to the mixture that goes to the poles in an election, a mixture of Christians, non-Christians, agnostics, and atheists!

The method employed was simple: there were no campaigns, no ballot boxes, no slips, no scrutineers, and certainly no lobbyists. It must be remembered that our Lord Jesus had ascended on high and that the Holy Spirit had not yet descended. This event took place in a very critical period of history when the Apostles were left to themselves. Without other means of divine guidance they resorted to the Old Testament way of making a decision; they, like the high priest on the great day of the atonment, cast lots (Lev. 16). How could this possibly be confused with the casting of a ballot at election time?

With the Canon of Scripture completed and the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer, ‘Christian decisions must now be based on biblical revelation and spiritual illumination.

This entire transaction recorded in Acts chapter one is altogether too questionable to accept as an example in such matters. Realism demands that we admit; it was carried out without divine command, without direct divine guidance, and without divine sanction. Matthias is never seen in active association with the Apostles. There may be an indirect reference to him in 1 Corinthians 15:5, “He (Christ in resurrection) was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.” If we insist upon the literalism of the number twelve, then we must ask, who is eliminated from the list in Revelation 21:12? “The city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.” Paul was “an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God” (1 Tim. 1:1); counting Matthias, he would be the thirteenth. Does the vision seen by John omit Matthias or Paul? Could it be that the choice made by the Apostles just after Pentecost was a mistake, a premature action? If so, surely a mistake is a poor pattern to follow.

Even in so-called democratic countries there are two methods of voting, one is the voluntary ballot, where the exercise of one’s franchise is left to his own discretion. Under such conditions, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5). The other method is the obligatory ballot, and here the Christian has no alternative but to “submit … to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (1 Pet. 2:13).

Nevertheless, all should remember that the voluntary ballot is as much an “ordinance of man,” therefore divinely sanctioned where it is constitutional, as is the obligatory ballot where it is decreed.

The majority of the correspondents have missed the major point of brother A. G. S.’s letter. He questioned the propriety of a Christian becoming an active politician. Most have missed this and have either denounced or defended the Christian in the exercise of his franchise to vote.

In participating in any discussion in The Forum, it would be more helpful to either quote or refer to Scripture in order that others discern a biblical perspective from a mere personal opinion.