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The Fallacy of Democracy

This article was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 40, October-December 2005.

IN a world in which we see totalitarian regimes oppressing their people, it is all too easy to go along with the media bandwagon declaring that giving the people 'democracy' is the answer to all their problems. "This will finally give the people the freedom they should have by right," is the cry. Indeed when we think of democracy we tend to compare, for example, oppressive muslim lands controlled by powerful, unelected Emirs, with the wonderful 'free' democratic countries, all of which tend to be 'Christian', at least in name. We therefore give the impression that democracy is somehow connected with Christianity. However, if we look biblically at the situation, we see that this is far from true.

Democracy throughout history has not necessarily been a good thing. The greatest war this world has ever known was brought about by one man, Adolf Hitler, who came to power in Germany… by the vote of the people. Democracy as a form of government is no better or worse than a dictatorship. The only difference being that a dictatorship is ruling at the whim of one man, whereas democracy is ruling at the whim of the mob.

Democracy falls to the ground because man has a wicked sinful nature, and does not know what is best for himself. This is one thing the politicians will never tell the people. Oh yes, he knows what he wants, and the politicians pander to his lusts all right, but the very nature of man is to exalt himself and abase God. This is anti-Christian. Therefore living our lives simply according to the will of the majority will always be a mistake. Biblical history is replete with examples of the will of the people in action. Every time it is in connection with rebellion against God. The Tower of Babel in Genesis Chapter 11 is an example of what men will do if left to themselves, namely build a one-world government to the glory of man, without any reference to God. In the Exodus, time and again the people complained to Moses about their lot, even causing Moses to speak unwisely himself at one point (Num.20:10- 12).

In the time of the Judges every man did what was right in his own eyes, following every charismatic leader they could find, and changing their minds continually as to who they should follow (e.g. Judg.9:22-23). After Solomon's death, the people of Israel rejected Solomon's son Rehoboam to set up a man of their own choosing instead (1Kings 12:16,19,20). Subsequently whenever they had a king they did not like they simply overthrew him and set up another, until God finally cast them out of their land. In the church too we see no difference. The priests "murder in the way by consent" (Hos.6:9). The majority always get their way. And of course the greatest of all acts of wickedness was the crucifixion of Christ: it was the people who chose Barabbas to be released and Christ to be crucified, a decision which Pilate, being a good democrat, gave in to.

If the Bible teaches nothing else, it teaches us that if people are allowed to choose their own way, they will apostatise from God and set up their own false, self-exalting philosophy instead. The truly Christian form of government is not to make our decisions dependent solely on the will of the majority. This simply encourages political manoeuvering, with the most persuasive always getting their way. Rather our way should be to continually seek the mind of the Lord in prayer and supplication, humbling ourselves before Him, and not making our decisions until we have clear light on the matter. Let us away with man and his reason and decision-making. Instead, let us, "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts," live "soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Tit.2:12-14)