Authority: Democracy

This is part of a series of posts on the doctrine of Authority. Click here to see the entire series.


By now it should be apparent that the biblical doctrine of authority has dramatic implications for political philosophy.  All authority has been given to Jesus by the Father.  Jesus has delegated His authority to the magistrate.  The magistrate is not left without instructions about how to use that authority.  Individuals are ordained to the offices in the magistrate by the taking of a vow that gives them the right to exercise the monopoly power of the sword. Citizens are to submit to the authority of the superiors.   In all cases the authority of God flows from the top down.  This crucial point about the nature of authority makes it very difficult to defend the political philosophy of democracy.

Democracy begins with the presupposition that original authority is vested in the individual.  This presupposition is deemed to be self-evident.  No attempt is made to argue for it.  It is simply asserted that it must be the case that original authority exists in the life of each individual.

It is not a mere coincidence that the doctrine of the “divine right of Kings” was replaced by the doctrine of the sovereign authority of the individual at exactly the same point in history when the Church was deemed to be culturally irrelevant in light of the newly discovered reality of enlightened, rational man.  During the period of time known as the “Enlightenment” (the period of John Locke as I mentioned earlier),  kingdom after kingdom was dissolved and replaced with quasi-democracies (usually as the result of a revolutionary war) that asserted the divine right of the individual.

Under the divine right of Kings it was understood that it was the responsibility of the King to utilize his God-given authority to enforce the law (usually the Law of God) over his subjects.  Under the divine right of the individual (the Lockian social contract), the Law of God was replaced by a natural law of the enlightened, rational individual.  This reality is easily observed in the Constitution of the United States which vests original authority in “We the People” and immediately proceeds to inaugurate the Legislative branch of government in order to formulate law.

The Bible makes no provision for the belief that the individual is vested with original authority.  Nowhere is it revealed that God has delegated His authority to individuals who are then expected to figure out some way to order a civil magistrate that will enforce the Law of God or, even worse, create law based upon natural law and reason.    It is impossible to reconcile democracy and the biblical doctrine of authority.

It is interesting that most democracies are really democracies in name only.  Especially in the United States, our democracy is really much closer in practice to a Kingdom than it is a democracy.  We speak of our elected officials as “public servants” but we all laugh at the concept that they really “serve the public”.  Career politicians describe themselves as “public servants” and then carefully plan  their careers for their own personal advancement.  The rank and file citizen realizes that he has little or no impact upon what goes on in government.  For that reason, the great majority never even bother to exercise their right, as the holders of original authority, to vote.

Elected officials in the Federal government “serve” the public for exorbitant salaries.  They are  exempted from all the laws that they impose on the citizens of the country (employment law and payroll taxes being two of the best examples).  They have their own private retirement program that guarantees them lifetime financial security.  They have bodyguards who make sure that no member of the public can get close to them.  The President, in particular, never travels without the lives of the average citizen being disrupted.  When the President is in the air, all civilian air traffic is re-routed to other air space.  When the President travels the highways, they are closed to traffic by ordinary citizens.  Government officials travel the world on taxpayer dollars.  Government officials get all the best seats at civic and sporting events.  The list can go on.  Government officials, despite the facade of democracy, are really much more like royalty.

Defenders of democracy will not doubt bring up the concept of the vote.  After all, as long as we have the right to vote, we have a democracy because we can “throw the rascals out”.  Unfortunately, most Christians have never considered what they are doing when they vote.

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