Democracy and Depravity


The observation of Wilberforce regarding depravity, and the verses below from Isaac Watts, serve as a stark reminder to the Christian mind, why even democratic governments like our own representative republic, must one day crumble due to their own internal corruption.

The truth is, one cannot sustain a nation on Christian principles, when the majority of the people are not Christians, nor holding to Biblical principles even when they are shown rationally to be better for human flourishing.

We all claim (in theory) to want a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” as Lincoln famously stated. Until – “the people” doesn’t want what you and I want.

But what are we to expect?

Even as water seeks its own level, so does sin in the human heart. It sinks lower and lower. Excepting the goodness of God in common grace, and those seasons of revival which have turned greater numbers to seek the morality which flows from people apprehending and desiring something of the holiness of God individually – no system can help but degenerate over time. Sin is entropic.

We can say all we want (the “we” here being those who espouse historical Judaic/Christian virtues) that freedom is the highest good. But by itself, it too only gives way eventually to chaos. For any supposed freedom which is not first bound to Christ as Lord in righteousness, is not freedom, but license to let our depravity run unrestrained.

What is the best form of human government? I cannot say. If it were a representative republic, one would have thought that’s how God would have established Israel. But He didn’t. And I cannot venture to guess why not. I know what form I personally prefer. And I celebrate the genius of the one under which I presently live – as failing as it is at present. But that is a far cry from arguing that such is necessarily the best or the one most endorsed by God.

What is the best from of government period? The Lordship of Jesus Christ. And this comes, only through the Gospel. Not politically, socially or worst of all, militarily.

If we say we want our society to be free, and in freedom that society chooses (by the sentiment of the majority as it elects those who reflect its views) to cater to fallen perceptions and desires – then we reap the result of freedom when unmoored from God. Perhaps it isn’t really freedom we desire – but our particular brand of freedom – one that supports our perceptions and desires from a Christian worldview. And in that case, we really don’t want freedom for everyone equally the same. We want freedom to be OUR freedom, and not someone else’s. This is true no matter where we fall on the political continuum.

And it is why, the Church must keep her focus on its mission as Christ gave it: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt. 28:19-20

When we veer from this, by whatever else may seem expedient and good in and of itself, we neglect the only thing which can preserve society at its best. And even then, as Christians, we must live in constant suspicion of our own hearts.

Backward with humble shame we look
  On our original;
How is our nature dashed and broke
  In our first father’s fall!

To all that’s good averse and blind,
  But prone to all that’s ill
What dreadful darkness veils our mind!
  How obstinate our will!

[Conceived in sin, O wretched state!
  Before we draw our breath
The first young pulse begins to beat
  Iniquity and death.

How strong in our degen’rate blood
  The old corruption reigns,
And, mingling with the crooked flood,
  Wanders through all our veins.]

[Wild and unwholesome as the root
  Will all the branches be;
How can we hope for living fruit
  From such a deadly tree?

What mortal power from things unclean
  Can pure productions bring?
Who can command a vital stream
  From an infected spring?]

Yet, mighty God! thy wondrous love
  Can make our nature clean,
While Christ and grace prevail above
  The tempter, death, and sin.

The second Adam shall restore
  The ruins of the first;
Hosannah to that sovereign power
  That new-creates our dust!

Isaac Watts, The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1998).

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