Election Day And The Providence Of God

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
(Romans 13:1-7 ESV)

When it comes to God’s guiding providence in political affairs, it’s easy to see the “big stuff.”  When Emperor Constantine rose to power, ending the official persecution of Christianity in the Roman Empire, God’s providence seems obvious to us from 1,700 years out.  When Frederick III became Elector of Saxony just in time to hide Martin Luther from the Roman Catholic church, allowing him to translate the Bible into German, God’s providence is again obvious to us today.  Even an infamous figure like King Henry VIII, by no means a paragon of godliness, was instrumental in bringing the Protestant Reformation to England.  The rest, as the fellow said, is history.

It is far more difficult to discern the hand of God in the smaller and more recent events of human history.  What exactly was God thinking when Grover Cleveland won the Presidency in 1884, lost it in 1888, and won it again in 1892?  Still, our inability to immediately comprehend the secret councils of God is no reason to assume, as some even within the evangelical community have, that God is simply not at work in the world when things don’t go our way.

I doubt anyone has forgotten, but when Paul penned the words of Romans 13 the Roman Empire was ruled by Nero, a man who is infamous for burning Christians alive in his garden as a source of light.  This is the context in which Paul tells the Roman Christians that all earthly authorities have been instituted by God and must be obeyed and honored.

Barack Obama is no Nero.  He is a decent person, a good father and a loving husband.  He may be a bad President, but he’s not a tyrant or a persecutor of Christians.  For that reason alone, the church has an obligation to step back and be thankful, praising God for the continued (if sometimes slow and frustrating) increase of His Kingdom to the ends of the earth.

On the other hand, we cannot make the mistake of assuming that because God has placed a certain person in a certain position of earthly power that He approves of that person.  God used the wicked Assyrian Empire to judge the nation of Israel, but that does not mean that God sanctioned all the wickedness of the Assyrians.  The mere admission that Barack Obama’s second term as President of the United States was ordained by God does not mean that God is now pro-choice.  This would be equally true if Mitt Romney was our new President.  God’s secret councils are, well, secret.  We can only guess at the “why?” behind every event of history, and the closer that event happens to be to us, the more likely our guess is to be wrong.

God’s revealed council is quite clear, however, and it is found in His Word.  For Historic, evangelical Christians, nothing changed yesterday.  Our President is still more openly opposed to religious liberty, pro-life values, and traditional marriage than any President in America’s history.  We must remain the loyal opposition.  But in our opposition, however strong it may need to be over the next four years, we must remember that we are still loyal.

Ultimately, what Paul has to teach us in Romans 13 is that Christianity is fundamentally a religion of hope.  No matter what happens in history, whether we find ourselves submitting to a Nero, a Constantine, or someone in between, we know with confidence that God’s providential plan is working beneath it all, guiding history towards His gloriously ordained ending.  As Paul put it, just a few chapters earlier in his letter to the Roman Christians:

    And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28 ESV)

Super Tuesday Too:
Reflections on the OH and TX Primaries

The Longest Two Months— While it seems like an eternity has passed, the Iowa Caucus was only 60 days ago. Fortunately this is the last of the significant primaries and the race has been decided on one side and all but determined on the other.
Congrats to McCain — If winning makes you look smarter, then campaign manager Rick Davis appears to be a genius. He laid out McCain’s Path to Victory in December and found a way to make it a reality.
Thanks, Governor Huckabee — I have many reasons to be thankful for Governor Huckabee’s inspiring Presidential run. But there are three other groups who should also be grateful for Mike Huckabee: social conservatives who lacked a voice in the primaries, supporters of John McCain, and Republicans.
If the Republican’s hold the White House next year, Huckabee will deserve partial credit. By winning in Iowa, Huckabee derailed Romney’s campaign and prevented the Massachusetts Governor’s long march toward an inevitable electoral debacle. Huckabee also managed to keep many conservative evangelicals and other members of the traditionalist wing of the party engaged in the race. Their support for McCain may be listless, but Huckabee gave them hope that it may be too soon to give up on the GOP.
An Inevitable Obamination? Maybe Not. — After the Florida primary I wrote, “An Obama/Anyone ticket would be a disaster for McCain.” I still pessimistic enough to believe that it’s likely, though I’m hopeful that the abomination of an Obama presidency is not yet inevitable. I’m even starting to see signs that such a disaster may be averted. The reason: people are starting to listen to what Obama says.
Take, for instance, his NAFTA-bashing which has caused our neighbors to the north to worried about the “rhetoric of protectionism.” Even Andrew Sullivan, who swoons at the mention of Obama, said the NAFTA pander was “Not his finest hour.” (Yes it’s a tepid response and yes we all know that if Obama wins that Sullivan will spend the next four years regretting his support (as he did with Bush), but still, any relenting from his incessant Obamafawning is a huge concession.)
Obama has an uncanny ability to inspire in people an audacious hope for the impossible (Example: “The philosophy guy said that he almost always votes for Republican, but he’s for Obama this time, although he can’t quite explain why. His hope is that Obama will govern like a Republican.”) But I’m hopeful that such people will set aside such nonsense and eventually realize that while Obama sounds like a cross between Cicero and The Rock, what he’s saying is nothing more than rehashed discredited liberalism.
Rush to Idiocy — So Rush Limbaugh is urging people to vote for Hillary. Hugh Hewitt is aghast (“If Hillary ekes out close wins, stays alive, gains the nomination and the White House, will Rush hold the Bible at her Inauguration?”) but I can’t say that I’m really surprised. Rush is an entertainer and for all the hype about his ratings, his audience isn’t that large by show business standards (he has half the audience of Fox’s reality show Moment of Truth). He needs a Clinton presidency to remain relevant and give people a reason to tune in to his daily gasbaggery.
Still, I refuse to believe it worked. I refuse to believe that Republicans in Ohio and Texas are voting for Hillary in the primary because some radio clown told them it was the optimal strategy. I refuse to believe it because (a) the fact that McCain is the nominee shows that Rush is not that influential and (b) Republicans can’t be that stupid. (While I’m certain about (a) could I be wrong about (b)?)
I agree with Lars Walker: “It seems to me that if you love this country you’ve got to hold the electoral process in a kind of reverence. The fact that there are cynical people out there who game the system doesn’t justify us, the people who say we believe in moral absolutes, in pretending to belong to a different party so we can sabotage its nomination process. If they did it to us, I’d be angry about it.”
Say it ain’t so, Republicans; say you didn’t stoop that low.
The Most Significant Number — In 2004, Ohio proved to be the key state for President Bush’s reelection victory. In a tight race, Bush beat John Kerry in the Buckeye State by 118,457 votes. So how does it look four years later? With 81% of the precincts in Ohio reporting, the Democratic candidates received 1,745,199 votes while the Republicans received less than half that amount — 867,000.
If the GOP is relying on a victory in Ohio to shift the Red-Blue divide toward McCain then we’re in serious trouble.