Democracy, Culture, Christianity

 Here’s a provocative section from Don Carson’s 2008 book, Christ and Culture Revisited.

“…Democracy, as a valuable form of government as it can be, must never be confused with the Christian vision of the good….  [A] democratic culture cannot be aligned isomorphically with a Christian culture.  Christians will cheer on democracy, believing that, by and large, it benefits the greatest number of people, provides mechanisms for limiting human power (and for ensuring that power can change hands without bloodshed), and usually provides more freedoms than other forms of government.  These freedoms almost inevitably allow many things to foster (I almost wrote ‘fester’) that Christians will dislike, but the same freedoms protect freedom of worship, freedom to bear witness, freedom to change one’s faith without government reprisals, and much more.  Nevertheless, all notions of freedom invoke, implicitly or explicitly, subsidiary notions of freedom from and freedom to or for.”

“The democratic tradition in the West has fostered a great deal of freedom from Scripture, God, tradition, and assorted moral constraints; it encourages freedom toward doing your own thing, hedonism, self-centeredness, and consumerism.  By contrast, the Bible encourages freedom from self-centeredness, idolatry, greed, and all sin and freedom toward living our lives as those who bear God’s image and who have been transformed by his grace, such that our greatest joy becomes doing his will.”

I appreciate how Carson notes that though democracy has its benefits, there still is a relatively sharp clash between Christianity and democracy (especially democracy as it has morphed in the West).  We can be thankful for democracy.  However, we have to always resist the democratization of Christianity and the church.

The above quote was taken from pages 138-9 of Christ and Culture Revisited by D. A. Carson.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

1 thought on “Democracy, Culture, Christianity”

  1. “we have to always resist the democratization of Christianity and the church.” I am not sure what this means to you. But at bottom it seems to me that the church is the ultimate democracy, not in that it does not have leadership, teachers and traditions but that it is shaped by what the people are willing to believe, able to believe and support. If the church consistently teaches what will not be believed, they can teach all they want, call themselves the church, berate the people in the name of Christ and it will make no difference. The conscience and freedom of the people of God is an ultimate reality against which authority structures break. The people might not be able to vote down church hierarchies, but they will vote – with their feet and their support. Democracy in the church is simply a way of having a conversation now rather than later when leaders begin to realize that the people are having their way anyway but found out too late.

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