Is heaven democratic?

Democracy is really an attempt to rebuild the tower of Babel. It is an attempt to gather everybody together under one system whereby mankind can rule the world without reference to God. You might argue that all human government has this characteristic.

Not only so, but democracy recognises that man is sinful, that no individual should be trusted with supreme power. Democracy aims to spread power, to dissipate it, so that no-one can get anything done. We must make those who are given authority accountable.

Within western democracies, checks and balances have been built in to the system to prevent minorities from being pushed around. There is at least an attempt at openness to all viewpoints. Even so, the minority is usually overruled and rejected. In the final analysis, when decisions have to be made and actions taken, the community is divided and some people are the losers.

Our love of democracy is not particularly Christian. Certainly democracy takes account of human sinfulness, but most Christians love democracy because it gives them the freedom to do what they want (read be sinful). Heaven is not a democracy. Heaven is a Kingdom where the Lord, the loving Despot, rules. Nor do Christians need a democracy in order to live godly, Christian lives. (The Roman empire in the first century was hardly a democracy.)

Adopting democracy as the pattern of our church life militates against us ever achieving anything. You want to stall somebody? Want to avoid implementing a controversial suggestion? Form a committee; there’s no surer way.

What is more, making decisions on the basis of who has the numbers will simply alienate the minority, rather than finding God’s will for us. Hard as it is to believe, God’s mind on an issue may not be the same as the majority of Christians.

Democracy has become a way of thinking for church people. The basis of our decisions is majority rule, rather than God’s rule. Our reflex action is not to look to what God has to say, but to what the majority wants or can be maneuvered into voting for. On many issues this is quicker and more time-efficient than a full length argument and discussion. Pastorally, however, it can be much less efficient as the disgruntled minority continue to live in dissatisfaction and disharmony within the congregational life. Perhaps we should take more time to come to consensus in the first place and save time and anguish in the long run.

We must recongnise, however, that consensus is also unreliable as a means of discovering God’s mind. We can still all be wrong. Our efforts to reach consensus must rest upon a shared commitment to see what the Bible is saying on the matter.

And in the trivial issues of congregational life, there is an even more excellent way—delegation. To delegate decision making is an expression of confidence in each other that springs from a common faith and a common mind. It reveals the humility of a godly leader who doesn’t insist upon his own way on every issue.

It is time to reassess the way we make decisions within our churches. Maybe we need a new mixture of delegation and consensus, and a new desire to find God’s mind. Let’s leave democracy where it belongs, on the plain of Canberra, with its soon to be completed tower reaching to the heavens.

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