Soon Americans will vote for the next President of the United States. The question is inevitably asked, then, by Christians both who should we vote for and how should we vote. In his new book, How Should Christians Vote? pastor Tony Evans offers a short guide to help Christians think, not about particular issues per se, but about why Christians vote, what the Bible says about government, and how that should affect the choices we make in the voting booth.
Every Presidential election cycle a book like this is published. The late Dr. D. James Kennedy wrote a similar book in 2008 and now Dr. Evans has released a much shorter version that seeks to help Christians think about applying their faith in elections and the public square. The question always becomes, is this book more political than biblical? Is it driven more by the politics of the religious right or by the religious left, or does it seek to present a fuller biblical view of government, society, culture, ethics, the role of the citizen, and the Kingdom of God?
Evans suggests that there are only four legitimate systems of government: Self-Government; Family Government; Church Government; and Civil Government. From this platform, the author presents a type of subsidiarity where a society is served best when the individual is given the most power and freedom. Evans writes that if self-government breaks down, then the rest will break down. Likewise, if the Family Government breaks down, then so will both church and civil government. Though he never uses this language, Evans is promoting a type of subsidiarity that promote small, limited government responsible solely in defending its citizenry and protecting liberty.
Evans is no fan of top-down, big government. He writes in the book that such a government goes against the biblical text and ought to be rejected. He even suggests that the Bible promotes (or even commands) a Constitutional Republic much like the one we have. While critiquing pure democracy (an argument I agree with) he writes:
The danger of democracy lies in its path toward either tyranny or "mobocracy" wherein the 51 percent enforce mob-like rule on the others. A constitutional republic is the biblical form of government that God gave to Moses (Exodus 18:17-27) and that was adopted by the founding fathers as the best way to maintain an ordered society through a bottom-up, and not top-down, system designed to meet the legitimate needs of the people. -77
This is the one section I disagree with the most in this book. I'm not sure Exodus 18 is the best place to defend a constitutional republic and I'm not sure one can chapter and verse that assertion. I affirm that the American Republic is best but to suggest that it is mandated (or strongly encouraged) by God is a bit too far. However, the overall gist of the book that limited government is best, personal responsibility is crucial, and the family and church are important roles to play, is well received.
The book never tells the reader how to vote on specific issues. That is not to suggest that specific issues are not mentioned. Evans is clearly pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-religious liberty, pro-small government, pro-justice, etc. He appears to be very capitalistic (he directly condemns all forms of socialism and communism). Yet, the point of the book is not to say, "vote Republican" or "vote Democrat." In fact the book warns the reader not to become slaves of a political platform or party. The final chapter asks, "is God a Democrat or a Republican?" The answer: neither. The Kingdom of God is above such distinctions.
When assessing books like this, and I read this as a pastor and not just as a Christian voter, I ask myself if I would recommend the book to my congregation. My answer for this one is yes. I do not agree with everything put forward here (though I am a fan in general of Dr. Evans), but the overall spirit and the way in which his argument is put forward is helpful. Evans begins his book by saying we would all come to the Bible for answers on virtually everything except when it comes to the public square. The volume of texts presented here makes his argument that the Bible is very political and has a lot to say about society and politics. But what I loved about this book wasn't just the conclusions of the author (and I agreed with most of them) but the way in which Christians are to particularly think about them and why. I assumed this would be another book that takes issues and tells the reader how to vote, but it isn't that. It begins with Scripture and seeks to formulate a biblical worldview in approaching politics. And if Christians thought more in these terms, being much deeper than we do now, then we would be greatly served and better informed with our votes.
Overall, for as short as this book is this would not be a bad book to have on your shelf and to return to each election year. But warning, it is not a solution to every question we have when going into the voting booth. It is a guide to help us think, but it does not uncover every rock.
This book was provided by Moody Press free of charge for the purpose of this review.