by Bill Nugent
Christianity is often accused of being authoritarian, rigid and anti-democratic. The fact is that modern western democracy in general and American democracy in particular have their roots in biblical religion and biblical philosophy. The Bible gives us the dignity of the individual because it teaches that people are created in God’s image. Therefore each individual is not just valuable but is sacred.
The Bible says that the born-again believers that comprise the church are a “royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:9). Democracy arose in post-reformation Europe where for the first time in history the Bible was readily available to all people across a whole continent. The Bible was no longer restricted to just an ecclesiastical elite or to a persecuted minority.
In the 1500s Martin Luther and the reformers gave us understanding of the priesthood of the believer. All Christians are priests. This priesthood is a one on one relationship with God in which we offer up sacrifices of praise and intercession.
In the 1600s, just a century after the reformation, Thomas Hooker and other early American churchmen taught the concept of the sovereignty of the believer. They showed that the Bible teaches that we are a ROYAL priesthood which means a priesthood with “royal” (i.e., governing) prerogatives.
Remember that even before the Pilgrims got off the Mayflower they held an election. The only way for a Bible-believing society to operate is by elections because everyone is royalty and no one can claim exclusive royal privileges. Everyone is equal before God (Galatians 3:26-28). Romans 14:5 teaches about the freedom and autonomy of the believer.
All this budding of democracy came more than a century before the secular “Enlightenment” of the mid 1700s. Secularists claim that Enlightenment philosophers such as Hume, Rousseau and Voltaire gave us democracy. On the contrary however, the Enlightenment’s immediate fruit was the brutality of the French Revolution and its long term legacy was communism. The founding fathers of America quoted the Bible in their writings far more than they quoted any other source.
The highly secular 20th century, of recent memory, saw the rise of totalitarianism which regards individuals as purposeless “atoms in motion” or as the descendants of apes. No wonder that evil men, void of the knowledge of God, sought (and still seek) to gather humanity into an authoritarian anthill of regimentation. However, the light of Christ still shines and where it shines brightest is where freedom reigns!