Crimes of Philanthropy

19 08 2008

If this phrase appear to any reader paradoxical, a very little reflection will convince him that it is only so in appearance. For, the greatest organized wrongs which the civilized world has seen perpetrated in modern times, upon the well-being of mankind, have been committed under the amiable name of humanity. No despotic government now avows the ruthless purpose of self-aggrandizement and of the gratification of hatred and the lust for power; but its pretense is always the good of society, and the welfare of the governed. The wars of the ‘Holy Alliance,’ which drenched Europe in blood at the beginning of this century were all undertaken nominally for the peace and liberties of Europe. No demagogue confesses, in popular governments, the greedy ambition or avarice which proves to be his secret motive: but he seeks only the good of the ‘dear people,’ while he betrays them into mischievous anarchy or legislative attrocities.” –Robert Lewis Dabney, 1886

A dear friend of mine just returned from a ten day mission trip to Siberia. What he witnessed there were the inevitable results of the failed experiment of Communism, and the continued policies of Socialism that have literally laid waste the beautiful Russian landscape. He visited a small rural village that once boasted some of the richest and most fertile farmland in the region. The government, however, on the misguided principle that no people should be allowed to excel in benefits beyond their neighbors, razed the village, scraped the fertile soil from the fields and shipped it hundreds of miles away to a less fertile area, and relocated the population to another spot eight miles distant from their former home, where they now live in abject poverty. Their supply of potable drinking water must be brought to their village by making eight mile trips to the artesian well that once supplied their needs in their previous habitat. Such are the inevitable results of the misguided policies of wealth redistribution in the name of equal opportunity.

My friend described Russia as “a third world country with a first world military.” While the Russian Orthodox Church is the officially sanctioned religion, most of the people are animistic, setting up shrines and offering sacrifices to appease the local spirits, like the man who tacked a ribbon to a tree and left his water bottles in tribute before proceeding on the seven hour hike out of the mountains.

Democracy is not the answer to such problems. Western civilization is what it is because of the legacy of the Gospel. Let us pray for the advance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the extension of His Kingdom into every corner of the earth where the demonic forces of tyranny continue to hold men captive to superstition and oppression. And, while we’re at it, let’s pray that God will be pleased to revive our own land and spare us from the crimes of philanthropy.

Of two evils, choose neither

18 08 2008


[This is a re-print of an article I wrote several years ago that was published in The Christian Statesman. I submit it for your consideration as the 2008 presidential race kicks into full gear. As always, your comments are welcome.]

For Whom May Christians Vote?

by Douglas W. Comin

The Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (Chapter 23, paragraph 15) says, “The Christian, when such action involves no disloyalty to Christ, ought to be involved in the selection of and to vote for civil rulers who fear God, love truth and justice, hate evil, and are publicly committed to scriptural principles of civil government.”

This is a fairly strict set of criteria by which to evaluate a candidate for civil office. There have been few, if any, viable candidates for political office in the past generation who would have passed muster according to the plain meaning of these words. They do not refer to a man who simply professes to be a Christian, but one who is self-consciously and openly committed to godly civil government as defined in the Bible.

Some would argue that the difficulty of the question of Christian suffrage is heightened by the fact that the Scriptures were written during times when the kind of selection process in which we find ourselves engaged was virtually unknown. Throughout the historical scope of scripture, civil rulers were not voted into office by democratic process. This fact makes it hard to find any explicit biblical guidance for our practice within the framework of a modern democratic republic.

Yet in Israel, elders were to be selected from among the people, and there were clear criteria by which they were to be judged. “Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders . . .” (Exodus 18:21)

In later times, Israel would be ruled by a king, “like the other nations,” but these guidelines were given by God and they are a sure standard of the character of God-honoring leaders. Anyone who was not known among the people as an able, truthful, just, and God-fearing man was not to be appointed to the exercise of civil government.

Again, some would argue that these guidelines were rightly given to Israel as a true theocracy, but they cannot be made to apply within the context of a nation which does not self-consciously follow God and which has abolished religious tests for its civil leaders in its constitution (Article VI, section 3). Yet for the Christian, the Bible supersedes any document of human origin. A civil leader is always bound by God’s word to apply its principles in his personal practice without placing the will of men over and above the clear commandments of God. The abolishment of religious tests for civil office in the constitution is a tragic sin, as is that same document’s failure to acknowledge Christ as the Mediatorial King and Head of the nation.

But just as its failure to acknowledge Christ’s Kingship does not dethrone Him, neither does its abolition of religious tests cancel the fact that God would have His people to set rulers over themselves who are godly and upright men.

Can a Christian cast his vote, then, for a candidate who does not meet the biblical criteria defined in Exodus 18:21 and echoed in the Reformed Presbyterian Testimony? What if none of the candidates pass the Scriptural test? Should the Christian choose between the “lesser of two evils”? Here is the real difficulty. Let me make a couple of suggestions.

First, the principle of representation must be rightly understood. An elected official is a representative, but of what? He is not, first and foremost, a representative of the people’s desires. This is a man-centered view. The God-centered view sees the magistrate as a “minister of God” who represents God’s authority over the people. He is an agent of God to bring blessing upon the righteous and judgment upon the ungodly. While God can bring blessing to His people even through the agency of an ungodly ruler, such as Cyrus who was called “the Lord’s anointed,” He is not honored when His people willingly appoint rulers who are known to be covenant-breakers.

If we understand the representative nature of civil government to be man-centered, then we are justified in choosing between the lesser of two evils based upon which of them will most consistently meet our personal agenda for the nation. But if the representative nature of civil government is God-centered, then we cannot possibly be justified in electing an official who hates God.

Second, the sovereignty of God must be truly appreciated. While we must take seriously our responsibility as citizens of the nation, including our responsibility to vote, God is sovereign over all nations. Part of our problem with this question arises from the idea that we must save our nation from evil. If two candidates are running for office, one of whom is a militant atheist who has publicly demonstrated his opposition to God’s law, and the other is a political conservative who makes no profession of faith in Christ, but seems to favor “traditional family values,” should Christians vote for the latter in order to save the nation from the scourge of the former? Neither is known among the people to fear God, hate evil, and love truth and justice. Should the Christian cast his vote for a man who clearly falls short of God’s absolute standard of godly civil leadership for the sake of comparatively less evil?

To answer these questions in the affirmative is, in a sense, to argue that the individual Christian, rather than God, must determine the destiny of the nation. The lack of any biblically qualified candidates for civil office is, in and of itself, a judgment of God. Should the Church ignore God’s warnings, bypass the directives of His word, and make a decision based upon situational ethics in order to temporarily stay His hand of judgment from the land? God’s judgments are often redemptive. Man’s decisions, when they stray from the clear teaching of God’s word, never are.

The Two Parties – Some things never change…

13 08 2008

[The brief article below was originally printed in The Christian Statesman in November of 1868. One hundred and forty years later, we still face essentially the same situation in our political system.]


Two political parties today proffer their principles and their candidates, as the remedy for the troubles that afflict the nation. Each claims that its policy is the sure pathway to peace and prosperity, and each seeks to justify its measures as not only expedient but right. The Republican party is the party of order, of liberty, of justice, and public faith; their opponents represent the reactionary ideas of privilege and caste, suggest repudiation and propose to win, if at all, by violence, intimidation, and fraud.

In the interests of mere natural justice we rejoice in the inevitable success of the Republican party, but only because it will delay impending ruin and prolong, for a little, our chances of reformation. The parties differ only in that one proposes to carry us to ruin a little less rapidly than the other.

Our great national crime is rebellion against God and rejection of His law. From this sin, neither party proposes that we should turn. Not even the Republican party has in it virtue enough to save the nation. Not even the Republican party proposes any cure for the political corruption of which we are really dying.

Not in the bosom of either party is the future welfare of the country to be sought, but in a calm, clear, persistent demand for a Christian constitution which shall restrain our public servants from violating the laws of God and exclude from office the irreligious and immoral. A radically defective constitution is the root of our evils; there the remedy must be applied.


Check out this excellent article for an application to the current presidential race…