Book Review: Charles Ryrie’s “Dispensationalism”


Recently, I was having a discussion with a friend at church about our favorite books, and in that discussion, I had mentioned the word “dispensationalism”. After finishing my thought, my friend asked “What is dispensationalism?” – to which I was taken aback. It was at that moment I realized I needed a refresher course on the subject. I knew what I meant in my scattered thoughts but I couldn’t provide a definition, let alone an explanation, of the concept. Before I could finished disgorging the word soup stirring in my brain, I resolved to do some studying  and come to a formal definition that I could easily remember.

God’s providence is an interesting thing, I noticed, as I looked through the bookstore and lo and behold, a book simply titled “Dispensationalism” by one Charles Ryrie. Ryrie, who actually just past away one year ago (Feb. 2016), is probably most well known for his Study Bible, which has sold more than 2 million copies, including more than 10,000 of his notes on the scriptures. In a memorial written by Dallas Theological Seminary staff (where Ryrie spent the majority of his career working), Ryrie is credited with the following acclaims (among others)

  1. “So many lives are the better because of his gifts and his faithfulness. Not the least of which is his significant role in promoting the racial integration of Dallas Theological Seminary.”
  2. “A giant of the faith.”
  3. “A master at biblical and theological synthesis. He had the unusually rare gift of being able to state complex theological ideas in succinct statements. All of us are indebted to his efforts to articulate and defend dispensational premillennialism.”

After reading Ryrie’s “Dispensationalism”, I wholeheartedly agree with the third claim.

In this post, I will briefly highlight 3 major points of this book, to both highlight Ryrie’s expertise on the subject matter, as well as his skill in writing succinct and yet rich arguments and explanations. My hope is that the reader of this post would seriously consider reading this book and benefitting from it as I have.

A) What is a dispensation?

In a length limited blog post, I can’t hope to treat a formal definition with the same detail and care as Dr Ryrie, but what I can provide is his own concise definition – “A dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose”. Ryrie goes on to provide a more detailed definition, quoted from Paul David Nevin’s dissertation –

“A dispensation is God’s distinctive method of governing mankind or a group of men during a period of human history, marked by a crucial event, test, failure, and judgment. From the divine standpoint, it is a stewardship, a rule of life, or a responsibility for managing God’s affairs in His house. From the historical standpoint, it is a stage in the progress of revelation.”

Dispensationalism, then, is the belief that human history has played out  over several distinct dispensations, or economies, of God, as told in the scripture, and for man, outlines a certain responsibility to God. Ryrie goes further and defines 3 sine qua non (or fundamental tenets) of dispensationalism –

  1. “The dispensationalists keeps Israel and the church distinct”
  2. “The distinction between Israel and the church is born out of a system of hermeneutics that is usually called literal interpretation.”
  3. “The underlying purpose of God in the world…[is]…the glory of God.”

Interesting to note what Ryrie does not consider a sine qua non of dispensationalism – the definition, number, or bookmark locations of the dispensations! He goes to great length to stress that while important to understand the bible and the precise economies of God and their traits, it matters not to the essence of dispensationalism to have a unified formal definition of the dispensations, nor does it indicate a weakness in the position!

Ryrie does, however, argue for 7 dispensations (which he deems the classic, normative dispensationalism) defined by the following –

  1. Innocency
    • Genesis 1:3-3:6
    • Man’s Responsibilities: Keep garden, Do not eat one fruit, Fill and subdue earth, fellowship with God
    • Judgment: Curses, and physical and spiritual death
  2. Conscience
    • Genesis 3:7-8:14
    • Man’s Responsibilities: Do good
    • Judgment: Flood
  3. Civil Government
    • Genesis 8:15-11:9
    • Man’s Responsibilities: Fill earth, capital punishment
    • Judgment: Forced scattering by confusion of languages
  4. Patriarchal Rule
    • Genesis 11:10-Exodus 18:27
    • Man’s Responsibilities: Stay in Promised Land, Believe and Obey God
    • Judgment: Egyptian bondage and wilderness wanderings
  5. Mosaic Law
    • Exodus 19:1-Acts 1:26
    • Man’s Responsibilities: Keep the law, walk with God
    • Judgment: Captivities
  6. Grace
    • Acts 2:1-Revelation 19:21
    • Man’s Responsibilities: Believe on Christ, walk with Christ
    • Judgment: Death, loss of rewards
  7. Millenium
    • Revelation 20:1-15
    • Man’s Responsibilities: Believe and obey Christ and His government
    • Judgment: Death, Great White Throne Judgment

B) Answering Objections to Dispensationalism

This book answers much more than 2, but for brevity, I provide 2 objections that are probably the most common, and Ryrie’s answers to them.

  1. Objection #1 – Dispensationalism teaches two ways of salvation.
    • Ryrie’s answer – “The charge of the covenant theologian that dispensationalism teaches two ways of salvation is often based on what he thinks ought to be the logical teaching of dispensationalism rather than what is the actual teaching of dispensationalism…Dispensationalism alone among theological systems teaches both the antithetical nature of law and grace and the truth of grace under the law (and, incidentally, law under grace)…If by “ways” of salvation is meant different content of faith, then dispensationalism does teach various “ways” because the scriptures reveal differing contents for faith in the progressive nature of God’s revelation to mankind. But if by “ways” is meant more than one basis or means of salvation, then dispensationalism most emphatically does not teach more than one way, for salvation has been, is, and always will be based on the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ”.
  2. Objection #2 – Dispensationalism is a recent development, and therefore untrue.
    • Ryrie’s answer – “The fact that something was taught in the first century does not make it right (unless taught in the canonical Scriptures), and the fact that something was not taught until the 19th century [as Dispensationalism was] does not make it wrong, unless, of course, it is unscriptural”. He goes on to use a quote from Calvin as applicable to this argument – “The charge of newness was leveled long ago at the doctrine of the Reformers. Calvin answered it with characteristic straightforwardness, and his answer is one that could be used to defend dispensationalism equally well against the same charge: “”First, by calling it ‘new’ they do great wrong to God, whose Sacred Word does not deserve to be accused of novelty…that it has lain long unknown and buried is the fault of man’s impiety. Now when it is restored to us by God’s goodness, its claims to antiquity ought to be admitted at least by right of recovery.””

C) Why is the dispensationalist system important to understand and believe?

In the opening chapter, Ryrie lays out what he thinks is the importance of the dispensational system – “[it], then, claims to be a help in supplying the answer to the need for biblical distinctions, in offering a satisfying philosophy of history, and in employing a consistently normal principle of interpretation. These are the basic areas in proper understanding of the Bible. If dispensationalism has the answers, then it is the most helpful tool in consistent biblical interpretation. If not, it ought to be minimized or discarded.”

It is with this last quote my own experience resonates. As a young believer, I read the bible in sheer confusion and disarray, often limiting myself to the Pauline epistles, as being “the most applicable” to my life. But as I matured in the faith, I realized that the claims that scripture makes about its holistic life transforming qualities (2 Tim 3:16-17) necessitate not only that I read, but that I come to understand what’s happening in the other 90% of my bible. Dispensationalism, for me, is a useful tool in helping to read and study the scriptures. It provides a lens with which I can consistently read and apply the word of God (yes, even in the Old Testament!) with a literal (or normal, or plain) hermeneutic.

My Review: Must Read!

Ryrie’s “Dispensationalism” (1995 updated version) was a dense read at times for a layperson like myself, but slowly working through it has been both an intellectual workout and a great help to further understand, and appreciate, the system of doctrine I was raised in (and wholeheartedly agree with!). I am realizing now, more than ever, it is important to have strict and formal definitions of things, as mankind becomes more and more postmodern, where even dictionary definitions of words are bent and mended for the user’s whims. All the more, in our theological understanding, to rigorously define terms, for our understanding of God, who He is, and what He has done for us, is germane to our growth in Christ. I encourage all to read this book – I consider it a “must read”!

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Romans 10:4 – Christ the law-ender


Romans 10:4 – “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes”.

When I read this verse a few weeks ago and marked it down for further study, I did so because of an apparent contradiction. In particular, I recalled the words of our Lord in the sermon on the mount recorded in the 5th chapter of Matthew’s gospel:

17 Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

How can Christ be “the end of the law” if He Himself said that he came not to abolish, not to have a single iota or dot erased from the Law? I hope to show in context of Paul’s letter to the Romans what is meant by this statement, that it is indeed not a contradiction, but rather a resounding encouragement to those whose faith has been credited to them as righteousness.

In chapter 9, Paul laments the unbelief of his fellow Israelites in their promised Messiah (v. 1-5). But God’s promise isn’t failing though the Messiah came and was rejected by Israel and hung on a cross for crimes He did not commit. For “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (v. 6-13). Paul’s message is that God chose to extend the promises of the new covenant (cf. Ezekiel 36) to those who are not sons of Abraham by bloodline (v. 14-33). The key summary of this discourse is found in verses 30-32, where Paul says:

30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone” 

So, in the immediate context, Paul’s statement is better understood that Christ is the “law-ender” insofar as the law is a means of justification. This is further evidenced in the first three verses of chapter 10 wherein Paul explains that his desire and prayer is for the salvation of Israel, for their zeal is real, but is not in accordance with the righteousness of God, because they sought righteousness by works. This jives perfectly with Jesus’ teaching, such as in John 14:6 – “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me” – indicating that the law was not the means of justification. Even closer to home in the aforementioned sermon on the mount – Jesus corroborates Paul’s claim with his series of “You have heard it said…but I say to you” statements, in which He indicts the nation of Israel by the law. Even the Pharisees could not be justified by their works, for their inner thoughts did not conform to the moral demands of the law (cf. Matthew 5:20-48).

In what sense, then, did Christ end the law? Let us examine a few of these ways in the totality of Paul’s gospel to the Roman church:

1) The law doesn’t justify us (Romans 3:21-22). Do you believe this? It is my hope that if nothing else is gleaned from this post, it is but a simple proclamation and reminder of the good news of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And what good news this is – our conscience testifies to us that if we were to earn our righteousness by works of the law, we would not hit the mark, for all have sinned and fall short of the perfect demands of the law (cf. Rom 3:23). But while we were stuck in our sins, Christ died for us, imparting on us the perfection that fulfills the law and pays the debt owed for our transgressions if we repent and place our faith in Christ!

2) The law doesn’t own us (Romans 6:1-14). Those that have indeed saving faith are not enslaved to the law anymore. What does that mean? I refer you to a post I wrote recently (here) wherein I deal with this subject in more detail, but a sufficient summary is a reminder of the truth that Christ’s work on the cross completed our debts to the law, and put us under new ownership. Therefore, because we are no longer enslaved to the law, we no longer are enslaved to sin. Our old self was crucified with Christ – our regeneration by grace through faith gives us a new nature, one that actually has the ability to say no to sin. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body” (v. 6:12).

3) The law doesn’t condemn us (Romans 8:1-4). The due penalty of our not keeping the law has been removed. Paul says earlier in chapter 6 that the “wages of sin is death”, meaning the due outcome of our disobedience to the law is death. But that condemnation is removed from those who by faith have been set free from the law (Romans 8:2). This is an important truth to be reminded of on a regular basis lest we become distraught of our continued body of sin. Thanks be to God, that even though we still sin post faith, there’s nothing we can do to modify our standing before God – Christ was that perfect and God is that gracious and loving! There is no condemnation! Nothing, not even our sin, can separate us from the love of God poured out in Christ Jesus, our Lord (Romans 8:34-39).

In closing, I draw upon Paul’s writing to the Corinthian church, how we as believers are supposed to respond now to the good news of Christ ending the law’s dominion over us. In chapter 15 after the long discourse on resurrection, Paul reminds his readers that in that day, when the dead are raised, that death will lose it’s sting, for Christ has overcome and provided victory over death. And what is death but the outcome of sin? And what is sin but the outcome of the law? (1 Cor. 15:54-56). So not only are we to have hope unending and joy abounding for the coming victory over death, but also, we are to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). Dearest reader, cherish the good news of Christ. Let it be the thought on your mind when you rise in the morning and when you go to sleep. It is this good news that will keep us until that day.

Luke 2:25-32 – Simeon and Scripture Saturation


While working on a new super secret writing project this evening, I found myself reading through Luke’s gospel. My intent was to read it in it’s entirety…but I didn’t get very far. I got about halfway through chapter 2 before I got sidetracked on the story of Simeon. I was blessed and challenged by this short narrative, and I write this post in hopes that the reader might find the same blessing and challenge.

Luke chapter 2 begins by recounting the census and Jesus’ birth (verses 1-7) and visitation of the shepherds who proclaimed that the child was the Christ, the promised one of Israel (verses 8-20). After 8 days, in keeping with the Jewish customs, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple to set Him apart for God (cf. v. 23, Exodus 13:2,12). We then find that at the same time, Simeon, a “righteous and devout man in Jerusalem” (v. 25) was being led to the very same temple by the Holy Spirit (v. 27). Simeon knew, by revelation of the Holy Spirit, that at some point in his life before he died, he would see “the Lord’s Christ” (v 26),  and that promise is fulfilled in verses 28-32 –

28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 A Light of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

A simple story on its face, however, I want to key in on two important observations.

Simeon was a Man Steeped in the Scriptures

We see the intimate knowledge Simeon had of the Old Testament scriptures in one simple statement Luke makes – that Simeon was “looking for the consolation of Israel” (v. 25). The greek verb, here translated as “looking”, is translated elsewhere in the New Testament as “waiting”, or even “anxiously waiting”, and consolation can be translated as “comfort” or “encouragement”. The key idea is that Simeon knew that at some point, Israel’s restoration and comfort was coming, and he was anxiously waiting and searching for it. How did he know this? Through the careful reading and meditation on the Old Testament. Simeon was looking for:

The restoration of the nation of Israel to their promised land forever (Amos 9:11-15)

The pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the inhabitants of Israel (Ezekiel 36, Jeremiah 31, Zechariah 12:10)

The righteous and peaceful reign of the eternal Ruler (2 Samuel 7, Micah 5:2-5)

Furthermore, Simeon was able to identify that this baby Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah who would be the Restorer and Comforter of Israel. Isaiah 7:14 reveals that “a virgin will be with child and bear a son”, which Matthew’s gospel helps us to understand was a prophecy of the Christ (Matthew 1:23). Not only that, but Micah 5:2 tells us that that virgin-born King would be born in Bethlehem. Simeon knew that this 8 day old baby was to be the Savior of Israel, and also of the nations (Isaiah 42, 49). Luke doesn’t say this in as many words, but I think that the combination of “According to your word” in verse 29 and the quotation of Isaiah in verse 32 means that, at the very least, Simeon was cognizant of the relevant prophecies of the promised One I cite above. He certainly had the help of the Spirit in this endeavor (v. 25-27), but Simeon was fully aware that this young child was to be the great Comforter of Israel exactly as promised in the Old Testament, because he saturated his mind with these scriptures.

God’s Promises are Sure

The Holy Spirit promises Simeon in verse 26 “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ”. And Luke records immediately following that the Spirit not only follows up on that promise, but causes it to happen. On the very same day and at the very same time that Joseph and Mary went to the temple, the Spirit led Simeon to that very same temple, and fulfilled His promise. Simeon even acknowledges the fulfillment of the promise by saying “You are releasing your bond-servant to depart in peace”. The idea here is that he realizes his death is now imminent, since the Spirit told him that he would not die until he saw the Messiah (v. 26). And Simeon would die “in peace” because his anxious waiting for the consolation of Israel was over.

Simeon also acknowledges that this baby Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises, bringing salvation (v 30) to both Jews and Gentiles (v 32). Alas, we know that salvation indeed came to both Jews and Gentiles as recorded in the gospels and the acts of the apostles, evidencing God’s faithfulness to His promises still more.

Conclusion

The application I draw is two-fold. First, do I believe in the testimony of God as told in scripture? Do I believe that every human is a sinner who stands to receive the full punishment of their sin (Rom 3:10, Rom 6:23)? Do I believe that God has sent a perfect Lamb to absorb the wrath of God for my sin if I would have faith (1 Pet 2:24, Acts 16:31, Ephesians 2:8-9)? Do I believe that God is causing all the events of my life to sovereignly work together for my good, that is, my sanctification (Rom 8:28-30)? Do I believe that God will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13)? Am I anxiously awaiting the (second) coming of Christ like Simeon was (Acts 1:6-7,11)?

Second, I take charge to learn the scriptures in the same way that Simeon did. May I be like the blessed man of righteousness of Psalm 1 who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night. May I keep my way pure by keeping it according to His word (Psalm 119:9). May I treasure His word in my heart that I may not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). May my life be transformed by the renewing of my mind by the study of the scriptures (Rom 12:2). I pray that my mind would be so steeped in the scriptures that I, like Simeon, might be considered a righteous and devout man of God.

State of Theology 2016 – Evangelical Extracurriculars and Ecumenicalism


Within the last month or so, Lifeway Research, sponsored by Ligonier ministries, posted the results of the 2016 State of Theology survey, a follow-up to the benchmark 2014 study. The stated purpose of the study was to “measure the current theological awareness of adult Americans” (read full paper here). There have been many posts over at Ligonier and other blogs discussing their interpretations of some of the study results. After looking through the survey results myself, I want to share a few of the observations I made.

It would be easy to point out the glaringly obvious – generally Americans do not think properly about the gospel or God or the Bible. This survey was not necessary to surmise that many Americans lack a proper understanding of theology – this election season is proof in the pudding of where the hearts and minds of Americans are presently (see last post here). What’s more interesting to me is the answers given by so-called “evangelicals”. Oxford dictionary accurately and succinctly defines Evangelicalism as a “tradition of Protestant Christianity” that believes in “the authority of the Bible, personal conversion, and the doctrine of salvation by faith in the Atonement”. Let’s see how the survey takers did on those three key subjects:

The Authority of the Bible

40% of American evangelicals think “modern science discredits the claims of Christianity” – i.e., the world was not created in six literal 24 hour periods of time.

11% of American evangelicals disagree that “God is the author of Scripture.”

19% of American evangelicals think “The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.”

Personal Conversion

44% of American evangelicals disagree or unsure about “The Holy Spirit gives a spiritual new birth or new life before a person has faith.”

28% of American evangelicals disagree or unsure about “Salvation always begins with God changing a person so that he or she will turn to Him in faith.”

Salvation by Faith in the Atonement

38% of American evangelicals think that “By the good deeds that I do, I partly contribute to earning my place in heaven.”

27% of American evangelicals either disagree or unsure about “Hell is an eternal place of judgment where God sends all people who do not personally trust in Jesus Christ.”

11% of American evangelicals disagree that “Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.”

Other Noteworthy

52% of evangelicals think “Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.”

13% of evangelicals disagree that “The Bible has the authority to tell us what we must do.”

 

 

What do we do with this data? I want to ask three questions that might help serve as poignant thought provokers in light of these survey findings.

1) Are ecumenical labels useful in an increasingly postmodern world? It is increasingly easier for someone to self-identify as “Christian” or “Evangelical” without meeting the simple prerequisites. This is the nature of a postmodern world. There is no such thing as truth. A man can be a woman, and vice versa. A hotel customer who noticed the Gideon bible, cracked it open to the middle, read two verses, and tossed it aside in boredom can identify as an evangelical. When truth means nothing, ecumenical labels mean nothing.

2) Is ecumenicalism more important than the reputation of Christ? As Christ’s representatives here on earth, we are called to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27). When some ne’er-do-well postmodern “evangelicals” cause a ruckus, our reputation among the world is diminished, and the effectiveness of the gospel of Christ is weakened. Take simply as evidence the “evangelical” support for Trump in this election. Al Mohler said rightly that “Donald Trump is not just disqualified from being a Sunday school teacher. Honest evangelicals would not want him as a next-door neighbor.” If in one breath, you claim salvation through faith in Christ’s atoning work on the cross for sin, and in the next breath defend the amorality of Trump (and deflection to Hilary is a defense thereof), seriously consider whether you are sending mixed messages, and tarnishing the reputation of the gospel of Christ.

3) Does truth matter to you and to your church? I was blessed to grow up in a church that valued highly the truth of scripture. From a young age, I was taught that the Scripture is the infallible word of God, and is the sufficient source of all pertinent knowledge and understanding for the Christian here on earth (2 Tim 3:16, 2 Peter 1:3). I was also taught that it is the duty of every Christian to become accurate handlers of truth (2 Tim 2:15). Do you have that same conviction for truth? Does your church? If the answers are yes and no respectively, consider a new venue to worship God in spirit and truth (Jn 4:24), that both preaches the scripture accurately and that equips its members to do the same.

 

A Millennial Christian’s Take on the 2016 Presidential Election


Being only 25 years of age, the year 2016 presents me with only my second opportunity to participate in a U.S. presidential election. If I have learned anything, especially in the past few months, it’s that this presidential election is a validation of the claims of Paul in Romans 1. I excerpt verses 28-32 and add my own emphases below:

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,  being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”

 The emboldened words above are the items in the checklist that at least one of the two candidates have checked off in one way or another, either once or on regular occasion.

The underlined portion of the text above is to me the fascinating commentary applicable to the 2016 presidential election. Whether it be politicians, or once-respected political radio hosts/commentators, or people in your personal sphere of influence, it is evident that there are people who, for one reason or another, have bowed the knee to one of the Baals and serve either as attack dog or public advocate. Dear reader, it’s one thing to pinch your nose, close your eyes, and vote for a lesser evil, yet it’s another thing entirely to bow in full support and promotion of one of these moral black holes. If you pledge allegiance to Christ, seriously consider whether your allegiance can/should simultaneously be pledged to an anti-Christ.

My intent in this post is to address those who have witnessed the vile and dread voting for one of them. This category is the one in which I formerly found myself, until my consciousness started burning and I decided to abstain from voting in the presidential ballot. This doesn’t mean I will not be visiting the booth on Nov. 8th (rather, mailing in my ballot beforehand), instead, the circles on the page listing the names of Trump and Hillary (and Johnson and Stein) will not be penned in. I give the following argument for why I am not going to vote for a president this year in hopes that the consciousnesses of readers of my blog might become settled knowing that the abstinence option is the best one.

1. Until Christ reigns on His throne during the millennial Kingdom, choices between any governing authorities are always the lesser of evils. 

In the 2012 presidential election, I remember on numerous occasions attempting to convince fellow Christians to vote for one candidate who I felt was the lesser of evils. However, in the last year something I realized is that there are, and will be, no candidates who will rule like Christ will rule.  Psalm 97:2 says about the coming King Christ that “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne”. And not only will His reign be that of righteousness, but “The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness” when they experience His judgments (Isaiah 26:9). In this great Kingdom, people will work with gladness for their provisions, there will be no crying, and disease will be severely restricted (Isaiah 65:17-23). Poor people will be taken care of, and the great King will rescue those who are oppressed and suffer violence (Psalm 72:12-14).

Dearest reader, be not fooled when politicians promise what can only be done when Christ is King. Even your most ideal presidential candidate is still a son of Adam, stained with sin and its effects. Even a follower of Christ, though no longer a slave to sin, still succumbs thereto and, by self admission, is nothing the ruler Christ will be in that great millennial Kingdom.

In some elections, it is easy to identify a lesser evil. In this election, it is my opinion that a lesser evil is a non-starter. For when dealing with the type and depth of depravity presented us in this election, choosing the lesser one is like being at a grocery store and seeing only 2 apples left, both of which are rotten to the core, and purchasing the one that maintains a slight shade of red. In both the real and the hypothetical, it is better to abstain.

2. There is no moral obligation to voting for a president

I have heard the oft-repeated argument by like minded fellow believers that a “government by the people”, like our great country is, requires dutiful citizens to vote for the proper exercise of their authority. Being the servants of God that rulers are, it is their obligation to exercise their authority, but also do it righteously (Romans 13:6). I agree with this sentiment, however I would draw a clearer line as to the extent which a vote-wielding citizen is actually a governor in a constitutional republic. Specifically, the extent is to that which the citizen is a legislator.

What I mean by this is simple – a governing authority in a constitutional republic is one who legislates, or passes laws. We, as Americans, are blessed to do this in a direct fashion in state and local elections, voting yea or nay on “propositions” of new laws. However, this authority is not so easily paralleled in the federal elections, wherein we vote for representatives to act on our behalf as governing authorities, as opposed to voting for the purpose of exercising our own authority as “We, the people”. In voting for representatives, we yield our authority to those who convince us they will govern in a way we most would like to be governed. Yielding authority is not a duty that should be taken any less light than exercising direct authority, but I am persuaded that unless a candidate representative is good enough, he or she is not worthy yielding our authority to.

Briefly contrast our situation with the citizens of North Korea, who are obligated by law to vote. In that situation, I believe it would be a violation of Romans 13:1-2 to not vote. But we in the United States have no such law, and thus, are not under the same obligation.

3. Therefore, it is better to abstain than to vote for a lesser evil

Some might counter my claims by saying “not voting for X is a vote for Y”. To which I agree to some extent, but I argue is a non sequitur in the context of this argument. No matter whether I vote for X or Y in the presidential election this fall, one of the two blithering, unscrupulous, sinful candidates will win and be our next president. One of the two moral black holes will be our representative governing authority, which is an expression of evil if I have ever seen one. So why would we compound evil with another evil by yielding your authority to one of them? Whether we vote for them or not, we as believers will have to submit to whatever new laws they enact, so why add your name to the millions who willingly yield your authority to them?

In other words, we are going to be pushed off the plank anyways, why jump? Why not enjoy the fresh sea air just a bit longer before suffering the suffocating taste of sea water? Why willingly pinch your nose and vote for one of these cesspools and instead enjoy the clean air while the putrid has not overtaken it? Why not choose to remember the hope we have in Christ and His coming Kingdom, and realize the futility of voting for our representatives in government who can’t fulfill any of their promises?

Conclusion

With two last things do I plead with my readers. First, listen to your conscience in this election. It was certainly my hope to better inform your conscience, but if your conscience remains unchanged, I would hope that you still listen to it. God gave us our consciences for a reason, and it is not wise practice to ignore it when it serves as our internal indicator of right and wrong. If we silence that voice, it will not be able to serve its purpose anymore. Second, hope and pray for the return of Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom. If anything, it should be agreeable that our present situation should cause us to turn our eyes to the future Kingdom, where righteousness will reign and evil will be greatly subdued. It is my hope, that if nothing else, the reader walks away with a longing for Christ’s return, and chooses to live life in light of the reality of His imminent return.