None of us will ever forget Election 2000. It is nearly a month since the last vote was cast, and we still aren’t absolutely sure we know who will be inaugurated as the next President of the United States. Election Night was strange enough, with its surreal sequence of projections, declarations, concessions, and retractions. Then there was the recount, followed by the on again-off again manual recount. There were protests and contests, injunctions and appeals, notifications and certifications. After all that has been said and done, the matter still remains in dispute. In the minds of some, it will not fully be resolved until the 2004 election.
Window on the World is our weekly opportunity to examine our world from the biblical point of view. Since the election has been on everyone’s mind, and since this is an unusual and perhaps an important time in our nation’s history, it seems important to say something about it. Yet it is hard to know what to say, which is one of the reasons I have waited until now to say it. I have my own personal opinions about the election, of course, but few of them are relevant to my calling as a pastor. You, no doubt, will have noticed that although the ministers of Tenth Church often speak out on moral and social issues with political implications, this is a non-partisan pulpit.
And perhaps this is a good time to emphasize as well that whoever is finally inaugurated as our President will receive the prayers of Tenth Presbyterian Church, as well as the respect that his office deserves. The Bible teaches that “everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Before we can protest, the Scripture goes on to say “the authorities that exist have been established by God” (Rom. 13.1). Note well: these authorities have not been established by a County Canvassing Board, a State Supreme Court, a Secretary of State, a State Legislature, or even an Electoral College, but ultimately by Almighty God. As citizens, it is sometimes our duty to protest the unlawful manipulation of the vote; however, as Christians, it is always our duty to accept its final outcome.
In recent weeks we have learned to prize some of the blessings that we enjoy as Americans, such as the right to vote, the right to protest, and the peaceful transition of power. But we have also learned more than we care to know about the way that politics can be corrupted by sin. In one way or another, the Florida Recount has disgusted most Americans. We have seen hypocritical politicians disavowing their convictions once it was no longer personally advantageous to hold them. We have heard sanctimonious speeches and highly selective versions of the truth. Some Christians have been outraged by it all-more outraged in some cases than is really good for us. However, as Christians, and especially as Calvinists, we should not be surprised by sin. Corruption and bickering are exactly what our theology teaches us to expect.
There is another truth about human beings that helps us to understand the Florida Recount from a biblical point of view. The truth is that human beings are fallible. In other words, we make mistakes. I do not mean moral mistakes (although we make those, too), but honest mistakes that are caused by our own creaturely limitations. We are not only fallen, but we are also finite. There is no way to remove the human element from an election, no matter how much Democrats and Republicans may try.
I suppose that in a perfect world, we would be able to devise failsafe procedures for conducting a flawless election. Perhaps we would be able to devise voting machines that work perfectly, accurately detecting the intent of each and every voter. But of course this is not a perfect world. It is a world where people misread instructions and mispunch ballots-not because we are fallen, but simply because we are fallible. We do not know all things. We cannot do all things. We cannot control all things. We are mere creatures. Thus an election is a very uncertain enterprise, especially in a country as large as these United States. There is no way to ensure that the results are completely accurate. The butterfly ballots, the absentee votes, and the dimpled chads will never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
Whenever human beings have trouble sorting things out, I am reminded of God’s superlative ability to keep accurate records. No one will ever know, with absolute certainty, the exact number of votes cast for either Al Gore or George Bush. But all of God’s documentation is accurate, down to the very last detail. God’s Word is accurate. The Bible itself testifies that not one jot or tittle will pass away until everything is accomplished (Matt. 5:18). The Book of Life is accurate. The Bible teaches that God has carefully recorded the names of both the righteous and the unrighteous in his heavenly book (Rev. 20:15; 21:27). As the Scripture says, “the Lord knows those who are his” (2 Tim. 2:19). God does all this without the benefit of writing rough drafts or relying on computers and counting machines. His infinite mind knows all things perfectly instantly and eternally.
As we recently have been reminded, our own minds do not work nearly as well. Rather than getting angry with the party or candidate that we oppose, we ought to be laughing at ourselves-at our own fallibility and finitude, our all-too-human limitations. And we should trust in God, who knows all things, and does all things well.
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