Originally I was going to scribble a comment in response to Trey’s post on voting, but I fear it would be too long.
Let us begin where all questions of Christian duty should begin, the Bible.
I think we can agree up front that our life decisions should be based on Biblical principles, so we must first look to Scripture to see whether voting is either prohibited or endorsed.
Republics were not an option in the days of Israel, which was an amalgamation of a theocracy and monarchy, or in the days of the Roman Empire. Our system of government is not really contemplated in the Bible. Therefore, neither of us can point to decisive verses. We can, however, appeal to principles such as "do unto others," and "love thy neighbor as thyself." While I believe a close examination of such principles would reveal that a Christian should vote, I doubt you would agree that such verses and their like are applicable. Therefore, I will take a different tack.
Representative government, though experimented with by Greece and Rome, was made palatable to the West due to none other than Calvinist influence. Starting with congregational authority at the local church and moving toward voting on local magistrates, representative government is the product of ardent Protestants pushing back against tyranny. Loraine Boettner addresses this briefly in his The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. The thoughtful Abraham Kuyper has a wonderful lecture that touches on this as well, which can be found at the following link: http://www.kuyper.org/main/publish/books_essays/article_17.shtml?page=4.
Government, of course, is both good and bad. It is bad in the sense that the power it offers attracts ambitious men, who will necessarily look after themselves. In a representative democracy this is often a good thing because the ambitious man rises and falls based on the prosperity of the country or his State. However, it also opens the door wide for corruption and looting of the public till.
Yet government is a blessing from God, by which God tempers the anarchical tendencies of man, and prevents men from ruling over one another by brute force and intimidation. But for government, and the respect the public affords it, no man could feel secure in his property interests as he would constantly fear some brigand may take his car, his money, or boot him from his home. A world without government would destroy commerce by making it too risky to invest capital in any project for fear of mobs, stunt the arts, as people would not have time to devote to writing, painting, or composing, and fighting would be a staple of daily life. We must never forget, God Himself instituted governments.
Now, I’m certain that as a Calvinist you agree that God institutes government, but yet you say you should not vote.
In a representative democracy the people elect representatives to reflect their values, whether economic or moral (I would argue economic issues are all moral). In our representative democracy, the people elect a bicameral legislature and an executive, who in turn appoints judges. No allegiance is required on the voter’s part to any of the men and women of these offices. However, the Bible commands that we respect them and submit to their authority.
I want to briefly address your abortion reasoning, but the responsibility of a Christian to vote goes well beyond the so-called morality issues.
We have the options as Americans to influence those we put in office. By judicial fiat, our country has presided over a holocaust—a mass murder not only sanctioned by the state, but funded by its citizens.
Does the Bible teach that citizens should not attempt to stifle the state funded slaughter of innocents?
You argue, in response, that only the sale of wire hangers would increase: a morose claim. However, that is a dogmatic assertion and not a defensible argument. The state-sanctioning of any act gives it a color of rightness. That which is constitutional is felt by Americans to be moral as well, whether that’s burning a flag or creating “art” by draping the Virgin Mary in a gown of feces.
Through judicial imperialism we as a nation have said that the right to kill a fetus is one bestowed on us by our Creator, and a right which must be defended to the death. And how can we change the courts but that we vote?
Your argument concerning abortion is specious at best. You rightly note that only God changes men’s hearts, but ignore the fact that men are morally culpable for lives they take, and countries are judged by the collective morals of their people.
Further, the argument that says, essentially, we can’t change men’s hearts so don’t make abortion illegal, could be applied to any crime where life or property is taken. We can’t change men’s hearts so why punish a murderer? We can’t change men’s hearts, so why make heroine illegal? And so on. Appointing judges who fail to see in the penumbras and emanations of the Bill of Rights a right to have an abortion is not the same as asserting that governments can change hearts and minds; rather, it is an argument that this government has not secured a right to stop beating hearts and suck out the brains of the unborn.
Essentially, your argument about voting is the same as the hyper-Calvinist's argument about evangelism---"well, it's God who changes men's hearts, so I don't have to go evangelize."
There is no empirical evidence to suggest you’re correct in your assertion that if certain states make abortion illegal, then abortions would not decline. Unless you find some, then it would be prudent of you to soften your rhetoric on this point.
Next, voting at the local level affects how grievances will be heard by local judges. Do you want your fellow citizens to be judged by good, honest men, or conniving politicians? By voting and getting involved in local judicial elections you palpably influence how lives and property will be affected in coming years.
By voting for your local city council members you affect how zoning variances will be handled, how your local taxes will be spent, etc. This materially affects local business owners, and all local property owners.
By voting for your Representative in the House and your Senators you affect the defense of this country, which affects the lives of people. You affect the finances of this country, which affects commerce, the viability of businesses, etc.
You ignore by your stance the vital role the Church has played in this nation’s history. From ending slavery to the civil rights movement, the Church was instrumental in ensuring that all men are treated as though they have been created in God’s image. If religious people had stood on the sidelines, and permitted the irreligious to make all decisions how much longer would people own men in this country? The principled stand of Rhode Island at the ratification of the Constitution and the inclusion of the Bill of Rights is also worth noting, as this was a State of religious men seeking protection from a potentially tyrannical federal regime. And while the signers of the Declaration of Independence were by and large not orthodox, they knew they had to answer to people who were.
By the same token you ignore the history of nations whose freedom was secured by the irreligious and by those not respecting the religious beliefs of others. It was not the Huguenots who won independence in France, but enlightened secularists. That made all the difference in the history of our two countries.
In short, there is no clear verse in the Bible that says vote or don’t vote. But the evidence weighs in favor of taking an active role in our body politic to ensure that our laws enable a just society to flourish both commercially and religiously. And your dogmatic assertion that Christians should not vote has zero Biblical authority, which is presumably why you quoted none.
I close with the words of Calvin in his commentary on Samuel: “And ye, O peoples, to whom God gave the liberty to choose your own magistrates, see to it, that ye do not forfeit this favor, by electing to the positions of highest honor, rascals and enemies of God.”