Throughout the history of the Israelites many different forms of governance were present, from the relatively simple patriarchal kinship of Abraham, the tribal system that followed, the leadership of Moses and Joshua, the period of the rule of the judges, and finally the monarchy that began with Saul and pinnacled with David and Solomon.
Importantly, throughout the history of Israel governmental authorities were subject to a higher power, the ruling word of the Law mediated by the priesthood and the immediate word of God revealed through the prophets. Democracy as we know it does not make an appearance.
This means that a plethora of systems of governance can be Christian, and that democracy may not necessarily be the most Christian system. What appears to be most crucial is how government affects our ability to follow God and influences our choices in relation to sin.
Institutionalised sin is an example of this, where governments permit or enforce sinful behaviour. An example of this would be the indoctrination of atheism in various communist states. But in the end Government can only go so far.
Despite having the Law, which is "holy and righteous and good" (Rom 7:12), the Israelites continued to sin, regardless of what governance they had. Some systems allow more freedom and ability to love God, whilst others are more restrictive. However, it is wrong to think that what most people in democracies believe in, is representative of God's will. This same freedom with prosperity has allowed unparalleled decadence, hedonism and greed. It is freedom at the cost of the ability to disobey God's will.
And this is where I believe it all comes down to
Does a system promote God's will or does it quench it? It is what is in the heart of the people and of those in power that matters. In this way Democracy may or may not be Christian, as Monarchy and Patriarchy were Godly or Ungodly for the Israelites, depending on leaders and the people. Government cannot stop sin, but it can discourage it and make it easier to follow God and Christ. Discussion of the issue of government needs to be lifted to this higher level.
It is not by chance that Jesus and God are referred to as "Lord". Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the literal Lords of all creation and humanity. It is important to note that, "... what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." (2 Corinthians 4:5).
In the end all of us are under one rule and one ruler, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 8:6). To the extent that government is informed by "Love your God with all your heart" and "Love your neighbour as yourself", governance is Christian.
Any government that works towards these goals I believe can be called Christian, whether democratic or not. And in the end, as Philippians 3:20-21 says, we are citizens of heaven, and everything is under the control of Christ.
This is why we are encouraged to pray for rulers; "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." (1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV)
Nathanael Yates from Perth, Western Australia, is an award winning young scientist who has won a scholarship to Oxford for 12 months as from October 2011
Nathanael's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/nathanael-yates.html