The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

None of the Above

This is a really thoughtful essay by my friend Derrick Oliff  on the philosophical and ethical issues involved in principled non-voting, voting third party, pragmatism in politics, and more.  I highly recommend it as a food for thought.  It is a fairly long, but rewarding read.

For some reason the hyperlinking isn’t working, but the essay can be found here:


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10 thoughts on “None of the Above

  1. You can be primarily principled and secondarily pragmatic. I find Romney rather repugnant, but not so vile that voting for him is necessarily sinful. Since I am able to vote for him in good conscience, if not with enthusiasm, then I may employ pragmatic thinking about the alternative.

  2. What exegetic argument can be employed to argue that a Christian may only vote for a Christian, or to argue that anyone that would compromise on abortion in incest/rape situations cannot be voted for by a principled believer?

  3. N, did you read the essay? It answers your questions.

  4. I have no argument with this principled imperfectionism, and I am enthusiastically in favor of principled Christian political behavior, but I question the criteria that the author identifies. While I agree with much of his essay, and agree that his criteria function well to identify ideal candidates, I am not convinced that they are minimal requirements. I understand him to be arguing that it is sinful for a Christian to vote for an unbelieving candidate for a secular office in a non-Christian land. Consider the plight of a Christian in a land where voting is compulsory and the only two candidates presented are identical to the ones our major parties have given us here. The author would have the Christian disobey the law and suffer the wrath of the magistrate for not picking either Obama or Romney. I would, too, if I were convinced that scripture actually taught that it is sinful for a Christian citizen of a non-Christian nation to vote for a non-Christian candidate for a secular office, but I am not, yet. In fact, if the third criterion is accurate and a prospective ruler must “realize that God’s word is the ultimate authority for all areas of life including their rule” then in addition to barring a cultist, it even becomes a sin to vote for a Roman Catholic.

  5. I think these are fair points. I don’t think Derrick would agree that in a situation with compulsory voting one is obligated to disobey the law barring ideal candidates. In a case like that I imagine he’d say you have to make a choice between violating a clear commandment (to obey the law when possible) and violating a less clear principle (not voting for candidates that don’t meet his criteria). I would guess that he would go with the latter. I don’t like speaking for him, but that’s my guess.

    To your other points, I’m not sure that Derrick would say it is a sin to vote for someone who doesn’t meet all these criteria. If so I wouldn’t agree. I think it’s a wisdom issue. But I do think Derrick gives us some good general. principles to consider in thinking about whether we would vote for someone who is a cultist, or otherwise not a godly and pious man.

    Finally, I put this out there more as fodder for discussion than because I think Derrick’s got every point exactly right. I do think he has an interesting and thoughtful perspective, and that he does a nice job dealing with some of the presuppositions (especially from pragmatism) that are often held unawares by Christians when it comes to politics. It’s a thorny and complex subject, but I appreciate Derrick’s thoroughness and thoughtfulness on it.

  6. Even among those of us who agree that scripture authoritatively informs our political activities, we are unable to precisely identify those principles which we are appealing to and which we encourage the pragmatic Christian to adopt. If we are incoherent, inconsistent, or excessively general about what the biblical principles are, perhaps it should not be surprising that the pragmatist does not listen to our clumsy attempts to apply them to our specific situation.

  7. N’s 6:28pm comment is on my blog and my reply was as follows.

    The scenario envisioned here seems extremely remote. The seemingly ubiquitous fight in democracies is against disenfranchisement, not against forced, highly limited, sham enfranchisement. Where has this existed for any significant period of time (especially in modern, western democracies)? Perhaps it is so scarce because it would require a large legal infrastructure and a large expenditure of resources for enforcement. Would-be electioneers have found it much easier and cheaper to rig the election results after the fact. This scenario just seems too remote to be used as the basis for any significant argument.

    More importantly though, this scenario actually changes the subject. The goal of the paper is to get Christians who normally make their voting choices according to a primarily pragmatic methodology to see that they should be using a different methodology. The important word here is “choices.” The rather pedestrian assumption of the paper is that we can and do make the choice to either apply pragmatism or reject it. But in your scenario, that choice doesn’t exist. We can have any flavor as long as it’s vanilla. And if that were the case, a different paper would need to be written – a paper on the nature, applicability, limits, etc. of civil disobedience. But that just wasn’t the topic I wrote about. One can get the two topics to intersect of course, but only by positing a rather unusual scenario. And I don’t see the value in such an entangling of separate topics. The goal of the paper was to argue against pragmatic voting, not to discuss the appropriate application of civil disobedience.

  8. Derrick, Australia has compulsory voting.

    I agree with your other points, just an example of what you asked about though.

  9. And it looks like they’re not the only one, though most don’t enforce it. But at least the Aussie rule is relatively benign. In some cases you can choose an explicit “none of the above” option. For the rest, you can either vote for a candidate that has no real chance of winning, vote informally, or pay a small fine. Even John Roberts would like that last one!

  10. South american democracies are not always so benign.

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