Thursday, June 7, 2007

Church and Democracy

I think it was Winston Churchill who said, "Democracy is the worst form of government--except for all the others." Does the same apply to church government?

I've read Plato's Republic enough to be persuaded that democracy is not all that it's cracked up to be. It is certainly a leveler in terms of guarding against big swings (and so long as theocracy remains elusive, I don't think I'd want any other form of government for the state). But is subjecting difficult decisions to a popular vote the wisest? I think it was Descartes who said, "When you're dealing with difficult questions, you'd expect most people to get the answer wrong."

So what does this have to do with church polity? I'm drawn to the Catholic Church in many ways, but I think they've got the doctrine of the Church substantially incorrect. I'm not infallible, and so could be wrong on this, but the Kingdom of God is not to be equated with the institution of the Church. That leaves the elder system vs. the congregational system.

So for me the central tension is my malaise with democracy vs. the priesthood of all believers. It seems to me that it is better for a group of elders to be charged with the governance of the local body--people who are good and gifted at that sort of thing. You want people making the decisions who are most qualified. But then that seems to encourage (I don't see that it has to lead to, but seems to do so pretty reliably) a class of rulers and a class of consumers. And because I believe so strongly in the priesthood of all believers--even though they have different gifts--I'm pulled toward a congregational model.

No resolution here. Just thoughts. I think it was Daffy Duck who said, "That's all folks."

No comments: