From my early days as a Christian it made sense to me that the Bible has something to say to all of life. The Bible is certainly not a spiritual cookbook. It is not always straightforward how one should arrive at one’s decision. The book of Proverbs, and the whole wisdom tradition, showcase this sort of nimble discernment. Christians disagree over the proper interpretation and/or implications of the Bible. And those are Christians who agree on the binding authority of the Scriptures!
I continue to believe that is problematic to have Christians who rationalize or diminish the president’s rhetoric. That said, I Tim. 2:1,2 is a significant influence on how (at the present) I will vote. My vote is very much influenced by the person and party I believe that best protects religious liberty.
Some of my friends tell me that they have lost friends over so-called political differences. I say so-called because most of us use that word “politics” in a diminished, and so unhelpful, way.
Politics comes from the word polis which means city. The original meaning carried the idea of what good I should do for my community. The modern idea of politics has denigrated as a synonym that means simply advocating for one candidate over another. We certainly ought to be able to talk about who we are voting for and why without animus, but there is so much more we ought to first talk about.
It would be more productive if we first spent ample time pondering what good we ought to do for our community, then, and only then, moved to specific candidates. Jumping too quickly over the first makes for either nasty conversations or people steering clear of talking about controversial matters altogether.
There is a better option. Engage thoughtfully, challenge your own assumptions, and have conversation partners outside your own tribe. Don’t exclusively watch CNN, MSNBC, or FOX. Read widely, including those who make you angry. They just might have something to offer that your own tribe is either blind to or unwilling to say.
Thank you for the many kindnesses you showed me (and Doreen) during our time (90-92) at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Your recommendation that I receive the award for the best thesis on a theological subject encouraged me in my writing.
Your recommendation that I publish my thesis with the same publisher that did your Cambridge dissertation was also a wonderful blessing. And thanks for writing the foreword.
Your approaching me to serve as executive director of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood surprised and humbled me. I am the furthest thing from a one issue guy, so it was easy to turn down, but it was an honor to be asked.
And I will never forget that you regularly supplied us with doughnuts at your advisee meetings!
I read your Town Hall piece. Allow me to offer a few areas I wished you had addressed.
Nothing is mentioned about the founding fathers on the needed character to govern. For many years, the founding fathers were invoked by us conservatives, but then we slowly gave up their counsel because of Reagan’s divorce, Newt’s ruthlessness, etc. Realpolitik grabbed the imagination of many conservatives, so we got more “realistic” about the limits of purity in our governing philosophy. The political machinations of bad boys like Lee Atwater and Newt Gingrich turned Republican politics into a blood sport. Yes, it is played that way on the other side of the aisle as well. Some would say the Democratic party plays it better. Since most of the people I speak with are on the conservative side of the ledger, I will keep my concerns focused there. I still think Madison and other founding fathers should instruct us on character. I find it telling that the counsel of those folks has faded into the political ether.
You mentioned the illiberalism of the left. I agree. In the 1980s, I spoke on the free speech platforms at both Stanford University and Cal/Berkeley. I wonder what that experience would be like today, so I understand your concern. Unfortunately, you left out that freedom of speech is not just stifled by those on the left. It also gets stifled at bastions of not just conservatism, but Christianity, like Liberty University.
I wish there were more conservatives like Robert George of Princeton. He, as you well know, is close friends with Cornel West. They do not agree on many things, yet they truly seek to learn from one another. Trump, and many who follow him, find Professor George’s model quaint and impractical. Again, realpolitik rears its head above such idealism.
My biggest concern is one I have not heard mentioned by any who support Trump, even by those who say he is the better option of the “lesser of two evils” gambit.
What about the confusion Trump creates over the gospel? Christians who say Trump is the “lesser of two evils” seem to forget the integrity of the church and gospel. I was surprised you did not mention anything on this topic.
Here’s a diagnostic of sorts: Which candidate brings the most confusion to the gospel and hurts the integrity of the church? I would argue, and believe it is easy to do, that Trump does. The Democratic party has little use for evangelicals so no confusion to the gospel occurs. But a candidate who has health-wealth preachers and other Christians supporting him no matter what, certainly does untold damage. And that damage does not go away once Trump is out of office.
The church in America has lost much integrity in supporting Trump. You mentioned Trump’s unsavory character which is a proper thing to do. I am afraid your concerns over his character got drowned out when you so quickly pivot to how great Trump’s policies have been. In other words, your concerns over Trump’s character come across tepid and they lack the penetration of the prophet that is so sorely needed.
There are several other things I keep hoping to hear from Christians, but sadly I keep hearing lots of crickets. For example, three times Jeremiah says that Nebuchadezzar was “God’s servant.” If God is still in charge with the likes of Nebuchadnezzar, should we really have a Chicken Little posture as we contemplate someone from the Democratic party being in office?
I did not vote in the last election. My reasons for doing so are too long to mention here, but a scholar of James Madison’s political philosophy said Madison would have supported my right to do so. Three months out from the upcoming election, I continue to think (and pray) about how I should vote this November. And rest assured, my vote will not be for Joe Biden.
No matter what happens I would like to hear more Trump supporters, especially the Christian ones, say he is unfit for the presidency, even though they are glad for his policies. Saying Trump is less than perfect is hardly the same as saying he is unfit to govern.
[One factual error in your piece: Schlafly did an MA at Radcliffe, but her JD was from Washington University not Harvard.]
Your Former Student,
David (George) Moore
Many times I’ve heard the “lesser than two evils” objection brought up by those who voted (and will vote again) for Donald Trump. Here is David French:
And yes, Christians also hasten the decay if we vote for policies and people who would scorn the church, denigrate the value of unborn life, and celebrate other values contrary to biblical truth. But we do not have to choose between evils. Our nation’s two political parties do not dictate to the church how it must use its vast cultural and political power. The church must instead communicate its standards to our parties.
If the world’s wealthiest and and most powerful collection of Christians are supine before their political masters in the United States, marching to the beat of secular drummers (even if allegedly “holding their noses” all the while) then I fear the message that sends is that we do not have faith that God’s providence governs the nations. We cannot and must not “put our trust in princes.” There is no such thing as a “binary choice.” We can choose not to yield to the spirit of the times.
Theological truth can also create a pragmatic reality. Over time, perhaps the best method of cleansing our political class of the low, narcissistic characters who all too often occupy public office is to stop voting for them. “
Thomas Sowell dropped out of Stuyvesant High School and served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War. He later became an economist and social theorist who is currently a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
1. People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.
2. If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.
3. Immigration laws are the only laws that are discussed in terms of how to help people who break them.
4. Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.
5. The next time some academics tell you how important diversity is, ask how many Republicans there are in their sociology department.
6. The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.
7. The real minimum wage is zero.
8. What multiculturalism boils down to is that you can praise any culture in the world except Western culture—and you cannot blame any culture in the world except Western culture.
9. In liberal logic, if life is unfair then the answer is to turn more tax money over to politicians, to spend in ways that will increase their chances of getting reelected.
10. People who have time on their hands will inevitably waste the time of people who have work to do.
11. Elections should be held on April 16th—the day after we pay our income taxes. That is one of the few things that might discourage politicians from being big spenders.
HT: George Grant
Madison’s political philosophy was greatly influenced by preacher and Princeton president, John Witherspoon. Witherspoon’s influence is apparent in places like the Federalist Papers where you see Madison’s realistic view of man’s fallen nature.
“Democracies allow the greatest number of citizens in ruling, Witherspoon notes, but often, as he learned from Aristotle, they degenerate into mob rule, ‘deceived by demagogues’ and ‘subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.’”
Do you think that is a word for us today?
“Left” and “right” are thrown around a lot by, well you know, those on the left and right.
Did you know that the terms may be more beholden to the Enlightenment, so fairly recent?
Also, before we glibly designate someone of the left or right, we ought to consider whether we can answer a few questions:
What’s the difference between the left and the radical/progressive left as used today?
What’s the difference between the right and the far right as used today?
What is the irreducible minimum that makes one a “liberal”?
What is the irreducible minimum that makes one a “conservative”?
And I finish by recommending this terrific book:
HT: To Roger Berry for the picture. I am writing a book with Professor Michael Haykin on Ralph Waldo Emerson. It seems the president likes Emerson. I don’t think it is quite accurate to say, “I love Emerson,” but he has been a very productive conversation partner.
And now to the matter of this post…
Some of you know about my critical piece on Trump which was cited favorably on the Gospel Coalition and elsewhere. I still stand by everything I wrote. Here it is:
I did not vote during the 2016 election when it comes to president. For everyone else, I cast a vote. And I still stand by that decision. And yes, I think it was my patriotic duty to not vote.
But things can change…
I regularly preach (really I teach it) that true education is many things, but one thing for sure: painful. The ancient Greeks had a name for it: mathein pathein. “To learn is to suffer.” If you are truly learning, you have to face deficient views/ideas you previously believed.
Do I think my previous thoughts on Trump deficient? Largely, I do not, especially because I was addressing some specific areas of concern and those have not changed.
And yet, I want to remain open to new dynamics.
I’m still not sure what I will do in the upcoming election, but this is the best piece that is causing me to consider Trump:
I read a lot of history. Usually, I have to read long books (400 pages plus) to get as much insight as this much shorter one by Gregg. In only 166 pages the author gives intellectual insights on every page. It is a feast for both heart and mind.
The writing is clear and compelling. Gregg knows the flow of Western ideas very well. He communicates with ease some of the main currents of thought.
It is rare that the number of my markings (or marginalia) exceeds the number of the pages of a book I have read, but this is one of those rare times.
I highly recommend this balanced and beautifully conceived book!