I’ve just finished a terrific book on John Newton by Tony Reinke. Several years back, I read Jonathan Aitken’s wonderful biography of Newton. Tony’s book (interview with the author this fall) focuses more on themes that emerge from the letters of Newton.
The section on politics has much food for thought. If you know about Newton’s life, you know he was not anti-political. His encouragement for his friend, William Wilberforce, to go into the political sphere, is one example. However, Newton did understand better than most that getting consumed with politics has many traps. Here are a few quotes from Newton:
“There is a peace passing understanding, of which the politicians cannot deprive us.”
At the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793 Newton wrote, “The whole compass of my politics lies in Psalm 76:10”:
Surely the wrath of God shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.
“A nation’s safety lies more in the prayers of its people than in the fleets of its navy.”
There are many things that certainly could be debated about what was said in Trump’s speech. One is not debatable, at least among Christians. Trump mentioned that God will protect us. Yes, we should pray for God’s protection, but we can’t simply invoke that God will protect us. Did God protect us on 9/11? If the answer is yes, then what does protection mean? If the answer is no, then how can we be confident God will protect us now?
Many Christians are in great need of a slower read through the book of Jeremiah. We are not Israel (or Judah) to be sure which actually makes the point above. If God did not protect the only nation He ever chose to be a light to the Gentiles, how can we believe God is indebted to protect us?!
In my own interactions I’ve found the hardened categories of liberal and conservative, or left and right, to be confusing and not helpful. Too many claim these labels without knowing what they mean.
I’ve never had difficulties interacting, even debating, with liberals in the best sense of that word, or conservatives in the best sense of that word. I have had much difficulty with illiberals who think they are liberals, and conspiratorial folks who claim conservatism. Neither are very knowledgeable of political philosophy or history.
Evangelical has become merely a name for many who gladly identify with the label. A related moniker, Bible-believing Christian, is also quite a farce as many identifying with that label are woefully ignorant of what the Bible says.
How about the word conservative or conservative Christian? Well, two tenured friends at separate Christian colleges told me they would have been fired for speaking out against Trump. Whether these individuals are correct in that assessment or not, that was their perception. And we so-called conservatives mock that the free exchange of ideas does not take place in the secular academy. Rom. 2:1!
A friend asked for my thoughts on things like the “lesser of two evils” argument which have been widely used along with a number of other arguments in favor of Trump. My brief response:
The common refrain that our forefathers fought for “the right to vote” misses an important point. People like Madison et al. believed character was non-negotiable to good governance. As one pol sci scholar told me in a recent interview, Madison and his ilk would tell me to vote according to my conscience which is not seamless with the need to have to vote.
Additionally, I don’t share how powerful the president is going to be. Both the left and right make this mistake. I think the next administration if I were to predict (and my historical sense tells me to steer clear of the prediction business!) will be quite ineffectual and hamstrung.
Last, I think a good argument can be made by Christians that Trump is much worse because he has confused many over the gospel. I’m not voting for Hillary but at least she does not confuse people over the gospel.
P.S. I did vote, but bypassed voting for any presidential candidates.
“No other country houses so many gorgeous frauds and imbeciles as the United States, and in consequence no other country is so amusing. Thus my patriotism is impeccable, though perhaps not orthodox. I love my country as a small boy loves the circus.”
H.L. Mencken as Quoted in Writers to Read: Nine Names that Belong on Your Shelf by Douglas Wilson