IS VOTING FOR TRUMP A “MORALLY GOOD CHOICE”? RESPONDING TO WAYNE GRUDEM

A personal word is in order. Wayne Grudem was the faculty adviser for both my wife and me during our time at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS). Wayne was also the first reader on my thesis and a great encouragement during my two years at TEDS.

My friend, Paul, sent me Wayne’s piece, “Why Voting for Donald Trump is a Morally Good Choice.” (http://townhall.com/columnists/waynegrudem/2016/07/28/why-voting-for-donald-trump-is-a-morally-good-choice-n2199564). Wayne’s article is rather long, but there are a few points that warrant a friendly challenge.

Among others, John Mark Reynolds and Matthew Boedy have weighed in on a variety of issues (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ and http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2016/07/30/the-rhetorical-maneuvers-of-wayne-grudem-a-guest-post-from-matthew-boedy/?ref_widget=trending&ref_blog=eidos&ref_post=a-good-man-justifies-a-wicked-deed-grudem-on-trump).

In my own post I want to address a few biblical matters that impinge directly on whether someone is in fact making a wise decision by voting for Trump.

I’m not sure that Wayne using “flaws” to describe Trump’s character is the best word to use. At the very least the connotations of “flaws” as a slight offense or peccadillo seems not strong enough to fit Trump’s overall character. Well-intentioned people can disagree on this one, so I am fine moving on to other matters.

Along with many others, Wayne writes, “He has raised remarkable children.” It is easy to see why so many say this sort of thing, but what are we in fact saying? Do we think Trump and Trump alone is responsible for how his children turned out? Furthermore, aren’t we assuming that what we observe about the Trump children in public (respect for their dad, well-spoken, hard-working, etc.) is the totality of their character? What do we really know about Donald Jr., Eric, Ivanka, Tiffany, and Barron? Precious little, I would argue. They might be people of substance and consistent character, but our quickness in being impressed is misplaced.

There is another problem that arises from drawing a straight line from how good a parent must be by the ways their children turned out. Think of King Josiah. He had a bad grandfather (Manasseh) and not much better father (Amon). Then Josiah, a righteous king of note, had some notorious sons, especially Jehoiakim and Zedekiah. And don’t forget the models of Eli and Samuel with their own sons.   The Scriptures should humble those of us whose children turn out and encourage those of us whose children may be wayward.

Moving on, Wayne left out the most egregious thing about Trump: his claim of not needing to ask God for forgiveness.   Fortunately, Wayne did not compare Trump to King David, as Jerry Falwell Jr. did. Unlike Trump, King David understood both the consequences of his sin (Ps. 32) and the need to seek God’s forgiveness (Ps. 51).

Elsewhere in his piece, Wayne makes a point by retrieving a verse from the book of Jeremiah:

Therefore I take seriously the prophet Jeremiah’s exhortation to the Jewish people living in exile in Babylon: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). By way of modern application, I   think Christians today have a similar obligation to vote in such a way that will “seek the welfare” of the United States. Therefore the one overriding question to ask is this: Which vote is most likely to bring the best results for the nation? (Emphasis his)

I am a bit leery with the analogy Wayne employs here. First, some context to Jer. 29:7 is in order. Jeremiah had been telling Judah to stop resisting the noxious idea of going into Babylon as exiles. It was not a popular message. The false prophets said Jeremiah was crazy and couldn’t be hearing rightly from God. The false prophets had a much different idea: Judah should cozy up to the Egyptians and have them provide protection against the evil Babylonians.

So who would be the modern equivalents to Babylon and Egypt? Most Christians I hear are saying Hillary is clearly the worst of the two candidates. If that were the case, wouldn’t Hillary represent Babylon/Nebuchadnezzar and Trump be Egypt? Not only do I think Wayne’s example a poor one, but it seems to undercut the very point he wishes to make.

Sticking with the book of Jeremiah a bit more, remember that God calls the wicked Nebuchadnezzar “my servant” on three different occasions (Jer. 25:9, 27:6, 43:10). God remains in control even with the likes of Nebuchadnezzar, something that strikes me as crucial to remember this election year!

Wayne writes “I am writing this article because I doubt that many ‘I can’t vote for Trump’ Christians have understood what an entirely different nation would result from Hillary Clinton as president.” (Emphasis mine) Using “would” here was incautious. Elsewhere, Wayne modifies his comments with “likely” or “most likely.” Wayne also mentions “…we can never know the future conduct of any human being with 100% certainty…” It’s unfortunate his piece is not consistent throughout in this regard. I don’t think “likely” or “most likely” are great, but they are certainly to be preferred over “would.”

Historian, Mark Noll, likes to say that Abraham Lincoln was the best theologian during the Civil War. It is a provocative observation, but rings true when you see so many of that time assuming God was on their side. Lincoln was different. He underscored the inscrutable nature of God’s providence.

 

38 thoughts on “IS VOTING FOR TRUMP A “MORALLY GOOD CHOICE”? RESPONDING TO WAYNE GRUDEM

  1. vb

    Well said David! Both candidates could use a good dose of humility, but then, presidential candidate and humility might be an oxymoron
    vb

    Reply
  2. Richard Golladay

    If we had to look for some threshold of “character” in any political candidate, which would merit our vote, we would do well to stay at home. Would you have voted for King David (adulterer/murderer), or King Solomon (serial fornicator and idolater, who made slaves of his own people)? Yet you, in effect, “vote” for them every time you comfort yourself or someone elses with their writings.
    Is your threshold shaped by the popular press? During WW-2 Nazi spies, caught in our homeland, were executed after short military trials. Yet an Islamic megalomania of world domination is infiltrating our country, beginning to kill our citizens, and indoctrinating our prison population. It is far more pervasive and dangerous than the “national socialism” of the 1940s, and yet some naive Christians watching cable news TV have their worldviews shaped to regard Mr. Trump as a racist or fascist because he wants to protect us.
    I’m getting sick of a “sanitized” and socially conceited Christianity which interjects itself into the political arena, and then reacts in Pavlovian concert with the popular secular and leftist press. Post-modern “Christianity” can’t even keep its own house in order. The best they can do for us all is to “shut up”, and go into an interior closet and pray.

    Reply
    1. Dave Post author

      Hey Richard,

      Thanks for posting. I don’t think we are going to agree.

      Among other things, Trump’s confidence in resolving all our complex issues is attractive in a climate where allegiance to a human hero is at a fever pitch. Hillary as heroine also exists.

      What Madison, et al. said about character being critical to our elected officials has been lost.

      I don’t think it is naive nor imprudent to want to see much better, not perfect, candidates.

      Reply
      1. Cindi Dennis

        But we don’t HAVE much better (let alone perfect, which doesn’t exist) candidates this election cycle.

        Reply
          1. Brady Dillon

            It is by granting the Left the authority to define “basic decency” that you surrender the moral high ground to them and set yourself up for defeat. A political campaign is successful insofar as it makes history, not as it is decent. You can’t expect to have approval your opponents. If you are effective, you will be shocking and offensive. Christians especially should understand that.

          2. Dave Post author

            Hi Brady,

            Thanks for posting. No authority is being granted to the Left. The transcendent issue which goes far beyond the typical Right v. Left is what kind of character do we set for our public officials? Again, not perfection, but we are long past the profile Madison and our other founding fathers spoke of. It is one thing to be shocking and offensive for the right reasons. There is a shocking and offensive which does not meet biblical standards (see I Pet. 4:15).

  3. Jeannie Love

    I KNOW this conversation is on the mind of many because at worship service yesterday the pastor included the call to be “on God’s side” v God being on our side (whichever side we hold). There are lots of points of discussion as Wayne pointed out; however, (and he spent many words on this) a major concern is the future ‘look’ of the Supreme Court with one appointment for certain. This we KNOW: God’s purpose WILL prevail (Eph 1:11 says “…who works all things after the counsel of His will.”) That being said, thankfully we have the right to vote so let’s DO it (vote) and continue to trust in God who works His plan though it may NOT look like it. We are allowed to see that God worked behind the scenes in the book of Esther, for example, so I trust that He works though it SEEMS as though He doesn’t/isn’t similar to your examples, Dave.

    Reply
    1. Dave Post author

      Hey Jeannie,

      Thanks for posting. I think we gain the most clarity on God’s providence as we look in the rear view mirror. Even then, we may misunderstand what looks like a positive. The children prayed to get something new added to their daily diet of manna and they did: quail. God granted their desire, but it was hardly His will. Israel wanting a king like the other peoples also highlights the same thing.

      Reply
  4. Brooke Butler

    Great piece Dave! I am appalled at the many Christian leaders who have endorsed Trump. He appears to me to embody much of a fleshly, worldly perspective; hunger for power, lack of regard for truth; lying or contradicting himself to gain his ends; lust; lack of commitment to his marriage vows; lack of compassion for the oppressed, handicapped and powerless; and pride that sees no need for forgivness or self-surrender and humility…

    Reply
    1. William Harnish

      Many people seem to be quick to bash Trump because of some of his comments without considering how evil Clinton is whose agenda is not concerned with America but only satisfying her own evil desires. Anyone would be hard pressed to find a more evil person than Hillary Clinton.

      Reply
      1. Dave Post author

        Hi William,

        Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to post your comment.

        My post sole focus is to expose the poor biblical rationale for supporting Trump. So I was laser focused on my former’s professor use of Scripture not making any comparison about Hillary whatsoever who I find a non option for many reasons.

        Reply
  5. Debbie M Dunn

    Dave, Having read both Grudem’s article and one of the response on Patheos, I was profoundly disappointed in both. I appreciate your returning to Scripture. Would that all of our discussions started (and ended) there.

    Thank you also for not directing us on how we “should” vote. In this strangest of all election years, we will each have to vote (or not vote) according to our conscience, and I’m perfectly fine knowing that I have honorable brothers and sisters in Christ who will come to different conclusions on this.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Dave Post author

      Thanks Debbie. We desperately need clarity on these issues and what better place than Scripture?!

      Reply
  6. Steve Sternberg

    Thanks for sending me this link. I’ve such disdain for the Clintons and a great deal more “confused incredulity” that the GOP electorate nominated a Donald Trump.

    To me Trump is not an option (survival of the fittest narcissist, strategic bankruptcy advocate, Trump U, Deceptive (illegal?) promises: TrumpU, Aberdeen’s Trump Int’s Golf Course, philanderer, no political philosophy or experience, disturbing NATO gaffe, loose, not connected to his brain/thought process,” tongue and, in the “Proverbial” sense, a fool, as in one who doesn’t seek much less follow advice) but the thought of Hillary as first lady, scares me silly–as I remember Arkansas State Troopers, Watergate, Whitewater, White House Travel Office, Monica, Presidential Secret Service, Libya, Benghazi, e-Mail and on and on and on.

    I’ve considered not voting (not a real option), voting for the Libertarian candidate (who wants to do that?) and been floating in never, never land. At least I’ve 100 days to decide and will take a look at one or two of the debates and make a lesser of two idiot evils choice.

    But I’m not looking forward to this.

    All this to say, thanks again.

    Reply
  7. Karen butler

    Thanks Dave! I can identify with many of the comments. But as of today I’m leaning toward Trump because of the Supreme Court. The judges and their rulings will remain long after the president is gone. I would prefer not voting at all and I know my children as well as most of the students of their generation that I work with at UC Berkeley will be gravely disappointed by my choice, but the morality and character is more important to me than that of one buffoon of a man.
    Again, it’s with great sadness that my generation has been partially responsible for allowing my children’s first time voting to be a choice between Hillary and Donald

    Reply
    1. Dave Post author

      Hey Karen,

      Thanks for stopping by. Your last line is sobering and full of truth!

      Too many Christians gladly jump into bed with the Republican Party and are willing to justify about anything/anyone to “win.”

      Reply
  8. mark d. cotnam

    I’ve long been wary of any candidate who draws their faith like a gun to shoot down the opposition and feel sorry for folks who have the need to raise up one candidate over the other for reasons of faith. This is a slippery slope that can upend the best argument when the candidate’s faith is put into action (or not.) My main concern with Mr. Trump is his lack of statesmanship. It will be a harsh awakening when he and the country find that running a business has nothing to do with the business of running a country. And Mrs. Clinton is just too much a political animal to ever be trustworthy. Defintiely a difficult choice come November.

    Reply
  9. Lisa Christopher

    This topic has weighed heavily on me lately. Our system is not only broken, but it allures some of the worst characters with all its dark money and positions of power. Trump in no way exemplifies Christian character with his inappropriate comments about his daughter, misogyny, racism, bullying and bigotry. He is the epitome of the “ugly American”. The Republican platform has lacked true Christian values for some time now. It shows serious neglect for those who are oppressed. Republican leaders do, however, pander to the wealthy as well as corporate America. The true Christian message, from the Christ I know and love is opposite of this.

    Democrats in no way get a pass here, but seem to at least support programs that aid “the least of these”.

    Putting morals aside, Clinton is at least experienced and far more intelligent than Trump. (A recent article quoted Trump as saying that he does not read. This article estimated Trump’s intelligence to be below that of Sarah Palin.) Clinton also conducts herself in a far more professional way than Trump.

    It troubles me that this is the best America has to offer, but why would any respectable individual want to run for office? It’s a dirty game all the way around.

    Reply
  10. Don Wilcox

    The thing I liked most about Grudems piece was that it included an evaluation of both Trump and Hillary. The vast majority of evangelical leader critiques (including yours) are only or mostly about Trump.

    The Reynolds piece was in my opinion pure propaganda. It would be a great piece to use as a teaching on the contrast between good persuasion and propaganda.

    Reply
    1. Dave Post author

      Hey Don,

      Thanks for posting. Mine is really focused on Wayne’s mishandling of biblical issues.

      Since he is touting Trump, I am simply responding. My overall posture is not to advocate for either candidate, but simply to underscore how poor much of the reasoning is on the evangelical side of the ledger since those are “my people.”

      I take my cue from my Dad’s moral courage and Peter Vardy who said “It takes courage to stand up to your enemies. It takes more courage to stand up to your friends.”

      Reply
  11. David McCoy

    In 1960, Gore Vidal (and I am no great fan of his) wrote a play entitled The Best Man, which was turned into a very good 1964 movie. It concerned a party convention in which the choice for nominee was between a competent leader who was completely amoral and a man of high moral principles who was not a very dynamic leader. The party goes with the first candidate as the “best” man. Our choice this time around seems to be a little clearer: between a proven, competent leader who tells lies no more than any other politician and a man of no moral principles whatsoever who would be a total disaster as mayor of a small town, let alone the leader of this great country. Just my opinion.

    Reply
  12. Liam Hughes

    My late father was an evangelist whose strongly held personal political ideals were informed by his religious beliefs, thought and piety. However, he never campaigned from the pulpit and vigorously opposed any and all partisan political involvement in the name of religion. “The Gospel is for all ,” he would assert and warn that such political involvement would improperly limit its acceptance. “You shall have no other Gods before me” is the ancient Commandment, but too often it seems that other gods— “conservatism” (whatever that is), gun rights(!), cultural biases, low taxes, free enterprise, or something or someone else— get elevated within the Christian camp. By blessing his candidacy the evangelical movement risks being associated with Mr. Trump’s idiosyncrasies to the detriment of the Gospel. Perhaps some venerable leaders can become high priests in the temple of his egotistical libertinism. However, there is no categorical imperative for such a person, with a sudden, questionable acceptance of a few litmus tests, to be elevated to the Presidency. “By their fruit you shall know them,” Jesus said. “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” There is no such thing as Machiavellian Christianity. The vague promise of a friendlier Supreme Court is not worth the corruption of a deal. For their own good and more importantly for the preservation of Christian idealism in our daily life, evangelicals should resist the Satanic temptations of politics just as Jesus did. Donald Trump is a wolf that would consume them.

    Reply
      1. Liam Hughes

        Dave, I have been wondering how serious evangelicals are responding to the Trump candidacy. I found your website referenced in another blog on the subject. I was attracted to your approach to the issue— frank, thoughtful, kind, and scriptural— and to your respect for commenters.

        Reply
        1. Dave Post author

          Thanks for your kind comments Liam. I’ve had some very good mentors who showed that robust debate need not get nasty.

          Reply
  13. Jon Gabel

    Great post Dave, very interesting read. I do appreciate the way you wrote the post as a response, rather then pushing towards one politician or the other, but I also think it’s important to voice the massive problems inherent in one candidate over the problems in the other ( and yes they both have problems). If we don’t point out what many Christians are so obviously ignoring just because many Christians are so use to jumping in bed with the Republican Party, then when others call out Christians for the problems of this country and society then we have no defense against them because we let our brothers and sisters slide by without comment. So that’s why I feel I need to speak out. As always this election seems like we are voting for the lesser of two evils, and the problems inherent in the two party system is not something I will get into now, but this election cycle I feel the gap between the two candidates is massive and clear. Yes Hilary Clinton is a liar, she muddles her words and positions in order to appeal to whatever demographic she is after, and yes she is a career politician and that brings along with it many negatives. But when you compare that type of liar to Trump I think the answer is clear. Trump is a narcissist who is the natural product of the bigotry that the Republican Party has been appealing to over the last 10-15 years while denying it at the same time. We need to look at the fruits of his words and actions. The violence and hatred in his followers is well documented and disgusting. We are called to love God and our neighbor, and our neighbors are not just fellow Americans but the entire world. We shouldn’t divide ourselves from the world neither by a physical wall or by nationalism. Trump has stated that if we have nuclear weapons why shouldn’t we use them. That statement alone should scare any Christian away from voting for the man. He plays off the fear of his followers and uses it to divide us. He clearly embodies pride, vanity, greed, and the list goes on. The man is a joke and as entertaining as he might be, it terrifies me they 40% of the country supports the man, and it makes my heart ache for the church that chrisitians make up a large portion of that number.

    Reply
  14. Jon Gabel

    I’d also like to say I don’t feel like the church as a body should be politically involved. We as individuals and solo Christians can share our voice and opinions, but I don’t feel endorsing on candidate or another is the churches job.

    Reply
  15. Pingback: TRUMP LIKES ME | Moore Engaging

  16. Pingback: Q Marks The Spot – Treasure Map 96 (August 2016) – Quaerentia

  17. Pingback: Wayne Grudem, Evangelicals, and the Trump Option | TGC

  18. Pingback: Wayne Grudem, Evangelicals, and the Trump Option | TGC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *