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
Dave, I am truly disappointed to read your reply, but after our conversation about key doctrinal issues that we chatted about, I can easily see why you are heading down a very dark and misguided path. As we draw closer to these end of time, we see many people fall away from God’s truth, just as the Bible describes. We are seeing false signs, religious deceptions, social and political upheavals, natural calamities, disloyalty, and persecution. Sadly, many churches and members will take a stand to endorse men wrapped in pure evil, not chosen by Yahweh. We must recognize that and be in prayer to hear God’s choices. And I’m VERY confident that it’s not Joe Biden and his democratic false kingdom!
God “fills everything in every way.” That means that God created everything, he is present at all places at all times, and he is the unrivaled master of the universe. Psalm 24:1: “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” Since we live our lives on this earth, Dave, then I know that his fullness should be all around us, and beneath us, under us, beside us, and in us. It’s not up to me to fill my life with God, but rather, I need to open my life, by faith, to his fullness, which comes through Christ. How this happens involves a lifetime of lessons and spiritual vision, training so we see both God’s bigger pictures and precise movements of clarity.
Many call themselves Christians today, but God does not have most of people hearts or minds. Look around you brother, in your friends and our churches. How many Christians do you see today bent with all their will to know God more and more — clearly? Or, instead, do you see many of them fighting sins with a grammar school knowledge of God and his word? I hope the holy spirit opens your eyes to times and signs because this will be a pivotal moment in our lives. I hope you pray hard as we all need to and should about the coming months and years ahead!
His Humble Servant
Since you brought up the doctrinal discussion we had, it is critical for the readers here to know the gist of our disagreement.
You no longer hold to the historic teaching on the trinity and deity of Christ. I mentioned to you that your “new understanding” is not new. It goes back to the early Christological debates with the Arians and semi-Arians.
I was disappointed to see that your sweeping comments don’t address any of the concerns in my piece.
Christians have always disagreed about end times. I’m fine with that, but that is not germane to my concerns.
In 1998 Wayne Grudem signed a “Declaration concerning religion, ethics, and the crisis in the Clinton presidency” (https://layman.org/news86fd/), which included the following statement:
We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. Elected leaders are accountable to the Constitution and to the people who elected them. By his own admission the President has departed from ethical standards by abusing his presidential office, by his ill use of women, and by his knowing manipulation of truth for indefensible ends. We are particularly troubled about the debasing of the language of public discourse with the aim of avoiding responsibility for one’s actions.
Seems like the standard only applies when it’s your political opponent.
Do you think there is a difference between a president who breaks the law (perjury) and one who hasn’t?
Not sure I understand why you ask this, but is it related to Clinton versus Trump? Or something else?
Yes. Clinton committed a crime. Trump hasn’t.
I think you would want to nuance your comment. Impossible to say ipso facto that Trump has not committed a crime. It is true that he has not been found guilty of committing a crime, but that is another matter.
Even if you are correct, I am missing how that is a compelling point to the larger issue of Trump’s suitability to serve as president. Mr. Madison and I continue to wait…
I agree with this author that we Christians need to give a whole lot more attention to our own culpability for how bad our culture is.
There is a difference between someone who did commit a crime and someone who may have committed a crime: evidence. You may be right, but your posture sounds “most likely guilty until proven innocent”.
I wish we could do this over coffee, or better, brisket, but this will have to do. Can you say more about your objection to Dr. Grudem? As one who voted for Mr. Trump as “the lesser of two evils” and plans to vote for him again, there are several things that I don’t understand about your objections.
First, the only way Mr. Trump can make the gospel confusing is if someone is looking to him to clarify the gospel or be a consistent example of the gospel. I don’t. Any Christian who does is very misinformed. There are many people who claim to be followers of Christ whose lifestyle contradicts that. In those cases a biblically informed Christian understands that person to be very immature in their faith, or professing to have something they don’t actually possess. Which is the case for Mr. Trump? I don’t know. But I do know that his behavior doesn’t make the gospel confusing; it makes Mr. Trump confusing.
Secondly, what do you mean by the “integrity of the church”? If Mr. Trump sought to pass legislation that was contrary to the moral teaching of the church, I’d agree with you. Can you tell me what legislation he’s promoted that clearly contradicts church moral or theological doctrine? From farm policy to immigration policy to trade policy I’m sure we can find a range of views from different Christians, but what is THE Christian view on each legislative topic? Does this exist? In my opinion one can better make your church integrity case against Christians who vote for Democrats who advocate abortion, gay marriage and transgender normalcy. To me, supporting any candidate who espoused those views would demonstrate a lack of integrity, or at least ignorance, from one who claims the bible as their standard of truth.
Thirdly, regarding your “lesser than two evils” comment, it is precisely the decision with which we are faced. With American’s continued decline this is exactly where we find ourselves as citizens. Dr. Grudem speaks eloquently on this point: there are only two packages – D or R. If you needed open heart surgery and your only choice was between a world re-known cardiologist who was gay, radical abortion rights advocate, or a strong Christian (at whatever standard you assess that) who was fresh out of med-school, which would you pick? We are not electing a pastor or spiritual director; we are voting for a president. As Christians we know politics will not save us, but which policies best represent a biblical perspective on morality and human flourishing? Again, Dr. Grudem speaks eloquently here.
Lastly, what do you mean by “the integrity of the gospel”? I’m really confused here. First, the gospel can’t loose it’s integrity. Christians can, but the gospel cannot. When Gordon McDonald fell did the gospel loose integrity? What about Bill Hybel’s disgraceful behavior? How about….fill in the blank. You know the gospel does not derive its validity from Christian behavior, so what do you mean here? Secondly, who gets to determine whether the gospel (or church) has lost it’s integrity? Progressives? The news media? In today’s vitriolic and binary atmosphere if you believe marriage is for a man and a woman you are a hater of gays and lesbians. Non-believers cannot be the judge of the gospel’s integrity. If someone stood before God and said they didn’t believe in the gospel because they knew a Christian who voted for Trump, would God say, “I see your point. That Christian’s vote does make the gospel invalid.” If a Christian parent has a biblically defiant gay son does that mean the gospel they preached in their home lacked integrity? If they continue to demonstrate love to their married son and his spouse will that also make the gospel loose integrity?
Again, I wish we could go back and forth on this in person over a beverage. Give the darkening of the cultural landscape we need more Christians like you who are challenging us to think. I love how you grapple with things that matter. Because you do, I do to. Thank you for that.
Love you, brother!
Thanks for spending the time to articulate those concerns.
My point about the gospel and the integrity of the church revolves around the many, Christian leaders who support anything Trump says/does for what looks self-evident as an infatuation with access to power. The point is not original with me, but I do share it. When you have the Paula Whites of the world receiving book endorsements from the Robert Jeffress of the world, you have a confusion of the gospel. In a recent world, Jeffress would have openly criticized the bankrupt and heterodox theology of White, but no longer.
My comment about the gospel is NOT its intrinsic power. That, as you said, can’t be muzzled. It’s plausibility can (HT: the work of Peter Berger) and is why black evangelicals are leaving the SBC and other organizations that gladly embrace Trump no matter what.
I am leery of the typical declinist narrative that is used by many conservatives. The study of history cautions us against two things: we can’t know the future, and things will get worse. I am not naive. I’ve been the recipient of illiberalism and know firsthand how radical the left can be. That said, Christians need to do a better job juggling more biblical truths like what I mentioned about Nebuchadnezzar.
I received dozens of emails on this post. Several are evangelical leaders and scholars. I won’t give names, but you may be surprised to know that some well-known conservative Christians are voting for Biden…out of moral duty. Yes, they are pro-life and the rest. All share my concerns and very much agree that being in bed with Trump has been terrible for the church. The minority of those who disagreed with me (and I am truly grateful for the irenic pushback like yours) never address anything I wrote about the counsel of the founding fathers on character or my comment on Nebuchadnezzar.
Grateful for you as well!
Thanks for the thoughtful response.
I must admit, I was unfamiliar with the White-Jeffress comment. Yes, it does seem contradictory that Mr. Jeffress would endorse Ms. White given their theological differences. I would argue, again, that maybe it is confusion about Mr. Jeffress’ actions, not the gospel. Maybe they found common ground around a president who is against abortion? Would we be as critical of two diametrically opposed Christian leaders in the 1840’s agreeing about the evils of slavery? Your comment here is confusing to me. You applaud the unity of Cornell West and Robert George, but you disdain White and Jeffress. Why? I’d suggest they are only different in degree, not kind. It seems to me that the White-Jeffress and West-George examples express exactly what the gospel is, not what it is not: an opportunity as believers to demonstrate the love of one’s enemy, not to cast stones.
As to plausibility, again, I want to know who gets to decide what opinions, beliefs and actions make the gospel plausible? Jesus said men would hate us for what we say about Him. He was glad the Father revealed the truth to simple men. Paul said what we teach is foolishness to the world. As other posters here have intimated, Americans and the world don’t like Christianity because some Christians voted for Trump. Is an unbeliever’s approval the litmus test for the effectiveness of the gospel? We are all susceptible to find our significance by an esteemed person’s acceptance. I know I am. We need to fight this temptation. It seems to me that some intelligent Christians seek the nod of non-believing progressives, yet cringe around believing Trump supporters.
I am also saddened by your comment of well-known evangelical leaders and scholars who think it their moral duty to vote for Biden. Their moral duty. Really? It is beyond me how someone can support those who will legislate abortion, educational injustice, and unbiblical definitions of marriage, sex and human flourishing, then declare a conservative understanding of biblical truth. I wish they would come forward to explain their views. That is very puzzling to me.
Lastly, I think it would be more accurate and gracious to not paint all Christians who voted for Trump in such absolutist terms: “gladly embrace Trump no matter what” or “being in bed with Trump.” Surely this doesn’t describe all Christians. It’s not true of all my Christian friends who voted for Trump. They don’t believe anyone is all good or all bad. Such sweeping generalizations are inaccurate and only weaken one’s argument and attempt to be fair-minded. It’s an oversimplification and further divides the church against itself, which is exactly what Jesus prayed against.
Keep pushing me!
West and George are very different. They openly debate their differences. That is hardly happening with White and Jeffress.
Voting for Biden does not mean one is diminishing their pro-life concerns. Pro-life advocates have their own disagreements over how best to deal with abortion.
Those who gladly embrace Trump no matter what are the folks John Fea labels “court evangelicals”: Falwell, Jr, Jeffress, Graham, Perkins, et al. And yes, I will continue to underscore that they have done untold damage to the integrity of the American church.
I don’t share the rationale of Christians who believe it is their moral duty to vote for Biden, but I sure understand it. If one believes Trump will continue to make a farce of the Christian faith by getting a large coterie of big-name evangelicals to be his apologists and do his bidding no matter what he says, then one could argue that is worse.
I am truly thankful for your faithfulness and courage in writing this.
As someone who has experience with many narcissists and the havoc they leave in their wake, I am shocked by the way American evangelicals have embraced Donald Trump. I believe that this is a betrayal of our calling to speak truth to power and to be salt and light in our culture. It has done profound damage to the world’s perception of followers of Jesus and dulled whatever hearing they are willing to grant the prophetic message of Christ. American culture is becoming increasingly fearful, angry, siloed, and self-centered and desperately needs the church to speak clearly and act persuasively in selfless loving ways not in crass self-interest.
On a deeper psychological level we are seeing on a broad cultural scale what happens around narcissists when they head families, companies and churches. The narcissist requires complete agreement to be in the inner circle but the corresponding wholehearted embrace (and vehement rejection) of a blatant narcissist aggravates and validates humanity’s innate narcissistic tendencies resulting in an environment dominated by fear and “why bother doing right”. The corrupting effects on our church culture and broader culture remind me of South Africa in the early 1990’s as they were transitioning from apartheid. Perhaps we need a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” as we emerge and try to heal from the Trump era.
Keep speaking truth.
Dave, You’ve offered a gracious response to Wayne Grudem. The following things come to mind:
(1) “The choice is between two whole packages” is a false dichotomy. The US government is not a monarchy, but comprised of 3 co-equal branches of government: a vote for a President of one party does not force a person to vote only for others of the same party. I never vote a straight ticket. The President and Congress jointly implement policies, and the Supreme Court can challenge either of the other branches. The checks and balances of our government are crucial to the preservation of our representative democracy. No, policy is not a unilateral prerogative of one man.
(2) “What would Trump have to do to make you stop supporting him?” Grudem lists policies that he claims are un-Biblical, yet, other than abortion, they are little more than subjective partisan labels for which Scripture offers no clear guidance. Higher taxes than what? Solomon, the wisest ruler in history, exacted heavy taxes. [Trump’s tax cuts disproportionately benefited the rich vs. the poor and ballooned our national debt.] Weaker military than what? God told Gideon to send all but 300 men home before a great battle with Israel’s enemy. Hostility toward Israel? Is Israel always right? Etc.
(3) “There is a minimal standard of behavior which, if a candidate falls below it, would disqualify a candidate from governmental office.” Grudem says this is a judgment call each person must make. I agree; however, Jesus had some important things to say about that standard. In John 8:44, Jesus said: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He . . . does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” If there is anything clear about Trump, it is that he is a bald-faced liar who has no scruples about the truth. Would you vote for a son of the devil as long as he championed policies you liked? Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (None of the policies Grudem listed thwart the Gospel; even abortion, rampant in Rome, did not stop the Gospel.)
Moreover, in Matt. 7:20, 23 Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruits” and “‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” Over the course of his Presidency, Trump has shown an increasing disdain for the law of the land: he is not only a son of the devil according to Jesus, but also one who practices lawlessness. His selfish manipulation and abuse of his Presidential powers have become more egregious since the Senate acquitted him in a sham Impeachment trial which refused to call any direct fact witnesses. Taking money allocated by Congress to the military and using it for his personal project (border wall); firing one after another inspectors generals; giving special treatment to his friends serving criminal sentences while sending “the rat” Cohen back to prison from house arrest, having the post office remove sorting machines and public mail boxes prior to the upcoming election [historically, more Democrats vote by mail than Republicans], etc., etc., etc.
Trump is dangerous precisely because he is a lawless liar, and he has suckered so many people into blindly supporting him: the checks and balances of our system have been greatly weakened. In my opinion many evangelicals who support Trump have focused too narrowly on abortion (something the President alone has little power over) and conservative judges (whose actions might just kick abortion back to the states – not eliminate it). Too many evangelicals have accepted his transactional offer and shut their eyes, ears, and minds to his lying lawlessness: “vote for me and I will appoint judges you like, I will lower your taxes, I will protect you from the immigrant hordes, I will “make America great again.” None of his supporters bat an eye when he claims: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” and “I have this Article II and it says I can do whatever I want.”
America can and should do better!
Well, this is certainly a timely and huge “can of worms” that continues to vex Christians on both sides of the aisle. [Yes, there are Christian Democrats.] One of my good friends has been so troubled by the blind endorsement of President Trump by evangelicals that he helped co-write a book, “The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump” where multiple pastors, professors and thinkers, all followers of Christ, look at the “devil’s bargain” evangelicals have made with our current president where they seemingly offer unconditional support in exchange for political power and influence. For myself, I can only judge by what I see and hear and there is very little “fruit of the Spirit” and President Trump’s words or actions. He seems to care very little for the truth, has little empathy or compassion, nor mercy or kindness. I can’t look into his heart, that is God’s business but he comes across as a true “lover of self” and I am left to wonder how much room there is in his heart for the love of Christ.
Thanks for stopping by Mark! I appreciate you taking the time to post a comment.
Thanks for not letting these things go unsaid, Dave. As far as damage to the Church, could a case be made that Trump’s evangelical devotees have exposed the Church as already quite compromised, for those who have eyes to see — one issue being racial injustice/discrimination, and one supporting piece of scholarship being Mississippi Praying by Carolyn Dupont. Would be interesting to explore an alternative history had the U.S. Church recognized our time of visitation — or perhaps there’s still time to do so. Earlier in Luke 19 Zacchaeus recognized and welcomed his moment, repenting from abuse of power and making restitution. What would it look like for the Church to recognize our abuse of privilege — to confess, lament, repent …
Thanks Susie. Yes, repentance and lament are sorely needed!
With so many expressions of the Christian faith (different denominations, traditions, theological views) I wonder what a more unified church in our country would look like on race, and other matters that cause such division. Our history has always seen some wonderful organic movements bubbling up, and I do believe, as I know you do, that they can also come through established institutions.
Also would like to thank you, Dave, for the opportunity for discussion you’ve provided on this topic, buttressed by your mention of Robert George. I had just read George’s article in First Things ( https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2020/07/free-speech-prevails-at-princeton) the same day I read your post. Both you and George reference Cornel West, which caught my attention because a friend just took West’s class on Eastern/Western philosophy at HDS — a highly enriching experience for her, all the more b/c it was co-taught by Robert Unger, who does not share the same philosophy as West. Their respectful exchanges in the classroom, witnessed by the students, upped the caliber of instruction happening. Wondering if you’ve read John Inazu’s Confident Plurality, also encouraging constructive discourse among the U.S. populace. Thanks for this little oasis of civility, attempts to listen and understand one another, and according mutual respect for varying opinions.
That kind of class is a great, but sadly all too rare model of true education.
Inazu’s book has been on my way too long (and ever growing) list of reading material. I have listened to him lecture on the topic. His overall thesis is very good. I appreciate the idea that even when we disagree on how the good can be achieved there is room for agreement that there is a good.
One footnote I might put on that now deals with the fracturing of the American story. The idea of what it means to be an American, the absolute irreducible minimum of what we all share, is eroding. This is not a hopeless situation, but it is perhaps the biggest challenge with the exception of ante-bellum debates about what holds us together.
I’m intrigued by Yuval Levin’s thoughts in The Fractured Republic, that the mediating structures of society (families, communities, CHURCHES, etc.) strike the right chord for this moment in our nation’s history, when a “one size fits all” government isn’t working for us like it used to, and the drift toward individualism spells disaster. Yuval’s proposal of a myriad of subcultures across the U.S. , each unique to local constituents— is it a sustainable paradigm? It’s not hard to visualize all manner of accompanying problems, were we to move in this direction; yet it does strike me as a more biblical model, as God delights in variety, and rejects the totalitarian tendencies of a pre-Babel people.
Levin, like many conservatives, is very much influenced by the work of Tocqueville about mediating structures.
Since Tocqueville is quoted approvingly by both the left and right, perhaps his great book, Democracy in America, is a way forward.
We’ve never met, but Susie Richardson directed me to this blog post and then asked me to post my response here. I want to start by saying that In reading through the comments I appreciate your thoughtful responses to folks. I do think it’s important for conservative voices to speak out against Trump (as there is little chance his supporters will listen to anyone else). I was however a little disappointed by elements of your post.
One of the weakest points of Grudem’s argument is the idea that one can completely separate a President’s policies from their character. Just look at how Trump has run the executive branch – anyone who offers any opinion that bothers him is eliminated. He makes HUGE decisions on matters of diplomacy and national security and yet refuses to read or even closely listen to briefings on these issues. All the while he has zero experience on any of these matters which means (even if he is much smarter than he often seems) he cannot have more than a rudimentary understanding of very complicated realities, which means he ought to be heavily leaning on the guidance and opinions of others. But he can only seem to view all things through the lens of his own ego. He endorses wild conspiracy theories and refuses to condemn, while even seeming to welcome, white nationalists into his fold. Multiple of his closest associates have been indicted of crimes, and several convicted. And one can make the serious argument that the only reason Trump wasn’t “convicted” of perjury by the House was that he did not take the stand (and I put “convicted” in quotes because an impeachment hearing is not a criminal proceeding. Clinton was not technically convicted of a crime, as that was not a criminal trial). And, possibly worst of all for democracy, he regularly falsely calls into question the validity of the electoral process, undermining a fundamental necessity for American democracy, the peaceful exchange of power. Can we genuinely say this kind of character can bear good fruit? Can we truly believe that a person who speaks lies at least as often as truth (and the BIble could not be more clear on source of lies) will have any interest in defending Christ’s church beyond the point it is convenient for him or serves his purposes? Why did Bill Clinton’s honesty problem matter, but Trump’s is OK simply because he wasn’t found definitively guilty (at least in part because he would not allow people under his employ to testify)? Can we say that someone who regularly seeks to actively undermine democratic institutions simply to suit his whims is making America great again? You barely acknowledge and even seem to concede that Trump’s policies have been good. But is that actually true? Does he really have much to show in the way of good policy? To counteract all of this bad?
It seems to me the main thing that evangelicals come back to is abortion and the judiciary. Besides just taking issue with the idea that somehow abortion is the de facto issue that takes preeminance over everything else to which scripture speaks (as you mention, there are many opinions about the best way to deal with abortion), the idea that the judiciary exists simply to validate the political will of a particular subset voters seems to run fairly counter to the intent of the founders. There is a reason that many in the judiciary were to be appointees NOT elected and it was because they are supposed to rule on the existing law as separated from partisan politics as possible.
I also get frustrated by white evangelicals who immediately dismiss voting Democrat – as though even voting for Trump is better than voting for Biden (a VERY moderate Democrat). The tone of “there is absolutely no way I will ever vote Democrat” doesn’t help all that much, in my opinion. I appreciate that your willingness to denounce Trump, but you are still pretty wedded to conservatism. There is nothing wrong with being a conservative, per se, but when it’s a forgone conclusion because one is white and Christian that troubles me. The posture of if I vote, it’s only going to ever be for one party, seems like choosing the wrong type of loyalty for the wrong reasons. Christians are to have one, and only one, unassailable allegiance and that is not to a country or a political party, but to Christ. In white evangelicals, it causes people to feel as though one has to be conservative to be Christian and creates false barriers to the gospel. While at the same time exposes us as significant hypocrites when as a group we whole-heartedly support someone who is, in almost every way, living a life that is completely counter to any biblical teaching. And could scarcely be further from any sort of positive biblical model of leadership. From a pragmatic perspective, if our votes were a little more up for grabs, we’d have more influence in both parties.
That said, I do really want to see many more conservatives demanding a higher standard of ethics from their candidates and conservative voices in the public sphere. If Republicans held their own folks to even half the moral standards they expect from Democrats, the party would be in much better shape. Every single political leader we have will have sin issues – they are all human beings. But Trump’s complete lack of experience coupled with his overwhelming character flaws which make it impossible for him to overcome the disadvantage of that lack of experience, sets him apart from virtually anyone who came before him, and have created a disastrous combo. And I’m incredulous that so few conservatives are not saying that they can do better than this. It’s either going to have disastrous effects for the party or for the country, assuming it hasn’t already.
Character certainly does seem to have gone the way of the Dodo bird. I received dozens of emails on this post in addition to the comments here. None, and I mean none, of those who were critical of my piece (fortunately a minority) never addressed my comment about Madison/founding fathers and character. That, in itself, was revealing.
Yes, I am a conservative, but not in the way some conceive of it today. I am a conservative in more the spirit of Edmund Burke or the recently deceased, Roger Scruton. There are many things worth conserving. They need to be guarded, but also looked honestly and regularly for how they can be better.
I am a conservative that also thinks caring for the poor, the disenfranchised, pro-life in all stages of one’s existence, and the environment are not only “conservative” priorities, but biblical ones.
Are you perchance Susie’s friend who works in Concord? If so, Susie probably mentioned that I am working on a book about Emerson where he writes letters to Jonathan Edwards.
Thanks for stopping by!
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I appreciate your reply to Wayne Grudem. Especially the part of the church losing integrity. I find a growing disdain by non-Christians toward Christians because of the perceived hypocrisy of people dedicated to truth and love, supporting a man of lies and hate.
Trump has accomplished some of Mr. Grudem’s goals, but Trump has also done damage in his policies. His failed trade war with China has caused many farmers to lose their farms. His whimsical tariffs cost jobs and make products more expensive. Putting a 25% tariff on imported steel, just made all the cars we export more expensive, and less competitive.
The other issue Mr. Grudem overlooks is merely the destruction of our Republic. Trump is amassing power in the presidency that may well be fatal to our democracy. As Mike Duncan shows in his excellent book, The Storm Before the Storm, the Roman Republic was lost in the generation before Caesar, when people like the Gracchi brothers, Sulla, and Marius abandoned the rule of law and “mos maiorum”, the way of the elders. They started violating the rules to accomplish good goals, but this constant disregard for the law, opened the way for a man like Caesar to finally shred the Roman system of checks and balances. The Roman Republic lasted for five centuries, and was overthrown in two generations by men willing to circumvent the law for their own political gain. America is on this precipice.
1. Trump has usurped the power of Congress’s exclusive hold on the purse by declaring an “emergency” on the border and taken money from where congress has authorized it to go, to where he wishes. What prevents a future president from moving money to whatever she wants, completely bypassing our elected officials in Congress? That’s when a Republic dies and tyranny is born.
2. Trump has gutted the legal system by firing officials who get too close to exposing the corruption of his administration. FBI director James Comey was fired for investigating National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. When a president can simply fire any investigator who dares pursue corruption of a friend of the president, justice is no more. When a president pardons a man like Roger Stone who committed felonies for Trump, it’s a disgrace. That’s when a Republic dies and tyranny is born.
3. He has weakened Congress’s ability to do their constitutional duty to protect against corruption in the administration by refusing to let his officials testify to Congress. To protect our Republic Congress should be able to interview any public servant. What if a future presidents does even more egregious acts of corruption and refuses to let Congress interview any public servant? That’s when a Republic dies and tyranny is born.
We may agree with some of Trump’s policies, but make no mistake about it, Trump is a clear and present danger to our democracy.
Thanks for the well articulated post Mitch! Much food for thought in your good comments.
The integrity of our country is being tested as never before. Whatever reasons Christians have for voting for Trump – now days from the election – here is some food for thought:
Christians who plan to vote for Trump often say they will do so because of his commitment to put conservative pro-life judges on the Supreme Court. However, now that he has delivered three such SC Justices, it appears that the outlook for Roe v Wade does not depend on who is elected President in 2020. In fact, only Congress – not the President – can write laws that would dramatically impact abortion in our country. Hence, pro-life Christians should focus more attention on Congress.
Also, Trump’s handling of the pandemic has exposed the false narrative that he is truly pro-life. To be pro-life entails protecting all human life from womb to tomb. Instead, Trump has shown a baffling attitude against protecting human life by constantly berating people for wearing masks in public during a pandemic which continues to kill 1000s of citizens every week, even as a third surge is underway.
In addition, it is a false dilemma to say that it would violate one’s conscience not to vote for Trump. If you feel that you cannot vote for Biden, you could skip voting for President or vote for a third-party candidate. In the 1972 Presidential election, I left the top of my ballot blank because I believed McGovern was not competent and Nixon was a crook. The subsequent Watergate scandal vindicated my decision not to vote for Nixon. In 2020, regardless of what anyone thinks about Biden, I believe there is substantial evidence that Trump is unfit for office, and to vote for him would therefore be irresponsible and would violate my conscience.
Below are seven red flags that I believe would concern Jesus, based on Scripture and his teaching about leaders: “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:20).
(1) Would Jesus endorse an unabashed liar? What President has ever lied more than Trump? His current lies about mail-in ballots, Obama and Biden are beyond the pale. And no matter how many times Trump says the pandemic is almost gone, it continues to impact many lives as well as the economy. Jesus would say: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father . . . Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) Would you vote for a son of the devil in exchange for his promises of X, Y, or Z?
(2) Would Jesus endorse a leader who has repeatedly spurned the wise counsel of people with integrity like John Kelly (chief of staff), and top scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci, in favor of cronies like Lewis DeJoy (postmaster) and Dr. Scott Atlas (COVID-19 advisor)? Prov. 13:20 says: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.” E.g., Trump and his close advisor, Chris Christie, had to be hospitalized as a result of foolish behavior and poor-quality tests. Since when is it wise to give up trying to contain this virus while 1000s more remain at risk of hospitalization or dying until a vaccine is widely available months later? Moreover, how irresponsible is it to promote myths about herd immunity, Hydroxychloroquine and various COVID-19 home remedies?
(3) What did Jesus say about leaders who lack integrity yet boast about their accomplishments? “Depart from Me you who practice lawlessness” (cf. Matt. 7:15-23). Trump’s egregious intervention on behalf of his convicted cronies Manafort, Flynn, and Stone, and his relentless attacks on his political foes (Clinton, Obama, Biden, et al.) are examples of lawless behavior. Most recently, based on shady evidence, Trump demanded that the DOJ immediately investigate Biden: “We have got to get the Attorney General to act . . . [This] has to be known about before the election.” That looks like a replay of “lock her up” in 2016, which led to a 3-year investigation that finally exonerated Hillary Clinton. Should Christians endorse a leader who does evil in order that some other good may come? No! As the Apostle Paul says: “Their condemnation is just” (see Rom. 3:8).
(4) Would Jesus endorse the most vocal braggart ever to occupy the White House? How many times has Trump claimed to have done “more than anyone else” for X, Y, Z? “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6; see also Luke 22:24-26 about who is the greatest.) Moreover, what did Jesus say to those who claimed they had done great things – even performing miracles in His name? “I never knew you, depart from Me you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:22-23).
(5) Would Jesus endorse a leader who is driven by greed (Col. 3:5 says that greed amounts to idolatry)? At a rally in January 2016, Trump said: “My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy, . . . I’ve grabbed all the money I could get.” As President, he proposed hosting the G7 summit at his Doral resort. His financial holdings around the world while President are further evidence of his huge appetite for wealth. Moreover, Trump’s famous tax cuts fed the greed of corporations and the wealthy, at the same time that he weakened worker safety and environmental protections by removing scores of regulations. E.g., OSHA (like the CDC) has been largely sidelined; e.g., no longer enforcing safety, but merely “suggesting” practices to keep meatpacking plants safe during the pandemic. One of the most insidious idols of capitalism is greed, a sin which many Americans have sadly embraced (e.g., the economy and the stock market over everything else). What sin is worse than idolatry?
(6) Would Jesus endorse a leader who calls evil good, and good evil (see Isaiah 5:20)? Trump’s policies forced 1000s of children to be taken from their parents and to be locked up at the border (hundreds are still separated). Trump also forced the longest government shut down to try to fund the border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for, in order to avert an “invasion of murderers and rapists” – which never happened. And what kind of President insists that using mail-in ballots during a pandemic amounts to massive fraud? Trump demanded an investigation of “3 million illegal ballots” in response to Clinton’s margin in the 2016 popular vote (no fraud found), and now he is desperately trying to claim ballot fraud before the 2020 election. What do such things say about him as a leader of the free world?
(7) Would Jesus endorse a leader who does not fear God? Trump told a TV interviewer in 2015 that he couldn’t remember a time he had ever asked God for forgiveness. Instead, Trump lives by Norman Vincent Peale’s “power of positive thinking,” which emphasizes faith in oneself, not in God.
How should we pray re: this election? “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 1:1-2). Under Trump, life in the US has not been tranquil, quiet, godly, or dignified. Moreover, if you value the ideals of the Constitution: “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, and insure domestic Tranquility,” you should not vote for Trump.
Finally, don’t lose sight of this: “In God we trust.”