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A Respectful Response to My Friend John Piper about Voting for Trump
John Piper has been a friend – a good and faithful friend – for more than 40 years. I thank God for his remarkable worldwide ministry, his evident deep love for God, his faithfulness to every word of Scripture, and the way his life of self-sacrifice continues to provide a challenge to me personally. When we have opportunities to be together, I enjoy every minute of conversation with him. I pray for him regularly, as I believe he does for me. I agree with probably 98% of everything he has written and said during his entire ministry.
But he and I have reached different conclusions about this year’s presidential election. His October 22 article, “Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin,” explained why he thought it would be wrong for him to support either candidate in this election. (He does not mention either candidate by name, but the article is about this election and he compares one candidate who supports policies that endorse “baby-killing,” “sex-switching,” and “socialistic overreach” (evidently Joe Biden) to the other candidate who is guilty of sins of “unrepentant sexual immorality” and “unrepentant boastfulness” (evidently Donald Trump).
I am writing to explain why I have reached a different decision, and why I voted a few days ago for Donald Trump.
I would summarize Dr. Piper’s argument as follows:
1. The personal sins of a leader can be as harmful to persons and to nations as morally evil laws.
2. Christians communicate a falsehood when we act as if policies and laws are more precious than being a certain kind of person.
3. The horrible sin of pride leads people to other sins, including defending abortion, and therefore voting for a clearly boastful candidate might also be indirectly supporting abortion.
4. Voting for either candidate would compromise a person’s Christian witness
As is characteristic of Piper’s personal humility, he allows that “you need not be sinning if you weigh matters differently,” and adds, “my way need not be yours.” In what follows, I want to give reasons why I do “weigh matters differently” in all four of those points with respect to this election.
1. The claim that the personal sins of a leader can be as harmful to persons and to nations as morally evil laws.
Piper writes, “I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality … unrepentant boastfulness … unrepentant vulgarity … unrepentant factiousness, and the like to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.”
He continues, “These are sins mentioned in the New Testament …. they are sins that destroy people …. They are deadly forever. They lead to eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9).”
He adds, “It is not a small thing to treat lightly a pattern of public behaviors that lead to death.”
Furthermore, he says that such sins are “nation-corrupting. They move out from centers of influence to infect whole cultures. The last five years bear witness to this infection at almost every level of society …. There is a character connection between rulers and subjects. When the Bible describes a king by saying ‘he sinned and made Israel to sin’ (1 Kings 14:16) … It means his influence shaped the people.”
a. There is a difference between the personal influence of a leader’s example, which may be rejected, and laws that compel obedience.
Piper’s argument fails to recognize that people can decide not to imitate the sins of a leader, but they cannot do that with laws. Laws require obedience. But millions of people have seen and decided not to imitate Trump’s character flaws. The most frequent comment I hear from Trump supporters is something like, “I don’t like his insulting tweets or his personality, but I’m supporting him anyway because he has brought about good laws and policies.”
Americans are perfectly free to say, “Trump’s boastfulness offends me and I don’t want to act that way myself.” But if laws are passed (and upheld by the courts) that enforce the LGBT agenda, no creative professional like a cake decorator (or photographer or florist) will be free to say, “I believe same-sex marriage is morally wrong, and I won’t use my artistic talent to decorate a cake celebrating same-sex marriage.” No high school girl will be free to say, “ I won’t undress and change clothes for my gym class because there are boys in the locker room who claim to be girls.” No Christian adoption agency will be free to say, “We will not place children with same-sex couples.”
And if Democrats gain control of our government and the Supreme Court, and enact their desired policies, no Christian taxpayer will be free to say, “I refuse to pay that portion of my taxes that the government is using to pay for abortions.” No business owner will be free to say, “I will not buy medical insurance for my employees that pays for abortions and sex-change surgeries.” There will be only two choices: violate your conscience or else be driven to bankruptcy or go to jail.
Finally, I have not seen any increase in boastfulness or sexual immorality in the United States as a result of people imitating Donald Trump’s behavior. I know of no one who has become more boastful because of President Trump being boastful. Nor have I heard of anyone who excused his own unfaithful conduct in marriage because Donald Trump was unfaithful several years ago. Instead, such actions have been universally condemned by leaders in both political parties and they have hurt, not helped, Donald Trump’s reputation. They have not been held up as models to imitate. They have been used as examples to avoid.
As for the Bible verse that says King Jeroboam “made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 14:16), the previous chapters do not say that this involved imitation of Jeroboam’s moral character, but instead the text specifies that Jeroboam’s sin was in making idols and constructing alternative worship centers and then ordaining priests who were not Levites, all of which contradicted God’s commands. Jeroboam “made two calves of gold” and then he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel….And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites” (1 Kings 12:28-31; cf. 14:9).
b. Political policies are not, in general, more important than personal character, but they are the primary factor to consider in a political election.
A candidate’s character and policies are both important to consider before voting. And I would agree that there are some character flaws so serious that they would by themselves disqualify a candidate (such as an avowed racist). But in most elections, and with most candidates, we have to choose between two rather ordinary human beings, both of whom have flaws. In that case, an evaluation of their policies becomes decisive. And that is the case in this election.
c. Christians who support Trump do not encourage imitation of his flaws but openly criticize them.
Piper writes as if supporting Donald Trump means encouraging people to imitate his flaws. But I know of no Christian leader who has toned down his or her criticism of unfaithfulness in marriage or criticism of pride since present Trump took office. And certainly no leader has said anything like “Because Donald Trump is president, Americans should feel free to be unfaithful in their marriages and become more boastful and prouder.” No, the Christian leaders who support Trump have explicitly rejected and criticized things such as his previous sexual immorality and his boastfulness.
d. I have a more positive evaluation of Trump’s character than John Piper does.
Here is the point at which people will make different political judgments, because human beings are extremely complex, and therefore an accurate assessment of a person’s character is difficult. It certainly should not be done quickly on the basis of small snippets of information. And complicating the task is the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:20), so every human being has flaws that others can criticize.
Piper speaks of Trump’s character in entirely negative terms. Because of unbelievably hostile reporting in the mainstream press, other people can see no good character traits at all in President Trump. My assessment is different, and I think it is more balanced. I wrote this in 2016 and it still applies:
He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas … that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him …. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages. These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.
On the other hand, I think some of the accusations hurled against him are unjustified. His many years of business conduct show that he is not racist or anti-(legal) immigrant or anti-Semitic or misogynistic – I think these are unjust magnifications by a hostile press exaggerating some careless statements he has made. I think he is deeply patriotic and sincerely wants the best for the country. He has been an unusually successful problem solver in business. He has raised remarkable children. Many who have known him personally speak highly of his kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity.
And now, after his nearly four years in office, I would add that he has shown remarkable courage of his convictions, faithfulness to his campaign promises, steadfastness of purpose in spite of an astoundingly hostile press, incredible energy in the performance of his job, dignity and even eloquence in many formal speeches and ceremonies at home and abroad, respect and appreciation for his wife Melania and his sons and daughters, and a wide-ranging understanding of the hundreds of different issues that every president faces. In contrast to his past life, during his term in office there is not been even a hint of any sexual impropriety. He is sometimes boastful but on a number of occasions I have seen him publicly give credit to many other people for things that have been accomplished. And I think he has shown mature and wise judgment in a variety of situations that he has faced as president.
e. With Trump, we will get good policies and character flaws, but with Biden we will get bad policies and character flaws.
It is easy to compare President Trump with a hypothetical “perfect” president and to conclude that he falls short, but that is not our choice. If Trump is not reelected, we will have President Biden, with an entirely different set of character flaws. The multiple allegations that Vice President Biden used his government office and influence to enrich members of his own family with millions of dollars from China, Russia, and Ukraine should be of deep concern, because using government power to enrich one’s own family is the consistent characteristic of corrupt leaders in many countries of the world.
f. The Trump administration has brought to prominence many leaders with exemplary lives.
Donald Trump is not the only person we are voting for. It is remarkable that the Trump administration has elevated so many self-professing evangelical Christians – far more than any in my lifetime – into positions of high influence in our government. They also provide role models for Americans. To vote for Trump as president is also to vote for Mike Pence as vice president, Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, Russell Vought as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and numerous others. In addition, Trump has appointed numerous deeply committed Roman Catholics to various positions, the most recent being Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The character of these leaders is also a role model for the nation.
2. The claim that Christians communicate a falsehood when we act as if policies and laws are more precious than being a certain kind of person.
Piper writes, “Christians communicate a falsehood to unbelievers… when we act as if policies and laws that protect life and freedom are more precious than being a certain kind of person.”
He also says, “ I find it bewildering that Christians can be so sure that greater damage will be done by bad judges, bad laws, and bad policies than is being done by the culture-infecting spread of the gangrene of sinful self-exultation, and boasting, and strife-stirring.”
a. I agree with John Piper that, considering all of life, a person’s character is far more important than his or her policies and laws.
I agree that, from God’s perspective, a person’s character is of utmost importance. God said to the prophet Samuel, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
b. But when an election determines what kind of policies and laws we will have, and when both candidates have character flaws, then differences in policies and laws have primary importance.
A presidential election is not deciding what is most important in all of life, which is certainly our relationship with Christ. Paul writes, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Phil. 3:8). A presidential election is simply choosing the leaders of our government. In such a situation, the primary purpose is to decide what kind of government we will have, and in that situation policies and laws are not the only consideration, but they are the most important consideration.
3. The claim that the horrible sin of pride leads people to other sins, including defending abortion, and therefore voting for a clearly boastful candidate might also be indirectly supporting abortion.
Piper writes, “Where does the wickedness of defending child-killing come from? It comes from hearts of self-absorbed arrogance and boasting (James 4:1-2) …. In other words, it comes from the very character that so many Christian leaders are treating us comparatively innocuous.”
a. The primary motive behind support for abortion rights is a desire for sexual freedom without the responsibility of raising children.
I do not think that “arrogance and boasting” are the primary motivations that lead people to support abortion rights. I think rather the primary motive is rebellion against God’s commands that forbid sex outside of marriage between a man and woman. The motive is a desire for sexual freedom without the responsibility of raising children. As for doctors who perform abortions, I think the primary motivation is greed.
Piper refers to James 4:1-2 to show that support for his statement that “child-killing” comes from “self-absorbed arrogance and boasting.” But these verses specifically speak about coveting, not boasting, that leads to murder: “You desire and do not have, so you murder” (James 4:2).
There is no doubt a measure of pride involved in all sins, but I do not think there is a direct causal relationship between a president who exhibits pride and the prevalence of abortion in a society. It seems to me entirely consistent to support a boastful candidate who supports executive actions and laws that restrict abortion rights.
4. The claim that voting for either candidate would compromise a person’s Christian witness.
In closing, Piper explains, “Where does that leave me as I face a civic duty on November 3? Here’s my answer …. I will not develop some calculus to determine which path of destruction I will support. That is not my duty. My calling is to lead people to see Jesus Christ, trust his forgiveness for sins, treasure him above everything in this world …. That calling is contradicted by supporting either pathway to cultural corruption and eternal ruin.”
a. If a significant number of evangelicals follow John Piper’s example, it will guarantee a Biden victory.
Imagine what would happen if all evangelical Christians followed Piper’s example and decided to write in someone else’s name instead of voting for either Trump or Biden. The result would be an overwhelming landslide victory for Biden, because the largest single bloc of Trump supporters is evangelical Christians. In 2016, 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, while 16% voted for Clinton and 4% didn’t vote for president or voted for some other candidate. If that 4% of “vote for neither one” evangelical voters had been 5% or 6%, Hillary Clinton would have been president.
So, if Trump loses the evangelical bloc, Biden wins. In fact, if a significant number of Christians decide not to vote for either Trump or Biden, the result will not be some ideal third-party president. It will be a Biden presidency which (in my opinion) will bring great harm to the nation.
Therefore the decision not to vote for either candidate is not a neutral position for evangelicals. When evangelicals decide not to vote for either candidate, this takes voters primarily from Trump’s base and therefore helps Biden win the election.
b. Supporting Trump for his good policies while criticizing his flaws and respecting another person’s political judgment does not compromise a person’s Christian witness.
In this atmosphere of political polarization, Christians have an opportunity to enhance their Christian witness when they discuss politics by showing a gracious temperament, listening respectfully to the other person’s viewpoint, and explaining that we seek good government (as best we understand it) for our neighbors, not from base motives but because of Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).
c. Supporting Trump for his good policies while criticizing his flaws is supporting a pathway to cultural improvement, not a “pathway to cultural corruption and eternal ruin.”
I differ with my friend John Piper about the results of a second term for President Trump. In Trump second term, I look forward to the appointment of more originalist judges (who will interpret the laws and not make new laws on their own), further legal restrictions on abortion, greater protections for religious freedom and freedom of conscience, lower taxes, fewer government regulations, a rapidly growing economy, low unemployment rates (especially significant for ethnic minorities), increased prosperity for people at every income level, additional history-making agreements between Israel and additional Arab nations, a clearheaded recognition of the economic, military, and information threat from China, a high value placed on human freedom and on personal accountability for committing crimes, increasing numbers of children eligible for taxpayer-supported school choice, a secure border followed by a comprehensive reform of our immigration system, and an increase in police presence in high crime neighborhoods, with a resulting decrease in crime.
On the other hand, if evangelicals stay away from voting for either Biden or Trump, then then under a Biden presidency I would expect the appointment of hundreds of judges who take the law in their own hands and even consider themselves to be above the original meaning of the Constitution, laws that allow abortion up to the moment of birth and even after, the use of tax money to pay for abortions and gender reassignment surgery, the crippling of our economy with ever-increasing government control and ever-increasing taxes, increased unemployment, a weaker military unable to counter the increasing aggressiveness of China in the world’s oceans, a Jimmy Carter -like foreign policy of appeasement, abandoning Israel to fend for itself in the Middle East, adding additional seats to make a liberal majority on the Supreme Court, draconian laws that compel artistic professionals to affirm the validity of same-sex marriage even when contrary to their consciences, a reinstatement of the Obama-era guidelines that required schools to allow biological males to use girls bathrooms, locker rooms and showers and to allow them to compete in women’s sports, a massive increase in energy costs, ever-increasing restrictions on police forces, leading to an increase in crime, and the proliferation of violence and intimidation to nullify freedom of speech (in practice) for those who disagree with the liberal political agenda, open borders, sanctuary cities, and a complete federal takeover of our healthcare system.
These are two vastly different kinds of nations. The first one features increasing freedom, personal responsibility, and human flourishing. The second one features ever-increasing government control of every aspect of our lives, significant losses of freedom, and the implementation of many laws and regulations that are contrary to the moral teachings of Scripture. That is why voting for Trump seems to me to be the most loving, most faithful choice for a Christian.
Finally, just as John Piper in his article modeled respect for those who have another position, so I also respect him for the courage and clarity of his convictions, and for his characteristic willingness to advocate a potentially unpopular position because he thinks it is right. I hope that in what I have written here I have modeled a way to disagree with a friend graciously and in a way that will not damage our friendship in the future.
P.S. After I finished writing this article, I sent it to John for any comments. He replied that I had represented him fairly, and he assured me that he counted me as a dear friend. He also pointed out how I could make one of my arguments stronger! I think that only someone with a strong confidence in the sovereignty of God over all history would do that in the midst of a serious disagreement about the future of a nation.
Biden’s Veiled Threat to Pack the Supreme Court Should Disqualify Him from Being President
Joe Biden says he will make known his views on adding justices to the Supreme Court “after the election.” And now he adds that he will set up a commission to study the question – which I understand to be a veiled strategy for carrying out the plan. His running mate Kamala Harris earlier told the New York Times that she was “absolutely open to” the idea of adding more justices, and many leading Democrats are also calling for such a change.
This threat of court packing should worry every American. It is so serious a threat that I think, by itself, it should lead Americans to vote against Biden and Harris on election day. Let me explain why.
1. The separation of powers is at the heart of the Constitution
The authors of the U.S. Constitution understood that the federal government would have immense power, and that power tends to corrupt even the best leaders. Many of them were familiar with the Bible, including biblical narratives showing that even good kings like David and Solomon committed evil deeds later in life (2 Samuel 11; 1 Kings 11). They knew that power has a corrupting influence on people and an unrestrained ruler such as a king would “take” and “take” and “take,” and eventually the people “shall be his slaves” (1 Samuel 8:11-17). They knew that human beings are fallible, because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
The American colonists’ experience of living under King George III of England had increasingly become “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states” (Declaration of Independence, italics added).
In order to protect against such tyranny in the future, they devised a brilliant separation of powers by which the immense power of government was divided into many parts, thus preventing any one person or small group from gaining absolute power over the nation.
The separation of powers has many aspects. Here’s a brief overview:
(1.) The Constitution: The highest government power is given not to any persons but to the Constitution. It places numerous restraints on the power of government and protects the people from the government. (The Constitution can be amended, but only with great difficulty, by 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress and approval by ¾ of the states.)
(2.) The three branches: At the national level, the Constitution divides power among three branches.
– The Congress (legislative branch) alone has the power to make laws, with the signature of the president.
– The president (executive branch) has the power to enforce the laws. Today that power is administered through numerous cabinet members who oversee the many parts of government and who report to the president.
– The courts (judicial branch) have the power to interpret the laws. Judges act like referees, and if the president or Congress try to act contrary to the Constitution, judges have the authority to say they are violating the Constitution, and to order them to stop.
– These three branches each have some ability to restrain the other branches through a system of “checks and balances”
– Every state also has these three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial), further dividing power at the state level.
(3.) State and local governments: Individual states have significant authority to make their own laws about much of life. Under the 10th Amendment, any power not specifically delegated by the Constitution to the federal government, or prohibited to it by the states, is “reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” Within the states much authority rests with individual cities and counties (such as local taxes and police forces). In this way, significant governmental power is distributed to states and cities, and this restrains the power of the federal government.
(4.) Regular elections: The people who alone can make the laws (Congress and the state legislatures) are the people in government who are most accountable to the citizens generally, because they have to be reelected at regular intervals. This process reserves much government power to “we the people of the United States” and helps guarantee that those who exercise the power of government do so with the consent of those who are governed.
(5.) Bill of Rights: The Constitution guarantees many important rights to us as individuals, and these rights further limit the power of government. No government is allowed to take away our freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government, the right to bear arms, the right to a trial by a jury of our peers, and several other rights.
It’s a complicated, often messy system, but it works!
2. The separation of powers has protected us from any dictator or powerful group consolidating all power in one place.
I don’t think Americans adequately appreciate that this system of government, structured with such a complex separation of powers, has protected us from any evil dictator taking over the United States and subjecting us to the cruelties of a totalitarian government. Unfortunately, that has not been the case in Russia (under Stalin), Germany (under Hitler), China (under Mao and now under Xi), North Korea (under Kim Jong-un), Cuba (under Castro), and many other countries. These countries have not had the great privilege of a government whose power is limited by such an extensive separation of powers.
3. Justices on the Supreme Court are the nation’s final defense against the destruction of the freedoms and rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution
Judges in the lower courts and justices on the Supreme Court are supposed to act like referees, blowing the whistle when a player violates a rule. If Congress passes a law or the president issues an executive order that violates the Constitution, the courts are to act as a referee and rule that that law or order is invalid. They are appointed for life in order to guarantee that they will impartially enforce the rules and uphold the Constitution. But judges have no authority to make new laws, and certainly no authority to change the Constitution!
The Constitution says, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives” (Article 1, Section 1). The power to make federal laws belongs only to Congress, which is appropriate, because members of Congress are accountable to the people through regular elections.
4. Democrats rely on judge-made laws to short-circuit the political process
As far back as 1990, the brilliant law professor and judge Robert Bork, in his book The Tempting of America, pointed out that when liberal politicians cannot get their agenda approved by Congress or by the state legislatures they often try to persuade judges to enforce their goals anyway. This had already happened with regard to abortion rights and restrictions on religious freedom, and in the time since Bork’s book it has also happened with same-sex marriage and some other issues.
Here are the details: In Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), the court created a restrictive 3-part test for government interactions with religion, and this test led to outlawing several kinds of religious expression (such as a high school football coach praying with his team before a game, or a local clergyman giving a prayer at high school graduation ceremony). But the Constitution does not rule out such activities because it explicitly protects the “free exercise” of religion.
Then in Roe v. Wade (1973), the Supreme Court “discovered” a right to abortion in the Constitution, which says not a word about abortion. More recently, in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the Supreme Court “discovered” a right to same-sex marriage in the Constitution, which says not a word about same-sex marriage
In reality, these justices were just creating new laws and claiming that they found them in the Constitution! The Supreme Court was acting like the referee who scoops up the ball again and again and carries it into the end zone, scoring touchdown after touchdown for his favorite team. And beyond these decisions of the Supreme Court, there was no appeal, no opportunity for instant replay. On those issues, the game was over.
5. Republicans appoint judges who rely on the original meaning of the laws
On the issue of judges there is a vast difference between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans will not appoint judges who reveal that they have an agenda to enact certain policies that they favor. That is why President Trump’s appointments of justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, are so significant. They have proven track records of abiding by the original meaning of the Constitution and the laws; they are, for the most part, convinced “originalists,” and they join Justices Thomas, Alito, and Roberts, which will make a 6-3 majority who share similar convictions. They are committed only to returning to the Congress and state legislatures the sole authority to make new laws, because that is what the wording of the Constitution originally intended. This means that they are committed to restoring to our nation the separation of powers that has protected us for so long from tyranny.
6. Packing the court with judges who create laws would leave us defenseless against tyranny
James Madison wrote in Federalist 47, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” But that could happen to us.
Quite often, the leadership of the executive branch (the president) and the leadership of the legislative branch (Congress) are in the hands of the same party. If the Supreme Court is then taken over by that party appointing several new liberal justices, and if a majority of justices are willing to go beyond their rightful authority and create new laws (such as they did with abortion and same-sex marriage and restrictions on religious freedom), then we will be approaching what Madison called “the very definition of tyranny.” All of the massive power of the federal government will be in the same hands and they will be free to violate the provisions of the Constitution as much as they wish. They will be free to remake the nation according to their own preferences and override the will of the people.
This is no minor issue. This separation of the power to make laws from the power to judge conformity to the laws is essential to preserving our existence as a free nation with government accountable to the people.
7. Planning to pack the Supreme Court with more justices attacks the very heart of the structure of our government
Any plan to turn the Supreme Court into a kind of super-legislature is a plan to nullify the separation of powers between those who make the laws and those who judge the laws. If judges can make new laws through their decisions, there will be no one to act as referee over them, and they will be able to expand and even violate the Constitution as often as they wish.
8. The threat of enacting the liberal agenda through cases brought to the Supreme Court
If Democrats succeed in packing the Supreme Court with a majority of liberal justices, leftist Democrats in a liberal state (say, New York or Illinois or California) could pass laws severely restricting even basic rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, or the right to bear arms. Such laws would of course violate the Bill of Rights, and conservatives would certainly challenge such laws in court, and these cases would eventually be appealed up to the Supreme Court. Then the justices who feel it their duty to “update” the Constitution could uphold these new laws and thus, one after another, our most cherished freedoms could be severely restricted or even taken away.
As an evangelical Christian, I am particularly concerned about decisions that would
– make abortion up to the minute of birth legal in all 50 states,
– force companies owned by Christians to pay for drugs that cause abortions and for sex-change surgeries,
– remove the accreditation or the tax-exempt status of Christian colleges because of illegal “discrimination” if they will not hire homosexuals or transgender persons, or if they require their students to abide by a statement of faith or a code of conduct,
– categorize and punish as “hate speech” any expression of dissent from the LGBT agenda,
– silence as “hate speech” more and more Internet communication that advocates conservative policies,
-require public school teachers and government employees to affirm that homosexual conduct is morally good,
– severely restrict or abolish private schools and any school choice programs for children, and
– require all schools to allow biological males who claim to be transgender females into women’s sports teams, restrooms, and locker rooms.
In addition, working in concert with regulatory agencies that can issue rules chipping away at our freedoms, such a Supreme Court could uphold rulings that
– place severe restrictions on gun ownership,
– tightly regulate campaign contributions so that the mainstream media gain an even more dominant role in people’s perceptions of political candidates,
– effectively prohibit all use of coal to produce energy, and
– prohibit making any new cars that run on gasoline.
Because every political issue could potentially be turned into a court case, the entire progressive/liberal wish list could eventually be enacted by the regulatory agencies and the courts, and upheld by the Supreme Court, bypassing the need for Congress and the president to approve all new laws.
In short, intentionally packing the Supreme Court with liberal justices is following a path by which freedoms are lost, tyrannies are established, and nations are destroyed.
8. A presidential candidate who plans to pack the court cannot honestly promise to protect the Constitution
When a president is inaugurated, he must swear the following: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
But how could anyone honestly swear to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” while he intends launch an assault against the separation of powers at its most powerful point?
Undermining the separation of powers at the national level is not like supporting an amendment that adds or modifies some details. It is rather an attack on one of the most foundational ideas of the Constitution, the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of government. It is undermining the central idea that has made our Constitution so effective for so long.
That is why, in my opinion, Joe Biden’s veiled plan to pack the Supreme Court should disqualify him from becoming president. He would not protect but would attack and undermine the Constitution at its foundation. And “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)
Wayne Grudem is Distinguished Research Professor Of Theology And Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary in Arizona. The views expressed in this article are his own and should not be understood to represent the views of Phoenix Seminary.
Wayne says there are 5 wrong views of Christian influence on politics, and one right view. This week he explores his first ‘wrong’ view; – Government should compel religion.
If You’re Planning Not to Vote for Either Trump or Biden, Here Are 10 Reasons to Reconsider
If you are currently planning not to vote for either Trump or Biden, here are 10 reasons why I encourage you to change your mind and vote for President Trump.
1. Not voting for either Biden or Trump has a predictable result and therefore is not a neutral action.
At first it might seem as if voting for neither candidate is a way to do nothing wrong. After all, you aren’t endorsing the shortcomings of either candidate.
But consider the result of your decision. If you ordinarily vote for conservative candidates but decide not to vote for Trump, then Biden will need one less vote to win the election.
And if you are an evangelical Christian (as I am), think what would happen if all evangelical Christians followed your example: Biden would win in a gigantic landslide. That is because Trump’s biggest bloc of supporters are evangelical Christians.
Over 80% of white evangelicals apparently voted for Trump last time, while 16% voted for Hillary Clinton and 4% didn’t vote for either one. (I could not find statistics for black and Hispanic evangelicals.) Therefore, evangelicals who decide not to vote affect the outcome in a disproportionate way. They will, on average, withhold five times more votes from the Republican candidate than they withhold from the Democrat candidate.
Therefore, the result of evangelicals not voting for either candidate is not a neutral result. If enough evangelicals vote for neither one, Biden will easily win the election. Do you really want to help reach that result?
2. It can be wrong to have the ability to stop evil but fail to stop it
A Biden administration would carry with it several policies that I would put in the category of evil policies. Biden and his Democrat allies would push for laws that allow abortion up to the moment of birth and even remove penalties for infanticide (as has happened in Virginia and New York). They have also promised to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which for decades has prevented federal funding of abortion. Their abortion policies alone are reason enough to oppose them. God is not on their side, because, as the psalmist says, “Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute? They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death” (Ps. 94:20-21).
In addition to advancing abortion rights, they would seek to enforce not just tolerance but active moral approval of homosexual and transgender conduct in school curriculums, in business training seminars and hiring practices, in government employment and contracts, and eventually in private Christian nonprofit organizations such as colleges and book publishers. Christians who refuse to comply would increasingly be forced out of their jobs (as has happened already in a number of cases affecting various occupations).
In addition, they would likely seek to banish as “hate speech” any opposition to the LGBT agenda. They would likely seek to force Christians in the creative professions (artists, photographers, florists), in education, and in government, to violate their consciences or face bankruptcy or jail if they refused to endorse same-sex marriage and transgenderism or (in the medical fields) to participate in abortions. And freedom of speech and freedom of the press would increasingly be nullified (in practice) by Internet censorship (as we have seen already with Twitter and Facebook regularly blocking conservative viewpoints).
The only way American citizens can stop such evil at the present time is through the election of Donald Trump for a second term. His administration will push for none of those morally evil policies.
But if Christians decide to withhold their votes from Trump, it appears to me that they are failing to do what they can to stop the evil of a Biden administration.
Someone might answer me at this point, “But isn’t Trump also evil?” I agree that Trump has flaws in his character, but in my judgment his first term in office has shown that the good he will do for the nation far outweighs any harm from his abrasive personality. And he will implement none of the evil policies that would come with a Biden administration.
Proverbs 25:26 is relevant here: “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.”
Just how is such a man who “gives way before the wicked” like a “muddied spring”? They’re both useless. If you’re out in the desert and thirsty, and then you see an oasis with a spring of water, you hope to drink from the spring. But when you reach the spring, you find that the water is muddy and undrinkable. It is useless. So it is if a Christian man or woman sees evil coming and does nothing to stop it. Such a person is as useless as “a muddied spring or a polluted fountain.”
From the standpoint of Christian ethics, there are both “sins of omission” and “sins of commission.” In the Book of Common Prayer used by the Church of England, a well-known confession of sin is “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and apart from your grace, there is no health in us. O Lord, have mercy upon us.”
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” — though it’s not from the Bible, this familiar aphorism contains wisdom for governments today (British statesman Edmund Burke (1729-1797) was previously connected with the saying, and it echoes themes found in his writings.)
So I ask, are you confident that not voting for either candidate, and thereby having no influence it at all on the outcome of the election, is the right thing to do? I suggest that not voting for either candidate might not be a morally neutral decision. For a Christian, it might be the wrong decision.
3. If you think withholding your vote will “teach the Republican party a lesson,” you fail to understand the process by which Donald Trump became the Republican candidate.
Some conservatives have said, “If Donald Trump loses, that will teach the Republican Party that they shouldn’t nominate a man of such questionable character.”
But this viewpoint completely misunderstands the way candidates are nominated in the United States. If you intend to influence any organization that can be called “the Republican party,” then recall how the permanent, entrenched leadership in the Republican Party (the Republican National Committee and elected Republican officeholders) fought tooth and nail to keep Trump from getting the nomination in 2016. Sixteen candidates started out the primary process. But Trump just kept winning with the voters. They had an instinct that the country needed strong, courageous leaders like him, in spite of his shortcomings.
I know of nobody who needs to be “taught” (by losing an election) that Trump is not a perfect candidate. Republican voters are already aware of Trump’s abrasive personality. They already count it as a liability, not an asset.
And if Trump loses in a close election, most conservatives will place the blame not on Trump but on the “none of the above” conservative voters who decided not to vote for either Trump or Biden. The “lesson” most Republicans will learn is that conservatives who don’t vote for either candidate can cost Republicans the election. They won’t blame themselves for supporting Trump, but they may well blame conservatives who a decided not to support the conservative candidate chosen by the primary process.
4. Your vote should not be based on whether you like a candidate or not, but on whether candidate A or candidate B is better for the nation.
A presidential election is not a popularity contest. Your vote should not be based on whether you “like” a candidate’s personality or not. Your vote should be based on what you think to be best for the nation as a whole.
5. If you say, “My conscience won’t let me vote for Trump,” it is possible that what you think is your conscience is really just a personal dislike of Trump
I agree that is important for people to vote according to their consciences. I encourage all Christians to seek God for wisdom in their voting decisions.
But a person’s conscience is an inward sense of moral right and wrong. If you really think your conscience won’t let you vote for President Trump, that I simply ask you to consider whether the subjective feeling that you think is your conscience might just be a dislike of Trump’s personality. Only you can decide that.
6. Your goal in voting should not be to gain approval from your friends.
I realize that sometimes there is pressure from friends or family members to vote a certain way, and there can be much cultural pressure not to vote for Trump. If you are in that situation, remember that we still have a secret ballot in this country, and there is no need to tell anybody how you voted. Your goal in voting should be to choose the candidate who, in your judgment, will do the most good for the country. And remember that courage is a virtue: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).
7. Defeating Trump will not stop the divisiveness within the country, but it will make life much harder for evangelical Christians and for conservatives in general.
In my opinion, most of the blame for the increase in divisiveness in our country belongs to people on the far left of the political spectrum, committed Democrats who still have not accepted the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s decisive victory in the 2016 election. They call themselves “the Resistance” and they are relentless in their hostility toward President Trump and anyone who supports him. Yes, he fights back instead of rolling over, and sometimes he fights back without much grace, but I do not think that most of the divisiveness should be blamed on him.
The most troubling part of this hostility from the left is that, if they are allowed to gain control of the government, that hostility will be increasingly directed against Christians and all who stand firm for Judeo-Christian moral values.
8. Even if you live in a solidly Republican or solidly Democrat state, your vote still matters.
If you live in a deeply Republican state or a deeply Democrat state, you may at first think that your vote doesn’t matter. But it does matter for at least two reasons: (1) Your vote will be tabulated as part of the popular vote for the whole nation, and it will determine how decisive people consider the outcome to be. If a candidate wins with a large margin in the popular vote, he will have much more political influence on the future than if he wins by a very small margin. (2) Whether your candidate wins or loses, the morning after the election you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have done your part, that you have responsibly discharged the stewardship that God entrusted to you in granting you the ability to vote.
9. Voting for Trump is not the same as giving approval to his character.
Casting a vote for Donald Trump means one thing only: you think his leadership of the nation is better than Biden’s leadership would be. In every election, we end up voting for imperfect, flawed candidates who we think to be better than the alternative. Such a vote does not mean that we endorse everything about the candidate’s behavior.
In addition, since voting is by secret ballot, your vote will not signal to anyone else any hint of approval of Trump’s character.
10. This election might be decided by the “none of the above” voters
In the 2000 election, George W. Bush won the presidency by a margin of only 537 votes in the state of Florida. There are over 5,600 voting precincts in Florida. That means that if only one conservative voter in every tenth precinct had stayed home, Bush would’ve lost the election and we would have had President Al Gore leading the nation. This election also could be that close. Your vote matters.
Wayne Grudem is Distinguished Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary in Arizona. This article represent his views and should not be taken to represent the viewpoint of Phoenix Seminary.
August 21, 2020
President Trump receives non-stop criticism in the press. I agree that criticism is necessary when a president makes mistakes, but where are the voices expressing appreciation for the good things Trump has done? It’s unfair always to criticize and never to recognize any of the good things a president has done.
It might be a refreshing change to recall some of the remarkable, nation-changing good things that Trump has accomplished for America. Here is my personal list.
Because of space limitations, I have not given extensive arguments explaining why I think these actions are good for the United States. But more extensive arguments can be found in my books Christian Ethics,1 Politics According to the Bible,2 and The Poverty of Nations.3
1. Judges: Trump has appointed two Supreme Court justices, 53 federal appellate judges,4 and 146 District Court judges 5 (as well as two judges for the Court of International Trade6) who have been confirmed by the Senate so far. In addition, 64 more have been appointed and are awaiting Senate confirmation.7 All of them are committed to interpreting the Constitution and laws according to the original meaning of the words, rather than according to what a modern liberal judge thinks the law should have said.
As an evangelical Christian, I am glad to see that Trump’s two Supreme Court appointments have already been responsible for highly significant cases that increase religious freedom, such as the decisions (1) to allow state aid that is given to non-religious schools to be given also to religious schools (Montana decision),8 (2) to protect the right of religious schools to hire and fire employees based on the school’s religious convictions,9 and (3) to allow religious groups to be exempt from government regulations that would otherwise cause them to violate their consciences in matters of birth control (and, by implication, probably in matters of abortion and same-sex marriage, but that has not yet been tested).10
2. Historic tax cuts and deregulation: After eight years of high unemployment and meager growth under President Obama’s administration, the Trump tax cuts of 2017 and Trump’s extensive canceling of excessive government regulations on businesses have given a tremendous boost to the American economy. An estimated 25,000 pages of regulations have been canceled, resulting in a savings of $3,100 per household per year.11 Another result of tax cuts combined with deregulation has been the addition of thousands of new jobs, so that unemployment (before the coronavirus crisis) fell to the lowest point in 50 years,12 and unemployment among African-American and Hispanic workers was the lowest it has ever been in history.13
On election day, 2016 (11-8-16), the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 18,332.74.
This afternoon (8-21-20 at 2:29 p.m.) it stands at 27, 898.82, which is an increase of 52% in 3 ½ years, even including several months of the coronavirus epidemic. This is remarkable.
These economic changes affect ordinary people’s everyday lives, not just wealthy people. Tens of thousands of people who were unemployed have recovered the dignity of steady employment (including getting paid during the coronavirus crisis). Millions of ordinary Americans whose retirement savings are partially invested in the stock market (including my wife and me) are finally receiving some protection and even growth in their savings.
3. Building a stronger US military: Reversing the massive budget cuts that had seriously weakened our military under the Obama administration, President Trump has increased military spending by nearly $150 billion per year from $605 billion in 2016 to $750 billion, steadily rebuilding US military readiness.14
4. Protecting unborn babies: Numerous executive orders have increasingly restricted government funding for abortions (such as the reinstatement of the Mexico City policy).15 On February 22, 2019, the Trump administration announced that it would not allow organizations that provide referrals for abortions to receive federal family-planning money, which implies a cut in funding for Planned Parenthood (the nation’s largest abortion provider) unless they perform abortions in a separate facility and not refer patients to it.16 And on May 2, 2019, the Trump administration’s Department Of Health And Human Services issued a new rule protecting healthcare workers who decline on the basis of conscience or religious conviction to participate in procedures such as abortion or assisted suicide.17 Trump was the first president ever to personally attend the pro-life March for Life in Washington, DC on January 24, 2020.18
5. Expanding educational freedom: President Trump appointed Betsy DeVos, one of America’s leading advocates for greater school choice, to be Secretary of Education, resulting in rising supportfor charter schools, taxpayer-funded vouchers, and tax credits for private-school vouchers, programs aimed at expanding options for parents looking beyond traditional public schools as she brings attention to them.19
6. Standing with Israel: Reversing President Obama’s repeated marginalization and shunning of Israel, President Trump has reaffirmed our commitment to support and defend Israel. He decisively moved the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.20 He recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel.21 He has welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House several times and has repeatedly reaffirmed our support for Israel. I recently read in the Jerusalem Post a statement that Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than Donald Trump.22
7. Negotiating a historic agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates: On August 13, 2020, President Trump announced that Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had come to a historic agreement to establish full diplomatic relations between the two countries,23 including the establishment of permanent embassies and the beginning of direct airline flights between the two countries. This is important because Dubai, the largest city in the UAE, is the leading financial center in the Middle East and plays a leading role in world air travel and tourism. The agreement will “strengthen regional checks on Iranian power.”24 It also has the potential to set a pattern for future agreements establishing peaceful relations between Israel and other Arab countries in the Middle East.25
8. Actually building a border wall: President Trump has relentlessly battled against Democratic stonewalling and liberal federal judges to build an effective, secure border wall along more than 200 miles of our southern border, and it could possibly reach as much as 450 miles by the end of 2020.26 Critics object that most of this construction is simply replacing old barriers that were already in place, but they fail to recognize that the government’s first priority has been to secure the highest traffic areas, and in many of those areas the old fence was not up to the job. An effective border wall is absolutely necessary to keep our nation secure and to gain some control over an immigration crisis that has spiraled out of control. It won’t stop all illegal immigration, but eventually it will likely stop over 95% of people who try to enter on foot.
This is important, because once the American people feel that the border is secure, it will be much easier to gain the political consensus necessary for a humane and just solution regarding the undocumented immigrants who are already here, and for widespread support for the legal entry of large numbers of immigrants who will contribute much of value to this great nation.
9. Comprehensive immigration reform proposals : President Trump has proposed and worked for sensible, comprehensive reform of our broken immigration system that would change our policy on legal immigration from a system based on extended family connections and randomness to a system based on merit, so that we prioritize admitting people who will be most likely to contribute positively to American society27(as well as those who are escaping from genuine threats to their lives in their homelands).
10. Religious freedom and freedom of conscience: President Trump’s administration has repeatedly and continually worked to defend religious freedom, and his Justice Department has defended religious freedom in numerous court cases, such as supporting the case of Colorado cake designer Jack Phillips at the Supreme Court (Phillips faced massive fines for politely declining to design a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding), 28 and the right of faith-based organizations not to be forced to provide access to abortifacients through their health care plans, overturning the Obamacare HHS regulation that had forced them to do so.29
In addition, in the first year of Trump’s presidency, the Department of Justice issued a strongly-worded, 25-page memorandum detailing exceptionally strong protections for religious liberty.30
11. Withdrawing from Paris climate accord: President Trump wisely and decisively removed United States from the Paris climate accord, a radical environmentalist program which, according to a Heritage Foundation study, would have brought massive increases to US energy prices with no statistically significant benefit to the environment31. Doubling or tripling of US energy costs (as under the Paris climate accord, according to the Heritage Foundation) would have harmed the poor most of all as they spend the highest portion of their budgets on energy. In addition, it would have cost America more than 206,000 jobs by 2040. 32
12. Energy production and energy independence: President Trump gave approval to the Keystone pipeline,33 the Dakota access pipeline,34 and oil production from the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge,35, a vast uninhabited region which could produce up to 20 percent of our petroleum needs.36 His administration has also granted more permits for mining of oil, gas, and coal from federal lands. 37 The result has been lower energy prices (which benefits everyone) and also US energy independence so that we are now becoming the leading exporter rather than a net importer of energy.38
13. Waterways of the US: The Trump administration’s decision to abandon the “waterways of the US” policy rightfully returned control of water on private lands to the owners of those lands, rather than the federal government seizing control over nearly all waterways in the United States. These rules have hindered farmers, ranchers, and developers.39 American Farm Bureau Chairman Zippy Duvall praised the action, saying: “Farmers and ranchers care about clean water and preserving the land, which are essential to producing healthy food and fiber and ensuring future generations can do the same. That’s why we support the new clean water rule. It provides clarity and certainty, allowing farmers to understand water regulations without having to hire teams of consultants and lawyers. We appreciate the commitment of the agencies involved and this administration to crafting a new regulation that achieves important regulatory oversight while allowing farmers to farm. Clean water, clear rules.” 40
14. Halting the increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards: The Trump administration decision halted the Obama-imposed harsh annual increases in projected average miles per gallon required in new cars every year.41 This decision will lead to more consumer choice and less expensive and safer cars, which is much better than the Democratic policy of ever-higher mileage goals, requiring ever-lighter and smaller cars, which means more dangerous cars and less consumer choice.
15. Defeating ISIS: President Trump gave our military forces the freedom to defeat ISIS and drive them out of large sections of Iraq and Syria, which they did.42 This is far superior to the Democratic policy of inaction and appeasement, which had allowed ISIS to take over large areas of the Middle East. Under President Trump’s leadership, US military forces located and killed ISIS founder and terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Oct. 26-27, 2019.43 President Trump also directed the killing of Iranian terrorist mastermind Qasem Soleimani on Jan. 2, 2020.44
16. Persuading European nations to pay more for NATO: President Trump has insisted that NATO countries start to pay their fair share of defense costs, and some NATO countries have responded by increasing their defense budgets. In 2017, five countries met the goal of spending 2% of their GDP on defense and that has now increased to nine according to the alliance’s latest budgetary data. The U.S. is set to spend over $750 billion (3.7% of GDP) on its military this year and leadsthe “above 2%” group, which now includes Bulgaria (3.25 percent), Greece (2.28 percent), the United Kingdom (2.14 percent), Estonia (2.14 percent), Romania (2.04 percent), Lithuania (2.03 percent), Latvia (2.01 percent) and Poland (2 percent)45
17. Protections against false accusation on college campuses: President Trump’s administration has restored many due process guidelines that universities must follow in processing title IX accusations of sexual assault on university campuses.46
18. Protecting freedom of speech on college campuses: President Trump issued an executive order giving more specific protections to freedom of speech on college campuses by threatening the loss of federal research dollars if they do not allow for free speech for all students and faculty members. On many campuses, conservative and religious students and faculty members have had their views censored or have faced retribution for expressing conservative or faith-based views 47
19. Protecting boys’ and girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams: On February 22, 2017, President Trump directed the Department of Education to revoke the Obama-administration’s guidance letter that had directed schools to allow children who claim to be “transgender” to use the bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers of their choice, and to join sports teams of their choice, even when their choices differed from their biological sex.
In a related decision President Trump issued an executive order banning transgender persons from entering our military forces, which would have allowed biological males free access to women’s bathrooms, locker rooms and showers, and similarly allowed biological females to enter men’s facilities. Present Trump’s order was upheld by the Supreme Court which lifted the block on the order by a 5-4 vote. While litigation will continue, the order stands for now. 48
20. Negotiating new trade agreements that are more favorable to the United States: President Trump has negotiated new trade agreements with Mexico, Canada, and China, and all of them give more favorable treatment to the United States than the previous treaties did.49
21. Streamlining environmental reviews for major construction projects: In order to build a new section of highway, a new subway line, or a new gas pipeline, the necessary environmental impact statements have recently taken an average of 4.5 years, and many ran for six years or longer.50 These delays massively increased construction costs and delayed relief for over-congested highways for many years. But on July 15, 2020, President Trump’s White House released new guidelines limiting environmental impact studies to two years and limiting less-extensive environmental assessments to one year.51 The Wall Street Journal says these new rules “could literally cut thousands of years of cumulative delay”52 for construction projects. This will be a huge help in renewing America’s aging infrastructure.
22. Sending weapons to Ukraine: Whereas President Obama sent only humanitarian aid, President Trump authorized the selling of actual military equipment to Ukraine, including Javelin missiles which were necessary to defend against Russian aggression.53
23. Standing up to China and Russia: Trump has been the first president to decisively denounce China’s blatant practice of industrial espionage and bullying,54 stealing of intellectual property,55 and violating international copyright protections.56 He has followed up with strong trade sanctions against China, 57 an increased US naval presence in the South China Sea,58 and the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston, which was a center of Chinese espionage.59 The Trump administration has closed several Russian consulates in the US and expelled over 60 Russian “diplomats” (espionage agents),60 issued sanctions against several Russian officials,61 and persuaded several European nations to increase their defenses against potential Russian invasion.62
24. Withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal: President Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action, which would have allowed Iran to build a nuclear bomb within the next few years.63
25. A wise COVID-19 response: President Trump imposed strict restrictions on travel from China on January 31, 2020, long before other leaders recognized the danger of this coronavirus. Then, when the COVID-19 virus began to spread rapidly within the United States, the dominant media narrative was a fear that we would run out of hospital beds to care for the sick. President Trump immediately mobilized the military to construct huge new hospital facilities in New York City and elsewhere, and soon there were enough beds.64 The next fear was that we would run out of ventilators. President Trump persuaded leaders of American industry to fast-track the manufacture of ventilators, and soon there were enough ventilators.65 Then the question was how soon to reopen buildings and meeting places, and President Trump wisely left the decision to local governors and other local officials who best know the different situations in their individual locations.
Finally, the FDA has fast-tracked the trial and approval process for a vaccine,66 and the federal government has made commitments to purchase millions of vaccines from various companies as soon as they are approved for widespread use. Several promising vaccines are now in the advanced stages of testing on human subjects. The previous record for rapid FDA approval of a new vaccine was four years from initial research to final approval, 67but under President Trump’s leadership experts are now optimistically predicting that an FDA-approved coronavirus vaccine will be available as early as October 2020, 68 which would be nine months from the time the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China became known.
In addition, President Trump, working with Congress, quickly passed three coronavirus relief packages, with the result that millions of Americans continued to receive pay in spite of their workplaces being temporarily closed. 69
Unfortunately, many Democrats have decided to make the coronavirus tragedy a political issue, repeatedly criticizing President Trump’s response. With the benefit of hindsight, Monday morning quarterbacks can always claim they would have made better decisions in Sunday afternoon’s game, but they didn’t have to make instant decisions in the midst of the contest.
We need to recognize that President Trump, in dealing with the coronavirus crisis, has repeatedly had to make hard decisions in a situation where he had incomplete information and conflicting advice from different scientific, medical, economic, and educational experts. Others may disagree, but it seems to me that in a very difficult situation he has done a commendable job of balancing the need to protect Americans’ health, the need to avoid destroying our economy, the need to protect businesses from bankruptcy, and the need to get children back to school so that they will not be deprived of many crucial months in their education.
26. Reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs: On June 23, 2017, President Trump signed the Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which gave the Secretary of Veterans Affairs streamlined authority to fire unproductive employees and to appoint new medical directors at VA hospitals.70 But even before that law, the Trump administration had begun to clean house, and over 500 employees were fired from the Veterans Administration in the first six months of Trump’s presidency.71
27. Criminal justice reform: President Trump signed the First Step Act on December 21, 2018.This law gives judges more flexibility in reducing mandatory sentencing guidelines in individual cases, eliminates the “three strikes” requirement of life imprisonment for some offenses, improves opportunities for academic and vocational education within prisons, provides more support for the successful reentry of released prisoners into society, and requires prisoners to be placed in prisons near their place of primary residence where possible 72
28. Reducing prescription drug prices: on July 24, 2000, President Trump signed four executive orders aimed at reducing prescription drug prices. These included requiring federal health centers to make insulin and epinephrine available at massive discounts to low income persons, prohibiting secret deals between drug manufacturers and pharmacy “benefit manager” middlemen, ensuring patients directly benefit from available discounts at the pharmacy counter. allowing more importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other countries where prices are lower, and reducing prices for Medicare Part B drugs if they are available for lower prices in other economically advanced countries.73
I personally doubt the wisdom of using price controls instead of fostering greater competition to reduce drug prices, but I’m still listing this as a good action because it may be a useful first step in providing a signal that Republicans are serious about solving the real problem of expensive drugs that many people cannot afford.
29. Protecting federal property from rioters: The movement that began as peaceful and well-justified protests against the murder of George Floyd was soon co-opted by the presence of lawless rioters whose goal was destruction of property by looting and arson that began in Minneapolis and soon spread to Seattle, Portland, Chicago, New York, and other cities. In contrast to the weak Democratic mayors and governors who adopted a policy of appeasement that only encouraged more violence and even resulted in the burning of a police station in Minneapolis,74 President Trump announced in Washington, DC that any destruction of federal statues and monuments would result in fines up to $10,000, and suddenly the attacks on these statues came to an abrupt halt. When rioters threatened to destroy the US courthouse in Portland, and the governor and the mayor were not protecting this federal property, President Trump sent in federal officers learn to protect it, which they did. The courthouse was not destroyed and the slightly over 100 US marshals and DHS officers inside the building were protected until eventually the mayor of Portland sent local and state police to protect the building.75
According to the 1807 Insurrection Act, the president has the legal authority to take any measures (including deploying federal troops or other law enforcement officials) necessary to suppress any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination or conspiracy, even without an invitation or permission from the governor of the state in which that federal property is located. An example of this happened in 1957 when President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops into Arkansas, over the objections of Governor Orval Faubus, to enforce federal school desegregation orders and protect African-American schoolchildren from a mob that had gathered to stop them outside Central High School in Little Rock. 76
In a further response to the violence threatening many of our cities, President Trump’s Department of Justice has now launched Operation Legend, in which over 1000 additional federal agents have been dispatched to work alongside local law enforcement officers in nine cities to apprehend the most violent instigators of these riots. They have now located and arrested 1485 suspects for violent crimes, including 90 homicides.77
30. Welcoming evangelical Christians into positions of influence: This may not be important to others, but, speaking as an evangelical Christian, I see it as a positive factor that, rather than marginalizing evangelical Christians (as was the practice of the Obama administration), President Trump has appointed a remarkably large number of evangelicals to high government offices. These include Vice President Mike Pence, Ben Carson (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development), Betsy DeVos (Secretary of Education), Rick Perry (former secretary of energy), Scott Pruitt (former administrator of Environmental Protection Agency), Dan Coats (former director of national intelligence), Mike Pompeo (Secretary of State), Russ Vought (Director of Office of Management and Budget), and Kayleigh McEnany (White House Press Secretary), and others.
The context: refusing to waiver in the face of the most biased reporting in American history: These 30 good actions have all been accomplished in spite of a remarkably hostile national media. The Media Research Center analyzed all the evaluative statements made by reporters, anchors, and nonpartisan sources (such as experts or voters but not people identified as Democrats or Republicans) during June and July of 2020 on “World News Tonight “ ( ABC), “Evening News” (CBS), and “NBC Nightly News” (NBC). They counted 34 positive evaluative statements made about President Trump and 634 negative statements during those two months. By contrast, there were eight positive statements and four negative evaluative statements about Biden during the same time period. (Biden had become the presumptive Democratic nominee on April 8 when Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign.)
These numbers indicate that, for every time that viewers heard a negative evaluation of Biden, they heard 158 negative evaluations of Trump. For every positive statement they heard about Trump, they heard 18 negative statements. This is not balanced reporting, nor is it responsible journalism. Someone may object that the Media Research Center is a politically conservative content analysis organization, but that does not invalidate their tabulations, which I suspect would be consistent with the perceptions of any viewers who watch these newscasts for a few days. A similar kind of bias could also be seen on CNN or MSNBC.
Research director Rich Noyes at the Media Research Center was quoted as saying, “I have been studying the news media and elections for more than 35 years. Trust me – there has never been anything like it.” He called this “the most biased presidential campaign coverage in modern media history.”79
I point out this media bias in order to observe that President Trump’s unwavering commitment to common-sense conservative political policies is remarkable. Few human beings would have the courage and strength of character to persist in the face of such overwhelmingly hostile mainstream news coverage. And he has not done this while avoiding the press but has held 17 solo press conferences and 44 joint press conferences in 3 ½ years (as of July 20th) 80 plus numerous less formal interchanges with the press when he leaves or returns to the White House by helicopter.
In addition, he has done all this while enduring 3 ½ years of “resistance” by a massive special counsel investigation (that came to nothing), impeachment by the House (that came to nothing), and numerous nationwide injunctions against his executive orders issued by individual US District Court judges. In this context, Trump’s resolute pursuit of the policies on which he campaigned seems to me to be commendable.
Divine blessing or divine judgment? Speaking as an evangelical Christian, I believe that God exercises providential control over the history of nations. The Old Testament says, “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17). Similarly, the New Testament says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).
But that doesn’t mean that all rulers are good. Sometimes God gives a nation oppressive rulers as a means of divine judgment, as when he led Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, to carry off the Jewish people into exile (2 Kings 24:10- 25:21). At other times he gives leaders who will bring blessing to a nation, as when God led Cyrus, king of Persia, to decree that the Jewish people could return to their homeland (Ezra 1:1-4).
So here is a question for my fellow Christians: If you believe (as I do) that God is sovereign over the affairs of nations, do you think that Donald Trump’s presidency has been an evidence of divine blessing or divine judgment? I admit that perceiving divine purposes in human events is a task that cannot be proved with certainty one way or another, but when I look over this list of 30 actions, it appears to me to be far more characteristic of divine blessing than of divine judgment. If others disagree, I respect your right to have a different opinion, but that is my view.
Conclusion: If President Trump is reelected (as I hope he will be), we can expect four more years of the same type of White House activity: more originalist judges, ongoing lower taxes and deregulation, continuing funding for a stronger military, further restrictions on abortion, more school choice, continued support for Israel, hundreds of additional miles of border wall, a humane and just solution to immigration, continuing protection of religious freedom and freedom of conscience, abundant safe energy production, continued protection against Islamic terrorism, a stronger NATO alliance, more free speech protections on college campuses, continued protection of separate boys and girls sports teams and locker rooms, more trade agreements that are fair to the US, accelerated renewal of our aging infrastructure, unflinching resistance to Russian and Chinese aggressiveness, continued isolation of Iran and multilateral containment of their hostile expansionist ambitions, normalization of relations between Israel and other Arab nations, and further solutions to the problem of high drug prices.
No doubt more beneficial actions could be added to this list, but these should be enough to justify another four good years with Donald Trump as president.
Wayne Grudem is Distinguished Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary in Arizona.
The views expressed in this article represent the views of the author and should not be understood to represent the position of Phoenix Seminary.
1 Wayne Grudem, Christian Ethics (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018).
2 Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010).
3 Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus, The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015).
4 Carrie Campbell Severino, “200 Judges: A Milestone for President Trump,” USA Today, June 25, 2020 https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/06/25/donald-trump-200th-court-appointment-milestone-column/3250922001/ (Retrieved July 21, 2020)
6 Carlie Porterfield, “Trump Confirms 200th Judge, The Most In a First Term Since Carter,” Forbes, June 24, 2020 https://www.forbes.com/sites/carlieporterfield/2020/06/24/trump-confirms-200th-judge-the-most-in-a-first-term-since-carter/#137989677781 (Retrieved July 21, 2020)
7“Current Federal Judicial Vacancies,” Ballotpedia, https://ballotpedia.org/Current_federal_judicial_vacancies (Retrieved July 21, 2020) There are currently 36 nominees awaiting a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee. There are currently 12 nominees awaiting a committee vote in the appropriate U.S. Senate committee. There are currently 16 nominees awaiting a confirmation vote in the full U.S. Senate.
8 Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue No. 18-1195, Decided June 30, 2020 https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/18-1195_g314.pdf (Retrieved July 21, 2020)
9 O Lady of Guadalupe v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel, No. 19-267, Decided July 8, 2020 https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/19-267_1an2.pdf (Retrieved July 21, 2020)
10 Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, No. 19-431, Decided July 8, 2020 https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/19-431_5i36.pdf (Retrieved July 21, 2020)
11 Lucas Manfriedi, “Trump Unveils Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule,” Fox Business, July 16, 2020 https://www.foxbusiness.com/money/trump-unveils-safer-affordable-fuel-efficient-vehicles-rule (Retrieved August 20, 2020)
12 Catherine Thorbecke, “Unemployment Rate Falls to Lowest Level in 50 Years,” ABCNews.com, October 4, 2019 https://abcnews.go.com/Business/unemployment-rate-falls-lowest-level-50-years/story?id=66058946 (Retrieved July 21, 2020)
13Maggie Fitzgerald, “Black and Hispanic Unemployment is at a Record Low,” CNBC.com, October 4, 2019 https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/04/black-and-hispanic-unemployment-is-at-a-record-low.html
14 See “U.S. Military Spending/Defense Budget 1960-2020,” MacroTrends, https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/USA/united-states/military-spending-defense-budget (Retrieved July 22, 2020) and “DOD Releases Fiscal Year 2020 Budget,” U.S. Department of Defense, https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/1782623/dod-releases-fiscal-year-2020-budget-proposal/ (Retrieved July 22, 2020)
15 Ramesh Ponnuru, “Donald Trump’s Pro-Life Presidency,” National Review, February 6, 2020 https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2020/02/24/donald-trumps-pro-life-presidency/#slide-1 (Retrieved July 22, 2020)
16 “Trump Administration Blocks Funds for Planned Parenthood and Others over Abortion Referrals,” New York Times, February 22, 2019 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/22/health/trump-defunds-planned-parenthood.html (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
17 “New HHS Rule Protects Pro-Life Healthcare Workers,” Christianity Today, May 2, 2019 https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/january/hhs-division-conscience-protections-prolife-abortion-trump.html (Retrieved July 24, 2020) See also, “White House Unveils Rule to Protect Health Workers’ Religious, Moral Beliefs,” Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2019 https://www.wsj.com/articles/white-house-unveils-rules-to-protect-health-workers-religious-moral-beliefs-11556816255 (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
18 https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-47th-annual-march-life/ (Retrieved August 18, 2020)
20 Alex Pappas, “Trump Officially Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, Orders Embassy to Move for U.S.,” Fox News, December 6, 2017 https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-officially-recognizes-jerusalem-as-israels-capital-orders-embassy-move-for-us (Retrieved July 22, 2020)
21 Natasha Turek, “Trump Officially Recognized Israel’s Annexation of Golan Heights, Here ‘s What it Means,” CNBC.com, March 27, 2019 https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/27/trump-officially-recognized-israels-annexation-of-golan-heights.html (Retrieved July 22, 2020)
22 Mike Evans, “Israel’s Greatest Friend Sits in the White House,” The Jerusalem Post, May 29, 2019 https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Israels-greatest-friend-sits-in-the-White-House-591063 (Retrieved July 22, 2020)
23Deirdre Shesgreen, John Fritze, Michael Collins, David Jackson, “Trump announces Israel and United Arab Emirates will formalize diplomatic ties in potentially historic deal,” USA Today, August 14, 2020
24 “Trump’s Mid-East Breakthrough,” The Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2020 https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-mideast- -11597360774?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=1.(Retrieved August 18, 2020
26 Adam Shaw, “Trump Tours Wall as Construction Hits 200 Mile Mark, Says Southern Border Has ‘Never Been More Secure,’” Fox News.com, June 23, 2020 https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-wall-200-mile-mark-southern-border (Retrieved July 22, 2020)
27 James Carafano, “Trump’s Immigration Wins – Despite Opposition, Here’s How He Produced Real Results,” Fox News.com, June 23, 2020 https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/trump-immigration-wins-produced-real-results-james-carafano (Retrieved July 22, 2020)
28 Stoyan Zaimov, “Trump Administration Motions to Argue on Behalf of Jack Phillips in Supreme Court Gay Wedding Cake Case,” The Christian Post, October 27, 2017,https://www.christianpost.com/news/trump-admin-motions-to-argue-on-behalf-of-jack-phillips-in-supreme-court-gay-wedding-cake-case.html (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
29 Robert Pear, “Trump Administration Rolls Back Birth Control Mandate,” New York Times, October 6, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/06/us/politics/trump-contraception-birth-control.html (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
30 Office of the Attorney General, Memorandum for All Executive Departments and Agencies, Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty, October 6, 2017https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1001891/download?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery (Retrieved August 21, 2020). See also https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-stands-religious-freedom-united-states/
31 Kevin Dayaratna, Nicolas Loris and David Kreutzer, “Consequences of Paris Protocol “ Devastating Economic Costs, Essentially Zero Environmental Benefits,” The Heritage Foundation, April 13, 2016 https://www.heritage.org/environment/report/consequences-paris-protocol-devastating-economic-costs-essentially-zero (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
33 Matthew Brown, “Trump Administration Approves Keystone Pipeline on U.S.Land,” ABCNews.com, January 22, 2020 https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/trump-administration-approve-keystone-pipeline-us-land-68456805 (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
34 Courtney Norris, “Trump Signs Order to Advance Keystone XL and Dakota Pipelines, PBS.com,January 23, 2017 https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/trump-signs-order-advance-keystone-xl-dakota-pipelines (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
35 “Interior Opens More of Alaska Reserve to Oil Development,” Associated Press, June 25, 2020 accessed at https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Interior-opens-more-of-Alaska-reserve-to-oil-15367331.php (Retrieved July 23, 2020). See also https://www.wsj.com/articles/interior-secretary-to-approve-oil-drilling-in-alaska-s-arctic-refuge-11597667400?mod=hp_lead_pos11.
36 “Trans-Alaskan Pipeline History,” https://aoghs.org/transportation/trans-alaska-pipeline/ (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
37 “Trump Administration Scores Big on Energy from Public Lands,’ Institute for Energy Research, January 10, 2020 https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/fossil-fuels/gas-and-oil/trump-administration-scores-big-on-energy-from-public-lands/ (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
38 Jude Clemente, “The U.S. is Becoming the World’s Largest Oil and Natural Gas Exporter,” Forbes, March 22, 2020 https://www.forbes.com/sites/judeclemente/2020/03/22/the-us-is-becoming-the-worlds-largest-oil-and-natural-gas-exporter/#66e5c1fb5cb2 (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
39 Stephanie Ebbs, “Trump Administration Removes Federal Protections from Streams, Wetlands,” ABCNews.com January 23, 2020 https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-administration-removes-federal-protections-streams-wetlands/story?id=68463935 (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
40 “New Clean Water Rule Provides Clarity, Certainty to Farmers and Ranchers,” https://www.fb.org/newsroom/new-clean-water-rule-provides-clarity-certainty-to-farmers-and-ranchers (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
41 Ledyard King, “Trump Administration Scraps Obama Fuel efficiency Standard, Opts for Laxer Rule,” USA Today.com, March 31, 2020 https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/03/31/trump-eases-up-obama-era-fuel-efficiencies-rules-cars-trucks/5093923002/ (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
42 Deb Reichmann, “Trump Says ISIS Territory in Syria Nearly Eliminated,” Military Times, March 20, 2019 https://www.militarytimes.com/flashpoints/2019/03/20/trump-says-isis-territory-in-syria-nearly-eliminated/ (Retrieved July 23, 2000)
45 Niail McCarthy, “NATO Defense Expenditure,” Statista.com, December 3, 2019 https://www.statista.com/chart/14636/defense-expenditures-of-nato-countries/ (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
46 David French, “Just How Easy Should It Be to Destroy a Young Man’s Life?” National Review, January 30, 2019 https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/01/just-how-easy-should-it-be-to-destroy-a-young-mans-life/ (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
47 Adam Shaw, “Trump Signs Executive Order to Promote Free Speech on College Campuses,” Fox News.com, March 21, 2019 https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-signs-executive-order-to-promote-free-speech-on-college-campuses (Retrieved July 23, 2020). For examples, see http://centerforacademicfreedom.org/
48 Adam Liptak, “Supreme Court Revives Transgender Ban on Military Service,” New York Times, January 22, 2019 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/us/politics/transgender-ban-military-supreme-court.html (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
50 Reid Frazier, “Trump Administration Finalizing Rollback of Rules for Landmark Environmental Law,” July 15, 2020 https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2020/07/15/trump-administration-finalizing-rollback-of-rules-for-landmark-environmental-law/ (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
51 Timothy Puko, “Trump to Put New Environmental Rules into Force,” Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2020 https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-to-put-new-environmental-review-rules-into-force-11594832858 (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
53 “U.S. Approves Ukraine’s Purchase of 150 Javelin Anti-Tank Missiles,” The Defense Post, October 3, 2019, https://www.thedefensepost.com/2019/10/03/us-approves-ukraine-javelin-anti-tank-missile-sale/ (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
54 Ben Shapiro, “Trump is Right on the China Threat,” RealClearPolitics.com, August 28, 2019 https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2019/08/28/trump_is_right_on_the_china_threat_141108.html (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
55 Sherisse Pham, “How Much Has the U.S. Lost from China’s IP Theft?” CNN.com, March 23, 2018 https://money.cnn.com/2018/03/23/technology/china-us-trump-tariffs-ip-theft/index.html (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
56 Roslyn Layton, “China Expert Applauds Trump’s Hardline on China, Says Congress, CEOs, and Media Need to Do More,” Forbes, July 18, 2019 https://www.forbes.com/sites/roslynlayton/2019/07/18/china-expert-applauds-trumps-hard-line-on-china-says-congress-ceos-and-media-need-to-do-more/#454a7e912f35 (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
57 Numerous examples must recent being: Tyler Olson, “Trump Administration Adds 11 Companies to Sanctions List Over Uighur Oppression, Fox News.com, July 14, 2020 https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-administration-adds-11-companies-to-sanctions-list-over-uighur-oppression (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
58 Mark Moore, “U.S. Increasing Naval Presence in South China Sea as Check on China,” New York Post, July 6, 2020 https://nypost.com/2020/07/06/us-increasing-naval-presence-in-south-china-sea-as-check-on-china/ (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
59 Ken Moritsugu and Matthew Lee, “U.S. Orders China to Close its Consulate in Houston,” ABCNews.com, July 22, 2020 https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/china-us-orders-close-consulate-houston-71914064 (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
60 Laurel Wamsley, “U.S. Expels 60 Russian Officials, Closes Consulate in Seattle,”NPR.org, March 26, 2018 https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/03/26/596966272/us-expels-dozens-of-russian-diplomats-closes-consulate-in-seattle (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
61Morgan Chalfant, “Trump Administration Rolls Out New Sanctions over Russian Occupation,” The Hill.com, January 29, 2020 https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/480541-trump-administration-rolls-out-new-sanctions-over-russian-occupation (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
62 David Reid, “European Defense Spending to Hit 300 Billion by 2021 as Experts Say Trump’s Pressure is Paying Off,” CNBC.com, November 1, 2019 https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/01/european-defense-spending-to-hit-300-billion-by-2021-analysts-say.html (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
63Mark Landler, “Trump Abandons Iran Nuclear Deal He Long Scorned, New York Times, May 8, 2018 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/world/middleeast/trump-iran-nuclear-deal.html
64J, Edward Moreno, “Trump Says 1,000 Additional Military Personnel to Deploy to New York City,” TheHill.com, April 4, 2020 https://thehill.com/policy/defense/491184-trump-says-1000-additional-military-personnel-to-deploy-to-ny (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
65 Nick Givas, “Trump Cheers America’s Production of Ventilators, Sending Them to other Countries Hit Hard by Coronavirus,” FoxNews.com, April 22, 2020 https://www.foxnews.com/us/trump-cheers-americas-production-of-ventilators-sending-them-to-other-countries-hit-hard-by (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
(Retrieved August 18, 2020)
68 Tommy Beer, “Coronavirus Vaccine Begins Final Phase of Testing in the U.S.” Forbes.com, July 27, 2020 https://www.forbes.com/sites/tommybeer/2020/07/27/coronavirus-vaccine-begins-final-phase-of-testing-in-the-us/#342aa814566f (Retrieved August 18, 2020)
https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/25/whats-in-stimulus-package-coronavirus-149282 (Retrieved July 24, 2020)
https://www.whitehouse.gov/articles/congress-didnt-act-on-prescription-drug-prices-so-president-trump-did/ (Retrieved August 18, 2020)
76Jack L. Rozdilsky Heriberto Urby Jr., “Yes, Donald Trump Can Send Federal Troops Into States (No Permission Needed),” The National Interest, June 5, 2020 https://nationalinterest.org/blog/reboot/yes-donald-trump-can-send-federal-troops-states-no-permission-needed-160566 (Retrieved August 18, 2020)
77 Katie Pavlich, “Boom: Operation Legend Takes Dozens of Killers off the Streets, Tracks down Thousands of Fugitives,” Townhall.com, August 19, 2020 https://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2020/08/19/ag-barr-makes-huge-announcement-on-operation-legend-n2574657
78 There are many examples including Caleb Parke, “Evangelical Leaders Gather to Pray for Trump at White House, Blasting Impeachment Effort,” Fox News.com, October 30, 2019 https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-impeachment-pastors-pray-white-house (Retrieved July 23, 2020)
https://www.foxnews.com/media/evening-newscasts-150-times-more-negative-trump (Retrieved August 18, 2020)
80 “President News Conferences,” https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/statistics/data/presidential-news-conferences (Retrieved August 18, 2020)
Permission for Pastors to Preach about Politics
September 21, 2020
If you’re a pastor during this election season, the easy path is to say nothing about politics. You won’t step on anybody’s toes. Nobody will walk out in the middle of your sermon. You won’t lose disgruntled members (and donors!). A few people might ask you to say more about politics, and they will grumble, but they won’t leave the church. You’re safe.
But does God want you to stay silent at this time?
I can’t answer that for you. It’s between you and God whether you preach about any political issues at all, and, if you do, which issues you decide to preach about. But I can make some observations that I think will give you a sense of permission (not from me, but from the Bible) to preach about at least some key political issues.
Whether you are a Trump supporter or a Biden supporter or somewhere in between, I intend my first seven points to apply to you, because I believe a democracy is healthy when differing views are expressed thoughtfully and carefully. My last three points will be based on my own preferences in this election.
1. Your listeners need to see that the Bible speaks to all of life, including politics.
“Whether you eat or drink,” says Paul, “or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). But can we do politics to the glory of God? Of course, because politics must be included in the phrase “whatever you do.”
Paul also says that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for . . . training in righteousness,” so that we may be “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Surely voting in an election is part of “every good work” that God wants us to do, and that gives a reason why we should expect Scripture to be “profitable for . . . training” in what kinds of candidates and policies we should support.
But if a pastor goes through an entire election season and gives no teaching about the Bible’s application to political questions, he will be acting as if the Bible is irrelevant to political questions. Then how will his listeners ever think that the Bible is relevant for all of life?
In addition, many modern political issues were moral issues that the Bible talked about long before they became political issues in modern society – such as freedom of religion, abortion, sexuality, care for the poor, and racial discrimination. Should pastors not preach about such moral issues when they have implications for politics?
2. God cares about secular governments and their leaders
I decided to search out whether the Bible ever recorded some examples in which God’s people (those who were genuine believers) had a good influence, not just on the nation of Israel, but on secular governments outside of Israel. Does God care about secular governments and their leaders? I found much more than I expected.
For example, Joseph was the highest official after Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and had great influence in the decisions of Pharaoh (see Gen. 41:37–45; 42:6; 45:8–9, 26). Daniel was a high official in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court. He was “ruler over the whole province of Babylon” and “chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48). He was regularly “at the king’s court” (v. 49). And he gave moral instruction to the king:
“Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Dan. 4:27).
I found more examples than these. Nehemiah was “cupbearer to the king” (Neh. 1:11), a position of high responsibility before King Artaxerxes of Persia. Mordecai “was second in rank to King Ahasuerus” of Persia (Esth. 10:3; see also 9:4). Queen Esther also had significant influence on the decisions of Ahasuerus, risking her very life in order to save the Jewish people from destruction (see Esth. 5:1–8; 7:1–6; 8:3–13; 9:12–15, 29–32).
The Bible doesn’t merely say that these things happened, but the narrative texts view these events in a positive light, for they regularly record this influence on secular governments as a result of God’s favor toward his people and as a measure of blessing to those governments. This reminds us of God’s promise to Abraham that “in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18).
I realize that these examples are not exactly the same as a pastor preaching about politics today, but there are similarities. In the ancient world, giving advice and guidance to the king was the way to bring about beneficial political policies. In modern democracies, voting, and giving guidance to others who vote, is the way to bring about beneficial political policies.
The New Testament provides two additional examples: John the Baptist rebuked the Roman ruler Herod “for all the evil things that Herod had done” (Luke 3:19), which certainly must have included not only privately known sins but also publicly known governing decisions.
Another possible example is the apostle Paul. While Paul was in prison in Caesarea, he stood trial before the Roman governor Felix:
[Felix] sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you” (Acts 24:24–25).
The fact that Felix was “alarmed” and that Paul reasoned with him about “righteousness” and “the coming judgment” indicates that Paul was telling Felix that he would be accountable for his actions at “the coming judgment.” When the book of Acts tells us that Paul “reasoned” with Felix, the word (present participle of Greek dialegomai) indicates a back-and-forth conversation or discussion. We cannot be sure what they discussed, but it is very possible that Felix asked Paul, “What about this decision that I made? What about this policy? What about this ruling?” I cannot be sure about this, but at least we can say that Paul was discussing substantive issues with Felix, which may have included governmental decisions, and in that way Paul would have been “preaching about politics” to a Roman governor.
3. Preaching “the whole counsel of God” will include preaching about civil government
Paul’s ministry also provides a good pattern for pastors to follow today: not merely preaching on our favorite passages of Scripture, but faithfully preaching about everything that the Bible teaches. Paul told the church leaders at Ephesus that he had been faithful in teaching them “the whole counsel of God”:
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:26-27)
I hope I will be able to say that to the thousands of students I have taught in 43 years as a professor of theology: “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). But surely that must include some teaching about politics.
The New Testament has two passages that specifically address the responsibilities of civil governments (Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-14) and several other verses with implications for government (such as Matthew 22:21 and 1 Timothy 2:1-3). The Old Testament contains many details about the actions of good and evil kings. The words “king” and “kings” occur 112 times in Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes alone, and “ruler/rulers” is found another 20 times.
Therefore, if a pastor feels a responsibility for declaring “the whole counsel of God” to his people, he will have to do some teaching on biblical principles regarding civil government. And what better time to do that than in the middle of an election season when questions about good and bad governmental policies are on everybody’s mind?
4. Pastors throughout history have preached about politics
Historian Alvin Schmidt, in his book, How Christianity Changed the World, points out that the spread of Christian influence on government was primarily responsible for outlawing infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); granting of property rights and other protections to women throughout history; prohibiting the burning alive of widows along with their dead husbands in India (in 1829); and outlawing the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912). These reforms all required changes in a country’s laws, which is a political process that could not have happened unless numerous pastors had been teaching government officials and those who influenced them about the evils of these practices (that is, preaching about politics).
In the years leading up to the American War of Independence, many pastors were preaching that resistance to tyranny (that is, resistance to the reign of King George III of England) was a morally good action, while a minority of pastors disagreed, urging continued submission to the British. But the point is that both sides were preaching about the possibility of independence from Britain, which was both a moral issue and the most crucial political issue of the day. In 1750, Boston pastor Jonathan Mayhew delivered one of the most influential sermons in American history, “A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission,” in which he defended the moral goodness of seeking freedom from British tyranny. His sermon was reprinted and widely distributed throughout the American colonies.
Later, pastors played a major role in the struggle against slavery. In fact, two-thirds of the leading American abolitionists in the mid–1830s were Christian clergymen who were preaching “politics” from the pulpit, saying that slavery should be abolished.
And in the 1960s, the American civil rights movement that resulted in the outlawing of racial segregation and discrimination was led by Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist pastor who dared to preach about such “political” issues (which were, in actuality, also deeply moral issues).
5. It’s not against the law to preach about political issues
It is a widespread myth that churches will lose their tax-exempt status if the pastor begins to speak about political issues. That is not true.
In 1954, the IRS code was amended to prohibit pastors or churches from explicitly saying they support or oppose any individual political candidate by name. (This amendment was introduced by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, so this is often called the Johnson Amendment.) However, in the 66 years since this amendment was adopted, no church has ever lost its tax-exempt status on the basis of anything a pastor said in the pulpit .
Clarification: In 1992, the IRS did revoke the tax-exempt determination letter they had sent to the Church at Pierce Creek in New York State, not because of anything the pastor had said in the pulpit, but because the church had taken out full-page ads opposing Bill Clinton in USA Today and The Washington Times. The IRS action was more symbolic than harmful to the church because church’s tax-exempt status was not affected, and no donations lost their tax-exempt status. This is because, unlike other nonprofit organizations, churches are automatically tax-exempt organizations whether or not they have an IRS determination letter affirming that status.
And the law in any case has never prohibited pastors or churches from taking positions on any moral or political issues that are part of an election campaign.
In addition, many legal experts believe the IRS would lose if this issue ever came into a court of law, because restricting what any pastor can say is a violation of freedom of speech and freedom of religion, both of which are part of the First Amendment to the Constitution. These experts believe the IRS regulation is unconstitutional, and I think they are correct.
Because of the particular status of tax law in the United States, such a law cannot be challenged in court until the IRS brings an action accusing someone of violating it. During the 2010s, a Christian legal advocacy group, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), coordinated the efforts of hundreds of pastors who intentionally wrote sermons violating the Johnson Amendment by endorsing a candidate by name (such as Mitt Romney for president). The ADF then collected these sermons and sent them to the IRS, hoping that the IRS would charge some of these pastors with violating the Johnson Amendment so that they could finally have the amendment declared unconstitutional in a court of law.
But the IRS did nothing about these sermons. Why? My personal opinion (and it is only that) is that the legal experts in the IRS decided there was too great a possibility that the courts would find that the Johnson Amendment, in telling pastors what they could and could not say, was unconstitutional because it was violating both freedom of religion and freedom of speech, which are First Amendment rights and have higher authority than any law passed by Congress.
The Johnson amendment has never been repealed by Congress, but on May 4, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order directing the Department of the Treasury (which includes the IRS) not to target the tax-exempt status of the churches who favor or oppose specific political candidates.
Two kingdoms? One objection is that there are two kingdoms in operation – the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man – and that the church should teach about and build the kingdom of God and not get involved in the kingdom of man. Didn’t Jesus say, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36)?
But surely these two kingdoms influence each other, for good or ill. And surely Christians are still called to do good for those who are not yet members of Jesus’ kingdom:
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10)
If we are to obey Jesus’ command “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), that certainly includes seeking good government, not destructive and harmful government, for our neighbors as well as ourselves.
6. Some people may leave your church, but the question is, have you been faithful to God?
Just last week a pastor told me that when he gave a message on political issues, one couple became angry and left the church. I replied that that does not mean he was wrong. It may just mean that he was faithfully teaching the Word of God and they rejected its teachings. (Later he told me that he had had a good conversation with them and they decided to return.)
People walked out on Jesus when he began to preach unpopular truths (John 6:66), and the people in his hometown of Nazareth were so troubled by his teaching that they even tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:29). Paul was a remarkably successful evangelist to the Gentiles, but opponents who disliked his message eventually drove him out of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Thessalonica, and Berea (Acts 13:50; 14 5-6, 19; 17:5, 13-14). Yet at the end of his life he had the joy of knowing that he had been faithful to God: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
If you believe that God is calling you to speak on some political/ moral issues, it is important to settle in your mind beforehand that a sense of God’s approval on your speaking will be more valuable to you than avoiding the (possible) loss of some friendships and supporters. That is a decision that only you can make. And who knows if God will bring more people to your church in response to your faithfulness?
7. Pastors today have an unusual opportunity to influence the direction of history
Will it make a difference whether you speak on politics or not? Yes, it will make a difference. I recently spoke at a local church about the issues at stake in this election, and what surprised me was the thoughtful, mature people who came up to me afterward and said, “Thank you for that clear explanation. I was so confused. I didn’t know what to think.” In my opinion, most pastors would be amazed at how many people in their churches aren’t sure how to vote this year, and aren’t even sure if they will vote at all.
What if you persuaded just 10 people to vote who otherwise would not have voted? Then if only 1,000 pastors like you influenced just 10 people to vote, that would be 10,000 additional votes. (Remember, George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 by just 537 votes in the state of Florida.) And you might persuade more than 10 people. “In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:6). The nation is at a decision point, and you have a unique opportunity to influence the outcome.
Will you succeed? Will your preferred candidate win? No one knows. The question is whether you have done your part. In years to come, will you be able to look back on 2020 and know that you were faithful to God’s guidance in doing what you were able to do?
8. This election is about more than the next four years
The policies that Democrats and Republicans promise to enact have never in my lifetime been so different, perhaps never in American history (for the differences, see my “Letter to an Anti-Trump Christian Friend,” and also the platforms of Democratic and Republican parties –– the Republicans kept their 2016 platform for 2020). America is truly at a turning point, and because of the immense power that judges now have, this election could set the direction of our nation not just for the next four years, but for the next 10 or 20 years or even more.
Let me explain why. If Joe Biden wins the election and if Democrats gain a majority in the Senate, the Democratic platform promises to make Washington DC the 51st state (p. 58-59), which would automatically add two more Democratic senators to the U.S. Senate, making it more difficult for Republicans to ever regain a majority. And their platform holds open the possibility of making Puerto Rico the 52nd state (p. 59), giving a potential of yet two more Democratic senators.
Present Trump has appointed and the Senate has so far confirmed 212 judges who now serve in the 852 district and circuit judgeships in the United States. But that positive influence on the judicial system could be quickly diluted because the Democratic platform says they are committed to “creating new federal district and circuit judgeships” (p. 38).
Trump has also appointed two of the nine Supreme Court justices (Gorsuch and Kavanaugh), and, with the death of Justice Ginsburg, he may yet be able to appoint a third justice giving the court a 6-3 majority of conservative or “originalist” justices who will rule according to the original meaning of the Constitution and laws (but Chief Justice John Roberts is an unreliable originalist vote). Whoever wins this presidential election will likely be able to choose one or perhaps two justices (Breyer is 82, Thomas is 72, and Alito is 70).
Even if no one retires, several Democrats have raised the possibility of adding six new seats to the Supreme Court, which could give a 9-6 majority of young, “living Constitution” judges who do not consider themselves subject to the original meanings of the Constitution and laws, but think that they have the authority to rewrite these documents according to what they now think the Constitution or law should have said.
The result would be one politically far left policy after another imposed on the country, not by laws passed through Congress and signed by the president, but by judicial rulings that would find a way to claim that these rulings are “constitutional” and therefore impossible to change by any future president or Congress.
But if President Trump is reelected, the next four years will look very different from the Democratic vision. Trump will likely appoint one or two more Supreme Court justices and hundreds of additional district and circuit court judges who believe that “no one is above the law,” and therefore they will not consider themselves to be above the Constitution and the laws and able to give them new meanings, but rather will consider themselves to be subject to the law, understood according to the meaning of the words at the time the law or the Constitution itself were written. Therefore new laws will only be created, not by the novel ideas of powerful judges, but as they should be created, through the actions of state legislatures and governors and the actions of the US Congress and the president, all of whom are accountable to the people through the election process.
9. Genuine threats to religious freedom
In my view, the most troubling possibility is the threat of a significant loss of religious freedom that would likely follow a Biden-Harris victory. The Democratic platform promises, “We will reject the Trump Administration’s use of broad religious exemptions to allow businesses, medical providers, social service agencies, and others to discriminate” (p. 48).
This sentence, if understood in the context of recent Democratic policy advocacy and judicial activism, predicts a whole series of lawsuits attempting to force Christians in businesses to violate their consciences by requiring that their insurance plans pay for abortifacient medicines, abortions, and sex-change surgeries. It predicts that doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals would be required to participate in abortions or lose their jobs. It predicts that professional counselors would be prohibited from attempting to help homosexual men and women who want to begin to live a heterosexual lifestyle. It predicts that Christian bakeries, photographers, and florists would face heavy fines for “discrimination” and be driven into bankruptcy if they refused to bake a cake, take wedding photographs, or provide flower arrangements for same-sex weddings. The 2020 Democratic platform says Democrats will “reject” the Trump administration’s “broad religious exemptions” that today are still protecting Christians from such government oppression.
In addition, this platform statement predicts that Christian adoption agencies and foster care agencies would be put out of business because of “discrimination” unless they were willing to place children with homosexual, lesbian, and transgender couples. It predicts that Christian schools and colleges would be forced to close because of “discrimination” unless they allowed transgender students to use restrooms, locker rooms, showers, and on-campus housing that corresponds to their chosen “gender identity” rather than their biological sex. And, if Canada and some European countries provide a precedent, this statement predicts that even pastors and other Christian leaders might be prosecuted for hate speech if they dare to speak publicly against any aspect of the LGBT+ agenda.
10. What political issues could a pastor preach about today?
Here are some suggestions of topics on which Democrats and Republicans clearly differ, and on which I think the Bible does give helpful guidance:
(1) Religious freedom: the “free exercise” of religion includes life outside the walls of the church, which we should be able to live according to our consciences (Hebrews 13:18; 1 Peter 3:16; Acts 5:29; Daniel 3:13-20; 1 Corinthians 10:31)
(2) Obeying the law: The Bible requires that we obey the law (Romans 13:1-5; 1 Peter 2:13-14), except when it commands us to sin against God (Acts 5:29). Therefore:
– judges do not have a right to change the meaning of laws or of our highest human law, the American Constitution (the Constitution provides another means of changing laws)
– peaceful protests are lawful, but rioting, looting, arson, and assaulting police officers are not lawful or morally right
(2) Abortion: unborn children should be protected by law (Exodus 21:22-25; Psalm 51:5; Deuteronomy 30:19-20; Psalm 139:13)
(3) Sexual orientation and gender identity: governments should not require us to treat biological males like females and biological females like males. (Genesis 1:27; Leviticus 12:2-5; 18:22; Numbers 27:8-9; Deuteronomy 22:5; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; Titus 2:2-6)
(5) Marijuana: medical marijuana should be allowed by law, and regulated like other medicines, but recreational marijuana is highly destructive to a society and should be prohibited (Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 9:21; 21:8)
(6) Immigration and border security: how does God want us to wisely apply the command to “love the sojourner” (Deuteronomy 10:19) as well as the commands to be subject to the government and obey its laws (Romans 13:1-5). If we dislike current immigration laws, what is the best way to get those laws changed? Is it right for a nation to have a wall to protect its borders? ? (Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Deuteronomy 10:19; Psalm 122:7; Psalm 51:18; 2 Chronicles 36:19; Nehemiah 1:3; 2:17; Proverbs 25:28)
(7) Global warming/climate change: Did God create an earth with such beneficial energy sources as coal, oil, and natural gas, but also booby-trap them so that by using them we would destroy the earth? Or did he create an earth with self-correcting mechanisms and long-term cycles of gradual warming and cooling? (Genesis 1:28, 31; 1 Timothy 4:4-5; 6:17; Genesis 9:11; Psalm 104:9; Jeremiah 5:22; Isaiah 45:18)
[Note: I list the alleged threat of catastrophic global warming as an issue here because it is one of the primary rationales behind the push by Democrats for ever-increasing government control of our lives. For more information see the Cornwall Alliance or chapter 41of my Christian Ethics.]
(8) Military power: How strong should our military power be? Should we be committed to using it if necessary to defend a smaller ally (Taiwan, South Korea, Israel) against a powerful aggressor or to keep the world’s sea lanes free from modern-day pirates and attacks by rogue nations? (Deuteronomy 7:1-3; 10:1; Joshua 1:6-9; Romans 13:3-4)
(9) Other topics (where both parties agree): I have not included in this list some topics on which Republican and Democratic leaders agree, such as:
— racism is evil
— we must continually defend against terrorist attacks, and
— we must continue to pursue effective therapies and vaccines against the COVID-19 virus.
(10) Still other topics (where evangelical Christians might not agree): I have also not included in this list several other topics on which Republicans and Democrats generally differ, and about which there may be more differences among evangelical Christians. I myself have clear convictions on these issues (see my books Christian Ethics, Politics According to the Bible, and The Poverty of Nations), but I recognize that pastors might decide not to discuss these, or might want to address them in some other forum than the Sunday morning sermon:
– tax rates
– economic growth
– the best way to help the poor and find effective solutions to poverty
– government regulation of businesses – more or less?
– school choice
– firearms and self-defense
– foreign policy
(11) What about a write-in vote for president?
The ability to vote is a stewardship given to us by God, and essential to that stewardship is a responsibility to affect the outcome of an election. By placing us in a country that has a democratic form of government and not a dictatorship or monarchy, we each have a small role as part of the “governing authority” that God has placed over our nation. “We the people” are in fact the human rulers of our nation. By voting, we play a role in governing. By voting, we are acting as “God’s servant” for the “good” of the people as a whole (see Romans 13:4).
But voting for a write-in candidate or third-party candidate will not fulfill that stewardship because it will have no effect whatsoever on the outcome of this election. It has the same impact on the outcome as staying home and not voting. Therefore I consider it to be a misuse of our stewardship. It seems to me like putting an empty envelope in the offering plate when it passes you in church – it is going through the motions but accomplishing nothing. Another illustration that comes to mind is hiding your talent in the ground (Matthew 25:25).
The only choice available to us is a choice between two complete packages:
Package 1. Donald Trump and his policies
Package 2. Joe Biden and his policies
Both choices come as whole packages, and they are the only choices we have at the present time. Consider this teaching from Proverbs: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (Proverbs 3:27).
If you believe that God is calling you to teach about some political issues, you also have an opportunity to model how Christians can respect each other even when we have political differences. You can model a respectful and thoughtful tone. You might even consider giving opportunity for a responsible spokesman to express views different from yours. And it’s up to you whether you mention the Democratic and Republican parties by name, or whether you speak in general about “Party A” and “Party B,” or whether you just speak purely about issues without mentioning any political party.
How many issues should you speak about? I cannot decide that for you. But I don’t think the answer is zero.
Wayne Grudem is distinguished research professor of theology and Biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary in Arizona and the author of Christian Ethics and Politics According to the Bible. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not represent the viewpoint of Phoenix Seminary.
I voted for Donald Trump twice. I published several op-ed pieces defending him and his policies. I spoke in support of Trump on podcasts and before live audiences. I do not regret those decisions and I remain convinced that, given the alternatives (Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden), supporting Trump in 2016 and 2020 was the right choice.
What Trump Did Right
I also think that Trump accomplished a remarkable number of good things for America. He placed three outstanding justices on the Supreme Court. He slashed taxes and cancelled thousands of government-imposed regulations, and these two actions spurred vigorous economic growth while bringing inflation down to just over 2% per year. He reduced the flow of illegal immigrants from 297,898 to 143.099 per year. (By way of comparison, under Biden the numbers are 2.76 million for 2022 and 3.2 million so far for 2023.) Trump built over 200 miles of effective border walls and would have built many more miles if construction had not been blocked repeatedly by liberal judges and by a Democratic Congress that refused to appropriate money for a wall.
In addition, President Trump negotiated the Abraham Accords, which established normal diplomatic relationships between Israel and four neighboring Arab countries and gave hope for continuing peace in the Middle East. And he moved the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I also note that Russia did not invade Ukraine and Hamas did not invade Israel while Trump was president – they were afraid of how he might respond.
With regard to energy policy, Trump gave approval to the Keystone pipeline, the Dakota access pipeline, and oil production from the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, a region which could produce up to 20 percent of our petroleum needs. His administration also granted significantly more permits for mining of oil, gas, and coal from federal lands. The result was lower energy prices, a benefit to everyone. (The average price of gas in the United States was $2.42 per gallon in January, 2021, Trump’s last month in office, compared to $3.74 today – a 54% increase under Biden.) At the end of Trump’s term, the US was energy-independent and was on its way to becoming the world’s leading exporter rather than a net importer of energy.
And the list goes on. Trump built a stronger US military, expanded educational freedom, defended freedom of conscience for artistic professionals, defeated ISIS, persuaded several European nations to increase their NATO funding, protected freedom of speech on college campuses, and instructed the Department of Education to protect boys’ and girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams.
Speaking as a professor who has taught theology and ethics for 46 years, I can say that all of these actions seem to me to be consistent with a Judeo-Christian world view as found in the Bible as a whole. And, as an evangelical Christian, I appreciate that Trump welcomed several evangelicals into cabinet posts and other positions of high influence in his administration. (Biden has none in his cabinet so far as I know.)
Democrats Oppose Trump’s Accomplishments
But President Biden has steadily rolled back many of these achievements, and if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2024, more and more will be nullified. Democrats will appoint liberal justices to the Supreme Court and lower courts; they will continually increase taxes; they will fuel inflation with runaway government spending, which will drive our nation ever further into debt. They will place nearly impossible requirements on the use of coal, oil, and natural gas, thereby giving us ever more expensive and less reliable energy. They will keep our borders open because they hope millions of illegal immigrants will eventually become millions of additional Democrat voters. They will also increase their attacks on religious freedom and freedom of conscience. They will continue to weaken our military through relentless cuts to military budgets. If we have to endure another four years of a Democratic president, nearly all of Trump’s legacy will be lost.
Why Trump should drop out now
Why then should Trump drop out of the current presidential race? Because he is a weaker candidate than in 2016. In fact, Republican pollster Frank Luntz recently called Trump the “weakest” Republican candidate for the general election. While Trump remains popular among conservative Republicans (and thus he could win the GOP nomination), his support among independent voters is abysmal, and independents will decide the general election.
The latest Gallup poll showed a remarkable decline in party loyalty for both parties. 28% of Americans now consider themselves Republicans, 24% now consider themselves Democrats, and a whopping 46% say they are “Independents.” A candidate will have to win a majority of Independents in order to win the election. And that is where Trump comes up short.
A New York Times/ Siena College poll of over 3,600 registered voters in six battleground states in October, 2023, found that 57% of respondents had an unfavorable view of President Biden, a highly unpopular president (41% were favorable). But 56%, almost an identical number, had an unfavorable view of Trump (42% were favorable). Voters don’t like either of these candidates. And among voters who are “undecided and persuadable,” only 20% think it would be good for the country if Trump became president again. And 54% believe that Trump has committed serious federal crimes. If those numbers are anywhere near the actual situation, it will be impossible for Trump to win the general election.
Therefore if Trump collects a majority of delegates in the early Republican primaries and thereby secures the GOP nomination, Republicans would be facing a huge risk that Democrats will find some way to dump Biden and then quickly select a fresh, younger candidate (like California governor Gavin Newsome) and win the general election in a landslide.
Seven negative factors that diminish Trump’s support
Here are seven factors that have driven away large numbers of independent voters since the 2020 election:
But what about recent polls?
What about the polls that show Trump ahead of Biden? To me, they mean nothing because I don’t believe for a minute that the leadership of the Democrat Party will allow such an unpopular president as Biden to be their 2024 presidential candidate. I think the Democratic leaders are wrong about many policy convictions, but I don’t think they are politically stupid. They are politically shrewd, and their eventual candidate will be much younger and much more popular.
The mainstream liberal press continues to run stories about Trump’s huge lead among Republican voters and about polls showing that Trump could beat Biden, but I think that is because they recognize Trump’s weakness among the general public. Therefore they want Trump as the Republican candidate, knowing that he would lose the general election. They will mostly hold off on running negative stories about Trump until after he wins the GOP nomination, and then the avalanche will start.
No successful sports team continues to talk about how they can beat their weakest rival, but that is similar to what Republicans are doing if they continue to emphasize Trump’s lead over Biden in recent polls. It means nothing against stronger Democrat opponents.
Will the election be about Trump or about issues and policies?
If Donald Trump becomes the Republican candidate, the election will focus more on Trump than on the policies of the two parties. We will have endless media coverage of Trump’s trial, Trump’s lawyers, Trump’s friends and enemies, Trump’s health, Trump’s conduct on January 6 — and endless media delight in asking speculative questions such as: Could Trump actually go to jail? How could the Secret Service protect Trump in jail? How could Trump meet foreign leaders in his jail cell? Could Trump pardon himself? and so forth. Because he is such a forceful personality, and because he is so controversial, and because any story about him attracts viewers and readers, all of the 2024 election season will be Trump, Trump, Trump stories all year long. Is this really what we want as a nation?
But if Trump drops out and another Republican is nominated, the election will be much more about big issues facing the nation. The election will focus on inflation, taxes, securing the border, crime, support for police, school choice, Israel, Ukraine, our military preparedness, race relations, abortion, climate change, the role of judges, the Supreme Court, the national debt, etc.
And if the campaign is about issues, Republicans will likely win the presidency because the mood of the nation has shifted to much stronger support for Republican policies (for example, smaller government, lower taxes, a secure border, a stronger military, more availability of school choice, judges who interpret but do not create laws, etc.) than for the policies of the Democrats.
Trump’s legacy: Plan A or Plan B?
Donald Trump now faces a difficult choice.
Plan A is that Trump stays in the race and wins the Republican nomination but loses the general election. His legacy then will be that he made a good start in 2017-2021, but after that he and the candidates he supported led the Republicans to defeat in 2020, 2022, and 2024, and all his reforms were lost.
Plan B is that Trump drops out of the race and a younger Republican wins the nomination and the general election. This new president will support policies similar to those that President Trump so effectively advocated. Therefore, Trump’s legacy will be secured. He will be remembered as a remarkable change agent who began to free us from the domination of a federal government that had become far too big and far too powerful.
If Trump follows Plan B, he will still be remembered as a president who brought millions of working class Americans into the Republican fold, including millions of Black and Hispanic voters. He will also be remembered as a president who rebuilt our military, restored the dominance of originalism in our courts, cut taxes, strengthened the economy, showed us how to effectively secure the border, brought new hope for genuine peace in the Middle East, made us the dominant source of world energy, deterred aggression by Rusia and China, defeated ISIS, and did many other good things.
And if he drops out now, Trump will also be remembered as the ex-president who with commendable humility put the good of the country ahead of his own personal ambition and withdrew from the race so that a more electable Republican could become president and could spend the next eight years solidifying the policies that Trump began in 2017-2021.
Yes, dropping out would require a dose of humility, a quality not common among politicians. But humility is frequently recommended in the Bible: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; also1 Peter 5:5).
A pardon for Trump
Finally, I hope that the new Republican president on January 20, 2025, will issue a wide-ranging pardon to Trump, thus rebuking the Democrats’ shameful attempts to use the Department of Justice as a political weapon to persecute members of the other party. This is a practice followed in corrupt third world nations, but it is a practice unworthy of this great nation, and no honorable president or political party should tolerate its existence in the United States of America.
Wayne Grudem at the Watchmen on the Wall Conference in Washington DC, a conference for pastors and church leaders sponsored by the Family Research Council (June 21, 2015)
BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE EVANGELICAL SCHOLARS (OFFICERS AND 24 FORMER PRESIDENTS OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY), EVANGELICALS FOR SOCIAL ACTION, AND NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF EVANGELICALS, IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER (Wayne Grudem was the primary author of the drafts which were reviewed and corrected by several lawyers and which then resulted in this brief.)