Trump Derangement Syndrome, Desperation Thinking, and Facing the Questions

Mostly, the sound and fury over Christianity Today’s editorial advocating President Trump’s removal from office seems to be following the now-familiar pattern: reaction aplenty, reflection—not so much.

It seems that “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” cuts both ways. The left wing version (LW) can’t seem to see the difference between Trump and Hitler. The right wing version (RW) seems to have trouble seeing the difference between Trump and the Messiah. These TDS sufferers perceive everyone around them in these extremes as well, so regardless of what’s actually being said, what they hear is binary. Either you’re echoing our (extreme) view and are one of “Us” or you’re one of “Them,” expressing the extreme opposite.

Trump himself suffers from the right wing version of Trump Derangement Syndrome, as his reaction to Mark Galli’s editorial demonstrated. Galli’s analysis offered both positive and negative observations about President Trump, but both Trump and his hordes of fellow TDS-RW sufferers immediately boiled it down to “Doesn’t sound like Us. Must be Them”—or pretended to. I don’t honestly know which is worse.

Those unafflicted by TDS of either the LW or RW variety can see some valid points in Galli’s arguments, as well as some weaker ones. They can distinguish one claim from another and weigh the supporting facts and reasoning for each, and possibly come to a better understanding of some of the thinking on these matters—even if it’s better understanding of what they disagree with, and why.

Which brings me to the purpose of this little entry into the fray. If you see the perspective voiced by Mark Galli (and others) as reasonable, even if you disagree, congratulations on being TDS-free! Hang in there. You’re not alone, and you really haven’t lost your mind. Everyone else has.

If you’re still a Trump-defender but haven’t slipped into full-blown TDS, I want to make you more uncomfortable, because I think it might help. (The TDS cases are beyond my skills.)

I know there are some pretty conflicted Trump supporters out there! One sure sign is how oversensitive some of them are. Criticize Trump just a little, and you get a noticeably disproportionate response. This is symptomatic of TDS-RW also, but the milder forms tell me I’m dealing with a person who is probably pretty insecure about the position they’ve carved out. They don’t want to criticize Trump at all, but they’re conflicted. Part of them keeps insisting something’s wrong. It makes them grumpy.

For TDS-free evangelical Trump-defenders, then, three questions:

1. Can it ever be wrong to take an action even when all the alternatives will have worse outcomes?

The answer is yes. I don’t know why this idea is controversial for Christians, but I’ve gone multiple rounds in forum discussions and some definitely find it hard to accept or hard to understand. Stated positively, the principle is this: Sometimes it’s wrong to do A even though all the other options seem guaranteed to result in disaster. I’ll get to how this relates to supporting President Trump below, but first, a biblical example—King Saul.

When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, and some Hebrews crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. Samuel said, “What have you done?” (1 Samuel 13:6–11)

Some time later Saul followed the same pattern by keeping some of the spoils from the defeat of Agag (1 Sam. 15:20-21).

On both of these occasions Saul was afraid and desperate. He saw a situation where severe, lasting defeat would certainly occur if he chose to take the moral high ground and follow the instructions he had been given.

Desperation breeds an unhealthy focus on “But what will happen if I don’t?” It can lead us to re-characterize a choice between right and wrong as a choice between “the lesser of two evils.” In the sense of “two options with negative outcomes” the latter does happen. But a Christian is never so desperate that he has to do wrong in order to avoid disaster. In that case, he doesn’t get to avoid disaster.

Frequently, what I hear from Trump supporters is desperation reasoning: He’s got problems, but if we don’t help him win, what will happen?! Abortion! Loss of religious liberty! Economic decline! So even though he’s clearly a foolish, proud, and dishonorable man, let’s put him in charge, because he’ll do some things we’re desperate to see done!

My advice: calm down, figure out what’s right and do that. Stop being desperate. Saul’s desperate moves did work pretty well. But they brought disaster of a completely different kind for Saul and his family.

Returning to the question, I phrased it deliberately. If it can ever be wrong to do A when all the other options seem certain to have worse outcomes, that puts a sober responsibility on each of us. We have a duty to look at our choices and ask the question: Is Option A wrong even though it has the best likely outcomes? Why or why not? I don’t see many in the Trump-support camp answering these questions.

2. Does how we think matter?

On the topic of “how to think about Trump” (which is different from what to think about Trump), I’ve encountered an unusually high degree of impatience—a dogged determination to avoid looking away from outcomes to consider the process of ethical evaluation itself.

I keep going back to it for two reasons:

  1. God cares how we think, not just what we believe, what we do, and what results we achieve.
  2. If we use the right thought process, we’re more likely to correctly identify the right thing to do.

Reason 2 should be self-evident. Reason 1 is clear in passages such as these:

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Cor. 14:20)

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. (1 Cor. 3:18)

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7)

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Pet. 3:15)

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2 Cor. 10:5)

In the case of support for, or criticism of, President Trump, we really shouldn’t think we’ve fulfilled our calling as Christians if rejecting “what They say” and echoing “what Our people say” is as far as we’ve gotten. That isn’t even a start at loving God with our minds (Matt. 22: 37).

3. Is it possible to achieve short term success in ways that produce long term failure?

Shortsightedness continues to dominate Trump-defense rhetoric. It’s almost as if Trump defenders believe:

  • Future leaders can’t undo the accomplishments of whoever is in charge today.
  • Policy victories have more enduring power than changing the values and principles of a culture.
  • There is no need to win over anyone who doesn’t already agree with Trump’s policies.
  • There will never be a need for any future leaders in conservatism after the current generation.

Well, the fourth bullet is possible (Parousia). But how could anyone believe the first three?

Here’s the connection: If future leaders can undo what Trump accomplishes, and if changing values and principles is more enduring, and if there’s a need to persuade larger numbers of voters of conservative ideas, what sort of strategy does that demand?

It calls for leadership that is, for starters, not completely alienating toward everyone in the political center and center left (we know the far left is unpersuadable). Maybe it calls for leadership that at least tries to make reasoned arguments for policy positions. Maybe it calls for leadership that thoughtfully addresses the idealism and questions of young potential leaders.

Maybe it calls for a leader who’s personal character and beliefs sort of align at least a little with the spirit and principles of conservatism, rather than one who passionately fights for the letter while actively denying the spirit.

President Trump has done some good things. Can they compensate for the long term damage of his egoism, lack of restraint, and moral tone-deafness? I honestly don’t know. I have serious doubts. But too many evangelical Trump supporters aren’t even considering the question.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

First, I probably need to apologize for impatience, etc. It's interesting how as I get older my patience with some things increases while patience with other things decreases. I understand better now why so many seminary professors get so curmudgeonly in forum discussions.

I've also let myself be distracted by assertions/questions that really aren't relevant… which is not how clear thinking happens.

So, in the interest of focus... 

  • Moral reasoning: My beef is more with the moral reasoning I'm seeing in support of Trump/voting for Trump than with the conclusion. For the most part I'm seeing the same bad (and not Christian) reasoning over and over, and few exceptions.
  • Sin: For purposes of this debate, I don't care if folks want to think of "right thing to do" and "wrong thing to do" as "not sin" and "sin," respectively. "Wrong" means "what we should not do," which is what this is about. What is or isn't "sin" is an important but not really relevant problem.
  • Conscience: Along the same lines, the question of whether doing something is right or wrong is valid whether there is direct revelation or a more complex argument from principles. So, whether this is a matter of conscience or not is also not relevant.

Getting back to the key questions in my article, these are excerpts that might work to summarize…

1. Can it ever be wrong to take an action even when all the alternatives will have worse outcomes?

....Returning to the question, I phrased it deliberately. If it can ever be wrong to do A when all the other options seem certain to have worse outcomes, that puts a sober responsibility on each of us. We have a duty to look at our choices and ask the question: Is Option A wrong even though it has the best likely outcomes? Why or why not? I don’t see many in the Trump-support camp answering these questions.

....

2. Does how we think matter?....

I keep going back to it for two reasons:

  1. God cares how we think, not just what we believe, what we do, and what results we achieve.
  2. If we use the right thought process, we’re more likely to correctly identify the right thing to do.

....

3. Is it possible to achieve short term success in ways that produce long term failure?....

Here’s the connection: If future leaders can undo what Trump accomplishes, and if changing values and principles is more enduring, and if there’s a need to persuade larger numbers of voters of conservative ideas, what sort of strategy does that demand?

With the exception of #3, I included biblical support with my points under these questions. The third question is more of a logical argument reasoning from experience, though we could probably find biblical examples of this also with some digging.

So my claim is that the answer to all three of these questions is yes and that this calls for evaluating a vote for Trump/general cheerleading for Trump in a particular way. When that evaluation actually happens, it tends to result in the negative as far as backing Trump goes. But I'd be very encouraged just to see the evaluation happening.

Why it doesn't happen, for the most part? My guess: people can sense the conclusion it might to lead to, and they're already committed to backing Trump. So, instead… distraction fallacies (the red herrings), distortion fallacies (the straw men), and endless repetition of the same oversimplified "we have to avoid harm" defense… (with occasional acknowledgments that sometimes we don't have to avoid harm, followed by immediate return to the "but we have to avoid harm" defense).

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

josh p's picture

Your Saul example probably also covers point three. Possibly various activities of Sampson may also qualify.

mmartin's picture

Regarding these three points or questions, I would agree they ask Christians to think through who we will vote for.  To approach voting with Godly wisdom.

But, none of those points support the idea that voting for Trump is wrong.  Do they provoke thoroughly evaluating our vote?  Yes.  Thinking long and hard before voting?  Yes. 

Regarding question # 1 and the idea of an action being wrong even if all alternatives are worse, that argument works when discussing voting for Trump only if you feel that voting for him is wrong.  But still, upon what basis should that vote be deemed biblically "wrong?"  What standard?  As for people who voted for Trump not answering this question, this is an irrelevant question to them because if they thought it was wrong they would not have voted for him.

About question # 2, yes, of course it matters to God what we think and yes, I believe, how we think.  Again, how does this question support the idea that voting for Trump is "wrong?"

For question # 3, the answer is Yes.  But again, same question.

RajeshG's picture

I do not believe that it is valid to cite king Saul's disobedience in those specific instances and liken it to what believers who have voted for or plan to vote for President Trump are supposedly doing.

Saul was told exactly and specifically what he was to do by explicit divine revelation from a true prophet of God and chose not to do it. There is no such exact and specific revelation that believers who might choose to support President Trump would be going against concerning whom they should vote for.

RajeshG's picture

From a good article that challenges what Galli said about believers who support President Trump:
 

Given this fact, Mr. Galli should reassess his position and acknowledge that Christians can disagree on politics and take opposing views and that just because someone might support one politician doesn’t mean she is compromising her witness to Christ. Rather, she places the politician in the balance and weighs the positives and the negatives and then acts as best as she knows with what she knows. But on the other hand, perhaps Mr. Galli’s two articles reveal that he likes Barth and dislikes Trump, which leads him to different and inconsistent conclusions. While we may like or dislike different theologians and politicians, we should be circumspect before we drape our personal preferences in the garb of biblical fidelity and then hold others to our own preferred standards. This strikes at the heart of our Christ-wrought Christian liberty, a doctrine codified in the Westminster Confession of Faith. In the end, we are all entitled to differ and charitably debate political questions such as whether a government official should be impeached. Politics, however, also has the prospects of allowing our passions and opinions to distort our theology. In this case, I believe Mr. Galli should be less understanding of Barth’s immorality and more sympathetic to the Evangelical Christians he criticizes.

 

Dan Miller's picture

1. Can it ever be wrong to take an action even when all the alternatives will have worse outcomes?

I think you use the word "outcomes" as a means of separating the morality of the vote from some notion of what will likely come after. I think this is a false distinction, because the morality of the vote is of course wrapped up in what they will likely do. But we can view the matter from a perspective of the morality of the candidates.

You had the right to vote. And in my assessment, you were faced with a thoroughly evil candidate and a moderately evil one. And you had three choices: support #1, support #2, or support each equally. Voting for a third candidate meant that you supported #1 and equal amount as you supported #2. Staying home meant that you supported #1 and equal amount as you supported #2. 

Dan Miller's picture

2. Does how we think matter?....

I keep going back to it for two reasons:

God cares how we think, not just what we believe, what we do, and what results we achieve.

If we use the right thought process, we’re more likely to correctly identify the right thing to do.

No kidding. How can you possibly think this is anything but insulting? You're obviously implying that in your view, you are the one who cares about thinking while your interlocutors here are deranged. 

Dan Miller's picture

3. Is it possible to achieve short term success in ways that produce long term failure?....

Here’s the connection: If future leaders can undo what Trump accomplishes,

Future leaders can ALWAYS undo what is accomplished by current leaders. Though judges take time to undo.

and if changing values and principles is more enduring,

You're cryptic here.

and if there’s a need to persuade larger numbers of voters of conservative ideas, what sort of strategy does that demand?

That is an interesting question. Fiscally conservative policies have lowered unemployment, which has been persuasive at a level that goes beyond speeches.

JNoël's picture

Seeing as how the conversation has become less Trump and more general again, I'll return.

Aaron, I think we are getting to the bottom of a deep, philosophical difference. I will respond to your three questions with only one:

  • Can two Christians come to different conclusions without sinning?

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Dan Miller wrote:

Future leaders can ALWAYS undo what is accomplished by current leaders. Though judges take time to undo.

Here's where I disagree with Aaron on that point.  In point of fact, if a number of babies were saved due to more restrictive abortion policies, then future leaders can't undo that, absent a King Herod-like action to take them out after the fact.  And you're absolutely right that judges will take much longer to undo unless someone comes up with a way to judge all of Trump's choices unfit and have them removed prematurely.

I agree with you that we can't entirely divorce outcomes from our thinking process.  That fact can come into play in court cases when someone does something where their negligence absolutely depends on conditions, sometimes including the thinking process.  A construction worker on a high-rise who drops materials off the side into an approved container, with the understanding that the general public is out of the work area will be judged much differently if something goes wrong and someone is killed than someone who just tosses something off a building without making sure the area below is clear.  Possible outcomes can most certainly affect the morality of an action, and should be something that enters our thinking processes.

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I would agree they ask Christians to think through who we will vote for.  To approach voting with Godly wisdom.

But, none of those points support the idea that voting for Trump is wrong.  Do they provoke thoroughly evaluating our vote?  Yes.  Thinking long and hard before voting?  Yes. 

My reasoning on wrongness of voting for a candidate of poor character goes kind of like this:

  • all the defenses of voting for the candidate of poor character demonstrate desperation thinking, exclusive focus on outcomes, and shortsightedness
  • Scripture opposes these
  • Therefore, the defense is inadequate and supporting the candidate is wrong

I'm oversimplifying a bit, but time is limited.

Saul was told exactly and specifically what he was to do by explicit divine revelation from a true prophet of God and chose not to do it. There is no such exact and specific revelation that believers who might choose to support President Trump would be going against concerning whom they should vote for.

Sound application of biblical principles may be less certain than direct biblical statements on a specific topic, but they can't be dismissed on those grounds. The principle is stated and supported in the article: as Christians we don't get to reason that we have to do questionable activity A because it's the only way to avoid outcome B. It's not a Christian way to think. One doesn't need a verse that talks about voting to make that point. 

I think you use the word "outcomes" as a means of separating the morality of the vote from some notion of what will likely come after. I think this is a false distinction… [analysis comparing the two electable candidates]

Yes, it is a false distinction and not what I'm doing.

2. Does how we think matter?....

I keep going back to it for two reasons:

God cares how we think, not just what we believe, what we do, and what results we achieve.

If we use the right thought process, we’re more likely to correctly identify the right thing to do.

No kidding. How can you possibly think this is anything but insulting? You're obviously implying that in your view, you are the one who cares about thinking while your interlocutors here are deranged. 

The article attacks an argument with a counterargument. The argument I hear over and over is that the only thing that matters in a vote is the outcomes. This is an unbiblical way to think.... because God cares how we arrive at decisions, not just what we decide. Pure outcome analysis all by itself or in a priority position isn't the Christian way.

and if changing values and principles is more enduring,

You're cryptic here.

The point here is that conservatives have a choice between coercive efforts and persuasive efforts. They both have their place but a leader who is unpersuasive (indeed, anti-persuasive in the case of Trump) can only use coercive approaches: law and courts. These approaches change nobody's thinking. They only force compliance. They're inherently short-lived.

Can two Christians come to different conclusions without sinning?

Of course they can. And one of them can be wrong. Or they can both be wrong. So, our duty is to explain our views, offer the evidence and reasoning and see where it leads.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

JNoël's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

My reasoning on wrongness of voting for a candidate of poor character goes kind of like this:

  • all the defenses of voting for the candidate of poor character demonstrate desperation thinking, exclusive focus on outcomes, and shortsightedness
  • Scripture opposes these
  • Therefore, the defense is inadequate and supporting the candidate is wrong

Your reason #1 is sending you down the wrong path, because it simply isn't true.

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Can two Christians come to different conclusions without sinning?

Of course they can. And one of them can be wrong. Or they can both be wrong. So, our duty is to explain our views, offer the evidence and reasoning and see where it leads.

Or both of them can be right. Agreed?

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Or both of them can be right. Agreed?

Not really, no. The deed in question is either OK or it isn't, though perhaps only God knows for sure which. If the deed is actually OK, but someone has a conscience against it, he is in fact incorrect, though he is not permitted to do it due his conscience.... other things being equal.

But in a conversation about whether something is actually right or wrong, that one scenario isn't relevant... because the real question can simply be rephrased from "is this wrong?" to "are those who's consciences tell them it's wrong correct?"

Your reason #1 is sending you down the wrong path, because it simply isn't true.

Well, it would be interested to hear some other arguments. If they're out there, I haven't seen them. ... or have forgotten, but I don't think I would forget. I don't think I've seen any argument at all that didn't amount to basically "The right thing to do is vote in a way that has the least harmful outcomes."

More also on this. I didn't have time to elaborate earlier...

I think you use the word "outcomes" as a means of separating the morality of the vote from some notion of what will likely come after. I think this is a false distinction… [analysis comparing the two electable candidates]

My view is that when evaluating the ethics of an action, there are several ways to view the role of outcomes:

  1. outcomes don't matter at all
  2. outcomes are all that matters
  3. outcomes are not the only factor, but are the primary consideration
  4. outcomes matter but are not the primary consideration

There are probably others to add to the list. My view is #4.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

JNoël's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Or both of them can be right. Agreed?

Not really, no. The deed in question is either OK or it isn't, though perhaps only God knows for sure which. If the deed is actually OK, but someone has a conscience against it, he is in fact incorrect, though he is not permitted to do it due his conscience.... other things being equal.

But in a conversation about whether something is actually right or wrong, that one scenario isn't relevant... because the real question can simply be rephrased from "is this wrong?" to "are those who's consciences tell them it's wrong correct?"

I thought you would say that. And I disagree with you, but we'd probably need an entirely new conversation to argue it out to completion. Personally, I don't think it's as easy as "The deed [not clearly commanded in scripture] in question is either OK or it isn't." I believe God is far more complicated than that.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:

My view is that when evaluating the ethics of an action, there are several ways to view the role of outcomes:

  1. outcomes don't matter at all
  2. outcomes are all that matters
  3. outcomes are not the only factor, but are the primary consideration
  4. outcomes matter but are not the primary consideration

There are probably others to add to the list. My view is #4.

Mine is one of the ones you'd have to add to the list.

5. Outcomes are not the only factor.  However, depending on the relative harm of the outcome, it may become the primary consideration.

Dave Barnhart

RajeshG's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Saul was told exactly and specifically what he was to do by explicit divine revelation from a true prophet of God and chose not to do it. There is no such exact and specific revelation that believers who might choose to support President Trump would be going against concerning whom they should vote for.

Sound application of biblical principles may be less certain than direct biblical statements on a specific topic, but they can't be dismissed on those grounds. The principle is stated and supported in the article: as Christians we don't get to reason that we have to do questionable activity A because it's the only way to avoid outcome B. It's not a Christian way to think. One doesn't need a verse that talks about voting to make that point. 

When one uses a verse as support for a point that one advocates, but the verse in fact does not support that point, one should not use the verse in making that point.

josh p's picture

JNoël wrote:

 

Aaron Blumer wrote:

 

Or both of them can be right. Agreed?

Not really, no. The deed in question is either OK or it isn't, though perhaps only God knows for sure which. If the deed is actually OK, but someone has a conscience against it, he is in fact incorrect, though he is not permitted to do it due his conscience.... other things being equal.

But in a conversation about whether something is actually right or wrong, that one scenario isn't relevant... because the real question can simply be rephrased from "is this wrong?" to "are those who's consciences tell them it's wrong correct?"

 

 

I thought you would say that. And I disagree with you, but we'd probably need an entirely new conversation to argue it out to completion. Personally, I don't think it's as easy as "The deed [not clearly commanded in scripture] in question is either OK or it isn't." I believe God is far more complicated than that.

Not to derail the thread but, can you explain what you mean by the bolded section? Are you saying something like "God's ways are higher than our ways" and therefore we can't always understand what He wills in a certain context? 

JNoël's picture

josh p wrote:

Not to derail the thread but, can you explain what you mean by the bolded section? Are you saying something like "God's ways are higher than our ways" and therefore we can't always understand what He wills in a certain context? 

It isn't just a simple "God's ways are not our ways" concept (that's a catch-all used too frequently, IMHO).

If things were as simple as we want them to be, then there is no possible way that so many professing Christians, who appear to be filled with Spiritual fruit, who do their best to rightly divide scripture and apply it in ways that reveal they are not agenda-driven or self-serving, could come to so many different conclusions and opinions about so many different things. Yet the Bible tells us that if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. If we are filled with the Spirit, we do not sin. So can two Spirit-filled Christians, honestly seeking to do what is right, come to two different, diametrically opposed opinions (Trump, for example), and both be right, neither be in sin, both be confident that the decision they have made is what God would have them to do, neither experience any guilt, any godly chastisement, any conviction of sin? Can both still experience God answering their prayers and experience other elements of spiritual fruit like joy, longsuffering, kindness, and even love (I know, I know, many Trump-ites don't seem to display much love . . .  ;))?

I believe the answer to that is a resounding "yes," and I believe that is part of the mystery of how God works in the lives of believers - a mystery no one will ever be able to explain in our feeble human minds.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

mmartin's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

 

My reasoning on wrongness of voting for a candidate of poor character goes kind of like this:

  • all the defenses of voting for the candidate of poor character demonstrate desperation thinking, exclusive focus on outcomes, and shortsightedness
  • Scripture opposes these
  • Therefore, the defense is inadequate and supporting the candidate is wrong

This is a weak and ill defined argument and open questions about this argument remain namely:

1.  Since all human candidates are sinners, at what level of character does voting for one sinful human move from not being "wrong" to "wrong?"

2.  What scripture opposes desperation thinking, exclusive focus on outcomes, and shortsightedness?  Still no answers.  You keep saying scripture supports this or doesn't support that but without any support for that argument.  Saying you've already included scripture in this thread doesn't count because it has been shown to not be relevant or weak to the point that definitively calling it "wrong" is wrong.  Are we to trust God in all things?  Yes.  Are we to view any president as our savior?  No.  Will God take care of us no matter who is president or what party is in office?  Yes.  But, how does this support not voting for Trump vs. that it is OK to vote for any other sinful human candidate?    

3.  The conclusion that voting for Trump is "wrong," is still unsubstantiated and unsupported.  I'll give you your opinion that you think it is unwise for everyone else and wrong for your conscience, beyond that, you have little support.

Again, what Biblical standard tells us in the black & white manner you are arguing that voting for Trump is wrong?  There is more support in the Bible to argue drinking alcohol is wrong (a sin) as opposed to voting for Trump.  But the Bible does not state in black & white terms drinking is a sin and therefore, I believe, cannot be argued from that point of view.

Bottom line, you are wrong for defining this issue this way.  Your attitude and approach to this argument is arrogant.  You have repeatedly argued you believe it is not only wrong (in a Biblical, black & white sense) for Christians to vote for Trump, but you have also admitted you believe it is an outright sign.  (How can something can be argued to be Biblically wrong & not a sin at the same time?)  You are arguing that the Bible says what it does not say.

josh p's picture

JNoël wrote:

 

josh p wrote:

 

Not to derail the thread but, can you explain what you mean by the bolded section? Are you saying something like "God's ways are higher than our ways" and therefore we can't always understand what He wills in a certain context? 

 

 

It isn't just a simple "God's ways are not our ways" concept (that's a catch-all used too frequently, IMHO).

If things were as simple as we want them to be, then there is no possible way that so many professing Christians, who appear to be filled with Spiritual fruit, who do their best to rightly divide scripture and apply it in ways that reveal they are not agenda-driven or self-serving, could come to so many different conclusions and opinions about so many different things. Yet the Bible tells us that if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. If we are filled with the Spirit, we do not sin. So can two Spirit-filled Christians, honestly seeking to do what is right, come to two different, diametrically opposed opinions (Trump, for example), and both be right, neither be in sin, both be confident that the decision they have made is what God would have them to do, neither experience any guilt, any godly chastisement, any conviction of sin? Can both still experience God answering their prayers and experience other elements of spiritual fruit like joy, longsuffering, kindness, and even love (I know, I know, many Trump-ites don't seem to display much love . . .  ;))?

I believe the answer to that is a resounding "yes," and I believe that is part of the mystery of how God works in the lives of believers - a mystery no one will ever be able to explain in our feeble human minds.

OK so I think I see what you are saying but I'm not sure what that really has to do with who God is. Since God is perfectly holy and the standard of right and wrong, it seems inescapable that He "has an opinion" on everything and that is what is right. I definitely think that even our best actions are mingled with sin but it doesn't seem possible that two (at least somewhat) mutually exclusive options can both be right. 

josh p's picture

You said:

1. Since all human candidates are sinners, at what level of character does voting for one sinful human move from not being "wrong" to "wrong?"

Do you believe (echoing Aaron’s other post) that there is such a thing as a person that can be identified as a fool? I’m not asking if that means that a person is ineligible for our vote in that case, just if you believe that the Bible gives us enough to go on to identify one where we see one.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

5. Outcomes are not the only factor.  However, depending on the relative harm of the outcome, it may become the primary consideration.

This is an interesting idea. But before we can decide if the outcomes matter, we have to decide if the act itself needs justifying and what it would take to justify it, if anything can. It does seem likely to me that the relative harm of the outcome can be a legitimate factor if the act is a justifiable act.

When one uses a verse as support for a point that one advocates, but the verse in fact does not support that point, one should not use the verse in making that point.

I'd be interested in hearing which verses don't support which points... and how they fail.

 I believe God is far more complicated than that.

Unless you're prepared to say that He can approve and disapprove of the same act in the same sense at the same time, no, He isn't.

1.  Since all human candidates are sinners, at what level of character does voting for one sinful human move from not being "wrong" to "wrong?"

I have to appreciate this because it does ask a better question than is generally being asked... a question that suggests there could be such a thing as a "level of character" that could make voting for a person wrong. 

I concede that I can't tell you exactly where that point is. But that doesn't mean there is no point. That would be to argue the fallacy of the beard ("we can't say how many whiskers are required to constitute a beard, therefore beards do not exist").

2.  What scripture opposes desperation thinking, exclusive focus on outcomes, and shortsightedness?  Still no answers.  

That's in the article and in portions I've quoted already from it. Repeating would be pointless, so... been there, done that.

Your attitude and approach to this argument is arrogant.  

If it's arrogant to write up a claim and why you believe it to be true... OK, I'm "arrogant."

My level of arrogance isn't really relevant... what are the facts, what is the reasoning, what conclusion does it point to?  (But for the sake of "words mean things," what I am is pretty confident on this matter. There's a difference.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

JNoël's picture

JNoël wrote:

. . . we'd probably need an entirely new conversation to argue it out to completion.

I believe God is far more complicated than that.

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Unless you're prepared to say that He can approve and disapprove of the same act in the same sense at the same time, no, He isn't.

 

I am not prepared to say that, but I do believe it.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

RajeshG's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

When one uses a verse as support for a point that one advocates, but the verse in fact does not support that point, one should not use the verse in making that point.

I'd be interested in hearing which verses don't support which points... and how they fail.

As I explained earlier, I do not think that your use of those passages about king Saul is valid for arguing for your position.

pvawter's picture

mmartin wrote:

The scripture references in your post but they do not prove that it is unbiblical, or a sin, to vote for Trump.  For example, you presented 2 Tim. 1:7, "For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control."  While I would agree with you this passage is proof that God does care what we think and this passage and others support the truth that we should be Christlike in our thinking, how do these verses prove that voting for Trump is a sin??? 

This is interesting to me. While I would not say that verse alone proves that a vote for Trump is sin, it certainly (in my mind) invalidates the number 1 reason I've heard from evangelicals for supporting him. They argue constantly that they voted for Trump because of the certain damage that Hillary would have done to our nation. The perceived threat of a leftist presidency was so great that many held their noses and pulled the lever for a man they say they did not want. How is this anything other than acting out of fear? And it is fear of the unknown, since none of us can know how things would have turned out if the election had gone differently. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false, since only God can know such things. 

Mark_Smith's picture

pvawter wrote:

This is interesting to me. While I would not say that verse alone proves that a vote for Trump is sin, it certainly (in my mind) invalidates the number 1 reason I've heard from evangelicals for supporting him. They argue constantly that they voted for Trump because of the certain damage that Hillary would have done to our nation. The perceived threat of a leftist presidency was so great that many held their noses and pulled the lever for a man they say they did not want. How is this anything other than acting out of fear? And it is fear of the unknown, since none of us can know how things would have turned out if the election had gone differently. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false, since only God can know such things. 

Wow! That is going way too far my friend.

Why are people so interested in making a vote for a person you didn't and wouldn't vote for a sin? How about you vote for who you want to. I do the same. And we stop there.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

pvawter wrote:

The perceived threat of a leftist presidency was so great that many held their noses and pulled the lever for a man they say they did not want. How is this anything other than acting out of fear? And it is fear of the unknown, since none of us can know how things would have turned out if the election had gone differently. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false, since only God can know such things. 

This doesn't have to be fear at all -- simply a recognition of what is likely.  When one is at a stop sign waiting for a chance to proceed, one evaluates the oncoming traffic to determine if there is a safe interval for proceeding.  If the car is too close, one waits, if not, one generally goes.  If I wait because I perceive the car to be too close, and the likely outcome of my going at that moment being negative, that's not fear, that's prudence.  Of course, I don't know *exactly* what will happen if I go, but I have a reasonably good idea.  Someone who has had a bad experience with an accident or close call might have fear spring up when they are in a similar situation.  Most of us do not.

I'm well aware that if Hillary had won, it would have been God's will, and I would not have spent a lot of time on "fear of the future."  Nonetheless, having a pretty good idea of what would have likely happened if she were to have won, I voted against her, and I'm glad she lost.

You realize that if all prudence that is avoidance of negative outcomes is cast as fear, we can never act prudently when weighing options, as that prudence would mean a spirit of fear, which we are never to have.  Wisdom can indeed be trained by negative outcomes, and learning to avoid such is further development of wisdom, not fear.

Dave Barnhart

pvawter's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

pvawter wrote:

 

This is interesting to me. While I would not say that verse alone proves that a vote for Trump is sin, it certainly (in my mind) invalidates the number 1 reason I've heard from evangelicals for supporting him. They argue constantly that they voted for Trump because of the certain damage that Hillary would have done to our nation. The perceived threat of a leftist presidency was so great that many held their noses and pulled the lever for a man they say they did not want. How is this anything other than acting out of fear? And it is fear of the unknown, since none of us can know how things would have turned out if the election had gone differently. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false, since only God can know such things. 

 

 

Wow! That is going way too far my friend.

Why are people so interested in making a vote for a person you didn't and wouldn't vote for a sin? How about you vote for who you want to. I do the same. And we stop there.

Ha! That's been my position all along, notwithstanding the near constant lecturing from many "reluctant" Trump supporters that my 3rd party vote was actually a vote in support of Hillary. 

By all means, vote for whom you like.

pvawter's picture

dcbii wrote:

 

pvawter wrote:

 

The perceived threat of a leftist presidency was so great that many held their noses and pulled the lever for a man they say they did not want. How is this anything other than acting out of fear? And it is fear of the unknown, since none of us can know how things would have turned out if the election had gone differently. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false, since only God can know such things. 

 

 

This doesn't have to be fear at all -- simply a recognition of what is likely.  When one is at a stop sign waiting for a chance to proceed, one evaluates the oncoming traffic to determine if there is a safe interval for proceeding.  If the car is too close, one waits, if not, one generally goes.  If I wait because I perceive the car to be too close, and the likely outcome of my going at that moment being negative, that's not fear, that's prudence.  Of course, I don't know *exactly* what will happen if I go, but I have a reasonably good idea.  Someone who has had a bad experience with an accident or close call might have fear spring up when they are in a similar situation.  Most of us do not.

I'm well aware that if Hillary had won, it would have been God's will, and I would not have spent a lot of time on "fear of the future."  Nonetheless, having a pretty good idea of what would have likely happened if she were to have won, I voted against her, and I'm glad she lost.

You realize that if all prudence that is avoidance of negative outcomes is cast as fear, we can never act prudently when weighing options, as that prudence would mean a spirit of fear, which we are never to have.  Wisdom can indeed be trained by negative outcomes, and learning to avoid such is further development of wisdom, not fear.

I think you'll find the sentence just prior to what you quoted qualifies my statements in such a way that your comments miss the mark. The issue is not whether you voted for Donald Trump, but whether, when you (or anyone) voted for him, your justification was based on the certainty of the damage Hillary Clinton would do to our country. By all means, make your case for the prudence of voting for Donald Trump, just don't make it based on fear. In that light I think my comments, which were a response to a previous comment, are accurate.  

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

pvawter wrote:

I think you'll find the sentence just prior to what you quoted qualifies my statements in such a way that your comments miss the mark. The issue is not whether you voted for Donald Trump, but whether, when you (or anyone) voted for him, your justification was based on the certainty of the damage Hillary Clinton would do to our country. By all means, make your case for the prudence of voting for Donald Trump, just don't make it based on fear. In that light I think my comments, which were a response to a previous comment, are accurate.  

Here is the sentence you are referring to: "They argue constantly that they voted for Trump because of the certain damage that Hillary would have done to our nation."

I don't see how that would change what I wrote at all.  What I was arguing against was that voters voting against Hillary must be doing so out of fear.  I'm saying that many (most?) were doing so based on evaluation, experience, and prudence.  That's not the same as fear at all.  Most of us had years of experience watching Hillary as First Lady, and then as Secretary of State, and then as a presidential candidate.  I'm arguing that there was plenty of evidence to indicate that her presidency would not be one that we would want.  I wasn't afraid of her, but I sure didn't want what she had on the menu.  It was repulsive enough that taking a chance on the "mystery entree" was a simple calculation.  No fear is required.

Dave Barnhart

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