A respectful response to my friend John Piper about voting for Trump

"...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. ...I am writing to explain why I have reached a different decision, and why I voted a few days ago for Donald Trump." - CPost

1322 reads

There are 17 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'll say this much for Grudem: he knows how to engage an argument. He responds here point by point. 

Piper doesn't necessarily have the strongest arguments for rejecting Trump. But he lands in the right place. Grudem has some valid counters but lands in the wrong place.

He's at least looking at the substance of what Piper had to say, and I respect that. But my take on Grudem in general has gone from "right about most things; wrong about prophecy" to "right about most things; wrong about prophecy; very mixed on voting ethics; wrong about Trump."

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.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

This was a very well written response, and I agree with its points.  This response, and the Al Mohler piece from 2 days ago sum up very well my views on voting in this election.

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture

Editor

His book on politics is great for Christians who want to like the Republican Party and crave convenient biblical "support" for it. His ethics book is better. My favorite part of his politics book was where he noted that forcing people to use paper grocery bags restricted human freedom ...

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

TylerR wrote:

My favorite part of his politics book was where he noted that forcing people to use paper grocery bags restricted human freedom ...

While I wouldn't put "forcing people to use paper grocery bags" under my list of arguments against the Democrat platform, I will say that on a recent visit to your state I found it pretty inconvenient at times to not be able to get plastic bags (paper bags are useless for putting anything wet inside), and I was glad I had brought some from home.  Hiking in the Pacific NW results in a lot of wet or damp items, especially shoes that don't dry out quickly.  But again, it's just an inconvenience, and one I can plan for.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

They put a dime bounty on plastic bags, and interestingly, the grocery stores make them about 5x thicker than usual--making them worth the dime.  A little bit overkill for picking up after your dog, though.

Environmentally, I think it's about a wash.  Fewer bags, more material per bag.  

Regarding Washington, I can see why they'd mandate paper from an economic perspective--all those trees are great pulpwood--but it turns out that making paper is actually fairly environmentally problematic, starting with the solutions (formerly acid bath) used to break down the lignin in the wood.  Per that, my brother in CA (himself an environmentalist) laments that "environmentalist" too often means "person who cannot do math or science"--i.e. consider the actual consequences of a course of action in terms of pollution and the like.

Grudem's response is much appreciated.  Sometimes I don't think we really understand the depth of what the Democrats would do to us.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

G. N. Barkman's picture

I believe Grudem has hit the nail squarely on the head.  He understands the political realities of this situation, and articulates a clear line of reasoning.

Thank you, Dr. Wayne Grudem!

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

Editor

If you're a Republican and wish to be "confirmed" in everything you already wish to believe, Grudem's book is indeed a valuable resource.

From the Themelios review:

Politics (Grudem's book) represents not the Bible's view of politics, but a snapshot of late-American libertarian capitalist political philosophy.

...

Chapter 17 of Politics compares Democrat with Republican policy in twelve areas, stating at each point why the Republican approach is more biblical.

...

I fear that the book assumes a reductionistic view on the nature of the Bible and how we move from texts in it to the advocation of cultural change in a fallen world.

...

Neither proof-texting nor appeal to a simple Bible outline is adequate to commend any political policy on such complex matters as gun control, school vouchers, or immigration as 'biblical'.

...

When it comes to those areas which Grudem sees as more removed from the biblical text, one can see the author's political bias and cultural background dominate. Denying climate change, imagining economic progress will solve our problems, Malthusian population growth projections, assumptions about the death-penalty's deterrent power, border and gun controls—on issues such as these, Politics simply assumes that the Republican approach is biblical and that logical inferences from statistics taken off libertarian think-tank web pages will suffice.

...

I believe that moving from doctrine to cultural application is much more nuanced than this book allows, especially in the realm of politics, nations, and social policy.

Even a cursory reading of Grudem's book reveals these biases. For example, observe Grudem holding forth about the bible and the capital gains tax:

A strong argument can be made that the capital gains tax should be completely abolished, to encourage investment in the economy. At any rate, it is economically beneficial to the nation to have this rate be very low, since that encourages more investment, which helps an economy to grow. (This is based on the principle, “If you penalize something you get less of it, and if you reward something you get more of it.”)

Yes, I totally remember Jeremiah speaking about this. Grudem presents a very "convenient" way of reading the Bible; (1) have a preconceived political goal in mind, (2) find verses that support what you want to believe, (3) say "the bible teaches it."

Grudem recently blasphemed a church service (Calvary Chapel of Chino Hills, CA) by holding forth for 56 minutes about why Christians should vote for President Trump. This is disgraceful, to turn a gathering of the congregation into a partisan political rally.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

There is a world of difference between Christians who came of age during the heyday of the Moral Majority and the Religious Right, and younger Christian leaders. They frame the world differently, and largely want nothing to do with the way that generation framed (and continues to frame) cultural and political engagement. I shall cement by bona fides in the younger camp by quoting Russell Moore, that "compromiser" from the ERLC (Onward, p. 21):

... the older generations are mistaken if they assume the next generation will be more of the same, just with even more prayer for “revival” and “Great Awakening” in the land. The typical younger pastor is less partisan than his predecessor, less likely to speak from the pulpit about “mobilizing” voters and “reclaiming Judeo-Christian values” through political action and economic boycotts. This is not because he is evolving leftward. It is because he wants to keep Christianity Christian. As a matter of fact, the center of evangelical Christianity today is, theologically speaking, well to the right of the old Religious Right.

It’s true that the typical younger pastor of a growing urban or suburban church doesn’t look like his cuff-linked or golf-shirted forefather. But that doesn’t mean he’s a liberal. He might have tattoos, yes, but they aren’t of Che Guevara. They’re of Hebrew passages from Deuteronomy.

His congregation’s statement of faith isn’t the generic sloganeering of the last generations’ doctrinally oozy consumerist evangelical movements, but is likely a lengthy manifesto with points and subpoints and footnotes rooted in one of the great theological traditions of the historic church. This pastor might preach forty-five minutes to an hour, sometimes calling out backsliding Christians from the pulpit with all the force of hellfire-and-brimstone revivalists of yesteryear. He is pro-life and pro-marriage, although he is likely to speak of issues like homosexuality in theological and pastoral terms rather than in rhetoric warning of “the gay agenda.”

Amen 1000x over. This presuppositional divide is about framing the Gospel and our relationship to the culture. It is the crux of our differences. It will remain so.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that if we believe Romans 13, and we believe that God would have us participate in the republic He's put us in, from time to time we will have (real or imagined) facts being taught from the pulpit, and we should. 

It'll matter whether defunding the police defuses confrontations--or whether it leaves poor neighborhoods at the mercy of criminals.  It'll matter whether alternative sources of energy are the wave of the future, or whether shifting to them before they're ready would leave a lot of people with either far more expensive energy, or no energy at all.  It'll matter whether these sources of energy actually clean up the environment (they don't, actually), whether gun control actually reduces the rate of crime (Chicago, DC, etc..: it doesn't), and the like.

And yes, it'll matter whether the progressive taxes we have now really help the poor, or whether it actually works as a disincentive to work.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

Bert this isn’t a response to you. I'm responding to the idea of "preaching" a sermon about who to vote for. 
What I want when I go to church is expositional preaching. This is because I believe it most accurately conveys the meaning of scripture and because there are biblical examples of it. This means that, I don’t want to hear politics from the pulpit. It’s simply not taught in the scripture; at least as far as individual policies. Of course there are certain inferences that can be drawn. I object to “vote for Donald Trump” from the pulpit as much as a Quanon sermon. It’s a reprehensible twisting of God’s word. Grudem messed up.

Dan Miller's picture

josh p wrote:

Bert this isn’t a response to you. I'm responding to the idea of "preaching" a sermon about who to vote for. 
What I want when I go to church is expositional preaching. This is because I believe it most accurately conveys the meaning of scripture and because there are biblical examples of it. This means that, I don’t want to hear politics from the pulpit. It’s simply not taught in the scripture; at least as far as individual policies. Of course there are certain inferences that can be drawn. I object to “vote for Donald Trump” from the pulpit as much as a Quanon sermon. It’s a reprehensible twisting of God’s word. Grudem messed up.

Josh, I agree with you about what expository preaching is. And I think Grudem would agree also.

I am a big proponent of expository preaching. I believe that it should the dominant form of preaching in every church. In my view, the congregation should come in expecting to hear what the Word says basically every time they hear from the pulpit.

But I also believe that certain exceptions are appropriate. These can be both topical sermons and personal application messages. But in the latter exception, just as Paul took care to say, "I say (I, not the Lord)," those who give their personal views based in Scripture from the pulpit should take care to explain that is what is happening. (i.e., "The Bible does not say who to vote for in 2020. It gives principles that I apply to this vote and I'm going to explain how I apply Bible principles to vote the way I intend to." If you apply Bible principles differently from me and vote differently, that is for you and your conscience. I'm not telling you how to vote. I'm just explaining my views as one who has the Spirit of the Lord.") This should be done to encourage the body to expect expository messages from the pulpit. 

I think this is a good example of a message that isn't expository, but rather someone explaining his convictions regarding voting. I didn't listen to it. But I would hope that there would be a short explanation it isn't an expository message and why it is still worth doing - that would be nice, but not completely necessary.

josh p's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

 

josh p wrote:

 

Bert this isn’t a response to you. I'm responding to the idea of "preaching" a sermon about who to vote for. 
What I want when I go to church is expositional preaching. This is because I believe it most accurately conveys the meaning of scripture and because there are biblical examples of it. This means that, I don’t want to hear politics from the pulpit. It’s simply not taught in the scripture; at least as far as individual policies. Of course there are certain inferences that can be drawn. I object to “vote for Donald Trump” from the pulpit as much as a Quanon sermon. It’s a reprehensible twisting of God’s word. Grudem messed up.

 

 

Josh, I agree with you about what expository preaching is. And I think Grudem would agree also.

I am a big proponent of expository preaching. I believe that it should the dominant form of preaching in every church. In my view, the congregation should come in expecting to hear what the Word says basically every time they hear from the pulpit.

But I also believe that certain exceptions are appropriate. These can be both topical sermons and personal application messages. But in the latter exception, just as Paul took care to say, "I say (I, not the Lord)," those who give their personal views based in Scripture from the pulpit should take care to explain that is what is happening. (i.e., "The Bible does not say who to vote for in 2020. It gives principles that I apply to this vote and I'm going to explain how I apply Bible principles to vote the way I intend to." If you apply Bible principles differently from me and vote differently, that is for you and your conscience. I'm not telling you how to vote. I'm just explaining my views as one who has the Spirit of the Lord.") This should be done to encourage the body to expect expository messages from the pulpit. 

I think this is a good example of a message that isn't expository, but rather someone explaining his convictions regarding voting. I didn't listen to it. But I would hope that there would be a short explanation it isn't an expository message and why it is still worth doing - that would be nice, but not completely necessary.

Dan thanks for the interaction. I also believe a message can be "topical" as long as it's handling a passage of scripture accurately. For me the concern is that I don't ever want to hear a sermon about my pastor's opinion on anything that isn't an explanation of a passage. It's one thing to say in an introduction to Hebrews, "I believe Barnabas wrote this book for the following reasons." It's another to say "This is why I believe this is the right person to vote for." 

My pastor told me this week who he was voting for. If he would have told me from the pulpit I would have been very disappointed. Grudem is off balance here. He is at his best when he is explaining complex theological concepts in clear terms and incorporating it into believers sanctification. He should stick to that, especially given the extreme dearth of theological understanding in the church. 

Bert Perry's picture

I think it's acceptable if it is indeed a reasonable application of a Biblical principle.  That noted, there are often a lot of intermediate steps between Biblical principle and application in politics, with possibly exceptions like those who advocate defunding the police smacking themselves with Romans 13.  The big gap I see in most pulpits is those intermediate steps in any number of areas, not just politics.

Regarding candidates, that's simply one step further than pointing out the Biblical considerations for various political positions.  Overall, my position is that most politicking from the pulpit is regrettable, but it's not outright banned.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Dan Miller's picture

it's acceptable if it is indeed a reasonable application of a Biblical principle.

That's always the tough point. Even with something as simple as moderate alcohol, we have SI members who see total abstinence as a reasonable application of the Biblical warnings concerning alcohol. While I don't apply the Word in that way, I do think it's a reasonable application. I don't believe that we should be in the business of judging the applications of others as unreasonable (ends up despising our brother). Nor should we be in the business of demanding that our brothers accept our applications as reasonable (ends up judging). 

Paul explained his convictions and he was careful to say, "I say (I, not the Lord)" and "judge for yourselves what I say."  And he accepted that not everyone would follow his convictions.

Political decisions require a great deal more layer and complicated Biblical principles and applications. But to express from the pulpit an application about politics is in the same category as to express a view on alcohol. Either way, you need to humbly express your judgment as yours and not thus saith the Lord.

Grudem, in my opinion, approached this talk with humility, saying, this is my judgment - you may differ.