Congratulate me. Monday, November 7, around 12:30PM my youngest daughter entered the world in improbable circumstances. Not only is she the daughter of a 48 year old mom and a 45 year old man, she is a double answer to prayer. She is the answer to prayer of my two sons (12 and 10) who prayed for a baby sister when we had long given up hope of having any more kids, and she is an answer to prayer for our church when she was diagnosed with calcification of the heart during the pregnancy. She had a rare condition where her entire heart was calcified, both inside and out (one of only 15 known cases). But the people of God prayed and God heard. The calcification is gone and she was born healthy and vibrant.
She was born on the eve of “the most important election in US history.” Funny how those keep coming around every four years. As I hold her in my arms I think a lot about her future. As I do, I am less concerned about the kind of nation she will inherit than I am what kind of Christianity she will inherit.
Over the past year it has become increasingly obvious that the kind of evangelical world she inherits is quite strange—bizarre really. I write from the perspective of a decidedly Reformed evangelical, and our camp has been just as infected with the spirit of the age as any other within evangelicalism. As Francis Schaeffer wrote in his book, The Coming Evangelical Crisis in 1984, the problem is “accommodation.”
It is one thing when Paula White and Kenneth Copeland fall all over each other to get on Donald Trump’s advisory board. It is still another when James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, Jr. do it. But it moves into the realm of the bizarre when men like Wayne Grudem and John MacArthur, Jr. jump in bed with Trump.
This is the very definition of accommodation. These people have accommodated the spirit of the age: moral relativism, or situational ethics, if you prefer.
To be fair, men like Wayne Grudem and John MacArthur, Jr. have not endorsed the lifestyle of Donald Trump, but they have endorsed the candidate. In spite of statements to the contrary, there is no endorsing of political candidates without some endorsement of the candidate himself. No responsible evangelical ever said of former president Bill Clinton (when he was caught with his pants down), “Bill Clinton represents the Democratic Party platform so let’s impeach their platform.” No, I do not remember that conversation and I am old enough to remember listening to a lot of Rush Limbaugh at that time.
And so, on this Election Day, I want to make some observations on the Reformed evangelical world that my daughter will inherit.
1. Situational Ethics in high places.
Do you remember when Christians used to condemn situational ethics? I do—heatedly and repeatedly, ad nauseam. What is situational ethics? “Situational Ethics, according to (Joseph) Fletcher's model, states that decision-making should be based upon the circumstances of a particular situation, and not upon fixed Law” (http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/situational-ethics.htm, retrieved November 8, 2016).
Fletcher’s model would be referring to any law, but in this case we are referring to the Law of God, His—and the only--truth. God’s Law states that adulterers are not qualified for leadership, but for the death penalty. God’s Word reveals that pride is a disqualification for even pagan kings (Daniel 4). No comment on Trump’s failure at that point on a daily basis.
In Dr. MacArthur’s recent endorsement of Donald J. Trump, given from behind the pulpit at Grace Community Church, he stated, “We’re not voting for persons. We are voting for coalitions. The one who is running for office of president is the public relations agent for the coalition behind it.” Beyond this being patently and demonstrably untrue, it is practically false. Coalitions do not veto or approve proposed legislation. An individual man does. He signs his name to the bill or he uses his “veto” rubber stamp. Further, it will not be the Republican Party taking the oath of office in January if they win, it will be the Donald.
While this is a very convenient argument to use with harmless doves who do not even understand what it is that the office of president (in part) does in order to secure their collective votes, it is not accurate in the least. It is often the case that a president will veto legislation that has the support of his own party. And it is often the case that a president lacks the support of his own party in regards to specific political issues. It is on this false presupposition that MacArthur goes on to frame the rest of his statements in support of the Republican ticket.
It is this man who carries this weight of authority and the presidential seal who we are voting for or against. He must have integrity if we are to support him. When evangelicals who have decried the collapse of Biblical marriage end up supporting a man who through his entire adult life has shown his disdain for marriage, we have shown that we believe that in this situation, the Biblical Law on marriage does not matter as we make this decision. This situation is fearful enough for us to abandon Biblical law, and that is a situational ethic.
By the way, in the 19th century a man could not hold the position of police officer in New York City if he was immoral, according to the manual published for the police officers at the time. We’ve come a long way, baby. Dr. MacArthur is famous for his statements on rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic as it goes down. In place of that, he has opted for blowing holes in the hull with sticks of dynamite to speed it along.
2. Politico-ethical confusion.
Obviously we are in a place where the Church is in a state of politico-ethical confusion. When leaders like Dr. John Piper and Dr. Albert Mohler and the doctors Grudem and MacArthur lie on different ends of the spectrum regarding the support of Trump, there is confusion within Reformed evangelicalism. If there should have been consensus anywhere in evangelicalism, it should have been on whether or not a serial adulterer/strip club owner is qualified for the highest office in our land.
While all four of these men would be in agreement on the inerrancy of Scripture, there is definitely disagreement on the application of the Scriptures to politics. How could such committed men vary so widely? The answer lies in hermeneutics and theological systems.
Without going into detail on the hermeneutic and theological systems each of these men uses, it should be sufficient to point out that any hermeneutic or system which downplays the applicability of the Law of Moses to today’s political issues is ethically inconsistent with a Christian worldview. And anyone who rejects the Mosaic Law in this arena is likely to fall into this trap of being inconsistent because anyone who holds to inerrancy is going to end up referring to the Mosaic Law as an authority of some kind because, after all, it is in the Bible and it addresses moral issues we face.
It takes books to address a Biblical ethic, but suffice it to say that the Reformed evangelical world would do well to reconsider what role the Mosaic Law should take in politics. If we do not, we can expect more of the same in elections to come.
We should reconsider Mosaic in #politics, if not we can expect more of the same in elections to come.—@JonSpeed
As an aside I would also add at this point that it would be very helpful if those who have written books on the applicability of the Mosaic Law to politics and government would go back and read those books before endorsing Trump. Even prominent Theonomists have jumped ship. Mainly because of fear, which leads me to…
3. Persecution Complexes.
If you listen to social media carefully, one justification you will hear repeatedly is the idea that we must vote for Trump because a vote anywhere else will put Hillary Clinton in office and all evangelicals in death camps. This is only a mild exaggeration. By the way, this may sound familiar to you. This was the same reasoning that has been used in the previous two election cycles that brought us eight years of Obama. Amazingly, we are not in death camps.
Evangelical hyperbole is a convenient “get out the vote” tactic, but nothing more. The tone borders on hysteria. Bearing in mind that Jesus Himself taught us that we would be hated because they hate Him no matter who is in office, the real issue here is tax exempt status.
The Republican Party found the price tag on the evangelical vote. There is little more terrifying to big landowners than property taxes. And let’s face it. We’re big landowners. Church buildings sit on big pieces of property and everyone knows it. Your local tax assessor certainly knows it. And with the homosexual marriage issue, you can bet that tax exempt statuses will be repealed for refusal to marry homosexual couples at some point.
But is this persecution? In most of the world that is called “life.”
Back in 2002 I visited Ukraine for the first time. The church I pastored at the time was financially supporting a church planter there and he wanted to build a church building so I was there to meet the planter and scout out the land. In the process I was invited to speak to a gathering of Baptist Union pastors from across the Vinnitsya Oblast (equivalent of one of our states). There was a Q&A after I finished speaking. One of the pastors asked me, “Brother Jonathan, do you think persecution will come to America? If so, what form do you think it will take?”
I told them about the push to legalize homosexual marriage and told them that churches would probably lose their tax exempt statuses if we did not bow to this ungodly law.
There was some discussion and my interpreter said, “They do not know what tax exempt status is. Explain it.”
So I did. I explained very somberly and seriously that our church members are given tax deductions on their tithes and offerings as part of this and that members would probably not give if they could not get a deduction. I also explained that churches do not have to pay property taxes.
When I got done with my sober, doe-eyed explanation to pastors who either faced gulag imprisonment themselves or whose fathers died in such imprisonment, they all burst out in laughter. They could not believe it. THIS is American persecution? Their churches pay taxes and no parishioner gets a tax deduction. That is not persecution. In other words, their response to me and American evangelicalism was “suck it up, buttercup.”
Ya know, they’re right?
I’ve written elsewhere about the absurdity of persecution complexes when Obama was elected in 2012. It really is quite absurd. As long as American evangelicalism keeps the gospel behind four walls and minds its own business, this culture will be very happy to allow us to worship as we please. It is not until we step into the public square and declare the gospel and the authority of King Jesus that they will stop up their ears and rush us into an arena. So, in other words, Reformed evangelicalism is quite safe as long as our faith is strictly academic or pietistic. And that leads me to the issue of….
4. Apathetic Evangelism.
I personally believe that the reason so many (not all) are so quick to endorse Trump is because of the fact that they have little to no public square evangelism experience. What I mean by that is evangelism that takes place in the arena of ideas—think Mars Hill in Acts 17. Most evangelicals have not shared the gospel on a college campus, in front of an abortion clinic or at a gay pride parade. What little evangelism they have done has been done in “safe zones”—carefully constructed attractional model evangelism where evangelism is “expected.”
Since this is true, they’ve never had a heckler in Seattle (2008) ask them, “Who did you vote for? You voted for Bush didn’t you?” Now Bush is a lot easier sell in Seattle than Trump would ever be. But let me tell you from experience that it sure is nice when you can look him in the eye and say, “No, I voted third party”, put that objection to bed and focus on the gospel.
To take it a step further, imagine having to answer this year, “I voted for Trump.” “I voted for the guy who is a moral degenerate and I am telling you that adultery is a sin you must repent over.” “I voted for a guy who wants to kill the families of terrorists and I think abortion is wrong.” “I voted for a guy who courted the LGBTQ community in his acceptance speech at the RNC and I am telling you homosexuality is a sin.”
Now many of my readers may not see this as a big deal because they don’t do any evangelism for any number of reasons and cannot imagine that this would really happen. So let me help you out. Grab a pile of gospel tracts, get a Bible, and get a sheet of poster board and one marker. On the poster board write, “I am an evangelical and I voted for Trump.” Then, go down to the local campus with your poster board hanging around your neck and try handing out some tracts. Let me know how that goes.
You have enough to contend with evangelizing in the public square. You don’t need to spend the lion’s share of your time defending your politics. As Christians we are called to “adorn the doctrine of God” as part of our witness (Titus 2:10). And, we are NOT to give the enemies of God….
5. Occasion to Blaspheme.
The other day I shared a video clip on my Facebook wall of Bill Maher mercilessly mocking the evangelicals as the “shameless hypocrites they are.” In the process, Maher drags the name of our Lord and Savior through the mud. But he does it based on our actions, not His. Our action of supporting a man we would have condemned if he has a “D” behind his name on the ballot.
We deserve that.
But instead of getting the point, someone who responded on my wall took the pietist route. “How dare you share what this blasphemer said and suggest it is our fault!” How dare I? How dare I not? In fact, how dare you hide behind a false piety that won’t let your eyes that are too holy to behold such wickedness on one hand while on the other hand you are voting to support a serial adulterer? Spare me the halo and wings routine. I am not buying it.
I am far more concerned about the Christianity my daughter inherits than what America she inherits. And the state of the Church (big C) she inherits is one that is pragmatic, ethically without a compass, fears men more than God, largely apathetic and contributes to blasphemy. All in the name of godless “chariots and horses” that will defend us.
As I write this I do not know who won the election. The voting is taking place as I type. Whoever wins, the sad thing is that men who have spent their lives building solid, Biblically faithful ministries are so willing to add a footnote for a relativistic pragmatism just at the time it matters the most. History is not usually very kind to those who take strong moral stands and then contradict them with the very thing they condemn.
Men such as these are right to “want to do something” to stop the moral slide into a void. The answer has never been to support evil that good may come.