It is altogether alarming to see how many claiming Christ are mastered by their conviction to vote pragmatically rather than by biblical convictions. So many have faltered in seeking to justify voting for either a wicked man or a wicked woman, out of fear, nonetheless. Those who are blatantly directed to “fear not man” are making a moral decision to vote for the one they fear least, whether it is to avoid the braggadocios man-child or the unification of a hard-lined, progressive nation under the auspices of a duplicitous and undoubtedly hard-lined progressive woman-child. I have watched some men and women, not only in academic circles, but in my own personal circles, make a moral decision – not on the basis of their Christian ethic, but upon the path of least resistance.
Ultimately, I feel this election has wonderfully revealed the state of American Evangelicalism, and truly revealed the hearts of those who profess trust in a sovereign Lord. I’ve seen those who I’d normally assign a reasonable amount of wisdom and logic to, justifying poor logic and masquerading behind it as if it is not only good and adequate logical deduction, but a morally acceptable conclusion. Well, Norman Geisler has joined the Evangelical heavy-weights on the side of Trump, along with Wayne Grudem, Jerry Falwell Jr., and others. If you haven’t read his reasoning, you can find it on Ed Stetzer’s blog space on Christianity Today.
To be clear, I wish to make it known that this piece is against both those in support of Trump and Hillary. I have no more respect for Thabiti Anyabwile’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton than of Norman’s. Because many on either side of this debate have expressed the same sentiments with different terminology, I am hopeful that this post will simply serve as a rejoinder to all academicians who have weighed in on this – yet more importantly, I’m hopeful this proves to be a catalyst for thinking laymen who are finding a difficult time charting the waters this election season.
Without any further ado, here is my rejoinder to yet another who seems to have caved under the insufferable weight of pragmatism driven by fear of the outcome.
Geisler opens his post with an introduction (Prolegomena, to use the fancy, scholarly term). This is important because he is setting his justification and foundation in these things in order to later provide his seven point thesis on some good reasons to vote for Trump. Thus, it is important to address not only his thesis, but his prolegomena; if the foundation is faulty, you are sure to find a faulty thesis.
- Trump is a flawed candidate. Here, Geisler sets to make the case that we aren’t voting for Jesus Christ. He doesn’t say those words, but this is precisely what he means when he says, “We don’t not have perfect candidates with whom to replace imperfect ones.” This stands to reason because it is not only a true premise, but a true conclusion. I would argue that this logic is faulty simply because it is essentially being used to say, “The ends justify the means.” In a nutshell, that is what I believe he and others keep saying. I say, “False.”
- Geisler’s second and third points of his introduction are really one point, arguing that we are not advocating for the lessor of two evils, but the greater good. He provides the example of a doctor necessarily amputating a leg, but let’s just ask the question: who is the doctor in this analogy? By the flow of logic, it isn’t Trump or any other candidate, but the one electing Trump. Essentially, Geisler is drawing the allusion in order to draw out that same old principle, but with an ipso facto reversal (the enemy of one’s enemy may be ipso facto a friend). Yet the principle itself is equally as flawed as the “lessor of two evils” approach because neither question asks: what is the greatest possible good? That is a dramatically different question than “What is the lessor of two evils?” or “What is the greater good?” Asking, “What is the greatest possible good?” removes the practical implications for one’s self. In the worldly sense, people would use this logic with secular humanism – however, Christians are bound by another code. When we ask what the greatest possible good is, we are asking with reference to God’s decree and His ultimate glory. This focal point is at odds with the other previous questions because the point of reference is not self or country, but God.
- Norman then moves to a third point in the introduction, effectively reducing the one who abstains to a coward by conflating one’s civic duty with one’s ethical duty. It may be a God-given right to vote in this country – but it certainly is not a God-given responsibility. One will find no imperatives in scripture delineating the Christian’s responsibility to enter into politics. Now, we may question that wisdom given that gift, however, we must correctly assess that a non-vote is still a vote; we just don’t have a ballot box labeled, “NAY” or “ABSTAIN.” Beyond this, the implication he maintains is that voting outside of the two-party system is equally unhelpful, simply by the statement, “If we don’t vote [insert: for the right candidate] there will be one less vote for the best candidate who may lose because of our failure to participate in the election.” At this point I would also call into question Mr. Geisler’s understanding of the Electoral College vote – but I digress.
- His final point in the introduction is simply to say that we have checks and balances for a reason. Well, unfortunately those checks and balances don’t work as well as we would like – and providing a last ditch effort to escape the consequences of a poor choice is no more logical than choosing said candidate to begin with.
A Rejoinder to Norman Geisler’s Thesis
- Geisler’s first point hinges off of the legalization of abortion. Now, I am an abolitionist. That very plainly means that I am not for more strict measures in place in government upon abortion – I firmly believe it is a practice that needs to be done away with completely and penalized. If we truly believe it to be murder, it ought to be treated as such. However, if you are hinging your support of Trump upon this piece, might I kindly remind you that Roe V. Wade came into effect because a conservative justice voted for abortive rights? There is certainly no way to predict if Trump will nominate a conservative justice – yet an equally difficult task is to assess whether or not the seats filled (because there will likely be a second open seat during this term) will be those mastered by the convictions of scripture and the rights of the unborn. It is difficult enough to pinpoint what Trump really believes about the practice of abortion, given his tendency to evade tough questions – yet also his tendency to flip flop within a mere couple of weeks. So while Christians who understand the value of life at conception will undoubtedly want this to guide their decision, be wary of the man who has not regularly shown he has any values consistent with biblical norms. Why would this arena be any different? This point joins his fourth point, hence why I deal with them simultaneously.
- While I have no issues with people owning guns – I find it particularly troubling that so many Americans have a particular affinity with guns as if they are a necessary component for living. I own guns, I would not joyfully give them up – however, again, there is an abundant difference between a God-given gift in having national freedoms and something being part of the God-given right in “the Pursuit of Happiness.” I also have a great deal of trouble with Christianizing that last phrase because it is emotionally charged rhetoric that doesn’t really deal substantively with the argument at hand. Being happy has nothing to do with doing the morally correct thing. Now, that choice should lead to true joy – but basing the foundation in happiness is utterly subjective and downright foolish.
- Politicians promise all sorts of things to get in office. Talk is cheap. I feel like there is a great principle that applies to this sort of thing: When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19; NASB).
- See point one.
- While I am right there with you buddy, religious freedom, again, is not a God-given right. I bemoan the fact that we are swiftly seeing Christians silenced in the marketplace of ideas, but in reality, we are heading back to the church’s common place. Church history typically follows a pattern with the oppositions of the church enjoying prosperity and the church suffering under persecution. I feel much of the weight of people’s presidential choice comes down to this fear of suffering, when the scriptures paint suffering as a good work that purifies the church. Might I ask, is the Western church not in need of purification? Don’t misunderstand me – I do not want to see that happen in my life, but God forbid I actively resist something that God has ordained, called good, and will actually carry His church through.
- Trump has consistently not been a job-provider, but a negligent businessman and demonstrated downright ferocious behavior. He has not only cannibalized his competitors, but his constituents, multiple times in the span of his life. Trump has consistently shown his character to be one of “stepping on the little guy to get to the top.” Yet what is more troubling is the idea that Geisler purports by way of pragmatics here. The same argument (and probably in a more winsome way) could be said of Hillary, especially given the economy during Bill’s presidency. Yet the issue is not that a candidate can have a decent economic policy – but that a Christian should find greater concern over a candidate’s moral bankruptcy than their ability to make money. Yet even still, a Libertarian’s views on economics are more in line with the fifth and fourteenth amendments than a Dem. or Rep. candidate. Note this: this is not an endorsement of Gary Johnson, who is just another liberal.
- This pretty much gets summed up in the point above as well. Yet I will say, given Trump’s and Hillary’s uncanny ability to cannibalize anyone who gets in their path, I would say they both have a large thirst for power.
Ultimately, I believe both sides of this debate find themselves lauding faulty logic and justifying immoral choices – because they are more concerned with the practical ramifications than making a choice that may not serve their immediate concerns all that well. I am often accused of being nonchalant about what may come, and truthfully, I agree with that assessment. This doesn’t mean I am sidelined to inaction or that I don’t care of what will happen – it means that I am not concerned primarily with those things. I am a young man, but one who firmly believes that the secret things belong to the Lord, and that which is revealed to me by way of His glorious Word is not only sufficient, but altogether comforting in the face of potential affliction.
God has seen His people through far worse than liberal incumbents who for all practical purposes, are anti-theists. Yet He has also given His people over to a leader who seemed potentially promising to many, yet bore the swift result of an upheaval to their comfortable lives. Our choices ought not to be guided by fear or pragmatics. Voting is a moral choice; what that plainly means is that we can sin in the act of voting. Please consider that – yet also consider that we might simply be in that phase in church history where either result lends the church toward God’s designed purpose: purification. We are desperately in need of purification in the church, and if history has anything to say on the matter, it will likely involve repentance en masse, or retribution poured out through spiteful and vengeful unbelievers.
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