• A Response to John Piper’s Ivory Tower Theology On Elections

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    Surge Summary: There are theoretical reasons for Christians to reject Donald Trump, for sure. But in the actual world, he is the better choice for the believer who hopes to do what he can to make the world a better place.

    by Nathan Clark

    Conservative preacher and writer John Piper laid into American Christians recently for supporting Donald Trump for president.  The essence of what he is saying, as I understand it, is that character matters more than anything else in leadership.  He argues that the character content of a nation’s leader impacts and influences the entire nation, and therefore Christians have no business overlooking character flaws when they vote for a leader.  In Piper’s view they are to hew to an unbending insistence on moral integrity and humility, among other things.

    He says “I think it is a drastic mistake to think that the deadly influences of a leader come only through his policies and not also through his person.  This is true not only because flagrant boastfulness, vulgarity, immorality and factiousness are self-incriminating, but also because they are nation-corrupting.  They move out from centers of influence to infect whole cultures.”

    Piper goes on to say “Christians communicate a falsehood to unbelievers (who are also baffled!) when we act as if policies and laws that protect life and freedom are more precious than being a certain kind of person.  The Church is paying dearly, and will continue to pay, for our communicating this falsehood year after year.”

    I read this with an open mind, and it angered me.  The reason isn’t the ‘purity’ of Piper’s argument.  It is the lack of practical application in a fallen world.  Piper excoriates American Christians who support Trump on the basis of him being the lesser of two evils, essentially telling them they are hurting Christianity and blowing their witness, and that they are deficient in their reasoning and convictions.

    Okay, if you want to lay that kind of lumber on God’s people from your ivory tower of pure reason, that’s your choice.  The scriptures (especially the book of Proverbs) are clear on the importance of good leadership and its ripple effect on the nation, and the converse as well.  We get it.  Vote for good people, and good things happen.

    But when you offer no alternative course of action in a fallen world, you are merely sounding like a self-righteous ass.  Faulting people for choosing a flawed leader who enacts a higher percentage of scriptural directives than his opponent is ignoring other passages of scripture that enjoin God’s people to impact their world for good, to ‘do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God’.  This sometimes means choosing the lesser of two bad options in order to minimize the human suffering and bondage that will result from doing nothing because ‘there isn’t an option that lives up to my standards.’ When we vote for a pro-abortion candidate, John, because he is faithful to his wife, has a humble attitude and goes about his affairs in an open manner…..children die.  Perhaps you can tell us biblically why that is a better choice than supporting someone who may not adhere to all the choices of the aforementioned leader in his personal life, but believes in the sanctity of human life and is willing to defend it.  This isn’t theoretical or academic; it’s actual.

    I supported Trump in 2016 because he was by far the lesser of two evils.  I have never cared for his character, his self-absorption, treatment of women, infidelity or many other aspects of his deeply-flawed character.  He was my last choice from that original field of candidates.  Yet his improbable election vanquished what would undoubtedly have been a much darker choice for this nation, a person of demonstrably worse character, whose impact would have not only been corrupt but potentially devastating to the nation.  I also believed in the possibility that Trump would grow into the office, allowing the responsibility and gravity of his position to mature and season him.  I am sadly disappointed.

    Have Trump’s character flaws and boorish personality had an impact on my faith?  No.  I know who I am, and I know who Trump is.  None of what Trump does surprises me, although much of it disappoints me.  Why should Piper be so convinced that Trump is single-handedly destroying the nation by his personality?  And what is Piper’s alternative?  Oh, that’s right…he offers none.

    I’m totally okay with evangelicals speaking out against Trump’s (and other’s) character issues.  It is our duty to raise a standard, as long as we are living it first.  The Church needs to be the counter culture in every society.  But sitting out an election on ‘principal’ means removing the voice of decency and accountability that every civilization needs.  How does that serve to advance the message of the kingdom?

    We are given a Hobson’s choice almost every election cycle.  It is hard enough to find candidates with a modicum of character; we don’t need to be belittled and scalded by those who purport to be scholars and teachers of the Bible, for doing the best we can under poor circumstances.

    I discovered a long time ago that the theology that really matters…is practical theology.

    The views here are those of the author and not necessarily Daily Surge

    Image: John Piper; https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/; Adapted from: Joe Carter; https://www.flickr.com/photos/149239474@N05/33786423596

    Nathan Clark is a conservative commentator who resides with his wife in New Hampshire. He is passionate about preserving the vision of our nation’s Founders and advancing those tried and true principles deep into America’s future. His interests range broadly from flyfishing, cooking and shooting to pro sports, gardening, live music and fine-scale modeling.

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