If you've followed any Christian media at all over the past week, you've probably heard about John Piper's controversial article in which he says that he will not be voting for either Trump or Biden in the upcoming presidential election. There have been several responses to Piper's article from other Christian leaders, but most of them have too poorly reasoned to be worth consideration (including one in which Albert Mohler neglected to quote a single passage of Scripture and based his argument instead on the philosophy of Voltaire). One of the better responses came from the hand of Wayne Grudem, and I would like to take a moment to share my response to Grudem's response to Piper.
Let me begin by saying that I did not find Piper's argument to be very impressive. In fact, I thought it was weak and anemic. He made a few good points, but I think that I present a much more robust argument in my article, Christian Voting: A Biblical Guide. Having said that, let me also point out that I argued against Grudem's position back in 2016, and many of my claims from that time still apply. Let me also say that I appreciate Grudem's continual display of godly character toward those who disagree with him, and I hope that others will learn from his example.
For this article, I am only going to focus on the most glaring flaw in Grudem's response to Piper. In particular, I will be responding to point 1.a of Grudem's article. Much of the rest of Grudem's article is addressed in either my article on Christian Voting or my Response to Dr. Grudem on Third Party Voting.
Piper: “It is not a small thing to treat lightly a pattern of public behaviors that lead to death.”
Grudem: "There is a difference between the personal influence of a leader’s example, which may be rejected, and laws that compel obedience."
I think that Grudem has missed the point of Piper's claim. Piper's claim is that the "laws which compel obedience" are the result of the leader's "pattern of public behaviors." Bad laws flow from people with bad behaviors just as naturally as the stench of decay flows from rotting meat (Matt 12:34-35, Prov 1:31). One will always lead to the other, and when you meet with the cause, the effect will never be far behind ( I Cor 15:33, Gal 6:7-8).
Piper avoided giving specific examples, but I am not as gracious as he is. We can see this fact perfectly illustrated in Trump's presidency. Our current President has been proudly promiscuous for his entire adult life. He brags about his escapades with women as if he expects the whole world to be envious of his conquests (Prov 2:18, 5:5, 7:27, 9:18). His conscience in this area is completely seared (I Tim 4:2).
This pattern of behavior, this searing of his own conscience, has caused Trump to be blind to the dangers of the LGBTQ movement. To his mind, there is nothing wrong with any form of sexual perversion. He seems to believe that everyone should be as free as he is to engage in whatever sexual activities they want to engage in.
Trump's seared conscience is what led him to not only appoint America's first openly gay ambassador, but also to follow that first appointment with four more. It is what led him to appoint two openly gay judges to the federal court system. It is what led him to launch an initiative to not just ask but force other countries to change their laws against homosexual intercourse. It is what motivated his decision to both uphold and enforce Obama's executive order to include sexual orientation protection in the federal government's equal employment policies. And it was Trump with his seared conscience who appointed two Supreme Court justices who both ruled that sexual orientation must be included in the protections afforded by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Most of these actions were highlighted on the GOP website in an article bragging about how much Trump has done for the LGBTQ community.
Grudem argues that we should judge Trump by the laws which he enforces and not by his bad behavior. He even specifically mentions laws enforcing the LGBTQ agenda as the kind of laws which should cause us to vote against Biden. But on this issue, the facts prove Piper's argument beyond any doubt. Trump's bad behaviors have indeed become what Piper refers to as "nation-corrupting" and "culture-shaping" sins that are leading our entire nation into ruin (Psalm 9:17, 50:16-23, Prov 13:20).
I could do a similar analysis on the issue of abortion. Grudem even pointed out himself that the primary motivation for abortion "is a desire for sexual freedom without the responsibility of raising children." We have never had a president who epitomizes the idea of sexual freedom like Donald Trump. Grudem also lists greed as one of the primary motivations of abortions, and again, we have never had a president who has given himself over to greed as much as Donald Trump has.
Both of the sins that Grudem sees as being responsible for abortion in our nation are not just present in Trump. They form the foundation upon which he has built his entire life, and they form the core of his philosophy as President. As he said in his own words: "All my life, my whole life, I've been greedy, greedy for money -- but now I want to be greedy for the United States."
Perhaps Grudem is right about greed and promiscuity being the twin causes of rampant abortion. If so, President Trump's life of greed and promiscuity may explain why he has done nothing substantive to stop the slaughter of innocent children in our land. Oh, sure, Trump has offered a lot of pro-life rhetoric to appease his base, and he made it difficult for Planned Parenthood to claim a minuscule portion of their government funding, but Trump did not do a single thing to actually protect the 4 million children who were murdered during his first term. On the issue of abortion, Trump and Biden differ only in rhetoric. The practical results of their terms in office have been identical.
Grudem's response to Piper is better than most others that I have read. He remained respectful throughout the article, and he actually attempted to address Piper's scriptural arguments. As I said at the beginning, I found Piper's arguments to be weak, but I still think that he is correct. In contrast, Grudem's response looks strong on the surface, but when his arguments are compared to Trump's actions, we find that Grudem's response actually strengthens Piper's argument. Trump's life of unrepentant sin has molded his philosophy of governance, and his policies flow directly from his loathsome character.
"Forsake the foolish and live." (Prov 9:6)
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
Contact Us if you would like to schedule Bill to speak to your church, group, or club.
"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:9)