A Personal Perspective on Evangelical Support for Trump

This is going to be a calmer post than I originally intended. My emotions ran high Saturday night with the results of the South Carolina primary. Make no mistake, I am deeply disturbed by political developments in the Republican party, but I will attempt to offer a reasonable commentary to explain my deep concern.

While Trump’s victory, in itself, is disturbing, it’s the way he won that bothers me more—with the apparent backing of a plurality of evangelicals.

Donald Trump 4According to the exit polls, Trump took about 34% of evangelical voters, while Cruz got around 25% and Rubio slightly fewer. One can always say that at least the combined tally for Cruz and Rubio was greater than Trump’s number, but just the fact that 34% self-identified evangelical Christians would vote for this man defies logic.

Perhaps logic is in short supply. Perhaps real evangelicalism is in short supply also. Perhaps the term “evangelical” has come to have so many different meanings that it is now a worthless word.

To me, an evangelical is a true disciple of Jesus Christ, committed to reflect the righteousness of God in one’s own life. A real disciple of Christ would want to see His ways permeate society, and a real evangelical Christian would never vote for a person whose lifestyle and policy positions were in direct opposition to the Biblical message of salvation and moral behavior.

Yet that is precisely what 34% of evangelical South Carolinians did.

First, let me say that I don’t necessarily accept the notion that all self-identified evangelicals are really Christians. Many are probably “cultural Christians” in the sense that they grew up in the church and still attend but have never had a face-to-face encounter with the Living Christ followed by a genuine heart change and desire to serve Him gladly.

God & GovernmentThen there are those who may be genuine Christians but who either don’t have a good grasp of how Biblical principles apply to government or who are operating out of emotion—angry over the trends they see in the nation and allying with Trump simply because he expresses their anger well.

Voting on emotion, and particularly the emotion of anger, is not the Christian way. We need to stay focused on principles and vote according to which candidates are most consistent with those Biblical principles.

I’ve said the following things previously, but the time is ripe for a reminder. If you vote for Trump, here is the man you are voting for:

  • Donald Trump has publicly stated that he can’t think of anything for which he has had to ask God for forgiveness. That’s because he claims to be a good man. This means he has no understanding of sin in his life and no desire to get rid of it. Neither does he have a clue as to why Christ laid down his life for sinners, since Trump doesn’t consider himself to be one of them.
  • Trump dumped two wives at his own personal whim when another woman appealed more to him.
  • He has boasted of having had sex with many married women. He also calls his sexual dalliances his own personal Vietnam (where he was able to avoid serving) because he dodged his own bullets of sexual transmitted diseases.
  • He built a casino with a strip club. How is that in any way acceptable to a Christian?
  • Up until recently, he was aggressively in favor of abortion, even the partial-birth variety. He says he is now pro-life, yet continues to claim that Planned Parenthood does many good things for women. He even touted his sister, a pro-abortion judge, as a possible candidate for the Supreme Court. That sister, by the way, decided a case that rejected a partial-birth abortion ban.
  • Just last week, he said he endorsed Obama’s healthcare mandate while simultaneously saying he would get rid of Obamacare, as if the mandate has nothing to do with that monstrosity. Does he even know what he’s talking about?
  • His entire campaign has been built equally on vague generalities, personal insults toward other candidates and anyone else who crosses him (e.g., Megyn Kelly), profanity-laced harangues, and phony threats of lawsuits (even a threat against Cruz using a video of Trump in his own words displaying his abortion views).
  • Increasingly, he has become an embarrassment by his over-the-top behavior at debates and rallies. He never really answers criticisms of his positions with reasoned responses. Rather, he starts yelling that the accuser is a liar, constantly interrupting and losing his temper. Is that what we should want in a president?

No one in the Republican field of candidates is more inherently contrary to a Biblical worldview than Donald Trump.

Yet he gets 34% of the evangelical vote.

This is a travesty. Those who claim to be the representatives of Jesus Christ in this woeful world need to match their words with their actions, and one of those actions is to vote according to the Biblical worldview they profess to believe in.

To vote for a man like Donald Trump is to violate one’s confession of Christian faith.

I’ve said it rather bluntly, but I will not back down despite the criticisms that may come for being so blunt. It’s time to be serious about how our faith ought to be expressed in the political realm.

Do Not Fret . . . Trust in the Lord

In this daily blog, I attempt to offer what I hope are insights into our culture and society overall. I often comment on politics, government, education, and the media. The developments all around us can be depressing, if we let them overwhelm us.

On a personal level, I have other potential issues that can lead to discouragement as well. I’m not at liberty to share what those might be. Suffice to say there is a strong temptation to give in to despair at times, even though I know God is with me always. The weakness of our humanity sometimes leads us to doubt the promise He has given that if we love Him, He will take all things, even the evil intended against us, and work it for our good.

Psalm 37This morning, feeling on the cusp of being overwhelmed, I simply had to lay it all out before the Lord and seek His guidance and protection. As I did, He brought a certain passage to mind; I had to look it up to find it specifically. It was from Psalm 37. I would like to share some of the highlights of that psalm and pray it will be an encouragement to you today also.

It begins with a dash of reality:

Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb.

Then comes the loving command:

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

As if that weren’t enough, the encouragement and the promise continue:

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday.

Throughout the rest of the psalm, the refrain repeats, each time reminding us of our responsibility to trust and of His overarching care and love for us:

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. . . . Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more. . . . But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. . . .

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,  because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

God’s character comes out clearly when the psalm says,

For the Lord loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones.

Love StoryThen I felt directed to a familiar passage in the book of Philippians, one that we all need to be reminded of daily:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I intend to follow these Scriptural admonitions today. The older I get, the more I understand just how hollow and deceptive are all the world’s enticements, and the more I realize that there is no purpose in life without Him. He is all, and in Him we live and move and have our being.

May you be encouraged by these few thoughts given directly from the Word Himself.

Wheaton & the State of Christian Higher Education

I suppose by now most of my regular readers are already conversant with the controversy at Wheaton College over tenured political science professor Larycia Hawkins. This erupted while I was on my Christmas sabbatical so I’ve not written anything about it yet.

Today I believe it is time to share what I think, not because I am the final word on it but simply because I’m so committed to Christian higher education that a turmoil like this affects the realm in which I minister and work.

Larycia HawkinsLet’s review briefly what this controversy involves.

Larycia Hawkins, as you can see in the photo here, decided to wear the Muslim hijab as a statement of solidarity with her Muslim neighbors and/or friends.

But she didn’t stop there.

Hawkins also made a statement to the effect that both Christians and Muslims are people of the book (assuming she means the Bible) and worship the same God.

Hence the controversy.

Wheaton, an evangelical institution, suspended her temporarily while starting the process for her to explain her position more carefully before making a judgment on her future with the college. The result of that investigation has now led Wheaton to recommend her termination as a professor. That recommendation must now go through the rest of the process before it is finalized.

Is this fair? What should we think about Hawkins and this episode?

First, I stand solidly in the camp that says Christians and Muslims definitely do not worship the same God. Neither do I believe Muslims are followers of the Bible. Just because they trace their ancestry back to the patriarch Abraham, that is not sufficient. The Koran is not the Bible. Mohammad is not Jesus. The place of Jesus in Islam is subordinate; He is not considered the true Son of God who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

The fact that there is any controversy at all about these points sheds light on the sad state of modern evangelicalism.

Further, Hawkins sought out the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for guidance on wearing the hijab. That organization has been linked to radical jihadism while simultaneously putting on an appearance of even-handedness and fairness. It is one of the most deceptive organizations operating in our country with respect to what it actually promotes.

That she would seek out CAIR says a lot to me about her views. Reports now also show that she has been questioned previously three times with regard to her Christian orthodoxy:

  • She wrote an academic paper on black liberation theology that seemed to endorse Marxism;
  • She was at a party associated with Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade;
  • She has challenged the college’s Biblical stance on sexuality.

Rather than perceiving her as a persecuted individual, I think these incidents reveal Hawkins as someone outside the mainstream of Christian belief. Wheaton has every right to terminate someone with her views, given the college’s statement of faith.

Let’s be clear: either a Christian college stands by its statement of faith or it should surrender its identity as Christian.

What’s more troubling to me, though, is that Hawkins appears to have rather widespread support at Wheaton, by faculty, students, and alumni. If true, what does this say about the solidity of its Christian witness?

Why was Hawkins hired in the first place? Was there no indication of her views at that time? Or, more disturbing, are her views accepted and/or commonplace in the political science department?

Why would so many students support her, given her deviations from orthodoxy? Is this an indication of what they are being taught by the majority of the faculty? Is the statement of faith merely window dressing for parents thinking they are sending their children to a bastion of Christian fundamentals (which is not identical with fundamentalism as a movement)?

20140806_091616I have no animus toward Wheaton. When I did some research there last year, I was treated well by those at the Billy Graham Center and at the Marion E. Wade Center. Rather than an animus, I have a special place in my heart for such memories and the help I received.

My concern is simply that Christians be Christian, and that they make a strong witness to the world as to what that means. Accepting ideas that blend Christianity and Islam, that promote an anti-Christian Marxist philosophy, or that dismiss Biblical doctrines on sexuality are an attempt to undermine clear Christian teaching.

I’ve been concerned about this trend for a long time. The Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) claims to represent conservative Christian institutions of higher learning, yet when two of its member colleges decided homosexual marriage was acceptable, there was not an immediate dismissal of those colleges from membership. They were relegated to a lower status in the organization, but apparently continue to have ties to it.

Evangelicals are sending an unclear message to the world. Well, maybe that’s not quite accurate. Perhaps the message is clear after all: we no longer take Biblical truth seriously.

I hope I’m wrong. You can be sure I’ll be following developments very carefully.

Principle & Compromise: Not Always at Odds

I’ve called this blog Pondering Principles because I’m dedicated to laying a principled foundation for whatever subject I scrutinize. I also want to see principles—Biblical principles—become the basis for all public policy. Those of us oriented toward principles have a natural aversion to compromise; we have a tendency to see all compromise as a step backward. I would like to argue that is not the case.

Let’s start historically and work our way to present-day issues.

At the Constitutional Convention, a major disagreement erupted between states with lesser populations and those with greater. The less-populated states desired representation in the Congress to be based on equality; they wanted an equal vote for all states. Their concern was they would be outvoted on everything if population became the cornerstone of representation. Larger states naturally felt the opposite: since they had the most people, they should have a greater say in legislation. Who was correct? I think both had valid points. Their concerns were genuine and needed to be addressed. The convention came up with a compromise that divided the Congress into two houses, one based on population, the other on equality.

That is an example of an excellent compromise because it didn’t sacrifice principle on either side. Without that compromise, there would have been no Constitution. The nation might have split into three or four warring factions, with all the misery that would have been connected with such a division.

Then there’s the example of New York state during the governorship of John Jay at the turn of the nineteenth century. Jay, an evangelical Christian, had often worked for the abolition of slavery in his state. Now, as governor, he had the opportunity to sign into law a gradual emancipation bill. This bill did not free all slaves immediately; rather, it laid out a plan that would eventually eliminate slavery in the next generation. As someone who believed slavery was contrary to God’s purposes, should Jay have signed such a bill? He had no hesitation in doing so. Why? Because it set slavery on the course of extinction in New York. Long before the Civil War decided that issue nationally, New York had resolved it gradually.

Was Jay disobeying God in signing that bill? I believe just the opposite. His was a principled position. The compromise of gradual abolition achieved the long-term goal of his principle—getting rid of slavery once and for all. The new law made a step in the right direction. Therefore, I consider his action to have been consistent with his principles. Not to have signed it meant the perpetuation of the slavery institution, not its demise.

Now let’s bring this up to date. Let me offer two more examples.

First, let’s look at the issue of abortion. I firmly believe that the taking of an innocent human life is immoral. It is opposed to God’s moral law. My principled position is that all abortions should be outlawed. What if, as a legislator, I were faced with a decision on a particular bill that would eliminate 95% of all abortions in America? Should I vote for it? If I were president, should I sign it into law?

There are some who would say no. Why? They consider it a compromise of principle. Any law that doesn’t eliminate all abortions is less than what God requires. Consequently, support for a proposed law that would take care of “only” 95% of them would be a sin.

Again, I disagree—vehemently. If I have the opportunity to save 95% [or even 50% or 10%] of all babies who would otherwise have their lives snuffed out arbitrarily, I must take that opportunity. I would be advancing the principle in which I believe. By supporting such a measure, I am moving my society closer to God’s purposes. If we take an all-or-nothing approach, I believe we are deceiving ourselves in believing we are standing on principle. I would call it stubborn foolishness instead.

Congress is going to be dealing with raising the debt ceiling again soon. I am opposed to doing so. I am opposed to raising taxes in any way that will harm those who provide jobs for others. I wholeheartedly seek spending cuts. Now, do I hold out for everything I want or is there a way to advance what I believe is principled even while compromising temporarily?

One thing that all principled conservatives have to recognize is that in politics you don’t always get everything you want immediately. We can, though, push for as much as may be possible.

If an agreement is reached, for instance, that raises the debt ceiling, yet also includes “real” spending cuts, a cap on future spending, no increase in taxes, and at least a vote on a balanced budget amendment, why would I not support this? Enacting measures like these would lead us further on the path toward a principled and sane tax-and-spend framework.

Here’s how I summarize it: a compromised principle leads to unrighteousness, but a principled compromise is a step closer to the principle’s ideal.

I wish I could convince everyone of the wisdom of this perspective, but I’ll settle for whoever has ears to hear.

Lewis: Good & Bad People

C. S. Lewis 10“What need have I of Christ?” some say. “I’m a good person. I don’t do all those truly evil things other people do.” That’s one of the greatest deceptions we face. C. S. Lewis confronts it directly in Mere Christianity when he compares the “nice” person with a person who doesn’t come across as quite so nice.

He notes that some people are just naturally more even-tempered and balanced in their personalities, and that is what can lead them astray. “Natural gifts carry with them a . . . danger,” he warns.

If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is. “Why drag God into it?” you may ask.

Those kinds of people are deceived into thinking there is no need to turn to God. He compares them to those Jesus spoke of when He said it is hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom.

Then there are those other people:

It is very different for the nasty people—the little, low, timid, warped, thin-blooded, lonely people, or the passionate, sensual, unbalanced people. If they make any attempt at goodness at all, they learn, in double quick time, that they need help. It is Christ or nothing for them.

At least they recognize their need. The “good” people are the ones who don’t see just how sinful they are at heart. “If you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel,” Lewis correctly instructs. “The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.”

That doesn’t mean there is no hope for “good” people, but those who clearly see their danger might actually be in the better place spiritually:

But if you are a poor creature—poisoned by a wretched up-bringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels—saddled, by no choice of your own with some loathsome sexual perversion—nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends—do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive.

The Gospel is the Good News that we can be rescued from any situation, whether outwardly “good” or “bad.” His love reaches to all. Salvation is offered to everyone who recognizes the need for redemption.

C. S. Lewis: Miracles

Seeing is not always believing. Presuppositions rule. Jesus heals people and the Pharisees claim he is doing it by the power of Satan. He raises Lazarus from the dead and they decide to kill Him. Their presuppositions said that since He was not one of them, this cannot be allowed.

In the story of Lazarus (a different Lazarus) and the rich man, Jesus has the rich man saying from hell that he wants someone to go tell his relatives the truth. The response? Even if someone should rise from the dead, they will not believe.

MiraclesC. S. Lewis, in his book Miracles, explains it this way:

Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. And our senses are not infallible.

If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience.

Yet despite our fallible senses, miracles do occur. There have been stories about miracles throughout the ages, but Lewis draws a distinction between the fanciful stories and those that are recorded in Scripture:

The fitness of the Christian miracles and their difference from these mythological miracles, lies in the fact that they show invasion by a Power which is not alien.

They are what might be expected to happen when she is invaded not simply by a god, but by the God of Nature: by a Power which is outside her jurisdiction not as a foreigner but as a sovereign.

They proclaim that He who has come is not merely a king, but the King, her King and ours.

A miracle, then, is a friendly invasion. It is God refashioning His creation at a moment in time for a specific purpose. And we can believe what we see when we are submitted to the King.

Miracles Quote

Christian Colleges–Are They?

I’ve been involved with Christian higher education for a long time; I’m beginning my 27th year of teaching next month. I can’t imagine trying to do what I do in the classroom in any other setting than a Christian college or university committed to upholding Biblical standards.

CCCUThe primary organization that acts as an umbrella for these Christian educational institutions is the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). All Christian colleges that are part of this organization are supposed to maintain a basic fidelity to the essential teachings of Scripture regarding Christian faith, committed to a high view of Biblical authority.

Now, two of those institutions, Goshen College in Indiana and Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, have decided, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, to alter their view of Biblical marriage. Both are now allowing same-sex married couples to be on the faculty.

This is a radical departure from Christian orthodoxy. One would assume these institutions would immediately be suspended from the CCCU, yet the official statement from its board of directors is that they will continue deliberations.

What is there to deliberate?

The rationale for suspending judgment on the matter is that all member colleges and universities will be contacted and consulted first. I am trying to give the benefit of the doubt here, but if an organization that says it is committed to Biblical authority cannot emphatically declare from the outset that what these two institutions have done is clearly unbiblical, one must be excused for having doubts about that commitment.

The CCCU may come to the correct conclusion after all its consultations and deliberations. Goshen and Eastern Mennonite may no longer be part of the organization as a result. Yet I cannot help but be dismayed by the slow nature of decisionmaking on a subject that should not be a matter of debate.

Christian EducationI’ve had my concerns about Christian higher education all along, primarily the willingness on the part of some of these institutions to show a Christian face to prospective students and their parents, while allowing some of their faculty to teach on the fringes on genuine Christianity—and in some cases to hold forth blatantly unbiblical positions.

Do I have a problem with academic freedom? Not at all. I want to be able to teach what I believe to be Biblical without undue scrutiny. But there is a limit when you agree to a statement of faith before being hired. If you then teach contrary to that statement of faith, you have demonstrated infidelity and a distinct lack of integrity.

Christian education needs to be uniquely Christian. We are here to serve the Lord and help lead our students into a Biblical worldview. If we do anything less than that, we are unfaithful to the One who called us.