As in 2016, the upcoming 2020 presidential election has some Christians agonizing over their vote with a portion saying they’ll abstain from voting while others claim they’ll cast their ballot for a third-party candidate. Their reasoning revolves around the idea that we, once again, are restricted to what looks like a lesser of two evils situation.
On one hand there’s Donald Trump who is unashamedly an egotist, has had questionable relationships with other women while married, and a person who struggles to present a maturity level that matches the office he won.
On the other hand, we have Joe Biden who repeatedly demonstrates a personality that matches his party’s mascot, whose history with women can be summed up by Sting’s song Don’t Stand So Close To Me, and, when it comes to creating meaningful moral legislation, couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat.
The 2020 election once again raises the question of what Christians should do when faced with what appears to be a lesser of two evils situation. I’d like to flip the script a bit and suggest that instead of looking at the matter in that way, there’s a better mindset and approach to the subject.
Options for Christian ethics
The field of ethics is critical to understand because it’s foundational to life. Whether it’s general government rule, the legal system, or our individual lives, right thinking and implementation of correct ethical frameworks produces either human flourishing or outright misery.
Categories of ethical thought are divided into either deontological or teleological camps, with the first being duty-centered and the second being end-centered. Scripture makes clear that Christian ethics are deontological and not teleological in nature.
Those two ethical categories can be subdivided into at least six systems of thought. The first three are not Christian in scope and include Antinomianism, which says there are no moral laws; Situationalism that is extreme moral relativity; and Generalism, which asserts that some general laws exist, but no absolute ones.
The three possible Christian options include Unqualified Absolutism that says we have many absolute laws that never conflict; Conflicting Absolutism, which states there are absolute laws that do conflict and when that happens we are obliged to do the lesser evil; and Graded Absolutism that also asserts we have conflicting absolute laws, but our obligation is not to the lesser evil but rather the greater good.