John Piper has been a friend – a good and faithful friend – for more than 40 years. I thank God for his remarkable worldwide ministry, his evident deep love for God, his faithfulness to every word of Scripture, and the way his life of self-sacrifice continues to provide a challenge to me personally. When we have opportunities to be together, I enjoy every minute of conversation with him. I pray for him regularly, as I believe he does for me. I agree with probably 98% of everything he has written and said during his entire ministry.
But he and I have reached different conclusions about this year’s presidential election. His October 22 article, “Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin,” explained why he thought it would be wrong for him to support either candidate in this election. (He does not mention either candidate by name, but the article is about this election and he compares one candidate who supports policies that endorse “baby-killing,” “sex-switching,” and “socialistic overreach” (evidently Joe Biden) to the other candidate who is guilty of sins of “unrepentant sexual immorality” and “unrepentant boastfulness” (evidently Donald Trump).
I am writing to explain why I have reached a different decision, and why I voted a few days ago for Donald Trump.
I would summarize Dr. Piper’s argument as follows:
1. The personal sins of a leader can be as harmful to persons and to nations as morally evil laws.
2. Christians communicate a falsehood when we act as if policies and laws are more precious than being a certain kind of person.
3. The horrible sin of pride leads people to other sins, including defending abortion, and therefore voting for a clearly boastful candidate might also be indirectly supporting abortion.
4. Voting for either candidate would compromise a person’s Christian witness.
As is characteristic of Piper’s personal humility, he allows that “you need not be sinning if you weigh matters differently,” and adds, “my way need not be yours.” In what follows, I want to give reasons why I do “weigh matters differently” in all four of those points with respect to this election.
1. The claim that the personal sins of a leader can be as harmful to persons and to nations as morally evil laws.
Piper writes, “I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality … unrepentant boastfulness … unrepentant vulgarity … unrepentant factiousness, and the like to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.”
He continues, “These are sins mentioned in the New Testament …. they are sins that destroy people …. They are deadly forever. They lead to eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9).”
He adds, “It is not a small thing to treat lightly a pattern of public behaviors that lead to death.”
Furthermore, he says that such sins are “nation-corrupting. They move out from centers of influence to infect whole cultures. The last five years bear witness to this infection at almost every level of society …. There is a character connection between rulers and subjects. When the Bible describes a king by saying ‘he sinned and made Israel to sin’ (1 Kings 14:16) … It means his influence shaped the people.”
a. There is a difference between the personal influence of a leader’s example, which may be rejected, and laws that compel obedience.
Piper’s argument fails to recognize that people can decide not to imitate the sins of a leader, but they cannot do that with laws. Laws require obedience. But millions of people have seen and decided not to imitate Trump’s character flaws. The most frequent comment I hear from Trump supporters is something like, “I don’t like his insulting tweets or his personality, but I’m supporting him anyway because he has brought about good laws and policies.”
Americans are perfectly free to say, “Trump’s boastfulness offends me and I don’t want to act that way myself.” But if laws are passed (and upheld by the courts) that enforce the LGBT agenda, no creative professional like a cake decorator (or photographer or florist) will be free to say, “I believe same-sex marriage is morally wrong, and I won’t use my artistic talent to decorate a cake celebrating same-sex marriage.” No high school girl will be free to say, “I won’t undress and change clothes for my gym class because there are boys in the locker room who claim to be girls.” No Christian adoption agency will be free to say, “We will not place children with same-sex couples.”
And if Democrats gain control of our government and the Supreme Court, and enact their desired policies, no Christian taxpayer will be free to say, “I refuse to pay that portion of my taxes that the government is using to pay for abortions.” No business owner will be free to say, “I will not buy medical insurance for my employees that pays for abortions and sex-change surgeries.” There will be only two choices: violate your conscience or else be driven to bankruptcy or go to jail.
Finally, I have not seen any increase in boastfulness or sexual immorality in the United States as a result of people imitating Donald Trump’s behavior. I know of no one who has become more boastful because of President Trump being boastful. Nor have I heard of anyone who excused his own unfaithful conduct in marriage because Donald Trump was unfaithful several years ago. Instead, such actions have been universally condemned by leaders in both political parties and they have hurt, not helped, Donald Trump’s reputation. They have not been held up as models to imitate. They have been used as examples to avoid.
As for the Bible verse that says King Jeroboam “made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 14:16), the previous chapters do not say that this involved imitation of Jeroboam’s moral character, but instead the text specifies that Jeroboam’s sin was in making idols and constructing alternative worship centers and then ordaining priests who were not Levites, all of which contradicted God’s commands. Jeroboam “made two calves of gold” and then he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel….And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites” (1 Kings 12:28-31; cf. 14:9).
b. Political policies are not, in general, more important than personal character, but they are the primary factor to consider in a political election.
A candidate’s character and policies are both important to consider before voting. And I would agree that there are some character flaws so serious that they would by themselves disqualify a candidate (such as an avowed racist). But in most elections, and with most candidates, we have to choose between two rather ordinary human beings, both of whom have flaws. In that case, an evaluation of their policies becomes decisive. And that is the case in this election.
c. Christians who support Trump do not encourage imitation of his flaws but openly criticize them.
Piper writes as if supporting Donald Trump means encouraging people to imitate his flaws. But I know of no Christian leader who has toned down his or her criticism of unfaithfulness in marriage or criticism of pride since present Trump took office. And certainly no leader has said anything like “Because Donald Trump is president, Americans should feel free to be unfaithful in their marriages and become more boastful and prouder.” No, the Christian leaders who support Trump have explicitly rejected and criticized things such as his previous sexual immorality and his boastfulness.
d. I have a more positive evaluation of Trump’s character than John Piper does.
Here is the point at which people will make different political judgments, because human beings are extremely complex, and therefore an accurate assessment of a person’s character is difficult. It certainly should not be done quickly on the basis of small snippets of information. And complicating the task is the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:20), so every human being has flaws that others can criticize.
Piper speaks of Trump’s character in entirely negative terms. Because of unbelievably hostile reporting in the mainstream press, other people can see no good character traits at all in President Trump. My assessment is different, and I think it is more balanced. I wrote this in 2016 and it still applies:
He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas … that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him …. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages. These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.
On the other hand, I think some of the accusations hurled against him are unjustified. His many years of business conduct show that he is not racist or anti-(legal) immigrant or anti-Semitic or misogynistic – I think these are unjust magnifications by a hostile press exaggerating some careless statements he has made. I think he is deeply patriotic and sincerely wants the best for the country. He has been an unusually successful problem solver in business. He has raised remarkable children. Many who have known him personally speak highly of his kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity.
And now, after his nearly four years in office, I would add that he has shown remarkable courage of his convictions, faithfulness to his campaign promises, steadfastness of purpose in spite of an astoundingly hostile press, incredible energy in the performance of his job, dignity and even eloquence in many formal speeches and ceremonies at home and abroad, respect and appreciation for his wife Melania and his sons and daughters, and a wide-ranging understanding of the hundreds of different issues that every president faces. In contrast to his past life, during his term in office there is not been even a hint of any sexual impropriety. He is sometimes boastful but on a number of occasions I have seen him publicly give credit to many other people for things that have been accomplished. And I think he has shown mature and wise judgment in a variety of situations that he has faced as president.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Wayne Grudem