Wayne Grudem, Evangelicals, and the Trump Option

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Wayne Grudem made quite a splash with his recent description of Donald Trump as a “morally good choice” for evangelical voters. Unlike many of Trump’s so-called “evangelical” supporters, Grudem really is an evangelical, and a formidable one at that. This is what makes his column worth noticing.

I want to preface my response to Professor Grudem by saying that, amid the madness of the 2016 election cycle, we evangelicals need to remember that we are part of a much bigger, longer-lasting movement. It would be awful if we ended up with a lousy president (which it seems we will) and tear one another to pieces in the process! I respect Professor Grudem, and he is correct that Christians will have to be patient with one another when we decide to make a different choices about our preferred candidates (or decide not to choose).

Still, I don’t think it is overstating the matter that this election represents a hinge moment for evangelicals in America. Will we show that we are willing to break with the GOP over matters of conscience, or that we are just errand boys for the Republican Party?

Most of Professor Grudem’s column is a pretty conventional argument for holding our nose and voting for Trump. The most compelling part, as usual, is that IF we can assume that Trump would nominate good Supreme Court judges, then at least the Court would be in better shape at the end of his presidency.

That’s a pretty big “if,” given what else we have to swallow with Trump. I have no idea what he would actually do with regard to judges, and his past behavior gives me little reason to trust his word on most any subject.

What we do know is that Trump is the crudest, most uninformed candidate in the history of major presidential contenders. Whether he is actually a misogynist or a racist is unclear (what makes someone an honest-to-goodness “racist”?). But it is clear that he has a long history of misogynistic and racist comments, on which he typically doubles down when challenged.

(I should say, by the way, that I absolutely do not support Hillary Clinton as an alternative to Trump. Just what we know about her views on abortion and the rights of conscience should disqualify her, in my opinion, as a political option for Christians.)

My friend Matthew Franck of The Witherspoon Institute has put it well, in the best column I have read on the Trump option as the “lesser of two evils.”

Was there ever a candidate more obviously unqualified for high public office, as measured by his dearth of relevant knowledge and experience, his willfulness and self-absorption, his compulsive lying and inconsistency, his manipulative using of other people, his smash-mouth rhetoric and low character? For anyone professing conservative principles, the first problem with Trump is that he is not one of us, has never been one of us, shows no sign or capacity of becoming one of us, and hardly cares to pretend to be one of us. Even “what about the Supreme Court?” has no grip on my conscience when I try to imagine Donald Trump in the Oval Office. I cannot trust him to choose judicial nominees wisely, and there are other things whose cumulative weight is greater even than this variable.

We haven’t even the consolation of thinking of Trump as a certain kind of Republican who is not actually conservative but who at least recognizes our vocabulary when he hears it. No, Trump would not know a conservative principle if it kicked him in the shins. This is a nominee who, in my estimation, cannot earn my vote even as a “lesser evil” or an “at least he’s not Hillary” candidate. I waver between believing that his defeat would be the worst thing to happen to our country and believing that his victory would be.

Evangelical friends, Donald Trump is not a “flawed but tolerable” option. As a presidential candidate, he falls well below an acceptable moral and prudential threshold. In order to pick a “lesser of two evils” candidate for president, one of them would have to be a morally responsible choice. Neither the Democrats or the Republicans are offering us such a choice in 2016.


 

The many responses to Grudem include:

[Update 10/10/2016]: Wayne Grudem retracted his endorsement of Trump.

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