CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Evangelicals and Trump

Oct 24, 2020

Some thoughts on John Piper’s views on the US election:

Those who have followed me over the years know that I wrote quite a lot about Trump during the 2016 presidential cycle. Back then I and millions of other Christian conservatives had legitimate concerns about the guy. But during the past four years he has proven to be far better than many of us thought he could be. See here for more on my turnaround: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/02/04/on-trump-for-potus-in-2020/

The debate still rages among Christians – especially evangelicals – over Trump, and how we might vote this time around. There are, however, many Christians like me who have shifted from hesitancy about Trump to support for him – warts and all.

Sure, I and others full well knew that a Clinton win in 2016 would have been real bad news for America, but in the last four years the Democrats and the left have become even more radicalised, more “progressive,” and more opposed to everything we care about.

Never have the Dems moved this far left in their history, and a Biden/Harris win really would be disastrous for the US. Yet some evangelical leaders are still trying to tell us not to vote for Trump, or not to vote for either candidate. American pastor John Piper has been one very famous example of the latter.

He recently wrote an article that some – including myself – have found to be somewhat confusing and concerning. He says for example that the sin of pride is just as deadly as the sin of abortion. Well, yes, in the sense that all sins are deadly, and all sins lead us away from God and to eternal punishment.

But a sin like abortion of course leads to the actual physical death of the innocent. That is something God has often strongly spoken against. And I am sure that over the years Piper has taken the view that most of us have that not all sins are equal, and some are more odious than others. I make that case elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2010/11/12/are-all-sins-equal-part-one/

You can read Piper’s piece for yourself here: www.desiringgod.org/articles/policies-persons-and-paths-to-ruin

So how might I and others respond? Needless to say, I have long liked Piper, and have often quoted from him. Indeed, I own 35 of his books. He has been a key populariser of the theology of Jonathan Edwards, perhaps America’s greatest philosopher and theologian.

Thus I for the most part always appreciate what he has to say. But here I might have to beg to differ. The stakes are getting too high to effectively waste a vote, or argue against picking sides. Yes, we have no perfect parties nor perfect candidates, but in a fallen world we have to make do with what is available.

While I could offer a lengthy discussion on all this, let me draw upon a few responses to Piper made by others. Their wisdom is also worth running with here. I begin with two shorter replies. In a Facebook post James White said this:

John Piper’s article demonstrates that even godly men can fall into the same pit of error: this isn’t about either Trump or Biden, both of whom are horribly flawed candidates. This is about a Marxist revolution and whether you will even *get* to vote in 2024. The reality I wish he understood is seen not in Trump’s arrogance or Biden’s cowardice–but in history in that Marxism brings death and tyranny. One side is literally promoting the utter abolishment of the Imago Dei. I do not understand how that can be missed. I would “get” (but disagree with) Piper saying he cannot vote for Trump due to morality, or Biden due to worldview and cowardice; but if this is a statement that he believes you could positively promote the worldview professed by Kamala Harris—astonishing if true, deeply disappointing as well.

Or as Jenna Ellis tweeted, “Unfortunately, @JohnPiper conflates the responsibility and privilege of voting with the need for the Church to take a more active role in culture. We must vote to PROTECT our God-given right to BE THE CHURCH. This article is designed to suppress Christian vote – DON’T LET IT.”

And several full length articles can be cited here. A few quotes from an article by Gary DeMar are worth offering. He says, “There are stark differences between the two political parties on most issues. When weighed on the scales of God’s law, it’s clear that the Democrats deserve all the criticism they are getting and then some. The Republicans need to be taken to task as well, but in terms of this election, the Democrats need to go down in flames.” And again:

Seeing evil and doing little or nothing to stop it because it might “undermine” an “authentic Christian witness” is bewildering to me. The numerous policies being promoted by the Democrat Party will hurt Christians as well as our unbelieving neighbors. Abortion and forcing parents to allow their eight-year-old children “change” their sex are just two examples. If you love your neighbor, the choice on November 3rd is clear. Piper offers no practical or tactical advice on how to confront the present social, cultural, and political evil….

I’ll end with this: I am sure the Jews being sent to the gas ovens were more concerned about their own physical death at the command of a tyrant than someone who might be arrogant but worked to stop the trains on the way to their doom. There is a difference, and anyone unable to note the difference is confused. americanvision.org/24777/my-response-to-john-pipers-paths-to-ruin-article/

I also like what Michael Brown had to say on this. He begins by offering seven areas in which he agrees with what Piper said. But he then goes on to discuss his differences. Here is part of what he wrote:

To begin with, the political system itself is earthly and flawed, with all candidates being far from perfect. While it would be ideal for our presidents to be shining examples of morality and character, very few in our history would live up to that ideal. This is not to make excuses but rather to be realistic.

Next, it is one thing to elect a boastful, divisive leader. It is another thing to empower a party that will sanction the killing of the unborn. Or strip away religious freedoms. Or give free reign to foreign, tyrannical regimes.

When it comes to Trump, we can vote for his policies while saying, “I don’t like many of the things he does and feel his example is often very destructive. I will therefore speak out when he acts wrongly and will model something different in my own life.” But a vote for Biden and the Democrats is a vote to empower a party that wants to impose an overtly godless agenda.

He concludes:

Finally, when it comes to listing the sins of Trump, Pastor Piper may have gone a little too far. Has Trump promoted or practiced sexual immorality since announcing his candidacy? To the contrary, hasn’t he expressed regret about some of his past actions? And does he get credit for keeping his promises and commitments in ways that few presidents in our lifetime have done?

Once again, I wholeheartedly agree with Piper’s emphasis on the gospel first (rather than “America first”). But I wonder if future generations would understand if we explained the loss of our freedoms and the slaughter of millions of more babies by saying, “Yes, one party espoused these terrible policies. But we couldn’t vote for the man whose party opposed them because he was too boastful and divisive.”

At times like this, my counsel is simple: Be idealistic in terms of living out your own faith as a witness for the Lord. But be pragmatic when it comes to casting your vote. stream.org/pastor-john-piper-and-the-2020-elections-a-respectful-response/

Of course Brown has penned a recent book on the Christian case for Trump. See my review of it here: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/07/30/a-review-of-evangelicals-at-the-crossroads-will-we-pass-the-trump-test-by-michael-brown/

Other more generic pieces by evangelicals who critique the ‘Christians for Biden’ camp can also be found. As one such example, consider a new piece by Peter Jones. I offer just one paragraph from it:

This election is an attempt at a cultural revolution. If Biden wins, we will be forced to live in a society made up of endless irreconcilable identity groups whose rule depends upon pure power. The power grab will define America’s political past as evil, impose a cancel culture package that will undo the created structures of family and sexuality, protection of the unborn, the practice of Christian religion, everyday fair play based on the Constitution, and free speech. It should be clear that the accusation of systemic racism now coursing through the veins of many of our institutions and corporations, is actually a call for the overthrow of the so-called corrupt American system and the way of life that made America the most civilized nation in human history. cornwallalliance.org/2020/10/a-plea-to-my-evangelical-friends-for-biden/  

Suffice it to say that I have penned hundreds of articles over the years dealing with related themes, be it the case for Christian political and social involvement; the importance and the limits of politics; the need to not fully equate the gospel message with any one political party or program; and so on.

At the very least, all American Christians must vote very carefully and very prayerfully in the next week or so. This is a very important election indeed, and how we vote will have far greater ramifications than many might begin to realise.

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26 Responses to Evangelicals and Trump

  • You know how bad it is when even a godly leader like John Piper can’t seem to recognise the looming dangers posed by the left/neo-Marxists.
    And if he is so supposedly so opposed to pride, has he denounced the most prideful bunch around – the homosexuals and their allies?

  • Last night I read an article posted on Facebook by a friend from years ago. It was by John Pavlovitz from January 2018. I have never read such an awful diatribe against fellow Christians who support Trump. I have read some of his articles and reviews of his books to educate myself on him. My friend is a retired pastor with a wealth of experience in the Word, pastoring, counselling, etc. Once again I am astonished by the divide amongst the Body of Christ. The spiritual battle is so clear to me. Or am I the crazy one!!

  • Almighty God will raise up and use whomever HE chooses in order to fulfil His purposes – despite the judgment and criticism of those who regard themself/themselves as ‘senior’ Christians and who have perhaps unwittingly succumbed to spiritual pride in the importance of their own position . . In this case, like the Pied Piper, seeking to lead Christians away from their responsibility and indeed privilege to vote for those who will uphold God’s values for the future well-being of the U.S., and of the world.

    Sadly Jesus’ words about the millstone (Matthew 18:6) come to mind.

    Respected Lance Wallnau’s clip of what the Lord showed him is thrilling and insightful (10 mins, or read):

    https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2017/march/lance-wallnau-weighs-in-on-gods-chaos-candidate-now-americas-president

  • Good article Bill, have you tried to send it off to John Piper, or is he unreachable? I have read a lot about Trump through the eyes of many of the Pastors over there. Trump is called are Cyrus, both by the evangelicals and the Jews so that should speak for itself about where he fits in God’s plan. Piper is only one of the Christian leaders who is fighting against the grain of what the Lord is trying to do, and as we well know even some of the elect will be deceived in the last days. So the Evangelical Pastors over there who are trying to get the truth out to the others really need our prayers. After all at the end of the day what happens over there is alternately going to affect us also which I am sure you know. So pray, pray, pray.
    Also thought you should know because you may not already. Daniel Andrews has been going ahead with the belt and road deal and in fact has gone into are further deal with the Chinese. They have already started on it and while you are all in lock down. The Chinese have been coming in and out of Melbourne each day since your lock down started I think. Daniel is trying his hardest to get it through before Morrison can get legislation to come through stopping those deals. Have you thought about using your gift to write to other churches (with our Lord’s guidance) in Melbourne letting them know what is going on. This is quite serious, as we are losing Australia to the dragon, and without Australia as our platform to practice and preach the word then we have forfeited the heritage our Lord has given to his people “The Great South Land of the Holy Spirit”. Isn’t that worth fighting for? It is going to take all the church’s that are called by our Lord’s name to change this around. There is spiritual warfare required here, not by just one, but by all that are called by the Lord’s name. “It is not by might or by power, but by my spirit says the Lord”. Our prayers need to reach into the Heavenly s, but I believe Repentance is needed first. I believe the letter in Revelations called Sardis applies to us and I have received confirmation though others that they have also received the same word.

  • I regard Piper’s article as obscurantist word salad that confuses and conflates clear distinctions with the result that he escapes responsibility and floats off to the stratosphere of abstraction. It’s safe there. Am writing about this.

  • Is Piper losing it like so many other high-profile Christians? So many seem to have thrown away the Gospel in favour of so-called social justice. Perhaps Piper might reflect on this priest’s sermon: https://anticatholicticket.com/archives/1510

  • Maybe a Biden win is what’s needed for a reset of US society led by a reformed Christian community. The one Trump legacy left, if he loses is the traditionalist Supreme Court which would be the last beachhead in the defence of freedom. Maybe 4 years of Biden Harris will show the true face of Democratic Socialism and it’s evils. If Biden wins, Christians need to take up the cross and take peacefully to the streets and do what the socialists do- become involved, starting with school boards,local government and donate to real civil rights legal organisations( eg Judicial Watch). Do what the left does- organise and participate under the banner of love and the cross.

  • Discern the spirit behind a movement is sadly lacking in Christian circles including the Pope. With our discernment we fall into humanistic reasoning and thus fall into darkness. The devil is alive and deception is his key strategy. No wonder the confusion amongst Christians who operate mostly from the second heaven where good and evil operate. Sad.

  • Dear Bill, Thank you for the article.

    Recently I had a letter published in the Sunday Times commenting on the hateful responses coming mostly from the left wing after Trump contracted the Corona virus. Some even hoped he would die from it! I compared him to Winston Churchill who was also intensely disliked even amongst his own colleagues but at least he was positive the same as Trump. He also knew the evil he was up against. I also said Trump’s pro life stance was good enough for me. It appears I stirred up a hornets nest because I got a flurry of replies. Two doubted his pro life stance and said he was doing it to get votes. One was spot on and said Trump was not perfect but the alternative was worse and Americans had a ‘stark’ choice and the fourth letter was from a confirmed Trump hater. She condemned his narcissistic, bullying and bad behaviour and denied that abortion was much of a problem.

    Everyone knows that Trump is not perfect but the fact is he is an extremely wealthy man who knows the free and democratic country he lives in allowed him to make his fortune. He knows he couldn’t have done it under an atheistic communist regime so it makes sense that he would hate totalitarianism which is what the Democrats are after. Who knows he may not be truly pro life but he has done things which indicate he is so he must be given the benefit of the doubt. Amy Coney Barratt’s appointment is one. One US politician has even said you can’t be Democrat and be pro life and most leading democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden have openly declared themselves to be pro abortion and done nothing to try and stop the slaughter. Therefore there is only one alternative as far as I can see.

  • Just sad.
    John Piper’s diatribe wouldn’t have felt so hypocritical if Piper and his church were actively standing outside abortion clinics helping to prevent the murder of the unborn.
    In any case, what’s he trying to say? Trump’s a flawed character (which nobody disagrees with) so we should do nothing to prevent the murder of the unborn?
    Trump occasionally sends out an impolite tweet so we should allow Sleepy Joe Hidin’ to be elected so he can pass legislation that will result in the increased sterilisation of minors (both children and teenagers) through federal funding and mandates for sexual change surgery?
    What’s his point here really? Failing to prevent the democrats gaining control of all levels of government doesn’t correlate with an increase of personal evangelism and devotional and corporate prayer amongst American evangelicals. Does John Piper genuinely think that his refusal to vote (and telling his readers not to vote because Jesus isn’t on the ballot) will result in the members of Bethlehem Baptist (his local congregation) being more active in sharing the gospel with their neighbours?
    Why can’t we do both? Vote against the anti-God party of death AND share the gospel?
    No evangelical I know believes that Trump is Billy Graham or for that matter that he’s an Oliver Cromwell who is going to use the levers of government to institute Reformed Protestantism into the legislative framework of the USA.
    I think most rational believers know that, despite his occasional vulgarity and distracting behaviour, Trump is one of the few GOP POTUS’ in the last 100 years to actually implement conservative policies including the most important moral issue of our time (preventing the murder of the unborn).
    Further, has John Piper and some of these “never Trump” elitist evangelicals ever noticed Joe Biden’s behaviour? Maybe they should have a chat with Tara Reade? Or how he had to resign from running for Dem POTUS primaries in 1988 because of sexual harassment allegations, and his plagiarism, and the many lies he told about his personal history? Or maybe they forgot the false witness and slanderous claims he made and facilitated against good men like Robert Bork or Justice Clarence Thomas? Or maybe the constant lies he’s been telling throughout his campaign depending on the company he’s with? Or the fact that he’s language is just as vulgar or even more so than Trump’s when he thinks the microphone isn’t on?

  • John Piper is the sissy type of christian enjoying hedonistic affluent American comfort and convenience lifestyle with little care about everything that God created has been at great stake….well it doesn’t seem to bother him he can easily go the confirming ways with the world ….

  • Thanks Nirmal and Joel. As I say, I mostly quite like Piper. And on the abortion issue he has been quite strong and outspoken, See here for example:
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2012/02/17/some-home-truths-on-abortion/

  • I wish to add, Martin Luther and John Calvin both had big character blind spots (Luther used extremely vulgar language and in later life was less than charitable to his Jewish neighbours and John Calvin has Servetus put to death despite nowhere in the New Testament is it even hinted that heresy is a capital offence). So should we, and John Piper himself, reject their theology and instead “focus on preaching the gospel”?
    P.S. Trump doesn’t even claim to be a regenerate Christian even though there are a lot of excitable evangelical leaders wishing to claim that got him!

  • Thanks Joel. At the risk of going off track here, I discuss the Servetus incident here for what it is worth: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2014/04/29/calvin-and-geneva/

  • One can argue ad nauseam about this point or that, but the bottom line is that the Democrat Party promotes the killing of unborn human beings and it is an abomination unto the Lord

  • Dear Bill,
    Thank you for bringing this forth. I can’t remember now who was writing the commentary, but it was based on, “Who said you were disqualified?”
    Was Moses for fearing to readily accept the task God was giving him?
    Was Isaac for lying to his father?
    Was Samson for his arrogance?
    Was David for his affair with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband?
    Was Peter for running and hiding?
    Was Paul for the deaths of so many believers?

    God will raise up and bring low. HE will humble and teach in HIS time.
    The World would disqualify ALL of us given the opportunity.

    Respectfully’
    Ron

  • Pastor Brandon Holthaus of California shares how evangelical leaders are suppressing the Christian vote.
    https://youtu.be/f1SdIQnCVxU

  • Just read 2 Tim 3:1-9. Hits the nail on the head. We were warned.

  • I made a comment under the post because I believe the complaints themselves against Trump are unfounded and unfair. I reproduce it here.

    “unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia)”, “unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia)”

    He has certainly expressed his remorse and regret, and sources close to him say that he has repented born again. The fact that he does not still behave in this way means that he has repented in the biblical sense, i.e. he has turned away from them.

    “unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia)”

    To say that he should be less boastful is a bit like saying we should be humble in a job interview. Yes, we should be, but we still need to prosecute our case as to why we believe we are the best candidate, and we may need to do it quite forcefully at certain moments and situations in the interview process. Trump is on the campaign trail; of course he needs to highlight his achievements. Please don’t confuse forthrightness and brusque mannerisms with the sin of boastfulness. Just because Biden is more softly spoken does not mean that Trump is boastful. He is a baby Christian, but he is slowly to give the glory to Jesus Christ more and more.

    “unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai)”

    The biblical verses condemning divisiveness are all in the context of the church, the body of Christ (and even the there are some qualifications). John Piper surely knows this. Trump rightly sees America (and the Western world) being dragged down a very dangerous path, and he is trying to do something about it, with even the media against him. That is not being factious. It is the Democrats who have incited all the rioting, in their efforts to make the country ungovernable and so destroy Trump. One only has to look at his achievements on the world stage, in the Middle East in particular, to know that he is anything but factious.

    John Piper’s biggest problem is that he lives in Minneapolis, is by all reports having a great ministry among the rioters, but that is clouding his judgement regarding the big picture. That’s my guess anyway.

  • I have skimmed John Piper’s article to gain an overall impression of his stance.

    I am concerned that he cites the unrepentant sins as if they attached to only the President and not to Joe Biden. Even in the supportive mainstream media, there is sufficient acknowledgement of Joe Biden’s unrepentant sinfulness (on each of Piper’s examples) to require excuses to be made. Not stated but also a significant sin is Joe Biden’s double standards and two-faced policy declarations, depending on his audience, trying to please all the people, all the time.

    The tone of the article presents a stark dichotomy rather than a considered view of pluses and minuses on each side and, sadly, reflects an underlying bias against President Trump.

    His conclusion is “a pox o’ both your houses” which I am sorry to interpret as a cop-out.

    Most disappointing.

  • The world is at crossroads, both in the western world and also in the Soviet Union. Here in Australia, we have the benefit of being outside the fiery furnace to look inside, but what the fiery furnace is truly like, is colored by the information we are given and the commentaries. All the writers acknowledge the faults of both candidates, and so as I look back on Trump’s first term as president and see his stance for life, and am grateful that he has unashamedly stood firmly for these values, and will do so next term. Offering sex changes from the age of eight years is a crime against humanity, and not supported by medical opinion in any country. So Americans, choose wisely and protect your society

  • How disappointing Mr Piper is! So the POTUS must be perfect in every way it would seem to meet Mr Piper’s approval, his high standards! Are you Mr Piper perfect, unflawed, a man who has conquered every sinful piece of human frailty and brokenness and Adamic state? I suspect not. For example Mr Piper stated his “Hatred” of the prosperity gospel to a group of 1000 college students back in 2005 yet has no issue amassing a personal fortune of 17 million dollars when there are Christians starving and destitute around the world. How much is enough? Hypocrisy much! Perhaps we should clear our libraries of John Piper material due to this double standard, and ensure we don’t buy anything new from the Piper publication mill! Just a thought.
    I congratulate Mr Trump on some of his stances. Pro-life, Pro Israel, someone who I believe loves his country and his fellow Americans, a President that has been nominated (and deserving, unlike Obama) for the Nobel peace prize among other things. We are not perfect vessels and I am not excusing bad behaviour; however, we are Justified by faith and through that faith will one day be Glorified but it is the process of being Sanctified in between which is the hard road traveled. Mr Trump will be known by his fruits and rather than jump the gun as Christians to condemn him for being less than perfect why can’t we give him an opportunity to prove himself – which will require some time, not an overnight flip! It takes effort to change 70 years of habit even with the Holy Spirits help.
    Mr Piper, I think you owe President Trump and the Church an apology. Your rhetoric has been unhelpful, divisive, potentially damaging to the future of the USA and her citizens and in the light of the WHOLE counsel of God quite frankly flawed. I expect better from someone with such a platform of influence and it has now tainted how I view your ministry, with much greater caution! Unfortunately we are seeing too many leaders with a platform of influence being pulled more and more by the world and the accolades it offers.
    Standing out like a beacon from ‘that bunch’; however, is our most excellent Mr Muehlenberg!
    Thank you for your sound influence, humility and clarity so consistently offered to encourage the body of Christ – proud to have the ex-Yank living in Oz! Bless you!

  • I agree with John Piper.
    He thinks issues out carefully, critically and spiritually.
    Whoever called him affluent needs to realize he has chosen to live a moderate lifestyle.
    I am thankful that President Trump helped tip the Supreme Court pro-life.
    I think it is time for him to go but like John Piper. I could not vote for Biden either.
    Many sincere Christians think this way though I know we are a minority. Too many Christians are identified with Trump and those who are unbelievers see the inconsistency of his behavior and attitude.

  • Thanks Pat. Two responses on two levels: One, that name sounds familiar! Hey, great to hear from you! I hate to say it, but has it been at least 45 years or so since we last were connecting? I recall you helping me make a spaghetti dinner once at my home if I am not mistaken. And I might have shared some Bible chapters I had memorised as well.

    Two, in a companion piece to this one I speak more to Piper and his views: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/10/29/christianity-trump-and-the-white-house/

    In those 2 articles I already laid out in some detail where I differ from Piper, having also said how much I normally like him and his work. I guess it all comes down to this: One may not like all of Trump’s character – one should also equally dislike much of Biden’s character. Given that sort of equivalence here, and given that Jesus is not running for any elections, we then must focus on polices. And just one – the slaughter of millions of unborn babies – should tip the scales for all believers in Trump’s favour.

    Also, if it is a choice for the believer to run on a ‘purist’ platform where you do not vote for those of questionable character, and thereby help to ensure the pro-death guy gets in, for me it is again a no-brainer. ‘Purity’ must take second place to the sanctity of life. Sure, if we could get both simultaneously that would be great, but that may not be the case here.

    But thanks for writing in and great to hear from you! Bless ya.

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