Do not lay hands on anyone too quickly,

and so participate in the sins of other men; keep yourself pure.

 – 1 Tim. 4:22

 

American evangelicals are in a quandary. No, they’re in a crisis. They are eager to vote for an electable presidential candidate who embraces biblical values, but in 2016 it appears they cannot. For reasons that are painfully obvious—and that have been rehearsed ad nauseum—they realize that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is worthy of their enthusiastic support. How, then, should they vote? Should they vote for “the lesser of two evils”? Should they vote for a third party candidate? Or should they vote Christian and conservative down the ticket, but not vote for president at all? Trust me when I say I have given this matter LOTS of prayer and thought. In the present essay I offer both my reflections conclusions. I hope they will help you vote, both now and in the years to come.

In mulling this matter, I have isolated four biblically based lenses through which I believe we can successfully evaluate any candidate for office. They are character, conviction, competence, and calling. Let’s think together about these for a moment, and then apply them to our present situation.

Character

First comes character. And first it is, for character always precedes policy, and determines policy. As our Lord said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad cannot bear good.” We must, then, pay the closest possible attention to a candidate’s character.

But how, exactly, do we evaluate a man’s character? For the Christian, the benchmark of all true character is the character of Jesus Christ. In evaluating a candidate, we examine him (or her) for the presence of those spiritual attributes that made the Lord Jesus the ideal man, the “firstborn” over a whole new race of godly human beings. These attributes include piety, holiness, righteousness, wisdom, honesty, love, kindness, courage, self-sacrifice, and more. And among sinners who truly know their Savior, these attributes also include one important trait not found in their sinless Master: the ability humbly to admit one’s mistakes and misdeeds, and to apologize for them.

No biblically informed Christian expects a candidate to display a flawless character; as it is written, all have sinned and fall short of the glorious character of Christ and God. Nevertheless, in a world where darkness and light always commingle, some among us, by God’s grace, do indeed display many of the character traits of Christ, and in noticeable measure. Christians should only vote for candidates who do.

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Below is an open letter to Republican leaders, one that I will likely send in hard copy to select men and women whom I judge to be receptive. Realistically, I think Republican voters—and leaders—have pretty much resigned themselves to Trump. But citizens of God’s Kingdom do not always yield to earthly realism, especially when God’s standards and the well-being of their family, nation, and world are at stake. So join me in dreaming a little, and praying a lot. d

May 10, 2016

Dear American Leader,

The current presidential contest has caused me to fear for the future of my party, my country, and my world. I am writing to give you my assessment of the situation, and to offer my best thinking on the way forward.

As any number of conservative leaders have demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt, Donald Trump, like Hillary Clinton, is unfit for office. His words, deeds, and ever-shifting policy recommendations show us that Trump is an ungodly man without character, competence, meaningful accomplishments, abiding principles, self-control, intellectual depth, or emotional stability. No principled conservative American could ever vote for such a man (or for Hillary) with a clear conscience. Moreover, it is evident that a Trump presidency would wreak havoc upon our nation and beyond. Why? As our Declaration of Independence states, God has ordered his world according to certain natural and moral laws. One of them is that good ends (e.g., stopping Hillary) never can justify the use of evil means (e.g., electing Donald); another is that we cannot choose an evil leader (even if he is supposed to be the lesser of two) and still hope to secure good results. In sum, we simply must find an alternative to Donald Trump.

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Voters in North Carolina have just made theirs the thirty-first state in which marriage will be between a man and a woman, exclusively. President Obama has responded by endorsing gay marriage. Needless to say, an intensification of the national debate on this issue will ensue. In this post, I make a case for the affirmation of heterosexual marriage in law. Hopefully, these few thoughts will help my fellow Christians enter the public square and engage in this debate with wisdom, courage, gentleness, and respect.

The case begins with an assumption, namely, that both nature and conscience reveal the existence of an infinite personal Creator, a God who rules, blesses, and judges all nations according to his holy will. This was, of course, the faith of our Founding Fathers, who held these great truths to be self-evident and foundational to the good order of any society.

On this assumption, it is a matter of simple intellectual honesty to observe the striking physical and psychological complementarity of men and women, as well as the universal pattern of human behavior, and to conclude that God has a design for marriage. In particular, he clearly designs marriage as a permanent union of one man and one woman for the purpose of mutual support, enjoyment, procreation, the spiritual and physical nurture of children, and the resulting health of society at large.

Such conclusions, though resisted by some, nevertheless belong to the “spiritual common sense” of the entire family of man. This is why all world religions define heterosexual marriage as the norm, and why no culture in recorded history has ever defined it otherwise.

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Barring the unforeseen, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will square off in the November presidential elections. As most of you know, the National Right to Life Committee and Massachusetts Right to Life have both endorsed Romney. His stated positions and track record on the life issues are far superior to those of President Obama. Yes, in recent years Romney has changed his views, but the movement has been in the right direction: towards a higher and higher regard for the sanctity of human life and the need of its protection in law. Hence, the NRLC endorsement.

But there is a problem. All political analysts agree that Romney can win, but that the election will be close. Romney will definitely need every vote he can get. For this reason, pro-life leaders are concerned; concerned that evangelical Christians, uneasy with Romney’s LDS faith, may sit out the election.

Such political passivity could be decisive and catastrophic. Therefore, as a former pastor, bush-league theologian, and long-time pro-lifer, I want to address this issue. In what follows, I am writing especially to my evangelical brothers and sisters. I want to explain why I do not believe it is wrong for an evangelical to vote for an LDS candidate, and why it may well be our duty to do so.

Let me begin at the end: In the end, every Christian must honor the voice of conscience. The apostle wrote, “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” If you sincerely believe that a vote for an LDS candidate is wrong, you cannot vote for him. But again, let me explain, biblically, why I think there is no sin in such a vote.

The crucial text is Romans 13:1-7. Here the apostle explains the purpose of the State. He tells us that earthly rulers—presidents, congressmen, judges, law enforcement personnel—are actually “ministers of God” with a unique calling. No, these ministers are not called to preach their faith or administer sacraments. Rather, they are called to one thing and one thing only: the administration of justice. In order to preserve peace and order in a sinful world, God calls temporal leaders to codify, promulgate, and enforce his moral law, a law that is written on the hearts of all people everywhere, whatever their faith may be.

This is why evangelical Christians living in a democracy may lawfully vote for a man whose faith they do not share. Is the candidate an evangelical Christian, a Roman Catholic, a devout Jew, a B’hai, a Mormon, etc.? No matter. We are not voting for a pastor or a priest. We are simply voting for someone who will faithfully and justly uphold God’s moral law.

Here, then, are the questions I believe evangelical Christians should be asking as the election draws near: Does this candidate follow the Declaration of Independence in acknowledging the existence of a divine Creator and Lawgiver, however well or poorly the candidate might conceive of him? Do his policy positions line up with God’s law as revealed in the Bible? Does he seem to be a person of sound character? Can he be trusted to do what he promises on the campaign trail?

When I examine Governor Romney with these questions in mind, I am comfortable with what I see. Yes, as an evangelical Christian, I wish he understood certain crucial doctrinal matters differently, and to this end I pray for him and his family. But again, at present I see nothing in his worldview or policy positions to disqualify him from public office. Moreover, I also see that Providence is giving me an opportunity to vote for him, and that a failure to do so will only increase the likelihood of another four years under the militantly anti-life Obama administration.

So then, speaking personally, my path is clear. And right up till November I will be praying for all my evangelical brethren that God will make their path clear, as well.

 

STANDING UP, STANDING FIRM 

The California Republican Party needs you.

Earlier this summer, certain members of the Platform Committee wrote a draft of a new platform, the document they hope will set the Party’s course for the next four years.

Reading it, conservatives found, to their shock and dismay, that the writers had deleted whole sections of carefully wrought material dealing with the sanctity of human life, the importance of resisting the gay agenda, immigration policy, and Second Amendment rights.

Fearing for the future of the Party, many are taking action. My good friend (and former candidate for office) Lawrence Wiesner and I wrote a firm but respectful letter to the leaders of the Drafting Committee, and sent copies to all 220 members of the Platform Committee (who will vote on the proposed platform at the convention this September). Our hope was to get the framers to restore all or most of the deleted material.

As you will see from the letter below, our hopes were disappointed. The leaders stood their ground, arguing that the way forward in our liberal state is to soft-pedal divisive social issues and focus instead on what people (supposedly) care about: the deficit, jobs, and education.

So Lawrence and I decided to write a second letter to the entire committee, urging the members to vote “no” on the new platform unless and until the committee creates a document around which all Republicans can rally. God willing, we will prevail.

For several reasons, I am posting our letter here. I hope it will stimulate your thinking about how our Christian faith properly intersects with the world of politics. I hope it will move you to pray that the Republican Party does not lose its way in the midst of our great fight for truth, righteousness, and the future of our culture. I hope it will stir some of you to contact Republican leaders with whom you may be familiar, reminding them we are about MUCH more than money, jobs, and big business.

And I hope it will impress you once again with the tremendous importance–in all spheres of life–of standing up, and standing firm.

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