A Respectful Dissent From Wayne Grudem’s Endorsement of Donald Trump.
I’ll start by admitting that it is incredibly intimidating to disagree with an intelligent theological heavyweight like Wayne Grudem. Who am I? Just a politically independent Christian businessman who is seeking truth like the rest of us in this confusing, frustrating election season. Nevertheless, in fear and trembling I must offer my respectful dissent: I agree with Grudem that to vote for the lesser of two evils is a moral choice- but I would instead argue that Clinton is the lesser evil. Many of his arguments for Trump are conservative or Trump campaign talking points regarding the economy, public policy, and military strategy- and not necessarily Christian talking points (or perhaps not the only interpretation of Christian teaching). And while I own a copy of “Systematic Theology” and have it by my bedside for occasional nighttime reading, I do not look to Grudem for the highest level of expertise on other matters outside of theology — for instance, he is trusting Trump’s assertion that granting “more oil drilling permits” will lead “to lower energy costs and providing thousands of jobs” when that is simply not true based on the current market price of oil; at the moment, energy companies are not aggressively drilling the fields they already have access to because the price of oil on the market is too low for healthy profit margins, and they’d rather not drill according to the laws of supply and demand. Likewise, Grudem seems to accept Trump’s claim that he would be better for national security at a time when most of the national security establishment is gravitating towards Clinton. In short, I agree with his moral argument that we should consider voting for the lesser of two evils- but portions of his argument that Trump is the lesser evil are based on secular arguments that are almost verbatim to Trump’s platform and nomination acceptance speech.
By no means do I believe that God is a progressive either- aspects of the gospel are reflected in both conservatism and progressivism. And I myself am unashamedly pro-life — but I am concerned that politicians (especially Trump) have come to see evangelicals as one-issue voters- and are thus prone to manipulation, i.e. a candidate could have greater license to pursue his own depraved agenda knowing that a voting bloc will never leave him as long as the carrot stick of that one issue is dangling. At one point should a pro-life candidate become unpalatable to a voter whose vote hinges only on legally banning abortion? It sounds like many Christians are open to voting for a serial adulterer (possibly a rapist), a vengeful bully, a racist, an infringer of religious liberties, an oppresser of the alien, a misogynist, and a businessperson with whom there are extremely distressing first-hand accounts of cheated vendors, customers who were taken advantage of, and investors who were swindled- in order to vote for an pro-life candidate of questionable conviction. How far will we go as one-issue voters? Would we vote for a Hitler-like demagogue because he is pro-life? Would we entrust a madman lacking judgment and self-control with the nuclear codes because he is pro-life? That is a question I ask with deadly seriousness; if the response from Christians is “we’ll go to any lengths, we’ll pay any price, we’ll bear any moral burden!”, then any negotiator will tell you how that will turn out: it is an invitation to being manipulated and taken advantage of. Moreover, it incentivizes the savvy negotiator to never give up that leverage- i.e. to never concede the very thing the desperate party wants so that leverage and control are maintained. Would this line of thinking ever have crossed into Trump’s mind? Based on first-hand accounts of the outcome of his business deals, absolutely; Trump understands debt. Trump understands leverage.
I’ve heard the argument that the President is not “Pastor-in-Chief”; but that argument goes both ways and defends the immorality of both candidates, not just Trump. Whether you agree or disagree with her policies, Clinton clearly has put in the hard work to learn every facet of public policy on a state and federal level; our world is complex and our problems are complex, and doing this hard work is important. Persistence and focus are important. What is alarming to me is that Trump not only hasn’t done the work to understand the issues, he doesn’t show either the diligence or intellectual curiosity in understanding the issues. I run a business and have hired many software engineers over time; if someone were to apply for an engineer position and say, “I don’t know how to write software yet but I’m sure I’m smart enough to learn once you give me the job. I’ve got the best intelligence- Believe me!”, I would say, “Friend, I’m encouraged by your optimism but why don’t you learn a programming language first then get back to me.” If the President is not Pastor-in-Chief, then he’d better be competent in the specific secular skills the job requires. In my opinion, Grudem is relying too heavily on Trump’s claims as a savvy businessman- but it is not entirely clear that he is the success he is (or that it was not ill-gotten)- in large part because he refuses to disclose his tax returns due to an ongoing audit, even though the IRS has stated that an audit would not prohibit him from doing so. Every presidential candidate has disclosed tax returns since Nixon, regardless of party- to disclose conflicts of interest that would compromise his duties. Misrepresenting his financial success would be one thing, having financial ties with Russian oligarchs would be worse in light of his Russia-friendly national security platform. The media is rightfully pursuing answers to these questions.
Finally, on the media’s treatment of Trump: I do not think the media has treated him unfairly; if anything, it has been caught up in the carnival and not served its duty as public watchdog early enough. Its not the media that makes out Trump to be a racist; its his own words and actions that should be critiqued: “laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” His treatment of the Mexican-American Judge Curiel is another instance. The media has certainly been harsh with Clinton for several decades; Trump doesn’t seem to understand that it’s the job of the Fourth Estate to challenge our leaders. His remarks about wanting to silence criticism of the press by making it easier to sue should be alarming for all who desire checks on the powerful.
As I said, I write all this in fear and trembling, knowing that I could be wrong in some or all of my points. Thankfully we live in the Age of Google where you yourself can diligently fact check every assertion I’ve made, from the racist quote to the market price of oil and its effects on new drilling investment. I still greatly admire Grudem for his contributions to the body of Christ and to me personally. Based on what I know at the moment, I humbly offer this dissent according to my conscience.
Postscript: Since originally sharing this post on Facebook, a few friends have noted that they do not consider Wayne Grudem a theological “heavyweight”. I suppose I should clarify that I consider him a heavyweight in comparison to me, a layman without theological training- and that I hope it is obvious from the contents of this post that I do not necessarily agree with all of Grudem’s opinions, but I can still nevertheless honor him for his service to the body of Christ. Also, a friend subsequently shared a rebuttal to Grudem from someone with more theological credentials than me that is worth consideration: