It took eleven different presidential elections over the course of a generation in my lifetime for me to finally cast an early vote as I did this week at a local library. Rarely have I seen lines this long at the ballot box and felt such an eerily quiet, if not ominous buzz among a crowd of voters who were casting this most consequential of votes.
This year’s election is so consequential because it not only demonstrates so well the political, cultural and ideological divide which exists in our country, but it also may well determine the societal direction of this nation for years to come.
I qualified the above statement with, “may” by the way, because the results of this election have already been preordained and will be providentially ordained or ordered by… God as of election night, November 3rd, as I will be preaching to my church congregation this coming Lord’s day (The Sovereignty of God, “Over the Nations”).
If God is sovereign- and he is, holding absolute rule and reign over all of his creation, including ultimately the acts and decisions of his own image bearers (Pro. 16:33; 20:21), Christians need not worry or become anxious over the results of this upcoming election. Tuesday night’s result will be precisely what God decreed to happen for this nation, by his own good will and pleasure, which ultimately and thankfully, will be for his glory and the good of his people.
So why vote? Because we understand that human responsibility complements God’s sovereignty and is the means he has ordered by which much of his will is carried out. American Christians have been given a privilege and a responsibility it may be argued, to cast a vote. Thus, the question remains should a Christian vote for the Presidential incumbent ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, or the challenger’s pair from the Democratic Party, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris?
The issues that we would normally consider in how we arrive at such a decision can be rather lengthy and complicated- particularly this year, to the extent that they must be prayerfully deliberated over with much wisdom (e.g. management of the Coronavirus, the economy, ‘racism and social justice’, foreign affairs, health care, climate, et.al). Many of these issues may be debated- lovingly, and graciously among believers as to applications and biblical positions, since they are not all explicitly delineated in the scriptures.
However, Christian voters must be reminded that where the scripture is clear- in the application of the Bible’s precepts, principles and practices to today’s politics, then our vote must be clear. I have argued in this series of posts that the Bible- even affirmed by our nation’s Judeo-Christian influenced founders, have made clear three essential issues of policy that should form the basis of our voting priorities: life, liberty and the ‘love of neighbor’, which are echoed in America’s foundational and Declarative principles of, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
There was a time in the 1990’s when a Democratic President of the United States (Clinton) actually wanted abortion to be: “safe, legal and rare.” Today, Biden and the Democratic party’s position might rephrase that as abortion being, ‘common and available at any time and for any reason.’ Whereas, in contrast, President Trump and the GOP platform might suggest that abortion once again become ‘illegal and unthinkable.’
This week’s Senate confirmation of Amy Comey Barrett as the newest justice of the Supreme Court, might just make the later possible by reversing the court’s Roe v. Wade decision of nearly 50 years ago, in the near future.
Unsurprisingly, our country remains divided on the life and death issue of this age, having been born and bred under the influence of Roe, with a majority of Americans favoring some restrictions on abortion, but supporting Roe as a general rule according to national polls. Regardless, born-again Christians are to think and therefore vote according to biblically based convictions about abortion, rather than compromising those convictions to political expediency and the pop-culture’s embrace of the sexual revolution.
Make no mistake about it, that moral revolution – supported by the radically liberal, political agenda of today’s Democratic Party, embraces the unlimited right to abortion- the intentional taking of innocent life and liberty without limitation, even to the point of the delivery of the pre-born child.
Thus, we’ve already laid out the candidates’ position and their party’s platform on these three fundamental issues in this election primer series, beginning with life, of which the Bible is unambiguously clear on, being pro-life from womb to tomb.
While some high-profile evangelicals of late, have ironically self-identified as ‘pro-life’ supporters of former Vice-President Biden, focusing on other issues and means to reduce abortion in this country, they have failed to join the vast majority of the evangelical church and her mandate to publicly call abortion the “greatest moral evil of our times” – which it is, and for the initiatives of any and all policies which may reduce the number of murders among the pre-born, who cannot speak for themselves (Pro. 31:8).
Inexorably, this issue and it’s potential for conflict, has led to the question, “Can you be pro-abortion and Christian?” The short and technical question would be yes, in that abortion is not a litmus test for salvation and a repentant sinner being justified by faith alone in Christ alone. However, it could be a litmus test as to the sanctification and level of a Christian’s biblically based wisdom, knowledge and discernment, being that God’s will and word is as clear as it is on this issue.
To ignore or willfully brush aside abortion as the moral issue which most closely and clearly reflects the heart of God and his role for government – which is to restrain and punish evil and to protect and promote that which God says is good (Ro. 13:2-4, 8-10), is to stand idly by the shedding of the most innocent blood among us (Lev. 18:21; Eze. 22:3-4).
Therefore, it may be said that the professing Christian who may be ambivalent to, or supporting pro-abortion as well as anti-family and anti-religious liberty policies and politicians, are morally blind and in desperate need of discipleship – ASAP, on the true disciples relationship to government – before Tuesday even.
Liberty and Love of Neighbor
I include both of these issues together here in summary, in the interest of space and redundancy, in that the biblical position is clear enough on both. First, in insisting that Christians support religious liberty as a policy issue, in order to maintain the freedom to congregate and worship God corporately, as well as to preach the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost – personally and publicly and to be able to work and live out their convictions of faith, as this government’s own constitution has guaranteed.
Second, the ‘love of neighbor,’ which encompass the justice and greatest good for the greatest number of people, which again begins with their opportunity to have life and to enjoy liberty.
Those two issues are intertwined with the enforcement of laws and policies which promote God’s design for family and for law and order. Therefore, were the factors of character and competency equal, the biblically informed, evangelical vote for President would seem to be abundantly clear – at least to me. However…
Character and Competency
Some pro-life, family and freedom Christians and leaders, including pastors as well-read and respected as John Piper, have been struggling with their conscience in voting for the re-election of President Trump, infamously known as perhaps the most arrogant, divisive and egotistical president of at least modern times, possessing a well-documented past and present record of sins, to the extent of again calling into question of whether or not his character makes him unworthy of the Christian vote, as it did in 2016.
Whereas, I cannot and will not condemn the conscience of a brother and sister in Christ who cannot vote in this election on the grounds of conscience, I would appeal to their conscience to reconsider each candidates’ competency- the ability to do the job in the Oval Office as well as the content of their policies, as the greater measure of being worthy of their vote.
Both Trump and Biden are sinners whose spiritual condition is unknown to us all, personal professions of faith notwithstanding. They both therefore deserve the prayers of God’s people for their salvation (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
But Piper among others who are abstaining from a vote this year, have drawn a moral equivalency of the President’s ungodly attitude, rhetoric or speech (guilty as charged) among other “respectable sins” as author Jerry Bridges called them, to the morally heinous sins of murder of the unborn and the oppression of the rights of the religious and the law-abiding. This just will not do in my theological view of scripture.
While yes, all sin is wrong and rebellious before the eyes of our holy and perfectly righteous God – equally deserving of condemnation, not all sins are equally condemned nor “hated” by God (Pro. 6:16-19). Indeed, the Bible seems to imply that there are different levels of punishment or torment in hell, indicating that the judgment will indeed be experienced differently for different people (Ja. 3:1; Rev. 20:11-15).
Therefore, I would argue that although ‘character still counts’, competency will count most, when the character of a candidate is questionable or cannot be all we would like it to be in a perfect world. A candidates character may be overridden by the overwhelming content of their political platform – their ability to do the greatest good for the greatest number of American people.
In 2020, I have come to understand that the policies of the presidential candidate I have already voted for, will have shed the greatest amount of salt and light on this country than the persona of the one running for the highest office in the land.
We are voting for the President – not Pastor, of the United States of America. As a fellow pastor in my community texted a group of us from an unknown source, “A vote is not a valentine. You aren’t confessing your love for the candidate. It’s a chess move for the world you want to live in.” In my view, my vote was for the kind of world best reflected by God’s will- from his word. I can’t go anywhere else in good conscience in order to vote.