Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Voting Ethics and Fearing God -- Not Hillary Clinton

Voting ethics should not be determined by fear of 
Hillary Clinton, but by the fear of the great God Almighty.
(image source, cropped from original)

by Steve C. Halbrook

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)

"The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe." (Proverbs 29:25)

"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16)

Many Christians realize that Donald Trump is a bad –  even immoral – candidate, and yet choose to support him anyway. Their philosophy is "anyone but Hillary Clinton." While a more moral candidate in their eyes may be ideal, as long as a candidate  no matter how bad he may be  is not, in their judgment, as bad as Hillary, then that candidate should be supported if he appears to have a chance of beating Hillary in the presidential election.

The idea is that Hillary is so dangerous, that she must be defeated at just about any cost.

Why such a pragmatic approach? It seems too often to boil down to this: FEAR. And this fear has so paralyzed many Christian voters that they would be willing to put into power a horribly wicked man whom, as evidenced by his behavior, is flagrantly opposed to God. 

But rulers are not to be chosen on the basis of the fear of man, but the fear of God. And when considering the fear of God, voters must base their decisions on God’s requirements – which means candidates must be biblically qualified to rule.

(We realize at the outset that many Christians are more or less unaware of biblical ruler qualifications, and because of this, they may feel that choosing the lesser of two evils is their only option. We hope then, that readers will carefully consider what we have to say.)

Scripture requires us to "Choose … wise, understanding, and experienced men …" (Deuteronomy 1:13a); to "look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe …" (Exodus 18:21b). Thus, “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (2 Samuel 23:3b/KJV). Candidates must look to Christ, the King of kings, as the highest political authority:
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:10-12)
Important: if rulers who fail to Kiss the Son are rebelling against Christ's rule, does it not follow that those who knowingly vote for such rulers are likewise? Since God disapproves of rebellious rulers, then wouldn't He disapprove of voting for them? How can a Christian justify voting for a candidate who attempts to remove Christ from His throne (even though it is impossible)? 

More on ruler qualifications here.

As a non-Christian, Trump is not a man who is wise, just, fears God, and acknowledges the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ. Moreover, his belligerent, trash-talking, hate-filled tongue alone demonstrates that he is far from being biblically qualified.

Given then that the Bible requires choosing rulers who meet certain godly qualifications, the lesser-of-two evils philosophy that many Christians use to justify supporting Trump is unbiblical. 

(The lesser-of-two evils approach, when consistently applied, also leads to the absurdity of supporting Hitler in order to keep Stalin out of office. After all, Hitler would kill fewer people in comparison.)

Note that the Bible nowhere states that we are to choose rulers based on the other candidates' demerits, but on their own merits. The Bible requires choosing "men who fear God"  not "men who seem to hate God less than the other candidate." 

Moreover, the Bible does not tell us to "choose unwise men of wrath." Keeping in mind Trump's hate-filled tongue, note that Scripture reads, 
Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. (Proverbs 22:24, 25)
And yet, Christians are willing to make the kind of man that we should not befriend nor go with as the chief representative of the country  with all the influence that it has. (As the Old Testament shows, rulers can have a significant influence on the people.) Moreover, the fruit of the man of wrath is strife and much transgression: 
A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression. (Proverbs 29:22)
The solution to defeating evil is to do good, not evil. We are not to do evil that good may come (Romans 3:8). We must not violate God’s standards for choosing civil rulers, but adhere to them. Scripture says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Supporting Trump, however, is an attempt to overcome evil [that is, Hillary's evil influence] with evil [that is, Trump's evil influence and violating biblical ruler qualifications].

We do not need Donald Trump as a Savior -- there is already
Jesus Christ, the King of kings, Moreover, it is not about

making America great, but recognizing the
greatness of Christ 
by trusting and obeying Him.
(image source, cropped from original)

The approach to voting that says we must pragmatically choose the “lesser evil” assumes that the moral direction of civil government all depends on man, which, consequently, denies God’s sovereignty over rulers. And in denying biblical ruler qualifications, this approach denies the electorate’s moral responsibility before God. In short, choosing "lesser evils" denies God's sovereignty and man's responsibility.

To deny God's sovereignty and man's obligation to obey God is to consider God irrelevant. There is a word for considering God irrelevant: atheism. The lesser of two evils approach to voting that disregards God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, then, is based on atheism. 

Moreover, the fear inherent within the lesser-of-two-evils philosophy is contrary to the fear that should motivate one’s decisions. Scripture says,
“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6) 
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25) 
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
Christian voters should heed the warning given to the Israelites:
If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king. (1 Samuel 12:14, 15)
Helping evil men in their political ambitions, such as Trump, is a very dangerous game. When Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, helped the wicked King Ahab, God’s wrath was upon him:
But Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 19:2)
Just as many today are willing to be pragmatic to prevent the evil rule of Hillary Clinton, the Israelites were willing to be pragmatic to end the evil rule of Samuel's sons, who "took bribes and perverted justice" (1 Samuel 8:3b). And so when the Israelites insisted on a political leader on their terms, instead of God’s terms, they were warned that they would undergo tyranny as a result (1 Samuel 8). Pragmatism isn't so pragmatic after all.

This is all to say that Christians who adopt the lesser-of-two-evils strategy when supporting candidates need to seriously rethink their position. It is much worse to incur God’s wrath than Hillary Clinton's. And it is also self-defeating to attempt to gain liberty when the means employed can result in being judged with greater tyranny.

When no candidates are biblically qualified, fear of God should motivate one to not support any. One should not insult God's holy majesty by deeming oneself wiser than God by rejecting God's holy standards for candidates. To help God's enemies (such as Trump or Hillary) gain political power by voting for them is to share in the guilt of their wicked deeds while they are in office   just as one who helps someone else accomplish murder is a party to murder. 

The first question one should ask then before supporting a candidate is not "how can I control the outcome of the election?" (something only God can do), but rather, “what does God require?” God is in sovereign control, and has already predetermined the presidential outcome. As Nebuchadnezzar would realize after being humbled by God, "the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will" (Daniel 4:25b).

(Opposition to the truth that God "works all things according to the counsel of his will" [Ephesians 11b] comes naturally to sinful man. Man wants to believe that he can be the ultimate determiner of events; hence, the hostility in even Christian circles to the truth that God alone chooses certain people to salvation, but not others [Romans 9]. It should be to no surprise, then, if there would also be hostility to the truth that God alone decides on who our civil rulers will be.)

Our job then is merely to fear and obey God: "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13). (The  lesser-of-two-evils approach, however, at best says that fearing God and keeping His commandments is the partial duty of man.)

Moreover, when Christian supporters of Trump refuse to take a stand based on ethical considerations, they are entrenching in our culture the idea that godly, moral leadership is not necessary  neglecting their duty to be salt and light. This approach paves the way to the very kind of rulers that Christians want to avoid  genocidal maniacs who persecute Christians. 

Political pragmatism is self-defeating; it breeds the very rulers that it is intended to oppose. Imagine if just for one election Republican voters refused to vote for a bad candidate  it might actually influence the party to raise its standards! On the other hand, there is no incentive for the party to raise the standards for its candidates when bad candidates are repeatedly supported.

The duty is ours, the results are God’s. To reject this approach is atheism. FEAR GOD – not Hillary Clinton. Hillary is not worth provoking God's wrath over. We should be less concerned with Hillary being in office and more concerned about what God may do to us for supporting ungodly candidates.

We must not behave as if “We have no king but Caesar” (Jn. 19:15c) in the civil realm (and we know what kind of wickedness such a philosophy breeds).

The greatest and most powerful ruler  Jesus Christ  is already on the throne. So what sense does it make to choose his enemies, such as Trump, as rulers? We do not need Trump as a Savior  we already have one. Moreover, it is not about making America great, but recognizing the greatness of Christ by trusting and obeying Him.

To vote for either Trump or Hillary is a vote against the rule of Christ; but to refrain from voting for either Trump or Hillary on biblical grounds is a vote for the rule of Christ. 

Christ, the King of kings, will bring about justice at the proper time  and there's nothing that anyone (including Hillary) can do to stop it. 

Appendix: On Voting and Working with Rulers Already in Office/Divine Sanction for Choosing Unqualified Rulers

One may see a way around biblical ruler qualifications by pointing to one or more passages in Scripture that either recognize or seem to recognize the authority of certain biblically unqualified rulers. Thus, one might say, qualifications are not really mandatory, but suggestions.

However, this categorical fallacy does not distinguish between voting for rulers and working with/for rulers. Logically, one can abstain from choosing unqualified rulers while working to positively influence unqualified rulers that God has already in His sovereignty placed in authority. Making the best of a bad situation (e.g., by working to positively influence bad rulers) differs radically from contributing to a bad situation (e.g., by putting bad rulers in office). 

We see in the Bible itself examples of things that are wrong to initially choose, but which require support once they are chosen. For instance, at least generally speaking, one should avoid debt; however, once one is in debt, he is morally obligated to fulfill his debt. He shouldn’t have chosen debt, but once he did, he must work with his debtor to pay it off.

We also see in the Bible that Christians should not marry non-Christians; however, once they have done so, they are morally obligated to fulfill their marriage vows.  They shouldn’t have chosen such a marriage, but once they did, they have to work with their spouses to make the best of the marriage. 

And so it is with voting. Nations should not choose unqualified rulers, but once they have done so, they should work with those rulers to make the best of the situation. We are to submit to whatever ruling authorities God has providentially given us (at least to the extent that submission is biblically authorized). 

In short, this article is about the Christian's approach to voting for rulers –  not whether they work with them after they are elected. If in fact a biblically unqualified candidate is elected to office, it doesn't necessarily follow that he should have been voted into that authority to begin with.

Another way that one may see getting around biblical ruler qualifications is to point to certain passages that are believed to have God's approval of choosing certain biblically unqualified rulers. However, there is a world of difference between choosing a particular unqualified candidate with Divine approval, and choosing a particular unqualified candidate without Divine approval. Only God can allow for exceptions to the rule; we cannot autonomously give ourselves the authority to disregard biblical ruler qualifications. And to my knowledge, there has been no Divine approval of voting for Donald Trump.

Photo credits

Hillary Clinton (by Brett Weinstein) (we have cropped from the original)

Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore (we have cropped from the original)

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