Wayne Grudem Channels Trump on Immigration

We Need a Wall Because the Bible Has Walls

Yesterday, Wayne Grudem came out on the side of building a wall along the Southern border. His reason: The Bible has walls.

Walls gave peace and security. In the world of the Old Testament, people built walls around cities to protect themselves from thieves, murderers, and other criminals, and from foreign invaders who would seek to destroy the city. People could still enter the city, but they had to do so by the gate, so that city officials would have some control over who was coming in and going out. Today’s debate is about a larger area – a national border, not a city – but the principles are the same.

The principles are the same, says Grudem. We need a wall to keep out all those thieves, murderers, and criminals who are invading. He seems to be channeling Trump who famously said in 2015:

They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

It doesn’t sound like either person has a very high view of people seeking to come here.

Coming to America

Throughout his article, Grudem doesn’t seem to recognize that people can seek asylum legally.

Objection: “We should be a nation that welcomes immigrants.” I agree wholeheartedly – if they come legally. But it is no kindness to them if the lack of a wall tempts them to risk death by walking across miles of parched desert, at the mercy of violent gangs, and then come into the US without legal documentation, only to live here as a permanent legal underclass, easily exploited, living in constant fear of discovery. In addition, it diminishes respect for the law and destabilizes the nation when millions of people exist in the shadows, living outside the legal recordkeeping functions of the nation.

Grudem says we should welcome immigrants if they come here legally. It is legal to request asylum. A wall won’t change that. People will still need to make the journey from unsafe homes to request asylum.

A Wall Isn’t a Policy

Grudem seems to assume that a wall is a policy.

Objection: “These are good people who are just seeking a better life.” Yes, many of them are, and we should welcome them – if they come legally. But we can’t ignore the fact that many others will not become “good neighbors” – some are drug runners, gang members, and even terrorists. A wall makes it possible to screen out the people who have previously been deported for felonies and others who are most likely to commit crimes or simply become a drain on the economy rather than getting a productive job.

An effective border wall would also be the best way to keep children together with their parents. Under the present system, families (1) enter the US illegally and (2) are caught, then (3) they plead for asylum, and (4) they are incarcerated until their asylum petition can be evaluated. But if we had a completed wall, such requests for asylum would be decided at the border, before they ever entered the US. We would never have to detain either parents or children on US soil in the first place.

I don’t believe a wall by itself would do anything he says it would. The present system is the way it is because of a mash up of current law and Trump administration policy. A wall alone doesn’t create the policy which governs what happens with people who want to come into the country.

Congress must craft legislation to make sane and compassionate policy. According to polls most people want families kept together, and DACA recipients to remain in the country.  Most oppose the wall.  Most citizens don’t want open borders, but rather secure borders with compassionate application for refugees searching for a safe and better life.

America Doesn’t Use the Bible to Settle Policy

I don’t think the Bible has much to say about walls in a republic which is not a theocracy. America isn’t a Christian nation so it doesn’t matter much if the Bible seems to teach it or not. We need a consensus which is humane and compassionate while protecting everybody’s interests. In my opinion, Grudem badly misses the mark.

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Some Evangelicals Turn Away from Trump, Some Remain, Some Haven't Spoken

The fall out continues from the audio of Donald Trump claiming to use his celebrity status to assault women. While some evangelical Trump supporters have remained on the Trump train, at least two prominent ones have jumped off. At least one prominent Trump supporting evangelical has stayed quiet.
UPDATE: Christianity Today’s Andy Crouch produced a hammer after the video scandal and didn’t spare his evangelical brothers and sisters who are enabling Trump. Must. Read.
The Leavers
Wayne Grudem and Hugh Hewitt have taken back their support. Hewitt thinks Trump should turn over the candidacy to Mike Pence while Grudem took back his support and called for Trump to withdraw.
Hewitt also thinks more tapes and awkward material is to come. Grudem still doesn’t know who he is going to vote for if Trump stays in.
UPDATE: Christianity Today has a nice write up of former Trump advisory board member James McDonald’s efforts to get Trump to take advice from the advisory board.
WaPo also has the report of McDonald’s strong denunciation of Trump’s comments on the video.
On the Trump Train
Supporters Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, and Gary Bauer, are sticking with him. Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. tweeted his Trump pride after last night’s debate. Michele Bachmann is still on the team.
Silence in the Face of Vulgar Video is Still Silence
Eric Metaxas hasn’t tweeted anything since October 7 when he first acknowledged the video. In his tweets, he took a negative view of Trump’s behavior and said he was going off Twitter for awhile.
Trump advisory board member and president of the American Association of Christian Counselors Tim Clinton has not responded to two requests for his position on Trump’s candidacy in light of the video.  I expected the owner of the largest association of Christian counselor might have something to say about it.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Mike Fuoco quoted me in this article on evangelical support for Trump.
UPDATE:
Eric Metaxas will keep us waiting until Wednesday but will block out unpleasantness until then. Sigh.

I Was on Washington Watch at 5:20pm Today to Discuss My Reaction to Wayne Grudem's Trump Support

Plans are for me to be on Family Research Council’s Washington Watch radio show at 5:20pm today to discuss my reaction to Wayne Grudem’s article on Trump as a moral choice.
The show is live at http://www.frc.org/radio.
Well that was brief.
Out of the entire response to Grudem, Mr. Klukowski wanted to discuss the Iowa Civil Rights Commission situation. He took issue with my description of it but due to the ending of the segment, I did not get to relate my understanding of it. Klukowski is the attorney for one of the churches in Iowa which brought suit against the Iowa Civil Right Commission over a 2007 law in Iowa including sexual orientation and gender identity to the state non-discrimination statute.  I wrote several posts about the situation here, here, here, and here.
In essence, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission put out guidance in 2008 which appeared to extend the law’s coverage to churches, even during Sunday services. However, since the law was passed no church had ever been accused by the Commission of violating the law. In fact, the guidance language was not clear and once the lawsuit was filed, the Commission changed the language to better reflect the fact that churches were exempt from the law in their ministry activities. If a church runs a business offering a non-religious good or service to the public (e.g., a day care with no religious purpose), then the law applies. However, church services, religious day cares and/or other ministries are exempt.
In addition to the chair of the Commission, I had contact with the lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom legal firm who was also involved in the case. I look forward to carrying on that conversation.
Back to the Grudem article, if I had the opportunity, I wanted to say that there are two broad arguments one can make on behalf of a presidential candidate, one based on moral qualities and the other based on a pro and con policy analysis. Grudem stipulated that Trump was flawed but claimed that he offered the best policies. However, he provided no data. We have a saying around our department at Grove City College:

In God we trust, all others must bring data.

Grudem brought no data.
In my response to Grudem, I wanted to demonstrate, using data, that the case for Trump was not clear cut. In fact, reviewing the analyses from experts of all political persuasions, the case against Trump is stronger than for him.
Making an empirical argument requires evidence and Grudem didn’t specify any evidence. I believe he abused his position by citing the verse in James: “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). That Grudem believes a vote for Trump is right is on him. I am not responsible to act based on his determination and he is presumptuous to imply that it is sin not to vote for Trump.
 

 

An Answer to Wayne Grudem about Donald Trump and What is Best for the Nation

Last week, theology professor Wayne Grudem created quite a stir with an essay declaring his belief that “voting for Trump is a morally good choice.” In this rebuttal, I argue in opposition to his position.
It is important to note at the beginning that Grudem has opined on moral issues surrounding presidential behavior in the past. In 1998 along with over 150 Christian scholars, Grudem signed the “Declaration concerning religion, ethics, and the crisis in the Clinton presidency.” In that document, the signers stopped short of support for impeachment but expressed doubt about Clinton’s expressions of remorse. As a rebuke to Clinton, the signers took a strong position in favor of moral behavior on the part of elected officials. In 1998, Grudem agreed with the following statement:

We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. (emphasis mine)

Acknowledging that Trump is flawed, Grudem has now carved out a more pragmatic ethic to justify his endorsement:

I do not think that voting for Donald Trump is a morally evil choice because there is nothing morally wrong with voting for a flawed candidate if you think he will do more good for the nation than his opponent. In fact, it is the morally right thing to do.

In 1998, Grudem was not as pragmatic with Bill Clinton. Now he says about Trump:

But the main reason I call him “a good candidate with flaws” is that I think most of the policies he supports are those that will do the most good for the nation.

So now according to Grudem, Christians should vote in a way that seeks the welfare of the nation concluding:

Therefore the one overriding question to ask is this: Which vote is most likely to bring the best results for the nation?

In my view, Grudem was closer to correct in 1998. The moral qualities of “truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power” are critical to the survival of our system of government. It is not hard to make a case that Donald Trump has disqualified himself on each one of those principles.  In fact, Grudem seems to agree when he writes:

He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him. He has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages. These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.

I don’t think Grudem goes far enough. Trump has not been truthful (e.g., he said he knew Putin, then he said he didn’t), there is evidence he has not treated his subcontractors with integrity, he surely has not treated others with dignity (e.g., constant name-calling and ridicule of people’s flaws) and he has shown a willingness to overreach his power (e.g., suppressing the press, saying he would order the military to commit war crimes). We haven’t even scratched the surface of his nod to white supremacists (e.g., granting press credentials to white supremacists). However, in my response here, I won’t fully chronicle the ways Trump has disqualified himself according to the moral qualities which Grudem affirmed in 1998. I think when confronted with the overwhelming evidence, he would stipulate that.
Grudem in 2016 is using a different standard to come to an ethical decision. Thus, I want to address what Grudem says is his overriding question: “Which vote is most likely to bring the best results for the nation?”
On that question, I can see no justification for a vote for Trump given what Trump has said he wants to do as president.
Grudem’s essay purports to provide specifics about Trump’s positions on various topics. In general, I think he has presented the most optimistic slant on those policy statements. He also provides no citations or evidence. While I haven’t provided an exhaustive analysis either, my purpose is to demonstrate that credible evidence exists that Trump is not the best choice for the nation and that compromising moral qualities is not required given the risk involved in a Trump administration.
Costs of Immigration Promises
In his essay, Grudem talks about the tax and economic policies of Trump and Clinton. However, it appears he has not studied them or consulted with experts about the effects of those policies. Let’s start with Trump’s promise to deport over 11 million undocumented immigrants. In addition to the human rights catastrophes (raids, family separation and instability, etc.) which would occur, the economic impact would be a disaster.
According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, that promise would hit the economy hard, costing at least $400 billion. In addition, the loss of workers would cause a $1 trillion drain on the gross domestic product. This does not include the cost of building a wall along the Mexican border which has been estimated at another $25 billion. Not surprisingly, Trump disagrees with these estimates, but has provided no numbers of his own.
Can we afford this? Is this best for the nation?
Taxes
As with other policy matters, Grudem’s discussion of Trump’s tax plan seems to be little more than his opinion. Trump has promised a tax cut but he has also promised to leave social security alone. In general, he promises to cut taxes while increasing government services (e.g., veteran’s benefits).  His method of paying for his increases in government spending (e.g., increases services, deportation force, building a wall, etc.) is to cut waste, fraud and abuse. Certainly, Grudem knows that every presidential candidate promises to do that. Furthermore, there isn’t enough waste to cut to get the budget balanced with Trump’s tax cuts while increasing government spending. According to the Tax Policy Center, Trump’s tax plan will reduce federal revenues by $9.5 trillion over a decade and increase the national debt by 80% of the gross domestic product.
Is this best for the nation?
Trade, Jobs and the Poor 
Grudem believes in a straight line between lower taxes and more jobs. However, one must also consider the impact of Trump’s threatened trade wars. According to a National Foundation for American Policy study of Trump’s proposed tariffs, American families would have to pay between $11,000 and $30,000 more for imported goods over five years depending on how widely the tariffs would be applied.
Higher costs hurt the poor. Of course, since he’s rich, Trump doesn’t care about costs. According to Market Watch, Trump brushed off concerns about higher costs:

“Who the hell cares if there’s a trade war?” Trump scoffed at a New Jersey event this month. I suppose when you’re super wealthy like he is, it doesn’t matter if the price of a TV or pair of sneakers or even a car goes up 35% to 45%. But when you’re just about anyone else, it matters. A lot.

According to Market Watch, the jobs of one in six people are connected to trade and other jobs, particularly those on the lower end of the spectrum would be at risk since everybody’s costs would go up.
The conservative National Chamber of Commerce agrees that Trump’s policies would lead to recession. They cite a non-partisan Moody’s analysis which shows Trump’s proposals leading to dire economic consequences. According to Moody’s analysis, unemployment would rise to 7 percent with 3.5 million jobs lost. They predict a lengthy recession.
Is this best for the nation?
Health Care
Trump promises to replace Obamacare with something else. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget projects that Trump’s healthcare proposals would cost between $330-500 billion, and lead to 21 million more uninsured. These estimates are based on his current proposals which contradict other promises and preferences he has expressed about healthcare. Trump has expressed support for a single payer plan where the government control Grudem fears would be front and center.
Is this best for the nation?
National Debt
According to the CRFB, Trump’s campaign proposals in total are much more costly that Clinton’s. Over a decade, Trump’s plans would add $11.5 trillion to the national debt, whereas Clinton’s would add only $250 billion.
Is adding $11.5 trillion to the national debt best for the nation?
Foreign policy
Grudem seems to like Trump’s tough talk. He writes:

Trump will not let China and Russia and Iran push us around anymore, as Obama has done, with Hillary Clinton’s support when she was secretary of state. If Trump is anything, he is tough as nails, and he won’t be bullied.

Does Grudem not read the news? Trump melts when Vladimir Putin expresses the faintest positive sentiment. Trump said Putin called him a “genius,” however that’s not true. He said on at least two occasions that he had a good relationship with Putin only to say later that he didn’t know Putin and had never met him.
Worse is Trump’s vacillation on NATO and what he would do if Russia invaded a NATO ally. He said we might not intervene. Trump said he would look at recognizing Russia’s occupation of Crimea. There are possible conflicts of interest when it comes to Russia which have not been fully explored by the press.
For these and numerous other reasons, over 120 Republican foreign policy experts and advisors signed a letter opposing Trump’s candidacy. Former national security adviser to Presidents Ford and Bush Brent Scowcroft and former George W. Bush deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage have come out in favor of Clinton. For me on foreign policy, these experts carry more influence than theology professor Grudem.
I don’t believe Trump is best for the nation when it comes our relations with other nations.
Supreme Court Justices and Religious Liberty
Grudem paints the worst imaginable scenario in his discussion of Supreme Court justices and uses some less than honest rhetoric to do it. He says under Clinton “the nation would no longer be ruled by the people and their elected representatives, but by unelected, unaccountable, activist judges who would dictate from the bench about whatever they were pleased to decree. And there would be nothing in our system of government that anyone could do to stop them.”
There is a lot wrong with these statements. Currently, federal judges are unelected. Nothing would change there. That is our constitutional system. If judicial power is abused, there are checks and balances which are available. That would be true under Trump or Clinton.
If Clinton’s judicial appointments are viewed as too liberal, the Senate can stall the process, as they are doing now. The current situation with Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland demonstrates how Congress can exert influence. Surely, Grudem recalls the negative vote on Reagan appointee Robert Bork. Congress has held up numerous federal appointments over the years and they will not lose any abilities under Clinton.
Although Supreme Court appointments is a popular fall back position for evangelical Trump supporters, not all conservative legal scholars agree. For instance, the libertarian publication Reason polled 10 conservative scholars and found very little support for Trump. Readers should consider what all of them said but here is a modest sample:

Roger Pilon
Director of Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute
Assuming Trump were to follow through on his list of possible Supreme Court nominees, that would be a reason to support him, but there are countervailing reasons to oppose him that are, I believe, far more important. The Court will correct itself in time, I hope, but it is the character of the Republican Party and, more broadly and crucially, of our very nation that is at stake in this election. Hillary Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate, to be sure, but the election of Donald Trump would so defile the party of Lincoln and America itself that it must be resisted. He is an aberration that we must get past, and quickly.

The other conservative legal scholars took similar positions, some more vehemently, some more timidly. However, a clear consensus was that the clear potential for damage to the Republican party and the nation outweighs the potential benefit of Supreme Court appointments.
On religious liberty, not all of Grudem’s scenarios are accurate and so it is difficult to respond to this concern. For instance, Grudem claims

some churches in Iowa have now been told that they have to make their bathrooms open to people on the basis of their “gender identity” if the churches are going to be open to the public at all.

This is simply not true. No church in Iowa has been told this as a condition of being “open to the public.” It is true that the Iowa Commission on Civil Rights issued poorly worded guidance eight years ago which caused confusion but no church has ever been forced to comply with Iowa non-discrimination law in ministry activities.
There is always a need to be vigilant when it comes to constitutional rights. Whether Trump or Clinton is elected, there will be places in the country where religious and other rights conflict. These issues must be handled on a case by case basis in light of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. However, concern about religious liberty is not the only issue of importance. Consequently, it doesn’t seem best for the nation to focus exclusively on getting more originalists on the Supreme Court.
Who is Best for the Nation?
For some Christian voters, deciding who gets their vote might come down to a decision that the potential for higher national debt, job killing trade wars, a chaotic and potentially dangerous foreign policy, draconian deportation practices, more racial division, and more people without health insurance are worth the possibility of additional conservative appointments to the Supreme Court. However, others will not. If we are selecting a candidate based on what is best for the nation, Trump is not as clear cut a choice as Grudem makes it seem. In fact, his essay is an insult to the intelligence of those who believe both candidates have disqualified themselves.
If a vote for Trump is a moral choice, then I can’t see how a vote for Clinton is not one also. It probably comes down to which vision of the future each individual believes to be accurate. As I look at the evidence, I think Grudem sugar coated Trump and cast Clinton in the worst possible light. In any case, given how inadequate his analysis of Trump’s positions and character is, I think it is an abuse of his position as an evangelical leader to imply that there is a choice that good Christians should choose. If his standard no longer elevates moral qualities, then he needs to do a better job researching Trump’s proposals and what they portend.
For me, I will either vote for a person to be named later (e.g., betterforamerica.com), write someone in, or not vote for president. For me, this is the moral choice.

Compare What Christian Leaders Said about Bill Clinton in 1998 to Trump Endorsements Now

Wayne Grudem caused quite a stir with his endorsement of Donald Trump last week. Matthew Boedy responded on this blog yesterday with a brief analysis of Grudem’s rhetoric. Others have come out in favor of Grudem’s reasoning and still others have expressed sharp disappointment.
Last night, a Twitter user asked what Grudem thought of Bill Clinton’s impeachment. Curious, I looked for something on the subject and found this Baptist Press article from 1998 which included reaction to the Clinton scandal. Grudem was mentioned as a signer of a statement from 150 Christian scholars on the subject:

More than 150 scholars — many whose schools are not identified with conservative Christianity — affirmed a statement declining to take a position on impeachment or resignation but expressing concern the religion community is in danger of providing “authentication for a politically motivated and incomplete repentance that seeks to avert serious consequences for wrongful acts.” The signers included Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago, Wayne Grudem of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Robert Gundry of Westmont College, Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University, Eugene Merrill of Dallas Theological Seminary, Max Stackhouse of Princeton Theological Seminary and Timothy Weber of Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. Signers from schools affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention or state Baptist conventions were A.J. Conyers and Barry Harvey, both of Baylor University; Mike Garrett of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; David Gushee of Union University; and Mark Seifrid of Southern Seminary.

The statement is fascinating. Acknowledging that I am biased, I nonetheless believe I see a shift from then to now in the willingness to tolerate character problems for political expediency.  Read it and see what you think.

Declaration concerning religion, ethics, and the crisis in the Clinton presidency
The following declaration can be found at moral-crisis.org, November 16, 1998
To be released on 13 November 1998
As scholars interested in religion and public life, we protest the manipulation of religion and the debasing of moral language in the discussion about presidential responsibility. We believe that serious misunderstandings of repentance and forgiveness are being exploited for political advantage. The resulting moral confusion is a threat to the integrity of American religion and to the foundations of a civil society. In the conviction that politics and morality cannot be separated, we consider the current crisis to be a critical moment in the life of our country and, therefore, offer the following points for consideration:
1. Many of us worry about the political misuse of religion and religious symbols even as we endorse the public mission of our churches, synagogues, and mosques. In particular we are concerned about the distortion that can come by association with presidential power in events like the Presidential Prayer Breakfast on September 11. We fear the religious community is in danger of being called upon to provide authentication for a politically motivated and incomplete repentance that seeks to avert serious consequences for wrongful acts. While we affirm that pastoral counseling sessions are an appropriate, confidential arena to address these issues, we fear that announcing such meetings to convince the public of the President’s sincerity compromises the integrity of religion.
2. We challenge the widespread assumption that forgiveness relieves a person of further responsibility and serious consequences. We are convinced that forgiveness is a relational term that does not function easily within the sphere of constitutional accountability. A wronged party chooses forgiveness instead of revenge and antagonism, but this does not relieve the wrong-doer of consequences. When the President continues to deny any liability for the sins he has confessed, this suggests that the public display of repentance was intended to avoid political disfavor.
3. We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. Elected leaders are accountable to the Constitution and to the people who elected them. By his own admission the President has departed from ethical standards by abusing his presidential office, by his ill use of women, and by his knowing manipulation of truth for indefensible ends. We are particularly troubled about the debasing of the language of public discourse with the aim of avoiding responsibility for one’s actions.
4. We are concerned about the impact of this crisis on our children and on our students. Some of them feel betrayed by a President in whom they set their hopes while others are troubled by his misuse of others, by which many in the administration, the political system, and the media were implicated in patterns of deceit and abuse. Neither our students nor we demand perfection. Many of us believe that extreme dangers sometimes require a political leader to engage in morally problematic actions. But we maintain that in general there is a reasonable threshold of behavior beneath which our public leaders should not fall, because the moral character of a people is more important than the tenure of a particular politician or the protection of a particular political agenda. Political and religious history indicate that violations and misunderstandings of such moral issues may have grave consequences. The widespread desire to “get this behind us” does not take seriously enough the nature of transgressions and their social effects.
5. We urge the society as a whole to take account of the ethical commitments necessary for a civil society and to seek the integrity of both public and private morality. While partisan conflicts have usually dominated past debates over public morality, we now confront a much deeper crisis, whether the moral basis of the constitutional system itself will be lost. In the present impeachment discussions, we call for national courage in deliberation that avoids ideological division and engages the process as a constitutional and ethical imperative. We ask Congress to discharge its current duty in a manner mindful of its solemn constitutional and political responsibilities. Only in this way can the process serve the good of the nation as a whole and avoid further sensationalism.
6. While some of us think that a presidential resignation or impeachment would be appropriate and others envision less drastic consequences, we are all convinced that extended discussion about constitutional, ethical, and religious issues will be required to clarify the situation and to enable a wise decision to be made. We hope to provide an arena in which such discussion can occur in an atmosphere of scholarly integrity and civility without partisan bias.

Grudem said Trump is a good candidate with flaws. He said one could support a flawed candidate if one believed it would do the most good. The 1998 statement said:

We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. Elected leaders are accountable to the Constitution and to the people who elected them. By his own admission the President has departed from ethical standards by abusing his presidential office, by his ill use of women, and by his knowing manipulation of truth for indefensible ends. We are particularly troubled about the debasing of the language of public discourse with the aim of avoiding responsibility for one’s actions.

To my eye, a vote for Trump contradicts every paragraph in this statement. The religious leaders in 1998 questioned Clinton’s repentance. Trump says he doesn’t ask for forgiveness. In 1998, the leaders feared authenticating a political leader, now they rush to do it. In 1998, the leaders affirmed certain virtues (truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power). Now, pro-Trump Christian leaders excuse the absence of them or make a pragmatic bet that they aren’t important enough to stand for. This assertion from 1998 applies today:

But we maintain that in general there is a reasonable threshold of behavior beneath which our public leaders should not fall, because the moral character of a people is more important than the tenure of a particular politician or the protection of a particular political agenda. Political and religious history indicate that violations and misunderstandings of such moral issues may have grave consequences. (emphasis mine)

People like James Dobson, Eric Metaxas and now Wayne Grudem are telling us that it is our duty to throw this reasoning aside and lower or abandon the threshold.
I still believe there is a “reasonable threshold of behavior beneath which our public leaders should not fall.” And I believe that the “moral character of a people is more important than the tenure of a particular politician.” In this case, I believe these principles are more important than getting Donald Trump elected or furthering whatever aspect of a political agenda of importance to those who support him.
 
UPDATE: A question has come to me about Wayne Grudem’s status as a signer of the above Declaration. The Declaration was the subject of a 1999 book edited by Gabriel Fackre and titled Judgment Day at the White House. On page 5, about mid-way down the page is Grudem’s name on a list of signers of the Declaration (See also this image). Thanks to Declaration signer Barry Harvey for the image.

Declaration signers pg 5

The Rhetorical Maneuvers of Wayne Grudem: A Guest Post from Matthew Boedy

On Thursday, theologian Wayne Grudem came out for Donald Trump with a long column justifying a vote for Trump as an acceptable moral choice. In response, Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at the University of North Georgia, Matthew Boedy sent the following thoughts which I am glad to present as a guest post. Dr. Boedy is on Twitter @matthewboedy
The Rhetorical Maneuvers of Wayne Grudem
by Matthew Boedy
Wayne Grudem has put his name on a growing list of evangelical leaders who were first against Trump and are now for him. Grudem’s change is interesting because Grudem has written extensively and rather recently about how he thinks Christians should interact with government and its political process. In that frame, as one who has argued for certain “winsome” and “loving” behaviors and attitudes from Christians in the political sphere, Grudem’s endorsement of one of the most unliked and ill-mannered candidates in political history seems at least unethical and at most immoral. Does Trump meet the standards Grudem lays out? To me, the quick answer is no. But my main question for this analysis is: Does Grudem follow his own advice?
Grudem’s 2010 book Politics According to the Bible argues Christians should seek to have “significant influence” on government. Such influence “does not mean angry, belligerent, intolerant, judgmental, red-faced, and hate-filled influence, but rather winsome, kind, thoughtful, loving, persuasive influence that is suitable to each circumstance and that always protects the other person’s right to disagree, but that is also uncompromising about the truthfulness and moral goodness of the teachings of God’s Word” (p. 55).
The negative traits above are of course how Grudem described Trump in the beginning on his endorsement in his TownHall column: “He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements… He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him. He has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages.”
In a common rhetorical maneuver, Grudem tries to defuse the “bomb” of Trump’s highly negative traits before the “other side” tries to use it. Grudem admits them out front. So while it is clear from Grudem’s own words that Trump wouldn’t fit the categories of leader in his church, it is not clear why Grudem thinks such a “flawed” man should lead a country.
Grudem dismisses a “character fight” altogether and instead attempts to make objective policy standards for supporting Trump. To rebut or argue them all would take a lot of space and also would be a waste of time. It is more interesting for me as a rhetoric professor to note that Grudem’s essay fails to live up to his own positive qualities for Christian influence on government. I am hopeful by making this case you will find better advice about how you might participate in our democracy.
Let’s begin with the adjectives from Grudem’s definition: “winsome, kind, thoughtful, loving, persuasive influence…”
As a professor of rhetoric I feel I can write convincingly that Grudem does not pursue persuasion as much as he pursues dictating in his essay. And if my claim is accurate, he fails to be the kind of Christian he calls us to be. That should deter anyone from giving his opinion any weight on the matter.
First, he claims a vote for Trump is imperative because of the federal judiciary consequences, specifically the Supreme Court. He notes “judicial tyranny” has brought on America abortion and same-sex marriage. That same tyranny would continue under Clinton, he argues: “The nation would no longer be ruled by the people and their elected representatives, but by unelected, unaccountable, activist judges who would dictate from the bench about whatever they were pleased to decree. And there would be nothing in our system of government that anyone could do to stop them.”
Grudem here trots out a common GOP talking point that can be neatly summarized in a phrase used repeatedly after same-sex marriage was legalized: “five unelected judges.” He adds another GOP favorite “activist.” Now, since Grudem played his expertise card – 29 years of teaching Christian ethics – I am obliged to point out he is not even close to being an expert in the centuries-long disagreement over the role of judges. What is new in that debate – and I as an expert on debate can say this – is the phrase “unelected.” Supreme Court judges have, of course, always been unelected. A few local and state judges are not. All federal judges are. In any case, to suggest the authority of SCOTUS to rule is somehow misused because of the fact of appointment (and consent by Senate in case of SCOTUS judges) is the worst form of populism. It is actually a threat to democracy.
The founders of this country put in place “separation of powers” to balance the power of each branch. Those have not disappeared. Grudem’s claim that “nothing in our system of government” can stop “activist” judges is not only inaccurate, it is an abuse of his position because he knows better.
It is inaccurate because Grudem goes on to state the very mechanism in our government that could stop them – the election of the president who appoints judges. And of course don’t forget the Senate.
And this is where Grudem fails to live up to his own standards. It’s “judicial tyranny” when the decisions go against what he believes or thinks the Bible teaches. But it is perfectly normal if the judges he likes – and could be appointed by Trump – overturn such decisions. Who is unelected now, Wayne?
Grudem goes one step further in his Trump endorsement to suggest SCOTUS isn’t a democratic institution: “We lost – not at the ballot box, but because we had a liberal Supreme Court that nullified the democratic process regarding the definition of marriage.”
He blatantly strips the court of any authority all the while saying his judges would rule in the opposite way but by the same manner. Let me be snide by suggesting that if a member of Grudem’s church made this argument to their elders, they would be quickly disciplined and/or excommunicated.
In regard to secular government, clearly Grudem – like all who makes this unsound argument – does not believe in the rule of law. He doesn’t want to be ruled by the law. He wants to be ruled by something else. Strange from a guy who extols democracy so much.
And that brings me to what standards he does use. He names them in his definition of “significant influence:” “… that is suitable to each circumstance and that always protects the other person’s right to disagree, but that is also uncompromising about the truthfulness and moral goodness of the teachings of God’s Word” (p. 55).
He surely isn’t protecting anyone’s right to disagree by suggesting the “disagreements” SCOTUS put into law (abortion and same-sex marriage) go against the American system of government. Translation: you can’t be patriotic if you think SCOTUS was right.
He isn’t protecting disagreement in a future Trump administration when he suggests that liberal “power” could further criminalize political dissent. This from a supporter of a candidate who has on numerous occasions banned media from covering his campaigns, called for further crackdowns on media freedom, and routinely belittles reporters and his critics in both parties. If liberal activists want to criminalize dissent, Trump is not the man who can fix that. He will just be a one-man version of it.
And so that leads me to Grudem’s attempt to be “uncompromising about the truthfulness and moral goodness of the teachings of God’s Word.” He has left out a few of those words from his unethical call for Trump votes. Proverbs and its call about fools come to mind. We can debate terms like justice all day. But surely someone of Grudem’s training and experience can recognize a fool in his midst.
But most interesting to me as a rhetorical scholar is the phrase “suitable to each circumstance.” Not only is it a phrase from Grudem’s definition of masculinity and femininity and the ways in which he wants men and women to apply his principles of gender, it is also a traditional part of a rhetorical education. Both uses suggest a form of judgment is needed. Rhetorical education aims to teach judgment – when to know to use which rhetorical tactic, for example. It is a virtue-backed judgment, not a sinister “say what the polls tell me to” decision making process. It is a formation of a quality that not only affects the words we say, but how and when and to whom we say them. This is why Augustine taught it.
Another word for such a judgment is character. Character isn’t born; it is made. Yet Grudem dismisses those who vote “only” on character. He writes such is “a fallacy in ethical reasoning” called “reductionism” – the mistake of reducing every argument to only one factor, when the situation requires that multiple factors be considered.”
He is correct on one thing – that is a good definition of reductionism. But it is not a good summary of the historical use of character by Christian leaders and the manner in which Christian voters see character. To many in the church, character is not “an” element – it is the umbrella concern. It is not a “single issue” – it is the issue. And this comes from the teaching they hear every Sunday. It is why so many have succeeded in bringing ‘character education’ to public schools. It is why so many are NeverTrump.
And it is exactly why Grudem himself highlights character so well in his definition of “significant influence.” He wants Christians to use their judgment, not merely be robots for pastors and leaders like himself. Or parties for that matter. He wants them to practice their politics in “winsome” and “loving” ways – character traits. This is why Grudem spent so many pages in his famous Systematic Theology on the attributes or character of God. This is why he discourages “mob mentalities” and wants us to use “persuasive influence.” This is why he calls for patience, kindness, and other fruits of the spirit (character traits) in citizens who are Christians.
He just doesn’t hold Trump or himself to the same standard. What a shame from a man who teaches Christian ethics. And this is why his reasoning on his vote for Trump is not to be heeded. What a shame from a man many look to for guidance.
Finally let me address Grudem’s theory on voting. He argues that voting “for a write-in candidate instead of voting for Trump” will help “Clinton because she will need one less vote to win.” He then addresses those who won’t vote at all: “But the teachings of Scripture do not allow us to escape moral responsibility by saying that we decided to do nothing.” He cites Obadiah 1:11.
His use of this verse is a shameful and willful misreading and misapplication from the context. But outside the interpretative issues, it grounds a profoundly misguided voting theory. A write-in vote isn’t helping Clinton; it helps the write-in. This line of thinking assumes one does not want Hillary to win. Fine. It should also assume one does not want Trump to win. Both desires can be found ethically in a Christian or any voter. Someone voting for Gary Johnson (or anyone else) should honestly believe he is the best person and most likely to help the country.
As for the non-voter, like me, I am not escaping any moral responsibility. I talk to others, I write, I even teach like Grudem. I haven’t decided to ‘do nothing.’ I am doing something – listening like a good citizen to the voices of our better angels. Something Grudem refuses to do. How sad from a person who claims Jesus.