There are two people running for a political office. You have inside knowledge of what these candidates will do in the future.
The first candidate will expand the military, implement confiscatory taxes, enrich some of his trusted political allies with property stolen from the people.
The second candidate will commit adultery, be an accomplice to murder, be identified as a man of bloodshed, sleep with a young woman, and his son will be his successor and increase the military beyond its constitutional limits and align himself with foreign powers by adopting their pagan religious practices.
These are your only two viable choices.
If you are at all familiar with the Bible, you know that the two candidates are King Saul and King David, and David’s successor, Solomon. If you had this future knowledge, who would you choose? Would you say that you could not choose the “lesser of two evils” and thereby not vote for either one of them? But one of them (David) is God’s choice to be king. What a dilemma.
Politics was as messy in biblical times as it is today.
Biblical heroes like Gideon, Jephthah, Samuel, Barak, and Samson had their moral failings, and yet they are in the biblical “Hall of Faith”:
“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon (idolater), Barak (coward), Samson (womanizer to the nth degree), Jephthah (followed through on a rash vow by sacrificing his daughter), of David (adulterer, accomplice to murder, man of bloodshed) and Samuel (terrible father who raised two evil sons) and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (Heb. 11:32-34).
These were some very flawed people, and yet they are described as having “performed acts of righteousness.” But there was a lot of unrighteousness mixed in. Samson was a very carnal man, and yet God used him. He was chosen by God to save Israel from the Philistines, and yet he demanded of his father and mother that they help him marry a pagan Philistine woman:
“Then Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines. So he came back and told his father and mother, ‘I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.’ Then his father and his mother said to him, ‘Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?’ But Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me, for she looks good to me’” (Judges 14:1-4).
We always need to keep in mind that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, so that no man may boast before God” (1 Cor. 1:27-28). Maybe Trump is that foolish and weak candidate to shame those who claim to be wise.
None of this is to say that we should dismiss the sins of people running for public office. Far from it. Christians should strive to elect people who exemplify a righteous life. The fact is, however, we’re not always given the opportunity to vote for such candidates.
The New Testament is equally messy. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21)? Wasn’t Caesar a pagan? Isn’t everything God’s? How do we know what things are Caesar’s? It’s obvious by Jesus’ statement that not everything is Caesar’s.
By the way, we don’t live under Caesar. Our system of civil government is decentralized with multiple jurisdictions and open to change. Rulers are bound by the limits of written constitutions at the state and national levels. This was not true of Rome, and yet God’s people were to render to Caesar what was his.
The Jews living under Roman rule could not participate in politics. The Apostle Paul had dual citizenship which gave him some rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 21:27-40). Not all Roman citizens could vote. The Caesars were not elected to office by the people. Rome had its pantheon of gods, and in time the Caesars often included themselves among them. “By the time of Domitian (AD 81-96), it had become common to address him as Dominus et Deus, ‘my Lord and God.’”1
There were no general elections in Israel. The choice of Saul as king was as close to an election Israel would get (1 Sam. 8). Local rulers were chosen by Moses from among the people (Ex. 18:17-27). These appointed, not elected, under-governors were bound by a selective body of laws. Any dispute these men could not resolve was to be taken to Moses and ultimately to God. This is not our system. In fact, it’s a system that is no longer available or attainable. We would need a Moses-like ruler who would appoint local governors who also spoke directly to God. There wouldn’t be any elections since there was no political competition in Israel.
There was no competing ethical system like we have today. Jethro’s advice to Moses was to teach the people “the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do” (v. 20). This is great advice. Our nation’s problem is that the majority of people have no regard for a fixed set of moral standards. This is true of much of the church.
The law in Israel was imposed on the people. There was no discussion or vote. We live under a different political system with competing moral standards. As much as we might want a certain kind of candidate, there are competing special interest groups that also want a particular type of candidate. Until Christians start thinking and acting in terms of biblical values, we are stuck with a form or moral pluralism. Our nation’s political leadership reflects the moral pluralism of the people. For this to change so we can get the type of leaders described by Jethro (v. 21), the people must change. We are not anywhere near this objective. That’s why we have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump running for President of the United States. Yes, I know, there are third-party candidates, but they don’t have a chance even if all Christians who truly hold to biblical moral values voted for one of them.
Consider that Hillary Clinton has said, “The Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking.” That’s not possible when issues like abortion, same-sex sexuality, and socialistic economic policies are considered. There is a general disconnect with many Christians on the relationship between a biblical ethics and politics. Donald Trump says he’s Presbyterian. But that doesn’t say anything about a moral standard. I suspect that there are millions of American voters who believe like Hillary and Trump.
The early church made the best of a similar situation. The Apostle Paul had to appeal to the Roman government when he learned of a conspiracy by his fellow countrymen to kill him:
“When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who formed this plot. They came to the chief priests and the elders and said, ‘We have bound ourselves under a solemn oath to taste nothing until we have killed Paul’” (Acts 23:12-14, 21).
To avoid being murdered by his countrymen (see Acts 9:23; 13:45, 50; 14:5; 17:5, 13; 18:12; 20:3, 19; 21:27; 2 Cor. 11:26; 1 Thess 2:15), Paul appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:3, 11, 21, 25). There were no acknowledged civil law courts where Christians could adjudicate a case. Paul sought political protection from a pagan power rather than entrust himself to the Jews who were obligated to follow God’s law, but in his case chose to discard it (see Mark 7:1-13) because they believed they were doing the will of God, something Paul himself thought he was doing when he opposed Christians and oversaw the death of Stephen (Acts 7:58). What should we make of Paul’s appeal to Caesar when he had written that the secular courts were governed by “the unrighteous” (1 Cor. 6:1)?
Even though the Jews were under the heel of Rome, there was never a call for armed revolt. Jesus told Peter to put away his sword (John 18:10-11) and admonished Pilate that while He had at His “disposal more than twelve legions of angels,” His kingdom does not advance by such methods (Matt. 26:53). This is an early indication that the Roman Empire would be conquered, not by armies, but by the proclamation of the gospel and the application of God’s Word to every area of life.
Christians cannot shrink from the scene when political decisions are hard to make. We need to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16) while recognizing that “the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8).
We live in a sinful world. There’s no getting around this truth this side of heaven. No politician is perfect, as the Bible makes clear. We’re always going to elect the lesser of two evils. I asked one Christian, “Of the 535 members of Congress, who could you vote for?” He said, “none of them.” Is this what we’re left with? Until either a Joseph or a Daniel runs for office, Christians can’t vote for anyone? Is this the lesson the Bible is teaching? I don’t believe it is.
The first place to start to change the political landscape that conforms to biblical principles of leadership is to understand that civil government is only one government among many, and designed to be a very limited government at that. Our Constitution, a marvel of brevity, says as much in the Tenth Amendment.
Self-government under God is the starting point in the transformation of the political sphere. A person who can’t govern himself well (not perfectly) can’t govern well when other imperfect people are part of the mix.
Governing principles must be taught by word and example. The training in good government begins with family government. The Preface to Elements of Civil Government (1903), states, “This text-book begins ‘at home.’ The starting point is the family, the first form of government with which the child comes in contact.” Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language includes the following definition under the entry “government”: “The exercise of authority by a parent or householder. ‘Children are often ruined by a neglect of government in parents. Let family government be like that of our heavenly Father, mild, gentle and affectionate.’”
The church is a government. There are specific qualifications for church governors (elders) outlined by the Apostle Paul (1 Tim. 3:2-7). Keep in mind that these are qualifications for Christians in an ecclesiastical setting that are transferrable to the civil sphere. But not all candidates are going to exemplify these character traits. In most cases, however, the majority of people do want their civil servants to embody the qualities that Paul lists. Christians should strive to nurture and support such candidates.
We need to remember, however, that not every person’s past is squeaky clean. Paul was an accomplice to murder (Acts 7:58), and he reminds the church of Corinth that “such were some of you” in the sins he lists (1 Cor. 6:11; also 12:2; Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3-7).
Today, government has become the sole domain of the State. When the State enlarges its jurisdictional boundaries without any regard to limits, it gradually assumes what God alone possesses: unlimited power and authority. Civil governments at all jurisdictional levels were designed by God to promote justice, not to be a dispenser of sustenance. To make the State our provider is to deny God.
“The paternal state not only feeds its children, but nurtures, educates, comforts, and disciplines them, providing all they need for their security. This appears to be a mildly insulting way to treat adults, but it is really a great crime because it transforms the state from being a gift of God, given to protect us against violence, into an idol. It supplies us with all blessings, and we look to it for all our needs. Once we sink to that level, as [C.S.] Lewis says, there is no point in telling state officials to mind their own business. ‘Our whole lives are their business.”2
Sad to say, there are millions of people, Christians included, that welcome and embrace a government that will take care of them.
As Christians, we have difficult decisions to make this election year. I can’t tell you how to vote, but let me explain my decision-making process.
First, we do not believe that politics can save us, no matter how righteous a candidate might be, and no political candidate is even near perfect. The Bible says so, and so do the annals of history, the newspapers, Internet news sources, and radio and television. This is true even in the church. Take a close look at the Bible and how God used the most imperfect of people to serve as judges, kings, and missionaries (Heb. 11; Gal. 2:11-14).
Second, weigh all the factors. It’s easy to compare how the two major candidates stand on the issues. There are marked differences. Hillary Clinton’s positions are radically destructive on nearly every important issue. Here’s just one example – abortion. Hillary’s pro-abortion views and her support of Planned Parenthood are well known:
Hillary Clinton: “Under our laws . . . [t]he unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.”3
Donald Trump: “If you go with what Hillary is saying [about partial birth abortions], in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. . . . Now, you can say that that’s OK and Hillary can say that that’s OK. But it’s not OK with me, because based on what she’s saying, and based on where she’s going, and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.”
You can read Trump’s “Contract with the American People” to see what he plans to do if he is elected.
Third, consider what each candidate brings to the office in terms of connections, political associations, special interest group support, corporations, and past actions that have political implications. It’s easy to do since only one candidate has been in politics for 40 years.
Fourth, how well will the Republicans oppose policies advocated by Hillary and supported by the Democrat Party and some Republicans? If the past eight years are any indication, the GOP will most likely capitulate to Hillary Clinton as President like they’ve done with President Obama. The GOP wants a share of the goodies of fame, fortune, prestige, and power that come with their offices while ignoring deficits, debts, and decadence. Hillary will throw them a few crumbs and rub their bellies, and they’ll go away wagging their tails happy with the scraps that fall from her table. There is a great deal of collusion among the two major parties. Donald Trump wants to “drain the swamp.”
Fifth, Donald Trump will get resistance from the Democrats and the Republicans on policies that could be considered extreme. This is a good thing.
Sixth, Trump won’t be able to bring any of the political connections and media worship to the white House that Hillary has because he doesn’t have any. As a result, we may actually get a divided government — real checks and balances — at the federal level for the first time in a very long time if Trump is elected.
Seventh, we’re not electing a monarch or a king. We have a shared-power government with checks and balances. In terms of the Constitution, the President’s authority is limited, at least it’s supposed to be. The same is true of the Supreme Court. The way our political system is set up, it matters who is President because power is shared.
Eighth, what about third-party candidates? None of them has a chance of winning. We saw what happened when Ross Perot ran against George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in 1992. Perot received nearly 20 million votes but did not receive a single electoral vote. A third-party candidate has never won a presidential election.
Ninth, in the end, we’re going to get either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. There is no third viable option. There’s no crying over spilled milk, what we believe should have happened in the primaries. That’s water under the bridge.
Tenth, does a Trump presidency give us some breathing room to fix the many problems we face that are the result of government interference where it has no business being involved? A lot of damage has been done in the past few decades. This is especially true in the courts and the numerous bureaucracies and federal agencies that are the real power brokers in Washington. Dr. Gary North has a saying (actually he has quite a few of them): “You can’t change just one thing.” Almost everything needs to change. It’s going to be an arduous task to make the needed changes. One presidential election will not be enough. Not by a long shot. What happens in the next decades will make the difference, one way or the other.
Before long, there will be another election. The time is now to start teaching, training, and planning for the long-term. If you and I don’t like today’s choices, you and I need to get to work now to make sure it does not happen again.
Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and its Confrontation with American Society (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 185. ↩
Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, 183-184. ↩
See Gary DeMar, “Whoa. Hillary Clinton says Unborn Babies are People…,” Eagle Rising: http://eaglerising.com/32134/whoa-hillary-clinton-says-unborn-babies-are-people/ ↩