Tag Archives: Piety

Wayne Grudem responds to Christians who think law and policy are less important than piety

Trump surrounded by prominent evangelicals: Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo
Trump and his evangelicals: VP Mike Pence (L) and Sec. of State Mike Pompeo (R)

Laura send me this amazing article from the Christian Post, written by famous evangelical theologian Dr. Wayne Grudem. He was responding to a blue state pastor named John Piper. Piper has made a name for himself by emphasizing emotions, piety and “Christian hedonism”. Let’s take a look at what Wayne Grudem had to say about Christians who support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Here’s the intro:

[John Piper] and I have reached different conclusions about this year’s presidential election. His October 22 article, “Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin,” explained why he thought it would be wrong for him to support either candidate in this election.

Here is Grudem’s summary of Piper’s argument:

1. The personal sins of a leader can be as harmful to persons and to nations as morally evil laws.

2. Christians communicate a falsehood when we act as if policies and laws are more precious than being a certain kind of person.

3. The horrible sin of pride leads people to other sins, including defending abortion, and therefore voting for a clearly boastful candidate might also be indirectly supporting abortion.

4. Voting for either candidate would compromise a person’s Christian witness

I covered point 1 in a previous post. Below, we’ll cover points 2-4.

Here’s part of his response to point 2:

A presidential election is not deciding what is most important in all of life, which is certainly our relationship with Christ. Paul writes, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Phil. 3:8). A presidential election is simply choosing the leaders of our government. In such a situation, the primary purpose is to decide what kind of government we will have, and in that situation policies and laws are not the only consideration, but they are the most important consideration.

Here’s part of his response to point 3:

I do not think that “arrogance and boasting” are the primary motivations that lead people to support abortion rights. I think rather the primary motive is rebellion against God’s commands that forbid sex outside of marriage between a man and woman. The motive is a desire for sexual freedom without the responsibility of raising children. As for doctors who perform abortions, I think the primary motivation is greed.

Piper refers to James 4:1-2 to show that support for his statement that “child-killing” comes from “self-absorbed arrogance and boasting.” But these verses specifically speak about coveting, not boasting, that leads to murder: “You desire and do not have, so you murder” (James 4:2).

Here’s part of his response to point 4:

[I]f all evangelical Christians followed Piper’s example and decided to write in someone else’s name instead of voting for either Trump or Biden. The result would be an overwhelming landslide victory for Biden, because the largest single bloc of Trump supporters is evangelical Christians. In 2016, 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, while 16% voted for Clinton and 4% didn’t vote for president or voted for some other candidate. If that 4% of “vote for neither one” evangelical voters had been 5% or 6%, Hillary Clinton would have been president.

So, if Trump loses the evangelical bloc, Biden wins. In fact, if a significant number of Christians decide not to vote for either Trump or Biden, the result will not be some ideal third-party president. It will be a Biden presidency which (in my opinion) will bring great harm to the nation.

This is really important. If you are going to share Grudem’s post on social media, cut and paste this above your link – this is the most important part:

I differ with my friend John Piper about the results of a second term for President Trump. In Trump second term, I look forward to the appointment of more originalist judges (who will interpret the laws and not make new laws on their own), further legal restrictions on abortion, greater protections for religious freedom and freedom of conscience, lower taxes, fewer government regulations, a rapidly growing economy, low unemployment rates (especially significant for ethnic minorities), increased prosperity for people at every income level, additional history-making agreements between Israel and additional Arab nations, a clearheaded recognition of the economic, military, and information threat from China, a high value placed on human freedom and on personal accountability for committing crimes, increasing numbers of children eligible for taxpayer-supported school choice, a secure border followed by a comprehensive reform of our immigration system, and an increase in police presence in high crime neighborhoods, with a resulting decrease in crime.

That seems to me to be likely, given Trump’s first term actions.

More:

On the other hand, if evangelicals stay away from voting for either Biden or Trump, then then under a Biden presidency I would expect the appointment of hundreds of judges who take the law in their own hands and even consider themselves to be above the original meaning of the Constitution, laws that allow abortion up to the moment of birth and even after, the use of tax money to pay for abortions and gender reassignment surgery, the crippling of our economy with ever-increasing government control and ever-increasing taxes, increased unemployment, a weaker military unable to counter the increasing aggressiveness of China in the world’s oceans, a Jimmy Carter-like foreign policy of appeasement, abandoning Israel to fend for itself in the Middle East, adding additional seats to make a liberal majority on the Supreme Court, draconian laws that compel artistic professionals to affirm the validity of same-sex marriage even when contrary to their consciences, a reinstatement of the Obama-era guidelines that required schools to allow biological males to use girls bathrooms, locker rooms and showers and to allow them to compete in women’s sports, a massive increase in energy costs, ever-increasing restrictions on police forces, leading to an increase in crime, and the proliferation of violence and intimidation to nullify freedom of speech (in practice) for those who disagree with the liberal political agenda, open borders, sanctuary cities, and a complete federal takeover of our healthcare system.

I definitely think that Wayne Grudem’s article showed a greater knowledge of what’s going on in the real world than John Piper’s article. We ought to be concerned about what our lives will really be like under the laws and policies of the next president. It doesn’t matter how voting makes us feel, or how voting makes us look to others.

Wayne Grudem responds to Christians who think arrogance is worse than infanticide

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Trump, Pence and Pompeo champion religious freedom at the United Nations

Laura send me this amazing article from the Christian Post, written by famous evangelical theologian Dr. Wayne Grudem. He was responding to a blue state pastor named John Piper. Piper has made a name for himself by emphasizing emotions, piety and “Christian hedonism”. Let’s take a look at what Wayne Grudem had to say about Christians who support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Here’s the intro:

[John Piper] and I have reached different conclusions about this year’s presidential election. His October 22 article, “Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin,” explained why he thought it would be wrong for him to support either candidate in this election.

Here is Grudem’s summary of Piper’s argument:

1. The personal sins of a leader can be as harmful to persons and to nations as morally evil laws.

2. Christians communicate a falsehood when we act as if policies and laws are more precious than being a certain kind of person.

3. The horrible sin of pride leads people to other sins, including defending abortion, and therefore voting for a clearly boastful candidate might also be indirectly supporting abortion.

4. Voting for either candidate would compromise a person’s Christian witness

I have a friend in my office, Scott, who has exactly these views. He is pro-life and pro-family, but he thinks voting for Trump’s policies would be wrong, because of Trump’s past moral failings.

Here’s part of his response to point 1:

Americans are perfectly free to say, “Trump’s boastfulness offends me and I don’t want to act that way myself.” But if laws are passed (and upheld by the courts) that enforce the LGBT agenda, no creative professional like a cake decorator (or photographer or florist) will be free to say, “I believe same-sex marriage is morally wrong, and I won’t use my artistic talent to decorate a cake celebrating same-sex marriage.” No high school girl will be free to say, “I won’t undress and change clothes for my gym class because there are boys in the locker room who claim to be girls.” No Christian adoption agency will be free to say, “We will not place children with same-sex couples.”

And if Democrats gain control of our government and the Supreme Court, and enact their desired policies, no Christian taxpayer will be free to say, “I refuse to pay that portion of my taxes that the government is using to pay for abortions.” No business owner will be free to say, “I will not buy medical insurance for my employees that pays for abortions and sex-change surgeries.” There will be only two choices: violate your conscience or else be driven to bankruptcy or go to jail.

Trump’s first four years not a parade of immoral actions:

[A]fter his nearly four years in office, I would add that he has shown remarkable courage of his convictions, faithfulness to his campaign promises, steadfastness of purpose in spite of an astoundingly hostile press, incredible energy in the performance of his job, dignity and even eloquence in many formal speeches and ceremonies at home and abroad, respect and appreciation for his wife Melania and his sons and daughters, and a wide-ranging understanding of the hundreds of different issues that every president faces. In contrast to his past life, during his term in office there is not been even a hint of any sexual impropriety. He is sometimes boastful but on a number of occasions I have seen him publicly give credit to many other people for things that have been accomplished. And I think he has shown mature and wise judgment in a variety of situations that he has faced as president.

Biden’s character not exemplary:

It is easy to compare President Trump with a hypothetical “perfect” president and to conclude that he falls short, but that is not our choice. If Trump is not reelected, we will have President Biden, with an entirely different set of character flaws. The multiple allegations that Vice President Biden used his government office and influence to enrich members of his own family with millions of dollars from China, Russia, and Ukraine should be of deep concern, because using government power to enrich one’s own family is the consistent characteristic of corrupt leaders in many countries of the world.

Conservative Christians occupy prominent positions in Trump’s Cabinet, and they make many decisions that affect voters:

Donald Trump is not the only person we are voting for. It is remarkable that the Trump administration has elevated so many self-professing evangelical Christians – far more than any in my lifetime – into positions of high influence in our government. They also provide role models for Americans. To vote for Trump as president is also to vote for Mike Pence as vice president, Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, Russell Vought as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and numerous others. In addition, Trump has appointed numerous deeply committed Roman Catholics to various positions, the most recent being Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The character of these leaders is also a role model for the nation.

We will look at responses to the points 2-4 in  another post.

For my part, I think that if Trump’s character was going to be a major factor, it would all have come out in his first term. Instead, we’ve seen him act in a way that is friendly to evangelical Christians. I don’t expect him to write systematic theology or do philosophical apologetics or discover a new example of cosmic fine-tuning. He doesn’t have to be a Christian in order to push for laws and policies that allow me to run my Christian life-plan. I need to be able to earn money without compromising my values, and spend it on the Christian causes I care about. I need to be protected from people like Antifa and gay rights extremists, who don’t seem to be at all concerned about moving from angry words to property damage to actual violence against those who disagree with them.

By the way, if you want a good review of Trump’s achievements in different areas: economy, job creation, immigration, foreign policy, national security, defense, deregulation, agriculture, law and justice, energy and environment, transparency and accountability, health care, social programs, infrastructure and technology, education and veterans, you can find all that right here.

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Non-Christian historian Bart Ehrman attended a Christian apologetics conference

Are we allowed to look at the Bible as a historical document?
Are we allowed to look at the Bible as a historical document?

My summaries of Bart Ehrman’s debates mock him for being a rigid Moody Bible Institute fundamentalist whose blind faith was shattered by 1) minor Bible difficulties, 2) disappointment that God allows good people to suffer, 3) wanting to look smart to his professors, and 4) the desire to make lots of money selling apostasy porn to the New York Times set. But maybe he is not as bad as I thought.

Consider this blog post in which Ehrman reports on his experiences at a recent apologetics conference, where he met with a few of the more effective and engaging evangelical scholars.

He writes:

I spent yesterday at a conservative evangelical apologetics conference outside of Chicago and, as you might imagine, I was the odd person out. But I was very well received, people were overwhelmingly gracious and receptive and openly grateful that I had come. There were jokes about being thrown into the lions’ den, but it didn’t really feel like it. It felt like I was speaking to a crowd that wanted to hear, respected what I said, and simply fundamentally disagreed. In particular there was a group of current Moody Bible Institute students there; really interesting, interested, and good humored, and we had a great time together.

What I was most interested in was how Christian apologetics – the intelligent “defense” of the claims of the faith – has changed in the many years since I was involved in the movement, shifted in ways I never would have imagined, very much away from our old fundamentalist assumptions and assertions into a far more reasonable and intellectually sustainable form of discourse that requires actual research and knowledge rather than hard-core theological assertion based on completely dubious premises.

[…]The issue at the conference were the “Contradictions” in the New Testament. How does one deal with apparent or real contradictions and still remain committed to an evangelical view of Scripture as inspired by God and in some sense “inerrant”?

[…]The discussions yesterday (well, most of them) were at a much, much higher academic/intellectual level than ones I’ve had, say, during a recent debate on the blog. I think some of the positions staked out yesterday were utterly, demonstrably, mind-bogglingly simply WRONG. But they were advanced with the kind of learning and historical knowledge that we simply didn’t see back in my apologetics days in the mid-1970s.

Roughly speaking I was hearing two positions, neither of them ones we were taught and advanced in the day (in my circles). One of the two strikes me as completely tenable, though again, only in a sense.

Our old position, back then, was that any contradiction in the New Testament Gospels (or the Bible, for that matter; but yesterday we were talking only about the Gospels) can in fact be reconciled if you look closely and deeply enough at the matter. ANY contradiction. To be sure, there may be places where you aren’t sure HOW to reconcile them, but in principle they are all reconcilable in one way or another.

And, as a corollary, everything the Bible says is literally true. There are no mistakes, of any kind, whatsoever, in the Bible.

[…]None of the three speakers yesterday has that view, even though they call the Bible inerrant and affirm that it is completely reliable. Their views strike me as odd – that they can admit there are, technically speaking, incorrect statements in the Bible but that it is still without error. But they consider my old view (no mistakes of any kind whatsoever) as a dated kind of fundamentalism that is simply not held by thinking Christians any more, and, even more interesting, that my objections to their views are rooted in fundamentalist views that I myself don’t accept but that I’m assuming in order to attack their alternative views. In other words, they think I’m kicking a dead horse.

Interesting.

And here are the two views that were presented:

One is indeed to “reconcile” them as best as possible; or, the term they appear to prefer, “harmonize” them: that is take the two texts that appear to contradict each other and show how they actually fit together, possibly in a complicated way, into a harmonized whole so that they round out and complement each other, rather than stand at odds with one another.

[…]The current view seems to be much more open to the possibility that there are places that we simply can’t figure it out, places that do appear to be contradictory. And here is the KICKER. When they (the evangelicals who take this view) admit there are apparent contradictions, then they say that the details are not important. What matters is the major message. The ultimate point. The big picture. The gist. The gist of what a passage is trying to teach is what is inspired and inerrant. Not the picayune details.

That is to say – a phrase you hear a lot in these circles – “the Bible is inerrant in what it affirms.” That is, it makes no mistakes in what what it is trying to teach.

So you might have a story in which Jesus heals someone, found, say, in both Matthew and Luke. There may be small contradictory details: in one he heals the person before he does this other thing, in the other he heals the person after he does the other thing. Small discrepancy. But the story is not trying to teach *when* Jesus did the miracle. It’s trying to teach that he did the miracle. And it is inerrant about that. He *did* do the miracle.

We never ever would have allowed that back in my days at Moody Bible Institute. But it’s becoming a thinking-person’s view among evangelicals who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, apparently.

But the other change – the second position – strikes me as even more significant, a real step toward traditional scholarship, which tries to explain WHY there are contradictions, and then goes on to say that since we know why they are there, they are not really contradictions.

The reason I am posting this is because we are facing a problem in the church, the problem of massive numbers of young people leaving Christianity:

Christianity continues to decline among U.S. adults as the number of adults identifying as “nothing in particular” increases, Pew Research Center found.

The number of American adults who describe themselves as Christian dropped 12 percentage points over the past decade and the number of both Protestants and Catholics in the U.S. has dropped, according to Pew Research data released Thursday.

Surveys Pew conducted over the phone between 2018 and 2019 found 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christian. Meanwhile, 26% of American adults identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” a number that increased from 17% in 2009.

“The data shows that the trend toward religious disaffiliation documented in the Center’s 2007 and 2014 Religious Landscape Studies, and before that in major national studies like the General Social Survey (GSS), has continued apace,” according to Pew.

I was recently at the National Conference on Christian Apologetics, where I saw a debate featuring Michael Licona. Licona is an informed historian who published a book with Oxford University Press about differences in the gospels and the genre of ancient biography.

A video of the debate is here:

Licona argues that ALL ancient authors used “compositional devices” such as “time compression”, which would explain the differences between the gospel accounts. These compositional devices are found in the works of other authors of that period. Most people I polled in the audience liked both debaters, but they thought that Mike Licona won. Licona also emphasized over and over, in his speech, how questions about contradictions, gospel authorship, etc. do not undermine the core of Christianity, which is the bodily resurrection of Jesus. This is important, because even questions about peripheral issues should not affect the core, which is on solid historical grounds.

I think Ehrman’s post shows why apologetics is important for having productive conversations with non-Christians about the Christian worldview. Remember what happened to Antony Flew when someone took the time to share the evidence for a cosmic beginning and fine-tuning and origin of life with him. Bye-bye atheism. This is how the world really works – evidence is important to finding truth. Evangelism works best when we use reason and evidence to make our case that the Christian worldview is true.

We are living in a time when belief in God has been boosted by significant discoveries in the realm of science: origin of the universe, fine-tuning, habitability, origin of life, Cambrian explosion, molecular machines, etc. We have amazing work coming out of philosophers of religion like Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, etc. And now we are seeing ground-breaking, high-quality work coming out of scholars like Richard Bauckham, N.T. Wright, Craig Keener, and Michael Licona. When is the church going to realize the importance of scholarly research for evangelism?