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Biblical Voting in the Age of Trump

There are several things fascinating about this Presidential election. As someone who has virtually given up on National politics, for me to say that is not an easy statement. The effect of the Donald Trump phenomenon has influenced far more than just his candidacy for the highest office in our nation. The most important aspect that I have noticed is that Christians, who have traditionally voted Republican, have been forced to deal with an identity crisis. Can they vote for a man like Donald Trump who barely pretends to hold to the true faith?[1]  On the heels of this dilemma, they are questioning the basis for voting and the role their faith has in that decision.  wtrump_0425There is no doubt that Trump has said and done things that are too depraved to be repeated here, but so has Hillary Clinton, his opponent in this race for the White House. Isn’t she the greater evil and therefore Trump would be the better choice, the lesser evil?   Is it acceptable for a Christian to vote for a man like Trump for President? This brings up the case of voting for the lesser of two evils.  I have yet to meet anyone that actually believes Trump is an upstanding man of character. As for me personally, I have never been forced to wrestle with the ethical implications of my vote in any previous elections like I have in this one. This is in large part due to my role as being elected as a Republican Presidential Elector in the State of Texas. I have had to weigh what are the obligations of my personal vote in the ballot box and how do they differ from my representative vote as an Elector for the Electoral College.

Before answering these questions we must first agree on the standard we appeal to, to decide such matters. I firmly believe that the Christian must always turn to the Bible as the revealed Word of God. If the Bible says we ought not to do something, then we ought not to do it. If it commands us to do something, then we had better well do it. This should seem like an obvious statement that doesn’t need to be written, but in the world of politics the obvious sometimes isn’t. The Bible has a lot to say about civil rulers and the standard He holds both them and us to.

Qualifications

What are the qualifications for someone who desires to serve in civil office in the Bible?  There are many passages in scripture that have shaped my understanding of the biblical qualifications for civil office. Here is a brief glance at a few of them.[2]

The God of Israel said,

The Rock of Israel spoke to me:

He who rules over men must be just,

Ruling in the fear of God. ~ 2 Sam 23:3

These are the parting words of King David to the children of Israel. He gives them the minimum requirements, as evident by the must, for civil rulers.  Dr. Phillip Kayser summarizes this passage well, “it appears that the absolute minimum is that he be male (‘he”), that he be subject to God’s law (“just”), and that he be a believer who rules in the fear of God. The ‘must’ indicates to me that this is God’s minimum standard.” God spoke through King David, a civil ruler, and gave an authoritative command (imperative) about what type of man a ruler must be. He must fear God and be just according to God’s law. We can also look to the qualifications Moses was given by Jethro for selecting judges that would help him rule on smaller cases.

Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. ~ Exodus 18:21

These are the same quality of men we see described in 2 Samuel. They are men who fear God and will rule justly according to God’s law.  Moses repeats similar instructions to the Israelites before they are to enter the Promised Land,

Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you. ~ Deut 1:13

Since to be wise starts with fearing the Lord (Prov 1:7), it becomes clear that these are consistent qualifications throughout the Bible. God has given us a standard for our civil rulers.  They are to be men that fear Him and are to rule justly according His law. This has implications for both the rulers and those choosing them.

Interpretative Objections

For those that disagree with this interpretation of scripture these are some common objections I hear most often.  First, “doesn’t that only apply to Old Testament (theocratic) Israel?”  It is a reasonable objection, but there are other passages that make it clear that this was not a one-time standard that only applied to one nation.  Psalm 2 address all nations and kings of the earth.

Why do the nations rage,

And the people plot a vain thing?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together,

Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

“Let us break Their bonds in pieces

And cast away Their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;

The Lord shall hold them in derision.

Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,

And distress them in His deep displeasure:

“Yet I have set My King

On My holy hill of Zion.”

“I will declare the decree:

The Lord has said to Me,

‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

Ask of Me, and I will give You

The nations for Your inheritance,

And the ends of the earth for Your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron;

You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

Now therefore, be wise, O kings;

Be instructed, you judges 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,

When His wrath is kindled but a little.

Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

It is obvious with references to “nations, kings of the earth, and judges of the earth” that the plain reading of this text is the calling of ALL civil leaders to submit to Christ’s law, rule justly, and serve Him or suffer the consequences. Again Dr. Kayser writes “Psalm 2 confirms this view. It prophesies concerning the New Testament era that any Gentile ruler that casts off God’s laws (v. 3), who rejects Christ’s Lordship (vv. 1-9), who fails to serve the Lord with fear (v. 11), and who refuses to ‘kiss the Son’ will have God angry with him and Christ will dash him with His rod of iron (judgment).” Christ has absolute authority over every person, church and nation. All government is upon His shoulders (Isa 9:6) and all civil authority is delegated by and from Him (John 19:11).  Consider all of the pagan nations that God judged for their disobedience and it is evident that God holds all nations and their rulers to His standard of righteousness.

A second objection is to reject that it applies to voting. The basic assumption in this objection is that Israel didn’t vote for their civil leaders therefore 2 Samuel can’t be an absolute binding standard upon voters. I believe the Bible presents a different picture, but before we turn to some examples we must first understand what exactly a vote is. We tend to think of voting only in terms of our personal experiences. However, a vote is simply the expression of who we desire to represent us in any elected position. To vote doesn’t require any set number of candidates or political parties. It only requires one person making a choice and expressing it in some recognizable action (Ex. ballot, raised hand, or voice).  With that in mind, we find several examples of voting for civil office in the Bible. Here are a few.[3]

We already looked at the passages relevant to Israel’s selection of judges under Moses. “Moreover you shall select from all the people, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (Exod 18:21) and “Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men…” (Deut 1:13).  E.C. Wines writes, “No fact can be plainer, or more certain, than that the judges, instituted at the suggestion of Jethro, were chosen by the suffrages (voting) of all Israel. The direction of Moses to the people, upon that occasion, is very explicit.”[4]

The people clearly voted verbally for Jephthan in the book of Judges:

It came to pass after a time that the people of Ammon made war against Israel. And so it was, when the people of Ammon made war against Israel, that the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. Then they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our commander, that we may fight against the people of Ammon.” So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me, and expel me from my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned again to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the people of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you take me back home to fight against the people of Ammon, and the Lord delivers them to me, shall I be your head?” And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord will be a witness between us, if we do not do according to your words.” Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord in Mizpah. ~ Judges 11:4-11

Then there is the story of Israel choosing Saul to be their king as recorded from 1 Samuel in chapters 8-11. It concludes with this:

So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they made sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly. ~ 1 Samuel 11:15

The most famous of kings in the biblical record, David, is another example of a civil ruler being elected. It is noteworthy that David had been anointed by Samuel to be king years before he was willing to take the throne. He refused to take it himself. He waited until the men of Judah came to him. He waited until he was chosen by the people.

So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. And David brought up the men who were with him, every man with his household. So they dwelt in the cities of Hebron. Then the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. 2 Samuel 2:2-3

The last example we will look at of the people choosing their leader is King Solomon.

Then David said to all the assembly, “Now bless the Lord your God.” So all the assembly blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed their heads and prostrated themselves before the Lord and the king. And they made sacrifices to the Lord and offered burnt offerings to the Lord on the next day: a thousand bulls, a thousand rams, a thousand lambs, with their drink offerings, and sacrifices in abundance for all Israel. So they ate and drank before the Lord with great gladness on that day. And they made Solomon the son of David king the second time, and anointed him before the Lord to be the leader, and Zadok to be priest. ~ 1 Chronicles 29:20-22

In each of these examples the people chose their leaders in some form or fashion. While the kings of Israel had certainly been anointed by God to serve in those positions that in no way discounts the role the people had in the selection process. For Daniel makes it clear that God always “removes and raises up kings.”[5] The biblical example is that the people are to choose, that is vote, for their civil leaders.

5-saul-attacking-david-guercinoThe third objection to the application of these biblical qualifications for voting is that several of the kings already mentioned did not rule according this standard. In others words, they would say “we can’t look for perfectionism in our candidates because if that is the case Saul, David, and Solomon all failed the test. They were not men who feared God and ruled justly according to His law. If God raised them up to be kings than either a) God broke His own standard or b) the standard isn’t applicable.”

First we have to understand the difference between the revealed will and secret will of God.[6]  God can command His people to vote one way (revealed will) and hold them accountable for that vote. He can also at the same time use their disobedience to raise up an evil king according to His (secret) will.  The fact that God uses people’s voting to bring both good and bad kings to power according to His will is not a contradiction and is perfectly consistent with His nature.  Having said that, I do not think that Israel disobeyed these qualifications in these examples. To fear God and rule justly does not mean to be perfect. If we look at each of these men at the time they were put into office it appears they were all qualified. Saul is said to have “the Spirit of the Lord depart”[7] from him which necessarily means he had the Spirit early on in his administration. David was a “man after God’s own heart, who would do His will.”[8] When Solomon came to power it was said of him that “the Lord his God was with him and exalted him exceedingly.”[9] Each of these men sinned greatly against the Lord during their administration, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t qualified at the time they were chosen.  The qualifications of being godly men who fear the Lord and are able to rule justly does not require perfection.  It only requires what it states. They must have a discernable fear of God and appear to rule in light of that fear.

Pragmatic Objections

I now want to address the three objections to these qualifications that I consider more pragmatic in nature than interpretive.  The first objection is that we don’t have anyone biblically qualified by this standard in the race for President.  “If we are commanded to choose, then we must choose the least evil candidate.”  There is a case to be made that we must do all that we can to stop the greatest evil. However, in that process we must still vote for qualified candidates.  Remember “must” was the term scripture used. We can not use a means that God disapproves of to bring about an end that will please Him.  He doesn’t honor rebellion.  Furthermore, it is just not true that we don’t have anyone qualified.  There are hundreds of people running for President in 2016, many of which meet these qualifications. What people generally mean when they offer this objection is that there isn’t anyone in the Republican or Democratic Parties, and therefore anyone that “has a chance at winning”, that meet these qualifications.  This is absolutely correct that there isn’t anyone in either of those parties that are biblically qualified.  However, I have yet to find anywhere in God’s Word a command for us to only choose men that have a path to victory.

The second objection is that a 3rd party vote is a vote for the Democratic candidate. The presumption in this objection is that Republican candidate deserves our vote and therefore if we do not vote for him, we have essentially withdrawn a vote that belongs to him. If we recall that a vote is simply the expression of who we desire to represent us in any elected position, then this becomes an illogical statement.  If my choice is candidate X, then my choice doesn’t magically become candidate D by virtue of the fact that I didn’t chose candidate R. If I choose candidate X, then candidate X is my choice and only candidate X.

The third objection is that the righteous thing to do is to stop the greater evil.  First, this assumes that the Democratic Party is the greater evil therefore we must do everything we can to stop Hillary Clinton from winning. I can understand this position for there is no doubt that Hillary Clinton would be an evil President, but would she really be more evil than Trump in policy?  Rather than going to the talking points of the political parties and inside operatives let’s look at the biggest issues that actually matter. If we look at where they stand on the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve, murdering of unborn children, undeclared wars, the complete disregard for private property, or our national debt; the only difference between the two is in style and rhetoric.  Where it matters most, they will both pursue the same wicked policies.  Even if I am wrong about their policies, and one is slightly better than the other, it still would not make it an ethically righteous decision to suddenly throw off the qualifications in hope of possibly having a slightly less evil government. Theologians and philosophers refer to this as situational ethics.  Situational ethics says the morally right and wrong thing to do change based on the situation.  The Bible knows nothing of situational ethics, God and His Word do not change. If God tells us we must choose (vote for) a righteous man that fears Him, we are not free to attach an “unless” to the end of that command.  May we boldly proclaim that “God be true and every man a liar” (Rom 3:4). We must fear God, not man… or woman!

Conclusion

If civil leaders are expected to rule according this standard and they are judged when they do not (Psalm 2), then what can we expect as voters when we dismiss these qualifications that God has given us? My biggest concern as a Christian is what God expects of me as revealed in the Bible. I have yet to have anyone address these passages in satisfactory way that convinces me otherwise.  It seems clear to me that God both calls me to vote and directs me to only vote for men who fear Him and are just according to God’s law.  He doesn’t expect or allow me to add to his qualifications and seek for perfection. He also doesn’t hold me accountable for all the sins that these qualified men commit once in office.  He does, however, give me clear commands for who is qualified and expects me to be obedient with my calling as a voter.  Therefore, I can not in good conscience vote for Donald Trump for President. The lingering question that remains is: what does that mean for my role as Republican Presidential Elector?  That is the topic for another article.

Art Sisneros


[1] I acknowledge he claims to be a person of faith, but his denial of basic Christian tenets like the need for forgiveness make his claim laughable and believed by nobody.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=80&v=A3l0e6nS9oI

[2] For a more comprehensive list see http://fortifyingthekingdom.com/scriptural-qualifications-for-civic-office/

[3] For a more complete study on this subject I recommend Roots of the American Republic by E.C. Wines

[4] E.C. Wines, Roots of the American Republic, P18

[5] Daniel 2:21

[6] Theologians refer to the revealed/prescriptive will vs. the secret/descriptive will of God. For more information see Appendix I in The Sovereignty of God by Arthur Pink.  https://books.google.com/books?id=p3OOU3wL9YIC&pg=PA152&lpg=PA152&dq=god%27s+secret+will+vs.+revealed+will&source=bl&ots=l7WglX2zw6&sig=7lTlmHAZurEUeTT5cpU_dEYvMig&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi6jLnrsZPQAhVpslQKHS–Dqo4ChDoAQhEMAc#v=onepage&q=god’s%20secret%20will%20vs.%20revealed%20will&f=false

[7] 1 Samuel 16:14

[8] 1 Samuel 13:14, Act 13:22

[9] 2 Chronicles 1:1

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Disqualified Civil Rulers

The last few months have been an awakening of sorts for me in a variety of ways. In early January, the primary election season in Texas began to kick into second gear.  It was at this point I began to become awakened to how much, dare I say it, evil was in my midst.  As a Christian, I knew I was to be a light to the world.  What was new to me, however, was the realm in which I was entering into, to shine my light.  I was venturing into the realm of politics.  Fully aware of the adage “politics is dirty”, I knew there was truth to it.  What I did not know was the source, depth, and acceptance of this “dirtiness”.  I say “dirtiness” but that actually is not the right word.  Dirt doesn’t sin.  It isn’t incompetent, dishonest or corrupt in practice.  Many of those in or seeking places of power are much worse.  They are, in fact, engaged in evil.

Lest you think I am over exaggerating, allow me to explain. Evil is, by definition, that which is immoral or wicked. In other words, evil is that which is contrary to righteousness, justice or truth. Now evil can be manifested in a variety of forms and degrees.  It can be diabolical, which leads to mass murder and such.  We immediately conjure up images in our heads of Stalin, Hitler or even millions of aborted fetuses.  This type of evil is usually obvious to spot or rather it should be.  But there is a much more subtle form of evil, the kind that masks itself under the guise of good.  This is the form employed far more frequently in my local political scene.  The corruption, lawlessness, and depravity that are seemingly on every level to one degree or another are nothing short of well… evil.  “This is politics”, you say, “of course there is corruption in politics.”  Yes, but the most surprising and offensive part of this corruption is that it is coming from the very people who claim to be “unashamed of their Christian faith” or even “the conscience” of their party, and on and on, ad nauseam.

Here are just a few examples though plenty more could be listed.

– The County Clerk requiring filings that the law does not require.  I’m not sure if it’s incompetence or otherwise, but it took under 30 minutes of research to discover the law.  Upon bringing this to the clerk’s attention, she persisted in “adding to” the law by continuing to require more than the law states.

– Republican Party Chairman intimidating my wife and kids at the polling places because she was promoting his opponent.  She was harshly warned of a supposed rule (not a violation of any law) that had been continuously broken by all the other candidates while she was complying with the rule 100%.  It was a passive aggressive intimidation move, plain and simple.

– US Senatorial Candidate and current US Representative, Steve Stockman, using manipulative polling, deceitful surveys, fake newspapers, crony endorsements, and several possible ethics violations all in his quest for another office.  This is documented here and here and here.

– A grassroots organization claiming to be the “conscience of the party” and the group standing up for “principles” decides to honor their endorsement of Rep. Stockman.  They did so even after becoming aware of his shenanigans and sleazy political schemes.  Apparently their “principles” include overlooking deception for a good old fashion back-scratching session.  After all, the ends always justify the means, right?

I know this to be the “standard operating procedures” for political campaigning, but that does not make it right.  Not only do these candidates reveal their hypocrisy, but they have actually disqualified themselves, Biblically, from the very offices they are seeking.  The Bible gives specific instructions when electing men as civil magistrates.  According to Exodus 18:21 it says you shall “look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of the thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.”  Note these simple requirements carefully.

1. Able men (competence)

2. Godly men (righteous character)

3. Trustworthiness (honesty)

4. Men who hate a bribe (i.e. not for sale)

We could stop right here and have enough to condemn most of the candidates that are seeking political office. However, the Bible has much more to say about our civil rulers.  When giving a clear explanation of the purpose for civil government and its rulers[1], Paul refers to civil rulers as “a minister of God to you for good.”[2]  Civil rulers (i.e. legislators, judges, etc) are ministers.  There is an important principle here that we need to understand.  We expect a certain quality of character in our ministers.  We should expect the same in our civil rulers for they are also ministers of a different jurisdiction.  We don’t though.  We expect them to cheat, lie, steal, and everything else that is contrary to righteousness.  What we ought to expect of them are the same qualifications that the Bible expects of ministers and deacons.  We should expect them to be above reproach, temperate, prudent, respectable, dignified, not double-tongued or greedy and so forth.[3]  God has a certain standard for men that serve in this ministerial role of civil ruler, however small or large.  Notice the qualifications are focused far more on character and worldview than on pedigree or privilege.  We should do the same.

While I don’t expect any candidates to remove themselves from any races or even offices, there is one thing we can do.  We can start raising the standards on the quality of men we are willing to put in positions of power.  We can find those candidates that are qualified and offer them our support.  We can dedicate our time, money, and energies to getting these men in office.  We can and must have the courage to call out those that have disqualified themselves.  We must be willing to call evil, “evil.”  We must refuse to vote for the “lesser of two evils” just because they are our friends, in our party, or benefit us the most.  We must stop sacrificing our principles on the altar of pragmatism.

This may lead some to the all too common conclusion that “Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics.”  This is the wrong conclusion.  What we must remember is that light is far more powerful than the darkness.  Light overcomes darkness.  What we need are more brave men willing to step down into darkness in order to expose it.  We must be willing to get our hands dirty and keep our souls clean before God and men.


[1] Romans 13:1-6

[2] Romans 13:4

[3] 1 Timothy 3:1-10