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Election 2016 Thoughts – Part Two: Trump Support Could Hurt Our Gospel Witness: A Critique

Monday, November 7, 2016 20:46
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(Before It's News)

While I realize this post is virtually moot now since the election is upon us, Nathan Akin posted part 2 of his series only today. Thus, I thought I’d put this brief critique up.

After considering the chief concerns #NeverTrump advocates like Akin have listed in campaigning against Trump and for 3rd party/write-ins, I feel even more confident I chose well in my decision. I only pray if and/or when Trump loses the presidency, and we hand off this country’s political destiny to Hillary Rodham Clinton, I will be able to put out of my mind and heart that #NeverTrumpers played a decisive role in getting her elected. 

Election 2016 Thoughts – Part Two:

Trump Support Could Hurt Our Gospel Witness: A Critique

In Election 2016 Thoughts – Part One, Baptist21 contributor, Nathan Akin, listed five reasons why a 3rd candidate vote for president in the 2016 election is not in vain. I posted a brief but thorough response to Akin’s view. In Akin’s sequel, he insists that supporting Donald Trump as president could hurt our gospel witness. Below is my even briefer response to Akin’s sequel.

Nathan Akin: Why supporting Donald Trump for President hurts our gospel witness

Before listing his reasons a Trump vote could hurt our gospel witness, Akin makes a

disclaimer concerning his view. “I am sharing my views with conviction but that does not mean I think you are crazy or do not have a valid argument if you disagree.” He alludes to the provocative rhetoric he says comes from both sides of the issue (presumably #NeverTrump advocates on one side and Trump voters on the other), and mentions he’ll deal with the rhetoric later in the article. Akin is grieved for the lack of charity and feels some blame himself.

First, Akin asserts that Trump could hurt our gospel witness. Citing Paul’s concern in Galatians 2:4-5 about “false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus” and his apostolic response “to them we did not yield in submission…so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you,” Akin concludes: “Paul is clearly concerned that the gospel might be preserved from error.” In addition to Galatians, Akin cites 1 Corinthians 5:1 in which the Apostle admonishes the Corinthians in morally tolerating a sexual deviant in the fellowship. Akin then concludes: “Paul is horrified that the Corinthian Church overlooks and therefore implicitly condones sinful behavior, not even tolerated by pagans, precisely because it hurts their gospel witness in the world.” Hence, Trump hurts our gospel witness.

Second, it is possible to forgive someone and at the same time not see them as fit to be president. Contra Trump voters who argue we are not electing a pastor but a president, we may forgive Trump for his immoral deeds but forgiveness does not mean he still qualifies to be president any more than forgiving a pedophile qualifies him to be a children’s worker. “I think we vote for values and character and leave the results in God’s hands.”

Third, Akin queries where supporting Donald Trump will lead and concludes “this election has given even more credence to the adage that evangelicals are in the Republicans pocket.”

Finally, Akin concludes after all is said, Jesus Christ will still be on the Throne after Election Day. Laying aside “apocalyptic lenses” which too often cloud clear judgments, the present election remains “important and will have ramifications for years to come.” Christ’s kingdom remains unmoved. “We, above all people, should not fret at what happens on Election Day because we know one day there will no longer be two parties or even a president, but simply a King and Kingdom where peace, justice, and righteousness reign!”

Evaluation

First, Akin offers two biblical texts he believes supports his claim that supporting Donald Trump for president could hurt our gospel witness. And while I think it’s proper to seek biblical support for one’s approach in engaging the town square, specifically in this case, electing officials to serve the town square, I find Akin’s choice of texts entirely vacuous. In both the Galatians and Corinthians’ passages, Paul was specifically dealing with internal church affairs not town square officials. Note Akin’s frustration toward Trump voters: “This has been one of the more mind-boggling arguments I have observed about this election. Many are saying we are not electing a pastor-in-chief and that everyone deserves forgiveness.” Does it occur to Akin that one reason Trump voters might be making this argument is because #NeverTrump advocates like him wrongly exploit biblical texts specifically concerning the internal affairs of the church to make a case against voting for a particular candidate for office in the town square?

What is more, Akin borders on being completely irresponsible in his citing of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 5:1: “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has ahis father’s wife.” Akin interprets this verse to depict the Apostle’s horror that “the Corinthian Church overlooks and therefore implicitly condones sinful behavior, not even tolerated by pagans, precisely because it hurts their gospel witness in the world.” The context makes it clear Paul’s concern was definitively not because their tolerance hurt their gospel witness. Rather, Paul’s concern was the church not the world—those within the body of Christ, not those outside the body of Christ: “Do you not know that ca little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” (v.6).

Neither the Corinthians nor the Galatians passage says anything at all concerning how believers are to elect officials to town square office. Hence while it’s honorable to want Scripture to substantiate one’s position, both those who support Trump and those who are #NeverTrump must employ sober principles of biblical interpretation when they cite the Bible.

Second, what’s forgiveness got to do with electing a candidate to public office? I don’t have to forgive Donald Trump of anything for the simple reason Donald Trump has not sinned against me (so far as I know). Again, the subtle assumption of dealing with church issues or issues between Christian and Christian is running on Akin’s backburner here. Why would Donald Trump or any candidate for public office in the town square require my forgiveness before he or she could be elected to town square office? On the other hand, is Donald Trump a felon? Is he a criminal? Is he a racketeer? Has he committed treason? These questions are pertinent because they reflect criminality not personal forgiveness which, by the way, is a heart issue not a political one.

Additionally, Akin strangely claims that “we [should] vote for values and character and leave the results in God’s hands.” First, while “values and character” as a criterion to judge whether a candidate receives our vote cannot and should not be dismissed, we must ask, whose values and character? According to Akin’s view, values and character always seem to apply either to the candidate, the voter, and/or the voter’s community’s interests exclusively. Thus, Donald Trump’s character matters; how the voter looks to others matters; and the voter’s community perception matters. What’s wrong in this picture?

One thing is, the stark absence of concern for the polis at large. What’s best for the country? Another thing is the obsession with “how we’ll look to others.” Frankly, this is the concern of puberty not maturity. Third, this is a very selfish position. Fourth, in the end, it’s a contradictory position. Consider: if one really does “leave it in God’s hands,” then why would one be concerned about whether voting for Trump could hurt one’s witness? Vote your conscience and leave it in God’s hands.

Akin also suggests that the present election gives more credence that evangelicals are in the Republicans pocket. Why would voting for Trump lend credence to Republican loyalty? Donald Trump is the bane of Republican party leaders. He is the most divisive candidate in the Republican party to arise in my lifetime and is often depicted as destroying the Republican party. He represents a groundswell of grassroots Americans including Republicans, estranged Democrats, Independents, and never-before-voters. To suggest evangelicals are for Trump because they’re in the pocket of the established Republican party is either uninformed, misinformed, or dishonest. Evangelicals have made it clear why they are voting for Trump and no reason they often cite has ever implied it’s because they’re loyal to Republicans. Akin and others should either produce evidence for this assertion or stop citing it as reason evangelicals are voting for Trump.

In summary, Akin offers little to support his contention that voting for Donald Trump could hurt the church’s gospel witness, and virtually nothing in response to reasons commonly cited by evangelical Trump voters.

Though I’ve already cast my vote for Trump and could do nothing about it anyway, I feel even more confident in my vote after reading Akin’s case against it.

 

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