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Faith/Virtue Should Inform Politics/Issues (In Response to @EWErickson)

“If Virtue and Knowledge are diffused among the People, they will never be enslav’d. This will be their great Security” — Samuel Adams, Chief Massachusetts Leader of the American Revolution

Keep this quote in mind as we traverse Erick Erickson’s “Erick Drops the Mic on Trump and Christians,” in that not only does this series of tweets best represent what a chief “Never Trump” adherent believes, but also provides a fantastic opportunity to follow up on why the same group may be barking up the wrong tree (read my last posting regarding the secular side of this issue).

Without further ado:

So let me go on a random twitter storm about Trump and Christians.

Sure, let’s do it.

1/ First, note to reporters, if a pastor has a “Doctorate of Divinity” it is an honorary degree, not a real degree. Be careful.

Yup, agreed. Having a pastor with an actual Master of Divinity is so much better than “honorary” degrees. After all, if a pastor isn’t formally trained via an accredited seminary, how can you know (aside from especially keen discernment) that they know what they’re doing?

2/ There are three groups of Christians in this on the right. (1) Actively for Trump; (2) begrudgingly for Trump; (3) still opposed to Trump

3/ Though there are exceptions, it seems the ones most actively supporting Trump are dispensationalists.

4/ Most reformed protestant supporters of Trump are begrudging supporters and a great many of the reformed won’t vote for him.

5/ Outside of the dispensationalist, the theonomists and post-millennialists seem to represent a block of Trump voters.

As an aside, the linked posting from which I’m pulling the above tweet quotes contains definitions for most of the terms being used here. And, so far, it’s likely that Erick is correct in terms of naming those serious about their belief system and where they likely fit in.

As you’ll see, I take issue with a more fundamental premise to this rant which I believe is the real point of what’s going on here.

Continuing:

6/ Lots of Trump supporting Christians really care about Israel

7/ The dispensationalists are convinced Israel still has a role to play in scripture and will align with any candidate to advance Israel.

8/ Others are really worried about the Supreme Court and Hillary Clinton’s appointments.

Next:

9/ It is telling, however, that the most aggressive Trump supporters in the faith community are prosperity gospel preachers.

10/ The prosperity gospel is a heresy and it is no wonder a group of heretics getting rich off the poor would like a guy like Trump.

Having had close family members directly and intimately involved in a formerly very large church in the metro Atlanta area that had regularly broadcasted on TBN that was torn apart by a searingly immortal controversy (nothing like having issues spread across two full pages of the Atlanta Journal/Constitution several years ago), I’m personally quite keenly aware of what the “name-it-and-claim-it, blab-it-and-grab-it” philosophy is about.

Having said that, I don’t agree with the insinuation of point 7 that somehow Donald Trump’s business acumen is the same as what prosperity gospel preachers do; the former looks out for the interests of his organization, the latter look out for the interests of themselves.

11/ Too many Christians in this country have tied the church to culture and, as a result, tied the GOP to the church.

I’ll address this more directly on down the line, but yes, it’s true — God does not need America, but America does need God. God is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, nor any other such label; those labels belong to our political system.

Instead (and as my opening quote portends), the Church — individuals of faith — should be informing the GOP regarding moral/ethic issues and not the other way around.

12/ What we are seeing is that culture is polluting the church instead of the church improving culture.

I think this depends on where you’re going to church locally (and I’m about to get to my major point on this). As a lay leader in one of the top ten churches in America, especially during our current “at the movie” series, I would suggest that there are some of us in the local church who are impacting the culture, using the culture to make a bigger point about God.

13/ When u have the man who wrote “The Book of Virtue” accusing anti-Trump Christians of “moral superiority” you get a sense of the problem

14/ Virtue and politics are not the same. But too many pastors have tied them together.

In my view, politics is nothing more than the study of personal interaction between people who may disagree with one another. Therefore, politics is the tool that individuals use; whether this tool is used in a virtuous way is the real question, and I think this is part of Erick’s point, with which I’ll staunchly agree: don’t use politics to bash people regarding virtue. For Christians, it’s supposed to be virtue that informs politics, not the other way around.

15/ Scripture says Christians are to live by faith, not by the ballot box. Thinking we are doing God’s will by voting is not Biblical

While I might be getting “pharisaical” (see a point further down!) on this point, the reality is that we are imposing God’s will by voting, which is, by definition, biblical.

If virtue (and, by extension, faith) is going to inform politics (which is what I think we’re all driving at, at least those of us of the faith), then necessarily politics is going to be driven by faith/virtue.

Please notice the construct that is at play here.

16/ Voting is the act of an American, not the act of a Christian. When the principles of both collide, the latter must govern.

And I’ll now share my big, main point: the Two Kingdoms Doctrine, which is partially explained via this site (I have no affiliation to that link; it simply appeared to be a reasonable backgrounder on the idea). In short, there are two kingdoms — one of the spiritual, and one of the natural — and while we are of the spiritual, the thought is that getting entangled with the natural was greatly frowned upon (apparently Martin Luther used this as the basis for why he was against the Roman Catholic papacy, where the Pope had direct control over both church and State affairs).

The point here is to continue driving home my original point of virtue and knowledge. As Erick actually agrees (to a point), since the gates of hades won’t prevail against the church, we ultimately don’t have to be neurotically concerned that the church will be overcome by evil. On the flip side, however, I believe we are to influence the natural realm, and in that respect, I think this is Erick’s biggest disagreement with many on the right: stop trying to take faith out of the battle over politics and culture. Let individuals stand or fall in the ongoing battle.

17/ That there are pastors claiming Christians are “pharisees” for not voting for Trump is a damning indictment on the pastors.

I agree. Pastors are here to guide and lead the flock; they are not here to replace the brains and will of parishioners.

18/ The demand that one participate in the voting system as opposed to acting in conscience is pharisaical.

This depends. If faith/virtue is to inform politics, then by definition one should be voting. The only exception to this admonition is where failing to to vote is to vote.

19/ The pharisees were also known as chasidim, which means “loyal to God.” But they were blind to the truth.

20/ Some Christians think voting is “rendering to Caesar” so it is okay, but faith cannot be bifurcated.

21/ It is okay to vote. It is even okay to vote for Trump. But to separate your faith from your vote is wrong.

22/ One should not vote for Trump, accepting him as immoral, thinking voting has nothing to do with faith.

23/ In every act a Christian is to glorify God and advance the kingdom.

This is where church leaders must discern the best direction. If one is of virtue/faith and one is voting for someone who does not wholly subscribe to one’s moral code, is it OK to still vote for them?

What you’re really asking/saying is that one must prioritize the issues, where those issues are informed by faith/virtue.

Let me illustrate this more starkly. The current issue is Donald Trump’s alleged immorality, presumably regarding multiple marriages. I would then ask, who do you vote for, assuming that all of the following may agree, politically, with seventy-five percent of your secular issues?

The multiple-marriage candidate?

The gay candidate?

The glutton candidate?

The deceiving candidate?

My point is that there are a great many personally immoral candidates (whether currently immoral or not) out there who could make otherwise excellent candidates for office.

Does one completely sit out elections because all available candidates have had (or do have) some semblance of sin making them personally disqualified?

That’s a question everyone must grapple with.

24/ If you are a Christian and want to vote for Trump, God bless you. But do not attack your brethren for abstaining.

Amen, assuming that the abstainers have thought this through.

25/ Scripture says that what is not done in faith is sin. To feel forced to vote, even against violating your conscience, is sin.

Ditto.

26/ To demand a Christian vote for anyone their conscience opposes is to sin.

27/ But ultimately, on that last day, God is not going to ask who we voted form in 2016.

I don’t know that I agree with such a general statement. Then again, I don’t know the bases with which God the Father will be judging our actions (outside of Jesus’ blood covering).

28/ He will ask what we have done for the kingdom. Pastors attacking Christians for not voting Trump will have much to answer for.

29/ Along the way, what we are seeing in Christian America, is a disentangling of faith and politics. That’s messy, but not bad.

Actually, I say that is bad for the reasons already stated. If virtue/faith is going to inform our politics as believers, how is it therefore positive that virtue/faith and politics being disentangled is a good thing?

Apparently only if you’re a Two Kingdoms doctrine believer, which I’m not.

But hey — you are free to believe such 🙂

30/ Many a prominent Christian willingly tied to Trump will not come away from this with their integrity.

Hypocrisy alert.

What if Donald Trump becomes the church’s friendliest President? What if he is able to help overturn LBJ’s legislation having to do with charitable organizations — most notably the church — that prevents them from advocating for certain folks — or even issues — in the sanctuary? Granted, that would be a different set of battles, but would that be wrong?

And would you then be saying that a multiple-marriage-immoral person was actually good for the church?

31/ lastly, many (but not all) who demand Christians vote for Trump will be confronted, on judgment day, with Matt 7:21-23.

In my case, I’m not demanding anyone do anything except to filter politics through the lens of faith/virtue and subsequently act accordingly.

32/ In response to the common criticism, no you’ll never vote for a perfect person, but…

33/ There is a difference between supporting a sinner (which we all are) and supporting someone who revels in immorality.

See my point, above, regarding the “reveling” bit.

As we both say that humanity is flawed, sometimes it’s called, “pick your poison.” Or, don’t pick, which is still picking. And still worthy of accountability in the hereafter.

34/ The Christian witness in America is far more important than who you vote for, for President.

The Christian witness in America is precisely what informs who you vote for, for President.

35/ Going to seminary has forced me to think about these things more and put my faith and politics at odds more. (Corrected)

My abbreviated biblical studies certificate has done the same for my wife and I. Excellent.

36/ My faith is more important than my politics. The gates of hell will not prevail against the church. So I’m not worried about the outcome

Your faith and your virtue should be informing your politics. In my view, quit trying to divorce/dichotomize bewtween the two.

As you’ve just admitted, the Church will be fine and will continue being here long after we’re all physically gone from this planet. Therefore, it’s perfectly OK to go after these political and cultural battles.

I don’t believe we can sit on the sidelines the way that Two Kingdoms doctrine folks believe; I believe individuals are too worth influencing for what’s right and true.

37/ Goodnight now.

If you think I’m trying to shame you out of voting, you are reading me wrong. I’m defending those who won’t be shamed into voting.

While I’ll shame anyone into voting, I won’t shame anyone into voting for whomever is available.

Once again: faith/virtue must inform politics/issues; the supernatural must inform the natural (unfortunately, I think Martin Luther was so hung up on fighting the Roman Catholic Church that he didn’t keep even bigger issues in perspective). While it’s up to every American citizen to freely vote (or not), the encouragement should be to make every such citizen face the choices, face the issues.

Liberty is always one generation away from extinction (I think Ronald Reagan once said that). Liberty is not easy to tend to, yet since there is no liberty without purpose and responsibility, it must be tended to.

Therefore, make sure your political decisions are informed by your faith.

I’ll go one more step in a personal direction here. If you are a Christian, then you should be attending your local church on a regular basis. And if you’re reading this blog, then you’re being challenged to use your brain, which means that you’re a leader, if not by title then certainly by influence. Therefore, get involved with your church. Don’t just treat it like a country club and “sit-and-soak,” become involved.

Defined local church involvement is one of the best ways to truly influence other people.

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