The Virtue Signaling Death Wish of Evangelicalism

Supporting Donald Trump in order to avoid persecution is not a betrayal of Christian morals.

Erick Erickson says many good things. He also says many incorrect things. Today he illustrated what’s wrong with Evangelicalism in America—the lack of solid biblical and systematic theology to deal with politics. A robust Political Theology is needed.

Unfortunately, Erickson and his fellow travelers like David French or Russell Moore, the former Democratic congressional staffer and Immigration advocate leading the Southern Baptist Convention’s ERLC, provide shallow virtue signaling piety over real substance. Instead, look to real theologians like William Lane Craig, Wanye Grudem, Norman Geisler, and Robert A. J. Gagnon.

Erickson tweeted a thread on politics and faith where he created a false dilemma between fighting for religious liberty and compromising our Christian standards. He tweeted, “Christ says persecution will come to the church. We don’t need to want it. I support religious freedom. Persecution will come in other ways. But demanding Christians compromise their moral standards to protect themselves is heresy.”

This is a false dilemma. A Christian does not compromise their morality when supporting a lesser evil (or greater good). This misunderstands moral reasoning. Also, it doesn’t comprehend voting.

Moral Reasoning 101 with Dr. William Lane Craig

First, moral choices aren’t always between good and bad. Sometimes, in a fallen world beset with sin, our moral choices are bad and even worse. William Lane Craig produced an excellent podcast in November 2016 on this very topic. Here are a few key quotes:

“I think there is a kind of immaturity among some people about moral decision-making where they think that moral decision-making is a matter of choosing between the good alternative and the bad alternative. That is a very naïve, almost childish, view of moral decision-making. We are frequently confronted with moral choices in which we have no good alternatives or, alternatively, we have two good alternatives to choose from and you have to then choose between two goods. But sometimes you have to choose between two bads.

“Intro courses in philosophy or ethics major on this point by presenting moral dilemmas to clarify students’ values. For example, a textbook illustration is the runaway streetcar example where if you do not throw the switch the streetcar will hit and kill a man working on the tracks. But if you do throw the switch then the streetcar will kill five people who are on the tracks. So which choice do you make? You don’t have a good choice in a case like that. There are two bad outcomes and you have to choose the lesser of two evils.

“I think the most poignant illustration of this point is Sophie’s Choice where the young mother is presented by the Nazi soldiers with a choice as to which of her children will be sent to the death camp and which one she can keep alive. If she refuses to choose one of her two children then both will be sent to the death camps. In a case like this, this poor mother had no good choice. She had to choose the lesser of two evils and pick one of her two children to be exterminated. It is just horrible.

Similarly, in a case like this, we didn’t have two good candidates to choose from. Both were flawed in multiple ways, and the outcomes were flawed in multiple ways. Yet, that doesn’t exempt you from having to make a decision in a case like this. You choose the lesser of two evils – which outcome would be better for the United States of America than the other? I think, as you already indicated, the implications for the Supreme Court are just huge in this case. We were choosing which President would be appointing not only the replacement for the late Antonin Scalia but perhaps for other justices as well. That could radically affect the direction of the Supreme Court for a generation to come.

Please, read the transcript and listen to the podcast. Dr. Craig says something critical that deals with the immaturity from the likes of Russell Moore and Erick Erickson on this issue.

Obey the Greater Commandments when Voting

This isn’t consequentialism or an ends justify the means argument either. Rather, Christians must analyze the situation and decide what rules apply.

Philosopher and Theologian Norman Geisler explains that results matter. He wrote, “The Christian ethic does not neglect results. Although results do not determine what is right, they may influence one’s ethical decisions. For example, a Christian should calculate which direction a gun is pointing before pulling the trigger. Drivers need to estimate the possible consequence of their speed in relation to other objects.”

In other words, Christians when voting decide what issues are at stake and have the highest priority.

This is important because often rules will conflict. Ordinarily, one would prefer to avoid voting an adulterer into office; however, when the alternative is a baby murder supporter, the higher moral obligation trumps the lesser.

This is a cornerstone of Dr. Norm Geisler’s Christian-based moral decision making. Since God’s commands bind us, we must obey the higher God-given commands. This is affirmed in Scripture, and Geisler details these in his book Christian Ethics.

We’ve proposed using Graded Absolutism as a model for Christian voting.

According to Geisler, “graded absolutism holds that our responsibility is to obey the greater commandment, and we are not guilty for not following the lesser conflicting commandment.”

This is important for Christians. There is a reason the great evangelical systematic theologians like Craig, Geisler and Wayne Grudem supported this type of lesser evil or greater good voting—they understand the world is fallen and we must engage it as is—and not as we wish it were.

Evangelicals love affair with persecution

There is another thing that stands out in Erickson’s tweet thread—a high view of persecution. This is a trend in modern evangelicalism. Some of this is created by a very Baptist way of reading history—where even Constantine (the emperor who ended the persecution of Christians) was evil and continued to persecute the true church.

However, there is more to it—there is a sincere desire to have a true believer’s church. There is a feeling that persecution would purge the unbelievers. However, any reading of the heresies encountered during the New Testament era, should counter such arguments.

Also, the Chinese church endured generations of persecution. Yes, it is growing, but heresies are rampant in the church there too. So, heresy is not simply a problem in the decadent West.

Persecution may be inevitable in the West. It may come to America. However, we should seek prudent means of avoiding it.

One prudent way is to understand how the Bible and moral philosophy encourage a vote for Donald Trump over any Democratic candidate.