If God has a standard, why aren’t Christians required to vote accordingly?
One troubling theme among Big Evangelical celebrities in 2016 was their outright work to suppress Christian voter turnout. Men like Dr. Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) were doing the dirty work of the Democratic Party by telling Christians not to vote for the only electable pro-life candidate in 2016. In 2020, the same cast of characters are working hard to prevent Christians from voting for Donald Trump. In other words, they are feverishly trying to help pro-baby murder candidates like Joe Biden. David Platt’s new book Before You Vote: 7 Questions Every Christian Should Ask is no different.
Platt pursues this purpose explicitly. He writes, “As products of human invention, political parties inevitably have idolatrous trajectories and trend toward positions that do not honor or reflect God’s character. No human political party has a monopoly on justice.3”
This is true. As far as it goes. No political party has a monopoly on justice. However, one political party is pro-baby murder—and that is the greatest injustice of modern history. Abortion is a modern holocaust.
Notice that 3. It signifies an endnote. The Kindle version of Platt’s book does not include the function of clicking on the number to see the endnote as so many Kindle titles do. Rather, one must scroll all the way to the endnotes to read a rather important point.
Platt relegates a critical item to this endnote. He puts a significantly important disclaimer where most aren’t likely to read it: “In this statement and the paragraphs that follow, I do not mean to imply that all political candidates and parties stand on equal moral footing. Inevitably, different candidates or parties will align more or less with biblical foundations in ways that will (and should) affect a Christian’s vote.”
That’s huge. And it is the opposite point one draws from reading the text of these chapters. Platt justifies Christians arriving at different political conclusions regarding how to vote. Indeed, that is the entire point of his book—unity over political division.
He does this citing Christian liberty (Chapter 6) and lack of biblical specificity on many modern political issues. Platt’s goal is Christian unity. For Platt, unity should trump politics. However, Platt fails to adequately address how there can be unity when some Christians cast votes that further explicitly immoral, anti-Christian policies.
Consider again his footnote. “I do not mean to imply that all political candidates and parties stand on equal moral footing. Inevitably, different candidates or parties will align more or less with biblical foundations in ways that will (and should) affect a Christian’s vote.”
If a political party aligns more closely with biblical standards, does it not follow that we should vote for that party?
And if we know one candidate more closely aligns, do we not have a responsibility to vote for that person?
And if we can know this, we should determe which policies most closely align with the Bible so we know for whom to vote.
That would be a far better use of our time.
Essentially, that is what Wayne Grudem pursued in his Politics According to the Bible. Grudem highlighted general principles and analyzed how contemporary political policies aligned with the biblical standard.
In contrast, Platt affirms there is a biblical standard and how that standard is knowable; however, he goes to great lengths to excuse Christians making different choices. For Platt, unity is the end that trumps everything.
But, if there is a biblical standard, isn’t it our responsibility to vote according to it?
Platt and all of us should ponder if unity is desirable at the cost is great error within the church. And not to put too fine a point on it, but anyone voting for a politician that is pro-abortion is likely in great error.
Why is this so hard for Evangelical Elites like Platt to affirm?
Can we have fellowship with Christians who promote murder?
God forbid. There can never be communion with such evil. Yet, some of our Evangelical Elites are averse to political turmoil.
Platt’s experience praying for Donald Trump highlights political division in America and the church, according to Platt. He writes, “We are swimming in toxic political waters that are poisoning the unity Jesus desires for his church, and we are polluting the glory Jesus deserves through us in the world.”
And of course, Platt tells us why he refuses to speak clearly. He opines, “Interestingly, however, many of these genuine followers of Jesus have conflicting ideas about who or what should be criticized or condemned.”
Would we defend those who have differing views on marriage? Slavery? Fornication?
What makes abortion or similar political questions any different?
Answering How Christians Should Vote for Platt is all about not judging other Christians
Platt then embarks on a quest to answer why Christians should be allowed to differ over politics. He provides this through answering Seven Questions on politics. The book is divided into chapters for each of these questions.
Question 1 is standard fare in any Christian political theology for an American audience—Does God Call me To Vote? The answer, of course, is yes. There is some good in this chapter in Platt’s handling of the biblical data. Platt rightly expounds on the creation of government (arising out of Noahic Covenant) and the limitations on government. He writes, “God does not give people the responsibility to prosecute all crimes that bring dishonor to him. God gives systems of governance to humankind in order to punish things like stealing or murder, but not things like selfish pride or false religion.”
This is accurate. God granted all men government and not only his chosen people. Of course, that does not mean government is necessarily excluded from working with religion; however, it is not necessarily part of its core mandate.
Platt writes, “The entire idea of a representative democracy—a government of the people, by the people, and for the people—means that we are not just the ‘governed’ in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2; in a very real sense, we are also the ‘governing.’ Our votes collectively shape our government.”
Then Platt promotes the nonsensical idea of “convictional inaction.” He calls this an idea, “which is basically a conscious and deliberate refusal to support any political candidate, organization, or party,” and done so that “political candidates, organizations, and parties in the United States might make significant changes in order to woo their vote.”
If both parties were equally evil, this would be a legitimate answer. However, if one party is worse than the other, then such inaction or quietism would naturally redound to the aid of the greater evil. This is fraught with moral problems and as Dr. William Lane Craig pointed out is a dereliction of the Christian’s moral duty.
Platt’s subtle attempt to suppress Christian voter turnout in the 2020 Presidential Election
Platt’s second question is another subtle attempt to lower Christian attention to important political matters. Question 2: Who has my heart? Outlines why Christians should not worry about political outcomes. Again, this is good as far as it goes.
Platt cites examples of Christians living fruitful lives under Islamic totalitarian states. Platt craftily uses this as an attack on politically active Christians. He writes, “Needless to say, Fatima and Yaseen have never considered putting their hope in their government. Similarly, their peace, joy, and confidence do not hinge on political leaders, platforms, or policies. Could we learn something from them?”
See what he did there? If you responsibly put time and effort into politics, then somehow you are not as good a Christian as those living under totalitarian states. This is crass manipulation. It implies conscientious political participation is equivalent to worry. Nonsense.
In this chapter Platt takes a few important points about God’s purpose for the state and the historical examples within Israel and Rome when leaders abused their trust. What should concern everyone is how subtle Platt is with implying
Platt concludes with a point that does not follow from anything written: “It means that as the church, we are not for Trump, we are not for Biden, and we are not for anyone else. It means that in any election, the church is not for any political party or candidate. No, we are for Jesus.”
What if one side is anti-Jesus?
If one candidate promoted slavery, would it not be clear the Christian Church should side with the anti-slavery politician?
In this election, one Party and one candidate is for baby murder. The Party expanded abortion in some states and one Democrat governor, the home state of Platt’s church in fact, defended infanticide.
Surely, the Christian church is on the side of innocent life.
To promote equality between the parties is theological and political malpractice. And despite Platt’s endnote protestation to the contrary, this is exactly what he is doing throughout the book.
This isn’t political theology. It is voter suppression. It tries to convince the reader that there are not legitimate and dire issues at stake. And this conclusion runs diametrically against most everything Platt writes in the earlier chapter about the goal of Christian political participation.
In fact, the biblical data Platt explores indicates that God holds His people accountable when they fail to act appropriately when holding power—and Platt also explains why Christians in America have immense responsibilities.
So, if God has a standard, why aren’t all Christians required to vote according to that standard?
A Neo-Marxist version of Jesus: Christian Politics reduced to helping the needy
Chapter 3 is another failure of basic reasoning. Platt creates a strawman of American rights versus Christianity. In his view, the rights we cherish as Americans are antithetical to the sacrificial calls of Christianity. Platt writes, “In a world full of rights, Jesus says, ‘If you’re going to follow me, you must die every single day to the rights you claim in order to do anything and everything I call you to do.’ In other words, Jesus claims the right to determine the direction of your life and the decisions you make.”
This is the pinnacle of confusion. In America, we have the right and privilege of deciding to follow Jesus and doing so freely. We are not compelled by an inquisition to submit to a specific version of Jesus. Nor are we compelled by the state to forsake Jesus under threat of persecution.
Rights are good. Privileges are good. However, Platt redefines these into bad things which contrast with Jesus’ commands. In fact, Platt goes so far as to demand Christians political thinking be determined by what other people need. He writes, “Contrary to the pattern of this world that prioritizes our rights, Jesus calls us to prioritize others’ needs.”
OK. What if what other people need is the freedom to make their own decisions free from state interference?
What if what other people need is an economy that rewards personal responsibility because that brings about the greatest possible good?
Even Platt’s biblical example of someone prioritizing other’s needs—The Good Samaritan—proves something important: the respective virtues of the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan are only known because each acted according to their own desires and not the mandate of the state enforced at point of the sword.
And this is the key problem with David Platt and much of modern evangelicalism—it confuses Jesus’ personal commands to charity and love with how the state should function. The state has a very narrow God-given mandate. The Christian has a different, more expansive individual mandate. We should cherish both and make sure to confine each to its respective sphere.
Platt expands the mandate of government from the apostolic instructions of promoting order, justice and peace to some type of economic crusade. He writes, “Doing justice means addressing laws, regulations, structures, and systems to better help those in need.”
This is stunning.
It is materialist at best and Marxist at worst. Platt transforms Old Testament injunctions against injustice and oppression into a mandate for helping those in need. Platt quotes several Old Testament verses to illustrate God’s care for the poor, the widow, etc. Then, he quotes from the New Testament, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
Platt then attempts to manipulate the reader into drawing a conclusion: “Might that also include our vote?”
Notice the key word here: Religion.
That is not a mandate for government. It is a mandate toward personal charity and responsibility. Our vote should be used to further God’s design for government—order, security—not establish some type of utopian do-gooder government committed to “helping” the poor. Rather, the government should do justice, which means respecting neither the rich nor poor. It should be neutral. It should protect both and do so impartially.
And that is the best way to help the poor. It is through an ordered, safe society (one without Democrats rioting in our cities) that the needy find the greatest economic opportunity. Lives improve when society is stable. In fact, as C.E.B. Cranfield noted, ordered society also aids the spread of the Gospel.
Cranfield explained, “It is implied that God wills the state as a means to promoting peace and quiet among human beings, and that God desires such peace and quiet because they are in some way conducive to human beings’ salvation. It is God’s purpose that the state should, by restraining chaotic tendencies of human beings’ self-assertion, maintain those outward conditions under which the gospel may be preached to all and sundry without hindrance.“
So, establishing government on God’s model is a Gospel Issue™ and something we as Christians should prioritize. We must not vote to help the poor. We must do that individually and as a church. In fact, the best way to help the poor could be creating a system of limited government intrusion into economic matters. In other words, a system that allows capital to allocate itself into the most productive ways so that wealth and jobs are generated.
How can I justify voting for pro-abortion Democrats?
Question 4 explores, What is the Christian Position? Or, what David Platt is really trying to answer: How Can I Justify Voting for pro-abortion Democrats?
Platt makes sure right at the outset of this chapter to explain the purpose. Defending “Christians” who vote for murder. He writes, “I looked across the table at the pastor, wondering if my ears were playing tricks on me. Invoking excommunication over a vote? Where is that in Scripture?”
He continues, “Yes, abortion is abhorrent. That’s clear in the Bible (which we’ll see in a moment). But is that the only issue at stake in an election? What about the scores of Christians, including overwhelming percentages of African-American Christians, who consistently vote for Democrats because of the party’s record on other issues that they also deem biblically important? Can you really conclude that they lack faith in Jesus and are on a road that leads to everlasting suffering because of how they weigh those other issues? Will you really exclude them from the church because they voted for a Democrat?”
Why not? Would you exclude an unrepentant murderer? Would you exclude an unrepentant adulterer? Would you exclude an unrepentant thief?
Why not then exclude the unrepentant pro-abortion voter?
If someone is so poorly instructed that they believe voting for murder and also for the persecution of Christians, they should be removed from membership until such a time that they understand their error.
Platt already affirms Christians have certain moral obligations since we are invested with political power. Also, Christians rightly affirm protecting innocent life is the primary responsibility of government (see Wayne Grudem, Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, etc.) Thus, it seems to follow that prioritizing the primary purpose for government should be the goal of Christian political participation.
Platt tries to have it both ways. He wants to affirm the Bible’s commands and then wants to finesse allowing people into the church who vote for policies that God prohibits. Then, Platt reveals his key concern—some people might get their feelings hurt.
Platt writes, “But decisions of who’s in and who’s out are God’s alone to make. So be careful not to take that stand and make that statement unless you can back it up with clear, direct words from God himself. Otherwise, be warned. You might be causing division in the church in a way that is contrary to God’s Word.”
And that’s what really gets Platt upset. A person voting for baby murder? Let’s not judge. Someone criticizing those who vote for baby murder? ALERT! POTENTIAL DIVISION!
This is an abomination. This is everything wrong with Big Evangelicalism. They are afraid to offend the Democrats in our midst.
Why? Is it love of the money they give? Is it the approval of these coastal elites? Whatever it is, God forbid that we ever prioritize feelings over truth.
And this is the truth: God is above politics. However, Satan is very much involved in politics and there is one party that furthers the Devil’s goals of murder and persecution of the church.
Chapter 5 pushes us further along into Platt’s goal of equating the Republican Party with the Democratic Party.
He writes, “The very argument itself leads us to a reality that we face as we vote in a two-party democratic system: we are making a choice between sinful candidates and imperfect parties. If both candidates and parties show evidences of God’s grace in their efforts at just governance, and both demonstrate man’s sinfulness in ways that lead to unjust governance, then every follower of Jesus who votes in the election must inevitably acknowledge and embrace some level of trade-offs.”
Of course. That’s what I’ve argued for many years. The world is fallen. Everyone is sinful. We are voting for flawed people. It involves trade-offs.
So many times in this book, I read Platt and exclaim, “Aha! You’ve got it.” Unfortunately, he then weasels out of the inevitable conclusions that follow from his analysis. He will affirm there are Christian positions, but then refuse to demand Christians adhere to them when voting.
“Christians should work to save children in the womb. This is the Christian position. And I should add that the Christian position is also to care for children out of the womb as well as their mothers in at-risk situations,” Platt writes.
The first part is true. “Christians should work to save children in the womb. This is the Christian position.”
However, the second part is not as clear a political priority: “The Christian position is also to care for children out of the womb as well as their mothers in at-risk situations.”
It is clear that the Church as a group and the individual Christian are commanded toward this type of charity.
However, there is nothing in Scripture that gives this type of function to the state. What makes this problematic is that government is given to all humanity—pagan and Christian, Gentile and Jew. This argues for government restricted to what can be determined by natural revelation. Further, the biblical data supports a limited government mandate.
Platt since his book Radical has shown a tendency to misunderstand capitalism and its inherent benefits.
But this is only the beginning of problems.
Then, Platt slides into a serious error. He argues that different Christians come to different conclusions about how to vote and this is OK because politics is difficult. His key point in this chapter is: “Christians might weigh these issues in different ways and come to different conclusions.” He attempts to explain and thereby justify how some Christians vote against abortion and others vote for abortion.
“But abortion is not the only issue involved in an election, particularly for the President of the United States. Every Christian has a host of issues to weigh in a presidential election,” he writes.
Would the Wokevangelical say the same thing about the Election of 1860? Slavery is just one thing on the ballot! God forbid we make such a political calculation.
Unity over truth
Chapter 6 covers unity in the church during a time of political turmoil.
He writes, “One prominent study across a variety of churches found that very few people attend church services with other Bible-believing Christians who hold different political views than them.7 This is tragic, and I don’t use that term lightly.”
Why is it tragic? Why should a conservative Christian who believes murder is sinful and has no place in the church attend a church where the pastor or large numbers of the congregation are voting for infanticide?
Platt then moves his argument into Romans to explore the idea of Christian liberty. He argues, “The Bible says that it’s good to have strong convictions about what we believe best honors Jesus, even in situations where we disagree with other Christians.”
However, this Christian liberty does not extend into areas where the Bible speaks clearly. And the Bible speaks clearly on abortion. Platt even affirms this. He writes, “In this way, pastors should speak authoritatively on issues that are clear in God’s Word, but they should never speak authoritatively on issues that are not clear in God’s Word.”
Abortion is clear. Why doesn’t baby murder disqualify a Christian from voting for a Democrat?
Conclusion: Platt’s defective voting schema
Chapter 7 attempts to provide an answer to How Do I Vote?
Platt urges the construction of a grid highlighting two factors: biblical clarity and practical consequences. He then urges placing political issues like abortion (social issues), national security, candidate morality, economic policies, and others on the grid.
“As you do, maybe your choice of candidate or party will start to become clear. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe you will come face-to-face with those difficult trade-offs and compromises. Maybe you will encounter that sinking feeling as you say to yourself, ‘I can make a case for or against both candidates and both parties.’”
The key problem of the book presents itself in this Chapter. Platt does not provide answers to how one should prioritize these issues. In fact, his schematic allows for a Christian to lower the clear biblical mandate to oppose murder.
This philippic fails because it refuses to take a clear stand. Platt fears offending and creating disunity in the Body of Christ. But, if he proclaims truth and it creates disunity, how is that a bad thing? Such disunity is part of the purifying nature of biblical truth. It confronts us in our error and demands we conform to God’s standard.
Ultimately, the Christian voter will rank voting priorities. Platt fails to provide definitive guidance on this issue. In contrast, to Wayne Grudem’s or Norm Geisler’s public writings, which boldly declare which policy and candidate are in compliance with biblical standards, Platt’s writing obscures a fundamental truth even he recognizes: one party is closer to God’s standard than the other.
If only that truth weren’t hidden in an obscure endnote.
This review was of David Platt’s Before You Vote: Seven Questions Every Christian Should Ask by DPZ Technology, Kindle Edition released September 28, 2020.