Using Logic and Morality

I usually do not write articles as responses to those of others, however, this post is meant as a direct response to Dr. Wayne Grudem’s recent post If You Don’t Like Either Candidate, Then Vote for Trump’s Policies.  I will readily admit 1. Dr. Grudem far outweighs me in theological training, and years of experience and my comments on this article are not meant to reflect any judgment against him or his abilities. 2. A moral case can probably be made for voting for (almost?) any candidate running for president this year including Mr. Trump.  However, with that said I do not think Dr. Grudem has at all made the case.  This post is about how Christians have tried to baptize candidates, if it is based on one article and about one candidate, that is because I saw this one article and it upset me.  I have seen Christians do these same things in support of each of the four leading candidates.  I do not care who people support I am more concerned about why they support who they support and how they vocalize that support.

  1. logical fallacies

Right from the outset Dr. Grudem relies on misdirection and poor logic, he raises an objection to voting for Trump on moral grounds and then never refutes it (particularly his objections 1, 4, 5, & 11).  He talks of character being important and people raising objections to Mr. Trump’s honestly, integrity, and moral compass.  But, instead of answering these objections to Mr. Trump’s character he turns the argument against Mrs. Clinton’s character.  If one believes Mr. Trump to be a liar and fraud, you do not object with Mrs. Clinton is a liar and fraud.  The burden of proof is on him to show Mr. Trump to be honest and full of character (as Jerry Falwell Jr. is trying to do).  If as he says character is and will continue to be important in the election, then Christians are obligated to consider the character of both candidates. Telling a person Mrs. Clinton also lacks character does not mean that person should set aside worries about Mr. Trump’s character; it means both candidates have character issues.  This argument is simply changing the subject not addressing the concern.

Again, I stress I am not endorsing any candidate, I know individuals who have made what I believe to be honest decisions based on a moral framework to vote for each of the four leading candidates.  What I am railing against is the intellectual dishonesty in this argument, which claims to make moral case for one candidate and only ever destroys the moral character of the opponent.  I have seen it from Republicans whose moral case for Trump is destroying Clinton’s character, I have seen it from Democrats whose moral case for Clinton is destroying Trump’s character and I have seen it from Independent’s and Third Parties whose case is destroying the character of both leading party candidates.  “You do not make you candle burn brighter by snuffing out others around you.”

  1. Voting is in support of a candidate

My vote is cast in support of one candidate, not in opposition to another.  His argument in his first point (and throughout the piece) that a vote “for” a candidate other than Trump is in reality a vote “for” Clinton is flawed and a logical fallacy.  When we vote for a candidate we stand with that particular candidate over and above all others.  Dr. Gudem even says,  ”Voting for the candidate you think will be best for the country (or do the least harm to the country) is not a morally evil action,”.  His argument only works if one finds Mr. Trump to be a moral candidate.  Because he has failed to prove Mr. Trump to be a moral candidate his argument about giving votes to Mrs. Clinton is null.  If I put both of them in the same boat as devoid of character, then voting for either is mistaken because they will both do equal harm to the country.  I have said it in previous posts, this strategy smacks of atheistic pragmatism and not Christian conscious.   I have an obligation to stand by my morality regardless of what everyone else does, if I give up on my moral compass, then I have lost all.  I must be concerned with doing what I think right regardless of the outcome. Yes, if someone finds no  moral objection to voting for Trump (or Clinton) and votes for a third party, Dr. Grudem may have a point, but, if one votes for a third party because they find both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton unacceptable his argument does not work.

  1. Voting for the policies not the person

This brings me to Dr. Grudem’s main point, that the Republican party platform is more in line with Christian values than the Democrat party platform, and thus, voting for the Republican nominee is the moral choice.  This is a valid argument in and of itself, yet, there are two concerns which Dr. Grudem leaves out.  1. His basic point is debatable among Christian circles, & 2. He has yet to prove Mr. Trump has the moral character and integrity to hold to his party’s platform.  While I will not stress the first point much, it can be claimed that the Democrat commitment to social justice issues lines up well with the Gospels and that one could make the claim these values supersede those which Dr. Grudem lists.  I concede his values are valid and in line with the Gospel, and am simply pointing out that Christians make look at things slightly differently.  The greater concern is whether Mr. Trump actually holds to those values.  Dr. Grudem pointed to the rift between the party and its candidate (see objection 5), which raises the question “If the party holds these values, and the nominee and the party are in conflict, does the nominee hold these same values?”  This is a logical and sensible question, which is not dealt with in the article.  Again, it comes back to Mr. Trump’s character, something which has not been thoroughly proven.  A party platform becomes campaign lies if not acted on and if there is no indication that Mr. Trump will hold with his party then we cannot trust his party platform will be a foundation.  I am not saying, “Trump will not hold to the platform”; rather, I am saying, “One can honestly believe Trump will not hold to the platform”.

  1. Christian policies

The policies where Dr. Grudem supports Mr. Trump are simply a laundry list of Republican ideals, not Christian ideals.  Take for instance military buildup and securing borders.  Not that I am against either one; but, to list them as “good” policies when listing the moral rationale for Mr. Trump makes them seem like divinely ordained policies.  Many of the policies Dr. Grudem has listed are, frankly, open to discussion even among Christians.  Even if Christians did universally support military buildup (which they don’t) some might still tremble at a president willing to bomb innocent women and children (particularly with nuclear weapons) something Mr. Trump has said he would consider.  Also, while many want some sense of security within our borders they are not comfortable with Donald Trump’s comments on not allowing any refugees into the country, including Syrian Orthodox Christians. Christians can, also, easily argue that universal healthcare is a good thing and needs to be improved rather than repealed. In other words Christians can easily hold his positions, but, are not mandated align with them.  Christians have variety of ideas on how to implement the Gospel of Christ and even when these ideas overlap with political party ideals they are not always put forward in the same way.  All of this means there is reasonable doubt as to whether the Republican party platform is enough of a reason to vote for its candidate.

It should also not be assumed that because I wrote this about Dr. Grudem’s comments that all efforts to give moral ground to voting for Mr. Trump have been exhausted.  I never once disagreed with Dr. Grudem’s honest assessment of his candidate or even the future he predicts, what I disagree with is his trying to strong-arm those who disagree with him to coming to his conclusions.  I agree with Dr. Grudem’s assessment that a morally perfect candidate is impossible as we are all fallen people, yet, I say allow the standard which you use be equal for all candidates.  Use good reason and sense allowing for disagreements.  If you do not align with one candidate because of dishonesty make sure the candidate you side with is honest.  If you do not like one candidate’s temper make sure your candidate does not have the same temper. Do not compromise on such standards, just to win hold people to high account, after all, losing may mean you have vision where everyone else is blindfolded.

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