Evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem has changed his position...
Wayne Grudem's moral authority is in question after the well known evangelical theologian endorsed Donald Trump, says Joshua Parikh
10/10/16 UPDATE: Wayne Grudem has withdrawn his endorsement of Donald Trump. Joshua Parikh has responded to the news by saying: "I am pleased to see Wayne Grudem's reversal of his position on some of the most damaging aspects of his previous endorsement of Trump. To do so requires humility, particularly when one has made such a public statement and tied ones credibility to that- I wish him the very best. It seems that even professors of Christian ethics for 39 years get things wrong..."
Wayne Grudem has been a highly respected voice of authority to many, and though I disagree with his complementarianism, I’ve not had completely negative views of his judgment, being a fellow evangelical charismatic. But I’m unfortunately disturbed by his recent endorsement of Donald Trump, both in style and substance.
I found Grudem’s analysis, for a professor of Christian ethics for 39 years, to be extremely shallow and misleading. Given Grudem’s theological authority and wide reach, his article demands a response.
Gruden writes, '[Trump's] many years of business conduct show that he is not racist or anti-(legal) immigrant or anti-Semitic or misogynistic – I think these are unjust magnifications by a hostile press exaggerating some careless statements he has made. … I call him “a good candidate with flaws”…'
'Unjust magnifications'? Seriously?
- Like commenting on female journalists as 'it doesn't really matter what [they] write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass'?
- Descriptions of women as 'fat pigs, dogs, slobs, disgusting animals'?
- Considering Carly Fiorina’s face sufficient reason not to vote for her?
- Like his insulting mimicry of a reporter with a disability?
- Like his threatening response to the Democratic Convention, where he wished to hit numerous delegates at the Democratic Convention 'so hard their heads would spin'?
- Like his stereotyping of most Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists? Like his accusation of a judge as biased because of his Mexican heritage, and remarking that he’d say the same if he were a Muslim?
What Grudem fails to mention
I could go on - because Grudem’s statement is ludicrous. Trump’s behaviour reveals a pattern of deeply entrenched and completely unacceptable bigotry. Max Lucado hits the nail on the head in his blog 'Decency for President' where he writes, 'Such insensitivities wouldn’t be acceptable even for a middle school student body election. But for the Oval Office? And to do so while brandishing a Bible and boasting of his Christian faith?'
Grudem says of Trump, 'I think most of the policies he supports are those that will do the most good for the nation'. Though Grudem offers weak evidence and reasoning for the broad sweeping claims which he makes, what’s more significant than what Grudem does mention is what Grudem doesn’t mention.
He doesn’t mention Trump’s egregious lack of political competence, having never been in any political position at all. He’s been accused of leaking classified intelligence on his first day of receiving briefings; he failed to make correct distinctions on nuclear weapons policy, saying instead that 'nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me'; he wouldn’t rule out using nuclear weapons in Europe because 'Europe is a very big place'; and he claims that 'I know more about ISIS than the generals do'.
One key argument I hear for voting Trump, which Grudem mentions, is that Trump would be anti-abortion, contra Hillary. This argument is strongest with third-trimester abortion, which Hillary is in favour of. Even many pro-choice people can be troubled by the idea of aborting the viable unborn. Doesn’t that carry overriding weight in our voting choice?
I disagree. To name some policies which outweigh Trump’s possibility (not certainty) of being pro-life in the Supreme Court:
The pro-life case, certainly when defended philosophically (e.g. Scott Klusendorf, Greg Koukl), depends upon an appeal to the consensus of science, arguing that the consensus of science has established that a foetus is a human being, it is wrong to kill an innocent human being, and therefore abortion is immoral.
Trump’s behaviour reveals a pattern of deeply entrenched and completely unacceptable bigotry
If we’re allowing the consensus of science, then the consensus of science is equally clear that man-made climate change is happening and the effects will be devastating if we do nothing about it. One peer reviewed article says: '[The] IPCC states unequivocally that the consensus of scientific opinion is that Earth’s climate is being affected by human activities… IPCC is not alone in its conclusions. In recent years, all major scientific bodies in the United States whose members’ expertise bears directly on the matter have issued similar statements.' It is entirely illegitimate to make appeals to the consensus of science on abortion, and yet to ignore those very same arguments when it comes to climate change.
Grudem wants to talk about millions of dead children. But what about the millions of children who will die in floods after rising sea levels; when tropical diseases spread more quickly; when crops fail for farmers across the world. Trump believes 'The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.' Hillary believes in science and has pledged to tackle climate change more fully. Grudem’s silence on global climate change is crucial and revealing, particularly given his opinions on energy policy.
Misogyny and violence
There is no engagement with violence against women. Hillary has advocated against violence against women around the world, and has made numerous pledges to act against it as President and campaign against human trafficking and campus sexual assault.
Grudem's analysis contains no engagement with the refugee crisis where hundreds of thousands have been displaced from Syria in its devastating civil war. Nothing is said about those living in refugee camps where rape and domestic abuse are rampant. There's silence about the thousands crossing the Mediterranean not to mention those who have drowned on their way. Hillary, on the other hand, has pledged to take in 55,000 more refugees. Trump has pledged to ban all Muslims from entering the USA.
Jesus’ championing of the vulnerable and care for all is the antithesis of Trump.
There is no engagement from Grudem with Trump’s promotion of war crimes and torture. Trump says that 'we are going to have to do the unthinkable', and calls for soldiers to 'beat the savages.' Trump calls for the army to bomb terrorist’s houses, containing women and children - a war crime under the Geneva Convention - and that he would force the army to do it even if they resisted (a since retracted position). Grudem has the temerity to praise Trump’s foreign policy.
There is no engagement with Trump’s praise of violent dictators - on the Turkish uprising, where violent suppression has culminated in mass detention without trial, rape and torture, saying about President Erdogan that 'I do give great credit to him for turning it around'; on Kim Jong Un for how we’ve 'got to give him credit' for the way he dispatched with political rivals, multiple comments praising Vladmir Putin, recently claiming that Putin 'is not going into Ukraine' despite having invaded Crimea.
A global risk
I also dispute Trump’s economic expertise. Global markets fear a Trump presidency, being ranked among the top 10 global risks, while Obama has seen millions of jobs created under his leadership, following a devastating financial crisis. Trump also has an enormously mixed business record, which Grudem glosses over. There's no engagement with Trump University or Trump’s multiple bankruptcies.
More than this, Hillary has some noble characteristics. Taking just one: in a Congress Report on sexual violence in African conflicts, where hundreds of thousands have been raped in the DRC, Alexis Arieff records Hillary Clinton’s contributions:
'Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spearheaded the Administration’s efforts through multiple public statements, official travel, writings, and actions at the United Nations. On September 30, 2009, Clinton chaired a U.N. Security Council session on women, peace and security in armed conflict; the session resulted in the unanimous passage of Security Council Resolution 1888, which pertains to sexual violence in conflict situations…Secretary of State Clinton traveled to…eastern DRC, where she met with rape survivors, medical providers, health care activists, and displaced Congolese...The Secretary also announced $17 million in “new funding” to assist women [here]…'
Grudem states that Trump’s policies would do the 'most good for the nation'. Really? When Jesus is our paradigm of good, I see a Jesus always took the side of the vulnerable - defining the hated Samaritan as our neighbour, identifying with the outcast - going out to see the leper, the prostitute, the woman at the well, the tax collector - and challenging us that 'whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me also', making our attitude towards the least of paramount importance - not just the unborn, but the refugee, the tsunami survivor, the rape victim, the trafficked child. Jesus’ championing of the vulnerable and care for all is the antithesis of Trump.
Many struggle with their decision in this USA election. Therefore, Grudem carries a responsibility to provide fair and thorough analysis when making this kind of endorsement - and particularly when presenting it as a considered and scholarly decision. I do not believe Grudem has done so and consequently Grudem’s spiritual and moral authority has been damaged. I hope that as election month approaches and the competition becomes really brutal that well-known evangelicals will choose to use their platform to first and foremost speak for Christ and what he stood for.
Joshua Parikh is a student studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University
Opinions on the latest trends, topics, news and culture from a Christian perspective.