It is not a secret or a controversy that evangelical Christians overwhelmingly vote Republican. But the selection of Donald J. Trump as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for 2016 has thrown many evangelicals into a quandary.
For the most part, evangelicals cannot stomach Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee. To vote for her would not only violate their political principles as conservatives, it would violate their consciences as Christians.
But what to do about Trump? What should Christian votes think about his open dalliances with women, including his adulteries? Though claiming to be pro-life, what are they to think of his decades-long support of abortion; and more recent support of Planned Parenthood? What are they to make of his temperament, which is more impertinent than presidential, and his language, which is more Machiavelli than measured? And how should they interpret his claims of Christian faith with his claims to have never asked God for forgiveness? Is he even qualified to be president? In short, how should Christians vote this presidential season?
Tony Evans, pastor at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, can help us answer this question. In his short book How Should Christians Vote?, written during the 2012 presidential contest between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, Evans encourages us to return to first principles.
Evans reminds the reader that at the beginning, God established four forms of government:
- Individual, whereby each person is responsible for controlling his or her life according to the principles and precepts of God’s Word.
- Family, which is the foundation of civilization—of civility, of that which is good, true, and beautiful.
- Church, which serves—or is at least intended to serve—as the moral conscience of the culture.
- Civil,whereby governments are instituted to create and maintain a righteous and just society in which humans can flourish as free beings.
Evans points out that the civil government should never interfere with, negate, contradict, or seek to replace the other forms of government God has established. Rather, civil government should support and encourage the individual, the family, and the church.
Unpacking the classic passage on the relationship between Christians and civil government—Romans 13:1–7—Evans sums up the biblical responsibility of government: “Under God, the government is to promote the conditions for the wellbeing of the citizenry for good, while protecting the citizenry against the proliferation of evil. And since civil government is to operate under God, He—and not man—must be the ultimate standard of what is good or evil.”
And what is good? Liberty, life, justice, righteousness, and human flourishing. Evans writes: “Every voting choice you exercise ought to be for the candidate, platform, party, or policy that will best represent the values of the kingdom of God.” It is God’s values that promote human flourishing, which includes keeping civil government within it’s proper bounds of authority.
Whenever the civil government encroaches upon the other three spheres of government (individual, family, and church), tyranny rises and freedom retreats. This can be seen in confiscatory taxation, taking more than is necessary for the proper function of government and engaging in redistribution programs—neither of which is lawfully theirs to take nor to give. This can be seen in increased efforts to control the marketplace. Centralized governmental control of the economy is of the Antichrist (Revelation 13:17); it is socialism and communism run amuck. This can be seen in language and laws meant to restrict our freedom of religion. And this can be seen in coercion to accept immoral practices and procedures under threat of keeping your children from pubic schools or the defunding of schools.
When the civil government begins to act uncivilized—that is, acting in rebellion against God and His standards—then the nation must bear the consequences. And when this happens, God’s people are called upon to take action to restore God’s authority and see His kingdom agenda carried out. Evans tells us that the way to go about this is not through revolution, but through transformation—through interposition or the advocacy of God’s people on behalf of the nation. “The reason interposition is so critical in the political arena,” Evans writes, “is that if righteous people do nothing, there is no reason that God should not bring judgment on . . . society. If His people sit on the sidelines, there are no other agents to stay the hand of God.”
Interposition might take the form of personal protest, as Daniel did when required to eat the king’s food that had been sacrificed to idols, which was prohibited in the Word of God. Daniel offered an alternative and so escaped having to engage in the second form of interposition: civil disobedience. This was the only option for Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when forced to bow before Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol. Interposition might take the form of praying for the nation—for candidates, for government officials, for culture makers.
And of course, we should engage in interposition by voting—which brings us back to the central question: How should Christians vote? Quoting Evans again:
As a believer and a child of the King, to consider casting a vote for someone or for something that would go against what God would vote for ought to be out of the question. . . . When people ask you how you are going to vote in any upcoming election, your answer shouldn’t be “I’m going to vote with this side” or “I’m going to vote with that side.” Your answer ought to be, “I’m voting with God because He has His own side. I am going to vote for the party, person, or platform that best represents God’s values to advance His kingdom.”
In other words, you should vote for the person (platform or policy) that protects and promotes individual freedom and responsibility; heterosexual marriage and the family structure as God designed it; freedom of religion, recognizing and respecting the church’s authority as the divinely ordained conscience of the nation; limited government—so as not to infringe or intrude upon the other forms of authority, but rather to support them; and righteousness and justice so that freedom may flourish.
Your vote should be for those who protect and promote life, liberty, justice, and righteousness as God defines them; and for the one who desires maximum freedom for people to responsibly and safely live their lives and pursue their calling under God. In short, your vote should be for those who protect and promote human flourishing.
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