Wayne Grudem is a famous and infamous theologian. His seminal work “Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine”is required reading for many theology students. I trudged my way through it last year, when I was forced to read it for an internship. Of the full version Systematics text books I have read (fully or partially), I would give Grudem the distinction of being the Edmonton Oilers (a perpetual bottom of the table finisher). My thoughts on Systematic Theology are not the point of this post, but I was not a fan of his method and approach.
Grudem is also now for two other controversial theological positions. This first is his position as a key voice in complementarian theology movement and the second is his position on the Eternal Submission of the Son to support that theology. I disagree with the first position and the second has received criticism as being contrary to the Nicene Creed and thus possibly heterodoxy. I will add links at the bottom if anyone wants to trace the ESS debate.
My point today is about the current political situation south of the border. I am Canadian so I am not specifically involved in the process of the American election. I am also an evangelical (although that label is becoming more and more meaningless) Christian and I care deeply about the current state of the church in North America. A week or so ago, Grudem wrote an op-ed that argued voting for Trump is the ‘morally good choice’ and intimates that voting for Clinton is sinful. There have been many reviews of what Grudem has said, the flaws and why his position is wrong. (Three good ones are Amy Gannett, Scot Mcknight, Jonathan Merritt).
I want to make one small contribution to the discussion. This is not the first time that Grudem has written an article urging people to back a specific candidate. During the primary season leading up to the 2008 presidential election, Grudem wrote, Why Evangelicals should support Mitt Romney. He was adamant that Romney was the only candidate that could beat Hillary Clinton in the 2008 election. He said if we don’t support Romney, former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani would be the Republican nominee. Well, Clinton lost the nomination to Barack Obama and John McCain defeated both Romney and Giuliani to win the Republican one. The election was all but over the moment McCain selected Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Grudem starts both pieces with an appeal to his authority. In 2007 he was “an evangelical professor of Bible and theology” and in 2016 he is “a professor who has taught Christian ethics for 39 years”. Much of the two articles are pretty similar, a defense of his candidate, an apologetic for their perceived flaws (both grossly exaggerated) and a positive case based significantly on their position on SCOTUS nominees.
But the two Grudem pieces differ significantly in one area. 2007 Grudem says “[if we don’t vote for Romney] then we will have a pro-abortion, pro-gay rights candidate [Giuliani] who is on his third marriage and had a messy affair prior to his divorce from his second wife. Then we will lose any high moral ground and the enthusiasm of the evangelical vote”. 2016 Grudem says instead “[Trump] has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages. These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.”
Would 2007 Grudem vote for Trump? Maybe, but three marriages and an affair was disqualifying to Giuliani but a mere flaw for Trump. Grudem is not saying Giuliani is disqualified only because of his position on those two issues, but based on his own personal moral actions. No, Grudem decided to look past personal morality when convenient. If Grudem’s premise was that Trump was morally disqualified, but the only choice, I could look past it. But he went further than that, he said Trump is a good candidate but flawed and Trump is the morally good choice. I understand the difficulty of making political decisions in this climate. I am Canadian, and you think choosing a candidate and a party to support in the States is difficult, try choosing one in Canada as a Christian. It is incredibly hard and you are never happy. My conviction is that 2007 Grudem (as flawed as he was) needs to have a talk with 2016 Grudem. As Amy Gannett says, “…I fear that we’re going to lose an entire generation because of the actions, words, and teachings of some Evangelicals. Including Wayne Grudem.”
This year we have an unusual opportunity to defeat Hillary Clinton and the pro-abortion, pro-gender-confusion, anti-religious liberty, tax-and-spend, big government liberalism that she champions. I believe that defeating that kind of liberalism would be a morally right action. Therefore I feel the force of the words of James: “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).
Eternal Submission of the Son Links
Geoff Holsclaw Responds to Bruce Ware
Is it new? Yes, Is it Orthodox No!
Mortification of Spin Specifically: Trueman (you can trace the links through his posts).
There are so many more links out there.