Should one’s position on Presidential choice be a test of Christian faithfulness?

There is rising criticism against ‘evangelicalism’ for their alleged, unqualified support of the presidency of Donald Trump. The criticism often paints a sweeping portrait that is much too difficult to substantiate both because of the wide tent of ‘evangelicalism’ and the broad and debated definition of ‘who is an evangelical?’ The same difficultly applies to the word ‘Christian.’

It is common knowledge, that in 2016 many ‘Christians’ voted for Donald Trump believing him to be the best of three possible choices. They could have abstained from voting at all; they could have voted for Hillary Clinton, and some did; or, as many did, they could have voted for Donald Trump. Many did not take the first choice, though there may be a scenario where they would. Many did not vote for Hillary Clinton, nor for Barak Obama in either of their elections, because their moral stances on abortion, sexuality, and marriage were so clearly contrary to the Bible. Many voted for Trump, not only because he had an evangelical vice-president, but because his verbal commitments were anti-abortion, pro-family as defined by Scripture, and to our First Amendment rights of religious freedom.  Hopefully, Christians did not vote for Trump because they saw him as the savior of an American theocracy where biblical morality would be imposed by law and, thereby, a “Christian Nation” would be established.  Hopefully, they did not vote for Trump because they saw him as a model of Christian character and morality. God forbid, that Christians ever seek to emulate or imitate politicians or other secular leaders, as models of Christian spirituality and morality, rather than look to Christ and those in the church of Christ who imitate Christ and follow the example of the Apostle Paul.

I have Christian friends who voted for Obama and Hillary. Some of those friends, by their own admission, have capitulated to the pressure of the culture they live in and no longer see issues of abortion, sexuality, and marriage as biblical.  I have other Christian friends who also voted for Obama and Hillary and, though they still hold a biblical position on abortion, sexuality, and marriage, they see others issues as of equal or greater moral importance, such as capitalism, immigration, care of the environment, social justice, etc.

I pray for and challenge my first group of Christian friends who have succumbed to culture pressure, not because of whom they voted for, but because they’ve abandoned the authority of Scripture in issues of life, sexuality, and marriage.

I pray for and, when possible and helpful, I engage my other Christian friends on those issues that they see of equal or greater importance. Certainly, the Bible speaks about economics, immigration, care of the environment, and social justice. Personally, when it comes to economics, I happen to believe in limited government, personal property rights and a free market; I am against the governmental practice of confiscating wealth through taxation and redistributing that wealth through social programs. This position come from principles based on my understanding of Scripture. It is not a test of orthodoxy. If it’s helpful and not acrimonious, I can discuss this issue with my Christian friends who may tend more to socialism or other economic theories. I can also discuss immigration, care of the environment, social justice, etc. Personally, I see all of the above as the kind of debatable issues that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14.  Sadly, for some of my Christian friends, their stance on these ‘debatable’ issues is for them and others clearly the only biblical stance. They see them not only as important as abortion, sexuality, and marriage, but perhaps more important.

For Christians who support and promote and condone a morality that is contrary to Scripture, I pray for them and honestly question how they can affirm Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, while rejecting the clear teaching of Scripture. Perhaps many have followed the errant path of Tony Campolo, who calls himself a red-letter Christian, accepting the teachings of Jesus, while not bowing to the authority of all of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

For Christians who hold to a biblical morality and the authority of Scripture, I continue to enjoy their fellowship, agreeing to disagree on debatable matters, but enjoying Christian unity in the gospel of Christ and the authority of Scripture.

Unfortunately, there is a greater challenge with Christians who have raised their view of what I call debatable issues to a test of Christian faithfulness. They judge the credibility of one’s profession of faith based on their views of economics, immigration, care of the environment, social justice, etc. I strongly disagree with them, but say with Paul, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” and “Everyone of us must give an account of himself to God.”

I do not know for whom I will vote in the 2020 election or if I will vote at all. My commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture has remained the same through Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump, since I became a follower of Christ in 1970.  No president has ever given me higher hope or deeper despair in everyday life or about the future. Jesus Christ remains my greatest treasure and deepest delight.

Philippians 3:20 But  our citizenship is in heaven, and from it weawait a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. 4:1Therefore, my brothers,whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Why We Recite the Apostles’ Creed at Grace Church

 From time to time I hear concerns from well-meaning people questioning our use of the Apostles’ Creed. Most often it has to do not so much with the content, but with their personal history of having recited it in the Roman Catholic Church or in a liberal denominational church.  Part of their conversion story is that in understanding the gospel of salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ they left a religious system that had corrupted and confused the gospel. We rejoice with them in their conversion and their choice to leave a faulty religious system.

However, in our use of the Apostles’ Creed and other ancient creeds we are reclaiming from corrupt religious systems what belongs to historic Christianity.  The content of the creed is thoroughly biblical and generally accepted by evangelicals around the world. Though there are some nuances of how one understands ‘he descended into hell,’ most would agree there is a biblical basis for the idea. We choose in our recitation to omit it. Others are offended with the phrase ‘holy catholic church’ because they mistakenly associate ‘catholic’ with Roman Catholic. Actually, catholic is good word that highlights the universal, worldwide expression of the church of Jesus Christ.  We replace ‘catholic’ with Christian to accommodate some of those sensibilities and misunderstandings.

The creed simply sets forth an ancient, historic representation of the Christian faith. It does not set forth how one becomes a Christian. Yes, it is possible to believe and recite the creed and not be a Christian, just as it is possible to recite the Lord’s Prayer or pray a ‘sinner’s prayer’ and not be a Christian. Nevertheless, the creed is helpful as a catechetical tool for believers but only secondarily as an apologetic tool for unbelievers.  We understand that both believers and unbelievers need more than the creed.

 Admittedly, though we recite the creed regularly at Grace Church of Philly, we are not totally satisfied with the creed – not because of what it says but what it does not say.  Had I been on the ‘creed editorial committee,’ I would have made the atoning work of Christ clear. For some reason I was not invited to that committee.  Here at Grace Church of Philly, we are committed to being gospel-centered. The gospel is the good news that Jesus the Redeemer-King has come. At the heart of the good news is ‘Christ died for our sins.’ Since there is no substitutionary atonement in the creed, there is no preaching of the gospel in the creed. That is why I say that the creed is primarily a catechetical tool for believers not an apologetic tool for evangelism.  It is both a personal and corporate confession and a teaching tool for those who already understand and believe the gospel.

 In contexts where the gospel has been eviscerated, the Apostles’ Creed is nothing but vain repetition, as is the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and the singing of “Holy, Holy, Holy” by most Roman Catholics, many Orthodox churches, and all theological liberals. But, in contexts where the saving gospel of Jesus Christ is central, the creed reaffirms elements of the historic Christian faith.  When recited by those whose hearts are being transformed by the gospel, the Apostles’ Creed becomes a hearty, personal and corporate confession of Christian belief, not vain repetition.

 The confession which begins with, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth …”, is rooted in what we have already confessed and continue to confess” “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”