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Evil as Virtue: The Evangelical Moral Decline

Sat, Jul. 30, 2016 Posted: 12:47 PM


It is difficult to overstate the damage done to modern American Evangelicalism by the public face of the evangelical sect of Christianity, because of the broad endorsements of Donald Trump from influential evangelicals. With their full embrace of the politics of expediency, the eschewing of fundamental evangelical principles, and inexplicably promoting, employing and encouraging evil means to achieve their goals, evangelical have completed their apostasy.

Yes, apostasy. This is not an accidental or incidental backsliding, but a deliberate, purposeful withdrawal from the most important evangelical values, against the warnings and admonitions of a remnant of true evangelical leaders.

Whither the Moral Majority? David Brooks wrote the following for his column Democrats Win the Summer, in the New York Times on July 29th: “Trump has abandoned the Judeo-Christian aspirations that have always represented America’s highest moral ideals: toward love, charity, humility, goodness, faith, temperance and gentleness.” That is after the evangelicals managed to convince themselves that Trump is a Christian, and their champion. Now it has been reported that almost four out of every five white evangelicals will vote for him.

The Normalization of Evil

Wayne Grudem, who teaches Christian ethics, wrote in the Christian Post that Voting for Trump is a Morally Good Choice. He went through a tortured reasoning process to rationalize voting for the lesser evil and capped it off by quoting James 4:7: "Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."
He says it is the right thing to do. That is an example of how morally obtuse evangelicals have become. When a teacher of Christian ethics tells you that it is a sin not to embrace evil if you can use it for a greater good, evangelicals have a deep spiritual crisis.

His arguments may be convincing for many who do not read and study scripture for themselves, especially when he pricks them with: “…the teachings of Scripture do not allow us to escape moral responsibility by saying that we decided to do nothing. The prophet Obadiah rebuked the people of the Edom for standing by and doing nothing to help when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem: "On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that . . . foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them." (Obadiah 1:11).”

The tenor of Grudem’s argument seems to be that Trump would be better for the country. Therefore, according to the scripture in Obadiah, we have a moral responsibility to God to vote for him. But that is a misuse of the text unless he is saying that foreigners are taking over the country and Trump is going to protect us from the horrors that will ensue. In which case, he is selectively using scripture to further his politics.

In context, this was a charge against Edom specifically for its hatred of Israel, not that they should have helped. Let’s get that straight. They were aloof because they did not actually enter Israel as the foreigners did; but they still stood in judgment because they gloated at Israel’s calamity, and God regarded their hatred as no different from that which led to the plunder by the foreigners.

To get where he has, Grudem had to convince himself that the man who is a pathological liar (he lies at four times the rate of his opponent); who despises those who are not like him; who thinks he does not need forgiveness from God; who has barely stepped into a church in his life; who says Christians should not pray for some of his opponents; who espouses violence against others; who attracts and refuses to denounce his white supremacist supporters for their hate; who just want to punch somebody, is not evil. Grudem, however, seems comfortable in implying that Trump’s opponent is evil, even though by any measure she is not close to that level of moral debasement. At the least, if she is evil then he is evil also.

The astute student of scripture knows that nowhere does the bible justifies, advocates or encourages evil for any purpose. Evil is never excused. Christ died to save us from evil. Yet, Grudem and others seem to be saying that if our intent is to use evil to fight a “greater” evil, or if we can excuse the evil for the cause of the greater good, then the evil we enlist is not so bad after all; in fact, it is our moral, right and godly responsibility to go all in, or stand guilty of sin. Evil, in their view, can be a virtue. God forbid!

The Sins of Jeroboam

In 1 Kings 12, the bible tells how Jeroboam, the first king of Israel after the kingdom was divided following Solomon’s reign, led the people away from the traditional and true worship of God. Instead of maintaining the rituals handed down by the patriarchs, he set up an alternate system complete with his own priests, because those ordained for the priestly role refused to participate in the apostasy.

Jeroboam’s motivation was fear of losing power. The result was that he rejected God for the pagan gods and caused the people to engage in the sin of idolatry. God in mercy sent a prophet to warn Jeroboam of his error, and instead of heeding the warning, he attacked the messenger and was struck with paralysis. Again, God showed mercy, but Jeroboam ignored the warning of judgment and continued in his madness, leading Israel into deeper idolatry.

Evangelicals have moved away from the tradition of true biblical morality and have established a religion of relative morality. They have attacked those who tried to warn them of their error, and called Russell Moore and Albert Mohler liberals; a term of derision in religious conservative right wing parlance. They are rejecting all warnings of the danger of compromising with evil for the sake of politics, and have become hostile to those who would oppose their error. They compound their offence by leading others astray in their sin.

A Solemn Warning

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23, NKJV).

It has become easier to understand what Jesus meant by observing the moral decline of evangelicals. James tells us that God has nothing to do with evil, and does require anyone to engage in it (James 1:13). Paul tells us that we should abstain from every form of evil (Thessalonians 5:22). To see the constant compromise for political reasons that evangelicals have made over the years is troubling.

Peter says “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). Evangelicals must examine their loyalty to God, and whether their religion is genuine. Is compromising their faith for political victory a good risk? What have they received on their investment? Every indication from a biblical perspective is that they have strayed from the path of righteousness. There is no sin in righteousness, and all sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). There is a great danger of convincing themselves that they are serving the cause of Christ. That would be an eternally tragic mistake.

Marvin Thompson