John Piper recently released an article that reflects upon the 2020 election. As might be expected in the current political climate, people have begun to discuss the article.
As I read it, I perceive that Piper is making the claim that a good leader leads to a good society. Proverbs 29:12 says, “If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials will be wicked.” Positively, Jesus affirms that good fruit grows from a good root (e.g., Matt 15:19). When one’s heart is right, then he or she will do right.
Here then it seems that Piper emphasizes a traditional and biblical way to understand moral character and leadership. Christians generally have underscored the importance of virtue (character) in their leaders because virtuous people created virtuous laws.
Conversely, it is almost impossible to predict the future or the consequences of one’s vote for an immoral person. And even if it were possible, it seems morally grey to vote for an immoral person because of an expected just end (i..e, the end does not justify the means).
Character and Consequences
Christians decried the behaviour of Bill Clinton in the past and even others in leadership. The general line of thinking went like this. If one does evil acts, they should not lead a nation. Their moral qualities in fact qualify them for leadership—and drive the direction of their policies and behaviour.
Some time along the way, we changed how we thought (or modified it somewhat). Now we say the consequences of a leader matter most. We predict the future possible consequences of our leaders and use that prediction to lead our ethical choices.
While virtue and consequences both matter, I do think John Piper is, minimally, advocating for the more ancient Christian emphasis on character or virtue as the primary way to think about ethics, which in turn leads to a more just society. (just politicians make just laws, etc.).
I am not here exactly thinking about the consequences of Piper’s article on the American election. I am here reflecting on how Piper seems to be arguing. I think this is a fair way to receive the article though because Piper himself writes, “Nothing I say here is intended to dictate how anyone else should vote, but rather to point to a perspective that seems to be neglected.”
That perspective might be summed up most succinctly in Piper’s words: “There is a character connection between rulers and subjects.”
And so with Piper, I would not tell someone how to vote. Doing so may actually put me in danger of giving unwise counsel (to the ruin of someone else). I cannot predict the consequences of a vote in such a complex world.
I can however know what is now good and just. I can know that a just king makes just decisions. I agree then at least with this point that Piper makes. But read the article for yourself and then decide.
For my part, I appreciate that Piper has reminded us to consider the character of our leaders.
Mark Matthias says
“Christian emphasis on character or virtue is the primary way to think about ethics, which in turn leads to a more just society.” (Just politicians make just laws, etc.). Yet, for example, how many kings in ancient Israel did right in the sight of God? Seven(?)plus a few who were mixed from youth to adulthood. It is clear to me that modernization did nothing to improve mankind’s overall morality. It still about the biblical evangelical standard which is a far cry from the minds of men.
Yes, Wyatt, the criteria you gave for voting is proper. There have been some glorious moments of prosperity, even occasional periods of spiritual relief but those moments fit into the overall scheme of God’s things working together for our good.
So it’s at best the lesser of two evils — Trump “will become the best LGBT president ever”, he has said. That’s is not meant to be a denunciation, but just a simple fact of the cursed we live in; therefore, I would still vote for him because he is still by far the lesser of two evils.
Mark Matthias says
One thing that troubles me is the thing that is considered one of the most grievous abominations that God pointed out centuries ago has become the world’s new civil rights. But we are so deeply in the throes of Matthew 24, I can’t help thinking we are kidding ourselves regarding this election. So will it make a difference who wins? What if God gives the election to the Marxists? What will we do? I can’t imagine it would make any difference. Nothing in Scripture will miraculously change… we will go through as planned. I will vote but it’s more perfunctory than with any hope for an unfixable world which if God wanted to fix He could do that by just thinking it; however, He has other things on His agenda. I would not call this attitude pessimism because I don’t see any theological alternative.
Reuben Gobezie says
Man……how can someone who professes to be a Bible believing Christian support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris? How can the reviews of Piper’s article only speak of Trump’s character? Is Biden so beyond reproach that we have conceded that he is not possibly guilty of egregious sins, too? (there is emerging data to suggest that it may be so!)
Please, taking votes from the body of evangelical Christians [one of Trump’s largest voter bases] is tantamount to voting for Biden. Who would you need to not vote in order to hurt Biden’s base? The LGBT community, the technocrats currently governing group think, the ProChoice movement and organizations like Planned Parenthood etc., ANTIFA, BLM etc.? Is that who you think will bring a more Biblical worldview to our ailing nation?
Mark Matthias says
“…Is that who you think will bring a more Biblical worldview to our ailing nation?” A rhetorical question if there ever one — obviously not. Those true believers in the Savior walking in the Spirit will, however. Yet they are not running for temporal office — our office is in another kingdom ultimately… Philippians 3:20.
L Mailloux says