Myanmar’s military toppled the civilian government. Now the country’s diverse population is banding together in protest
In this issue, we offer contrary views of President Donald Trump from two people I greatly respect. First, Wayne Grudem, professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary, offers a positive perspective. Grudem is the author of Christian Ethics, Politics—According to the Bible, and 20 more books and was general editor for the ESV Study Bible. Here are edited excerpts from our Sept. 1 interview. (Click here to see David French’s perspective on Trump.)
Christian journalist and lawyer David French says Christians spent decades saying “character matters.” Now we rarely say that. What kind of testimony is that before the watching world? I recognize, and evangelicals in general who support Donald Trump recognize, that he has character flaws. But they do not seem to us to be disqualifying. Character matters, but policy also matters.
Can we separate character from policy, especially during a crisis? You partly judge a person’s character by the actions he takes. President Trump has made wise decisions regarding the coronavirus pandemic in the midst of misleading, lying information from China and conflicting advice from scientific and economic experts. On racial issues, his leadership led to an economy with the lowest black unemployment since we’ve been keeping records, with great gains among lower-income workers. He pushed for greater school choices in minority neighborhoods and stronger law enforcement to bring more safety to inner cities.
Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, “Donald Trump is the first person in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people. … He tries to divide us.” Mistaken evaluation? It’s bearing false witness against President Trump to say he seeks to divide us. He isn’t responsible for the rioting, the burning of cars, the blocking of public roads and sidewalks that began on day one of his presidency. No Americans legitimately have a fear of physical violence … for putting a Biden sticker on their car or wearing a Joe Biden campaign shirt or hat. But I know many evangelicals, including myself, who fear being physically attacked or shouted at if I were to put a Trump bumper sticker on my car or wear a MAGA or Trump-supporter hat in public.
The political left certainly has a lot to answer for, but what about the responsibility of Christian leaders? When Barack Obama made untruthful claims, he received a lot of criticism; but have we seen similar criticism regarding President Trump? I’ve publicly criticized his previous marital infidelity and his vindictiveness at times, and his brash, confrontational behavior at times. I looked at The Washington Post’s list of what it calls 16,000-some “lies” Trump has spoken and examined 20 or 30 of them. They’re what I’d call conclusions drawn by a hostile interpreter of words that a sympathetic listener would understand in a positive way. President Trump is often not careful in some of the things he says. He is given to exaggeration. Sometimes he’s made a statement after being given inaccurate information. I’m not sure he’s ever intentionally affirmed something he knows to be false, which is how I define a lie. As you know, I have written an ethics textbook. I believe it’s never right to affirm X when you believe X is false. If someone wants to point out to me some actual Trump lies that fit that definition, I’d be happy to look at them.
Will America in 2024 be in better or worse shape if Biden is elected, or if Trump is reelected? The Trump presidency has resulted in a stronger economy, stronger national defense, positive steps toward achieving border security, standing up to China and Russia, negotiating new trade agreements, advocating educational freedom, standing with Israel, strengthening our military, and reforming our judicial system. Those are all what seem to me to be evidence of God’s blessing on the nation with President Trump. If he wins again, I expect there will be more blessing on our nation. If Biden is elected, he’ll support abortion, cripple the economy, weaken our military, largely abandon Israel, select more judges who legislate from the bench, weaken religious freedom. We’ll have more crime, a complete federal takeover of our healthcare system, and much more that looks like the withdrawal of God’s blessing.
Character matters, but policy also matters.
How much power does the president have over abortion? The influence the president has on abortion, right now, is through the appointment of judges who will undo the protection that Roe v. Wade in 1973 gave to abortion. President Trump has appointed two Supreme Court justices who indicate they are willing to overturn Roe, which would allow the American people through state legislatures and through Congress to make laws restricting the practice of abortion that the American public in general would support.
What do you think about the Trump administration dropping the number of refugees allowed in the United States to an all-time low? We should allow more legal refugees to come into the United States, but we don’t have the national will to do that until we have a sense that there’s a secure border. Once that border wall is completed in all the major areas where it needs to be to have a secure border, it will be a calmer, more thoughtful atmosphere on the part of the American people to provide a just and humane solution.
We’re probably agreed that President Trump has faced a hostile media. The Media Research Center evaluated the evening news broadcasts of NBC, CBS, and ABC for all of June and July. It found for every negative comment about Joe Biden there were 158 negative evaluations or statements about President Trump. That’s led to popular misimpressions.
I’m not critical at all of people who look at the Trump-Biden race and vote for Trump as the lesser evil. I do wonder about those who call Trump the “Greatest Christian President” ever. I have not done that. He’s a good president with some flaws. It’s a choice between two flawed candidates, and it boils down to an issue of what policies he will enact.
—Read an opposing viewpoint from David French: “The case against Donald Trump”