Reflections on Christian Voting

Letter from the Senior Minister, Second Presbyterian (PCA), Greenville, SC

I think it is imprudent for a pastor to endorse either candidate for President of the United States, since neither is likely to uphold clear biblical teaching as the guide for his government. This does not mean, however, that there are no important differences between the candidates and the parties. There are, I believe, clear matters where policy commitments can be seen to be generally supportive of or hostile to a biblical worldview. In cases where a candidate’s stated policies are directly contrary to God’s Word, such evil plans should not be supported by Christian votes.

 

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Ps. 118:9).
On October 7, 2012, some 1500 pastors challenged the Internal Revenue Service’s restriction on non-profit organizations against making political endorsements. In light of this, I was asked if I planned to join them in endorsing candidates from the pulpit of our church.

The answer was No, for two reasons. The first is the doctrine known as the spirituality of the Church, which means that the Church is an institution of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and His spiritual reign, and as such should avoid distracting itself by entanglements in the secular realm of politics (see John 18:37).

The second reason is that the Church should be very careful in endorsing candidates, leaders, or political parties whose agenda may very well be less than biblical. Christian leaders are wise, in my view, to avoid hitching the Church’s wagon to leaders and parties who are not committed to a fully biblical approach to governing. Moreover, pastors should avoid making statements concerning political matters where the Bible’s teaching is less than obvious: matters like tax rates, gun control, immigration reform, etc. Whatever a pastor’s personal convictions on these and other policy matters, he should only speak from the pulpit when he can confidently declare, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Does this mean, then, that Christians must remain silent on matters of great importance to the life of our nation?

In answering this, we must first distinguish between Christians and the Church. While the Church as such is called to the gospel witness of Christ’s kingdom, there are many Christians who are called to serve the Lord in the political sphere. Christians can and should, as called, serve in public office and be fully engaged in political activities. In fact, all individual Christians (pastors included) have a civic duty under God to participate in the political process (see Mt. 22:21).

Second, the Church itself has a role on God’s behalf of bearing testimony to the secular culture in matters of morality and religious rights. Where the Bible’s teaching is clear and obvious, Christians and the Church must not be silent. On occasion, I have felt it my duty to speak from God’s Word on specific government actions, including writing publicly against a referendum for state sponsored gambling when I pastored in Florida and in publicly rebuking a state senator for his complicity in state-sponsored euthanasia (the 2005 Terry Schiavo case).

In keeping with this approach, let me offer some advice on voting in America today from a Christian perspective. As I have stated above, I think it is imprudent for a pastor to endorse either candidate for President of the United States, since neither is likely to uphold clear biblical teaching as the guide for his government. This does not mean, however, that there are no important differences between the candidates and the parties. There are, I believe, clear matters where policy commitments can be seen to be generally supportive of or hostile to a biblical worldview. In cases where a candidate’s stated policies are directly contrary to God’s Word, such evil plans should not be supported by Christian votes.

I am not referring here to issues like economic strategy, immigration reform, or foreign policy, examples in which Christians may reasonably disagree, each of them bringing biblical perspectives. Rather, these are issues in which the Bible’s teaching is so clear that Christians cannot reasonably disagree and still honorGod’s Word, which indicate the worldview commitments of candidates and parties, and which therefore should play a large role in determining how Christians choose to vote:

  1. Abortion. I know of no greater corporate sin than the legalized slaughter of pre-born  infants in America. No candidate who defends or promotes this holocaust is worthy of a Christian’s vote.
  2. Moral Indecency. A candidate who seeks to normalize such gross sins as homosexual behavior, adultery, or extra-marital sex is not worthy to provide leadership to our nation. The same is true for leaders who support public vice in the form of gambling, pornography, and other forms of immorality.
  3. Marriage and Family. The folly and hubris of seeking to redefine the God-instituted relationships of marriage and family can only bring ruin to our nation. Candidates who seek to undermine biblical marriage and the authority of parents over their children are hostile to a biblical view of life.
  4. Religious Freedom. America was founded by Christians who fled their homes in order to practice their religious convictions in peace. A candidate or leader who would use government power to force Christian organizations to violate God’s Word (as is presently happening in the federal government’s requirement for Christian organizations to fund abortion through health insurance) should be opposed by Christian voters.

There are many issues in the upcoming eltion in which Christians may legitimately differ. Where there is no clear biblical position, in my view the pulpit should remain silent. Likewise, I am not aware of any candidate for public office who is worthy of being endorsed by a Christian church or pulpit (nor, in principle, should this be done).

I would strongly urge, however, that the above list contains matters on which Christians should have complete agreement, despite their other political or economic views, and I would urge you to keep such biblically-important matters in mind when you cast your vote.

As a final word, let me remind us all that Christ Jesus is seated on his throne regardless of the outcome in the coming elections. As Christians, our calling to biblical obedience, love for others, and the witness of the gospel will not change under either party. I am quite sure that either presidential candidate will fail to uphold a truly biblical rule for our nation, and therefore both will require our prayers and our courageous refusal to disobey God’s Word. Therefore, while doing our duty as citizens and caring deeply about important matters currently under debate, let us not invest too much in the outcome of this election. Whoever is elected and whatever party comes into power, the vital matter for our generation will still be the living witness of a true Christian people to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Let us pray for this election and for godly civic leaders, but let us pray even more fervently for the holiness of the Church and for God’s power to bring revival through our witness of the gospel.

Richard ‘Rick’ Phillips is a Teaching Elders in the PCA and serves as Senior Minister of Second Presbyterian Church, Greenville, SC.  This article first appeared in the church’s online newsletter, West End Herald, and is used with permission.