Evangelical & Judicial Pragmatism
We are most certainly living in unprecedented times. It is during unprecedented times that our thinking and reasoning must be at their sharpest. One of the reasons I find Calvinist thinking is that it usually comprises some of the most erudite thinking in the Evangelical community. Names like Johnathan Edward, George Whitfield, John Owens, Martin Luther, R.C Sproul highlight the names of some of the great minds of the Church since its inception. Of course, that is not to say there have not been great luminaries from the Arminian perspective. I happen to believe the great minds of the Reformation utilize a more holistic approach to biblical interpretation, but that is a discussion for another day.
One of the common refrains I have witnessed ubiquitously from so many on the Right is one of the chief reasons we must vote for the Republican presidential candidate is Republican presidents will ensure the right judges are seated on the bench. Notably the highest court in the land: the Supreme Court of the United States of America. We must recognize we must not ignore the vital role Federal Judges play in shaping the legal landscape in America. Hence, the issue is just not limited to Supreme Court nominations.
I would submit employing the premise that the right President will ensure the proper action is grounded in a pragmatic worldview. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Pragmatism is the secular based worldview that advocates society should make choices on the belief the said action will grant us the desired results. Anyone who is a graduate of the School of Critical Thinking understands as human beings; we can never ensure the right results. God, and Him alone, is the ultimate arbiter of what does and what does not take place in time and space. He declares from the throne room of Heaven that His ways are not our ways that they are as far as the East is from the West.
As one example, we can devise the most ingenious Evangelism strategy, and we could never ensure the conversion of one soul. The Evangelical worldview is never grounded in what we believe will work; instead, Evangelicals ground their activities in what we believe is right. That is the grave error of the modern Church in America today. It is this ideological approach that has birthed what Evangelical term as the Seeker Sensitive Movement. Churches have foolishly and recklessly designed their methodological approach to catering to what they believe “the seeker” wants.
If the Church determines “the seeker” desires dramas and skits, guess what the Church adopts as part of their worship experience. You guessed it, dramas and skits. If the Church determines the itch is energetic youth groups, then energetic youth groups become a first-level priority for the Church to offer to the alleged “seeker.”
There is just one fundamental flaw in this Evangelical approach. The Bible knows of no such “seeker.” The Holy Scriptures declares unambiguously that no one seeks after God (Romans 3). The Reformers fought valiantly for the Biblical understanding of the total depravity of humanity after Adam’s fall in the garden. Thus, every descendant of Adam and Eve are born with the innate ability to do anything whatsoever pleasing to God (Romans 8:6-8).
Pragmatism is not to be confused with being practical. All of our decisions should be grounded in sound reasoning. I run because there is a reasonable understanding doing so will increase the probability I can live a healthier lifestyle as I age, hopefully gracefully. The Church has sadly lost the belief we can trust in what was is true. We have become slaves to what we believe will work. The Bible posits if Christ is lifted up (i.e., proclaimed rightly and passionately), then He would draw all men to Himself. Tragedy, the Church demonstrated she does not trust what the Bible declares to be true. Consequently, we have the Seeker Sensitive Movement in full blossom all across the American landscape.
Now, we have Pragmatism entering the Evangelical political arena. I am bombarded each election cycle with the mantra Evangelicals must vote for Conservative candidates, especially at the national level, because doing so will ensure we get the right people on the Supreme Court. History reveals this is a fool’s errand:
Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973, with seven of the nine justices appointed by Republican presidents.
The alleged Conservative Jurists continually disappoint Evangelicals once they are seated on the bench
Justice Anthony Kennedy: sided with liberal Jurist in the Obergefell Decision
Justice Brett Kavanaugh: sided with liberal jurists in turning away a pair of petitions from Kansas and Louisiana seeking the ban on abortion providers
Justice Neil Gorsuch: sided with liberal jurists in recent landmark opinion extending civil rights protections to LGBTQ employees
Chief Justice John Roberts: for the second time in as many weeks, Chief Justice Roberts has sided with liberal justices to disagree with how lower courts have interpreted Supreme Court precedent
These examples demonstrate convincingly, at least to me, why Pragmatism rests upon an unstable foundation.
How did Roe v.Wade become the law of the land when seven of the nine justices were Republican appointees in the first place if Pragmatism is the Cat’s Meow?
Why do Evangelicals keep getting disappointed by decisions by supposedly Conservative Jurists?
We do so because we imbibe from the secular philosophy that Pragmatism works. Pragmatism never works in the final analysis because it is not a Biblical framework. It is hostile and foreign to a Biblical worldview solidly grounded in What sayest the Lord?
Consequently, I vehemently reject the Conservative call to vote for President Trump because He will enact the right laws or because he will nominate the right judges. I will remain resolved to vote according to an Evangelical, Biblical worldview grounded in not what will work (right judges and right results); instead, I will vote as Evangelicals, up until recently, have always grounded their decisions: What is True!
My fellow Evangelicals whatever happened to living in fidelity to: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” [emphasis mine]. (Philippians 4:8).
I close this blog post with some transparency. I am sincerely wrestling with how I am going to engage politically in this election season. Of course, voting for Joseph Biden is off the table. I find the moral character of President Trump highly problematic (and that is employing the most charitable language I can think of at the moment).
I still maintain the Republican Party, in the main, is playing “lip service” to things like moral fitness and character. The Republican Party spent the 1980s trumpeting their moral superiority and their repulsion of President William Jefferson Clinton. Yet, what happens when we have the same baggage associated with the candidacy of President Trump we get “crickets” from the Republican Party.
I have a meme of Franklin Graham lambasting the marital infidelity of President Clinton. Yet when the same offense is laid at the feet of President Trump Graham only advises, “We [Evangelicals} should pray for President Trump and his sexual affairs are a personal matter between the President and his wife.
Graham’s duplicity is one of the most egregious and irresponsible acts I have ever seen in my fifty- six years on this side of the River Jordan. You have got to be friggin kidding me with this level of hypocrisy. If it wrong when a Democrat commits the action, it still must be wrong when a Republican commits the same act.
I solicit your prayers that I come to the proper God’s honoring decision on how to vote on November 3rd. As of today, August 4th, 2020, I still give considerable weight to the following Biblical proposition:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” [emphasis mine] (Philippians 4:8).
I reject the notion Evangelicals should vote for the lesser of the two evils. Evangelicals are to shun the very appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22-24).
I reject the idea if Evangelicals insist on perfection, Evangelicals could never vote for anyone. The issue is never the perfection of one’s life. It is the direction of one’s life. If perfection were ever the right standard, then we are all doomed.
I reject the worldview Evangelicals are not electing Pastors when they vote. Dr. John MacArthur makes this argument, so this is one of those rare times I’m afraid I have to disagree with brother John. The Bible consistently reveals our civil leaders are to be morally fit. John Calvin’s famous quote is, “When God wants to punish a nation, He gives them evil rulers” should be memorized by Evangelicals.
How to vote in today’s political and racial climate is indeed a perplexing question for the sober-minded Evangelical seeking to be faithful to all the Bible reveals. I join with many of you on seeking to be as obedient as one can possibly be all things considered.
It is a near certainty we will not always arrive at the same landing spots. There is where the wise counsel of the great Church father, Augustine, is well served to you and I as we grapple in the dark: