Beliefs Culture Ethics Faith Jonathan Merritt: On Faith and Culture Opinion Politics

Wayne Grudem, Donald Trump and admitting when you’re not an expert

(Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore -

(Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore –

Reading theologian Wayne Grudem’s article, “Why voting for Donald Trump is a morally good choice,” felt like watching a Jell-O throwing contest. For approximately 5,000 words, Grudem tosses handfuls of disparate arguments at a proverbial wall in an effort to make a conservative Christian case for Donald Trump.

I disagreed with many of his arguments, but I applaud Grudem for his chutzpah. It’s an admittedly difficult task for a pietistic evangelical to make a principled, Christian case for an arrogant, foul-mouthed, thrice-married, misogynistic businessman who made millions from the gambling industry, has bragged repeatedly about his sexual encounters, threatens to kill the families of his enemies, and once graced the cover of Playboy magazine.

His thesis is that “there is nothing morally wrong with voting for a flawed candidate if you think he will do more good for the nation than his opponent. In fact, it is the morally right thing to do.” But throughout the article, Grudem’s arguments clash with Grudem’s arguments. For example, he claims that Trump is merely a “flawed” person who “blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon,” while Clinton is evil and voting for her is sinful:

This year we have an unusual opportunity to defeat Hillary Clinton and the pro-abortion, pro-gender-confusion, anti-religious liberty, tax-and-spend, big government liberalism that she champions. I believe that defeating that kind of liberalism would be a morally right action. Therefore I feel the force of the words of James: “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).

When the article concluded, I found myself chewing on a different question than the one posed by the article. I wasn’t pondering whether Donald Trump was a “morally good choice.” I was left wondering which field Wayne Grudem thinks he is an expert in, exactly. Theology or public policy? From where I’m sitting, it’s difficult to tell.

Wayne Grudem wrote the book on systematic theology. Literally. His nearly 1300-page Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine is required reading among some conservative Protestants. Recently, however, the theologian decided to become a political scientist.  In 2010, he published a political textbook that was a 624-page mishmash of theology, political theory, and public policy discussions.

The book was a junk drawer of political issues. It argued that “a school voucher system should be adopted by every school district” and why appointing “originalist” judges is today’s most important issue. Grudem argued detailed positions on private property, social security system, the internal revenue service, automobile CAFE standards, the CIA, the Fairness Doctrine, nuclear weapons, farm subsidies, liberal media bias, and “the best cure for recessions.”

It was a stunning picture of an expert in a specific field who, on a dime, decided he was an expert in another field. Can one be an authority on how salvation works and how social security works? Can one be a thought leader on the Trinity and the United Nations, on modern gun control and ancient Greek? It’s possible, I suppose, but unlikely.

This kind of behavior, I have noticed, is particularly endemic among conservative Christians. If you’re a pastor or theologian, evangelicals seem to believe you’re somehow qualified to do almost anything. In this world, a pastor can become the principal of a private school (with no background in education). They become an editor at a book publisher (with no background in writing). They can even run a multimillion-dollar financial investment company (with no formal education or experience in finance).

I once debated a Christian leader at a university in South Carolina. In his opening remarks, he argued detailed positions on economics, politics, theology (including the proper interpretation of certain Greek and Hebrew words), and science. I decided to skip my opening remarks and ask a question instead: “You’ve presented yourself as an expert in at least four distinct fields. For the sake of our conversation, can you please tell us exactly which field you’re an expert in?” My opponent laughed me off, but the question was quite serious.

There is nothing wrong, of course, with a theologian or pastor or automobile mechanic or anyone else offering their opinion on a political issue or candidate. No one is restricted to speaking about a single topic or field of topics. And it’s important to have interdisciplinary conversations. But Grudem’s article makes no space for uncertainty, no room for dissent, and uses definitive, dogmatic language.

There is a difference in arguing one’s opinion for consideration and setting up oneself as an authority. There is a difference in presenting one’s thoughts on a matter and penning sprawling textbooks on the topic. There is a difference in defending what one believes to be true and stamping “thus saith the Lord” on whatever conclusions you’ve drawn and labeling dissenters as sinners.

So I think there is a lesson here for all of us, whether you’re a theologian like Wayne Grudem or a religion columnist like me. We must all work hard to infuse our work and words with integrity. We need to admit when there’s ambiguity. We need to resist the temptation to speak authoritatively on every detail of every matter. After all, the person who attempts to become an expert in everything often ends up an expert in nothing at all.

About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.


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  • Jonathan, I noticed that there was no opportunity for comments on the Grudem article. Doesn’t his exhibition of deception and poor character also cast doubt upon his religious texts, even though this is his field? It would seem that one who employs dogmatism and emotional manipulation shouldn’t be considered trustworthy, except by those who require authoritarianism to feel safe and secure? It would seem Grudem did not arrive at any of his conclusions, whether those in his field of expertise or those outside, by careful examination of evidence and opposing viewpoints, but due to accepting indoctrination, defending it and conforming and exhibiting loyalty to the cause the pays his bills and provides him with social status. I haven’t followed Grudem, but recall that he was involved in promoting rigid gender roles, certainly ones that would shut up people like myself 🙂

  • As odd as it may sound I think you could make a case for the argument that more people put faith in politics than in God. What I mean by that is that people are convinced that their ideas and candidates are correct in a supernatural way. We regularly see partisans ignore (and deny) certain truths and untruths in order to remain comfortable within their own political faith bubble. Look at the political discourse in the United States and tell me that it is not beyond reason. Politics becomes more problematic for Christians when one conflates political parties with religious principles (i.e., the Republican Party is the “values” party, and the Democratic party is the party of “pro-abortion, pro-gender-confusion, anti-religious liberty, tax-and-spend, big government liberalism”). Paul tells us in Phil. 3:20 that our “citizenship is in heaven.” We are visitors in this world. Our task is to make disciples, not to the Republican or Democratic Party, not to Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but to Jesus Christ. Jesus’ mercy is the same toward the supposedly “godless” Democrats as his wrath is toward the supposedly “godly” Republicans. Our task is not to judge, not to try to weigh which sins God takes seriously and which he overlooks (ans: all, none), but to love. In fact, Jesus is not a member of either political party, nor is he an American. Our political choices must arise from our discernment of how best to carry out our Christian mission.

  • I would have liked to have seen some discussion about the possibility that Grudem, at bottom, thinks Hillary Clinton is unqualified simply because she’s a woman. Remember, Grudem is one of the big movers and shakers behind the doctrine of “Eternal Subordination of the Son*,” which has shown up in recent decades as an attack on women’s equality in the church. He’s also the author of a list of 83 things women can and can’t do in churches because we’re women.

    *For the record, Grudem is taking some flak from other theologians who have come to the conclusion that ESS is a kind of semi-Arianism and not in conformity with the Nicene Creed.

  • Wayne Grudem is so driven by his deep denigration of women that he simply can’t see past it. Nor can he even be a decent theologian because of it. He’s just another wee little man who is terrified of anything that is female. I would feel sorry for him if I hadn’t not experienced first-hand the damage he has caused for women in the Evangelical world.

  • “Love” and “Christian mission” aren’t going to be on the ballot in November. The only two viable names that will be there are Trump and Clinton.

    So either one votes for, and thereby supports, Trump and his agenda or Hillary and her agenda. Third-party votes and stay-at-homes are also votes for Hillary.

    Expert or no expert, Dr. Grudem’s paragraph about Hillary that Merritt quoted, is totally correct (although Grudem could have emphasized the unprecedented national evil of legalized gay marriage under Obama/Hillary’s watch).
    So for what it’s worth, I’m going to vote against Hillary.

  • Since when is a theologian an expert in any given subject? Theology is the least academically rigorous study out there. At best their skill set amounts to knowledge of a given sects set of arbitrary rules and the creative excuses to support them.

    Theologians try their hand at pretending expertise in other fields because of the undue amount of respect and trust they have among Christians. Notably Conservative Christians. People who subsidize Gulfstream jets for televangelists are not exactly a discerning crowd.

    Its funny how quickly allegedly “Values voters” are suddenly willing to compromise any pretense of caring about their platform if there is a chance at grabbing political power. The religious right is a joke. They could not field a candidate for president who didn’t come off as a wackadoodle. Like it or not, Trump was the best of a very sorry lot. Religious conservatives are stuck supporting him because they are left with few options if they want to stay relevant anymore.

  • Please explain how you know for certain that “theology is the least academically rigorous study out there.”

    Perhaps you’ve published a comparison study or survey, on this claim of yours?

    Anyway, just curious. Explanation?

  • I hear Merritt calling for a humility on all sides; for a calm reasoned consideration of the very complicated questions of our life together. Dog whistle labels (such as in the quote from Grudem) can’t truthfully describe the nuanced argument reality requires.

  • Theology is the study of a given faith based sectarian belief. Faith based belief by its nature which requires no evidence, no rational inquiry, no standards of academic rigor. Simply arguments which get one to a pre-determined position regarding a given sects dogma.

    Its that pre-determined nature which makes it even less rigorous than Art/Literary criticism. Since at least in those fields one can be expected to come up with their own conclusions.

    At no point can a theologian come up with a view which runs counter to the sectarian religious belief they are studying. Their entire purpose is to support such things. Creative excuse making and spurious arguments. Unless you are running a church, theology serves no purpose.

  • And Hillary is better, what about Bill getting BJ’S in the Oval Office and multiple affairs.
    Morality ,give me a break

  • “At no point can a theologian come up with a view which runs counter to the sectarian religious belief they are studying.” Really? Every Christian theologian for the past 2,000 years has been saying the exact same thing in the exact same way? Theologians never disagree?

    “Simply arguments which get one to a pre-determined position regarding a given sects (sic) dogma.” Interesting assertion, but I’m wondering where does this “pre-determined” dogma supposedly come from?

  • “Every Christian theologian for the past 2,000 years has been saying the exact same thing in the exact same way? Theologians never disagree?”

    No every Christian theologian for the past 2,000 years has been saying the exact same thing in a myriad different ways. But it still ends up being the exact same thing. Whatever one’s sect claims to be integral to their beliefs are upheld.

    “but I’m wondering where does this “pre-determined” dogma supposedly come from?”

    The authorities within a given sect which have set the dogma. Pope, Patriarchs, Sect founders, Councils…Theologians don’t create dogma, they simply find excuses for its existence.

  • The article itself shows that a theologian frequently is just another term for a self-important crackpot who wants people to follow them.

  • “Not Theology”, you said. Okay.

    I appreciate your explanations in this thread, and this is no diss on you, but it’s clear to me (as somebody who HAS studied theology as a minor and continues to do so as a serious amateur), that you are very correct to admit “Not Theology.”

    Your answers betray that you’re not into studying theology, not even as a hobby or a means to evaluate the religion articles being thrown at you every week.

    Don’t get me wrong, you ARE a religion news junkie just like me, so that’s a good thing to have in common. But right now you’re just undermining yourself by not seriously studying the Bible and its **theology**, so that you can see further into the religion world. The sharpest atheists are those who are, (ahem), biblically literate.

    There are many sources available. Local libraries. Online websites, texts, online courses. Or a local church or college class. Just give it a go, if possible.

  • My personal discomfort in such instances; i.e. Wayne Grudem’s literary endeavors, is framed by the growing sense that such works are motivated more by a desire to publish for personal profit than by a desire to make a cogent argument about specific policies (No knock against the profit motive, but let’s not put a disinterested/objective gloss upon it). This tendency cuts across all fields of expertise. As to the personal character of the present nominees’, those ship’s have already sailed and struck a pair of huge icebergs

  • When the author isn’t taking the academic authority of theologians seriously, it is easy to e,and on that idea. There is nothing ad hominem in my statements either.

    Theology is not the study of religion. It is the study of a given sects beliefs and support for them.

  • Having read Grudem’s theology, and his political endorsement of Trump, there was no ambiguity of his reasoning. Grudem thinks it is morally good to vote for a flawed person with good policy over a flawed person with bad policy. I don’t agree with him, but your characterization of his piece as coming close to “Thus sayeth the Lord” is absurd and disingenuous. In fact, your conclusions being so clear, one is forced to ask, what field does Mr. Merritt think he is an expert in to critique Grudem; theology or politics? Many would love to hear your answer.

  • Psst, calling a whole group of people (theologians) “self-important crackpots” is by definition and ad hominem argument.

  • I get the feeling that you, like many people who criticize religion, are using some form of fundamentalism as the model for what you are against. I think you would find the study of theology at Cambridge, Claremont, University of Chicago, –rigorous. And I think you would be surprised at the way thoughts develop and challenge long-established ways of thinking. There is a discipline to the practice — theology does mean sustained engagement of a tradition, but the fact that Harvard Div School welcomes and includes atheist and humanist students means those students find a way to be engaged without accepting predetermined positions or dogma

    Further down here you seem to be thinking of graduate programs in theology as all occurring within the religious institutions themselves. That is true in some places but not in all. (Hans Kung was censored by the Vatican at Tubingen and not allowed to teach Catholic thought, but he continued on the faculty with a position in Ecumenical thought, and he continued to write books and articles critical of the catholic hierarchy, and even in favor of euthanasia. He also remains a priest, which may surprise you. ) Some departments of theology answer to religious institutions and some do not. So the question to ask is to what extent does a faculty operate with academic freedom.

  • That’s an interesting example. If you read Merritt suggesting that there is no role for public intellectuals then I suppose Hawking should not be allowed to comment on Brexit. But the actual text of his column shows him commenting largely from the experience he knows well — what it means to be a scientist and a person with a disability. He does not go on at length about how to build an economy post-industrialization, or what to do about immigration. Science in Britain will be affected by Brexit –ie, from the article “One of the reasons I believed it would be wrong to leave the EU was related to grants.” I’d say Hawking is speaking largely from the experience he knows well.

  • Actually it isn’t unless I am using such opinion to impugn their credibility in other areas. Insults are not necessarily by their nature ad hominem arguments.

  • From Webster’s: 2. ad hominem. (2) attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.

    By arguing Grudem et al are “self-important crackpots” rather than critiquing his arguments, you exactly are guilty of ad hominem attack. The sum of your post is theologians are as a group very weak intellects, thus they can be disregarded. Either get a legitimate reasoned response to Grudem or Merritt, or please refrain from illogical posts.

  • Spuddie, its been a long time since I’ve seen as biased an opinion as what you’ve been expressing. I’m guessing you can’t even see it.

  • I think I understand what Spuddie’s driving at. You could debate forever if Theology is “academically rigorous”. Theologians have had several millennia to load it up with volumes of speculative gibberish that contradict and obfuscate one another in unresolvable ways. Most aspiring new Theologians try to add their notions onto the pile, widening and widening its space of possibilities, cosmic or minuscule. Theology is all talk.

    Truly scientific disciplines tend to converge on consensus estimates of truth by weeding out the many false hypotheses that cannot be confirmed by evidence. Even the gigantic fields of philosophy and history and the many social sciences have done this in their own ways, and belong among the evidence-based disciplines. Increasingly, theology stands all by itself, ruminating over and parsing its boatload of mythologies while pretending to possess a monopoly on morality and ethics.

    Theology’s big problem is that NO ONE ever has been able to look at the universe and rigorously conclude anything about its meaning or purpose or what it “wants”. The strong possibility remains that it has no meaning or purpose or desire or intention.

  • Except the criticism of Grundem is that he has no expertise on the subjects he expounds on. His sole subject of proficiency being theology. Its not an ad hominem as much as demonstrating Grundem does not have the means to support his arguments coming from personal qualifications. Its not that he is unqualified because he is a theologian, that would be the ad hominem. Its that he is unqualified because he is ONLY a theologian.

  • Spuddie…sheer nonsense. You made an obvious ad hominem calling all theologians “self-important crackpots.” All your initial arguments were intended to denigrate Mr. Grudem by attacking his credibility (ergo delicto), disregarding anything he wrote. Just admit it and move on to attacking the substance of what he said, which I’d likely join you in…

  • So Donald Trump is merely flawed and Hillary Clinton is evil? I stopped reading at that point. This isn’t a theological argument, it’s a suspension of all critical thinking, a value judgement on a woman he’s never met and has no business describing as “evil” under any circumstances, and a moral pass for someone who advocates fear, hatred and bigotry. This is Bizarroland theology, a circular thinking that disappears in it’s own whirlpool. Nice try, not buying the argument.

  • Not strictly true. Sects are subsets of particular Religious philosophies, those philosophies and the doctrines that rise from them are the study of Theology. Hence, Theology is the study of Religion.

  • Stick to “Not Theology”. You haven’t a clue about theology. Or Greek. Or Hebrew. Or Aramaic. Or much of anything regarding doctoral work in theology. Easy to dismiss when you haven’t a clue what it takes to succeed in the discipline.

  • It is not the study of religion. It is the study of God. The two are not the same. Theo = God. logy = science, theory, study.

  • Grudem is correct that choosing the less morally bad is a moral good. However, as with most Trump defenders, he understates Trump’s badness by a long shot. That doesn’t mean Trump isn’t a better choice than Hillary – she’s that bad – it simply means that Trump is horrible and whitewashing this is disingenuous.

  • So you’ll vote for a man who is on his 3rd wife and bragged about cheating with over 100 OTHER women—-because that’s somehow more “moral” than what you call the “unprecedented national evil of legalized gay marriage”.

    Uh. I’d think that my 2 friends who’ve been in a same-sex, committed, relationship for 20 years are more “moral” than Trump and his man-whore ways.

  • FYI, just because an author has an expertise in a given field doesn’t necessarily render him or her incompetent in another field (this is the major exception to Merritt’s rule). But for your information, Grudem does hold a B.A. in Economics from Harvard, Master’s in Divinity and a D.D. from Westminster and a Ph.D. in New Testament studies from Cambridge.

    Though you dismiss out of hand his academic credentials, in order to even be accepted into most Ph.D. programs in a theological field, a person would have to be competent in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and have a working knowledge in German and French. In addition to these languages, most theologians have had advanced study in the theories of interpretation (called hermeneutics), linguistics, ancient near eastern history, church history (as you mentioned 2,000 years of prominent theologians), history of religion, comparative religion, philosophy, apologetics (a specialized branch of philosophy and theology) and psychology. As a specialist in New Testament studies, he would most likely have to have had a background in second temple Judaism as well.

    So, far from theology having to depth or breadth, it has both.

    In addition, and this is again the major point that Merritt misses, expertise in a given field of study does not require a degree in that field. All that it requires is the ability of a person to interact competently with the research literature in the field; and reading research papers isn’t rocket science (unless it is . . . in which case, you may be screwed). Once you have an ability to understand bigger concepts and pick up the jargon specific to the field, you just need time to put the pieces together.

    Even further, the claim that, because Grudem is “only” a theologian, that he is incapable of comprehending the most basic facts of our American political situation – the fact that several of our Supreme Court justices are in their 70’s or beyond and that the next president will likely appoint several – is patently silly. For a person who holds a decidedly conservative Christian worldview, who cares about such major moral issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, and who knows how Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will choose Supreme Court justices, the choice would seem somewhat clear. (BTW, I am not a Trump supporter and likely will not vote in this election). This is not even logic 101.

    The long and the short of it (more long than short at this point), is that Merritt’s point, while generally true, is not applicable in this case and his criticism of Grudem is off the mark.

  • Meaning it is the exercise of reinforcing a given faith. Myriad ways to get to the same conclusion.

  • How many times do you hear of a theologist coming up with arguments which runs counter to the tenets of their faith? Is it even something considered acceptable in such studies? Doesn’t happen.

  • “For a person who holds a decidedly conservative Christian worldview, who cares about such major moral issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, and who knows how Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will choose Supreme Court justices, the choice would seem somewhat clear”

    Let me put your mind at ease for a moment. Neither abortion nor marriage equality are going back to being banned any time soon. Find some other cause to fight. There are no viable legal arguments for overturning either Roe v. Wade or Obergfell. Both issues are used by conservative politicians to get you to contribute money and vote for them. But in the end, nothing would be done on those subjects, nor is it likely. At best you end up with a bunch of unconstitutional end runs like what happened with abortion restrictions in Texas and the “religious freedom” legalized discrimination bills that sane governors are vetoing. But those don’t last.

  • In Grudem’s work “Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth,” he writes

    “The Bible … corrects the errors of male dominance and male superiority that have come
    as the result of sin and that have been seen in nearly all cultures in the history of the world.
    Wherever men are thought to be better than women, wherever husbands act as selfish “dictators,”wherever wives are forbidden to have their own jobs outside the home or to vote or to own property or to be educated, wherever women are treated as inferior, wherever there is abuse or violence against women or rape or female infanticide or polygamy or harems, the biblical truth of equality in the image of God is being denied”

    My boss, her boss and most of my co-workers (and close friends) when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska were of the first generation feminists, breaking glass ceilings by interrupting power conversations in men’s restrooms and winning awards in traditionally male dominated fields. If they were reading Grudem’s statements recorded here, they would be hard pressed to disagree with anything that he has to say. I don’t know Grudem personally, so I couldn’t speak of his “deep denigration of women,” as it doesn’t seem to come out in his writings.

    You may disagree with his theological conclusions or his hermeneutical method, but if he is consistent in applying his hermeneutical approach to every area of scripture, then it is difficult to say that he is “driven” by a personal agenda. To call him “a wee little man who is terrified of anything that is female” is, at minimum uncharitable (unless you know him personally and have seen such tendencies).

    I have personally not spent much time reading Grudem’s Theology. I personally enjoy the works of other theologians more. However, in the area in which he is a trained scholar, he is competent and cannot be dismissed out of hand just because one may disagree with his conclusions. Even more to the point, a theological position isn’t wrong simply because it may have been abused (one could give a myriad of examples here, from across the theological spectrum). One must evaluate a position, regardless of either your thoughts of the person who holds it or how it may have been abused.

  • I was describing Grudem’s viewpoint, not necessarily my own.

    We do agree on one point. Both the issue of abortion and same-sex marriage are used by politicians on both sides of the equation to raise money and vote for them. I also agree that nothing is likely to be done on these subjects.

    Whether I agree that those decisions by the court were unavoidable either legally or historically is a matter for a different discussion. Obviously four supreme court justices disagree with your legal judgement in terms of Obergfell, for what it’s worth.

    But the issue more to the point for the purposes of the discussion of this article is that it does not take an expert, theologian or economist or theoretical physicist to see that a major re-shaping of the court by the next president is a serious consideration. However Grudem justifies his pending vote for Trump, it cannot be that he is ill-informed or unaware of the consequences of a drastic shift of the court to the political left.

  • There are theologians and biblical scholars that claim they look at the writings of the authors of bible objectively, but to an extent have to compartmentalize in order to avoid becoming nonbelievers. I personally know two that are agnostics; one I met on a forum. Over the years I noticed that the ones that can finally stop serving their underlying preconceptions, puts aside their attempts at trying to validate the bible, and scrutinize their bible more objectively usually tend to gravitate towards agnosticism more so than atheism yet remain scholars; I’ve seen this happen over the last 30 plus years especially to ordained priests with a tertiary education like those with a Th.d. I wonder how many members of the clergy project became atheists this way.

  • “At no point can a theologian come up with a view which runs counter to the sectarian religious belief they are studying.”

    And you support this assertion how? You are arguing from ignorance.

  • Great article! The main point – that to equate (or often rank higher) one’s own, uninformed opinion with the knowledge of actual experts shows a lack of integrity and is simply lying – is very important and needed to be said. Thanks for pointing that out. Grudem’s failed argument is what everyone seems to be responding about, and that’s OK, but the main point here goes far beyond just Grudem, and far beyond this year’s election. Thanks for reminding everyone that experts are experts for a reason – a lot of people really, really need to hear that (not that they’ll listen).

  • Think the tension is not so much between being an expert in one and making judgments as if from within other fields so much as it is maintaining the tension between those things for which we have some sense of certainty while maintaining curiosity, humility in all those areas and challenges where we have deep feelings and great uncertainty. How to live morally within a context of one’s own uncertainty seems to me core to the Christian vision starting with Jesus himself .Mary Rakow, San Francisco, novelist

  • Of course he can’t see it, curt1034; he’s one of those individuals who has NO DOUBT that he’s absolutely right. His perjorative remarks make that clear…?.

  • It seems that Jonathan Merit is confusing his own limited specialized training of journalism, with Grudem’s wider study of philosophy and theology, and assuming that he has the higher ground, in terms of credibility and expertise. Grudem has taught ethics for some 29 years, something that seems to be lost on Merit. I’m sure that his own personal bias has absolutely nothing to do with this oversight, nor his criticism.

    If Merit would like to offer a substantial counter-argument, with a little more content than rhetoric, then I say, more power to you! But let’s not patronize ourselves and pretend this article is based on anything other than ill-founded snobbery, without substance. The entire argument here is based on the idea that no one can be an expert in more than one field, and that this is especially true if you disagree with Mr Merit. Sorry, Mr Merit, but your argument has no merit.

  • Jonathan, while I don’t agree with everything Grudem said, I appreciate his courage. It’s easier to smell a rotten egg than to lay a good one. It’s easy to criticize someone who steps out on a limb while sitting back, what a privilege. I did not sense in him a presumption of expertise or claim to authority. We all know what his expertise is and is not. And he doesn’t need to apologize for being thoughtful in areas that are not his expertise but are his responsibility as a citizen.

    We have been presented with a rotten choice this November. Ordinary Americans genuinely struggle with that choice. I appreciate Grudem’s clear, practical perspectives and will process them accordingly. There is much confusion and I think he was being pastoral. He was also being true to the moment, we have a tough choice before us. I’m still trying to get what your point was. It seems you’re playing referee. If I read you correctly, your explanation for his “overreach” is that he’s “conservative” or worse, a fundamentalist. How unhelpful, more identity categories to keep up with! In an increasingly ambiguous world, of course there are no simple answers, but answer we must.

  • I disagree with Wayne Grudem on this, but the writer’s argument makes two faulty assumptions and one logical blunder: 1) the modernist assumption that one must be an acknowledged “expert” on a subject to speak knowledgeably about it (which cuts out the vast majority of what is found on the internet; 2) the assumption that one can’t be knowledgeable enough about more than one thing to have an opinion worth hearing in more than one area; and 3) the fallacy of poisoning the well, of rendering an opinion false or not worth hearing because of its source.

    Forget who made the arguments and deal with them directly.

  • It’ amazing to me how the conspicuous self contradiction in Jonathan Merritt’s diatribe against Grudem seems to go virtually unnoticed.

    Where or how has Merritt acquired the acumen, authority, and expertise to measure who can or cannot comment upon other disciplines and issues not pertinent ones own field of expertise? How much expertise does Merritt have on deciding whether or not someone it able to rightly comment on politics, economics, foreign policy, abortion, immigration, etc.? Sadly, Merritt makes a complete hypocrite out of himself by illicitly and sanctimonious propping himself up, without qualification, as to who has the capacity to make interdisciplinary commentaries. In other words, Merritt purports himself to have expertise and authority on a discipline for which he has no qualification, and this, in the very exact manner he accuses Grudem. Can Merritt demonstrate any of the disciplines Grudem commented upon to be issues requiring extensive academic acumen commensurate an “expert”, or, “authority” in order to have a comprehensive understanding of the discipline?

    Ostensibly, Merritt is not only brandishing his own illicit form of ‘political correctness’, he utterly fails to qualify his claim the varied disciplines Grudem comments on require specialized esoteric understanding appropriate one deemed an “expert”. How much learning does it take to understand the collective ideological bent of the U.S. Supreme Court is seriously at stake with one absent seat and the Court being split 50/50? How much expertise is required to know abortion is murder? How much academic acumen must one attain in order to know Christian businessmen, tradesmen, artists and musicians should not be forced to participate in sodomite or lesbian weddings? And what does one have to know in order to authoritatively speak about illegal immigration, vetting Muslim immigrants from terrorist harboring nations, ending common core, etc.?

    Perhaps Merritt, should go the whole way and say people shouldn’t vote at all
    if they’re not experts on each of the issues for which the Presidential
    candidates are vying.

    Frankly, I don’t know any of the issues Grudem plies his reason to require extensive academic acumen or experience. Most of them are patently parochial to any self respecting voter. Grudem’s understanding of the issues are commensurate anyone regarding their own personal vote to be intelligent and objective, and the logic he employs engendering his conclusions are irrefutable (note Merritt’s failure to rejoin any) and poignantly attenuated for any concerned voter wrestling with the moral implications a Trump vote entails.

    As well, Merritt lacks integrity in that he speciously props up the media slander of Trump being a “misogynist” and “bragged repeatedly about his sexual encounters” when their is no record of him being or doing either. He also broaches upon slander in fallaciously accusing Grudem of “making himself an expert” when Grudem mitigated his assertions using phrases like “might be”, “may be”, “most likely”, etc. and doesn’t exhibit any of the “dogma” Merritt speciously asserts.

  • Excellent insight! I too saw Grudem’s biased, undeclared assumptions of political polarity – my folk might have flaws – my enemies are all demons.

  • All sex outside the marriage bond of a man and a woman is sinful. Period. That’s been the position of Scripture and of the Christian faith for some 2,000 years.

  • I would argue this tendency is hardly just true of conservative Evangelical ministers. Take, fr’instance, your average stay-at-home mom who read two or three articles against vaccination, and now think they know better than your average M.D.

  • Perhaps we should be aware of a few things before taking such a strong stance against Grudem’s article.

    For instance:

    1. The purpose of the article was not to say that Trump should be a member of your local church, but to point out that he is the better choice for president from a moral standpoint. For this purpose, the article focused on answering the common “problems” that Christians voice concerning Trump (all of which apply for Hillary as well, I might add) and use to defend the concept of “not voting.”

    2. Theologically speaking, Hillary is already disqualified. Jesus said “who has been unfaithful with little will be unfaithful with much.” Having served in the military and handled a lot of classified information, I can tell you for a fact that what Hillary did as Secretary of State was unquestionably criminal gross negligence, and that if she had been anyone else (or the republican nominee) she would be indicted right now and facing life imprisonment for the number of criminal counts she could be charged with. She has shown her inability to hold public office with integrity already.

    But most importantly, we should look at Grudem’s main argument, that we should “seek the good of the country in which we are exiles.”

    Regardless of Trump’s flaws (and every candidate is flawed in various ways), the public policies that he supports are more in line with God’s word than the public policies that Hillary supports. With Hillary, we can be assured that American public policy will continue to support, condone, and seek to force believers to support and condone, immorality and inequitable standards at the highest levels. If American public policy and culture continues in this way, according to the word of God (notably Romans 1, but there are other passages) the result will be God’s judgment on America as a nation.

    So, when it comes down to it, Grudem doesn’t need to be a political expert to know what’s for the good of the country. He just has to know God. Unfortunately, many believers either forget or don’t really believe that the good of the country isn’t determined by getting along with all the other countries around us or creating policies to make everyone happy. It is, in fact, God who determines the good of the country.

    And when it comes to that, Hillary, along with many others in the democratic party, have already demonstrated that they are more than willing to do the one thing God says he hates the most – pervert justice.

  • Where did Grudem suggest that “Hillary Clinton is unqualified SIMPLY because she’s a woman”? REALLY?

  • You should have kept on reading and you would have realized that Grudem backed up his argument with facts.

  • I did keep reading, in fact, and what I realized was the “facts” you mention are deeply held misogynist views, and a witch hunt mentality that one would hope had passed on with the 17th century but is alive and very much well in the hearts of ignorant, superstitious and deeply disturbed people. There is no possible defense for a man who apparently calls one candidate “evil” more than likely because a. she’s a woman and b. she holds principles counter to his own narrow, punitive fundamentalist ones and gives a pass to the candidate whose every speech, tweet and rambling hold counter to the essential teaching of Jesus himself who placed loving ones neighbor as the second highest commandment.

  • Pat,

    We are all entitled to our own opinions and our opinions reflect the sources of the information we gather. But when our presuppositions are faulty, our thought process will follow suit and that person will view everything through a myopic lens. This makes critical thinking near impossible to attain.

    What a person says and what we choose to hear, will vary significantly depending upon the degree of subjectiveness or objectiveness in how we process that which we hear. The former being based upon feelings, whereas the latter is based upon objective facts.

    God does not compromise or change (Malachi 3:6; Isaiah 46:9–11). Nor does His truth change over time (Matthew 24:35; Hebrews 13:8). There is a vast difference between a Biblical worldview as opposed to a political, secular or progressive worldview. The former being ultimate reality from God’s perspective, and the latter being man’s perspective on how an individual thinks according to their own subjective thought process formed by their upbringing, the cultural environment to which they are exposed, and their own personal preferences.

    I agree that Donald Trumps rhetoric at times is quite abrasive, and some of his remarks are downright foolish. But Please don’t let mass media’s biased coverage contribute to your decision making process. Research objectively on the internet, listen to Trump’s rallies and speeches on YouTube without mass media editing and read Trump’s policy statements on his web site

    Not withstanding some of his bombastic rhetoric, I do believe that his platform addresses substantive issues that need to be implemented going forward, unless one is satisfied with the status quo and willing to hand the country over to a person who maintains to double down on the failed policies that have weakened this country both domestically and internationally and have made us less safe.

    That is not a misogynistic view. I would applaud a qualified woman seeking the country’s highest office, but not one who has objectively proven to be an incompetent, untrustworthy, consummate liar and a hypocrite by all accounts.

  • This is a rational review of Wayne Grudem’s endorsement of Trump. But more could be said about why a person like Grudem feels obligated to vote for Trump. Part of that more is due to the refusal of our nation’s voters to invest in third party candidates. As a result, many of us are feel left with the choice between the them and not-them candidate. In addition, something could have also been mentioned about the syncretic joining of conservative Christian beliefs and conservative politics. Much of that revolves around using the abortion issue as the litmus test for what is acceptable to religiously conservative Christian voters.

    Other than those two points, I really like this article and will put a link to it on one of my blogposts. Thank you Jonathan for the article

  • Read what I wrote. Do some research on complementarianism, then come back and ask that question. Seriously, I am not doing your research for you!

  • Yeah, and polygamy was just a-OK fine with God for a long time. The Bible calls David (polygamist) “a man after God’s own heart.” I mean, seriously, that tells me, a woman, how much women really mattered to that writer of sacred scripture.

  • I am having a difficult time seeing the connection between Grudem’s article and complementarianism. I am familiar with complementarianism as a theological construct as opposed to egalitarianism, and to equate the former with misogynism I believe to be a mischaracterization.

    The Bible teaches the fundamental equality of women and men of all racial and
    ethnic mixes, all economic classes, and all age groups. However, within the overall context of the creation order and the teachings and example of the male Son of God Jesus Christ, being subject to a male deity Father God, and the overarching principles of Scripture, there is a constitutional and complementary God ordained difference between the sexes (and thank God for that!).

    There is likewise a difference in “roles” between a man and a woman under certain circumstances (primarily in the church and in the family),
    but certainly not in “personhood” or value. Therefore, that would not preclude a qualified woman from holding high positions in government, corporate and other business settings, or in any other public secular setting.

    I would refer you to an on line article which I believe brings a good balance to the subject:
    Thank you for the banter, Marele.

  • Rev Christy Thomas,
    I’ve read much of his book on politics and I don’t, from what I have read, that he hates or has a fear of women. I do think that what Merritt said above is true in addition to Grudem having done what so many of my fellow religiously conservative Christians have done, they have syncretically joined conservative Christian beliefs with conservative political ideology. And what we have seen and continue to see in America is what was seen in France, Spain, and Russia prior to their revolutions, that the dominant churches of those nations sided with wealth and power. Whereas the dominant churches of those nations were either Roman Catholic or Orthodox, the dominant church in America is conservative Protestant.

    If you could provide some examples of Grudem’s denigration of women, I would appreciate it.

  • Exactly why it’s absurd for someone to proclaim Donald as a more “moral” choice.

  • So I read what JM wrote. I read what Grudem wrote. Then I read all these comments. I did some of this while I finished eating a old turkey sandwich from lunch. Then I read James 4:17. Then I read the next 6 verses in the Bible, James 5:1-6. So this is the good I’m going to do. I’m going to be a little more patient with some people tomorrow, and live out James 5:7-12. I’m going to do this because there are some people I interact with who really need for me to do this, for reasons I’m not going to pretend to always know. Maybe there is no difference between knowing the good I ought to do and what comes to mind for knowing the good others should do as Mr Gruden says. I say yes there is a difference but I won’t swear to it-not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. If James gives a instruction to own our definite yes’s and no’s should’nt we say our opinion is “our” opinion? Is there a difference suggesting to disagree with political opinion is sin and swearing by heaven? I’ve got a turkey sandwich to digest.

  • Phil,
    I find to components of your point as being completely counter to your over all point…

    1) “Please don’t let mass media’s biased coverage contribute to your decision making process.” Seriously? This argument of “biased coverage” and rigged this is so completely unsubstantiated and it is starting to become ridiculous. I don’t need “biased coverage” to see with complete clarity the destructive nature of Trumps “ideals”. All I have to do is watch the live feeds of his speeches, as you recommend. It is not biased coverage that made his word be “look at my African-American over there”, or that judge would not rule fairly because he “happens to be, we believe, Mexican”, or on war heroes that he likes “People that weren’t captured”. In fact I only have to read his Twitter feed where he has insulted or named called over 250 people ( He said those words. The, as you put it, “biased media” didn’t dub those words into his speech or somehow hijack his notes or Twitter account to include these phrases. The “biased media” doesn’t make him curse on national live television. It doesn’t make him call anyone that has opposing views of his demeaning and derogatory and in many cases nasty names.

    The “biased media” doesn’t replace him with a double so the double can claim pride in his sexual conquests, or pride in getting others to perform physical violence on people in the audience. Stating as fact that everything that is wrong with Trump is a result of “biased media” is quite possibly the most delusional thing I read in your post.

    But a close second is 2) Calling for those to not vote for Clinton (though you are not even brave enough to call her out by name) because she is “incompetent, untrustworthy, consummate liar and a hypocrite by all accounts” is supported by what facts? I am not defending Clinton, and agree there are some aspects of truth to this list, but if you are going make a blanket statement like that you better come with facts, especially if you are going to use it as a basis of argument why not to vote for Clinton, but why to vote for Trump. I can take every single one of those words you have used and turn them on the candidate you seem to be defending. Let’s take a look shall we?

    “Incompetent” – As a self-proclaimed business success (winner!) his business ventures have been forced to declare bankruptcy four times. How many business failures are you willing to accept as competent?

    “Untrustworthy” and “Consummate Liar” – Politifact fact-checked and rated close to 80 percent of the statements of his that they checked as false, mostly false or meriting a Pants on Fire ( comparatively Clinton’s was only found to have 27% of what she said to be rated the same. So if 27% makes Clinton a “consummate liar” what does 80% make Trump?

    And finally a “hypocrite by all accounts” – To counter this point I offer the following list fact-based information:
    And the list can really go on and on… Oh and as a preemptive strike yes I know one of the links above is to Clinton’s website. But you know what facts are facts regardless of where they are published.

    I don’t present these to argue in favor of his opposition. I present this counter to your point because you logic is flawed. You state you should vote for Trump because 1) the media is lying about him and 2) his opposition is all these bad things. Yet so is he. So if that is your reasoning for voting against Clinton how can you then say but vote for someone that in many regards is actually more of a liar, less trust worthy and less competent.

    I am sorry but your entire point is so completely invalid it is laughable. And that was pretty much the point of the original poster above and the article for which this discussion is about.

  • What conservatism don’t understand is Christ died for everyone or her; you name it Christ died for it.

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