Is Wayne Grudem lying about not knowing Donald Trump's past? Watch the video

Update: The video of Wayne Grudem's February address to pastors is now no longer available from the Illinois Family Institute. Original URL: https://youtu.be/xBMDCnyHP7k

Update: The video of Wayne Grudem's February address to pastors is now no longer available from the Illinois Family Institute. Original URL: https://youtu.be/xBMDCnyHP7k

 

[Correction: RNS is publishing a response by Grudem to my original post:"What I wrote was completely truthful." After receiving his response, I revised my original post. Grudem could not and did not know about Donald Trump's confession of sexual assault prior to the release of the video this weekend. I have revised the post to make clear that Grudem was not aware of these facts. I have also attempted to clarify the difference between Grudem's new information and Grudem's understanding of Trump's past that he had previously accounted in detail when he unequivocally condemned Trump as morally unfit for the presidency. Unfortunately, the video of Grudem's February address to pastors was removed from YouTube by the Illinois Family Institute after my original post. In response to my request for comment, Grudem stated that he had nothing to do with the removal of the video.]

The video of Donald Trump bragging about his infidelity and describing his assaults on women have put many of his supporters in a bind. Do they stick with Trump? If they rescind their support, how do they justify turning on him now and not sooner?

Evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem was in a particularly sticky situation. Grudem is a thought-leader to many evangelicals. His book on theology is (literally) required reading in many evangelical churches. Because of this, his defense of Donald Trump as “a morally good choice” drew a lot of attention among evangelicals.

Then came the video of Trump boasting of his infidelity, attempts to sleep with a married woman, and his sexual assaults on women. Grudem wrote a new essay and had Townhall.com take down his previous defense of Trump. An archived copy of his July essay is still available.

But this isn't the story of a theologian who came to his senses. This is the story of a theologian who in February railed against Trump as morally disqualified for the presidency, downplayed Trump's past as a mere "flaw" in July, and now claims he was ignorant of Trump's past now that Trump has become too embarrassing for a theologian to support.

In his updated assessment of the ethics of voting Trump, Grudem stated,

I previously called Donald Trump a “good candidate with flaws” and a “flawed candidate” but I now regret that I did not more strongly condemn his moral character. I cannot commend Trump’s moral character, and I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election.

He says he came to this new conclusion after seeing the video of Trump, which opened his eyes to Trump's immorality.

His vulgar comments in 2005 about his sexual aggression and assaults against women were morally evil and revealed pride in conduct that violates God’s command, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). I have now read transcripts of some of his obscene interviews with Howard Stern, and they turned my stomach. His conduct was hateful in God’s eyes and I urge him to repent and call out to God for forgiveness, and to seek forgiveness from those he harmed. God intends that men honor and respect women, not abuse them as sexual objects.

The video made Trump's words and actions clear, but they were not surprising. This is not a case of a hypocrite being caught in a lie. Trump had a history of bragging about his infidelity and sexual behavior. So why turn on Trump now based on his moral character?

Grudem states in a statement to RNS that there was now evidence of repeated sexual assaults, a confession about attempting to seduce a woman, and Trump treating his daughter as a sex object.

While these are new pieces of evidence, Grudem also states that he should have known about these allegations. He said he didn't enough research:

Some may criticize me for not discovering this material earlier, and I think they are right. I did not take the time to investigate earlier allegations in detail, and I now wish I had done so. If I had read or heard some of these materials earlier, I would not have written as positively as I did about Donald Trump.

No one would expect Grudem to know about transcripts or videos that were not available until this past week. So what is it that Grudem should have known but didn't because he didn't investigate them? On the one hand, Grudem says that the video provides new findings that no one had previously; on the other hand, he says that he should have known about them.

The problem with this I-didn't-do-my-homework excuse is that Grudem is on record of knowing about Trump's boasts of infidelity and exploitation of women. In February, he stated unequivocally that such behavior disqualifies a candidate from being president.

In his July endorsement, Grudem acknowledged Trump's past.

“[Trump] has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages,” Grudem said. “These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.”

But the real evidence of Grudem's understanding of Trump's moral character comes from a video of an address he gave to pastors during an Illinois Family Institute event in February. [This video was removed from YouTube after this post was published October 11].

In his address to pastors, Grudem stated again and again that Trump's infidelity and moral character disqualified Trump “because a man who cannot be trusted to be faithful in his marriage cannot be trusted to lead the most powerful nation on earth.”

Grudem was explicit about Trump boasting about his infidelity and sexual past:

Now we have a Republican candidate leading in many polls who boasts that he has slept with many women, married and unmarried, many of the most beautiful women in the world. He boasts about it and yet he is leading in many polls. Does a man’s moral character no longer matter in choosing someone to be the most powerful man in the world?

Grudem went further, recounting that Trump made millions of dollars on casinos and strip clubs. Grudem said that these strip clubs “scarred the souls” of women and men.

Grudem called on pastors to speak out that “moral character matters” and to remind themselves that “moral character matters” when they are tempted to vote for Trump.

During his talk, Grudem avoided saying the name “Trump.” Instead, in the middle of his discussion of Trump's past, Grudem joked, “I'm not going to mention the candidate's name. If you don’t know, you have no business voting.”

The audience laughed because they knew Trump and his character. So did Grudem.

But now, in the aftermath of Trump's so-called locker-room banter video, Grudem expects evangelicals to believe that he did not know Trump lacked the moral character to be president. In February, he was willing and able to rattle off Trump's immoral behaviors, including his boasts of infidelity, in a forceful charge that Trump's moral character made him unfit for office.

Grudem is acting as if now---and only now---he has enough information to conclude that Trump lacks the moral character required to be president. He says that he was only saying that Republicans should make a different choice and that in the general election it was okay to vote for someone who had committed adultery (so long as the other candidate was someone like Hillary Clinton).

The video shows a different story. Grudem states that adultery disqualifies a man from being president. He condemned Trump as not only of infidelity but of bragging about his behavior. He said Trump exploited women by making millions off strip clubs. He called on pastors to talk about Trump's treatment of women and to not be tempted to back Trump. It is a forceful, informed rebuke of Trump as morally unfit to ever be "the most powerful man on the planet."

Unfortunately, you'll need to take my word for it (or not). The video is no longer available.

You should also read Jonathan Merritt's column from July, Wayne Grudem, Donald Trump and admitting when you’re not an expert

Don’t miss any more posts from the Corner of Church & State. Follow @TobinGrant on Twitter and on the Corner of Church & State Facebook page.

Comments

  1. Honesty would expose too much. “I hate Democrats, so that left me with Trump, so I held my nose and endorsed him. With that videotape, I’m now trapped. So I’m taking it back.” The only reason for these theologians to go Trump was because they wanted a Republican in the White House. They don’t ever say it that bluntly but that is the reason. At least the right wing nutjobs honestly express themselves (Hillary is a commie devil!). The more educated religious conservatives use bigger words, a more measured tone and mountains of explanation but in the end, they too think the Democratic Party is evil. Funny to hear Grudem, a respected and accomplished theologian, be obviously dishonest in accounting for his political positions.

  2. Aww, poor little “Wayne-Grudem-Go-Wayne-Grudem”. So intent on electing a candidate he thought he could use for his agenda — preserving his precious caste system — that he got caught in his own lies.

    I’d like to hope, not only that Trump will be rejected as candidate (or at least as president), but that Grudem will no longer be treated as a mouthpiece for all of us Christians. Given the current state of affairs in America, though, it’s hard to be very hopeful.

  3. “One of the best Christian scholars”? On what exactly do you base that assessment? On Grudem’s Mini-Mishna of 83 Things Wimmen Can & Can’t Do in Church? Or his insistence on speaking at C.J. Mahaney’s church, after Mahaney had been accused of covering up sexual abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries? Neither of those strikes me as very intelligent or Christlike.

    That episode with Mahaney reminds me: This isn’t the first time that Grudem has been caught defending someone of dubious integrity. Except that, to my knowledge, he has yet to backtrack on standing up for Mahaney.

  4. Grudem has sacrificed his right to be taken seriously. He should have known who Trump was when Trump promoted the birtherism lie, and bashed Mexicans in his first campaign speech.

  5. Seems quite rational that the actual content from 2005 was new to Mr Grudem’s ears. One thing to speak about sins from the past, and quite another to hear and see the gross details of Godlessness in real-time.

    You may see it otherwise……

  6. Grudem is a shallow right wing culture warrior who tarts up his political opinions in the shiny garb of theology. He is obsessed with culture war/sexual issues and he saw the election of a Republican as the best way to “win” on his issues. So he simply concocted theological-sounding reasons for Christians to vote for Trump. One thing I really despise about him, other than his dishonesty, is this schtick that he does in many of his talks where he pretends to choke up and fake cry. Hard to believe that people fall for this B actor.

  7. It’s the height of hypocrisy to renounce his endorsement only because of that 2005 tape. Calling most Mexican immigrants rapists? Cheating on your (multiple) spouses? Having documented close business ties to Russia and refusing to release your tax returns? Ext, ext, ext…. Yeah, that’s all fine as long as you promise to appoint conservative Supreme court justices.

  8. Can’t comment any more other than to say that I never agreed with his original position & I’m glad he’s landed where he did.

    Peace

  9. Every so called Christian backing Trump has sacrificed their right to be taken seriously.

  10. Well, I admit I haven’t read his “Systematic Theology”, although I understand it’s practically required reading in Neo-Calvinist churches. But I’m perfectly capable of thinking. And I think Grudem’s Pharisaical list of rules of women is nonsensical, self-contradictory and utterly insulting to women. I also think his unwavering support for Mahaney is unconscionable, in light of the accusations against him, which might actually be worse than the things to which Trump admitted years ago.

    However qualified Grudem might be to call himself a scholar, his lack of love for Mahaney’s victims and for women robs his advice of all value in my eyes. I can’t imagine ever being his fan.

  11. P.S. to all: According to my e-mail inbox, this is the reply that Red Mann initially posted to me, before he changed it to the milder form you see above:

    Airhead, he’s a top-notch New Testament scholar and theologian.

    You ever read a book – ever?

    Is this what fans of Wayne Grudem are like? If so, I want no part of it.

  12. Being “big fans of Gruden” (sic) means you can’t spell, nor can you think for yourself.
    News Flash: being a “big fan” does not make you enlightened nor wise.

  13. Red Mann sounds like a contemptuous misogynist to me, who cannot spell nor think for himself.

  14. Well, since I’m a guy, I don’t take the term “airhead” as misogyny directed at me. An insult, yes, but not misogyny. My somewhat ambiguous handle has confused other commenters in the past, so he might have assumed I’m female and intended it as a chauvinistic remark (or not, for all I know).

    I definitely think that Grudem is a misogynist, though, and a hypocrite for his support of C.J. Mahaney.

  15. Mr Grudem is a liar & hypocrite. Trump has bragged for years of his serial adultery throughout all 3 of his marriages & his sexual harassment of young women in the work place. He went on to repeat debunked conspiracy theories & unproven gossip about Hillary Clinton, with is slander & a sin. As a theologian he is fully aware that HE is bearing false witness & acting contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ by attempting to defraud American voters. There are clear, honest differences between Republican Conservative ideals & Democratic Liberal ideals. It is disgusting enough for opposing candidates to lie about & slander each other without theologians destroying the credibility of American Christianity. Hillary Clinton’s soul is her own. God does not judge the soul of a wife by sins committed by her spouse, and neither does a dutiful, decent Christian. God does hold each person accountable for aiding & abetting murder. Trump repeatedly promises that if elected he will order our military to murder civilian Muslims, even women & children. A vote for Trump is aiding & abetting crimes against humanity under both the laws of man & of God.

  16. Lark62 is correct. Christians have had 16 months of Trump’s vulgarity, bigotry & bragging of his serial adultery to take a stand for Christ. EVERYONE who is still supporting Trump today is declaring that “Donald Trump reflects who I am”, and they will be treated that way. My church congregation agrees that we CANNOT allow Trump’s cult to pervert & distort Christians any longer. We will pray for them but we will make it publicly clear that Trump & his followers have rejected Jesus Christ & have been trying to distort Christ’s teachings. They are an anti-Christian cult that has turned away from God to worship a narcissistic sociopath.

  17. Thanks for the kind words.

    Let me make a wild guess, you’re a Christian.

  18. I agree that it was not directed AT you, but rather at ALL women, which probably includes the assumption that you must be a woman since you are “cute, too”….which makes Red Mann sexist.

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