Jon Moffitt: Welcome to Theocast. Today, we are coming in hot. We have only done this one other time; we do it when we feel necessary. We’re coming in with a hot topic today and it might be the hottest topic we’ve had since we started Theocast.
Justin Perdue: We’re going to talk politics today. Yes, we said it. We’re going to talk politics today.
We’re going to try to not be punchy and snarky about this. In all sincerity, this is a tumultuous season in the life of the United States. There is a lot of division that exists in our land and our society broadly. I’ve observed quite a bit of division in the church as it pertains to the upcoming general election next Tuesday. There’s a lot of passion. There’s sincere disagreement, but then there’s also a lot of vinegar and vitriol that’s permeating this entire conversation.
I’ve written a little piece on this with some of my own thoughts on politics and voting and all those things. We, in a spur of the moment, decided to record this episode. We hope that this is helpful.
Some of this has been prompted by things that pastors and evangelical leaders have said with respect to the vote next Tuesday—how Christians should vote, or in some cases, how Christians must vote, if they are going to be faithful to Jesus, and if they are going to remain orthodox. We want to kick this around and have this conversation with some of that in view as the backdrop.
Jon Moffitt: We’ve received a lot of questions through email and social media asking us to respond to different statements that have been made. To be honest with you, the only reason we haven’t done this yet is a matter of time, just issues of trying to figure out when we would do that. So we decided to do that this morning.
Justin Perdue: It’s not that I feel anxious about it necessarily, but I realize that there are going to be some people—and I don’t necessarily mean this for our listeners—who will come across this, depending on how much it’s shared and recommended, and they’re going to hear us and on the one side are going to think that we have not said nearly enough. Then there are going to be others that think we have said far too much. I trust that there are going to be plenty of people who disagree with us and that’s okay. We are aiming to hold the line biblically and we are aiming to continue, as we do in all things, to try to point Christians to Jesus and to the unity and rest that we have in him. We’re aiming to keep the main things the main things. I know that you and I do that as pastors in our own congregations, and we’re effectively doing that behind the mic today.
Before we get into the specific comments about all of these matters, I want to make a couple of disclaimers. I don’t want people to assume wrongly about anything that we’re going to say. It’s not that the things that we’re going to say are not being said because Jon or I think it doesn’t matter how we vote. That’s not what we think at all. I think it’s important that we all, as citizens of the United States, would steward our civic duty. How we vote has consequences on our land and on our society. Let’s just go ahead and say that. I think you agree with that and I agree with that.
The next thing that I’m going to say—and again, Jon, you can agree or disagree—is I am not, in any of the comments that I’m making, aiming to communicate that I think that any kind of vote for any kind of candidate are all just morally equivalent. That to vote this way or vote that way is morally equivalent in my own mind as a man, as a Christian, and as a citizen. I don’t think that. People that know me well will know that I have strong opinions about a lot of stuff, and that would include politics. I have a number of reasons for why I think what I do politically. With that being said—that I have strong opinions—I take great pains as a pastor to not share and make public my own personal opinions about politics. This is because I think that I, as a leader, would quickly abuse the authority that God has given me and effectively tell my congregation how they should vote, if not explicitly then implicitly. If I made my own views known, they could hear me say these things and think they should follow their pastor and vote the way that I do. I would never want that to happen because that would be an overreach and an abuse of my pastoral authority.
Just wanted to share those things from the get-go. It matters how we vote and it’s not that Jon and I think that there’s moral equivalency between votes. But we are going to contend for what we think is central and most important when it comes to election season, or any time, and that’s the unity that we have in Christ in the church.
Jon Moffitt: Absolutely. Even in Hebrews, the writer of Hebrews tells the congregation to imitate your elders and your leaders, but imitate them in their faith. In the last few months in my congregation , because of the texts that we’ve been covering, I have made some political statements. But it had everything to do with how they should pray and care for their relationship to the government, as well as what the believers’ relationship to the government is. That is the one thing Scripture is very clear on as far as Romans 13: the way in which we are to submit and live peaceably with those who govern us, the purpose of the government, and how the government is controlled by God and not by men.
You might be able to see some kind of an obscure passage, which I haven’t been able to see, where you could argue that we, as shepherds, should be dictating how someone should cast their vote in a non-church function, which is a governmental function. But I just don’t see it in Scripture. Today’s conversation is really around your role as a believer as it relates to your role. in two different kingdoms: you have the kingdom of Christ, and then you have your earthly kingdom. However, what’s going on right now is we’re mixing the two. Not only are we mixing the two kingdoms, we’re mixing Law and the gospel as well.
When someone makes the statement or the claim that if you vote for any other candidate than one particular candidate, then you are not upholding the Christian faith, that is so far from biblical text. It’s rightly disturbing, to be honest with you, because you are now making the Christian standard. In other words, what they are saying is if you don’t hold a certain political position, you are no longer being faithful to follow Christ as a true disciple. That is a very strong statement to make that you better be able to back it up from Scripture.
Justin Perdue: My biggest concern is that in the minds of many people—and by this I mean Christians as we are speaking to the church here in broad terms—it seems that one’s standing in the Lord Jesus should be called into question depending upon how they vote on November 3. This can flow both directions. In the church, some are aware of the comments that have been made and it’s tending to flow predominantly in one direction, but it could flow in both.
I want to be really clear that there are Christians who are going to hold very strong convictions and those convictions are going to be based upon things they see in Scripture. This is where I’m coming from: I think that as Christians, we should pursue justice. That’s not optional. We should pursue justice. But here’s the issue: we may very well have sincere disagreements at the level of execution, at the level of practicality, and at the level of public policy as to how we should best pursue justice in the society. Both directions politically, you can have people that take issue with anything from abortion to issues of social justice, then look at the other side and say, “If you are a Christian and you care about these things that the Bible clearly articulates: the sanctity of human life, the fact that we should care for the oppressed, the needy, and the marginalized, but if you don’t vote in this way or that way, then how can you claim Christ?” That’s the rhetoric that exists right now even in the public square of the church, and on Christian social media. It’s very concerning, and the reason for that is that I do not know of a church or a confession of faith, historically, that would make voting choice a test of Christian orthodoxy. I’m trying to be precise: a church or a confession that historically would elevate voting choice to being a test of Christian orthodoxy or fidelity to Jesus.
When you hear people say that if you’re a Christian, you have to vote this way, and if you don’t vote this way, then your standing in the Lord Jesus and the legitimacy of your faith and your profession should be called into question. What they are saying is that if you cast a particular kind of vote on November 3rd, you are in clear demonstrable unrepentant sin, and you should face church discipline. That’s what’s being effectively said. I do not know of a church or a confession in the history of Christianity that would have ever elevated voting choice to that level.
The reason I use the language of “voting choice” is because that is a prudence wisdom decision. It’s a wisdom call in terms of how to best execute justice in the land. That’s what we do when we vote. Underneath that vote are a number of convictions, and convictions are what matter biblically. We may disagree at the level of wisdom in terms of how to implement or execute something, but where we can’t disagree as Christians is at the level of conviction.
What I mean here is convictions are the issue. For example, to believe that abortion is good is sin, to believe that that homosexuality is good is sin, to disbelieve that God has made us male and female on purpose is sin, to believe that racism is good is sin, to believe that we should not worry about the poor or the needy or the oppressed is sin—that’s where Christians must agree.
I want to be very clear. If somebody were actively and publicly advocating for anything that I just said, that would be a matter of church discipline in the church I pastor. But that conviction level is different from a voting decision. We have now moved in the voting decision piece. We have now moved from the area of conviction to wisdom, and that
Jon Moffitt: It does. The application of wisdom is a conscious issue because there are differing opinions on how to handle some of these issues. This is where we have to say that perspective, knowledge, history, background, how people receive information, process information—if someone says they believe these things are wrong, but they’ll make decisions based upon what they think this is the best choice they can make given the information that’s been handed to them…. For instance, some people are really against homosexuality or other types of sin that goes on. There are companies that promote these types of sin: Disney, Apple, etc.
Let’s be frank: living in the United States, you are required to pay taxes and your tax money is being used to murder people. That’s as plain as I can put that. So if you’re going to stop shopping at certain places, and you’re going to stop using certain products, which is totally up to you, that is a conscious issue that is up to you. But then the moment you say that if you watch a Disney show, or you own an Apple product, or you go to this or that store then you are not a Christian, that’s a problem. That’s a problem because you are now adding to Scripture where Scripture has not placed those demands and laws upon Christians. We have to be careful of taking conscious issues and making them Law. Paul speaks to this in Colossians that you, one, don’t let anybody do it, and two, don’t do it.
Justin Perdue: If I was going to try to boil some of this down into where I would stand as a pastor and as a Christian in thinking through these matters, because voting choice is a matter of wisdom, I might think that a brother or sister in Christ is unwise in how he or she votes but he or she is still my brother and sister. It is quite possible for Christians to have shared convictions, not only about Jesus, but even about some of those other things that I described: to have shared convictions about abortion, sexuality, gender, racism, and other issues of justice and caring for the needy, the poor, and the oppressed. We can have shared convictions about those things but disagree at the level of public policy, wisdom, and implementation. If we don’t maintain that, and we’re not that precise and clear, then we begin to elevate a wisdom call to the level of being a primary issue of doctrine and theology. We have effectively said that how you vote is now functionally as important as what you make of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and how you vote is as important as to whether or not you believe in the doctrine of the Trinity.
If we’re saying that a vote is enough evidence to excommunicate somebody, that is massive in its scope and its implications. We need to be careful in how we talk about this, and we need to look through history and determine if anybody has ever talked like this.
Jon Moffitt: Unfortunately, when Justin and I say anything—this is just part of the nature of the culture we live in—people cannot hear Justin and I say it. They hear a pastor say it because that’s the career path that we find ourselves in. Just like when our current president, Mr. Donald Trump, says something, it’s always as Mr. President because that’s the office that he holds, he can never say something as Donald. It’s always mr. President. So pastors need to be careful in how and what they communicate, so that people don’t confuse what Scripture says.
As a pastor, I’m a keeper of the gospel. As an elder of a flock, these people are to submit to me underneath one authority, and that’s God’s authority, not governmental authority. When Paul wrote to the Romans, or the church at Rome, this was not a Republican state that was governed by a morally ethical leader who was trying to keep purity and sanity for all. If you know anything about Rome during the time that Romans was written, Nero was not a morally sound good man. The things that he did to Christians were just obscene and disgusting. I don’t even want to mention some of them on the podcast in case children are listening. Yet this is what Paul says to them. There wasn’t an overthrow of government, it wasn’t a fight for liberty, it wasn’t freedom or else we die.
There’s no such thing as Christians who are trying to transform a particular government so that God will be pleased and advance His Kingdom. God advances His kingdom through the church, not through the government. God has never advanced His kingdom through a governmental system; He has always advanced it through the church.
Let me just read Romans 13 to you real quick. It says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” Do you understand what that would sound like to the Roman church? To understand what their government was doing to their brothers and sisters, it was very hard for them to read this. But this is what Paul says. He clarifies why they should do it: “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resist what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
Paul was dealing with a very harsh and difficult circumstance. The reason why he says this to the church is this: God is in control. Whether the government is out of control, God’s not out of control. It doesn’t change the mission and the purpose of the church, which is to advance the gospel and to care for one another. That’s the purpose. It is not to overthrow governments or to dictate what governments will do.
The United States is a unique situation in the history of Christianity. For the first time in the history of Christianity, Christians can rise up and actually speak their opinion on how things could be done.
Justin Perdue: They could weigh in on the political process.
Jon Moffitt: That’s right. It’s a very unique situation.
Justin Perdue: I think it’s a legitimate question to survey the New Testament and ask. Paul wrote the vast majority of the epistles, but how much ink is spilled by Paul on political and societal issues? Practically none, other than some of the things that we just been citing.
The apostles do not spill ink on political and societal issues. Paul says submit your government. 1 Peter has language about suffering unjustly, where you bear up under it because we look to Christ who suffered unjustly in our place. That’s really how the apostles talk about that kind of stuff. But again, we do want to acknowledge that the United States, in terms of the representative republic and this constitutional order of government that we have, is unique in the scope of world history, in one sense, and it’s also unique in the history of Christianity. So we do, as citizens and Christians, have an opportunity and a civic responsibility to speak and cast a vote, and to give input as to how we are governed. That is not something that the Christians in the first century, by and large, would have been able to do. We acknowledge that.
It matters that we think through these things, but we think through them as citizens of the common kingdom, who are at the same time citizens of the redemptive kingdom in heaven. When we cast the vote, what we’re doing is we are using wisdom, discernment, and conscience to make a call as to how justice can best be executed politically in our land, and we are making a determination for the sake of the common kingdom in the United States. How can I best use my vote to be of the best benefit to my neighbor in America? Christians with the same convictions, high level, may disagree at the level of wisdom. They may disagree in the voting booth.
One of the only other things that Paul does is he encourages us to pray for our leaders. That’s something we can do.
Jon Moffitt: That we may live peaceably with them.
Justin Perdue: Peaceful and godly lives. That’s instructive for us.
So whoever is in office, regardless of whether we voted for them or not, we should pray for them. We should pray that they would have wisdom, we should pray that they would make good and upright decisions, and it matters not if I like the person or not. That’s something that we can lead in well even in our churches.
My concern in some of this is that when we talk and we act as though there’s only one way for a Christian to vote—that there’s this requirement of if you’re going to be orthodox and faithful to Christ, this is what one must do—I fear that when we do that, the gospel is confused with a political party, and the church is effectively reduced to a political movement. The church is way bigger than any one particular political movement. The gospel transcends any consideration of politics.
I want to contend for the privacy of the gospel, and I want to contend for the unity that all Christians have in Christ, regardless of how you vote if you’re an American, and regardless of what country you live in. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and we have Jesus in common. All of that is confused, and a bunch of clutter is thrown on top of the gospel when we start making these very strong statements about voting patterns. I don’t really care how pious, or upright, or how courageous they may sound. They’re unhelpful, I fear.
Jon Moffitt: The biggest issue that I am seeing in the evangelical world in the United States is that we put more hope in the power of a government than we do in the issued word of God and the system by which God has instituted. God has said that it is the power of the gospel that transforms hearts and minds. It’s through this gospel going through the administration of the church, not the government. As a matter of fact, the church and the gospel have always exploded in moments of persecution. Somehow, we think that God is going to crush the United States if we vote the wrong way, no matter who you think is going to save the United States, and then God’s work is going to be thwarted because we, as Christians, made the wrong decision. I can tell you right now that God has already told us how to govern our lives and what our emphasis and focus should be. Our focus should be on the administration of the work that He has given the church.
This doesn’t mean that I am not caring for my country. Paul doesn’t disconnect the two. To love neighbor is to do what’s right for the American people. There are differing opinions on what is right for the American people, and I’m okay to have those disagreements. It’s just like how some people think like you shouldn’t eat grease and sugar because it’s not good for you, and other people think it’s fine. I’m not going to make that a theological debate because the Bible doesn’t.
Justin Perdue: You’re right about how when Christians get so worked up over politics, it reveals how earthbound a lot of our theology is. That’s sad. In many cases, it seems that we are hoping in God’s word and even in Christ for this life in a way that perhaps we shouldn’t. We should be more focused on the redemptive kingdom and the life to come. That’s one observation.
Along with this kind of earthbound stuff that we’re considering right now and not placing our hope in any political party, any government, or anything like that, I take pains as a pastor not only to keep my own personal political opinions private, but when it comes to my public ministry and any comments that I might make about politics, oftentimes those comments are with the purpose of blowing up utopian notions that are red and blue. I’m an equal opportunity destroyer of utopian notions when it comes to politics. Because what I want for all of our people is for them to understand that it’s fine to have strong opinions and sincere disagreements with people about politics, but those things are at best secondary.
What really matters is that we know that the only thing that is going to right every wrong is the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that only God can make all things new, and only God can restore all things to where we actually will have this eternal sure and lasting hope, this eternal paradise and peace with God and one another.
It’s good, as a pastor, to help your people understand that they need to hold loosely, on the one hand, their political convictions and not put their hope and trust in something that can never deliver and can never save.
My hope and my prayer is that the posture of our people toward a person who voted differently than them would be one of charity and humility. I pray that the conversation would go something like this.: “You voted differently than I did in the election. Talk with me about why you voted the way you voted.” If, in that conversation, convictions that are clearly at odds with Scripture are uncovered, then we can talk about and deal with that because we should. If somebody is advocating for something that is against the Bible and said they voted that way because they think it’s a good thing, then we need to reconcile and talk about what Scripture says is bad but they think is good.
But if good motivations are assumed, and there’s agreement at the level of conviction and disagreement as to how to vote, then we move forward in love and unity in Christ. We may agree to disagree about political matters and that’s okay. That’s what I would want in my own congregation, rather than it being the situation where we judge others who didn’t vote the way that we did, and then question whether they’re even in Christ at all.
Jon Moffitt: The divide that happens within the Christian community is really sad. It breaks my heart to see people make statements, and to put a lot of faith in a system that the Bible just never asks us to put faith in. We have never been asked to put our faith in a governmental system. We’ve been told to submit to it, and that God’s the one that’s in charge of it, but you just don’t see in scripture where you’re encouraged to put our faith in it.
The United States of America is not Israel and we are not a theocratic nation. We are not underneath the governance of God. (We’re probably gonna need to do a podcast on the theonomy soon.) We’re not underneath the laws of God as a nation. I am always thankful when our country does uphold the moral values that we do and when they give me the opportunity to put a vote in to hold to those laws, man, I’m going to put my vote in.
When I say abortion is sin, that’s not a political statement—that’s a biblical statement. When I say sexual deviancy is a sin, that’s not a political statement—that is a biblical statement. But here’s the one thing that you will not hear Justin and I do: our goal is not to shape the political values of our congregants. The mission that’s been handed to us is to preach Christ and him crucified from all of Scripture and to lead people to rest in Jesus Christ, not vote for one political party. It breaks my heart to see churches do that. I’m not angry with them. I’m not upset. I’m just heartbroken because people are not finding rest weekly; they’re finding unrest. They’re putting so much hope in a government.
I’m telling you, the United States has not been around long, and it may not be around much longer. And guess what? God is still accomplishing His mission to save the elect. God is in control of His mission.
Justin Perdue: As pastors, we are absolutely teaching our people to view the world through the lens of Scripture and the gospel. Amen. Absolutely. Again, when it’s a clear moral issue from Scripture, we preach it and herald it unashamedly. Like we’ve already been saying, there are a number of things that we can be very clear about at the level of conviction that are based on biblical truth: that abortion and sexual deviancy are sin, that racism is from hell, that marginalizing the weak, the needy, and the poor is terrible and wrong. We can all agree on those matters and we share those convictions.
Most importantly, we agree on Christ. We may disagree as to how best to use our vote as citizens in the United States, but in the church, we never disagree about Jesus and we don’t ever disagree about our need for Christ. That’s the main thing. I would stake my ministry on that. Jon and I are not saying we’re just going to preach Jesus and everything else is insignificant.
Jon Moffitt: No, because if you’re preaching Jesus, it will influence the way you think about these things.
Justin Perdue: Absolutely. And there are more than two speeds in our gearbox, too; there’s more than essential and irrelevant. There’s a spectrum of importance here, but you keep the main things the main things, and then you preach biblical truth and moral truth from Scripture. Then when it comes to a wisdom decision and exercising prudence, then we may very well think our brothers and sisters are unwise but we need to be careful about throwing around the S word: sin.
When we say that somebody is in sin for a wisdom decision they’ve made, we need to have a very straight line that we can draw from Scripture to our statement and proclamation that you’re in sin. That’s where nuance and thoughtfulness are required because it’s easy for me to look at somebody and say, “If you are pro abortion, that’s sin. If you are for the marginalization of the poor and you are for the marginalization of minorities, that’s sin.” I can say that from Scripture. But then I can’t draw such a straight line from Scripture to the voting booth because I realize that wisdom has to be exercised in making that judgment call on who to vote for.
Jon Moffitt: It’s just not as black and white as everybody wants to make it. When someone asks us how they should vote, our answer to this is you use all of what Scripture has given you, and this is a wisdom issue, and you do the best you can and try not to violate your conscience and trust in the sufficiency of Christ in his sovereignty.
I would say stay out of the political debates because they are just not helpful.
Justin Perdue: Exercise your civic responsibility, use discernment, view things through the lens of Scripture, vote your conscience, and love your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Jon Moffitt: Do not divide your church. Paul says to make every effort to extol gentleness, patience, and meekness with the bond of unity in Christ. Unfortunately, the peace of the gospel is not in unity, and is not being seen in this in the scene, and it’s sad and heartbreaking.
Justin Perdue: We could, we could riff on this for longer, but I think we’ve communicated the main things we want to communicate. Don’t misunderstand anything that we’re saying to mean, like I said from the jump, that we don’t think it matters how you vote, or that all votes are morally equivalent. That’s not what we’re saying. I trust we’ve been clear enough about what matters most in the unity that we have in Christ, and how it’s not as black and white as people want to make it.
Exercise charity, love, and humility in the way that you have conversations with brothers and sisters in Christ about political matters and about all things. Keep pointing one another to Christ.
Jon Moffitt: If you want to read Justin’s article, it will be a lot shorter than this. If you wanted to share it with someone, you can go to theocast.org and the article will be there. You’ll be able to read that.
Thank you for listening. Talk to you soon.