Stop It!

This is going to be short and sweet. Stop it! Stop co-opting and abusing the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ in the pursuit of short term political advantage.

On October 10th in Charlotte, NC, vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence responded to the lewd 11-year-old video of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump saying about women, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.” This behavior by Trump fits into a pervasive pattern of lewd comments and accusations about his mistreatment of women (similar to Bill Clinton). Pence initially condemned the comments and then reaffirmed his support of Trump, responding to the video by mentioning Romans 3:23, saying, “But

[my faith] also informs me that we all fall short, we all fall short of the glory of God. That there’s no one righteous, other than the One.”

The way Mike Pence used (abused) Romans 3:23, is in total opposition to what the apostle Paul meant. Sadly, some pastors and Christian leaders have used (abused) the Scripture in the same way to justify their support of Donald Trump’s candidacy, just as others did in the past to support Bill Clinton, or others who support Hillary Clinton as well. Paul’s point is not that the fact of universal sin and guilt means that no one should be held accountable for their sin. His point is that all have sinned and are accountable for their sin, therefore, all need salvation. And all can have salvation—but only one way: through faith in Jesus Christ and repentance.

If Mike Pence, and others, really believe what they are saying when they argue in this way, they should never do background checks of any kind. After all, for all have sinned, we all fall short of the glory of God. The only thing that would matter for any job would be competence because there is no need to evaluate character—everybody is simply in the all have sinned category. Also, why don’t Pence and Trump apply the same principle to the misdeeds of Bill and Hillary Clinton?

Jerry Falwell Jr. abuses Scripture in a similar way when he responded to Liberty University Students United Against Trump by saying, “This student statement seems to ignore the teachings of Jesus not to judge others but they are young and still learning.” As if Jesus’s command to “Judge not” (Matt 7:1) is a blanket condemnation against making any judgement about someone’s character based on their actions (I deal with this exegetical abuse here). I would not be surprised if the next student facing discipline at Liberty University calls on Falwell Jr. to apply Jesus teaching not to judge others with no consequences for their behavior.

David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network recently tweeted, “This just in: Donald Trump is a flawed man! We ALL sin every single day. What if we had a ‘hot mic’ around each one of us all the time?” Is this how CBN would respond if an employee spoke to a guest in the green room in like manner? Does this means that accused pedophiles should be hired at day care centers? After all, all have sinned. Of course not!

Acting as though—for all have sinned—means that there is no such thing as disqualifying sin or that personal character simply does not matter is a shameful and dishonest thing for anyone to suggest. But when people attempt to co-opt Jesus, the gospel, and the Bible to make such a case it is a blasphemous failure to fear God. Vote according to your conscience, but do not trample the gospel under your feet, abusing it to defend the indefensible, on the way to doing so. The loss of moral authority and integrity by Christian leaders in the pursuit of winning an election will result in losing everything that matters—no matter the outcome.

Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

By |October 14th, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , |

About the Author:

David E. Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky and assistant professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of In the Arena and Church with Jesus as the Hero. He blogs at Prince on Preaching and frequently writes for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, For the Church, the BGEA and Preaching Today


  1. ken heck October 15, 2016 at 9:21 am

    Who are you to past judgement !

  2. Scott Shaver October 15, 2016 at 11:31 am

    Boy, talk about co-opting God, Bible and religion for the sake of a self-inflating religio-political tirade against other Christians, this article takes the cake. Prince and his buddies like Russell Moore demonstrate just how in line the substance of Southern Baptist pulpits has fallen with cultural and political progressives.

    Worst job of trying to spiritualize and justify that which defies both Scripture and common sense I’ve ever read.

    The hypocrisy of this article is glaring.

  3. David Prince October 16, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Ken, I am a Christian with a Bible making judgments about actions.

    “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt 7:1). Our Lord’s words are commonly twisted today as if he is telling his followers to never make any judgments. Of course, it is conveniently ignored that a few verses later Jesus declares, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs” (Matt 7:6). And in the same discourse, Jesus calls his disciples to judge both teaching and conduct:

    Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits (Matt 7:15-20).

    The entire Sermon on the Mount requires moral judgments to be made by the followers of king Jesus. Elsewhere, Paul urges the followers of Christ, “Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess 5:21-22). The word translated test in this verse means “to prove, verify, examine prior to approval, judge, evaluate, discern” (Ceslas Spicq, the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament [TLNT]).

    The abuse of this verse is nothing new. Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) provided an excellent explanation of the problem in his day as he commented on Matthew 7:1-6,

    This prohibition, like many others in our Lord’s discourse, if interpreted in its utmost latitude, would go to censure what is elsewhere commended. If we judge not truth and error, good and evil, we cannot embrace the one and avoid the other; neither can we discharge the duties of our station in the world, or in the church, without forming some judgment of those about us. Paul and Silas are supposed to have judged Lydia to be faithful, ere they entered her house; and Peter did not scruple to tell the sorcerer that he “perceived him to be in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity.” We are not only allowed, but directed, even in this discourse, to judge of men, as of trees, by their fruit, ver. 16–20.

    It is part of our duty as ministers to declare from God’s word that they who live after the flesh will die; and that they who are carried away by strong delusions and the belief of a lie are in the utmost danger of damnation. They may be displeased with us for thinking so hardly of them, and may allege this passage as a reproof to our presumption. The judgment which Christ forbids is that which arises not from good-will and a faithful discharge of duty, but from a censorious spirit, which takes pleasure in thinking and speaking evil of those about us, puts the worst construction upon actions of doubtful motive, and is severe in detecting smaller faults in another, while blinded to far greater ones in ourselves (The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., vol. 1, J. Belcher, Ed., Sprinkle Publications, 585).

    Fuller offers a clear headed explanation of what Jesus is forbidding when he tells his followers to “judge not” (Matt 7:1). I have summarized Fuller’s points in updated language below, and then I offer a positive corollary that reflects the biblical necessity for disciples of Christ to exercise Christ-exalting judgment.

    The judgment Christ forbids is that which arises from a self-referential and hypercritical spirit.

    The judgment Christ commends is that which arises from a faithful knowledge of the truth of God’s word and never loses sight of the gospel.

    The judgment Christ forbids is that which takes pleasure in looking down at others as inferiors.

    The judgment Christ commends is that which flows from a broken heart over one’s own sin and never loses sight of the fact we are all fellow sinners in need of grace.

    The judgment Christ forbids is that which presumes to be able to judge the motives of others.

    The judgment Christ commends is that which deals with actions and deeds because only God is capable of judging the motives of the heart.

    The judgment Christ forbids is that which hypocritically ignores glaring personal faults while nitpicking lesser faults in others.

    The judgment Christ commends is that which freely acknowledges one’s own faults and gives others the benefit of the doubt regarding theirs.


  4. David Prince October 16, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Scott, Always thankful for satisfied customers. Seriously, thanks for taking the time to comment.


Comments are closed.