Wayne Grudem Stewards His Gifts By Having His Students Answer His Mail

On December 30, 2019, Phoenix Seminary professor Wayne Grudem wrote a rebuttal to Christianity Today‘s call for the impeachment of Donald Trump. In that editorial, Grudem made several fact claims that were unsupported with very few sources. One of the key claims in Grudem’s piece was about the Ukraine scandal.

Here is what Grudem wrote:

The background to that comment is that a Ukrainian prosecutor named Viktor Shokin had been investigating Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company, and that company had been paying Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, around $600,000 per year to serve as a member of its board. But Joe Biden boasted that, when he was vice president and on a visit to Ukraine, he withheld $1 billion in loan guarantees in order to force the Ukrainian government to fire that prosecutor.

In fact, Joe Biden can be seen on a YouTube video from January 23, 2018 (which was subsequently reported on by The Wall Street Journal), saying this: “I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a b___. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”

When I understand that background, it seems to me reasonable for officials of the U.S. government to investigate whether there was any corrupt dealing connected to Hunter Biden receiving more than half a million dollars a year, the Ukrainian prosecutor investigating the company that was paying him, and Joe Biden withholding $1 billion in loan guarantees until that prosecutor was fired. I do not know if there was any corruption involved or not. My point is only that the situation raises enough suspicion to warrant an investigation.

Based on several sources (here, here and here), I believe this is a misleading narrative based on a misunderstanding or deliberately false telling of several events. In fact, Shokin was not investigating corruption at Burisma at the time he was fired and had held up investigations by foreign governments of the company. Shokin was under pressure from not only Biden but the United States government, and European Union because he was not investigating corruption. Shokin was fired because he was not investigating corruption, not because he was. Grudem presents a narrative which is contradicted by the timeline and reporting at the time. In addition to that, the more that Ukraine players such as Lev Parnas reveal, the more the actual events appear to be at odds with Grudem’s presentation.

At the least, a Christian scholar should present citations and source material and give readers and his students all sides of the issue. This is a slanted narrative. While it is true that Shokin has made contradictory claims about his activities, others in Ukraine and in the U.S. besides Biden have corroborated the observation that Shokin was not investigating corruption. At the least, Grudem should have indicated that there is a plausible case to be made for presidential misconduct and that the narrative Grudem presented has been advanced principally by Shokin and the president’s defenders.

Given the seriousness of presenting errors to a public audience, I wrote to Grudem and expected that he would reply with his source material or some explanation why he believed Shokin was investigating when independent sources said he wasn’t. Also, I had hoped for a correction of the record about Biden’s actions in demanding Shokin’s ouster. Biden was not acting on his own; he based his actions on U.S. policy and was acting consistent with the policy of our allies. These are critical facts that Grudem omitted. As a scholar, he should correct the record.

However, the following response is what I got. He had a student assistant answer.

My name is J. B. I am Dr. Grudem’s assistant as well as a student here at Phoenix Seminary. One of my jobs is to facilitate correspondence on Dr. Grudem‘s behalf.

Dr. Grudem appreciates your correspondence. In an effort to best steward his gifts, Dr. Grudem has decided for the present season to prioritize research and writing. For this reason, he regrets that he is unable to respond to your comments.  Please accept Dr. Grudem’s humble apologies.

I can assure you that Dr Grudem continues to pray for our country and all our leaders, regardless of their party line, as the Bible tell us we should. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Unable? No, he is unwilling. He is unwilling to take responsibility for what he wrote. I urge readers to consult the sources I linked to above. As always, I am willing to read any sources readers provide in the comments.

Wayne Grudem Channels Trump on Immigration

We Need a Wall Because the Bible Has Walls

Yesterday, Wayne Grudem came out on the side of building a wall along the Southern border. His reason: The Bible has walls.

Walls gave peace and security. In the world of the Old Testament, people built walls around cities to protect themselves from thieves, murderers, and other criminals, and from foreign invaders who would seek to destroy the city. People could still enter the city, but they had to do so by the gate, so that city officials would have some control over who was coming in and going out. Today’s debate is about a larger area – a national border, not a city – but the principles are the same.

The principles are the same, says Grudem. We need a wall to keep out all those thieves, murderers, and criminals who are invading. He seems to be channeling Trump who famously said in 2015:

They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

It doesn’t sound like either person has a very high view of people seeking to come here.

Coming to America

Throughout his article, Grudem doesn’t seem to recognize that people can seek asylum legally.

Objection: “We should be a nation that welcomes immigrants.” I agree wholeheartedly – if they come legally. But it is no kindness to them if the lack of a wall tempts them to risk death by walking across miles of parched desert, at the mercy of violent gangs, and then come into the US without legal documentation, only to live here as a permanent legal underclass, easily exploited, living in constant fear of discovery. In addition, it diminishes respect for the law and destabilizes the nation when millions of people exist in the shadows, living outside the legal recordkeeping functions of the nation.

Grudem says we should welcome immigrants if they come here legally. It is legal to request asylum. A wall won’t change that. People will still need to make the journey from unsafe homes to request asylum.

A Wall Isn’t a Policy

Grudem seems to assume that a wall is a policy.

Objection: “These are good people who are just seeking a better life.” Yes, many of them are, and we should welcome them – if they come legally. But we can’t ignore the fact that many others will not become “good neighbors” – some are drug runners, gang members, and even terrorists. A wall makes it possible to screen out the people who have previously been deported for felonies and others who are most likely to commit crimes or simply become a drain on the economy rather than getting a productive job.

An effective border wall would also be the best way to keep children together with their parents. Under the present system, families (1) enter the US illegally and (2) are caught, then (3) they plead for asylum, and (4) they are incarcerated until their asylum petition can be evaluated. But if we had a completed wall, such requests for asylum would be decided at the border, before they ever entered the US. We would never have to detain either parents or children on US soil in the first place.

I don’t believe a wall by itself would do anything he says it would. The present system is the way it is because of a mash up of current law and Trump administration policy. A wall alone doesn’t create the policy which governs what happens with people who want to come into the country.

Congress must craft legislation to make sane and compassionate policy. According to polls most people want families kept together, and DACA recipients to remain in the country.  Most oppose the wall.  Most citizens don’t want open borders, but rather secure borders with compassionate application for refugees searching for a safe and better life.

America Doesn’t Use the Bible to Settle Policy

I don’t think the Bible has much to say about walls in a republic which is not a theocracy. America isn’t a Christian nation so it doesn’t matter much if the Bible seems to teach it or not. We need a consensus which is humane and compassionate while protecting everybody’s interests. In my opinion, Grudem badly misses the mark.

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Some Evangelicals Turn Away from Trump, Some Remain, Some Haven't Spoken

The fall out continues from the audio of Donald Trump claiming to use his celebrity status to assault women. While some evangelical Trump supporters have remained on the Trump train, at least two prominent ones have jumped off. At least one prominent Trump supporting evangelical has stayed quiet.
UPDATE: Christianity Today’s Andy Crouch produced a hammer after the video scandal and didn’t spare his evangelical brothers and sisters who are enabling Trump. Must. Read.
The Leavers
Wayne Grudem and Hugh Hewitt have taken back their support. Hewitt thinks Trump should turn over the candidacy to Mike Pence while Grudem took back his support and called for Trump to withdraw.
Hewitt also thinks more tapes and awkward material is to come. Grudem still doesn’t know who he is going to vote for if Trump stays in.
UPDATE: Christianity Today has a nice write up of former Trump advisory board member James McDonald’s efforts to get Trump to take advice from the advisory board.
WaPo also has the report of McDonald’s strong denunciation of Trump’s comments on the video.
On the Trump Train
Supporters Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, and Gary Bauer, are sticking with him. Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. tweeted his Trump pride after last night’s debate. Michele Bachmann is still on the team.
Silence in the Face of Vulgar Video is Still Silence
Eric Metaxas hasn’t tweeted anything since October 7 when he first acknowledged the video. In his tweets, he took a negative view of Trump’s behavior and said he was going off Twitter for awhile.
Trump advisory board member and president of the American Association of Christian Counselors Tim Clinton has not responded to two requests for his position on Trump’s candidacy in light of the video.  I expected the owner of the largest association of Christian counselor might have something to say about it.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Mike Fuoco quoted me in this article on evangelical support for Trump.
Eric Metaxas will keep us waiting until Wednesday but will block out unpleasantness until then. Sigh.

I Was on Washington Watch at 5:20pm Today to Discuss My Reaction to Wayne Grudem's Trump Support

Plans are for me to be on Family Research Council’s Washington Watch radio show at 5:20pm today to discuss my reaction to Wayne Grudem’s article on Trump as a moral choice.
The show is live at http://www.frc.org/radio.
Well that was brief.
Out of the entire response to Grudem, Mr. Klukowski wanted to discuss the Iowa Civil Rights Commission situation. He took issue with my description of it but due to the ending of the segment, I did not get to relate my understanding of it. Klukowski is the attorney for one of the churches in Iowa which brought suit against the Iowa Civil Right Commission over a 2007 law in Iowa including sexual orientation and gender identity to the state non-discrimination statute.  I wrote several posts about the situation here, here, here, and here.
In essence, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission put out guidance in 2008 which appeared to extend the law’s coverage to churches, even during Sunday services. However, since the law was passed no church had ever been accused by the Commission of violating the law. In fact, the guidance language was not clear and once the lawsuit was filed, the Commission changed the language to better reflect the fact that churches were exempt from the law in their ministry activities. If a church runs a business offering a non-religious good or service to the public (e.g., a day care with no religious purpose), then the law applies. However, church services, religious day cares and/or other ministries are exempt.
In addition to the chair of the Commission, I had contact with the lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom legal firm who was also involved in the case. I look forward to carrying on that conversation.
Back to the Grudem article, if I had the opportunity, I wanted to say that there are two broad arguments one can make on behalf of a presidential candidate, one based on moral qualities and the other based on a pro and con policy analysis. Grudem stipulated that Trump was flawed but claimed that he offered the best policies. However, he provided no data. We have a saying around our department at Grove City College:

In God we trust, all others must bring data.

Grudem brought no data.
In my response to Grudem, I wanted to demonstrate, using data, that the case for Trump was not clear cut. In fact, reviewing the analyses from experts of all political persuasions, the case against Trump is stronger than for him.
Making an empirical argument requires evidence and Grudem didn’t specify any evidence. I believe he abused his position by citing the verse in James: “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). That Grudem believes a vote for Trump is right is on him. I am not responsible to act based on his determination and he is presumptuous to imply that it is sin not to vote for Trump.


An Answer to Wayne Grudem about Donald Trump and What is Best for the Nation

Last week, theology professor Wayne Grudem created quite a stir with an essay declaring his belief that “voting for Trump is a morally good choice.” In this rebuttal, I argue in opposition to his position.
It is important to note at the beginning that Grudem has opined on moral issues surrounding presidential behavior in the past. In 1998 along with over 150 Christian scholars, Grudem signed the “Declaration concerning religion, ethics, and the crisis in the Clinton presidency.” In that document, the signers stopped short of support for impeachment but expressed doubt about Clinton’s expressions of remorse. As a rebuke to Clinton, the signers took a strong position in favor of moral behavior on the part of elected officials. In 1998, Grudem agreed with the following statement:

We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. (emphasis mine)

Acknowledging that Trump is flawed, Grudem has now carved out a more pragmatic ethic to justify his endorsement:

I do not think that voting for Donald Trump is a morally evil choice because 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.

In 1998, Grudem was not as pragmatic with Bill Clinton. Now he says about Trump:

But the main reason I call him “a good candidate with flaws” is that I think most of the policies he supports are those that will do the most good for the nation.

So now according to Grudem, Christians should vote in a way that seeks the welfare of the nation concluding:

Therefore the one overriding question to ask is this: Which vote is most likely to bring the best results for the nation?

In my view, Grudem was closer to correct in 1998. The moral qualities of “truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power” are critical to the survival of our system of government. It is not hard to make a case that Donald Trump has disqualified himself on each one of those principles.  In fact, Grudem seems to agree when he writes:

He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him. He has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages. These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.

I don’t think Grudem goes far enough. Trump has not been truthful (e.g., he said he knew Putin, then he said he didn’t), there is evidence he has not treated his subcontractors with integrity, he surely has not treated others with dignity (e.g., constant name-calling and ridicule of people’s flaws) and he has shown a willingness to overreach his power (e.g., suppressing the press, saying he would order the military to commit war crimes). We haven’t even scratched the surface of his nod to white supremacists (e.g., granting press credentials to white supremacists). However, in my response here, I won’t fully chronicle the ways Trump has disqualified himself according to the moral qualities which Grudem affirmed in 1998. I think when confronted with the overwhelming evidence, he would stipulate that.
Grudem in 2016 is using a different standard to come to an ethical decision. Thus, I want to address what Grudem says is his overriding question: “Which vote is most likely to bring the best results for the nation?”
On that question, I can see no justification for a vote for Trump given what Trump has said he wants to do as president.
Grudem’s essay purports to provide specifics about Trump’s positions on various topics. In general, I think he has presented the most optimistic slant on those policy statements. He also provides no citations or evidence. While I haven’t provided an exhaustive analysis either, my purpose is to demonstrate that credible evidence exists that Trump is not the best choice for the nation and that compromising moral qualities is not required given the risk involved in a Trump administration.
Costs of Immigration Promises
In his essay, Grudem talks about the tax and economic policies of Trump and Clinton. However, it appears he has not studied them or consulted with experts about the effects of those policies. Let’s start with Trump’s promise to deport over 11 million undocumented immigrants. In addition to the human rights catastrophes (raids, family separation and instability, etc.) which would occur, the economic impact would be a disaster.
According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, that promise would hit the economy hard, costing at least $400 billion. In addition, the loss of workers would cause a $1 trillion drain on the gross domestic product. This does not include the cost of building a wall along the Mexican border which has been estimated at another $25 billion. Not surprisingly, Trump disagrees with these estimates, but has provided no numbers of his own.
Can we afford this? Is this best for the nation?
As with other policy matters, Grudem’s discussion of Trump’s tax plan seems to be little more than his opinion. Trump has promised a tax cut but he has also promised to leave social security alone. In general, he promises to cut taxes while increasing government services (e.g., veteran’s benefits).  His method of paying for his increases in government spending (e.g., increases services, deportation force, building a wall, etc.) is to cut waste, fraud and abuse. Certainly, Grudem knows that every presidential candidate promises to do that. Furthermore, there isn’t enough waste to cut to get the budget balanced with Trump’s tax cuts while increasing government spending. According to the Tax Policy Center, Trump’s tax plan will reduce federal revenues by $9.5 trillion over a decade and increase the national debt by 80% of the gross domestic product.
Is this best for the nation?
Trade, Jobs and the Poor 
Grudem believes in a straight line between lower taxes and more jobs. However, one must also consider the impact of Trump’s threatened trade wars. According to a National Foundation for American Policy study of Trump’s proposed tariffs, American families would have to pay between $11,000 and $30,000 more for imported goods over five years depending on how widely the tariffs would be applied.
Higher costs hurt the poor. Of course, since he’s rich, Trump doesn’t care about costs. According to Market Watch, Trump brushed off concerns about higher costs:

“Who the hell cares if there’s a trade war?” Trump scoffed at a New Jersey event this month. I suppose when you’re super wealthy like he is, it doesn’t matter if the price of a TV or pair of sneakers or even a car goes up 35% to 45%. But when you’re just about anyone else, it matters. A lot.

According to Market Watch, the jobs of one in six people are connected to trade and other jobs, particularly those on the lower end of the spectrum would be at risk since everybody’s costs would go up.
The conservative National Chamber of Commerce agrees that Trump’s policies would lead to recession. They cite a non-partisan Moody’s analysis which shows Trump’s proposals leading to dire economic consequences. According to Moody’s analysis, unemployment would rise to 7 percent with 3.5 million jobs lost. They predict a lengthy recession.
Is this best for the nation?
Health Care
Trump promises to replace Obamacare with something else. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget projects that Trump’s healthcare proposals would cost between $330-500 billion, and lead to 21 million more uninsured. These estimates are based on his current proposals which contradict other promises and preferences he has expressed about healthcare. Trump has expressed support for a single payer plan where the government control Grudem fears would be front and center.
Is this best for the nation?
National Debt
According to the CRFB, Trump’s campaign proposals in total are much more costly that Clinton’s. Over a decade, Trump’s plans would add $11.5 trillion to the national debt, whereas Clinton’s would add only $250 billion.
Is adding $11.5 trillion to the national debt best for the nation?
Foreign policy
Grudem seems to like Trump’s tough talk. He writes:

Trump will not let China and Russia and Iran push us around anymore, as Obama has done, with Hillary Clinton’s support when she was secretary of state. If Trump is anything, he is tough as nails, and he won’t be bullied.

Does Grudem not read the news? Trump melts when Vladimir Putin expresses the faintest positive sentiment. Trump said Putin called him a “genius,” however that’s not true. He said on at least two occasions that he had a good relationship with Putin only to say later that he didn’t know Putin and had never met him.
Worse is Trump’s vacillation on NATO and what he would do if Russia invaded a NATO ally. He said we might not intervene. Trump said he would look at recognizing Russia’s occupation of Crimea. There are possible conflicts of interest when it comes to Russia which have not been fully explored by the press.
For these and numerous other reasons, over 120 Republican foreign policy experts and advisors signed a letter opposing Trump’s candidacy. Former national security adviser to Presidents Ford and Bush Brent Scowcroft and former George W. Bush deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage have come out in favor of Clinton. For me on foreign policy, these experts carry more influence than theology professor Grudem.
I don’t believe Trump is best for the nation when it comes our relations with other nations.
Supreme Court Justices and Religious Liberty
Grudem paints the worst imaginable scenario in his discussion of Supreme Court justices and uses some less than honest rhetoric to do it. He says under Clinton “the nation would no longer be ruled by the people and their elected representatives, but by unelected, unaccountable, activist judges who would dictate from the bench about whatever they were pleased to decree. And there would be nothing in our system of government that anyone could do to stop them.”
There is a lot wrong with these statements. Currently, federal judges are unelected. Nothing would change there. That is our constitutional system. If judicial power is abused, there are checks and balances which are available. That would be true under Trump or Clinton.
If Clinton’s judicial appointments are viewed as too liberal, the Senate can stall the process, as they are doing now. The current situation with Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland demonstrates how Congress can exert influence. Surely, Grudem recalls the negative vote on Reagan appointee Robert Bork. Congress has held up numerous federal appointments over the years and they will not lose any abilities under Clinton.
Although Supreme Court appointments is a popular fall back position for evangelical Trump supporters, not all conservative legal scholars agree. For instance, the libertarian publication Reason polled 10 conservative scholars and found very little support for Trump. Readers should consider what all of them said but here is a modest sample:

Roger Pilon
Director of Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute
Assuming Trump were to follow through on his list of possible Supreme Court nominees, that would be a reason to support him, but there are countervailing reasons to oppose him that are, I believe, far more important. The Court will correct itself in time, I hope, but it is the character of the Republican Party and, more broadly and crucially, of our very nation that is at stake in this election. Hillary Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate, to be sure, but the election of Donald Trump would so defile the party of Lincoln and America itself that it must be resisted. He is an aberration that we must get past, and quickly.

The other conservative legal scholars took similar positions, some more vehemently, some more timidly. However, a clear consensus was that the clear potential for damage to the Republican party and the nation outweighs the potential benefit of Supreme Court appointments.
On religious liberty, not all of Grudem’s scenarios are accurate and so it is difficult to respond to this concern. For instance, Grudem claims

some churches in Iowa have now been told that they have to make their bathrooms open to people on the basis of their “gender identity” if the churches are going to be open to the public at all.

This is simply not true. No church in Iowa has been told this as a condition of being “open to the public.” It is true that the Iowa Commission on Civil Rights issued poorly worded guidance eight years ago which caused confusion but no church has ever been forced to comply with Iowa non-discrimination law in ministry activities.
There is always a need to be vigilant when it comes to constitutional rights. Whether Trump or Clinton is elected, there will be places in the country where religious and other rights conflict. These issues must be handled on a case by case basis in light of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. However, concern about religious liberty is not the only issue of importance. Consequently, it doesn’t seem best for the nation to focus exclusively on getting more originalists on the Supreme Court.
Who is Best for the Nation?
For some Christian voters, deciding who gets their vote might come down to a decision that the potential for higher national debt, job killing trade wars, a chaotic and potentially dangerous foreign policy, draconian deportation practices, more racial division, and more people without health insurance are worth the possibility of additional conservative appointments to the Supreme Court. However, others will not. If we are selecting a candidate based on what is best for the nation, Trump is not as clear cut a choice as Grudem makes it seem. In fact, his essay is an insult to the intelligence of those who believe both candidates have disqualified themselves.
If a vote for Trump is a moral choice, then I can’t see how a vote for Clinton is not one also. It probably comes down to which vision of the future each individual believes to be accurate. As I look at the evidence, I think Grudem sugar coated Trump and cast Clinton in the worst possible light. In any case, given how inadequate his analysis of Trump’s positions and character is, I think it is an abuse of his position as an evangelical leader to imply that there is a choice that good Christians should choose. If his standard no longer elevates moral qualities, then he needs to do a better job researching Trump’s proposals and what they portend.
For me, I will either vote for a person to be named later (e.g., betterforamerica.com), write someone in, or not vote for president. For me, this is the moral choice.