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Did Dr. Bob Jones, III violate Biblical principles in endorsing Mitt Romney

Monday, October 22, 2007

As most of you are surely aware and as I mentioned in my recent post, Thinking About Elections, Dr. Bob Jones, III, the chancellor of Bob Jones University, came out last week and endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

In doing so, Dr. Bob raised the eyebrows of many and the ire of many others. All one has to do is take a quick look around the blogosphere to find that many have come out and commented on this event.

As I indicated in my post, I am not sure that this endorsement is the wisest move even from a political standpoint. I doubt the legitimacy of Romney's conservatism - especially in light of his campaigns and performance in Massachusetts where he took much more liberal positions. I doubt the ability of Romney to excite the conservative base (in part, because of his flip-flopping), and I think many people (and not just conservative evangelicals) will hold his Mormonism against him politically.

Since that time I have read a number of emails, blog comments and blog posts, and forum discussions in which the claim was made that Dr. Bob Jones III violated Biblical principles in endorsing Mitt Romney. Dr. Chuck Baldwin (a former candidate for Vice President as a nominee of the Constitution Party) has written an article in which he argues that "Bob Jones Dances with the Devil"

So, is it true? Does Dr. Bob Jones' endorsement of Mitt Romney equate to "Dancing with the Devil?" Does this signal an area of disobdience? What does the Bible say about this and what should we think about it?

It will be my attempt to answer that question without going too long. I apologize in advance for the fact that this will almost certainly be longer than a typical blog post and ask your indulgence in hearing this out.

The Relationship of Believers and Government

When we consider the relationship of believers to government, we find that while there is some teaching in this area by direct statements of Scripture, there is a lot of things that God chose to leave unsaid in this area - or to teach by illustration and principle rather than by direct statement.

When we consider the direct statements, some of the following things come immediately to mind.

1. Believers are to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." In other words - pay your taxes. (Matthew 22:17-22)

2. Believers are to "obey every ordinance of man." In other words - obey the laws of the land. (1 Peter 2:13)

3. Believers are to "honour the king." In other words - we need to treat those in authority with respect - even if we disagree with them. (1 Peter 2:17)

4. Believers are to offer "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks" for "kings" and for "all that are in authority." In other words - pray for your government leaders. (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

However, the question that we are faced with in this discussion is not one that fits easily into one of those statements or similar statements. Instead, we are challenged with the question of what is a believers responsibility in regards to the selection of rulers in a secular government. By its very nature, this question is one that leads to difficulty because such a situation did not exist in Bible times.

Israel in Old Testament times was not a secular nation - it was, by its very nature as the chosen people of God, a religious nation with a religious purpose. This truth remained the same whether the country was being governed by religious leaders, judges, or kings. Some have attempted to drag out the qualifications that God gave regarding judges or kings for Israel as qualifications that we insist upon in our candidates for office in the United States. The problem with this is that the United States is a secular government and the situation being discussed today is of such a different nature than what was faced in regards to Israel that the list of O.T. verses that some (such as visionforum) have thrown out regarding the selection of rulers for Israel have to be ripped out of context in order to be made to apply to the situation as we have it in America.

When we come to other nations in the Old Testament - and even in the New Testament - we should remember that even these governments usually had a "religious" element to them. Many of the nations surrounding Israel viewed their ruler as a "god" or at least as a priest or servant of their particular god.

So, barring an exact parallel in the Bible, are there any examples that might educate us as to the nature of the believers relationship to a non-theocratic government ought to be?

I believe there are, but because these thoughts are drawn from historical passages rather than from declarative teachings, we must be careful how strongly we stretch the application of these situations.

I believe an argument can be made for the "support" of a non-believer (even a believer in a false religion) by a believer in a governmental or political situation based on the following:

1. The political roles played by Godly people in ungodly governments in the Old Testament.

While much of the Old Testament records Israel's history, Israel was not always a self-governing nation. There were periods throughout the Old Testament where people of God found themselves under the rule or command of nations that were not only not theologically correct, but were actually antagonistic to God and His people.

One of the examples of this was the situation with Joseph in Egypt. Joseph was a devout believer who God had brought through some extraordinary situations to bring him to a place of being able to preserve Israel by serving as Pharaoh's right hand man in Egypt. God used Joseph greatly and ended up using the wisdom of Joseph to provide food for Israel in Egypt that contributed to the preservation of the line of which the Messiah was to come through. However, as part of his role as vizier in Egypt, Joseph also supported Pharaoh. Genesis 47, for instance, tells us that "Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house" (v. 14) and that "Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh" (v. 20). To use the logic being thrown around by some of Dr. Jones' critics in this regard, Joseph was "dancing with the Devil" since his actions as part of the government were designed to benefit a pagan ruler.

Similar cases could be made from others, such as the godly Daniel in the wicked courts of Babylon and the leader Nehemiah as the cupbearer of Artaxerxes. In each case, you do not find the Bible speaking evil against these men because they assisted pagan, idolatrous men in the realm of politics and government.

2. The implication of the statements in support of government.

In an earlier section of this post, I gave a few of the clear statements of Scripture regarding the relationship of the believer to secular government. We must remember that this statements by Christ and Paul and Peter were not made in a vacuum. They were made in the midst of being ruled by oppressive and wicked governmental rulers.

If Christ can say that we should give our taxes to Caesar (even though Caesar was a wicked man) and if Paul can say we should pray for and give thanks for those in authority (even though those in authority were often seeking his own harm) and if Peter can say that we are to honor the king (even though the king leaves much to be desired in regards to honor), then surely you or I can say that it is not wrong to give support to a person to whom we may not agree in every area - or even with whom we disagree to a large degree.

3. The responsibilities and realities of the American system of government.

Unlike Paul, Peter, Daniel, and the rest, those of us who are citizens of the United States of America are in a country where we are given the opportunity to participate in the process of selecting and electing our own leaders. I believe this gives us a responsibility to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16). I believe that part of this responsibility includes supporting politically the individuals who we would like to see elected as President (or other office).

The realities of our system indicate a few things.

* The first reality of our system is that there is no perfect candidate. There never has been and there never will be. Every person for whom we vote or publicly endorse is going to have flaws. The reality of this truth needs to hit home to those who are making this criticism. No matter who your candidate is, they have problems. The choice regarding candidates are not simply "yes/no" but are instead choices of degrees.

For instance, one of the big concerns in this particular endorsement is the religion of Governor Romney. In case someone who reads this has been hiding under a rock, Governor Romney is a Mormon - a member of the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." Is Romney's Mormonism a false religion? Absolutely. Among other things, Mormonism teaches that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that man can become gods. (In fact, Dr. Bob Jones made it abundantly clear that he is not in favor of Governor Romney's Mormonism. In fact, the Greenville News article that announces the endorsement quotes Dr. Jones as stating, "As a Christian I am completely opposed to the doctrines of Mormonism" and "I'd be very concerned if he tried to make it appear in any of his statements that Mormonism is a Christian denomination of some sort. It isn't. There's a theological gulf that can't be bridged." Some of the left-leaning blogs out there have even made it a point that to complain that Dr. Jones had to show his "intolerance" by speaking negatively of Governor Romney's Mormonism in the same interview in which he endorsed him for President.) However, if politics and government is about supporting someone's religious belief, then I think that we must admit that there are some serious problems for conservative Christians - especially for Fundamentalist Christians. I don't believe that there is anyone running that I could, in clear conscience and in obedience to Biblical principals, have preach in my church - and I don't think there has been in my lifetime. Is Romney's Mormonism worse than the false teaching that President Bush sometimes spouts (such as in his recent comments that "I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God") or worse than the false Roman Catholicism of Clarence Thomas or the theologically liberal Episcopalian George H. W. Bush? In each of these cases, the religion of these men has significant errors and is far from what the Bible teaches. If we take the position that Governor Romney's religion automatically disqualifies him, are we, by default, saying that these other serious religious errors are somehow less egregious?

* The second reality of our system is that all of us support these flawed candidates if we vote at all. Not only do we understand that no candidate is perfect, but we all also find ourselves in some degree supporting a flawed candidate. Even if we never speak up and endorse someone publically, the very fact that we cast a vote for them indicates that there is at least some sense in which we have supported that candidate. The question, again, then becomes a question of degrees. Do I support this person who I vote for by campaigning for him, contributing to him, or merely voting for him? If I say that it is wrong to support the candidate by endorsing him, how do I justify my vote for a flawed candidate when it comes to election day?

* The third reality of our system is that Presidential politics is essentially a "winner takes all" contest. There is no run-off among the top vote getters. There is no ability to form a coalition after the fact of the candidates who received the second, third and fourth highest vote totals in order to overthrow the election of the candidate with the highest electoral vote total. The 1992 and 1996 election should be recent enough reminders regarding the fact splitting the vote of your opposition is as effective in winning and election as actually getting the majority of people to support you. This is, in part, the logic behind what Dr. Jones was trying to do politically. If those who hold to socially conservative values in areas such as abortion and homosexual marriage split their loyalty among a bung of different candidates in the primary, it will assure a choice between two "pro-choice" candidates in the general election. I agree with this argument, I am just not sure that Governor Romney is the one I would have encouraged the social conservatives to support.

* The fourth reality of our system is that sometimes the wisest move is to prevent something more evil from happening. Proverbs warns us that we have a responsibility to deliver those that are drawn unto death. Many believers and politician could rightfully argue that the election of Senator Hillary Clinton to the office of President would spell a significant setback in the chance of getting the heinous Roe v. Wade decision overturned. Electing a pro-life President could have the opposite effect, as there are already four of the needed five votes to overturn R v. W already sitting on the Supreme Court. Perhaps taking Proverbs 24:11-12 seriously would include trying to do what you can to make sure that someone who is pro-life gets elected.

Proverbs 24:11-12 If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?

So, am I following Dr. Bob Jones, III's endorsement of Governor Mitt Romney for President? Not at this time. But, is that endorsement by Dr. Jones the hypocritical comprise of Biblical principles that some have claimed? No.

Just my thoughts,



David McGuire said...

I appreciated your well-stated comments very much. The intersection of religious belief and political activity is a volatile combination at times. All of the commentary about Dr. Bob III endorsing Mitt Romney calls to mind the involvement of liberal clergymen in the antiwar and civil rights movement during the 1960s. Many of us conservatives decried this "politicalization of religion." We are reminded of this even today when liberal politicians are allowed to preach "political" sermons in certain churches today.

But is Dr. Bob's endorsement a violation of the principle of separation of church and state? Personally, I don't think it is. Dr. Bob III is speaking as an individual; the University is not endorsing any candidate. I well remember the lively debate on campus in 1979-1980 between the supporters of John Connally and Ronald Reagan. Both men were invited to speak in "convocation" at BJU. Obviously, Reagan went on to win the nomination and the election.

Although some have criticized the Romney endorsement, I think it is still important to realize that Christians ought to consider the implication of Hillary winning the White House. Social policy, judicial nominations, and a host of other issues will be adversely affected with her holding the keys to the White House.

I believe in a sovereign God, but I also believe that He allows us (at least in this country) to exercise some human control over who is elected to office. Christians need to be involved in the process. And that may well mean voting for someone other than Mitt Romney. That's fine, but we cannot abdicate our responsibilities.

Thanks again for your thought analysis.

farmer Tom said...

The problem with this is that the United States is a secular government and the situation being discussed today is of such a different nature than what was faced in regards to Israel that the list of O.T. verses that some (such as visionforum) have thrown out regarding the selection of rulers for Israel have to be ripped out of context in order to be made to apply to the situation as we have it in America.

This seems like a rather disingenuous bit of reasoning on you part. Yes, the governmental system in these passages was a theocracy, I got that. But, are you arguing that since it was written to the Jewish people that the principles of selecting leaders are irrelevant to secular government?
Do you believe that sexual abstinence is an effective means of protecting oneself from STD's only for believers? Do you believe that stealing and coveting are only sins for God's people?

My pastor is currently preaching through Hebrews. It was written first to Jewish people who had heard of Jesus Christ, but had not accepted him as the Messiah. Secondly, it was written to Jewish believers to give them confidence in the superiority of Jesus Christ to Judaism, from which they had come. Only after that is it written to believer today. However, that does not change the truth contained in it today. Jesus Christ is still superior to the angels, even today, Scripture is still sharper than a two edged sword, even today. These principles are unchanging.

I would argue that when sinful men are selecting sinful men to be their leaders, (you don't believe that the men chosen from among the tribes were sinless do you? Deut 1:12)whether it is in ancient Israel or in the USA that the standards by which one chooses leaders are universal, natural laws if you will. They apply to all men everywhere for all time.

I am not trying to be flippant here, but do you know that the founders of this nation believed that the Natural Law was written on men hearts, Romans 2:14,15 That not only did God establish his Law with regard to spiritual laws, but the Laws of Nature included human government. Calvin called the laws of nature "common grace". Luther referred to it as "natural grace". Whatever the term, clearly Paul taught that somehow man had within him some element of understanding of law which came to him apart from Scripture.

If then we have a government founded on the "Laws of Nature and Nature's God", how can we abandon the clear principles of that same God when it comes to selecting our leaders?

Thanks for the discussion.

farmer Tom

Frank Sansone said...

Professor McGuire,

Thank you for your comments and your input. They are appreciated. I also appreciate the historical context of some of this and for addressing the other area that some on the left mistakingly think is at issue here - separation of church and state.


Frank Sansone said...

Farmer Tom,

Good to see you over here from SI. Thank you for your input, but I think that you are stretching things a bit.

For instance, you ask: Are you arguing that since it was written to the Jewish people that the principles of selecting leaders are irrelevant to secular government?

I am arguing that the situation is a different situation. In the one case, they are selecting leaders for a religious government. In the other, we are selecting leaders for a secular government. If you take it otherwise, where do you stop? Do you really think that God expects us to cast lots in regards to governmental decisions and expects us to only have leaders who will agree to "do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses" and that they will never "make mention of the name of their (the pagans) gods" as indicated in Joshua 23? It is great that we can pick and choose some character traits out of the OT that we think can come across as applicable in this situation like visionforum has done, but when you attempt to apply that hermenuetic consistently you will find that it does not hold water.

Think for a minute about this statement you have made: I would argue that when sinful men are selecting sinful men to be their leaders, (you don't believe that the men chosen from among the tribes were sinless do you? Deut 1:12)whether it is in ancient Israel or in the USA that the standards by which one chooses leaders are universal, natural laws if you will. They apply to all men everywhere for all time. If you truly applied this, you would require the qualifications of a deacon and elder upon these candidates as well - since these are clearly standards that God has given regarding the choosing of leaders and should therefore apply to all men everywhere for all time.

The reality is that I highly doubt you actually believer that. The reason why is because you and I both recognize that the CONTEXT of these situations are different.

However, I would argue that you cannot legitimately take the qualifications of church government and rip it out of context and apply it to our secular government - and that you canot legitimately take the qualifications of leaders for a religious government of a religious nation and force them into the context of secular government of a secular nation.

In regards to your last couple of paragraphs, I am not advocating "abandoning the clear principles of that same God when it comes to selecting our leaders", but rather arguing that He has not given us clear such clear principles regarding the "selection of our leaders" but rather He has given us clear principles that do not apply to this context - just as the principles of church leadership do not apply in this context.


Andy Rupert said...

Ron Paul for president!

Frank Sansone said...


Are you serious about Ron Paul?

I have not been real impressed with his some of his positions and beliefs - including the idea that the Constitution is an "inspired" document. (As much as I appreciate our Constitution.)

BTW, has anyone told you that your new profile photo looks like a police mug shot?