May Christians vote for a presidential candidate who denies the Trinity?
SPROUL: If I required real belief in the triune God for the president of a secular state, I really would be disenfranchised. I wouldn’t be able to vote, period. It’s very rare to have an authentic Christian up for election in this secular state.
There have been times in the past where I’ve seen believing Christians run against pagans for the highest office in the land, but the pagan’s policies have been more in keeping with biblical policies of government than the Christian’s. So, I look at whether the policies of the candidate are essentially compatible with the fundamental precepts of government as God ordained it.
I believe in the distinction involving the separation of church and state, but that concept of separation of church and state in the secular world has come to mean the separation of the state from God so that the government, particularly the federal government, has declared its independence from God. The government has not just declared its independence from the church, but from God. At that point, it’s a revolution against heaven because it’s God who ordains government.
God institutes not only the church, but He also institutes civil government. The principal task of the civil government under God is to protect, maintain, and sustain the sanctity of human life, which our government does not. So, if I have any issue that determines my vote, it’s not the Trinity; it’s abortion. Any candidate who supports abortion by law has completely abrogated his responsibility as a governor by failing to protect and maintain the sanctity of human life. So, I will not ever vote for a candidate for any office, including dog-catcher, who is pro-abortion.
MACARTHUR: In a somewhat humble illustration, if you ask me the question, “Would you allow a physician to do brain surgery on you if he didn’t believe in the Trinity?”—I really don’t care if he believes in the Trinity. I just want to know that he’s been in somebody else’s brain and he knows where to look. If you ask me that question about the state, then what matters is its competence and consistency with a biblical view of government, exactly as R.C has stated it.
Inherent in the biblical view of government are the protection of life and capital punishment. Jesus said: “Peter, put your sword away. If you live by that, you’re going to die by that” (Matt. 26:52). I think an unwillingness to punish evil and reward good, as taught in Romans 13, is largely missing.
Everything is turned on its head. There is no protection for the family. We’ve had a president who affirms gay marriage and is violently opposed to the sanctity of life, which is the building block of human society. To say nothing about how you deal with the government, how do you deal with family? That is devastating stuff on a civil level, and we have to go the opposite direction.
SPROUL: There are a lot of people who believe that the church should never say anything and that Christians should never say anything about what the government does. But that ignores the whole history of redemption, all the way up to John the Baptist, where the Old Testament distinguished between the priests and the kings and so on. The church, historically, has always been given the responsibility of what we call “prophetic criticism.” It is not that we want the state to be the church, but we do want the state to be the state. When the state rebels against its God-ordained responsibility, the church not only may but must speak out against it.
LAWSON: I’ll just add a verse, Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” It’s fundamentally not about the economy. It is righteousness that exalts a nation, and what Dr. Sproul and Dr. MacArthur have just asserted are righteous issues.
Back in the nineteenth century, Alexis de Tocqueville left France and came to America to discover the greatness of America: “What makes this nation so great that we have sent the Statue of Liberty to?” He said that he went into the commodious harbors to look for the greatness of America, but he did not find it. He looked for its greatness in its industry and in its grain fields, but he did not find it. He said, “It was not until I went into the church houses and heard her pulpits ablaze with righteousness that I discovered the greatness of America.” Then he said: “America is great because America is good. If America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
I would lay the blame not even so much on the White House, but on the church house. We need to be ablaze with righteousness, proclaiming the Word of God. We need for there to be a strong remnant in our country that would uphold righteous standards and, out of that, be a salt-and-light influence.
This is a transcript of R.C. Sproul’s, John MacArthur’s, and Steven Lawson’s answers given during our 2012 West Coast Conference, and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.