After publishing my previous critique of Stephen McDowell’s endorsement of Mitt Romney, I received a request for my opinion on an article by Dr. Michael Farris entitled, “Principles for Christians as They Decide How to Vote.”
Dr. Farris' article follows the same basic pattern as most of the other arguments that I have heard from Christian leaders who have endorsed Mr. Romney. He started off well by concluding from Proverbs 3:5-6, Hosea 8:1-4 and Deuteronomy 17:14-20 that "God has something to say to us about our choices of political leaders." I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. God does have something to say to us about voting for our leaders, and we have a responsibility to seek out His instructions and follow them.
I also agree with Dr. Farris in his statement that we should not try to bully other Christians into agreement with our beliefs. I think that Romans 14:4 was a very poor choice to support that claim (I would have suggested James 4:11-12), but at least he came to the right conclusion. We should refrain from attempting to force other believers to agree with us. Instead, we should follow the example of our Lord and rely on calm reasoning from the Scriptures in order to convince others of the errors of their ways.
Unfortunately, my agreement with Dr. Farris must end here, for shortly after this, he turned to Luke 14:28-30 and used this passage as an excuse to completely ignore his own admission that we should heed what God has to say about voting. According to Dr. Farris, Luke 14:28-30 is an admonition from the Lord for us to rely on pragmatism in electing our leaders. This is demonstrably false. This passage in Luke is not an admonition of any kind. It is simply an observation that our Savior made of something that men usually do. Most men take the time to consider the cost of a building project before they begin building. This is a true statement, but it is not the lesson that Christ was teaching in this passage.
To discover what lesson Christ was trying to teach us with this observation, all we have to do is read the verses which come before and after this passage. The verses immediately preceding Luke 14:28-30 state:
"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple."
And the verse immediately after Christ's observations states:
"So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."
When we consider the passage as a whole, Christ's lesson becomes very obvious and easy to understand. He was using the observation of men counting the cost of a building project to teach that we cannot follow Him unless we are willing to pay the cost of that discipleship. And what is the cost of being a disciple of Christ? Everything. In order to follow Him, we must be willing to give up everything that we have. This is the real lesson of Luke 14:28-30 and not an admonition to pragmatism as Dr. Farris claims.
In light of this lesson, it is important to note that Dr. Farris admitted at the end of his article that his primary motivation for endorsing Mr. Romney is his unwillingness to give up our nation's self-government. Now, I am in favor of maintaining our self-government, but as Dr. Farris explained earlier in his article, "All means all." Therefore, in order to follow Christ and be His disciple, we have to be willing to give up even something as valuable as American self-government if that becomes the price that God demands.
The passage in Luke 14 was the last portion of Scripture that Dr. Farris referenced in his article. Having found what he thought to be justification for a pragmatic approach to politics, he embraced that approach with gusto and completely abandoned all thought of discovering what God has to say about choosing our elected officials. In this, I completely disagree. If God has something to say to us about voting, then we should search out His instructions and follow them at all costs.
The only attempt that Dr. Farris made to discover God's instructions for voting was his strange reference to I Timothy 5:22 which states:
"Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure."
Dr. Farris only quoted the first phrase of this verse, and he claimed that it teaches us that experience and leadership are necessary qualities for candidates seeking political office. In reality, however, the laying on of the hands in this passage is a reference to the ordination of a pastor. To apply this passage to political leaders is to wrest it from the context of the entire book of I Timothy. But even if we did apply this injunction to our election of political leaders, it still would not convey the idea that experience and leadership are necessary qualities for political candidates. Let me point out that these are very important qualities for candidates to have and that these qualities are abundant among the third party candidates. However, I Timothy 5:22 does not teach us anything at all about the need for leadership and experience.
What this passage does teach us is that we should be very, very cautious about whom we ordain into the ministry lest, through our ordination of them, we become complicit in their sins. It is interesting to note that Dr. Farris did not even mention the second and third phrases of this verse. One would think that if the first phrase is applicable to the election of political leaders, then the remainder of the verse would be applicable as well. If that is the case, then Christians should be very concerned that if they vote for Mr. Romney, God might hold them accountable for his sins.
Thus, while I agree with Dr. Farris that God does have something to say to Christians about whom we should elect to the office of President, I also very strongly disagree with his decision to ignore what God says and rely on his own pragmatic reasoning instead. God did not give us wisdom in hopes that we would reason Him away and ignore Him but rather so that we could see that His way is best. Instead of using our wisdom to compare the candidates with each other and reach a pragmatic decision about which one we think is the best choice, we should compare the candidates with the Word of God and vote for the one who conforms to His principles.
Other articles in this series:
The Lesser of Two Evils
A Biblical Strategy for Voting
A Duty to Principle