Dr. Norman Geisler published a piece in Christianity Today in which he advocates that the morally just thing for any evangelical Christian to do this election cycle is to vote for Donald Trump. The aim of the present piece is to provide a brief series of counterarguments to Dr. Geisler’s arguments in favor of voting for Donald Trump this fall. I will preface the body of this article by saying that I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Geisler (I currently attend his school), and I am sure that he will forget more about philosophy, theology, and ethics than I will ever learn in my entire life. He is a brilliant man, a faithful servant of the kingdom, and someone I look up to a great deal even on occasions such as this where I disagree with him.
Dr. Geisler’s article is broken down into a series of small points which he believes make a sound case for why a Christian should vote for Trump come November. His first argument is less of a positive argument and more of a response to a counter-argument used by those opposed to voting for Trump. Geisler argues that while Trump is a flawed candidate that this is not sufficient cause to not vote for him. Dr. Geisler points out (rightly, I may add) that every candidate for president is a fallen and flawed human being and that having flaws should not necessarily eliminate them from being an option for Christians to vote for.
Though it is true that all of the current candidates for president have flaws, the argument that we should simply choose the least flawed one because they are the least flawed is insufficient grounds for a Christian to vote for such a man. If we were given a slate of two candidates, one whose platform includes the slaughter of unborn infants with no legal repercussions, and one whose platform includes the slaughter of unborn infants with no legal repurcussions and the murder of one out of every three people currently residing in the country, our responsibility is not to simply vote to avoid the murder of some people while condoning the murder of others, but rather our duty is to do what we may in order to promote a brand of justice that respects the rights of every human being to life, liberty, and property.
Dr. Geisler’s second argument is not much different than the first, but is framed in the more straightforward “lesser of two evils” form. Dr. Geisler argues that if we are presented with two choices, one being a known devil and the other being a supposed witch, that we ought to choose the supposed witch. This moral argument fails on two fronts. Firstly, we have more than two candidates on the ballot for president on the United States. Second, even if we did only have two candidates to choose from, we are not obligated to vote for either one of them, in fact if we are given a choice where we participate in evil A, participate in evil B (perhaps a greater evil), our obligation as Christians is to participate in neither. True justice demands that we follow the law of God no matter our fears about what evil may come to ourselves or others if we do so.
Dr. Geisler’s third argument is that we are not in fact choosing between the lesser of two evils, but that we are instead choosing one alternative that is the greater good. Dr. Geisler undoes his previous argument by claiming that our choice in a presidential race is never between two evils, but is instead a choice of who is the better candidate. This fails for two reasons: Firstly, it undoes his entire lesser of two evils argument in the previous paragraph. Secondly, the claim that we are never choosing between a lesser of two evils is patently false. It is true, of course, that every election features candidates who are sinful human beings, however to argue that one of them is the “greater good” is to fall prey to an utilitarian ethic that has no place in a well-grounded system of Christian ethics. Imagine for a moment that we are able to peer into the mind of God and we find that there are a certain number of “sin points” for each and every sin. For something on the more minor side such as telling a lie, perhaps 20 “sin points” are awarded to the soul of the person committing that sin.
For something much more egregious such as premeditated murder, perhaps 200 “sin points” are awarded. When faced with a choice where we can either lie or commit premeditated murder, if this system is correct, it would make more sense on the surface to tell a lie and only rack up 20 “sin points” rather than the much greater 200. This is not how the law of God works, however. While it is true that some sins are more egregious than others, it is not the case that this means when faced with the option to commit a certain sin we can commit the lesser sin and just get completely off the hook. Rather, the law of God demands that we always do justice and love mercy, and choosing either the “lesser evil” or “greater good” (it doesn’t matter what you call it, really) is not acting in accordance with God’s law if the supposed “greater good” still involves participating in evil.
Dr. Geisler also argues that not voting is not only unhelpful, but cowardly. I have already written a much lengthier piece answering this objection, but I will also take the time to answer it briefly here. Simply put, not voting is not a surrender to the system of the day, nor is it a cowardly choice. In fact, when the entire culture is screaming “Vote, vote, you must vote!” to sit out an election takes a great deal of bravery. When a Christian finds themselves faced with the option of participating in evil by voting for candidate X, participating in evil by voting for candidate Y, or simply not participating, not participating is what we are called to do.
Dr. Geisler’s final major point is that power corrupts or “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This part of the argument is true, and has been shown through history time and again. Dr. Geisler argues that term limits are an effective form of checks and balances in our system of government, and while this is true, it is largely irrelevant. This argument gives no reason to vote for Donald Trump whatsoever. Yes, there are term limits for the office of president, and yes, they are a moderately effective system of maintaining checks and balances on our government. Neither of these things proves in any way that a Christian should vote for Donald Trump any more than they should vote Rosie O’Donnell.
From this stage in his argument. Dr. Geisler jumps into a number of pragmatic reasons why it would be best for Christians to vote for Donald Trump. Though these points are interesting enough to look over, they do not rest on a sufficient moral, theological, or philosophical foundation to have enough merit to cover for the time being.
Dr. Norman Geisler is an incredibly gifted, intelligent, and godly man. It is in no way my desire to take away from any of these things. However, his moral argument for why Christians ought to vote for Donald Trump for president is incredibly lacking and is not built upon any substantial biblical basis either from a theological, philosophical, or ethical perspective. Discerning Christians should not ignore the significant mental gymnastics required to make the argument that Dr. Geisler makes in this article, and should be careful to search out the scriptures for what their calling is in Christ during this election season.