WAKE FOREST, N.C. (Christian Examiner) – A pair of Southern Baptist ethics professors have written columns taking opposing views on the "Never Trump" debate and have urged their fellow Christians to engage in healthy dialogue without being divisive.
The exchange was hosted on BetweenTheTimes.com, a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary website.
Daniel Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern, argued that Christians "must vote for one of the repellent major party candidates," while Mark Liederbach, dean of students and professor of theology, ethics and culture at Southeastern, asserted that not voting for Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton "may well be the highest act of worship a Christian can offer."
Heimbach, who has a political background and served in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, said he believes that sitting out the election "is not what God desires."
CANDIDATES ARE NEVER SINLESS
"God does not call Christians only to vote for political candidates who reach minimal levels of acceptability," Heimbach wrote. "Rather he calls us to be a good influence within real world limits (Jer 29:7), which in our case means voting for a comparatively 'better' candidate over a comparatively 'worse' one from among those our governing system makes available.
"Candidates are never sinless and some are positively wicked. But that does not make those voting for an available candidate complicit in his or her flaws. Jesus paid taxes supporting the highly immoral Roman government occupying 1st century Judea (Matt 22:15-22). That did not make Jesus complicit in its failings and neither will voting for one of the available candidates in this election, even though both are flawed and dangerous."
Sitting out the election, Heimbach asserted, is a "version of the mistake Jesus warned not to make in the parable he told about a field of wheat mixed with tares (Matt 13:24-30, 36-43)."
"In that parable Jesus addressed how Christians should live in present society, and he warned against taking an all-or-nothing approach toward bettering life in common with unbelievers," Heimbach wrote. "The field represents mixed society under present world limitations (Matt 13:38). And, while God plans a perfect world to come (Matt 13:41), he does not make Christians responsible for reaching that perfection. Rather, for now, he only wants us to be a good influence while accepting present world limitations that are far from ideal. We are wheat, not tares. But we must accept living in mixed society with them and not weed them out (Matt 13:29-30)."
NEITHER CANDIDATE IS 'LESSER OF TWO EVILS'
Liederbach, though, said it is far from clear which candidate can be considered the lesser of two evils.
"In this particular election, one candidate is in the midst of likely corruption and supports an agenda that includes abortion, gender confusion, legalized euthanasia and legalized marijuana," Liederbach wrote. "The other has built a life on the back of gambling, pornography, bigotry, divorce, abortion, and amassing a fortune by preying on the poor."
But that does not mean Christians should not vote, Liederbach added.
"The voter can still choose to go to the polls and vote for other offices (Senate, Governor, etc.) with a clearer choice, while abstaining from voting for the particular office that offers up wretched candidates (in this case President). Such a decision can be good and wise because it honors the right and privilege we are granted to participate in our governing process while also having the backbone to say: 'The time has come when I cannot face my Lord with a pure heart by voting for either of these candidates.'"
Both Heimbach and Liederbach said they can understand why others think differently.
"I respect those who love the Word of God and reach other conclusions," Heimbach wrote.
SOUTHEASTERN PRESIDENT IS IN 'NEVER TRUMP' CAMP
Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary, wrote an introduction to the columns by the two men, making it clear he is in the Never Trump camp.
"My conscience will simply not allow [voting for Trump], even as I consider the voting process to be a wonderful blessing and privilege we all have in America," Akin wrote. "There are also faithful followers of Christ, many who are close and dear friends of mine, who feel they can (and even must) vote for a 'lesser of two evils' candidate. This is because so much is at stake, particularly Supreme Court appointments. I can understand and appreciate and respect their position. This is a very difficult moment for all of us, and we should be both fair and honest about this reality."
Akin added that he wants people at Southeastern "to pursue the loving and civil discourse for which our school has come to be known."
"We know that brothers and sisters in Christ can hold and express differing positions even as they love and respect one another," Akin wrote.