PHOENIX (Christian Examiner) – Wayne Grudem is one of the most respected evangelical theologians in the U.S., and so when he penned a column arguing that voting for Donald Trump is a "morally good choice," it was bound to go viral.
It did -- but it also has received plenty of pushback.
Grudem's 5,300-word case for Trump at Townhall.com remains the No. 1 trending story on that website, despite the fact it was posted nearly a week ago, and it has been shared 100,000 times on Facebook.
His books, led by his Systematic Theology, are used as textbooks in seminaries and Christian colleges across the nation.
"I did not support Trump in the primary season. I even spoke against him at a pastors' conference in February," Grudem, who teaches at Phoenix Seminary, wrote. "But now I plan to vote for him. I do not think it is right to call him an 'evil candidate.' I think rather he is a good candidate with flaws."
Grudem acknowledged Trump's ego and his tendency to insult people but asserted they are not "disqualifying flaws."
Too much is at stake in the election for Christians to vote for a third party candidate or write in someone on the ballot, Grudem argued.
Grudem based much of his argument on the balance of the Supreme Court and its influence on American life – particularly on social issues such as abortion and religious freedom.
"Hillary Clinton would quickly replace [deceased conservative Antonin] Justice Scalia with another liberal like Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan," Grudem wrote. "This would give liberals a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court even without Justice Kennedy, and 6-3 when he votes with them.
"But that is not all. Justice Ginsburg is 83, and she has had colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and has a heart stent. Justice Kennedy is 80. Justice Breyer is 78. A President Clinton could possibly nominate three or four justices to the Supreme Court, locking in a far-left activist judiciary for perhaps 30 or more years."
A Supreme Court under a President Hillary Clinton could "sweep away with one decision most or all of the restrictions on abortion that pro-life advocates worked for tirelessly over the last 43 years, including ultrasound requirements, waiting periods, parental consent requirements, and prohibitions on non-doctors performing abortions," Grudem wrote.
Further, Grudem argued, a court under Clinton would "increasingly nullify rights of conscience with respect to forced participation in same-sex marriage ceremonies or expressing moral objections to homosexual conduct."
Christians, he said, should ask: "Which vote is most likely to bring the best results for the nation?"
"If this election is close (which seems likely), then if someone votes for a write-in candidate instead of voting for Trump, this action will directly help Hillary Clinton, because she will need one less vote to win," he wrote. "Therefore the question that Christians should ask is this: Can I in good conscience act in a way that helps a liberal like Hillary Clinton win the presidency?"
A court with Trump appointees, Grudem asserted, "likely would overturn Roe vs. Wade." In very direct language, Grudem added that the "most likely result of not voting for Trump is that you will be abandoning thousands of unborn babies who will be put to death under Hillary Clinton's Supreme Court" and "thousands of Christians who will be excluded from their lifelong occupations."
Still, Grudem said, Christians must "respect each other" during the process and "calmly and patiently dialog" about their differences.
Grudem's column has sparked several counter-columns, including one by David French of National Review. French formerly served as an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice, two Christian legal groups.
"The Trump that Grudem describes is a Trump that I could support," French wrote. "He'll succeed where every single Republican president has failed and appoint the judges who will overturn Roe. He'll cut taxes, ease racial tensions, rebuild the military, secure our borders, stand up to Russia, and repeal ObamaCare – all while replacing it with a superior free-market alternative. Grudem's Trump makes Ronald Reagan look like a loser.
French added that Trump, in fact, would "appoint pro-abortion judges," "fund Planned Parenthood" and "support gender-neutral bathrooms," among other things.
"Rather than truly grapple with Trump's wild, leftist, and inconsistent policy statements, Grudem simply pretends most of them don't exist," French wrote. "But the problem with Trump isn't just that he lies habitually (though that is a big problem), it's also that he's been all over the place on policy. In other words, he's not just a known liar who sometimes tells me what I want to hear, he's a known liar who also tells me reprehensible things. Who can know where he really stands?"
Thomas S. Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University, also disagreed with Grudem, writing in a column at The Gospel Coalition's website that the election "represents a hinge moment for evangelicals in America."
"Will we show that we are willing to break with the GOP over matters of conscience, or that we are just errand boys for the Republican Party?" Kidd asked. "...Evangelical friends, Donald Trump is not a 'flawed but tolerable' option. As a presidential candidate, he falls well below an acceptable moral and prudential threshold."
Philip Swicegood, writing at TheResurgent.com and reacting to Grudem, argued that Trump is a "pathological liar" and cannot be trusted on the Supreme Court.
"The problem with trusting Trump, is everything he says has, at best, has an expiration date," Swicegood wrote. "...While I defer to Dr. Grudem on almost every biblical matter, I am forced to take exception with this."