The Government and the Laws of the Land
About the Guest
Is my vote really that important? Does it really matter who wins? Absolutely, says Wayne Grudem. He explains the different approach Republicans and Democrats take toward the interpretation of the Constitution and how that affects the laws of our country.
Wayne GrudemWayne Grudem (PhD, University of Cambridge; DD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is distinguished research professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary, having previously taught for 20 years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is a former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible, the general editor of the ESV Study Bible, and has published over 20 books.
Is my vote really that important?
The Government and the Laws of the Land
Bob: Our form of government in America is certainly not perfect, but according to Dr. Wayne Grudem for more than two centuries now, it has served us well.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Now some nations have said the king has the ultimate power, other nations, there is a dictator who took over militarily and others would say, well some elected parliament or official has the ultimate power.
Our founding fathers didn’t choose any of those systems. They said instead of having a person having the highest power in the nation. It would be a document. The constitution will have the highest power in the nation.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, October 29th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Dr. Wayne Grudem joins us today to help us look at what the Bible has to say about politics, civil government, and hope.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. Do you think next Tuesday matters?
Dennis: Oh absolutely. Every election cycle really matters because I believe we as followers of Christ need to express what is God’s desire for our nation.
Bob: But don’t you find yourself getting a little cynical from time to time thinking, oh look. We thought this guy was going to fix things and he didn’t and then we thought this guy was going to be terrible.
Dennis: You know it's a good point you are raising there, Bob. Let me introduce our guest and then I want to make the point that you are fishing for there. Dr. Wayne Grudem joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Wayne, welcome back.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Thank you, Dennis.
Dennis: Wayne is a Professor at Phoenix Seminary in Phoenix, Arizona, graduated at Harvard, Westminster Seminary, Cambridge, author of 15 books and the latest book Politics – According to the Bible.
Bob: Six hundred pages. I have called it a systematic theology of politics. That’s what it feels like a little bit. You have taken subjects and addressed them biblically.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: It's actually the same approach, Bob. In Systematic Theology, I tried to say what does the whole Bible say about the Deity of Christ or the Trinity or Prayer or the Atonement? Here I have tried to say what does the whole Bible say about laws concerning marriage? Laws concerning children or policies concerning war and defense of a nation.
Dennis: And also pornography.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Yes.
Dennis: Environment, some of the issues that –
Dr. Wayne Grudem: 60 different issues from abortion to Zimbabwe.
Bob: But don’t you get cynical about this whole thing like I was describing?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: No, I don’t.
Bob: You don’t look at it and go come on. It's either the bad guys or the worst guys that are going to get elected.
Dennis: Well, let me comment on it, because I was going to say this. I think what’s been going on in my life as I come to politics is my theology of depravity of man, the selfishness, the brokenness of human beings. And next Tuesday, we are going to elect, hopefully the finest people we can put in office, but there are still selfish, sinful, broken people in need of the Savior and in need of being dependent upon God.
I think what happens is we somehow hope in some mysterious, magical way that when we elect them they are going to perfect in Washington. Well, no, they get behind closed doors and there are deals made and there are all these things that take place and it's out of man’s heart. It's the things that are in his soul that ultimately can corrupt him and his leadership and his governance of our nation.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Let me a say a couple of things there, Dennis. First of all, I think you would agree that there are many good people who go into politics and serve for a long time, in fact for their whole lives and really bring good to the nation.
Dennis: They do and they end up with a great reputation and have left a good aroma there in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Right, the scandals make a lot of headlines, but we shouldn’t think that everybody is bad. The second thing is that the perspective of the Bible is not that we are going to elect the least bad out of a bunch of bad people and we used to think of all politics as bad and politicians as bad. But Romans 13 says that the civil authority is God’s servant for your good. And Romans 13:6 says, the authorities are ministers of God attending to this very thing. So I think that we should think of them as doing good.
We should try to elect the best of the people that are running for office and not become cynical, just be thankful that we live in a democracy where we have the freedom to campaign and to choose our leaders and even to run for office if we wish.
Bob: Let me ask you if you were facing two candidates running for office in your area, one of them was a churchgoer, profess faith Christ, but it was squishy on some of the issues that you have written about in your book. Another one was not a churchgoer, but was more solid on the issues that you write about in your book. Who would you pick?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: The one who is more solid on the issues that I write about in my book.
Dennis: Yeah, use as an illustration in there of Mitt Romney.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: I did and there were a number of good candidates in 2008. It seemed to me just people could differ with this, but that Mitt Romney was well qualified, had a lot of good experience and I have agreed with his policies. And then I thought well, now he is a Mormon. He has a lot of the moral values that I would agree with, but Mormons have a different theology and I am a theology professor and I have significant differences with Mormonism.
But I thought back to our founding fathers, there was Thomas Jefferson who was a Deist. He didn’t have orthodox Christian beliefs. There was Benjamin Franklin, who didn’t have orthodox Christian beliefs. But they brought good to our nation because they had good theories about how the government should run. Then I look back in the Bible where King Cyrus in Persia who was not a believer in God sent the Jewish people back home from exile.
Bob: He liberated them, yes.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: God used him to bring good to the Jewish people or used Pharaoh to welcome the Jewish people when they were starving into Egypt. So God can work through rulers, who don’t agree with our Christian theology and probably are not born again Christians, but may have values that would be consistent with biblical standards of morality and I think we should have freedom to vote for them. I am not saying that we should only vote for Christian candidates.
Dennis: Just to kind of put things practically then, you are so principle driven that you are not going to vote for a candidate who would betray a major tenet of scripture, correct?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: As far as government policy is concerned.
Dennis: So you would not vote for someone who would not protect unborn life, right?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Probably not, Dennis. I don’t want to rule out all possible future choices, but probably not. What is more important to me even than that specific issue which I think is of great importance is the fact that we have a breakdown in the system of government that was given us in the constitution by our founding fathers.
That is that the courts have taken far too much power to themselves. That’s why we have legalized abortion in the United States, because Roe v. Wade in 1973, the Supreme Court by 7 to 2 vote said there is a right to abortion in the constitution.
Now I am holding a copy of the constitution here and I can look at the Fourteenth Amendment where they have found a right to abortion, but it's not there. It doesn’t say anything about abortion. It says “Nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
And when that amendment was passed at least 36 states and territories had laws against abortion and nobody said, wait a minute, this has to do with abortion. The Supreme Court invented that. They created new law and since they said this is what the law is nobody had any appeal beyond that that was the final court of appeal. They shouldn’t be deciding all these issues for us, that isn’t the way a democracy was set up to function.
Dennis: And the reinterpretation of what the Founding Fathers meant when they came up with the constitution in the first place.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Right.
Bob: You would agree that if the citizens of California all got together and by a majority passed an amendment that outlawed freedom of religion, it would be right for a judge to overturn that, right?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Right, because the constitution specifically says respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. So that’s what the courts are supposed to do. If it says it in the constitution then enforce it, but if it doesn’t say it in the constitution, there is no right to abortion in the constitution, there is no right to same sex marriage in the constitution. That’s just made up by judges and they are saying, we say it's in the constitution, therefore it is and we read the words and we say, I don’t see it there, well it's there.
Dennis: Our problem is next Tuesday, we are not directly voting on the judicial branch of government. Coach the mom and dad, the husband and wife, the single person listening to this broadcast to know how his or her Christianity should inform the process of who they vote for. I mean let’s put the cookies down the lower shelf. They are about to go to the polling place, what must they do before they go and as they go?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Well Dennis, if people are concerned about the nation, they are concerned about taking the Ten Commandments and Christmas displays out of public places. They are concerned about taking prayer out of public places that’s just because the Supreme Court has forced that down our throats. Nobody voted on that. That’s excessive power of the judiciary.
We are concerned about abortion, the right to have an abortion of the nine months of pregnancy that was forced down our throats by the excessive power of the Supreme Court. And now in the number of states, Massachusetts, Iowa and some others, the courts have forced homosexual marriage on states contrary to the wills of the people.
Now there are two different views of what judges should do. Primarily, and I am going to mention political parties here Dennis, because the two parties, by and large have a different philosophy of the judicial interpretation.
The Republicans going back to President Reagan and since then the Republicans have supported judges who say our job is to interpret the law, not to make new law, but to interpret it according to its original meaning. And so Republican Presidents and Republican Senators in Congress have voted for judges who hold that view, what’s called Originalism or Textualism.
The Democratic Party by and large has said, we are going to appoint judges who will decide what they think is best whether or not that provision is in the constitution in its original meaning, because they are going to say there are new meanings here that we are finding every year in the constitution. They say it's a living document and that’s where we are getting exclusion of religion from public square, same sex marriage, abortion and a number of other things that are encroaching on our freedom of religion.
In a way people can say, well, I am voting for the local candidate at this election or not, but in much more important sense you are voting for either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party and those parties have different views of judicial interpretation. So it's more than just voting for our candidate, it's voting more than that for a party and I think it's important for people to take that into account.
Bob: And you would weigh out the issue of judicial interpretation as the heaviest of the issues?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Yes, it is. I think it's the most important issue facing the nation because the question is who is going to govern the country and who has the ultimate power in the country. Now some nations have said the king has the ultimate power, other nations there is a dictator who took over militarily. And others would say, well, some elected parliament or official has the ultimate power.
Our founding fathers didn’t choose any of those systems. They said instead of having a person having the highest power in the nation, it will be a document. The constitution will have the highest power in the nation and so the judges were to interpret that law, but not change it, they couldn’t change it. There was a process of amending a constitution with Congress and the states, but the judges have nothing to do with that, they were just to take it as it was written according to what it meant as it was originally written and just apply it.
So I think it's the weightiest issue because now what we have Bob, is the most important issues in our nation, are not decided anymore by voters. They are decided by judges and judges in the way the constitution was set up were not supposed to decide these issues. They are supposed to listen to the laws and the constitution as it was passed.
Bob: Like the issue of same sex marriage, let me ask you about that because I hear a lot of people today say, look if religious people want to keep marriage between men and women, that’s fine. You do that at your church, you do that, but these people who want to get married, same sex marriage, they are not religious people shouldn’t they have within a civil society the opportunity to do what they want to do.
Dennis: Well, it's not the question of opportunity. It's the right. It's the human right to have a same sex marriage.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: I want to say something, one more thing about the previous question before I get to that, that question of same sex marriage is a very important example. Right now who is going to decide that? Nine justices on the Supreme Court.
We know that four would be in favor of imposing same sex marriage on the whole nation, judging from their previous judicial decisions. That would be the recently appointed justices Sotomayor and Kagan and Stephen Breyer, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They will vote one way. They will try to force same sex marriage on us as a nation.
Four conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and then Justice Alito, Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas, they will vote to say, the constitution says nothing about same sex marriage. This should go back to the states and the congress to decide it's not our job to decide it, so they won’t force it on us. In the middle is Anthony Kennedy, he votes one way or another, sometimes with the liberal, some times with the conservatives. He basically decides all the important issues of the nation by himself.
Bob: One guy.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: One guy, never elected by anyone. Now that’s not the system of government that our founding fathers gave to us. He is not accountable to anyone. He is not accountable to voters. He has life tenure and he decides everything. That’s not democracy, the system is broken. And it would be broken if there were conservatives trying to push Christian values on us from a majority of five to four or six to three on the Supreme Court. I would object just the same if they were pushing on us things that weren’t found in the constitution, it's a broken system. And people say, well why have we had abortion going on since 1973 and the conservatives haven’t been able to stop it. There is nothing we can do, now that the Supreme Court has ruled.
You could have a 100% vote in congress to ban abortion except to save the life of the mother, you can have a 100% vote in all 50 state legislatures and it would do nothing because the Supreme Court would say, we are in charge. We see it's unconstitutional, sorry, this is wrong. It doesn’t apply. It's invalid. So that’s not a government of the people, by the people and for the people. That’s a government by a tyranny of justices on the Supreme Court.
Bob: Back to the issue though, the person who says why should the government get involved, if I want to marry my homosexual partner, what business is that of the government?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: You know this was an issue that was disputed in the United States over the course of 50 years, Bob. In 1845 to 1895, there was the controversy over the administration of Utah as a state to the United States. And the controversy had to do with the Mormon practice of polygamy, so men in Utah had several wives, should we admit them as a state or not. The United States would not admit Utah as a state for 50 years until finally Utah passed a constitutional amendment outlawing polygamy saying, as a nation, we are going to have one standard for marriage. It's going to be between one man and one woman.
We already as a nation have other standards for marriage. You can't marry your sister. You can't marry your daughter. Those are thought to be incest. You can't marry someone who is already married that’s thought to be adultery. We have moral standards for marriage that apply to the whole nation.
Now someone might say, you know I fell in love with my daughter. I want to marry my daughter, why shouldn’t I have the right to marry my daughter? If one person has the right to marry his daughter, all of a sudden, you have redefined the marriage for the whole nation. You are saying, incest counts as marriage, too. And that’s the question of same sex marriage.
Dennis: Wayne, you list a number of things in your book. I just want to read a few of them about why marriage is healthy for a nation?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Yes.
Dennis: You said marriage provides a better environment for having babies than any other relationship or institution.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Yes, it does.
Dennis: Married couples raise and nurture children far better than any other human relationship or institution.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Yes, I am watching that with some granddaughters right now.
Dennis: No doubt about it. Third, marriage provides a guarantee of lifelong companionship and care far better than any other human relationship or institution.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: And I am counting on that in the next 20 or 30 years.
Dennis: I am listening to the cadence of what you are saying here and it's really saying, marriage between a man and a woman is far better than any government imposed institution to take care of people. I sat in the briefing room of the White House about a decade ago and I listened to the head of the White House faith-based initiative and he rattled off all the government programs that are in place today, because marriages and families are breaking up.
Tens of billions of dollars, energy, all trying to replace something that even in its broken state was designed by God to be the incubator and the shaper of character for future generations. And here we are as a nation debating whether or not two human beings have “the right” and if you and I speak out like we are right now, now what it's being reduced to is we are bullying people.
I want you to know, I respect other people and their choices. I may not agree with their choices, but I will respect their dignity made in the image of God but I will not be called a bigot. I will not be called a bully just because I uphold the truth of scripture. That’s what you are encouraging Christians to do when it comes to politics.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: That’s right.
Dennis: Just stand up, be kind, be truthful, don’t bully, don’t discriminate, speak the truth and love.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Let your view be known and vote, because votes are how the society determines its future. What our society has done historically is to say we are going to encourage and give societal approval to one man and one woman constituting a marriage. We are going to call that marriage because it’s what's best for men and women and it’s what's best for children and therefore it's best for society.
In fact, all societies through history as far as I know and I mentioned this in the book Dennis, have had marriage between a man and a woman rather than homosexual marriage as what they approve and encourage.
So now the question is, do we want to approve and encourage some other relationship other than one man and one woman and call that marriage and give all the benefits and encouragement of the society to it along with all the other health issues and the relational issues that occur? And then as Christians, the Bible has a standard for marriage that’s one man and one woman and I think for Christians that’s a standard we ought to encourage knowing that God’s principles and teachings for us are what is best for us.
Bob: You said that you think because of what's going on with the judiciary, government is broken right now, can we fix it?
Dr. Wayne Grudem: Only by getting other judges on to the Supreme Court more than the four conservative justices who are there, Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas. If we get other justices appointed at the Supreme Court who will rule according to the original meaning of the constitution then democracy is once again functioning and restored to our nation in a healthy way.
Dennis: And you said throughout this broadcast that the way you do that is by people who follow Jesus Christ, believers. Step forward look at the Bible, look at what it says and make sure they are voting for candidates who reflect the moral and spiritual character reflected in the scriptures and hold them accountable to govern according to those biblical principles.
Dr. Wayne Grudem: And Dennis for the parties, because appointing justices to the Supreme Court who will rule according to the original meaning of the constitution and not invent new laws from the court. Or judges who rule according to their own sense of what they want to impose on the nation like outlawing don’t ask, don’t tell or saying that same sex marriage is a right that people have a right to.
Dennis, we are sitting here and watching the fabric of our society erode before our eyes because of judges who have said, we are going to rule the nation from the bench, from the judicial bench. I think it will be wrong for us not to say anything about that.
Now people have to decide, do they want judges to decide all the important issues of this nation even when those things aren’t mentioned in the constitution? Or do they want to follow the constitution and let the democratic process function and let the voters and their representatives decide what is right and wrong for the nation?
Dennis: Well I knew this would be a stimulating conversation. You are a good friend and a straight shooter and I know folks are not going to have time between now and next Tuesday to read your book Politics – According to the Bible.
Bob: I am not going to have time between now and Christmas to read the book, I don’t think.
Dennis: It's a quicker read than you think, because it's broken down into chunks and segments around hot issues that if you want to, you kind of pick your way through the book. I would recommend it to really anyone who wants to take a look at what the Bible teaches about moral issues and politics.
Wayne, I appreciate your coming by, thanks for flying in here and for being on FamilyLife Today. And to the listeners, I want you to vote according to the scriptures. Vote but do it according to the Bible.
Bob: And I would just say to folks, if they would like to listen to some further discussion on this subject, we had the opportunity to host an evening with Dr. Grudem with some Q&A and we have got a link on our website at www.familylifetoday.com where folks can watch the video stream for that or download an mp3 file of that hour and a half presentation and then Q&A with Dr. Grudem.
Just go to www.familylifetoday.com for more information on how you can access the video or the audio of that session and get a copy of Dr. Grudem’s book. We have got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center and we would be happy to send it to you. Again the title of the book is Politics – According to the Bible, go to www.familylifetoday.com for information on how to order a copy of the book www.familylifetoday.com or call toll free 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-FL-TODAY. When you contact us, we will make arrangements to get a copy of Dr. Grudem’s book sent to you.
And with that, we got to wrap things up for today. Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend.
And I hope you can join us back on Monday, Barbara Rainey is going to be here. We are going to talk how we can cultivate courage in our own hearts and in our children’s hearts. Barbara has got a new devotional guide for families called Growing Together In Courage and she will be here to talk about that subject and how we can inspire one another to live more courageously for Christ and I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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