Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Godless Debate

Despite my low expectations, I watched the first Presidential Debate between Trump and Clinton last night.  It was godless.

When I say it was godless, I am not attempting to make a judgment about the spiritual condition of either candidate.  I simply mean, in the most literal way, that God was not mentioned or alluded to during the debate (as far as I remember).  Whether this reflects the condition of the candidates’ hearts, or a debate strategy, or is simply reflecting our culture, I do not know.  What I do know is that as followers of Christ we should have a radically different way of thinking than what was modelled in last night’s debate.

There are two levels at which our thinking should be different.  The first level is that we should think differently about the issues which were discussed, like how to improve the economy and how to keep our nation secure.  The second, deeper, level is that we should be thinking about entirely different issues which reflect entirely different priorities. Let’s think about these two levels of different thinking.

Level 1:  Thinking Differently About the Issues

It’s not wrong to want a better economy and to want a more secure nation in terms of both foreign threats and internal crime.  Prosperity and security are complex issues.  Trump and Clinton discussed different views and ideas about trade agreements, foreign alliances, police procedures, tax structures, business regulations and more.  The moderator correctly noted that it was not possible to discuss all the relevant factors and issues in one ninety minute debate.  But, we should hope that the most important factors would be discussed.

Let’s consider the issue of the economy.  Based on the debate, it appears that BOTH candidates’ views can be represented by this diagram:

A similar diagram for national security looks like this:


The diagrams above are somewhat simplified, but basically reflect the view of BOTH candidates in last night’s debate.  There is some truth to this view.  Trade agreements, tax policies, and military strategies are not unimportant, and the candidates do have significant differences.  The problem is not so much what these views include, it is what they leave out.  They left out the Creator and Ruler of the universe, God Almighty.

Although it is not the main topic of the Bible, the Bible does talk about how to achieve economic prosperity and security for a nation.  The clearest example is found in the blessings and curses listed in Deuteronomy 28.  It’s a long chapter (68 verses), but it can be summed up with these two statement:

1.)  If a nation obeys God’s laws that nation will be blessed by God in many ways, including economic prosperity and national security.
2.)  If a nation does not obey God’s laws that nation will be cursed by God in many ways, including poverty and military defeat.

It is true that in Deuteronomy these blessings and curses are applied specifically to the nation of Israel and include obedience to both ceremonial religious laws and moral laws.  However, I am convinced that the basic principle that obeying God’s laws brings blessings can be applied to all nations.  I see this principle applied in how God interacted with other nations throughout the Old Testament. I also see  this principle at work in the world today. For example, I do not believe it is a coincidence that on average the nations which have experienced the most gospel influence (leading to greater obedience of God’s laws) over the last few centuries are the most prosperous nations, while the nations with the most severe poverty tend to also be nations which have the least gospel light.

This Biblical view can be summarized by this diagram:

The bottom line is this:  it doesn’t matter how brilliant our trade agreements are or how well the government spends money or taxes us, if we don’t obey God we’re doomed.  But this is only the surface level.  Don’t stop reading now!

Level 2:  Thinking about Different Issues

It’s not wrong for presidential candidates to discuss the economy and national security.  But as Christians, we must remember that there are FAR more important issues for us to be thinking about.  Even IF Clinton and Trump had recognized that obeying God’s law was by far the most important factor in determining prosperity and security, they would still be a long way from helping us.  This is because fallen people are not even capable of obeying God’s law to a degree that would bring blessings.  People are enslaved to sin.  Only Jesus can set us free.

And when we believe in Jesus, and start to follow Him, not only does He empower us to obey God, He also greatly enlarges our desires and goals.  National prosperity and security in this life are not bad things, but neither are they worthy ultimate goals for children of God.  Jesus did not offer us a prosperous, secure nation if we follow Him.  He offers us glorious eternal life.

Which brings up the fact that while in general, throughout history, increased obedience to God brings increased blessings to nations, this is not always experienced by individual Christians.  In fact, sometimes, in this dark world, being faithful to God will lead to both economic and physical suffering.  For a little while.  And then eternal glory.

And now we are ready to try to present a diagram which represents a Christian world view relevant to issues discussed (and not discussed!) in last night’s debate:

So, it’s fine to watch the debates.  And I believe it is good and helpful to vote (I shared who I plan to vote for and why in a previous post, here). But don’t let debates and the media influence how you think about the issues, or even what issues you think about most.  Read God’s Word and let His truth shape your thoughts, values, beliefs, priorities, and desires!

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

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