A Response to First Things

Recently, I wrote a response to Mark Galli recent Christianity Today op-ed. I feel the criticism I have received for that post (and opinion) is undue and so I am going to also write a response to Peter Leithart’s recent commentary in First Things “The Case for Keeping Trump”. To do this I am also going to reference Jentenzen Franklin’s Christian Post article “Why I Stand by 45” links to all are available below). I truly enjoyed Leithart’s article and frankly could revisit much of the praise I gave Galli’s (but I don’t want to be repetitive).

Leithart’s article is framed completely around the case for impeachment (unlike Galii’s which is about the President in general). As such Leithart is correct to say that if no crime has been committed then the President should not be removed. Now while I do disagree with Dr. Leithart on “two swords theory” and his exegesis of Romans 13, I do not have issue with his stance in the article. My disagreements with him are at an academic level because I have been exposed to his writings and (very good) podcast (here). His take is well written, theologically sensitive, and relevant.

I said I was going to use Franklin’s post as a sort of foil and here it is. What makes Leithart’s post great is that he is realistic about the current situation in the government.

It’s a stirring message, and Galli is right to highlight the dilemma evangelicals have found themselves in. Some are visceral supporters of President Trump who ignore or gloss over his personal faults and abuses of power. Pretending to speak truth to power, they’ve become sycophants whom we should criticize. But the solution for evangelicals isn’t to back the impeachment efforts of people who despise them nearly as much as they despise Trump. The solution is to imitate the prophets, who were relentless in chiding kings and calling them to repentance.

Peter Leithart

Yet Franklin begins by saying

Additionally, I would like to respectfully challenge the author’s [Galli’s] definition of morality and character within the context of first-hand observation, the social context we live in today, and by the values evangelical Christians hold closest.

The problem is that the first thing Franklin does is to remark on the President’s political successes not morality. In fact Franklin never deals with the Elephant in the room, the President’s personal conduct. So even though what Franklin took exception with was Galli’s stance on the President’s character, Franklin was never able to actually discuss that character in detail. Instead Franklin uses the President’s successes (which Galli never denies) as a case for the President and attempts to lay those out as character. (here I think of Mark 7:20-23.)

In full disclosure I read the Leithart article before I read Franklin’s, but the first thing I thought about after reading Franklin was ” sycophant”. Here is the difference, Leithart is ready to admit that President Trump does not seem to be seeking the sort of moral character Christians desire. He also does not rule out not voting for him based on character. What he discusses is whether the President’s lack of character should disqualify him from the presidency and he says no. Franklin hides the President’s shortcomings while pretending to discuss them. I was especially appalled that off the top Franklin marks the rise in GDP (I could actually make a better case it proves someone’s immorality).

Leithart interacts with Galli’s comments and shows where he two disagree, but allows that Galli has legitimate points. Franklin simply dismisses Galli as “partisan”. Of the three the only one I found partisan was Franklin’s, both Leithart and Galli interacted well with the information and presented reasonable cases either in defense of or opposition to the President. The problem in our country is that article’s like Jentezen Franklin’s are published and millions of people read them, these are the messages we can do without.

At the end of the day I applauded Mark Galli for the courage to stand up for an unpopular opinion (in his circles) and for holding to an ethical standard. Likewise, I applaud Peter Leithart for holding to an ethical standard and calmly and lovingly disagreeing with a brother. This is the spirit Timothy Dalrymple discusses in his latest article “The Flag in the Whirlwind” which I encourage everyone to read.

Peter Leithart “The Case for Keeping Trump” Mark Galli “Trump Should be Removed from Office” Jentezen Franklin “Why I Still Stand by 45” Timothy Dalrymple “The Flag in the Whirlwind: An Update from CT’s President” my own “A Response to Christianity Today”

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