Wayne Grudem’s Deplorable Argument for Trump

iurWayne Grudem is a very well known and highly respected theologian who has been at the center of attention for his support of Trump (July 28), then for his rejection of Trump (Oct. 9), and now for again supporting “Trump’s policies”(Oct. 19). Now, to begin, this is not a good look for Grudem. Did the tapes that led to his rejection of Trump really reveal anything new about Trump? Of course not. They simply confirmed what we already knew about him—his moral character is, let’s just say, not what we would hope for in a President. What new information came out about Trump between when the tapes were released and now? As far as I can tell, not much. So maybe writing this post is a waste of time since Grudem may very well write another post next week again retracting his support for “Trump’s policies.”

Flip-flopping aside, what do we make of Grudem’s new stance that if we don’t like either candidate then we should simply vote for Trump’s policies? Well, unfortunately for the American voter, Grudem’s case is a complete failure for anyone who doesn’t accept consequentialist-based reasoning. Grudem considers twelve reasons one might refrain from voting for Trump, but I’m only going to focus on the two that are most closely connected to my decision to not vote for Trump.

Grudem’s False Dilemma

Before responding to the reasons one might not vote for Trump, Grudem considers his options. He notes, like many of us, that voting for Clinton isn’t a viable option. So, then, Grudem says he is “left with two options: (1) vote for Trump, or (2) vote for a third-party candidate whose hopes of winning belong to fantasy, not reality.”

The problem here is that these are not the only options available. What one might also do is intentionally vote for solid, conservative members of Congress who will hold either Clinton or Trump accountable. The most frequent reason I hear people give for voting for Trump is related to the future of the Supreme Court. Well guess what, the President doesn’t get to anoint justices to the Court, the President appoints justices who then have to be confirmed. If what you’re truly afraid of is Clinton appointing terrible justices, then work to elect people who will refuse to confirm those terrible appointments. That is a third alternative that can help mitigate the disaster of a Clinton (or Trump) Presidency that doesn’t require you to vote for either of these terrible options.

Now to Grudem’s responses to those who say they cannot vote for Trump.

(1) “My conscience won’t let me vote for Trump.”

How does Grudem respond to what is probably the most-cited objection to voting for Trump? He says,

I fail to see how your conscience lets you help Hillary Clinton get elected, for that is the result of withholding your vote from Trump. Does it not trouble your conscience to help advance the terrible harm that she will bring to the nation?

First, if my not voting for Trump helps Clinton get elected, then so too would my not voting for Clinton help Trump get elected. But that, of course, is sheer nonsense. A non-vote is just that, a non-vote. Similarly, it’s sheer nonsense to say that a vote for a third-party is a vote for only one of the other two parties. It’s a vote for neither of them.

Second, as I tell my first-year philosophy students, a rhetorical question should not take the place of an actual argument. In response to the most important objection to voting for Trump, that it violates one’s conscience, all Grudem has given us is the nonsense above, plus a single rhetorical question. The problem with this is, of course, that I’m inclined to simply answer, “No. It does not trouble my conscience to refrain from voting for either Trump or Clinton.” Given that it doesn’t trouble my conscience, Grudem needs to give an actual argument showing me that it should trouble my conscience.

(4) “If you vote for Trump youʼll never have credibility in the future when you say that character matters.”

Here it’s interesting that Grudem doesn’t actually answer the objection. He rightly points out that our current mess has come about because of Clinton and Trump’s character defects. But he then shifts gears and says,

On the other hand, if you refuse to vote for Trump, how can you ever have credibility in the future when you say that the policy differences between candidates and between political parties matter?

Here again is another rhetorical question in the place of an argument, but it’s also worth noting that this is simply a red herring. The question was about character so we might reasonably expect the answer to also be about character. It may seem like policy is relevant to the question asked, but it’s not. It’s an entirely different issue that is irrelevant to how voting for Trump undermines any attempt to argue that we should care about the character of those leading our nation. All he’s given us is a textbook example of the red herring fallacy.

A Remaining Problem with Grudem’s Argument

What is most surprising about Grudem’s argument is how quickly he resorts to consequentialist reasoning about this Presidential election. Maybe he is a committed consequentialist, but I would be surprised if that were the case. The constant thread throughout his entire argument is this: “The consequences of a Hillary Clinton presidency will be really bad.”

Consider again his response to the objection based on conscience: “I fail to see how your conscience lets you help Hillary Clinton get elected… Does it not trouble your conscience to help advance the terrible harm that she will bring to the nation?”

Notice the move there? I (among many others) have an objection based on conscience, but he tells us to ignore that and make our decision based on the consequences alone. That’s about as consequentialist as you can get. Now, of course, it’s not that consequences never matter. In fact, in typical elections that is precisely what we consider when we make our decisions. But this is not a typical election. In this case both candidates have proved themselves to be dishonorable and not worthy to lead our great nation.

It’s true that Trump has apologized for what he said on tape. Good for him. If that were the only character-related concern then maybe we could accept that apology and move on. But it’s not. This is the same person who during this election season said a judge was biased because he is Mexican-American. He attacked the parents of a Muslim solider who died while fighting in Iraq. It wouldn’t be hard to cite numerous other examples, but I’ll close with two videos posted below. The first wasn’t something from ten years ago leaked to score political points. It’s from this campaign. I know the second is an ad from his opponent Hillary Clinton, but notice that the only person speaking in the video is Donald Trump. This is the person Grudem thinks I should work to elect to the highest political office in the country. These are the actions Grudem needs to explain away to allay my objections based on my conscience and Trump’s character.

I am concerned about what a Clinton-led United States of America will look like, but I cannot go out of my way to elect someone with such a questionable moral character. If he can’t now treat women, minorities, and those with a disability with basic human dignity, I simply cannot trust him to act in a morally upright way as President.


16 comments on “Wayne Grudem’s Deplorable Argument for Trump

  1. I’ve also written a lengthy response addressing several of Dr. Grudem’s errors. You can find it on my blog at: https://www.increasinglearning.com/blog/grudem

  2. While Trump may be crude, Hillary Clinton is a criminal. The over-riding issue in this election is Hillary’s support of abortion on demand through the 9th month, and Supreme Court choices. If we have become a nation that is willing to condone such barbaric atrocities to be performed on the unborn right up to the day of their delivery, then God’s wrath is imminent and deserved.

    Hillary Clinton’s Record is PROOF that she is UNFIT to be President:

    • Rich Davis says:

      What you mean to say is: “Assuming that Grudem’s dilemma holds and we fail to vote for DJT, it follows that ‘God’s wrath is imminent and deserved’.” Perhaps so; but you never even attempt to show that the dilemma *does* hold. That’s the first order of business.

  3. W Paul Frank’s argument for not voting for Trump: ” If what you’re truly afraid of is Clinton appointing terrible justices, then work to elect people who will refuse to confirm those terrible appointments”

    The problem with this argument is the false assumption that if the Republicans retain the Senate that they will refuse Clinton anything. They have consistently proven time and again that they do not have the backbone to stand up to President Obama so it borders on the absurd to think that they will refuse to confirm HRC’s SCOTUS appointments. This alone makes Grudem’s arguments more convincing than Frank’s.

    • Three quick things by way of reply. First, that’s not my “argument for not voting for Trump.” It is, however, a third distinct option from simply voting for Clinton or Trump. You may not think it will work, but that doesn’t mean Grudem isn’t employing a false dichotomy.

      Second, you seem to be suggesting that because they haven’t stood up to Obama that they won’t stand up to an even worse Clinton. I have no evidence for that claim, especially since we do have evidence of them pushing back against the Obama administration. Recall how much flak they got for making it clear that they wouldn’t confirm an Obama appointment to the Court? They did stand up to him, so I’m inclined to think they would also push back against these supposed end-of-America doom and gloom hypotheticals.

      Finally, if you are unhappy with the past performance of the Republicans in Congress, then you should still “work to elect people who will refuse to confirm those terrible appointment.” In other words, even if you are right the very same point applies. You don’t have to vote for Trump to get better men and women in Congress who *will* work to stop or slow down Clinton (or Trump).

    • fiveonly says:

      It’s rather disingenuous to say that it’s not your argument for not voting for Trump. You certainly propose it as an alternative strategy to voting for Trump so at the very least, it is part of your argument.

      You then further your argument by stating “[s]econd, you seem to be suggesting that because they haven’t stood up to Obama that they won’t stand up to an even worse Clinton. I have no evidence for that claim…” I would suggest that the evidence is overwhelming: they didn’t and haven’t stood up to Obama and you have almost 8 years of evidence. This is not even disputable and, I would argue, is the catalyst for the Trump nomination. The Republican leadership made the bed and there is quite strong evidence that they will continue to wallow in it when you have men like George H. W. Bush publicly stating that he will vote for HRC. I would say that he is a poster child for the elitist Republican leadership, even at his advanced age, and that this is very strong evidence that they have no intention of standing up to her if she becomes president. The fact that they haven’t confirmed Obama’s current nomination is long standing practice by both parties of not confirming lame duck nominations in the last year of a term and is simply business as usual. I would suggest that this doesn’t inspire any additional confidence in the mind of voters that anything will change with an HRC presidency. The other problem with your suggestion about working to control the Senate is that history has shown quite clearly that there is a coattail effect of electing a candidate for president and the best way to keep control of the Senate is to win the presidency. The current poll numbers would support this conclusion as well. Not working to elect Trump would very likely insure a senate that is sympathetic to Clinton appointments and one that would at the very least, cave to media pressure to approve nominees.

      Your last statement, that (“even if you are right, the same point applies”) strengthens my argument above that the president’s coattail would make this an effort in futility and make this a moot point.

  4. My argument may be seen a kind of defense of Grudem’s, I guess, but it is stronger and not vulnerable to Dr. Franks’ criticisms, I believe.

    1. As I noted, in a hypothetical scenario where Stalin is running for POTUS and our only hope of defeating him is by voting for DJT, it would be a sin of omission not to vote DJT…


    2. Yes, we should vote for Congressmen who would battle Hillary’s horrifically evil policy proposals on life, other social ills, economy etc., including challenging her SCOTUS picks, but how does that fact refute my point in #1 above?


    • Rich Davis says:

      Let me make a few of comments. FIRST, your point #1 either involves a false dilemma or it is question begging. You assume that failing to vote for DJT is a sin. But that’s only true if this is also a sin:

      OPTION 3: Voting for a third-party candidate (e.g., Evan McMullin) who, in one’s informed opinion, has the right views and values, AND then doing whatever one can to promote a like-minded Congress.

      If failing to vote for DJT is a sin, then so is my taking OPTION 3. But how could *that* be a sin? For by hypothesis, I’d be voting (a) in keeping with my conscience, (b) in keeping with the best information available to me, and (c) in favour of a candidate I had good reason to believe would make the best POTUS. Further, I’d be working towards ensuring that we had a Congress inhospitable towards anyone whose values I believed would be harmful to our country.

      The implication of your view is that taking OPTION 3 is something I’d have to ask God forgiveness for. That strikes me as a serious overreach–if not plainly absurd.


      SECOND, I think your argument is actually based on the following (invalid) form of reasoning:

      (1) If we were to vote for someone other than DJT, then HRC would be elected.

      (2) If HRC were elected, then she would make terrible SCOTUS appointments (plus other bad things).

      (3) If HRC made terrible SCOTUS appointments (plus other bad things), then serious harm would befall our country and its people.


      (4) If we were to vote for someone other than DJT, then serious harm would befall our country and its people.

      The problem with this argument is that it’s logically invalid. This is a kind of hypothetical syllogism (HS). But (HS) doesn’t hold for subjunctives. For example, consider:

      (5) If Franks and Davis had been born in India, they would have been Hindu.
      (6) If Franks and David had been Hindu, they wouldn’t have been Christian.


      (7) If Franks and Davis had been born in India, they wouldn’t have been Christian.

      You can see the problem!


      THIRD, in the end, the question isn’t whether what Dr. Franks says refutes *your* view. Instead, it’s whether what *you* says refutes his view. And that, quite clearly, isn’t the case.

      • Dr. Davis, I will reply to your points in kind. Thanks for your thoughts.

        Note that I didn’t previously assume that not voting for DJT was a sin, I gave an argument to that effect, but no matter. Voting for McMullin is a sin of omission because in doing so one is not combating a great evil the best he can as he’s obligated. If you fail in defending against an impending terrorist with a pocket knife even though you also had a rifle that increased your chances to kill him, then you’ve sinned. Similarly, the best way to stop Hillary Clinton’s evil agenda is to prevent her being elected. We know voting McMullin won’t do that, but voting DJT could. So we’re morally obligated to go DJT.

        I think again the immorality of voting against DJT at this point can be starkly seen by substituting Stalin for Hillary. If it were Stalin vs. Trump in the same context, would anyone really risk voting McMullin?


        I’m not a philosopher, so you may laugh when I say don’t see the fallacy in the HS form you highlight. E.g, in your Hindu example, it looks like the conclusion validly follows from the premises. The only problem I see is we can’t establish the truth of (5) “If Franks and Davis had been born in India, they would’ve been Hindu.” If we knew that premise were true, then I think we’d know the conclusion is true. So even if my argument is a form of HS, I’m not seeing that it’s invalid based on what you say. Maybe you’re saying counterfactuals like (5) don’t have truth-value and thus can’t be used as premises? Or that we can’t know whether it’s true that Hillary would do evil things as POTUS? If so, I disagree with both sentiments.


        I thought my arguments were supposed to be defending Dr. Grudem’s original arguments (in line with the blog rules), which would mean it is up to Dr. Franks to somehow rebut Dr. Grudem or my arguments. If he doesn’t, then my/Grudem’s arguments stand at least for now.

        But wherever the burden of proof lies, if the arguments I’ve given are good, then it’s a sin not to vote for Trump and Dr. Frank’s stance of not voting for Trump is shown to be misguided.

  5. Putting aside Grudem for a moment, Christians advocating a ‘neverTrump’ stance seem misguided to me. Thought experiment: you’re in a country where there are only two candidates for head office of the land; whoever gets more votes wins.

    Candidate A is heavily pro-abortion and even thinks newborn infants can be destroyed at the will of the mother. Candidate A is also in favor of a great number of other social ills that disregard human life and promises to strengthen existing laws and install new laws that would further empower such positions in the country. His/her policies would destroy or ruin the lives of millions if put into effect.

    Candidate B is crude and lewd and unpleasant in some ways has engaged in sins like adultery. But Candidate B rejects the anti-life views of Candidate A and her ilk and promises to combat the laws expanding or enforcing these. He/she is generally more amiable to biblical views. Candidate B’s policies would terminate or at least avoid the strengthening of anti-life laws in the nation.

    If Candidate A wins, it would equate to millions more human lives lost and the ruin of the quality of many existing lives. If Candidate B wins, such results would be avoided.

    In this case, how could a Christian not try to defeat Candidate A by voting for Candidate B? Moreover, how is this scenario clearly different than Hillary vs. Trump?

    • That’s a fair question, but here I’m only going to give an abbreviated response since the post wasn’t in support of being ‘Never Trump’ (although I am). It was, instead, simply a critique of specific reasons Grudem gave for supporting Trump.

      I do think there are some clear differences between this election and your thought experiment. Here are just a couple:

      (1) In this election, there are more than two available candidates.
      (2) In this election, Candidate B has circumspect pro-life views. He says the right things now (kind of—see his comments about jailing women who have abortions; hardly something a thoughtful pro-life candidate would have ever said), but has a much longer history of having much of the same general stance on this as Candidate A. It’s at least fair game to be suspicious that his change of view was brought about because of his desire to run for office as a Republican.

      Again, the original post and this specific comment should not be taken as “the reasons” for being ‘Never Trump’. The post is part of the story, but not all of it. (E.g., another key component is my strong belief that *even if* every Christian evangelical supported Trump, he would still lose the election. But, the rationale for that belief will have to come in another post.)

      • Thanks for your response. But again I don’t find your position or the abbreviated reasons for it you mention here at all compelling. To cite and respond to your points:

        (1) Yes, there are more than two candidates in our election, but this seems a mere academic point. A vote for, e.g., McMullin does exactly what? He isn’t going to win, obviously. So it’s essentially the same as a non-vote. But then the Christian again would not really be opposing the force of evil that is before him/her as he/she could. Thought experiment: substitute Stalin for Hillary Clinton and keep all else equal? It’s Stalin vs. Trump and McMullin, Stein, etc are still in the mix. Stalin leads in the polls like HRC allegedly does now. Who should Christians vote for? It appears the only possible way to defeat Stalin here is to try and get Trump the win and thus vote for him. How could that not be preferable to Stalin? Yes, you’ll say HRC is not as evil as Stalin, but she doesn’t have to be. She just has to be as evil as she actually is and that justifies, indeed, obligates Christians to go Trump this year (in my opinion).

        (2) Even if you don’t think Trump is particularly strong in areas of life, you certainly cannot deny that he is much, much stronger than HRC, who literally holds the most vile abortion and anti-life positions seemingly extant among U.S. politicians. (This is not even to mention the other 1000 horrible corruptions she’s be involved in her entire adult life.) If it takes a vote for Trump to defeat her, I again say we’re obligated to do that as Christians. Sidepoint: Mitt Romney was arguably weaker or at least as weak as Trump in areas of life and I never heard evangelical leaders say we should re-direct our votes away from Romney because of it. They said he was stronger than Obama and that was sufficient for our votes. It’s curious that many Christian neverTrumpers won’t give Trump the same nod. (To boot, Trump isn’t even part of an anti-Christian tradition like Romney is, i.e., Mormonism, and neverTrumpers STILL prefer Romney).

        You say believe that Trump would lose even every evangelical supported him. Two quick responses: (i) I have no idea how you can know that and (ii) back to my Stalin example, even if Stalin had 99% chance of winning, would Christians be justified before God in dropping out of the fight? Looks like a sin of omission to me.

      • Thanks again for your thoughtful response. However, since it isn’t actually related to the post itself (Grudem’s failure to adequately respond to objections to voting for Trump), I’m not going to respond to it any further (feel free to see our comment policy for a bit more on this). I have been planning to dedicate a post outlining my reasons for withholding my vote for Trump. If I am able to get around to that maybe we can have more of a discussion then.

        Best, Paul

    • Rich Davis says:

      What ‘conservative convergence’ shows, at best, is that if we knew that

      (*) If Trump were to win, then “millions more human lives” would not be lost due to abortion,

      then we should vote for Trump. But it’s hardly clear (based on what ‘conservativeconvergence’ says) how we’re supposed to know (*) is true. And this is because s/he doesn’t say. Is ‘conservative convergence’ thinking that ‘If Trump were to win, then Roe v. Wade would be overturned and abortion would become illegal’? Well, how does s/he know a thing like *that*?

      I think ‘conservativeconvergence’ should say.

      • Dr. Davis, thanks for your reply. I love your recent book, *Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy,* by the way. Really great (especially Dr. McGrew’s contribution).

        Regarding your comments, Roe v. Wade being overturned is far from the only way lives would/could be saved. (Also, it doesn’t have to be millions of lives, just lives.) For example, I find it far very very likely that HRC would continue to make pro-abortion and other anti-life laws (e.g., euthanasia, legalized selling of fetal parts a la Planned Parenthood, ‘abortion’ of newborns) more lenient and far-reaching; she’s spoken of such intentions. Moreover, I think she’d take measures to increase the public funding that goes into these things (like Obama did through taxpayer abortion funding) thus very probably increasing the absolute number of deaths related to these laws. Most importantly, she’s stated that she will appoint overtly liberal, anti-life judges to the SCOTUS, a horribly ominous proposal.

        Moreover, as I said, she wouldn’t just end lives but ruin others or the quality thereof. How many people are made poorer by Democratic economic policies (e.g., Obamacare; laws hostile to families like welfare laws)? Inner city crime is at all time highs under an Obama presidency and that would extend or just get worse under her. Police forces would continue to be railed against, making citizens less safe. Those in the homosexual community would have their agenda extended under her surely, which would only enable the destruction of those engaged in homosexual lifestyles (a tragedy often overlooked by the church and the world).

        As much as so many evangelicals despise Trump (far more than they apparently despise Hillary, oddly), I think I am on very safe ground to say he would not include any of the above agenda items into his presidency. Moreover, he’s given good reason to think he’d appoint pro-life SCOTUS justices, thus making pro-life federal legislation (e.g., overturn Roe v Wade) at least possible. Thus, as I argued before, Christians are obligated to vote his way lest they commit a sin of omission in failing to oppose her potential (and virtually ensured, if elected) evil.

      • Rich Davis says:

        Thanks for the kind remarks on the book. I agree: Tim McGrew was indeed outstanding–as he always is.

        Okay, as far as I can see, your argument takes *precisely* the form mentioned by Dr. Franks in the first section of his post: “Grudem’s False Dilemma.” And you even make the SCOTUS point–the very one he dispatches in his discussion. It’s also important to note that what Dr. Franks says there also applies to your other “HRC would…” points, which, I take it, are part of your own case for Grudem’s Dilemma.

        To keep things on point, I think it’s important for you to engage Dr. Franks’ argument(s) directly.

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