Notable author and pastor Timothy Keller has denounced the idea that a Christian must vote for Donald Trump or must vote for Joe Biden, citing a “liberty of conscience.”
In a series of posts to Twitter last week that has sparked debate, Keller discussed how Christians should approach conscience and political involvement.
“The Bible binds my conscience to care for the poor, but it does not tell me the best practical way to do it,” he tweeted. “Any particular strategy (high taxes and government services vs low taxes and private charity) may be good and wise …”
“[It] may even be somewhat inferred from other things the Bible teaches, but they are not directly commanded and therefore we cannot insist that all Christians, as a matter of conscience, follow one or the other.”
Keller went on to declare that Democrats and Republicans “offer a potpourri of different positions on these and many other topics, most of which, as just noted-the Bible does not speak … to directly,” he continued.
“This means when it comes to taking political positions, voting, determining alliances and political involvement, the Christian has liberty of conscience. Christians cannot say to other Christians ‘no Christian can vote for…’ or ‘every Christian must vote for […’] unless you can find a Biblical command to that effect,” continued Keller.
Keller received several critical posts in response, including one from Charles Yarbrough, a pastor and Bible teacher from Georgia.
“Hey Tim...No Christian should vote for anyone who advocates the murder of babies in the womb, and in some cases like the governor of Virginia, even after they are born. This is indescribable evil...period,” Yarbrough tweeted.
Marshall Albritton, a lawyer, tweeted in response that while he agreed with Keller, he nevertheless felt that “2 things are essential and nonnegotiables.”
“Everyone, including political leaders regardless of party, must say that abortion is evil,” said Albritton. “The Govt should not fund abortion. Political reality now is that 1 party refuses to do either of these.”
For his part, Keller responded to some of the criticism, believing that many of the posters had misinterpreted his remarks as saying he supported legalized abortion.
“The Bible tells me that abortion is a sin and great evil, but it doesn’t tell me the best way to decrease or end abortion in this country, nor which policies are most effective,” tweeted Keller.
Kedron Bardwell, professor and chair of the Political Science department at Simpson College, chimed in to argue that Democratic presidents were better at reducing abortion.
“The idea that reducing abortion is something that happens under GOP (or even pro-life) leadership is a myth,” tweeted Bardwell.
“Abortion rate is lower under DEM presidents and record drop was under Clinton in 1990s. If you really want fewer abortions it hinges on culture/contraception and economy.”
As the presidential election draws near, some faith leaders have argued that believers must vote one way or the other or else they are not true believers.
Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas argued that evangelicals who vote for Biden "have sold their soul to the devil and accepted the Democrats’ barbaric position on abortion."
Tony Perkins, the head of Family Research Council, has also made a case against voting for Biden, arguing that Biden's Catholic faith doesn't "square" with his "radical position" on abortion.
Last month, Grace Community Church Pastor John MacArthur told the Falkirk Center at Liberty University that “any real” Christian will vote for Trump.
In his interview with Falkirk, MacArthur recounted a recent phone call between himself and the president amid the pastor’s legal battle with California over holding indoor worship services.
“[We] talked a little bit about why, certainly from a biblical standpoint, Christians could not vote Democratic,” recalled MacArthur.
“There’s no way that a Christian can affirm the slaughter of babies, homosexual activity, homosexual marriage, or any kind of gross immorality.”
In more recent comments, Keller contended that it is wrong for Christians to "speak of their opponents in a demonizing and dehumanizing way," noting that everyone "fall[s] infinitely (and therefore equally) short of loving and serving God in the way that is due him."
"So Christians can never feel morally superior to any one else at all. That means (MAIN POINT) when we call out evildoing in others, as vital as that is, we can never imply by our attitude or language that they deserve God’s condemnation, but we do not," he tweeted Sunday. "Right now our very social fabric is tearing apart because of, among other things, increasing, mutual demonizations ON BOTH SIDES. Christians must not contribute to this in any way."
A Pew survey, conducted in June, showed that a majority (82%) of white evangelicals said they will vote for Trump. Among black Protestants, 88% said they will vote for Biden and 52% of Catholics said they'll choose Biden.