In supporting Donald Trump for president, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, seems to be embracing an ethical system consistent with dualism. That is, he is implying that there are two legitimate and distinct ethical systems available for use depending on the context. Jeffress finds one realm where traditional biblical values prevail and another realm where strong leaders and problem solvers prevail.
This error blinds Jeffress from properly considering many of Donald Trump’s disqualifying deficiencies. After all, the dualist reasoning goes, it’s not the biblical realm we’re concerned with, it’s the government realm! Biblical values such as honesty, integrity, and respect for people can and do have their place in the church, but in dealing with government problems Jeffress declares, “We need a strong leader and a problem solver” as if quality leaders and problem solvers are somehow divergent from biblical values.
To justify his support of Trump, Jeffress advocates such vague and mushy standards as “the candidate’s sincerity, his love of evangelical Christians, and his stance on abortion.” Jeffress claims that Trump’s position on abortion it isn’t as bad as Clinton’s or Sanders’. This evaluation of Democratic candidates’ abortion views begs the question of why Pastor Jeffress supports Trump in a REPUBLICAN primary. Even considering these questionable standards, Trump is obviously the weakest and most inconsistent candidate among the Republicans, yet for some reason wins support of Pastor Jeffress.
While the government’s role and function in society is not the same biblically as the church’s, both ought to submit to one God and His ethical principles. Christianity embraces monotheism, not the error of dualism or bitheism (two gods). Leaders of governments don’t get a pass when they ignore integrity, honesty, and respect because they operate in a different realm than the church. We learned, to our peril, in the 1990’s that character matters in a president. Likewise, leaders in churches don’t get a pass when they ignore quality leaders and skilled problem solvers.
Dualism is a heresy and similar bifurcated ethical systems should be treated as such. If we advocate for one ethical standard of leadership in the church realm and another standard for the government realm, we may find ourselves supporting a ruthless, bombastic, insulting, and ever-changing candidate who values making the best deals.