In 2007, Wayne Grudem wrote an article for Townhall.com endorsing Mitt Romney’s bid for the 2008 Republican nomination for President. In the article, Grudem considers whether or not Evangelical Christians should vote for a Mormon, and I think his reflections are apt for the conversation we are having in 2011. He writes:
Can evangelicals support a candidate who is politically conservative but not an evangelical Christian? Yes, certainly. In fact, it would demonstrate the falsehood of the liberal accusation that evangelicals are just trying to make this a “Christian nation” and only want evangelical Christians in office. For evangelicals to support a Mormon candidate would be similar to supporting a conservative Jewish candidate—someone we don’t consider a Christian but who comes from a religious tradition that believes in absolute moral values very similar to those that Christians learn from the Bible…
Have we come to the point where evangelicals will only vote for people they consider Christians? I hope not, for nothing in the Bible says that people have to be born again Christians before they can be governmental authorities who are used greatly by God to advance his purposes. God used Pharaoh, King of Egypt, to raise Joseph to a position of authority over the whole country, so he could save his people from famine (Genesis 41:37-57). God used Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, to protect and raise up Daniel and his Jewish friends to positions of high authority over Babylon (Daniel 2:46-49). God used Cyrus, King of Persia, to restore the Jewish exiles to their homeland (Isaiah 45:16; Ezra 1:1-4), and used Darius, King of Persia, to protect the Jewish people as they rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 6:1-12). God used Ahashuerus, King of Persia, to raise up Esther as Queen and to give Mordecai high authority and honor in his kingdom (Esther 6:10-11; 8:1-2, 7-15). In the New Testament age, God used the peace enforced by the secular Roman Empire, the Pax Romana, to enable the early Christians to travel freely and spread the Gospel throughout the Mediterranean world.
Here in the United States, God used not only Founding Fathers who were strong Christians, but also Deists such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, to build the foundation of our nation. Jefferson even became our third President in 1801, a demonstration of the wisdom of Article 6 of the Constitution, which says, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
The Bible tells us to pray not just for Christians who happen to have government offices, but “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2). It is not just Christians in government but all governing authorities who are “instituted by God” (Romans 13:1) and whom Paul can call “God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:4).
In his 2010 book Politics according to the Bible, Grudem stands by his contention that Christians can vote for non-Christian political candidates, even though he reconsiders the plausibility of Romney’s 2008 candidacy. He writes:
When I speak about “significant Christian influence” on government, I want to be very clear that I do not mean that Christians should only vote for Christian candidates for office, or even that Christians should generally prefer an evangelical candidate over others who are running.
To take one example, President Jimmy Carter was a Southern Baptist who taught a Sunday school class at his home church in Georgia, and media reports made much of Carter’s profession of faith as a “born-again” Christian. But many politically conservative evangelical Christians decided to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980 instead of Carter, based on differences with President Carter’s policies… (Politics according to the Bible, p. 66)
Grudem concludes his discussion with this:
The principle remains: I think Christians should support the candidate who best represents moral and political values consistent with biblical teaching, no matter what his or her religious background or convictions (p. 68).
When you read the entire article by Grudem, it is clear that a number of prudential judgments come into play in the selection of a candidate. Christians need to know what principles they stand for, and then they must balance those principles against a political candidate’s own views, competency, and electability.