The Grude, The Bad and the Ugly

Comparing how we do religion and politics in Australia to how they are done in the US  is like comparing soccer’s “A” League here in Oz  with the English Premier League.

Sooner or later, despite your enthusiasm for the local game, despite your talking up the talent,  you need to admit the enormous gulf between the two. It would only take a trip to Anfield, The Emirates Stadium or Old Trafford (or Leicester City’s King Power Stadium for that matter), to confirm this.

You watch those slick passes (all made by foreigners not the local rubbish masquerading as  talent), marvel at the pace and skill, and suddenly the “A” League looks like the local U17 side on a Sunday morning kick around.

Hence when I read that US conservative theologian, Wayne Grudem (he of that most upright but tedious Systematic Theology tome) believes that Donald Trump is a morally good choice for President, I have to put my hand up and admit that when it comes to religion and politics, the USA is playing a different game.

Wayne – talking sense about election


It’s as if Grudem skipped over Daniel 2 and still believes some sort of metal, or mix of iron and clay, ruler will do what only the rock not cut by hands can do. (I am preaching that chapter tomorrow night as it happens).


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Wayne – talking nonsense about election

The US is a country that has enormous religious expectations of its politics and enormous political expectations of its religion.  

Premier League expectations in fact.

And compared with that, the Australian version of mixing politics and religion looks decidedly pedestrian.  So pedestrian in fact that both sides of politics attempt to liven up the lack of talent on the pitch with cheer leaders and fireworks off it; a failed and derisory attempt at making a Premier League mountain out of an “A” League mole hill.

Hence every now and then a shrill Lefty will bleat on about how John Howard and Tony Abbott (or Malcolm Turnbull for that matter) are  beholden to some conservative Christian faction/cult/Knights Templar.  Some will even write a book about it and tell scary stories to the children at the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

And for every Lefty, there’ll be a Right wing shock jock who reveals how this or that Labor Party member was part of the Fabian society and its twisted aims push a strong socialism, godless agenda.

But like it or not Australians are decidely centrist.  Even the Greens are finding that to their chagrin.  The push for hard left politics in this country failed dismally at the last election (although the push towards the hard right is something of a worry – and hopefully only an aberration every twenty years of so to let off steam).

And as for the atheist push to get you to tick “no religion” on the census next week, well who are they? The Australian mistrust of authority extends even to them.

That difference is why a US Presidential Inauguration looks like a Hillsong service on speed, and why the swearing in of an Australian Prime Minister looks like a hastily arranged shotgun wedding at the local council chambers.

And that’s the way I like it.  That’s the way I want to keep it. I have low expectations of my political leaders to solve the world’s problems, and as a Christian, I have high expectations of Jesus to solve the worlds problems, and to, in the time before his parousia, even ameliorate these problems somewhat by His Spirit through His church (the crucial caveat being the word “somewhat”).

And that’s why I don’t expect the Australian equivalent of Wayne Grudem to write a blog or a book endorsing any political leader any time soon as the solution to our country’s moral problems.  And if they do it will probably end up on the same pile on which I feel tempted to put Grudem’s Systematic Theology at the moment.




  1. Very off topic Stephen I’m sorry but it struck me strongly that The Wayne Grudem comment, “Election is an act of God before creation………” comment that you clearly endorse, seems to me a comment right out of the Calvinist’s handbook.

    Does your endorsement allow me to assume that you are a Calvinist also?

    I have so enjoyed the sermons of Charles Spurgeon and have found little to disagree with but of course I do find the Calvinist doctrines dangerous as they sound elitist and tend, to my simple mind at least, imply one might be lazy about one’s walk with God, but still make Heaven’s gates.

    If by a notion that one is always going to be saved, simply because God foresaw this, and is therefore always going to honour our salvation commitment, I do wonder why the author of Hebrews spent so much time and effort pleading to us to avoid backsliding, and the hardening our hearts toward the Holy Spirit’s ministrations.

    It seems to me that through pre-election theology, I can respond to the Gospel’s message, run the good race, but find the gate locked at the end of my earthly journey because God simply did not include me on His original “list”.

    Knowing that one’s name is placed in the Lamb’s book of life upon salvation, and can be removed for good reason, I am persuaded that in this simplistic fact, God made no pre-election but rather allowed us to respond through our own purposeful will to the Holy Spirit’s salvation call, and to then diligently attend to the instruction of the Gospel message. Thusly then, through God’s grace, and the evidence of my commitment to Christ through my earthly actions, I will receive my heavenly reward rather than through the Calvinist method.

    Ultimately it matters very little to the diligent Christian, but it does highlight the peculiar and divisive beliefs that bedevils our Christian family.

    1. Both can be held in tension. Calvin wasn’t Calvinist, he simply read the Scripture, and the point of election from the OT is Israel did not choose God, but God chose Israel, not on the basis of her goodness but on his love, which is reiterated throughout the OT. I have no problem with Hebrews on this, but Hebrews simply warns us not to presume we do belong to God if our behaviour says otherwise.

      But to say it makes one lazy? Never met that in all my years of actually believing this doctrine among God’s people. Never met a “I’m ok because of election” person, because the Bible says that we are to make our calling and election sure, and that means through a godly life. I certainly don’t believe that God foresaw what we would do and then saved us (that, ironically is more elitist as it presumes we COULD choose God if we wanted to, that our sinful nature is not so bad that we could not go against it and line up with God. That is rejected by the fact that Scripture says the mind of the flesh is at enmity with God and cannot be his friend. It’s a little like someone saying there is no God, but that the Big Bang started out of nothing. Neither is possible.)

  2. Arguably the most saddening thing from a Christian point of view I have read recently in American Politics was not Grudem’s article but a single section of Obama’s speech at the Democratic Congress.

    “We are not a fragile or frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared saviour promising that he alone can restore order. We don’t look to be ruled. Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago; We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that together, We, the People, can form a more perfect union.”

    Why is it sad?
    Because a professed Christian leader said that power came not from some Messiah or Christ but a flimsy piece of paper written by flawed humans, mimicking the real truth that is found in the word of God.
    Christians do look to be ruled – we declare ourselves as slaves of Christ .
    Christians know ourselves fragile and helpless in our sin, unable to stand before God.
    Christians do look for power from some self-declared saviour promising that he alone can restore order – and that saviour died on a cross and rose, declaring that he would come again to judge the world to finally restore order to the chaos of a sinful universe.
    Our power is from immortal declarations but far greater ones than Obama cherishes here – the word of God, as in the Bible and manifested in Christ’s life, death, resurrection.
    If Obama or anyone else wants to trust in a paper constitution that only survives because it is sheltered by the attentions of curators rather than a divine Saviour who lives and reigns eternally with his Father and still call themselves a Christian… that is heartbreaking.

  3. I’d encouraged every outraged Australian Christian to read the original article by Wayne Grudem. His argument boils down to: “Vote for Trump because he’ll put conservatives in the Supreme Court, which will be better for unborn babies and freedom of religion.” I despise Trump but agree with Grudem whole-heartedly.

    Is there really much difference between what Grudem wrote and what Tony Payne wrote here, warning us against voting Labor or Greens?
    It’s the same idea: vote conservative for religious liberty.

  4. Get baptism put in its proper place in Christian theology and Calvinism, nay Protestantism, will fly out the window–it is for remission of sins and reception of Spirit.

    That said, to reference Grudem both on political election and on theological election is a category jump so bizarre as to be nonsensical–unless the assertion is that both fall categorically into things Grudem has got wrong. And that doesn’t work well either. He is quite right about Trump:)

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