picture of Ten Commandments from Civic Center Park, Denver, Colorado, USA.
Civic Center Park, Denver, Colorado, USA.

Evangelist Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, who is also a preacher, told a group of panelists that she could not vote for an atheist for president. It appears she was in the minority. Good for her. But will she and scores of other prominent preachers and Christian leaders maintain a Biblical standard for civil magistrates? Graham is right to identify as a qualification that the candidate “Fear God“. But the phrase must be defined as the Bible does.

What does it mean to fear God?

First, it means they must be a Christian: Psalm 2 requires that kings, just like everybody else, bow the knee to Jesus.

Psalm 2:10-12:

 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

This fear of God in Christ means that the candidate must not serve other gods or believe in more than one God. The Bible is clear that if one does not accept the Son, he or she has rejected the Father, as well.

Second, the fear of God means keeping the Commandments: ALL Ten!  If the candidate is a habitual liar, adulterer or thief, or if he unrepentantly blasphemes God or worships idols, he is not qualified for office. Eccesiastes 12:13 says,

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man

I have written elsewhere:

Before the U.S. Constitution was ratified, atheists could not serve in the civil realm in most states, because they could not honestly take the oath of office, which required belief in God.[1] Maryland required “a declaration of a belief in the Christian religion.” The North Carolina Constitution of 1776 also required that

No person, who shall deny the being of God or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments…shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State.[2]

It should be also noted that North Carolina, like many other states, forbade a practicing member of the clergy to serve in civil office as well, for the prevailing thought was that his ministry would be corrupted if he tried to be a pastor and governor at the same time:

That no clergyman, or preacher of the gospel, of any denomination, shall be capable of being a member of either the Senate, House of Commons, or Council of State, while he continues in the exercise of pastoral function.[3] (emphasis mine)

By the early 1800s, nearly all of the provisions of the U.S. Constitution were either applied to the states or adopted by the states, including Article 6 which abolished religious tests.

In light of the ban on the religious test for holding office, is it right for Christians to consider whether a candidate fears God or not? Of course it is. The ban only forbids a legal religious test for holding office; it does not keep voters from using this to make their own decisions. Some have argued that keeping the spirit of the injunction requires individuals to block religion from their evaluations. But that is like saying that in keeping with the spirit of the 1st Amendment parents must allow their children to swear, or that in the spirit of the 2nd Amendment all businesses must allow guns on their premises.

A religious test recognizes that men who take oaths in God’s name will be held to a higher accountability than just their own notions, or even fear of being caught by other men in violating the oath of office.

How will the fear of God make governors more able to carry out their duties? First, it will make them rule justly (1Sa 23:3). It will also keep them from ruling with an iron fist or with cruelty (Neh. 5:15),[4] make them personally generous (Acts 10:2), give them respect for the disabled and the aged (Lv. 19:14, 32) and help them to see the plight of the poor and the immigrant (Lv. 25:35f).

Fearing God means that the leader will not be swayed by the ever-changing whims of a fickle electorate. He will strive to obey the commandments of God in his personal life. The Scriptures speak of righteousness and holiness. The world speaks of ethics and morality. What are the differences between the two characteristics? The latter speak of one’s outward behavior only and usually only in relation to fellow men. Christians recognize the Bible requires an inward righteousness as a gift of grace. It demands a right relation to God. Of course, no one claims to be able to read the heart of another. But still, one’s actions and words can display what is in the heart.


[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] See Matthew Poole, Commentary, Volume 1, Encyclopedia Puritannica, p. 891



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  1. Once upon a time it was difficult for Protestant Christians to vote for a Roman Catholic because of the theology of the adoration and veneration of Mary as the Queen of Heaven. Not too many Evangelicals worried about that any more.

      1. Good or bad, some Evangelicals play the faith card for Romney but did not play it for Santorum or Gingrich. Find it to be odd that folks embraced candidates’ Catholicism but rejected others’ Mormonism. Doesn’t seem too consistent to me. Of course, no one claims to be able to read the heart of another.

      2. Commit Bob, commit.

        Are you saying that there are no religious views that should disqualify a man from serving as president?  You’d vote for a Satanist or a Wiccan? 

      3. I am merely pointing out the hypocrisy of one who would exclude a Mormon but not a Roman Catholic on theological grounds. And I do think that some religious views have disqualified some candidates. It seems that Santorum’s hard line Roman Catholic views on birth control helped eliminate him with some voters. 

        I do not think that Americans are voting for a Pastor in Chief though but are looking for a competent skilled chief executive. Regarding Satanists or Wiccans – outrageous hypotheticals never seem to further sane dialog. 

        So maybe you can commit David – does Romney’s Mormonism disqualify him in your eyes? Does Santorum and Gingrich’s Roman Catholicism disqualify them as well? The religious views of these men do not disqualify them in my eyes. How about you?

      4. The original Satanic lie was not dress up in a red suit and carry a pitchfork, nor was it look like Charlie Manson, not was it to kill little kittens. No, it was “you will be as gods”. So my hypothetical was not outrageous.

        Concerning Catholics, I can certainly say that if a man trusts in saying the Rosary, going through Purgatory, venerating Mary, going to church, his baptism, participating in a Mass, confessing to a priest or any other religious practices and not in Christ alone, he is none of His.

      5. But David, how can you really know that a Roman Catholic really believes those things unless you make assumptions about them based on their church’s theology.

        Again I say – The religious views of these men do not disqualify them in my eyes. How about you?

      6. I would, in point of fact, vote for a Satanist or a Wiccan.  Just the same as I would vote for a Christian, an Atheist, a Buddhist, even a Muslim.  It depends on their political views, history, an policy.  they have a LEGAL RIGHT to worship any god they so please, or no gods at all, a right which does not stop working when they join in a presidential campaign.

  2. So, wait a second.  Separation of church and state should now be interpreted to mean that only members of the church can manage the state?  Many of our founders were not christian.  To include the authors and signers of our constitution.

    1. If there were no god, you’d have a point. But since God did create the state for a purpose, He is the Ruler and the Decider. Christians are bound to obey the gracious God who saved them.

      1. I recognize your right to believe in your god and respect that.  Especially since I’ve found myself on a Christian forum.  I only mean to raise the possibility that voting for someone merely because he is your brand of theist might be an unwise policy due to the abundantly insane things people do in spite of (or perhaps because of) their personal god(s).  Look at their secular policy and decide from that if they are fit to run a secular government in your opinion.  This is a democracy, not a theocracy.

  3. Considering the wildly varying interpretations of the Bible and the thousands of flavors of Christianity in the world, it’s pretty silly to pretend that there’s any consistency to “God’s will”, or that Christians aren’t fickle compared to non-believers or people of other faiths.  Really, are we supposed to trust people who pick and choose things out of a book of mythology and claim to be getting secret messages from an invisible man?  

  4. Why not honor the Constitution of the United
    States of America:

    Article Six: The Senators and
    Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State
    Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United
    States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to
    support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a
    Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

    1. @LarryLinn:disqus Because the framers refused to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ does not mean Christian voters are bound to follow them, anymore than a businessman who believes in the second amendment is bound to allow all his customers to carry weapons in his stores, or believing in the First Amendment means a parent must allow their kids to swear in their presence.
      In other words, I am bound by God’s Word to apply a religious test. I honor God more than the Constitution.

      1. Why don’t you
        live in an honorable manner, leave the United States, and go find some
        Theocratic country to reside in?

  5. I don’t claim to know the heart of a Catholic, for example. I only know his profession and his outward behavior as it pertains to his or her faith, just as a church session does not really know the heart of someone wanting to join the fellowship. A young lady cannot know for certain the heart of that young man who comes a-courting. But she may only marry in the faith.

    I trust that potential candidates are adults. They don’t join a church that they largely disagree with. Conservatives rightly suspected would govern in a way consistent with the views of Rev. Wright..

    I think I already affirmed that the Bible teaches that magistrates are duty bound to Fear God.  I think that is a religious test.

    1. I trust that potential candidates are adults. They don’t join a church that they largely disagree with.”

      So all of the GOP candidates fear God because they all attend churches that advocate a fear of God? 

      1. No, but they do not fear God if they believe there are millions of gods. Or advocate for the killing of unborn children.

Comments are closed.

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