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One senator could decide impeachment process: History turns on tiny hinges

Dr. Jim Denison is the CEO of Denison Forum.
His Daily Article and podcast globally reach over 160,000 subscribers. Dr. Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically. He is the author of multiple books and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia. He holds a Ph.D and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

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Senator Lamar Alexander
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., speaks to reporters as he arrives at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
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The impeachment trial continued yesterday as senators asked more questions of the House Democratic managers and President Trump’s defense team. The Senate will vote today on whether to introduce additional evidence in the trial.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R–Tennessee) announced late last night that he would vote against such a motion. His decision is considered a “strong indication” that Republicans have the votes to block such a step. If this proves true, the Senate could complete the trial later today, though Democrats have indicated they may force additional votes that could extend the process into early Saturday. 

One senator could shorten the impeachment trial 

We will discuss the implications of the trial’s conclusion after it occurs. In the meantime, let’s consider a strategic factor at this stage of the trial. 

The Senate is composed of fifty-three Republicans, forty-five Democrats, and two Independents. For the Senate to call further witnesses, all the Democrats and Independents would have to be joined by four Republicans. Sen. Susan Collins (R–Maine) said last night that she would vote in favor of new witnesses; Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah) has said he would like to hear testimony from John Bolton, President Trump’s former national security advisor. 

This leaves Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R–Alaska), another swing vote, who said she would announce her position today. If she intends to vote in favor of more witnesses, the decision would likely result in a fifty-fifty tie. The tie could be broken by the presiding officer, Chief Justice John Roberts, but observers believe he would abstain. The motion would then fail because it did not succeed. 

In other words, Sen. Alexander’s decision not to seek further witnesses could prove decisive in concluding the trial. 

When the final vote comes, sixty-seven senators will be required to convict the president. While this is considered highly unlikely, note that a number of Americans smaller than the smallest county in America (Kalawao County, Hawaii, with eighty-eight residents) could remove a president from office for the first time in US history. 

Players in the Super Bowl comprise 5.4 percent of the NFL 

Sen. Alexander’s announcement is just one example of the fact that history turns on tiny hinges. 

A second example is the China coronavirus, which the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency yesterday. (For my response, please see my website article, “The WHO declares China virus a global health emergency: Two biblical responses.”) The crisis likely started at a seafood market in Wuhan, China, and has now spread to at least twenty-three other countries

A third story dominating the news this week has been the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others, all of whom perished when their helicopter crashed Sunday morning. Teams across the NBA have staged observances in his memory. The Empire State Building was illuminated gold and purple (the colors of the Los Angeles Lakers) to honor Bryant, just one of many tributes and memorials held around the world

A fourth story in the news is, of course, the Super Bowl. If Sunday’s game follows the typical script, a handful of players and plays will decide its outcome. The ninety-two players active for the game comprise 5.4 percent of the 1,696 active players in the NFL. And they are 0.36 percent of the roughly 25,300 players on Division I and Division II college teams. 

The “mustard seed” principle 

The bad news is that a small number of people can influence the world for great evil. Think of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels writing The Communist Manifesto, articulating ideas that eventually enslaved a third of the world. More than 1.5 billion people currently live in communist countries. 

Fourteen senior Nazi officials met at the Wannsee Conference in 1942 to plan the “Final Solution” that led to the murder of six million Jews. A nine-member standing committee leads the Politburo, which rules the People’s Republic of China under the dictatorial direction of President Xi Jinping. 

By contrast, a small number of people can influence the world for great good. Noah saved the human race through his obedience. Joseph saved the Jewish nation through his wisdom. The 120 early Christians who met at Pentecost helped catalyze a movement that now encompasses 2.2 billion believers (cf. Acts 1:15). 

Many of Jesus’ metaphors for the church emphasize this principle. We are “salt” and “light,” both of which influence their environment in far greater proportion than their size or amount (Matthew 5:13–16). We are a “grain of mustard seed” that grows “larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31–32). 

“Redemption is the only reality” 

Unless you are a member of the United States Senate, you will not be able to determine the outcome of the impeachment process. Unless you play for the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers, you will not decide the Super Bowl. 

But you can be salt and light in our decaying, darkened culture. You can plant the seeds of biblical truth in the souls you influence today. 

In fact, if you want to influence our culture for Christ, planting such seeds is vitally urgent. 

Oswald Chambers notes in today’s My Utmost for His Highest: “Our calling is not primarily to be holy men and women, but to be proclaimers of the gospel of God. The one all-important thing is that the gospel of God should be recognized as the abiding reality. Reality is not human goodness, or holiness, or heaven, or hell—it is redemption. The need to perceive this is the most vital need of the Christian worker today. As workers, we have to get used to the revelation that redemption is the only reality.” 

Multiple millennia after the president and senators are no longer in office, Jesus will still be on his throne. Helping people know him and make him known is our highest privilege and calling. 

History turns on tiny hinges. Will you be such a “hinge” for your Lord today?

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