There have been numerous things and will be numerous things written about the newly appointed President Donald Trump. I have no desire to add to them – but I do want to deal with one question that has plagued my inbox for weeks – is Donald Trump the Christian President?
This question comes from two perspectives. The hostile atheists and secularists take great delight in tweeting about a ‘far right, misogynistic, racist, sexual hypocrite, Christian (forgetting both his past as a New York, liberal Democrat and the sexual exploits of their hero JFK). He is the ideal candidate for them to use to justify their hatred for Christians.
On the other hand there are Christians who think that Donald Trump is ‘our’ candidate, the one chosen and anointed by God. The one who though he is flawed (the ‘we are all sinners’ card usually gets played at this point) is still far better than the alternative. He is the Christian President. The Spectator Podcast has a fascinating discussion on this.
Except it’s not as simple as that. There are professing Christians who are strongly opposed to Donald Trump. Perhaps not all are as silly as this church refusing to use his name in prayer in case it ‘triggers’ reaction, but there are more serious concerns. John Macarthur made clear his opposition to the ‘vulgar Trump’, as did Russell Moore of the Southern Baptists and many others.
Ah – but didn’t 80% of evangelicals vote for Trump? Didn’t they do this partially because Trump appointed the clearly evangelical former Catholic Mike Pence as vice-President? Isn’t he beholden to Christians, and don’t most Christians support him?
So what can we say? What is the answer to the question?
- Donald Trump is not a Christian – So he cannot be the ‘Christian’ president in the sense that he is a Christian. He has given no evidence of having a real faith in Christ or shown any of the fruits (and as Christ said ‘you shall know them by their fruits’). As a Christian that is not a big issue for me regarding his role as president, although as a human being I do pray for his salvation. I understand and rejoice in the fact that Mike Pence is a fine Christian with a real faith and understanding of the Scriptures. That doesn’t necessarily make him a good politician, but I would hope he would be a Christian witness and moderating influence on the President. Those Christians who voted against Bill Clinton because of his moral character and yet voted for Trump despite his moral character were hardly being consistent.
2) The majority of evangelicals did not vote for President Trump. The 80% figure includes only those who voted, only whites (forgetting that many African-Americans and Hispanics and Asians are evangelicals) and includes as evangelicals many people who don’t even go to church – as this article from The Gospel Coalition explains. However it is the case that the majority of white evangelicals in this broad sense who did vote, probably did vote for Trump.
3) Many Christians from different backgrounds did vote for President Trump – but they will have done so for a variety of reasons. Some cultural, some personal, some political. Many did not like the alternative and they were not really given much choice. They were also concerned about issues like the Supreme Court Judges, abortion and the fact that Hilary Clinton would have almost certainly limited religious freedom. That however still does not make Donald Trump the Christian President. The fact that his policies were perceived to be less bad than the alternative is not much of an endorsement.
4) The ‘Christianity’ that supports Trump is often not Christian – I don’t mean by this that real Christians don’t vote for Trump – many did, and for the reasons said above. But many who profess to be Christian are either very loose in their Christianity or embrace heresies like the Prosperity Gospel. See this about Paula White who was one of the appointed prayer leaders at the inauguration. It may be that the Prosperity Gospel fits better with the gold of Trump towers than it does with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
5) God did not ordain Donald Trump as President, but he did ordain that Donald Trump should be President. Spot the difference. It’s not as though God said about Trump ‘he’s my man. I choose him’. But neither is it the case that the American electorate took God by surprise and now he’s on to plan B. Often God ordains that we get the consequences of our own actions and wishes. Because God can overrule any evil for good, does not mean that he approves of, or endorses the evil (please note I am not saying that Donald Trump is evil – at least no more than any other human being!). If we had been talking about President Clinton the same would have applied. We don’t know yet but it could be that God has ordained Trump for judgement – or mercy!
6) You cannot have a Christian President, but you can have a President who is a Christian. What I mean is that Christianity is not an ethnic, political or social force. We don’t vote for people just because they share our faith anymore than we choose a plumber because they share our faith. I know its a little more complex than that, because of course in politics there are more values issues, but even so it is the case that you could be a good Christian and a bad politician, and a bad Christian and a good politician (Winston Churchill springs to mind!). There are also many policies which Christians will have different views on – is there a Christian view on Brexit? Or on how much tax we should pay? Or on immigration? Our Christian values will influence all of these, but the bible is not a political manual. Thats why you can have Christians who are right-wing, left-wing and all the feathers in between! Is Socialism Satanic? – Why has the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals gone all Political?
There is much more that could be said but the above makes clear – Donald Trump is not the Christian President. To those atheists and secularists who want to pin Trump on Christianity – please don’t. Because it isn’t true.
To those evangelicals who have signed up as Trump supporters and endorsers – please stop it! If you think Trump is the next David or Moses, or God-forbid, Christ, then you are in for a big let down. Support him in terms of praying for him, respecting him, praising him when he does what is right and challenging him when he does what is wrong. But please don’t tie Christianity in with Donald Trump. Our faith is in Christ, not in Trump, nor in any of our leaders. And please let us not identify Christ with our politics. You will note that I have said nothing here about President Trumps politics (although after this afternoons speech I have been sorely tempted!). The reason is that although we are all perfectly entitled to have political views and to express them, we should not confuse them with the gospel. Thats why I’ve said nothing about them here. Our sole question is simply that of Trump as the Christian president.
As John Piper says in this Excellent Article
Followers of Christ are not Americans first. Our first allegiance is to Jesus, and then to the God-inspired word of Scripture, the Bible. This is our charter, not the U.S. Constitution.
To those who are fearful and confused. Remember that God is sovereign – as John Haldane the Catholic philosopher points out – God can work through and overrule so that Trumps presidency would be a blessing to America and to the world. That is what we pray for.
Trump is not the Christian President, but he is the President, and as Christians we therefore respect him and pray for him. We are not to be those who join in the general superior and snide mockery, we don’t believe everything we read in the media, and we don’t give into a spirit of despair. Who knows but that though some meant it for evil, this day may yet turn out to be a day that God meant for good?!