THE THEOLOGICAL ENGINEER
The Christian Response to President Trump
By Jeff Laird
Since the 2016 U.S. elections, our ministry has received numerous questions about Donald Trump. These generally revolve around whether or not he is a Christian, and how — or if — Christians ought to support him in his political efforts. First and foremost, understand that GotQuestions.org does not endorse specific politicians or political parties. This article is intended to give a broad response to questions raised by Trump's successful bid for the presidency of the United States.
It's understandable that the election of Donald Trump has generated both turmoil and questions. There often seems no clear way for Christ-honoring believers to respond to these issues. This is especially problematic as Trump is often linked — fairly or not — to evangelical Christianity. On one hand, tolerating those who demean the name of Christ through un-Christ-like behavior is a problem (1 Corinthians 5:13). At the same time, being overly critical or unfair is also a problem (Matthew 7:1-5; John 7:24).
In summary, we should demonstrate discernment regarding Donald Trump's behavior just as we would regarding any other person. It is also important to note the difference between a church leader, a political leader, and the typical professing Christian. Despite the strong opinions he inspires, there is nothing explicitly endorsing or condemning Trump in Scripture. All we have are criteria from Scripture to compare him to. Over time, perhaps we will see that he is a righteous leader, using those measures. Perhaps we'll find that he's an unrighteous and evil president. Most likely, he'll fall somewhere between those extremes. Either way, it's crucial to let the Bible assess his character, via his actions, rather than pre-judging him one way or the other.
We must also parse the difference between a leader being judged "righteous," or "unrighteous," separately from the concept of someone being the leader God has placed over a nation. That's a huge distinction; the two ideas are not necessarily linked. John Calvin noted that when God wants to judge a nation, he often sends them wicked leadership. The point is simply that God's will is going to be done in (and on) the United States, whether or not some particular politician is explicitly involved.
The only meaningful tool we can use to gauge the spiritual nature of a leader is Scripture. According to the Bible, godless leadership leads to ruin (Proverbs 28:12), so this is an important test to apply when considering our support. The Bible commands us to pray for our leaders; this implies that they're just as limited and fallible as the rest of us (1 Timothy 2:1-4). This includes how we select those politicians; God has been displeased with our choices of leadership in the past (Hosea 8:4).
One of the first biblical points to note is whether or not the leader attempts to force people to disobey the Word of God (Acts 5:27-29). If a leader is enacting policies which believers feel led to disobey, despite the command to obey legitimate authority (Romans 13:1-7), it's a good sign the leader is not righteous.
Another point is to see if the leader is led by a submissive faith in God (1 Samuel 12:13-25). Personal conduct will tell us whether they're actually following Christ or not (Matthew 7:16-20). This means the same criteria we use to judge a spiritual leader can be applied to a political leader — the major difference being that political leaders are not explicitly required to be held to those standards. These are simply marks of righteousness, so far as it goes, which are worth considering (Titus 1:5-9). Again, to be clear: Christians are not expected to hold secular leaders to those standards, but they're useful, all the same.
From a political standpoint, there is a difference between supporting Christian-friendly policies, and actually being a Christian. An atheist libertarian, for instance, could conceivably be pro-life and oppose same-sex marriage (Romans 2:14). Likewise, a person's salvation is not dependent on how they vote or what civil laws they support or reject. The first and foremost response Christians need to make is to highlight this distinction.
This is closely related to the idea that approving of a politician's policies or particular political actions does not require a full-blown endorsement of all aspects of his or her life. A Paul said, if Christians totally dissociated themselves from all non-believers, we'd need to leave the planet (1 Corinthians 5:10)! If Christians were only able to vote for devout, clean-living believers, we'd have almost no options at all. Rather, we should pick our battles. In a multi-cultural society, we need to support godly ideals, even if those ideals are espoused by those who are not part of our faith.
This, in fact, was a major factor in Donald Trump's election: many Christians who disapprove of him, personally, were far more disapproving of the prospect of Hillary Clinton being elected. And so, they voted for what they perceived to be the "lesser of two evils." Whether that was an appropriate response or not, the fact is that few Christians are confused about the kind of image Donald Trump presents to the world.
There is definitely hypocrisy involved if we attempt to defend Trump's lifestyle, politics, or behavior in a way that ignores biblical precepts. If we are careful to offer loving criticism when he's wrong, and defend particular actions and decisions which are right, then we're in good shape, spiritually. As part of that, we need to remind others that Trump's faith — or lack of it — is not necessarily simple to determine (1 Samuel 16:7).
Believers also need to clarify, both to politicians and our peers, that Christians are not called to support anyone who simply hints at a Christian faith. The same approach given above is key: lovingly critique what is incorrect, and cautiously approve of what is correct, no matter who we are referring to. Rather than associating ourselves with persons based on what they claim, we can associate with ideas based on whether or not they are true. Our loyalty, in other words, is to God and His will, not to any particular party or person.
Donald Trump's final legacy and ultimate impact are still unknown. Time will tell, and in the meantime, we can only do what we've been commanded, to the best of our ability. After that, if people are inclined to mistake or misinterpret our faith on account of some political figure, there is little we can do about it.
Image Credit: Wokandapix; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Controversial-Issues | Current-Issues | Political-Issues
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