In recent days, we have watched mass shootings on school campuses that not only rocked school campuses, but they changed people’s lives forever. Just this past week, organized marches were held under the banner of gun control all across the United States. Interestingly enough, these marches were led by teenagers—many of whom have been alarmed by the recent school shootings in our nation. While we must not turn a deaf ear to the threat of safety and the wellbeing of people in our nation—it’s unfortunate that this conversation is often framed around the need for gun reform. Such conversations are often engaged without proper logic, a skewed view of history, and a lack of vision for the future. This discussion doesn’t lack passion—but it does often lack common sense.
There are two subjects that often create a great deal of passion in conversations—Jesus and guns. When you put both of those subjects into a conversation, things can get pretty nasty. No matter how we have this conversation—please stop claiming that Jesus was a pacifist. At this juncture, we are all reminded that doctrine matters. We must likewise be reminded that ideas matter too. As we all know—ideas have consequences and if hundreds of thousands of misinformed teenagers coming of age have misinformed ideas—let’s be certain that such ideas will have consequences that could reshape our nation. Let’s be completely honest—Jesus was not a pacifist and that fact can be substantiated from the pages of Scripture.
Where Was Jesus When Israel Went off to War?
One key error that people often make when it comes to examining Jesus’ teaching on a cultural issue is that they disconnect the Jesus of the New Testament from the God of the Old Testament. This not only misses the point of Jesus’ teaching, but it creates a false dichotomy between YHWH and the Christ. Far too often people fail to remember that Jesus is God. If Jesus is God, and he certainly is, where was Jesus when God commanded Israel to go into battle to defeat the enemies of God’s people?
The answer to that question is that Jesus was present and actively involved in the battles of Israel’s history. When we see Joshua by Jericho in Joshua 5:13-15, a mysterious and powerful figure showed himself to Joshua with his sword drawn. When asked who he was, he identified himself as the commander of the LORD’s army. Joshua fell down and worshipped him. Interestingly, he was not rebuked for worshipping. Many believe that this is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. Since Joshua is not rebuked for the worship, I believe this is indeed a rare appearance of Jesus before his incarnation. Jesus was with Israel in battle and his sword was drawn.
When the nation of Israel was commanded to go into battle against the Amalekites—Jesus was not disconnected from that order (1 Samuel 15:1-3). He was very much involved and engaged in the commission of Israel into war. As difficult as it may seem—such commands for Israel to enter a land and take the life of every individual was given by God—and Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity. We must not make the error of disconnecting the Persons of the Trinity and creating the “vengeful” God of the Old Testament and the “nice” God of the New Testament. That’s a theological conundrum and it would render our God as a confused being who suffers from schizophrenia rather than the God of order who rules the entire universe.
What Exactly Did Jesus Teach?
Jesus taught that God’s people are to be people of peace—those who pursue peace. As the long prophesied Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6), Jesus taught his followers to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9) and to turn the other cheek in order to create peace. Paul came along and taught the same principles of peace as he instructed the church at Rome to live peaceably with all people, in so much as it depends upon you (Rom. 12:18).
However, when we interpret Jesus’ teaching, we must not overlook the total body of his teaching and fail to interpret the whole of his message by what he said in other places as well. For instance, when Jesus was approached by a solider, he healed his servant and then praised him for his faith (Matt. 8:5-13). He never rebuked him for his service as a soldier like he rebuked the rich man for his wealth (Mark 10:21-22) and the adulterous for her adultery (John 4:16-18).
When Jesus sent his disciples out the first time—he sent them out with nothing for their journey (Luke 9:3). The next time as Jesus prepared to send them out into the hostile world, Jesus commanded them to take their necessary bags, coats, and if necessary—sell their cloak to purchase a sword.
He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:26).
While we all know that Christianity is not advanced by sword, bomb, plane, tank, or military conquest—we must not overlook or minimize what Jesus instructed. Jesus understood that his followers were going out into a dark land of depravity and they would likely need a sword for simple protection. Soon thereafter, Jesus was with his followers in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of his betrayal and subsequent arrest. Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus and struck the servant of the high priest—cutting off his ear (Mark 14:47).
Interestingly enough, Peter had a sword just as Jesus commanded. While Jesus rebuked Peter for defending him, he didn’t rebuke Peter for having a sword. Jesus was not teaching the tenants of pacifism as he was being arrested. Instead, Jesus was giving a lesson on his sovereignty. It was not the evil men who would take his life—as he had already taught in John 10:18—he had the power to lay his life down and to raise it up again. Jesus was no pacifist. Jesus is operating on the specific timeline that was arranged before the world was established. Jesus had to die on the specific day at the specific moment in history and no person or people (Peter notwithstanding) would hinder that plan.
Why Pacifism Is Dangerous
Pacifism is dangerous for nations and individuals. If God instituted the governing authorities and placed a sword in their hand as Romans 13:1-7 teaches, the ideas of pacifism run counter culture to the plans of God for an orderly and peaceful society. God placed the sword in the hand of the authorities in order to use it for the keeping of peace and safety. The moment that a nation proclaims pacifism is the moment the nation announces its doom. Dr. Albert Mohler explains:
Pacifists claim that war can never be justified, whatever the cause or conditions…The moral failure of pacifism is found in its deadly naiveté, not in its abhorrence of violence. In reality, the world is a violent place where humans with evil intent will make war on others. In such a world, respect for human life sometimes requires the taking of human life. That tragic fact is as clearly revealed in history as any other, and far more than most. Pacifism fails to keep the peace against those who would take it.
In a fallen world filled with sin, it’s necessary for a nation or sovereign state to protect the people from those who would exploit, pillage, and enslave those within its borders. Those who are given charge to protect and uphold justice must use the sword to protect the people—and when pacifists demand pacifism—the people are left in a dangerous and vulnerable state. This is not only illogical, but it’s reprehensible for a nation to abandon its people. Augustine popularized the idea of a “just war” position that has been refined through the years. When there is a just cause for war—the sword is not placed in the hand of the authorities for decoration purposes. Anarchy is the logical fruit of pacifism in a world of human depravity.
Last of all, when it comes to personal protection, pacifism fails to uphold a proper dignity of human life. The wise Solomon once said there’s “a time to kill, and a time to heal” (Ecc. 3:3). It’s more than protecting property from thieves—it’s about fathers protecting their children, husbands protecting their wives, and families protecting themselves from those who would injure them or take their life. When Ravi Zacharias was once asked about pacifism, he responded by saying, “If all of us became pacifists we’re all finished.”
We are living in strange days where minority groups rise up, march on the streets, and demand change. It happened with marriage and it’s happening with gun reform. While there may be some sane voices among the crowds demanding change on gun laws in America—most of the teenagers who recently marched in the streets know very little about war, protecting a family, fighting for freedom, protecting the borders from monsters like Hitler, and upholding justice in a local town. The majority of the people demanding change and threatening to vote out politicians have not paused to consider the connection between the first and second amendment rights in our nation. They’re demanding change. Have they considered the consequences of their ideas?
In all of the confusion, we must not forget that guns don’t kill people—people kill people. We must likewise never fail to remember that laws are put in place for law and order—peace and safety, but the lawless couldn’t care less about laws and restrictions. One columnist has written a piece titled, “The Kids Have Come to Save Us“—but we must remember that our nation needs far more than gun reform to arrive at true and lasting peace. We need Jesus. The kids have come to lecture us—but it’s Jesus who has come to save us.
As followers of Jesus, we should long for the day when peace will cover the earth and there will be no more soldiers coming home in caskets covered by an American flag. We should long for the day when there are no more stories in the newspapers about mass shootings and little children dead on school campuses. We should long for the day when Jesus will return and all things will be made new. On that day, the King of kings will judge the wicked and usher in eternal peace and death will be no more (Rev. 21).
On the day when Jesus returns—it will be plain and obvious to the whole world that Jesus was never a pacifist in the beginning and he certainly will not be a pacifist on that day as well.
John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my Peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Today is election day in America. Today, the American people will choose a new leader, a new president, a new commander-in-chief to lead our nation for the next four years. This is a big day in American history that comes as the culmination of a very negative and confusing political cycle. Voting is a privilege that we should take seriously, and as a follower of Christ, it’s vital to make responsible and Christ-exalting decisions in the voting booth. Many people have not yet decided who they’re voting for to lead our nation, but one thing’s for sure, you should never vote for someone based on some really bad reasons some people use in choosing a president.
The Wealth of the Political Candidate
Just because a person is wealthy doesn’t mean he or she is capable of solving the economic problems of the United States of America. For those over 40, you likely remember the man with the charts who promised to solve all of America’s financial problems – Texas billionaire Ross Perot. However, the American people found that although Perot was a wealthy man, his wealth alone was not enough to prepare him to lead the nation. If you take a look a the list of wealthy political candidates from presidential history, you will see that many of our previous presidential candidates (and elected presidents) were wealthy at the time of their presidential bid.
While understanding how money works is an extremely vital part of leading our nation, it’s not the only factor that should qualify (or disqualify) a person from the office of president. The office of president is not a throne of a dictator. The president uses advisors, assistants, and team members to make decisions that the individual’s weak areas.
Because a Candidate will be the First __________ President
In 2008, it’s an undeniable fact that many people went to the polls and voted for Barack Obama to become the president of the United States based solely on his skin color. For many people in America, it was all about electing the first African-American president. However, when it comes to choosing a leader for the United States, the people can’t afford to make choices based on skin color, sex, or other leading factors that often rouse voters to make their choice based on an emotionally charged cultural wave.
It feels good to be a part of history, but if “making history” is the driving factor of your vote, you’ve missed the point of the election and you don’t understand the magnitude of your decisions. Don’t go to the polls and choose a president based on the fact that your political candidate will “make history.” Be a responsible and informed voter.
The Coolest Presidential Candidate
Let’s face it, the presidential candidate with the most swag or bling is not necessarily the best choice for our nation. Today’s political candidates try to use methods that make them look culturally relevant and cool in the eyes of the people in order to gain voters. Barack Obama used social media platforms in ways that have never been done in American history. This strategy connected him to young voters who felt connected to him due to social media (Facebook and Twitter). During this campaign, we’ve seen Donald Trump’s success driven by his star profile as a businessman and a reality television star. He is also connected to many people in the pop-culture world. Just recently, Hillary Clinton received help from Beyoncé and Jay Z in an attempt to connect to younger millennials.
If you’re choosing a presidential candidate based on their connection to a group of rappers, artists, or actors — you obviously don’t understand the enormous responsibility of voting for president. There have been ads online in the past that asked, “What President Would You Have a Beer With?” Perhaps the reason our nation is in the state it’s in today is because we’re going to the polls and choosing a candidate based on such trivial nonsense.
The Presidential Candidate of Your Political Party
What if a presidential candidate is quite capable, and yet the individual does not appear on the ballot beneath your political party? Should you only vote for the candidate within your party or should you consider looking beyond your party to find the candidate that’s most capable and has the values and dignity to lead the United States of America? As an American citizen, you are free to vote outside of party lines and this freedom falls within the lawful rights of all citizens. However, many people remain slaves to broken systems in order to select a president. The responsible voter will look over and outside of party lines to select the most capable candidate.
Don’t Make Your Decision Based on Commercials
The majority of all presidential political commercials stretch the truth in order to make their candidate look good. From swelling words of achievement to trash talking about the other candidate – the majority of such political ads contain material that isn’t exactly true. It would be wise to choose a candidate based on verified facts rather than a series of political commercials. Likewise, just because a pastor or evangelical leader appeared on television in support of a candidate doesn’t mean that the person is fit for office.
As a Christian, it’s essential to consider your responsibility in choosing a president. Don’t make your choice based on trivial nonsense. Consider the following factors as you cast your vote today:
- Will my choice of presidential candidate violate my conscience in any way?
- Where do the candidates stand on the subject of abortion?
- Will my choice of presidential candidate possess the dignity and respect due the office of POTUS?
- Will my choice of presidential candidate be a capable military leader?
- Will my choice of presidential candidate be a capable economic leader?
- Remember these verses as you vote:
- Proverbs 21:1 – The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
- Psalm 146:3 – Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
- Exodus 20:13 – You shall not murder.
- Romans 13:1-7 – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
- 1 Peter 2:17 – Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
- Philippians 3:20 – But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Proverbs 14:34 – Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.
- Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Monday’s first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton proved to be the most watched presidential debate in history. According to the statistics, (Nielsen), the debate averaged a total of 84 million viewers across 13 of the TV channels that carried it live. In addition, many millions also watched the debate via live streams on the web. 
Be sure of this one thing, there is good money in politics. Don’t be fooled, someone is making lots of money on the latest edition of US presidential politics. Beyond the money is the sad reality that far too many people are placing their trust in elected princes who have no ability to save them. Perhaps this faulty trust is based on the reality that most people view their financial struggles or other social concerns as more important than the condition of their soul.
Trust not in Politics and Politicians
It’s a sad reality, but we must expect disappointment from politicians. The world we live in is crooked, depraved, and set against God. In short, it’s filled with sin, vile people with evil hearts, and oppression. When people are oppressed, they quickly fall prey to evil dictators, evil rulers, and evil kings who promise them security under oppression.
Even in a free nation, such as America, we still find ourselves being promised the world through politics. Crooked politicians (and yes, most of them are crooked) continue to compete for votes, and often they lie, cheat, and steal their way to the top. Beware of putting your trust in politicians. The answer for America, and our world, is not found in politics, it’s something far greater. Keith Mathison writes, “Because our citizenship is in heaven, our hopes do not ride on earthly election results. We do not hope in candidates with ‘Messiah complexes.'” 
Trust not in Social Systems
If anyone takes a peek at all of the things the United States government has its hands in, it would boggle your mind. Just a take a look at the US Postal Service, is it a success? What about public housing, is it in a perpetual state of declined health? What about Social Security? What about the education system, is there any room for improvement there?
The fact remains, everything the US government oversees eventually declines. That’s why there has been so much controversy surrounding Obama Care. While the masses of non-Christians may view the political social system as the answer to their problems, we must remember, the princes who setup such systems were flawed and imperfect people. We can’t put our hope in such systems.
Trust not in Political Policies
Most politicians run their campaign upon a certain set of ideologies and policies that they promise to implement upon election. As with social systems, we can’t look to these policies as our hope in this fallen sinful world. We need something far greater than a strong economy, a robust military, and free college.
It doesn’t matter if Donald Trump promises to “make America great again,” he will likely fail in many of his promises. The same thing can be said of Hillary Clinton’s attempt to make us “stronger together.” All politicians and their policies fail at some level, so the fairy tale we’re all being promised is unlikely to happen either way. We must learn to not trust in such people for true hope and redemption! The same prince who protects Christians with one policy today may persecute Christians with another policy tomorrow. Beware of trusting in politicians and their policies.
Trust in the Lord
The Psalmist writes the following, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish” (Ps. 146:3-4). Simply put, princes are not redeemers. Princes can’t save. It must be known that princes have their own purposes in life and culture, but they are not intended to serve as saviors.
When we view the landscape of our nation and see the sinful effects of a secular culture, we must turn to the Lord who “executes justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, sets prisoners free, opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down, loves the righteous, watches over the sojourners, upholds the widow and fatherless, and brings the way of the wicked to ruin” (Ps. 146:7-10).
Every prince occupies a temporary office, a temporary seat, a temporary throne. The government was instituted by the Lord, and is for our good (Rom 13:1-7). However, even in a system instituted by God, we expect imperfection because of the reality that all leaders are imperfect people. We see that in the court room with judges, in nations of the world with their leaders, and in small towns with local politicians. There is a leader who rules from Heaven’s throne and His government will never fail (Is. 9:6; PS. 24). We must trust in Jesus Christ and serve Him through the local church. The plan for true hope is found in Christ, and genuine fulfillment in this life will be played out through the local church.
Don’t put your faith in Washington D.C., but don’t abandon it either. Should we view political issues as relevant to us now and into the foreseeable future? Absolutely. However, we shouldn’t turn to the princes of politics for the solutions that only a true Redeemer can provide.
Ultimately Christians must engage in the political world in the following ways:
- Prayer: Pray for politicians you like and those you dislike (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
- Evangelism: Pointing people to hope in the Redeemer rather than princes (John 3).
- Vote: Engage in the privileges afforded to free citizens.
- Debate breaks record as most-watched in U.S. history
- Keith Mathison, “Citizens of Heaven“
One of the most extraordinary patterns of Christian history has been the peaceful freedom given to gospel people in one prosperous nation called America. If you survey redemptive history, it’s normal to see Christians suffering hardship, oppression, and persecution for their faith. It seems that the days of peace and prosperity for the gospel in America are numbered. With the legalization of homosexual marriage and the debate upon restroom policies for transgender people and others who want to self-identify as the opposite sex all point to the obvious clash of world views that will likely continue to restrict religious freedom for Christians. The liberal trends have gained enormous momentum over the past eight years — in ways that even the most liberal historian would not have predicted.
As politicians fight over the recent vacancy in the Supreme Court, it’s apparent that the stakes are high. That point could not be any more clearly portrayed as we look at our choices for the highest seat of power in our nation and the leader of the free world – the presidency of the United States of America. We must admit that our days of religious peace seem to be fading off into the sunset. No matter who becomes president, the people of God are called to be people of perseverance. If we can learn anything from this radical cultural movement, we must certainly learn to live well under the rule of evil kings.
Learning Perseverance from Ancient Examples
The Hebrew people came to Egypt to seek refuge during a horrible famine (Gen. 43:1). They were received because of the faithful leadership of Joseph who had risen to great power beneath the Pharaoh. As the book of Genesis ends, Exodus begins with these somber words, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 2:8). That one sentence defined the horror the people of God would experience under the harsh slavery of a wicked king. However, there were faithful people among the Hebrew slaves who refused to doubt God. From those people who believed the Abrahamic covenant arose Moses after 400 years of slavery. The people of God obeyed their leaders, but they kept their focus on God who had promised them deliverance.
Through all of the Old Testament kings, we see Israel learning to live beneath the rule of radically different leaders. Saul served as king. He was the people’s choice. He looked good and seemed like a man fit for the job by outward appearance, but Israel soon learned to live beneath the rule of a poor leader. David was the successor to Saul’s throne, and he is described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). David was an imperfect man, but a good king. All through the kingly period of Israel’s history, the evil kings outnumbered the good kings. The line, “And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” is repeated at least twenty four times through 1 and 2 Kings in the Old Testament Scriptures. The true people of God among Israel were constantly forced to live well under evil kings.
Unfortunately, the people often walked in the footsteps of their evil kings and followed in their rebellion. Regarding King Manasseh, the Scripture says he “has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did” and “made Judah also to sin with his idols” (2 Kings 21:11). When Hilkiah discovered the Book of the Law that had been lost, it was read to King Josiah. The result was that he “tore his clothes” for he understood the wrath of God was greatly kindled against them (2 Kings 22:8-13). Josiah was a rare king in Israel’s history, a reprieve from the tyranny of evil rulers.
Learning Perseverance from the New Testament
After Pompey conquered Jerusalem, the people of God found themselves under the dominion of Roman authority. Occupied by outsiders, Israel had to learn to live well under evil kings once again. The Herodian dynasty was marked by murder, arrogance, sin, and the crooked exploitation of the Jews through burdensome taxation. This is one reason why the tax collectors were so despised among the Jewish people. They were considered traitors and thieves. Herod the Great was a horrible man, a feared man, and a ruthless man. His ruthless character was put on display while murdering children in Bethlehem during his attempt to kill Jesus. When he died, he split up his land into distinct areas for three different Herods, specifically his three sons – Herod Antipas, Herod Philip, and Herod Agrippa. Their leadership was similar in nature to their father’s leadership. As the people of God lived under their rule, they had to learn to live faithfully under the rule of wicked men. This involved paying taxes and following the rules established by the Roman authorities. Although faithful men like John the Baptist lived in accordance with the laws, he was unwilling to allow the sin of unfaithful leaders to go without notice. John the Baptist called out Herod for his sexual sin, and it landed his head on a platter. There is always a high cost to perseverance during the rule of evil kings.
Following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension came the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon the church. Eventually the church of Jesus Christ was pressed between the Roman authorities and the Jewish religious authorities – the Sanhedrin. After being accused of being troublemakers, threatened, and beaten, the apostles were told to stop spreading the gospel. They were forced to make a decision. Would they obey God or men? The apostles chose to obey God. They responded to the threatening Sanhedrin by stating, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). They had learned to live faithfully under the rule of evil leaders as they stood on the shoulders of faithful men and women all throughout redemptive history. They made the right choice.
When evil leaders with sinful hearts rise to power, anything is possible. We are living in such times in our current political climate. It would do us well to learn to live faithfully under the rule of evil kings. It doesn’t matter if you’re more at home in the presence of elephants as opposed to donkeys, the end result will be the same for the church of Jesus in America. Eventually all political parties will fail to respect the church of Jesus Christ in our nation. In the next several years, unless God intervenes, the true church will be tested on the soil of America like never before. Will we obey God or men? We can learn much from people such as Jochebed, Peter, and John the Baptist. As Jesus stated with such great wisdom, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17).
It would be wise to obey God rather than men, but as we consider our decisions today, we must remember that debates far more costly than restroom privileges will soon arise. True Christian character, courageous conviction, and God honoring perseverance will be necessary as the cultural pressures continue to reach a boiling point for Jesus followers. When faced with big decisions, it’s vital for Christians to remember our commitment to a greater throne occupied by the highest King.
The front runner in the GOP field of politicians for the 2016 presidential race is Donald Trump. The New York billionaire is a lightening rod for controversy. It doesn’t matter if he’s running a business, firing people on The Apprentice, or debating other politicians in an official debate setting, what comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth has a certain bite of offense to it. His statements about illegal immigration is purposefully abrasive as he stokes the fires claiming that because Mexico has opposed him building the wall, he will now build it 10 feet taller. When he talks about ISIS, he uses obscene language claiming that he will bomb them relentlessly. Interestingly enough, Trump has claimed to be a Christian, but when he talks about his faith, that edge and offensive bite isn’t there. Why doesn’t Donald Trump’s Christianity offend people?
Donald Trump’s Gospel Is Not The Gospel
In his book titled, Crippled America, Donald Trump claims that he owes much of his spiritual development to Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking. According to Trump, “Reverend Peale was the type of minister that I liked, and I liked him personally as well. I especially loved his sermons. He would instill a very positive feeling about God that also made me feel positive about myself. I would literally leave that church feeling like I could listen to another three sermons.” 
In an interview with Frank Luntz at the Family Leadership Summit in July of 2015, Donald Trump was asked if he had ever asked God for forgiveness? Trump sidestepped the question at first by saying, “That’s a good question…” and then moved on to talk about his relationship with Norman Vincent Peale. When Luntz pressed him on the question, he made the following statement, “I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture.” 
Norman Vincent Peale, Trump’s former pastor, did not teach the true gospel of Jesus Christ. He was born on May 31, 1898, in Bowersville, Ohio, and studied at Ohio Wesleyan University and Boston University School of Theology. He developed a love for psychology and tapped into the world of psychology in order to minister to people. After spending some time serving in a couple of Methodist churches, he eventually moved on to serve the Marble Collegiate Church. Norman Vincent Peale would spend the remainder of his life in this church and it was there that he developed his Freudian approach to the pulpit.
In the first sentence of the first chapter of Norman Vincent Peale’s book The Power of Positive Thinking, he writes, “BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! Have faith in your abilities!”  The point is, his teaching was backwards. Christianity doesn’t teach that we should “believe in ourself” or place our faith in our abilities. Christianity teaches the exact opposite. We should not trust ourselves because as Jeremiah 17:9 teaches, our heart is deceitful.
In an interview on the Phil Donahue show, Norman Vincent Peale made a shocking statement. He said, “It’s not necessary to be born again. You have your way to God, I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine … I’ve been to Shinto shrines and God is everywhere. … Christ is one of the ways! God is everywhere.” Jesus taught the exact opposite. According to Jesus, the gospel of Jesus Christ is exclusive (John 14:6). The Scriptures teach in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Likewise, Jesus said, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
The reason Donald Trump has never repented of his sin and called upon the Lord for salvation is because he has never been taught the true gospel. The false gospel of Norman Vincent Peale taught Donald Trump to believe in himself and to place his faith in his abilities. That made Donald Trump a very rich man, but today, Donald Trump remains in poverty regarding the gospel (Luke 12:21). In short, Donald Trump calls himself a Christian because he has been taught the wrong definition of Christianity.
Oil and Water Don’t Mix
The world hates the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Paul preached the gospel, he labored to make Christ known to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16). However, both groups had problems with Paul’s preaching. To the Jews, the gospel was a stumbling block and to the Greeks the message of the cross was utter foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23). As Paul preached the gospel in Athens, the people mocked him. To the world, the message of Christ doesn’t make sense. Why would the King of the universe condescend to the dust of earth, clothe Himself in human flesh, life a life of poverty, and die on a cross reserved for criminals? That simply doesn’t make sense to the world. Then, add to that offense the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day following his death, and the world continues to mock and laugh.
Donald Trump’s gospel is one of positive thinking, feeling good about yourself, getting rich, and becoming great. That gospel doesn’t offend anyone because it’s not the gospel of Jesus Christ. To embrace an inclusive view of religion such as Norman Vincent Peale taught will never offend the citizens of America. Most people in America want to be rich and desire to feel good about themselves. So, what Donald Trump has to offer them is attractive. He can call himself a Christian, so long as the people feel safe, secure, and prosperous as a nation.
Oil and water don’t mix. If Donald Trump is the oil and the gospel is water – they’re opposed to one another. Pride and egotism may get you to the top of a ruthless business world, but it isn’t Christianity. The Word of God teaches that God’s children are to be humble and holy. The pursuit of holiness is one key factor missing from today’s Christianity, and it’s absent from Trump’s life as well. The Scripture teaches us that we will know people by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). Like the word evangelical, the word Christian is being deflated and redefined everyday. If your god is money, you cannot be a Christian. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:25).
We may not be voting for a pastor, as Christians who are seeking the next president of the United States, but we are to take our voting responsibility seriously. The office of president should be reserved for men of dignity. Dignified men who have good ideas, policies, and the ability to lead well for the good of our nation. Donald Trump is the owner of the Taj Mahal casino and strip club, which certainly demonstrates a deficiency in the dignity department to say the least. Donald Trump lacks dignity and is one of the most arrogant characters in American culture today. We must remember, the office of president is not a reality television show. Decisions made while sitting in that seat of power will affect us.
It’s one thing for the world to believe that Donald Trump is a Christian, for the world doesn’t really know what Christianity is. It’s quite different for evangelicals to embrace Donald Trump as a Christian and that’s what seems to be happening across the nation. Before you vote for a demagogue who has lied his way to the top of the GOP nomination, you need to think about what it means to support a man who has the wrong gospel, a lack of humility, and has perpetually changed his positions, lied, and slandered people in order to get to where he is today. Donald Trump needs Jesus, but America doesn’t need Donald Trump.
- Donald Trump, Crippled America, (New York: Threshold Editions, 2015), 130.
- Eugene Scott, CNN (July 19, 2015). “Trump believes in God, but hasn’t sought forgiveness”. CNN.
- Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking, (The Quality Book Club, eBook version 2006), 6.
It’s no secret that we’re in a heated political season. Many people are suffering from political fatigue, and it’s merely February. November is quite a distance off and the heat will certainly be turned up on the political landscape as summer approaches. As we consider politics, what role does the pulpit serve in relation to politics? Does it have any business weighing in on the issues, the candidates, and seeking to influence the voters? For some, this is a cut and dry issue and they claim the idea of separation of church and state as an absolute rule. What exactly does that separation look like and is it complete separation?
The Meaning of Separation of Church and State
The Kingdom of God is not built upon the shoulders of a dictator, earthly king, emperor, or any other ruler or ruling body. The Kingdom of God is built by God and His method of bringing about His Kingdom is through the preaching of the gospel. Therefore, when the United States of America was established, the founders made it clear that the government was not to officially sanction and govern a state sponsored church. This pattern has always been problematic throughout history. In fact, when Constantine declared the Roman Empire Christian – it was not a bright moment for the church of Jesus Christ. When the state sanctions a church it rules over it as well, and God is unwilling to add another ruling seat to His triune table of authority.
The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The exact wording of separation of church and state doesn’t actually appear in the Constitution. This phrase was first coined by Thomas Jefferson and was intended to address the functionality of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The popular phrase of separation of church and state first appeared in a letter on January 1st, 1802 by Thomas Jefferson, addressed to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut. The point was clear – the state should not establish the church and the church should have freedom to exercise religion separated from the state.
Roger Williams, the founder of the oldest Baptist Church in America (Providence, Rhode Island in 1638), expressed this same idea as he stated:
“[A] hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world”—Jefferson wrote, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” 
The idea of a separate state and church had everything to do with keeping the state out of the church, but it didn’t have in mind keeping the church out of the state.
When Should the Pulpit Become Political?
The pulpit should be political on a regular basis – perhaps in every sermon. This may not be a popular point among some people, but it’s indeed true. Let me explain my reasoning. In the world of politics, the candidates are running for office to represent a specific sector of people. In local politics, the group may be smaller than in national level politics, but the fact is – politicians are elected to represent the people.
The way in which politicians are elected to office is by establishing their campaign upon a set of values, principles, and ideas. For instance, if you visit Bernie Sanders website, you will see that he has a page dedicated to specific issues that he’s committed to and believes to be vitally important to the American people. On the issues page, you will see another page dedicated to expressing his views on the issue of women’s rights. On this page, Bernie Sanders says the following:
We are not going back to the days when women had to risk their lives to end an unwanted pregnancy. The decision about abortion must remain a decision for the woman and her doctor to make, not the government.
If we suppose that the pulpit must be silent on all political issues, that would mean that all pastors must be silent on the subject of abortion and homosexuality. If abortion and homosexuality are political issues and if the pulpit is muzzled from saying anything about a political issue, that would mean any sermon that addresses abortion or homosexuality is suddenly out of bounds. That is precisely what the liberals want all pastors to believe. This is a means of controlling and silencing the pulpit. In fact, this is where the government infringes upon the rights of the pulpit with threats and fear. That’s an absurd idea and it must be rejected completely.
As preachers do what they do (preach), the pulpit will by its very nature will be political. Issues will be covered from a biblical worldview. Topics will be explored through the pages of the Bible. This means everything from laziness to abortion will be covered as the preacher explains the Bible on a weekly basis. If a preacher is doing his job, he will not avoid these political issues. When the Bible is preached as God’s authoritative Word, all of the content will be covered – including ethics on stem cell research, homosexuality, the sanctity of marriage, gluttony, adultery, murder, gossip, anger, pride, and the list goes on and on.
It goes without saying that when a preacher preaches, his sermon will likely touch on a subject that’s political. The faithful preacher will proclaim God’s Word accurately while remembering that since God isn’t running for office, the sermon doesn’t require any political spin.
Avoiding Mission Creep
It’s disheartening to watch popular preachers have their pulpit hijacked by politicians during the political season. When the pastor of a megachurch is parading around with a presidential candidate, he has capitulated on his mission of the gospel. Rather than seeking to make Christ known, he turns to make a specific political candidate known. Politicians are savvy at swaying preachers, and it’s an unfortunate debacle that occurs in pursuit of the “church vote” during every political season.
Just as it’s the duty of the government to be sure that they haven’t drifted over the line into the realm of the free exercise of religion, it’s the duty of the church to be sure we haven’t drifted over the line into politics. What is the mission of the church? The mission of the church is to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and to disciple them in the faith by careful teaching and exposition of God’s Word. John MacArthur writes:
The basic task of the church is to teach sound doctrine. It is not to give one pastor’s opinion, to recite tear-jerking illustrations that play on emotions, to raise funds, to present programs and entertainment, or to give weekly devotionals. In Titus 2:1 Paul writes, “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.” 
The church and the state have two different missions, and it’s highly important for both to be sure they haven’t drifted. When mission drift occurs with the state it can be harmful to the church. When the church experiences mission drift, it will be harmful to the state and detrimental to the health and vitality of the church at the same time.
When a preacher trades his pulpit for a political stump, it may be due to the fact that he’s a much better politician than a preacher. When a preacher turns his pulpit into a political stump, he has relegated the throne of God’s Word down to a political platform reserved for the word of man rather than the Word of God. At the end of the day, the man in the pulpit must decide if he wants to be a politician who speaks for man or a preacher who speaks for God.
- Jefferson, Thomas. Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists: The Final Letter, as Sent. The Library of Congress Information Bulletin: June 1998. Lib. of Cong., June 1998. Web. Aug 7, 2010.
- John MacArthur, Master’s Plan for the Church, (Chicago: Moody, 1991), 84.