Elections & the Biblical Text
It was the Late historian and theologian, Dr. Kenneth E. Bailey who challenged the Christian community and his students in a lecture saying, “In any age does our traditional understanding of the text, control the text itself. Surely scripture must always be free to correct our understanding of it.” He went on to say, “Will we follow scripture, or are we satisfied with our traditional reading of it?” Christianity is a life of praxis and not one of theory. The word of God is the paideia or instruction in righteousness designed to save the living soul. How easy it is to glean Scripture through a distant lens, separated from real-time life. The relevance of the Bible is not actualized until it is holistically applied within the life of the believer — in the midst of crisis, dilemma, fear, and/or doubt.
The Bible is not a book of tradition, it is the fountain and river of life; it is the living bread for human existence. Some people only want to tolerate, interpret, or affix Scripture when life is good, yet resorting to self-created methods in moments of despair. It is one thing to read about loving your enemies, but the passage becomes real when you actually have an enemy.
Our 2016 post-election results catapulted me into a place of critical processing. In other words, my Christian disposition was moved from theory to practice. Where are you and where is the church in this project? I was forced to ask myself scripturally, “what is my responsibility toward our American president(s) and governmental system?” As a Christian, must I respect, honor, and pray for them? I did not approach the topic in rebellion, it was contemplated in righteousness so one can be in clear communion with God, His creation, and rule. One question that continually reverberated was, “Does God appoint the President or does He simply allow it to happen?” The election became spiritually problematic for me, not because of who was elected, but because of the revealed division within the Christian community, based upon election results. As revealed through television and social media outlets, some Christians who voted for Hilary Clinton or a non-Trump candidate were dejected and critical of Trump. On the flip side, some Christians who voted for Donald Trump were joyous, and touted a belief that his election was ordained by God because of his alleged stance on same-sex marriage and abortion.
One Christian said “Whoever is elected is according to God’s will” and another said, “If it was not the will of God it would not have happened.” Such emphatic and decisive statements were confounding and sent me into deep processing and investigation. The results of the election are not holistically disturbing, the enigmatic reality for me (again) was the divided response of a Christian community — consigned to be one. If presidential selections, per se, are the explicit will of God, then would it not be true that it is the ordaining of God that placed Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and the Bush family in office? Additionally, should it not also mean that whatever laws the appointed leaders implement, righteous or unrighteous, it is also the will of God?
The tenets of Romans 13:1-5 became of critical interest, struggle, and significance and note the bolded elements below, keeping your elected officials in mind as you read:
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. 4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.”
I do not have time, within this narrative, to unpack all the principles within the text above, but it does come with its challenges as I apply it personally and in light of the 2016 US Presidential election. Romans 13:1-5 has now transitioned from theory to praxis. Based upon the level of respect and obedience necessitated in the text, it would be applicable to Obama, Trump, or any other President. So those who are happy with President-Elect Trump, but were disrespectful to President Obama must deal with the righteousness of the text, and the same for Christians who refused to vote for President-Elect Trump. Our positions in the church cannot be personalized, they must be scripturalized. We cannot only apply scripture when it fits with our ideals.
In the book God’s Chaos Candidate: Donald J. Trump and the American Unraveling, and in an online article by Right Wing Watch Dr. Lance Wallnau said “Trump is the chaos candidate who has been set apart by God to navigate us through the chaos coming to America.” He also said “Donald Trump is a wrecking ball to the spirit of political correctness.” Before the election Wallnau was reading Isaiah 45 had the prophetic thought that God wanted Trump to be the 45th President of the US. Wallnau based his reasoning on Isaiah 44:28, where God said, “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” Additionally, towards his Cyrus/Trump comparison, he inserts Isaiah 45:1, “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.” Dr. Wallnau asked, “What if God is reshaping Donald Trump on the potter’s wheel from a strong-willed, self-made man to a humbler yet enduring prophetic prototype for America?”
As stated in his interview on The Jim Baker Show, Lance Wallnau advances a rationale and theology that there are two types of anointing: 1) a common grace anointing toward unbelieving secular powerful leaders like “Lincoln, Churchill, Thatcher, and Reagan,” for the “crucible” and changing of history, and 2) a saving grace anointing as applied to men like Moses, David, and Nehemiah. For Wallnau, Donald Trump has been anointed by God with common grace, toward a shifting ethos of Make America Great Again. Thus again, through his postulations, President-Elect Trump is perceived as a modern-day King Cyrus. I do not subscribe to this parallel, but it is important to note there are those who seek to make such comparisons. Through using the form of scriptural logic and hermeneutic of Dr. Wallnau, one would then need a biblical point of reference for every President, King, Prime Minister, etc. The Bible is not a Word simply for America, it is for the entire world. Arriving at such conclusions can also create a helter-skelter formulaic that posits God needs to correct what did not work with His previously divine appointments.
In Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (p. 223), the Late Dr. Kenneth Wuest said “The powers or authorities here are seen, not in their individual personalities, but as officers of the law, whose positions are ordained by God.” He also said, “The structure of government and the laws connected with it are appointed by God as a means of promoting law and order on earth. The incumbents in those offices are not always ordained by God” (p. 223). In the same work and volume Wuest said “The word ‘minister’ is diakonos, ‘a servant as seen in his activity.’ The civil magistrate, saved or unsaved, is a servant of God in the sense that since God has instituted human government as a means of regulating the affairs of the human race, a magistrate who carries out the law acts as a servant of God” (p. 225). Some believe God actually ordains the specific person for the office, while others profess it is the structure of rulership (not the exact person) that God ordains for the purpose of maintaining earthly order.
During Bible times and epochs, God clearly used ungodly men and women to deliver and discipline His people, but to paint with a broad brush and include figures like Donald J. Trump warrants critical caution and examination. If Donald Trump is God’s common grace anointed and divine appointment, was Barack Obama God’s mistake? The will, rule, and sovereignty of God must always be respected, yet in your biblical worldview—toward national and international politics—you must be clear in your mind and continue to function as the salt of the earth and light of the world toward all of humanity.
Make sure the biblical text is real in your life and not just a momentary static form of literature. You are the clay In The Potter’s Hands and God has paved a way to save you today!
Dr. Ammar Saheli