Last night, I received an email from a friend with the subject title, “God and Donald Trump”, and I cringed as I slowly clicked to open. The email read as follows:
Description book — “God and Donald Trump”:
With pundits asking, “How did he win?” this book explores whether there was a supernatural element involved. Christian leaders prophesied before the election that God had raised up Donald Trump to lead the nation through a time of crisis. But could this billionaire reality-TV star actually convince the voters he was for real? If so, what is God doing now not only in Donald’s Trump’s life, but also in the nation?
Trump is an enigma, a brash self-promoter, casino owner, and man of the world. Yet he is also a devoted husband and father who has surrounded himself with men and women of faith and has made religion a key component of his image.
God and Donald Trump is a powerful first-person account of one of the most contentious elections in American history, with exclusive interviews and insightful commentary from the men and women who were there.
This friend likes to debate, so I’m assuming this is the bait to get my opinion for an ensuing debate in the weeks to come :) I started to reply via email, but figured I would make a little blog post about it.
That I know of, there are three primary sections of scripture that Christians will use to point to the idea that God personally set Donald Trump in office.
First is Daniel 2:21 where Daniel, praising God for revealing a dream to him says:
He [God] changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others.
Daniel is seemingly giving God credit for raising up King Nebuchadnezzar — who had some moral problems, if not outright wicked. God himself confirms the delegation of power through the prophet Jeremiah 27:5-7 which reads:
With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please. Now I will give all your countries into the hands of my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him. All nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes; then many nations and great kings will subjugate him.
To me, the fact that is was being prophesied showed that there were extenuating circumstances which led to God giving power to Nebuchadnezzar to carry out His plan, not the normal operation. Notice, that Nebuchadnezzar is already king when this plan is set in motion. I love the translations that use the word “servant” to describe the king. God gave this title to the king and I think adequately shows the subjugation that we’ll look at later. My question here is, “Did God place Nebuchadnezzar as the king to use him, or did God use the king of Babylon for His purpose, which happened to be Nebuchadnezzar at that time?”
The second section is Romans 13:1-5 in which Paul, addressing the church in Roman provinces writes:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
The arguments that I’ve heard assume that the word authorities here refer to a specific person in a specific time (such as Donald Trump in 2017). Because the Greek word here ἐξουσία or exousia can also be translated as “power” I read this to be more general, in that God has established the office of governing authorities — nations, kings, presidents, governors, mayors, etc. There may be unique circumstances, such as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, where God may give additional power to a specific king or president to carry out His purpose. Under the normal operating procedures, we are free to choose whom we want. A people who are submitted to God would ideally seek God and choose whom God wants to fulfill the roles He has established, but we, of our own evil desires, can appoint leaders that are opposed to God, whom God did not establish in an office God did establish.
Deuteronomy 17:14-15 reads:
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite.
The passage shows the freedom of choice in the people. This whole passage is about God telling them what to do and what would happen if they didn’t do it as well as the blessings that would come if they obeyed. The normal operating procedure would be to consult God to find out whom He has chosen for the office He established, and then appoint them. But, there was freedom to appoint someone whom God had not chosen.
In Hosea 8:4 God, through Hosea, says it this way:
They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval.
“The authorities that exist have been established by God” uses the Greek word ὑπὸ or hypo which can be translated “under”. Then we have “The authorities [or powers] that exist have been established under God.”
This brings us back to the “office” of government as being subjected to God. In Matthew 28:18 Jesus says:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
The same Greek word for authority is used both here and in Romans ἐξουσία or exousia.
Ephesians 1:19-23 reads:
…That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
This verse seems to intermingle both physical power and spiritual power. Christ not only seems to be the mediator of a broken spiritual state but also the mediator and reconciler of power between the physical and the spiritual.
If Christ has been given all authority, and there are authorities of offices that have been established, those offices are under Christ’s rule and authority. If not now, then certainly later, people holding those offices will give an account for the positions they hold.
The establishment of Christ as head of both the physical and spiritual power, creates a clear hierarchy. We submit to Christ as the head of the Church. We also submit to Christ as head of all authority that we ouselves are under. Inasmuch as that office does not inhibit us from worshipping God the way He commanded us to, we submit to the authority of the office that has been established.
1 Peter 2:11-14 says it this way (and is the third passage I mentioned above):
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.
We submit for the Lord’s sake. Why? So others might praise God. That’s always the end-game; to bring glory to God.
Both Paul and Peter ascribe the authorities as commending those who do right. Yet, Paul was beheaded and Peter crucified under those authorities they were submitted to. They submitted to the hierarchy of authority over them even unto death, and God has brought about great glory for Himself through them.
Did God personally set Trump in the office of presidency? I have no idea, nor do I care. I’m told to submit to office of the president (authority God established). It doesn’t matter who holds that office, I’m submitted to it*. Whether God set him there or not, I firmly believe that God can use Trump for His purposes if He so desires.
What is your responsibility? If he is a professed believer, then you have permission to hold him accountable as an individual believer (not as a president). If you don’t like what a president is doing and it is contrary to the Bible, then fall on your face before God and cry out to the holder of all authority who has the power to depose and raise up kings**.
- While I easily say this, submitting to the government is a very, very hard thing for me to do. It has caused fights in my marriage, like whether car seats should be forward facing or not.
** In a democracy, I would further stress the idea of our freewill to seek God in whom He would have in office and not make decisions based on our own agendas or what we think is important to God.
*** Feel free to give me more verses to look at and consider. We are learning together!
**** Note, in re-reading this post, I may have made it sound as though I don’t believe that God sets specific people in position. That is not the case. Look at King David in the Bible. God’s hand was all over David specifically and had specific interest in David being king of Israel. My point is more that we make excuses for not submitting to a position of authority if we think God did not put them there, and that is not the attitude of the Bible.