Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Month: December, 2019

DONALD TRUMP AND CHRISTIANITY TODAY

donald-trump[1]

Christianity Today, a leading evangelical periodical, recently published a scathing editorial calling for Donald Trump to be removed from office.  The editorial, written by editor Mark Galli, stated that in the current impeachment process “. . . the facts in this instance are unambiguous: the president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents.  That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral” (Christianity Today, Dec. 19, 2019).  The article went on to say that the president’s Twitter feed “is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused,” and that “we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence.”

By all accounts President Trump was infuriated by the editorial and tweeted that Christianity Today is “a far left magazine . . .which has been doing poorly and hasn’t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years” and would rather “have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President.”

Mr. Trump is surely one of the most controversial and divisive presidents we have had for many years.  People either love him or hate him.  But in a case of impeachment it is important that in the heat of the moment we do not lose sight of the facts and that we uphold the rule of law.

The immediate question is whether or not Mr. Trump should be removed from office on the two charges listed in the Articles of Impeachment recently passed by the House of Representatives.  One of the charges, that of obstruction of justice, involves a complicated constitutional question revolving around the separation of powers and the executive privilege, and should probably be left to the courts to decide.  But one can hardly remove a president from office simply because he is trying to take advantage of his legal options.

But that leaves the central charge in the case: whether Mr. Trump abused his authority by threatening to withhold military aid promised to Ukraine unless the Ukrainian government announced an investigation into the business activities of Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, a possible opponent of Mr. Trump’s in next fall’s election.  If the charge is true, it would be tantamount to an “emolument” forbidden by Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, and would be on par with bribery which is specifically mentioned as an impeachable offense in Article II, Section 4.  Hence, if it can be proven that there was a “quid pro quo” in the Administration’s dealings with the Ukrainian government, President Trump should be removed from office.

The Christianity Today editorial, however, went beyond that and addressed the broader issue of whether or not evangelical Christians should be supporting Mr. Trump at all.  The editorial states that “this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration,” and went on to mention his “immoral actions in business and his relationship with women,” and his Twitter feed “with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders.”  None of these would necessarily be impeachable offenses, and other presidents have been guilty of at least some of these.  But the editorial went on to make a telling point:

“To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump

in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this:

Remember who you are and whom you serve.  Consider how

your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to

your Lord and Savior.  Consider what an unbelieving world

will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral

words and behavior in the cause of political expediency.  If

we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we

say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for

decades to come?  Can we say with a straight face that

abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the

same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of

our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?”

“Remember who are and whom you serve.”  We have been called by God to advance His kingdom.  We must promote the moral standards He has laid down in His Word, and call our fellow human beings to repentance and faith Jesus Christ.  We believe in the sanctity of life.  We say that we believe in the sanctity of marriage.  We should also believe in the sanctity of truth (Ninth Commandment).  To give unqualified support to a political leader with such moral failures as Mr. Trump’s is to profess one thing and then support its opposite.  We will have made ourselves hypocrites in the sight of the world.  Who will listen to us then?

 

 

JESUS AS PROPHET, KING AND SAVIOR

 

As we approach Christmas we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  But why is that worth celebrating?  What is so special about Jesus?  What makes Him more important than anyone else?  After all, there have been numerous other famous religious teachers down through history.  What makes Jesus special?

One of the first persons to face that question was John the Baptist.  John had known Jesus personally; and both had engaged in teaching ministry and had baptized.  People inevitably made comparisons between the two.

Yet John was aware that there was a difference between himself and Jesus – a vast difference.  And he saw his own role as that of a servant heralding the coming of his Master (John 3:28-30).  But what was it that made Jesus so special?

First of all, Jesus was no ordinary human being: He had come down to earth from heaven above.  “He who is from above is above all; he who is of earth is earthly and speaks of the earth.  He who comes down from above is above all” (v. 31; NKJV).  In other words, what we are celebrating at Christmas is none other than the incarnation of the Son of God who came down to earth to dwell among us.  And because He was “from above,” according to John the Baptist, Christ is “above all” – He occupies a place of preeminence over all created beings.

But secondly, because He is the Son of God who came down from to the very presence of God in heaven, His teaching carries more weight than that of any human teacher.  “And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies . . .” (v. 32a).  What Jesus spoke here on earth reflected what He had seen and heard in heaven.  Indeed, “For whom God has sent speaks the words of God . . .” (v. 34a).

Here several important truths are underscored.  First of all, Jesus had been “sent” by the Father.  He came from the Father down to earth, and He came on the authority of the Father Himself – the Father was the One who had sent Him.  Thus when He spoke here on earth He had the full weight and authority of the Father behind Him.

Secondly, when He came what He spoke were “the words of God” – the hremata, the spoken words.  What this means is that we have received a verbal revelation from God Himself – God has communicated to us in human language which could be verbally spoken and written down.  Or, to put it another way, the discourses and parables of Jesus recorded in the four gospels ultimately came from God the Father Himself; they are God’s revelation to us.

Moreover, Jesus “speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure” (v. 34b).  While He was here on earth Jesus had a special endowment of the Holy Spirit.  All prophets who had been genuinely sent by God “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Pet. 1:21), and indeed every Christian who has been genuinely born again has the Holy Spirit living inside him.  But in Jesus’ case John the Baptist says that “God does not give the Spirit by measure.”  God the Father gave Him the Spirit in overflowing abundance.  That made Jesus the greatest of all prophets.

John the Baptist goes on to say that “the Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand” (v. 35).  Jesus was God the Father’s own Son, and the Father loved the Son dearly.  And so the Father “has given all things into His hand.”  He has placed all created things under the authority of Christ; and that, in turn, means that as human beings we are all obligated to honor Him and Lord and King.  Or, as we enjoy singing from Handel’s Messiah at this time of year, “King of kings and Lord of lords; and He shall reign forever and ever!” (cf. Rev. 17:14; 9:16; 11:15).  It means that there is coming a day when all the crime, cruelty and corruption of the present age will be done away, and there will be a universal reign of peace and justice at the Second Coming of Christ.  Well might we sing “Hallelujah!”

But most importantly of all, Jesus Christ is the Savior.  “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (v. 36).  Here the promise is that if we “believe in the Son” we will have “everlasting life.”  To “believe in” the Son means to put our personal trust in Him, to rely upon Him as our Savior.  And the promise is that if we do so we will “have everlasting life” – we will be with Christ forever in heaven.

Conversely, “he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  Mankind’s root problem is sin and our state of rebellion against God.  Because of that “the wrath of God abides on” us.  In order for there to be a restoration of our relationship with God, and with it the hope of eternal life, our sin must be atoned for.  What is needed, then, is a Savior; and that Savior is Christ, who, as the sinless Son of God was uniquely qualified to act in that role.  That is why there is no possibility for salvation apart from Christ.

That, then, is the meaning of Christmas.  We are not simply celebrating the birth of a great religious teacher.  We are celebrating the entrance of the Savior into the world.  It was the decisive turning point in history.  What we are called upon to do as individual human beings is to “believe in the Son” whom god the Father sent into the world that we might receive “everlasting life.”