Thursday, February 18, 2016

Trump and the Pope: What's Really Christian?

What a dustup today between Donald Trump and Pope Francis. My view? They're both wrong. 

There are several levels here, and the media doesn't help much in separating these levels and articulating the differences. It doesn't help that a good chunk of the professed church is biblically and doctrinally illiterate. But we'll try anyway. One level is theological. One level is political. As a Bible teacher, my MAIN concern is theological, and for a true Christian, your theology has bearing on everything else including your politics. I draw the "true" distinction because I must. Jesus Himself said that not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" is really His disciple. There are false teachers and false brethren who cause untold division in the body of Christ. 

The pope was wrong to say (provided he is being quoted accurately) that building a wall to stem the tide of illegal immigration is not Christian, or being a proponent of this makes someone not Christian. What defines a true Christian is something else entirely. True, saved Christians can and do disagree on how to handle illegal immigration. It would have been closer to accuracy if the pope had said, "I do not judge Mr. Trump's heart, but in my view as the head of the Catholic Church, I believe the ACTIONS he proposes are not Christian actions." There, you separate the act from the heart. But he did not do this. 

There are many errors mixed in this subject, and it's not just the pope making the errors. I don't have time to list them all. Many Protestant churches are seriously confused. Many do not divide Scripture rightly. They take things out of the Law of Moses - intended for national Israel AT THAT TIME in biblical history - and try to apply them to the church. The church is NOT under the Law of Moses. 

In addition, they take instructions intended for us as individual believers and try to use them to create coercive government policy. That's not to say government should be immoral or operate in an ungodly way. But when Scripture tells me to be charitable and to be a generous giver, that is a command for me as a believer to be generous with what He has given me, NOT a command to allow a government to forcibly take as much as it pleases from individuals' paychecks to achieve its Utopian ideals. 

I add to this that neither the pope or anyone else can look into the HEARTS of people and judge their motivations. We're commanded by the Lord not to do that. However, IN THE CHURCH, we can judge BEHAVIOR (including speech) and whether it measures up to what the Lord commands and expects in Scripture. When brothers and sisters in Christ fall into sin, they are to be confronted with it, and if they refuse to repent, that is where church discipline enters in, and possible removal from fellowship until proper repentance is shown. In Trump's case, he can certainly be called out on his behavior by Christian leaders, but responsibility for discipline lies in his church fellowship, assuming it's not apostate and still believes the Bible. There is a branch of Presbyterianism that has pretty much chucked biblical doctrine out the window. My friend Dr. Ron Gleason will bear me out here - he is a Presbyterian pastor with multiple earned degrees. 

Donald Trump is wrong when he says that a Christian leader/pastor/elder/theologian/teacher has "no right" to judge someone else's faith. Oh, yes they do. They have not only the right, but the DUTY to do so to protect the flock. They're not judging motivations, but are judging with "righteous judgment" as Jesus Himself commanded. They're evaluating whether the fruit of the professed believer matches what comes out of their mouths. The yardstick of measure is Scripture. When Donald Trump vociferously identifies himself as Christian and proud of it, well, words mean things. Ideas have consequences. If you identify as a Christian, certain things (including behavior) follow from that profession. Donald neither speaks or acts in Christian ways, and in fact, approaches near blasphemy at times. Speaking of the Lord's Supper as "eating my little cracker" is a flippant reference to a very serious event, and his statements on theology reveal that he really has little clue about even core Christian doctrine. His profane, at times obscene mouth and his ugly abusiveness of others who disagree with him does not reflect Christian behavior. There are grounds to ask questions about this, especially when Trump is USING Christianity to appeal for votes. Discernment, folks, DISCERNMENT!! 

it should go without saying, but the above is not intended to suggest that true Christians never sin, or never say things they shouldn't, or harbor attitudes they shouldn't harbor. As long as we are under this sun, in this body of flesh, we will wrestle with the "old man," or the "old nature." We can and do stumble in many ways (James). But a true Christian, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, will not be able to consistently LIVE this way - to live HABITUALLY like an unbeliever. When a true Christian sins, the conviction of the Holy Spirit sets in, and He is relentless. A true Christian is not going to sluff off the Christian life, dismiss God's Word, call evil good and call good evil, live in sin, and stay there like nothing's wrong. The Bible says PLAINLY that there are false brothers and sisters, and when they prove to be or if they will not repent of their sin, we are to "remove the wicked from among ourselves." (1 Cor 5) A true Christian from the heart seeks to love the Lord and love one another, and seeks to obey the Lord in all things for His glory. 

A bit more on the "right" of Christians to insist on truth in labeling. The church reserves the right to define itself, and that definition is clearly set forth in the Word of God. If someone from a pseudo-Christian cult (and there are many out there) comes out and identifies themselves as Christian, orthodox true Christians have EVERY right to call them out and warn others against them. Sun Myung Moon is not the second Christ. Jesus Christ is not the spirit brother of Lucifer or Michael the Archangel. The Apostle John describes the spirit of Antichrist and how to identify it. "Indeed, there are many antichrists now." Word of God said it. Not me. 

Now, will any of this be discussed in the media and on the talk shows? Not likely. They'll be sure to stay as superficial as possible and talk from as much ignorance as they can muster. And we will continue to be ill served as an electorate.