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Trump vs Truth: The Evangelical Dilemma

Mon, May. 23, 2016 Posted: 12:25 PM


Evangelicalism is at a crossroad. As the upstart Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy has shaken up the political landscape, and more so conservative politics, it has also pushed evangelical conservative politics to the brink of collapse as faith and ideology collide.

From the beginning during the 1980 political campaign for the presidency when the “Moral Majority” waded neck deep into American politics, becoming a political action group to counter the threat of socialism, evangelicalism has taken on an identity that is more associated with politics than with the Gospel of Christ. This is due in no small part to what has become somewhat axiomatic that to be a true evangelical (read: true Christian) a person must politically be a Republican or at least politically conservative. Thus no true evangelical should ever support a candidate with any other political ideology.

So along comes Donald Trump who most recently converted to conservatism from liberalism. Naturally, he deserves a look because of his new found political ideology - just what evangelicals require in a candidate. This year, it seems that is all evangelicals require in a candidate.

Not every evangelical leader is comfortable with the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States of America. In fact, some strong leaders have come out and publicly denounced his candidacy. However, there is growing pressure to “fall in line” because the alternative is anathema. At what price, though, should evangelicals sacrifice evangelical purity at the altar of political expediency?

Evangelicals pride themselves to be uncompromisingly faithful to the Word of God. In fact, biblical inerrancy is a fundamental tenet of evangelicalism. So it comes as a shock, no, a jolt, to see how many evangelicals support Trump. And not simply, support him, but some evangelical leaders even endorse him as a moral responsibility. That, however seems to be in direct conflict with biblical morality.

Early in his campaign, Trump stated that there is nothing he needed to ask God forgiveness for. He instead said that he was a good person who loved the bible, church, and God. Now, there is a portion of scripture which challenges his initial claim, and which should cause serious concern for every evangelical who supports him, whether willingly or grudgingly. It should make them question where their loyalty lies.

The portion of scripture is 1 John 1:8-10: “(8) If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” (NIV).

Trump’s claim that he does not need forgiveness means he is claiming to have no sins, and that says, according to the word of God, that he is self-deceived, and that he is a liar; that the truth is not in him. What a damning verdict from the infallible word of God. Can any of his evangelical supporters argue that to not be the case?

One of the most unsettling things about evangelical support for Trump is that they do so in spite of his open, and brazen disregard for truth. And as if that is not bad enough, the scripture has concluded that his claim of sinlessness is tantamount to calling God a liar. So he is judged by the word of God: there is neither the truth nor the Word in him. Surely this has not gone unnoticed? The only plausible explanation is that ideology has trumped faith. Truth and evangelical purity have been sacrificed at the altar of Trump.

If neither the truth nor the word of God dwells in Trump, then what dells therein? Jesus told the religious leaders who rejected him that they were liars, and that their real father is the Devil who is the father of lies. If there is no truth in Trump (for as yet he has not repented and asked forgiveness), then there must be only lies in him. To this fact he has left no doubt on the trail. What are his evangelical supporters seeing, and what compromise must they make?

In his opinion piece on Christian Post Donald Trump – Glamor of Evil, Alan Keyes asked: "If Christians pliably sacrifice conscience for the sake of political victory, why shouldn't judges and legislators demand that we do so for the sake of what they (however speciously) portray as a lawful demand for individual justice?"

Evangelicals cannot at the same time be the custodians of morality and advocates for a person who undermines the very morals they claim to stand for. Evangelicalism is at a crossroad. On one side there are those who would abandon their evangelical principles for political victory, on the other side are those who are fighting to preserve the godly tradition of pure evangelicalism.

Those accused of abandoning their principles will argue that it is a compromise they must make to stop a greater evil from getting into the White House. But they are missing an important spiritual truth: a liar can never be trusted. So if they think that a Trump presidency will preserve their pet issues, they have misplaced their trust. The scripture teaches that placing our trust in man will fail.

At this point evangelicals must make a decision. They are either going to support Trump purely out of political and ideological reasons sans biblical principles, and in so doing, make clear that this choice is divorced from any religious or moral considerations; or they are going to preserve the traditional evangelical principle to stand on Christ who is the Truth, and say that their consciences oblige them to support someone else.

The second option may be a hard one in this emotionally charged campaign, because it may mean waiting four or eight more years to reclaim the presidency. But what guarantee is there that evangelical support will bring the victory they seek? None. The greater danger, regardless of the election’s outcome is the damage that will be done to evangelicalism and its ability to present an untainted Gospel to the lost. Sometimes we have to lose a minor secular battle to win the bigger spiritual war. Yes it may be difficult and hard to swallow, but living by faith in God is seldom easy, but always the better choice.

Marvin Thompson