It’s amazing the things you miss when you take a break from online media. I checked my Facebook feed today after a short break and found a slew of unbelieving friends slamming evangelical Christians. Some of the claims they were making made absolutely no sense and the posts they were sharing made assertions that were just not true at all.
But reading a little farther apart from all of the bogus information, the kernel of the issue are comments by Jerry Falwell, Jr., giving a pass to Trump ‘s infidelity that was recently exposed. 1 Avery Anapol, “Lawyer Paid $130k to Silence Adult-Film Star over Sexual Encounter with Trump: Report,” Text, TheHill, last modified January 12, 2018, accessed January 29, 2018, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/368779-trump-lawyer-arranged-130k-payment-to-adult-film-star-to-stay-quiet. This particular instance happened over a decade ago, but the other party was paid off right before the election to keep silent. 2 Mark Berman, Frances Stead Sellers, and Paul Farhi, “Porn Star Stormy Daniels Detailed Alleged Affair with Trump in 2011 Interview – The Washington Post,” last modified January 19, 2018, accessed January 29, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/porn-star-stormy-daniels-detailed-alleged-affair-with-trump-in-2011-interview/2018/01/19/8bdd1a50-fbb5-11e7-ad8c-ecbb62019393_story.html.
So let me just get this out there, none of this comes as a surprise. Not that Trump had an affair, not that he paid off his affair partner, and not that Falwell would give him a pass. 3 Paula Bolyard, “Jerry Falwell Jr Provides Cover for Trump Porn Star Affair,” PJ Media, January 24, 2018, accessed January 29, 2018, https://pjmedia.com/faith/jerry-falwell-jr-provides-cover-trump-porn-star-affair/. Best call out ever on Falwell’s CNN interview. We did not need this latest revelation to know that. At this point, we should just expect that Falwell will excuse anything and everything the candidate he supported does. 4 Julia Manchester, “CNN Anchor to Falwell Jr: How Many Times Does It Take before You Stop Defending Trump?,” news, The Hill, January 25, 2018, accessed January 29, 2018, http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/370730-cnn-anchor-to-falwell-jr-how-many-times-does-it-take-before-you. In this interview, Falwell excuses Trump saying that this was before he became a Christian. I agree with Falwell that all sins can be forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus. However, the requirement is first confession and repentance, neither of which has happened. We know this because at the same time the cover-up was in the process of being made, Trump was stating that he had never asked for forgiveness because he hadn’t done anything wrong. Obviously, he doesn’t consider adultery wrong. It is always wrong, Falwell does not have the authority to give a pass on something under conditions that Jesus himself has not. A In this he is no different than most people. Most will ignore actions in the people they support that they would condemn in others.
My question is to Christians attending Liberty . . . Why? If it is because Liberty has a wide range of online classes, okay I get that. Although Liberty does not have an edge any longer when it comes to online education. Many colleges now offer online and hybrid degrees that parallel their onsite classes.
However, if you choose Liberty University because you were looking for classes presented with a Biblical worldview, I would ask you to consider how that could be so when the founder clearly has such a distorted view of what that is. At this point, the things Falwell is saying is just as distorted as anything coming out of the progressive emergent churches, it is just slanted in a different way.
As Paula Boyer of PJ Media pointed out, Falwell “struggled to explain the doctrines of sin and forgiveness.” Do you really want to trust the guidance of your theological education to a university whose founder present such a twisted message?
The Apostle Paul warned about men who twist God's words: "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." What Falwell is selling is not the gospel of Jesus Christ, it's a man-centered political movement. (5/10)
— Paula Bolyard (@pbolyard) January 25, 2018
What Did Jesus Actually Say?
Jesus said love our neighbors as ourselves but never told Caesar how to run Rome-he never said Roman soldiers should turn the other cheek in battle or that Caesar should allow all the barbarians to be Roman citizens or that Caesar should tax the rich to help poor. That’s our job.
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) January 26, 2018
Again, the hypocrisy doesn’t surprise me, but the level of . . . I’m trying to be charitable but the only word that is coming to my mind right now is ignorance . . . Is shocking to me coming from the head of a conservative Christian University that offers degrees in Theology.
So what does the Bible actually say about governing. Falwell puts words in Jesus’ mouth, but when Jesus walked on earth, he did so as a man living under the authority of Roman rule. Unlike the Zealots, he did not attempt to instigate an uprising against the Roman overlords but instead told his followers to pay their taxes. (Matthew 22:21).
That is pretty much all Jesus said that had political ramifications. Most of his strong words were directed against the corrupt and hypocritical religious leaders of his day.
What are God’s Directives for Governance?
So what does God actually say about governance? We can get a clear picture of what right rule looks like if we go back to the Old Testament and examine God’s instructions to Israel on how they should operate as a community and as a nation.
I won’t go back through all 613 Levitical commands, but let’s just review the instructions related to Falwell ‘s tweet.
Falwell: “Jesus said to love our neighbor as ourselves but he never told Caesar how to run Rome”
Response: No, Jesus of Nazareth did not tell Caesar how to run Rome. However, Rome was not “his people.”. It was not an earthly kingdom committed to him and the Romans did not know him . . . Yet.
Jesus, the Christ, Son of the Living God and the Word who was made flesh and dwelt among us . . . the Logos . . . did give very clear and explicit instructions on how to rule with integrity. He speaks to His people.
These instructions were first given to Israel when it began as a theocracy. These instructions were still to be followed when Israel devolved into a monarchy. The judgment of Israel came because she refused to follow these commands or to listen to the warning of the prophets. These instructions are those that cultures across time have found to be true, what C.S. Lewis refers to as “the Tao” in The Abolition of Man and they are the underlying assumptions beneath the U.S. government and judicial system. 5 C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001). pp 83-101. The appendix lists a series of universal laws found throughout cultures that mirror the principles set down at Sinai. Related to this topic are: the law of general beneficence, the law of special beneficence, the law of justice, the law of mercy, and the law of magnamity,
God does tell us how to interact with each other and how to govern.
Falwell: He never said Roman soldiers should turn the other cheek in battle.
Response: War is a horrible thing. Every fight is a dagger in the heart of God. It is Satan mocking God saying, “Look at these beings made in YOUR image whom you created to be part of your family, in fellowship with you and each other . . . Look at what they are doing in this world you made just for them.”. It is a physical representation of the spiritual annihilation that is going on around us every day.
Jesus did say, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) No, it does not mean we should placate, but we should place a priority on peace. We should work towards it with everything we can. War should only be a last result when there is no other option left.
When we say we respect life, we should mean it. We should truly respect the sacrifice made by those who swear to protect us. We should recognize that not only do they put their own life on the line, but if they do have to kill, they are giving up a piece of their soul . . . For us.
War is a heavy and ugly thing and the majority of us have become detached from the reality of it. It shouldn’t even be part of a flippant tweet.
As for how enemies should be treated, I would point you to Elisha’s treatment of the Arameans in 2 Kings 6, David’s refusal to kill Saul when he had the opportunity in 1 Samuel 24, and Jesus’ own response to his treatment at his trial.
Falwell: . . . Or that Caesar should allow all barbarians to become Roman citizens . . .
Response: Leviticus 19:33-34. Foreigners were to be treated exactly the same in Israel.
“Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
Falwell: . . . Or that Caesar should tax the rich to help the poor . . .
Response: On providing for the poor, every field was to leave a portion for the poor to harvest. This was called gleaning and is part of the story of Ruth.
“When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:9-10 NLT
On treating people based on wealth, there are to be no favorites:
“Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly. Leviticus 19:15
As for what was expected in the tithe, what God asked in his theocracy, it was progressive. The poor were not expected to give the same as the rich.
“But if you cannot afford to bring a sheep, you may bring to the Lord two turtledoves or two young pigeons as the penalty for your sin. One of the birds will be for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering. Leviticus 5:7 NLT
“If you cannot afford to bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons, you may bring two quarts of choice flour for your sin offering. Leviticus 5:11a NLT
Let’s not forget that the Jubilee cycle itself was designed in a way that restricted the vast accumulation of wealth with its concentration in the hands of a few. All debts were forgiven in the seventh Sabbath year (the Shemitah) and in the 50th year, all property was returned to the original allocations among the tribes when they entered Israel.
“At the end of every seventh year you must cancel the debts of everyone who owes you money. This is how it must be done. Everyone must cancel the loans they have made to their fellow Israelites. They must not demand payment from their neighbors or relatives, for the Lord ’s time of release has arrived. Deuteronomy 15:1-2 NLT
In the Year of Jubilee each of you may return to the land that belonged to your ancestors. “When you make an agreement with your neighbor to buy or sell property, you must not take advantage of each other. When you buy land from your neighbor, the price you pay must be based on the number of years since the last jubilee. The seller must set the price by taking into account the number of years remaining until the next Year of Jubilee. The more years until the next jubilee, the higher the price; the fewer years, the lower the price. After all, the person selling the land is actually selling you a certain number of harvests. Leviticus 25:13-16 NLT
Israelites were also not to charge interest on those loans to fellow Israelites. Our economy would look entirely different under Levitical laws wouldn’t it?
“Do not charge interest on the loans you make to a fellow Israelite, whether you loan money, or food, or anything else. Deuteronomy 23:19 NLT
What God has to Say to the Unjust
God is pretty clear about how he feels about those who are unjust.
How you hate honest judges! How you despise people who tell the truth!
You trample the poor, stealing their grain through taxes and unfair rent.
Therefore, though you build beautiful stone houses, you will never live in them. Though you plant lush vineyards, you will never drink wine from them.
For I know the vast number of your sins and the depth of your rebellions. You oppress good people by taking bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. So those who are smart keep their mouths shut, for it is an evil time.
Do what is good and run from evil so that you may live! Then the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies will be your helper, just as you have claimed.
Hate evil and love what is good; turn your courts into true halls of justice. Perhaps even yet the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies will have mercy on the remnant of his people.
Therefore, this is what the Lord, the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, says: “There will be crying in all the public squares and mourning in every street. Call for the farmers to weep with you, and summon professional mourners to wail. There will be wailing in every vineyard, for I will destroy them all,” says the Lord .
What sorrow awaits you who say, “If only the day of the Lord were here!” You have no idea what you are wishing for. That day will bring darkness, not light.
In that day you will be like a man who runs from a lion— only to meet a bear. Escaping from the bear, he leans his hand against a wall in his house— and he’s bitten by a snake. Yes, the day of the Lord will be dark and hopeless, without a ray of joy or hope.
“I hate all your show and pretense— the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. Amos 5:10-24 NLT
Here is the problem with all of this. It’s sad, but we have come to a point where we have given up the expectation that our leaders operate with integrity. That should change, but the disclosures of the past week . . . Not a shocker.
The problem is that someone, Jerry Falwell, who presents himself as a spokesperson for evangelical Christianity excuses it. This was not acceptable during the election and it’s not acceptable now.
Something is not okay because one person says that it is. Protestants do not have a pope, and if they did, Jerry Falwell would not be it.
We are supposed to be “Sola Scriptura.”
If a conservative Christian has influence with a person in power, awesome. But that influence should be for good, not evil. We ultimately answer to God.
Falwell vouched for Trump and sold him to the skeptics within the Christian community as someone who had a true salvation experience. Even though the fruit was not there and even though by his own words Trump does not know what that means. He has said that he doesn’t think he has anything to repent of. 6 Maxwell Tani. “Trump on God: ‘I don’t like have to ask for foregiveness.'” Business Insider. Published January 17, 2016. Accessed January 28, 2018. http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-on-god-i-dont-like-to-have-to-ask-for-forgiveness-2016-1 ‘”I like to be good. I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that is bad.”” ??? You can’t be a born again believer and say that.
Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” Luke 5:31-32 NLT
Rather than excusing those actions, Falwell should be explaining that confession and repentance is the only answer. We must first come to a place of repentance before we can be forgiven and set free.
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. 1 John 1:8-10 NLT
As a spiritual leader, Falwell should be explaining to Trump how important it is that he place his trust in God alone, how important it is that he cultivate a lifestyle of “abiding” in Christ. This is important for everyone, but especially for him now in the position he is in when the stakes are so high.
This begins at home. One of the strongest admonition to husbands is in how they should treat their wives. If they mistreat their wife, God will not listen to their prayers.
In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 NLT
I’m not sure what the motivation is behind the flagrant misrepresentation of who God is and what He expects, but there are serious consequences to this. The first is that just as it did with Israel, it will bring judgment on the US.
The second is that the hypocrisy repels people who don’t know God. God has put his law in our hearts. We know what is right even if we don’t always do it. Calling something good that everyone knows is evil and claiming the name of Jesus while doing so puts up a wall against Christ. As Lewis said:
“A tree is known by its fruit; or, as we say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world.” – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 7 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1952). 208.
So what is the answer? When you are over your head in a flood of your own wrongdoing, take this piece of advice from Houston, “Turn around, don’t drown.”
You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God?
I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously.
As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.
Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. James 4:4-10 NLT
Repentance, not excuses.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Avery Anapol, “Lawyer Paid $130k to Silence Adult-Film Star over Sexual Encounter with Trump: Report,” Text, TheHill, last modified January 12, 2018, accessed January 29, 2018, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/368779-trump-lawyer-arranged-130k-payment-to-adult-film-star-to-stay-quiet.|
|2.||↑||Mark Berman, Frances Stead Sellers, and Paul Farhi, “Porn Star Stormy Daniels Detailed Alleged Affair with Trump in 2011 Interview – The Washington Post,” last modified January 19, 2018, accessed January 29, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/porn-star-stormy-daniels-detailed-alleged-affair-with-trump-in-2011-interview/2018/01/19/8bdd1a50-fbb5-11e7-ad8c-ecbb62019393_story.html.|
|3.||↑||Paula Bolyard, “Jerry Falwell Jr Provides Cover for Trump Porn Star Affair,” PJ Media, January 24, 2018, accessed January 29, 2018, https://pjmedia.com/faith/jerry-falwell-jr-provides-cover-trump-porn-star-affair/. Best call out ever on Falwell’s CNN interview.|
|4.||↑||Julia Manchester, “CNN Anchor to Falwell Jr: How Many Times Does It Take before You Stop Defending Trump?,” news, The Hill, January 25, 2018, accessed January 29, 2018, http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/370730-cnn-anchor-to-falwell-jr-how-many-times-does-it-take-before-you. In this interview, Falwell excuses Trump saying that this was before he became a Christian. I agree with Falwell that all sins can be forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus. However, the requirement is first confession and repentance, neither of which has happened. We know this because at the same time the cover-up was in the process of being made, Trump was stating that he had never asked for forgiveness because he hadn’t done anything wrong. Obviously, he doesn’t consider adultery wrong. It is always wrong, Falwell does not have the authority to give a pass on something under conditions that Jesus himself has not.|
|5.||↑||C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001). pp 83-101. The appendix lists a series of universal laws found throughout cultures that mirror the principles set down at Sinai. Related to this topic are: the law of general beneficence, the law of special beneficence, the law of justice, the law of mercy, and the law of magnamity,|
|6.||↑||Maxwell Tani. “Trump on God: ‘I don’t like have to ask for foregiveness.'” Business Insider. Published January 17, 2016. Accessed January 28, 2018. http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-on-god-i-dont-like-to-have-to-ask-for-forgiveness-2016-1 ‘”I like to be good. I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that is bad.””|
|7.||↑||C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1952). 208.|