Did God Pick Donald Trump?

image_pdfimage_print

After Donald J. Trump was elected back in 2016, a friend of mine told me not to complain, because Trump’s presidency was what God wanted. To back up his assertion he read to me Romans 13:1…

“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.” (emphasis mine)

There it was, in black-and-white – in the Book! As far as my friend was concerned, God said it, he believed it – and that settled it; Donald Trump was God’s choice.

Admittedly, a cursory reading of that passage does seem to suggest that God is responsible for every individual who is elevated to a position of power and authority. Mayors, governors, senators – presidents, too – all divinely handpicked. And while I have zero problem with that proposition when it comes to leaders that I prefer, it is a bit disturbing to think that I also have God to thank for Hitler, Vlad the Impaler, Attila the Hun, and a host of other bad actors who have reigned throughout the ages.

So that begs the question: did God command the appointment of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the USA, as a matter of sovereign determination?

First, What Is the Text Actually Saying?

A deeper look at the passage demands that we pump the brake some, starting with the key word in the text, established – “the authorities… have been established by God”. The word sounds like a pretty energetic verb, invoking a sense of strong intent and purpose; people tend to establish things that they feel strongly about – like Foundations, Institutions and Monuments.

But that isn’t quite the case here, because the word used here for established isn’t an active verb at all! Instead, it’s a passive participle (“tetagmenai”) being used here. And while the word is derived from a verb (“tasso”) that means “to arrange, or set things in order”, the way that it is used here is altered because of the grammar. Instead of asserting that God is ordaining his personal choices for leadership in every election, Romans 13:1 is suggesting that leaders are in their position because God simply allows them to be there. It’s not so much that God is demonstrating HIS preference when a leader ascends to power; sometimes it’s more about God allowing that which is in place to remain, by divine forbearance.

This makes sense when you consider God’s painful lament given through the Prophet Hosea…
“They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval.” (Hosea 8:4)

This passage shows that that some leaders somehow get elected/appointed without God’s approval. But the fact is that God is sovereign; therefore, any leader in any position can only be there with God’s approval! In short, ALL leaders are established because God allows them to be – regardless as to whether they reflect God’s ideal preference.

How God Works through Our Preferences

The amazing thing is that God always finds a way to execute His divine plan and will regardless as to who the leader might be. When a stubborn and recalcitrant Pharaoh was the leader, God said “I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army…” (Exo 14:17), and worked His will, despite Pharaoh’s resistance. God allowed a proud and narcissistic Nebuchadnezzar to serve as a scourge of judgement for the unrepentant people of Jerusalem; but ultimately God had to bring judgment to bear upon Nebuchadnezzar, too, and thereby made the Babylonian king and worldwide object lesson.

The fact is that it doesn’t matter who becomes the leader, as far as God is concerned, because the Sovereign God will always find a way to execute His divine will – either with, through, or despite the cooperation of the leader. As one wise king stated, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Proverbs 21:1)

But even though God has the sovereign power to “remove kings and raise up kings” (Daniel 2:21), more times than not, God simply works with what humankind gives Him. So, when a King is coronated – or as is the case for us in America, when a President is elected – God is not showing us His preference, God is allowing us to see our preference!

The real question then, is not why did God give to us who we got; but rather, why did we recommend to God the leader that WE chose? In short, we gave Donald Trump to God – and God allowed our recommendation to be established – but what can we learn from it?

Imagine that; God turns the table, and asks, “why did you give me Donald Trump”?

What “We” Saw in Him

Some of might answer, “God I gave him to you because I was afraid!” And indeed, fear was (and remains) a powerful motivating factor when it comes to selecting leaders. Here in American many were afraid that they were losing their way of life (culture), and others feared that incoming “strangers” (foreigners) were the cause. Donald Trump represented a return to a time when those fears were irrelevant and unthinkable, a time when life was more homogenized and predictable. For those people, Donald Trump was the safe choice that would Make America Great (Safe) Again.

Others perceived that they are being unjustly deprived of their entitled rights and privileges, in a world filled with hostile and unwelcoming “others”. Viewing themselves as innocent and well-intended, this group feels that their only security is found in being in a dominant position as it relates to others, thereby becoming immune to any threats. For this group, Donald Trump is a sort of benevolent bully who fights on behalf of the good guys; sort of like the Incredible Hulk, tamed and properly aligned.

Worse still, some are drawn to Trump’s extreme sense of self-interest and self-indulgence. Many Americans feel as though we have served the interests of others far too long, and like a person deprived by starvation, we feel we now have the right to serve ourselves to the point of satiation. We now owe it to ourselves to make “America First”!

Trump in the Mirror

While I don’t quite subscribe in full to French philosopher Joseph de Maistre’s premise that “People get the Government that they deserve”, yet we must consider the part that we play in the leaders that we get. Leaders typically are a reflection of the ideals, values and concerns of the people who elect and appoint them. Rather than simply criticize and castigate, we owe it to ourselves to take the time to examine how a leader like Donald Trump might reflect a variety of aspects of our national profile. Are we vain, self-indulgent, fearful and over-entitled?

God didn’t choose Donald Trump; we did – and God allowed it. But instead of asking God why He allowed Donald Trump, we should be asking God to show us what values, interests and concerns might be driving us to make the choices that we make. Better still, we might want to ask that God might purge us of those less than noble motivations, and instead to give us a heart like His. Then our choices won’t simply be tolerated and allowed by God, but instead they’ll be ordained and anointed by God – for His glory and our peace!

More from W. Nick Taliaferro
“The Rest of Your Story” with Nick Taliaferro
It’s the end of the week, and if you’ve been through one...
Read More
Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.