To the shock of many Trump is the president-elect. As pundits try to make sense of how he was elected and others focus on who he appoints, we want to look ahead to his administration – what will Trump’s presidency look like? This isn’t a political question alone – as believers we know that God is alive and active in world affairs, and our worldview cannot be limited to simply natural factors or outcomes. Trends and major movements in the earth have a spiritual origin. The Bible proclaims that God “ Makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them” (Job 12:23). America was made great by God, and it was enlarged – the word means to spread out like a blanket, an effective description of America’s global influence.
But a recognition of God’s Sovereignty doesn’t end with nations being made great, it also includes them being destroyed and dispersed. When God moves against a nation we are told how He affects their downfall: “ He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason; he sends them wandering through a trackless waste. They grope in darkness with no light; he makes them stagger like drunkards” (Job 12:24-25). God is directly involved – He deprives leaders of reason, He sends them wandering, He makes them stagger. That is the reality that awaits Donald Trump as he steps into the White House a few months from now.
The verses in Job describe the way in which God deals with a nation when His purpose requires it to be broken, and they reveal a clear process of deterioration within an empire. The first thing God does is to deprive the leaders of their reason. The word used for “reason” has a two-fold meaning: the first describes the heart and soul of man, his conscience and his moral character that form the basis of decision making. The second meaning of “reason” is a person’s knowledge, their competence and their ability to think through problems and resolve them. When we combine these two meanings, we understand that depriving leaders of reason involves two components: a) remove the moral compass and conscience which causes leaders to make ethical decisions, making them immoral b) weaken leader’s competence and ability, making them ineffective. 1
Trump’s administration will be part of a wider downward trend that has been occurring in America. The trend is not dependent upon the individual politics of the administration in power, and shows no favoritism to democrats or republicans, liberals or conservatives. A brief analysis of Bush and Obama provide more clarity of the overarching trend that Trump is stepping into.
It’s a Trend – Bush & the “Mother of all Misjudgments”
George W. Bush decided to invade Afghanistan and Iraq in response to 9/11. The justification for the latter was Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), which was proclaimed as fact by the U.S. intelligence apparatus. In the buildup to the invasion the UN was monitoring and inspecting for WMDs in Iraq. Hans Blix was the Executive Director of the UNs Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Committee (UNMOVIC) which had responsibility for supervising international inspections for WMDs in Iraq. Blix warned Saddam of “cat and mouse” games and of serious consequences if Iraq attempted to hinder or delay his mission. The agency made over 700 inspections during that time and failed to find any evidence of WMDs.
Despite the evidence, the U.S. proclaimed WMDs were present and that was the basis for their invasion. In language skewering both Saddam and Bush, Blix called this the “Mother of all Misjudgments”, and said there was a predisposed belief among Bush administration officials that Iraq had WMDs which his own inspections and evidence (and history) proved false. Blix writes “I’m not suggesting that Blair and Bush spoke in bad faith, but I am suggesting that it would not have taken much critical thinking on their part or the part of their close advisers to prevent statements that misled the public. Why was it that they listened so little to and, in the cases of (Vice-President) Mr. Cheney and (Deputy Secretary of Defense) Mr. Wolfowitz, seem to have had such disdain for the assessments and analyses of the IAE?”2
Blix concluded that the key factor in the invasion of Iraq based on their possession of WMDs was “a deficit of critical thinking”. Without realizing it Blix is quoting Job’s description of how God “deprives leaders of the earth of their reason.” That removal of competence and the invasion of Iraq has proven costly:
- Massive amounts of American blood and treasure
- Iraqi civilian casualties estimated to be between 100s of 1000s (exact figures are hard to come by)
- The fostering of a terrorist’s paradise in Iraq which attracted jihadists from across the region who could practice their craft against U.S. soldiers without having to leave the Gulf states
- The rise of ISIS, which caught the U.S. by complete surprise, and which has produced chaos not only in Iraq and Syria but also ISIS acts of terror in Brussels, Paris, Nice and other parts of Europe
- The present annihilation of Aleppo and Russian hegemony in Syria
It’s a Trend – Obama & the Removal of a Moral Code
When Obama was swept into the White House in 2008 with the promise of change, the issue of LGBT rights was not part of his campaign. Yet this issue has become the legacy of Barack Obama. He – and a large portion of American society – has made LGBT an issue of civil rights. But it is a moral issue, not a political one – when considering moral clarity God doesn’t check with the Supreme Court, the President of the United States or the U.S. Congress.
To call a thief, an adulterer, homosexuals, the greedy and drunkards to repentance is core to the redemptive mission of the Church
By definition the Word of God is the standard for morality, and Paul’s prophetic warning is clear “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). To call a thief, an adulterer, homosexuals, the greedy and drunkards to repentance is core to the redemptive mission of the Church. In their present condition, they will not inherit the Kingdom of God, so compassion moves us to cry out “repent, the Kingdom is near!”.
Calling homosexuals to repentance is not homophobic nor is it a violation of their civil rights, it’s an invitation to come close to God through repentance: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Co 6:11). It’s an invitation to come into our churches and to experience new life in Christ and to be engaged in a process of powerful renewal of the inner man – to be washed, sanctified and justified. People hear our call to be redeemed as discriminatory and a violation of civil rights, in large part because of a president who has lost his moral compass. Obama didn’t heed Paul’s warning to not be deceived; God has deprived the leaders of the earth of their reason.
What Will Trump’s Presidency Look Like?
The Word of God is Eternal – it does not bow down to a nation, a political party or a president-elect. Job’s description of a nation in decline will prevail in Trump’s presidency, both in the individual and the wider administration:
"He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them. He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason; he sends them wandering through a trackless waste. They grope in darkness with no light; he makes them stagger like drunkards” (Job 12:24-25).
The next four years will see:
- An absence of correct conscience and moral character
- A removal of competence and ability to govern
- A searching for signposts for the way forward but they will find no indicators that direct them
- Grope in the darkness and have an inability to see what the real issues are
- Stagger like a drunkard with a lack of control – the image suggests public scandal and humiliation where everyone knows the leader(s) are ill equipped and lack self-government.
Trump’s promise to cut taxes and stimulate the economy will take place in the environment God describes as “wandering through a trackless wasteland”, a metaphor of God drying up the financial resources of what was economically abundant in former times. Meanwhile, political opponents will use every failure to attack and accuse, leading to even deeper divisions in the nation.
What is the Response of the Church?
Either candidate could have guided the nation into further broken-ness, so why Trump instead of Clinton? Trump’s election affords an opportunity to the Church that Clinton’s probably wouldn’t have. Evangelicals categorically repudiate Clinton’s liberal policies and four years of Hillary would have caused many in the Church to continue to wrongly hope for a (conservative) political solution. There is no political solution because God is behind the crisis. Believers must:
- Renounce historical ignorance and spiritual idolatry. No empire has endured and America is not an exception. Putting our hope in the nation and its institutions is idolatrous. God is dismantling them right before our eyes, which is why the two candidates had the highest unlikables in history. Neither Democrat nor Republican is trusted and their parties are being fractured; military interventions backfire and cause worse problems than they were sent to solve; the FBI is less trusted – some wanted an indictment against Clinton while others blame Comey for sending a letter to Congress eleven days before the election, etc. We don’t put our trust in a changed Supreme Court or any other American institution – our faith and trust are in the Lord.
- Come to know God who is behind the decline. We can’t look at the times and seasons of America or any nation apart from considering the nature of God, who “Has made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccl 3:11). Redemption only makes sense if we look at life through the eyes of God. If we live within the capacity of our human minds then life is a series of blessings and setbacks, triumphs and tragedies. Nations rise and fall; they are made great and then broken. But if we live in the mind of God it is one seamless plan of redemption that is unfolding and bringing mankind back to Him. God is redemptive at His core, so everything He does is tied to His redemptive purpose. Because it is God who manages the dissolving of a nation’s strength we can be assured that there is redemptive intent behind the brokenness in America.
1 These paragraphs are from The Arc of Empires, published in 2013 and available at www.scottwebsterministries.org
2 Hans Blix, Disarming Iraq, (Pantheon Books, NY; 2004), pg 260