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Category: Church

Biblical Illiteracy, Christian Nationalism, and “Donald J. Trump, the Son of Man—The Christ”

In my past thirty years or so of studying and working with Asian, African, and Western theologies and theologians, I have often noticed one thread. Whenever we discuss theologies from the so-called “third world” or “developing” nations, I have often felt many of my western friends quickly want to warn us non-westerners about the lurking dangers of syncretism and potential heresies in the theologization emerging in the majority world. They also raise questions about the lack of discipleship or the shallowness of the faith of new believers who have come to the Kingdom of God as a result of some incredible Christward movements witnessed among various people groups. However, as is often the case, we get our blinders on when looking at our culture, Christianity, and the status of discipleship.

Here’s an example of how blinders often work. Christian nationalism, which is a misnomer in itself, has led many in the west and particularly in the USA to believe that a politician is not only a savior from their political, social, and economic mess, but also a God-sent religious savior, an avatar or an incarnation of God! You may brush it aside as a fringe element and go your way, satisfied that your Christian country can never engage in such a heretical thought. However, you will do so at your own peril. At a time when, a scientific survey by the Pew Research Center predicts a continuous decline, one cannot ignore why the faith is evaporating in the west:

“If recent trends in religious switching continue, Christians could make up less than half of the U.S. population within a few decades…U.S. ‘nones’ will approach majority by 2070 if recent switching tends continue,”

A book has recently been published, crystallizing this belief in a politician as the religious savior that people have been looking for, that is replete with biblical citations to justify their wild theological claims. The title is: President Donald J. Trump, The Son of Man—The Christ. Yes, you read that right, and no, the author claims it is not a satire!

Donald J. Trump Son of Man the Christ
Donald J. Trump Son of Man the Christ

Of course, you do not have to be a theologian to recognize it as a heresy, as no educated Christian who has been discipled well would agree with the statements of its author of South African origin, Helgard Müller, that the “son of man” in the Bible is now incarnated in Donald J. Trump. The author, who is basically trying to make a quick buck, argues that there are two Christs – the son of man and the son of God, with Jesus being the son of God who was betrayed by Judas and Trump being the son of man who was betrayed by Mike Pence. Müller will indeed make more than a quick buck (even the kindle version is US $19!) as he knows it too well that millions of Christians who are biblical illiterates would buy anything that glorifies their political hero and justifies it with “biblical prophesies,” which cannot be located in the Bible if one takes the trouble of opening and reading it. That is why Müller has been going to all the rallies of Trump with his trailer and signs, enthusiastically marketing this book and personally handing out or mailing free copies to social influencers such as Candace Owens (see Muller’s Facebook page).

Candace Owens

Maybe the publication of such books will help us see our own cultural and theological blinders and take our responsibility for discipleship more seriously than we have done in the past.

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Lenten Devotions 2015: Why bother with a local church?

ojRQoUyMany surveys tell us that the number of people regularly attending a church is steadily declining. Not many who call themselves Christian have any active relationship with or participation in a local church. I meet such “Christians” almost every day. When asked the reason of their absence from the church, many say, “Oh the church is full of hypocrites.” And I often counter them by responding: “Hey, let that not bother you, as we always have room for one more!”

Well, jokes apart, association with a church is a serious matter. What you think of the church and what it looks like in your neighborhood does not alter the necessary place of the church in God’s economy of salvation. To God, church is the primary institution through which he is working out his plan of salvation and establishing his kingdom. It is another matter, for another day, that the almighty God cannot be confined to the church. He can and often does use people, movements, and institutions outside the church to fulfill his mission. However, his primary concern is with what the church does and does not do until the second coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, a follower of Jesus Christ must find a local church to be in a regular fellowship with it.

We are socially inclined to seek other human beings and to live in relationships with them. We have been created this way. From the beginning, God desires for us to have companionship:

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Genesis 2: 18 NRSV).

The author of Letter to the Hebrews, in the New Testament, instructed the followers of Christ:

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10: 24-25 NRSV).

One of the most interesting ironies of today is that we live in a world swamped by the impersonal social media but without enough time to have personal, one on one interactions, and fellowship with one another. A local church has provided this opportunity for social interaction, fellowship, and spiritual growth for the past 2000 years or so. The church is far from being perfect; however, it is sanctified enough to sharpen us spiritually, to hold us accountable in our relationship to God and to each other, and to encourage or spur us when we need it most. Yes, I understand, you personally know several churches and ministers, who have lost the way. They are no longer worth your time and support. However, let us not throw the baby out with the bath water by completely neglecting to have fellowship with a local church due to some wrong people. We are often committed or loyal to our gym, social club, credit cards, banks, airlines, grocery stores, medical clinic, school/university, and most often to our favorite sport teams. Are they all perfect? Is there no corruption in their daily business or leadership? No. We do not abandon our favorite team just because they have lost most games in a season. However, when it comes to a local church, we leave it and its God appointed leaders in the lurch at the drop of a hat.

If today you do not fully take part in a local church, and as you have been praying, fasting, and reading the Scriptures this Lent, may the Lord lead you to a godly local church. May you be plugged in there to be a blessing to others. However, as my seminary president used to say, if you do find a perfect church please do not join it because you would make it imperfect! 🙂

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