By Mark Swarbrick
The Pope, Trump & Hannity – who is right? Here is what they each have said:
The Pope says about Trump: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel…This man is not a Christian.”
Trump Says about the Pope: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful…I’m a very good Christian…no leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.”
Sean Hannity says about the Pope: “For anybody to declare whether a person is a Christian or not a Christian, nobody reads people’s hearts. that’s for God to judge, isn’t it?”
Who is right? All of them? Some of them” One of them? Actually the correct answer is: None of them; they are all wrong. Here is why.
Let’s start with the Catholic Pope. Speaking of Donald Trump, he said, “A person who thinks only about building walls…is not Christian…This man is not a Christian.” Here is the truth: The duty of government is to protect its people. Strengthening and enforcing a national border is an entirely proper and necessary thing for government to do. For a politician to advocate that the American government should fulfill its responsibility of protecting our border is entirely appropriate. Promoting responsible government does not make that man a non-Christian. The Catholic Pope is wrong on this point.
Trump and Hannity both argue the same thing – that no one, not even a religious leader, has the right say whether someone is a Christian or not. They are both quite wrong about that, which is easily proved from Scripture. In Acts 8:23, Peter said to Simon, “May your silver perish with you…you have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God…I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the bondage of iniquity.” Clearly Peter judged Simon to not be a Christian. And common sense tells us the same, for if no one within the Church can determine if someone is a Christian, then there can be no standard of membership of who can be in the Church.
Hannity, on his radio talk show elaborated on the text, “Judge not,” (M’t 7:1-3) arguing that was a proof text that says we are not able to know who is and who is not a Christian. Let’s be clear: We may not know who will ultimately end up in heaven, for a man might live an evil life, but upon his death bed call out to Christ for mercy and forgiveness and thus end up in heaven. But we are not talking about who God ultimately judges to be worthy of eternal life. Rather, in this case, we are talking about whether or not a person is a Christian in the here and now. Hitler was baptized and confirmed as a Catholic, yet who can doubt that Hitler was not a Christian?
Obviously we can do what Jesus told us to do: “Judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24) Thus we find in 1 Timothy 1:18-20 that the Apostle Paul spoke of those who had shipwrecked their faith, specifically naming Hymenaeus and Alexander as blasphemers. Likewise, Jude spoke of ungodly false teachers within the Church, calling them “wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude1:3-13) Clearly religious leaders, have and may, question a person’s faith. Donald Trump and Sean Hannity are flat wrong about that.
What Is a Christian?
This brings us to the question of what is a Christian. Saying you are a Christian, does not necessarily make you one. Simon was baptized into the Church and he would have said he was a Christian, but Peter told him different. Going to church does not necessarily make you a Christian, any more than standing in the garage makes you a car. Believing in God doesn’t make you a Christian, for as the Scripture says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
What does it take to be a Christian? On the day of Pentecost when the crowd asked the apostles what they must do to be saved, Peter said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins…” (Acts 2:37) Becoming a Christian means turning away from the sin of running your own life and turning your life over to Jesus, inviting him into your heart and dedicating your life to following Him, wherever he leads. It is not something to be done without thought, for Jesus said to count the cost (Luke 14:15-35). When a sincere commitment to Christ is made, a miracle happens. You are born again and made a new creature in Christ.
I well remember counting the cost as I contemplated making a decision for Christ when I was 15 years old: First off, I would lose all my friends. There would be no hiding it from them. I would have to stop cussing and they would all know something had changed and would ask me about it. I would need to confess my relationship with Christ. They would laugh and call me a Jesus Freak. Also, I knew I could not do the things I used to do. It was a hard decision, but once made, there was no doubt, in my mind or anyone else’s, that I was a new person. My entire life changed, for the good. I was born again.
Jesus said, “You must be born again.” (John 3:7). It is this experience that makes you a Christian. All the other things: Baptism, church attendance, a changed life – those don’t make you a Christian, they are the results of being a Christian, of being born again. Christians don’t have to go to church; they get to, they want to. They are changed.
Being born-again is the normal experience of people that become Christians. There are some exceptions. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born. My father always desired to serve God and be a minister of the Gospel from his earliest memories as a child. There are those who are raised in Christian homes who have followed Christ for as long as they can remember and may not be able to point to a specific born again experience. What matters is this question: Do you at this time recognize your need of forgiveness from God and do you accept Jesus as Lord over your life and believe that God raised him from the dead? If you answer that question in the affirmative, then the Word of God promises that you are saved, you are indeed a Christian. (Romans 10:9)
Now let’s go back to the original controversy: Is or is not Donald Trump a Christian? He says he is. However, there is more to examine that just what someone says. For someone such as Donald Trump, who has not lived a consistent Christian life, there would have to be a born-again experience that he would need to have in order to become a Christian. Just joining a church or saying you are a Christian does not necessarily make you a Christian.
Donald Trump has a wild past. As revealed in the divorce case of one of Trump’s former wives, Trump violently assaulted his wife. While screaming angry profanities he pulled fistfuls of hair from her scalp, ripped her clothes off, pinned her down, and forcibly raped her. The book, Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump chronicles his womanizing, adulteries, and his ties to organized crime.
The Bible says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1Co 6:9-11) If any man ever needed a born-again experience with Christ, it is Trump, yet when has Trump ever told of his experience of bing washed and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus? Never.
Trump recently said in a televised interview, “I don’t think I’ve ever asked God for forgiveness.” Clearly anyone who makes such a statement has no appreciation of the great cost of Christ’s atoning work on the cross for the remission of sins. He fails to realize that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” and that without repentance and faith in Christ, he is lost. When asked recently who his pastor was, he replied that it was Norman Vincent Peale. The problem with that is that Peale died in 1993. Why couldn’t he name his current pastor? Clearly church going has not been a part of his life.
Anyone who has had an experience with Christ, who has been born again, would have gone to God many times for forgiveness and have lived a changed life. Indeed, without repentance, you cannot even come to Christ (Acts 2:37). As I watch him lashing out with insults on the debate stage and spewing vulgar profanities at his rallies, I can firmly declare that I do not detect the Spirit of Christ in him. I can say unequivocally that Trump is not a born-again Christian. He is a CINO – Christian In Name Only, for political purposes. So on this point, the Catholic Pope is right: Donald Trump is not a real Christian, not because he wants to build a border wall, but because he has not repented of his sins and been born again.
All this leads us to a final question. Now that we know he is not a Christian, but claims to be one, we must ask another question: Is he really a conservative, as he claims?