Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has had a complicated past when it comes to pandering to Christian voters. His worst offenses: Trump couldn’t name anything in the Bible, thinks it’s a great movie, the Bible verse he ultimately decided was his favorite Jesus would be against and he somehow never heard of Paul's letters, specifically II Corinthians.
Trump tried to work through his evangelical problems by putting together a panel of faith advisors, one of which was prosecuted for fraud for selling a "resurrection seed." Dr. James Dobson explained these problems away by claiming that Trump is a "baby Christian," meaning he's new to the religion.
Now, religious scholars are confused and concerned about some of Trump's assertions about Christianity. Trump appeared at the American Renewal Project conference in Orlando last week, where he said that one of the things he would do is repeal the 1954 Johnson amendment which prohibits churches and nonprofit ministries from being directly involved in politics and endorsing political candidates.
"You've been silenced!" Trump told the audience. Under his administration, Trump promised that not only would their voices increase, but their pews would as well.
"So go out and spread the word and once I get in, I will do my thing that I do very well. And I figure it's probably maybe the only way I'm going to get to heaven. So I better do a good job. Okay? Thank you," Trump closed his remarks Thursday.
The Christian Post talked with several Christian leaders who are simply confused by the bounce from one non sequitur to another.
"With each passing day, it becomes more difficult to discern what Trump's 'actual' beliefs are on any subject, including theology or political policy," said Thomas Kidd, director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. "The temptation that evangelicals are facing is the choice to support a candidate, regardless of his views and personal characteristics because he promises that he will give Christians more power when he is in office."
J.T. Bridges, academic dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary near Charlotte, North Carolina thinks that Trump might be confused about his "get to Heaven" plan. While Catholicism trumpets the contribution of "acts of good works" as part of salvation, most Evangelical faiths rely only on belief alone. Bridges cites the Romans 4:4-5 that any person who trusts God is righteous.
But according to a chapter in Trump's book Think Like a Billionaire, he seems to think his work outweighs his sin.
"I want every decision I make to reflect well on me when it's time for me to go to that big boardroom in the sky. When I get permanently fired by the ultimate boss, I want the elevator to Heaven to go up, not down," he wrote.
"I think it is based in a wrong view of identity. There is a mantra common in churches, motivated by genuine piety though false, that in Christ Jesus I am 'just a sinner saved by grace,'" Bridges explained.
After citing a Revelations passage about the rewards for Christians, Bridges continues "In the meantime we strive against the world, the flesh, and the devil and this with weapons not of this world."
"For the upcoming election I would say, 'Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind ...' and 'Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves," he closed.