Donald Trump and Pope Francis

Is Mr. Trump a Christian?

In recent days, presidential wannabe Mr. Donald Trump has been feuding with the Roman Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis. It seems that the squabble involved Mr. Trump’s comments proposing walls keeping illegal immigrants out of our southern border states.

“ABOARD THE PAPAL AIRLINER — Inserting himself into the Republican presidential race, Pope Francis on Wednesday suggested that Donald J. Trump ‘is not Christian’ because of the harshness of his campaign promises to deport more immigrants and force Mexico to pay for a wall along the border.” (– Jim Yardley, New York Times) Pope Francis is further quoted as saying, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Response: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful,” Trump read from a statement he then released. “I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked….”

FOXNews.com provided a video clip in which Mr. Trump proudly proclaims, “I am a Presbyterian. I love God. I love my church…” Mr. Trump’s claims to be a Protestant and a Presbyterian are more than infrequent. If you don’t believe me, just search the web “Trump and Presbyterians.”

I did such a search on the Internet and found several articles regarding Mr. Trump and Presbyterians. Apparently he was baptized at First Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in the United States of America) Jamaica, Queens, New York, and claims that he attended there as a child. He also claimed to attend Marble Collegiate Church where he sat regularly under the preaching of Dr. Norman Vincent Peele of “the power of positive thinking” – he hated it when the sermons were over, so he says. This church says that he is not presently an active member. The Presbyterian Church USA has distanced itself from him and his immigration policies, especially. In fact, the Stated Clerk (chief administrative official) wrote an open letter schooling him in the history of the PC USA in connection with immigrants.

Then in another, but related development, a PC USA congregation in Rutgers, New Jersey openly oppose his proposed immigration policies and denounced his views. Efforts to excommunicate Mr. Trump were confounded because his membership could not be ascertained.

Thus, it would appear that Mr. Trump is not a member in good standing of the Presbyterian Church USA. But there are other options such as the Presbyterian Church in America, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Bible Presbyterian Church, Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, etc. (Is it any wonder that Presbyterians are sometimes referred to as a split Ps?)

Personally, I have been a Presbyterian for many years. In fact I’ve been a Presbyterian minister for over 35 years. All that to say that I am very familiar with what Presbyterians, both now and historically, believe regarding Christianity. Protestants and particularly Presbyterians (along with others) have historically followed a biblical principle when professing faith in Christ. This is done by use of questions whose truths must be affirmed in order to join.

The Presbyterian Church in America, of which I am a minister, is representative of historic and evangelical Christianity. In order to be admitted to membership, following questions taken from the Presbyterian Church in America’s Book of Church Order in section 57-5, must be affirmed:

  • Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy? 
  • Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel? 
  • Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ? 
  • Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability? 
  • Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

The first three questions have to do with a personal understanding of the gospel. An affirmation of the first recognizes a need for God’s forgiveness and grace. The second deals with God’s provision of a Savior, Jesus Christ. Trust in him (faith in Christ) and in his good news is the only hope of forgiveness. The third reflects a humble but sincere commitment to follow the teachings of Jesus – a lifestyle of obedience to Christ’s teachings.

The final two questions concern a commitment to a local congregation. Question four regards a commitment to attend and participate in the worship and life of the church. Whereas question five affirms the need for accountability and shepherding/pastoral care.

Notice that the first three questions have to do with one’s relationship to God – what it is to be a Christian. They highlight the need for forgiveness; God’s provision of forgiveness in Christ; a continuing response to God’s grace based upon the assistance of his Holy Spirit. The final two questions focus on a commitment to Christ’s church – one’s relationship to a particular church. So it comes down to this. Are you a Christian (spelled out in questions 1 – 3)? Do you want to join this church (spelled out in questions 4 and 5)?

Getting back to Pope Francis and Donald Trump, it would be beneficial for both men to reflect on the membership questions above. Not only are they historically documented but they are also rooted in Scripture and echo the teaching of Christ and his apostles. As a matter of fact, it would be helpful for us to carefully consider these questions. Allow me to paraphrase:

  • Do you admit that you are a sinner (rebel against God) and deserve his punishment?
  • Do you trust in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, and your Savior – your only hope, as he is offered in the gospel?
  • Do you commit yourself to live in relationship with Jesus and obey his teachings?
  • Are you committed to a local church which is support with your money and efforts?
  • Are you accountable to the leadership of a church for your spiritual oversight and growth?

Likely you do not have influence over Pope Francis or Donald Trump. What you do have is an opportunity to consider these issues for yourself. The issue boils down to this. Do you believe the gospel of Jesus and love God? Are you participating in the work of God’s church? If not, you have far greater concerns than this year’s presidential election. The Bible says that God rewards those who diligently seek him. Seek him today. Contact me if I can help.

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