A group of 50 self-anointed “evangelical” leaders gathered at Wheaton College earlier this week, ostensibly to discuss “evangelism and faith.” According to reports, however, the meeting had little to do with either.
It was mostly about President Trump, as these paragons of Christian compassion and tolerance figuratively hung the president in effigy and proceeded to treat his effigy as a piñata. They spent two days doing their best to beat as much of the stuffing out of the president as they could.
A short list of attendees: mega-pastor Timothy Keller, Wheaton College's Ed Stetzer, Fuller Seminary President Mark Labberton, NYC megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard, and Katelyn Beaty, editor-at-large of Christianity Today. Conspicuous by their absence were actual certified evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, and Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Things got so bad so quickly that a number of the invited leaders walked out of the meeting on day one. They had actually believed the invitation and thought they were there to talk about the future of evangelicalism rather than pummel the leader of the free world, a man who received 81% of the white evangelical vote and is still supported by 78% of them.
In other words, these Trump-bashing “evangelicals” are almost completely out of phase with their own movement. If you’re leading and no one is following, you’re not leading at all, you’re just taking a walk.
According to the Washington Post, when they did get around to discussing topics instead of condemning their own president, they talked about “immigration, the role of women in the church, racism, (and) how to disagree civilly with other evangelicals.”
What we have seen from these leaders to this point is a great deal of disagreement but little civility. And their positions on the other topics appear to be thoroughly regressive rather than biblical (they call themselves “progressive,” but that’s a misnomer - they’re actually trying to drag the evangelical movement backward.)
Their position on immigration is indistinguishable from open borders advocates, despite the fact that borders are God’s idea (Acts 17:26). Their position on the role of women is indistinguishable from that of modern feminism, despite the fact that the New Testament assigns different roles to men and women in the church (1 Timothy 2:12, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35). Their position on race is indistinguishable from the race-mongers who regard evangelicals and the president as closet white supremacists, despite the fact the New Testament minimizes the role of race in human relations (Galatians 3:26-28).
Because of their departure from biblical orthodoxy, it’s no longer proper to describe these leaders as “evangelical” at all. When Alexander the Great discovered that a soldier in his army by the name of Alexander was guilty of serious misconduct, he gave an order to a subordinate: “You tell that solder to change his behavior or change his name.”
Donald Trump, of course, is an imperfect representative of Christian faith, as we all are. No evangelical I know defends what he was accused of doing 12 years ago (if indeed he did those things). But he has done more for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and a return to sexual normalcy in public policy than any president since 1980, including Ronald Reagan.
Donald Trump did not cause any of the quasi-evangelical leaders at this conference to depart from the essence of evangelical faith. He has simply revealed their departure for all to see.