Donald Trump and what the gospel is not

Faith might not be of particular importance to many Americans as they ponder who to support in this year’s presidential election. My point isn’t so much to speculate on what Trump believes or on his motivations. My point isn’t to say who a person should vote. But for Christians who view a candidate’s faith as a priority, I have concerns about statements Donald Trump has made in regards to faith.

In a July interview at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Frank Luntz asked Donald Trump if he had ever asked God for forgiveness. Trump responded:

 I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.

That comment has stuck with me. “I just go on and try to do better from there.”

That’s a view that many have of what Christianity is. So perhaps it should be no surprise that presidential candidates also think this way. But the point of Jesus coming to earth and living the perfect life we could never live and dying on the cross for us, and bearing the wrath of God for our sins was not so that we could “try to do better.” It was to save us.

Trump later elaborated and followed it up with basically the same ideology, when asked if he had repented. “I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.”

If you don’t ask God for forgiveness, and try to just fix your own issues, you might believe that God exists, but your faith is not in the Christian gospel. It’s in yourself.

I can’t know exactly what’s in Trump’s heart, but I know things he’s said are contradictory to what scripture teaches. Trump said he tries to “make it right.” If we could make it right, Jesus wouldn’t have walked in our world and died on a cross. It is precisely because we cannot make it right that God provided a way, The Way for our wrongs to truly be made right (John 14:6).

He said “I don’t bring God into that picture.”

Perhaps it is because of this lack of acknowledgment of God that there is a lack of acknowledgment of sin. Because to gaze at the righteous and holy God of the Bible and his total goodness and perfection is to humble and make man aware of his imperfections.

So many of us try to make our salvation about our morality and performance, but the Bible says we can’t be good enough on our own. It is through what Jesus has done. Christianity is not about trying harder or trying to not mistakes, but keeping God out of the picture. The gospel is that God is the whole picture and in his goodness, we are forgiven, in spite of the fact that we can’t be good enough on our own! Which is why it’s good news.

Trump did further elaborate that he viewed communion as a form of forgiveness. The issue with this is that communion without faith accomplishes nothing.

In an interview shortly after the Luntz interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Trump was again asked about repentance. He said “Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness if I’m not making mistakes?”

The Bible teaches that all sin (Rom. 3:23). Trump had also said in the Cooper interview that he tried not to make mistakes where he needed to ask for forgiveness.

As I said earlier in this post and want to reiterate, I don’t know Donald Trump’s heart. But what he is saying is not in line with the Bible. We don’t leave God out of the process. It’s not about trying to do better and making it right on our own. We can’t weigh sin like there are scales, where we must do more good than bad. The view that many of us have, the view that some sins are things for which we don’t need to seek forgiveness is to miss the entire point of why Jesus came. All sins are an affront to the will of God. And we sin all the time, by what we do and don’t do, by the thoughts that we have, by the selfish inclinations of our hearts. And to realize these things doesn’t make us seek to fix ourselves but to fall on our faces to a God who is infinitely gracious to those who turn to him.

Ultimately my point with this post is not to sway voters or to focus on politics but to talk about the gospel.