Donald Trump and the Death of Evangelical Pessimillennialism

optimism“When I get elected president, . . . Christianity will have power.”

These were Donald Trump’s words to his evangelical supporters this last Saturday, in his speech at the Dordt College rally in Sioux Center, Iowa.

That he would say these words is no surprise. Donald Trump will say anything to anyone to make a deal with them. That he doesn’t mean what he says – even when his listeners think he is “speaking his mind” – is clear enough from his actions. The very next day he “attended church” at First Presbyterian Church in Muscatine, Iowa, a PCUSA church with a female “pastor,” supporting sodomite “ordination” and sodomite “marriages.” Not exactly the “Christianity” his listeners of the day before would have like to see “having power” in America.

But Trump’s sincerity is not the point here; after all, in terms of proposed policies, he is no different than the rest of them Republican contenders – with the sole exception of Rand Paul, perhaps.

The epochal thing was the reaction of his evangelical listeners.

They cheered and applauded. None of them disagreed. There was no booing and no whistling. No opposition. They all liked what they heard.

These are the same evangelicals who have grown up with the books of Hal Lindsey and the dispensational premillenial eschatology which says that in the “last days,” nothing can restore Christianity its previous cultural power. The same people who were taught that “you don’t polish the brass on a sinking ship.” The same evangelicals who follow Franklin Graham when he, just a few years ago, said that there is no way to Christianize the culture, and all we are supposed to do is save souls. Well, some of them may be “Reformed,” that is, their pastors have graduated from amillennial “Reformed” seminaries whose eschatology is as adamant as the dispensational eschatology that Christians are not supposed to fight or win the cultural war. That there is no cultural war to be won. And if there is, we shouldn’t be winning it. Etc., etc.

For the last 40+ years, ever since the appearance of Christian Reconstruction on the cultural arena, these groups were warned by their pastors, preachers, seminary professors, and other churchian celebrities against postmillennialism: the eschatology of optimism, the expectation of the future that says that Christianity is here not only to stay but to also to conquer, until all the cultures – including the United States – submit to Christ and correct they ways and their laws according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “No victory for Christianity in the culture,” was the message they have been hearing for at least two generations. “Dominion” is a dirty word, not for Christians. Our “victory” is only in the Second Coming, or in our personal sanctification, but nothing else.

And then Donald Trump gets the pulpit and, after two generations of consistent pessimistic propaganda, says he will make Christianity “have power,” and these same people cheer, as if they never heard their celebrities say the opposite.

He is lying about his intentions, of course. But he knows why he is saying what he is saying. He has judged evangelicals well enough to know that they are tired of losing. They are tired not only of losing, they are also tired of eschatologies that promise them only defeat and nothing else. The eschatologies of defeat may sell well for a generation, but when the chickens come home to roost, and the defeat is real, people don’t like it. They prefer victory. And they will finally listen to those who promise them victory.

And, of course, the evangelicals are self-deceived about the possibility of reviving the cultural dominance of Christianity through politics. The loss of the political realm was only a consequence of the cultural decline of Christianity, not the reason for it. Thus, even if a true Christian became a president, this won’t do anything for the restoration of the Christian faith in the public square.

With Trump lying, and with evangelicals self-deceived, their love affair with Trump will be short and fruitless. Only the restoration of the comprehensive message of the Gospel – the Law of God as it applies to every area of life, including politics – and the return of that message to the pulpits in the land will restore the cultural power of Christianity. I don’t know what will come after that love affair is over: whether it will be a social-gospel-type secular, godless optimism, or a Biblical, covenantal, theonomic, postmillennial optimism. I pray for the latter; and I have reasons to believe the former is unable to return.

But I can tell one thing for sure: If the ersatz promises of an ersatz conservative could make so many evangelicals forget a whole era of preaching, teaching, books, lectures, and rallies and adopt a vision contrary to what they have been taught their whole lives . . .

. . . Then that era is over.

For good.


  • I’m curious as to why you’d claim that those listening to Trump at Dordt were premillennialists who grew up listening to Hal Lindsey.

    I grew up in NW Iowa, in the Reformed tradition, and my understanding of Dordt is that it is Reformed and attracts a Reformed student body, not a dispensational one. The pessimism found there is probably of the amillenial variety.

    • You are right. I also allowed for the second option. My point was more general, for in the larger scheme of things, Trump’s evangelical supporters are mostly of the premil variety. Besides, even if the event was at Dordt, it was still a political event for Trump, not specific to Dordt, so I assume other evangelicals have attended as well.

      • Bojidar, I don’t think that the distinctive is eschatology. I think it is more a lack of discernment and the brainwashing that we have subjected our children to via the education system. We have been using the instruments of the state to stay on top of the culture for too long (Horace Mann with education, Billy Sunday with Prohibition, and the Moral Majority that eschewed evangelism for political expediency).

        If we would trust the power to change men’s hearts, even if they were rulers, I think the outcome would be different. There is a reason that our government openly supports the wholesale genocide of Christian groups abroad and does very little here. I think the issue is that they can control US Christianity more easily because of 140 years of government run education.

  • Let’s see. This auther states ” Donald Trump will say anything to anyone to make a deal with them. That he doesn’t mean what he says – even when his listeners think he is “speaking his mind” – is clear enough from his actions.”

    Donald Trump is just like all the rest who are in the race for the Presidency with some major exceptions.

    He didn’t take any money from the GOP. He didn’t ask for any endorcements from the GOP and he doesn’t need their financial and, or crooked support.

    Do I think he knows the Lord? No, but only God knows for sure.

    The real reason that the majority of today’s evangelical sheeple and pastors hold to the “dispensational premillenial eschatology” view “which says that in the “last days,” nothing can restore Christianity its previous cultural power” is because we who believe in taking Dominion are to busy finding fault with our brothers and sisters in Christ and not focusing on the task at hand as we are commanded to do.

    And to hold to the view that “Thus, even if a true Christian became a president, this won’t do anything for the restoration of the Christian faith in the public square” is indeed a self and Christ destructive view.

    Because if a “Christian” does become President he has Christ giving him direction, Christ leading in front of him, Christ watching his back and a horde of angels at his side so we can indeed take Dominion.

    Or is it just us who are “self-deceived” forgetting it’s Christ at the head and not our position on theology?

  • I wondered where you went, Bojidar, having read you several years ago. Anyways, why do you question Trump and say he’s lying when he says Christianity will have power? You might be wrong. God uses whoever He decides to use – Cyrus being a good example – as I read in Isaiah – and He specifically said ‘you don’t know me’, referring to Cyrus.
    As to the rest of your column, it fits well with my website and blog archive. Check it out sometime! Trump is a call to 911 – once the bleeding is stopped, we can begin restorative therapy!

  • I believe That the Lord wants Godly government ( Rom.13 ) and in the 1st covenant there were good kings and them that did evil in the sight of the LORD. In the New covenant the only time I see Christians in politics is when they are hauled before the magistrate, beaten, thrown in prisons, put to death by the authorities for upsetting their way of life by the preaching of the gospel. There is no instruction to run for political office. In fact Paul gives instruction in this. 2Tim.2:1
    Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
    2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
    3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
    4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
    5 And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
    6 The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.
    7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
    8 Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:
    9 Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.
    10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
    His servant, Peter

  • The fact that these exchanges are happening is not a surprise, but never-the-less heart breaking. I know that God already knows the outcome of these times. It will be the further result of the apostasy of the evangelical church people. Many of them are true believers in Christ, but also true believers in the ways of man in the context of their “goodness” and “wisdom”. The fact of the apostasy and commitment to it is seen in the report of the congregation Trump visited. A meager acceptance of the authority of God’s Word, HIS revelation to mankind and HIS exhibition of long suffering toward us would make an affirmation of attendance nearly impossible. I have had discussions with people over much of this world who do not understand what a Christian is. Many of them even profess to being on of some kind or another.

  • I’m curious which candidate you believe has what it takes to become president. For me, the era of the status quo traditional establishment candidate is over. With very few exceptions, all of the current presidential candidates are anything butt. Who do you choose?

  • No dog in this hunt, can I assume you will not cast a vote in the 2016 Presidential Election? Not to vote is to vote – for Hillary

  • Stephen Anderson

    The disintegration of the culture means that either Christianity or Islam will pick up the pieces if the Lord delays. Secularism is simply apostate Christianity self-destructing under the wrath of God.
    The biblical answer is separation. The Puritans were right.
    American Christianity has been neutered by Pietism, Revivalism, Arminianism, Dispensationalism and materialism. If Christians have the opportunity to rule, don’t they have the obligation to rule? Only a regenerate man is fit to rule. (that would probably disqualify Trump)

  • That a good take on it. People still have to vote Trump though. The Dems are systematically evil on every issue. Trump will be random, so will get some issues right, even if by accident. And he has already done good by legitimizing the idea that undesirable immigrants can be kept out and removed. The great bulk of immigrants further de-Christianize the culture by either belonging to anti-Christian faiths, voting Democrat or both.

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