This is constructed from Facebook discussions of 3 January 2017: still every bit as relevant and “controversial” or as “hot” of a topic now three years later. Church historian Dr. Edwin Tait‘s words will be in blue. A few current comments of mine (7-21-20) will be bracketed.
I think that if American [politically] conservative Christianity is not under God’s wrath, then there is no meaningful way to say that any group of people has ever been under God’s wrath.
This was stated in a recent post on my page. Edwin also contends that a vote for Trump is the equivalent of voting for King Ahab (ancient Israel’s most wicked king, who engaged in child sacrifice). Meanwhile, Obama and Hillary — much more Ahab-like — literally believe in child sacrifice, yet Edwin won’t apply such thunderously prophetic rhetoric and laughable analogies to Ahab and Jezebel to them.
God somehow managed to make an eternal covenant with a guy that He knew from all eternity was gonna have a soldier’s wife killed, so that he could have her. That was King David, for all of you not much acquainted with Bible and salvation history.
Imagine if Trump had had a guy killed, but later repented of it! Would he ever be the GOP nominee and President-elect? No. Yet God made precisely such a choice when He decided on a person to make an eternal covenant with, and one to be a direct prototype of the Messiah, Jesus. One of many arguments about sinful politicians . . .
Also, God allowed Israel to make Saul their king, knowing (since He knows everything and is outside of time) that he would become corrupt and fall away from the faith. He allowed Solomon to be king and build His temple, knowing that he, too, would fall away (to some extent) into religious and idolatrous error.
Why does God keep doing that? Yet we are not allowed to [enthusiastically] vote for Donald Trump, under pain of being called “blind” and collaborators with “evil” by Edwin? Why does St. Peter command us to “honor the Emperor”? This was the pagan Roman Emperor, who was having Christians killed. Yet we can’t be enthusiastic for Trump (aka Ahab) without supposedly materially cooperating with evil and being under God’s wrath? Thoroughly inconsistent, incoherent, not to mention hyper-judgmental. Just stupid, mindless stuff, from a guy with a doctorate . . .
God allowed Obama to become President. For that matter, God allowed Hitler and Stalin to have power. That argument will not get you very far. As a result of David’s actions, the sword never departed from his house. He was under God’s wrath–God’s wrath, . . .
[Apples and oranges. My argument hinged on the fact that God specifically chose King David to make an eternal covenant with. It was His perfect will; not merely His permissive will (as with Hitler and Stalin). It was a form of the reductio ad absurdum argument: “God could choose David: an adulterer and murder, to be a key figure in His salvation plan and forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus, yet we are to believe that Catholics can’t vote for Donald Trump?” In other words, if God Himself can do the first [greater] thing, we can certainly do the [lesser] second thing.]
Yes He did. He also allowed Satan to rebel. It doesn’t follow that any of that was His perfect will (this is why your argument falls flat). But choosing David as king (a man “after His own heart”) and the one with whom He made en eternal covenant was His perfect will, and He knew that this was a man who would commit first-degree murder as well as adultery.
Now why don’t you actually respond to my argument, rather than a twisted caricature of it? We’ve given you a platform to rant and rave. You know that probably 90% or more of my readers disagree with you. But you are allowed to give your message here. Defending what you say under direct cross-examination is quite another thing. God made an eternal covenant with David, He chose him: a guy who had a man’s wife murdered because he was lusting after her. Yet you would have it that we can’t vote for Trump and that a vote for Hillary in a swing state is morally superior, and indeed permissible. I have not made sweeping observations about when God’s wrath applies. I was specifically addressing Romans 1.
You can’t win with the David analogy, and you are digging yourself in deeper. If indeed he was under God’s wrath, as you say, it remains true that God chose him to be anointed king (through the prophet Samuel), and chose him to make a eternal covenant with, knowing that he would later be under His wrath (granting that he was).
Thus, being under God’s wrath was quite consistent with his being king by God’s choice. Why, then, cannot Trump be President? If God could “vote” for a 1st-degree murderer, we can vote for Trump, just as we could vote for Reagan, who had 50 lovers in Hollywood and was responsible for 200,000 legal abortions in California.
I just searched “David + wrath” in my online Bible and it produced nothing. I’m not sure a case can be made that David was under God’s wrath. We know that he experienced temporal punishment for his sins. We apologists use that as an example of penance and punishment for sin.
Lots of “wrath” in the Old Testament, but I never see it applied to David himself. Perhaps I missed it . . . You are engaging in pathetic exegesis as well as absurd political analysis. The Bible does, however, say that God’s wrath was upon King Hezekiah, but he and Judah repented and God withdrew it:
2 Chronicles 32:25-26 (RSV) But Hezeki’ah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem.  But Hezeki’ah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezeki’ah.
You began by invoking divine foreknowledge. Apparently you think that if God says that someone is after God’s heart when he has not yet committed a horrible crime, therefore he must be somehow saying in advance that David’s crime is irrelevant. The Biblical account of how God responds to David’s crime, and the narrative of the rest of David’s reign, clearly indicates that David’s crime had extremely serious consequences for himself and his kingdom, — even though he repented.
To suggest that one should therefore elect a leader who commits evil deeds which are likely to have such disastrous effects (and who has given no signs of repentance) is a pretty bizarre deduction from the Biblical narrative.
Never mind that this is the OT, when moral standards were much lower, and that my objections to Trump are much broader than his sexual immorality and abusive treatment of women (though I do regard the latter as an extremely important point against him). And please, let’s not go down the Bill Clinton rabbit trail. This is not about defending either of the Clintons. Conservative Christians condemned Clinton and supported the effort to impeach him.
You are right that 2 Samuel 11 says that David’s sin “was evil in God’s eyes” and doesn’t actually use one of the words normally translated “wrath.” You’re right that I was using “wrath” loosely for “judgment.”
As for Romans 1: you brought it up. I never cited Romans 1 as my source. It’s telling that you would go there immediately, instead of, say, Romans 2 :-).
Your first two paragraphs are completely out to sea and irrelevant. I don’t believe you are incapable of grasping an analogy. Try harder. You can do it. Would anyone get a nomination in either party with a conviction for premeditated murder and subsequent repentance?
The analogy of course, is along the lines of “if the greater evil is permissible (by God Himself, by choice; i.e., knowing it would happen!), then clearly, so is a far lesser evil.” God can choose premeditated murderer David to be king and to participate in an eternal covenant; we can vote for Trump for President (no eternal covenant in question), warts and all.
No, God did not choose David when he was a premeditated murderer. You are drawing an illegitimate conclusion from an extremely mysterious subject (the interaction between God’s eternal knowledge and our time-bound choices).
And again, the whole thing is irrelevant because we are not living in the Old Testament. We have 2000 years of Christianity behind us. Conservative Christians have been fulminating for decades about the immorality of the age and the need for wholesome values, etc. And then they find this guy as their champion, someone whose treatment of women is rightly deeply offensive to feminists and whose acceptance by conservative Christians has confirmed liberals in the belief that conservatives are nothing but hypocrites who despise women. It’s a completely different context from an ancient monarch who behaved badly in the ways that ancient monarchs often behaved, but (remarkably, for someone of his time and place) repented humbly when challenged.
You have also dodged the point that divine judgment fell on David’s house because of his actions.
God, being outside of time and all-knowing, chose David to be king and to make an eternal covenant with, knowing what He would do. If you deny these attributes of God, you are a theological as well as political liberal. They are de fide dogmas in Catholicism.
I haven’t dodged that at all. I noted that this is used by apologists as OT evidence for temporal punishment / penance. I used it in my first book. But that’s not “God’s wrath”: as you have now conceded.
You are claiming that God’s wrath is upon the conservative movement in America as a whole, and you have not remotely made a case for that. Since you want to talk in biblical terms in that fashion, your task is to make a biblical case, and you have not, and I say, cannot do so. The whole thing is a farce.
As far as I know there is no dogma saying that God relates to people based on his timeless knowledge. Clearly in some ways and in some senses he may, but if you applied that position logically you would in fact be a Calvinist, not a Catholic. This is why Calvinists, for instance, deny that the reprobate are ever truly regenerate. By your logic they are right. Similarly, it would be nonsense to say that a person who is going to be saved was ever under the wrath of God. This is really a digression, but your position is simply untenable here. You’re resorting to sophistry in order to distract from the real issue of Trump’s utter unfitness for office. You pick on one point–his moral failings–and make a bogus analogy with the Old Testament, supported by highly questionable deductions from an attribute of God that none of us can begin to understand properly.
God is omniscient, meaning that He knows all things, including the future; including even future possibilities. Scientia media (middle knowledge) and providence both presuppose this knowledge. God chose David knowing what he would do. It was not even future to Him. It was “now.”
This is indeed de fide dogma, as I have documented:
I cite Dr. Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (edited in English by James Canon Bastible; translated by Patrick Lynch, Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, 1974, from the fourth edition of May 1960; first published in German in 1952) [I’m good friends with the person who is currently updating this work]:
God is absolutely immutable. (De fide.)
The 4th Lateran Council and the Vatican Council teach that God is immutable (incommutabilis) D 428, 1782. Holy Scripture excludes all change from God and positively ascribes to Him absolute immutability . . .
The Fathers exclude all change from God . . .
St. Thomas bases the absolute immutability of God on His pure actuality, on His absolute simplicity and on His infinite perfection . . . (pp. 35-36)
God’s Knowledge Is Infinite. (De fide.)
[ . . . ]
2. God’s Knowledge Is Purely and Simply Actual
As God is pure (actus purus), there is in His knowing no transitions from potency to act, no habitus, no succession, and no progress from the known to the unknown. God’s knowing is neither potential nor habitual, neither successive nor discursive. God knows all in one single indivisible act (simplici intuitu). Cf. S. th. I 14, 7. (p. 39)
God knows all real things in the past, the present and the future (Scientia visionis). (De fide.)
. . . The difference between past, present and future does not exist for the Divine Knowledge, since for God all is present. (p. 41)
Now I shall cite Henry Denzinger: The Sources of Catholic Dogma (I have the 13th edition of 1954; translated by Roy J. Deferrari; Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire: Loreto Publications):
LATERAN COUNCIL IV 1215
Ecumenical XII (against the Albigensians, Joachim, Waldensians etc.
The Trinity, Sacraments, Canonical Mission, etc.*
Chap. 1. The Catholic Faith
(Definition directed against the Albigensians and other heretics]
428 Firmly we believe and we confess simply that the true God is one alone, eternal, immense, and unchangeable, incomprehensible, omnipotent and ineffable, Father and Son and Holy Spirit: indeed three Persons but one essence, substance, or nature entirely simple. The Father from no one, the Son from the Father only, and the Holy Spirit equally from both; without beginning, always, and without end; the Father generating, the Son being born, and the Holy Spirit proceeding; consubstantial and coequal and omnipotent and coeternal; one beginning of all, creator of all visible and invisible things, of the spiritual and of the corporal; who by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing, spiritual, and corporal, namely, angelic and mundane, and finally the human, constituted as it were, alike of the spirit and the body. For the devil and other demons were created by God good in nature, but they themselves through themselves have become wicked. But man sinned at the suggestion of the devil. This Holy Trinity according to common essence undivided, and according to personal properties distinct, granted the doctrine of salvation to the human race, first through Moses and the holy prophets and his other servants according to the most methodical disposition of the time.
THE VATICAN COUNCIL 1869-1870
Ecumenical XX (on Faith and the Church)
SESSION III (April 24, 1870)
Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith *
[ . . . ]
Chap. 1. God, Creator of All Things
1782 [The one, living, and true God and His distinction from all things.] * The holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church believes and confesses that there is one, true, living God, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, omnipotent, eternal, immense, incomprehensible, infinite in intellect and will, and in every perfection; who, although He is one, singular, altogether simple and unchangeable spiritual substance, must be proclaimed distinct in reality and essence from the world; most blessed in Himself and of Himself, and ineffably most high above all things which are or can be conceived outside Himself [can. 1-4].
See my related papers:
Is God in Time? (vs. John W. Loftus) [11-30-06]
Doctrine of Divine Simplicity [9-29-12]
Note that it was Edwin who wanted to bring the Bible and biblical thinking into this discussion, with his talk of “being under God’s wrath” and Ahab and the like. Very well, then, the Bible is my turf. I’ve been intensely studying it for 40 years. I’m the apologist and “biblical evidence” guy (Edwin is the historian). If Edwin wants to have that discussion, I’m all for it. Bring it on. I’ve already shown, I think, how he has distorted several things in the Bible.
Another dilemma of Edwin’s is his continuing to believe that I am a “good” man, yet as an enthusiastic Trump supporter I (and many millions out there like me) supposedly am “blind” and “under the wrath of God” and in favor of an Ahab-like man. The problem is that those in that state in the Bible are wicked folks, not good people. So, for example, the Bible says this of the nonbeliever:
John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.
And it says:
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth.
A “good” man cannot be characterized as being “wicked”. These are biblical opposites. See many examples in Proverbs . . . And:
Ephesians 5:6 . . . it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Edwin can’t have it both ways. If he wants to say we are blind (which is a culpable sin in the Bible and not morally “neutral”: e.g., the Pharisees who opposed Jesus) and under God’s wrath then he can’t (biblically) continue to say we are “good” and that we are not wicked.
I think he does this because he is, personally, a nice guy, but one who gets totally carried away into anti-Trump hysteria, like, alas, many otherwise cogent, sharp, thoughtful folks do. Anything goes, in that clown arena . . . So “nice” Edwin says we are good, well-intentioned people, while Hysterical Anti-Trump Zealot and Pseudo-Prophet Edwin uses much harsher language. The two strains are logically inconsistent (in fact, literally opposites) and his overall thought here cannot be harmonized with the Bible.
And this, by the way, is a good demonstration of why I often wind up bowing out of discussions with you. I would not have time to do anything else if I didn’t. At some point I’m going to have to get on with my life and let you claim victory.
I’ll make it easier still for you to avoid me, if you think our dialogues are so tedious and I am such an unworthy opponent. Note that I didn’t say that about you. I said I liked our dialogues, but that you often cut them short just as we were getting somewhere. I wish that they would continue on and actually accomplish something. But as far as they went they were great. But now you trot out the anti-Catholic line about me: that I am absurdly prolix and ultimately a waste of your time. Good to know your true feelings after all these years.
I’m gonna ban you now, because you have violated my rules for ethical, civil discussion many times over. If I didn’t, I’d have to apologize to a hundred people who violated my rules here far less than you have. I was very reluctant to do so because of our friendship, and gave you every chance.
In addition to your facile insults about God’s wrath and blindness, etc., and the stupid Ahab analogy, now you are calling de fide Catholic dogma (that I brought up) “sophistry” and the equivalent of Calvinist heresy. If you maintain those views about God and time and omniscience, you’ll come into the Church as literally a heretic regarding theology proper. Whoopee: another cafeteria Catholic. Just what we need . . .
I continue to appreciate our past dialogues, and they will remain up. But you’re done here. Should you see fit in due course to retract these outrages, you’ll be happily welcomed back.
A blessed new year to you and yours.
Someone asked (and later deleted):
What exactly is the continued point of calling out Edwin Woodruff Tait and subsequently changing your status to reflect this post? You mentioned that 90% of your followers will disagree with him and then you lambast him when he makes an emotional comment about politics while responding to the 90% of your followers who take shots at him and his academic achievements? I’m a former student of Edwin’s and I myself am a Trump opponent (not to be confused with Clinton supporter) and I think Edwin is pushing everyone’s button because the faithful Christian voters who have commented here would have vomited down their shirt 20 years ago if they were told they would defend Donald Trump with Bible verses in 2016.
The point is to have a conversation with Edwin, as I have done for 15 years (many posted dialogues, which I quite enjoyed). He wants to bring this stuff up and judge folks. I’m giving him a platform, and also challenging him to back up his contentions under scrutiny. It’s intellectual / political debate. He has done that to some extent, but there is a lot more challenge he needs to address. I can defend and have defended myself times without number on this score. Edwin needs to defend his ludicrous and hyper-exaggerated charges as well.
Paul Hoffer Labels such as those used by Dr. Tait have been frequently invoked by the Sheas of the Catholic scene during the last election with very little offered by way of substance to support the epithets. Personally I would be interested to hear Dr. Tait’s reasoning as to why President-elect Trump and politically conservative Christians are analogous to King Ahab and are under God’s wrath.
If one is going to make such comparisons, it might be a good idea to provide one’s reasoning for such claims as name-calling fails to qualify as proper argument, but uncharitable editorializing. Insulting one’s brother is rarely persuasive or enlightening. After all, we are all called upon to give the reasons for our hope (1 Peter 3:15) While the preemptive rebuttal Dave Armstrong offers certainly seems compelling as to why politically conservative Christian folk are not Ahabs, Dr. Tait might have something akin to reasoning that we can reflect on and interact with. Blessings!
The Ahab reference specifically had the story of Naboth in mind. I was thinking of Trump’s persistent history of predatory, dishonest, abusive business dealings.
What does Trump’s business practices, legal, questionable or otherwise, have to do with political conservatism? One could equally point to the questionable business dealings of Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Clinton, etc…, that are just as questionable if not downright criminal. Conservatism does not predispose criminality any more than true liberalism does.
That said, I do not see the analogy between Ahab and Trump. Ahab did not kill Naboth, Jezebel did. Ahab did not engage in predatory or abusive negotiations with Naboth. He offered fair terms for Naboth’s land. Naboth could not sell because of inheritance laws. And most importantly, Ahab repented of Jezebel’s actions. So are you suggesting that Trump needs to repent for something Melania did? Or are you trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole here?
I am continually frustrated by the fact that both political and theological discussions (but esp. the former) almost always seem to be over before they begin. Edwin has made his charges (with little support). I’ve laid out an extensive biblical critique of it.
It could actually have been an interesting and possibly constructive discussion, building on our two existing arguments / positions: laid out. But it seems that it is already over before it has begun . . . Major frustration and pet peeve in my line of work . . .
Edwin has had a tendency through the years to bow out just as I thought the discussion was getting really good. Dialogue or debate is not everyone’s cup of tea. I recognize that and respect it. But if someone doesn’t care for it, don’t barge in with some provocative remark. At least not around me . . .
Edwin is now banned, having violated my discussion rules again and again, then proceeding (in the last hour) to virtually mock Catholic de fide dogma (God’s timelessness and omniscience and being out of time, so that David’s actions were “present” to Him and fully known).
Lousy interpersonal ethics and serious heresy about the doctrine of God: two very good reasons to be banned here, but mostly the first one, which I apply most strictly (since I allow atheists after all). One must be civil and charitable here, or they won’t be here long.
That’s the one thing all human beings seeking to talk to others can agree upon. I don’t have it permanently linked here, but on my blog, I have a link to my discussion policy.
This was not a pleasant thing for me to have to do; most distressing, since Edwin has been a friend and valued dialogue partner for 15 years or more. But there comes a time when I have to apply my rules, no matter who it is that is violating them. I bent as far as I could. Once Edwin went after Catholic de fide dogma and upped the purely personal insults, that was it.
He had already said enough with his bigoted and utterly ludicrous remarks about conservatives to be banned on that basis alone. But like I said, friendship caused me to become more lenient than usual. Sad . . .
[note: I was referring to Edwin being banned from my Facebook page. Now that this is posted on my blog, Edwin is free as a bird to read it (it being a totally public post), and to respond if he chooses to do so. If I miss any such response, I ask that he please let me know via email: apologistdave [at] gmail [dot] com. I will surely counter-reply if he does. I note all this to counter the ubiquitous charge of “censorship!” and supposed abrogation of “free speech.” That doesn’t apply here, since he can read this and is free to respond. And I will respond back: which cuts through the horse manure charge of my supposedly being “scared” and so I ban. Nope. I ban when my discussion rules are violated. PERIOD.]
(originally 1-3-17 on Facebook. Re-edited with additions on 7-21-20]
Photo credit: Jezebel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth’s Vineyard. Print by Sir Frank Dicksee (1853-1928) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]