David Platt, Donald Trump, and the Need for Prophets

David Platt, Donald Trump, and the Need for Prophets June 3, 2019

On Sunday, Donald Trump showed up to McLean Bible Church unannounced.

Trump skipped most of the service, having just finished a round of golf. He was in the area showing support for the victims of the recent Virginia Beach mass shooting. He showed up at McLean, a megachurch, expecting to receive prayer since this past Sunday has been designated by many in this country as a day to pray for the President.

The church’s pastor, David Platt, however, has been vocal in his criticism of Donald Trump.

And so, one might expect him to offer a challenging word. Nevertheless, that isn’t what happened:

These days, where countless evangelical pastors continue to follow a Trumpian decline into socio-political apostasy, it may seem refreshing to watch a pastor adopt a nonpartisan posture, and one that gently and indirectly challenges Trump to do better.

But to me, this moment—this prayer—was an opportunity to embrace the Church’s call to prophetic witness.

There was absolutely nothing prophetic about David Platt’s prayer for Donald Trump. That so many people, even progressive people, feel that Platt did a good job reveals how thoroughly low we set the bar when it comes to our collective call to prophetic witness.

Yes, in the prayer, Platt prayed that Trump would embrace justice, righteousness, and equity. But these are abstract notions that nearly every leader affirms. Nearly every world leader from Bush to Hitler to Clinton to Mao no doubt believed themselves to be just, righteous, and fair. Trump is likely no exception.

Read these words from Gregory Baum, which contain insights for our current social, political, and spiritual contexts:

…Preachers and teachers know very well that they do not make enemies when they lament the suffering in the world and demand greater justice in general. People want to be seen as favoring justice. It is only when preachers and teachers name the plague that people get angry. In North America and Europe, academic theology tended to shy away from such outright political judgments because they transcend the discipline. Instead, it advocated love, justice, and peace in general terms, sometimes so general that they could be used by speech writers for the government intent on defending its policies. Calls for justice and peace cannot be used in this ideological way when they name the social evil. If Archbishop Oscar Romero had not named the plague, if he had only demanded greater peace and justice in general, he would not have been shot…

Perhaps it is too much to expect David Platt, caught off guard by a visiting president, to be prepared for a prophetic word. And perhaps most of us prefer a church that aims to make peace amidst political strife, a church that avoids partisan political statements, a church that only asks leaders to look to God and value justice and mercy and equity in abstract ways.

But that isn’t the prophetic call.

I have no interest in castigating Platt. My frustration is with an American Church that treats prophetic witness as a rarity. That we think that a prophetic posture is an add-on pack to the Gospel or something exceptional or unusual is largely the reason we’re in this sort of mess. The church’s vocation is prophetic witness. Each congregation. And all followers of Jesus have a part to play in that shared vocation.

We, the Church, need to encourage and exhort one another to embrace our prophetic calling. We need to demand it and assume it. Otherwise, the best we can expect is mild words from megachurch pastors.

Right now, amidst our current political and spiritual crises, we need prophets. Those who get specific in naming social evils. Those who encourage the oppressed and confront the oppressors. Those who, filled with the Spirit of Liberation, don’t shrink from the powerful, but contend with them in the name of Jesus Christ, our Liberator.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ocelot Aardvark

    “Prophetic Words” come directly from God. No “preparation” is needed. One must be an empty vessel, with ego suppressed, so as to allow God to drop his precious Pearls of prophesy, wisdom, and yes, even criticism, to flow freely from the Holy Spirit through us. All I heard from Pastor Platt were the same generic babblings.

    In spite of the prayers and laying on of hands by Evangelicals, TЯ卐m₽ has NOT shown a single shred of wisdom, grace, or remorse for his sinful, depraved life, nor even a drop of human decency, since he rode down that ‘golden’ escalator. Furthermore, neither have any of his family members.

    Now if Platt would have prayed for the president (who dared claim he has never asked God for forgiveness) to honestly repent for his wickedness, deceit, treachery, cruelty, hateful words, juvenile Tweets, insults, finger-pointing and vindictive actions, maybe Platt’s prayer would have been worth listening to. Even God won’t listens to redundant, rote, insincere, ‘prayers’.

    All we got was a smug preacher, dazzled by an overbearing dictator-wannabe and thrilled by the prospect of shaking hands with TЯ卐m₽, the Beast.

  • Roger Morris

    Just another grovelling Evangelical lick-spittle desperately hoping for some measly scraps of cultural influence to fall off the Emperor’s table into his lap.

  • PhillipWynn

    You may “say” you have no interest in castigating Rev. Platt, but your article goes ahead and does that anyway. You may “say” that “perhaps it is too much to expect David Platt, caught off guard by a visiting president, to be prepared for a prophetic word,” but your entire article revolves around that very expectation. Anyone interested in hearing Rev. Platt’s discussion of the incident can use The Google to find out how he was caught off guard in the act of serving Communion, with no time to think of a proper response to that individual, whose golf cleats, he notes, clattered as he walked onto and off the platform.

    You should be ashamed of yourself for exploiting Rev Platt’s all-too-human hesitancy in dealing with such a creature for the purpose of a click-bait article that signals your virtue while providing no proof that you would have acted any differently. Thoughts of a glass house and throwing stones come to mind, as well as the denomination of chicken hawk.

  • VMWH

    ‘These days, where countless evangelical pastors continue to follow a Trumpian decline into socio-political apostasy, it may seem refreshing to watch a pastor adopt a nonpartisan posture, and one that
    gently and indirectly challenges Trump to do better.”

    I guess you did not find it as refreshing as you wish it had been?

    Oh, and IS prophecy one of this clergyman’s specific gifts of the Holy Spirit? It sounds as if one of his gifts is hospitality.

  • Ocelot Aardvark

    Is there anyone more lawless than TЯ卐m₽?

    To any Evangelicals out there who still persist in hanging on to their hideous, obscene-orange-idol …
    Consider the following passage of Scripture:

    2 Thessalonians 2:9-12:

    9) “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie,

    10) and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

    11) For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie

    12) and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”

    TЯ卐m₽’s TOADS are deluded beyond redemption!
    They are responsible for their own DAMNATION.
    __________________________________________________

    The 3 R’s:

    It may already be too late for those who have aligned themselves with TЯ卐m₽ >–> the Beast.

    But Our Heavenly Father, in his infinite mercy, may give you one more chance to redeem yourself from committing Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit …
    the Unforgivable Sin.

    Renounce the Beast!
    Repent!
    Return to Christ!

    Otherwise, you’ll be cementing the Mark of the Beast in your own forehead for all Eternity.
    Choose either the Light and Life or Dark and Death. Your choice, choose wisely.

  • BrynRedbeard

    Mark, I’m glad you stated at the beginning of your post that this was going to be your opinion. I share every concern that you voice in the post, but I disagree with your opinion that David Platt should have used this as an opportunity for “prophetic witness” as you define it. This is an outline of my opinion on David Platt’s prayer for the president.

    David Platt accepted the responsibility of praying FOR our current president. If I understand your opinion, David should have PRAYED AT Donald Trump. As you said, David has expressed his criticism of Trump openly and clearly.

    I do not find anything “mild” about the prayer of David Platt. In your words, “Platt prayed that Trump would embrace justice, righteousness, and equity.” You express your disappointment by lamenting how even hypocrites accept those aspirations. While I agree with you that our president shows every sign of being a leading hypocrite, David was not speaking to Donald Trump he was speaking to God about our president.

    David Platt prayed for several things. He started by proclaiming the universal kingship of God in Jesus. This statement is the foundation of the church’s prophetic witness to the world. He stated that our country needed grace, mercy, and wisdom then asked that God provide these to Donald Trump.

    Then David did the most unpredictable thing. He prayed that Donald Trump would know for himself God’s love in the sacrifice of Jesus. There is one thing that I am very sure of about Donald Trump, throughout his life he has not been the recipient of much godly love.

    David then continued his prayer by asking a blessing for Trump and his family. He asked not a general blessing, which could be seen as placating or soothing, but emphasized wisdom in a specific way. David’s next words identified the wisdom that he asked for as something different than what passes for wisdom in general society.

    David prayed using words from Scriptures that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and that fools despise wisdom and learning. If our president was listening and not rehashing his last round of golf, he heard a prophetic exhortation. I pray he was listening, but I fear he did not have ears to hear.

    And if Donald Trump did not have ears to hear the heartfelt prayers of a Christian to the creator on his behalf, he definitely would not have had ears to hear someone praying their frustration AT him. As we all know Donald Trump is expert at denying all criticism and projecting it back upon the critic. This is not a call to stop criticism of his policies and actions, but the understanding that our criticism of him should be voiced to persuade others to withdraw their support from his political and personal agenda.

    In summary, I believe this was a time for prayer and not political rhetoric.

  • James Elliott

    For me, the central point of the article is “My frustration is with an American Church that treats prophetic witness as a rarity…” After years of struggling with those who call themselves “Evangelical” i finally dropped the identity for myself when the Nashville Statement was developed a few years ago, essentially stating that there could be no dialogue about the place of gays/lesbians/etc. in the life of the Church. In a culture where upwards of 40% of the population does not identify with any religion, Christian faith needs to be more focused on “prophetic witness” and less on laying the law on people’s shoulders.

    It’s easy to be an arm-chair commentator about David Platt’s actions, of course. But as a pastor, I’d like to think that if the President of the United States arrived unannounced at a worship service i was leading, that i could be hospitable and gracious. However if it is a worship service, i’d hope to not make the President (any President) the central focus. Prayer for the President would be confined to that part of the service described as “the prayers of the people” or “pastoral prayer.” I didn’t catch if the President simply assumed that he should be on the platform. If so, that would indicate an arrogance which is unacceptable in a place of worship. In my faith tradition, all who come in faith are welcome, but there is only one worship leader who points us to the One worthy to be worshiped.

    Back to the main point of frustration with treating prophetic witness as a rarity: i think our responsibility of witness is always treated with that balance of divine grace. We don’t witness with the goal of just being a pain in the…neck. Our witness will inevitably lead to alienation from the idolatry of violence and sin. That is a matter of consequence. Caught off guard, if that was David Platt’s intention he should be supported for that desire.

  • Emily Elizabeth Windsor-Cragg

    QUOTE:: “My frustration is with an American Church that treats prophetic witness as a rarity.” . . . Yea, the mental “box” in which Christiiandumb resides is so tiny, any “new” thought is immediately pounced upon, when IN FACT, there is a great deal if Holy Law commitments (Matt 5:16-22) that Christians refuse to acknowledge, even be held accountable to, as BEHAVIOR. Christian behavior, these days, is deplorable, because most conventional Reformation denomionatiions have embraced “political-correctness” of the Empire.

  • bill wald

    Depends upon how one defines the duty of profits and of priests. I think a prophet represents God to the people and the priest represents the people before God. Jesus was both!

    On the other hand, Christian theology and dogma teaches that God will not send/commission any new prophets until Jesus returns to set his earthly kingdom. If this is wrong, please ‘splain me.

  • We need to expect more. My issue is only tangentially with Platt. My core issue is that we think this is the most we can hope for.

    I don’t need to establish that I’d do different. Anyone and everyone who knows me at all, without exception, could easily guess how I’d respond.

  • That’s part of my point. That we find a moderate and safe prayer for the president (the most powerful man on earth who is responsible for countless suffering) so refreshing is an indictment of the Church in America.

  • Kyllein MacKellerann “

    Oh bother! Christians call out for Prophets but ignore them when said Prophecy isn’t something they like. They “Need ” Prophets but stigmatize them if these
    Prophets stray from accepted dogma.
    Maybe that’s why there aren’t Prophets coming around any more…and Evangelicals are the worst offenders in this sense. If Jeremiah stood up and Prophesied in a manner that the Master of Ceremonies...oops…Minister disagreed with, Jeremiah would be hauled out of the assembly and sent on his way.
    And God is no fool, if He is gonna be ignored, why send anyone?

  • Ocelot Aardvark

    Revelation 19:10 (NKJV)

    And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

    That however, means the genuine testimony of Jesus.

  • Donna Landry Faulkner

    Well, thankfullu, he prayed to God – Who knows the true definitions of these ideas – amd that is far better than giving a prophetic word that may fall on deaf ears.

  • BrynRedbeard

    Amen

  • James Elliott

    To a degree, there has been that tendency in Christianity since Constantine, and (i guess) with religion in general. I’ve wondered if the problem is exacerbated by at least two generations in American society now have been removed from effective religious education which uses the Scriptures as an answer book for issues, or worse, ignores the Scriptures altogether. (I sat on a committee to assist people in discerning if they have a call to ministry; one young man wasn’t sure that the Bible is even important. I tried to be gracious as i noted that even among us so-called liberals Scripture matters. I’m happy to say that the young man has grown up a bit since then.) All of which is to affirm the idea of “Holy Law commitment, as you point out.

  • Huh? Platt strayed from accepted dogma?

  • Ocelot Aardvark

    Platt has “strayed” from Christ and the Holy Spirit … by embracing someone who is completely wicked, unrepentant, treacherous, disrespectful, prideful, boastful, vindictive … and has NO intention, nor capacity, of being remorseful – like Zacchaeus was.
    – Luke 19

    And once again, please see: – 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

  • There is nothing remotely Christ-like in your post. You are attributing bile and condemnation to the Holy Spirit. You should feel ashamed of yourself.

  • Ron Richardson

    I’m not ashamed of the truth

  • Not sure how I feel about Pastor Platt’s Response. I do know he was crudely chastised by Jerry Falwell, Jr., who said Platt needed “to grow a pair.” If Platt got under the skin of a bigoted son of a segregationist, then he must of done something right! Praying in churches for current presidents is a common occurrence in the US. It’s when congregants and their pastors see a president as someone who protects their “rights,” that we get into tribalism and civil religion. I wouldn’t be too harsh in my criticism of Platt. It was a difficult situation were grace and nuance was probably more appropriate than confrontation.

  • I tend to shy away from viewing scripture as an answer book. Some of the people most familiar with scripture are the most bigoted and unChrist-like. Rather than allowing Christ’s life and teaching to challenge our assumptions and social interactions, historically the church has brought confirmation bias and cherry-picking to how scripture is used. As an answer book scripture is not particularly useful and has been used to justify war, slavery, imperialism, misogyny, etc. I prefer to see it as a series of books that require us to make ethical choices, and question our motives. As such it raises more questions than answers.

  • Well stated. As I have deconstructed my evangelical past I find it a struggle to remain gracious, and tend to forget that I was them just a few years back. It’s a constant battle to not let the judgment attitudes of my conservative evangelical past come back to haunt me.

  • James Elliott

    I will concede that “answer” is probably the wrong word. I’m with you on the idea of Scripture challenging us. But again, we are in a position now where most people in America who call themselves Christian, don’t have even a rudimentary knowledge of the Scriptures, and therefore can’t be challenged by Christ’s life and teaching. So they are misled a number of prominent voices that misuse the Scriptures for their own political or hate-filled agenda.

  • Ron Richardson

    Well, I am a flawed man who has merely found redemption, but having said that, what in God’s name caused you to berate the Word of God,? I mean, after all, I was using scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to make my point. Or are you one of those who pick-and-choose which scriptures to acknowledge?

  • Ron Richardson

    Not a prophet in the sense on Christ, Moses, or Abraham, but if you read your Word, Paul explicitly states that there are primarily five attributes given to those whom truly follow Christ; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
    So, I encourage all of you who want to speak, to speak from knowledge

  • bill wald

    OK, In theory, I have no problem with St Paul. In practice, I have listened to many Protestant pastors who don’t make sense and seldom give a straight answer when asked a question. In 70 years, only two pastors have confessed, “I don’t understand it, either.”

  • bill wald

    I’m happy I voted for President Trump. He might be the only “ALL AMERICAN” president since Reagan. All the rest are “internationalist/UN” presidents.

  • bill wald

    To exactly which law do you refer? Is there a law against being sarcastic and not PC? Against using hyperbole to make a point? For “calling a spade a spade?”

  • bill wald

    There are probably a billion economic refugees who would be rowing across the oceans if it was pragmatically possible.

  • Ocelot Aardvark

    Then you already have put the Mark of the Beast (the lawless one) in your own forehead and hand.

    And you’re already deluded beyond redemption. – 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

  • billwald

    Must have gotten “unsaved” some time in the last 50 years. Should have used my tithes for eating, drinking, and being merry.

  • Ron Richardson

    The refugees at our southern border isn’t pragmatically possible for US citizens.
    All of the liberals and Democrats spew hate toward our President because of this impossible situation, saying he isn’t displaying WWJD and thus must be racist. It reminds me of an episode of Andy Griffith, when Aunt Bea was campaigning for county clerk, promising everything under the sun, making Howard Spragg look like he didn’t care for the citizens. Well, they had a debate and during that, Howard laid out the expense of Bea’s promises and showing that it was fiscally impossible. That’s what would happen if those thousands of refugees were allowed in. A rock thrown into a pond causes ripples which spread out and affects the whole pond. This would be like throwing a boulder.
    Furthermore, how many of these liberals, or Democrats have offered to open their homes doors to sponsor a refugee family,? Or, at the very least donated some of their time and money to help out?
    As for Pratt’s prayer, I don’t think he was being “snarky” at all when he asked God to give Trump wisdom,(it doesn’t automatically imply that he lacks wisdom)all Presidents need great wisdom to govern the most powerful nation in the world, especially Trump because of the constant resistance he gets from the left on every move he makes.

  • Ron Richardson

    Just like in the Old Testament, they’re still killing God’s Prophets. They spout Jesus while still acting like the pharisee’s Jesus was chastising

  • Ron Richardson

    Mark Van Steenwyk…you’re a false witness, beguiling your readership. Mark 9:42 [ Jesus Warns of Offenses ] “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.

  • Ocelot Aardvark

    Could be. Worshiping the Beast, as you have herewith admitted, didn’t just happen with the rise of TЯ卐m₽. There have been many “beasts” down through history … but not until this time around has a beast had access to a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying the entire planet and all life as prophesied in the Scriptures.

    Even if you can’t find it in your heart to love your neighbor (and that includes caged children at the Border) you could at least show some respect for God’s Holy Creation, which your Obscene-Orange-Idol has bent over backwards to destroy.

    Supporting, condoning, defending, praising and worshiping TЯ卐m₽ >–> the Beast makes you just as guilty of his crimes as he is.

  • billwald

    I was only trying to make the point that it a defended border that defines a nation. The barbarians are at the gates and they outnumber us maybe 200 to 1. We only see the end of the funnel.

  • billwald

    Ah, but the church has long taught that our Bible is all we need to know. Christianity has a 1700 or so year history of false prophets, many of them in the late 19th and 20th century. Every one of them claims to be to be speaking for God but none produce miracles . . . or do magic. I’m waiting for Jesus to return and bail us out. Or for his miracle-maker.

  • Ron Richardson

    My sincerest apologies billwald

  • James Elliott

    We do have a run on false prophets, don’t we? I could name off a few that are leading many astray currently, and they are very good at using the Bible. But overall, especially when the Church is at her best, it isn’t stated that the “Bible is all we need to know.” John Wesley, the founder of Methodism for instance, taught that we not only need Scripture but reason, tradition and experience to round things out. The Catholic Church at one point went to the other extreme of keeping the Scriptures out of the hands of laity and emphasized the place of trained clergy interpreting and teaching (of course that backfired with Martin Luther, lol)
    As far as waiting for Jesus to return…my concern is that a lot of evangelicals are doing just that instead of call out their false prophets. Or worse, try to force Jesus’s return by ruining the planet, backing clearly non-Christian politicians, etc.