Now we would like to tell you about someone we think is very dangerous to the Party. Our team calls him The Bible King.
This guy, as we’ll eventually explain, is well positioned to begin to lead America’s Christians on an exodus out of the minimalist corner. But, just like the Drollinger Dude, he will have to begin to take much more seriously the reality that, if Christianity is the story we are in, then your God is the Great Storyteller.
And we’re so grateful to Donald Trump for introducing him to us.
As we explained earlier, we had originally believed Donald Trump was pointing the finger in the right direction at the source of America’s troubles…
Look at the state of the world right now. It’s a terrible mess, and that’s putting it mildly. There has never been a more dangerous time. The politicians and special interests in Washington, DC, are directly responsible for the mess we are in.Donald Trump, From the Amazon.com page description for Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again
But then we eventually changed our thinking and began to see that this guy actually saw things more clearly…
Now we come to the big question Christians are asking: What do we do in light of the devolution of society around us? When we ask the question in that way, we betray a misunderstanding of the problem. We mistakenly think the problem is outside us— that it originates with the non-Christian population.
David Jeremiah, I Never Thought I’d See the Day!
David Jeremiah. That’s the guy.
And now we really agree with him. The Christians in America are the problem and your love crisis is the canary in America’s coal mine.
So, because the Bible King was so perceptive about where your troubles ultimately came from, it also makes sense that he called it right about Donald Trump becoming your president…
If you should become president, and I believe you will, and I’m already praying that you will…David Jeremiah, Quoted in Transcript: Donald Trump’s closed-door meeting with evangelical leaders, by Jon Ward, Senior Political Correspondent, Yahoo! News, June 22, 2016
Wow. Since most of your nation was betting against Trump, that was pretty amazing.
So our team began to try to get a better sense of who this Bible King was and how he came to be connected with Donald Trump.
And it led us in a number of directions – including the now more famous than ever Christian preacher, teacher, leader, celebrity star, Paula White.
You see, on September 28, 2015, a group of Christian leaders met with Donald Trump in his office at Trump Tower in New York City, at a meeting pulled together by Paula White. And at that meeting Paula White prayed the following blessing over Donald Trump…
Father, we just secure him right now by the blood of Jesus. We thank you that no weapon formed against him will be able to prosper. And any tongue that rises against him will be condemned according to the word of God.
So, no matter what any of Donald Trump’s opponents try in order to bring his Quest to an end, Paula White said it won’t work.
But Paula Wong showed us this passage, and we wonder if it is in play instead of what Paula White proclaimed…
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”
Anyway, our team discovered that a similar meeting had taken place in 2011…
Pastor Paula White and Donald Trump are teaming up to host a private meeting with Christian leaders in New York this week.
The Thursday meeting has been billed as a “time of dialogue & leadership with Mr. Trump,” who is seriously considering a run for the presidency in the 2012 election.Donald Trump, Paula White Rallying Christian Support?, By Lillian Kwon, Christian Post, May 11, 2011
And her connection with the Donald went back even further, to at least 2007…
Paula White recently purchased a Trump Towers condo in New York City valued at $3.5 million. According to the accounting firm that handles the church’s finances, the White’s “were approved to take (an annual salary) up to $3 million collectively” from the church.Paula White’s Desperate Moment, by Paul Edwards. Townhall, October 16, 2007
And Donald Trump is a big fan of Paula White, whom he endorsed on her website in the following manner…
“Paula White is not only a beautiful person both inside and out, she has a significant message to offer anyone who will tune in and pay attention. She has amazing insight and the ability to deliver that message clearly as well as powerfully.” –Donald J. Trump
So when we found out about the friendship between them, we weren’t surprised to see that she prayed such a blessing over Donald Trump.
But what did surprise us was another prayer at that meeting in 2015, by a far more significant Christian leader in America — a famous American pastor named David Jeremiah.
Well actually, Dr. David Jeremiah. He has one of those honorary doctorates, like the kind Jerry Falwell Jr. gave to Donald Trump.
When we first read about the meeting hosted by Paula White we didn’t know who he was, so one of our team members did a search on the internet and found this on Wikipedia:
David Paul Jeremiah (born February 13, 1941) is a conservative evangelical Christian author, televangelist, and currently the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, an evangelical megachurch in El Cajon, California, a suburb of San Diego.
And to our pleasant surprise, our team member also came across a page on his website for what is called the Jeremiah Study Bible, the release of which was celebrated in December of 2013 at an evening at Madison Square Garden in New York City, attended by none other than… the Donald!
NEW YORK — Dr. David Jeremiah’s fans and friends turned out Thursday night at New York City’s Madison Square Garden to help the California pastor celebrate the release of his Jeremiah Study Bible, the culmination of his 40-plus years in ministry. Joining special guests like NYC’s own Donald Trump were out of town church groups, local couples and even a few teens who weren’t too shy to tell CP what impressed them most about the show — Kari Jobe and MercyMe.David Jeremiah Draws Thousands to NYC for ‘Night of Celebration’ Marking Release of ‘Jeremiah Study Bible’, BY NICOLA MENZIE , CHRISTIAN POST, December 7, 2013
And here’s a link to a picture of Donald Trump with David Jeremiah that night… oh… and another one of them with their wives…
And we thought at first the Jeremiah Study Bible might, for some reason, be named after the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, but then one of our team showed us that instead, it was named after David Jeremiah himself.
And when we first looked on the web page where he presents the Jeremiah Study Bible, this is what we saw that he allowed to be said about himself and the study Bible…
This extraordinary Bible is the result of 40 years of study by the most widely viewed and respected Bible teacher in the world today. This legacy resource will be the standard for decades to come.
But now it looks like they changed it to read…
Drawing on more than 40 years of study, Dr. David Jeremiah has compiled a legacy resource that will make an eternal impact on generations to come!
Of course, the last sentence in that first description of David Jeremiah and his “extraordinary Bible” confused us a bit, because we thought Christians believed Jesus could return any time — so the “will be” should maybe be “may be”? — … but whatever, because when we saw that description, we knew right away that we had come upon a treasure.
You see, according to David Jeremiah, he is like, well, the equivalent of Robert McKee in the world of story! Which is wow, because … Robert McKee really is the Story King.
And now… We had found the Bible King.
Thank you, Donald Trump.
In that meeting with Donald Trump, the Bible King revealed something very wonderful in his prayer for the Donald. Here’s the story we found about the prayer…
A video clip from the meeting posted to YouTube Wednesday (see below), shows Trump receiving those prayers with both his hands gripped firmly on what appears to be a Bible.
“Today we pray for Donald Trump. We pray for his family. We pray for his associates. We pray that what he has heard today from those who have spoken into his life, he will consider. Lord I pray you will bring into his life a strong African-American who can stand with him and represent that community so that his voice can be heard even in a stronger way there,” declared Jeremiah.
Shortly before making that request of God he noted that Trump “not only says what he believes but is willing to put himself in jeopardy for what he believes and will help us economically and spiritually in every way in this nation.“
After asking God to give Trump hope and direction, he noted, “Lord thank you for allowing us to be here for this special moment. Perhaps we’ll look back on this day and remember that we stood together and we prayed over the next president of the United States.”
On hearing that Trump is shown in the video quietly tapping Jeremiah’s hand planted on his shoulder in apparent approval.David Jeremiah Asks God to Send Donald Trump a ‘Strong African-American’ to Help Him With the Black Vote (VIDEO), By Leonardo Blair, Christian Post, October 1, 2015
And here’s the video, which begins with the prayer by David Jeremiah:
Wow! What a revealing prayer!
The first thing which caught our attention is how highly the Bible King thinks of Donald Trump. Look again at what he said about the Donald — that Trump “not only says what he believes but is willing to put himself in jeopardy for what he believes and will help us economically and spiritually in every way in this nation.“
Wait — what?
The Bible King said — and it appears he believed it — that Donald Trump will help Americans “spiritually in every way in this nation.”
And that was said in the very sentence where the Bible King asserted that Donald “says what he believes.”
He was joking, right?
Didn’t he know that Donald was and is a liar? An amazing liar. A very public liar. Now one of the most the most famous liars in history.
And didn’t the Bible King know that Donald Trump is a living illustration of someone who is heading the opposite direction of the focus/Quest which the King of Kings has commanded human beings to pursue?
And look what one of my team members found which the Bible King had written…
These unprecedented times demand unprecedented discernment from Christians. I don’t know what the future holds, but my commitment to God is to do whatever I can to bring biblical light to bear on these challenging times. My prayerful goal is to have the same discerning spirit as did “the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what [the people of God] ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).David Jeremiah, I Never Thought I’d See the Day!
It just didn’t make sense that if the Bible King had such a desire for “unprecedented discernment” he would then pray for Trump in the way which he did.
We were very confused!
After all, in his “extraordinary” Bible, he writes this about pride…
Sinful pride is taking our eyes off of God and all He has done for us and preoccupying ourselves instead with our appearance, possessions, attributes, or accomplishments.Dr. David Jeremiah, The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV: What It Says. What It Means. What It Means For You
That sounds a lot like Donald Trump.
So wait. Did that mean the Bible King didn’t know Trump’s story or understand his Quest?
If so, how could the Bible King fail to understand and discern Donald Trump?
We understand how someone like Jerry Falwell Jr., with his desire for greatness, would fall not so well for Donald Trump. It’s all connected to that key question, “What do you really want?”
But the Bible King? How could that be?
Well, our team thinks there is actually an explanation for it… which has to do with the method the Bible King uses to introduce people to the Bible. And as we’ll show you, this method ends up inadvertently shifting the focus from their King of Kings to the people themselves…
… and as a result, they end up in the dangerous minimalist corner of the story triangle.
And the wonderful
thing about all this, is that this method has spread among churches and
Christian organizations throughout the United States. And now our team calls it…
The Trump Bible Study Method
The place to begin is to think again about how Donald Trump has responded to greatest commandment. He pushed it away and instead focused on himself. It’s about him.
And now we’ll show you how the approach the Bible King and so many other Christian preachers and Bible teachers take to introducing people to the Bible inadvertently turns the focus in the wrong direction.
Because… it shifts the focus away from the King of Kings…
… to me…
… to I.
It’s a lot like what our version of the human story does!
As we’ll explain later in this report, in our version of the human story, we are each the central protagonist in our own personal stories.
There is no outside active protagonist. We’re it.
Sure, there are other characters we interact with as our story unfolds, but each of us is the center of the story.
Consider how our famous story ally in America, Sam Harris, wrote about why we do what we do…
Everything we do is for the purpose of altering consciousness. We form friendships so that we can feel certain emotions, like love, and avoid others, like loneliness. We eat specific foods to enjoy their fleeting presence on our tongues. We read for the pleasure of thinking another person’s thoughts. Every waking moment—and even in our dreams—we struggle to direct the flow of sensation, emotion, and cognition toward states of consciousness that we value.Drugs and the Meaning of Life, by Sam Harris, June 4, 2014
And as we were looking at that, one of our team members said, “Hey, let’s substitute ‘I’ for ‘we’!” So we did…
Everything I do is for the purpose of altering consciousness. I form friendships so that I can feel certain emotions, like love, and avoid others, like loneliness. I eat specific foods to enjoy their fleeting presence on our tongues. I read for the pleasure of thinking another person’s thoughts. Every waking moment—and even in our dreams—I struggle to direct the flow of sensation, emotion, and cognition toward states of consciousness that I value.
So, for our good friend Sam, life is the ultimate selfie!
And so, when we saw this…
“The existentialists were trying to find out not just what does something mean, but what does it mean for me.”Professor Abe Lucas, played by Joaquin Phoenix, in Woody Allen’s film, Irrational Man, 2015
…that sounded a lot like this…
Each page of the Bible is a discipleship manual telling us how to live. … Bible study should be practical, applicable, and livable. Know what the Scriptures say, interpret God’s Word wisely, and put it into practice constantly, always asking yourself: What does it mean for today? What does it mean for me?David Jeremiah, How to Study the Bible
…which sure seems to fit with the following focus of Donald Trump…
The most important influence on me, growing up, was my father, Fred Trump. …. From as early as I can remember, my father would say to me, “The most important thing in life is to love what you’re doing, because that’s the only way you’ll ever be really good at it.”Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal
The most important thing in life?
If Christianity is true, that goes in the opposite direction from the Quest which the King of Kings has commanded human beings to pursue.
It’s so Donald!
And look at these…
Instead of asking whether God expects something from us or has any divine commands for us, we judge religious expectations by what we want, by whether a religion fits into our lifestyle. ….And usually it goes beyond subjectivity – which is trying to see a truth from different points of view – to the far more variable, trivial, and inconsequential world of opinion and preference. It’s not about truth any more. It’s about what I want.Andrew Stephen Damick, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy
Many Christians are even more delusional than the person I’ve been describing. So many of us think and live like the movie of life is all about us.Francis Chan, Crazy Love
And Paula showed us this, which appears to be relevant…
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
And then she showed us this…
Many in the church can sniff out—even refute—relativism. We’ve been handed enough apologetic tools and basic reasoning skills to dismantle the notion that truth is subjective. Expressive individualism, however, is more insidious. It allows us to appear as if we’re worshiping God, when in reality we’re bowing to the god of self. It acknowledges the power of Jesus, but convinces us that he intends to use his power to further our own self-centered goals and aspirations. It agrees we can be certain about truth, but points to our own hearts as the source.
It’s sobering to think about the church’s collusion with this framework. Rather than pushing back against individualism, congregations often subtly encourage it. When we center everything, from Sundays to small groups, on the individual experience, we stoke the fire of self-worship. If we’re not careful, we can betray the message that “Christ is king” with a method that says, “Actually, you are.”Starting Churches in a ‘Follow Your Heart’ Age, By Matt Hodges, The Gospel Coalition, JUNE 18, 2019
It appears Donald Trump may have been influenced by Norman Vincent Peale, the famous pastor of the church he grew up in…
Trump is impious, but he doesn’t reject faith. Instead, he returns it to the roots of Christian business conservatism, which is where he has been all along: Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 best seller, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Since Trump announced his candidacy, he has been talking about Peale, “my minister for years” (Peale died in 1993), but long before that — before he began declaring “nothing beats the Bible, not even ‘The Art of the Deal’ ” — the book that beat them all for Trump was Peale’s. In Iowa, Trump held up the Bible his mother gave him, but “Positive Thinking” Trump inherited from his developer father, Fred. Peale, Trump recently told a reporter, “thought I was his greatest student of all time.”
“Positive Thinking” isn’t about serving God; it’s about “applied Christianity,” using God to achieve “a perfected and amazing method of successful living.”eDonald Trump, American Preacher, by Jeff Sharlet, New York Times Magazine, April 12, 2016
And look at this…
Many Christians critiqued Peale, including Episcopalian theologian John Krumm who saw that Peale had reduced God to a force and made Christianity self-centered rather than God-centered. “Very little is said about the sovereign mind and purpose of God; much is made of the things men can say to themselves and can do to bring about their ambitions and purposes.”The False Teachers: Norman Vincent Peale, by Tim Challies, Challies.com, April 2, 2014
Trump is so like the focus of our version of the human story.
So now, let’s take a closer look at the mistake the American Christians appear to have made, which has led them further into the minimalist corner.
Of course, if our version of the story we are in is true, ultimately there are no mistakes.
Because it’s all meaningless.
Here is how the Bible King explains his method of introducing people to the Bible on the web page where he introduces his Jeremiah Study Bible…
I want people to understand what the Bible says, what it means, and what it means for them. These three things are central in my thinking when I prepare to preach, and they serve as the framework for the structure of this entire Bible.
First, I want to help people understand what the Bible says—and particularly, what it said in its original context. … The first thing anyone should do is read the Bible for what it is and for what it says.
Second, it’s important to talk about what Scripture means. How do I interpret what I’m reading? …. A student of the Word of God should never stray too far from “what it means.”
Third, I ask, “What does it mean for me?” and then I try to help God’s people understand what it means for them. …. Application is at the heart of my approach to ministry and to the Word, and it is what helps seal the Word in people’s lives, by the power of the Holy Spirit.Web Page for the Jeremiah Study Bible
So you see what’s happening there? Look where the focus shifts to – “Application is at the heart of my approach”
At the heart.
And that means the focus does not end up on the King of Kings, but on us. It sounds a lot like where things focus in our version of the human story. So consider again what the Bible King writes at the end of How to Study the Bible:
Each page of the Bible is a discipleship manual telling us how to live. Every passage of Scripture has one correct interpretation but many applications. We can never exhaust the impact of a Bible verse, and it will never fail to improve our conduct as we put it into practice. Bible study should be practical, applicable, and livable. Know what the Scriptures say, interpret God’s Word wisely, and put it into practice constantly, always asking yourself: What does it mean for today? What does it mean for me?
While Jesus said you should be focused on loving God with incredible intensity of your whole being, the Bible King’s approach inadvertently shifts the focus to the people themselves…
“What does it mean for me?”
If Christianity is true, that’s not an illegitimate question. But asking it to play such a prominent role pulls their primary attention away from the Quest they’ve been given…
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
But, we get it how
that self-centered focus – “What does it mean for me?” – fits with our deep
desire for the good life. People want the restoration of human flourishing
which was lost in the inciting incident in the story.
Yet, you may want to consider this, from one of your famous Christian philosphers…
Every person, and every society, lives with or by some conception (s) of what human flourishing is: What constitutes a fulfilled life? What makes life really worth living? What would we most admire people for? We can’t help asking these and related questions in our lives. And our struggles to answer them define the view or views that we try to live by, or between which we hover. At another level, these views are codified, sometimes in philosophical theories, sometimes in moral codes, sometimes in religious practices and devotion. These and the various ill-formulated practices which people around us engage in constitute the resources that our society offers each one of us as we try to lead our lives.Charles Taylor, A Secular Age
Another way of getting at something like the issue raised above in terms of within/without is to ask: does the highest, the best life involve our seeking, or acknowledging, or serving a good which is beyond, in the sense of independent of human flourishing? In which case, the highest, most real, authentic or adequate human flourishing could include our aiming (also) in our range of final goals at something other than human flourishing. I say “final goals”, because even the most self-sufficing humanism has to be concerned with the condition of some nonhuman things instrumentally, e.g., the condition of the natural environment. The issue is whether they matter also finally. It’s clear that in the Judaeo-Christian religious tradition the answer to this question is affirmative. Loving, worshipping God is the ultimate end. Of course, in this tradition God is seen as willing human flourishing, but devotion to God is not seen as contingent on this. The injunction “Thy will be done” isn’t equivalent to “Let humans flourish”, even though we know that God wills human flourishing.
God wills ordinary human flourishing, and a great part of what is reported in the Gospels consists in Christ making this possible for the people whose afflictions he heals. The call to renounce doesn’t negate the value of flourishing; it is rather a call to centre everything on God, even if it be at the cost of forgoing this unsubstitutable good; and the fruit of this forgoing is that it become on one level the source of flourishing to others, and on another level, a collaboration with the restoration of a fuller flourishing by God. It is a mode of healing wounds and “repairing the world” (I am here borrowing the Hebrew phrase tile/tun olam).Charles Taylor, A Secular Age
This means that flourishing and renunciation cannot simply be collapsed into each other to make a single goal, by as it were, pitching the renounced goods over. board as unnecessary ballast on the journey oflife, in the manner ofStoicism. There remains a fundamental tension in Christianity. Flourishing is good, nevertheless seeking it is not our ultimate goal.
So we started thinking… if people were made for a love relationship with God and he has commanded them to love him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength…
… then anything which diverts their focus from that Quest is dangerous and damaging, right?
…if the Bible is God’s main means of communication to human beings…
… What if any method of introducing people to the Bible which diverts their focus from that Quest is dangerous and damaging?
At least, that is what our team is thinking about. And here are some descriptions our team found of how that shifting of attention takes place…
If all we draw from Bible study are proverb-like teachings for daily living, then we are approaching the Scriptures as if we’re at the center. …. The problem is, if we jump too quickly to application in our teaching, over time we create self-absorbed readers who skim the Scriptures in search of personal application rather than the primary meaning of the text. We start seeing the Bible as if it were a self-help book, designed to enhance our current way of living.Trevin Wax, Gospel Centered Teaching
The Bible is basically a story about God. When we turn to the Bible as a self-help book, we end up bored or frustrated with what seems to be a rambling collection of stories. What if the Bible is more about God than it is about us? How thrilling to discover that every element of scripture—the reports of events, the verses of distilled wisdom, the lyrical prophecies—converge in one central saga of one worthy Person.The Story of His Glory, by Steven C. Hawthorne, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement
Lenny: You started your sermon with the question, What is God like? You started with a theological question to frame your message. I have heard you preach on many occasions and it seems to me one of your preaching goals is to help people see what God is like. Some preachers focus so much on giving people life-application advice that they don’t say much about God. You, on the other hand, seem to be convinced that preaching is theological, that it should reveal something about God that actually reveals God in the moment the words are spoken. Is this theological preaching emphasis intentional or accidental?
Steve: It’s intentional. In my opinion, most sermons fail because, in the end, the preacher did not have anything interesting (or new) to say about God. Think about that! The heavens cannot contain him, yet a preacher can’t think of something interesting to say about him. How often is that true? Our congregation sends us up the mountain every week, to get for them a word from the Lord, and so often we come down with a handful of practical tips to make their lives a little easier. I don’t think that’s what they want. Yet we are so busy that we sometimes forget we are the resident theologians and the resident scholars of our churches. There is no one in our churches who knows God and theology; who understands grace and the human condition more than the preacher. I think our preaching must reflect that because our people will not go any deeper than our preaching.Restoring The Future, Interview With Dr. Steve DeNeff, Wesleyan Sermons, May 2, 2011
But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the Bible King would make use of such an approach. We saw how the Bible King fails to see the deep difference in intensity between what Jesus said about loving God and loving other people…
Jesus taught that people must love one another, but they must love Him more. This is a remarkable claim that shows what great importance Jesus placed on the supreme allegiance of His disciples. Taking one’s “cross” does not mean tolerating some unpleasant situation in one’s life for Jesus’ sake. It means dying to self, namely: putting Jesus first. In this sense every disciple bears the same cross.Notes on Matthew, By Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Sonic Light
… and ends up making the two the equivalent of each other…
We all know that we are to love God, but exactly how are we supposed to do that? Jesus answered the question like this: we love God by loving the people He created. Jesus taught that loving the least among His brothers was the same as loving Him (Matthew 25:40). In fact, He goes so far as to say that the entire Bible is summarized by these two commands … to love God and love our neighbors. No wonder God’s Word has so much to say about caring for the poor and needy!David Jeremiah, Signs of Life: Back to the Basics of Authentic Christianity
So, if Christianity is true, then it looks like the Bible King is missing something big.
If you look at the
Bible through the lens of the classical design of story, you recognize that
while loving other people is part of what it means to love God, there is a bigger picture in play.