I generally do not deal with politics, but when a political issue or a political statement uses the Old Testament to make a point, I feel an urge to address the issue.
Take, for instance, this article by Jeff Brumley that was published in Baptist News Global:
Many Trump evangelicals worship ‘Old Testament God,’ researchers find
Eight years with a black president capped by state-by-state victories for same-sex marriage didn’t sit well with white evangelicals already feeling like victims in American society.
The result was a victory for Donald Trump last November.
While that may have seemed an obvious observation before, it’s now backed up by Baylor University research into the political, cultural and religious tenor of the American public.
“American Values, Mental Health and Using Technology in the Age of Trump” was released Sept. 7 during a presentation to the Religion Newswriters Association. It identifies a merger of new and traditional political and religious impulses polarizing the nation.
They have resulted in a new form of nationalism researchers call “Trumpism,” which combines pro-Christian, anti-feminist, anti-Islamic and anti-government attitudes with a propensity to fear Muslims and refugees. It is also marked by a strong belief that the U.S. is a Christian nation.
Many of the Americans who expressed those views in the survey also believe “in an authoritative, punishing and all-powerful God, and they also see God as a male,” Paul Froese, professor of sociology and director of Baylor Religion Surveys, told Baptist News Global.
“It’s a very Old Testament kind of God,” he said. Those Americans generally assume climate control is fake because God is in control.
“They believe natural disasters can be punishments and they most likely believe miracles can happen because God intervenes in human affairs.”
And many of them believe Trump’s election is a result of divine intervention.
Both the article and the statement by the Baylor professor are an almost direct attack on evangelicals. I am leaving Trump out of my criticism of the article because once I begin to talk about politics, there will be no end to the conversation. America is divided politically, and the first statement of the article reveals where the sentiments of the writer of the article and of the Baylor professor are. I will stay with religion.
The statement “Many Trump evangelicals worship ‘Old Testament God,’” is a statement by the writer of the article. The statement that evangelicals believe in “a very Old Testament kind of God,” is the statement by the Baylor professor.
But, how many gods are there? Isn’t the God of the Old Testament also the God of the New Testament? This kind of language which differentiates between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament is the kind of language used by New Testament Marcionites as Brent A. Strawn has clearly shown in his book The Old Testament Is Dying.
According to Strawn, New Testament Marcionites are people who take a disparaging attitude of how God is portrayed in the Old Testament. New Testament Marcionites reject the alien God of the Old Testament and accept the God of love whom Jesus revealed, forgetting that the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament.
Evangelicals do not worship the God of the Old Testament while those Christians who do not identify themselves as evangelicals worship the God of the New Testament. Let’s face it, Christians, both evangelicals and non-evangelicals, worship only one and the same God, for there is no other God: “I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5 RSV).
As someone who accepts the Old Testament as an integral part of the Christian scriptures, I refuse to accept this disparaging attitude toward the God of the Old Testament. In his book, Strawn declares that this attitude toward the God of the Old Testament is a form of New Marcionism. He wrote: “It is no exaggeration to say that Marcion’s ghost animates many people’s continued problem with the Old Testament (both within the church and without)” (Strawn 2017:121).
Any survey can be designed in such a way that the results can be almost predicted. I have not seen the original survey, but it seems to me that the survey was stacked against evangelicals, and the results seem to prove my point (see the graphics).
As for Trump, the article says it all.
Claude F. Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Brent A. Strawn, The Old Testament Is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2017.