Platt, Trump, Falwell and Maybe Some Others

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Sorry to be late to this particular party, but this is one hopping circus, and it is hard to keep track of all the trapeze artists. I mean, some go this way while the others are going that way.

So what happened was this. I summarize, and do so with the need for brevity in mind. David Platt is the pastor of McLean Bible Church. During the course of their worship services a week or so ago, he got word that the president of the United States was going to drop in, and that he had requested prayer. The president would be there in a few minutes. Trump then appeared on stage, Platt introduced his prayer with a reference to the first part of 1 Tim. 2, prayed for the president in a thoroughly biblical way, who clearly appreciated it, but who then left without comment. In the aftermath of all this, Platt issued a letter to his congregation explaining how it had all happened, and what his prayer did and did not mean with regard to partisan politics. Platt wrote that letter because some of the members of MBC were “hurt” by Platt’s decision to pray for the president, and according to the letter were hurt for a “variety of valid reasons.” Because this situation was not yet festive enough, Jerry Falwell, Jr. then tweeted the following: “Sorry to be crude but pastors like [David Platt] need to grow a pair. Just saying.” Falwell then faced backlash from some in his community for talking like that, and he responded that he was not a minister anyhow, and proceeded to brag a little bit about what a happening place Liberty University is. And then, keeping in the spirit of people around here not having grown a pair, he deleted his tweet.

Now David Platt was confronted with the ultimate in “think fast” moments, and by and large he acquitted himself well. He thought immediately of the right passage to apply, and he applied it. He did what the Bible said to do, and he did it straight up the middle. All that was good, and no biblical Christian should have any complaint about it.

The second wave of events had to do with his letter to his congregation. In that letter, he stood by his decision, he did not walk his decision back, and he did not apologize for his decision. All that is to the good as well. In a circumstance like that, he would be guilty of pastoral malpractice if he did not communicate with his congregation, and it would have been really bad if he had apologized for his obedience to 1 Tim. 2.

So is there any fly in the McLean ointment at all then? Yeah, well, there is one thing. And unfortunately, it is the very thing that is rotting out the soul of the evangelical church, and in the early forms of it, it can be hard to detect. But however small, clear manifestations of this problem are plain in his letter.

“I wanted to share all of this with you in part because I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision. This weighs heavy on my heart. I love every member of this church, and I only want to lead us with God’s Word in a way that transcends political party and position, heals the hurts of racial division and injustice, and honors every man and woman made in the image of God. So while I am thankful that we had an opportunity to obey 1 Timothy 2 in a unique way today, I don’t want to purposely ever do anything that undermines the unity we have in Christ.”

Notice that Platt did not say that “some within our church, for a variety of reasons, disagree with the decision I made.” That would represent a Christian disagreement, a Christian argument, and it would be an argument worth having. You can answer reasons with reasons, but you can’t really answer hurts with reasons. And so Platt did what everybody feels like you have to do in the presence of hurt feelings nowadays, which is validate them. “For a variety of valid reasons . . .”

The third complicating factor in all this was Falwell’s grenade. When he was called on it, by someone who mistook Falwell for a minister, Falwell defended himself by saying that he had not disgraced the ministry by saying this because he was not a minister. But actually, this misses the point drastically. It is correct that Falwell is not a minister, but that is not the point. Platt is a minster. When Paul was informed that he had called the high priest a whitewashed wall, he immediately retracted his comment (Acts 23:5). Falwell ought to do more than simply delete the tweet—he should acknowledge that he shouldn’t have said it. And because he knew that Platt was a faithful and ordained minister of the Word, he should seek forgiveness for it.

But with all that said, I would urge David Platt and his elders to consider whether or not there is a takeaway point for their congregation in all this. A significant portion of the congregation at McLean Bible Church has clearly been affected by the great sin of our age, which is the sin of measuring everything by our feelings. Platt said in his letter that his desire is for the gospel to heal “the hurts of racial division and injustice.” Yes, but the wounds are what must be healed; they are not the measuring stick by which we determine what must be healed, and how. Wounds are the wounds, not the diagnosticians. Bruises are bruises, not doctors. Cuts are gashes, not medicine.

Every last saint at McLean Bible Church might have been deeply hurt by Platt’s action of praying for the president, and it would still have been the right thing to do. Every last person there could have been profoundly grieved by it, and 1 Tim 2 nevertheless outranks them all. The proper exegesis of that passage is like math—it doesn’t care about our feelings. And this is why there are no valid reasons for being upset if your pastor is being way more obedient than you are.

If you disagree with this, then marshal your arguments, muster your verses, and go have a talk with your pastor. But make no reference whatever to the hurt that you felt. There is no call for that kind of juke move in such a situation. That is not asking your pastor a question, and it is not challenging him with a legitimate disagreement. It is nothing but an attempt to manipulate him, and we need less of that, not more.