A few days ago, Michael Horton wrote a piece for The Washington Post headlined as “Evangelicals should be deeply troubled by Donald Trump’s attempt to mainstream heresy.” This is certainly true, and I am troubled by it. On top of that, I appreciated the historical sketch of the Word of Faith movement that Horton laid out, along with his explanation of how the power of positive thinking movement, a la Peale, managed to team up with the Word of Faith people, thus creating an interesting comic book mutant kind of theology. The talons are the freaky part.
I am too Pauline in my thinking to go for any of that stuff—as the old saw has it, I find Paul appealing and Peale appalling. So I take Horton’s point. It is a good one. Well done.
But the thing I tripped over in Horton’s piece was this:
“Inaugurations are always curious rituals of American civil religion. It would not be surprising to see a non-Christian religious leader participating. But what’s problematic for me as an evangelical is how Trump’s ceremony is helping to mainstream this heretical movement.”
The point I would like to make here is not complicated, and so I will make it in just a couple of ways and then bow out. Horton’s article makes a great point, and the last person in the world who should be making it is Michael Horton.
Horton is a representative of R2K theology, which for many years has ceded the public square to every manner of heretic, non-Christian, agnostic, or Shriner. You can’t send out invitations to the party for several decades, and then be astonished when people who got the invitation actually show up for the party—not even if it is an inaugural party.
So Donald Trump is attempting to “mainstream” heresy. Is this bad? What should he be mainstreaming instead? Horton cannot complain about who is praying at the Inauguration unless and until he is prepared to tell us who should be praying there, and why. But the whole point of the R2K vibe is to “mainstream” absolutely everybody. Apparently Donald Trump found some exotic specimens. So?
At this late stage you cannot suddenly discover a difference between heresy and Heresy. What beliefs ought not to be mainstreamed at a presidential inauguration, and which ones should be? And what is the confessional basis for making this distinction?
The state of the church is a dismal one. Paula White will do what she does, and will likely not have to answer any tough questions. But neither will Michael Horton have to answer these questions. Just watch.