Did Evangelicalism Help Formulate Trump’s Views on Abortion?

Apr 10, 2024 by David Fowler

Did Evangelicalism Help Formulate Trump’s Views on Abortion?
On Monday, Donald Trump released a video putting forward his position on abortion. It was predicated on six religious precepts as best I could tell. Each reminded me of something I see within the evangelical culture that protested his position. Did his religious precepts provide evangelicals an opportunity to re-examine what they believe? Here’s my re-examination.
Trump’s First Religious Statement
Trump opened his remarks with thoughts on in vitro fertilization (IVF). In that context he said IVF was “part of” what he called “the miracle of life.”
I suspect most Americans view IVF as a “miracle” of human ingenuity, not a “miracle” of divine or supernatural intervention. Science has taught us that matter or energy is all there is, and all things move according to fixed laws of nature. Those laws are the cause of various effects—the laws of sexual intercourse produce babies.
But experience tells us this is not so. Men and women have lots of sex and, even during periods of fertility, babies are not conceived. That is why IVF has become a billion-dollar industry.
The point is that all human life is a supernatural miracle. IVF and male-female intercourse are, in the terminology of Aristotle and consistent with Biblical theology, only the instrumental causes of conception. But the Triune God is the efficient cause, the Father bringing life through the Son by the Holy Spirit.[i]
A First Cause for Re-examination
Sadly, the Triune nature of God is seldom emphasized by evangelicals except in connection with salvation from Hell and an individualistic piety. But if evangelicals give up the Trinity as fundamental and critical to their understanding of all things, they have given up Christianity.
How is that so? If God the Father could not communicate the fullness of the divine being to the eternally existing Son in an absolute sense, which communication Scripture affirms, then communication of the image of God in a relative sense to creatures like us (and communication of the glory of God in the rest of creation) becomes impossible. All the talk by Christians about the image of God can only be a contentless mysticism.
Is God the Father really glorified if the relation of His Son and the Holy Spirit to all things is displaced in the Christian’s communication of why life is a miracle?
Are these two persons in the Godhead really irrelevant to Christians in the development of the pro-life position? If not, why is that so, and what does that say about what they believe about the nature of the cosmos and providence?
Is the pro-life position Christian or merely rationalistic?
Trump’s Second Religious Statement
Trump also referred to being on “the side of mothers, fathers, [and] their beautiful babies” and said childbearing is part of the “quest for the ultimate joy in life.” This is certainly a religiously imbued countercultural statement.
For decades the United States Supreme Court and our politicians have drilled into our heads that autonomy is the ultimate human telos, now even to the point of self-identifying the kind of being we are.
But having children is the antithesis of human autonomy. Every person comes into existence, into being, and into this world dependent on the acts of other persons.
A Second Cause for Re-examination
But it seems to me that a consequence of the emphasis on human autonomy may have contributed to a shift in the evangelical pro-life conversation away from this “ultimate joy” of man and woman as creatures who are, in principle, re-productive beings and, as such, reflective of the Triune God who produced all the things found in the beginning.
If conception is a miracle, then a man and a woman are joining with God in a miracle of creation that images the Triune nature of God, a unity within a differentiation of persons!
But it seems evangelicals (unlike most Catholic leaders) have a more muted view of childbearing, one that tends to favor contraception, planning, and material considerations, which, interestingly, are predicates for Planned Parenthood’s advocacy.
Can that commensuration between evangelicalism and Planned Parenthood really be good?
Trump’s Third Religious Statement

When Trump turned to the issue of abortion, he said, “At the end of the day it’s all about will of the people. That’s where we are right now, and that’s what we want. The will of the people.”

But the “will of the people” seems incongruous with the religious statements above.

How can this governing precept be reconciled with belief in a Triune God who chooses whether to bring a person into existence through the sperm and egg He chooses to join, which, of course, is His way of choosing the kinds of persons that are brought into existence?

A Third Cause for Re-examination

The two precepts—our will vis-à-vis God’s will—can easily be reconciled if our will—that of persons, individually or collectively—is considered ultimate compared to that of God.[ii]

Interestingly, much of evangelicalism and several evangelical denominations put the emphasis in salvation on human will as ultimate. They leave God standing by, idly and passively, waiting to see what human beings choose to do with Him.

Some evangelicals try to avoid this problem by saying God looks into the future to see who will make use of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and, based on that, God chooses to regenerate them. But this means God’s knowledge is dependent on something about us and in the future and, therefore, outside of Himself. God’s will is still dependent on us.

It seems to me that much of what evangelicalism teaches today about the relation between human beings and the Triune God is consistent with the will of the people being ultimate.
Trump’s Fourth and Most Fundamental Religious Statement
Finally, Trump said, “You must follow your heart on this issue, but remember, you must also win elections to restore our culture.”
There are three great religious statements in this one sentence, and I will skip straight to their relationship to evangelicalism.
Three Final Causes for Re-examination
No. 1. “Follow your heart” is a wonderful summation of the subjective theology within evangelicalism that tends not to focus first on objective truths about the nature of God and the relationship of His nature to what He created and its purpose. Its focus is subjective, on the individual.
Evangelicalism tends to treat doctrine and dogma about God and creation indifferently at best, and too often, as unnecessary, or even bad. After all, they might get in the way of a person’s subjective experience of God. They could even get in the way of someone choosing to exercise his or her will in favor of God.
This subjective “heart theology” bypasses a renewed mind that, with the regenerated heart, leads to a changed will.
Trump seems to be parroting what many evangelical preachers preach and evangelicals believe—follow your heart.
No. 2 “You must also win elections” is the pragmatism I see so often in the pro-life legal and policy world.
Pragmatism is pagan to the core. It puts the emphasis on what works, not what is true, just, and righteous, and it makes winning, not the glory of God, the objective.
Whatever evangelical preachers are preaching, and I’m speaking across denominational lines, it has not stemmed the tide of pragmatic politics among Christians in the fields of law and policy.
Perhaps evangelical preachers should be asking why pragmatism is so prevalent among the claimed faithful. I suspect it may have something to do with eschewing objective doctrine about God and creation for subjective emotional experiences of the heart.
No. 3. The foregoing will “restore culture.” To me, this is the religious capstone to Trump’s statement.
A subjective theology that eschews a sound doctrine of the Triune God and creation and leaves man’s will as ultimate (effectively displacing the sovereign providence of the Triune God in all things that take place) leaves culture a work strictly of man and his law.
When laws we enact, not the Triune God, shapes or restores culture, then you know evolutionary theory has swallowed our thinking as a nation. 
But do not evangelicals focus on winning elections to enact laws that they believe will shape or restore culture? Aren’t they thinking just like Trump and evolutionists?
Evangelicals may not like what Trump said, but their theology may have had a larger hand in its formulation than they will want to admit.

[i] Evangelicals don’t speak much of the Triune nature of God anymore, but He has a name, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” which is the name into which Christians are baptized. A “new name” for the people of God was among Isaiah prophecies pertaining to the Messiah (Isaiah 56:5, 62:2) Absent this distinction of persons, the God of Christianity is ontologically no different from Islam’s Allah or Judaism’s God.
[ii] The apparent conflict is reconciled if we realize eternity and time are not commensurate and don’t allow our thinking to be dominated by evolutionary concepts of cause and effect in a purely one-dimensional cosmos.

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