Three years ago, I wrote a post on those Christians who believed that Donald Trump was God's Chosen One as indicated by the fact that his election in 2016 was a fulfillment of prophecy. This was the argument of Pentecostal Christians like Stephen Strang, the publisher of the Pentecostal magazine Charisma. Before the election of 2020, Strang publicized the new prophecies that God had foreordained Trump's reelection. Last March, Strang apologized for this mistake. "There were a number of prophets who were very certain that Trump would be elected," he explained. He continued: "I hope that you'll give me the grace--and Charisma Media the grace--of missing this, in a manner of speaking." As reported in The New York Times, Strang has written a new book--God and Cancel Culture--warning that "there are people who want to cancel Christianity," but the book is silent about his mistaken prophecies.
So where did Strang and the other fundamentalist Christians who believed Trump was ordained by God go wrong? As I indicated in my post on Strang's book God and Donald Trump, there are two issues here--the interpretation of the Bible and the interpretation of the American founding.
Some of the Trump prophets saw a connection between the 45th chapter of Isaiah and Trump becoming the 45th president of the United States. In that chapter of Isaiah, God spoke to the Persian leader Cyrus as His "anointed one," although God said "you do not know me." They saw this as suggesting that just as God used Cyrus, He could use Trump to bring America back to God even though Trump himself is not a Christian believer.
There are lots of problems with this interpretation of the Bible. For example, God used the pagan leader Nebuchadnezzar as "the servant of the Most High God" to punish Judah by taking them into the very Babylonian captivity from which Cyrus would later liberate them (Jeremiah 25). So if God is using Trump, we can't be sure whether Trump is to be America's savior (like Cyrus) or America's punishment (like Nebuchadnezzar).
The second issue for the Christian Trump supporters is whether they are right in their interpretation of the American founding. The idea that God would anoint Trump to save America assumes that God has taken America under His providential care as His Chosen People, just as He cared for ancient Israel. The Christian Trumpists might argue that the American founders established America as a Christian nation specially chosen by God. After all, the Declaration of Independence appeals to God as the Creator, the Supreme Judge of the world, and the Providential Caregiver for America. So why shouldn't God miraculously intervene in history to support Trump?
But as I have noted in a previous post, Thomas Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration of Independence has only one reference to a deity--"Nature's God"--which is the naturalistic divinity of Lucretius, Spinoza, and perhaps Darwin. This is the mysterious First Cause of nature, the ultimate source of nature's laws that never acts outside those natural laws to exercise any supernatural power.
If America's God is Nature's God, we can know that this God would never anoint Donald Trump to save America, because this God exercises no miraculous powers of providential intervention into history.
Against this, American fundamentalist Christians insist that America's God is the God of the Bible understood as the literal Revelation of God's will. There is plenty of evidence, however, that most of the Americans of the Founding generation did not believe in this Biblical God. There is also growing evidence that most Americans are moving back towards the deistic religion of Jefferson and the other Founders, a religion that explains the world as governed by the laws of nature that can be known by natural science, including the evolutionary science of human nature and human history.
Those who believe in Nature's God feel no need to participate in religious ceremonies of worship, to pray for God's providential care, or to expect eternal salvation or condemnation in the afterlife, because all of this falsely assumes a divine power--the Biblical God--acting outside of the laws of nature as known by natural science.
The number of Americans who believe in the Biblical God can be measured by tracking membership in religious bodies and participation in religious ceremonies. Recently, Lyman Stone has published a report that surveys the data for this over 300 years of American history. He shows that the percentage of Americans who are members of religious bodies hit a high of about 70% in 1720, declined to 20% to 30% in 1800, and then began rising over 150 years and hit a high of about 75% in 1960, but then has steadily declined to about 50% in 2020 (see page 12 of his report). Notice that the lowest ebb of American religiosity was during the founding period (1770 to 1800). So the recent decline in religiosity in America could be interpreted as a return to the Nature's God of the Founding.
Another piece of evidence for this is that as recently reported, the majority of Americans now believe that human beings arose by natural evolution from earlier forms of life, which denies the literal interpretation of the Bible, particularly Genesis 1-11. The surveys clearly indicate this because the primary reason for Americans rejecting evolution is religious fundamentalism, which is measured by how people answer five questions. (1) They agree that "There is a personal God that hears the prayers of individuals." (2) They agree that "The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally." (3) They report that they usually attend at least one religious service in a typical week. (4) They report that they pray at least once in a typical week. (5) And they agree that "We depend too much on science and not enough on faith."
Still, one might argue that it is possible to accept both the Bible and evolution, both the Biblical God and Nature's God, by saying that the God of the Bible has chosen to work His creative power through the laws of natural evolution. That's the argument for "theistic evolution" or "evolutionary creation," the position adopted by people like C. S. Lewis, Francis Collins, and Deborah Haarsma.
But as I have suggested in a previous post, the problem with this position is that one is forced to distinguish between those parts of the Bible that must be read literally and those parts that are not literal. So the evolutionary creationist will say that while the six-day creation story is not literally true, the Bible's teaching that God is our Creator and Savior who hears our prayers and who will resurrect us to eternal life really is literally true. The fact that faithful Christians cannot agree about this--what is literal in the Bible and what is not--indicates the failure of Biblical revelation.
If the Biblical God has not clearly revealed Himself, then we are left with Nature's God, who has revealed himself through the natural order of things.