Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. seemed unimpressed by Pastor David Platt’s explanation of why he prayed alongside President Donald Trump during a worship service last Sunday.
“Sorry to be crude but pastors like @plattdavid need to grow a pair. Just saying,” said a Twitter message under Falwell’s name commenting on a story by conservative columnist and commentator Todd Starnes.
Starnes defended the former Southern Baptist Convention agency head after members of McLean Bible Church were reportedly “hurt” by Trump’s surprise appearance on a Sunday morning designated by evangelist Franklin Graham as a special day of prayer for the president.
Platt, until last year president of the SBC International Mission Board, received both praise and criticism for his handling of only a few minutes notice that the president of the United States was on his way and would like the church to pray for him.
Platt later posted a letter to church members sharing background for the benefit of “some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons” who were “hurt” by his decision to bring the president onstage for a three-minute prayer.
“This weighs heavy on my heart,” Platt wrote. “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.”
Starnes, who once worked as a reporter for Baptist Press and now comments for Fox News, described Platt’s handling of the situation as “admirable — and dare I say — Christ-like.”
“It’s unthinkable that any Bible-believing Christian would take offense at someone being prayed for simply because of their politics or their spiritual condition,” Starnes wrote. “You may think that President Trump is the worst sinner in America, a wretched heathen. Well, that’s all the more reason to pray for the president.”
Without going into details of the conversation, Platt said he and another pastor “spoke the gospel in a way that I pray was clear, forthright and compassionate” before he and Trump walked onstage.
“In the end, would you pray with me for gospel seed that was sown today to bear fruit in the president’s heart?” Platt asked church members. “Would you also pray with me that God will help us to guard the gospel in every way as we spread the gospel everywhere? And finally, I’m guessing that all of us will face other decisions this week where we don’t have time to deliberate on what to do. I’m praying now for grace and wisdom for all of us to do exactly what we talked about in the Word today: aim for God’s glory, align with God’s purpose, and yield to God’s sovereignty.”
Aside from a 2016 tweet thanking SBC leader Russell Moore for criticizing evangelicals who “defame the gospel” by excusing Trump’s “profanities, race-baiting and courting white supremacists, boasting of adulterous affairs, [and] debauching public morality … through the casino and pornography industries,” Platt does not typically comment publicly on partisan politics.
Before leading the International Mission Board and promoting a book released in 2015, however, Platt said in a series of speeches across the country that political neutrality is “not an option” for Christians when it comes to abortion.
“To endorse or even to be neutral about killing innocent children created in God’s image is unthinkable in the scriptures, was unthinkable to Christians in church history and should be unthinkable to Christians today,” Platt quoted author Randy Alcorn during a “Secret Church” podcast in February 2015.
“If I or if you sit idly by while millions of children — individuals, people in the image of God — all around us are dismembered and destroyed, and we do nothing, then we are directly avoiding God’s command to speak and work on behalf of the weak and the oppressed and the innocent among us, and that is sin,” Platt said.
Speaking in chapel at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2014, Platt, then pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, said younger evangelicals are rightly passionate about sexual slavery, orphans and poverty but too often avoid “contentious” issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and sexual immorality.
“Followers of Christ do not have the option of picking and choosing which social issues we are going to apply biblical truths to,” Platt said. “We do not have the option of choosing which battles we are going to fight and which issues we are going to flout.”
“God is the judge of doctors who have performed abortions, leaders who have permitted abortions, pastors who have counseled people to have abortions, and legislators who have worked to make abortion possible,” Platt wrote in January 2018.
“I venture cautiously into the political arena with no desire to support a party line,” Platt said in an article headlined “Modern Holocaust: The Gospel and Abortion.”
“Rather, I want to speak biblical truth, for Scripture is not silent on abortion, and it is not silent on government’s role in it,” Platt said. “The Bible teaches that God has given us government for our good. Government exists under God’s authority. According to God’s design, government is to reflect the morality of God, who cares for the weak, the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable who are least able to protect themselves. The fundamental purpose of government under God is to promote the good of all its people.”
- Despite his numerous moral shortcomings, white evangelicals overwhelmingly voted for Trump in the last election, and the most common explanation is the belief that he would appoint only Supreme Court justices who are anti-abortion.
“There’s the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom,” Falwell, who claimed in 2016 that he turned down the job of Trump’s Secretary of Education, said in a Washington Post interview published Jan. 1. “In the heavenly kingdom the responsibility is to treat others as you’d like to be treated. In the earthly kingdom, the responsibility is to choose leaders who will do what’s best for your country.”
Falwell recently accused younger SBC leaders of taking the convention away from values held by the previous generation of “conservative resurgence” leaders such as Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley and Bailey Smith.
Announcing that Liberty University had acquired two stained-glass windows honoring heroes of the conservative resurgence that were removed from the chapel of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, Falwell described Russell Moore, head of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, as part of the “SBC deep state regime trying to subvert the will of the church members.”
Last fall Falwell called Trump “a good moral person” and an example to the nation but said whether or not he is a good Christian is between him and God.
“Evangelicals believe every human being is a sinner,” he said in an interview with The Guardian. “We’re all imperfect, we’re all flawed, and we’re redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.”
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