Robert A.J. Gagnon, an outspoken Bible scholar and elder in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A, has slammed noted Washington, D.C. Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile of Anacostia River Church, for suggesting that evangelical Christians who support President Donald Trump made a "Faustian bargain" to get pro-life judges nominated to the Supreme Court in a bid to overturn Roe v. Wade.
"The potential nomination of a potential pro-life judge does not, in my opinion, alleviate the concerns I have about the racial injustices this same administration seems to multiply each day," Anyabwile argued in an op-ed for The Washington Post on Thursday.
"What many evangelicals don't seem to understand is they're turning blind eyes to their brethren suffering at the hands of this administration for the long-held hope of overturning Roe. I'm for overturning Roe, but I'm also for protecting black and brown lives from racism and the kind of criminalization that swells our prisons and devastates communities or separates families at the borders. Some Christians appear to have made a Faustian bargain for the mere price of a Supreme Court nominee. The devil gets the better end of that deal!" Anyabwile added.
Anyabwile's comments also came as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, opening the door for Trump to fulfill a campaign promise he made to his evangelical base to work to end the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
"If we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that's really what's going to be, that's what will happen," Trump said during the final presidential debate in October 2016. "And that will happen automatically in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court."
While Anyabwile argued that many evangelicals supporting President Trump and the policies of his administration had done so at the expense of their Christian values, Gagnon said his analysis was "delusional and ill-informed."
"What a delusional and ill-informed op-ed piece this is by an evangelical who claims to care a lot for the life of the unborn and for the male-female foundation of marriage ordained by God and self-evident in the material structures of nature," he said on Facebook.
"Not shy about criticizing fellow evangelicals, he accuses those of us who voted for Trump to avoid the cataclysm of a Clinton presidency of being in league with the devil (!), having 'made a Faustian bargain for the mere price of a Supreme Court nominee,' a bargain in which 'the devil gets the better end of that deal!' This injudicious language deserves the reprimand of every fair-minded Christian, not just evangelical."
The former Pittsburgh Theological Seminary professor then mounted a detailed defense of Trump and his policies, noting that the president is simply enforcing the law on issues such as illegal immigration.
"Rev. Anyabwile is also upset by Trump's attitude toward 'Dreamers,' seemingly unaware that there are about 150 million people around the world (per a recent Gallup poll) that want to become U.S. citizens. The U.S. simply can't accommodate everyone who wants to be here, which means that it must rigorously safeguard its borders. The Bible provides no support for the view that countries should do little or nothing to protect their borders against illegal immigration," Gagnon argued.
He also noted that when the Bible talks about "the least of these" it isn't referring to people who break the immigration laws of another country but "itinerant Christian missionaries."
"Like many, Rev. Anyabwile misappropriates Jesus' parable about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31–46, which is really more of a missionary text than a social justice text. Compare the parallels with the Mission Discourse in Matthew 10 (esp. vv. 13–15, 40) and the earlier part of the Eschatological Discourse of which the sheep-and-the-goats text is part (esp. 24:9–14). Jesus is referring to a judgment on the nations for how well or badly they treat itinerant Christian missionaries that proclaim the Gospel in their midst," Gagnon said.
"This isn't just my understanding. Among those over the centuries who viewed 'the least of these' as Christians or Christian missionaries are Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli; among scholars of Matthew in the last half century, Ulrich Luz, Donald Hagner, Graham Stanton, Robert Gundry, R. T. France, and David Garland. Jesus' advocacy for inviting "strangers" (xenoi) into one's home in Matt 25:35, 38, 43 provides absolutely no support for illegal immigration.
"As an itinerant messenger of God in Galilee and Judea (and occasionally Samaria) Jesus himself was a 'stranger' everywhere he went outside of Nazareth but not an illegal alien. Paul traveled throughout the Roman Empire, himself a 'stranger' but not an illegal alien," he added.
He also defended Attorney General Jeff Sessions' invoking of the Bible to encourage Christians to obey the law. In his speech, Sessions explained that families seeking asylum at U.S. border entry points were not being separated. Only those crossing illegally were being separated.
"The Bible does indeed encourage Christians to obey the laws of governing authorities (Rom 13:1–7). Neither this text nor the texts about resident aliens (the ger) in the OT (referring to non-Israelites who have permission to be in the land) sanctions illegal immigration. There are very limited grounds given in Scripture for violating a country's laws. Cheating a country's relatively generous immigration laws is not among them," he argued.
"However one feels about the travel ban or the so-called Dreamers, this is manifestly not a 'sea change' issue. The U.S. already has a generous immigration policy, providing a pathway for citizenship for 1.1 million people each year. There are immigration opportunities for legitimate claims to asylum (which do not include wanting a higher standard of living because everyone in the world wants that). Everyone else needs to get in line rather than cut in line. It's not as if legal immigration is going to be canceled anytime soon," he said.
"If I were an evangelical with Rev. Anyabwile's political views, I wouldn't be accusing other Christians of being in league with the devil because they preferred Trump to the Clinton cataclysm. The argument is much stronger that Rev. Anyabwile's preference for Clinton ... and similarly minded, hard-left Democrats ... is both unwise and immoral."
"There's not much to commend supporting Democratic candidates hostile to evangelical Christians ..., hostile to any protections for the life of the unborn, hostile to a biological basis for gender and to the notion of divinely ordained sexual complementarity between 'male and female,' hostile to a judicial philosophy that respects the process of amending the Constitution and disallows treating that founding document as so many tea leaves into which left-wing ideology can be regularly imputed by unelected jurists, and hostile to every form of free speech and free exercise of religion that calls into question left-wing tyranny," he noted.
"We are on the cusp of molding a Court for a generation that will not be hostile to those concerns, concerns that all amount to sea-change issues of society. Does it really make sense for Evangelicals, conservatives, and fair-minded moderates to throw all that away for policies that are certainly not societal sea-change issues and at best are far more debatable from a Christian perspective than Rev. Anyabwile lets on?
"There is a Christian case for enforcing the generous immigration law of the U.S. and for prosecuting those who spread drugs into African-American and poor neighborhoods. There is no Christian case for promoting the coercive 'LGBTQ' agenda and abortion," he added.