Paula White, God, Kings and Presidents

Mark D. Tooley
Mark Tooley is the president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD).

Florida preacher and Trump spiritual adviser Paula White on Saturday clarified earlier comments implying Trump as president has special divine anointing.

When discussing Trump last month, Paula White controversially told 1980s-era disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker on his program: "It is God who raises up a king. It is God that sets one down. When you fight against the plan of God, you are fighting against the hand of God."

Paul White on Saturday explained herself to the Religion News Association meeting in Nashville, as reported by Jack Jenkins:

"Do I believe that God raises up authority, do I believe that he sets one up and pulls one down? When I read from Genesis to Revelation, I do believe that," she said. "So I don't believe that just for President Trump, I believe that for President Obama. I believe that, had Hillary been in [the White House]—yes, I believe that authority is raised up by God."


"I believe that authority is raised up by God, and I understand that I don't understand all things and what his purposes are," she said. "He's the sovereign God."

Such comments are typically based on Romans 13:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

So God ordains government for justice, but does He ordain and favor specific rulers? His sovereignty obviously permits all who attain authority, but allowance does not necessarily imply favor or blessing. All actions on earth and in creation occur only by His allowance, but not all, in fallen creation, are according to His will. God favors justice and mercy. Rulers may have His favor to the extent they heed His will.

So Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Mengistu, Emperor Bokassa, Idi Amin, Mao, Stalin and Hitler, among the most murderous rulers in living memory, attained power by divine allowance but certainly not by divine favor. Why God permitted their crimes is the same question as why does He allow evil. Humanity is allowed choices, including defiance of His will, often on massive scales, at least for a season. Genocidal rulers are horribly too often the result. We trust they ultimately are subject to His judgment, in this world and the next.

All of the above, except Mengistu, who lives in Zimbabwe in exile from his native Ethiopia where he exterminated so many, have left this world and faced their Creator, with perhaps many of their victims as witnesses. It is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the living God. His providence is such that even the evil those men wrought will be turned ultimately against the original intent, so that divine love and truth prevail eternally.

When Hitler survived the July 1944 assassination attempt, he boasted to Mussolini: "I regard this as a confirmation of the task imposed upon me by Providence"—and that "nothing is going to happen to me… [T]he great cause which I serve will be brought through its present perils and…everything can be brought to a good end."

Hitler was maybe perversely right in understanding Providence had spared him, but, if so, it obviously was not for his vindication but only more completely to amplify the obliteration of his project. He would only die, by his own hand, within hearing of Soviet fire and conquest above his bunker, knowing his defeat was epically complete in a biblical sense. God did not anoint the Third Reich but He surely achieved its destruction, in 12 years, after unprecedented conquests and vast crimes.

History's great conquerors, like Napoleon, Tamerlane, Suleiman, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the Great, may not have been as specifically malevolent as Hitler, Stalin et al, but were in practice titanically bloodthirsty. Their conquests were divinely permitted, and even providentially exploited, without of course in their bloodlust receiving divine blessing. Caesar never knew the empire he helped build would later facilitate the Gospel's spread, but so it was. Without judging them wicked or righteous, St. Paul asked Christians to pray for Caesar's successors.

The Old Testament often divides Israel's kings between the wicked and the righteous, although the righteous are never consistently so and sometimes fall into wickedness. God is very directly engaged with their affairs, and with the affairs of neighboring kingdoms. Ancient Israel of course, as a divine instrument for revealing to the world His law, holiness and salvation, occupies a uniquely providential place in history unequaled by any other nation. Yet we know the God who numbers the hairs on our heads also still presides over the details of nations and governance, though we should always be modest in our claims about understanding His exact means and purposes.

Few rulers can be neatly labeled righteous and wicked. Most, like us all, are a combination, if on a larger scale. Christendom until several centuries ago, like most civilizations, assumed monarchs ruled by direct divine right, accountable to heaven but not so directly to the ruled population. The Puritan beheading of Charles I signified a new era in which rulers had an acknowledged, however grudgingly, covenant with the ruled. Nearly the whole world now gives at least lip service to government by consent.

Western secularism won't articulate divine purpose in government but Christians and most others still know rulers are ultimately accountable to a Higher Power. The words of 2 Samuel 2:23 still reverberate: "The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God."

There's also Augustine in City of God:

Therefore that God, the author and giver of felicity, because He alone is the true God, Himself gives earthly kingdoms both to good and bad. Neither does He do this rashly, and, as it were, fortuitously,—because He is God, not fortune,—but according to the order of things and times, which is hidden from us, but thoroughly known to Himself; which same order of times, however, He does not serve as subject to it, but Himself rules as lord and appoints as governor. Felicity He gives only to the good. Whether a man be a subject or a king makes no difference: he may equally either possess or not possess it. And it shall be full in that life where kings and subjects exist no longer. And therefore earthly kingdoms are given by Him both to the good and the bad; lest His worshippers, still under the conduct of a very weak mind, should covet these gifts from Him as some great things.

God permits and appoints good and bad rulers "according to the order of things and times, which is hidden from us, but thoroughly known to Himself." Paula White and many of us are sometimes tempted to claim definitive insight into divine purposes for specific rulers. But our knowledge is limited, and His justice is complete but typically mysterious i.e. "hidden." Without fully understanding the implications, we can join Paula White in saying with certainty: "He's the sovereign God."

Originally posted at

Mark Tooley became president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) in 2009. He joined IRD in 1994 to found its United Methodist committee (UMAction). He is also editor of IRD's foreign policy and national security journal, Providence. Follow Mark on Twitter @markdtooley.

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