Is God Judging America?
Nov 08, 2016 | Justin Taylor/BETWEEN TWO WORLDS


Michael Brendan Dougherty, senior correspondent at, a Roman Catholic, and one of the sharpest political commentators that I read, writes:

In 2016, self-described conservatives, the supposed defenders of the eternal verities, our national traditions, and family values, are rallying to the side of a cretinous, amoral lecher and thief.

And liberals, the friends of the little guy and advocates of friendship among all races of men, are siding with a desiccated grifter and war hawk.

Pundits have a lot of explanations for the terrifying, depressing mess that is the 2016 presidential election. . . .

People who write about politics are trained by their education to look for explanations in some historical analogy, or some feature of the American system. And that’s probably as it should be. Indeed, every single one of these explanations is right, to some degree.

But there’s another way to look at it.

I suspect the most honest explanation for this election isn’t superdelegates or a fluky GOP primary, but something more primal.

He suggests that this election is divine judgment, and quickly adds that he is not joking.

Here is his conclusion:

Roll your eyes if you like. I no longer fear Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or their fans. This election has taught me to fear God.

Is the idea worth taking seriously?

KeillorGod’sJudgmentsOne historian who would answer in the affirmative is Steven Keillor, who has written an entire book on the subject: God’s Judgments: Interpreting History and the Christian Faith (IVP, 2007). If I worked for InterVarsity Press (full disclosure: I work for Crossway), I would be running a sale on his book all week.

In his introduction, Keillor writes:

We must define what we mean by judgment, and this book focuses intently on the meaning of the word mishpat—especially the one meaning of a “sifting out.” Thus, judgment is not only a final, curtain-dropping event but also a lengthy process with God as an active investigator testing people’s hearts, giving the wicked a chance to repent and the righteous to fall away.

This meaning helps to bridge the gap between judgment as a scriptural doctrine that most believers do not question and specific events they may be reluctant to identify as judgments.

We cannot hear God’s verdict, “Guilty,” but in some cases we can discern a process whereby public ambiguity gives way to a clearer separation of those who seek to do good from those who seek to do evil.

We do not achieve perfect discernment, but we have enough insight to avoid the agnostic view that events are so confusing we must take judgment off the table as an unknowable concept. We cannot do so, for the final curtain-dropping event remains, and this book does not minimize that reality.

I hasten to add that Keillor’s method and conclusions have not been widely adopted by fellow historians who are Christians. But perhaps this is a question for theologians as much as historians.

It is interesting, however, that noted historians who have carefully read Keillor’s arguments have come away impressed, if not convinced. In the foreword to this book, Mark Noll writes:

The clarity of Steven Keillor’s theological reasoning as well as the boldness of his historical conclusions demand very serious attention. As myself an evangelical who is partial to worldview reasoning, I am not sure he has entirely convinced me. But I know he has made me think, and think hard.

And Darryl Hart, reviewing the book for Ordained Servant, concludes:

These objections, while serious, should not detract from the unusual and thought-provoking argument that Keillor produces in God’s Judgments. It is a book well worth reading by anyone who has pondered the meaning of history or the place of divine judgment in the affairs of principalities and powers. It certainly does not include a number of considerations that need to inform a contentious topic like this. Nor does it always say clearly the points that Keillor tries to make. But if we stopped reading imperfect books we would be left with reading only the Bible. To find a flawed book that raises theological challenges about provocative subjects is a rarity and a good reason for recommending Keillor’s book.


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