The US election process has run its course. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are President and Vice President. Donald Trump is no longer President.
Many christian “prophets” and leaders vehemently asserted God would NOT allow this outcome. Trump would definitely be President for another term. God had spoken and they were sure.
So where to now for the prophets, for the evangelical leaders, and for US christians generally?
This isn’t an easy matter to write about, for these “prophets” are my christian sisters and brothers. I have neither wish nor intention to gloat or mock or personally criticise. But I do want to try to understand what has happened here.
Why am I writing about this?
This is an American matter and I am not an American. So why am I writing about it?
America exerts great influence over the rest of the world:
- culturally (TV, movies, music, etc),
- technologically (social media, silicon valley, etc), and
- militarily (68 foreign incursions and interference in 81 foreign elections, all since World War 2).
Far right movements and conspiracy theories in the US (e.g. smoking & cancer, climate change, Qanon, anti-vax, etc) often find their way to Australia and elsewhere, and influence our politics.
And world christianity has been greatly affected by US christianity, for good and for ill, e.g. Billy Graham, the Pentecostal revival and evangelicalism.
So this latest episode in US christianity matters to many of us.
The US prophets and the new apostolic reformation
Through the history of the church there have always been christians who emphasise the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including healing and prophecy. The new apostolic reformation (NAR) is a very definite, and some would say extreme example.
The NAR is a loose movement of christians and churches that generally hold these teachings:
- The church is still gifted by God with the offices (not just the gifts) of apostle and prophet. This gives those in these offices a great deal of power. Other christians should be very wary of questioning this, because that authority comes directly from God.
- The kingdom of God should be expressed via christians exercising dominion and influence in all “spheres” of national life (religion, family, education, government, media, arts & entertainment, and business).
There are a number of christians who have taken on the office of prophet. They sincerely believe that God speaks authoritatively to them and through them.
It isn’t hard to see how these offices, if genuine, could be a great blessing to the church and would be much respected.
But it also isn’t hard to see how this authority could lead to abuses if not exercised in a genuinely godly manner.
Some of these prophets predicted Donald Trump’s 2016 win long before he was even chosen as the Republican candidate. Sometimes other details were predicted as well.
Many of them (at least 40, apparently) more recently prophesied that God quite definitely intended that Donald Trump would be elected for a second term. Even when the initial count showed a win for Biden, they urged followers to keep praying and believing. God would keep his word, and there would be a last minute miracle.
Prophet Jeremiah Johnson went so far as to say: ““Either a lying spirit has filled the mouths of numerous trusted prophetic voices in America or Donald J. Trump really has won the Presidency“.
I documented some of this in Donald Trump and the prophets.
Not all the prophets
There were some people, not all recognised prophets, who said they had received a prophecy that Biden would win.
- Respected New Testament scholar and charismatic christian, Craig Keener reported a number of dreams starting before Trump’s election until just before this election, all cautioning against christians voting for him, because of his character and actions.
- Messianic Jew, Ron Cantor, said he felt God say to him 2 month before the election: “this was not His original plan; He had intended Pres. Trump to serve four more years. But his will was that Christian (leaders) would provoke President Trump to become more like Jesus, but instead they had become more like Trump ….. And many believers over the past four years have imitated his brash, mean-spirited behavior on social media.”
- I know of, or have read of, other christians who felt they had an indication from God that Biden would win.
The prophets respond to events
As events unfolded, the prophets responded differently.
Some prophets admitted fault
Kris Vallotton apologised for his mistake very early on. He retracted the apology when Donald Trump’s team mounted legal challenges which some christians hoped might be successful. But when the election result was ratified, he re-posted it. Many christians welcomed and admired his integrity. But many others on his Facebook page expressed disappointment, because they believed God was still going to work a miracle and Trump would be President.
Immediately after the election, Jeremiah Johnson spoke about the impossibility of all the prophets having a “lying spirit” and said Trump had really won the election and the truth would come out. But after Biden’s election was ratified, Johnson also apologised for being wrong. Since then, he has received “multiple death threats”, thousands of nasty and vulgar emails, and he has “been labeled a coward, sellout, a traitor to the Holy Spirit, and cussed out at least 500 times.”
Shawn Bolz also apologised for getting such an important matter wrong, and said he was going to drop out of public prophecy for a while to grow in his closeness to Jesus.
Rev. Loren Sandford was another who apologised and repudiated what he called “rubber prophecies” stretched to fit the lie that “Trump actually won and the election was stolen”. He too reported nasty feedback: “I personally have been called a betrayer, a false prophet, a traitor, faithless and some have said they found me disgusting. I am way past broken-hearted at what Christians are saying and doing. No wonder the world doesn’t believe us.”
And others didn’t
But many other prophets are not apologising or recanting. Some have said it was God’s intention that Trump would win, but the enemy was trying to thwart his plans. Others are saying that God is having his way and christians simply need to keep trusting him. Some still expect a miraculous victory.
- Hank Kunneman said God hadn’t changed his mind. The devil was trying to insert himself but God will have his way. But he wasn’t reported as explaining how this would work and how the prophets didn’t predict accurately.
- Lance Wallnau also moved on past the failed prophecies and said “Now we are entering into a reformation season. …. We now have to transform our nation by occupying our spheres.”
- Charlie Shamp said this was a “stolen election”. He also spoke of a “cloak of deception” and lies, and said God was “removing the veil from off of your eyes” and “pulling back the demonic deception”. I wonder if he considered if this prophecy might have been fulfilled in Trump’s loss and removal?
- As of 15 January, Johnny Enlow was still saying Trump had won in a landslide (“over two thirds of the votes”), and everyone knows it was stolen. But he said God would restore the stolen result and President Trump would fulfil his second term, citing a confirming word from God based on some coincidental numbers and names at a football game (see note). He said very clearly about Trump’s second term: “it’s not later, it’s back to back, it’s right now”.
- Kat Kerr said on 14 January that the Trump landslide did happen, it was taken away, but it will still happen. God didn’t change his mind, he’s doing things for a purpose. But she was a little cryptic. On the one hand, she urged doubters to “get back on the train” for those who stay will be “accelerated” by God. On the other hand she hinted this was a covert operation by God, and so he hadn’t revealed his real plans.Then on 19th January, the day before the inauguration, she said that Biden’s inauguration would be “fake”, that he won’t serve out his full term and “there will be Trump”. This is actually a big change from Trump winning the election, but it defers the possibility of being seen to be wrong.
Other christians respond
It seems that the events of this election, the unsupported accusations of election fraud and especially the invasion of the Capitol, have led to some soul-searching among christians.
200 faculty and staff at the evangelical Wheaton College put out a statement condemning the attack, the “vicious lies, deplorable violence, white supremacy, white nationalism, and wicked leadership—especially by President Trump” and the “idolatrous and blasphemous abuses of Christian symbols”. They didn’t mention the prophets specifically, but said christian leaders (including themselves) should have known better and should have spoken truth much earlier to President Trump’s supporters.
Catholic and political conservative, Jon Jalsevac expressed his anger at Trump, the Capitol riot, the fantasy of electoral fraud and “the weird misuse of Christian religious language, spirituality and mysticism in service of the Trumpist political agenda”. And the prophets: “The effect of these alleged prophesies has been to endow political loyalties with a degree of religious fervor and conviction that rightly belong only to God.”
Florian Berndt spoke out against “pseudo-prophetic manipulation”. He says the politicisation of the gift of prophecy has led to “the increasing corruption of a gift and ministry that was meant to build up the body of Christ”. He quotes “warnings” and other forms of manipulation that are little short of bullying. For example Johnny Enlow said before the election: “This is an unabashed prophetic warning that I will give right now to undershepherds in the Body of Christ. If you go or have gone on the record as being anti-Trump, and do not amend it by election day, you will have “never heard of again” written over you”.
Craig Keener warned that perhaps “God is drawing attention to needed housecleaning in many charismatic circles …. prophecies need to be evaluated. Whenever possible, before they go public. And, when necessary, afterward.”
What is prophecy for?
The apostle Paul said (1 Corinthians 14:3-4) that “the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort …. the one who prophesies edifies the church.”
We also see in the book of Acts where the Holy Spirit speaks to and through people to ensure that some important action is done (e.g. Acts 9:10-19, 10:3-23, 11:28).
So if these election prophecies were genuine, what would their purpose have been? One can only think it was to encourage christians to (1) vote for Trump, and (2) keep on believing he would win when all looked lost.
But if the prophecies were mistaken, they will have achieved the same results, wrongly. The prophecies will have encouraged christians to believe a lie, that the election was stolen. (I say it is a lie because no-one has offered any evidence for “the steal”, or even any plausible way it could have happened, despite ample opportunity.)
What went wrong?
I think we have to say the prophets got it wrong, even though most of them reject this.
They said Trump would definitely “win”, and he didn’t. Even if God has some plan yet to be revealed, their prophecies were not correct. Even if God somehow reverses things down the track as some now suggest, the actual prophecies didn’t come true.
So something went wrong with prophecy as it is currently practiced.
Were the prophets possessed by a “lying spirit”? Perhaps, I suppose, but I don’t think I’d suggest that explanation.
Was it just a simple human mistake? It is hard to believe that several dozen prophets all made the same human mistake. The only way I can see this happening is if a few leading prophets made a prediction and all the others followed, as suggested by Florian Berndt.
Did God’s people fail to pray? Surely God knew this would happen. This can’t explain the incorrect predictions. None of the prophecies I have seen were conditional.
Did the prophets allow their conservative Republican political bias to lead them into false prophecies? This seems to me to be quite possible. It is always tempting to think that God thinks like I do, most of us probably fall into that trap at times. It must be so much easier to make this mistake if you believe you are a prophet.
I am reinforced in this conclusion when I see some pastors and apparent prophets stereotyping those they disagree with as “globalists, socialists and communists” and making foolish prophecies and predictions about Covid-19, social distancing, mask-wearing, etc.
Do the prophets have a vested interestt? I am very reluctant to think this. But visit their websites and Facebook pages and you see appeals for donations, books, DVDs digital downloads and other merch including T-shirts. They have faithful followers, a reputation and (I guess) a living to protect. You have to wonder if this could influence some.
A wrong view of prophecy?
But I wonder if the biggest problem is that the prophets have a mistaken view of prophecy. I wonder if the whole new apostolic reformation has got this wrong.
I believe the gifts of the Spirit, including prophecy, are still given today. But I’m doubtful that everything that claims to be a prophecy is really from God.
I don’t claim any gift of discernment, but I’m not sure I can trust those who give long and detailed “words” from God. In the New Testament and in life, it seems that God often gives just one picture, or a short phrase.
I know Ephesians 4:11 talks about prophets, along with apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers, but I’m not sure that Paul is describing an “office” as it is imagined in these circles, certainly not an autonomous office separated from the other gifts and the whole church..
And I note that many of the scriptures and examples used by modern day prophets come from the Old Testament. I feel this may indicate that their understanding of prophecy is old covenant. We need new covenant prophets!
A fundamental problem
This is my most important concern.
I am very wary of prophets who operate independently (as many do), claiming autonomous authority and even using veiled threats to pressure people to believe them, as Johnny Enlow and others have done. In the New Testament, prophecies are supposed to be submitted to the judgment of the body of believers (1 Corinthians 14:29). I find it disturbing that most of these prophets are so sure they have heard from God that they refuse to accept any correction, or even the possibility that others should discern what they say.
Back in the 1980s, charismatic pastor David Pawson, set up a procedure where a prophecy in a church service would be recorded, and then prayed over during the week by the elders. If they discerned it to be genuine, they would report that back to the congregation the next week, and say how they were going to act on it. That seems like a proper way to address this issue.
But it seems that, while some prophets are accountable to their churches (e.g. Kris Vallotton) others seem to head up their own ministries. Many are associated with The Elijah List, which seems to be a place of mutual reinforcement rather than accountability.
All this hasn’t led christians to a good place
Jeremiah Johnson reflected on the reaction to his apology for getting it wrong:
“After publicly repenting on January 7th, I fully expected to be called a false prophet etc in some circles but I could have never dreamed in my wildest imagination that so much satanic attack and witchcraft would come from charismatic/prophetic people. I have been flabbergasted at the barrage of continued conspiracy theories being sent every minute our way and the pure hatred being unleashed.
To my great heartache, I’m convinced parts of the prophetic/charismatic movement are far SICKER than I could have ever dreamed of. I truthfully never realized how absolutely triggered and ballistic thousands and thousands of saints get about Donald Trump. It’s terrifying! It’s full of idolatry!”
Where to from here?
I think Craig Keener is right, there needs to be housecleaning and the whole concept of prophecy, not only these prophesies, needs to be evaluated.
Is it wise and right for self-proclaimed prophets to speak independently without any body of believers discerning and correcting if necessary?
Will the prophets who have been sadly mistaken recant, repent and seek to correct their understanding and methods. Will Johnny Enlow admit his prophecy that Trump would serve a second term “right now” was wrong?
Or will they deflect the criticism, re-interpret events to make it look like they were sort of right, and then keep going as before? This seems to be the case for some like Kat Kerr, who are already changing their meaning so that Biden becoming President can be fitted in. If, as seems likely, Trump never returns, will they finally admit they were wrong. Or will the adjustment and re-interpretation continue?
Until and if these errors are addressed, the rest of us would do well to be wary of prophecies like these.
I believe there are still genuine prophecies around, but discernment is needed.
This wasn’t Johnny’s main reason for believing Trump will still win, just a minor confirmation, but his reasoning is quite revealing. He watched a football game on TV where one of the teams was known as the “Alabama crimson tide”. He prayed for God to reveal something to him and felt the number 45 would be part of it (Donald Trump is the 45th President).
The game resulted in a 52-24 win for the crimson tide, but the score was reported as 24-52, so we can see the 45 in there surrounded by 2’s because this would be Trump’s second term. Then he gave some statistics about the quarterback running exactly 4500 yards in a season, and some strange meanings of names of the quarterback and coach, all able to be interpreted as in some way relating to the election.
He seemed quite oblivious of the fact that there were many numbers in the game (e.g. the score at half time, because this would just be half time in Trump’s presidency) and dozens of other players whose names could have significant meanings, all of which could give almost any interpretation he was expecting.
This sort of “prophecy” is notorious for being able to find the expected meaning in a mass of information. You can check it out from in this video starting at 18:00. I don’t think most prophets used such methods (most reported clear words or dreams or visions).