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Trump seeks to shape the Supreme Court

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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In an effort to continue fulfilling campaign promises, President Trump recently tweeted that he will announce on Thursday his nominee to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court, left vacant since he passed away last February. Trump has spent much of this week laying the groundwork for that nominee, paring down his list to three finalists and meeting with Senate leaders to gauge their reactions in order to know what to expect once the confirmation hearings begin.

If present trends hold, however, the process is unlikely to proceed smoothly no matter whom the president selects. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has stated repeatedly that he, and by extension many other Democrats, would rather leave the seat vacant indefinitely than to appoint someone of whom they disapprove. Much of his consternation is related to the belief that the seat should have already been filled by someone that President Obama appointed. Republicans used their Senate majority to make sure that did not happen, however, instead arguing that the American people should get a voice in the matter by waiting until the election was over so that the next president could decide. It was a shrewd move on their part and likely played an integral role in Trump’s victory.

If an agreement cannot be reached, many expect that Republicans will simply change the laws surrounding the confirmation process. Currently, sixty votes are required for a nominee to gain a seat on the bench. With fifty-two Republicans and forty-eight Democrats currently comprising the Senate populace, that number could be difficult to reach.

There is some precedence, however, for such a change. In November of 2013, the Democrat majority legislated that executive and other judicial nominees could pass with a simple majority rather than the previously required sixty votes. They retained the original rules for the Supreme Court, however, where it was not expected that an opening on the bench would arise during Obama’s tenure. The Republican majority could simply decide to extend that change to the nation’s highest court if the president’s nominee fails to get through initially.

Given the life-long nature of a Justice’s term on the Court, it’s understandable that both parties are taking whatever steps they deem necessary to help ensure that a judge who is amenable to their views gets the seat. That at least one or two other Justices could also be looking at retirement over the next few years only further heightens those stakes. What happens over the next few months could have a profound impact on the governance of this country for the next few decades.

There are moments where the decision before us will clearly impact the course of our lives. Far more common, however, are the small and seemingly unimportant choices we make each day. We often tend to obsess over the former and give relatively little attention to the latter. Yet, the truth of the matter is that there is no such thing as an unimportant decision in this life. Every choice we make, for better or worse, impacts the course of our time here. While that may seem daunting, it should be good news.

In Philippians 4, Paul writes, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5–7). Few verses of Scripture are quoted as often as these, but that repetition makes it easy to lose sight of everything the Apostle teaches in this passage. We often focus so much on the peace that God promises that we forget about the process he prescribes to attain it.

The peace that prevents decisions, both big and small, from overwhelming us is only possible, first, because the Lord is at hand and, second, because his presence means that we can take every decision, fear, and question we might have straight to our heavenly Father. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’re meant to wait on God to tell us how to approach every facet of our lives. What it means is that we have the opportunity to stay in constant communication with God to the extent that we don’t have to ask about every little decision we face. That’s when our hearts and minds are truly guarded in Christ Jesus. That’s when his will stops being something we have to search for and, instead, is simply known. And that’s when the life-altering decisions stop feeling any different than the everyday variety.

So whatever decisions you’re facing today, trust that our God both knows the best answer and longs to share that with you. If, however, the extent of your interest in talking with him is just getting that one answer, it’s unlikely that your heart is prepared to receive it. That’s true for the senators in Washington and it’s true for each of us. How ready is your heart today?