38. Does God appoint evil leaders?

The 2012 election in the United States was certainly one of the most aggressive and closest races in history. When the dust finally settled, the popular vote was split nearly evenly between the two candidates. Many of the “religious right” seemed rather shocked and upset that their conservative candidate didn’t win. How could this be? Surely God wanted their candidate to win, and surely there were far more prayers being offered up on the conservative side than the liberal side. Yet none of this seemed to matter.

This loss had a lot of people wondering just how much of a role God plays in appointing our leaders. Luckily for us, the Bible answers this question!

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. 
— Romans 13:1

Jesus answered [speaking to Pilate], “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”
— John 19:11

By me kings reign…
— Proverbs 8:15

…he removes kings, and sets up kings…
— Daniel 2:21

Then God removed Saul and made David their king…
— Acts 13:22

No one … can exalt themselves. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.
— Psalms 75:6-7

…the Most High has power over human kingdoms. He gives them to whomever he wishes.
— Daniel 4:17

If it’s true that “there is no authority except that which God has established,” it raises many perplexing questions:

  1. Should we bother to vote if God is just going to elect who he wants, anyway?
  2. If all leaders are appointed by God, why do they disagree?
  3. Why does God appoint evil leaders? Why not just appoint righteous ones?
  4. Must we follow the orders of evil leaders?

1. Should we bother to vote if God is just going to elect who he wants, anyway?

A few Christians actually say no, and forgo voting in favor of prayer. They believe that since God will divinely appoint the leader he desires anyway, voting is futile. They feel the most important thing is for them to pray that God will rise up a worthy leader.

Other Christians disagree, and some say they vote because they know how God would want them to vote, but this is demonstrably false. For example, in this last election, the majority of the religious-right voted for the more religiously conservative candidate, but God appointed the opposing candidate. This suggests that God’s will was actually for the other candidate to win, and the religious-right didn’t understand God’s will at all.

2. If all leaders are appointed by God, why do they disagree?

The Bible not only teaches that God appoints our leaders, it also says he controls their behavior:

The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases.
— Proverbs 21:1

But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron…
— Exodus 9:12

If it’s true that all world leaders are appointed and controlled by God, then we might expect to see better collaboration among them, as if they were all led by a single unifying force.

There should be no world wars, because all leaders should agree on what needs to be done. They should say things like, “We all feel that Sweden deserves punishment, because they’re a bunch of godless heathens. We should bomb them and instate a Christian theocracy!” Instead, our leaders squabble over everything.

But if a single God were not motivating them all, then we would expect them to disagree, which is what they do.

3. Why does God appoint evil leaders? Why not just appoint righteous ones?

Being the benevolent bloke he is, you would think that God would only appoint benevolent leaders. After all, it’s supposed to be man and Satan who desire evil, not God. So why the evil leaders?

While Christians sometimes admit to struggling with this question, the suggestions they offer usually fall into two categories: 1) God does it to judge a people or nation and/or 2) God does it to bring about an even greater good.

The first possibility is that God wishes to serve up a heaping spoonful of wrath upon some well-deserving people or nation. Of course, God could just send a plague or rain down some fire and brimstone, but sometimes he prefers to let others do his dirty work for him.

Christians sometimes cite the kings of Babylon and Assyria as examples. God used them to punish the Jews, but for a good reason. And just to show that God is fair, he later punished Babylon and Assyria for punishing the Jews… even though God appointed these kings and made them do it, it was still wrong of them to do what God made them do (try and wrap your head around that one). But getting back to the point, the Jews were punished for a reason.

So does God really assign power to evil leaders just so they can dole out his punishments? I think this is an easy argument to make, because there is no country that is free from sin, and so a case can be made for why God would want to punish any nation.

However, if there’s one group that God seems hellbent on punishing, it’s the weak and defenseless. Evil leaders don’t seem to discriminate according to God’s will, attacking only those who deserve it most. Rather, they attack where they can win, in order to expand their borders and garner greater prosperity and security for themselves, their families, and their people. If God wasn’t controlling world leaders, this is exactly what we might expect them to do.

The next suggestion is that God is attempting to bring about some greater good, such as saving souls or bringing about the end of the world. GotQuestions.org cites the persecution of the early church as an example. Clearly God didn’t think the early Christians deserved to be punished, he only punished them so they would scatter, which would help to spread the gospel! But by the same logic, we could argue that God also persecuted the early Mormons, forcing them from town to town so their gospel could spread as well. Is God persecuting all these different religions to help them grow? Or is it just typical for new religions to be persecuted by competing faiths?

Ultimately, it’s impossible to prove that any evil leader isn’t somehow bringing about some event that helps God in his mysterious plan, or that God isn’t punishing a nation that may have deserved it.

4. Must we follow the orders of evil leaders?

Imagine being a Christian under Hitler’s Third Reich, when a young Jewish boy comes knocking at your door, begging you to hide him. What is the Christian thing to do? Do you risk your life to hide him? Or do you sell him out to the Nazis?

Being a good Christian, you consult your manual, which says:

 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority…
— 1 Peter 2:13

Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves… For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
— Romans 13:2-5

If you’ve already resigned yourself to accepting that evil and suffering must exist for a reason, then it could logically follow that God appoints evil leaders to make sure such evil continues. If God appointed only peaceful leaders, there would be a lot less evil, negating its purpose.

Recognizing that 1) evil is integral to God’s plan, and 2) God elects and controls our leaders, and 3) to “rebel against the authority” would mean “rebelling against what God has instituted,” you must logically conclude that God wants Christians to support the plans of evil leaders. Ergo, you must surrender this boy to the Nazis, who “do not bear the sword for no reason.” Hiding the child would only hinder God’s greater plan!

But wait! 

As a last resort, believers may try to wriggle out of this conclusion by claiming that God, in fact, does not appoints all leaders, pointing to Hosea 8:4.

They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval.
— Hosea 8:4

The Biblical consensus is overwhelming that God appoints leaders, and is in control of those in power, and this verse appears to be the only exception to that rule.

It is a logical impossibility for there to exist “no authority except that which God has established” and for there to also exist authorities that God has not established. Either God establishes all authority, or he does not, you can’t have it both ways.


So does God appoint evil leaders? According to the Bible, yes.

This fact highlights many contradictions that exist in God’s behavior: he’s benevolent, yet gives rise to evil leaders; he leads his followers to vote for one leader, yet he appoints another; he guides the motives of all leaders, yet they still disagree; he orders his followers to do good, and then orders them to obey evil leaders; he punishes nations and people who are helpless, and grants victory to evil tyrants; and he insists he establishes all authority, and then denies establishing all authority.

If the Bible is truly inspired by God, one wonders why such contradictions exist.

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198 Responses to 38. Does God appoint evil leaders?

  1. Margaret Darr says:

    The question about the Jewish boy and Nazis brings to mind the story of Rahab the harlot . It was evidently God’s will that she go against ruling authority and hide the spies.

  2. Bruno says:

    For you to get the proper perspective of all the questions you raised, I ask you to please read the first 5 chapters of “Prophets and Kings” and the chapter titled “Gethsemane” from the book “Desire of Ages” written by the same author. Are you up for the challenge? Then get back with me later. You’ve raised up good questions that desires the ultimate answers.

    • Alex says:

      We are in the world but not of this world .1 john 5 v 19 explains it and say we are of God (if we only receive Christ as our only personal savior ) but the whole world is under the rulership of the evil one .remember the world its a place where evilness resides not righteousness

  3. rlnoris says:

    There are wicked rulers,, that is a fact, the word in the bible, nevr condones nor authorizes submission to wickedness, there are times to obey authority, there are times and places to defy authority, and example after example is written in the scritures.
    The lord defied authority, but he is the ultimate authority.
    The path to understand is to receive the spirit that accompanies the word, the spirit that is given to the person who will receive a LOVE OF the truth,,, this spirit inspired the word, and the same spirit can give you the correct understanding of the words.
    the wicked cannot, and will not understand.

  4. stephenb927 says:

    It’s not a contradiction as you say. You need to understand the difference between contradiction, mystery, and paradox. If God had not appointed or ordained evil, Jesus would have not been crucified to die as a ransom in our place, taking upon himself the wrath we deserve.

    In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul writes that he did not present a message from the wisdom of man, but one that the world deems as foolishness and a stumbling block. He preached Christ crucified. Verses 6-8 – Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which *God decreed before the ages for our glory.* None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

    In Acts 4 the believers gathered together and prayed a prayer that is very telling of the source of evil, but God’s triumph over evil. Verse 27 and 28 say, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, *to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.*

    It was God’s plan to crucify Jesus from the beginning. And if that were not so, God would either have to overlook sin, which would make him evil and therefore changeable and therefore not God, or God would have to be ignorant of future events which would make him growing in knowledge which would make him changeable and therefore not God, or God would need to pour out his wrath on us all. I prefer his plan, and not your idea of what is good and evil.

  5. Pingback: Did Paul Really Teach That Christians Can Never Resist the Government? – exceptionallyerica

  6. Sybel Higgins says:

    You desecrate THE CROSS. How dare you publish such divisive data and site God’s Word! I CALL you out.

  7. Anonymous says:

    6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” 1 Samuel 8

  8. Anonymous says:

    our leaders are our opinion who we want to be in office and when they don’t get their we put God In the Mix when He should have been there first amen

  9. Anonymous says:

    If you had really done your research you would find that Romans 13 was interpreted to give safety to King James. No God doesn’t otder us to obey evil leaders such as Trump, Putin and Kim Jung Um. If you were to really research the Bible you will find those with reprobate Minds spoke of concerning being leaders. Donyou really believe God ordained Hitler and the Nazis to torture and commit genocide on the Jews his choosen people. So to say God ordains evil leaders and we must submit to them is one big fat lie. God gave mankind free will and that is how evil people get into power not by the will of God. Do you really think God would ordain a man to be a leader that has been divorced three times, bankrupt six times, called people to commit acts of violence on those that disagree with him? There’s more fellow Christians. How about do not commit adultery? Can a person be forgiven yes but only if that person repents and turns their will to Gods will and as we know doesn’t like adulterous people, he hates liars which that’s all the current president does. Do you really think out perfect God could go against everything we are told by him in the Bible and ordsin people like Putin? The answer is no! The King James interpretation of the Bible is flawed to protect leaders such as King James and Putin. The Bible flawed you say? No the Bible is the Holy word if God and it’s interpretation commissioned by King James so he would get into political trouble with his subjects. In otherwords the King James version in Romans chapter 13 was wrote to keep his subjects in submission to him. King James’s team of interpreters had a out out of work unsuccessful painter, a alcoholic poet, a person who was sexually confused. In other words Romans 13 was interpeted by the team King James commissioned wrote it to favor him.

  10. YES, God appoints evil leaders to remind complacent Christians that we are NOT in heaven yet. If earth were good enough to live in, Christians would look forward LESS to heaven. Heaven BTW is leaving in the presence of God continuously (John 17:3) as Christ Himself defined it. In fact, especially in affluent societies like the USA, Christians like to go to heaven but are afraid to die, even for their faith.

  11. Anonymous says:


  12. jham1667 says:

    Many of these scriptures are taken out of context. These scriptures are primarily referring to Leaders in God’s church. Please read Romans 13, verse 4 & 6. Yes the bible tells us to obey the laws of the land, etc. but where we draw back is when it runs contrary to his word, Holy Spirit, & nature. This is why saints were martyred. God does not condone moral evil, but he can use it to fulfill prophecy due to his foreknowledge. God will judge all evil. He is a holy and righteous God. Evil is here because man has free will.

  13. Jordan says:

    God will use anything for His prophency to be fullfied

  14. Tim webale says:

    i agree with these view but if God sayed we should submit to our rulers why then didn’t shadrack, abednego obey the rule of there leader to worship an idol but when they were thrown in the fire furnace God saved them?

  15. Dr. Sandra Edwards says:

    I loved it! In these times of chaos, confusion, and uncertainty there is no other place to turn but God’s word. I agree with everything I read. As a leader myself I have disappointment too Christians with these same views so it comforted me to know others believe as I do in these troubling times. Thank you.

  16. Anita says:

    I believe that we have the will to select our leaders, and I feel that God let it be for a reason and purpose. God now knows who is true Christians and believers. Gods Children Have Love in their hearts for all humanity, we don’t bully are judge anyone. We feed the hungry not take it away. To save money.

  17. Jason Neal says:

    God established authority, but does not decide who would fill every one of those positions. We have free will, and with that free will we eat to chose our leaders. Throughout the Bible, God shows his character, He allows us to choose our own path. Calvinism is the only theological thought that teaches against these principles established by God.

  18. Mark says:

    God gives us the leaders we need, and at times He gives us the leaders we deserve. We are to obey our leaders unless, they ask us to do something that would be against God’s will. If we believe Satan has dominion over the earth at this time, it helps explain Hitler, and the other evil that happens, but God will take that evil, and turn it to good, in order to accomplish His purposes. When every Jew in the world hit their knees during Hitlers reign, God used it to fulfill His promise to return them to their homeland.

  19. Randal K Tucker says:

    Honor government authority unless it violates tye word of God!

  20. Edward Phelix says:

    God appoints kings or rulers according to His grand design and plan. His sovereign will always prevails and should be accepted both by believers and non believers. with God there is nothing surprise. He always has special purpose in appointing rulers, whether Hitler,Stalin,Un,Obama etc. Our tiny brains can’t understand God’s mysterious way of dealing with human governments.
    Secondly, concerning obeying the authority is limited to the laws, namely paying taxes,following general civic rules etc. But when it comes to Christian faith anything legislation which contradicts it should not be obeyed,eg.Dan.3 and 4 chapters where Daniel’s three friends did not bow down before the idol and Daniel continued to pray His God defying the order.
    Let us make judicious judgments based on God’s Word

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