Is President Obama a Christian? It relies upon what you imply by ‘Christian’ (COMMENTARY)


President Barack Obama, First Woman Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia (partially seen at left) and Sasha attend church providers at Zion Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012.
(Official White Home Photograph by Pete Souza)

(RNS) Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker made headlines for the second time this month relating to worldview and faith. The primary was when a journalist requested him throughout a commerce mission to London whether or not he’s snug with or accepts “the concept of evolution.” Walker declined to reply, protesting that it’s “a query {that a} politician shouldn’t be concerned in a technique or one other.”

Final week he was requested whether or not he believes that President Obama is a “Christian.” The primary three phrases of Walker’s response — “I don’t know” — made the entire headlines. He went on to complain about gotcha questions which are out of contact with what voters need to know.

As an evangelical with conservative political inclinations, I’m concurrently empathetic with Walker’s complaints about these questions and likewise pissed off at his flat-footedness in answering them.

On the one hand, it’s more and more clear that the press treats Republicans and Democrats in a different way in terms of ethical and public coverage points associated to faith. It took a pastor to ask Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama when human rights start for human beings (he responded that the reply can be “above his pay grade”), and it took a reporter from a conservative opinion journal to ask Home Minority Chief Nancy Pelosi concerning the ethical variations between Kermit Gosnell’s broadly condemned late-term abortions and authorized late-term abortions that she helps (she refused to reply the query).

When evangelicals are requested these kinds of questions, there are no less than two guidelines to comply with in formulating a transparent and compelling response: (1) communicate the reality, or no less than say nothing unfaithful, and (2) make clear the terminology, which regularly entails making distinctions.

Relating to evolution, I’ve instructed some methods Walker might have answered the evolution query: the time period “evolution” means a number of distinct issues; many elements of it are supported by overwhelming scientific proof however the “blind watchmaker thesis” just isn’t one in every of them; and public colleges ought to train extra about evolution, not much less, together with the scientific questions raised concerning the principle in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Relating to the query of who’s and who just isn’t a Christian, the governor ought to have remembered that readability is commonly served by asking the questioner why the query is being requested. This prevents answering a type of the query that isn’t being requested (as often is the case right here).

“Is the president a Christian?” can function shorthand for “Do you are taking the president at his phrase that he’s a professing Christian, or do you assume he’s secretly a Muslim?” It is a authentic query: A Gallup ballot in 2012 confirmed that solely 34 p.c of Individuals might appropriately establish his non secular affiliation, and 18 p.c of Republicans imagine he’s a Muslim. There are ridiculous YouTube movies purporting to disclose that Obama’s personal phrases point out he’s a Muslim. Wikipedia even has a whole entry dedicated to “Barack Obama faith conspiracy theories.”

There’s merely no proof the president is a Muslim, and there’s express proof that he’s a professing Christian. And though Walker’s spokeswoman shortly clarified that “In fact the governor thinks the president is a Christian,” the injury was carried out, and the fever swamps of conspiracy the place unwittingly infected moderately than dampened. It was a possibility to talk fact to conspiratorial energy, and Walker missed it.

I believe — although I have no idea — that Walker, because the son of a Baptist minister, was not pondering at the start about the best way by which the president self-identified his non secular affiliation. Quite, he could have been pondering of the second attainable that means of the query, particularly, “Do you imagine President Obama is a real Christian, one who reveals the marks of being really born once more?” It is a query of theology, not sociology.

Claiming the title of Jesus doesn’t a Christian make. Jesus himself defined that many who name him “Lord” and do works in his title won’t enter the dominion of heaven as a result of they aren’t really identified by him (Matthew 7:21–23). The church has all the time held that it’s attainable to be a “Christian” who just isn’t a “Christian.”

How can we inform the distinction? Evangelicals would need to hear extra from the professing Christian. How does he imagine one enters into a significant relationship with God? What does he imagine concerning the nature of sin? What does he imagine Jesus completed on the cross? What function does the authority of Scripture play in his life? Does the particular person proof the fruit of the Holy Spirit that accords with real repentance?

Justin Taylor is a doctoral candidate at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is publisher for books at Crossway. He runs the blog Between Two Worlds, hosted by the Gospel Coalition. With Andreas Kostenberger, he is co-author of "The Final Days of Jesus." You can find him on Twitter at @BetweenTwoWorlds. Photo by Josh Dennis

Justin Taylor runs the weblog Between Two Worlds, hosted by the Gospel Coalition. You’ll find him on Twitter at @BetweenTwoWorlds. Photograph by Josh Dennis

These questions are tough to reply from a distance. And whereas the president has been clear that he self-identifies as a Christian, the main points of what he believes and what this seems to be like in his life look like one thing he’s reticent to debate in any element.

All of that is believable background for why Walker responded, “I’ve really by no means talked about it, or I haven’t examine that. I’ve by no means requested him that. You’ve requested me to make statements about people who I haven’t had a dialog with about that. How (might) I say if I do know both of you’re a Christian?”

Ambiguous questions yield ambiguous solutions, neither of which serves the reason for readability and fact. Each the media and the candidates can do higher on each fronts, which is able to result in extra fruitful conservations concerning the points that matter most.

(Justin Taylor runs the weblog Between Two Worlds, hosted by The Gospel Coalition. You’ll find him on Twitter at @BetweenTwoWorlds.)

YS/AMB END TAYLOR



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