The CNN-YouTube Republican Debate: How Mike Huckabee Got it Wrong

huck.JPGLast night’s CNN-Youtube debate was fascinating for a number of reasons. One was the moment that a sarcastic-looking kid basically asked a question about biblical inerrancy and the following took place:

I loved the fact that they went straight to Giuliani first. We saw him squirm a little, and Huckabee did a good job of pointing out the heathen elephant in the room by asking “Do I need to help you out a little here?” He gave a good answer that could have been heard a bunch of different ways. It’s true, some of the bible is metaphor, simile, not to be taken literally, etc. But toward the end of his answer he really blows it when he spells out an example: Jonah at the belly of the whale. He basically views this story as allegorical, or not historically true. He could have not brought this up, and I would have said, “technically I agree with him.” But instead he reveals the true belief behind this view of the bible: he is uncomfortable with the supernatural. Yes, Jonah in the belly of the whale is supposed to represent something, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. It means God writes history in a meaningful way. Furthermore, what would he have to say about the very thing Jonah’s Great Whale Adventure is meant to represent, the resurrection? Isn’t that a hundred times more preposterous?Of course, we didn’t learn anything new about Giuliani, but we may have learned something new about Romney, who is known to be a Mormon (though truthfully very few of us really knows what that means). In fact, the question itself almost seemed to be directed at him, as the snide kid who asked it was really insistent that the answers reference “specifically… THIS book that I am holding in my hand.” It was not the book of Mormon. So what did we learn about Romney? That absolutely, yes, he believes the Bible is the Word of God. Great. But Anderson Cooper, bless his heart, wants to know if he believes every word. Romney, suddenly is utterly uncomfortable. We see a genuine moment of struggle as he finally blurts out a not-so-genuine “yeah,” before reverting back to his more official stance, “The Bible is the Word of God.”And then Huckabee, the former baptist minister and “the only one standing here with a theology degree,” took a much more subtle stance than I anticipated. Politically, it was brilliant. He didn’t back down from his obvious convictions, he didn’t take the opportunity to openly slam his running mates, and he focused on everyone’s favorite passages (You know, love, least of these, all that). But I have been wondering just what he meant when he said we shouldn’t be arguing about the complicated things. What is his point when he says we’ll never understand God?If I saw Mike Huckabee today, the first thing I’d do is tell him he’s got my vote. No doubt about that. But then I would tell him to read 2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”. Yeah, that’s all of it. Paul never tells Timothy that all Scripture is profitable “except some of it is complicated because so is God, so just forget about it. It’s mysterious.”

I’m not holding this against Mike too much. Christians sometimes say great things just short of the perfect thing, and I think that’s what happened here. But I think this is the sort of thing we can learn from. What do you think? Anything else Huckabee should have said? Like the gospel?

About Richard Clark

Richard H. Clark is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture. He has a Master of Arts in Theology and the Arts from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, Ky. He is also the managing editor of Gamechurch and a freelance writer for Unwinnable, Paste, and other outlets.
E-mail: clarkrichardh [at] gmail [dot] com.
Twitter: @deadyetliving

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  • http://blog.thewaterspout.com Hooser

    I like Mike as a person, but it bothers me a bit that he is a statist. Does that bother you at all? Why or why not?

  • David Dunham

    I don’t think I’d make such a big deal about this. To some degree its true isn’t it?

    I don’t understand all there is to understand about the end times and I certainly don’t think we should argue about it. C.H. Spurgeon felt the same way.

  • Rich Clark

    Hooser, could you elaborate on that issue a bit more?

  • http://blog.thewaterspout.com Hooser

    If you’re asking for an elaboration on what I mean by statist, I guess I would describe it as follows. A statist is one who uses the the strength of the state to affect personal, social, economic, or religious matters. To give you an idea of where I am coming from, I would say that as Christians, we should be providing the welfare to our neighbors who need it and be doing it voluntarily. As it stands, the state coercively takes money from us, and determines where it is to be used, whether it be to finance the latest bomb technology or to subsidize fools(In the Proverbs sense). In short, Christians are allowing the state to bureaucratically fill the vacuum (at least in humanitarian areas) that the Church has created by forsaking its responsibility in those areas. We’re being lazy Christians and we’re being selfish Christians. Now we have begun to ‘trust in the chariots’ of politics and want a Christian in office who can impose Biblical principles in a top-down fashion. Problem is, Christians should be enacting change from the bottom up through the gospel. This same trust in salvation through political means is what kept many Jews from believing the Christ was actually the Messiah. They we’re expecting a militant or a political messiah.

    The worry I have about Mike Huckabee is that even though he seems to be a good man, if he uses his power to enact policy at a Federal lever on any personal, social, economic, or religious matters, he is simply extending the reach of what someone in that office has the authority to do (or at least has assumed the authority to do.) This may be great for him, but it means that his office has expanded its hands of coercion into yet another area. To use an example…if we as Christians think it’s just dandy for the government
    to identify and keep tabs on Muslims in the U.S. because they might have ‘fundamentalist’ views, then what is to keep them from doing the same with Christian so-called ‘fundamentalists’.

    It also bothers me that too many of us consider ourselves American’s first, and Christians second. Now many people I know wouldn’t say that they consider themselves as such, but in effect when we are bombing non-military targets as a country, as Christians I believe we should be getting upset. We need to keep the golden rule in mind as a country. If we would arm ourselves to defend ourselves against a military who has unjustly murdered in the past, can we fault them for getting defensive in front of our military? I don’t really care about making a case defending militant Islam, but we forget that there are moderate muslims, Christians, Roman Catholics, etc. also in the same areas we are bombing. As a group they may say they don’t like America, but we’d likely say the same thing if someone was lumping us in with militant extremists in our country and then mobilizing because of it. America lost the moral high ground a long time ago but we still act as if we have it. I’m curious if we should be policing the world, when in a very real sense, we’re behaving like a dirty cop.

    Sorry if these thoughts are a bit scattered. Feel free to interact with any of this. I hope I’m conveying this as something heartfelt and not like an activist or something.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Hooser, I pretty much completely agree with all of that except for the tax bit. The state coercively taking money from us seems to fit pretty well into a render-unto-Caesar paradigm and doesn’t seem like the kind of thing with which we should really concern ourselves. As a voter, I might have an interest in which policy-makers will spend those funds in a way that I happen to like, but as a citizen I should not feel that taxes are coerced from me but given happily and willingly from my pocket as the just apportionment to the realm.

    As far as the State usurping Christian charity, I’d say speak for yourself (or more properly, your congregation) when you declare the church lazy in charity. I can’t speak to other parts of the country, but I know that the church in its several expressions in the South OC is very generous and does not shirk its responsibility to its neighbours. In any case, we should not have to worry that the State’s contribution to the nation’s welfare should damage Christian charity—because the believer ought to respond to the needs around him, which continue to exist despite (and maybe because of) the State’s influence.

    You are exactly right though that change should be effected bottom-up via the proclamation of the gospel.

    p.s. Michelle (no longer Lano) was just jumping up and down saying that she knew you.

  • Rich Clark

    Hooser: Generally, though with some caveats, I agree with you. I’ve always been a social and economic libertarian.

    But do you have a better candidate in mind? (Ron Paul doesn’t count)

    For me, it comes down to the abortion issue and the most level-headed guy. And the sad truth is there’s not much else out there.

    So to answer your original question, yes it does bother me a bit that he’s a statist. But oh well, you know?

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    I forget, why doesn’t Paul count?

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com Rich Clark

    Because he won’t win.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    One could say the same for Huckabee. One could also say the same for voting Republican.

    The Democrats will have to either screw up big time to lose the election or the Republicans will have to offer up something that is as far away from more-of-the-same as possible.

    At this point, I’d rather vote Democrat than have another president like Bush.

  • http://scottedwardschultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    Isn’t it a little early to be deciding who’ll be president since we haven’t even gone through the primaries. Why don’t you give Paul a chance (if you think he fits your ideology) in the primaries and if that fails, then fall back on your Huckabee strategy. Really, it seems that if he won the nomination, he might actually be able to give the Democratic candidate a run for their money. Even democrats seems to like Ron Paul. Moreso than Huckabee, at least.

  • Rich Clark

    David, sorry I just noticed your comment was marked spam. You should have told me!

    Anyway, I guess it depends on how you define “argue.”

    I’d like to know how you interpret 2 Tim. 3:16. Is he talking about everything except the end times?

  • David

    Personally I have to agree with The Dane, I think Huckabee will probaby lose. Though I don’t think that Republicans haven’t got a shot.

    I am inclined to say that Romney is the best Presidential candidate Republicans have to offer, and he beats both Hillary and Obama. But there’s still somethings about him that makes me hesitate.

    I think Huckabee is pretty much a joke…and his campaign add confirmed that for me.

  • Louise

    Huckabee is anything but a joke.

  • http://seminarian.wordpress.com Seminarian

    Hey Rich, did you notice it was a KJV Bible? I wondered as I watched it if the question was also making reference to the version as well.

  • Rich Clark

    Actually, I looked up the guy who asked the question. You’re exactly right. He’s a big KJV guy, and that’s what he was referring to. Good catch.

  • http://blog.thewaterspout.com Hooser

    The Dane:
    I guess I should’ve been clearer when it came to the taxes part. I am perfectly fine with taxes being taken to finance local political infrastructure. In a local government, you can have more of a say as to where those funds will be used. But I guess my concern is that the federal income tax is something that the founders of this country did not have in mind, and for good reason. It only began in 1913 and we managed to live without it for quite a while. I guess the reason that I included it here is because I have a strong moral dilemma when I am giving money to an increasingly imperial and unjust federal government who may in turn use that money to kill foreigners, babies, and/or subsidize other morally dubious programs. I believe there is a need for the state, but not an unjust state. Many moral issues overflow into politics. As far as the Christian charity issue goes, I wasn’t trying to say that any one area of the church is doing a poor job in the area of humanitarian help, but if you look at the church broadly speaking we aren’t nearly as synonymous with helping others (building hospitals, etc.) as we have been. Conservatism (as an ideology) can be just as harmful as liberalism if it is not informed by the gospel. Our current uneasy alliance between evangelicals and the Republican Party I think is causing Christians to fall very short of their potential and is resulting in a lot of Christians who blindly adhere to policies that are in many ways, antithetical to the gospel. (Christian just-war vs. pre-emptive war just to give an example) Perhaps, I should’ve stated it more like “The religious right is doing the Church a disservice by spending it’s energies in politics when it could and should be using them to help the fatherless and widow’s, etc.”.
    Does this make sense?

    Rich Clark:
    I pretty much agree with Scott’s comment. I also think that there is a bit too much fear of voting for someone who won’t win. It’s called sticking to your principles. I really don’t understand why Christians are supposed to try and avoid being the unpopular dissenting vote.

  • Rich Clark
  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Hooser, it does. I think you’re correct that conservative (not politically) Christianity has done itself, Christ, and the world a disservice by its rigourous alignment with the Republican Party*. I think the blind embrace of capitalism tends to affect Christian practice and outlook negatively as well. It doesn’t have to, but it usually does.

    I’m still wary of the tax position you represent though. I’m all for the abolishment of the income tax (mostly because I don’t think it works right), but I don’t think that Christians really have the opportunity to judge whether their government is morally good enough to merit our taxes. Rome was as much an evil empire as today’s America, killing foreigners and supporting morally dubious programs, but Christ didn’t even blanch when he flatly stated Render unto Caesar. I think we’re in the enviable (unenviable?) position of having some involvement in our government’s decision-making process, so that’s where we are allowed to voice our lack of appreciation for a corrupt government. The payment of taxes or our concern for the coffers to which those taxes go should not be our concern outside our political endeavors (e.g. voting, campaigning, etc.).

    *note: this would be the case with any party, not just the Republicans.

  • http://blog.gregwillson.com Greg

    Hi there, just found this blog- awesome stuff. But, Rich, you wrote above:
    “Paul never tells Timothy that all Scripture is profitable ‘except some of it is complicated because so is God, so just forget about it. It’s mysterious.’”
    I think Huckabee’s infinite/finite explanation kind of took care of this- the type of “secret things” of Deut. 29:29. I don’t know about Huckabee as a candidate yet, but let’s be clear: there is no way to know God exhaustively. Yes, He has revealed himself in Scripture and history, but I think Huckabee is attacking a kind of over-realized eschatology and denial of the noetic effect of sin- that we’re there already. The media (and other people) can often portray those who believe the Bible as “holier than thou” and it seems that Huckabee is vying for a position of humility and honesty. At least that was my impression.

  • Rich Clark

    but let’s be clear: there is no way to know God exhaustively.

    I agree with you! But here’s the thing, the question wasn’t about God. It was about the Bible. And he specifically said there are certain passages in Scripture we shouldn’t argue about (again, the definition of argue is up in the air but the context seems to suggest he means “debate”).

    I’m all for humility and honesty. I get that. But don’t say we can’t understand all of scripture because “god is infinite and unknowable.” That has little to do to God’s revealed word, and more to do with God’s unrevealed workings and nature.

    I guess the best thing about the answer is that everyone seemed to hear exactly what they wanted to hear. That’s the nature of politics, I suppose. But I just wasn’t satisfied.

  • http://blog.gregwillson.com Greg

    Yeah, I would agree that it is definitely overstating the fact to say that God is unknowable, without qualifying the statement. But do you think it is possible for one person to exhaustively understand all the Scriptures?

  • Rich Clark

    Nope. But I think it’s possible for all of Scripture to be understood.

  • http://blog.gregwillson.com Greg

    Yeah, but I wonder if that is the point he’s trying to make? I don’t know, it just didn’t seem like he was saying, “let’s just forget about it.” But I haven’t really looked into his views on Scripture or anything, so I could be well off base.

  • David Dunham

    I am inclined to agree with Greg. I don’t think Huckabee’s statement should be overly criticized. I think he was just trying to make a humble statement about needless debating, particularly if he perceived, as others have, that this guy was a KJV only individual.

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com Rich Clark

    I’m not criticizing his beliefs or his intent. I’m just saying he wasn’t careful enough with his words.

  • David Dunham

    What should he have said?

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    TECHNICAL REQUEST: could you make the recent comments link actually link to the recent comment rather than to the beginning of the comment thread?

  • Rich Clark

    That would be sweet. I’ll work on it. (btw, i didn’t ignore your numbering comments request. It’s just harder than it sounds)

  • Rich Clark

    David: “Yes”

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Coolio.

  • David Dunham

    Rich: If he’d have said that, simply straightforward, maybe he thought he would be misleading the individual who asked the question.

  • Alan Noble

    Hooser: Thank you for writing those comments; they express my own beliefs and frustrations to a tea (tee? Te? “t”? That can’t be right….).

  • http://www.sosipater.wordpress.com Russ

    Hooser, great comments. I couldn’t agree more.

    And Ron Paul does have a chance. That is who I’ll be voting for regardless of his “chances”. I will have to answer to God alone for my voting choices, and I don’t think He will care too much about the risk involved as long as I am following my conscience. (Hopefully a Biblically informed conscience)

  • http://microwavablemartian.blogspot.com Matt

    I think Huckabee gave a great response. Any time you’re a Christian and CNN is asking you questions about your faith it’s hard to give a good answer (Because very often the questions are unfair). What he said is true that you can’t fully understand the whole Bible. For example the Jews didn’t even understand all the prophecies about Jesus until after he explained it to them.

    If we’re talking about politics and faith we should be talking about how Barack Obama believes in abortion-on-demand and yet claims to be a Christian. It’s sickening to think that Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life, could be so deceived to believe that Christians should be voting for Obama.

  • jaytheson

    Does Barack really believe in abortion-on-demand? You make it sound like pay-per-view.

    Even though he is this terrible-unfair-polarizing-good for nothing label—–pro choice—–does not call into question his faith. I am a christian and I believe that ectopic pregnancies among other medical complications should be warrant enough for an abortion.

    Yeah, I think it is a terrible travesty that women with the help of men choose to abort pregnancies out of convenience. But when myself and other prochoice Christians support Barack Obama, I think in large part it is due to the fact that a candidate like Barack wants to help nurture an America where women will be more likely to carry a pregnancy to term.

    For instance if Huckabee were to president and gets the sanctity of life bill passed, what will that do for the women who are still getting pregnant? Little. It will just make it harder for them and more expensive to have an abortion. It will do little to attack the root causes of women having abortions like not having health insurance, not being able to pay bills, not having access to good jobs, etc.

    Despite what many in the church make it out to be, women who have an abortion don’t walk into the clinic happily and do a little jig after the procedure. They are often times heartbroken.

    I support Barack and believe he is a man of faith. His heart for women and his intentions in picking a pro choice stance are not to excite the masses with the prospect of having greater freedom to slaughter babies. It is an acknowledgement of the reality that there are REAL reasons why women have abortions that extend beyond common choices like what we choose to have for dinner. There are hard realities we have to face in America and Barack Obama speaks to helping lift people out of the those realities rather than legislating them into submission hoping that cutting the top of the tree off will kill it.

    I see Barack speaking at Rick Warren’s church refreshing.

    Just wanted to add voice from the other side of the aisle.

  • Alan Noble

    On this Obama abortion issue, he’s said that he thinks our focus should be on preventing abortions, even though he’s pro-choice. I think at this point it is highly unlikely that any significant abortion laws will be passed (either for or against). So a president who will seek to lower the number of abortions is a good thing to me.


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