Still interested in Pat Robertson?

offeringplateIf there is anyone out there in GetReligion land who really, really wants to work their way through 43 more news stories and editorials about the Rev. Pat Robertson, they can demonstrate their free will — I am not a Calvinist — by clicking here and browsing through (scroll down a screen) the always awesome collection of URLs at the Christianity Today weblog. Then again, the whole subject does raise issues of total depravity.

Let me go on the record and say that I remain stunned at the media reaction to this story, in large part because I have considered Robertson a non issue ever since his fade started in the late 1990s. There is more I could say, but I won’t. The key is that there are so many people within evangelicalism who are — for better and for worse — more interesting and influential than Robertson at this point in his career.

I am not alone in thinking this way. Check out this Cal Thomas column, which is a strong call for people on left and right to stop believing that they can vote in the Kingdom of God (and pay people to push for that). Here is the end of the piece:

If people who bear the label “Christian” want to reduce these embarrassments, which interfere with the proclamation and the hearing of “true religion,” they should refrain from sending money to TV preachers and contribute more to their local church. Local giving not only would allow the giver to better monitor how the money is spent, but also, if the pastor occasionally says something he should not have said, the embarrassment will remain within the walls and not be a rhetorical shot heard around the world.

Pat Robertson eventually apologized for his remarks about assassinating Hugo Chavez. His penance should be to retire and to take his bombastic conservative and liberal colleagues with him.

Believe it or not, this is one Thomas column that even drew praise from Andrew Sullivan. Preach it, brother.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Stephen A.

    TV preachers have long been the “multinational corporations” of Christianity, taking money that would have gone to local churches and offering little in return, so Cal Thomas’ comments get a huge RIGHT ON! from me.

    And no, he’s no longer relevant. But now the dictator Chavez gets to milk this for a few more months by trying to extradite him as a terrorist for making those comments (yes, that’s what Chavez said he wants to do.)

    So this has-been preacher played into the hands of the extreme Marxist Left down there. Great job, Pat.

  • Michael

    Is there another Evangelical who has run for president, draws almost 1M viewers on television shows on three different networks, heads his own college and his own law school?????

    Robertson may not be popular among conservative and relgious elites who wish he would go away, but someone is watching him and going to his schools. For that reason alone, he’s newsworthy. There was a time–before all attention was focused on Colorado Springs–that cultural conservatives made a pilgramage to Virginia Beach and Lynchburg to kiss the rings of Robertson and Falwell before they made a decision (or when they were looking for dollars).

  • Ted Olsen

    Thanks for the link, tmatt. Your readers might want to note that there’s been even more since the Friday posting you linked to: Another 31 Robertson pieces over the weekend and a few more today. Looks like the Robertson commentary is down to a trickle now, though. Turns out we have a lot bigger news to follow this week.

  • jayman


    I’ve actually helped out at a conference at Regent University Law School, and I’ve stayed at Robertson’s “Founder’s Inn,” and I can tell you from talking to them that most of the folks at Regent anyway are not the sort anxious to go around knocking off dictators willy-nilly. You couldn’t get most of them to talk on the record about it, but I’d guess a great many of them are quite ready for the day when PR goes off gently into one good night or another. A lot of those people are neither Robertson’s clones nor syncophants.

  • ECJ

    “they can demonstrate their free will — I am not a Calvinist…”

    Mr Mattingly

    Calvinists do not assert that man has no free will. We assert that man has no autonomous free will. Only God has autonomous free will. By way of contrast, the will of man is subject to constraint beyond his ability to control. The most fundamental such constraint is of course sin.


  • Matthew M.

    The point about giving money to the local church instead of TV evangelists is very well taken. Part of the problem is that people naturally want to be part of something big and “successful”, and giant TV operations have that look. Local churches could accomplish so much if Christians would support them instead of TV preachers.

  • Stephen A.

    “Calvinists do not assert that man has no free will. We assert that man has no autonomous free will.”

    Not to get into a theological brawl, but I find this illogical and baffling. It’s also why I’m not a Presbyterian anymore.

  • ECJ


    Naaaah. No brawl. I got out of the “I must defend the Five Points at every opportunity” stage a long time ago. But I will take the opportunity to correct misunderstandings.

    By Free Will most people implicitly mean what I call autonomous Free Will. They would argue that Free will involves making choices, and that a choice is only valid if there are at least two possible outcomes. The choice must therefore be independent. God (or circumstance) cannot in any sense determine the decision. Otherwise the choice collapses into one alternative – which (it is argued) results in an invalid choice. Instead we become ‘robots’ – the argument which every Calvinist hears over and over and over again. In fact, this reasoning has lead to the doctrine of “Open Theism” as consistent Arminians recognize that giving God even passive a priori knowledge of the choices of men in essense determines those choices.

    But this is not how we understand it. We argue the following. Man chooses according to the desires of his heart. His choices are therefore directly dependent upon his spiritual nature, and he will never violate it. In this sense certain outcomes are precluded. For example, an unbeliever will never of his own will freely choose to believe in God because to do so would violate his sin nature. He will always freely choose to disbelieve. If he is to do otherwise he must first be made a new creation.

    So the argument revolves around this question: Can a choice with only one possible outcome still be a valid choice freely chosen? To illustrate with a specific example, consider this. Could Judas Iscariot have chosen other than he did? Scripturally, the answer to that question is ‘no.’ One has only to read the High Priestly prayer in John 17 to determine the answer. But if this is true, how then can we find fault with him?

    Because Judas freely chose the only path he could travel – a path decreed by God. A path which would ultimately lead the Son to the cross such that the world might be redeemed. The path set down By God when He chose us in Christ Jesus before He laid the foundations of the world.


  • http://BOOK Stephen A.

    Nope. That didn’t help. Saying someone has free will to sin, but to do nothing else, is in reality no choice at all.

    But of course this argument is a very old one.