My soon-to-be-blogalogue partner, Rod Dreher, has today questioned Barack Obama’s profession of Christian faith based on a snippet of a 2004 interview in which BO refers to Jesus as a “bridge between God and man.” Of course, BO is not a trained theologian, so we might wish he would have chosen words that more precisely articulated the role of Jesus Christ in redemption, the equality of the second person of the Trinity with the Father and the Spirit, etc.
But it seems that this language has been interpreted by Rod and Joe Carter as code for a liberal Christianity that denies aspects of the Nicene — even the Apostles’ — Creed. What I find troubling, however, is all of the assumptions laden in both Rod’s and Joe’s posts. BO was never asked to affirm the Nicene Creed or the Chalcedonian definition of Jesus Christ. Instead, they are reading between the lines of his comments and, by extension, assuming that he would deny the Nicene Creed. Further, they are ignoring his very clear statement to Christianity Today, “I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the
redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that
faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life.”
It may also be guilt-by-association since some persons in the United Church of Christ, the denomination of BO’s former church, do deny the Trinity or the divinity of Christ. The UCC is known to be a denomination somewhat lenient toward such things. But just because BO worshiped in a church that is by definition Congregational and therefore non-creedal does not mean that BO himself would deny any of the “orthodox” definitions of Christ or the Trinity.(BTW, I am very likely one of the postmodern believers that Rod chastises in his final paragraph. I presented a somewhat controversial paper at Wheaton a couple years ago, and I wrote about it first here, and then when it was rejected for publication in a book on the conference here. (In a little turnabout-is-fair-play, the rejected essay, which you can find on that latter post, has been downloaded over 3,000 times, which I’m guessing is more than that book will ever sell.) I’m also friends with and a great admirer of Christian Smith, who coined the phrase “moralistic, therapeutic deism,” and I’ve thoroughly digested the book in which he explicates that idea. And, let me tell you, Chris doesn’t mean what Rod thinks he means. MTD is not characteristic of teenagers who make up their own religion, but is instead indicative of the lack of precision and passion with which teenagers can articulate the faith that they claim to hold.)
Well, the comment section to Rod’s post pretty much already holds all of the theological counterpoints that I’d make to his statement, “I can’t agree that [Barack Obama is] a Christian.” So I’ll end with this: It seems that there is one sine qua non for Christianity, and it was articulated by St. Paul in Romans 10:9,
That if you confess with
your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised
him from the dead, you will be saved.
And it is abundantly clear that Barack Obama has, on many occasions, affirmed that Jesus is Lord.