Hey, Rick Santorum, Let’s Talk about a “Theology Not Based on the Bible”

Rick Santorum, an ardent Catholic, made headlines over the weekend for saying that President Obama practices “a different theology” that is “not a theology based on the Bible.”

Theologies develop, and I have no trouble with that. But Santorum obviously does, so let’s take a look at some things that are not “based on the Bible”:

  • The Immaculate Conception
  • The perpetual virginity of Mary
  • Praying to saints
  • A celibate priesthood
  • Transubstantiation
  • The papacy
  • Twelve sacraments that bestow grace

Again, this isn’t about my quibbles with these. This is about setting up a standard that Santorum’s own church can’t meet.

And Santorum’s Sunday backtrack about radical environmentalists was laughable.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that we get honesty when these candidates talk off-script?

  • Larry Barber

    Well we know Santorum doesn’t really take the teachings of his church seriously, except when they agree with right wing “ideals” in areas like abortion. Now if he were to follow the teachings of his church in areas like capital punishment, social and economic, just war as applied to Iraq, Afghanistan and, soon, Iran he might be worth listening to and maybe even supporting.

    • Larry Barber

      …. social and economic _justice_, … sigh.

  • http://www.butnotyet.com JoelR

    You’re being too kind, restricting yourself only to actual theological issues, Tony. Santorum accused the President of basing his policies on theology not supported by the Bible. Looking at some of Santorum’s policies, I don’t see a lot of biblical support for crapping on the poor, women, LGBTQ people or pretty much anyone else besides straight, white guys. Who, ironically, were the people who crucified Jesus for his theology. Not so ironically, they also co-opted His message and gave us the brand of Christianity that’s spawned beliefs like those espoused by Santorum and the rest of the Republicans.

    • Marshall

      I would have to say that in the year 30 it was the Romans who were the straight white guys. Maybe Eyetalians tend to be kinda swarthy but they’ve assimilated well.

  • Bill

    Santorum has done exactly what Jesus forbade in Mk 7. He has exalted his own traditions above scripture and then judged another, Obama, from a position of hypocrisy. The unique traditions of each religious sect are not the issue, but using one’s own interpretations of scripture to condemn others is the antithesis of the gospel.

    • Frank

      One the day the progressive church will learn this lesson, hopefully!

      However Santorums positions are more aligned with scripture than most of what I see posted here. Tony scores on irony once again!

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com jasdye

    I wouldn’t call what he did Sunday “backtracking.” That would require that he actually went somewhere.

  • Scot Miller

    Of course, Santorum is only trying to communicate the old Republican idea that Obama “isn’t like us.” It’s just birtherism dressed up in a convenient theological wrapper.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      I also wonder if it wasn’t a sideswipe at Romney’s Mormon faith.

      • http://bobcornwall.com Bob Cornwall

        Tony, I too wondered if the swipe at “phony theology” wasn’t a backhanded way of raising questions about Romney’s Mormon faith — without actually talking about it.

  • Jeff Culver

    And as Peter Manseau suggested on twitter, an addition to your list might be “religious freedom”?? https://twitter.com/#!/petermanseau

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  • mountainguy

    And by pointing out unbiblical catholic positions you get close to Ken Silva and John MacArthur, hehehehehehe, just joking.

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  • http://hkinlove.com Kevin

    Ok, far be it for me to defend Santorum, but I do need to point out a couple of inaccuracies about Catholic theology in your post. Catholics to not pray TO saints. Catholics only pray to God. We do, however, ask saints to intercede on our behalf at the right hand of God.

    Also, while many of the things you mentioned are not based, theologically, in the Bible. Many are taken from extracanonical texts. the papcy, however, IS theologically based on the Bible. The Church recognizes St. Peter as the first Pope, as Jesus gave Peter the keys to the Kingdom, as he said, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18) Also, transubstantiation is biblically based. Luke 22:19-20, for starters. John 6:52-53, 1Cor 11:27…

    As a liberal Catholic, I love your blog, but please make sure your facts are straight before posting.

    • Scot Miller

      I think you’re giving too much credit to the Bible for transubstantiation. The biblical texts are at best ambiguous: hence the multitude of positions taken by the Protestant reformers. True credit should be given to St. Thomas Aquinas (and really Aristotle), whose metaphysics could distinguish between a substance and its accidents. In the Eucharist, the substance (i.e., the underlying reality) of the bread/wafer and wine actually becomes the body and blood of Christ respectively, but the non-essential properties of the bread and wine (i.e., the appearances) experienced by the communicant — the texture, taste, etc. –remain the same. (By the way, the famous phrase uttered by magicians, “Hocus pocus,” actually has its origin in the Latin Mass, when the priest would “turn” ordinary bread/wafer into the body of Christ when he said, “Hoc est corpus meum.” Magic!)

      • http://hkinlove.com Kevin

        Absolutely, credit Aquinas. However, to say it’s not “Biblically based” is a FAR stretch.

        • Scot Miller

          The religious ritual involving bread and wine is biblically based; transubstantiation (a theological/philosophical interpretation of the ritual), not so biblically based. Sorry.

          • Chris S

            When Protestants say “bible based” they seem to mean taken directly from the Scriptures without any explication or expansion. When Catholics say “bible based”, we do insist that all of the beliefs listed above are “based” on the Scripture; but the Tradition, under guidance from the Holy Spirit can definitively interpret, explain, and expand on that base. So, say those traditions are wrong – fine; the biblical texts are afterall, in your words, ambiguous. But it’s unnecessary to so shut down dialogue among Christians, to state that another church simply doesn’t base its teachings on the foundation of Scripture.

          • Scot Miller

            Chris S, I am sorry if it sounded like I was trying to “shut down dialogue among Christians.” That was not my intent AT ALL, and I apologize for coming across as if I did. I am the last person who wants to stand in judgment about correct theology. My hunch is that it is more important to have right action than right belief… so it makes me sad to come across as someone wanting to shut down dialogue.

            I was only making the point that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is primarily derived from Aristotle via Thomas Aquinas, and it is an interpretation of the Eucharist which is historically distinct from the practice described in the Bible. The doctrine only makes sense if you read the Bible in an Aristotelian/Thomistic way, so I don’t think it is “based” in the Bible, but it’s “based” in Thomas Aquinas. By the same token, I don’t think any Protestant doctrine of the Eucharist is “bible based” either: there is a ritual practice found in the Bible, and different groups understand what happens in that ritual in different (conflicting? contradictory?) ways.

            Again, I didn’t mean to imply that the Catholic church is wrong in its theology of the Eucharist, or that the Bible has nothing to do with Transubstantiation. Transubstantiation is a fine way for some believers to understand the Eucharist as described in the Bible. (I just don’t buy the metaphysics behind the theology.)

          • http://gracetracer.wordpress.com Trace James

            As I understand it, even Luther used the Bible to take a position on the eucharist just short of transubstantiation: Matthew 26:26 “This is my body.”

            Have we been having Clinton’s problem with what “is” is?

            It has always struck me as almost comical that an entire theology of the church’s common meal should be based on the ability to recognize or not recongize a metaphor for what it is. When Jesus says, “I am the door” in John 10:7 & 9 we know he is speaking metaphorically — there are many other cases — but not in this one instance.

            In the prison ministry with which I work this difference over recognition of a biblical metaphor was causing divsion, the very thing the eucharist exists to destroy. So, we renamed the common meal “the sacrament of belonging” and all us Catholics, Lutherans, Covenanters, Congregationalists, A Gs, Baptists and Free Churchers regularly come together in the power of God in our common meal, “the sacrament of belonging.” The accuser laughs when doctrine and practice separate us and he runs when we come together for service in the one Christ.

            Santorum uses doctrine and “values” to divide; he is on the side of the dividers. What does that tell us? We need a bigger circle with which to draw him in!

  • jay

    Is is 12 or 7 sacraments? Not that it matters, just wondering if I am missing something. Anyway, does’t just about everybody think their theology is Biblical. lol

    • http://hkinlove.com Kevin

      Must have missed that one as well! Seven sacraments, not 12.

      • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

        My bad. Sacrament inflation. :-)

  • Patrick

    One of us missed the point of what Santorum was saying, and I’m not sure who. You think his statement was about religion. I thought his statement was not about religion, but about the false “theology” or worldview that Obama seems to be following that government has all the answers. His and others’ belief in Keynesism, global warming, etc., in this respect, is like the “theology” Soviet communists followed. In this context, I believe Santorum was saying the Obama’s belief in government is so complete as to be a “theology.” It is not religious but followed as fervently as if it were.

    As obvious from my attempt above, it is not an easy thought to communicate.

    • Scot Miller

      Yea, confused ideas are usually difficult to communicate….

      • Patrick

        Fair criticism. Here’s another try. Obama appears to trust in himself and government, not in religion. Kind of an old story, isn’t it? There are many that don’t look to their God for support because they themselves – or other people – have all the answers.

        Evidence is his own quote: “And it’s not surprising then [people] get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

        Obviously Obama does not “cling to religion” so what does he cling to? One can only guess, as Santorum alludes, that it is a “theology” based not on religion writ large, but on something else. Which would be a false theology.

        • mountainguy

          Obama, as well as Santorum and most of USA politicians, clings to the fake god of american exceptionalism

          • Patrick

            False. Obama does not believe in American exceptionalism as most understand the term, as his quote makes clear: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism…And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can’t solve these problems alone.”

            I find America exceptional but it doesn’t replace my faith.

          • mountainguy

            Patrick: I don’t feel like I should trust his words about that. He continues to behave in a way not very diferent to Bush, at least when it comes to foreign policy. And it’s when it comes to its foreign policy that I see American exceptionalism as dangerous fake god. We usually not talk about american exceptionalism as hot dogs, (american) football, cowboys, etc*. Given the current political situation and the unholy and excesive devotion many usamerican christians give to their own country (that outside its own limits is more an empire than anything else) is what I call attention to american expcetionalism as something highly disturbing and problematic.

            * We could talk about argentinian (the country I currently live in) exceptionalism as having mate, but in the 19 century it also meant the dsetruction and genocide of many indigenous group in the Patagonia (quite analogous to USA’s trail of tears).

  • http://www.christianpeschken.com Christian Peschken

    Non Catholics, based on their own private interpretation, shouldn’t try to interpret what the Catholic church really teaches and the origins of her teachings. For example: Where does it say in the bible, that the bible alone has the teaching authority, and should be interpreted by anyone who reads it ?
    Before commenting on Catholicism, research it, otherwise the comments are irrelevant.


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