President Obama responded at length to a question about his Christian faith on Tuesday in New Mexico, following intense scrutiny regarding his religious beliefs. The President’s faith has been questioned by many, especially evangelicals, many of whom believe he is a Muslim.
In a previous post, I analyzed a lengthy interview with Obama from 2004 regarding his spirituality. Many people are interested in Obama’s faith because one’s belief drives one’s practice. America is under his leadership, so his philosophies are important for us to consider. Only God sees into the hearts of men and women, so only God knows what anyone really believes. But what someone says about God and Jesus reveals evidence about one’s true convictions or lack thereof.
President Obama took his time answering the question posed to him Tuesday: “Why are you a Christian?” Although his answer was drawn out with many “uh’s”, he did not avoid the heart of the question. Here is the heart of his answer: “I’m a Christian by choice. It was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead – being my brothers' and sisters' keeper, treating others as they would treat me.”
Like many, Obama claims Christianity as his religion of choice because of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Not a bad reason. But Jesus was more than a great teacher. Choosing to ascribe to Christianity as a religion and choosing to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior are two very different choices. The former is a cultural practice. The latter is a personal conviction.
In yesterday’s interview, Obama did speak of “achieving salvation through the grace of God,” but he did not explain from what one would be saved. Obama spoke about “Jesus Christ dying for my sins,” but did not mention that Jesus rose again from the grave proving that He is Lord over sin, death and hell. On the contrary, in Obama’s earlier interview he said he found the idea of God consigning people to hell difficult to believe, and said he believed “there are many paths to the same place.” He seemed to echo this yesterday by saying he deeply believed, “That this is a country that is still predominantly Christian, but we have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and that their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own.”
Granted, it must be very difficult for any President of the United States to speak boldly about his faith in God. However, apart from his boldness, we are left to wonder what the truth is.
1. Obama may be a man with a saving faith in Jesus Christ, who has carefully chosen his words.
2. Obama may be a man of unknown conviction, who has learned some Christian talking points.
3. Obama may be a man for the reverence of God, who has determined Christianity his religion of practice.
In 2004, then State Senator Obama said, “I'm rooted in the Christian tradition.” Based on his own words, number three may describe him best – him and many other self-proclaimed Christians in America. Many in our country today choose Christianity as their religion because they believe it offers good moral teaching without a lot of requirements. This is very different from choosing to honestly bow to God, believing that He exists and that He Himself came in the bonds of flesh as the “only begotten Son” not only to die, but to live again and to reign forever as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:12-14, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”
It is a futile faith that does not believe in the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection that is promised to those who receive His gift of grace. It is a futile faith that believes there are many paths to the same place. It is a futile faith that merely believes Jesus was a good man, a good teacher, and a good model to follow.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
True faith believes in the promise of heaven because of the grace offered through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. True faith knows there are no other graces to be had.
Question: What would you say if someone were to ask you, “Why are you a Christian?”