October 24, 2020

Saturday Ramblings 10-2-10

Well, well, well. We have had a busy week here at the iMonk ranch. Many of our posts have collected more than 100 comments from you and yours. Several have had more than 200 responses. My, my—you all have been very busy! It’s time to relax, pour a cup of coffee (make mine black, please), put your feet up and get ready to ramble. Why? Because it’s Saturday.

“And I think also understanding that, you know, that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings — that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes, and that we … achieve salvation through the grace of God.” That’s a pretty straightforward Gospel message, don’t you think? But there are many who, even when they hear this, will not believe the one who said it is a Christian. They will insist he is lying and not believe him. Why not? Simply because of his political leanings. How is it that we are so judgmental? And why do we allow one’s politics to dictate whether or not we except that one as our brother or sister? You can read about this person’s profession of faith here and here.

I wonder how many of those who deny that Obama is a Christian participated in the Pew Forum’s recent study on religious knowledge in the United States. It seems that evangelical Protestants did not fare so well. Those most knowledgable about religions are … wait for it … atheists and agnostics. They are followed by Jews and Mormons. But at least the evangelicals finished higher than “nothing in particular.” And nice to know that lack of knowledge doesn’t keep one from deciding who is in and who is out of God’s kingdom.

And it’s also good to know that a group of U.S. pastors will be showing off their rights to free speech this weekend by talking politics in the pulpits. This, of course, endangers their non-profit status. Or is that their non-prophet status?

I would like to write something funny and sarcastic about yet another scientist trying to explain how the parting of the Red Sea just might have happened. But this writer beat me to it. Enjoy.

I love Mark Galli’s writing. I love it.

There is yet another English translation of the Bible on the market. We hope to have more to say about the Common English Bible in the days and weeks ahead, but for now, this Christianity Today article will help bring you up to speed.

And I know you have been dying to make your own record album. Now you can do both–die and make a record. That’s right, your ashes can now be a part of a vinyl record with music, your voice, or nothing but the pops and scratches heard as the needle deals with, well, you. This, kids, is why the iPod will never fully take over the playing of prerecorded music.

Hippo birdie wishes this week to William Faulkner; Barbara Walters; Shel Silverstein; Michael “Wall Street” Douglas and his wife, Catherine Zeta Jones (yes, they have the same birthday); Mark Hamill; Scottie Pippen; Will Smith; Donna “Ellie Mae Clampett” Douglas; Olivia Newton-John (admit it, you now have a song from Grease going through your head); Gwyneth Paltrow; Ed Sullivan; Moon Unit Zappa (if you have to ask…); Madeline Kahn; Jerry Lee Lewis; Julie Andrews; and The Flintstones.

Sorry, no fun video this week. Having a spot of problem getting it to embed. Instead, travel to this site and watch these amazing short films about the 24/7 Prayer Movement. Then I want your full report. Carry on.


  1. Steve Newell says

    So if pastors are going to preach about politics, are they giving Jesus the weekend off? What is more important to preach than Christ Crucified?

    Also, there appears to be a confusion in the Two Kingdoms.

    • The good news in that story is that some of those congregations might lose their 501 (c) 3 status as non-profits.

      Good news?!? Yeah, good news. Unable to pay the taxes on their buildings, they’ll be forced to give them up. They might not be able to keep pastors on salary, so the staff will have to get jobs in the outside world. Losing non-profit status would basically destroy the systems they have set up around themselves, hopefully leaving them to either a) disband or b) focus on God and each other, and relate to nonbelievers.

      Well, I can dream …

    • Cedric Klein says

      Maybe they’ll be preaching on how Jesus is also the Lord of the political sphere & no Constitutional Amendment or misinterpretation of the same can keep Him at bay.

    • If I wanted politics on Sunday morning I could stay comfy in my bed, sip coffee and watch the political shows on TV.

      Getting up at six to get dressed and to church in time for the traditional early service means that something matters to me far more than discussions of politics.

      I doubt there is any danger that our pastor would talk politics, but if it were to happen I’d simply walk out. I have no idea about his political leanings, so the direction of the political comments would be irrelevant. This sort of thing is disrespectful to God and to the congregation.

  2. The reason I don’t think Obama is a Christian (in the historic sense of that term) is not because of his political views but because of his theology, an expression of which you can find here:


    Perhaps the funniest part of that conversation is the following:

    “Do you pray often?

    Uh, yeah, I guess I do.
    Its’ not formal, me getting on my knees. I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. I think throughout the day, I’m constantly asking myself questions about what I’m doing, why am I doing it.”

    Notice how Obama moves seamlessly from “I have an ongoing conversation with God” to “I”m constantly asking myself questions about what I’m doing, why I am doing it.”

    It was probably a Freudian slip, but it looks like Obama has a tendency to equate God with himself. Later in the interview he defines sin as acting out of accord with his own values. Only God could make a statement like that and be serious about it.

    But I’m not saying he’s not a historic Christian for these reasons. Read the whole interview and you’ll see he is miles away from any kind of orthodox understanding of Christian truth.

    • I wonder how an interviews with George Washington, John Adams, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson would play today. How many Americans who voted for Adams knew that he did not believe in a Trinity? Although many were raised in Christian denominations, these founding fathers were either Unitarians or Deists.

      Interviews with politicians in this country about altar calls or communion or the Koran are inappropriate.

      • anthony thurston says

        You might want also to include founding Fathers as Anglicans. My hunch is that a large group of Christians also would respond that they “pray all of the time”; and I would surmise that is because we teach prayer as “the” answer to all of the problems of the world. Most Christians don’t have a sense of what that means. Many pray in such a way that we might be reminded of prayers of children. My own way to pray–gratitude all of the time. I don’t know what else is more important than giving thanks for all I have and all I am.

    • And as we all know, correct theology is a prerequisite for salvation, right?


      Oh, wait, it isn’t? Wow, next you’ll tell me that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” and “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God”. What kind of heretic are you?!?

      Aaron has (unintentionally) illustrated what I call “the Protestant fallacy” — that holding to a correct theology equals salvation in Christ. (Many Catholics, Pentecostals and members of other groups have fallacies of their own, they’re just different ones.) Thankfully, God’s ways are not our ways, and He’s shown no evidence that He’s picky about whom He accepts into His kingdom.

      So while I disagree with most of Barack Obama’s political stances and wouldn’t vote for him at gunpoint, I will leave to God the decision of whether he’s saved or not. God’s qualified to make that determination; finite humans are not.

      • Joe,

        I agree that Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were clearly not Christians, nor did they claim to be. John Adams is fuzzy at best. But George Washington was a devout Anglican. There is a new book with extensive documentation on that question entitled “George Washington’s Sacred Fire.” But this whole question is really irrelevant to the point I was making anyway. I’m not commenting on anybody’s fitness to be President. I’m answering Jeff’s charge that skepticism about Obama’s adherence to the Christian faith (in any meaningful sense of that term) is unwarranted. I think it is entirely warranted.

        Ray A.,

        No one is saying that you have to be a professional theologian to be saved. But you do have to adhere to the gospel, which is itself a theological matter. If one holds to a theology that is at odds with the historic Christian faith over who Jesus is and how we relate to God through him (as the President does), then that person does not believe the gospel. Therefore, it is in keeping, not simply with Protestantism, but with the whole of the historic Christian tradition, to identify that person as one who is outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity. The church has been doing this going all the way back to the first century. Paul anathematized the Judaizers, amazingly, because of their theology (Galatians 1:6-9)! And the Judaizers were “Christians” who confessed salvation through Jesus the Messiah. Their only problem (and the one that ruined it for them) was that they added the Law alongside of faith in Christ, and Paul said that was sufficient to constitute “another gospel.” And so the church has continued down to this day, drawing its boundaries around theological commitments: the truth of the Incarnation (contra Gnosticism), the Trinity (expressed in the Nicene Creed, contra Arianism), the deity and humanity of Christ united in one person (expressed in the formula of Chalcedon, contra Apollinarianism and Nestorianism), etc.

        Mere adherence to correct theology will not save anybody. But failure to believe the theological truths that define the biblical gospel is a failure to accept the gospel itself. One cannot divorce the gospel from theology. So, there is a sense in which correct theology is necessary for salvation, but by “correct theology” I don’t mean a full-blown theological system, complete with all of the crossed t’s and dotted i’s, but rather an adherence to the biblical gospel: that the sovereign, Creator God, to whom all of humanity is accountable and against whom we have rebelled, justly meriting his wrath, sent his own Son, the God-man, Jesus Christ, to die in our place and to be raised for our justification, and that it is by trusting in his atoning work, and not in anything that we do, that we are saved from the wrath to come.

        Yes, God decides who is saved and who is not. But, in keeping with the practice of the church from the beginning, it is not only permissible, but imperative for believers to draw boundaries that distinguish saving truth from damnable error. Otherwise, we will simply drift along into error ourselves, to the peril of our souls.

    • Seems a little hasty to write him off on the basis of one unsatisfactory (to you) and possibly theologically off the mark slightly (though who knows unless you can read his mind) answer to one question. Just sayin….

      • I’m not saying he answered one question in a way that is slightly off the mark. I am saying that, in the context of an entire interview, the sole purpose of which was to discuss his personal faith, (then state senator) Barack Obama indicated that his personal religious views are very different from the historic faith of the church, even though he claims the label “Christian.”

        President Obama holds to a postmodern worldview that is at odds with the gospel. That is clear, not only from the interview, but from his approach to an entire spectrum of issues.

        • “And I think also understanding that, you know, that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings — that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes, and that we … achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Remember, this is a guy who’s even worse than Dubya Bush when it comes to unrehearsed off-the-cuff comments. Who has to dramatically read all his speeches off a teleprompter to stay on-message and maintain his effect. He’s just not that good with spontaneous replies.

    • FollowerOfHim says


      I certainly don’t have any problems with people such as yourself judging Obama’s faith on his larger record — though I found his words in this most recent exchange quite compelling to me as a traditionally-minded Christian. It’s fine that others are less impressed than I am. Really.

      What I have had beaucoup problems with for some time, however, is the fact that when ministers publicily state that Obama is Muslim — and I’m not assuming you agree with them, of course — they’re not merely smearing a certain politician in the year 2010. This too shall pass. Rather, it’s the phenomenal damage that this lack of fidelity to truth does to the proclamation of the Gospel.

      It’s the ultimate irony that the very ministers who wring their hands raw over a truth-denying, “whatever” culture are often the first to accuse Obama of being Muslim. This would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

      My parents nixed Santa Claus from our Christmas celebrations when I was a kid because they were afraid we kids wouldn’t believe them when they were telling us about Jesus. I’ll let the reader complete the obvious remainder of the sermon on his own time.

      Again, to be clear, I’m not claiming any of these ministers’ opinions apply to yourself. I rather doubt they do at all, in fact. Pax.

      • It’s clear that Obama is not a Muslim. His religious views are too mushy and undefined for that way of thinking.

        • Aaron, I get your contempt for the President. Really, I got it the first comment.

        • Yes. Whenever I’m tempted to think he’s a covert muslim who infiltrated america to weaken it and open it up to terrorist attack, I remember that many views he has expressed would get him executed in muslim countries. True fundamentalists could never act that good; Blasphemy on that scale would surely be damning even if done for “good” reasons.

      • Isn’t it God’s job to judge what’s in Obama’s heart or the genuineness of his faith?

        • Libby,

          Would you have said that to Paul when he condemned the Judaizers for their bad theology (see the letter to the Galatians)? Would you have said that to John when he condemned the (proto)Gnostics for abandoning the gospel (see the letter of 1 John)? Would you have said that to the church in the fourth century when it condemned Arians for preaching heresy (see the Nicene Creed)?

          I am not trying to probe the president’s heart. I am making a judgment call based on his words. I am looking at what he said in that interview, and I am saying, that is not the gospel. In that interview (for anyone who has not cared to read it), here is a list of things Obama does:

          (1) Denies the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, saying there are many paths to the same place;
          (2) Denies any biblical understanding of sin or the wrath of God;
          (3) Denies a Christian eschatology (Heaven and Hell), affirming instead that these are abstract concepts that we experience in this life;
          (4) Affirms an idea of justification by works.

          He does tip his hat to Jesus in the interview, but in context I don’t find that he has much of an understanding of who Jesus is at all. All I am doing is listening to his own words and saying that this is not the gospel. I am not putting myself in the place of God. I am evaluating a man’s claims based on what God has revealed in Scripture. As I said before, the church has done this since the first century. If there is a problem with doing it, then someone needs to explain to me how Paul, John, and the church at large were okay for the past 2,000 years, but now I have somehow done something that is different and thus completely out of bounds.

    • Thanks for linking to the interview and for sharing your perspective. I now have a better understanding of why some people make the claim that Obama isn’t a Christian. I still think he is a Christian but I can see how, after reading that interview, someone might come to the conclusion that he’s not. Especially someone who has a more restrictive view of Christianity.

  3. Aaron:
    First thing, it’s “President Obama” to you. Second thing, your judgment that he is not a good enough Christian is way off base. Really, who cares? He appears to be an honest and moral man trying to do a good job during very difficult times. He is not supposed to be the country’s “Pastor in Chief” or any kind of religious leader at all so it really shouldn’t matter what kind of Christian he is (or whether he’s Christian at all).

    • JohnD,

      I did not argue that President Obama is “not a good enough Christian.” I argued that he is not one at all. His faith, as I have heard/read him express it, is not the Christian faith. That’s all I am saying.

      I am not commenting on his fitness to be president, nor am I saying that a president should be a religious leader. Thomas Jefferson was not a Christian, and he was a fine president (but I’m not saying that President Obama is a fine president; that is another discussion altogether). All I am saying, in response to Jeff’s statement in the post, is that the president’s profession of Christian faith rings hollow because his understanding of the gospel is out of step with that of historic Christianity.

      • “And I think also understanding that, you know, that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings — that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes, and that we … achieve salvation through the grace of God.

    • Just a question: did you ever refer to W as “Bush”, “W”, or “Bushitler”?

      • Buford Hollis says

        How about “Temporary”?* Would that be considered rude?

        *His nickname in Yale’s “Skull and Bones” society. Unable to suggest a nickname for himself, he put down “Temporary,” intending to think of one later. The name suck.

  4. I think we need different terms for 3 different concepts here.

    Professing Christian: Somebody who professes the irreducible core of the faith–something like the Nicene Creed or something, modulo arguments about catholic/Catholic and filioque

    Church-acceptable Christian: Somebody who professes the faith of some denomination and whose behavior hasn’t been scandalous enough to trigger church discipline. Of course what’s acceptable in one church may not be in another.

    Acceptable to God: With obvious meaning

    The categories don’t entirely overlap.

  5. MelissaTheRagamuffin says

    Maybe if our pastors spent less time discussing politics in the pulpit, spreading lies about the president, and fighting the culture wars, and they spent more time teaching Christianity 101 evangelicals would have done better on it.

    For grins and giggles I polled my co-workers about if they could name the Four Gospels. We were on a 50/50 split. Of the ones who could – one is not Christian, she’s Wiccan. Of the ones who could not – ALL claim to be Christian and attend church regularly. One even claims to read the Bible regularly (King James of course), but she not only cannot name The Four Gospels – she thinks there’s a Book of Paul. None of the ones who couldn’t name them seemed to be particularly bothered that they couldn’t name the gospels. Shurgging and laughing was the most common response.

    Really? What the heck are they teaching in churches on Sunday mornings? This is just part of why I became a Quaker.

  6. I feel the same way about pastors preaching politics as I do when I hear former President Jimmy Carter state that his religious views prevented him from ordering the use of military force: confusion of the kingdoms.

  7. Who decides who is a Christian? I’ve been reading J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. Michael Spenser thought highly of it. Packer talks about modern thought of God as santa claus versus The Wrath of God and A Jealous God. There is a lot of food for thought in this book.

    • “Who decides who is a Christian?” Well, I believe God does … although if you read one of the posters today, they seems to imply that they do. I think they and God need to work that out …

  8. David Morris says

    The interpretation of the Pew Forum results has been annoying me all week. They simply don’t support some of the conclusions that have been drawn. If you look at the results, rather than the headlines, evangelicals had the best knowledge of Christianity and the bible of anyone. The atheists and agnostics did best overall – there were questions on other world religions too, and on church-state matters.

    I was distressed to see that the mainline believers did so poorly though, because that makes it harder to say that it was all related to economics/education (the stereotype around here is that mainline guys tend to be better off than evangelicals).

    • Secular education is not the same as being well versed in the bible and your faith.

    • Ah, but the Pew Forum wasn’t intended to address our knowledge of Christianity. Rather, it was a discussion of religion in general. Last time I checked Shiva & Vishnu, Nirvana and Ramadan aren’t found anywhere in the scriptures. And that’s without addressing MelissaTheRagamuffin’s poll of her coworkers.

      What the study does point out, among other things, is our ignorance of the world around us. And given our calling to be in the world but not of the world, and the need to interact intelligently with those around us if we are to reach them effectively, I find this lack of knowledge on the part of many professing Christians disturbing.

      I see the findings as being entirely too consistant with our fortress mentality and our tendency to insulate ourselves from any interaction with non-Christians that’s much more than a one-sided effort to get them saved. For many of us if we were to be caught eating (and, gasp, even drinking) with non-believers there would be serious trouble in River City – that is, in how we are perceived among “the faithful.”

    • I was distressed, too.

      I wasn’t surprised, however. Similar polls have shown over and over how things are with American “Christians.”

  9. OK. Not exactly on topic with the post but seems to fit with the discussion.

    Which presidents of the US held to beliefs that fit with a Protestant evangelical Christian view. Things like the trinity, original sin, etc…

    Watched a CSPAN show where a guy did a study. It’s a very short list and doesn’t contain many “hero’s” of the Evangelical community.

  10. Dan Crawford says

    I’m always impressed with the passion of certain preachers who embrace the Republican Party in all its Social Darwinian manifestations and glory. Endorsing a party that refuses to acknowledge the poor and the problems they face and believes only in the redistribution of income from the poor and middle class to the wealthy while steadfastly proclaiming that they are the Know Nothing and Do Nothings of this generation strikes as more diabolical than prophetic, but that hasn’t stopped the pulpit prophets. If nothing else, they reveal their ignorance of the Biblical prophets.

    • “Endorsing a party that refuses to acknowledge the poor…”

      It was for this very reason I found myself unable to vote in the last presidential election. Regardless of anyone’s purported faith the choice was between a strongly pro-abortion tax-and-spend liberal and a party that essentially throws out the words of our Lord regarding the treatment of the poor. I’m wasn’t about to vote on the basis of the religious right’s litmus test, to the exclusion of so much of what we find in the gospels.

      • Right, Democrats care soooooo much about the poor. Which is why liberal cities like New York, Chicago, and Detroit have such low poverty. Which is why they support Planned Parenthood clinics in poor areas so that they can kill off their children and stop their drain on society. They love the middle class, too! That’s why they want to pass Cap and Trade, so that small businesses will have to shut down. They raise the minimum wage, which is strongly correlated with rising unemployment. They take money from the evil rich people (though, never from rich liberals like Barack “I made $5 million last year” Obama or George Soros), because it apparently helps poor people. Somehow. That’s way better than creating jobs for everyone, so that everyone can prosper. No, let’s just shovel welfare into their mouths so that they stay dependent on us. Of course, we don’t let them get them to choose things like what schools their children go to. No, the stupid animals will get their government-run education about how they are victims and need to rely on the government and they will like it! And then we can go and walk away with that warm fuzzy feeling about how we help the poor.

        If the Republicans are the party of the rich, then it follows that they want to keep their voting base rich. If the Democrats are the party of the poor then it follows that….well…

        • All of which does nothing but expand on my comment about tax and spend liberals. Thank you for that.

          However, that still leaves me unable to vote for a party whose policies are designed to keep the rich rich, regardless of the cost in terms of the Biblical themes of justice and taking care of the poor and widows & orphans. With our culture war mentality we’re applying a reductionist gospel to our politics based on 2 litmus tests, homosexuality and abortion, while ignoring a whole slew of other issues the Jesus spoke on extensively.

          And of course, our non-Biblical treatment of the entire issue of homosexuality has been dealt with here extensively, so I won’t pursue it further. But at this juncture I just can’t support either party, since I’m not convinced either one cares if I live or die, as long I fulfill my obligations (either working for “the man” and/or paying my taxes into the government’s “cradle-to-the-grave” program).

        • Good observations, Cipher.

          I find that both parties are becoming increasingly ungodly.

          When I vote, it is for what I consider the lesser of two “evils.”

        • Cedric Klein says

          Thank you. Just… thank you.

  11. Thanks for the link to that Mark Galli article. Great writing and important things that he has to say there.

    A beautiful fall day here in Maine. Enjoy your weekend, iMonkers!

  12. Wait, you said, “Relax-” and THEN you opened the Obama/Christian can of worms. Very funny.

    • You have to be relaxed when dealing with this stuff or you’ll go crazy. Just laugh at it all, then watch some college football. It will all be better in the morning…

  13. Is the ADF going to defend a pastor who speaks against Republicans, Randian economics, and Tea Party libertarianism? I bet not. It ticks me off that cultural war politics and reckless, unregulated Wall Street economics are supposed to be defended by evangelical pastors but the preaching of social justice is supposed to be suppressed and crushed.

    • Sadly this is just another example of the reductionist gospel we preach in evangelicalism.

      • I agree. But even if there is a reconstructionist undercurrent, is the overlying ethos truly Christian? Could the antagonizers and defenders in the cultural war be fighting to promote two unique but equally secular human world views – one from a liberal/socialist view and one from a materialistic/machiavellian view? Why do Christians not just invite people like Limbaugh and Beck, who both promote Randian economics, are not just invited to the thetocracy (sp?) parade but are allowed to lead it? Truly, how can light be equally yoked with darkness? Forget about the fact that Beck is a Mormon; that actually may be a distraction from the secular values that he promotes.

        • DreamingWings says

          With respect, why shouldn’t our political parties pursue purely secular-framed agendas? We live in a country with separation of church and state. Seems to me it is in fact their duty to be primarily secular in their world views. And it really seems to me that any group whose main goals are protection of the poor, the hungry, and captives, is by definition promoting Christian values whether they do it for the glorification and empowerment of organized Christianity or not. After all, at the end, the only two groups Jesus will be dividing us into will be sheep and goats.

          • The issue is not that political parties are pursuing purely secular agendas. It’s that we’re essentially inviting Beck and Limbaugh to lead the evangelical parade, as we substitute politics for following Christ.

            I have no problem with politicians being politicians (well, I do, but that’s a whole different story 😉 ). What I do have a problem with is when we in evangelical circles sancitfy the politics of our politicians and talk show hosts, somehow thinking we are furthering the kingdom of God. Which is why we’re ending up with pastors jeapordizing their 501 (c) 3 status – they’ve gotten confused as to which kingdom they serve and blurred the lines between the two.

    • Those people rarely need defending in today’s society, dude.

  14. Glad you mentioned the Common English Bible. A great place to get more information on it is on the CEB website: http://www.commonenglishbible.com. There’s also a good twitter feed at http://twitter.com/commonengbible. The goal of the new Common English Bible is to make Scripture truly available for everyone while facilitating a more relevant and meaningful worship experience. The Common English Bible has been translated using modern language that is fresh and understandable for a new generation of readers without compromising accuracy. The New Testament is available now in print and as an ebook for Kindle.

  15. Hi:
    First let me express my appreciation for the blog…for continuing Michael’s work. While I often don’t agree (at least in part) I appreciate the different perspective that is brought to the forefront….stimulating me to think….to ponder…..and sometimes to even (gasp!) modify my stance….or thoughts.

    However…in the comments in (I believe) Saturday’s rambling….a reference was made to a poll recently made regarding ‘knowledge’ of religion.

    I don’t think you fairly expressed the results….since atheists and agnostics indeed DID score higher than Christians….but that was on the subject of general knowledge of WORLD RELIGIONS…and, unless I’m completely off my bean…your inference was that they were more knowledgeable about CHRISTIANITY than Christians are. Not trying to nitpick here….but I feel it is important to fairly render what one is reading….even IF one disagrees (perhaps even MORE SO) with what is being said.
    Carry on….and God bless…