Phi Beta Kappa Hall was packed with college students, and several of my Information Technology colleagues were given the opportunity to ask questions on live camera. I opted not to attend in-person, as part of my job was to provide background assistance to the CNN tech crew, to make sure that they had the technology support to pull off this televised event. Instead, I was keeping an eye on my geeky graphs and computer logs.
A lot of people have strong opinions about Mr. Comey. The current United States President has expressed dismay over certain statements Mr. Comey has made. Likewise, a former presidential candidate believes that Mr. Comey’s actions helped her lose the recent presidential election. William and Mary has invited Mr. Comey to teach a class on “ethical leadership” this fall, something that has stirred up endless controversy, including Christians that I know on all sides. Mr. Comey had attended the College as an undergraduate, co-majoring in chemistry and religion, where he wrote a thesis comparing the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr to the televangelist Jerry Falwell. Questions about “truth,” and who is telling it, seems to be the center of discussion.
If I had been permitted to ask my question, this is what I would have asked: “Mr. Comey, much of the controversy you are embroiled in is not just about public policy. It is about moral standards, personal integrity, and truth telling. You co-majored in religion when you were an undergraduate here. Do you have a particular faith commitment, that informs your moral perspective? For example, would you consider yourself a Christian? Why, or why not?”
If given a further chance, I would probably also like to ask Anderson Cooper a very similar question.
When it comes to questions about “truth,” it really puzzles me as to why no one bothered to ask a question like this at the “Town Meeting.” Moral foundations are important, are they not?
I’m not a political person. Faith means much more to me than politics. I do have strong opinions about the need to keep politics out of practicing and sharing our faith because equating the importance of God and politics is disrespectful to God. And it’s unwise. There is scriptural guidance in the form of an argument from silence—Jesus did not politicize His teachings. At the risk of appearing to taint this ethic, please dismiss the political and constitutional implications of the following material and focus on the core questions.
In potentially uncomfortable situations, most of us have some fear of rejection or confrontation that compels us to be silent about our faith. Thinking about it ahead of time can help overcome those fears.
Imagine that you are on the hot seat. Attention is focused on you, and your beliefs are called into question. How would you respond? (If you’ve never been in this position it might be good to ask yourself, seriously, “Why not?”)
Earlier this month, Russell Vought, an evangelical Christian, was testifying during a confirmation hearing, and Senator Bernie Sanders questioned Vought’s beliefs. The following two-minute YouTube clip captures the contentiousness of the incident.
For context, please read what The Atlantic has to report. Pay careful attention to the scriptural citations. If you aren’t aware of the context, you could be inclined more to an opinionated, rather than informed, reaction.
Back to the question. Forgetting about the political and constitutional issues and personalities involved, how would you respond?
Just in case this topic comes up at your water cooler or cocktail party, here are some thoughts to help you prepare an answer.
The teaching of Jesus does not foment hatred, bigotry, or intolerance. Jesus said, directly, the greatest two commandments are to love God and love your neighbor. When questioned about whom He meant by ‘neighbor,’ Jesus taught the parable of the good Samaritan. Samaritans were held to be low-class people in the first century. By including them in the parable, Jesus made a clear point that His followers are to love others broadly and inclusively.
Christians do not have the right to condemn people—we are commanded to love people—but God does have that right. If you really want to understand why, study the Bible. We, the created, are in rebellion against the Creator, and a holy and just God has a plan for the salvation of those who accept His complete sacrifice on our behalf. He has the right to condemn those who reject Him, as Scripture clearly teaches (again, read The Atlantic article).
John 3:16, the most familiar passage of scripture in the New Testament, states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” From this passage, we can see that God is loving and did not discriminate to whom salvation is offered. He offers salvation to the world.
The apostle Paul, who wrote half of the New Testament, taught that we are saved by our faith in Jesus, not by our works. While we all know people of every faith and creed who are indeed wonderfully good, salvation is by faith in Jesus alone. Again, we’re not free to make this up—it is directly stated in the Bible. Just because people are ‘good’ does not entitle them to salvation.
Western culture is inebriated with pluralism. We resist anything that might impinge upon personal freedoms—such as a morally-based worldview. Pluralism by its nature appeals to a wide swath of voters and is therefore quite pragmatic in politics. But on logical and spiritual levels, pluralism comes up short.
In logic, there is the law of non-contradiction, which holds that two opposite truth claims cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time. “There is either milk in the refrigerator now, or there isn’t,” as Norman Geisler says.
The world’s major religions ALL have opposing truth claims. The nature of truth claims is that they are exclusive.
Christianity teaches that Jesus was crucified and resurrected from the dead. Islam teaches that Jesus was not crucified and therefore did not rise from the dead. Keep it real. Both claims can be false, but both cannot be true. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty.” Christianity depends on the objective truth of the Resurrection.
Hindus acknowledge multitudes of gods and goddesses. Buddhists say there is no deity. Muslims believe in a powerful but unknowable God. Christians believe that God is loving and personal. As Ravi Zacharias says, “The world’s major religions are not fundamentally similar and superficially different, they are fundamentally different and superficially similar.” Most advocates of pluralism don’t take the time to investigate the differences.
Pluralism may be good for getting votes, but it’s an empty and illogical worldview. Although I disagree with those who wish to cast Christianity into a cultural stew with the world’s other religions, my Christian faith compels me to love those who disagree. I wish we could at least all agree on that.
When speaking of people and their beliefs I wear my belief on my sleeve;
I believe that people believe what they believe they believe.
When people reject a truth or an untruth it is not because it is a truth or an untruth that they reject it,
No, if it isn’t in accord with their beliefs in the first place they simply say, “Nothing doing,” and refuse to inspect it.
Likewise when they embrace a truth or an untruth it is not for either its truth or its mendacity,
But simply because they have believed it all along and therefore regard the embrace as a tribute to their own fair-mindedness and sagacity.
These are enlightened days in which you can get hot water and cold water out of the same spigot,
And everybody has something about which they are proud to be broad-minded but they also have other things about which you would be wasting your breath if you tried to convince them that they were a bigot,
And I have no desire to get ugly,
But I cannot help mentioning that the door of the bigoted mind opens outwards so that the only result of the pressure of facts upon it is to close it more snugly.
Naturally I am not pointing a finger at me,
But I must admit that I find any speaker far more convincing when I agree with him then when I disagree.