Obama and the Gospel

Last week I posted about the inflammatory comments that Rev. Wright made from the pulpit of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Before his retirement, Rev. Wright pastored Barack Obama for twenty years. While Obama stated that he wasn’t at church on the Sunday(s) in which Rev. Wright damned America, he has said that the Reverend led him to Christ; that the sound bites don’t tell the whole story.

That is fine, and I respect Obama’a reasoning. One should not be judged solely on the basis of a few comments. I have made many comments of which I am ashamed. I would not want to be strictly judged only on those comments. As I stated in my March 25 post, however, the problem I had with Rev. Wright’s asinine rhetoric was related to where he said what he said; not that he said what he said.

This is a free country that allows free speech. While steam might leak from my ears because of such ridiculous remarks, I am thankful that he is free to be foolish. Here is the problem; Rev. Wright made those remarks during a church service from the pulpit. He substituted the message of the Gospel with a political message.

There is no excuse for that.

And then you have Senator Obama proving his ignorance of the Gospel. In this Christian Post article Jennifer Riley reports that the Illinois senator…

said he believes that Jesus Christ died for his sins and through God’s grace and mercy he could have “everlasting life.” But he also believes Jews and Muslims and non-believers who live moral lives are as much “children of God” as he is.

That is just not true.

To support his view Obama used his non-believing mother as an example. He said:

[S]he was the kindest, most decent, generous person that I have ever known. I’m sure she is in heaven, even though she may not have subscribed to everything that I subscribe to.

Therefore he is assured of her salvation based on her kindness, decency, and generosity. While Christians should be kind, decent, and generous, one cannot earn, warrant, or receive salvation based on those or any positive character qualities.

Paul said that there are none who are righteous, not even one. We are all sinners. Some people are just more respectable than others; still, all people are sinners separated from a holy God and in need of salvation. While God is infinitely holy He is also supremely loving. The same apostle who clearly declared that all men are sinners, gloriously affirmed that God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Paul teaches us that, for our sake, Christ was made to be sin, even though he knew no sin, so that in him we might be made righteous before God.

It is only in and through Christ that one may be made righteous; that one may receive the grace and mercy that leads to the everlasting life that Obama mentioned. Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the life, and the only way to the Father is through him. That is not just my view, those are the very words of Christ.

Salvation has nothing to do with religious behavior or rituals; it is received by grace through faith. No one can boast of their salvation because it is not the result of any good works which they have done. The person who has been saved is transformed. He is a new creation in Christ; the product of his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God ordained beforehand, that we should walk in them.

This is the gospel. This is what must be clearly, charitably, and consistently proclaimed by pastors from their pulpits, and by Christians wherever they may be.

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About Travis

Christ follower. Husband of one woman. Father of three young men. Former 11B. Blessed to pastor the Bible Baptist Church of Mount Vernon, KY.
This entry was posted in Barack Obama, Christianity, Gospel, Jeremiah Wright, Politics, Presidential Campaign. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Obama and the Gospel

  1. Fresh Dirt says:

    Two assumptions seem to be made here:1) Salvation = going to heaven 2) In order to receive such salvation requires some sort of cognitive assent that Jesus is the only way. (ie. someone cannot be saved without hearing the story of the person of Jesus and what he did).Salvation as going to heaven is rarely the force of the message of the gospel. A few texts imply some sort of afterlife reward for those who are aligned with Christ, but the overall theology of such idea takes some major cut and paste for sure. I would definitely agree that Jesus is the only way. But what does this entail? The bible mentions many times that sin (in general) is paid for, the debt is gone. Does not salvation come to all creation through Jesus Christ? I do not want to imply some idea of “universalism” here. Universalism also assumes that salvation is mostly about eternal destinations: heaven or hell. I find it very interesting that when Jesus does talk about Hades, that he is addressing the religious rather than the poor and marginalized that he spends his time with. And the big trump passage often used about people going to hell is Matthew 25 where people are separated based on their actions towards the helpless, the poor, and the marginalized: giving food, taking in the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, etc. Works and actions become the defining factor in Revelation 20:13 and 21:8. Although I would agree with most of the thoughts in your post (seriously I really do!), I think the biblical witness is sufficiently diverse and many voices are given audience in it regarding the ideas of gospel, salvation, faith, works, etc. The message of God resists being simplified to a few basic principles from Romans and Ephesians. These various voices in Scripture must all be reckoned with and given voice at the table. Ephesians tells me that salvation is only by faith, but Matthew 25 is very direct that we will be separated for based on our actions towards the “least of these.” These both must be held to fully in the tension that they create. Its the only way to truly be scriptural and take the bible literally. It is the true conservative approach.

  2. Travis says:

    Justin,I sort of track with you, but I must affirm, as I believe the Scriptures do, that salvation is not only about going to heaven. As with all things, salvation is ultimately about God’s glory. Still, only those who are saved will be in heaven.The only way to be aligned with Christ is to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. That is the only way in which one will be saved. Because with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.Actions towards the helpless are evidences of salvation, not means of earning, gaining, or working towards salvation.Christ saves a believer, not because of works done by the believer in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. But this is a faithful saying which should constantly be affirmed: those who have believed in God should carefully devote themselves to good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

  3. SB says:

    When I first heard the comments of Mr. Wright I was appalled to say the least. America certainly isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but to hear his words of hate and damnation are truly troubling. Let alone the fact that he is supposed to be a “christina Leader”. I agree with you Travis that we should not judge people on the basis of a couple misplaced remarks but when said from the pulpit its not only foolish, its dangerous. I’ve always been taught to be careful what I say in the Lords house and I fear God enough to hold my tongue in his house. The other thing that strikes me funny is that Obama claimed not only that he was not present for the sermon but that he wasn’t aware of it. I would imagine that he was very well known in the church and had a lot of friends. Seriously, I grew up in church and right or wrong I know that every church has members that talked. I’m sure (though obviously I’m assuming) that shortly after the service the rumor mill fired up and he heard about what was said. I hope Mr. Wright regrets his statements now but I’m not aware of any retraction and Obama certainly hasn’t backed away completely. I’ve felt the comments he’s made regarding these comments are political at best. Still, I will say this, I will not vote for Obama but if he becomes President I will still respect his office.With regards to Salvation I will only say that the Bible to me seems very clear that belief in Christ is the only way to heaven (John 14:6, John 3:16)and that no amount of works can constitute Salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” I don’t see how this can be any clearer. I love the blog though Travis, Keep up the good work.

  4. Fresh Dirt says:

    “Actions towards the helpless are evidences of salvation, not means of earning, gaining, or working towards salvation.” I very much agree. Where I think I struggle is over the idea of faith. What is it faith? always becomes the issue. It would be hard to find a Christian theologian who ascribes to a merit-based salvation. God’s grace and mercy on us is the means and way of salvation. But what if that grace is on our actions somehow. We are not earning or gaining on our own merit, rather God has compassion on us anyways. Although much of the scripture is what you are saying… I find many places that seem to advocate this other idea too. Hey, thanks for conversing with me on this stuff! You are a very good writer and make a sound argument. Thanks for sticking close to the scriptures too. Even if we might interpret them differently at times, it helps to know that you are going to stay close to the text.

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