For Whom the Bell Tolls: Heretic or Hero? Part II

4 04 2011

What does hell mean to you these days? Can hell change with who writes about it? Is hell an endless nightmare for sinners and unsaved souls? Or do we create a hell on earth by our choices that lead to addictions, despair, depression and worry? Those ideas are receiving fresh scrutiny from some believers after a prominent evangelical pastor, Rob Bell, founder and senior pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, questioned the traditional idea of hell in his new book Love Wins.

It seems that this book is quickly becoming a kind of 21st century “Last Temptation of Christ.” If you don’t remember that movie, that’s understandable—it was one of those B movies that very few would have attended, but the depictions of Christ were sacrilegious enough to create quite a stir among evangelicals, who protested with signs and bull horns at every theater, thus boosting sales and giving it a cult following among atheists and anti-God types.

The difference in this case is that the biblical and theological truth about hell matters.  And the newest “temptation” is coming from a reputable evangelical.

Today, after church, I came home and read the book in about 3 hours. Observations from my reading:

1.    Rob Bell is an engaging and creative writer

2.    Rob Bell is sincere in his beliefs

3.    Rob Bell has some very interesting, creative and innovative arguments

4.    Rob Bell makes the salvation teachings of Jesus complicated, contradictory and inconsistent

5.    Rob Bell creates a straw man argument against some of the salvation, heaven and hell convictions of creedal Christianity

6.    Rob Bell is a master at using metaphor, images and creative thoughts to portray a new, unorthodox way of viewing Jesus, love and salvation

7.    Rob Bell takes massive leaps in scriptural logic to support a claim that in the end all will be saved

8.    Rob Bell believes that we will have many chances to come to God’s love after death—a close runner-up version to purgatory

9.    Rob Bell can’t support his main theme—that of universal salvation, i.e. “Love wins”—with a shred of scriptural evidence or historical precedent

10.   Rob Bell claims that his thoughts are mainstream and consistent with Christian thinking throughout history (by the way, he is correct—he is consistent with several heresies of the first four centuries, but I don’t think that’s what he meant)

11.   Rob Bell takes prophetic passages of the coming millennium for God’s people, and uses these passages to support his contention that everyone will eventually be saved

12.   Rob Bell seems to be ignorant (or is cloaking his disbelief) of the fundamental teachings of church fathers, synods, systematic theology, creeds and convictions of the Church (which makes Eugene Peterson’s quote on the fly leaf even more perplexing)

13.   Rob Bell makes broad claims that significant church fathers and reformers believed in eventual universal salvation, but doesn’t (and can’t) support it with any quotes, references or writings (convenient)

14.   Rob Bell is confused in his understanding of God’s glory, especially as it is revealed through judgment

15.   Rob Bell feels that classic western Christianity lacks creativity, is too narrow and is not open to new ways of viewing God’s love

16.   Rob Bell doesn’t believe in a literal hell, but rather believes that we create our own hell on earth by our choices

17.   Rob Bell refutes hell partially from the argument that hell is not a compelling enough story (huh?)

18.   Rob Bell doesn’t believe in the plenary substitutionary atonement of Christ as the only way to a relationship with God and the obtaining of eternal life

The most shocking quote and the theme of the book:

“At the heart of this perspective is the belief that, given enough time, everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of God’s presence.  The love of God will melt every hard heart, and even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God” (page 107).

So, there it is folks. I’ve never been a fan of Rob Bell and even less so after reading this book. I can’t recommend the book to anyone who isn’t mature in church history, systematic theology and their Bible. Discernment and wisdom are needed. If one is lacking in any of these areas, this book can be confusing and misleading. Proceed with caution.

Steve

My friend Brian Carlson has written a provocative blog on the controversy, including video footage of Pastor Bell in his much talked about conversation with Martin Bahir on MSNBC last week. Brian has been a pastor for the past sixteen years and is currently the Assistant to President Bill Armstrong at Colorado Christian University. His last pastoral staff position was at Woodmen Valley Chapel. Brian and I met up last week at California Pizza Kitchen and I thought it might be fun to hear his perspective on the theological debate. Here is Brian’s opinion for your enjoyment.

 





ELCA Misstep leading to Division

8 10 2009

Many of you have asked about the latest in the earlier “ELCA Misstep” blog that I wrote several weeks ago. Here’s the latest from the OneNewsNow.com, TheChurchReport.com, and The Associated Press, as used by permission from my dear friend and Vice President of Pastoral Ministries at Focus on the Family, H.B. London.

Conservative Lutherans Gather

More than 1,200 biblically orthodox members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination, spent last weekend in suburban Indianapolis praying and discussing what can be done about the left-leaning policies of their denomination. Just last month, for example, the ELCA dropped a long-held ban on partnered homosexual clergy. Delegates eventually approved a resolution directing its steering committee to report back in one year on whether these conservative churches should stay within the ELCA, form their own denomination or join another.

The meeting was sponsored by Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform, but changed over the weekend to Coalition for Renewal). Mark Chavez, president of Lutheran CORE, explained the need for the weekend meeting: “It’s primarily about gathering those who have had their denomination, namely the ELCA, withdraw from the Christian faith and pull away from most other Christian churches in the world.”

Chavez also commented on a letter written to denominational leaders by the presiding bishop of the ELCA, which warned of a disaster if conservative church members withhold funds: “It’s clearly an attempt to shift the responsibility for the crisis in the ELCA to those who continue to practice and believe what the ELCA says it believes — that the inspired Word of God in the Old and New Testaments [is] the authoritative source and norm for our faith.”

Lutheran CORE’s chairman, 71-year-old Rev. Paull Spring, a pastor for 44 years, received a standing ovation Friday night when he said, “God is calling us to do something. The ELCA has fallen into heresy. It is a time for confession and a time to resist. It is, please God, also a time for new life and transformation and for mission.”

“We are not dividing the church. The church is already divided,” said Rev. Paul Ulring, a member of the Lutheran CORE steering committee. “We’re just mopping up what the church did.”

“We now have two churches within one organizational structure. One church emphasizes Bible and theology; the other culture and experience,” said Rev. Kenneth Sauer in his opening remarks to the weekend convocation. “There are deep divisions over the fundamental meaning of the Gospel, the authority of Scripture and the purpose and work of the Holy Spirit. The division reaches into congregations, synods, and seminaries and agencies.” [OneNewsNow.com, TheChurchReport.com, The Associated Press]

Let’s keep the ELCA in our prayers. As predicted by many who have watched such theological charades for many years, chances are strong that this will be one of those divisively defining issues within a denomination.

There are wonderful pastors on both sides of the issue, and the breaking of fellowship will be very painful and frustrating. It’s a denominational divorce that will hurt the children more than the parents. Having grown up in the ELCA, my heart breaks for what I believe breaks the heart of God.

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,

Steve





ELCA Misstep leading to Division

8 10 2009

 

Many of you have asked about the latest in the earlier “ELCA Misstep” blog that I wrote several weeks ago.  Here’s the latest from the OneNewsNow.com, TheChurchReport.com, and The Associated Press, as used by permission from my dear friend and Vice President of Pastoral Ministries at Focus on the Family, H.B. London.

Conservative Lutherans Gather

More than 1,200 biblically orthodox members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination, spent last weekend in suburban Indianapolis praying and discussing what can be done about the left-leaning policies of their denomination. Just last month, for example, the ELCA dropped a long-held ban on partnered homosexual clergy. Delegates eventually approved a resolution directing its steering committee to report back in one year on whether these conservative churches should stay within the ELCA, form their own denomination or join another.

The meeting was sponsored by Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform, but changed over the weekend to Coalition for Renewal). Mark Chavez, president of Lutheran CORE, explained the need for the weekend meeting: “It’s primarily about gathering those who have had their denomination, namely the ELCA, withdraw from the Christian faith and pull away from most other Christian churches in the world.”

Chavez also commented on a letter written to denominational leaders by the presiding bishop of the ELCA, which warned of a disaster if conservative church members withhold funds: “It’s clearly an attempt to shift the responsibility for the crisis in the ELCA to those who continue to practice and believe what the ELCA says it believes — that the inspired Word of God in the Old and New Testaments [is] the authoritative source and norm for our faith.”

Lutheran CORE’s chairman, 71-year-old Rev. Paull Spring, a pastor for 44 years, received a standing ovation Friday night when he said, “God is calling us to do something. The ELCA has fallen into heresy. It is a time for confession and a time to resist. It is, please God, also a time for new life and transformation and for mission.”

“We are not dividing the church. The church is already divided,” said Rev. Paul Ulring, a member of the Lutheran CORE steering committee. “We’re just mopping up what the church did.”

“We now have two churches within one organizational structure. One church emphasizes Bible and theology; the other culture and experience,” said Rev. Kenneth Sauer in his opening remarks to the weekend convocation. “There are deep divisions over the fundamental meaning of the Gospel, the authority of Scripture and the purpose and work of the Holy Spirit. The division reaches into congregations, synods, and seminaries and agencies.” [OneNewsNow.com, TheChurchReport.com, The Associated Press]

Let’s keep the ELCA in our prayers.  As predicted by many who have watched such theological charades for many years, chances are strong that this will be one of those divisively defining issues within a denomination. 

There are wonderful pastors on both sides of the issue, and the breaking of fellowship will be very painful and frustrating.  It’s a denominational divorce that will hurt the children more than the parents.  Having grown up in the ELCA, my heart breaks for what I believe breaks the heart of God.

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,

Steve





The ELCA Misstep

1 09 2009

I grew up as a pastor’s kid, with my father being in the clergy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). I have many fond memories of my formative years in the Lutheran heritage. My father and mother love Jesus and love the history and liturgy of the Lutheran Church. They taught me to love God and revere the Scriptures. Most of my deepest convictions about life, work, family, and God were formed by these two precious saints. I went to church every week and, due to the high church style of my dad’s churches, I learned by heart the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, and Luther’s shorter treatise on baptism. Now, that’s not bad upbringing.

But the ELCA that I grew up in has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. Like a tiny leak in the upstairs bathroom that, unattended, will cause the ceiling to cave in, the ELCA has gradually and slowly been moving further and further from the Bible that Luther so loved. As of a week ago, the slow theological leak has now become a flood. A week ago the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) during its national convention in Minneapolis voted to allow practicing gay and lesbian pastors to be ordained. The following are excerpts from the Bishop Julian Gordy, the bishop of the ELCA Southeastern Synod, explaining the new policy on homosexual clergy.

This past Friday, after hours of heart wrenching discussion and debate, our church, meeting in Assembly in Minneapolis, voted to ease limits on gay clergy and to allow congregations which wish to do so to recognize committed, life-long, publicly accountable same-sex relationships. It was a time for dancing for some, a time for mourning for others.

Some feel that they are finally included fully in the life of our church. The day for which they have worked and prayed for years has arrived.

Others find this change to be deeply troubling. They view the actions of the Assembly as contrary to the Bible and Lutheran teaching and practice.

During the weeks and months to come, I hope that both those groups and all those who find themselves somewhere in between will be able to talk with one another as we continue to discern the Spirit’s direction for us and for our church.

The implications of the Assembly’s actions will unfold more fully over time. Over the coming months, processes to implement the Assembly’s decisions will be worked out by church-wide leaders and staff, in consultation with the Conference of Bishops. This will not happen right away, but will take some months.

We know this much for sure: Whereas persons in committed same-sex relationships formerly were barred from serving on any of the official ministry rosters of our church, a way is now being opened for such persons to serve in rostered ministries, but only if they are otherwise qualified, as determined by the synod’s candidacy committee, and if a congregation chooses to call them. The call process will operate in the same way that it has since the beginning of our church, with congregations free to call that person to whom the Spirit directs them…

In Galatians, St. Paul admonishes us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” This mutual burden bearing is one of the things that separate the church of Jesus from the world in which we are each required and expected to bear our own burdens.

Playing on the ELCA tag line, “God’s work. Our hands,” Dr. Ishmael Noko, a Tanzanian pastor and the outgoing executive director of the Lutheran World Federation reminded the Assembly that unity is a work of God. Our hands are called to serve that unity. The church of Jesus Christ is not ours to dismember. I am convinced that no church in the world has put the gospel into practice any better than the ELCA. We are bound to do all that we can to preserve its God-given unity and health.

Thank you for your prayers and for your support.

Julian Gordy
Bishop
ELCA Southeastern Synod

I believe the ELCA has made a profound theological and missiological misstep with this decision. Like the Presbyterians and Episcopalians before them, this decision will lead to more disunity than the denomination ever bargained for. Disunity is most pronounced when churches have no plumb line for determining truth and unity. When the hermeneutic for truth, life, and vision is surrendered to majority vote, a denomination is in deep trouble.

The culture is changing. Never has a nation so quickly abandoned the ideals, foundations, and mission as America in the past 40 years. The disunity of our nation politically, spiritually, and culturally is evidence of a nation that is anchorless. Even the mainline churches that once stood strong as a “light on a hill” have now abandoned their source for truth, the Bible. The Bible has become a dusty old historical book that, like the so called “progressives” in Congress and their view of our constitution that it is a living document that is open to anyone’s interpretation based on the wants and whims of the culture. Praise God this was not Moses’ view of the Law when he returned from Mt. Sinai.

It is true that methods for proclamation of the gospel must change to fit our landscape, but our message remains rock solid, based on the foundations of truth through a literal historical hermeneutic of God’s holy writ. Contextualization means just that. We study to understand our changing context, so that we can present the ageless truths that never change. If we abandon our foundations and traditional convictions, upheld with blood through the centuries, we abandon the anchor for truth.

I’m disappointed by the ELCA’s decision but I am not surprised. I told my dad five years ago that I saw this coming to the Lutherans. Now the ELCA has joined the ranks of most of the mainline denominations who bought into Barthian, neoorthodox, slightly less liberal theology of the 40’s and 50’s that has now proverbially become the chicken that has come home to roost. I’m sad to say that God will not be mocked and the Bible is still inerrant and infallible.

So, the great heritage of biblical commitment of Luther and Melancthon will gradually fade away in the ELCA. These are the gasps of a dying denomination. It will not happen overnight because there are still many of the Builder generation and late Baby Boomers who love the liturgy and the style of Lutheranism, but the younger generation will not be impressed. They are not persuaded; and this decision will continue the trend in the ELCA of young people leaving the church. Why? Because the ELCA (and all of the more liberal denominations) are looking more and more like the culture they have grown up in. The standards being lowered only lowers the commitment and faith of the adherents, and there will be fewer and fewer to be found.

I do hope that some Bible-centered evangelicals that are left within the pastoral ranks of the ELCA will choose to stay and fight, but I would not blame them if this is the last sign on a winding theological road that spells “exit.” For many the vestiges of a biblical standard for judging culture, the nature of man and the mission of God, will seem to have faded away in a momentous vote in Minneapolis that will leave them frustrated and depressed. And they will leave in droves.

The good news is that new denominations and new relational church networks will be formed. This is already happening within the Presbyterian and Episcopal evangelical churches, and it will certainly happen within the ranks of the ELCA. And Jesus will still be Lord and He will still continue to build His church and the gates of hell will still not prevail against her!

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,
Steve





Ted Haggard Aftershocks and the Seismic Shift

27 01 2009

God is shaking the church in Colorado Springs…again.  It’s brutal to be going through the controversies of Ted Haggard all over again.  I hate to see our wonderful city and our many great churches subjected again to the feeding frenzy of the media. The aftershocks of the earthquake that occurred two years ago are still being felt.

You need to know something.  I really love our city.  I love the people of Colorado Springs.  I love the beauty of the mountains rising so majestically that any window looking west can see them.  I like that we care about our families so much that we constantly vote for pro-family policies.  I like that we are blessed with one of the lowest crime rates in the country for cities of comparable size. 

Liz and I moved our family here 14 years ago to plant Mountain Springs Church.  During that time we have seen a lot of churches rise and fall.  As a pastor, I have gained life-long pastoral friends and seen others leave their churches.  Some of our experiences have been really sad; most really joyful.  Probably one of the most shocking and distressing experiences of my pastoral life was the revelation that my friend and fellow pastor, Ted Haggard, had been having an ongoing sexual relationship with a prostitute in Denver.  It rocked the city; it rocked the church; it rocked my life.  It was a moral and spiritual earthquake for our city and for our churches.

The tremors of the aftershock are being felt once again.  On Saturday the story of another allegation against Ted Haggard hit the newsstands.  I was with the new senior pastor of New Life Church, Brady Boyd, drinking coffee as the story was breaking.  He was leaving our meeting to field questions from the press. 

This coming week will not get any better.  This Thursday night, Ted Haggard will be on Larry King and has already recorded an Oprah Winfrey Show.  He is promoting an HBO documentary of his fall, airing on the same night.  And once again, our city and our churches will be subjected to the litany of questions and demeaning remarks that reflect a skeptical public and a weary pastorate. 

As a pastor of a church in Colorado Springs, I’m experiencing mixed emotions.  On the one hand, my heart goes out to Ted, who was always a good friend to me.  When I was starting MSC, I could always depend on him to help with a word of advice or encouragement.  That’s why I was ready to defend him to the press on that fateful day in November, 2006.  I was dressed and ready to leave my house and hold a press conference when the news came from Ted, “Don’t defend me.”  I broke down and wept.  Even to this day, Ted has a special place in my heart and I often pray for his complete healing. 

But I’m conflicted because I’m also really ashamed.  I’m ashamed for the Church.  I’m hurting for the evangelical Church.  I’m saddened that the Church allows this kind of sin into her midst.  It’s not even this story, but the many spiritual earthquakes that keep rocking the Church.  Controversies of sin and rebellion within the Body of Christ abound.  The lack of accountability; the lack of holiness; the lack of true Biblical scrutiny is, quite frankly, discouraging.  It is sobering and frustrating.  As a pastor, I want to learn everything that can be learned from this event.

I find myself being led back to the scriptures, to the apocalyptic letter of John—the Revelation.  For solace and instruction from my Lord and Savior, I meditate upon Jesus’ words to the Laodicean church:

“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’–and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked– I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”  Revelation 3:17-20

God’s view is so different from our own.  Here was a church that had everything—wealth and material blessing with no outward needs.  This was a “full” church; an obese church.  This must have been a church with a bottom line in the black.  Yet God saw things differently.  God said that the Laodicean church was “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”  God saw poverty, when the Laodiceans saw wealth.  When the church of Laodicea looked in the mirror they saw a stylin’ wardrobe; when Jesus looked in, He saw nakedness. Jesus just doesn’t cooperate with our tastes in style.  

Jesus’ way of thinking is a seismic shift from our own.  Seeing as Jesus saw has never been easy.  Loving as Jesus loved has never been natural.  It was not easy in the first century, and it isn’t any easier today.  God doesn’t ask us for our opinion.  He tells us what He thinks and He invites us to join Him in His vision and plan.

God’s uncommon view is almost always the opposite of ours…in everything.  To see as Jesus saw is a paradigm shift from anything that comes from the world.  We look at things externally and God looks internally. We look at budgets and spread sheets; God looks at motives and content.  We hype and promote our agenda and God looks for humility and tenderness.

Imagine Jesus as a counselor.  In our passage Jesus gives us a glimpse into His heart for the Church, the “called out” ones. This is the Chief Counselor counseling His beloved people.  His words echo through the centuries and are as apropos today as they were then. 

First, Jesus says to us in verse 18, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”  Jesus is not sending them to the streams of Pactolus, nor to the mines of Potosi, but He invites us to Himself, the pearl of great price.  He says that we must buy His gold.  It is the best gold, the refined stuff.  This is the stuff that has been through fire and come out gleaming and splendid.  Jesus is the refined One who went to Calvary, died, and rose again—He is the pure gold we all long for.

But how do we get it?  It is the gold that Isaiah cries out for, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1)  The first seismic shift of Jesus’ counsel to His beloved followers is to “come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden.” Jesus wants His people to come to Him and buy of Him.  He is our gold; He is our garment.  He is our covering and our true riches.  Jesus wants to once again be Lord over His Church!

Secondly, Jesus gives further counsel in verse 19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”  Repentance means to turn around, a 180 degree seismic shift from our old ways, our natural ways, our forsaken ways.  Jesus wants our hearts to change with a new attitude and new lifestyle.  Repent from sin and be zealous for good works.  This is not about a belief sized up by platitudes and religious sounding creeds, but a real walk of love and compassion.  Jesus intercedes for a church zealous to do good works.  Jesus cries out to His people longing for hearts that are completely turned over to Him.  Jesus wants us to forgive and care for the broken, but be balanced with holiness and integrity.  He is on the move looking for leaders whose hearts are for Him.

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”
(2 Chronicles 16:9a)

This is the heart of God for the Church and her leaders.  This is the people and the pastorate Jesus longs to comfort and empower!  This is my prayer for pastors—that we would set our hearts on being the most holy and loyal men of God possible.  This is the main prayer for my life.

Thirdly, Jesus knocks at the door of His Church, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)  Imagine Jesus being outside of his Church.  Jesus has been shut out of much of His Church today and He’s hungry for fellowship with us again.  He wants to enter the sermons, worship times, and even the board meetings.  He is knocking on the door of the youth and children’s ministry, wanting to come in.

We were created by God to deeply know and intimately love Him.  God loves you and me and created us for relationship, for intimacy.  This is the purpose of the Church.  We are a people called by His name to have an intimate, growing, ever deepening friendship with God.  This is the heart of God and this is why He knocks.

So, my prayers are heartfelt today.  I love this city and I love Ted Haggard, and I love the Church.  We will weather these aftershocks, but let us learn from them too.  It is time for us to wake up and love; it is time for us to wake up and change.  Jesus is calling all of us to buy His gold, repent, and open the doors of our hearts to Him once again.  May this be our prayer.

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,
Steve Holt





Inklings on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Interview of Me

9 09 2008

Several weeks ago I was interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for a national TV special on the upcoming presidential election in America.  The program centered around the shifting trends among the religious right away from just voting a one party ticket, especially as it related to the upcoming presidential election.  I was specifically asked questions related to the religious faith of Barack Obama and John McCain and how this might impact the upcoming presidential election.  I answered as truthfully as I could at the time.  Though the interview took over three hours, only a few minutes were used for the broadcast. 

I have just viewed the telecast that aired a few days ago in Australia.  After reviewing the program, I felt it necessary to prepare a few of my inklings and thoughts to more fully share my position as it relates to faith and politics.

Though I still do not know about John McCain’s faith, which I clearly stated in the interview, be assured that I do know about his political convictions, which was not the question.  In 30 years of voting, I have never voted in an election based largely on a candidates personal faith in God.  I vote to elect a politician who holds my viewpoints on political issues.  Romans 13 is very clear that God raises up “ministers” (mentioned 3 times) in the civil/political realm as much as He raises up ministers in the spiritual realm.  In the Romans 13 passage, the Greek word, diakonos is used, which can be translated “minister.”  But what is interesting is that Paul never indicates that this civil minister has any need for personal faith in God, but rather that God has personally placed him in that position for God’s purposes.  Indeed when Paul was writing, Nero, one of the most deranged emperors of all time, was in power in Rome.  So personal faith in God is not nearly as important to me as whether the candidate will legislate, vote, and work for laws that uphold my convictions.  As Martin Luther, the father of the reformation, once said, “I would rather vote for a good pagan than a bad Christian.”

As a minister in the spiritual realm, I look for “ministers” in the political realm who will uphold, vote for, and legislate what I believe, in my understanding of the Bible and my worship of God, to be the most consistent with the Holy Scriptures. I believe that the stark difference between the candidates (Obama and McCain) on such issues as the right to life for the unborn and marriage, which are clearly spelled out in the Scriptures, makes the decision for president a very easy one.  The contrasts could not be more stark nor more clear.

So, the issue before every thoughtful follower of Christ in America is not what John McCain or Barak Obama personally believes about God, that is his personal faith question between him and God, but rather, how will John McCain or Barak Obama, lead our country through the laws and ordinances that his administration will promote.  The Bible is certainly not clear on many political issues, and thus each believer must seek the Lord and develop his or her own political convictions, but, and I do mean but—the Bible is very clear on some issues.  Namely that life begins at conception (Ps 139; Jeremiah 1, etc.) and that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24 and Ephesians 5:22-33, etc.).  The two candidates stand as polar opposites on legislation on just these two issues alone.  So, as an addendum to the ABC program, let me be very clear that though I don’t consider the personal faith of a candidate as primary  in my decision of how to vote, my personal faith in what the Bible teaches does play a vital part in how I would vote for a candidate.

I hope this is helpful in relation to those who have seen the program and have further questions related to my personal convictions as they relate to religion and politics in our upcoming election. 

Pastor Steve Holt