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Cal Thomas on Why Liberal Christians Aren't Really Christian

Here's Cal Thomas holding forth on Hilary Clinton's religious faith (HT Digby):

Liberal faith, which is to say a faith that discounts the authorityof Scripture in favor of a constantly evolving, poll-tested relevancyto modern concerns -- such as the environment, what kind of SUV Jesuswould drive, larger government programs and other "do-good" pursuits --ultimately morphs into societal and self-improvement efforts andjettisons the life-changing message of salvation, forgiveness of sinsand a transformed life.

If the newspaper story is accurate, thisis where Clinton is on her faith: "In a brief quiz about hertheological views, Mrs. Clinton said she believed in the resurrectionof Jesus, though she described herself as less sure of the doctrinethat being a Christian is the only way to salvation."  This is apolitician speaking, not a person who believes in the central tenets ofChristianity.

Thesame book that tells of the resurrection, also quotes Jesus as saying"I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father butby me" (John 14:6). One might ask, which the reporter did not, that ifthere are other ways to God than through Jesus, why did Jesus bother tocome to Earth, allow himself to be crucified and suffer rejection?

I can't quite tell what Thomas means by liberal Christianity here. But I know I disagree with his characterization of the view that "beinga Christian is the only way to salvation" as a central tenet of Christianity, unless Catholics do not count as Christians.  (Of course, we've seen that one before as well.)

About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.



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It's a pity we can't have a forthcoming instalment from God on why Cal Thomas might not be Christian, or for that matter, which congregations should not be considered Christian. That will save so much ink between now and Election Day for Mitt Romney as well as Hillary Clinton. Maybe it was ever thus but I still find the whole exercise of whose religion should be counted for purposes of political or religious inclusion (well, really, exclusion) to be really dispiriting.

Why is this a big surprise? As a Cal-watcher for many years, I can tell you that he sees no middle ground between Bible-believing fundamentalists and--well, everybody else.Cal has strict rules about correctness of belief, and those who are not correct in their belief go directly to Hell, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.I do not know why his column, which is a religious advertisement for conservative Protestantism, appears in mainstream newspapers. There are no similar Muslim, Jewish, Catholic or Lutheran commentators who have gained such currency in the secular press.

I'm bothered that he thinks that concern for the environment--God's creation, after all--is nothing more than a "do good" pursuit unrelated to Christianity. Of course Christians can have good faith differences about what are the most efficacious environmental policies, but to not include concern for the environment in the panoply of Christian obligations is IMO contrary to the other-centeredness that is the hallmark of a Christian.

Just wondering what qualifies this Buffalo based wriyer to think he's a religion expert.More of the sam divisive garbage that infects a lot of religious discourse today.

For a thought provoking Christian perspective on the environment see BEYOND FALL/REDEMPTION: THE NEW STORYby Ted Schmidtat this column, Ted Schmidt writes about the Church and the ecological movement. "All of reality is sacred, created by God, sustained by a loving presence."

You got something against Buffalo, Mr. Nunz? Because, really, that city has enough problems already.

I think I get what Thomas is trying to get at. The pit y is that he expresses it so inadequately. But maybe part of the difficulty is in quoting Hillary Clinton at third hand:"...though she described herself as less sure of the doctrine that being a Christian is the only way to salvation." Put this way, it's hard to disagree with Clinton, if this is all she really said. "God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments." CCC 1257. You hardly need any Rahner to get to this bus stop. But it is also inadequate as a simple statement of theological views for a Christian, since it risks promoting the sin of indifferentism. Thomas's quoting of John 14:6 is the necessary tonic, but then it's difficult to ascertain whether it really is a rebuttal of what Clinton actually said or not. If Clinton had actually said she doubted whether salvation was only accomplished through Jesus Christ alone, he might be onto something.But that's not clear from the article. William Collier adds: "I'm bothered that he thinks that concern for the environment--God's creation, after all--is nothing more than a "do good" pursuit unrelated to Christianity." No doubt you're brought to mind of a certain epistle and its injunction that faith without works get the idea.Perhaps Thomas is critiquing the problematic theological tendency on the progressive extremes which reduces the religious gospel to a purely social gospel. If that is all he is doing that's fair game. But again, it's not clear enough from his column. This is an inevitable risk in political polemics. But that doesn't reduce the burden of precision any less. But maybe I am a naive fool for thinking so.

The problem as I see it is that Hillary Clinton or any other politician is put into a place where they have to "explain" their theological underpinnings as a "test" for their fitness to office. The founding fathers specifically refused to include such a test, moreover, Hillary Clinton isn't a trained theologian and is responding in a forum that permits sound bites only. I'll bet if you quizzed 100 Christians most would "flunk" the Cal Thomas test, even those who Cal Thomas counts as fellow congregants. It's obnoxious.

Barbara: While I too find the column by Cal Thomas to be "obnoxious" (and a few other words that would probably cause Grant to delete this post should I write them!) I find myself disagreeing with the thrust of your point.There is a difference, it seems to me, between what is constitutionally required to run for office and what each voter decides is required for a candidate to get her or his vote. If many (too many!) voters want a candidate to be a Cal Thomas Christian, then I see nothing improper (although much mistaken) in their position.

Joe, I understand your point, but it doesn't overcome the fact that Hillary Clinton's theological principles probably deviate from "core" Christian tenets no more and no less than the average Christian's do. To instruct people that she's really not Christian is hypocritical in the extreme.

I agree Thomas' argument is poorly made and in keeping with his usual mantras. But I am not clear how it is 'hypocrisy' to claim she's not Christian by his definition (while implying he is not one by yours). I think you're misusing the word.Any one of us is free to hold a candidate up to our own personal 'test' on issue -- the Founding Fathers have nothing to do with that. Further, we have a right to express the results of that 'test' to whomever we want, in whatever forum we have access to.You don't have to like it, or agree, but it's certainly not 'hypocrisy' for Thomas to do it.Also, saying her principles deviate from Christian tenets 'as much as the average Christians'' does not, of course, mean much of anything in the context of an argument which ultimately depends on absolutes -- it is very possible for nearly everyone to hold wrong views together, so appeals ad populum are pretty useless. It certainly does not mean Thomas is somehow required to point out everyone else's, including his own, in order to avoid 'hypocrisy' -- she's a public figure worthy of comment / discussion / analysis right now because of her role in public life.

Bradley, my father's family came to the USA to Erie County in the early 1800's, I still have family there and I spent quite some time in the area.I think the level of Journalism in Buffalo is not exactly of the highest rank and Mr. Thomas belongs in one of Dante's outer rings.

R.M., if Cal Thomas looked at Hillary Clinton as a potential soul to be saved, like any other member of the body of Christ that forms whatever church he belongs to, he would probably conclude that she was no more than middling -- a little confused, seeking, and not terribly sophisticated with theology. Just because she is a politician doesn't mean that she is undeserving of the special kind of charity that ministers are supposed to show to their flock. We are electing a president not a pope or whatever Cal Thomas's equivalent for that would be, and he knows full and well if he is a minister that what is in people's hearts, what they understand, and what they can express are usually inadequate to the task of rigorous theology.

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