Recently, a US Senator from Vermont, one Bernie Sanders, had the audacity to publicly humiliate himself by demonstrating that his knowledge of Christianity is alarmingly deficient for a man in his position. More than that, Sanders also put on display for all to see, not only his incompetence regarding Christianity, but his absolutely hatred for it. Recently, Sanders had opportunity to question (interrogate) President Trump’s nominee for deputy director for the Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought. In that exchange Sanders made some amazing charges against what is essentially the very basic or core of historic Christian theology.
Writing on his personal blog about the Muslim controversy that arose a few months back, Vought commented, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.” Where core, essential Christianity is concerned, this is an uncontroversial statement. If you do not agree with Vought’s comments, then it is simple: you are not a Christian and you do NOT understand the basic, exclusive nature of Christianity. Sanders clearly falls into both categories: he clearly is not a Christian and he clearly does not understand the basic claims of Jesus Christ about Himself in the gospels.
Sanders charged Vought with being Islamaphobic, hateful, and insulting. How should a Christian respond in situations like this? Well, there are a number of different ways one can response. You can respond like Mr. Vought did HERE. I think Mr. Vought’s response was admirable and correct. My response would likely have been a little different because of my background in apologetics and my training in philosophy. The most important element in our response is that we do not, for any reason, seek to cushion, soften, or tone down God’s word. I didn’t see Mr. Vought making any attempt to ease up on the exclusive claims of Christianity. He held the line nicely. Secondly, we want to be respectful even when we are not being given the same courtesy. This is not as easy as it sounds. I admit that there are times when I struggle with this a bit. When someone is being rude and disrespectful toward Christianity, my instinct is to humiliate their arguments. That is unhelpful. So here are a few brief responses one might have given Mr. Sanders:
Sanders: Do you believe the statement that Muslims stand condemned because they do not embrace Jesus Christ as the Son of God?
Christian response: Jesus Himself said that unless men believe that he is the Son of God, they will die in their sins. Muslims reject the claims of Jesus Christ to be the Son of God. It was Jesus who said they will die in their sins. (John 8:24)
Sanders: Do you believe that this statement is Islamaphobic?
Christian response: Do you believe your statement that indicates that Christianity is a religion of hate is Christianaphobic?
Sanders: Do you believe that everyone who rejects Christianity stands condemned?
Christian response: Jesus Christ himself said, whoever does not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God is condemned already. Do you believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God Mr. Sanders?
Sanders: I will vote no because this man is not what this country is all about.
Christian response: The first amendment to the Constitution states that congress shall make no laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion. Mr. Vought’s speaking out in defense of Christian principles regarding Wheaton College’s decision to fire a teacher who was supposed to uphold Christian principles but did not is religious speech protected by the first amendment and is precisely what this country used to be about.
This post is not intended to be a defense of American politics, the constitution, or the Bill of Rights. America is not what it once was. While it was NEVER a Christian nation, America was a nation where the free tolerance of religious ideas was a core principle. The nation was founded on a cognitive respect and a common courtesy toward Christian values. That is no longer the case. Mr. Vought was placed in the wonderful position of being able to give this committee the gospel. Perhaps that would have been the best response of all. I think that is what Paul would have done. I applaud Mr. Vought’s courage. He did not back down. But even with that courage, there is a lesson we can all learn. There are opportunities for us to share the gospel presenting themselves to us just about every day. We must do better in taking advantage of those opportunities.