PUBLIC VIEWPOINT Comfortable With Obama’s Christianity

Posted: January 11, 2013 at 2:52 a.m.

Hiram Cooper (Public Viewpoint, Jan. 4) is alarmed about the results of the recent election, believing that we are losing our country to nonbelievers. I take this to be a reference to President Obama, who is a longtime member of the United Church of Christ, the denomination in which I was trained for ministry 45 years ago. When we compare the two candidates in the recent election, we see that the president’s Christian credentials meet or exceed the Christian credentials of his opponent. I am impressed with President Obama’s understanding of Christian theology. Since I have been a pastor for half a century, I pay close attention to such things. Our president shares with me and many of us an admiration for Reinhold Niebuhr, who was the most influential American Protestant theologian of the last century.

This story is only available from our archives.

Opinion, Pages 5 on 01/11/2013

Thank you Rev. Wylie for pointing out that there is more than one flavor of Christianity.

Posted by: Coralie

January 11, 2013 at 2:14 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

RE "...pointing out that there is more than one flavor of Christianity."
As if the disagreements and inconsistencies among the writings of the various Christians who provide letters, commentaries and comments here haven't amply demonstrated this point already.

Posted by: AlphaCat

January 11, 2013 at 3:40 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

I thought god always punished those who voted against god. So, Hiram Cooper needn't worry. The retribution will be doled out when the time comes, perhaps in another 2 weeks, 2 years, 2 centuries, 2 millenniums. Who could say.

Posted by: cdawg

January 11, 2013 at 4:23 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Sandy, I was not referring to the President but the Judicial Branch of government and declared Christians. I have no clue what the President’s religious beliefs are or whether he is a Christian or not only God knows.

What we have to go on are the fruits of his actions – is he following God’s Way. I do see his actions and they speak volumes.

I’m not alarmed by the outcome of the last election in the way you probably think. My hope is the people will wake up and see where the President is leading the country.

If you are not worried about abortions, same sex unions, homosexuality, enslavement, Statism, and see how our courts have criminalized Christians and Christianity in general and view sin as an inalienable right; you have the right man in office. Thus the people have spoken.

Time will tell if Christ has abandoned us.

I am a Christ follower and believe in God’s Word. These are my rock. I am a sinner saved by grace.

Posted by: hbcark

January 11, 2013 at 8:27 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Getting out of jury duty is easy and it is easy to refuse to testify in court. All you have to do is affirm that you are an athiest because an atheist in Arkansas is not allowed to testify in court regardless of if they will swear on a bible. They also may not hold public office.

Constitution of Arkansas, Artiicle 19, Section 1 states:

No person who denies being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this state or be competent to testify as a witness in any court.

It is hard to imagine basing court testimony and finding the truth in civil matters is not based on objective evidence but on a professed belief in fairy tales.

Posted by: jeffieboy

January 12, 2013 at 1:07 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

RE "These are my rock."
For somebody who has such a fine rock, you sure worry and complain a lot. Of course, given the way you like to cast stones, you need every rock you can get hold of.

Posted by: AlphaCat

January 12, 2013 at 1:33 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

I didn't know that free thinkers could not testify in court of hold office. Those writers of the Arkansas Constitution must have looked into the future and saw a need. Or maybe they just didn't like athiests. Being an athiest ceretainly does'n disqualify a certain column writer from being an Episcopalian priest in Fudville.

Posted by: JailBird

January 12, 2013 at 6:40 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Free thinkers are not necessarily atheists.
The American Protestant literalists and Biblical inerrantists have a history about 150 years old, compared with much longer for the more traditional Christian denominations such as Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, etc.
Episcopalians never have been literalist Bible-thumpers, so instead of attacking Rev. Grisham personally, why not just get on with the religious wars?

Posted by: Coralie

January 13, 2013 at 2:38 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

REF-"Free thinkers are not necessarily atheists"

Could have fooled me.


Hypocrites and Tax Collectors are universialy hated. Especially Hypocrites.

Posted by: JailBird

January 13, 2013 at 3:57 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

I am so disappointed in jeffieboy that he believes the Bible is nothing but a fairytale. I don't think it would do any good to argue, but all you have to do is study Bible prophecy to see that it is more than fairytales.The bible is the best history, poetry, life-guiding book ever written by men inspired by God.

Posted by: mycent

January 13, 2013 at 7:45 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

I don't really think that jeffieboy believes the Bible to be nothing but a fairytale. jeffieboy is smarter than that. The Bible is a two-edged sword, able to kill or to heal. The Bible will comdemn you or save you. The greatest question ever asked by man is found in the Bible in the book of Job; "If a man die, shall he live again?" The whole rest of the Bible answeres this one lonely question. What do you mycentworth, think that answer is? I think jeffieboy knows, also. Where could I go, but to the Lord!

Posted by: JailBird

January 13, 2013 at 11:36 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Mycent: "all you have to do is study Bible prophecy to see that it is more than fairytales.">>

I think the Bible is more than fairy tales. It has many examples of accurate history. But this is to be expected, it is after all an old book. I've studied Bible prophecy enough to know that contrary to what is taught in many churches, standard mainstream Christian Bible scholarship understands that there are no verifiable examples of supernaturally fulfilled prophecy. Some people believe in them based upon faith, but faith is not an actual reason to believe something. Appealing to faith is just admitting you are going to believe something in spite of the fact that there isn't good evidence for it.

If you think you have an example or two, it might be interesting to look at them and see how they hold up to examination. If there were true examples of supernaturally fulfilled Bible prophecy, I think this would be very good evidence in favor of something interesting going on with the Bible, and perhaps something spiritual. So the Bible prophecy angle is a good one. But the truth is in the details, and when you look at the details, you find such a claim is very hard to establish and it's easy to trick yourself into thinking something is there when it isn't.

See also this for some basic guidelines on how to begin to establish an example of Bible prophecy:

Posted by: fayfreethinker

January 14, 2013 at 12:02 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Interesting, FreeSmoker, admits the Bible is interesting and just might be spiritual. Well, as they say, Mycent, A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. I don't know what it is the Free, the UFO hunter is looking for, but he will (sad to say) not like it when he finds it.

"You may find that having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting. This is not logical, but it is often true."---Mr. Spock

Now I give a basic guideline to Free though he doesn't merit it: Magic Mushrooms de aire comprimido no son juguetes. Se requiere supervision de un adulto. puede causar lesiones graves o muerte si usa descuidada o inapropiadamente.

Posted by: JailBird

January 14, 2013 at 3:18 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

I'll bet Free knows more about the Bible than anyone else posting here.

Posted by: Coralie

January 14, 2013 at 3:56 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

You may be right, Coralie. Certainly he knows more than I.

Posted by: JailBird

January 14, 2013 at 4:26 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

FFT - Where did you come up with the term "supernaturally-filled" prophecy? The Bible describes the times when Christ will come - wars and rumors of wars, men will endure great heat, knowledge will increase rapidly, earthquakes, famines, floods, etc will occur in great number. The seas will be roaring. Times that have never been seen before. Nations will surround Israel and it will look like they are defeated, but not to worry. Won't happen.

This is a quick overview; for more detail, I would need more time. But it is in the Bible, if you would like to study it yourself. I wish you would put as much effort into believing the "two edged sword" of God, rather than trying to disprove it. Won't happen, trying to disprove the Bible that is.

Remember though, that 'those that call on the name of the Lord, in those days, will be saved'. I hope you are one of those people.

Posted by: mycent

January 14, 2013 at 5:47 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Mycent: "FFT - Where did you come up with the term "supernaturally-filled" prophecy?">>

It's a precise term used to differentiate between a mundane fulfilled prophecy like: "It's going to rain tomorrow" which can technically be considered a fulfilled prophecy but for obvious reasons doesn't have anything to do with being supernatural. This is in contrast with a prophecy that fulfills the six basic hurdles (see list below), and *would* be a candidate for the category of being "supernaturally fulfilled."

The truth is in the details and if you want to demonstrate an extraordinary claim such as someone has a supernatural power of prophecy, it's important to be specific, precise and firmly establish your claims.

My: "The Bible describes the times when Christ will come">>

If you have a *specific* example you would like to provide, I would very much like to look at it. This would involve providing the exact example of prophecy and then demonstrating with evidence, that it was fulfilled. You haven't done that. Believing fulfillment based upon faith is not going to accomplish anything for non-believers of course.

Here are six common sense guidelines you will want to consider and make sure your example can overcome:

1) Can you show you are properly interpreting the text in question?

2) Can you verify that the prophecy was made before the event?

3) Can you verify the prophecy was made long enough before the event that it couldn't have been easily guessed?

4) Can you show that the prophesied event actually happened?

5) Can you show that some group couldn't have purposefully caused or performed an action in order to appear to "fulfill" the prophecy?

6) Is the prophecy not mundane, obvious or likely to occur?

Supposed Messianic prophecies have a hard time with numbers 1, 4 and 5.

My: "- wars and rumors of wars,">>

We've always had that and actually, the actual occurrence of war and percentage of the population affected by war is at historic lows. Same with violence pestilence etc. Which brings up something else, many of these supposedly fulfilled prophecy examples actually provide examples of failed prophecy. Dozens of examples provided upon request.

My: "men will endure great heat,">>

I would like to see that prophecy!

My: "knowledge will increase rapidly,">>

Chapter and verse please.

My: "earthquakes,">>

We had more earthquake activity in the 1800's than the 1900's. I put an extensive referenced article together on that once. Regardless, earthquake activity goes up, goes down or stays the same. So this is a rather mundane claim.

My: "famines,">>

A common misconception. Famine is very much in decline compared to the past. No comparison. People don't realize just how nasty the past was.


Posted by: fayfreethinker

January 14, 2013 at 7:48 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Mycent: "floods, etc will occur in great number.">>

We have more sensitivity to floods because we have 7 billion people instead a couple hundred million. Regardless, floods happen and they will either increase, decrease or stay the same in frequency. So even if this one was true, and you haven't shown it is, this would be rather mundane. See #6 above.

My: "The seas will be roaring.">>

I think we're approaching the bottom of the barrel here.

My: "Times that have never been seen before.">>

This applies to all times, necessarily.

My: "Nations will surround Israel and it will look like they are defeated,...">>

This brings up a typical problem with these prophecies. Consider, the Bible says...

Virgin Israel is to rise again:
"Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O
virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry." Jer. 31:4

Except it also says:

The virgin Israel is to rise no more.
"Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel. The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up." Amos. 5:1, 2

Notice how:
a) one of these prophecies must be fulfilled.
b) one of them also must be a false prophecy.

Believers like to cherry pick and ignore the problem verses. This happens a lot. It's called data mining, and there is a lot of data to mine in the Hebrew scriptures. And we know the gospel writers liked to do this too. Because sometimes gospel writers misread their Hebrew scriptures in a desire to fulfill prophecy, just like some Christians do today.

My: "for more detail, I would need more time.">>

That's why I suggested focusing one or two good examples. What you will need is quality, not quantity. The truth is in the details.

My: "Won't happen, trying to disprove the Bible that is.">>

The Bible contains hundreds of examples of contradiction. This means there are many instances of it being wrong. This is nicely covered in this book by a local author:

Hasting's in Fayetteville has it in the local authors section.

"There is no prophecy in the OT foretelling the coming of Jesus Christ. There is not one word in the OT referring to him in any way--not one word. The only way to prove this is to take your Bible, and wherever you find these words; "That it might be fulfilled" and "which was spoken" turn to the OT and find what was written, and you will see that it had not the slightest possible reference to the thing recounted in the NT--not the slightest."
--Robert Ingersoll

Posted by: fayfreethinker

January 14, 2013 at 7:53 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

FFT: Isiah 7:14 Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel.

Isiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

There are two OT prophecies foretelling of Christ's birth. There are more, and I will share them with you as find them.

You are one to whom Christ's coming will be 'as a thief in the night' but to those watching, they'll know when the hour is approaching.

Posted by: mycent

January 14, 2013 at 9:32 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Mycent: "Isaiah 7:14 Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son...">>

This is a good one to start with. It fails on all counts.

Let's imagine that the Hebrew word for virgin here refers only to a woman who has never had intercourse (it doesn't but let's imagine). You need to confirm that Mary was a virgin. Who is the only person that knows if Mary was a virgin? Mary. What did Mary ever write? Nothing that we know of. And if she had, it would still be more likely that she was lying, than that she really was a virgin when she got pregnant.

So this is not going to be a good example for you, because you can't confirm your prophecy was fulfilled. And is well known, it wasn't a prophecy anyway. Christians (read fundamentalists) have been dishonestly and blatantly fiddling with their translations on this one for years.

This fellow gives a nice short summary of further problems with your example:

"The Old Testament says nothing about Mary. Isaiah 7:14 speaks of a young woman of the time the "a young woman shall conceive" statement was made. In Hebrew it simply says that a young woman shall become/is pregnant and will give birth to a child. One need not quibble over the meaning of 'almah/bethulah in order to point out that it happens every day. Many young women become pregnant. They are virgins before (some of them) but not after. The OT says nothing about the young woman being a virgin at the time of giving birth. And of course the quote was lifted out of context and applied to Jesus. That is why Jews do not read it as having anything to do with a "virgin birth."

As for the 'almah/bethulah question, in the Septuagint Greek translation 'almah is rendered as parthenos, which can mean virgin but does not necessarily mean that. It is used in the OT of Dinah after she was raped. By the time of the Dialogue with Trypho the Jew of Justin Martyr, the meaning had apparently become more restrictive--thus the comment of Trypho that the Christians mistranslated the Isaiah 7:14 quote, as in fact they did.

As to whether the Mother of Jesus was a virgin or not, we really have no evidence at all. Both birth stories in the gospels appear to be later additions tacked onto the basic story that begins at the baptism of Jesus. Two gospels say nothing of a virgin birth. Paul says nothing of a virgin birth--in fact he speaks of Jesus being of the "seed of David" according to the flesh, meaning a descendant of David. If we accept the genealogies in the NT (which of course we should not), then Joseph is the genetic descendant of David--and of course he is supposed not to have had any physical part in the birth of Christ at all.

From a commonsense point of view the virgin birth is nonsense. Christianity is not alone in believing what is essentially a "remarkable birth" motif. In Tibetan Buddhism Padmasambhava was believed to have taken birth in a lotus blossom. Such things are metaphors, not reality."
--David Coomler

Posted by: fayfreethinker

January 15, 2013 at 12:56 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

We've debated this Isaiah 7 example many times over the years and Doug has compiled some standard scholarly references on this issue some time ago which I've kept on hand. It's rather long and a bit off topic for this thread, so I've posted it for you here, if you wish to read it:

Also, Bishop John Spong:

"Am I suggesting that these stories of the virgin birth are not literally true? The answer is a simple and direct "Yes." Of course these narratives are not literally true. Stars do not wander, angels do not sing, virgins do not give birth, magi do not travel to a distant land to present gifts to a baby, and shepherds do not go in search of a newborn savior. I know of no reputable biblical scholar in the world today who takes these birth narratives literally."
--From the Episcopal (Anglican) Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, John Shelby Spong. Rescuing The Bible from Fundamentalism, (1992), pg. 215

Oxford Companion to the Bible:

"Non-Christian sources are instructive in tracing parallels to the cult of Mary. Virgin birth stories (e.g., Hera, Rhea Silvia, Brigid) were circulated in other cultures, as were tales of mothers mourning lost and deceased children (e.g., Demeter and Phersephone; Isis and Horus). Iconographically, just as Mary was often portrayed holding or nursing the infant Jesus, so too was the Eygptian goddess Isis deplicted suckling her infant son, Horus. Even as Mary was called Queen of Heaven and sometimes deplicted surrounded by the Zodiac and other symbols, so too were dieties Isis. Magna Mater, and Artemis.
Such parallels show that Mary's cult had roots in the cults of the female deities of the Greco-Roman world, cult ultimately eradicated by Christianity...."
--Oxford Companion to the Bible, article on Mary, pg. 500

Posted by: fayfreethinker

January 15, 2013 at 1:03 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

"What is it that we all believe in, that we cannot see or feel or taste or smell - this invisible entity that heals all sorrows, reveals all lies, and renews all hope? What is it that has always been and always will be, from whose bosom we all came and to which we will all return? The scholarly thinker calls it Time. The enlightened have realized it is God."---Robert Brault

"The process of putting knowledge and skepticism together is enlightenment."---ME

Posted by: JailBird

January 15, 2013 at 3:22 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

FFT - We have been down this road before, if you remember. I'm not going down it again. You either believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, or not.

The Bible was not scewed by translators from Hebrew/Greek writings to English. These were men of God who did not take their responsiblity lightly. They knew they were accountable to God himself. How can you insult their integrity and very hard work? Many scholars have reviewed the Hebrew writings and have found no problem in the translation. Accept it or not. That is your choice.

You present a fact, then add your own thinking as fact. I guess that is what a free thinker does.

I like Robert Brault's quote,mm. However, I don't think there is room in a believer's life for doubt. We aren't to be double-minded.

Posted by: mycent

January 15, 2013 at 9:06 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

My: "We have been down this road before...">>

Yes we have.

My: "I'm not going down it again.">>

That's too bad. Such discussions are useful for learning and teaching. I learn from doing the research.

My: "You either believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, or not.">>

The claim of "inspiration" is vague and can never be shown. More important is, is it true? If you have an example of supernaturally fulfilled Bible prophecy (and apparently you think you do, because you offered it as reason to believe), then you should be able to present one that can withstand scrutiny. This is a reasonable request.

My: "The Bible was not scewed by translators from Hebrew/Greek...">>

I agree. I have about 20 translations and they are all quite good. I am not arguing the Bible shouldn't be believed because of poor translation, I am saying there are certain instances, in certain fundamentalist translations (NIV, NKJV) where they have fiddled a little in order to support certain doctrines. I can go into great detail about this and give specific examples if you like. I don't make claims I can't back up.

My: "These were men of God who did not take their responsiblity lightly.">>

Which is actually a reason to suspect their scholarship and translation skills have been tainted with a natural desire to fulfill pet doctrines, and pet prophecies.

My: "They knew they were accountable to God himself.">>

Even more reason to suspect. Dan Barker, former minster, addressed it this way:

"The motives of the NIV and LB translators are made clear in the preface to each book. The NIV,
translated by a team of evangelical scholars, is introduced with these words: "We offer this version of the Bible to him in whose name and for whose glory it has been made. We pray that it will lead many into a better understanding of the Holy Scriptures and a fuller knowledge of Jesus Christ the incarnate Word, of whom the Scriptures so faithfully testify."

If there is a contradiction in the New Testament, then it could not "faithfully testify" anything. The NIV team was extremely selective in choosing its scholars:
"[T]he translators were united in their commitment to the authority and infallibility of the Bible as God's Word in written form. They believe that it contains the divine answer to the deepest needs of humanity,..."

This is not the agenda of a team of objective scholars! This is evangelism."

This is why the NIV is a notoriously fudged and fiddled with version.

My: "You present a fact, then add your own thinking as fact.">>

How is that inappropriate? If you can refute something I have put forward as fact, please do so. I don't present facts I can't back up with evidence.

My: "I guess that is what a free thinker does.">>

This freethinker (it's one word), examines claims to see if they are true. Your prophecy examples don't hold up.

Posted by: fayfreethinker

January 15, 2013 at 10:12 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

RE ""The Bible was not scewed by translators from Hebrew/Greek..."
Yet there are numerous translations, and they vary from each other in numerous significant ways. How can they all not be skewed?

Of the thousands of Christian denominations, many are defined by the Bible they use.

What denomination are you? Which Bible do you believe? Isn't everybody else skewed in their Bible and their beliefs?

Posted by: AlphaCat

January 15, 2013 at 12:42 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Mycentworth, unless you just like to fool around with FFT's head you should just stop on the God and Bible discussion.

You can never prove there is a God and Free can not prove there is not. This argument has being going on for thousands of years, without a resolution, among greater intellectials than you or I and especially Free, the Black Hole of other viewpoints

Posted by: JailBird

January 15, 2013 at 4:03 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Moneymyst - I agree with you somewhat, but, to me, creation it self is a testament to a higher power. I can't look at a starry night without feeling the presence of God. But, you are right, I will never convince anyone through debate.

AlphaCat - I am right now going to a Baptist church, but that really doesn't matter as long as they teach the Bible as the original writers wrote it. KJV is as close as you can get, I believe. I like the notes in my Scofield Bible, though. You don't even have to go to church to be a Christian, but it helps to surround yourself with people who believe as you.

If you really are searching for the truth, you will find it. I know Jesus Christ is the truth. Galations6:14 God forbid that I should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Posted by: mycent

January 15, 2013 at 4:48 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Y'all need to be "comfortable" with ANYONE'S belief. That is the American way, so get on with it & quit quibbling. I kinda like the quantum theory of reality...God is what ever you "think" that he/she/it is. So maybe you are ALL correct.

Posted by: ajm

January 17, 2013 at 6:01 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

ajm - We do need to spread the good news of salvation, that is the commanment of God, but then move on. However, since all problems, in my opinion, come from a lack of morals and love, it is hard for me to shut up.

Posted by: mycent

January 17, 2013 at 8:02 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

RE "since all problems, in my opinion, come from a lack of morals and love"

Or maybe they come from an overabundance of morals and love. See which is in response to the comment, "Without Christ and religion people will kill others , steal, cheat on their spouses and the list goes on..."

Posted by: AlphaCat

January 22, 2013 at 12:24 a.m. ( | suggest removal )


Using your logic, maybe we should condem every belief system or creed due to the crimes of some declared followers. Wait... that is what a group of people are doing.

Posted by: Tankersley101

January 23, 2013 at 12:21 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

RE "Using your logic, maybe we should condem every belief system or creed due to the crimes of some declared followers."
You apparently don't understand my logic. My point is that morality and love are neither exclusive to, nor inevitable in, religious people. (The examples I cited involved Christians because the original claim mentioned Christianity specifically.)

Posted by: AlphaCat

January 23, 2013 at 1:06 a.m. ( | suggest removal )