Well there are at least two ways to look at this question. One way is to look at what Obama does, and see if it matches up with what Christians are supposed to do, and what they have done. Another way is to look at what Obama says, and see if it matches up with what the Bible says, and what the early Church believed.
What are Christians supposed to do?
There are a lot of places I could look to see whether or not Obama’s actions are the actions of a Christian, but I will just choose one: abortion. If you want to know what Christians believe about abortion, you need to go back to the very earliest followers of Jesus. At that time, the Roman authorities believed not only in abortion but also infanticide. The earliest Christians opposed not only infanticide, but also abortion.
Extrabiblical Jewish Literature
The noncanonical Jewish wisdom literature further clarifies first-century Judaism’s view of abortion. For example, the Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides 184–186 (c. 50 B.C.–A.D. 50) says that “a woman should not destroy the unborn in her belly, nor after its birth throw it before the dogs and vultures as a prey.” Included among those who do evil in the apocalyptic Sibylline Oracles were women who “aborted what they carried in the womb” (2.281–282). Similarly, the apocryphal book 1 Enoch (2nd or 1st century B.C.) declares that an evil angel taught humans how to “smash the embryo in the womb” (69.12). Finally, the first-century Jewish historian Josephus wrote that “the law orders all the offspring to be brought up, and forbids women either to cause abortion or to make away with the fetus” (Against Apion 2.202).
Contrast these injunctions with the barbarism of Roman culture. Cicero (106–43 B.C.) records that according to the Twelve Tables of Roman Law, “deformed infants shall be killed” (De Legibus 3.8). Plutarch (c. a.d. 46–120) spoke of those who he said “offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds; meanwhile the mother stood by without a tear or moan” (Moralia 2.171D).
Early Christian Literature
Against the bleak backdrop of Roman culture, the Hebrew “sanctity of human life” ethic provided the moral framework for early Christian condemnation of abortion and infanticide. For instance, the Didache 2.2 (c. A.D. 85–110) commands, “thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born.” Another noncanonical early Christian text, the Letter of Barnabas 19.5 (c. A.D. 130), said: “You shall not abort a child nor, again, commit infanticide.” There are numerous other examples of Christian condemnation of both infanticide and abortion. In fact, some biblical scholars have argued that the silence of the NT on abortion per se is due to the fact that it was simply assumed to be beyond the pale of early Christian practice. Nevertheless, Luke (a physician) points to fetal personhood when he observes that the unborn John the Baptist “leaped for joy” in his mother’s womb when Elizabeth came into the presence of Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus at the time (Luke 1:44).
More than merely condemning abortion and infanticide, however, early Christians provided alternatives by rescuing and adopting children who were abandoned. For instance, Callistus (d. c. A.D. 223) provided refuge to abandoned children by placing them in Christian homes, and Benignus of Dijon (3rd century) offered nourishment and protection to abandoned children, including some with disabilities caused by unsuccessful abortions.
BAIPA [The Born Alive Infant Protection Act] (both the federal and Illinois state versions) on the other hand, was introduced to insure that babies who survive attempted abortions are provided the same medical care and sustenance as any other infant born alive. BAIPA was introduced after evidence was presented that babies born alive after unsuccessful abortions were simply discarded in utility closets without food, care, or medical treatment until they died.
As both Andy and I pointed out last night (and numerous times before), state senator Obama fought against the Illinois version of BAIPA that was identical in all material respects to the federal version. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama claimed that he voted against the Illinois BAIPA because it failed to contain a “neutrality clause” making it clear that the bill did not affect the right to an abortion. This is false. Documents obtained by National Right to Life show that the Illinois BAIPA did, in fact, contain a neutrality clause identical to the federal version.
As noted yesterday, not one U.S. senator voted against BAIPA. Even NARAL didn’t oppose it. At the time of the vote, CNN reported that NARAL’s spokesman said the following:
We, in fact, did not oppose the bill. There is a clear legal difference between a fetus in utero versus a child that’s born. And when a child is born, they deserve every protection that the country can provide. (Emphasis added).
The logical import of Obama’s vote against BAIPA is that he disagrees, i.e., once a baby has been targeted for abortion it thereafter has no inherent right to the food, comfort, and medical care provided to other babies born alive. Indeed, during Illinois state senate deliberations on BAIPA, Obama stated that one of his objections was that the bill was “designed to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion.” Apparently, once the decision to abort has been made, a child is doomed even if born alive.
It seems to me that Obama’s actions don’t line up with what Christians have always believed. But he would make a great Roman. But let’s keep going – maybe he’s good on theology, apologetics and the Bible.
What are Christians supposed to say?
In order to be a Christian, you must accept that all people everywhere are in rebellion against God, and that Jesus is God stepping into history, and that there is no reconciliation with God apart from an explicit belief in Jesus’ deity, and the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Namely, that his death was a payment for each person’s rebellion against God. Christians also believe that a person must accept that those who do not know Jesus and believe in what he did will not go to Heaven, but will be separated from God for eternity in a place called Hell.
Let’s look at what the Bible says.
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!
9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed,
10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
“‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
John 14:1-6:(Jesus speaking)
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.
2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
4You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.
2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.
3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.
4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
And in Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” I could go on, but that should be enough. Christians do not think that these teachings are mere opinions – we think they are facts. We think they are true and binding and knowable.
To be believe in Jesus means to believe that he is who he says he is – God stepping in history, giving his own life up in order to take the punishment that each person deserves who rebels against God. And we all rebel against God, according to the Bible.
Now let’s take a look at what Obama says. Pay attention to whether he thinks that what he is saying are his own opinions or whether they are facts.
Falsani: What do you believe?
OBAMA: […]I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there’s an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.
Falsani: Do you believe in heaven?
OBAMA: Do I believe in the harps and clouds and wings?
Falsani: A place spiritually you go to after you die?
OBAMA: What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.
When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I’ve been a good father to them, and I see in them that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they’re kind people and that they’re honest people, and they’re curious people, that’s a little piece of heaven.
Falsani: What is sin?
OBAMA: Being out of alignment with my values.
Falsani: What happens if you have sin in your life?
OBAMA: I think it’s the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I’m true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward, when I’m not true to it, it’s its own punishment.
OBAMA: […]This is something that I’m sure I’d have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell.
Falsani: You don’t believe that?
OBAMA: I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.
Again, not only did Jesus mention Hell constantly, but the earliest Christians believed in a literal, eternal Hell. Obama doesn’t get to override Jesus, the Bible and the early church and substitute his own religion, and his own standard of sin and salvation. What I find annoying is that he apparently cannot reconcile God’s goodness with the existence of Hell. That’s like Apologetics 101. You would have to know nothing at all about Christianity to say what he said. You would have had to avoided reading anything that answers any questions about Christianity – because that question is easy.
To me what Obama expressed there in his answers was religious pluralism, radical subjectivism, postmodern relativism, and universalism. In no way shape or form are those beliefs consistent with what the Bible teaches. Not even close – this is not even disputable. To be a Christian, you have to believe that there are objective truths about God, independent of different people’s opinions. And that these truths are knowable, through reason, science, history and revelation in the Bible. Only atheists think that religion is non-cognitive subjective wish-fulfillment meant to make people feel good and have community, etc. If you think religion is like picking a flavor of ice cream instead of picking a prescription drug for an illness, then you’re not a Christian. Period.
So in both cases, when you look at what Obama says and what Obama does, it’s very clear that he is not a Christian by any stretch of the imagination. There is a lot more to being a Christian than just calling yourself one. You have to act the way that Christians are supposed to act – the way they always acted since the beginning of Christianity. And you have to believe the basic things that Christians are supposed to believe. Things that are clearly taught in multiple books of the new Testament and things that were believed by the earliest followers of Jesus, right up to the present day. If I had to guess what Obama really believes, I would speculate that he inclines toward atheism, or agnosticism at best.
UPDATE: Barack Obama denies that Jesus is the unique son of God at the 2012 Easter Prayer Breakfast.