Biblical faith took a beating in President Obama's Notre Dame speech

Biblical faith took a beating in President Obama's Notre Dame speech

President Obama’s speech to the 2009 graduates of Notre Dame concluded a minute ago.  It was a controversial event at a very visible Catholic University, given his public position on abortion, complete with interruptions by vocal protesters and news coverage of many dissenters outside the building.  The speech included the expected topic of abortion but in my mind, there was a gargantuan paragraph that not only exposed his perspective on the solidity of biblical doctrine, but reflected the view of most in our society today.

The paragraph that struck me the hardest: “But remember too that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It is the belief in things not seen. It is beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what he asks of us, and those of us who believe must trust that his wisdom is greater than our own.”

To that I must say that if the Bible is anything it is God’s revelation to mankind of who he is, how he works, who we are, and YES – what he has planned for us and what he asks of us.  One scripture passage that shouts loudly: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given unto him.  But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For that man ought not to expect anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)

Are we imperfect humans? Yes.  Do we doubt? Yes.  Do we need wisdom in those times of doubt?  No question.  But the President seems to stop there and say that we can’t get wisdom to know what God wants of us.  Stop and think about that.  Then read the James passage again.  How unifying and tolerant it is to say, “Boy, I just can’t say for sure.”  How refreshingly humble and noble to not announce that there is absolute truth which all people should realize and agree with.  To go that extra step and get that understanding from the scriptures and prayer would simply be arrogant and judgmental.

What’s a Christian supposed to think about that?  The Bible constantly speaks about truth, knowledge, understanding, learning, wisdom, precepts, doctrine.  Why would the Bible, through the help of God himself, present the very information our President says we can’t know?  Why have we been given the capacity to obtain such knowledge if doubt is such a noble, unpretentious virtue? 

The answer is that our world has defined faith for itself.  And the definition has to be inclusive and sensitive to everyone’s beliefs so that there is no offense. 

Obama continued, “This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, and cause us to be wary of self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open, and curious, and eager to continue the moral and spiritual debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame. And within our vast democracy, this doubt should remind us to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works, charity, kindness and service that moves hearts and minds.”

There’s the rest of the redefinition: if you’re passionate about your faith, that equals self-righteousness.  Quiet down.  You point out what the Bible says about a moral issue?  You can’t know that for sure.  All this talk that there is only one way of salvation and it’s only found in Jesus? You’re in need of tempering.

All of this underscores the desperate need to pray for our leaders.  I’m not mad at the President; I grieve for his inability to see the truth and his leading others astray when he speaks on spiritual matters. 

You’re going to see this passage a lot on this blog:  “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Getting mad will not change our world.  Political activism will not change our world.  Mobilizing millions of people to vote a certain way at the ballot box will not ultimately change our world.  The gospel is the only message that can change a heart, shared with love but also proclaimed as truth.  But it’s going to offend some people.

But for people of faith, this is one thing we cannot doubt.