Recently Vermont Senator and former presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders, showed a remarkable ignorance of both the United States Constitution and the basic beliefs of Christianity. In a confirmation hearing of Russell Vought for the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Senator Sanders offered challenging questions not about Vought’s math skills, financial philosophy, or if he could balance his own personal budget, but instead about Vought’s theology.
Last year after Wheaton College suspended and then fired a professor for her confusing view that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, Russell Vought wrote an article as an alumnus defending his evangelical college. Included in his article was the statement that “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.”
Sanders pushed several times against Vought in the confirmation hearing implying that this statement from his article was “Islamophobic.” Sanders then said publicly that he would not be voting to confirm Vought because of his religious beliefs.
Last year Bernie Sanders rode a wave of populism to nearly gain the Democrat Party’s nomination for president by tapping into liberal sentiments of a segment of our society. Senator Sanders seems to be a Democratic Socialist by heart-level conviction. He also seems to imbibe the political correctness convictions that underlie such a liberal worldview.
Unfortunately, some of those core beliefs run contrary to the United States constitution and certainly against the basic beliefs of biblical Christianity. My intent is not to show how the Bible interacts with all of Sanders’s political views issue by issue, or to question the sincerity of his motivations behind his beliefs or statements. Instead I want to show that the senator is wrong to have used a religious test about his vote to not nominate Russell Vought according to the Constitution and to show that Vought’s views about Christianity and Islam are the normal, ordinary views of a man who believes the Bible.
Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution says that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The Founders of our country would not allow a person’s religious views (or irreligious views) to become a test of whether he could serve in our federal government. By scrutinizing Vought’s theology and then declaring that based on those views, Sanders would not vote to approve Vought’s nomination, Sanders seems to have done what the Constitution explicitly forbids.
Christians have always believed according to the Bible that Jesus Christ is the only savior of the world. To state the case positively, all of humanity is self-condemned because of our sins against our Creator. The Bible clearly says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Because of our sins, which include everything we do, say, and think that goes against the commands of God, we all deserve to be condemned by God, first in physical death and then in spiritual death in hell after the final judgment. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). Each of our failures to love God perfectly and to love others consistently has earned everyone everywhere God’s condemnation.
The great message of Christianity is that God didn’t leave us to our universal plight; instead he came to save sinful people from his own wrath. God took on humanity in addition to his deity in the person of his Son. He lived the perfect obedient life that we all have failed to live. This qualified him to die as a substitute for sinners on the cross. God punished Jesus for our sins. Then God raised Jesus bodily from the grave. He is alive right now, proving that everything he said and did was legitimate.
Paul summarized this amazing transaction in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Consider these words carefully. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross and in his resurrection, God offers everyone everywhere free forgiveness. If you will trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, you can receive his amazingly gracious offer right now. The most famous verse in the Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
But now we must flip this wonderful truth around. What about those who don’t believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Those who reject God’s wonderful escape from his condemnation, remain in their self-condemnation because they are still in their sins. Even those who have not heard of Jesus are still judged, because they do have creation and their consciences which reveal enough about God that everyone is without excuse for not seeking God (see Romans 1 and 2).
Those who pursue alternate paths to God through various other religions of the world are also condemned. A person can never undo their condemnation through religious efforts, even very sincere ones. The only way to escape God’s righteous wrath is through the sacrifice of Jesus. Christians don’t earn this gift, as if we were something special, we have just trusted the Lord Jesus and his free offer. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus testified that he was the only way to a right relationship with God in John 14:6. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The belief that those in other religions are under God’s condemnation is not strange or being fearful of those of other religions. It is the essential message of Christianity. The United States was a country founded on the belief that all people are equally created by God and worthy of respect and dignity (even though Americans have often failed to live out this founding ideal in our history).
There is no threat to a civil society that some people believe the Bible and others do not. Christians ought to compassionately care for our friends and neighbors around us. If Christians really believe the message of the Bible, they cannot keep it to ourselves, they must share the great news with others. But if those of other religious views choose to go a different direction, Christians still care for them as friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens.
Senator Sanders and those who disapprove of the message of the Bible ought to strive for the American values of mutual respect and co-laboring with Christians as fellow freedom-loving citizens of the United States. Our country was founded by people with a diversity of beliefs working together for common cause of our society, in spite of our differences.
Hopefully the Lord will grant our nation many more years of mutual respect, living together, and working together without some trying to suppress or vilify political opinions and religious beliefs that differ from their own.