Bernie Sanders and the Danger of Theological Ignorance
Recently President Trump nominated Russ Vought to be Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Russ Vought is an old friend. We haven’t talked in some time, but both of us worked for then-U.S. Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN), he after me. Later, we worked for members of the House Republican Study Committee and regularly saw one another at various RSC meetings.
Vought’s qualifications for this position are excellent. Among other things, he was a senior aide to House Budget Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). His knowledge of the federal budget is wide and deep. And he is committed to constraining its unbridled and deficit-building growth.
Jesus Says He is the Only Way to Heaven
Vought has gotten into political trouble recently. He believes that his alma mater, Wheaton College, has every right to require orthodox Christian faith from its faculty. In a carefully reasoned piece in The Resurgent, he explains why Muslims do not, in fact, worship the same God as Christians:
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. In John 8:19, “Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” In Luke 10:16, Jesus says, “The one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” And in John 3:18, Jesus says, “Whoever believes in [the Son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
These statements of Jesus make very clear that to reject Him is to reject the true and living God. One might not agree with Jesus; most people in our world who have heard his good news have rejected it.
But what Russ is asserting is not only well within the circle of biblical theology, it is at the very center of it. He is quoting Jesus’ claims to uniqueness and to being the only way to know God. The bone his critics wish to pick lies with Jesus, not Russ Vought.
The ACLU asserts that “it’s so disturbing that Trump continues to pack his administration with appointees like Russell Vought, whose views threaten” religious liberty. It’s why, after grilling Russ at a Senate hearing, a livid Bernie Sanders (D-VT) said, “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”
Tell that to the Founders, Mr. Sanders, the great majority of whom affirmed exactly what Russ did.
Furthermore, religious liberty involves the freedom to express one’s convictions without fear of professional or personal reprisal. It means having the ability to practice one’s faith actively in all spheres of life.
Vermont’s Christian Colleges Agree with Vought
Sen. Sanders and others on the Left who object to Russ’s statement will be quite jarred to learn what historic Christian orthodoxy teaches about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and His claim to be the only way to the Father (John 14:6).
More immediately, several colleges within Sen. Sanders’ home state affirm exactly what Russ said in his article.
“Salvation … is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior … There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord,” according to Bennington, Vermont’s Northeastern Baptist College.
Green Mountain College near Rutland is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The Methodists proclaim that Jesus Christ “was and is the fulfillment of the ancient hope and God’s Chosen One to bring salvation to all peoples, for all time” and affirm “that the traditional Christian view” is that “those who refuse God’s love suffer endless separation from God.”
Then there are Vermont’s Catholic colleges, the College of St. Joseph’s in Rutland and St. Michael’s in Colchester. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, ‘will save his people from their sins’.”
The affiliate churches of four of Vermont’s colleges either are Christian or have a Christian heritage. Their denominations affirm, in whole or in part, what Russ Vought’s alma mater, Wheaton College, does. By saying that Christ and His plan of salvation are unique, they overtly or tacitly agree that all other faiths are “deficient” in what they teach about God.
Sanders: Legacy of Undermining Liberty
So, Senator Sanders, since these schools apparently “are not what this country is supposed to be about:”
- Will you demand that any of their graduates who apply for employment on your staff disavow their schools’ theological beliefs?
- Will you lead a movement to get these evidently un-American institutions out of Vermont?
- Will you meet with the leadership of these colleges and demand they turn from their doctrinal beliefs?
Russ Vought is a smart man of orthodox Christian faith and moral courage. Our country will be blessed by his service. Unlike the “service” of Bernie Sanders, who has spent his life undermining the principles of liberty, prosperity, and family for which people like Russ Vought stands.