Huckabee’s God Problem

December 31, 2007

A less than flattering piece on Huckabee in the LA Times cuts to the heart of Huckabee’s "God" problem. You can read anecdotes about his holding up insurance legislation because it contained the words "an act of God" to define a natural disaster after a cyclone hit Arkansas. But it’s actually this phrase that troubles me the most. He was writing about his role as a politician.

"My standard is Christ," he wrote in "Character Makes a Difference," published this year. "I will have to answer to him alone."

It leaves little doubt that he sees his personal interpretation of what the Lord wants as trumping something as insignificant as the will of the American people. Presidents sometimes do have to go against the will of the people to exercise their best judgment. But I’d prefer a more objective rationale for it, than Huckabee’s personal faith in God. But then, I’ve never been much of a papist, myself.

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  1. Earnie Bliss says:

    I am fairly disgusted by Huck pandering to the Christian vote, and hope he fails. But being a Christian doesn’t make you a papist. A papist is a disparaging term for a Roman Catholic and does not include the rest of Christianity. Being Episcopalian, I could not be a papist without converting to Catholicism. Being a pretty smart guy, I could not vote for Mike Huckabee.

  2. Cory says:

    Huckabee also has a foreign policy problem, an illegal immigration problem, a fiscal policy problem, and a crime and punishment problem.

  3. seekeronos says:

    I mostly agree with what Earnie said. My response is a bit lengthier than normal, so I made a post about it at my blog (click on my name or the link following) :

  4. steve poling says:

    “My standard is God. I will have to answer to him alone.”
    This sounds very, very bad, and unless you back it up with some careful thinking, it is idolatry. The ancient Greeks inquired as to the source of virtue. If virtue came from the gods, might the gods call for things like pulling the wings off flies? We well recall how capricious the myths depicted them. Or were the gods subject to some ethical standard independent of them. Now move from Athens to Jerusalem and we see Moses deliver the two tablets of the Law. The same question occurs in this context, is the God of Moses independent of the Law or subject to the Law?
    Mover forward a few thousand years and Byzantine Emperor Manuel II asks the same thing of Islam’s Allah. When Pope Benedict XVI repeated the question last year the Islamists started burning things and murdering people IN THE NAME OF GOD.
    Clearly, someone who isn’t a Baptist who finds a preacher on the ballot running for President is going to wonder if some Baptist equivalent of Islamic fanaticism might be subject to similar madness IN THE NAME OF GOD. After all, Mr. Huckabee will answer to God alone. He said so himself.
    Now, I am a Baptist and a Fundamentalist one at that. Christianity has long answered the question of the relationship between Law (or Virtue) and God by identifying God and Law. Jewish tradition has also said that one can understand God’s character by studying (and living) the Ten Commandments. The term of art is, “God is a law unto himself.” God embodies virtue and provides a benchmark for it. (If you disagree, you have this in common with Islam.)
    This gives a theoretical basis for comfort that God won’t capriciously expect cruelties of us, but God is transcendent and not subject to direct inspection. C. S. Lewis wrote an appendix to “The Abolition of Man” wherein he enumerates a set of moral laws, he calls the Way, that have been independently discovered in a number of diverse cultures. The result is a “multicultural” moral codebook that anyone, Baptist, Buddhist, or Atheist can get support. (If you hate Natural Law theory, you should be foaming at the mouth right now.)
    Thus, Mr. Huckabee (and all of us) shall answer to the standard of virtue that stands in nature and is no more Baptist, or Christian, or American than the laws of physics do.

  5. It is not necessary to denigrate evangelical Christians in order to slam Huckabee. Evangelicals have a very personal relationship with the Risen Christ. They have certain cardinal values that they are not ready to sacrifice for anyone or reason.
    Most understand the value of separation of church and state in it’s true and meaningful form. A real man or woman of faith would not allow their individual interpretation of their faith to pollute their political duties as dictated by our constitution. If such an event did indeed occur they should resign before doing so.
    There is a world of difference between being led by your faith in your thinking and actions, and trying to force them down other peoples throat.
    Huckabee is not a good representative of a rational evangelical any more than Pat Robertson.
    In my opinion the Huckster is a phony and political opportunists.

  6. joeb says:

    The phrase “an act of God” has always bothered me when it is used in terms of insurance. An insurance company once tried to not pay us for damage caused to my wife’s car during a snowstorm because they said the storm “was an act of God”. I laughed in the guy’s face. I told him everything is an act of God. I told him if they didn’t pay then we would just have to sue them and my wife is a lawyer. We drove home. The phone rang. He said we could come back and pick up the check. This all took place months after we had filed a claim. So we drove to the local insurance office and learned they had been doing nothing with the claim. It had just been sitting in an in box. He said wait a minute I will call the lady who slid down a hill in a snow storm and hit your car. He called her long distance and she confirmed our side of the claim. That is when he tried the “We don’t intend to pay this claim because the snow storm was a act of God” routine. I told him it was an act of a bad driver. The act of God language is just used by insurance companies to try to get out of paying claims. And many people fall for it. They should sue the insurance companies and tell them that is an act of God.

  7. seekeronos says:

    A rational and spiritual basis for considering where the Law of God applies (as it does to all humankind, regardless of what beliefs *they* hold) is bound to that fact that God is Sovereign and sits enthroned as King over all His creation (which the earth and its many political entities are a part thereof).
    For a ruler to say that he is directly accountable to God is not a mistake; it is rather more important for him to remember that as an executive under the United States Constitution, that all the authority he has is given to him by the citizens through the Constitution.
    However, since ALL authority in heaven and on earth (according to the witnesses provided by the Gospels and as a theme throughout the fullness of Holy Writ) is given to God the Son (Jesus Christ, the Creator) by God the Father, it follows then that the sovereignty of the People of the United States is also derived from God, who in the Deist sense of the Founding Fathers’ minds was often referred to with such lofty terms as “Heaven’s God” or “Nature’s God”, or the “Divine Providence”.
    It bears re-mentioning though, that just as much as God gave mankind free will, it also accumulates to a national level, where the mind of a nation – especially one modeled as a constitutional, federal republic – is often guided by the will of the people – who collectively, may not wish to follow God.
    Such is the state of our Republic now: while many of us call ourselves by the Name of Christ (Christians), it is very, very few who are consistently obedient, and who truly love the Lord. It is now that we have a generation of children rising, who do not even know who Jesus was, aside from identifying Him as some guy that lived a long time ago, and whom religious hucksters (no puns intended) occasionally use to shake the loose change out of the pockets of the gullible masses.
    As such, we are free to choose evil men to rule over us, much as the trees would have the bramble (Judges 9:14-15) to rule over them, to our own peril.
    That said, the candidate must also take care in his words to clarify that he is speaking of his own accountability before the LORD to rule justly and with reverence for God’s judgments (for God will hold that ruler to an account of his *stewardship* of the nation) as opposed to arrogating the will and the sovereignty of the People unto himself, for his own vainglorious devices (or perhaps more innocently, his thoughts to impose God’s judgments and Laws applicable to believers upon the unbelievers).
    For while the Law of God is immutable (unchanging) it does have several layers of specific application:
    1) to all humans (the so-called Noachide laws, i.e. not murdering, not defrauding, not stealing, the basic essence of our consciences, which is God’s laws inscribed on the tablets of our hearts, wherein we know basic right from wrong)
    2) to the Jewish (Israelite) nation (as handed down by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai)
    3) to the Levites (the priestly class or Kohanim) which include those very specific and sometimes thought to be ghastly laws against homosexuality and against sexual congress with beasts, specific deformities, and other minutiae concerning the comportment of priests and the conduct of specific rituals)
    4) the Law of Grace (through Jesus’s atonement for our sins on the cross, through which we are purchased by his blood and renewed into fellowship with the fullness of God, and receive within us the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin… and hopefully, avoid sin or repent of it when it does happen.
    The wide bulk of humanity fall into the first category – and are accountable for their actions, but not according to the other more specific laws; that is, a Christian cannot FORCE someone to live the Christian life against their will, and especially if they do not belong to Christ.
    This is why the secular laws and government exist, and why someone who aspires to secular government office does better to make certain that he will not mix his “religion” into the politics or the conduct of his (intended) office, especially when that government is both constituted by and for the majority of the People, who generally in this age trend toward being ungodly, or even outright heathens.
    Only Jesus (working through obedient Christians preaching the gospel per Romans 10) can convert heathens from unbelief to belief; Christian politicians forcing their notion of “Christian government” down the majority’s throat will certainly lose the election.

  8. joeb says:

    Seek: Do you think a hurricane or a snow storm is “an act of God”?” Do you think an automobile accident that occurs due to a snowy slippery hill and a bad driver is “an act of God”?”
    Was the hurricane Katrina “an act of God”? If so, would that then be reason enough for insurance companies to deny claims that stated they would not pay for “acts of God”?

  9. BobInStamford says:

    An angry God killed these 4 WICKED children.
    What an angry, angry God!

  10. templar knight says:

    Hmm…looks like a drunk driver killed those kids, Bob. Given to drink by Satan and his forces of evil, I’m thinking. Why would you say God killed them, dufus?

  11. seekeronos says:

    “— Seek: Do you think a hurricane or a snow storm … an automobile accident … hurricane Katrina (are) “… act(s) of God”?”
    Not in the sense of deliberate actions, no. I don’t think that Gary Larson’s cartoon depicting God as an old geezer sitting at a PC mashing the “smite” button is a fair depiction. In fact, God is extremely longsuffering (patient) toward us, not wishing that any perish.
    But I do believe that God allows us to enjoy blessings – or suffer judgments – as a result of the consequences of our actions as a nation. God is sovereign, and is in control of all things.
    The automobile incident probably had more to do with the owner not properly setting the parking brake and putting the vehicle in gear (to arrest movement of the car).
    Katrina and the snow storm are natural events – which are natural phenomena; they are part and parcel with fallen, sin-diseased condition of this present world. Storms happen, and unprepared or unwise people are caught in them alike with the wise and prepared, and property gets destroyed.
    The wise and the prepared have a higher record of surviving such events with life and property in better condition than those who are not, and generally, God-fearing Christians tend to be more attune to God’s working in their lives to keep them from disastrous ruin as a result of these events.
    Although these events seem “evil”, God can use these events however, to bring people to repentance and a humble, awed reliance upon Him.

  12. rwilymz says:

    “Storms happen, and unprepared or unwise people are caught in them alike with the wise and prepared, and property gets destroyed.”
    You might just have said that it rains on the just and the unjust and been done with it…

  13. seekeronos says:

    “— You might just have said that it rains on the just and the unjust and been done with it… —”
    Indeed, I could have. And it’s even biblical:
    43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
    44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
    45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
    (Matt 5:43-45, KJV)

  14. rwilymz says:

    That’s why I mentioned it.
    There are some nifty turns of phrase there, if nothing else. The bible is veritably the Shakespeare of the bronze-age Near East. Drama, comedy [at least irony], and tragedy.

  15. seekeronos says:

    The Bible is proof that God speaks to us in very human terms – which include that drama, irony, and tragedy.
    Less so with comedy it seems, although certain things could lend themselves to a humourous context, such as the judge Ehud Ben-Gera, who quite literally saw to it that King Eglon came to a “crappy” end:
    12. And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
    13. And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
    14. So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
    15. But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.
    16. But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.
    17. And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.
    18. And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.
    19. But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him.
    20. And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.
    21. And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:
    22. And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out.
    *(Seeker’s note: “dirt” is a euphemism here for excrement, which usually comes out when the body’s muscles involuntarily relax after the body dies. Here, it is also possible that the king’s intestines where punctured and that the excrement came out of the wound).
    23. Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them.
    24. When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber.
    *(Seeker’s note: Literally, they thought their king was taking a dump… probably on account of the smell of the spilled excrement)
    25. And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.
    26. And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath.
    27. And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them.
    28. And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the LORD hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over.
    29. And they slew of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all lusty, and all men of valour; and there escaped not a man.
    30. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.
    —” (Judges 3:12-30, KJV)

  16. rwilymz says:

    “The Bible is proof that God speaks to us in very human terms …”
    Only if you accept that god wrote it, or that god provided tangible dictation to a stenographer.
    If you don’t, it is simply the work of one or more chroniclers of a peoples’ lives and works, and who had the ability to use nifty turns of phrase from time to time.