Evangelist Franklin Graham has apologized to President Obama for questioning his Christian faith and said that he now accepts Obama’s declarations that he is a Christian. In a statement, issued Tuesday, Graham said:

I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr. Obama…I apologize to him and to any I have offended for not better articulating my reason for not supporting him in this election — for his faith has nothing to do with my consideration of him as a candidate.

This is the right decision and I admire Graham for doing this. While we are called to compare a person’s profession of faith with the fruits that are evident in their lives (Matt. 7:16-18), I believe that Franklin Graham’s original comments were wrong, and that for the following reasons:

  • It’s one thing to bring your concerns about a person’s faith to that person in private, it’s another thing altogether to raise these concerns in front of millions on breakfast TV.
  • While we can certainly question whether a person’s particular policies and practices are consistent with a Christian profession, it’s a huge step from that to proclaiming that a person is not a Christian.
  • There have been previous Presidents whose lives have been contrary to their Christian claims, yet they have not been treated this way by Franklin Graham or his father. That incongruity is where the unfounded allegation of racism finds its energy.
  • While the seemingly “Christ-less” testimony President Obama told Graham about how he came to faith is very worrying, it was told in private, and should not have been re-told in public.
  • Graham’s criticisms of the President’s faith were not based on Scriptural marks, the fruits of faith,  but on the way he told his testimony.
  • Graham not only refused to say if President Obama was a Christian, he ended up giving more credibility to the allegation that he is actually a Muslim.
  • While saying that he was not in a position to say if anyone was not a Christian, he did just that with President Obama, and then pronounced that Rick Santorum definitely was a Christian.

Three lessons to be learned from this debacle:

1. Train: We have to admire Graham’s bravery for going into the lion’s den and contending for the Christian faith in the public square. But public spokesmen like Graham should also be constantly and thoroughly trained to deal with the tactics of an extremely hostile media. In this interview at least, Graham seemed to walk straight into their trap and, judging by his rambling and defensive remarks, was completely unprepared for the question.

2. Honor: In opposing some of the anti-Christian policies of President Obama, Christians must stand out from the rest of the opposition by continuing to give honor to whom honor is due (Rom. 13:7). And if we honor God in this way, we have the promise that He will also honor us (1 Sam. 2:30).

3. Pray: We should be much more prayerful for men like Franklin Graham, Al Mohler, James Dobson, etc., who have the opportunity and the courage to represent Christ in such a difficult arena. May God give them much wisdom and wise counselors to help them continue to bear witness faithfully and persuasively.

But we should also pray for President Obama and all who lead us that they would all be truly converted to Christ, or that they would follow Him far more consistently.

Here’s the original controversial interview.

  • http://www.rpmministries.org Bob Kellemen

    As always, lots of wisdom here, David. I’m curious, how to religious-political issues “play themselves out” in Scotland? How would you contrast/compare those issues there to here in the US?

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Big question, Bob! But briefly, sadly, religion really has no place left in the public square in the UK. Even people leaders who profess to be “Christian” of any kind are advised to leave God out of politics, and usually comply. It’s really desperately secular.

  • Reg Schofield

    I have to disagree . Although I think Graham could have articulated that what Obama has said doesn’t in anyway square with classic orthodox belief . To examine what the President has said in the past , which you can read from a 2004 interview , a public discourse I might add and not private , is suitable and right in a land that is confused to what a Christian even is. Plus one can still honor those in power but still call them to account to the one who will judge in righteousness.

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Reg: I totally agree with calling our leaders to account. But it should be for specific breaches of biblical principles. If Franklin had focused on that or even on what was in the public record, and pointed out the inconsistency with Christian teaching he would not have needed to apologize.

      • Reg Schofield

        I agree with that . I don’t think he handled it very well after listening it again. Thanks for all you do on your site , I always look forward to reading it. Blessings.

        • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

          Thanks Reg.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406005996 Esther

    Your comment above reealvs a lot about your presumptions, and the presumptions of many evangelicals in America today (including myself). You say, where besides the two I mention does Sojo come down on the conservative side? The presumption is that the Christian Conservative side is really the Christian Center that if you are really being a centered Christian, you would share many conservative values. But the issues that the God is not a petition address are simply biblical, ethical issues: social justice, poverty, the environment, war and peace, integrity in politics, human rights, theology, and the sanctity of human life. For you to keep insisting that the only two things that Sojo lists as important Christian issues that would be center must deal with pro-life and gay marriage is to not see with your eyes wide open. Look again at those issues.You also say: I know you like Jim Wallis, and he does have some really good things to say. But do you get balance (well, besides reading my blog)? :) The issue is not that I am out of balance; it is that evangelicalism is out of balance. Evangelicalism is overwhelmed by only one side of the story so much that somebody must provide some alternative views. I get balance not from listening or reading conservative pundits (for I am sick of the lies that spew from the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity), but I do engage with good thinkers from both sides. And yes, Byron, you’re one of them.You say, The typical Sojo response comes down on the side of defending big government, in my judgment, usually in a knee-jerk fashion (and no, liberals aren’t the only knee-jerkers, I know that). Again, I agree that knee-jerk reactions are not good. But the right knees jerk a whole lot more than Christians are ready to admit. This last budget, for example, is not scrutinized AT ALL since it is presumed that cutting federal spending on the poor is a good thing. That is as knee-jerk as it gets. Especially when the budget also proposes to make permanent the tax cuts for the very rich. Where’s the real analysis from the Right on this budget?Lastly, you say, I just really would encourage you to balance Wallis with World Mag, if you don’t already, or something like that, Bobsta! I attend a church now that prominently displays dozens of copies of World Magazine in their atrium. I sit down and read them all the time. But here, again, is the rub: Why isn’t Sojourners displayed next to it? In the church bookstore is Ray Moore’s new book, displayed front and center. Why isn’t Jim Wallis’ book next to it? Is it not on the every bestseller list in America?The problem is not that I am out of balance; it is that evangelicalism is out of balance.