FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Only two weeks before the climax of a presidential race between the first black President of the United States and a Mormon challenger, students and faculty members at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary raised questions about race, religion and American politics.
Seminary president Paige Patterson and ethics professors Craig Mitchell and Evan Lenow explored these issues, Oct. 23, during The Grindstone, a forum at Southwestern Seminary for addressing weighty theological conversations of the 21st century.
During this panel discussion, one student questioned the wisdom of electing a president who promotes the Mormon religion, which he called “false prophecy” since it conflicts with biblical Christianity. Would electing a Mormon candidate be the equivalent of promoting a false religion?
Mitchell reminded students, on the one hand, that they are electing a U.S. President, not a pastor. On the other hand, he added that, whatever positive press Mormonism might get in the media if Republican candidate Mitt Romney is elected, it is the pastor’s duty to preach the truth and to help his congregation gain a biblical worldview.
“It belongs to individual pastors and individual Christian leaders to tell the truth about Mormonism,” Mitchell said. “We can’t expect the media to do our job for us. We can’t expect for them to get it right.”
Agreeing with Mitchell’s comments, Lenow said, “If Mr. Romney is elected, Mormonism will become more main stream, more accepted in a sense.” For this reason, pastors and Christian leaders need to understand what Mormonism is.
“We need to take the time actually to research what they say they believe versus what they actually believe, what they say about Scripture, what they believe about God, what they believe about Christ,” he said. “We need to be aware of all those things, and we need to articulate the differences between biblical Christianity and Mormonism, because there will be conversations where people say, ‘Mitt Romney is a Christian.’ He is not. He’s a Mormon.”
Patterson added that Romney’s election would, in fact, shed light on the “very essence of Mormonism,” showing many people that it conflicts with biblical Christianity. He also reminded Grindstone participants that, according to Scripture, every person and every politician is a sinner. While voters cannot judge a candidate’s heart, they should consider whether the actions and policies of each candidate are consistent with a biblical worldview.
“We can’t enter into another man’s heart,” Patterson said. “We know that we cannot judge the roots. There is only one root inspector, and that is the Lord God Almighty Himself, who alone knows the condition of the human heart. But, having so said, we are to be fruit inspectors.
“But the problem that I have when I start inspecting fruit in the case of the President is that he would continue to allow the most helpless people to be butchered in the wombs of their mothers. And I can never conscientiously cast a vote for somebody who would be in favor of allowing somebody else to chart the course for a little preborn in a mother’s womb. That is the first issue.
“The second issue is that, I could never conscientiously cast a vote for someone whose fruit says that he can give an executive order and try to force Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to insure people in such a way that we have to pay for their abortion or to pay for counseling (homosexuals) who are having problems with their ‘mate.’ I cannot ever vote for anybody who is willing to infringe on my first amendment right (of religious liberty), which is the first and most important of all the amendments.”
Patterson then confessed that, during the 2008 election, he briefly considered voting for President Obama.
“There was a moment where I seriously considered voting for him, for the same reason that a good many people in our country voted for him,” Patterson said. “It was too good to be true in America, a country that started out with slavery. … We finally came to the point that there was a possibility of electing a black president.”
Then, turning to Mitchell, Patterson asked if voting for someone based merely on race is itself a form of racism.
“Yes. I think, unfortunately, it is,” Mitchell replied. “I think all too many people … were so hopeful that they just completely ignored everything the man said. They only looked at his skin color, and that was a tragic mistake.
“Folks, we need to listen to what a politician says. We need to evaluate him by his character. I think we all aspire to what Martin Luther King Jr. said when he encouraged people to evaluate others based on the ‘content of their character’ and not the color of their skin.”