In his interview with NYT’s Adam Nagourney and Michael Cooper last week, John McCain almost revealed a religious belief. Here’s the relevant exchange.
Q: Do you consider yourself an evangelical Christian?
Mr. McCain: I consider myself a Christian. I attend church, my faith has sustained me in very difficult times. But I think it depends on what you call a quote evangelical Christian. Because there are some people who may not share my views on – I mean, that covers a lot of ground. But I certainly consider myself a Christian.
Q: How often do you go to church?
Mr. McCain: Um, not as often as I should. When Cindy and I are in Phoenix, we attend. We’ve been fortunate enough the last few weeks to be in Phoenix. During the primary before that we were not back in Phoenix much so – again, not as frequently as I would like. I do appreciate the pastor of the North Phoenix Baptist Church, his name is Dan Neary (SP) [sic, actually Yeary], and I talk to him frequently on the phone and I appreciate his spiritual guidance. He’s a great believer in redemption.
What are the views that some evangelicals might not share? The only hint, if hint it is, comes at the end of the passage; and if I had to guess, I’d say that McCain has a somewhat more universalistic view of salvation than strict evangelical doctrine provides. Why?
In the interview, McCain calls Rev. Yeary “a great believer in redemption.” (He’s done this at other times as well.) As opposed to what? A Baptist pastor who doesn’t believe in redemption or one who believes that redemption is possible in ways we might not understand? I’d say the latter. Here’s what North Phoenix Baptist, a 7,000-member church in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has to say on the subject:
We believe that Jesus has eternally existed as the Son of God. As a part of the narrative story of God’s redemption, Jesus became human. In other words, God became one of us. The church describes this as the Incarnation. The redemption narrative, which we call the Bible, continues as Jesus not only becomes human, but is born to a virgin and lives a sinless, perfect life on earth, allowing him to make right everything that had been done wrong in Adam.
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
Whether or not Yeary’s views on redemption depart from the Faith & Message, his emphasis appears to be on spiritual reconciliation and inclusion, and that clearly appeals to McCain.
If I’m right, McCain’s views on salvation may be similar to Barack Obama’s–and most Americans’. But it’s more problematic these days for a Republican candidate for president to own up to such views than for a Democratic one. Hence the reticence.