I’m not sure who told Cal Thomas he was the arbiter of who is and isn’t a Christian. Thomas is right on one count: “One cannot deny central tenets of the Christian faith… and be a Christian.” But Christians, including Evangelicals and Catholics, do not all agree on what are the central tenets of the Christian faith.
For the record, Obama says in a Christianity Today interview: “I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful… Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals."
Barack Obama, too, is right on at least one count: "There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that if people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, they're going to hell."
Obama has proclaimed Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, but he is right to raise this issue, because nowhere is Scripture does it say that that we should embrace Jesus as our personal Savior to avoid hell.
Since we evangelicals are big on testing views against Scripture, there’s this from Paul’s letter to the Romans (10:9): “If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (That means you won’t go to hell). Looks to me as if Obama meets this requirement.
But while we’re talking about hell and how to avoid it, here’s Jesus in Matthew 25:
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Barack Obama has devoted his adult life to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, looking after the sick and prisoners. He has done so directly as well as in fighting for public policy.
So Barack Obama testifies to his commitment to Jesus Christ and has lived a life to reflect that commitment, according to the Christian Scriptures. So if I’m going to guess whether he is truly a Christian I will assess according to Jesus and biblical criteria rather than Cal Thomas’s.