Is he engaging in politicalspeak?
Or does he simply not know what his own Mormon religion teaches about the Bible?
These questions came to my mind several nights ago after listening to Romney's response to the YouTube-submitted question of Joseph from Dallas, Texas, during the most recent Republican presidential debate.
In a question which one blogger described as being "from some scary guy who thrust a Bible at the camera and intoned in a rather threatening voice," Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee were asked, "Do you believe every word of this book?"
Giuliani and Huckabee gave answers one might have expected from them. Giuliani's was the response of a post-modern guy who's given little or no thought to the Bible or faith issues in spite of being a Roman Catholic. Huckabee, the former Baptist pastor, answered in a way which could be sliced and diced by those of varied confessional backgrounds, but would nonetheless be similar to the responses given by most Christians.
Romney's response seemed, at best, incomplete.
I'm privileged to be reviewing an advance copy of a new book by my blogging colleague, Andy Jackson. In it, Andy draws from the pronouncements of the Mormon religion itself to discuss what the Latter Day Saints believe about the Bible, which is what the YouTube questioner had in mind when he used the phrase, "Word of God." (In fact, he appeared to specifically reference the King James Version of the Bible. But I won't get into that here.)
All Christians would agree, I think, with something like the formulation of my own Lutheran movement, which says that the Bible is "the authoritative source and norm of [Christian] life, faith, and practice." In the Bible, God discloses Himself and His will to we limited, mortal human beings and all that we Christians say about or do in the Name of God must be measured against what God reveals about Himself there. (This is what the word, canon, refers to; canon is a means of measurement.) We don't have the freedom or the right to claim as true anything about God or about life with God that's less than, more than, or outside of what the Bible teaches.
But, according to the Mormon sources cited by Andy, Mormon teachings don't have as high a regard for the Bible as traditional Christian teaching. Both in the writings of the religion and the pronouncements of its prophets, presidents, and apostles, beginning with Joseph Smith, the Bible is seen as a severely corrupted book with impoverished notions as to how one is saved from sin and death.
Furthermore, the Bible is regarded as an inferior form of revelation when compared to The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants.
And none of these written sources are deemed as authoritative as the latest visions given to the religion's luminaries.
A devout Mormon can speak of the Bible as the Word of God, but certainly not in the same way Christians do. If Romney knows that, then, as long as he was going to answer the "scary" man's question, honesty should have impelled him to mention that.
A Mormon could serve honorably as President. I said this in 2005. But we have every right to expect that a Mormon (or a Baptist, or a Buddhist, or an atheist) won't soft-pedal her or his religious views when asked directly about them and when he or she chooses to answer such questions.
This was Romney's response to the question about whether he believed in the Word of God:
MR. ROMNEY: I believe the Bible is the word of God, absolutely. (Applause.) And I try to live by it as well as I can, but I miss in a lot of ways. But it's a guide for my life and for hundreds of millions, billions of people around the world. I believe in the Bible."I don't disagree with the Bible." Not exactly, "Here I stand." And nobody says that he has to have a "Here I stand" view of the Bible in order to be President. At least I don't say that. Believing in the Bible as the Word of God isn't a requirement for holding the office of President.
MR. COOPER: Does that mean you believe every word?
MR. ROMNEY: You know -- yeah, I believe it's the word of God. The Bible is the word of God. I mean, I might interpret the word differently than you interpret the word, but I read the Bible and I believe the Bible is the word of God. I don't disagree with the Bible. I try to live by it.
The problem is that Romney appears to want to say that he has the same view of the Bible as historic Christianity, in violation of the tenets of his own religion.
Instead of trying to fudge on this issue, which it seems, is his aim, why doesn't Mr. Romney just say what he thinks or simply tell people to lay off his religious views?
People would respect him for such legitimate responses, I think.
But lame answers, in which he appears to aim at "splitting the difference" and make everyone happy without really saying anything do not help his candidacy.