An Evolving Faith

Does the president believe he has a divine mandate?

In the spring of 1999, as George W. Bush was about to announce his run for President, he agreed to be interviewed about his religious faith--grudgingly. "I want people to judge me on my deeds, not how I try to define myself as a religious person of words."



It's hard to believe that's the same George W. Bush. Since taking office -- and especially in the last couple weeks -- Bush's personal faith has turned highly public, arguably more so than any modern President. What's important is not that Bush is talking about God more, but that he's talking about him differently. We are witnessing a shift in Bush's theology--from talking mostly about a

Wesleyan

theology of "personal transformation" to describing a

Calvinist

"divine plan" laid out by a sovereign God for the country and himself. This shift has the potential to affect Bush's approach to terrorism, Iraq and his presidency.

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On Thursday, at the

National Prayer Breakfast

, for instance, Bush said, "we can be confident in the ways of Providence... Behind all of life and all of history, there's a dedication and purpose, set by the hand of a just and faithful God."

Calvin, whose ideas are critical to contemporary evangelical thought, focused on the idea of a powerful God who governs "the vast machinery of the whole world." Bush has made several statements indicating he believes God is involved in world events and that he and America have a divinely guided mission:

  • After Bush's September 20, 2001, speech to Congress, Bush speechwriter Mike Gerson called the President and said: "Mr. President, when I saw you on television, I thought--God wanted you there." "He wants us all here, Gerson," the President responded.

  • During that speech, Bush said, "Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them." The implication: God will intervene on the world stage, mediating between good and evil.
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    Deborah Caldwell
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