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Former Gov. Mike Huckabee
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told the Christian Broadcasting Network he had a theology degree, he told voters in Iowa he had a theology degree, he repeated the claim in last month’s CNN YouTube debate … but, his campaign now says, it was not true.
Huckabee’s claim began unraveling following his offhanded comment about Mormonism in a New York Times interview last weekend.
Reporter Zev Chafets wrote: “I asked Huckabee, who describes himself as the only Republican candidate with a degree in theology, if he considered Mormonism a cult or a religion. ‘I think it’s a religion,’ he said. ‘I really don’t know much about it.’
“I was about to jot down this piece of boilerplate when Huckabee surprised me with a question of his own: ‘Don’t Mormons,’ he asked in an innocent voice, ‘believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?'”
In the interview, Huckabee’s account of his education made no mention of his having earned a theology degree.
Chafets wrote: “If young Mike Huckabee was ever rebellious or difficult, there’s no record of it. He preached his first sermon as a teenager, married his high-school sweetheart and went off to Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. There he majored in speech and communications, worked at a radio station and earned his B.A. in a little more than two years. He spent a year at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Tex., before dropping out to work for the televangelist James Robison, who bought him his first decent wardrobe and showed him how to use television.”
While Huckabee apologized personally to fellow candidate and Mormon Mitt Romney for his remarks, Chafets’ characterization of the former Arkansas governor and ordained Baptist pastor as a seminary dropout who did not seem well-versed in comparative religion, drew the attention of political bloggers.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty cited Huckabee’s claimed theology degree when criticizing the candidate for telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer he had been trying to avoid talking about the subject with Chafets but the reporter was “comparably well-schooled on comparative religions.”
“I’m going to call horsepuckey on Huckabee’s claim that a New York Times reporter knew more about comparative religions than [a] guy with a theology degree,” Geraghty wrote.
That prompted Joe Carter, Huckabee’s research director, to respond to Geraghty by e-mail.
Governor Huckabee doesn’t have a theology degree. He only spent a year in seminary.
Also, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t know much about the specific beliefs of the LDS church. There aren’t a lot of LDS members in Arkansas; they comprise just .007 percent [sic] of the population (about 20,000 out of 2,810,872 people). Most Southern evangelicals don’t have much exposure to that particular religion. Even in seminary you’re not likely to study the LDS faith unless you take a class on apologetics.
Carter made a math error – 0.7 percent of Arkansas’ residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints.
Today, following a news conference announcing that former Reagan confidante, Ed Rollins, has become Huckabee’s national campaign manager, the candidate was asked about a PowerlineBlog story that said he did not have the theology degree he had claimed.
“I have a Bachelor of Arts in religion and a minor in communications in my undergraduate work,” Huckabee answered. “And then I have 46 hours on a master’s degree at Southwestern Theology Seminary. So, my degree as a theological degree is at the college level and then 46 hours toward a masters – three years of study of New Testament Greek, and then the rest of it, all in seminary was theological studies, but my degree was actually in religion.”
Speaking in Iowa in October, Huckabee told a sympathetic crowd, “Anytime you have been a person who was identified as a pastor and you’ve got a seminary education and theology degree, people tend to worry about you.”
In November, while appearing on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Huckabee said, “People look at my record and say that I’m as strong on immigration, strong on terror as anybody. In fact I think I’m stronger than most people because I truly understand the nature of the war that we are in with Islamofascism. These are people that want to kill us. It’s a theocratic war. And I don’t know if anybody fully understands that. I’m the only guy on that stage with a theology degree. I think I understand it really well. And know the threat of it is absolutely overwhelming to us.”
Last month, during the CNN YouTube debate, Huckabee responded to a question to the candidates about their belief in the Bible: “Sure. I believe the Bible is exactly what it is. It’s the word of revelation to us from God himself. … And as the only person here on the stage with a theology degree, there are parts of it I don’t fully comprehend and understand, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite god, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their god is too small.”
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