DES MOINES, Iowa–Ron Paul, standing backstage before a Republican presidential debate in Spartanburg, South Carolina not long ago, was talking to Doug Wead, one of his senior advisers, about his Christian faith.

In the moments before the debate, Paul explained how his beliefs in limited government and even his opposition to the Federal Reserve had their foundations in scripture, combined with his study of the Constitution. Before he left to take the stage that night in November, Paul smiled and said to Wead, who told this story to Yahoo News, “You know, the libertarians are just baffled by me. They didn’t think it was possible for someone to come this direction. A person of faith.”

In stark contrast to how he campaigned four years ago, Paul has made a concerted push during this presidential campaign to emphasize how religion has shaped his policy ideas. Through public addresses, campaign advertisements and conversations with voters, Paul has engaged in an intentional effort to articulate the biblical roots of his philosophy. These efforts are most on display here in Iowa, where most Republican caucusgoers align themselves with socially conservative views, and where Paul is building what has become a robust organizational machine to connect with them. Paul has surged into second place in Iowa, according to several recent polls. The Real Clear Politics polling average for the state has Paul tied with Mitt Romney at 17 percent, behind Newt Gingrich’s 30 percent.