Mar

27

2012

Joe Carter|1:06 AM CT

60 Second Summary: The Bible Meets the Modern Age: A Conversation with Former President Jimmy Carter

Articles you need to know about, summarized in 60 seconds (or less).

The Article: The Bible Meets the Modern Age: A Conversation with Former President Jimmy Carter

The Source: Transcript from the radio program Thinking in Public

The Author: Interview by Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Gist: Corresponding with the release of the NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter, Rev. Mohler talks to the "world's most famous Sunday School teacher" about his view of the Bible.

The Excerpt:

I think all of the Bible is divinely inspired, but it was interpreted, God's message was interpreted, by fallible human beings, who were constrained by their knowledge of facts about the universe, for instance, when they wrote. God, who created everything, knew that the size of stars and God knew that the earth was not the center of the universe. And when the Bible says that the stars would fall on earth as though they were little twinkling things, obviously that's not factual. And so I believe the basic thrust of the Bible, the basic message of the Bible, is epitomized in the life of Christ and in the teachings of Jesus Christ. And I also believe that there is nothing in the Old Testament that contradicts the basic teachings of Christ for peace, justice, humility, love and so forth, and each person's proper relationship with other human beings and also a relationship with God. So I believe in the miracles of the Bible. I believe that Jesus was come from a virgin birth. I believe Christ died for our sins on the cross. I believe He was resurrected and that we are promised, if we have faith in Christ through the grace of God, that we will inherit eternal life. I believe that God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son. I believe those things, but I know that there are some things as a scientist---my background is in nuclear physics---there're some things that weren't understood by the writers of the Bible. I just ignored those discrepancies as insignificant.

The Bottom Line: Mohler does a commendable job highlighting President Carter's basic decency, concern for humanity, and appreciation of Scripture. But Carter exhibits a surprisingly underdeveloped and immature view of the Bible for a man who has spent nearly 80 years studying God's Word. As Mohler notes, Carter "holds to what in the twentieth century would be defined as a neo-orthodox understanding of Scripture." The former president seems to have been more influenced by theological fads of the last century (he counts Paul Tillich as one of his favorite theologians) than by the scholars of his own Southern Baptist tradition.

YSK Rating: Skim-worthy. While the lengthy interview (9,500) will be of interest to fans of President Carter, many readers will be dismayed that his unorthodox views on Scripture will considered representative of evangelicalism.

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

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  • Melody

    "Carter exhibits a surprisingly underdeveloped and immature view of the Bible for a man who has spent nearly 80 years studying God's Word."

    All my life I have tried to make sense of that man. You have to wonder why he is like that. Until recently I had always thought of him as the worst president we have ever had.

    • James Rednour

      Despite what you've been told Melody, almost all the deregulation of industries that Reagan is credited for began under the Carter administration. Just because the Iranian hostage crisis occurred under his watch doesn't mean he was a horrible president. The stagflation of the 70s was already baked in the cake because of the Vietnam War and the decision by Nixon to close the gold window in 1971. Carter was a victim of circumstance more than anything.

      • Melody

        Why did you assume that I was a Reagan supporter? I have never been and never will be a Reagan worshiper. I did wonder, in my youth, how Carter, a supposed baptist, could campaign in such a harsh way against Gerald Ford. Ford was an obvious man of integrity that wanted our country to heal. Toward the end of his presidency I felt pity for him(Carter). That is a sad indication when a teen feels pity for a president because he appears in such a weak and ineffectual way. I did not safe.
        Over the years I always wondered at the unloving things he would say about those he disagreed with. Most especially the hate he seemed to have for Israel.
        I do not wish to get in a political debate. Just that as I was growing up he confused me immensely as a supposed Christ follower. I never dreamed that a baptist would have a poor grasp of scripture but it sounds like he makes accommodation in the word to adjust for his personal beliefs.

        • Melody

          Wow lots of commas, indication of exhaustion. Please forgive, and the one sentence was about not feeling safe during that time. Maybe I shouldn't feel safe now either but I'm old now. My trust is in God and not in men or presidents.

  • AStev

    The good news: he apparently affirms penal substitutionary atonement, so there's that.

  • Jay

    "Carter exhibits a surprisingly underdeveloped and immature view of the Bible..."

    Carter's views may be at odds with a more conservative evangelical or fundamentalist set of beliefs, but that does not inherently mean they are underdeveloped or immature.

    It *sounds* like you are saying that since Carter's views are at odds with your own, they are therefore underdeveloped and immature. I would be surprised if that is what you intended, but it sounds that way, "The former president seems to have been more influenced by theological fads...than by the scholars of his own Southern Baptist tradition."

    • Joe Carter

      It *sounds* like you are saying that since Carter's views are at odds with your own, they are therefore underdeveloped and immature.

      I certainly think that someone can certainly have a developed and mature view of scripture that differs from my own. At least in theory. ; )

      But Carter's view of scripture is underdeveloped because he assumes a literal reading of passages in which the language is used metaphorically. Someone who has been engaging with Scripture as long as he has really should have a better grasp of the Bible's genres and styles.

      And I say that Carter has an immature view of Scripture because he resorts to childish arguments when the Bible clearly comes in conflict with his social and political beliefs. For example, he makes that claim that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality so there must not be anything wrong with it. Such arguments from silence are silly, at best. But it also ignores the fact that since Jesus is God, anything that was said by God in the OT could be considered as coming from Jesus himself.

      • James Rednour

        So when God said that it was an abomination to eat shellfish in the OT that Jesus was saying that as well? Don't you think placing a command from God in its proper time and context is wise? I agree with Carter on homosexuality, BTW. Jesus didn't think the issue was important enough to discuss, but He had a heck of a lot to say about pride and judging others.

        • Joe Carter

          So when God said that it was an abomination to eat shellfish in the OT that Jesus was saying that as well?

          Yep.

          Don't you think placing a command from God in its proper time and context is wise?

          Absolutely.

          Jesus didn't think the issue was important enough to discuss, but He had a heck of a lot to say about pride and judging others.

          Let's restate your claim in a couple of different ways:

          "Jesus didn't think the issue of owning slaves was important enough to discuss, but He had a heck of a lot to say about pride and judging others."

          "Jesus didn't think the issue of women's rights was important enough to discuss, but He had a heck of a lot to say about pride and judging others."

          "Jesus didn't think the issue of capital punishment was important enough to discuss, but He had a heck of a lot to say about pride and judging others."

          We could go on all day.

          Do you really want to claim that if "Jesus didn't think the issue was important enough to discuss" that the Bible is silent about it or that it doesn't really matter?

          • James Rednour

            The church has finally come around to the idea that slavery is evil and that women should have the same rights as men. Eventually, it will get around to the idea that homosexuals are made that way by God just as blacks are born with more pigment in their skin and that women are born with two X chromosomes.

            • lew

              JESUS said in Matthew 19:

              1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a MAN to divorce his WIFE for any and every reason?"

              4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them MALE and FEMALE,'

              Genesis 2:22-24 God says:

              Therefore a MAN shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his WIFE, and they shall become one flesh."

              "And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that MAN should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him'" (Gen. 2:18).

              Back to Matthew 19:

              5 and said, 'For this reason a MAN will leave his father and mother and be united to his WIFE, and the two will become one flesh' ? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let MAN not separate."

              As you can see James, the verses are from both the OT and the NT.

              God said it in the OT
              Jesus said it in the NT
              Jesus is God incarnate
              So, infact, Jesus DID say it.

              There is NEVER a mention of a relationship where a man and man or woman and woman that is GOOD. Only man/woman in a right relationship which is marriage.

              Also, please read the rest on divorce below.

              7 "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" 8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." 10 The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." 11 Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

            • Melody

              Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
              John 21:25

              For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." Mark 7:21-23

              God gives us enough.

          • James Rednour

            So have you eaten shrimp lately or worn mixed fabrics lately, Joe? Jesus gave those commandments in the OT as well. Why are those commandments no longer relevant to our day and age and the persecution of homosexuals by the evangelical church is?

            • http://www.thekingsfellowship.com Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

              James, reasonable answers to your objections/questions are available if you wish.

              'The Bible and Homosexual Practice' by Robert Gagnon is a text which addresses your objections. I encourage you to read it and interact.

              Peace to you.

  • Jay

    I've read the article now. Mohler's own words from the article:

    "Mr. Carter is a very skilled and very serious interpreter of Scripture."

    "I also respect the fact, I have to say, that even when I disagree with him...here is a man who is in his ninth decade of life, is still actively engaged in a way that is not only serious but indeed courageous in terms of the fact that he articulates his beliefs, he stands behind them, and he is willing to stand before the watching world and stay on his own two feet for all that he believes."

    "There is a lot to learn from each other in a conversation like this. That is why it is important to think and to enter into conversation with people whose beliefs are not identical to our own."

    I agree, there is a lot to learn from each other in a conversation like this! You are not doing that by describing Carter's views as "surprisingly underdeveloped and immature" when they differ from your own. For example, you highlight Carter's support of Paul Tillich from the interview, but you neglect to mention his admiration for Niebuhr, and all that Mohler and Carter found in agreement on his writings.

  • James Rednour

    Wow. So Carter can agree with all the major tenets of Christianity: triune God, virgin birth, Jesus' substitutionary atonement, salvation by grace through faith, etc. and yet you claim his Scriptural views are "underdeveloped and immature" because he doesn't believe the Genesis creation story is literal? Again, wow.

    • Joe Carter

      and yet you claim his Scriptural views are "underdeveloped and immature" because he doesn't believe the Genesis creation story is literal? Again, wow.

      No, I think his views are "underdeveloped and immature" because, as Mohler pointed out, Carter seems to claim "that it was the men who were inspired more than the words who were inspired."

      • Jay

        If you disagree with the statement "that it was the men who were inspired more than the words who were inspired," I would suggest that "incorrect" or "wrong" would be better terms for what you are describing. "Underdeveloped and immature" seems to imply moral failure in a way that extends beyond having a different belief. Is that what you are trying to imply?

        And I don't mean to be nit picking terminology with these comments, but in providing a "60 Second Summary," if those are the terms you use in your conclusion, they are the essence of the interview which you convey to your readers. In fact, Mohler's interview and follow up comments were far less one-sided in judging Carter's beliefs than your summary. If you wish to convey a harder (more conservative?) line than Mohler, perhaps it would be useful to indicate you are differing with Mohler that way in your summary.

  • Joe Carter

    For example, you highlight Carter's support of Paul Tillich from the interview, but you neglect to mention his admiration for Niebuhr, and all that Mohler and Carter found in agreement on his writings.

    There is certainly a lot of good stuff that can be found in Niebuhr. But as Mohler points out, there is some doubt about whether Neibuhr believed in a personal God (and there is no doubt that Tillich did not). The fact that Carter's two favorite theologians are basically Deists is troubling.

    Personally, I've never really understood why Carter remains a Southern Baptist. Aside from his views on congregationalism, I don't find that he shares much in common with other people in the SBC.

    • Tyler

      "The fact that Carter's two favorite theologians are basically Deists is troubling."

      This is an absurd reduction. Niebuhr and Tillich are far too complex -- in their own respective ways -- to be reduced to troubling deists. There are plenty of reasons to be uncomfortable with Tillich's theology, but none of them fall properly under the rubric of deism. And the same goes for Niebuhr. Conjecture about his personal beliefs is less important than the content of his theological works.

  • E.A. Freire

    "But Carter exhibits a surprisingly underdeveloped and immature view of the Bible for a man who has spent nearly 80 years studying God's Word."

    Sir, if you differ with his theology then there is no need to talk about it disrespectfully. Just say that you disagree with some of his views. Saying what you said makes you come off as arrogant. Lot of Christians have lots of view on the Bible but yet fall prey to mock/bully/insult those whose views are different then theirs.

  • http://lambblood.com/main.html Rick Owen

    I became a Christian at the age of 15 in the summer of 1971 and was baptized as a member of a SBC a few months later. We lived about 40 miles from Carter's home in Plains, GA. Our youth group visited there when Carter was Governor. I met his sweet mother and we presented a program to the church, including my testimony.

    After several years in two SBCs, I left for a non-denominational Bible church which offered a more in-depth and systematic study of Scripture via expository preaching and teaching. I've journeyed through a few theological shifts since then and have settled upon New Covenant Theology (www.lambblood.com).

    Carter's outlook is very typical of the SBC era, teaching and preaching I experienced. I am thankful, though, for his sincere witness for Christ. I'm sure his theological deviations and inconsistencies are not unique. Most Christians I've met from almost every background since then seem to have them. Thankfully our salvation rests upon Christ's perfect person and work.