President Carter Takes on the Bible

Former President Jimmy Carter recently revisited his decision to leave the Southern Baptist denomination. In an article for the British Observer, he stated the following:

“My decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when th e convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service. This was in conflict with my belief – confirmed in the holy scriptures – that we are all equal in the eyes of God.”

Carter develops this theme in the rest of the article and makes some pretty outlandish (and sometimes uninformed) statements. I am not going to make a point-by-point rebuttal here. I can hardly improve on what Albert Mohler has written, so I recommend that you read it. Mohler concludes that the basic problem here is that Carter does not accept the inerrancy and authority of the Bible on the topic of manhood and womanhood. He writes:

“Does President Carter really believe that he will convince Christians — Southern Baptist or otherwise — to see any human statement as holding a higher authority than the Bible? That question, more than anything else, points to the real reason that President Carter and the Southern Baptist Convention have parted ways. The point of division remains the ultimate authority and total truthfulness of the Bible as the Word of God.”

Read the rest here.

14 Responses to President Carter Takes on the Bible

  1. Lee July 24, 2009 at 8:35 am #

    Well said. I thought the coverage of Carter’s statements in the Texas Baptist Standard was slanted to make it sound as if acts of cruelty perpetrated against women have been instigated by the Southern Baptist Convention leadership’s position on women in ministry. And Carter rarely misses an opportunity to pontificate on some subject without working in a statement about his departure from the SBC.

    In this case, Carter’s standard of interpretation seems to be the frequency that something is mentioned, as if God didn’t consider everything he inspired the writers of scripture to include important. But in the case of wives submitting to their husbands, and its matching instructions for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it (which most critics of the SBC’s resolution fail to mention) it is mentioned at least three times by two different apostles of the church, and nowhere is it associated with anything that could remotely be interpreted to incite cruelty to women. This is a spin zone.

  2. Don Johnson July 24, 2009 at 10:38 am #

    On the technical aspects of what can be a member of SBC, Mohler can be right.

    On the fact that this is not new news, Mohler can be right.

    Whether Jimmy Carter actually does not accept the Bible as inspired, only he and God knows.

    But Mohler is dead wrong in his summary rejection of Carter’s argument, as he does not even address it. To rephrase it, Carter pointed out that there can be various interpretations of a few verses on gender and some of those interpretations deny women equal functionality, but it is not required of anyone to interpret those verses that way, it is their choice to do so. Also, such interpretations are suspect due to the risk of selfish motives, we are certainly able to deceive ourselves and mask selfishness as piety. Mohler addresses neither of these points.

  3. David Rogers July 24, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    It is my belief in the inerrancy and “the ultimate authority and total truthfulness of the Bible as the Word of God” and the whole counsel of Scripture that has led me to conclude that a woman can be Spirit-led to instruct men. I used to hold that a woman was restricted because of her gender but further study of the whole canon helped me recognize that such a position introduced theological contradictions.

    Exegetical re-examination of the controversial passages convinced me that a gender-wide restrictive conclusion for all women was not only not required but was not the best way of understanding the passages.

  4. Darius T July 24, 2009 at 11:20 am #

    Does it really matter what the worst American president in history has to say about the Bible?

  5. Brian Krieger July 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    While I’m not particularly interested in topping 200 again, just out of curiosity, David, what theological contradictions result from a complementarian view (or, if you weren’t referring in totem, about a woman teaching/authority)? Not particularly looking to debate (that’s been done plenty), just wondering?

  6. Nathan July 24, 2009 at 1:17 pm #

    Don,

    Regardless on one’s right to interpret various passages, Mohler did not and should have not addressed Carter’s once every 3-5 years renunciation of the SBC.

    Not only is the Carter the worst Ex-President in the history of the country (by his actions toward every presdient since him), he is also the last person anyone want to speak about Scripture.

    Really, do you care what Carter has to say about his interpretation of the bible. And because nobody listens, he has to repeat himself every 3-5 years.

    Go build a house Jimmy!

  7. Jan D. July 24, 2009 at 1:28 pm #

    Not sure why President Carter feels he must compose a variation on a theme of old news at this point in time.

    When he made his statements almost ten years ago, I think most folks “got it.” His recent statements just go with the territory he has been staking all along.

  8. David Rogers July 24, 2009 at 4:27 pm #

    Not that anyone has made the connections with me, but I do want to distance myself from President Carter’s voiced views. I too believe that he has been one of the weakest of our nation’s Presidents, and I also find his many of his theological views shaky.

    Brian,

    I wasn’t referring in totem to the complementarian view. In fact, one could even apply the term “complementarian” to some of my positions. In my understanding the focus of Scriptural complementarian concepts is centered explicitly in the husband-wife relationship and is less suitable as a concept for fully categorizing the wider male-female relationship as it relates to wider societal matters.

    I find several biblical examples of a woman teaching and exercising some level of authority (societal and spiritual) over men and potentially being able to in the ongoing ministry of the church. If there is a “creation ordinance” CLEARLY and EXPLICITLY taught from Genesis that would absolutely restrict a woman instructing men in all situations then those biblical examples are contradictory to that ordinance. (I find those that make claim that the creation ordinance only restricts male-female relationships in the “church”, whatever “church” means, or with regard to “doctrinal matters”, whatever that means, to be strangely theologically blind in claiming a LIMITED creation ordinance. A creation ordinance would apply in ALL situations at ALL times to ALL male-female relationships, otherwise the idea that it is a CREATION ORDINANCE is nonsensical.)

    I think that a restriction on a woman’s teaching is biblically conditioned with regard to her marriage relationship with her husband and is especially noted with regard to its appropriate impact on public perception of the Gospel and thus is not a restriction to be applied to all male-female relationships. No other male is the HEAD (whatever one’s conclusion about the meaning of kephale might be) of my wife to whom she must submit as a symbol of the Christ-church relationship.

    The 1 Timothy passages are to be understood as situationally rooted, and I conclude at this time of my study as best interpreted as dealing with disruptive wives bolstered by an independent “spirituality” which showed disregard toward marriage and showing disrespect toward their husbands in the assembly of worship. This is why the husbands were praying angrily thus prompting Paul to exhort them to pray without anger. The wives were encouraged to show humility and instructed in a way that demonstrated that their Spirit-filled experience did not excuse them from proper decorum and respect in the marriage relationship. The use of singular nouns in 1 Tim. 2:12 lends toward a wife-husband relationship and also coupled with Adam and Eve being husband and wife and the reference to the “childbearing”, I find these textual indicators as setting parameters for possibly understanding the passage in a marriage context restrictiveness and not a generic restriction for all females in all situations.

    I do not see the clear forbidding of a woman teaching men in Genesis. Adam’s being created first does not clearly indicate that. The idea of primogeniture is not a timeless absolute principle/ordinance as there are numerous biblical examples of it being overturned by the sovereign purposes of God (e.g. Joseph, David, the tribe of Judah). I think Paul’s use of reference to Adam being formed first is to serve the purpose of indicating that a husband thus needs to be respected and treated with proper decorum and not publicly disrespected. Paul used the Eve example of deception because it was rather apropos in this Ephesian context where false teachers were also deceiving people.

    David (not Adrian’s son)

  9. Douglas J. Bender July 24, 2009 at 7:24 pm #

    Has no one presented the ancient and widely respected rationale against women being pastors or teachers of men known as “The Cooties Argument”?

  10. Don Johnson July 24, 2009 at 8:18 pm #

    A correct title for this thread would have been “President Carter takes on the SBC interpretation of the Bible”. The phrasing used seems to imply that Denny believes Mohler has Magisterial authority in deciding exactly what the Bible means, which is ironic as such is what the original Baptists fought against.

  11. Nathan July 24, 2009 at 8:21 pm #

    Who cares Don,

    Carter is out looking for publicity. He has been since he left office after being toasted by Reagan. The title for the thread should be, “Carter still Crazy after All These Years.”

  12. Douglas J. Bender July 24, 2009 at 8:23 pm #

    Don,

    If Jimmy Carter had said that he was separating from the SBC because of their stand that all people are sinners in need of a Savior, and that Jesus is the only Savior; and if Albert Mohler had defended the SBC stand by appealing to Scripture and claiming that the issue was Carter’s rejection of the inerrancy of the Bible; would a correct title for this thread have been what it is now, “President Carter takes on the Bible”?

  13. Douglas J. Bender July 24, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    Actually, I think Carter has separated himself from the SBC in stages, and this latter separation is the latest, and perhaps last, stage. Which makes his earlier pronouncements at best over-dramatic, but not necessarily inaccurate.

    Of course, I don’t know much about Carter or what he has said or done. Which should make me an expert on the matter.

  14. Lee July 25, 2009 at 12:29 am #

    Darius T, where is the reference to something George W. Bush said about the Bible? 🙂

    I think most Southern Baptists, in practice in their churches, recognize that including women in the church’s ministry, and even in positions of servant leadership, is absolutely essential to the operation of the local church. Most churches recognize that you work with the resources God sends to you, and that includes the spiritual gifts of every member in equal consideration, regardless of gender. The arguments over women being in a position of authority over men, or regarding their ordination, generally come to the top when women want to be something they are neither gifted nor called to be. Likewise, problems come up in the church when men try to be something they are not gifted or called to be, either.

    In the Southeastern corner of Arizona, where I grew up, one of the small Southern Baptist churches in a predominantly Mormon rural community faced the difficulty of how to collect its offering. There was traditional thinking that men were required to collect the offering, but on frequent Sundays, there were no men present in the service, except the pastor, among the 15 or so people in the congregation. Tradition kept him from passing the plate, and so, on Sundays when no men came to church, no offering was taken. Guess when that practice changed? The first payday that the church was unable to pay the pastor.

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