Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jimmy Carter, Ex-President, Bible Scholar, Theologian

Many thought we could not do better than a Baptist Sunday school teacher as President.  But the cache wore off after one term.  Carter distinguished himself in retirement better than as President but even there he has a penchant for scolding us in a cardigan against a religion that is not modern.  I listened to his interview with Al Mohler and was not impressed.  His new study Bible is also not impressive (though I confess only to have paged through it and did not purchase it or read it through).

George Weigel  looked at it more closed than I did, also listened to the interview, and reports:  In the course of an interview promoting the Carter Bible, the former chief executive allowed as how the Bible was written “by human beings deprived of modern day knowledge,” opined that there is “some fallibility in the writings of the Bible,” and offered his endorsement of same-sex “marriage,” which he implied would be Jesus’s view of things, the Lord having “never said a word about homosexuality.” Such Carterisms are, perhaps, not surprising, given the former president’s previously expressed views that the “mandated subservience of women by Christian fundamentalists” contributes to the practice of female genital mutilation by Islamists, and that pro-lifers “do not extend their concern to the baby who is born.”

I was heartened to hear that he personally believes abortion is wrong and thinks the Dems should not spend so much time promoting it but among the rest of his positions I find him still reacting to the things he labels fundamentalist (whether they were expressed by Popes or councils or denominations).  He has not only a penchant for redefining orthodoxy to fit his own predispositions but he is also sort of like an old school marm in lecturing Christianity for its failings.  In the end, the Carter study Bible tells us less about God than about Jimmy Carter.  It may sell well but it probably won't wear well.  Mohler was respectful of Carter during the interview but in the words that followed distanced himself greatly from the positions and comments of the former President and, I believe, still Sunday school teacher.

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.

It sounds pretty orthodox on the facts of the faith.  I will grant him that.  But he finds much that conflicts with his scientific and educated view of the world.  In the end, it is a balancing act between his skepticism of things he cannot accept and the things he believes.  I am not God and glad I am not but the example he offers to us ultimately is deficient since it allows us all the privilege and responsibility of drawing the line where we believe it should fall between what Scripture says and what it means and what reason accepts.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Carter is as lousy and abysmal a Biblical scholar as he was a President. We shouldn't even waste time reposting this crap.