Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jimmy Carter Quits the Southern Baptist Convention - Again!

Jimmy Carter quits the Southern Baptist Convention: headline news, right? Well, not really. He has been quitting regularly for a decade now but can always count on saying something bad about his former denomination to a journalist as a way to grab a bit of publicity. What a yawn.

Al Mohler has a good article explaining that Carter takes liberal positions in defiance of Scripture on a range of issues. He hasn't been in doctrinal agreement with his own conservative Baptist tradition for a long time. He quotes Carter as saying in The Observer.

"So 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 the 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."

He sure sounds Baptist in his high regard for the Bible, doesn't he? Except that he is a bit selective in which verses he regards so highly. Mohler writes:

"All this fits a pattern for which Mr. Carter is now well known. He simply rejects the texts in the Bible that clearly establish different roles for men and women in the church and the home. He dismisses these verses for the simple reason that he also rejects the inerrancy of the Bible.
He may well be the world's most famous Sunday School teacher, but over just the last several years he has publicly expressed his rejection of the belief that persons must come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in order to be saved. He has also stated that his faith would not be shaken if Jesus did not perform some of the miracles attributed to him in the New Testament. His denial of biblical inerrancy is not merely theoretical -- he actually operates on the assumption that at least some texts of the Bible are false, untruthful, malignantly oppressive, and thus untrustworthy.

President Carter actually makes no argument for women as pastors. He simply dismisses out of hand what the Christian church has believed for centuries -- and what the vast majority of Christians around the world believe even now. His argument should embarrass any serious person who considers this question, for it is grounded in little more than his own sense of how things ought to be. He makes claims about the Bible that are reckless and irresponsible and historical claims that would make any credible church historian blush. He straightforwardly rejects what he admits some texts of the Bible teach."

It is depressing to read the reasons people give for demanding that the Church change its teaching and ordain women. So many boil down simply to putting the conventional wisdom of the contemporary culture above the Word of God. It is no wonder that denominations that ordained women in the 70's and 80's are now talking about or actually ordaining homosexuals. The rationale for doing so is the same in both cases for liberals.

Of course, conservatives think the cases are different and that the rationale for ordaining women (unlike homosexuals) can be defended from Scripture. No one disputes their good faith on this point. But a large number of those who voted for women's ordination were voting that way because they felt comfortable going aginst Scripture in the name of the "new revelations" of modernity. So the precedent was set and as the liberal drift continued and conservatives gradually drifted away, the pattern repeated itself.

In the 80's, the Southern Baptist Convention was able to stop the left-ward drift in time and therefore it was the liberals like Jimmy Carter who drifted away in splinter groups. At the time a lot of us were critical of the SBC "Fundamentalists," but in hindsight it appears that the movement was prescient and that what they did was necessary. The Episcopal Church could have benefited from a movement to depose Pike and Spong and turn the Church around back when it was still a real possibility and it is paying the price now for not having done so.

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