Friday, May 18, 2007

Burleson, Cole, and Carter

Wade Burleson, Ben Cole, and others have been to meet with Jimmy Carter. In a post detailing the event, Burleson addresses his concern that people will use the event to "seek to crucify [him] for meeting with President Carter." (See Burleson's post here. See Cole's version here. Marty Duren's version is respectful, but much less giddy about Carter, meaning I like it better. See here.) I think that Burleson worries needlessly. Burleson wrongly suspects that somebody somewhere in the SBC will be shocked, scandalized, or otherwise surprised that he and his group are meeting with Carter and is enthusiastic about what Carter is doing. The headline will come when we find someone leftward of this group who is not acceptable to them. In as non-crucifying a manner as I can muster (Burleson wasn't suggesting that his actions and words are beyond any review at all, was he?), I only wish to point out something I find interesting. The title of Burleson's post is "That Which Unites Us Is the Gospel of Christ." Here are Jimmy Carter's thoughts about the gospel in his own words, given in full context:

Q: Your first lesson on Ephesians describes man's reconciliation to God through grace and the sacrifice of Christ. Do you believe that grace ultimately applies to people who don't presently believe in Jesus? A: Yes, I do. I remember two things. One is that in John 3:16, which is probably the best known verse in the Bible - "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." And Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, said we should love our neighbors, but also love those who despise us and hate us and our enemies. So, the opportunity for everyone to be saved through the grace of God with faith in Christ applies to everyone. And I have been asked often, you know, in my Sunday School classes, which are kind of a give and take debate with people from many nations and many faiths - what about those that don't publicly accept Christ, are they condemned? And I remember that Christ said, "Judge not that ye be not judged." And so, my own personal belief is one of God's forgiveness and God's grace. That's the best answer I can give.
So, there is Carter's understanding of the gospel. I ask you, the Southern Baptist people: Does that gospel unite you with Jimmy Carter? As for me, I would have to entitle any post about Jimmy Carter in this manner: "What Divides Us Is the Gospel of Christ"

43 comments:

Luke said...

Bart asked...
"Does that gospel unite you with Jimmy Carter?"

No, it doesn't unite me with Jimmy Carter. The sad part is that his gospel does not even unite him with Jesus' gospel.

Luke

Anonymous said...

Bart...

Love this post! Particularly loved the statement "the headline will come when we find someone leftward of this group who is not acceptable to them." You nailed it, my brother.

The BGCT in Texas is seeking to waltz on the Carter/Clinton 'Baptist' dance floor and will trip and fall completely. Will that happen to others who are seeking to 'shake, rattle, and roll' with anyone simply to be inclusive? What a possibility.

Thanks for standing on the edge.

Byron McWilliams

Anonymous said...

bart,

i though wade wanted us to join with those who at least believed the essentials of the faith? it seems that carter does not even believe the essentials...that man can only come to God thru Jesus. it seems to me that we are now going down the slippery slope.
all i can say is wow!

bart, this dan malone that is mentioned often in wade and ben's blog article....his name sounds very familiar. can you help me with who he is and why his name sticks out in my mind?

david...volfan007

cameron coyle said...

Bart,

You're absolutely right. There's no big surprise in this.

The sad part is that Burleson isn't likely to view Carter's version of the Gospel as disqualifying him from service with the IMB; compare it with this.

Wade Burleson said...

Bart,

Bart, are you alleging that Mr. Carter does not believe in the exclusivity of Christ? Obviously, if that were so, he would not be an evangelical believer in the good news of Christ. However, after personal conversation with him it sounds to me like he is truly an evangelical with a desire to take the gospel to the nations.

The quote you use simply tells me that Mr. Carter believes in common grace. Bart, I think you would agree with Mr. Carter that the 'grace' of God extends to every man, would you not? You and I may be more precise and call this 'common' grace, but not one time have I ever heard Mr. Carter say 'saving' grace is a possession of all men -- it is a gift only to those who trust Christ.

He was quite clear with us yesterday that faith in Jesus Christ and His work at Calvary is the only hope for a sinner. You allege his answer belies a hidden universalism. I disagree. Ultimately, the only way to know is to ask him and talk with him. I'm wondering when you visited with him about your concern?

Dialogue, a gracious heart, and a willingness to listen is the only way to determine where there is agreement. Until and unless Mr. Carter clearly denies the exclusivity of Christ, I'll take his word to me that he does not.

Amy Downey said...

Wade,

I have never spoken with President Carter. However, I can read for myself his words to interview questions. On your blog, you have the links that I posted regarding his views on the "Christianity" of Mormons and his opposition to evangelism of the Jewish people. Does that sound like someone who as you wrote, "He was quite clear with us yesterday that faith in Jesus Christ and His work at Calvary is the only hope for a sinner"?

That is all that myself or anyone else is asking. Legitimate questions that deserved to be answered ... perhaps not by you ... but perhaps by President Carter himself.

I could be wrong, and will apologize if I am, but I want you to know that I am reading a bit of defensiveness in your responses to those who disagree with you. You had to recognize that honest and respectful disagreement (of which I believe I have done with my utmost ability) was to be expected. To simply expect blind acceptance of your position was naive at best. To imply that any disagreement, as you did so in your original post, is just another example of "spooky fundamentalism" is pejorative and outside of the bounds of debate. (And I know that you did not use those words but the inference was most definitely there.)

Amy

Wade Burleson said...

Amy,

I truly apologize if there are times I sound defensive with those who disagree with me. Thanks for the heads up. I am praying for a time when Southern Baptists can maintain our unique identity but be gracious to those with whom we may not fully agree. Bart and I probably agree more on issues than we disagree, and I count it a privilege to consider him a friend.

I am a die hard Republican. I am close friends with many national Republican politicians -- but when I relate to fellow believers in Jesus Christ I wish our mutual faith in Christ to transcend our political and philosophical disagreements and our ethnic and cultural differences.

In other words, I desire our fellowship around the gospel of Jesus Christ to trump everything else. This will be my last comment on this string because of my schedule today, but I thank you, Amy, for your gracious spirit to me.

Debbie said...

Bart: If I remember correctly you believe that Christ died for all men. In fact that has been stressed over and over. Some Calvinists(and I am not one) would say that this belief would promote universalism. In fact that has been a major charge that people who believe as you do have had to battle for centuries. Is that any truer than what you are placing on Jimmy Carter?

Benjamin S. Cole said...

Brother Bart:

Excellent post!!! Every time I read your blog I walk away more impressed with your insight and wisdom.

Keep hitting the nail on the head.

Wade Burleson has aligned himself with people who deny the gospel. He must be an apostate, as is his little buddy Ben.

Keep the blogs coming.

Thanks for your willingness to expose the truth on your blog.

BSC

Matt Brady said...

Wade made an interesting point about common grace versus saving grace, so I went back and read Carter's comments again. Carter said,

"what about those that don't publicly accept Christ, are they condemned? And I remember that Christ said, 'Judge not that ye be not judged.'"

Sounds like he is talking about "saving" grace to me, but nevertheless, Carter had an opportunity to give a clear answer that Jesus is THE way to salvation and refused to do so. That makes his position pretty clear to me.

Matt Brady said...

I just talked to Bart. He is travelling today and asked that I let everyone know that he will respond to everyone as soon as he is able.

Baptist Theologue said...

A few observations about the Carter quotes referenced by Bart Barber:

The quotes came from an interview by Elizabeth Sams on Beliefnet.com. Here is the title she gave for the interview: “Jimmy Carter, Sunday School Teacher: The former president on why he believes Jesus will save everyone, and how his faith complicated—and sustained—his presidency.”
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/214/story_21478_1.html

Here is Beliefnet.com’s mission statement: “Our mission is to help people like you find, and walk, a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness.
Whether you're exploring your own faith or other spiritual traditions, we provide you inspiring devotional tools, access to the best spiritual teachers and clergy in the world, thought-provoking commentary, and a supportive community. Beliefnet is the largest spiritual web site. We are independent and not affiliated with any spiritual organization or movement. Our only agenda is to help you meet your spiritual needs.”
http://www.beliefnet.com/about/index.asp

Notice that only the first half of John 3:16 was given in the interview.

Here is the key part of the interview:

“And I have been asked often, you know, in my Sunday School classes, which are kind of a give and take debate with people from many nations and many faiths - what about those that don't publicly accept Christ, are they condemned? And I remember that Christ said, ‘Judge not that ye be not judged.’ And so, my own personal belief is one of God's forgiveness and God's grace. That's the best answer I can give.”

Interestingly, the word “publicly” is used. Does this usage mean that he was implying that those who accept Christ privately but not publicly are saved? Probably not. From the information we are given in the interview, it appears that adults were attending his class who are members of other religious groups (not Christian). It also appears that they were asking whether they could go to heaven without surrendering their lives to Christ in repentance and faith. This was Elizabeth Sams’s understanding, according to the title of the interview. If President Carter has been misunderstood, perhaps he will clarify his stand on this very important issue.

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Dear Bart,

This might be a good time to develop a sermon upon John 14:6.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Baptist Theologue said...

P.S., before the key part of the interview that I noted, President Carter said,

"So, the opportunity for everyone to be saved through the grace of God with faith in Christ applies to everyone."

That statement might be interpreted as meaning that only through faith can people be saved. Not everyone has the opportunity to hear the gospel, however, so what does he mean here by saying that the opportunity to be saved applies to everyone? Maybe I am over-analyzing this statement.

Malcolm Yarnell said...

PS So that you can preach it in one of the upcoming conventions, to remind us of the power of God's Word and the exclusivity of salvation in Christ.

Tom Bryant said...

This "only the gospel matters" is the logical conclusion of the 3 tiers thinking.

We eventually put everything in the 3rd tier because "what's important is what brings us together rather than what makes us different."

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

I would encourage our readers to read a book that was out some years ago. "Baptist Battles", by Nancy Ammerman, follow especially pages 110-112 The section of Evangelism and Cooperation explains the difference between current SBC and those that left to form the CBF.

Blessings,
Tim

R. L. Vaughn said...

I believe there is some confusion of terminology, especially on the side of those who may be "defending" President Carter. "Common grace" and even "universalism" has been thrown out into the conversation. I don't think I remember anyone ever charging the former President with universalism (the salvation of every human being), but rather question whether he believes salvation is exclusively through Jesus Christ. Isn't that really the question?

Tim Rogers said...

Dr. Yarnell,

The ABP, in their report states the purpose of the gathering in Jan. is; "They plan to discuss ways of working on a “compassion agenda” to address social justice and human rights rather than squabbling over doctrinal or political differences."

Can you explain what you have seen is the "compassion agenda" and the other buzz words of "social justice and human rights"?

Blessings,
Tim

gary said...

It is clearly ridiculous to suggest that we must sit down and have a conversation with someone who has stated his opinions thoroughly in public, whether in a blog or in Playboy mag or in a book he's written, before engaging his ideas.

Nice and sincere friendly and well-dressed man that he may be, President Carter has a low view of Scripture. How can that not affect his soteriology?

I hope that meeting him would not make that problem less important to me. If it does, I'm wrong.

Jon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bro. Robin said...

Bart

I have linked a post of mine to your blog.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Gary,

I came home today and my wife had already picked up the mail. Guess what was in my mail box? It was the Spring 2007 issue of OUTLOOK, the SEBTS Journal. In huge letter on the front with a cross in the back was the statement; "Theology Matters". In Bruce Little's article, "Theology Matters when Engaging Culture" he says; "The danger,as I see it, would be that the Christian community becomes simply a task-oriented community....when the emphasis lands on the end, the danger exists that achieving the end muffles any concern for the theological approval of the means."

What a timely word!

Blessings,
Tim

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Tim,

You would have to ask the author(s) what is meant by such a statement.

One thing that troubles me from what you have quoted, however, is the implication that our practices ("social justice and human rights") must be divorced from our beliefs ("doctrinal differences"). The way I understand Scripture, for instance as seen in the letters of Paul, practices ought to derive from doctrines, not be divorced from them.

On the other hand, the statement also refers to not dividing over "political differences". Yet, it is not clear what is meant. And for such a notoriously political group, in church as in state, to decry "political differences" does seem, umm, interesting.

If we were to analyze this solely from a classical political perspective, this event appears to be a move by one group, having claimed some ground on the right (perhaps more by claim than by fame), merging with another group that has claimed some ground on the left. Of course, this may be reading Machiavellian tactics into ultimately altrustic intents. Only God knows the heart of men.

Thanks, Tim, for putting me on the spot.

Malcolm

gary said...

Tim,

You must be closer to NC than I am. I haven't received my jouranl. If I'm understanding the statement correctly, it's right on.

Truth (especially revealed truth) should undergird our convictions and temporal agendas should not trump either.

Gary

martyduren said...

Bart-
I'm glad that more than one person recognizes your fast track position in the SBC. Malcolm concurs.

Regarding any potential for the meeting: Boundless optimism might beat eternal pessimism, but tempered realism trumps them both and that's the ground I'm staking out.

Malcolm Yarnell said...

In general, that which is eternal is considered to dwell in the divine presence. Pessimism would have to give place to hope in that event.

Big Daddy Weave said...

Tim Rogers,

I recently read Nancy's Baptist Battles (again) this past semester. Though I don't have my (well, my fathers) copy handy at the moment, could you refresh me on what statistics Nancy quotes on those three pages?

Also, remember that book chronicles 1986? I believe. Of those she surveyed, some stayed, many left for other denominations, some went to the Alliance, and others went to the CBF. But that was 20 years ago. So, you can't make an argument that the self-identified moderates that Nancy references are the leaders of the current CBF.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother BDW,

Thank you for the back door reference to the difference of our ages.:>) I am older than many think because I began late in life with marriage and beginning to strive for filling my quiver.

Seriously, I am now at my home and my library is at my church office. I do not have that copy here with me at the moment so I cannot refer you to the statistics research.

However, the argument that the people interviewed in the 1980's may not be leaders in the CBF, I feel is a bit disingenuous. Some did go to the Alliance, but aren't most in the Alliance dually aligned with the CBF? Also, some leaders that she interviewed in the book are leaders in forming the CBF. The others she interviewed probably left and went to the Methodist as well as Episcopalian. I do not know this for all, but I do have some friends that have done just that.

Blessings,
Tim

Tim Rogers said...

Dr. Yarnell,

After re-reading your comment, I am sorry I missed the reply.

I am sorry if I asked you a question that may have been more forward than you desired to answer. However, it is good to hear from one that is known to speak truth when asked.

Blessings,
Tim

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Gary,

You have not received your jouranl, and I do not believe you ever will. However, if you are looking for a journal, I sure it is in the mail. :>)

Seriously, I live in NC and it is a great and timely journal. It reveals three timely articles of Why Theology Matters. Dr. David Nelson contributed Why Theology Matters in the Classroom; Dr. Bill Curtis contributed Why Theology Matters For the Pastor; Dr. Kenneth Keathley contributed Why Theology Matters To Everyone; and Dr. Bruce Little contributed Why Theology Matters When Engaging Culture.

Dr. Curtis, the Chairman of the NAMB, Trustees, presents an interesting argument concerning the tier system for developing theology. Of course he presents the basis for the first tier and that is; "Trinitarianism, the full deity/humanity of Christ as prerequisites for his person and work, salvation by grace alone on the basis of faith alone, the exclusivity of the Gospel, the inerrancy of Scripture and the literal existence of heaven and hell." Great basis for cooperation.

If any of these doctrines are violated, then I do not see any means of agreement in order to cooperate in a joint evangelistic endeavor. Would you not agree?

Blessings,
Tim

Big Daddy Weave said...

Tim,

It would be inaccurate to state that most in the Alliance dually aligned with the CBF. Some do, most don't. At this point in BaptistLife, I consider the Alliance to be irrelevant. They are struggling to survive. Also notice that no Alliance leader was invited to participate in New Baptist Covenant.

Since Nancy never names names in many instances (and she's Alliance herself) - I don't think we can say one way or the other. Sure, some took a leading role in forming the CBF. But, many of those leaders in 1986 are now retired.

Folks from my father's generation who are now active in CBF-life were still MDiv students and Phd candidates in 86. That said, the CBF is far from being a monolithic group. We've got Republicans, Democrats, Emergent types, Bapto-Catholics (which has become quite popular in some circles), conservatives, moderates, and a handful of liberals. People think that since moderates have a relationship with Jimmy Carter that we're primarily a bunch of Democrats. The CBF church that I grew up in was mostly Republicans. Politically, CBF churches are likely much more diverse than SBC churches. At least, that's my experience.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother BDW,

I feel you have committed an error of thinking that most believe about conservative like myself. Secular Political alliances has nothing to do with theology in my realm of thinking. My best friend is as conservative as I am but is registered Democrat and usually votes that way.

I think, Brother Bart's point about this whole scenerio and something I tried to point out using Baptist Battles is we couldn't cooperate in evangelism before. The reason was theology and Former President Carter's theology is not the same as SB today. Because of that theological divide, we cannot do evangelism together. It is not about not desiring to do evangelism together, it is about the ability to unite the theology of the exclusivity of the Gospel, with the theology that says everyone will one day go to heaven, because God so loved the world. Here in NC we call that "stanking thanking". :>)

Blessings,
Tim

Big Daddy Weave said...

No Tim, I was just trying to clear up a misconception about CBFers. Theological liberals tend to be politically liberal and vice versa for theological conservatives. But, when you're theologically moderate - politically, they swing either way. Some feel that the Celebration is merely a pep rally for Hillary Clinton (which is absurd). My point is - CBFers wouldn't be eager to participate in such an event if that was true. We're too diverse, politically.

Seriously, of those participating organizations and members, how many would claim to be inclusivists (which admittedly does not fly well outside of academic cricles) and how many would claim Mormons are Christians?

Carter might - but others wouldn't. Heck, quite a few of the participating organizations are JUST AS (if not more) theologically conservative as the average Southern Baptist.

sbc pastor said...

Bart,

Perhaps what unites THEM is the "gospel" according to Jimmy...

2 Timothy 4:3-4, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables"

Les Puryear said...

Tim and Big Daddy,

I have a copy of "Baptist Battles" handy. Here's the excerpt I think to which you were referring:

"Perhaps the most dramatic difference between fundamentalist and moderate practices, however was the fundamentalist enthusiasm for soul winning. When asked if their church 'puts a lot of emphasis on evangelism and soul winning' over three quarters (77 percent) of self-identified fundamentalists said that was very true, and another 17 percent said it was somewhat true. Only 6 percent disagreed or were unsure. Self-identified moderates, on the other hand, were more ambivalent. Only 14 percent said it was very true, while 61 percent chose somewhat true, and 25 percent disagreed or were unsure."

Is that the part you were seeking?

Regards,

Les

Ckey said...

Bart,

Why are Jimmy Carter's views relevant to SBC life after his press release of October, 2000?

Clyde

Bart Barber said...

To all: Today I am at the Baptist church in Nixon, TX, for the dedication of the South Texas Disaster Relief Child Care unit. I apologize for being unavailable to participate blow-by-blow in this conversation thread.

I do want to clarify something: Carter's statements cannot be spun, even by the most masterful of spinners. I should have provided the link to the BeliefNet Q&A, but failed to do so. Here is the interview. And Here is the RealPlayer audio of the lesson on Ephesians in question. Listen to the lesson, which is the context of the question, and you'll learn what kind of grace we're talking about.

Carter says it is a grace that "...repairs all of that mistake—forgives all of the mistakes—reconciles Himself—God's self—with us, and then, there is an exalted picture of the future with God where? In Heaven, side by side with Jesus Christ…side by side with Jesus Christ. So, how do we achieve this promise, anybody? By the grace of God."

That is the grace mentioned in the lesson. That is the grace that is the context of the question. That is not, by any stretch of the imagination, common grace rather than saving grace.

I find also interesting Carter's thoughts about the object and content of saving faith: "All we have to do is what? Have faith. Faith in God's love, faith that God knows us individually, faith that God created us as a beautiful work of art…as a poem, faith that this creation of a beautiful being is independent of how we look, whether we are beautiful or handsome or ugly, faith that we are beautiful in God's eyes, no matter how smart we are. A child with Down's Syndrome that might have an IQ of 40 would be equivalent to an Einstein in God's eyes."

Hmmm. I do, indeed, have faith that all of those things are true. But, I have always included in saving faith something about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the entrusting of my soul upon Him and Him alone for salvation.

Wade Burleson suggests that there is something amiss with my commenting upon his meeting with Carter and Carter's theology without sitting down for a lengthy meeting with Jimmy Carter to sort it all out. I'm sorry, Bro. Wade, but I don't enjoy the kind of clout that you have to hobknob with presidents. Since he is offering his teaching for download and has shared these views publicly in the press, I consider them fair game for comment.

Finally, please note that there is not a whiff of politics in my post. Jimmy Carter is a former president, but that is not really relevant here. Jimmy Carter asserts himself as a Bible teacher and now as a convener and leader of Baptist movements. I believe in religious liberty enough to believe that even a former president, if he wishes to teach the Bible, is subject to the same standards of orthodoxy as anyone else and has no entitlement to corrupt the gospel without confrontation.

But, to address the obvious, the primary relevance of my post is that we stand at a crossroads in the SBC. We decide which direction we will take for the future. I do not wish for us to head in a direction that is perfectly cozy with the gospel à la Jimmy Carter.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Clyde,

I am not presenting an answer for Brother Bart, because, as you know, Brother Bart can answer your question much more eloquent than I.

But, being the redneck that I am, that has never stopped me before. :>) I believe your pointing to the evidence of our Former President's removing himself from the SBC is a vital understanding in this debate. Brother Wade desires to bring the SBC together with those that have formally removed themselves from what we believe. What is next? Will Brother Wade recant the 95 thesis? Will Brother Bruce Prescott begin seeing Brother Wade as friends of the CBF? Wait! The later appears to be happening. Check out http://mainstreambaptist.blogspot.com

Blessings,
Tim

R. L. Vaughn said...

Earlier I wrote, "I don't think I remember anyone ever charging the former President with universalism..." After further reading around the world wide web, I have found that some indeed have connected President Carter's theology with universalism. So it really doesn't matter what I think I remember!

Bart Barber said...

Bro. Ben,

Thanks for stopping by. I enjoyed your "Grandmother" post. You are an incredibly talented writer. I thought of you and Aaron Weaver as I drove through Waco today. We stopped and let the kids visit the bears—they were asleep.

Perhaps you would have been more favorably impressed with my commentary if I had critiqued Carter's choice of cufflinks? :-)

Kevin Stilley said...

Personally, I am more disturbed by Richard Land's meeting with Mitt Romney than the Burleson / Cole / Scott / Duren meeting with Carter.

I think everyone has know for quite some time where the Burleson / Cole / Scott / Duren coalition is headed.

However, the prospects of where the Land & Romney meeting could be leading is uncertain and scary.

Bart Barber said...

Kevin,

I partly agree and partly disagree. It's your topic, so I'll respond over at your place.

In Christ,
Bart