Former President Jimmy Carter and His New Bible

I don’t post on my blog every day like others do, sometimes I wish I had the time others do to be more faithful in my writing. I simply have too much going on that I think is more important then telling the public every thought I have on a daily basis. That being said, sometimes I run across things and feel that it is important that something be said about them in a public way and today is one of those days.

Former President Jimmy Carter is promoting a new book called NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter. He recently gave an interview to that can be read and listened to at the following link

Jimmy Carters New Bible

President Carter covers a lot of ground in this interview, but the purpose for him writing the book I think speaks volumes to the conclusions he draws.

The overall purpose of the overall project is to bring ancient scriptures into modern applicability. When I speak at my local church, which I try to do 35 to 40 times a year, I try in every lesson to take the Old Testament text or New Testament text and apply them to what is happening to me or how that applies to the audience that I’m teaching in a modern, fast-changing, technological world. I use headlines, interfaith and that sort of thing.

You see according to Carter, the Bible is written for him to reason what it says and apply it to his own life in the way that he sees fit. I am currently writing my third paper on apologetics for my Masters of Arts in Theology and I comment on this interview in the section I wrote on Postmodernism and Reason. In our culture we can reason within ourselves whatever we want, and since there is no absolute truth, there really is no right and wrong. The former President can now add being written about in my blog to his list of accomplishments along with being elected President and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. I am sure he will be honored when he hears of this..:)

I should make everyone aware, in case they do not already know, that former President Carter is not a pagan, nor is he an atheist or even an agnostic for that matter. He is a self professing Christian that has been a deacon in his Church and a teacher as well. This is what makes his views on Christianity and the Bible even more alarming. Postmodernism is even more of a problem within the Church then without.

So let’s break down some of the points in his book that I found most alarming.

Carter: I believe strongly that in the eyes of God women and men should be the same and they should be given the same authority in the church, women should as men. For instance, my wife is a deacon now. She’s one of the leaders in our church. I have been in the past. And we have two pastors, one of them is a man and his wife is a woman, of course. I believe there is complete equality between men and women. And I believe those passages in the New Testament, not by Jesus, but by Paul, that say women should not adorn themselves, they should always wear hats or color their hair in church – things like that – I think they are signs of the times and should not apply to modern-day life. When Paul also says, I think the third chapter of Galatians, Paul says that there is no distinction between men and women, or between Jew and Greek, or between slaves and masters even, that all people are the same in the eyes of God. That’s what I used as a guiding light in that sort of argument.

So we have President Carter proclaiming that the Bible says men and women are equal. Not because Jesus said it, but because Paul says it in Galatians chapter 3. Obviously Carter is taking the passage in Galatians, that is focused on salvation, completely out of context. Paul is saying that there is no distinction between male or female, Jew or Greek, master or slave when it comes to being one in Christ. This has nothing to do with the roll of women in the church. Obviously Paul does not obliterate the lines between gender completely and is quite clear on the role of women in Church. Even if Carter was not taking Galatians completely out of context, to believe that Paul actually meant male and female played equal roles in the church we would have to discount Paul’s own direct teaching on the issue found in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, 1 Corinthians 11:3.

If one wants to discount this teaching as cultural and not applicable to today then, even thought that would be disputed in the context of other passages, that is one thing by itself, however to site Galatians as Paul promoting equality in the Church out of context and then disregard 1 Corinthians that is actually in context is wrong. Paul shows the same distinctions in regard to the family and God as well in Ephesians 5. It is not that men are better then women, but that they serve different purposes and functions and Carter is obliterating those functions in order to mesh with a culture that agrees with him. The overall point that Paul makes is that men and women are equal as people in salvation in God’s eyes and they have equal rights as human beings created in God’s image, however their function in the Church and the home is not the same, not less important, but not the same. Carter shows his lack of understanding of the topic when he later says

Paul said that women should be subservient to their husbands but if you
read a couple of verses down it says husbands should treat their wives as equals

Once again Carter is confusing the issue. Women being subservient in no way means that they are of less value or “beneath” men. They are equal as people but their function is not the same. Carter then wraps this all up by saying

So you have to use your own modern-day beliefs and basic Christianity to select
which of those conflicting statements of Paul you want to observe that says we
should treat women as equals and says we should not discriminate against people.

No, we just need to read the Bible in proper context and then do what it says regardless of where the culture is. But this is just the tip of the Carter iceberg. Later in the conversation Carter decides what parts of the Bible are inerrant and what parts are not.

Carter: Yes, I think the Bible is completely inspired by God in it’s overall messages. But, for the people of those days to know what was going to happen 4,000 years later in a world of astronomy or subatomic particles. They didn’t have access to the knowledge that we presently have about geology. So, we know now that the world was created many of billions of years ago, 13 or 14 billion years ago. As far as they knew, the earth was the center of the universe. They thought that stars were little twinkling things in the sky where as now we know stars are very distant and much larger than the earth. For them to say that stars fall on the earth like they fell off a Christmas tree, that means it’s human fallibility. It doesn’t mean it was ordained by God who created everything. So I think that those matters of those lack of knowledge about science and technology that come along later are understandable.

I happen to be a scientist. My background is in nuclear physics. I was a nuclear engineer. But I don’t see any incompatibility at all with my religious faith and God the creator of everything and the incompatibility between when the earth was created as specified in the Bible. I don’t see any incompatibility there because those that were interpreting God’s overall message didn’t know anything about modern-day science.

So Carter is saying that overall the Bible is inspired but the writers obviously got some things wrong along the way so their writing was not completely inspired. How does he know this? Well because he was a scientist, and in his view science says that the earth and the universe are billions of years old. Since Moses could not have known this he was obviously wrong when he wrote the creation account of Genesis. Carter isn’t going to hold his ignorance against him though, I mean, how could he have known right?

Later Carter admits that God is omniscient so I guess what Carter means is that God knew how the Universe was created and tried to tell Moses but Moses was too ignorant about science to write it down correctly. This is obviously absurd, you either believe the Bible is infallible or you don’t. If you don’t then find the nearest waist can and throw it away, if you do then everything in it must be true and it is Jimmy Carter that is misinterpreting the meaning of the text.

When people thought that certain passages explained a flat earth centered Universe it wasn’t because the Biblical writers got it wrong, it was because human beings interpreted the infallible passages wrong. It is quite pious of Carter to think that IQ and scientific intelligence trumps inspiration, but once again this is a cultural idea that Carter is buying into and at the same time trying to harmonize the scripture with culture instead of gaining new insight to the world we live in and understanding how it works with scripture. We can be just as wrong about science as we are Bible interpretation and we continue to learn more about both the Universe and the Bible each day. The scientist and the theologian should be working together not against each other.

Then Carter decides whether or not Homosexuality is a sin. Of course he says it isn’t but his reasoning is interesting. He says that it isn’t a sin, not because Paul is wrong or because it was a cultural thing primarily, but because Jesus was silent on the issue.

Carter: Well, homosexuality was massively practiced in some of the conflicting religions at the time of Christ and even at the time of Christ, in Roman times show that homosexuality was widely prevalent. I think it’s quite significant that Jesus never did mention it.

When Paul mentions the verse, it can be interpreted homosexually critical. He also says that selfishness is sinful. He also goes through a whole gamut of things that are sinful. On Saint Paul, he’s probably one of the best theologians of all time, but I don’t believe that some of his teachings are appropriate today.

When I have a conflict like that in my interpretation of scripture, I go back and see what Jesus said about that.

Once again, with Carter the Bible is culturally insignificant and uninspired when it comes to these issues so he can make it say whatever he wants in regard to the culture of today. However Paul is not referring to the culture in Romans at all, in fact he is talking about men suppressing their truth in their sin and the act of homosexuality is included with the sins that men do because God gave them up due to their idolatry. They became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. This is not talking about cultural norms at all, but instead Paul is explaining why men think the way they do and how it leads to these sins. He speaks of many sins but spends extra time defining homosexuality specifically. Paul then wraps up the chapter by saying “Though they know these things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who do.”

Of course then we have to also discount the teachings of Timothy who learned under Paul, as well as Jude who is believed to be the brother of James the half brother of Jesus. They all spoke out against these things. However Carter just dismissed all of this out of hand because of our current cultural acceptance of homosexuality. His main argument though that seems to be more important then Paul’s error is that Jesus is silent. Well of course we know that God condemned this act in the Old Testament and I don’t think that Carter would deny Christ’s deity so Christ is not entirely silent. Just because Jesus doesn’t directly condemn the act in the N.T. Does not follow that it is condoned. Christ said that he came to fulfill the law, and Paul never says the law is void.

Dewey Hodges sums this up better then I could.

When proper hermeneutic principles are applied to the relevant passages, and when we rid those passages of preconceived beliefs, it becomes clear that such behavior is condemned without qualification in Leviticus, and this condemnation is assumed to be valid by Paul when he discusses the depravity as well as the end result of homosexual behavior. The entire Bible, in fact, presupposes that homosexual relationships are illegitimate. The creation of mankind was distinctly heterosexual, Christ’s relationship to the church is like that of a man and his wife, and the marriage union and the dominion mandate are distinctly heterosexual such that a homosexual version would make no sense.

In the end, Carter’s Bible is nothing more then the actual Bible changed to fit the culture of today. It does not follow an accurate hermeneutic, takes passages out of context, and only sees the scriptures as inerrant on a “high level” which doesn’t even make any sense. I would instead recommend the Reformation Study Bible if you are in the market for one.

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