Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Carter and Christianity

In Acts 20, the apostle Paul tells the elders of the church in Ephesus to " Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood...fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:28-29).

I thought about this text when I read an article this weekend from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. From the Saturday, May 26th edition in the Religion section, Religion editor Frank Lockwood included an interview he had with former President Jimmy Carter over the phone. The article primarily talks about the Sunday School class Carter teaches at a Baptist church in Plains, Georgia. They have anywhere from 200-800 visitors a week in that class! The article is very interesting...and very scary. Three statements Carter made in the interview made me very nervous.

#1. "...what I do each Sunday is take whatever lesson are in the uniform lesson series...the last four lessons, maybe unfortunately have been in Revelation, but I've struggled through it...I really enjoy...John's writings, except for Revelation--I'll exclude that."

These statements were in response to what he teaches in his Sunday School class and his favorite Bible books. What makes me nervous about his statements is the negative language he uses regarding a Bible book. It is never unfortunate to be teaching through a certain Bible book. It is the word of God. Also, one should never exclude a book of the Bible and chalk it up in the "Do Not Like" file. Granted we should all have preferences, but believers (especially Bible teachers) should never place a book on an "exclusion" or a "dislike" list.

#2. "...there's something special about Christianity. You know, I think that the Bible says, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged,' so I am not in a position of condemning other people. I don't know what God's purpose will do for those who have never heard of Christ and so forth. I wouldn't want to get involved in that."

This statement was in response to the question: "Do you think all religions are equal, that they're simply different pathways to the same God, or is there somethign unique about Christianity?"
I am thankful Mr. Carter says Christianity is special. I agree we are not to judge nor condemn. But anyone who knows their Bible knows exactly what God's purpose is for those who have never heard of Christ and "so forth." Jesus says very plainly in John 14:6 that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that NO ONE can come to the Father except through Him. This means, then, that those who have never heard of or who reject Christ will not get to God. It's not an issue of judging or condemning. It's an issue of the truth! In fact, if one does not tell those of other faiths this truth, then in all actuality they are condemning them to an eternal hell. So, Mr. Carter is trying not to "get involved in that" by supposedly not condemning or judging others. But in fact, he is actually being involved in their condemnation to hell by not informing them of the truth. Anytime one refuses to speak the truth in effort "not to condemn or judge" is actually condemning and judging them...to a Christ-less and God-less eternity.
[The newspaper article stated at one place that his Sunday School class included Baptists, other Protestants, Muslims, Catholics, Mennonites, Amish, and Jews.]

#3. "Justice, humility, service, forgiveness, compassion, love, and so the perfect example of Christ and the fact that Christ died for my sins and that's the avenue toward salvation [that] permeates my life. So that's why I believe that that is a proper path. But I never have gotten in the position of trying to take God's position on what happened to people who don't agree with my own religious faith. "

Several things concern me here. First, notice after listing some moral characteristics of Christ and saying that Christ died for his sins he stated, "that's the avenue toward salvation that permeates my life." I'm sorry. Christ and His death for sins is not the avenue "toward" salvation. That IS salvation! My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness! Second, notice he says that this is why he believes Christianity to be "a proper path." It isn't "A" proper path among many. It is "THE" proper path! Third, Christianity is not a religion of trying to be just and humble and forgiving and compassionate and servant-like and loving. It is a surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, following HIM every moment of everyday, allowing His Spirit to transform you into His character that exudes these attributes. Christians don't try to do these things. It is what they become as they follow after Christ.

Why did I think of the verses in Acts 20? Because Mr. Carter and former President Bill Clinton (among others) are forming a new Baptist Covenant. This is a huge gathering of Baptists in Atlanta in 2008. To quote Carter: "the main concept is that it's a...convocation of all Baptists, excluding none and criticizing none...we have in common...a declaration of unity of purpose and an absence of condemnation or criticism of other Baptists or other Christians, and a clear theology of the fact that we're saved by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ..."
Be careful Wynne Baptist. Do not be deceived. Here Mr. Carter says that their theology will focus on on the fact that "they are" saved by the grace of God through "their" faith in Jesus Christ. That's great. That's true. It's the only way of salvation. If only he would say that no one can truly be saved except in that same fashion. I hope he is saved by faith in Jesus Christ. I really do. If that is where his trust is alone, then I believe he is a believer. I long for others to be saved that way, too. It's the ONLY way for ANYBODY to be saved. We cannot say it is just "our" way of being saved while someone else might be saved in another way. It is THE way. Christians are not to be a bunch of people standing around talking about how we are saved while we listen and agree with how others got saved apart from faith in Christ. We are to talk of our faith in Christ, urging others to put their faith in Him as well.
I certainly hope I read too much into what was stated in the article and am reading what he said in a way he did not intend. But I must confess the statements make me nervous and what seems to be conveyed in the article frighten me as to the number of Baptists who will go along with this way of "avoiding the truth" kind of language. This kind of language seriously degrades the seriousness of the Gospel and evangelism. That's what makes me nervous.
Let's not be deceived. Christ is the only way for Christianity AND everyone else.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Officially a Blogger...for the Glory of Christ

This is a first for me. "Blogging." Who knew? For those interested, what I want this to be used for is "iron sharpening iron" (Proverbs 27:17) type stuff. What I mean is, I want to post blogs that help edify, encourage, and strengthen the faith of believers at Wynne Baptist Church and anyone else who might come across this blog.

I hope it will be used to point others to links of information I have found helpful for my own walk with the Lord. I hope others will post comments from their spiritual journey that will challenge and encourage me.

All that to say, when I title a blog "Officially a Blogger...for the Glory of Christ," that's exactly what I want it to be. A blog for me to share thoughts that will (hopefully) encourage and inform insights that I have learned from the word and other God-centered sources, and for you to share your thoughts, opinions, challenges, and encouragements as well.
So, stay tuned...more to come!