Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jimmy Carter versus Jesus Christ

JC vs. JC

Last month, when Albert Mohler interviewed Jimmy Carter-- who has recently come out with a study Bible based on his years as a Sunday school teacher-- Dr. Mohler asked Mr. Carter about some of the more controversial issues of our day. In defense of his moderate-to-liberal theological leanings, Mr. Carter said: "I really turn almost exclusively to the teachings of Jesus Christ."

This has long been the liberal ploy: take the "teachings of Jesus Christ" and try to set them against the teachings of the Apostle Paul and the rest of the Bible. But this method of reading Scripture is entirely unsustainable. One problem with the 'Jesus-only' method of liberal interpretation is that the actual teachings of Jesus keep getting in the way. Take, for example, the Sermon on the Mount: perhaps Jesus' most famous teaching. At the beginning of Matthew 5, with the beatitudes-- "Blesed are the poor," etc.-- this Sermon may start out in a way that is not too inimical to the liberal perspective: at least as long as one does not think too deeply about the definition of certain terms. Then the reader comes to Matthew 7:1, perhaps the most well-known verse in America today. But by the end of that same Chapter, Jesus teaches about the wide gate that leads to destruction and about rejecting those who reject His words; these teachings are entirely consistent with Jesus teaching about Himself as the exclusive Way to the Father (in John 14:6 and elsewhere) and they tend to contradict the moderate/liberal doctrine of inclusivism or universalism. The liberal theologian must, like Thomas Jefferson, take a pen-knife to the Gospels in order to create a Jesus in his own image. This is idolatry.

The liberal response to this conservative, evangelical observation is typically to mount an ad hominem tu quoque ['you too!'] defense. In the Mohler interview, Mr. Carter's words tend in this direction when he says, "I know that Paul condemns homosexuality, as he did some other things like selfishness that everybody’s guilty of..." With this statement, Carter seems to be implying what other liberal theologians state explicitly: conservatives have blind spots in their reading of Scripture, too; 'look, we might turn a blind eye to Paul's teaching on homosexuality,' so the reasoning goes, 'but you conservatives turn a blind eye to teachings against selfishness, and your sin is more serious.' The main difference is, inasmuch as the responsible conservative theologian realizes that he has under-emphasized a teaching of Scripture, he seeks to repent of this error. This is why, when the liberal theologian correctly points out that we in our selfish and materialistic culture have overlooked the Bible's teachings concerning the poor, we seek to make changes. On the other hand, the convinced liberal theologian actively seeks to rationalize away the Bible teachings that bother him, as Mr. Carter openly admits during the interview.



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