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THE CUTTING EDGE
In a New York Times press release by Somini Sengupta, October 21, 2000, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter announced to the world that he is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention. In a letter which is being mailed to 75,000 Baptists nationwide, he makes it clear that the conservative element within the convention is insisting upon "increasingly rigid" policies and doctrine which are inconsistent with and violate the "basic premises of my Christian faith." The article then goes on to comment about recent announcements from the convention which have insisted upon, among other things, a literal interpretation of the Bible and opposition to women being pastors. The moderate and liberal factions within the convention have been upset and vocal for quite some time over the conservative "take-over" and several churches have withdrawn and formed their own moderate association. When rated in terms of notoriety, Carter's defection stands as the largest to date, but the actions of a couple of other characters named Clinton and Gore may signal that more will follow. [Note: Before this article "went to press", we learned of a radio report which states that President Clinton has pulled out of the convention for essentially the same reasons as Carter! But we are not claiming any prophetic insight :)]
Frankly, we at Cutting Edge Ministries applaud the efforts of the convention leadership in attempting to turn God's people back to the "rigid" positions of holiness and righteousness and a rock-solid literal interpretation of the Bible. The terms "liberal" and "moderate" when used in conjunction with "Christian" are downright oxymoronic! Tom Anderson (a former candidate for President as an independent) publishes a newsletter entitled "Straight Talk" and in this weekly commentary he often points out that a great many very important things in our daily lives are "rigid" and fixed. For instance, the freezing and boiling points of water, all units of measurement--whether metric or U.S.--and so on. What would our lives be like if we had no absolutes? God Himself tells us in Malachi 3:6, "I am the Lord, I change not..." James 1:17 echoes this same theme, where we read: ".... the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." A literal interpretation of the Bible is absolutely essential, because any alternative--anything less--renders it impotent and open to "every wind of doctrine" (Eph.4:14).
In the Bible, God is very emphatic in requiring His people to be holy and righteous because He is holy and righteous. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says:
"But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living. For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary).
Therefore, any attempt by pastors, churches, denominations, or conventions to turn believers back to the "straight and narrow way" is to be commended. And, conversely, any defections that lead back to the "broad road" must be deplored.
We find it highly interesting that Jimmy Carter felt it necessary to trumpet his decision by sending out 75,000 letters. "Hey, listen up America, I have a doctrinal disagreement with the Southern Baptist Convention and since I am an ex-President this should be front-page news!" If the convention were at fault and had deviated from Scriptural standards, this tactic would make sense and a call back to godly living the right and courageous thing to do, but the reverse is true. Carter is actually announcing to the world that "the old-time religion" is too rigid and narrow for him to abide and thus he is to be pitied. What has he actually accomplished by this display of egotism? Has he aided the cause of Christ in any way whatever? Liberalism, whether it be in religion or politics is a dirty ten-letter word!
The inspired words of Scripture should serve us well here, for instruction as to how we should feel about this "defection" of Former President Carter. "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine [is disloyal to what Jesus Christ taught], do not receive him, do not accept him, do not welcome or admit him into your house or bid him Godspeed, or give him any encouragement. For he who wishes him success [who encourages him, wishing him Godspeed] is a partaker in his evil-doings." 2 John 10-11; Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary]
Since we applaud the Southern Baptist Convention for refusing to be intimidated by a Former President into taking a stand contrary to what Jesus and His Apostles taught. Mr. Carter, don't let the door hit you on the way out. Further, Mr. Clinton reportedly has taken the same stand, leaving the SBC, and for the same reason. One can feel about these "defections" the way a cancer patient feels about their deadly tumor, i.e., exceedingly glad the tumor is finally gone.
If you have received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
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