For some reason, former president Jimmy Carter caused quite a stir when he decided to leave the Southern Baptist Convention for the sake of some “peace group” brought together by Nelson Mandela called “The Elders.” According to an article that Carter composed, his main reason is the supposed lessened and demeaned role of women that is common in the SBC and apparently in Christianity altogether being that The Elders is not a Christian organization. Because of the issue of women’s roles, Carter has found it necessary to leave the church and the God of Christianity for the sake of a political organization, in essence leaving the faith which he once claimed to have.
How should the church respond?
While the state of a man’s soul is never a flippant subject, it can be said of Carter as it has been said of other apostates, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1Jn. 2:19). Carter’s leaving the church for the sake of the role’s of women demonstrates that he was not “of us” to begin with. For, in spite of Carter’s political upbringing, the church is not some mere political party that can be left due to some seemingly random issue, for salvation resides in the God of the church alone.
Therefore the question remains, How should the church deal with apostates? The simple answer to the question is that the church is to deal with apostates as they do with the rest of the unbelieving world–pining their exclusion from the people of God but giving no credence to their false doctrines. For those who leave the church by necessity do not have the Spirit of God, and they, therefore, have no authority or power to comment upon the doctrines of the Scriptures.
With that said, any commentary upon doctrine should not hinder the church from evaluating her position upon that doctrine. For the people of God are called to be testers of their lives in light of the Word of God, so that they might rightly discern the will of God (cf. Rm. 12:2). Therefore, it is never an idle practice to rethink the doctrines of the Church in light of the Holy Scriptures, so that we as mere mortals might abolish the teachings of men that constantly creep into our understanding.
While I could take this time to think upon the practices of the church with regards to the role of women, I shall not enter into that discussion now for the sake of what can be undeniably evinced by the writings of those who have much greater understanding and wisdom than I on the matter. And while it can be conceded that women have in fact been belittled and improperly treated by some in the history of the church, it will be shown on the Last Day that they who have done so have done so in a manner contrary the teachings of the Lord.
However, Carter’s understanding of the roles of women should not be given credence due to his belittling, not of women, but of the Word of God. Carter’s improper view of the Word of God can be seen in exaltation of the writings of men. He writes:
Their [i.e. male religious leaders] continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions–all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.
First, Carter refers to the Scriptures’ teachings concerning women (i.e. Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul, and Moses), but does not give any reference to their teachings. He does not, because he cannot find his position in their writings. Secondly, he calls false prophets, like Muhammad, prophets, thereby solidifying his stance against God and his people. Third, Carter calls for the equitable treatment of women, but does not define what the equitable treatment of women is. It can be surmised by the rest of the article that what Carter means in the equitable treatment of women is that women be viewed as men and be given the same roles and responsibility that men are given in the church. It is of wonder that Carter does not call for these same “equitable” roles to be demonstrated in the Godhead, where there eternally exists both equality and subservience.
In short, while it is indeed grievous that Jimmy Carter has demonstrated by his leaving the church that he is not in the church and therefore not among the people of God, his clear stance against the church and with political factions and false prophets is more than enough to solidify his dismissal.