My first Theology course in College was taught by a rancorous curmudgeon who had absolutely no patience for slack thinking or theological ineptitude. I loved that guy. One day while in class he used a phrase that caused us all to sit up and take notice: “I was at a pooling of ignorance Bible study this weekend…” and then he said where. Someone in class said ‘What did you say?” He responded, ‘I was at a pooling of ignorance Bible study. You’re familiar with them: people gather in a classroom in a church basement and talk about the Bible even though they’re completely ignorant about it”.
Boy was that a lively discussion! But his point was clear: some folk talk about things they have no business talking about and one isn’t automatically qualified to teach a class just because one attends a church. One should have some aptitude for teaching and some training in the subject that reaches beyond merely tangential contact.
And so now to my main point. President Carter has written a book on the Bible which he simply is ill qualified to write. He’s a fine man, a wonderful Christian, a devoted disciple. He was a terrible President and politician because he lacked the duplicity necessary to be either. But he simply isn’t a theologian or a biblical scholar. His writing a book on the ‘tough questions of the Bible’ is the equivalent of Ken Ham writing a book on the science of nuclear engineering.
President Carter is certainly entitled to his views. He’s entitled to write a book about his views. But what he isn’t entitled to do is to write a volume in which he attempts to purport himself an expert in the subject. For example, in the interview to which I’ve linked he’s asked
A lot of people point to the Bible for reasons why gay people should not be in the church, or accepted in any way.
And he responds
Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things -– he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.
That’s what we call the ‘argument from silence’. It’s a logical fallacy. One can’t argue, theologically (or philosophically) for or against something on the basis of silence. Jesus didn’t say anything about a lot of things and he did say a lot about other things (like hell, for instance). But to build a ‘case’ on Jesus’ view of homosexuality in which he approves the behavior from his silence on the subject is bad thinking pure and simple.
Furthermore, Paul’s letter to the Romans is obviously ‘Scripture’ even for President Carter and Paul has a bit to say on the subject. And finally, it’s equally (and far more legitimate) to argue that Jesus, a practicing Jewish Rabbi, adhered to the Torah and it’s teaching on the subject (which can be found, if you’ll look, in Leviticus) than that he did not. President Carter isn’t allowed to ‘pick and choose’ his evidence. He has to deal with the whole of Scripture on any particular subject, as a theologian or biblical scholar is required to do.
President Carter would know all of this if he were qualified in the subject. It’s dismaying when half truths and misrepresentations about things Biblical are peddled to the public whether it’s a not naked not archaeologist or a former President doing it.