Simple answers to complex questions

During last night’s Republican presidential debate, it was interesting to see how some citizens (via YouTube) were looking for very simple answers to their questions about everything from immigration to abortion to biblical authority.
As if a religious test is now in effect for presidential candidates, one questioner held up a Bible and asked: “Do you believe every word of this book?”
He prefaced the question by saying the candidates’ answers would reveal everything one needs to know about them. Really?
Wrestling with complex issues seems to be a passing sport. So many who live in this gray world seek only black and white answers to questions that require more thought and response than a “yes” or a “no.”
Mitt Romney gave a strong affirmation of his belief in the Bible as the Word of God. Of course, he added nothing about his belief in how that text relates to the Book of Mormon. Do we now know everything we need to know about this candidate?
Most delightfully entertaining was the way Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee and the man perceived as least religious, Rudy Giuliani, came down at about the same place. They both said the Bible is true, yet confessed that the Bible contains allegory and is not to be taken literally in all ways.
Such questioning reminds me of my days at once-great Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., in the late ’70s when the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention was getting started.
Professors would receive nearly identical “surveys” from “concerned Southern Baptists” from Florida to Oklahoma seeking to know what they really believed. Only “yes or no” answers were accepted to questions about Hell, Satan, biblical literalism and the effort to make early Genesis chapters affirm young-earth science.
But the letters always concluded with the statement: “If you do not respond to this survey, we will assume all of your answers are no.”
Of course, professors generally ignored such damned-if-you-do,damned-if-you-don’t efforts to paint them as unbelieving heretics. But it gave good fuel for the Baptist brethren (many with their unaccredited, mail order degrees) to gather at Monday morning pastors’ conferences and assure each other of the rampant liberalism in our seminaries.
More simple-minded people consider answers that are reflective, thoughtful, and less than fully certain, to be evasive or weak. Conversely, I think such honest responses lead to ongoing exploration rather than division or cemented minds.
I want neither a professor, pastor nor a president who will always give a quick, oversimplified answer to the complex questions of the day.
Do you agree with me — yes or no?


  1. Thanks, Wayne. Though Baptist preachers who can say anything in just one word risk losing their credentials.

  2. JPierce:
    Loaded blog.
    As I blogged Sunday I shook hands with Huckabee Sunday in Ftn Inn, SC–see
    Huckabee told an anecdote about driving Jerry Vines from the Dallas Ft. Worth airport to James Robison compound in 76 or so.
    And you and I know Vines roll with Jim Deloach in the takeover of SEBTS.
    So it is a mess. has a great breakdown of Hbee and the SBC political history uptoday.

    I do sincerely recommend to you and Cartledge if you can’t get to Marsh before Christmas, at a minimum bone up on the concluding chapters of Garry Wills Head and Heart, American Christianities.
    Like the rest of us HBee is on timber. We have to hope the likes of him and Ben Cole and Wade Burleson can pilgrim out, as we ourselves have done; but like Lincoln all the while knowing we too are sinners.
    Still ignorance of one’s own tradition at such a high level of exercise doesn’t bode well for any of us. And I say that with as much kindness as candor, as for the time being I am giving HBee the benefit of the doubt hoping some day with maybe even more sincerity and authenticity than George Wallace he will admit he was wrong.
    On another note The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and No Country for Old Men is ready when You ARe.
    Also get DAvid Gushee up to speed on abortion; get him prepped like I suggest at my blog so we all get the biggest bang for the buck when the Covenant meets in Atlanta.
    Get him deep in the wisdom of Balmer and Wills on the politics of Abortion.
    I don’t want to be the only person in the room who knows whats going on and what could get done there.
    Insert big smilie emoticon at my expense here.

  3. Correction;
    HBee is on pilgrimage, not timber. I was thinking he isn’t quite presidential timber, in the middle of the pilgrimage thought and got wrong word up.
    But he is a good soul, so the conversation with Frank Page etc is ripe and something good can come of all this mess.

  4. I didn’t know so much about the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC. Fascinating. And to answer your question, yes.

  5. One of the concerns I’ve heard repeatedly from Baptist leaders planning the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant is that they’d get 20,000 or so there and Fox would be the only one in the room who really knows what’s going on.

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