Thanks, W.


President Bush’s recent discussion of faith with ABC’s “Nightline” reveals a lot less spiritual arrogance than the fundamentalist crowd that has embraced him to the end.

Bush said he was “not so presumptuous as to be God” in knowing whether he was divinely chosen for the presidency, according to many news reports including this one from Associated Baptist Press.

Rather, the outgoing president focused on seeking God’s guidance. “Did it help to know that prayer would inform me during tough moments?,” Bush asked himself. “Absolutely.”

Bush also spoke highly of the Bible as an “amazing book.” Yet, he confessed: “I’m not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from it.”

He also rejected the false exclusive choice between belief in a Creator God and the science of evolutionary process.

Also, Bush refused to take on the role of ultimate judge while affirming his own faith in Christ.

“I do believe there’s an Almighty that is broad and big enough, loving enough that encompass a lot of people,” he said, according to ABP. “I don’t think God is a narrow concept. I think it’s a broad concept. I just happen to believe the way to God is through Christ, and others have different avenues toward God, and I believe we pray to the same Almighty. I do.”

The president did what many of us choose to do: Affirm our faith deeply while refusing to claim the corner on all truth and to condemn all others who might disagree.

Good for him. Guess his ex-presidency won’t include teaching Southern Baptist theology students.

18 Comments

  1. W sounds like some moderates who stayed to get their retirement or meet a vocational goal who said what was required. Then when they are gone they come out of the closet and are honest.

    Makes me wonder what Bob White will confess to really believing when he retires.

  2. I think that, at least from a Biblical perspective, that the “opponants” under attack in Genesis 1-3 were not atheistic evolutionists, but idolatrous polytheists. If you read Creation stories such as Enuma Elish, or Greek and Roman myths, you see subtle jabs in Genesis 1-3 at polytheistic ideas of the origin of the universe, humanity, and the problem of pain.

    Though I am a 100% Creationist, I remember distinctly in my 4-year old Sunday School class, a little girl classmate asking about the dinosaurs. Our theology has to allow room for science as well as interpretations of the text along the lines of its intent and readings in the ancient world. If we do this, science, for a Christian merely leaves us in wonder about God’s vast and complex creation.

    Remember, it was not too long ago that scientists were expelled from the church by suggesting that the earth was not the center of the universe.

    No literalist has been able to explain the dome (firmament) in Genesis 1:6. The calamity described in Psalm 46 is but the collapse of this dome or firmament.

    I guess Satan planted the fossils to deceive us.

  3. I do want to follow up on my previous comment, lest I be misunderstood.

    I do not hold the view that other religions are praying to the same God. I think that it is one thing to say that all religions contain some truth. It is another thing to say that all religions are valid paths to the God of Israel and Father of Jesus Christ.

    The Bible does say specific things about its chief character (without citing John 14:6) that cannot be reconciled with other events.

    Hypothetically, IF others are saved who do not confess Jesus in this lifetime, and this includes infants, mentally handicapped, and those who have never heard the gospel, it is because of the story that the Bible tells, specifically God’s revelation in Christ is broad enough to include such people. It is not because another religion was an equally valid path to God.

    I think Will Willimon’s Who Will Be Saved? states it best, borrowing off of much of Barth’s thought. It is an interesting alternative to this “many valid ways to God” thought.

    Blessings!

  4. All good observations, Bob and Tim.
    Thanks.

  5. “And God spake all these words, saying….For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.” God

    “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus

    Some believe it, some don’t. So what else is new?

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

  6. Mark,

    Good to hear from you again. I hope that you are doing well. Always enjoy reading your responses.

    What is your position on the dome of Genesis 1:6-8?

    Grace and peace,

    Tim

  7. Tim,

    You said,

    “What is your position on the dome of Genesis 1:6-8?”

    I suppose you are referring to the “firmament” which God fixed between the upper and lower waters . I further suppose you are suggesting that it isn’t in reality like Moses wrote.

    Moses said “it was so” and since he spoke as he was moved by the Holy Spirit, I’ll accept his assessment. Furthermore, I don’t see any conflict, real or apparent, between what Moses wrote and the way things are.

    So let me ask you, what is your position on the fact that Moses reported that “God spake” and said that He created the heaven and the earth and everything in them in 6 days (Exodus chapter 20)? I can see one of two possible ways of looking at this:

    1. God spoke it and accurately reported the number of days it took to create.

    2. Moses lied and said that God said this when He really didn’t.

    Accepting #1 makes you a fundamentalist.

    Accepting #2 makes a liar out of Moses and therefore out of the whole Bible which is based on Moses’ writings.

    I can see no honest or reasonable “in between” (moderate position) on the issue.

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

    P.S. If I have misunderstood the import of your question, please accept my apology ahead of time.

  8. Mark,

    One thing that I have no problem with, is that God created the world. Let me get that out on the table. Another thing, that God created the world through his speech is for me, “fundamental” for understanding the story.

    However, if Moses wrote about the firmament that seperated water from water, and as you seem to indicate that you do not feel that you have to believe this to except scripture, are there not other things that might be more figurative than literal.

    Yes, the seven day week was rhythm of the Hebrew life, as opposed to the calendar year (although, later on they adopted annual feasts, etc.).

    Too, another reading of Genesis 1:1-2 is that God ordered the chaos of already present elements and prepared earth for humanity as today, thus not creation out of nothing in 4004 BC, but ordering creation for humanity and animal life 6000 years ago (if we use these time figures literally).

    The point is, that there may be a little more room for interpretation than literal interpretation allows. The earth is not flat, the dome does not exist, heaven is not above the dome, and Jesus could not have ridden two animals in Matthew’s account of Palm Sunday yet I still trust the Bible.

    Do you have room for that?

  9. Jacob Weisberg has a fascinating chapter on how Karl Rove played the evangelical community to President Bush’s political advantage.
    Something very sinister there, and too many Baptist who know better sweep it under the rug through continued support of Rove’s liaison to the SBC, Richard Land; support through the Cooperative Program.
    That is an outrage.

    Even so as Daniel Vestal among others will testify–Vestal was just down the street in Midland when 43 was going through rehab at the Midland UMC; see deleted scenes of Stone’s Dubya when it comes out on DVD–that Bush’s personal faith bears episodic moments of authenticity.
    I am specifically impressed by the way Bush continued to be good friend of the black pastor who performed the wedding for his daughter; their genuine frienship after the Houston Pastor announced his support of Obama.
    Maybe Bush can have Gus Niebuhr out to Baylor to discuss these things with Al Mohler. That would advance this interesting topic for sure.

  10. KirbyJohn Caldwell is the pastor whose name escaped me above; and Weisberg’s book is titled the Tragedy of George Bush.
    Niebuhr’s New book is Beyond Tolerance; great abbreviated history in BT of Louisville, Ky; the SBC Takeover, and how Al Mohler’s addresses ecumenical work in the city.

  11. Mark,

    I realize that I did not fully answer your question.

    However, first of all, let’s hypothetically choose option 2. Do I really think that would destroy the whole authority and reliability of the Bible? You seem to think so, but I think not. What I think is important to understand is not whether you choose option one or option 2 makes you a fundamentalist. What makes you a fundamentalist is your conclusion regarding option 2 – that it would invalidate the whole Bible. That is fundamentalism, not the acceptance that the Bible literally means what it says (which is option 1).

    Second, regarding option 1 an interesting note is that Paul indicates in Gal. 4 and Hebrews alludes that the law was mediated by angels on Sinai, whereas God gave it directly in the Exodus 20 account.

    Finally, regarding Creation, my belief is that God did it, did it through his word (wisdom, or his Son), and that the creation story establishes the seven day week as the natural rhythm of life.

    Too, I believe that Creation and God’s governance of it is an ongoing process (as Jesus pointed out in John, His Father is always at work and can never rest totally on the Sabbath), everytime a new life comes into the world. Species may adapt and change over time, but human beings are special, having the capacity to relate to God.

    Always good to hear from you.

    Blessings this Christmas Season!

  12. Another follow-up, Mark,

    What I am trying to say, as well as when we dialogued in August on Tony’s blog, is that we really are not far apart (at least I think) in our confidence in the authority, reliability and inspiration of scripture. The difference is this:

    1. I approach the “inerrancy” of scripture from an inductive approach. What ever genre that the Biblical authors used is under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. If there is a theological tension between two authors, or if the Bible uses figurative language, or if (as in the example of the gospels) two parallel passages conflict in the details, then it is not a big deal. My concern in interpretation is Who and Why.

    2. Your approach is deductive. You approach the Bible on what an “inerrant” Bible ought to look like. Every thing that the Bible declares is fact. No authors have theological tension. And, all discrepancies not only can, but must be reconciled. You are concerned with What, How, When and Where in addition to Who. Sometimes I wonder if fundamentalists are concerned with Why, since your approach to scripture seems to indicate that Why is a challenge to the authority of scripture.

    For me, the interpretive riches are found in applying solid hermeneutical methods to the text, the backgrounds of the text, and the narrative flow of the text as well as the logic of arguements such as Paul’s letters. That is where the richness is found. That is where we hear God speak.

    So, I am not throwing these things out to discount your position, but show that they in no way harm my confidence in the “inerrancy” of scripture.

    Blessings!

  13. And, we can learn a lot about our theologies by looking at the theology of a particular book and exploring points of tension with other books.

    Finally, I never discount interpretive possibilities because they conflict with what I think an “inerrant” book ought to look like.

    That is a trap of the Modernists of the 19th and 20th century. I prefer to ask different questions rather than play into their hands, which is exactly what the fundamentalist movement did.

  14. Tim,

    You said,

    “if Moses wrote about the firmament that seperated water from water, and as you seem to indicate that you do not feel that you have to believe this to except scripture, are there not other things that might be more figurative than literal.”

    I never implied that I don’t think this is literal. You referred to a dome and I said that the text says nothing about a dome but that Moses wrote about a “firmament” and I accept that. You said,

    “The earth is not flat, the dome does not exist, heaven is not above the dome, and Jesus could not have ridden two animals in Matthew’s account of Palm Sunday yet I still trust the Bible.”

    The Bible does not assert that the earth is flat nor mention a dome between heaven and earth. So far as I see, Matthew didn’t say that Jesus rode two asses. But I fail to see how you could deny that as a physical possibility. Therefore your statements here are meaningless. You said,

    “let’s hypothetically choose option 2. [that Moses erred when he said that God spoke the Ten Commandments]. Do I really think that would destroy the whole authority and reliability of the Bible? You seem to think so, but I think not.”

    The whole Bible is based on the fact that God spoke to the Hebrew people through Moses. If Moses, willingly or ignorantly, misrepresented the case, then the Law is a farce and therefore the remainder of the Scriptures, which are founded on the Law, are a farce. But you said,

    “regarding option 1 an interesting note is that Paul indicates in Gal. 4 and Hebrews alludes that the law was mediated by angels on Sinai, whereas God gave it directly in the Exodus 20 account.”

    Since God is not a material being, all communication from Him passed through some physical mediator. In the Old Testament times it came through angels. In the New Testament it was given through His Son.

    This does not change the fact that the message delivered is the voice of God. The angels were simply messengers of God.

    But to say that God didn’t really say what the text says that He said is to overthrow the text and the whole credibility of Moses who wrote it. But you said,

    “regarding Creation, my belief is that God did it, did it through his word (wisdom, or his Son), and that the creation story establishes the seven day week as the natural rhythm of life.”

    Nice theory thrust into the text, but the fact remains that the text of Genesis says God created the world in six days and the text of Exodus says that God said He created the world in six days. Again I say, I can see no honest middle ground between believing the text as it stands or disbelieving the text altogether and you have given me no compelling reason to change this position.

    You said,

    “If there is a theological tension between two authors, or if the Bible uses figurative language, or if (as in the example of the gospels) two parallel passages conflict in the details, then it is not a big deal.”

    The most stringent fundamentalist has never denied that the Bible uses figurative language. But it is pure dishonesty to make a passage “figurative” simply because you don’t believe what it actually asserts.

    There is nothing in the text of Exodus chapter 20 to suggest anything “figurative” about the six days of creation. Moses simply recorded that God said that He created the world in six days and a man either believes it or he doesn’t.

    Insofar as “theological tension” – which is just political way of saying doctrinal contradictions – if they exist in the Scriptures then the Scriptures must err at some point in their spiritual authority.

    Authentic Baptists have always considered the Scriptures the infallible and authoritative standard of doctrine. Therefore, the man who says that “theological tensions” may exist in the Scriptures disqualifies himself from any identity as an authentic Baptist.

    If there are any conflicts of “details” then the theological credibility of the Scriptures is demolished, because if the authors erred in details they may well have erred in theology. It is my observation that those who assert the Scriptures are theologically inaccurate invariably buttress their infidelity with the specious errors of detail.

    You said,

    “Your approach is deductive. You approach the Bible on what an “inerrant” Bible ought to look like.”

    Uh, yes, I would expect an inerrant Bible to be without error. But you said,

    “For me, the interpretive riches are found in applying solid hermeneutical methods to the text, the backgrounds of the text, and the narrative flow of the text as well as the logic of arguements such as Paul’s letters. That is where the richness is found. That is where we hear God speak.”

    These are all perfectly legitimate tools of understanding the text of Scripture. But I would suggest that you also make compatibility with modern day conceptions of “science” a primary factor in the way you view a text. If this were not the cast you would just say that God created the world in six days, just like Moses reported that He said that He did, and leave it at that.

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

  15. Mark,

    Check Matthew 21:7 (even the KJV) with its parallel passages regarding the number of animals.

    Too, that is what a firmament is – a dome.

    Maybe we are not as close on scripture as I would like to think that we are.

    However, I do appreciate your willingness to dialogue. That is something that maybe has not been characteristic of fundamentalism that I do appreciate from you.

    Thank you for your time in conversation and pray God’s best for you and yours this Christmas.

  16. Tim,

    You said,

    “Check Matthew 21:7 (even the KJV) with its parallel passages regarding the number of animals.”

    There is no question that there was an ass and her colt. Nothing stated in the gospels is contradictory to that fact. I really don’t know what your point is.

    You said,

    “Too, that is what a firmament is – a dome.”

    A. A firmament is not a dome. Besides that, the text was written in Hebrew and so used neither the word “firmament” nor “dome”. All the text states is that God fixed a space between the waters on the earth and the water above the earth with is an absolute fact. What we call that space is really a moot point.

    B. Even if the text unquestionably said “dome” it would still not prove that Moses’ statement was unscientific. It would only prove that he described the sky as a “dome” which is an apt description of what we see when we look up in the sky.

    C. Again I say, Moses said “it was so” and you say “it was not so” and so you put yourself above Moses, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit and thus deny the authority of the Scripture.

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

  17. Looks like we made it all the way around to the fragile-faith fundamentalist perspective of the “slippery slope” that concludes: If the world was not created in six 24-hour days then Jesus is not Lord.
    I’ve heard it all my life. Still makes no sense to me but provides a nice doctrinal security blanket for some.

  18. John,

    Moses said “it was so.” You say “it was not so.” How you can then claim to believe in the authority of the Scripture is beyond my ability to comprehend. You said,

    “Still makes no sense to me but provides a nice doctrinal security blanket for some.”

    I suppose “doctrinal security blanket” is meant to be a derogatory term. I will wear it like a badge and glory that I find deep comfort in the absolute truth found in the word of God.

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne Arkansas

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