Monday, February 11, 2008

Who you gonna believe?

Last week The New Baptist Covenant Celebration met in Atlanta. [Note, according to Terry Mattingly at GetReligion, "...when a meeting opens with President Jimmy Carter, ends with Clinton and has Vice President Al Gore in the middle, you know that you are dealing with Baptists in the South, but not Southern Baptists."] Mattingly reported on Bill Clinton's speech, and says that Clinton told a story:
The guest of honor at the White House was the Rev. Ed Young, the Southern Baptist Convention’s new president. The two men went jogging near the National Mall and had breakfast on the Truman Balcony with Vice President Al Gore. The three Southern Baptists didn’t agree on everything, but the atmosphere was friendly — in large part because the president admired Young’s preaching so much.

But the crucial exchange in that 1993 meeting centered on a question about the Bible, said Clinton .... Clinton claimed that Young “looked at me and he said, ‘I want to ask you a question, a simple question, and I just want a yes or no answer. I don’t want one of those slick political answers. . . . Do you believe the Bible is literally true? Yes or no.’"

“I said, ‘Reverend Young, I think that it is completely true, but I do not believe that you, or I, or any other living person, is wise enough to understand it completely.’ He said, ‘That’s a political answer.’ I said, ‘No, it’s not. You asked a political question.’"
Interesting story, and Clinton is a very good story-teller. No doubt it went over well with a group that didn't include Southern Baptists - but Young says that exchange never took place:
“The main thing is that I have never asked anyone on this earth that question,” said Young. . . . “I have no doubt that someone, somewhere has asked Bill Clinton if he thinks the Bible is literally true, but it wasn’t me. That isn’t a question I ask. I mean, Jesus says, ‘I am a door.’ . . . How do you claim something like that is literally true?”

In fact, Young doesn’t remember mentioning “biblical inerrancy” during that White House meeting, the theological term at the heart of 30 years of conflict in the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest non-Catholic flock.
I don't know Young's reputation as a truth-teller, but Clinton's isn't too sterling. Mattingly goes on to observe:
I know lots of folks on the Baptist right and they don’t talk about “literalism” when it comes to the Bible. Perhaps that is what people like Clinton think that they say. The term they use, of course, is “biblical inerrancy”....
And that is something else.

He said, Clinton said » GetReligion

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