Thursday, May 16, 2019

Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Carter, Russell Moore, the SBC "Deep State," and Forever Friends of Liberty

 President Jimmy Carter at Liberty's 2018 Commencement
Rachelle and I were at a banquet in Norman, Oklahoma a few years ago, seated around a table with six other people when I felt a hand on my shoulder.

Before I could turn around, I heard a man's voice whisper in my ear, "I'd like to meet one of my heroes."

I turned around, and to my shock, I saw former President Jimmy Carter.

As I stood to greet him, Jimmy Carter said, "Wade, I read everything you write."

To many, President Carter's commendation of me is an indictment of me.

For you see, in Southern Baptist circles, Jimmy Carter is the "arch-villain" of the Conservative Resurgence. He stands for everything the SBC opposes and opposes everything for which the SBC stands.

Yet last year, Jerry Falwell (Jr.) invited President Jimmy Carter to give the commencement address to the 2018 graduating seniors of Liberty University.

Jerry Falwell (Jr.) spent a couple of days with President Carter on Liberty's campus. It seems Mr. Carter desired to come a day earlier to get to know the students.

After the historic address, President Falwell took to Liberty's Journal to give his official appraisal of President Jimmy Carter's visit:
"Unexpected. Unlikely. Surprising." 
After those three words, President Falwell went on to speak effusive praise of Jimmy Carter:
“It was my distinct honor to introduce him as our keynote speaker and to introduce him to Liberty because of his extended stay. We are proud of our team for doing such a great job hosting him. He’s become a friend of Liberty’s, forever.”
Fast forward one year to May 2019.

President Jerry Falwell sends out this tweet about the Southern Baptist Convention:


Uh... Dr. Falwell, I am bumfuzzled by your Tweet.

The definition of Deep State is "a state within a state, where a form of clandestine government of covert networks of power operating independently of political leadership in pursuit of their own agenda and goals."

Dr. Falwell, I've heard that you, Jerry Vines, Paige Patterson, Robert Jeffries and "others" in the SBC are attempting to get rid of Dr. Russell Moore as director of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission through manipulating the trustees of the ELRC (I know the playbook well).

It seems that in your mind (at least, this is what you've been told), Dr. Russell Moore is the head of the "Deep State" in the SBC, and  Dr. Adam Greenway, the new President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (as well as the man responsible for taking down your dad's and Jerry Vine's stained glass windows at Southwestern's chapel) is not - sigh of relief - part of the Deep State.

Chill, Dr. Falwell.

Seriously. Chill out.

Take the commencement advice of Liberty's "forever friend" (Jimmy Carter):
"I try to have two loves in my heart: one love is for God and the other love is for the person who happens to be in front of me at any particular time, We Christians are to promote the use of agape love, self-sacrificial love among people. All people are equal in the eyes of God. We are all one in Jesus Christ.
Right now, you have the maximum opportunity to use the three gifts that God gives every one of us — life, freedom, and an opportunity to live a completely successful life, as judged by God,” Carter said. “We have a perfect example to follow if we are in doubt; we just have to remember the perfect life of Jesus Christ.”
Dr. Russell D. Moore
I promise you, Dr. Falwell, if you ever get to know Russell Moore, you'll see he's much Moore (pun intended) of a "forever friend" to Liberty (pun intended) than you could imagine - even more so than your new "forever friend."

Get to know him.

Get to know his heart. You'll find he's a friend.

This advice comes from one who reminded Dr. Moore over fifteen years ago that we (he and I) can disagree and remain friends.

This comes from one who, like you, also respects Jimmy Carter.

And it comes from one who is even more politically, theologically, and biblically conservative than you are (in the historic western definition of conservativism).

Russell Moore is not the head of any Deep State in the SBC.

Russell Moore is your Christian friend.

And if you still struggle with acknowledging this truth, remember this one factoid: When the current crop laymen and laywomen of the SBC begin to think there's a "power play" in force to take control of the SBC by firing people who don't walk in lock step with your views...

We will always remember the men who made images of themselves in stained glass windows.

And we will not sit by silently as otherwise perfectly clear glass is once again stained.

Choose your friends wisely, Dr. Falwell.


Michael Harrison said...

Thank you for sharing, Wade. Good insight.

Jerry Schultz said...

I think Russell Moore is doing a phenomenal job. Not only is he incredibly talented, but diligent, wise, carefully measured and brilliant in his responses to a variety of religious, political, legal and cultural issues that concern Christians. Wade, I would really appreciate anything more that you could share about what Patterson and others are doing to try to undermine and get rid of Dr. Moore. How are they manipulating the ERLC trustees and is there a way to contact the trustees? I'm just sick to death of politics that do nothing to advance the cause of Christ and everything to feed egos, fame, power and personal agendas.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Jerry: It seems they are using the excuse that all of this is undoing what the CR accomplished, which of course is false, save for a few who are a minority I believe, it is enhancing what the CR accomplished. The Bible has never been taken more seriously. Believing the Bible and acting on it.

Rex Ray said...

Like Father; like Son?

“His son, Jerry Falwell Jr., is an American lawyer and university administrator, serving as the president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia since his father's death. [Died at 73] He is an ardent supporter of Donald Trump, both before and since his election as President of the United States.”

“In 1994, Falwell [Senior] promoted and distributed the video documentary The Clinton Chronicles: An Investigation into the Alleged Criminal Activities of Bill Clinton. The video purported to connect Bill Clinton to a murder conspiracy involving Vince Foster, James McDougall, Ron Brown, and a cocaine-smuggling operation. The theory was discredited, but the recording sold more than 150,000 copies.”

Not in the link, but from my memory, Falwell was asked why he changed his mind and joined the Southern Baptist Convention. He replied, “I didn’t change; they came around to my way of thinking.” He joined by giving $5,000 and within about a year received $25,000 to help build his church. Once, a solicitor asked me for a donation to help Falwell expose Clinton about his Paula Jones affair. I refused because everyone already knew about it. The link tells of his many lawsuits. I think he lost more than he won.

Anonymous said...

Wade, Your article has a very generous tone compared to other feedback Falwell is receiving. You are very gracious. I too was impressed when he hosted Carter at Liberty and even said so in social media.

While being irked by the removal of his dad's image from the SWBTS pantheon, Falwell directed his anger against those in the SBC who take issue with his unqualified support of Donald Trump (my conspiracy theory is that Falwell is attempting to position Liberty as the home of Trump's Presidential Library). I'm not sure that Falwell wasn't simultaneously attempting to change the narrative away from the Michael Cohen debacle.

Whatever else may be said about Falwell, adding "SBC Deep State" to the SBC lexicon is priceless. We'll be spoofing that one for a long time.

Anonymous said...

'the Michael Cohen debacle'

there is no changing the narrative away from this mess, Cohen nailed Falwell

Anonymous said...

President Jimmy Carter is the ultimate classy individual. He is a true servant. Russell Moore could really help the SBC with their image, if they would allow it.
The good-old boy SBCers are so tone deaf and out of touch with the realities of 21st century life. It makes me thankful I left them behind 19 years ago. The CBF is not perfect, but their view on women in ministry and the true priesthood of the believer is refreshing.

Anonymous said...

If anything, it seems more likely that Falwell, Vines, Patterson, Jeffres et al are behaving like a "deep state".

Anonymous said...

maybe the opposition of this gang of four to Moore is because he would not bend to their political king

Christiane said...

Always admired Jimmy Carter as a Christian person since learning how much he gave of himself to the Habitat for Humanity projects over the years. And he did this in such a way as not to be 'condescending' to the poor, but he worked to encourage cooperation with people from many backgrounds and this showed me that he cared about the feelings of those who needed help, but were willing to work. He went to be 'with them' in this project and worked beside them.

You don't see his kind of elemental kindness much these days. What a beautiful witness.

Anonymous said...

The moral of this story ( in fact the moral of any of these stories, really ) is, to truly walk with Christ, you first have to walk away from the Corporation known as Church.

Jesus tore the temple down, and manipulative grifters wasted no time in rebuilding it.

RB Kuter said...

I hope that President Carter reads this. Back in 1998, he expressed his disappointment that evangelicals were defining Mormons as being "non-Christian" saying in an interview with Salt Lake City's "Deseret News" (Owned by church of LDS) regarding Southern Baptist leaders that they were "narrow in their definition of what is a proper Christian or certainly even a proper Baptist."

President Carter was opposed to the Southern Baptist concept that Mormons were in need of evangelization. He proposed that Mormons be considered as mainline Christians.

Years ago when I first heard of this astounding position by one calling himself a "Southern Baptist" and who teaches a Sunday School class in a Southern Baptist church, I sent him a letter asking him if he was aware of what Mormons believe or if he was just uninformed. I couldn't imagine his "not" being informed. After all, the guy is a nuclear scientist or something and certainly not ignorant of such things.

But, I asked, if he DID know their beliefs and still was of the position that they were "Christians" in the sense of being true, born again followers of Jesus Christ, what does he think someone must believe in order to be born again?

Of course, I received no reply. That's why I am hopeful that he does read Wade's blog, although he probably does not have time to read comments like this one.

I was really disappointed at this totally incorrect position as portrayed in his "Deseret News" interview statement. Someone with the notoriety and forum such as his misleading people on such an important eternal issue is incredible. I have been tempted to attend his Sunday School class and simply ask, "What do you think a person must do to be saved?"
(Although, since his class is attended by hundreds of tourists every Sunday he is there I doubt that such questions are allowed.) True, a person has to follow Jesus Christ to be "born again" with the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit, BUT they first must correctly identify who Jesus is and who God is, which the Mormons totally fail to do.

I do think he is a nice man. He visited our mission group on Zambia in the 1990s when the Zambians were having their first free election as apart of an observation team and my son gave him a Bemba language Bible, which he accepted. Perhaps its in the Carter Presidential Library? (Kind of doubt it). Being a Georgian, I have of course followed him since he ran for governor in our state against opponent Carl Sanders. Then Gubernatorial candidate, Carter, led a vicious campaign but did ultimately defeat Sanders for the Governor position.

My impression upon objectively viewing all of the "Habitat for Humanity", world negotiations, famous "fire-side" chats as President, is that above all things, President Carter is a "politician".

However, President Carter, if you are viewing this, know that I pray you are well following last week's hip replacement and ask that God bless you with His peace and joy in all things.

Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christiane said...

The 'Church' as Christ intended it, is not going anywhere, 'til He returns.
This is an example of 'the whole Church' in action. :)

Ken F said...

"He proposed that Mormons be considered as mainline Christians."

Hi RB,

That's a very interesting statement because Mormonism is a form of Arianism, which was was a major battle in the church in the 4th century. It was condemned as heresy at the 1st and 2nd ecumenical councils. I am pretty sure most Protestants affirm the Nicene Creed that came out of those two councils.

RB Kuter said...

Ken, not sure about the Councils or whether you are in some way saying that Mormons should be compared to Protestants.

Anyone who believes God was previously a man, and men will become as gods of their own realms, equal to God, that believe that God and his celestial wife gave birth to Jesus and his brother, Lucifer, all their teachings coming from a man who claims to have been given golden tablets by an angel, that it was in a mysterious language he could only decipher by using the lens that the angel gave him, etc., etc., have no business being compared to any church as defined by followers of Jesus Christ in any sense.

Your response seems to propose that they should. Am I reading you wrong? If not, then I would say that you and President Carter would indeed fall within the same conclusion on the matter.

Ken F said...

Yes, you are reading me wrong. I agree with your assessment of Mormanism. My only point was the assertion that Jesus was created by God is one of the oldest formally condemned heresies. There are a lot of other departures from "orthodox" Christianity, but my point was this is a very ancient heresy.

RB Kuter said...

Oh, thanks for helping me to better understand, Ken.

I agree with Wade's assessment of our having had SBC leaders who were disappointing, to say the least. Call it "deep state" or whatever, but there have obviously been some power players throughout these past decades who have been in control of who was SBC President, on all SBC institutional Boards, etc. It continues today.

I personally do not believe that to be the greatest objection of a lot of folks toward Southern Baptists, like President Carter. My impression is that he resists/objects to those who insist on taking the radical position that belief in Jesus Christ, as He is presented in Scripture, is the "only" path that leads to a saving relationship with God. That's not a position that a lot of diplomatic, inclusive-thinking, universalist-type politicians can swallow, recognizing that to do so would alienate a lot of their own groupie-followers.

Of course, this is mostly conjectured on my part as derived from observing the man's past comments on such things. Perhaps someone might direct me to some writing by President Carter, or expression of his position on such matters, that would cause me to re-think my current impression regarding this. However, I do believe that whatever his expressed position is said to be would be strongly influenced by the forum and audience with whom he is addressing, as was the case with the aforementioned interview he had with the church of LDS news folks; "The Deseret News".

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Christiane said...

I love the Mormons in our community. They have been nothing but good, decent, and kind citizens. I just don't see them as 'un' Christian. If anything, they seem more humble and better natured than most of us. I'm glad they are a part of our community. They have been a blessing. :)

Ken F said...

Hi Christiane,

I agree with you. I currently work with some Mormans and have had many Mormon friends. I have no complaint about them as people. The issue here is whether or not they are "Christian" in the historical sense. This brings up several points:
1) Who or what decides what is or is not Christianity? In the first few centuries there were quite a few verions of Christianity, with quite a few letters and gospels supporting their views. But eventually the ecumenical councils clarified what they considered to be the essential beliefs and practices. Those councils condemned most of the main Mormon beliefs. Whether or not the councils got it right, there is no dispute that Mormanism does not adhere to how the councils defined Christianity (Mormans themselves admit this).
2) It is often said that the winners write history. If there was a great apostasy after the death of the original apostles (as many Protestants and Mormans believe), and the apostates were the ones who institutionalized the church through the various creeds, we have the problem that these same apostates also canonized the New Testament. If they got everything else mostly wrong, by what basis can we believe they got it right with respect to the NT? And if they got the NT wrong then there is probably no hope of recovering the true faith, unless we want to believe some of the various "prophets" over the years who have claimed they are the ones who have recovered it.
3) How much does it matter? Is it right doctrine that saves us, or is it God who saves us? Is he able and willing to save even people who don't accurately believe the right doctrines? I am beginning to suspect that his graciousness in saving people is far more expansive than what most religions can tolerate.

Finally, I should add that Norman's no longer call themselves "Mormans."

Ken F said...

Mormans, not Norman's. My phone thinks it knows what I should write.

Christiane said...

Hello Ken F.

doctrine aside, I guess I would look for the 'fruit' of the Holy Spirit that is present in a person's life if I had to wonder if they 'were Christian';
but then, I might think some of my Jewish friends who are very dear to me, seem more Christian than not, in their faithful community service and their kindness to the less able in our town.

Honestly, all 'doctrine' aside, I think 'kindness' may be the one criterion I would hope for if I had to 'judge' (God forbid) if another person were or were not 'Christian'.

I'm very fortunate to live in a good community where people do volunteer and care about one another. I know it's not like this everywhere. Gosh, even the kids are good kids around here. :)

RB Kuter said...

This is the thing that aggravates my soul; according to Ezekiel 33, God is going to hold ME accountable for "not" being bold in telling those who do not know Christ that they face eternal damnation if they do not submit to the truth of who Christ is and surrender to Him as Lord. If I project that I am acknowledging someone's "goodness"/ attempts to be charitable/their misled perversions of The Word, as being redemptive for their soul, I am failing in my duty and calling as a follower of Jesus Christ.

The image of me standing before God The Judge on Judgment Day with a Mormon (or any lost person I encountered in this world) standing next to me, and God telling them, "Depart from me for eternity, I never knew you." and then that condemned person turning to me and saying, "YOU NEVER TOLD ME I WAS FOLLOWING THE WRONG PATH! You knew and never told me! You said I was a nice person and as righteous as a true Christian!" haunts me.

There are those who are obviously serving Satan's purpose by misleading people down the path to his hell, like the cults of Mormonism and Jehovah Witnesses. Then there are those of us who fall to Satan's ploy by turning our heads, being complacent, being polite and praising lost folks into thinking they are in good, secure standing with God because of their "goodness/decency/kindness". Satan works on me like that too often by motivating me to be complacent, silent, socially correct.

Some would say that for me to assume such a position is being "judgmental". It is. We all are judgmental either by telling people straightforwardly that they are separated from God without the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ or by not telling them and judging them condemned already for eternity.

Ken F said...

"This is the thing that aggravates my soul; according to Ezekiel 33, God is going to hold ME accountable for "not" being bold in telling those who do not know Christ that they face eternal damnation if they do not submit to the truth of who Christ is and surrender to Him as Lord."

Why do you conclude this passage applies to you?

RB Kuter said...

Good question, Ken. Of course, it is all a matter of how each of us read Scripture and how God's Spirit communicates with us regarding that. So you may read it and it may not convict you as being a personal message as it might to me. That's not to say that one of us in more synch with God or anything, just the way I believe the living Word to work.

Even though in the particular circumstances it was communicated originally to the prophet Ezekiel, I read it as being directed to all of those Kingdom dwellers who know the way of salvation. I believe those who possess the truth are shouldered with the responsibility of sharing it to the benefit of others. You know, "Go ye therefore..."

Ken F said...

Thanks for the feedback, RB. For most of my adult life that passage has been used as one of the hammer verses to shame us into compliance. I eventually looked at the context and found that it was specific direction given to Ezekiel, with little to no rationale to apply elsewhere.

But I also agree that we were given orders to share the good news. I read God's covenant with Abraham to be a means of blessing for the whole world. Israel was supposed to be the nation of priests to bring that blessing to the whole world, but it did not end well. I believe we likewise have that responsibility, but maybe with a different emphasis than "do this or else."

I don't want rob you of any good that verse does for you. At the same time, its worth evaluating whether that verse is being used as a clobber.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your strong advocacy of equal treatment of men and women in our churches and institutions. In light of this, I confess I do not understand your recent defense of Russell Moore (5-16-19) and Randy Stinson (4-11-19).
These men are part of the 9Marks movement and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Have you listened to this 2006-era interview?:

Stinson and Moore are heard on this audio interview making remarks that I do not believe are shared by the vast majority of Southern Baptists. The remarks include such statements as:
“There are no generic Christians. There are male Christians and female Christians.” (Stinson)

“Most people [in the churches] are in same-sex marriages; they just don’t realize it.” (Moore referring to marriages practicing mutual submission, allowing the wife to be an equal partner.) Moore goes on to say that husbands are “infidels” and “blasphemers” if they allow their wives to work outside of the home rather than taking on a second job and not dictating career decisions to their wives.

When Moore speaks, I do not hear the words of a “Christian friend.” I hear statements that are hurtful, demeaning and misogynistic.

The interview is hosted by Mark Dever and C J Mahaney, now disgraced former president of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Under pressure, Al Mohler only recently withdrew his support for Mahaney. At the heart of Mahaney’s downfall was the attitude that sexual abuse of children in his congregation was handled “in-house” rather than through proper reporting to authorities, the same type of behavior that led to Patterson’s downfall.

Russell Moore and Randy Stinson, along with their associates, Adam Greenway and Al Mohler, are our fellow Baptists. They obviously have a different interpretation on male and female roles than do many of us. That is their right. I take exception to their continued placement in leadership as they do not recognize that the majority of their flock hold a different interpretation of the scriptures, and that we are doing our best to follow our high view of the scriptures in our daily walk with the Lord. They claim that we cannot hold a high view of scripture and at the same time, value women’s expression of God-given spiritual gifts in the church and the home. With their inflammatory words and actions, they do not acknowledge such Baptist distinctives as local church autonomy and the priesthood of the believer. They say that this is a “gospel issue,” rather than what most of us would view as a secondary issue.

In the case of Stinson, Greenway, and Mohler, how can they continue to accept the tuition money of females who seek training in their seminaries when these God-called women will never be allowed to use this training to share the gospel freely, fearing that they might inadvertently teach “adult men”?

Wade, we would appreciate your listening to the interview and sharing your thoughts about it.

-Sister in Christ

RB Kuter said...

Ken, you asked a very good question regarding that Ezekiel passage and after I had written you my response I thought it best to expound just a bit. I'm glad you did express your concern that people may well see it as a threat from God and that we better be out there evangelizing, "or else"!

Obedience is indeed a huge part of my relationship with God as I am sure it is yours. I do believe I am accountable to obey Christ as my Lord and Master. I do believe that Scripture tells me that I will be held accountable (2 Corinthians 5:9-11).

But being accountable to our Father certainly is not what ultimately motivates, even drives, you and I to obediently be active in warning the lost world of the impending doom that all will encounter if they enter eternity without having a secure relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Our motivation and the driving force behind our sense of desperation to warn people through effective communication is our love for them, our compassion for them, that has as its source the Holy Spirit of God that dwells within us.

Paul best describes this in that same passage in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 in verse 20 when he describes it as our being compelled to tell them to the point of even pleading with them to be saved before they have no opportunity and their time for deciding has ended.

RB Kuter said...

Ken, I write this in response to your comment " Israel was supposed to be the nation of priests to bring that blessing to the whole world, but it did not end well."

I don't believe that when God told Abraham that the world would be blessed through him that God meant that the world would be blessed by the work of Israel's priests or perhaps not even through The Law. Of course they, like The Law, were not a means for the redemption of mankind.

I believe the nation of Israel was established by God to be the one people in the world, prior to the coming of The Messiah, that would be identified as being a people who believed in the One, True, Creator, God for the purpose of the Messiah coming from that nation. The Law pointed to our need for a Redeemer and in that sense was a blessing to the world but not an instrument of redemption other than that.

But as in most cases, I imagine that you and I are thinking pretty much the same on this.

RB Kuter said...

Anonymous, thanks for introducing the audio discussion. Quite informative.

Wade Burleson said...


I believe Dr. Moore has had a change of heart on many issues - is he where he will one day be in the future? No. However, of all the leaders in the SBC, you must ask yourself why he alone is receiving "heat."

If you go back and examine my writings (use the search bar), I have excoriated Dr. Moore's views (including the one's you mention - Google Stinson and my name). But, every time I've spoken to Dr. Moore, he's been kind to me, given me his full attention, and has expressed an interest in listening.

Right now, that's about all one can ask for.

My writings will continue to reflect what I believe the Gospel and New Covenant freedom.

Thanks for your comment.

RB Kuter said...

Wade, your response to Anonymous seems to reflect an attitude that you condemn others for having in your blog message following this one. In that message, you attack Southern Baptist leaders who apply a similar method of defending one of their pack who has been charged with speaking/behaving in an inappropriate manner. They brush off the claims with, "Oh, they're just being red-blooded American boys."/"What he said was not really reflective of what he believes or how he thinks.", etc.

Not that you are using these words specifically, but wouldn't you agree that those SB "good ol' boys" respond to the grievances of others by saying things like, "Dr. Moore has had a change of heart on many issues", ("Those offensive statements aren't really the way Dr. Moore thinks today.") or, "is he where he will one day be in the future? No." (Oh yeah, right. He's bad now but one day he may be better.) Or, "Of all the leaders in the SBC, you must ask yourself why he alone is receiving 'heat'". (Maybe those statements were offensive that he spoke, but he's not really that bad. He's just getting a bum rap from those mean bullies that I don't like.") and "Every time I've spoken to Dr. Moore, he's been kind to me, given me his full attention, and has expressed an interest in listening." ("Well, maybe he is offensive to you, but he has been a nice guy to me.") and, "Right now, that's about all one can ask for.", i.e., "That Dr. Moore be kind to me, give me his attention, express interest in what I am saying."?

Really, Wade, I was disappointed in your taking this avenue to respond to the points Anonymous was making about past offensive comments made by Dr. Moore. Seems that we've heard the same sort of response by the true "Deep State" folks in defense of some of their own like Patterson, Criswell, Vines, etc.

Christiane said...

what is the problem that some have with Dr. Moore?

I know he was a target of the 'negativity' crowd at SBCtoday blog before it disintegrated, and I know who the main 'cheerleader' against him was, but I never caught the REAL reason behind the animosity


RB Kuter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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