In his book "The Cost of Deception," John Williams noted that over the years many people have been accused by religious leaders of being the anti-Christ. Among the false predictions he outlined were two about Jimmy Carter.
According to Williams, prophecy teacher Doug Clark declared in 1976 that Carter would soon meet the anti-Christ. In 1983, prophesy teacher James McKeever said Carter was working in Israel to help announce the anti-Christ.
Over the past couple of weeks, a new wave of wildly inaccurate predictions has been made about the former U.S. president and his work to promote the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2008, in Atlanta.
While no one has yet gone so far as to accuse Carter of helping the anti-Christ, recent comments have been just as inaccurate and mean-spirited.
It seems many Baptists have no problem with believing and spreading false allegations about a brother in Christ. These attacks on Carter are being used to inaccurately discredit the Celebration and discourage support for the historic effort being made to unite Baptists of North America.
Regardless of whether one agrees with Carter's politics, all should appreciate his desire to see Baptists come together and celebrate our commonalities.
One inaccurate attack against Carter on some blogs is he is "pro-abortion" and a "baby-killing supporter." The problem with such accusations is that they are completely wrong.
"I never have felt that any abortion should be committed--I think each abortion is the result of a series of errors," Carter explained in 2005. "I've never been convinced, if you let me inject my Christianity into it, that Jesus Christ would approve abortion."
While campaigning for president in 1976 Carter stated, "I think abortion is wrong and that the government ought never do anything to encourage abortion."
As recently as this month, Carter offered: "Well, my views on abortion are certainly compatible with almost all Southern Baptists. I'm strongly opposed to abortion and always have been. When I was president, I did everything I could to minimize the need for abortion."
Carter's opposition to abortion is clear. Anyone who continues to claim otherwise simply does not know what he or she is talking about. As a result, their criticism of the Celebration should not be given merit.
As blogger Wade Burleson noted in the comments section of a recent post about his meeting with Carter, "I wish everyone could have heard Mr. Carter express his opposition to abortion at the meeting and his puzzlement at why people attack him without knowing him or his positions."
Another common accusation being leveled against Carter is he is a universalist and believes all religions are equal. Some bloggers accuse him of perverting or not believing in the gospel. The problem with these claims is that Carter has talked about his belief that Jesus saves.
"'Justified' means that we are brought into a proper relationship with God, even though we have not merited this blessing because of our own character or good works," Carter wrote in his 1999 book Sources of Strength. "This seeming miracle is made possible by our faith, or trusting commitment to Christ and to God. Without this faith, we cannot be reconciled with God."
In a recent book, Our Endangered Values, Carter called himself an "evangelical." He used the Random House Dictionary of the English Language to define what he meant by that term: "Belonging to or designating Christian churches that emphasize the teachings and authority of the scriptures, especially of the New Testament, in opposition to the institutional authority of the church itself, and that stress as paramount the tenet that salvation is achieved by personal conversion to faith in the atonement of Christ."
Carter's critics also point to a recent interview with Beliefnet (or Albert Mohler's interpretation of it.) Neither, however, proves Carter is a universalist. The problem lies with the question: "Do you believe that grace ultimately applies to people who don't presently believe in Jesus?"
Whatever the reporter's presuppositions in asking the question, it was poorly worded. If I believe someone will be saved tomorrow, then I could answer "yes" to the question, and it wouldn't make me a universalist. Shouldn't Carter's clear writings be given more weight than an ambiguous answer to a poorly worded question in determining what he really believes?
Carter has been on mission trips. He helped popularize the terms "evangelical" and "born again." He shared his faith with various communist leaders and assisted with a Billy Graham crusade.
He has outlined the plan of salvation in his books and noted that he will explain it when asked about the Christian faith. These do not seem like the actions of a universalist!
Again, anyone who continues to make such a claim proves they simply do not know what they are talking about. As a result, their criticism of the Celebration should be ignored.
"After personal conversation with him it sounds to me like he is truly an evangelical with a desire to take the gospel to the nations," Burleson noted about his meeting with Carter. "He was quite clear with us yesterday that faith in Jesus Christ and His work at Calvary is the only hope for a sinner."
Other inaccurate statements made recently about Carter include an odd claim that his purpose in the Celebration is to unite the U.S., Mexico, and Canada into one country. A close look into the facts would find that those accusations have no more merit than the claims about his positions on abortion and the gospel.
Even when the facts are pointed out, many of Carter's critics continue to issue their attacks. These critics need to reconsider their words before they continue to bear false witness against their brother in Christ.
Prophecies linking Carter--as well as other public figures--to the anti-Christ turned out to be false. Undeterred, failed prophesy makers just reworked their numbers and arguments and come up with new individuals and dates to label. Being proven wrong did not stop them from continuing to make their claims.
Critics of Carter and the Celebration will likewise probably continue to cast allegations, even if they are completely wrong. But in their attacks, they only prove that Carter's main point is correct: Baptists are tragically polarized and for the sake of the gospel need to come together to celebrate our commonalities.
Brian Kaylor is communications specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. He is on a communications committee for the New Baptist Covenant Celebration.
Click here to order Brian Kaylor's book For God's Sake Shut Up!: Lessons for Christians on How to Speak Effectively and When to Remain Silent from Amazon.com.