Former President Jimmy Carter, a professing Christian who teaches Sunday School at a Baptist Church in Georgia, told liberal op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof that he can’t judge whether or not someone is a Christian despite their doubts about Christ’s virgin birth and resurrection.
In his April 15th piece in the New York Times entitled “President Carter, Am I a Christian?” Kristoff inquired of Carter whether he could be considered a Christian despite his skepticism over some of the biblical account of Christ’s life, including that Jesus physically rose from the grave.
“What about someone like me whose faith is in the Sermon on the Mount, who aspires to follow Jesus’ teachings, but is skeptical that he was born of a virgin, walked on water, multiplied loaves and fishes or had a physical resurrection? Am I a Christian, President Carter?” Kristof asked.
“I do not judge whether someone else is a Christian. Jesus said, ‘Judge not,'” Carter replied. “I try to apply the teachings of Jesus in my own life, often without success.”
He also outlined during the interview that while he personally believes in Christ’s virgin birth and resurrection, he does not accept the six-day creation of the Earth.
“Having a scientific background, I do not believe in a six-day creation of the world that occurred in 4004 B.C., stars falling on the earth, that kind of thing,” Carter explained.
Later, Kristof explained that he takes issue with Christianity because of its exclusivity, that is, that one can only be saved from the wrath of God through Jesus Christ. He asked Carter whether he believes someone like Indian independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi is really in Hell because he did not place his faith in Christ.
Carter said that he doesn’t believe he can make that judgment and would prefer to give the benefit of the doubt.
“One of my problems with evangelicalism is that it normally argues that one can be saved only through a personal relationship with Jesus, which seems to consign Gandhi to Hell. Do you believe that?” Kristoff asked.
“I do not feel qualified to make a judgment. I am inclined to give him (or others) the benefit of any doubt,” Carter replied.
According to reports, Gandhi would not leave Hinduism because he believed that “to be a good Hindu also meant that I would be a good Christian. There is no need for me to join your creed to be a believer in the beauty of the teachings of Jesus or try to follow His example.”
Carter has raised eyebrows in recent years over his other statements about Christianity, such as in 2015, when he told the Huffington Post that he believes Jesus would approve of same-sex “marriage,” and really, “any love affair.”
“I believe Jesus would. I don’t have any verse in Scripture,” he said. “I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage, but that’s just my own personal belief. I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else.”
Despite his beliefs, Carter still refers to himself as a born-again Christian.
Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Romans 10:9 also outlines, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”