By Larry Ray Hafley
According to the Associated Press in an article entitled, “Falwell Gets Travel Advice,” “Former President Jimmy Carter said . . . that television evangelist Jerry Falwell, . . . ‘can go to hell'” (Peoria Journal Star, September 12, 1986, p. A2).
Really, Mr. President? And how do you propose he get there, assuming, of course, he wants to go? You see, both Carter and Falwell are Baptists and neither believes the other can “go to hell.” Baptist doctrine teaches “that a child of God can do anything he wants to and go to heaven anyhow” (Vernon L. Barr; Albert Garner). “If I killed my wife and mother and debauched a thousand women I couldn’t go to hell – in fact I couldn’t go to hell if I wanted to” (Bill Foster, The Weekly Worker, March 12, 1959).
That is potent stuff. Devout Baptists may recoil and be repulsed by its bluntness and by its logical consequences, but it fairly represents Baptist doctrine and is consistent with their belief that it is impossible for a child of God to go to Hell. So, how shall Falwell expedite Carter’s advice? Perhaps a Baptist could enlighten us.
It will do no good, however, to blast President Carter for his out burst. Even he cannot go to hell, as per Baptist theology. He can tell a fellow Baptist to do something he cannot do; namely, “go to hell,” but not even he, as a “born again believer,” can “go to hell” for his vulgarism and implied impeachment of Baptist doctrine.
All of the above concerns would be amusing if they were not so serious. Going to hell is not a joke (Heb. 10:31). It is an awesomely horrendous prospect. Numbers of people are going there (Matt. 7:13,14), and it will not be because of President Carter’s consignment (Matt. 10:28; Jas. 4:12).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 20, p. 614
October 16, 1986