Bush vs. Carter: Theological Differences?

Very recently at Emory University former President Jimmy Carter gave a talk about faith. The difficulties of being theologian and chief international religious conflict came up.

On the topic of international religious conflict, President Carter referred to his term in office.

“I was president once, in ancient times,” he joked, adding, “I had some difficult discussions at Camp David with people of different faiths, but we acknowledged that we were all children of Abraham.”

The recently President Bush had an interview with Al Arabiya at the White House.

Well, first of all, I believe in an almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That’s what I believe.

Evangelicals got their man, but now they’ve got to apologize for his theology while pointing the finger at Carter about how liberal he is. Yes, Carter is liberal and Bush may even be conservative, but that won’t save them.

This reminds me of John MacArthur’s sermon Can God Bless America? that he turned into a small hardback book.

So what’s the real difference?


in Church Issues,Culture,Evangelism,theology

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Russ October 19, 2007 at 9:11 am


There really is no difference, politically or theologically. Politically, Bush is a neoconservative, which in reality is just 20th century liberalism that gives lip service to small government and “family values”.

As far a theological difference, well based on your quotes, there doesn’t seem to be much difference there either.

I’m not condemning either man necessarily, just pointing out their viewpoints.

The ironic statement is you are right, us evangelicals “got our man”.


2 James October 19, 2007 at 10:50 am

No difference. Just the same PC coming out of the White House.

3 Jeremy Pierce October 19, 2007 at 12:25 pm

There’s a huge difference. As far as I can tell, Bush is an evangelical who recognizes that Muslims and non-Christian Jews have false beliefs about God and thinks that their false beliefs are sufficient for them not to be saved. That doesn’t mean their beliefs aren’t about God, so it is true that they worship the same God and share enough beliefs in God that we can share many political goals. But Carter has explicitly endorsed universalist/pluralist views. He thinks everyone will be saved, and he doesn’t think it matters if they believe in Jesus. Bush has never gone there, and nothing he’s ever said implies that.

As for politically, I would have thought that the difference between them is utterly obvious. They have radically opposite stances on the use of force to defend people’s lives. Carter is nearly a pacifist at this point. They have radically opposite views on the use of government law to protect the lives of the unborn. Whatever you think of Bush’s view that the government has a responsibility to promote goodness in ways that ultra-libertarians don’t like, he’s nothing like Carter. The fact that he’s not a radical right-wing nut like Ron Paul doesn’t mean he’s a liberal.

4 Roger October 19, 2007 at 12:41 pm

Mark, there really is no difference know that I’ve heard this… I didn’t know Bush’s take on that. Now the question is… “Is Bush even Christian?? wow!

5 johnMark October 19, 2007 at 11:15 pm


I was speaking theologically yet you couldn’t help bringing up political ideologies. Just like when looking at their politics many can’t help but bring up their religious views.

However you understand Bush’s statement about who worships God and who doesn’t, Christians and Muslims don’t worship the same God. Bush’s view is skewed from the beginning. Granted he has been clear in his earlier days about the exclusivity of Christ. I have no idea if Carter has or has not been very clear about Christ being the only way.

If you haven’t seen this post Bush is quoted as saying, This was reported in the Austin Statesman on page A1, Dec. 1, 1998 by Ken Herman in the article “Bush Trip Steeped in History”: “Asked if he believes heaven is open only to Christians, Bush said, ‘No, I don’t believe that.'”

There is also some interesting points made here in regard to Bush’s theology.

I agree that Carter wasn’t a good president. I just think Bush’s theology should get equal criticism rather than giving him a pass. See, Bush’s political positions seem to trump theology while Carter’s theology seems to trump his political positions. Or maybe it’s whatever is suitable to sustain a position at any given time.

And why bring up Ron Paul? He’s a fellow believer and there is no reason to call him a wing nut. Besides, Bush is conservative compared to who, Carter? Hillary?

Russ, James and Roger, I agree. 🙂


6 Jason Long October 25, 2007 at 9:49 am

A little behind the times, but…

If I recall, Bush aligns himself with the Methodist camp. There was a LKL with John MacArthur, “Father” Manning, and “Bishop” Talbert, head of ecumenical relations for the Methodist Church. Begin watching at 2:30 into the clip…


Some highlights include:

“We’re not here to settle which religion is right, that dispute belongs to God.”

LK: “[Talbert affirms Christianity is “right”] Therefore the other religions must be wrong?” Talbert: “No, I’m not saying that at all”

The coup de grace: “I believe my God is large enough to be inclusive of all human beings who were created in God’s image, and that includes those religions that are not Christian.” (That’s the ecumenical battle cry, isn’t it?)

If this influential leader in the UMC is any barometer of Bush’s belief structure, then I think we can see where the “watering-down” comes from.

Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee in ’08.


7 johnMark October 26, 2007 at 7:54 am


Thanks for the input. All I am asking for is a little honesty when the professed faith of our politicians are involved regardless of the political position.


8 Jason Long October 26, 2007 at 3:41 pm

The problem is the world-centered view that has perverted our culture and our church.

I blogged about this a little while ago; that professing Christians would vote for a Mormon or a professed advocate of infanticide solely to prevent a Democrat from entering the office.

What would happen if a democrat was in office? Taxes? Communism? The persecution of Christianity?

Of course not, but you would think so given the political leanings of our “brothers and sisters”.

Personally, I would like it if candidates would not invoke their faith openly; it just exposes them for the focus group-driven frauds they are.

Lord, come quickly. 🙂

9 Jeremy Pierce October 27, 2007 at 9:39 am

Mark, it’s not exactly fair to claim that I’m the one who brought in political differences. Russ is the one who claimed that there’s no difference politically, and I merely responded to such an outrageously false claim.

As for heaven not being open to Christians, that’s ambiguous. Most evangelicals would hear him as saying that some people will go to heaven who aren’t Christians, i.e. C.S. Lewis’ view that many evangelicals are at least open to (I believe Josh McDowell expresses openness to this in one of his books, where someone who has never heard of Christ but worships God as revealed in nature and trusts that some savior is required and must be provided will be saved). But we’re talking about Bush here, and he’s not exactly known for precision in any area, never mind abstract questions involving theological distinctions. It’s entirely plausible that he simply meant that some people who aren’t Christians will be saved, which is consistent with the strongest exclusivist view, given that some people who are not Christians will one day be Christians and thus be saved. It would make sense politically to insist that not only the people who are now Christians have a possibility of being saved without saying that anyone can be saved without Christ.

But aside from Bush interpretation issues, you are simply wrong about Muslims not worshiping the same God. They certainly do worship the same God. There’s no question about this. They do so falsely, immorally, and without possibility of salvation if they do not repent. They do not believe some of the most fundamental truths about God. But words have reference only because of historical connections in word usage, and their adoption of the traditional monotheistic God was clearly an intent to say that they were worshiping the God of Israel. So that’s the God that they’re saying lots of false things about.

I don’t mind criticizing Bush’s theology, but I’m not convinced he’s actually asserted what people here are claiming. His statements are ambiguous, and he’s notorious for saying things that mislead if taken literally or in their most obvious way.

Bush is conservative compared to the middle of this country. That’s enough to count him as a genuine conservative. It’s true that some people are more conservative, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a conservative. There are a lot of people more conservative than Hillary Clinton and Jimmy Carter who are significantly to the left of Bush (e.g. Giuliani and Lieberman come to mind as pretty obvious, but even Bill Clinton fits into that category).

Jason, the UMC is very diverse. Some liberals are in powerful positions in that denomination, but some congregations are quite conservative. Bush’s home church in Texas is much more standardly evangelical than many UMC churches.

10 Bruce October 27, 2007 at 4:56 pm

Bush appointed TWO conservative Justices to the Supreme Court.

Carter would appoint more “Darth Bater Ginsburgs.”

This will be Bush’s lasting legacy, and not his theological ramblings.

Bush is surely not perfect, but his presidency forestalled by eight years the country embracing full blown socialism (which Hillary will usher in).

11 Bruce October 27, 2007 at 5:40 pm

>> Personally, I would like it if candidates would not invoke their faith openly <<

I rather think a candidate should speak openly regarding their “faith.”

The reason is, if a peson has genuine faith it will be evident. If they merely have a “convenient faith” for political purposes, that also will become evident – and expose them as frauds.

Nancy Pelosi was recently asked if she prayed. She responded “What kind of question is that, certianly I pray.” When the interviewer asked her what she prayed ABOUT she named a couple of things and then said she prayed for President Bush. The interviewer then (unexpectedly) asked Pelosi WHAT she prayed when she prayed for Bush. She was dumbfounded and unable to articulate anything. The deer in the headlights look. Total silence. She could have said – wisdom, or guidance, or something. But she was speechless. So, this exposed her as a fraud – at least in her claim that she prays for President Bush. Things like this, about a candidate, are good to know.

A person’s beliefs will carry over into their public policies. It is unavoidable. This is why I would like all candidates to speak openly about their faith.

Faith (as least Christian faith) is not a private matter. Otherwise, Christ’s parting words at his assention would not have commanded us to “be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost regions in the world.” Acts 1:8. There is no such thing as a private Christian faith. This idea is only a modern development to give cover to candidates who profess it, but don’t have it. (In other words, they don’t run the risk of being exposed as frauds regarding their professed faith, if they are excused from talking about it.) They may continue in their public profession of faith, while their values, policies, and voting records plainly deny it.

Sidebar: (Have you ever noticed that liberal politicans, without fail, make appeals for “our values” and NEVER appeal for “our morals?”) They are world-view adverse to the word “morals”.

I once heard (the very liberal) Ron Regan say – as a slam against President Bush – that his father “didn’t wear his faith on his shirtsleevess”. But if you go back and read the voluminous quotes of President Regan, he surely did.

Let all candidates openly speak regarding their faith .

12 johnMark October 27, 2007 at 6:04 pm


Maybe I should say that we should not collectively jump on the bandwagon of someone who happens to be in the “right” party just because of their faith.

I believe you’re right about liberals. I don’t know how one separates values and morals all together. Beyond that I don’t know how anyone separates their “faith” either. If one’s faith doesn’t inform their world view, decision making, etc. then maybe it would be better for that person to have a blanket like Linus. Just go home and be nice and comfortable with their blanket.


13 shamgar October 27, 2007 at 8:59 pm

But aside from Bush interpretation issues, you are simply wrong about Muslims not worshiping the same God. They certainly do worship the same God. There’s no question about this.

You’re right there is no question, but you’re on the wrong side of it.

their adoption of the traditional monotheistic God was clearly an intent to say that they were worshiping the God of Israel.

The god they worship doesn’t have anything in common with the one true God. Remember that they differ in things as fundamental as his nature.

How far would you take this? There is a group after all that claims to worship the flying spaghetti monster. That’s a mono-theistic religion. Are they worshiping the same God?

I don’t mind criticizing Bush’s theology, but I’m not convinced he’s actually asserted what people here are claiming.

He has, and he’s said it in more ways than is listed here. Bush has no real distinctives, and his “religion” is exactly that. It’s a man-made construction for providing flexible ethics to work in. It has nothing to do with the Gospel as revealed in Scripture. If you haven’t seen it, then you aren’t paying attention. It’s not like he’s really hiding it. Why would he? Half the people who call themselves Christians in this country are in the same boat.

Bush is conservative compared to the middle of this country. That’s enough to count him as a genuine conservative.

Yeah, if you are a relativist and words don’t have meanings. If you actually want to define the term – even say, but the party platform, let alone a historical view of what the party has stood for in the past, then he is not even close to a conservative in any meaningful definition of the term.

14 Jeremy Pierce October 30, 2007 at 7:07 am

Shamgar, if I told you that the Christian God is the flying spaghetti monster, I would not be saying something true about a fictional being. I’d be saying something false about God. I’d be getting his nature entirely wrong, must more wrong than Muslims do.

15 Jason M. Long October 30, 2007 at 1:02 pm

@Jeremy Pierce:

“I’d be getting his nature entirely wrong, much more wrong than Muslims do.”

That doesn’t excuse them, nor should we rescind the charge of worshiping a different and false God.

“Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” (Ex. 20: 3 KJV)

Their God, while of the same historical descent, has been perverted and changed into something that He is not. Their God is now another God, in their hearts supreme over(and different from) the true God, the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Do you think a Muslim would assent to your assertion that he worships the same God as the Jews of Israel?

“As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:9 ESV)

They propagate an image and knowledge of God that is incorrect and offensive to His nature. They are not worshiping the same God because they know not the true God.

Under your premise, Mormons worship the same God that we do; he shares many of the same attributes, even the same history…is their created Jesus Christ the same as Jesus Christ of the trinity?

Attribution of false characteristics and false worship of the true God is the creation of different God.

16 shamgar October 31, 2007 at 7:29 am


I’d be getting his nature entirely wrong, must more wrong than Muslims do.

Jason is exactly right. Given that they flatly deny the triune nature of God, which is a fundamental aspect of who God is, they are getting his nature entirely wrong. Further, they deny other of his divine attributes, such as mercy. I grant that the FSM is a more radical and more easily discernable shift from who God is – however, that is exactly why it makes a good example.

Also, you are changing my assertion. My point was not to say that the Christian God was the FSM, but to ask if the person who worships the FSM can say it is the same god as Christians worship simply because their religion happens to be montheistic – which was the initial assertion I was replying to. It’s entirely too simplistic.

God has revealed who he is through his word. If what we are worshipping is not God as revealed there then it is not God period. It is an idol of our own making.

17 Jeremy Pierce November 2, 2007 at 7:21 am

I agree with everything in your first paragraph. They believe a lot of false things about crucial aspects of God’s nature.

I’m not sure what FSM means.

I suggest you read II Kings 17 carefully. It refers to the syncretistic worship of YHWH and other gods as if it really is worship. It even calls it fearing YHWH. It’s very clear in the context of the book that this amounts to nothing spiritually. It’s indeed what had caused Samaria’s fall to begin with. Then it goes on to say that they did not fear YHWH. You’re insisting that false worship can only be the latter, and when it comes to what value it has you’re right. All I’m saying is that the former is true in a sense, enough of a sense that the Bible itself speaks that way. Whether Bush is telling the truth depends on whether he means it in the former or latter way. For all I know, he means it in the former way and thus is not more guilty of saying something false than the Bible is. The fact that the same words can mean the latter doesn’t undermine my point, since the biblical author can do both almost in the same breath.

18 Jeremy Pierce November 2, 2007 at 7:24 am

Oh, wait. Flying Spaghetti Monster. No, I’m not saying the FSM is God but that people believe false things about him. Monotheism isn’t sufficient. This is a concocted case. It’s not an attempt to stand in the monotheistic tradition while modifying the view of God significantly. It’s a made-up being entirely. So I don’t think the two cases are parallel.

What I was saying was that if I told you the FSM is the Christian God, I’ve done something different from what people usually use the FSM for. The FSM is not a false description of God. It’s a fictional being created for the sake of a bad analogy with God. The Muslim view of God, rather, is a view of God.


Previous post:

Next post: