GREENVILLE, S.C. (Christian Examiner) -- More than 200 people professed Christ at the Christmas Eve service of South Carolina's NewSpring Church last month. Yet the same message that stirred those souls to redemption has evoked a strong negative reaction from countless others, and even moved one denominational leader to ask Pastor Perry Noble to set straight the principles of his theology.
Noble inserted himself into a longtime scholarly debate concerning the Ten Commandments when -- feeling "The Lord pressing" him to preach a message about the Exodus passage -- he mistakenly told his 32,000 Southern Baptist members there was "not an actual Hebrew word for command."
Instead, he said the commandments should be looked at as "sayings" or "promises."
A firestorm of nasty criticism erupted on Twitter, and Noble responded by venting , "If those who are angry at what I said about 'The 10 Commandments' were actually following all 10 the world would be such a better place! :-)."
But Noble apologized for his social media misstep in a January 9 blog post, and also wrote "In no way was I deliberately trying to mislead or deceive anyone," with his message on the Ten Commandments.
"I had no idea that I had stepped into a debate in which godly people are on both sides of the issue," Noble insisted. "I have been on the phone, on the internet and on my face this week trying my hardest to see if what I preached in that message was true, as well as seeing if I made mistakes in that teaching."
He also offered that despite his off-base point in the sermon and "regardless of what Bible scholars and Hebrew speaking Christians in Israel believe" about the Ten Commandments, "the points themselves are clearly written as imperatives -- "You shall...you shall not....," he wrote, "I did not, and would never deny that!"
Despite Noble's attempts at laying to rest the backlash, the controversy continues in the mainstream media after South Carolina Baptist Convention President Tommy Kelly, pastor of Varnville First Baptist Church, called on Noble to "correct these positions" or risk the church's relationship with the SCBC.
Kelly's pursuit of the issue seems to be motivated in part by Noble's apparent hedging about what he actually believes.
In his apology, Noble said he was not seeking forgiveness for "saying that the Hebrew word for 'command' is not used when the 10 commandments were given. It literally means 'sayings' -- and, according to Exodus 34:28, can also be interpreted as promises."
It was likely this point that spurred a statement by Kelly in the SCBC publication, The Baptist Courier, stating Noble's 2014 Christmas Eve message and the "theological position in that message are evidence of continued problematic positions and statements that are inconsistent with the beliefs of South Carolina Baptists."
The divisive issue drew a follow up statement in The Baptist Courier by another South Carolina leader who pled for mercy for Perry.
"The man (Noble) has publicly acknowledged his mistake, asked for forgiveness, and committed to working hard to avoid such mistakes in the future," wrote Marcus Buckley, pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Greer, South Carolina. "The question must then be asked: What else would we have him do?"