John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
In doing research for another recent post, I stumbled across an article written by pastor J.D. Greear, pastor of Summit Church and president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), entitled “Don’t Be A Fundamentalist (Calvinist Or Otherwise).”
Following are some extensive excerpts from Greear’s article, along with my comments.
Some people give such enormous weight to minor issues that the gospel itself is obscured.
Calvinism is one such issue. We only have so much “bandwidth” as a church, so I choose rather to be known for the gospel than for a tough stance on particulars of Calvinism that are less important than the heart of the message.
My comment: Calvinism undermines the integrity of the gospel. Each of the five tenets of Calvinism strikes at the core of the gospel message. The tenets of Calvinism are often remembered as an acronym “TULIP,” which represents Total Depravity (the false view that people are unable to believe without having been first gifted faith or regeneration); Unconditional Election (the false view that God chooses who will believe); Limited Atonement (the false view that Christ died only for the elect); Irresistible Grace (the false view that the elect are irresistibly drawn to faith in Christ); and Perseverance of the Saints (the false view that the elect persevere in some unquantified level of sinning less and doing good works).
The truth is that anyone can believe the gospel; that God did not choose who will believe the gospel; that Christ died for the sins of the whole world; that people can resist and reject the drawing ministry of the Holy Spirit; and that no one need evaluate his life for signs of persevering in the faith to know whether or not he has eternal life.
So at The Summit Church, I often say, “Calvinism is not an issue to me until it becomes one to you. But when it becomes one to you, it becomes one to me… and I’ll probably take whatever side you are not.” What someone believes about the finer points of Calvinism is not usually the issue; it’s how they believe it. We may have trouble achieving absolute clarity together on every one of the “five points,” but we can be absolutely clear on the fact that the Bible condemns a divisive and uncharitable spirit over something about which gospel-loving Christians have historically had trouble finding complete agreement.
My comment: This is astounding! I’ll probably take whatever side you are not is sheer devil’s advocacy. Whether or not someone has believed the gospel is the defining issue in whether or not he has eternal life. Greear may have trouble achieving absolute clarity on every one of the five points of Calvinism, but the Bible is crystal clear that all five are false.
Everything in the Bible is important, especially things that relate to salvation and evangelism. I have my own convictions. But we must learn to be comfortable with certain scriptural tensions, and live with grace and freedom in some places God has not bestowed clarity to the degree we’d prefer. As Alister McGrath says, the ability to live within scriptural tensions is a sign of maturity, not immaturity.
My comment: it is good that Greear has his own convictions. But, it is not a sign of spiritual maturity to be able to live with Calvinism. It is more a sign of the desire to appeal to a broad enough constituency to ascend to the heights of a large religious organization such as the SBC.
When you elevate your doctrinal system too highly, you become a fundamentalist in a second sense: you start to believe that all of God’s graces, or at least the best of them, are found only within your narrow little camp.
My comment: the gospel is not a “camp.” It is a message to be believed. It is incumbent upon every Christian to be firmly rooted in the truth of the gospel and to promote and defend the gospel in its purity.
Anti-Calvinism fundamentalism can be just as bad, of course. “Calvinists don’t ever share the gospel.” “Calvinists kill missions and evangelism.” “No one who believes in any form of limited atonement believes in a God of love.” “Calvinists believe in a different God than the God of the Bible.” These are all actual statements I’ve heard from Christian leaders over the years. How these people cut out Martin Luther, George Whitefield, Adoniram Judson, William Carey, Charles Spurgeon and Bill Bright from their “faith tradition” I’ll never understand.
My comment: Greear appeals to men, not scripture, to make his false argument that Calvinism is within Christian orthodoxy.
The gospel—not the 5 points of Calvinism—is the center of our faith. If you believe in the loftiness of God’s glory, that salvation belongs only to God, and that God is sovereign over the world, and that he that has begun a good work in you will see it through, then you and I can stand in alignment, even if we parse some of the particulars differently.
My comment: the gospel is the center of the Christian faith. I hope it is the center of Greear’s faith. But, we know that one could likely not become pastor of a large SBC church, much less the president of the SBC, by ardently defending the gospel against either Calvinism or Lordship Salvation. It seems more likely that Greear’s situational Calvinism is a window into his worldly motivations.
If you would like to know how to have eternal life click here: THE GOSPEL