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.
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Johninnc, I ponder these wolves, wondering if any of them ever believed the gospel and let money and fame lead them astray, or if they were always just wolves. But we can sure see the Daniel 5 on the wall 🙂
Holly, yes. Greear tweeted a photo of himself receiving the vaccine. It is important to the worldly religious leaders like J.D. Greear and Franklin Graham to be in the political mainstream on contemporary issues. Leadership to them and other false teachers is a numbers game. They are the blind leading the blind.
Did you mention Greear was pushing the Vaccine too recently? Not a surprise, but I wonder why they feel they can now be their church’s doctor?
LukeNC, I think the difference with BLMO and the sentiment that black lives matters is that the Organization really doesn’t care about police accountability one bit. They just want the police gone. I’ve done a lot of digging into their leadership and history, and funds. They are anarchists and very wealthy ones at that. Ending the drug war? Most of their money has not been transparent as to where it’s going, in fact, the only thing they’ve been able to trace so far is that a lot is sent to the Democratic party. I know we want accountability for all positions of power, smaller government, help with crime, drugs, sex trafficking, but I don’t believe for a moment the organization cares about any of that. They are just am antichrist movement that is very lawless, but part of the signs of the time.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good. 2 Tim 3:1-3
I do know what you mean about the reformed camp or some of the Baptists, Arminians too like Liberty university and others in the Pentecostal Camp. The Mormons, some Catholics and also the New Apostolic Reformation, a lot of them are involved in the ‘Christian’ movement. Some have different reasons for being involved, some may really want to be there to work against abortion, hope to preserve our freedoms and uphold the constitution. But we know really what the end result is in a one world religion. Best we can do is pray and hope that we are salt and light and speak with wisdom and grace.
Luke, Here is what comes to mind for me on reform. I think that justice has to applied equally of course, but that’s never going to happen in this lifetime. We have to have law and order, but if it isn’t upheld, we’re descending into chaos.
Besides the reformed, I’m seeing a lot of the NAR, but interestingly I am also seeing some who understand the clear gospel speaking more. I think they were more silent, but when radical groups like BLM come in similarly to the bolsheviks in an anti-God movement, anti-men, anti-family, etc., I’m not sure I think they’re about justice or reform truthfully.
Even they say they are here to disrupt society and they are Marxist trained. They are ‘queer’, ‘transgender’ and ‘polyamorous’. But we are not surprised. We know that things will be as in the days of Noah. We see the trend even to normalize the sexualization of little ones, and why not? They murder them so freely. God help them.
I am conservative as far as my ‘politics’. I know God can use anyone, bad or good, to even chastise a society for what it has become. So, we will see where we’re going, my hope is in Him as I know yours is too. God bless us all to have wisdom in discerning these movements no matter who they are.
Luke, I think, like you surmised,that most political support coming from Christendom would be from people/groups that adhere to false gospels, simply because false gospels are so prevalent among professing Christendom.
I also believe that the political movements gaining momentum today are coalescing toward more central government control over all aspects of our lives. I am all for reforms that are oriented toward justice, but when people put something in front of justice, like “social justice” it becomes something else and in the eye of the beholder, the same as when people put something in front of the gospel like the “social gospel.”
So I’m a libertarian politically. I can support some of what BLM stands for. For example regarding police accountability and ending the drug war. That squares right with my belief in limited government and upholding the 2nd, 4th and 10th amendments. I think those two issues go hand in hand. I do also agree that most of the Christian support I’ve seen has been from the reformed camp which is ironic.Even the ‘all lives matter’ and ‘blue lives matter’ folks — the christian support again comes mostly from the works salvationists. I saw much of the same during my Tea Party days. It was again reformed/calvinists christians who supported a lot of that as well, in my experience. I wonder if its because they make up the majority of christendom these days. Its rare I even get to meet christians who believe the true Gospel in person.
I am troubled by it too. The presumption seems to be that those sharing the one true gospel are racist and need some sort of secular sensitivity training. Racism is a sin issue, and last I heard, each person shall bear their own sin. If we see it with individuals in the church, then we should deal with it, but with the world, we set laws.
What I hate about this is the division, fear, hatred etc. that it is stirring up. We were made from one blood. It seems to trouble some to even bring that up.
We can make laws to prohibit any sort of favoritism or prejudice regarding financial institutions etc., and if that is present, we should, I’m all for it. But to support someone like BLM as you say, ‘having their best interests at heart’ is at the very least, naive.
Holly, I’ve seen some of what you are talking about. I object to people saying that racism is “a gospel issue.” Racism is “a gospel issue,” only to the extent that it is a part of the sins that Jesus paid for, which is all of them.
It is loving to view everyone as being made in the image of God, and remembering that goes a long way to being kind to one another. It is not loving to teach people that the end justifies the means of trying to “fix” our society, that governments can pass laws to eradicate racism, greed, etc., nor that worldly movements such as BLM have their best interests at heart.
I’m finding some not so great leaders in plenty of places including some of the ‘Grace’ sites. One of the leaders of a grace site has a bunch of Social Justice stuff on his page,including some BLM stuff all while condemning others for being a part of politics. Found that rather ironically interesting. Don’t get involved with a political party, do get involved with an anti-God, anti-family movement like BLM.
Holly, I think J.D. Greear knows how to navigate this world, and has found a perfect forum as SBC president for his political practice and spiritual malpractice. His appeal to predecessors over God’s word is similar to other false teachers who do the same.
I hadn’t read everyone else’s comment yet, but had to laugh.
It seems that Calvinists all have a similar spirit. If they said it, their predecessors said it, then it must be true, they are more spiritual, you do not agree because you are still a ‘natural man’ or a ‘reprobate’ (things I’ve been told by not-so-dear Calvinists).
Great insight John as usual.
I believe Calvinists love playing the devil’s advocate. They love debate. They love using foolish memes and declaring them to be Biblical. They seem to live for arguments.
I probably should not say this, but I just see a Pompous puffed up fool.
chas, I agree. J.D. Greear is a shameless opportunist who never really seems to have had much of a grasp on the gospel. He is a rudderless leader for a rudderless organization.
Lemme see here…
First he says…
Then he says…
The man’s brain is broken.
LD, agree that he is leaning toward ecumenism. He promotes LS, is tolerant of Calvinism, and is seemingly attracted to social justice issues.
Amen! To state that Calvinism doesn’t affect the gospel is foolishness. He wants people who disagree with calvinism to “back off” and be more accepting (in other words, compromise). It sounds like he is leaning towards ecumenism in my opinion.