ALEXANDRIA (LBM) — J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, is a candidate for president of the Southern Baptist Convention for a second time.
During his lunch visit to the First Baptist Church in Bossier City Feb. 27, the Baptist Message offered to interview him live but he declined, saying he does not typically give live interviews to newspapers.
The Baptist Message subsequently learned he had granted an in-person interview the day before with the TEXAN, the newspaper of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Greear offered to allow the Baptist Message to submit questions for his consideration and reply via email. The offer was declined because the Baptist Message typically asks questions for this type of article live in order to evince an authentic response, to allow for a follow up inquiry as appropriate, and to avoid receiving an answer by committee.
However, to give voice to Greear’s position on issues important to Louisiana Baptists, the Baptist Message has researched his blogs and video interviews and such public sources to share his own words with our readers.
MUSLIMS, CHRISTIANS WORSHIP THE SAME GOD
Excerpt from a September 30, 2010 interview on the website of The Gospel Coalition, a network of Calvinist churches:
Question: It’s helpful to lay these misconceptions on the table and to talk honestly about our differences. You make the case that Muslims do worship the same God as Christians, although with obvious errors in understanding. Can you elaborate on how you came to this conclusion and how you would maintain major distinctions between Muslim and Christian understandings of God?
J.D. Greear: This is a tough question that has a considerable amount of complexity to it. But at the end of the day, I think the question of whether or not you use the Arabic name for God – Allah – is more of a practical question than a theological one.
Excerpt from Greear’s book, “Breaking the Islam Code”:
Muslims claim to worship the God of Adam, Abraham and Moses. Most missionaries find it therefore helpful to use the Arabic term for God, “Allah” (meaning literally, “the Diety”), to refer to God, and to explain the God Muslims believe in, the God of the Prophets, was the God also present in bodily form in Jesus Christ and the One worshipped by Christians for the past two millennia.
You might ask, “But isn’t the Islamic God so different from the Christian God that they cannot properly be called by the same name? Aren’t we worshiping two different gods?” Believing wrong things about God and worshipping incorrectly doesn’t mean one is worshipping a different God, just that they were worshipping the one true God incorrectly.
Excerpt from a January 1, 2018, Greear blog, “Bearing the Burdens of the Broken”:
It’s simply easier to avoid thinking about things that don’t affect us. But if we’re gospel people, we will be aware of the pain others are going through. We will be aware of the privileges we experience that others don’t have. And we will use any position of privilege or strength that we enjoy to serve others. We are called to share the burdens that our brothers and sisters of color live with as if they were our own.
Excerpt from a March 19, 2018, Greear blog, “Racial Reconciliation and Cultural Diversity in the SBC”:
For those of us in the majority culture, this process has begun with a posture of listening, not talking. The definition of a blind spot, after all, is a weakness that we don’t know that we have. Historically, the most insidious blind spots result from positions of privilege and power. If we are serious about discovering these blind spots, it means committing ourselves to uncomfortable conversations where we seek more to understand that we do to be understood.
SINCE WHEN DID WE BECOME SOUTHERN BAPTIST?
Appearing before his congregation February 4, 2018, Greear offered these comments:
Well, let me address something really quickly before we actually do get started because I know that a few of you may have noticed that my name was again placed in nomination for president of the Southern Baptist Convention earlier this week.
A few months ago, several Christian leaders from around the country approached me asking me if I would be willing to do that, and after a lot of consultation with our elder team and our pastoral team and with the consent of my supervisor named Veronica, we believe that we ought to at least make the step, take the step of making ourselves available to that if that’s what God desired. The election is not until June, and it’s usually a 2-year term, but let me address three questions that just popped into some of your minds.
Question #1 is “What exactly does the Southern Baptist Convention President do?” And, the short answer to that is probably not nearly as much as you might think. It is a volunteer position, and basically your role is to represent the Southern Baptist Convention in terms of establishing priorities and pioneering new mission ventures, and then hopefully setting a helpful tone for engaging the culture.
Question #2 people ask is, “Is this going to take you away from the Summit Church?” And, the answer to that is a very definitive not at all. Like I said to you, it is a volunteer position, so I would continue to do everything that I’m doing here. You say, “Well does that mean you’re going to be traveling a lot?” Not really. In fact, what our elder team did is we just laid out the number of days that I was gone the last year and just said that’s the standard. I won’t be gone any more than that, and so, it will not take me away from here at all.
The third question some of you just asked is “Since when did we become Southern Baptist?” And, I get that. That’s not something we really wear on our sleeve here.
There are obviously parts of the Southern Baptist Convention that we’re not excited about, and we don’t feel like really represent who we are as a church, but I will tell you that on the whole we are very grateful to be a part of a network of churches that cooperate for the purpose of mission.
To give you just one easy example to get your mind around: There are 158 members of the Summit Church that are serving overseas as missionaries with the International Mission Board, which is the international missions arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. For us to pay for our members, just our members, just to pay for them overseas would cost us in excess of $6 million a year.
It doesn’t cost us really anything.
And when we give to the SBC, but it doesn’t … they are able to go freely because of the cooperative efforts of 46,000 churches across the United States. So, we are very grateful to be a part of it, and we understand that if we are going to be a part of it, it means that we oughta take some of the responsibility in helping to shape it and to point it in the directions we feel like God would have it to go.
RUSS MOORE VERSUS ROBERT JEFFRESS
Greear’s comments during a November 14, 2017, video by The Gospel Coalition, “J.D. Greear on the SBC, Trump, and More”:
So I’ve been very attracted to either to remain within the SBC because, in large part, the staying power of the institution when it comes to international missions.
Their theological training — I’m pretty excited about the leadership of most of ‘em right now.
Kevin Ezell at North American Mission Board is fantastic. He is very humble and approachable.
Of course, David Platt, at the IMB.
Russell Moore is a great representative at the ERLC.
Our seminaries, you know, several of them are led by people that are just—and willing to do things differently in how they do it.
And we’ve just felt like it’s worth being a part of the conversation with them to keep it going in the right direction.
I added up, I don’t have a statistic relevant today, but last year added up the amount of money that the IMB pays for our people — just Summit people on the mission field — and that number was like $4.6 million.
That’s a lot bigger than our mission budget.
And so, you know, that’s the power of an institution.
And so, for some of the guys out here, the men and women, it’s going to be a natural partnership, and it’s gonna, you’re gonna hafta, you know, get your hands dirty a little bit.
But, there’s more good that’ll come out of it, and for some it’s not gonna make sense as the right network.
Question: So the disadvantages, then like the difficulty of being associated with the Baptists when something comes out in the news or some Baptist pastor says something crazy on CNN or Fox News.
Greear: Right or has one of the Fox News things in his pulpit on Sunday.
Question: A Roman Catholic in his pulpit on a Sunday morning on the same week that he called Roman Catholicism a pagan blood cult.
Greear: No irony there.
Question: No irony there. What does that, what does that draw out in you and what do you do about it?
Greear: Part of it is just the dilemma of being in any large group of people.
I think very quickly after I had grown a little disillusioned with the SBC I found that every other network I started to get in there’s like, well, they got crazy uncles too in here…
And I think I’m the crazy uncle to some of these people so, you know, just sort of the nature of it that it’s that and God has always worked in, you know, these imperfect things. And, there comes a point at which hypocrisy is so bad that you can’t go on, but … .
At some point you got to make a decision that you’re gonna be with fallen people, and fallen people bring these issues, and you gotta get in there and fight.
To: Beth Moore, Danny Akin, and others who share their mindset…
I’m listening to and paying great attention to several leaders in the evangelical arena
and I do not agree with their perpetuated narratives.
As a born-again, conservative, black worshiper, who attends a predominately White
Southern Baptist Church, it’s disturbing to hear a very biased narrative, especially from leaders
who have the potential to influence the masses.
Please allow me to share why from my personal experience. I grew up during the latter
part of the desegregation era. I saw the “Colored” signs that hadn’t come down yet and I was a
little girl when my mother delivered 4 of her 6 children at a “white hospital” and could not have
a bed in the same maternity ward as the “white mothers”. Also, in 1975 while at work, I
experienced public verbal prejudice for the first time in my life. Now, by the voice of Dr. Moore
and his cohorts, I should demand an apology for the treatment I received but I say, “No apology
necessary!” There’s no need for anyone today to apologize to me for something their
forefathers did 43 years ago. More importantly, the Holy Spirit has shed His love abroad in my
heart and I hold no one hostage for an apology. Numerous sincere, repentant apologies and
resolutions have been made. Those apologies and resolutions have been accepted and we
should continue to move forward and press on together seeing people as people – not color –
being fully devoted to sharing the gospel with every people group, and every nation until our
In the Word of God, there are many non-negotiables such as the sanctity of life, marriage
between one man and one woman, the command to share the Gospel with the world, the
command to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and many, many, others and we
dare not waver on any of these.
The problem comes when we try to urge or coerce others to think as we do on issues that are
not among these non-negotiable commands that God gives us in His Word.
We can have different opinions and will definitely have different opinions because God, in His
infinite wisdom, made us all different with various backgrounds.
The job of a good leader, in my estimation, is not to point out our obvious differences but draw
from how much we are alike and motivate by pointing out the positive. He or she should lay
out facts with the positive and negative and let others make their choice.
Every leader will have personal convictions about any given subject but their personal
convictions should not become the plumb line or standard for everyone. A leader should not
address subjects, as we are discussing, with such a broad stroke and heavy hand to provoke one
side or the other. Dr. Moore’s comments are very heavy handed. A leader of his caliber should
know how to express himself without using terms that will antagonize. Rather, he should speak
healing truth, unifying truth, truth that will point us toward the Savior — not rhetoric that will
cause us to look at skin color before we get to know one another. That’s the kind of leader that
I desire and expect to follow.
Dr. Moore’s words, tweets, and articles will set us back. They won’t move us toward unity. His
words add to the unrest and not peace in our society. I have not been the first to bring this to
his attention, but he continues.
I say again, Dr. Moore does not speak for me or represent me and I stand by my convictions.
Sowing discord among the brethren is wrong and that’s what Dr. Moore is doing. I will NEVER
be ok with that and I will speak against it at every juncture.
Please, let’s strive to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!
A sister to all believers,
Rick Patrick, Pastor
FBC Sylacauga, Alabama
Executive Director, Connect 316
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. —Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963
This line is perhaps the most famous sentence ever spoken by any American. It is remarkably easy to parse and virtually impossible to misconstrue—a simple contrast between an undesirable option and a preferred one. King’s dream was that his children would not be judged by their skin color but by their character content. Presumably, he would also extend this same dream to all the other children of the world, regardless of their skin colors. The principle is clear. People are not to be judged by the color of their skin.
Unfortunately, King’s preferred approach is not merely being ignored today. It is actively being reversed, even in venues where his own legacy is celebrated. Consider this statement by Thabiti Anyabwile (Thah-BEE-tee Ahn-YAH-bwee-lay) in The Gospel Coalition article he wrote dated April 4, 2018:
My white neighbors and Christian brethren can start by at least saying their parents and grandparents and this country are complicit in murdering a man who only preached love and justice.
No, we cannot start there at all, for neither me nor my parents nor my grandparents had anything to do with the murder of MLK. However, the fact that Anyabwile placed the word “white” between “My” and “neighbors” means that he is judging me and my parents and my grandparents for the color of our skin rather than the content of our non-murderous character—precisely the opposite approach from the one envisioned by MLK.
Skin Color Judgment and Societal Guilt
Thabiti Anyabwile’s first error was actually introduced earlier in his article when he wrote:
I’m saying the entire society killed Dr. King. This society had been slowly killing him all along.
By allegorizing murder, Anyabwile pushes it from its literal and individual sense into a metaphorical and societal sense. The problem with this approach is that when sin is dealt with individually, there is both a legal punishment leading to temporary rehabilitation on earth, and a spiritual confession leading to eternal forgiveness in heaven. Sin can be dealt with when it is specific and personal. Cleansing and restoration follow. Bitterness does not fester.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the vague sins of society. These can be held over the heads of a group of people collectively with no recourse forever. As long as society remains unforgiven, we are left with the impression that we must repeat our confession year after year in an endless and unhealthy pattern of guilt and condemnation, for which, seemingly, not even the blood of Jesus is sufficient to atone and expunge. (I am, of course, speaking hypothetically and hyperbolically. I believe the blood of Jesus has indeed atoned for all the sins of all the people in all the world, and if anyone applies His atonement to their sins by faith, they will be completely expunged.)
If it were not possible for Jesus to forgive society, then we would have no hope at all. But because He can forgive us, we do have hope. All we must do is walk in the forgiveness that Jesus offers once we have sincerely confessed our racist sin, at which point he removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. He remembers it no more. We receive His forgiveness and walk free as His children with a clear conscience moving forward to walk in the light.
Both Philosophies Seek Racial Reconciliation
Perhaps the most insidious assumption by those advocating the Skin Color Approach is that those of us favoring the Character Content Approach are somehow in favor of racism. Just because a person has a problem with the idea of white privilege and white guilt does not mean that they favor racism. They simply have a different method for dealing with racism than those embracing the Skin Color Approach.
One of the reasons racism is such a complex issue is that there are so many different skin colors involved. According to the United States Census Bureau, the basic ethnic breakdown of America is pictured below. Clearly, racial reconciliation is far more complicated than the struggle of African Americans alone. For that matter, even among those classified as White Americans, there are profoundly significant differences in terms of social class, family structure, wealth, and educational opportunities, creating an entire spectrum of privilege categories and making it impossible to stereotype individuals by skin color.
To illustrate the fact that the Skin Color crowd launches accusations against the Character Content crowd, consider this remark by Dwight McKissic in an SBC Voices article addressing what he refers to as a “looming civil war.”
Yet, there is an underbelly, subterranean, disagreeable, element in SBC life that view the MLK50 as “race-baiting,” “cultural Marxism” advocacy; and a “social justice warriors” convocation.
Granted, we have a different philosophy than McKissic when it comes to dealing with racial reconciliation. We certainly disagree, but this does not mean we are necessarily disagreeable—and all that nonsense about underbellies and subterranean elements merely amounts to name calling.
Character Content Judgment Favors Color Blindness
Those of us favoring the Character Content Judgment over against Skin Color Judgment are offended by the assigning of “guilt” and “privilege” on the basis of skin color alone. In other words, there can be no such thing as white, brown, black, yellow or red guilt or privilege, at least not in the world envisioned by MLK where we do not judge people on the color of their skin but on the content of their character.
If skin color does not lead to societal privilege, then what does? A strong two-parent family. Decent health care. Good work habits. Educational goals. Learning the soft job skills of showing up on time, properly dressed, with a good and helpful attitude. One does not get all of these things by being white, for many white people do not have them at all. Consider the following infographic from the National Review, which demonstrates that family structure is a better predictor of privilege than skin color.
Another illustration clearly reveals that Character Content is better than Skin Color in judging that which produces privilege. Consider for a moment the four children of Denzel Washington or the one daughter of Serena Williams. These children are more privileged than my own two sons, at least based on nearly every measure of societal advantage—economic class, access to the finest health care money can buy, educational opportunities, professional contacts to help launch their careers, or just about any other factor, with the possible exception of moral and spiritual formation. Incidentally, I am okay with the children of these accomplished celebrities having more privileges than my own children. Their parents have earned the right to afford them these privileges through their hard work, determination, and character. To put it bluntly, Denzel can act and Serena can play tennis far better than I can preach! If their children learn more in private schools than mine did in public schools, so be it.
My point is that privilege does not join itself to skin color. It is a meritocracy that joins itself to character.
Those of us who favor the Character Content Approach believe that color blindness actually helps us avoid picking at the scab of racism. During times when our nation constantly focuses on skin color (the sixties, the Obama Administration) we observe that things actually grow worse. But during times when our nation tends to move beyond this subject (the eighties, the George W. Bush Administration) we observe that things actually get better. No one explains this concept of refusing to focus on skin color better than Morgan Freeman:
Conclusion—Guilt Removal a Gospel Issue
In this brief essay, we have focused upon the great vision set forth by Martin Luther King, Jr., a vision challenging us not to judge one another on the basis of our skin color. So let us not have White This or Brown That or Black Something Else. Let us simply be Americans. May our character do the talking.
Dak Prescott is now my favorite NFL Quarterback. It used to be Tony Romo. Neither selection had anything to do with the color of their skin. In the 1996 movie version of Evita, I thought Antonio Banderas had an even stronger performance than Madonna. Again, I’m not basing that on skin color. This summer, I am going on a North American mission trip to work with a predominantly Chinese Southern Baptist Church in the Northwest. But I am certainly open to ministry among Native Americans. Skin color is like eye color, hair color, and body type. Those of us in the human race have all kinds of shapes and sizes and colors. But we just don’t judge people on the externals.
In the final analysis, my chief problem with White Guilt is not really the “White” part but the “Guilt” part. Biblically and theologically, once we confess our sin, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) It is simply unhealthy for a Christian to go back and confess the very same sin over and over and over again. He or she needs to accept the forgiveness of Jesus and move on with their life—freed from the load of their guilt and completely forgiven for their sin.
And while we are on the subject of God’s total and complete forgiveness of the racism in our past, there is frankly no need for us to confess the very same sin every year on the second week in June—or any other time. It is beginning to feel like we’re saying Jesus wasn’t sufficient to forgive us all those other times. Has Jesus really forgiven us of our racist past? Has He truly set us free? Is there now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? Is the sin of racism within the power of Jesus to remove our guilt and shame? Is the red blood of a brown man 2000 years ago sufficient to cover the sins of this white man? If so, then let’s follow the advice of Morgan Freeman and “stop talking about it.” Stop talking about skin color. Start talking about character content.
The best way to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., is to embrace the vision of America he so eloquently challenged us to establish.