By now it is clear to most non-SBC evangelicals that the SBC is coming unraveled at its seams. Some might say that the reasons for the SBC’s collapse are complex and numerous. However, I have to say that I don’t really think that’s the case. In the interest of fair disclosure, I am a late-comer to the SBC and a reluctant one at that. But, for the last four years, I have been a member in good standing in two SBC churches. The first SBC church I was in rejected Reformedtheology, elder rule, and the pastor resigned as a result. I had no choice but to move on. As I observe the top-level leaders and celebrity pastor types in the SBC, it seems pretty obvious to me what the problem is. The SBC has a gospel problem and it isn’t a small one.
What do I mean? Well, first and foremost, SBC churches are mostly somewhere between semi-Pelagian and modern Arminian in their soteriology. On the semi-Pelagian side of things, SBC folks usually confess a gospel that grants man the inherent ability to make the first move toward God. The radical notion of a libertarian free-will is rampant in the clergy as well as in the churches. This false idea has extremely serious consequences.
On the other side of this spectrum, the overwhelming majority of those SBC clergies and churches who are not semi-Pelagian affirm modern Arminianism. This view of the gospel has Christ restoring what was lost in Adam at the cross so that by way of prevenient grace, original sin has lost any meaningful significance. The sting of sin has been forever removed so that all men, through universal prevenient grace, can now freely hear the gospel, evaluate and examine it, and make a decision based on their own free-will to follow Christ or not. The root of all the SBC’s problems is grounded in these very troubling and false views of the gospel.
When the president of the SBC, JD Greear preaches that homosexuality is on the same level as a child disobeying their parent, you know there is a serious flaw in the top leader’s understanding of sin. Now, if your understanding of sin is flawed, you better believe that your understanding of the gospel is going to be off as well.
Greear not only flattens out the depravity of all sin in his sermon that he preached on 1/27/19 at the Summit Church, but he also says that homosexuality is more like an affliction than a sinful choice to be repented of. He goes on to say that the Bible screams about materialism and self-righteousness while it only whispers about sexual immorality. If only he could take those words back today on the other side of the sexual abuse revelation coming out of the Houston Chronicle.
If Greear wasn’t bad enough, we have Russell Moore who never misses an opportunity to promote himself by writing yet another non-sensical article aimed more at political and culture than it is the prophetic words of truth that this culture desperate needs, not to mention the SBC churches. Moore says
Some have ridiculed this concern as being some irrational sweep into a secular #MeToo moment, implying that the problem is “political correctness” over an issue that is no real problem within church life.
I know of no one who has actually done this and if you listen to James White’s DL, he says the same thing. No one knows what Moore is referencing here. In the second paragraph of his article, Moore immediately makes this issue about justice — social justice of course. The idea seems to be that if we were more concerned about justice, this issue would not have happened.
Well, that’s simply outrageous. This issue is about sexual immorality. More than that, it is related to the kind of gospel that prevails in most SBC churches. I don’t know who many of these incidents were actually covered up or even illegal and covered up. That practice is indeed evil at its core.
But this is kind of practice is par for the course among SBC pastors. Russell Moore has said more than enough to depose him from his position. But has that happened? Has he even received criticism for his views from high-profile or even not-so-high profile insiders, boys in the club? Nope! The practice is to have each other’s backs. That is the practice. And it seems that there is no cost many of these men are not willing to pay to play this game. What does this have to do with the gospel? Plenty. Be patient.
When David Platt said farewell to the IMB, one of the things he said was the following:
I hate the politics of the SBC. And I don’t say that as an outsider. I say that as an insider these last four years. Some of the lowest points in my leadership have been when I found myself participating in them — jockeying for position, continual self-promotion, backroom deals followed by spin in the front room, strategizing like brothers are your enemy, feeling like others see you as their enemy … getting to the point where you wonder if you can trust anyone even as you start to wonder how trustworthy you’ve become.
Here is a high-level leader who is “in the know” within the SBC. He is telling us what we have all suspected for a very long time now. And the question is, will anyone do anything about it? There is absolutely no sign whatsoever that anyone in the SBC has the guts that it will take to grab this bull by the horns and do the necessary work to address the problems.
Here is the connection with the gospel. In Romans 1:16 the Apostle Paul said,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
The gospel alone is the power of God for salvation. It is the power of the gospel that awakens the dead, depraved, blind, God-hating sinner. The work of salvation is the work of God alone. Semi-Pelagianism takes a very optimistic view of man and a low view of sin. Man is able to take the first steps toward God and if he does so, God will do the rest.
So the question becomes, how do we get man — or the culture — to take those first steps toward God? The same is true with Arminianism. Man is able to perform a fair and unbiased evaluation of Christianity and decide on his own, using his reason and his unrestricted free-will to decide to follow Christ. If that is true, then the church must do everything it can to be super-sensitive to the culture so that Christianity gets a fair hearing before the bar of human reason. And if that is the case, the church must make sure she maintains a high degree of credibility in the eyes of the culture.
That is the first step in getting the gospel a fair hearing, or so it goes. And if we can get the gospel a fair hearing, the church can thrive and grow and we can influence legislators to reform the legal system. Maybe we can do something about that mass incarceration rate in the black community. Maybe we can provide free tuition for people whose ancestors were slaves. Maybe we can have open borders and make the rich pay for everyone to have a good shot at economic success. Or so the story goes.
Greear’s sermon from a couple of weeks ago was political top to bottom. He emphasized the stink in greed and materialism which is mostly identified with the GOP. He did everything he could to take the stigma out of homosexuality which is a view most closely identified with the liberals. Thabiti Anyabwile and Russell Moore do the same thing when they make racial reconciliation a “pro-life” issue and try slip it under that umbrella. Anyabwile recently said it is hypocritical to vote for a man who uses vulgar language just because he is pro-life. Men like Greear and Moore and most of the SBC celebrity pastors care deeply about the impression they are making on the culture.
The SBC leaders are afraid to hold to the traditional views on homosexuality because the culture finds those views repulsive. It shuts the conversation down and gets the evangelical Christian dismissed immediately from the table. Pick an issue that is wildly popular or a hot button issue with the world and watch the SBC leaders dance the dance when it comes up. The main driver of this behavior is a deeply flawed understanding of the gospel on one hand and/or a complete lack of faith in the power of the gospel on the other hand. As long as these churches continue to confess a Pelagian, semi-Pelagian, modern Arminian version of the gospel, this is going to be a problem.
What is embarrassing in all this is the number of lesser-known mega-church pastors who are obviously Greear and Moore fans and supporters regardless of how serious their errors have become. These members in the good ole boys club are more loyal to one another than they are to the gospel and to their churches. They have one another’s back. When you have a bunch of guys who are much more like 21st century politicians than they are first-century prophets, this is the kind of stuff you get. That is the nature of the SBC. It is filled with pastors who are politicians, not prophets. They are far more loyal to one another than they are the gospel.
Tom Ascol said it this way: [click the link to go to the full article]
Here is the reality: If Southern Baptist pastors don’t care enough about their members’ souls to watch over them, how can we expect them to care about their sexual safety? If a pastor is satisfied to neglect clear biblical commands and allow members to go to hell unhindered, it should not surprise us if he looks the other way when they suffer hell on earth at the hands of abusers.
Pastors, love your people by loving the gospel. You believe in God, believe in God’s gospel!