The lead-up to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) 2018 presidential election has generated much discussion and a fair amount of controversy. As more people have published news and opinions online, in addition to social media commentary, the number of concerns about misinformation and misrepresentation has increased. So, the Biblical Recorder asked each of the announced candidates, Ken Hemphill and J.D. Greear, to itemize and respond to any on-record statements or claims they believe to be false or misleading.
Hemphill, former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and administrator for North Greenville University, said he is not aware of any factual errors in publication. However, he noted that some Southern Baptists have told him personally that by running for SBC president, he was “dividing our convention.” Hemphill responded, “I love this family and have always sought to build bridges of cooperation. I believe in our congregational polity and the presence of two or more candidates gives people the opportunity to listen to the various platforms, pray for discernment and vote their convictions.”
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., outlined three claims others have made about him that he believes are untrue. What follows has been edited for clarity and length.
CLAIM #1: Referring to a tweet by Greear on May 5, a blog post at CapstoneReport.com recently said, “Greear has argued that the Bible teaches the tearing down of all hierarchy,” and called the tweet “sloppy theology.”
Greear: This is the tweet Capstone Report is referring to: “Thank you, Beth [Moore]! Hoping that we are entering a new era where we in the complementarian world take all the Word of God seriously – not just the parts about distinction of roles but also re: the tearing down of all hierarchy & his gracious distribution of gifts to all his children!”
That statement was part of a larger social media conversation about women in ministry. Following the accusation, which majored on my use of the word “hierarchy,” I released a follow-up statement expanding the ideas of the original tweet that included this point:
“The bottom line is that a commitment to biblical complementarianism does not preclude a commitment to development, empowerment and advancement of women in ministry or the unleashing of their gifting in the church. We can do this while respecting the order laid out in 1 Timothy 2-3 and Ephesians 5:22-33.”
CLAIM #2: A blog post at SBCToday.com called an evangelistic strategy to Muslims that Greear affirms “alarmingly unorthodox” and said it could lead to universalist or pluralist beliefs that all people will be saved.
Greear: When I was a missionary in a predominantly Muslim country, my goal there was to present the gospel as effectively as possible without watering down its truth or removing its scandal at all. As every missionary will attest, this is one of the most challenging theological tasks a Christian will ever undertake. Muslims claim to worship the God of Noah, Abraham and Moses. My job was, and is, to show them their view of this God is altogether different from the God of the Bible, and that salvation is found only in the name of our Lord Jesus (Acts 4:12). There is, after all, only one God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, known only through faith in him.
Thus, if by the question, “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” one means, “Are there multiple ways to God?” or “Do Muslims and Christians believe the same basic things about God?” then the answer is a definitive no. Islam and Christianity take their followers down two fundamentally different paths, toward two radically different understandings of who God is and what he wants, and ultimately to two different destinations.
CLAIM #3: David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said on his personal blog that Greear believes state conventions should be either “dismantled” or receive no more than 25 percent of Cooperative Program receipts.
Greear: When I read David Hankins’ claim, I immediately called him to ask him where he heard or read this, because I’ve never made such a statement. Hankins couldn’t remember where this came from. Other people have said things similar to this.
For instance, former SBC president Bryant Wright reached out to let me know that he was the one pushing for 25 percent. But I’ve never made any recommendations along those lines.
As for the state conventions’ usefulness, I’ve often written about how much good they do. Recently, for instance, I wrote an article praising them for their invaluable work in providing disaster relief and running children’s homes. I want to see greater involvement in the state conventions from our younger generation, not less.