J.D. Greear is a popular pastor in the Baptist ranks and he just got named to be the President of the Southern Baptist Church. As a Pentecostal, my first reaction was not to care. However, message after message asking if I thought he was a Calvinist led to look at this a bit more serious.
There are a lot of people in Pentecostalism that think all Baptists are five point Calvinist. The truth is many of them are closer to our value of redemption, even if they believe in the errorous (and possible heretic) view of eternal security. While the idea of “once saved, always saved” is clearly a Calvinistic position; there are people who hold it but are not five pointers. Billy Graham would be in that camp.
Will J.D. Greear open to Pentecostals?
Make no mistake about it: J.D. Greear is NOT a tongue talking, hand laying, demon casting Pentecostal hiding in a Baptist church. He is nowhere close to Ron Philips in Chattanooga. The doctrinal statement at his church’s website says nothing about miracles or the Holy Spirit. There is a blog that points to the possibility of praying in tongues but not the probability of it happening.
I do not believe it is wise or biblical for our denomination–as has often been the case–to forbid missionaries or leaders to speak to God in a private prayer language.
What this could be is an openness in a movement that has been pretty ugly to us for a long time. I have seen in my lifetime a shift among them from being hateful to Pentecostal to slowly warming up to the possibility of the Holy Spirit at work today. The numbers of “all gifts stopped at 70AD because the KJV says….” is much smaller today than it was twenty years ago. The John MacArthur worshippers are slowly realizing the error or dying off.
I expect that he will lead the Baptist churches to embrace a more “miracles are possible” view which is a far cry from “healing is integral to the gospel” but it is a leap from where they have been. We could possible see many of the churches under him become more charismatic and much more evangelistic in focus. I could be wrong but I expect to see a lot less “I’ll fly away” and “Blessed Assurance” and more Bethel Music in their services.
As far as Pentecostals, many of our churches will try to relate to them as we do with Word of Faith churches. There will be the “we agree on this list of things but on these others, we don’t” attitude. We have been able to come together with the churches that preach prosperity (that we reject) on issues like Israel, abortion, and moral clarity. I expect the same will happen more with the Baptist churches considering the vision that Greear seems to have.
Is he a Calvinist?
This has been the hot subject in theology circles for days. Many people, including myself, believed that he was. However, a blog on his website does not seem to point that direction. It seems he is more middle of the road on the issue. In that article, he ends with these words,
I try to pray like it’s all up to God and then preach Christ like it’s all up to me. The strange thing is, the more people I share Christ with, the more people seem to keep getting elected.
What that says to me is he is closer to a Billy Graham view on the issue. He holds that parts of Calvinism is over the top but he won’t reject it. Many people won’t completely reject it because without Calvinism, once saved always saved just doesn’t work at all.
In another article, he takes on fundamentalism and aims for the Calvinist radicals. He says that making the doctrine more than the gospel is dangerous and many people who have strong views on the issue do that very thing. In the article against the fundamentalism,
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.
Taking everything into account, I would say the J.D. Greear is not a Calvinist but he does have some serious leanings into that direction. All things considered, the guy seems to be more a Billy Graham doctrically. Billy was very different than Pentecostals and had many areas of disagreements but he worked with us and loved us. I expect this is what we will see in the future with the Baptists.