Pastor J. D. Greear currently serves as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Greear recently wrote a blog post on his personal site titled, “Three Ways We Go Wrong When Discussing Homosexuality.” This CRVoices post is the fifth in a five-part series carefully examining Greear’s claims in his blog post.
Greear’s post is well-intentioned and certainly not completely wrong. We should rejoice that he takes a stand in clearly proclaiming, along with the word of God, that homosexuality is sin. However, Greear’s post is also unhelpful with regard to some points of theology on the topic of homosexuality. Given the significance of biblical fidelity and compassionate ministry when it comes to the topic of homosexuality, these unhelpful aspects of Greear’s post are worth addressing.
In this fifth of five posts in this series, we carefully consider Greear’s third and final claim, “We’re wrong if we assume it’s hard for LGBT people to get to heaven.”
President Greear begins, “Let me say something very clearly: Homosexuality does not send you to hell.”
Recall that Greear is not denying homosexuality is sin. He is, however, denying that homosexuality is a sin that will send you to hell. We believe this to be incorrect. We know from James 2:8-11 that failing to keep the law of God in any one point makes one guilty of all of it.
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
We know from verses like Revelation 22:12 that God will “repay each one for what he has done,” and of course we know Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sin will send you to hell. Homosexuality is sin. Therefore, homosexuality (like any other sin) will send you to hell.
So why does Greear seek to “clearly” deny this biblical truth? He writes, “I know that because being heterosexual doesn’t send you to heaven.” Let’s look at the logic of this statement.
If heterosexuality doesn’t send you to heaven, then homosexuality doesn’t send you to hell.
Heterosexuality doesn’t send you to heaven.
Therefore, homosexuality doesn’t send you to hell.
Of course, the only thing that sends us to heaven is faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing else will, “send you to heaven.” But it does not follow that the supposed opposite of everything else won’t, “send you to hell.” Greear’s first premise isn’t true. Consider the following, using Greear’s supposed opposites of homosexuality and heterosexuality.
If homosexuality doesn’t send you to heaven, then heterosexuality doesn’t send you to hell.
Homosexuality doesn’t send you to heaven.
Therefore, heterosexuality doesn’t send you to hell.
The problem here is that sexual immorality of the ‘heterosexual’ variety actually will send you to hell. Keep in mind that homosexuality is always sexually immoral. Sometimes, heterosexuality is immoral as well, and in such cases, being a practicing heterosexual will send you to hell.
Why should we say heterosexual sin will send you to hell? Because of what we’ve already seen from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 earlier in this series.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
This passage is clear that neither the sexually immoral nor the homosexual will inherit the kingdom of God, which is another way of saying that sexual immorality and homosexuality, which are explicitly named in the text, will send you to hell.
But perhaps Greear is thinking this view is underdetermined by the text. Perhaps he believes the sexually immoral and homosexual won’t inherit the kingdom of God, and will go to hell, but not because of their sexual immorality and homosexuality. At first, this position seems reasonable. However, if the text is underdetermined with respect to these particular sins being the cause of someone going to hell, then the text is likewise underdetermined with respect to a denial that these sins are the cause of someone going to hell. The text provides nothing in the way of denying that these sins are the cause of someone going to hell. Greear’s argument comes from outside of Scripture.
Moreover, Greear’s train of thought is explicitly contradicted by Scripture. Scripture teaches that sexual immorality and homosexuality are the cause of people going to hell.
Homosexuality Will Send You to Hell
For example, the implication of Revelation 21:8 is that the sins listed are what resulted in these sinful types being in hell.
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
Sexual immorality and adultery are cause for God’s judgment in Hebrews 13:14.
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
But much more to the point, recall that Greear believes Genesis 19:1–11 describes the sin of homosexuality. If we understand the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah to include homosexuality, as Greear does, then according to Jude 1:7, homosexuality is the cause of judgment for those in Sodom and Gomorrah, who serve as an example to others who engage in the same sin.
Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
Sodom and Gomorrah sinned against God through their sexual immorality and pursuit of unnatural desire, were punished in hell for those sins, and serve as an example to others. Yes, homosexuality sends you to hell.
Unfortunately, Greear’s logic is faulty, and his claims are unbiblical. What is perhaps most troubling about Greear’s logic and claims is the apparent parity he places between heterosexuality and homosexuality. Heterosexuality is not inherently sinful, whereas homosexuality is always inherently sinful.
Greear writes, “What sends you to hell is refusing to allow Jesus to be the Lord and center of your life, regardless of how that manifests—whether it’s in your refusal to let Jesus be Lord over your sexual life or in your refusal to obey him with your money or your right to control your career.”
Greear is trying to say that deeper sin is involved in our sexual sin (or sin related to money or career), namely, the sin of “refusing to allow Jesus to be the Lord and center of your life.” While that claim is true, it does not fix the falsehood of Greear’s initial statement that homosexuality doesn’t send you to hell. Why? Greear has already affirmed in his post that he believes homosexuality is sin. So according to Greear, practicing homosexuality is a refusal to allow Jesus to be the Lord and center of your life. But Greear also believes, “refusing to allow Jesus to be the Lord and center of your life” is what “sends you to hell.”
Refusing to allow Jesus to be the Lord and center of your life sends you to hell.
Practicing homosexuality is one instance of refusing to allow Jesus to be the Lord and center of your life.
Therefore, practicing homosexuality is one instance of what sends you to hell (along with, of course, all other sins, since they are instances of the refusal to allow Jesus to be the Lord and center of your life).
Greear’s statements regarding the relation between sin and hell logically lead to the conclusion that homosexuality sends you to hell, but this conclusion is logically inconsistent with his claim that homosexuality does not send you to hell. In other words, we’ve identified an implicit contradiction in Greear’s claims about the sin of homosexuality and its relation to hell.
Next, Greear claims, “It’s not where you express your rebellion that matters but that it exists.” For those still not following the reasoning above, we can rewrite Greear’s thinking as follows.
Rebellion sends you to hell.
Homosexuality is rebellion.
Therefore, homosexuality sends you to hell.
But Greear says homosexuality does not send you to hell. Here again, the logical conclusion from some of Greer’s statements actually contradicts another of Greear’s statements. There is an implicit contradiction in his argument, which means his argument is false.
Greear’s statement here is not only logically problematic, but unbiblical as well. It really does matter where one expresses one’s rebellion, otherwise Scripture would not so clearly delineate between different sins and sinners, as it does. Apparently, how we express our rebellion toward God really does matter to God, otherwise he would have put things the way Greear does here, rather than as he actually does in his inerrant word.
A Final Concern
Greear relates a helpful story from Rosaria Butterfield.
Rosaria Butterfield, a former practicing lesbian and professor of literature and women’s studies at Syracuse University, says that the pastor who led her to Christ refused (at first) to argue about her lesbianism. He told her that according to Romans 1, the real issue was who got to call the shots in her life. How she defined herself. How she sought fulfillment.
Romans 1, Rosaria explains, revealed her heart. She goes on to say that in Romans 1, Paul shows us that we all go through what Eve went through in the Garden of Eden. We have to ask: Who gets to declare what is good? and What is Lord in my life—my desires or God’s Word?
She says in her book, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert,
“Homosexuality is not the core of our rebellion against God; a desire to be God is. A desire to be the one who gets to declare good and evil, ‘play judge rather than be judged.’ A desire to use God’s creation for our own gratification rather than with pleasure, for his glory.”
And that means that repentance for the gay or lesbian person looks fundamentally the same as it does for the straight or religious person: “God, I’m sorry for elevating my desires over your will, for attempting to define my identity apart from your design for me, for seeking satisfaction in self-fulfillment rather than from giving glory to you. I recognize Jesus is Lord and turn over control to him.”
This account is consistent with what has been spelled out in this post, but does not lend any support to Greear’s claims. The pastor in the story does eventually argue with Butterfield regarding her specific sin of homosexual practice, even though repentance from this sin most certainly looks fundamentally the same as repentance from any other sin does for anyone else.
But what Greear says next is not encouraging, “That’s what repentance looks like for a gay, straight, rich, poor, young, old, Jew, Gentile, black, or white person. We all come to Jesus in the same way. The good news is that Jesus came to save sinners—all kinds.” Indeed, we all come to Jesus in the same way, and Jesus came to save all kinds of sinners, but we should notice how Greear has categorized those coming to Christ in his statement. Greear places a “gay” person alongside of a, “straight, rich, poor, young, old, Jew, Gentile, black, or white person.” This categorization may seem like a small thing. But this categorization makes all the difference in the world to the world.
One of these things is not like the other. One of these things is sin.
By categorizing a “gay” person the same way he categorizes a, “straight, rich, poor, young, old, Jew, Gentile, black, or white person,” Greear either implies the latter types of people are sinful in virtue of their being that type of person, or he implies that being “gay” is not inherently sinful. This categorization is consistent with his use of “LGBT” people in the heading for his third point, a categorization which did not come from and is not at home within historic biblical Christianity. Greear concludes his post with the claim, “We don’t believe your sexuality defines you,” but this claim is inconsistent with the way Greear has categorized gay people in the same way he would categorize white people and black people, to use one of his examples, and this claim is inconsistent with the way Greear has appropriated the use of the “LGBT” label.
Grace and Truth
In our conversations with those guilty of the sin of homosexuality, we should readily affirm, with Greear, “We love you, and we want to talk with you with a spirit of grace.” However, Greear’s post, because of its unbiblical and logically inconsistent themes, is unhelpful with regard to speaking with the homosexual in accord with truth.
We hope this series has been helpful in demonstrating how J. D. Greear goes wrong in discussing homosexuality. Our desire is that President Greear and others will see this series and the open letter, receive them the way they were intended, and make any needed clarifications or corrections regarding this topic in the future.