Twenty days ago, SBC Today, a blog owned and operated by Emir Caner and Truett-McConnell College faculty, posted a previously published blog post by a Southern Baptist pastor in Maryland, Ralph Green. The post criticized LifeWay’s new and very popular Sunday School curriculum, the Gospel Project. According to Green:
We found it to be biased in how it explains and interprets the study themes. There are numerous subtle seeds of the Calvinistic approach to Scripture and many that are overtly obvious. The more we read and studied the curriculum, the more convinced we have become convinced that this curriculum is not suitable for use here at Calvary. I am greatly disappointed because there is nothing wrong with healthy dialogue and wrestling with theological issues. But when a curriculum is designed to teach only one side of the issue, it is no longer a healthy debate but indoctrination; and we cannot allow that indoctrination to take place here at Calvary.
These are serious charges against LifeWay and the authors of the curriculum. As expected, many SBC pastors and laymen cried foul over Green’s accusations, especially in light of the absence of any documentation from the very material Green mailed back to LifeWay. Norm Miller, the editor at SBC Today and director of communications for Truett-McConnell College, urged those requesting evidence to be patient as he would be posting the evidence the next day. Suffice to say, the evidence promised by Miller did not appear on SBC Today for almost three weeks. Meanwhile, LifeWay announced that 300,000 people around the country will be using the Gospel Project starting September 2nd.
Reviewing Ralph Green’s Evidence of Bias and Deceptive Indoctrination
Green’s latest post, which serves to provide evidence of the Gospel Project’s Calvinist theology and bias, swung hard and missed. The post provided no more than two (two!) actual quotations from the 127 pages of material. Also, the quotations provided by Green were not even related to the theology of Calvinism.
I would like to quote and address several of Pastor Green’s assertions and accusations.
…I believe I have a responsibility to my fellow pastors and all Southern Baptists to ring the alarm bell when needed. I was alarmed at what I was reading in the Gospel Project curriculum.
I applaud Pastor Green for sounding the alarm on an issue that may cause harm to churches. However, he states that he was alarmed at what he was reading in the Gospel Project, and yet provides two quotes out of the 100+ pages of material. It is clear moving forward that Green is not alarmed by the actual material of the Gospel Project but his reservations of reading and using anything written by Calvinists.
I think it’s ironic that all these Calvinists are claiming there’s no Calvinism in TGP.
Pastor Green finds irony in Calvinists not producing evidence of Calvinism in the Gospel Project, and yet he finds no problem with his own failure to produce evidence of Calvinism in the Gospel Project. This is amazing to me.
According to Green, he was alerted to the Gospel Project’s dangerous bias by one of his deacons who read preview material online before actually receiving the full material in the mail. Regarding his deacon’s testimony to him, Green writes:
He told me, “God’s love is not evident. This isn’t theology; it’s philosophy.” He also spent countless hours reading and researching the curriculum and gave me a multi-page report of his findings.
If Green’s deacon produced a multi-page evidentiary report of Calvinism in the Gospel Project, why did Green only produce two quotes?
Green confesses his own biased preconceptions:
Next, my awareness that the advisory board is almost totally Calvinist, and many of the lesson writers are too – that gave me a predisposition toward the curriculum.
Green goes on to create a false dichotomy between a Calvinistic understanding of grace and what he calls traditional Baptist grace. There is not a monolithic Baptist doctrine of grace. This is similar to the error Malcolm Yarnell, Steve Lemke, and other Baptist Identity advocates make when stating, “Not Arminian, Not Calvinist, but Baptist.” This wording creates a false dichotomy and commits a rank category error. Baptists are comprised of both Arminians and Calvinists.
So, I had concerns that every time I read the word “grace” I wondered, “Is this the Calvinistic ‘irresistible’ grace or the traditional Baptist view of grace?” This drew my attention to other theologically laden terms in the curriculum that were not defined. That, too, was another great concern to me. I was left wondering if there wasn’t a hidden theological agenda.
It seems as though Green found fault under every bush as he shared disappointment with how ardent non-Calvinist Adrian Rogers was presented.
I did find it curious that the late Adrian Rogers was cited as a “Voice from Church History” and not a “Voice from the Church.” He was a prominent Southern Baptist, and not a Calvinist. Go figure.
One example of mere condemnatory assertion by Green deals with the graphic design of the material. Even the graphic designers involved with the Gospel Project are part of the indoctrination conspiracy.
Your examination of TGP – was it only of the Leader Guide?
No. I reviewed the youth curriculum, too, and found it to be more problematic. It’s hard enough to gain and keep the attention of middle school aged boys. But TGP’s packaging and graphical design is slick. I am concerned that TGP will indoctrinate the next generation into Calvinism.
Green’s tribalism comes out into the light in his comments regarding a phone conversation he had with Trevin Wax, the managing editor of the material.
But when Trevin told me that he was a 4-point Calvinist — this only confirmed for me that I had made the right decision in returning the curriculum.
According to Green, Wax’s work is biased merely because he is a Calvinist. This type of thinking is not only unfair and uncharitable, it is harmful to cooperation in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Green continues by attacking LifeWay, asserting they are untrustworthy and promoting destructive agendas.
I’m frustrated. I’m extremely disappointed. I feel like I’ve been deceived, and I don’t appreciate that. I will never buy another LifeWay curriculum without inspecting it from stem to stern. And you know, I shouldn’t have to work that hard on materials my own denomination produces. I don’t have time to be looking for hidden meanings. That irritates me. It bothers me that I can’t trust what LifeWay sends me.
For all of Pastor Green’s troubles and frustration, he has not provided what is frustrating and troubling him other than the fact that Calvinists have authored a Sunday School curriculum.
Finally, Green ends the interview by asserting that Calvinism necessarily hinders missions and will harm the Southern Baptist Convention.
Also, it’s hard enough to get folks to witness. They come up with every excuse as to why they can’t. If we add to that the thought that God saves who He wishes, then we think we’re excused from witnessing, but are still acceptable to God for our lack of obedience to His Great Commission.
I understand this is but one voice being used by an ever growing belligerent blog, however, this is troubling and in need of being rebuked. Pastor Green has maligned all the authors of the Gospel Project and called into question the integrity of LifeWay’s management and operation teams. He has done so not by providing evidence of such accusations but by the use of logical fallacies and guilt by association.
Pastor Green is certainly free to use whatever curriculum he desires. None of us, however, are free to bring accusations and charges of sin against one another or entities without evidence. Twenty days after the promise of evidence of bias and indoctrination, I am still waiting.
For other reviews of Pastor Ralph Green’s statements, read:
Pastor Chris Roberts - Response to Ralph Green on The Gospel Project
Mark Lamprecht - Observations on Ralph Green’s Criticisms of Lifeway’s Gospel Project
Pastor David Pitman - Of Logical Fallacies