Sermongate: The plagiarism of a terrible argument

Baptist Professor: J.D. Greear borrowed from controversial Tim Keller quote and Ed Litton borrowed that quote from J.D. Greear.

Yesterday, a Baptist professor said he suspected J.D. Greear utilized his research and failed to properly cite the information. Following that report, we were sent information that this was not the only item in J.D. Greear’s sermon on Romans 1 that needed closer scrutiny. In fact, it appears J.D. Greear used Tim Keller’s words in that sermon without attribution. SBC President Ed Litton then repeated the same statement a year later.

According to Dr. Robert Gagnon:

Tim Keller (2012): “First of all heterosexuality does not get you to heaven. I happen to know this, so how in the world can homosexuality send you to hell?”

J. D. Greear (Jan. 2019, without attribution): “Let me say something very clearly: Homosexuality does not send you to hell. And here’s how I know that: Being heterosexual doesn’t send you to heaven.”

Ed Litton (Jan. 2020, without attribution): “Homosexuality does not send people to hell. How do I know that? Because heterosexuality doesn’t send people to heaven.”

Dr. Gagnon said a good deal more about the intellectual absurdity of the argument.

In a post headlined “Anatomy of plagiarism of a terrible argument” Dr. Gagnon explained, ‘Think about the logic of this argument: X can’t send you to hell if Y (the opposite of X) doesn’t get you to heaven.’ This is analogous to arguing: ‘Domestic violence doesn’t get you thrown into jail. I know that because the absence of domestic violence doesn’t get you a reward for being a great spouse.’ The fact that doing good deeds doesn’t get one into heaven doesn’t establish that doing egregiously bad deeds (serially, unrepentantly) doesn’t send one to hell.”

Is this an example of Idea Laundering in the church?

Or, is this an example of J.D. Greear’s sloppy theology?

It certainly shows how a bad argument can spread throughout the conservative church world and do so with most people unaware of where it originated or the absurdity of the theological claim.