December 21, 2016 by J. Truett Glen
Over the last couple of days, several articles have highlighted the frustration that some pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention have with Russell Moore’s posture towards President-elect Donald Trump. These articles tend toward the political left, and draw lines of commonality with Moore, sympathizing with his general disappointment in Trump’s lack of character and seemingly heartless political agenda. They also paint Moore as a progressive over-against the more shrewdly conservative SBC pastors who undermine his potential as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Russell Moore is a dynamic man. He’s an authentic man. He’s a faithful man. But there are some within the vast and diverse SBC community that would have his voice muted for the sake of propositioning a wicked political culture without the hindrance of an orthodox Christian conscience standing in the way. Despite the well-meaning ignorance that drives some to place bets on such strategies, the posture smells more of the devil than of the Holy Spirit. Moore is a beacon of civility and wisdom. He is charitable, and yet securely planted on the inerrancy of the Word of God. In my years of watching, reading, and listening to Dr. Moore, he has been in daily action what many SBC preachers can only muster to be in the pulpit. The SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has gained respect under Dr. Moore’s leadership simply by a slight change in posture and tone concerning the same biblical theology that it has always promoted.
So, what is all the fuss about? It’s about power and influence. Of course it is about ideology and utilitarian strategies as well. Best case scenario, there are pastors and SBC leaders that believe, as many have before them, that a Republican in the White House is a boon for conservative religious positions and conservative economic conditions. They believe that a pagan minded Republican is a tool to be used. There is, of course, some truth in this, but I’ve written of this utilitarianism elsewhere. The point to be made here is that some SBC megachurch pastors forewent a strict representation of biblical ideals for the sake of winning short term clout. They say they’re playing the long game, but someone playing the long game doesn’t cut off their legs in order to win a marathon someday. It’s simply a confusion about what kingdom ambassadorship actually requires of us. But I have rebuked them enough…momentarily.
What I’m really seeking to address here is the response of the so called ‘Christian left.’ There are those who name themselves as Christians who desire to use Russell Moore for progressive ends. They see him as vulnerable to change. They view him as a potential David Gushee, ready to be convinced, through kindness and a common enemy, that gay marriage is a good thing. They stand in front of a guy like Russell Moore and say, like Luke Skywalker, “I know there is good in you!” They desperately want the approval of someone who has come out of the communities that they once called home. They want him to stand in the gap for them and say with all confidence that he has been wrong all along, and it was the inflexible hard heartedness of archaic interpretation and abusive men that fooled him into thinking that genders aren’t fluid and that homosexuality is unclean. But Russell Moore is not that sort of man. He’s a man that stands on the Word of God, and that is precisely why he can graciously rebuke both the wickedly utilitarian Southern Baptist pastor, and the narcissistic homosexual who desperately wants his sin approved by Christ. I don’t pretend to agree with Moore on every issue, but I respect him as a faithful servant of Christ, who desires to “walk in wisdom toward them that are without.”
There is nothing uncommon in these circumstances surrounding Dr. Moore. There is a type of diplomacy in socio-religious affairs just as much as in political. In fact, you might say that political diplomacy is just a wing of religious diplomacy. We are always working to convince each other, and ourselves, that our view of God is the one worth holding Much of the time, our desire to convince ourselves is what drives us to convince others. If Russell Moore, a godly kind man, can be convinced that my sin isn’t sin, then it mustn’t be sin after all. So, in the midst of all the posturing, I want to encourage orthodox Christians to stand strong on the Word of God, rather than on the assurances of politicians or the codependent camaraderie of those seeking to change Christ into their image. I do stand with Dr. Moore, and like others, I see this as an action of standing with what the SBC should represent to a lost world. There is most likely a split coming in the SBC, but let us pray that there is not. Let us pray that those who would want to embrace the sexual revolution of a pagan world, and those who would desire power and comfort over justice and service, would withdraw from those Christ-less positions and embrace their calling in The Kingdom of God.