By Angela Wittman
The Christian Post recently featured an intriguing article called ‘The Bible Belt Is Collapsing;’ Christians Have Lost Culture War, Says ERLC President Russell Moore.
First of all, I think the “Bible Belt” was collapsing a long time ago. I began my Christian life in 1993 with involvement in the Christian Coalition and other conservative groups. I can remember how frustrating it was to try and get local Christians active in cultural endeavors. The few friends I had that were Christian Activists were looked down upon by local clergy and considered as “trouble makers.” We consisted of grandmas, grandpas, moms, dads and perhaps a few youth who joined us for potluck dinners held after our meetings. The only trouble we caused was in trying to wake-up those sleeping in the pews; I suppose we were a bit successful or there would have been no need for opposition from the respectable local church and civic leaders, who I might add included the liberal, apostate United Church of Christ in our community. Sure, we probably were troublesome as we lived to bring every thought captive to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So, have Christians lost the Culture War in America? In all truthfulness, I can’t say Dr. Moore is correct in his opinion that we’ve lost the Culture War. I’ve tried to discern Dr. Moore’s theological leanings and found an interview he did in 2008 with Yogi Taylor titled “Interview with Dr. Russell Moore” at the CCB – Consuming Christianity Blog.
Mr. Taylor asked:
Do you foresee the convention as a whole moving towards more of a historic Baptist doctrine, i.e. reformed theology. What do you see and what are your thoughts around that?
This quote is taken from Dr. Moore’s response:
…I think there’s a lot more agreement among Southern Baptists sometimes than we like to pretend that there is. And so, my concern is not, and I’m not a five point Calvinist, um, but, many of my close friends are. I do believe in election, and many of my close friends don’t believe in any kind of unconditional election…
Mr. Taylor then asked Dr. Moore to elaborate:
If you would, elaborate a little bit on this question. What kind of encouragement and would you give to pastors, both young and senior who take hard stands on reform theology, on both sides, to build unity. And I know there’s been some recent events and conferences to build bridges. What kind of encouragement could you give to those pastors, practically, to see that our convention doesn’t rise to where it’s dividing itself.
Dr. Moore: Well, I think what has to happen, is that you have to have reformed people who are willing to understand, first of all, that the scripture commands that the gospel is to be preached to all people. I don’t know a Southern Baptist hyper Calvinist, I’m sure there are some. But I’ve not met any Southern Baptist hyper Calvinist. I do know some Calvinist who because they are so excited about what the scripture teaches about the doctrine of election, they almost want to define themselves in terms of the doctrine of election. When in scripture, I mean, think about why the doctrine of election is revealed, whatever you think it is. We all agree there’s a doctrine of election. It’s revealed in order to knock down human pride and to spur us on to the cause of the mission of Christ in building the kingdom of God. There’s needs to be humility on both sides, of people saying let’s try to hear what the other is saying and let’s try to exist in churches, sometimes you can’t exist in churches together. Sometimes you do have a level of disagreement that causes you not to be able to cooperate. But that is rarely the case. I think that if you have someone who is a pastor who is clearly warmhearted, clearly pastoral, clearly evangelistic, and who is clearly making it known, I believe that the gospel goes to all people, anyone can be saved that puts their faith and trust in Christ. I think that that goes a long way. Also, if you have non-reformed pastors, I think what they have to do is communicate what they believe Ephesians 1, Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 1, what these passages mean. So, if you’ve got a faithful preacher, that is preaching the full council of God, who doesn’t agree with his reformed brothers on election, I don’t think that’s a reason to divide. So, I would rather have a pastor who faithfully preaches who disagrees with me on what Ephesians 1 means, but who’s willing to say I want to tell you what I think this word means, I think we can agree to disagree on those things. I think the parts that are dangerous at this point, have less to do with what kind of labels people wear. More to do with the sense in which we have some people in our convention that would rather not preach than deal with issues that are going to be controversial on both sides. I think we have to be wary of that. You also have some people who are wanting to use some doctrines that are revealed by God to separate the wheat from the tares. When this doesn’t separate the wheat from the tares. The gospel separates the wheat from the tares. And so, I think that both of those groups need to listen to one another and love one another and move forward in a conversation, and not move forward in silence.
While I can appreciate Dr. Moore’s willingness to find common ground and cooperation between reformed and arminian Christians, I also see where this might have an effect on his views of the culture, and it could very well differ from those who adhere to the historic Reformed Confessions and faith. In other words, a person’s outlook for the future is going to be influenced by their theology. As Christians, I think we are in this world for the long haul, and while we might not see immediate results, our calling is to be faithful while resisting evil and to follow our Commander up to the very gates of hell, if need be.
Dr. Moore also mentions building up marriages and families in the Christian Post article, which I wholeheartedly agree is much needed and I believe is an essential part of returning our culture to its Christian roots. He is quoted as saying:
Christians, said Moore, are losing the debate on gay marriage because they don’t have a real understanding of marriage and they operate under the premise that “my marriage is my business.”
“We have embraced certain aspects of the sexual revolution,” said Moore, like the “divorce culture.”
My main concern is that Christians might retreat and become even more irrelevant in today’s civil arena. I don’t think the cultural battle is over – frankly, we’ve just begun to fight. But our approach must be multifaceted; we cannot forsake the civil sphere for that of the family or church.
In conclusion, please join me in reciting and meditating on the LORD’s Prayer:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
My prayer is for God’s people to have an optimistic view of His Kingdom and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. In Lord Jesus Name I pray, amen.
- Russell Moore Says Christians Have Lost the Culture, We Have Turned from the Moral Majority Into a ‘Prophetic Minority’ (blackchristiannews.com)
- Inside the Mind of Russell Moore: How his Experiences Shape his Views on Social and Political Issues (blackchristiannews.com)
- WSJ interview with new head of Southern Baptist Convention: “Russell Moore: From Moral Majority to ‘Prophetic Minority’ “ (tomfaranda.typepad.com)
- Southern Baptist Convention’s ERLC Urges Supreme Court to Protect Prayers Before Legislative Meetings (blackchristiannews.com)
- The evolution of Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore (religionnews.com)