Russell Moore, President of the SBC’s Ethics And Religious Liberty Commission, faced a direct question from a messenger at the denomination’s annual meeting regarding his intentional support of Muslims in a lawsuit petitioning for the overturning of a New Jersey township’s ruling denying them a building permit for construction of a mosque. The First Amendment battle, while seeming to be a rather clear matter of First Amendment jurisprudence, has become a defining issue, it seems, for Moore who has placed Southern Baptists squarely on the responsive side of the query posed by Joshua to Israel, “Choose this day whom you will serve.”
A smug Moore offered an applause-garnering response to a legitimate question posed by a messenger, who is apparently an actual Bible-believing Southern Baptist (Bible believing to include, of course, the actual commands of the Bible, such as “come out from among them”).
The video discourse is embedded below. But here is the question posed to Dr. Moore regarding his alliance of Southern Baptists with the flag of Islam.
I would like to know how in the world someone in the Southern Baptist Convention can support the defending of rights for Muslims to construct mosques in the united states when these people threaten our very way of existence as Christians and Americans. They are murdering Christians, beheading Christians, imprisoning Christians all over the world. Do you actually believe that if Jesus Christ were here today, He would actually support this and that He would stand up and say, well, let us support the rights of those Baal worshippers to erect temples to Baal? Do you believe that Dr. Moore?
The query, offered by a Southern Baptist pastor, is straightforward and Biblically-informed. Jesus, who led His chosen people to settle the promised land, destroyed pagan nations worshipping their foreign gods and idols as He promised Israel He would do. He forbade His chosen people to engage in alliances with those pagan nations. He also commanded the wholesale destruction of not only the idolatrous temples and altars of those foreign gods but also the destruction of those who worshipped them.
It’s important to remember a fundamental attribute of God that Baptists believe – His immutability. God does not change. What He hated in the days of Joshua, He yet hates today. His expectations of faithful obedience by His chosen people – of whom Southern Baptists purport to be among – has not changed. The New Testament affirms the command for the church to be separate from the pagan world around us, not to, as Moore entreats, to create alliances with it.
“Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord” 2 Corinthians 6:17
But this isn’t the sort of Biblical command readily believed, or adhered to, in the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC is a decidedly more “Americanized,” ecumenical flavor of faith, which, in fact, is not authentic faith at all.
Moore pertly responded to the question about his mosque-building alliances:
“You know sometimes we have to deal with questions that are really complicated and we have to spend a lot of time thinking them through and not sure what the final result was going to be. Sometimes we have really hard decisions to make. This isn’t one of those things.”
Intending to belittle the Southern Baptist pastor who dared question the lofty decisions of the ivory-towered, American Christian elitism that is the ERLC, Moore treated the seriousness of his question with about as much smug complacency as Ronnie “Armani” Floyd must exhibit in flicking errant fuzz from the lapel of his expensive, well-tailored suit.
No, for Moore, the elitist, it was not a difficult decision for him to align the SBC with Baal. It took no thought. It wasn’t given any consideration as to worthiness. It was a no-brainer, guided as it was by the tenets of “American” Christianity, rather than rightly being directed by actual Scriptural Christianity.
Moore then provides this definition of “Baptist” for the rebuked, insolent questioner.
“What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody.”
At this point, supportive applause for Moore ensued around the meeting hall indicating the pervasiveness that this culturally-worshipped idol of tolerance represents among the SBC. We’d rather be seen as co-conspirators in a treaty of co-existence as Americans rather than as a Bible-believing denomination standing, alone if necessary, on the promises, and commands, of Holy Scripture.
Being a Baptist means supporting “soul freedom?” Really? “Soul freedom?” What does that even mean? Far as I know, there are only two types of souls – one dead in sin or one alive in Christ.
Moore continues in his exalted rebuke of the presumptuous tone obviously intended by the very notion of even questioning him.
“And brothers and sisters, when you have a government that says we can decide whether or not a house of worship can be constructed upon the theological beliefs of that house of worship, then there are going to be Southern Baptist churches in San Francisco and in New York and throughout the country who are not going to be able to build.”
Well, let’s just interject a bit of snark in response to Moore’s massive misunderstanding of the very point of the question itself. Considering that, for every single one of the new SBC churches planted in 2014-2015, the convention LOST 695 members (for a total of 204,409 departures from the ranks), we actually might need to stop building, if only to halt the hemorrhaging. If building churches means more lost souls, something’s obviously amiss. Perhaps we ought to figure that out before we go pagan-hopping to help the enemy build more altars to himself.
But Moore, with whom the SBC ought truly do less, points out that the issue really isn’t self-preservation.
And the bigger issue, though, is not one of self-interest. The bigger issue is that we have been called to the gospel of Jesus Christ. A government that has the power to outlaw people from assembling together and saying what they believe – that does not turn people into Christians, that turns people into pretend Christians and it sends them straight to hell. The answer to Islam is not government power. The answer is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the new birth that comes from that.
That comment equally drew applause, as well as an implicit, “you nailed him” nod from Floyd as Moore turned smugly to him as if to say, “there, sir, another notch in the belt of our control over the presumptuous plebes.”
I wonder, given Moore’s comments about the woeful impact of an overbearing government, opposed particularly to Christianity, if he’s aware of the massive growth of faith in, say, China, where, despite intentional persecution of Christians, Jesus yet saves. Or, is Moore aware that the greatest growth rate of evangelical churches in the world (at 19.6%) just happens to be, according to Operation World, in the Muslim-dominated nation of Iran? Hmmm.
Or I wonder if, as Moore posits, governmental and cultural persecution sends “pretend Christians … straight to hell,” he is suggesting that the first-century church, persecuted as it was by an oppressive government, as well as a Christ-denying Judaism, was primarily populated with “pretend Christians?”
In fact, Russell Moore, and those applauding his comments do not recognize, in their professing applause, the fundamental crux of our faith – the sovereignty of our God. When He commands obedience from His chosen, be it from Old Testament Israel or the New Testament church, He does not qualify it with an addendum that says, “Obey if the government allows it.” When God commands us to be separate from the world, that there is no partnership of light with darkness, He demands our faithfulness. But, we must not forget His promise to us, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
If you define your “Christianity” as “American” first – or even as “Southern Baptist” – then your “Christianity” is not Biblical Christianity. “Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Yet, it seems that for Southern Baptists, nothing – not even the commands of Christ Himself given to us in His Holy Word – can stand in front of our unbridled, undiscerning, and unrestricted worship of the idol of religious liberty. And we will join in unholy alliances to pursue it. Consider the words of Dave Miller, newly elected president of the SBC Pastor’s Conference:
At some point, we need to remember we are Baptists. We are FOR, not AGAINST, religious liberty.
If you are against religious liberty for Muslims, you are an opponent of religious liberty. If you support liberty, you support it for even those you disagree with. That’s the way liberty works.
Once again, the zeal to worship of this idol of religious liberty by alliances with evil has reached epic proportions within the Convention. Don’t dare utter a breath against this god of religious liberty! Is our faith really that tremulous?
No one is against religious liberty in America. (Perhaps especially not the Muslims!) We are thankful for it. We benefit from it. We ought to stand boldly for it. But it is not necessary, nor Biblically-tolerable, for Southern Baptists to intentionally join hands with pagans as they pursue their own rights under it. It is that alliance that is unnecessary and, as is being seen around the world in God’s saving grace, it is not a necessity for our – or His – faithfulness.
As Baptists, we might remember, our marching orders come not from the Constitution, but from Christ. When our need to defend the Constitution requires us to defy the commands of Christ, we’d do well to err on the side of Scripture. He’s called us to obedience, not to unfettered and Scripture-free tolerance, and He has certainly not called us to enter into unholy alliances with the “prince of the power of the air.” (Ephesians 2:2)
Southern Baptists ought surely, in light of this wicked, unnecessary alliance, heed the truth from the 18th-century evangelist George Whitefield:
“The sins of the church are far more offensive to God than the sins of the nation.”
And fellow Baptists, we are in sinful, willful, disobedience to our God, led as we are by the likes of Russell Moore and every applauding hand-clapper who fails to acknowledge, by active obedience, the sovereignty of the Lord our God and His command for us to “not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Contributed by Bud Ahlheim
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