The ERLC Downstream From the Trump Victory

I have been wondering for a few months now if there was going to be some kind of Southern Baptist backlash against Russell Moore, and it looks like it may now be happening. For example, The Wall Street Journal has a story on it here, and NPR here. And in the aftermath of the election, Russell Moore himself had some relevant comments here.russell-moore

As many of you know, I have often been a critic of Russell Moore’s approach to cultural engagement. If you want to know the hows and whys of all that, there are some representative posts here, here, and here. And to set all that in context, while I have not had any direct contact with Moore, I am in ongoing contact with some in his world, and what I hear could be promising, if not encouraging. At the same time, I have also heard rumbles coming from the other direction. The times, as they say, are interesting.

So my reason for writing about this is not to take a passing dog by the ears. Given some of the reasoning I have heard, my motive for writing is to urge—as much as it would be seemly for a Presbyterian with Southern Baptist roots to urge—all sides to be careful in the arguments they use in a debate like this. If the fundamental urge is simply to “get Moore” or to “defend Moore,” then the most likely result would be two-way Machiavellian machinations within an evangelical denomination that would put the cherry on top of a pretty tawdry year over all.

For example, I have seen one argument against Moore that maintains that his strident opposition to Trump during the campaign means that he will be unable to do his job on behalf of Southern Baptists, which is to use the ERLC to represent the concerns and interests of the SBC in Washington. As a stand-alone argument, I don’t think this carries a lot of water, if any. There will be individuals in Trump’s cabinet who were more vocal in their opposition to Trump than Moore was. That by itself should not signify. The issue is not whether Moore could take advantage of Trump’s victory to get some important things done. The only issue is whether he will want to.

The sovereign God draws straight with crooked lines. This is not an argument in favor of drawing crooked lines—we are not to sin so that grace may abound—but it does recognize God sometimes gives us unexpected opportunities, and He may use the compromises of others as a means of creating those opportunities. Thomas Cranmer is a hero of the faith, and a martyr, and deserves the place of honor we give him. But part of the way he got into that position was through some pretty dodgy exegesis on the matter of Henry’s divorce. Separation from Rome, three cheers. Courage at the stake, three more cheers. However, comma . . . Why do we look with contempt on another Henry saying that “Paris is worth a mass,” and look the other way with a prim look on our faces when someone else says that “London is worth a little funny business with the text”?

It is pretty apparent that Moore previously thought that evangelicals were needing to settle in for a long exile, with Hillary likely to consolidate all the predations of Obama. The tactics you adopt reflect the situation you think you are in. But then something else happened. Now that it appears that reversing a number of the leftist legacies might actually be within reach. Replacing Scalia is a front burner issue, and if any of the current liberals on the court resign or die, then everything from Roe to Obergefell could be back on the table. What conservative Southern Baptists need to know is that Moore will be in that gap, fighting for that to happen. If he does so, then he will have plenty of friends inside the Trump administration, his earlier opposition to Trump notwithstanding.

Another argument against Moore is that he had been attacking anyone who voted for Trump. Moore referenced this in his Christmas meditations. But I thought—and this is from a critic of Moore—that he was not guilty of this. He very carefully distinguished those who voted for Trump because Hillary was simply unthinkable and those who just went into the tank headfirst for Trump the Man. And Moore’s criticisms of that latter class carries weight, and does so with some irony.

Part of Moore’s strategy has been to present a softer and kinder face to the LGBTQ types. (I say types here because arbitrary alphabet collections are no more a community than Bruce Jenner is a girl. Communities depend upon heterosexual fruitfulness.) But devotees of Trump the Man can’t complain about Moore’s “kind disapproval approach” because Trump himself has gone in for the personal approval approach. Now there are good conservative men who are going to use the Trump administration to set the sexual revolution back decades, glory to God. But there is no reason yet for thinking Trump himself is one of them (cabinet appointments and all). So the irony is that those religious right types who are supporting the character of Trump the Man are being far less conservative on this issue than is Moore. They are attacking Moore from the left. Moore hasn’t waved a rainbow flag, and Trump has. Moore hasn’t welcomed LGBTs into the Republican Party, and Trump has. You get the point.

But there are bad arguments in the other direction also. For example, I don’t believe that removal of Moore from his position would represent a generational disaster for Southern Baptists. The issue is right and wrong, not what the future looks like in the trajectories of young people. If this election has taught us anything, it should be that the future is murkier to us than we like to pretend it is. Again, Lewis is on point:

“We must guard against the emotional overtones of a phrase like ‘the judgement of history’. It might lure us into the vulgarest of all vulgar errors, that of idolizing as the goddess History what manlier ages belaboured as the strumpet Fortune.”[1]

When it comes to any particular policy, whether we are talking about support or opposition, or when it comes to whether Moore continues with the ERLC, we must be very careful not to appeal to cloudy constituencies. The only question that should matter to us is what the Bible teaches. Are we being faithful to that? If the Scriptures require bold and courageous opposition to the LGBT travesty, then it should be opposed as a sexual travesty, and not as a suboptimal instance of slightly missing an opportunity for human flourishing. In short, if we know what the Bible teaches on a subject, this liberates us from caring what pajama boy might think about it.

One last matter, which is a practical one. The protest against Moore has been coming in the form of influential churches threatening to withhold funds from the ERLC. Suppose the pastors of a number of these churches were in fact the good old boy religious right types that Moore was rightly critiquing. If the criticism was well-grounded, then they should take it to heart. But if it was not, or if those churches believe that it was not, then surely it would be weird for those churches to continue to fund attacks on themselves. If they really are old school bigots, then they should search their hearts. But while they are searching their hearts, as the defendants it would be odd for them to be funding the prosecution. Until this issue is worked out, they should not want to offer the money, and Moore should not want to take it.

Let us hope that it will all be worked out. And there we must leave it for now—I am sure there will be closed door meetings, to which we are not privy, but that we will find out about in due course.

[1] C. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, ed. Walter Hooper, EPub Edition (HarperOne, 2014), 102.

42
Leave a Reply

avatar
 
14 Comment threads
28 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
21 Comment authors
BDash76Trey MaysashvjillybeanChristian Pennington Recent comment authors

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Tyler
Guest
Tyler

Man, I am so thankful for Dr. Moore. I pray that the SBC will see more like him.

Bro. Steve
Guest
Bro. Steve

Part of the issue within SBC ranks is that most people are premillennial in their outlook. Political activism is not typically a really good fit with premillennialism.

trey
Member
trey

Agreed. SBC is a premillennial outfit, the arminian Baptists typically are the dispensational premils while the more Reformed Calvinist Baptists are typically the historic premils. My church is on Moore’s side, if I had to guess. I think Chandler and Moore have a good working relationship in regards to cultural engagement. Although I believe historic premils are actually closer in theology and even eschatology to postmils, they still share dispensationalism’s dualism and pessimism because of the premil aspect.

BDash76
Guest
BDash76

Chandler does not even believe women sin…

Christian Pennington
Guest
Christian Pennington

Wut?

BDash76
Guest
BDash76

it is English… go watch his sermons on Gender roles ( aka men run the home,feed the baby and support your wife’s passions aka career)

trey
Member
trey

My question exactly.

trey
Member
trey

I can say with great confidence in speaking for Chandler that your statement is completely not true.

BDash76
Guest
BDash76

ok maybe women who have husbands who work, come home run the home, do at least 50% of running the home, and are basically gender fluid, then basically he thinks the woman could be sinning, else it is always the man’s fault….
Christian men have bascially castrated themselves….

BDash76
Guest
BDash76

obviously you do not listen to his sermons properly and are blinded by star power…

Consistorian
Guest

The penultimate paragraph is the primary point. This is really just a power play by the middle school Arminian arm of the SBC and the new school particular baptists in the SBC. Churches don’t support missionaries that undermine their theology. It’ll be interesting to see how the bigger story plays out over the next several years in the SBC. For my part, I hope the seeds of solid exposition continue to be nourished and cherished. So many good pastors and scholars are being developed by these stalwarts these days. Also, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for Moore to be… Read more »

Thursday1
Guest
Thursday1

We could do a lot worse, I suppose, but the flattery of Moore in some quarters was quite grotesque.

His opposition to Trump was not really the problem: it was calling Trump supporters racists and uncritically trashing the old religious right. Notice that nobody is coming for Doug Wilson or John Piper over their position on Trump. Live by liberal talking points, die by liberal talking points, I guess.

adad0
Member

…..eventually, the disciple Judas, and his critiques, sided with the “convention”, Moore suited to his birth nature, as opposed to the new nature he was offered.

40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN
Guest
40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

I have some thoughts on this, but I don’t want to give unnecessary offense. Does anyone know Russell Moore’s preferred pronouns?

Ben
Guest
Ben

Go back and read this article by Moore in the New York Times from Sept. 2015. He says “To back Mr. Trump, these voters must repudiate everything they believe,” without making any distinction between those who were all in and those whose support came with significant reservations. This kind of lack of nuance is unbecoming a supposed intellectual leader of evangelicals.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/17/opinion/have-evangelicals-who-support-trump-lost-their-values.html

adad0
Member

Moore’s comment was an act of commission, that demonstrated a lack of ethics and and an ignorance of religious liberty.
After all, even the prophet Daniel worked for Nebucadnezzar, which is quite a few steps up from simply supporting him.

Moore, like a certain strain of Gordon Conwell grad, is getting to be moore like a blind guide, than simply a guy who makes dumb overstatements.

insanitybytes22
Member

Kind of ironic, but it was people like Moore who helped me to reconcile my values with my Trump vote. In that article Moore engaged in a bit of hyperbole and lamented of Trump, “His attitude toward women is that of a Bronze Age warlord.” Nah, not really, just that of a modern Western warlord. But the fact that people really cared about how Trump perceived women, values, family, was important. In the end it wasn’t Trump himself that mattered, but the attitudes of his supporters, those who are going to be the wind beneath his sails. It was an… Read more »

adad0
Member

Hmmmm, I wonder if Randman is actually Russel Moore?????
In any case plutonium age people have no business throwing stones at Bronze Age goat herders! ????

adad0
Member

Whoops! Messed up on the aliteration,
“plutonium age pajama boy”
is the Moore correct term!????

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

That was Sept 2015, when there were a LOT of other possible candidates, including people who had not declared but could. If you were backing Mr. Trump in September 2015, you were already all-in.

adad0
Member

Matthew 12:35-37 35 The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” J’, the above is the rule about our words, for all of us, HRC, DJT, Russel Moore, me, and you. Lots of our statements are subject to modification, as time and chance progress. However, Moore’s… Read more »

James
Guest
James

Let’s be fair, that article was written in September 2015! During the primary process. I would agree with what he said at that point, even though I do not agree with Moore since Trump won the nomination. What Moore said here is really no different than what Wilson said during the primaries. There were so many better candidates at that point, that most, or at least many, evangelicals were not supporting trump for those very reasons. Some came along after the nomination after realizing that a Hillary presidency may be a “game over” moment.

insanitybytes22
Member

“Replacing Scalia is a front burner issue, and if any of the current liberals on the court resign or die, then everything from Roe to Obergefell could be back on the table.” That would be foolish. I assure you, we are not going to be going backwards. There will be no undoing of done things. Life,culture, the Supreme Court, do not work like that. I say that would be foolish because the pendulum always swings. So, to march forward as if we have a mandate and start a rather authoritarian process of reversing course is likely to create an energized… Read more »

ashv
Guest
ashv

A period of instability and division in a regime of popular government is typically only ended by Caesarism. Unlikely the USA ends up any other way.

insanitybytes22
Member

“Unlikely the USA ends up any other way.”

It’s “unlikely” the US survives the Revolutionary War or any other huge and impossible thing we’ve faced, and yet we do and we have. The fact that we exist at all is unlikely. One might even say unlikely is pretty much the essence of America.

ashv
Guest
ashv

Yes, the general consensus of American politics is that since God has been so patient with us, we should try His patience a little more.

adad0
Member

Well, the double entendre’ would be:

“try His patience a little Moore.”

Emphasis on little. ; – )

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

> a rather authoritarian process

Like legislating abortion and homo-mirage from the bench?

> energized backlash

This is the backlash. The left can’t get any more energized than the frenzy they’re in right now.

> changing hearts and minds rather than changing laws

They kind of go together. Lead the beast and his heart and mind kind of follow along. But you’re right that we can’t lead the public where it does not want to go.

adad0
Member

“we can’t lead the public where it does not want to go.”

Hence the concept of herding! ; – ) And A Good Shepherd comes in right handy for that!

Merry Christmas Rob! ; – )

valerieab
Member

My appreciation for Russell Moore comes by comparison of him with James Dunn, the late former leader of the Baptist Joint Committee (which the ERLC replaced in terms of SBC backing). Dunn spoke at a Baptist Campus Ministry retreat when I was in college in the mid- to late-’80s (not surprising considering that pretty much all of the campus ministers in Maryland in that era were liberal), and dismissed the topic of abortion as no big deal. I still remember our small group leader’s shocked expression. But she was just a sweet lady who must have been a volunteer from… Read more »

40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN
Guest
40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

Now it’s the PCA where you’re far more likely to hear a left-wing pro-abortion preacher.

Larry Farlow
Guest

“What conservative Southern Baptists need to know is that Moore will be in that gap, fighting for that to happen.” Not sure I can say that with the conviction you do but I hope it’s true.

40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN
Guest
40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

Rusty should be the opening act for Glenn Beck on his “Has Anyone Seen My Marbles?” world tour.

http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2016/12/20/glenn-beck-samantha-bee-teaming-fight-trumpism/

Andrew Lohr
Member

History…Fortune…and “Destiny, that emasculator of Asiatic virtue”–Herbert Edwardes, “A Year on the Punjab Frontier.”

BDash76
Guest
BDash76

Moore has female staff who he sends on business trips and takes with him while they praise their husbands for running the home and being excellent servant leader homemakers…

Ethics…. right , very Christian…

Brian
Guest
Brian

Russell Moore is a stooge of George Soros.

Read this: https://occamsrazormag.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/russell-moore-and-the-erlc-exposed/

The man is evil.