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Russell Moore Owes No Apology

Fri, Dec. 23, 2016 Posted: 12:06 PM

You know that there is something deeply, spiritually wrong when a person who sands up for Evangelical theological purity is asked to apologize because that stance “does not represent their political views” (1/28/2016 editorial at; is offensive and “…demonstrated a [‘disrespectfulness’] toward more conservative leaders and Trump supporters” (Christianity Today article by Kate Shellnutt on 12/23/2016). The object of Southern Baptists and evangelical ire is Russell Moore.

Remarkably, Moore, as the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is being criticized for betraying the role of that position because he was outspoken and made critical remarks towards fellow Southern Baptists and evangelicals who were Trump supporters. But what exactly were the grounds of Moore’s outspokenness?

Consider the ethics portion of his title. Now reflect on what he was saying during the electoral season about the ethical challenges of the candidate and the rationalization, even bald unbiblical justification for abandoning long standing evangelical moral and ethical standards. Shellnutt quoted him in her article:

“I witnessed a handful of Christian political operatives excusing immorality and confusing the definition of the gospel. I was pointed in my criticisms, and felt like I ought to have been.”

Yes, he should have, and need not apologize for defending the Gospel.

Her quote of Moore continued: “But there were also pastors and friends who told me when they read my comments they thought I was criticizing anyone who voted for Donald Trump. I told them then, and I would tell anyone now: if that’s what you heard me say, that was not at all my intention, and I apologize.”

The fact that some felt it was personal is unfortunate, but speaks more about how important the Gospel is to them. Maybe he explained to them that he was defending the cause of Christ and the Church, and that as the ethics leader, had a duty to sound the alarm when there is an unambiguous violation of biblical and moral ethics. But that they failed to understand the importance of unwavering fealty to Christian morals and ethics above any contradicting political expedience, means, perhaps, that they should apologize to Moore for questioning his integrity.

We need not look further than the apostle Paul who had to confront Peter for his spiritually craven double standard in Galatians 2:11-21. Peter knew the truth but because of fear withdrew from eating with the Gentiles when his Jewish colleagues were present. Paul was defending the truth of the gospel. He knew the danger of practicing something different from what their foundational doctrines demand. He rebuked Peter for not being consistent (not being straightforward), and called him on his inconsistency publicly. Get that? Publicly!

Peter’s action was not innocuous because, “As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy" (v. 13, NLT). What we do as Christians in the public square is so powerful that others, even Christians who should know the requirements of the scriptures, will become confused when Christian leaders live inconsistently with what they profess to believe. That goes against the truth of scripture and undermines the Gospel.

And even though Paul confronted Peter publicly face-to-face (v. 14), his comments were to all (vv. 15-21).

If Southern Baptists and evangelicals can see the core issue here, then they ought to realize that Moore is indeed fulfilling the role of his office. That Moore’s comments were taken as personal insults is a sign of the offense of the Gospel of Truth because it reveals the darkness in us and offers an opportunity to repent. That is what godly sorrow does. It cannot be sugar-coated, and euphemism cannot soften the devastating effect of this past political season on the Church, and especially the Evangelical brand.

It ought to be taken as the providential love of God that he has inspired a “watchman” to pull us away from the brink of spiritual suicide, and from doing further damage to the Gospel. It seems, though, that rather than humility and repentance in the face of such righteous rebuke, there is stridency and defiance. Or more charitably, there is some serious spiritual blindness.

Marvin Thompson