What Southern Baptists Can Expect From Russell Moore and the ERLC

On June 1, 2013, Dr. Russell Moore will become President of the influential Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention(ERLC).  Whether or not you are Southern Baptists, Moore will have huge influence on the Christian worldview and expression of Christianity for many years to come.It is not hard to discern where Moore will lead, what he will emphasize, and what his values are, and this Southern Baptist is concerned.The concern is not over traditional social issues like abortion, homosexuality, and Judeo-Christian morality. Moore will be constantly conservative on these issues. His conservative positions on these issues will illicit lots of “amens” from the average person in the pew, making Moore look like a wonderful gift to the Southern Baptist’s efforts to protect life, marriage, and morality.Signs of Coming TroubleI’ve read enough of Moore’s works and know enough of his core theology, however, to have grave concerns. When I read an interviewof his plans for the ERLC, my concerns went to the “red alert” level.  There were three statements that especially concern me.

“The time has come to replace moral majoritarianism with moral communitarianism.”

If you’ve had your ear to the ground in recent years, the word “communitarian” is a power-packed word from which you should run. It is a worldview in which the community becomes the transformational unit in society. To learn more about it, simple go to any search engine and search “communitarianism.” The basic idea of this philosophy is that the individual is minimized and collectivism is emphasized.  The word is not used accidently, but describes the core beliefs of Russell Moore.

“The locus of the kingdom of God in this age is within the church, where Jesus rules as king. As we live our lives together, we see the transforming power of the gospel and the inbreaking of the future kingdom.”

First, this is a very communitarian statement. In addition to the emphasis on living our lives together, Moore uses the term, “transforming power,” a communitarian buzzword.  But what I really want to emphasize here is that this collective living and the transforming power of the Gospel will bring “the inbreaking of the future kingdom.”That last sentence is hugely post-millennial. In seminary I was taught that post-millennialism was a thing of the past, but I am now convinced that it has been repackaged for a new day. The large group of Christians who believe in “inaugurated eschatology” (also known as “Already/Not Yet” theology) is constantly talking about “the expansion of the Kingdom” in such a way that the end result will be “the inbreaking of the future kingdom.” This talk has a moralism that seems appealing at first, but it goes against a Biblical worldview of a future inauguration of the Kingdom with the sudden arrival of the King. This “take the world for Jesus” view is held by the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and other dominionist groups. I believe that Moore is part of a neo-NAR group that is more conservative in their approach but has the same core Kingdom beliefs.

“The United States, after all, is but a vapor in the vast sweep of cosmic time. Our churches, however, point to the future kings and queens of the universe, where there are no term limits.”

This statement concerns me on several levels. First, Moore comes from a line of theology that is notoriously pointing out the flaws of Americanism. In part, I agree. However, the communitarian crowd loves talk of global empires, so this worries me.  My bigger worry, however, is this statement on future kings and queens of the universe. What kind of doctrine is this? This Mormon-sounding idea has been spoken by Moore previously, such as in a 2007 articlein which he was encouraging hard work for the Kingdom and—surprise—spoke a very communitarian word, speaking of, “a laziness that refuses to toss aside individual glory for the unity of the church.” Such refusal is inappropriate for “future Kings and Queens of the universe.”What We Can ExpectFrom what I’ve read of Moore’s works, here is what I believe Southern Baptists can expect out of the ERLC under Moore’s direction.

Anti-Israel or Israel-phobia

When Moore writes about Israel, it is often with a negative tone. He says things like, “Israel’s American critics on both the left and the right of the political spectrum have been frustrated by what they consider to be the political carte blanchegiven by evangelicals to the Israeli state.”  He goes on to say, “it is rather obvious that contemporary evangelical support for Israel draws its theological grounding from the dispensational/Bible conference tradition, not from the Reformed/Princeton tradition.”  As you read his works, Moore is clearly not a fan of this “dispensational/Bible conference tradition.  He is, however, an avowed covenant theologian, and he says that such theologians “have maintained that the church, not any current geo-political entity, is the ‘new Israel,’ the inheritor of all Israel’s covenant promises.” [1](This is, by the way, a perfect definition of replacement theology).If there is any good news in Moore’s position on Israel, it is that “Evangelical public theology would be in error, however, if it sought to remedy past errors by abandoning support for Israel.” I hope you note that evangelical support in the past has been built on “errors.” It would be a mistake to remove this support, but Christians should “ground such support in a quest for geo-political stability and peace in the Middle East, not in the “Thus saith the Lord” of the prophecy charts.”[2]My word to Southern Baptists who may hope for a powerful pro-Israel denominational stance coming from the ERLC:  Good luck! There is no hint Moore would allow it. My prediction is subtly anti-Israel messages or Israel-phobia. Moore is too much the politician to throw Israel under the bus, but he is not a supporter of Israel as a modern Jewish state unless it serves the purposes of the new Israel’s expansion and well-being.

Ecumenical Cooperation

His theology demands a one-world religion. Moore holds doggedly to “inaugurated eschatology,”  and he refers to gospel ministers as “pioneers of a coming global empire.”[3]In his worldview, the New Testament church is not “a place to encourage one another in discipleship and to pool together missions offerings. It is a declaration of war. In the church, the triumphant Warrior-King has established an outpost of the kingdom—a colony of the reign that will one day engulf the world.”[4]Because the church is this “outpost of the kingdom,” it can do nothing less than work together with other outposts to take more territory for the Warrior-King. In order to do this, watch for Moore to be increasingly involved in ecumenical dialogue for the advance of social agenda. He is friendly with the Roman Catholic church already, and I suspect to hear a lot of praise for Catholic virtue in the years to come.

Social Justice in Conservative Clothes

Moore will preach amnesty, equality, and justice every opportunity he gets. He will do it in a “compassionate conservative” way, but it will be the same message that liberal social justice proponents have been teaching for years. As you watch for this social justice, you will find that he never says Jew without saying Palestinian or rich without saying poor. His statements of people and their conditions in life will always be carefully balanced.

Kingdom Advance

Moore’s ethic is Kingdom Advance.  He believes the Kingdom has been inaugurated in the church and that advancing the Kingdom is the church’s primary agenda.  For those unfamiliar with a position that does not believe the Kingdom has begun, read my article, “The Kingdom Error.”Moore will do all that he can to “advance the Kingdom” by developing “transformational communities” that affect society on the religious, corporate, and governmental realm (see Rick Warren’s Three-legged stool approach, which will become the Kingdom Advance approach of Moore).ConclusionI think that Southern Baptists have made a disastrous choice in selecting Russell Moore as director of the ERLC. Bad kingdom theology, so pervasive in the church today, will continue to produce leaders like Moore, and followers who think this worldview is Biblical.  Watch for an ever-increasing insignificance of the denomination as it seeks to make an ever expanding impact on culture through Kingdom advance.___Dr. Randy White is Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Katy, TX. He has a daily radio program called Word for the World.

[1]http://www.russellmoore.com/documents/russellmoore/israel-public.pdf, pgs 21-23[2]Ibid, pg. 24[3]http://www.russellmoore.com/documents/russellmoore/Theology_of_the_Great_Commission.pdf, pg. 18[4]Ibid, pg. 17 

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