Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the nation, recently launched his latest book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel (B&H Books, Aug. 1). The book urges Christians and the church to offer a different, radical response to the shifts going on in the nation, and PW caught up with Moore about specific issues, including gay marriage.
In your Washington Post piece on the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, you say that Christians will be tempted to offer a "narrative of decline" in response. What must the church do instead?
The narrative of decline isn’t based in reality. Gospel Christianity, as opposed to cultural Christianity, was never the majority in America. What’s changed is that there is no advantage to the culture pretending otherwise. Every generation believes that things are worse now than they’ve ever been, but the Christian church didn’t emerge in Mayberry and doesn’t need Mayberry to sustain it. We have an opportunity in the next generation to reclaim the strangeness of the Christian gospel.
The Supreme Court decision took many Christians and others by surprise but it shouldn’t have. This redefinition of marriage and sexuality has been moving down the tracks for years. The church must be ready to articulate a Christian vision of marriage, not just assume that our neighbors know what we’re talking about. We must embody a Christian marriage culture, including a high view of singleness and celibacy as well as marriage and parenting.
What do you think the future holds for Christians who don't back the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage?
Marriage is resilient. It wasn’t invented by government and can’t ultimately be reengineered by government. In the long run, I don’t think the sexual revolution can keep its promises. We must be ready to minister to the sexual revolution’s refugees, those disappointed and wounded and looking for something more permanent. The next wave of controversy will be over whether the state will try to coerce Christian institutions to violate their consciences on questions of marriage and family. Just as in the Revolutionary era, we will stand up and speak out for soul freedom for ourselves and for everyone.
What are the most damaging trends you see within the Christian church?
Too many Christians read about political and cultural change and then panic. They think the culture is being taken away from them and respond in either apocalyptic hopelessness or outrage. This attitude misunderstands the Gospel of Christ, which was first preached in a culture extremely hostile to Jesus and the church. Recovering a quiet confidence rooted in the Gospel, and not in Gallup, is crucial for the church now.
What do you hope your new book Onward accomplishes in the battle between church and culture?
I hope it helps Christians find their convictional courage in the Gospel. I hope it reminds Christians in our changing culture that we don’t need a new approach but an old one, the one of Jesus. I hope it strengthens hearts with the infallible promises of Jesus’ kingdom so that the church can articulate the Gospel without fear, compromise, and anger.