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Russell Moore Christian Blog and Commentary

Russell Moore

Moore to the Point

Many of us were horrified and repulsed as we saw Planned Parenthood Federation leaders in undercover videos negotiating the sale of body parts from aborted children. The cavalier conversations, over lunch, about such things ought to shock every conscience. For Christians, this atrocity ought to drive us to reflect on the literal crux of our faith, the cross of Jesus Christ.

The most ghoulish aspect of these videos is, after all, not simply that children are losing their lives. We knew that already. Beyond that is the way these children’s bodies are being used, divided up for parts, in order to enable clinics to “do a little better than break even.” And, of course, there is the callousness of the consciences involved. How could one talk about where to “crush” a baby or how “crunchy” the tearing mechanism ought to be in such breezy casual terms?

Every human person naturally ought to recoil from such language. But for a Christian, especially, such language ought to trigger in us thoughts of Jesus of Nazareth, who identified himself with human nature, taking on flesh and dwelling among us (Jn. 1:14). Jesus is human—not “was,” mind you, “is”—meaning everything it means to be human. Jesus demonstrated his solidarity with the human race by sharing with us every stage of development.

He was an “embryo.” He was a “fetus.” He was a nursing infant. He was a child. He is an adult. An attack on vulnerable humanity is an attack on the image of God. And that image is not abstract. The image of God has a name and a blood type. The image of God is Christ Jesus himself (Col. 1:15). Every human image-bearer is patterned after the Alpha and Omega image of the invisible God.

And at the Cross, Jesus stood with and for humanity in suffering. We are often told that abortion is ethical because the “products of conception” aren’t “viable,” that is, they cannot live outside the womb. This suggests that the value of a human life consists in its autonomous power. But Jesus was conceived in the most vulnerable situation possible in the ancient world—as a fatherless orphan. He lived as a migrant refugee outrunning with his family the Planned Parenthood of his day, the King Herod, into a land hostile to his own. He died helplessly convulsing on a cross, dependent on others even for hydration. Even in death, Jesus counted himself with thieves and was buried in a borrowed grave. In his humanity, Jesus wasn’t “viable” either.

Moreover, like the dead orphans of Planned Parenthood, Jesus was seen as valuable only in terms of his “parts.” The soldiers cast lots for his clothing (Mk. 15:23). With the very King of Israel standing before them, the Roman soldiers could see his value only in terms of how much money they could fetch from his garments. That should shock the conscience.

And yet, at the Cross, we do not simply see Jesus standing in solidarity with those suffering. He stands also in the place of sinners. He is counted with thieves, one executed on his left, and one on his right. One thief reflected the culture of death. He saw Jesus only in terms of what Jesus can do for him, temporally: “Save yourself and us!” (Lk. 23:39).

But there were two thieves, remember. The other saw his own desperation, crying out for mercy. Who knows what this man had done? The word “thief” in this context doesn’t connote a petty pickpocket. This mean was more akin to a murderer, a pirate, or a terrorist, to use contemporary language. Jesus forgave him, not because his actions were excusable but because he was hidden by faith in the punishment Jesus bore for him.

The cross should remind us that Jesus hears the cries of the suffering, even those whose cries are unable to be heard. But the cross should also remind us that Jesus saves sinners. The actions of Planned Parenthood are horrendous, both in terms of social injustice and in terms of personal sin against God. What can wash away such sin? Nothing. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

We should work for justice for the unborn, and for their victimized mothers. And, at the same time, we should speak to the consciences of those who see them as little more than pieces to be bartered. What Planned Parenthood is doing, let’s be clear, is violent and murderous. But the gospel can convict consciences, even consciences darkened by violence. And, when God saves such sinners, he often uses these trophies of grace to speak up for justice for those persecuted and mercy for their persecutors, through faith in Christ and newness of life in him.

Planned Parenthood is a killing field. We should groan inwardly, and work outwardly, against such evil. But, as we do so, let’s remember another killing field, a Place of the Skull, where peace came to the violent, through a cross of both justice and justification.

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Please join us January 21-22, 2016 in Washington, DC for Evangelicals for Life. You can find more information here.

Russell Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He formerly served as Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. Dr. Moore is the author of several books including Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway)

This past weekend I met a couple who were married on the Fourth of July and baptized on the fifth. They had been cohabiting for many years and had several children together. They had never known anyone who was part of a church. But when their lives didn’t turn out the way that they hoped, they were willing to try anything, including a local church. There they ran into an old gospel, and new life. As I watched them plunged into the waters of baptism—and as I heard their three year-old son yell from his pew “Wow!”—I thought about how their story may well be the story of the coming generations.

The Sexual Revolution certainly seems triumphant. After a generation of no-fault divorce, cohabitation, ubiquitous pornography, and the cultural unhinging of sex from marriage and marriage from childbearing, we now see the courts and the culture decoupling marriage from even its most basic reality: gender. And there are hints on the horizon that the next step is to culturally, and perhaps legally, decouple marriage from, well, couples. If sexuality is about personal expression and individual autonomy, after all, then by what right can society deem that sexuality should be limited by such an arbitrary number as two?

The danger for Christians is that we buy into the Sexual Revolution’s narrative. I don’t just mean that we accommodate ourselves to the sins and heresies of the movement, although that’s always a danger too. I mean the danger is that we assume that the Sexual Revolution will always be triumphant, progressing upward and onward. To assume such is to assume that the Sexual Revolution will be able to keep its promises. It can’t.

We live, after all, in a cosmos ordered around the Logos of God, a Logos we have come to know personally as Jesus of Nazareth (Jn. 1:1-14). Part of the wisdom of the universe is the resilience of the marital one-flesh union. Marriage, and the limits of sexuality, not only pictures the gospel (Eph. 5:32), it is also the way that human beings thrive and flourish. We think we want autonomy and novelty and transgression. What really satisfies though is fidelity and complementarity and incarnational love.

That’s why I say the church should prepare for the Sexual Revolution’s refugees. We should understand why the culture around us is exuberant. They believe this will make them happy, that their alienation has been a result of cultural marginalization or Puritan repression. But the primary problem we all have is internal. There’s a conscience that speaks to us of a word we want to hide from—“Where are you, and where are you going?”

There are two sorts of churches that won’t be able to reach the refugees of the future.

The first is the church that is so scared of people that we scream at them in anger and condemnation. If we see ourselves as people who are “losing” a culture rather than people who have been sent on a mission to a culture, this is how we will be. That will be exacerbated if we take our cues from those who play outraged Christian caricatures for a living rather than from those who have come to seek and to save that which was lost. If we do not love our mission field, we will have nothing to say to it.

The second sort of church that will fail these refugees is the church that gives up, or silences, its convictions because they’re not popular. This too is fear. We assume that we can reach people if we dance around the sexual questions, thinking that we can get to that part of discipleship after they’re part of the family. That’s just not the way Jesus does it. Jesus gets right at the point of guilt, the part the person is protecting, and calls the person not only to repentance but also to forgiveness and freedom (Jn. 4:16).

If we are silent about what the gospel says about sexual immorality, we will not only lose our mission, but we will also lose the respect of those we are seeking to reach. They can read texts. All the gymnastics of the revisionists does nothing to silence what honest people read in our Scriptures. When they hear us clearing our throats in embarrassment or explaining away things unfashionable at the moment, they hear from us that we are more afraid of them than we are confident in our gospel. How then can they trust us with words of life that can overpower the grave, when they see that we are not even willing to go against the spirit of the age?

The Sexual Revolution cannot keep its promises. Many people are going to be disappointed, and even before they can admit it to others or to themselves, they are going to ask, “Is this all there is?” We need churches that can keep the light lit to the old paths, that can keep the waters of baptism ready. We need to be the people who can remind a wounded world of what we’ve come to hear and believe, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). That’s good news for refugees, like us.

Russell Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He formerly served as Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. Dr. Moore is the author of several books including Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway)

Four years ago, our current President said he personally opposed same-sex marriage. Today, the Supreme Court has found a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage, contra all recorded sociopolitical, religious, and human history.

Few today are surprised at the Court’s ruling. This has been the prediction of most politicos and social commentators for a while. But simply because we are not surprised does not mean we are also not appalled. On the contrary, the Court’s ruling is indeed a moral and historical disaster. The Court has interpreted the United States Constitution as guaranteeing American adults the kind of autonomy that denies children the stability and flourishing that comes from having a mother and a father. We ought not be coy about the generation’s worth of confusion that this decision will facilitate.

As Christians, we believe in marriage. We believe that it is from above, not below. We believe that it matters supremely to agree with God about the definition and purpose of marriage and family. So today we grieve for our country and solemnly pray that soon God would grant the leaders of our nation new hearts to see the beauty of biblically defined marriage law.

And yet, because we are Christians, we don’t just believe that great harm has been done. We also believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only sovereign over history. We believe that the Supreme Court, powerful and important as it is, cannot put the resurrected King of Kings back in his graveyard plot. Because we are Christians, we believe that not even the gates of hell can overcome the Bride for whom Christ died. Ours is a quiet confidence, rooted not in Gallup but in the Gospel.

So, “how now shall we live?” How shall we teach and preach and counsel and love in such a way to point people towards the truth about marriage, even as we do so in contradiction to the legal systems of our nation? Thankfully, we have a paradigm to follow: The pro-life movement.

For over 40 years, the pro-life movement in this country has overwhelmingly modeled what compassionate, counter-cultural, and quietly confident public engagement should look like. Even in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s devastating decision in Roe v Wade, courageous public voices came forward to challenge popular opinion and advocate for human dignity. Many churches became mobilizing and stalwart forces for the pro-life cause, not just by legal advocation but by actually ministering to the needs of women, men, and babies in crisis.

Indeed, it was these churches that held to a holistic vision of human dignity and the value of all life that have been most effective in the fight against abortion culture. Whether through establishing crisis pregnancy centers, offering free health clinics, modeling the Gospel through adoption and adoption advocacy, or welcoming the wounded, abused, and frightened into the friendship of the local congregation, pro-life churches that don’t just preach pro-life as a political talking point but as a spiritual reality are the ones that we should thank for the remarkable victories we’ve seen.

That means that we in 2015, under the shadow of the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage, have both an encouragement and a warning from the pro-life movement. The warning is that political victory does not equal cultural persuasion. It is possible to win the White House but lose the neighborhood. Churches that put their energy in electing the right candidate or repealing the wrong law, to the exclusion of actually living out mercy and justice in their communities, should not expect meaningful victories for traditional marriage.

We also have an encouragement. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973, by God’s grace, we are seeing small but crucial turns in our national and political culture towards valuing unborn life. We are a long way from where we need to be, but we are certainly not where many predicted we would be. There is strong pro-life sentiment in this country that was unimaginable 30 years ago. This should be a sober reminder to us today about the power of prayer and the sovereign grace and goodness of Jesus Christ.

The pro-life movement’s victories were only possible because its champions understood that legal consensus is never the final word. Imagine how much different the cause for life and dignity would look today if that first generation of pro-life advocates decided that being on the wrong side of the Supreme Court and the wrong side of history was just too high a price to pay. Thank God that was not them, and God forbid it should be us. Let’s follow their lead onward.

Russell Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He formerly served as Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. Dr. Moore is the author of several books including Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway)

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