Will Russell Moore Become A Theological McLarenite?
It is often remarked that history appears cyclical in nature. By that, it is meant that, if one watches long enough, one can detect certain patterns that come back around from time to time. And with certain social currents seeming to speed by faster than ever before, often these “temporal ebbs” pour over a society or movement before those watching are even aware.
Today, Brian McLaren has branded himself as a Christian that advocates a number of positions that many other Christians would have a hard time accepting. For example, one can follow his spiritual path from a stance downplaying the relevance of the Afterlife such as the eternality of Hell and that the Kingdom of God is not so much about everlasting life in Heaven but rather about establishing utopia here on Earth to co-officiating at his son's gay wedding.
However, about 25 to 30 years ago, one would have probably have had to have been quite skilled at socio-theological forecasting to predict how far McLaren would have fallen off the deep end. For at around that time, McLaren was an academic with a specialty in literature laboring to establish a post-denominational church with the desire to get back to the simplicity of the Gospel truth all sincere Christians profess.
Those wanting to get in on what is near the ground level of a similar phenomena only need to watch Southern Baptist Commission On Ethics & Public Policy President Russell Moore. For while at the moment holding to a foundational theology sounder than Brian McLaren's, one can now hear Moore's articulation of a certain number of beliefs that is setting him down a path not all that markedly different than the one Brian McLaren has previously trodded.
This is evident in the column published by Russell Moore titled, “Why This Election Year Makes Me Hate The Word 'Evangelical'”. In those remarks, Dr. Moore announces that he no longer wants to be known as an “evangelical” because the connotations that have accrued surrounding the term subverts the cause of Jesus. Instead, Moore clarifies that he is a “Gospel Christian”.
As in regards to the other word games played by those in the arenas of public policy, who could possibly object to the term “Gospel Christian”? For such a phrase, much like the founding motivations of McLaren's Cedar Ridge Community Church, brings to mind the primary narrative of Scripture though which the remainder of divine revelation is understood and brought to life in the heart and soul of each professing believer.
But as in the case of other terms bandied about in the media such as “choice”, “equality”, and “tolerance”, those invoking the term “gospel” often do so for the purposes of imbuing it with meanings altered enough to undermine the traditional understanding as well as support for those one must view as one's opponents or adversaries.
Moore writes, “Part of the problem is that more secular people have for a long time misunderstood the meaning of 'evangelical', seeing us almost exclusively in terms of election-year voting blocs or our most buffoonish television personalities.” Moore is himself tottering close to becoming one of these if he is not careful.
What is so wrong if activist Evangelicals are seen primarily as a voting bloc and why is it the fault of the average Christian that realizes that now is the time for all good men to come to the aide of their country? For apparently Dr. Moore has no problem with reducing Evangelicalism or “Gospel Centered Christianity” to a set of platform positions when it apparently advances the agenda preferred by Russell Moore.
Moore continues, “The other problem is the behavior of some evangelical leaders. I have watched as some of those who gave stern and windy speeches about 'character' in office during the Clinton administration now minimizing the spewing of profanities, .... race-baitingm and courting white supremacists ... [and] debasing public morality and justice through the casino and pornography industries.”
Have not Moore and his closest associates not done the same thing? Donald Trump has verbalized gruff things that have gone over the line, particularly in reference to Megyn Kelly, Karli Fiorinia, and Heidi Cruz. However, at no time did Donald Trump “race bait”.
In regards to “race baiting”, all that Donald Trump did was call for the enforcement of U.S. immigration law and proffer as suggestions a number of proposals such as a wall that might protect the lives of Americans living in what has become a dangerous area. How is this any different than the policies implemented by the Jewish State of Israel which so many Evangelicals are so chummy with that they conveniently overlook the hostility of this competing world religion to Christianity's most fundamental tenet that Jesus is both Messiah and God?
If Russell Moore is going to stand rigorously by the principle that it is essentially sinful for ethnic groups or nationalities to advocate policies that are more favorable to the particular group in question, instead of sitting on the board of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, shouldn't he resign from that position and publicly repent of the organized ethnocentricism he goes out of his way to condemn when it is supposedly engaged in by White people? For in his column, Russell Moore condemns Donald Trump for courting White supremacists.
Mistaken as that pernicious ideology is on a number of points, perhaps disaffected Conservatives and even Evangelicals have decided to give that disreputable element a hearing because many average Americans that have never done a thing to injure a Black person or another minority are fed up with churches and denominational leaders that live higher up the socio-economic ladder beating the mere pewfillers over the head about how horrible Black folks and illegal aliens have it. That message is further compounded by the assumption promoted that somehow the average American is at fault for the misery allegedly endemic among these supposedly oppressed demographics when in reality such is often the result of many in these particular ethnicities failing to exercise self control and a little delayed gratification.
The sincere Christian is obligated to admit that Donald Trump is hardly a role model when it comes to important aspects of his individual character. However, it seems that bold “Gospel Christians” such as Dr. Moore are as guilty of the selective outrage that he has accused his coreligionists of when it comes to certain celebrities and public figures.
Some Christians might have gotten a little cozy with a candidate that wasn't quick enough to distance himself from those perceived as White supremacists (which in this era run amok in political correctness can be defined as little as failing to commence the automatic self-denunciation for simply being White as command of entrenched elites and social engineers). However, a number of Southern Baptists with whom Moore is closely associated are disturbingly reluctant to distance themselves from C.J. Mahaney.
To say that C.J. Mahaney is a controversial pastor would be an understatement. Not only under Mahaney's ecclesiastical leadership did child molesters get by relatively unscathed. He also ran the Covenant Life Church he pastored in Gaithersburg, Maryland along the lines of a cult.
For example, it was not enough for members to show up regularly for the Sunday morning and even the Sunday evening services. They were also expected to participate in a number of prisoner of war style encounter groups referred to as discipleship meetings where they were to spill their innermost secrets included as to how they kept their homes.
Moore writes, “We have been too willing to look the other way when the word 'evangelical' has been coopted by heretics and lunatics. This sort could deny creedal Christianity and gospel clarity with impunity, as long as they were on the right side of the culture war. Thankfully, this sort of evangelicalism is not the future.”
Perhaps Dr. Moore might prefer an Evangelicalism where believers are to overlook any number of abuses on the part of those that articulate not only the required doctrine but also a number of additional peculiarities to let it be known in the process how much they despise the traditional American way of life. Usually such statements take the form of detailing how horrible White people are and how the institutionalized church ought to exercise direct control over areas of your personal life over which God did not originally provide much detail other than a few broad principles He'd probably rather you figure out on your own how to implement.
Like Brian McLaren that went down this path before him, Russell Moore possess the ability to articulate his particular understanding of the Christian faith before a number of generational demographics. It is just unfortunate that each of these figures has grown increasingly liberal as this ability has earned each of them wider circles of acclaim.
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. He holds a BS in Political Science/History. Frederick earned a MA in Apologetics & Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary. Frederick holds a Doctor of Practical Theology through the Master's Graduate School Of Divinity in Evansville, Indiana. Dr. Meekins is pursuing a Ph.D. in Apologetics through Newburgh Theological Seminary. His books are available in print and electronic formats through Amazon.com. His ministry site, Issachar Bible Church & Apologetics Research Institute, can be found at http://issacharbiblechurch.blogspot.com/. The Twitter page of Dr. Meekins can be found at