By Bob Allen
Egalitarian couples “preach a false gospel” by viewing men and women as equal partners in marriage, the Southern Baptist Convention’s top expert on family concerns says in an interview posted on his agency’s website.
“God designed us in such a way where we learn about him through family relationships,” Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore said in a wide-ranging interview with Mark Dever of 9Marks Ministries in Washington, D.C. “We learn about the nature of reality in family relationships, and in terms of what it means to image God, by being faithful fathers and husbands and mothers and wives.”
“Often, I think, the gospel is obscured because God has designed a picture of the gospel in the one-flesh union of husband and wife,” Moore said of his long association with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in Louisville, Ky. “When that is broken down, you have a false gospel that is being preached.”
“And sometimes you have people who are preaching a false gospel to themselves in their homes by men who aren’t loving their wives as themselves and wives who aren’t submitting to their husbands,” he said. “That then plays itself out in other ways later on in that person’s walk with Christ.”
Looking back on covering meetings of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as a Baptist Press correspondent years ago, Moore said he slipped into the temptation to “fight Satan with Satan.”
“I remember when I was a doctoral student I was assigned to be a reporter at a liberal Baptist meeting that was happening, a splinter group from my denomination,” Moore said. “And I went, and when I was there I found some things going on.”
“They were promoting same-sex civil unions and those sorts of theological aberrations that would not have been received well even in their own, at least older, constituencies,” he said. “I started reporting on that, and it created a great deal of tumult within that group, even while I was there.”
“Everything I said was true, and everything I said was accurate, but it was very spiritually dangerous to me because as people started saying, ‘You’re lying, This isn’t true,’ I knew what I was saying was true, but it became an issue where I was on a mission to accuse,” he said.
“There came a point when I found myself, as I would discover these theological aberrations, taking delight in ‘Aha, I’ve caught you in this,’ in a way that I had to step back and say, ‘Satan is able to accuse and to condemn and to do so accurately.’
“When we see Satan taking the law of God, accurately diagnosing what it means and accusing with it, he is coming to kill and destroy. What was happening to me was I wanted to win. My issue was I wanted to vindicate myself, and I wanted to be right.”
“That was a very spiritually dangerous place for me,” Moore said. “And I think, to some degree or other, that’s a temptation that falls to every Christian that we don’t see present in the life of Christ. Jesus is very concerned about truth. He’s very concerned about speaking the whole counsel of God. He’s just not very concerned about vindicating himself.”
“He’s quite willing to be accused of all sorts of things, and when he stands before Pilate he isn’t outraged, he has this very provocative tranquility,” Moore said.
Moore said these days he is spending the bulk of his time at the ERLC’s Washington office and away from his wife and five sons in Nashville, Tenn.
“There are some people’s marriages in which it would not be a good idea to travel, even a little bit,” he said. “In our marriage, the way we relate to one another, we’re able to maintain a close, intimate relationship and find ways to do this. And also with the children, what does that look like? I typically will take one of my sons with me when I’m on a short trip. I won’t take them on something that’s going to be long and laborious and boring.”
Moore also discussed differences between his agency and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, a coalition that the SBC once belonged to but left in 1991 over differences between SBC leaders and then BJC head James Dunn, whom Dever volunteered once sang in the choir at the church he now pastors, Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington.
“They were really out of step with where Southern Baptists are,” Moore said, “because they have a definition of church and state” that differs from the one used by the ERLC.
Moore said of the term separation of church and state: “It’s a good, conservative phrase, and it’s one that we ought to reclaim because we do believe in separation of church and state.”
“Separation of church and state is something clearly revealed in Scripture when Jesus says render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and the things unto God that belong to God,” Moore said. “But in recent years there’s been a definition of separation of church and state that really is equated with secularism, and secularization, in ways that are problematic.”
Moore said he agrees with the BJC that public school teachers should not be allowed to lead their students in prayer, but takes the opposite side on a case currently before the Supreme Court about whether clergy-led prayers in town council meetings are constitutional.
“I think my predecessor Richard Land was right when he said one of the biggest differences that organization and our organization would have is in seeing where the threat is now,” Moore said. “I would see the threat right now mostly in terms of compromising free exercise. They would see it mostly in terms of establishment.”