— Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 —
Guest post by Baptist Press
Russell Moore has been elected as the next president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
The ERLC’s board of trustees approved Moore, currently dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a special, called meeting Tuesday (March 26) at a Nashville hotel.
Moore, 41, a native of Biloxi, Miss., will be the eighth president of the entity charged by Southern Baptists with addressing moral and religious freedom issues. With a background in government, the pastorate and seminary training, he already is well-known as a commentator from a Southern Baptist and evangelical Christian perspective on ethics, theology and the culture.
“I am honored and humbled to be asked to serve Southern Baptists as ERLC president,” Moore said. “I pray for God’s grace to lead the ERLC to be a catalyst to connect the agenda of the kingdom of Christ to the cultures of local congregations for the sake of the mission of the Gospel in the world.”
Moore’s election means he will be only the second ERLC president in the last quarter of a century. He will succeed Richard Land, who will retire upon the completion of 25 years leading the entity.
“I am delighted that the Holy Spirit has led the ERLC’s trustees to Dr. Russell Moore as the commission’s next president,” Land said. “Dr. Moore is a godly Christian minister, a devoted husband and father, and a convictional, committed Baptist. His excellent academic preparation, combined with his keen mind and his tender heart for God and His people, make him a person uniquely suited to serve our Savior and Southern Baptists in this crucial role at such a critical moment in our nation’s history.
“I join the trustees and ERLC staff in committing to pray for Russell and his dear family as he prepares to assume the tremendous responsibilities of the ERLC presidency,” Land said.
Moore will begin his new responsibilities June 1. At that time, Land will become the entity’s president emeritus, an honor bestowed on him by trustees in September.
The ERLC trustees’ seven-person presidential search committee, chaired by Barry Creamer of Criswell College in Dallas, recommended Moore to the full board after a seven-month process.
“After praying, planning, meeting and working for months to find the man we believe God would have lead the ERLC, we are blessed by the board’s election of Russell Moore today and confident that God will use his message to impact churches and the public marketplace of ideas for what is right, true and desperately needed today,” said Creamer, Criswell’s vice president of academic affairs.
Moore has served since 2004 as dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He joined the faculty in 2001 as professor of Christian theology and ethics and continues in that role.
He was preaching pastor at a campus of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville from 2008-12. While a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Moore was associate pastor at Bay Vista Baptist Church in Biloxi, Miss.
Before attending seminary, Moore served for four years as an aide to pro-life Democratic Congressman Gene Taylor of Mississippi.
Moore and his wife Maria are the parents of five sons.
Moore is a leading voice in the growing pro-adoption movement among evangelicals. His 2009 book — “Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches” — has played a significant role in that cause and he is a frequent speaker at adoption conferences.
On his blog, in written commentaries, in speeches and in news media interviews, Moore comments frequently on a range of issues and the Christian Gospel’s impact on them. These include abortion and other sanctity of life matters, race relations, marriage, pornography, politics and popular culture.
Government, academic and church leaders applauded Moore’s selection in written statements.
“His presence of mind and keen insights as a theologian and pastor are such that his work has not only benefited me personally, but many who serve our nation in public life,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican. “I have never read anything by Russell Moore that did not leave me with a strong impression that this was a man who could speak carefully and powerfully to the public square.”
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said, “He will provide a public voice Southern Baptists will follow and the secular world will respect. … The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will greatly miss him, as will I, but we congratulate Southern Baptists on the wisdom of their choice. Russell Moore was made for this position of leadership, and for this hour.”
SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, whose Ph.D. is in ethics, said, “Welcome, Dr. Moore to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. As an ethicist myself, I am always concerned about this particular area of our ministry. I am delighted that someone with Dr. Moore’s cultural awareness and concern for God’s people has been appointed to such a post for such a time as this. I encourage all Southern Baptists to pray for him during this time of transition, for the need has never been greater.”
Popular author and Southern California mega-church pastor Rick Warren said he “can think of no one more qualified in experience, in temperament, in passion, and in doctrine to represent us as Southern Baptists on the most critical ethical issues of our day, and on the all-important issue” of religious freedom.
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Moore “has uniquely prepared himself spiritually, theologically, academically, and politically for just such a moment as this. Placing a leader with the right convictions, a razor-sharp mind, and a moral compass that will not fail paints a bright picture for Southern Baptists’ future.”
In addition to his book on adoption, Moore has written two other books, “Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ” and “The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective.” He has three other books scheduled to be published, including one on marriage and one on abortion. Moore also has edited and contributed to other books.
He has served four times on the Resolutions Committee at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, including as chairman in 2010.
Land, who was 41 when he became head of the entity in 1988, led the transformation of the ERLC during the convention’s theological resurgence, moving the commission in a more conservative direction on such issues as abortion. He announced his retirement as ERLC president in July 2012.
In addition to Creamer, other ERLC trustees on the presidential search committee — all members of Southern Baptist churches — were Kenda Bartlett, executive director of Concerned Women for America in Washington, D.C.; Kenneth Barbic, a lobbyist with the Western Growers Association in Washington, D.C.; Lynne Fruechting, a pediatrician in Newton, Kan.; Ray Newman, executive director of Georgia Citizens Action Project in Atlanta; and Bernard Snowden, family life pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Bowie, Md. ERLC trustee chairman Richard Piles, who appointed the search committee, was an ex officio member. Piles is pastor of First Baptist Church in Camden, Ark.
In addition to its Nashville office, the ERLC has an office in Washington, D.C.
More information on Moore, including a full list of endorsements, is available at http://erlc.com/moorepresskit.
— Monday, March 25th, 2013 —
Is reading fiction a waste of time?
I’ve found that most people who tell me that fiction is a waste of time are folks who seem to hold to a kind of sola cerebra vision of the Christian life that just doesn’t square with the Bible. The Bible doesn’t simply address man as a cognitive process but as a complex image-bearer who recognizes truth not only through categorizing syllogisms but through imagination, beauty, wonder, awe. Fiction helps to shape and hone what Russell Kirk called the moral imagination.
My friend David Mills, now executive editor at First Things, wrote a brilliant article in Touchstone several years ago about the role of stories in shaping the moral imagination of children. As he pointed out, moral instruction is not simply about knowing factually what’s right and wrong (though that’s part of it); it’s about learning to feel affection toward certain virtues and revulsion toward others. A child learns to sympathize with the heroism of Jack the Giant Killer, to be repelled by the cruelty of Cinderella’s sisters and so on.
— Monday, March 11th, 2013 —
Usually questions here are submitted by readers, but this time the question was posed by a journalist. In the March issue of Christianity today, Ruth Moon asked several of us to weigh in on a court case in Iowa in which a Christian dentist was found to be within his rights to fire his female hygienist because he feared he was too attracted to her and might be tempted to have an affair with her. The magazine asked whether this action was right.
You can read my response here, and weigh it along with the others. I said “no,” that I didn’t think firing her was the right way to go. I wanted here to give a fuller sense of why I think the way I do. I believe the issue is bigger than the particulars of this court case.
— Tuesday, March 5th, 2013 —
Jack the Giant-Killer has been with me as long as I can remember. As a very young child, I had a storybook of the old English legends of the Cornish youth’s adventures. And I’ve read the same book to my own children. Jack now has his turn at the silver screen, with the film “Jack the Giant-Slayer,” in theaters now. I saw it, and was disappointed. Here’s why.
The movie is set up to appeal to adventure-seeking children (and their parents): lots of action, scary giant creatures, death-defying leaps into the air, even a fairy-tale romance between a princess and a scrappy up-from-nothing farm-boy. The movie retains the scrappy little guy versus the behemoth narrative, with its “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” lesson, so often associated with David the biblical giant-killer.
But the movie misses, I think, the element that made the old stories so compelling in the first place. The movie obscures the way Jack, in the old stories, usually defeated the giants: not just with grit and luck and determination, but with trickery.
— Monday, February 25th, 2013 —
February 26 would be Johnny Cash’s 81st birthday. Unlike many celebrities whose name dies out with the obituaries of their fan base, Cash continues to matter. And I think it matters that we understand why.
Cash remained—to the day of his death—a subject of almost morbid curiosity for a youth culture that knows nothing of “I Walk the Line.” At the 2003 awards show, 22-year-old pop sensation Justin Timberlake, beating Cash for the video award, demanded a recount. Why would twenty-something hedonists revere an old Baptist country singer from Arkansas?
In one sense, the Cash mystique was nothing new. For the whole length of his career, onlookers wondered what made him different from the rest of the Hollywood/Nashville celebrity axis. Much of it had to do with the “man in black” caricature he cultivated. Cash joked that fans would often say to him, “My father was in prison with you.” Of course, Cash never served any serious jail time at all, but he could never shake the image of a hardened criminal on the mend. People really seemed to think that he had “shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.”
— Thursday, February 21st, 2013 —
I have long suspected that many Christians dread not just death but heaven. We won’t admit that, of course. Our hymnody, of whatever era, is filled with songs about the joy of the afterlife, and “what a day of rejoicing that will be.” We’re glad we’re not going to hell or to oblivion. But most of our songs and sermon mentions are about that first few moments in heaven: when we see Jesus, when we’re reunited with our loved ones, and so on. It’s like the happy ending of the story. And that’s the problem.
The gospel tells us that Satan keeps unbelievers bound by fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15). Believers, too often, dread death also, though not as much from fear as from boredom. We see the story of our lives as encompassing this span of seventy or eighty or a hundred years. The life to come is our “great reward” in “the afterlife.”
— Friday, February 15th, 2013 —
There’s a certain sort of personality that is enlivened by the thought that we’re all doomed. You can here this from almost every vantage point in contemporary life. Dystopian novels and movies gain audiences because people really fear that we’re just this side of apocalypse now.
The same sort of pessimistic vision often shows up in the preaching and teaching of the church. Cultural progressives claim the arc of history is on their side, moving toward sexual revolution, family redefinition, and so on. Christians sometimes speak as though we believe them, that the future is dark and scary. This is why our narrative about the world around us is that it’s slouching toward Gomorrah.
I think the biblical vision is more complicated, and brighter, than that.
On this week’s episode of “The Cross and the Jukebox,” we’ll listen to Merle Haggard’s ask “Are the Good Times Really Over for Good?”. As we do, we’ll ask why people want to answer pessimism with nostalgia and whether there’s another, better, way for the people of Christ.
— Monday, February 11th, 2013 —
With Pope Benedict XVI’s shocking resignation this morning, evangelical Christians might be tempted to see this the way a college football fan might view the departure of his rival team’s head coach. But the global stakes are much, much higher. As Pope Benedict steps down, I think it’s important for us to recognize the legacy of the last two bishops of Rome that we ought to honor and conserve: an emphasis on human dignity.
As a Baptist Christian, I disagree with Rome on many things, of course, and some of those things relate to the nature of the Petrine ministry, the relationship of the Bishop of Rome to the rest of the church, the merging of civil and ecclesial power, and so on. It might surprise previous generations of Protestants, though, that one of the primary emphases of the Vatican in the last generation has been on the dignity and liberty of the human person.
— Friday, February 8th, 2013 —
Last night my wife Maria and I went to hear one of favorite artists, Iris Dement, who was here in Louisville in concert. Even if you’ve never heard of Iris, you’ve probably heard her. If you saw the movie True Grit a couple of years ago you would have heard her singing a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”
Dement describes herself as an agnostic, but she grew up in a Pentecostal Christian home in Arkansas. Her mother, a believing Christian, seems to shape her art to this day, which is why there are so many songs in her repertoire about Mom, and about God.
One of my favorite of her songs is the one we’ll listen to today, called “Let the Mystery Be.” Don’t be fooled by the lyrics. While it sounds like, simply, a relativist’s plea for dogmatic Christians to abandon their certainties and leave her alone, I think there’s more here. Let’s listen to Iris Dement, and then talk about what it means to live a life story that is, to us, a mystery.
— Sunday, February 3rd, 2013 —
As the nation marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rosa Parks, we should avoid the temptation to see her as merely a historical figure, a heroine of the past. It would be easy to do so. After all, no city in America segregates its public transportation system by skin color, not even Montgomery, the capital of the old Confederacy, where Mrs. Parks famously refused to give up her seat to accommodate Jim Crow. Even so, Rosa Parks’ example is about the future as much as the past.
First of all, the memory of Rosa Parks ought to remind us that she didn’t live in what we refer to as “the civil rights era,” as though racial justice was achieved and can now be ignored. True, the awful state oppression against African-Americans, both north and south, was knocked down with legislative triumphs in areas of public accommodations, employment non-discrimination, and voting rights. Thank God. But racial reconciliation is never a finished project, at least not between Eden and Armageddon.
Beyond that, Christians especially ought to reflect on what Rosa Parks’ civil disobedience reminds us about our life together in society.