Monday, November 14, 2016

JUST WHO DOES RUSSELL MOORE REPRESENT? IT IS TIME FOR SOUTHERN BAPTISTS TO SHOW MOORE, THE DOOR?


America’s recent election not only revealed a magnified crevice between two sociopolitical groups, the first being the producer/nationalist class and the second being the dependent/globalist class, but it also manifested a long minimized but very real partition between the aristocratic theological intelligentsia Evangelical ruling class and the pedestrian Evangelical laity class. One of the major personalities among these Evangelical elites has been Southern Baptist, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. And to this, Southern Baptists in general, should be gravely concerned.

Mr. Moore demonstratively made it his mission during this past election cycle to relentlessly campaign against Donald Trump on what he generally tracked as moral disdain which allegedly forced Moore to pronounce political anathema against Trump but it did not stop there. His implication was against Southern Baptists and more widely, orthodox Evangelicals who supported and ultimately voted for Donald Trump. To plead for Donald Trump was tantamount to voting in support of immorality, racism and misogyny hence, you must be akin to this in some way, at least this is the unapologetic manner in which he crusaded in the minds of a vast number of Southern Baptists and Evangelicals at large as I have observed.

And as I write this, I am tempted to go backwards and revisit Moore’s numerous articles in which he wrote at length about his contempt for the bellicose, immoral, unwashed and intolerable Donald Trump, a man for whom is conscience could not vote but more than that, a man against whom he sought to turn many Southern Baptist/Evangelical consciences but that didn’t happen. I don’t, however, have to turn to Moore’s past articles, I need only look to a recent post-election piece in which his full, ruinous pristine moralizing is on display.

Writing at his website and for distribution elsewhere, Moore published a piece titled, President Trump: Now What For the Church? And here are but a sample of Moore’s continued misleading and disingenuous characterizations regarding Trump and those who voted for him, yes, the 80% of Evangelicals.
Moore - The sort of conservatism that many of us had hoped for—a multiethnic, constitutionally-anchored, forward-looking conservatism—has been replaced in the Republican Party by something else.
My Response – Sorry Russell, but the very people who elected Tim Scott, one of only two black U.S. Senators, were a constituency from South Carolina that also supported Donald Trump at almost a 90% level. Further, Mr. Moore, those voters supporting Donald Trump did so because of his forward looking conservatism that had a female campaign manager who was the first woman to head a presidential battle in the general election and win, not to mention bringing Dr. Carson onto his team as a major campaign adviser and who will likely play a hearty role early in his administration. 

So excuse me, Russ, if I may and I will, who or what are you referring to when you lament that the multi-ethnic Republican party has been replaced by something else? Because it certainly isn’t Mr. Trump or his supporters. This leaves us two choice Mr. Moore, either you are incompetent and unable to see what is in front of you or simply dishonest and in either case, unfit to represent Evangelicals and certainly, the Southern Baptist Convention with all of its deplorable members.

Moore continues:
Moore - This means that conservative evangelicals are politically homeless—whether they know it or not.
My Response – Mr. Moore, you do realize that the Vice President Elect is a conservative Evangelical, right? You do realize he is second in power, correct? I almost want to use the juvenile expression, “what planet are you on because it isn’t earth?”, but I will not. 

This is simply more delusion in his mis-characterization of the administration America elected, an administration, by the way, which will follow one of the most divisive and disruptive in recent history. But the last eight years apparently do not faze Russell Moore, at least not in any manner that would cause him to mount a reasonable and expected protest. That, instead, was left to the little people he claims to represent in their ouster of leftist values for this nation while they performed the necessary dirty work in voting for Donald Trump.

Who, then, exactly does Russell Moore represent?

This introduction leads me to my main question which wonders precisely who Russell Moore represents within the Southern Baptist Convention and more broadly, Evangelicals because, as we understand by his efforts with The Gospel Coalition and beyond, the SBC is not his only desired constituency? Russell Moore certainly does not represent 80% of Evangelicals which I am going to safely surmise is also about the same percentage of Southern Baptists who voted for Trump. 

Russell Moore was not only on the wrong side of history but devoted himself to the leftist moralizing narrative of anti-Trumpers and disdain for Donald Trump's supporters, many of which were Southern Baptists. If Southern Baptists are so wrong in so large a number on such a pivotal and critical worldview, at least according to Moore, then there is an incompatibility problem the size of Godzilla before anyone within the SBC can move on with any sensible confidence in Russell Moore as a genuine representative of its members.

The Average Christian Joe and Jane

The average Christian (most people for that matter) does not aspire to capacious influence. A vast majority of the population have the goals of a good job/career, satisfying marriage, a healthy and safe life, well-loved and educated children and for Christians, of course, growing in and serving God via the gifts and opportunities given in life. And frankly, for most people, this is all they either have time for or were designed however, do not be mistaken, they are not stupid in their average pursuits.

Unfortunately, this is how I see the Russ Moore’s of the world treating their constituencies, like children who need lectured accompanied by finger-wagging about the dangers of robust alpha men and women who fight wars and like to watch the enemy die when we all should be playing nice with one another, surrendering to those who would import destructive ways to a nation to which we belong and ultimately bring collapse to the boundaries of freedom which are ours. At the expense of a nation they would posture. These are not leaders, these are religious neo-pharisites who risk your liberties and mine while their lives are assured comfort and privilege.

Why? Why do these kinds of men who are not genuine leaders and builders but lecturers and crusaders, rise up in a church they genuinely do not represent?

The answer lies in the ambition of the man or woman. People who covet influence do so because they believe they are smarter than most people. Usually these kinds of people are hyper-idealists and due to this, the political arena becomes a magnet. This, as we know, is where Moore was birthed with respect to his notability, as a Democrat. I am not claiming clairvoyance thus, ascribing these motivations to Moore but I am saying they regularly are part and parcel with the kind of position he holds. But what I am saying is that the chasm between what Moore proposes and what the majority of SBC members hold to as a worldview and theological preference, needs a great deal explaining before you can convince me Russell Moore is the result of an organic promotion by SBC members to his position, one that is ratified by natural majority support, all of which I see glaringly absent.

On the other hand, there is a group of men and women who are compelled, not by idealism but realism. They usually are reluctant but ultimately driven by truth and concrete ideals which they know must be preserved and elevated for the benefit of whatever group they see needs such shepherding. These kinds of leaders generally represent the every-day common sense of freedom-loving people, worldwide. Their instinct isn’t to lecture but to lead. They aren’t posturing critics rather, men and women with real solutions to real problems.

It is time to show Moore, the door?

Whatever Russell Moore is, he certainly does not represent 80% of Southern Baptists from what I have learned not only during this election but before its cycle, on a number of ethical and theological matters. I believe he, while possessing a higher-than average IQ, is subverted by his idealism and view that through expatiated moralism he can shame Southern Baptists into acquiescing to his brand of Christianity and politics. Throughout this entire cycle, Moore has constantly wagged his finger at Christians supporting Trump and ultimately found himself too immaculate to force upon himself the smudge of voting for Donald Trump, a thing he sought to convince the entirety of Evangelicalism to do thus, denying Trump/Pence the White House and permitting the ultimate destroyer, Hillary Clinton who was to bring with her the consummation of far-left progressivism as a way of life irreversibly forced upon America’s culture and legal system.

That is the permanent status Russell Moore sought to impose upon this country. Why? Again, I beckon to the raw premise above but for specifics, I point you to the many posturing and feathery essays Moore has available at his website from which you are to form your own conclusion. They will be there as a monumental episode of embarrassment in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention which must never be permitted to be repeated though sadly, I am not sure the lesson will have been learned fast enough.

I have no doubt that Russell Moore knows Christ and some theology and he certainly may want to see the world saved but he is unfit for leadership among Southern Baptists seeing the tremendous distance he has placed himself from the majority of its membership. He is far more fitted for a left-leaning para-church organization such as The Gospel Coalition who, via its co-founder Tim Keller, gladly embrace the social gospelism Moore has long touted in its proprietary PCA brand which which has come about over the last two decades.

Do I believe he will be forced out like he should be or that he will suddenly be seized by a conscience that is utterly embarrassed by an awakening to his self-righteous posturing which almost aided in bringing a continued but greater anti-Christian darkness to this nation, politically, in his aim to defeat Trump thus, help elect Hillary Clinton ? No, I do not think either are likely to occur, at least not real soon because of the many allies he has who hold power in the SBC.

What I do believe, however, is that many Southern Baptists, just like many Americans, who supported Trump not only will be vindicated by a robustly constitutional Christian friendly nationalist administration in Trump/Pence but as the days go by, they will have within themselves a refusal to tolerate the keyboard dictates of idealistic and over-paid philosophers like Russell Moore and a wave will rise, slowly but surely. The poison of Moore’s ideas will be much clearer as Trump/Pence succeed and people will come understand just how unfit Moore is for the position he now fills as the ethical voice of the SBC.

Monday, November 7, 2016

THEOLOGICAL REFINEMENT: ARE WE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD? ADJUSTING MY THEOLOGICAL COMPASS


For some time now I have expressed the view that in our fallen condition, the Biblical qualifier, “made in the image of God” was not rightly applicable to all men rather, that it was only true for those who were born again thus, restored spiritually. A recent theological self-audit however, has seen to a modification of that position. 

My resistance was not to the clear declaration in Genesis 1:26-27 but two-fold: 
1. My former position took into account the fall of humanity in Adam and our being the depraved generation following his spiritual death. Consequently but erroneously, I formulated that this disqualified those not born again as meeting the summation of the various criteria of being made in the image or likeness of God particularly in seeing that God is Spirit.
2. The misuse of our creation in the image of God by practitioners of leftist theology in attempting to employ our being “image bearers” as a justification for demanding a variety of social Marxist ideologies upon government in the guise of Evangelicalism such as our view of illegal-immigrants, governmental approaches toward criminal enterprise and social preferences of individuals and/or groups which are typical shamed by (pseudo) Evangelical social Marixists.
Still, with those two above, I want to articulate a better position than I have.

Are all humans created in the image of God?


The answer to this is, yes. All humans are created in the image of God. The mistake many people make, however, is failing to further inform themselves with the rest of Scripture and the reality of our fallen nature which is as the offspring of Adam, born dead in sin.

Still and to my point, after the fall in Genesis 9:6 where homicide is codified as a capital offense, God reiterates that man continues to be seen as made in his image or likeness. As well, in James 3:9 it states in referring to the tongue, “9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God.”

How is it that all humans are made in God’s image yet, born spiritually dead especially when part of being made in the image of God was Adam’s being made alive, spiritually?

This is a very good question which deserves a very good answer and the truth is, there is no place in the Bible where God directly answers this question rather, we see in various places the preeminent nature and role of mankind which is distinctive and unique in comparison to all other creatures, even angels. So the “very good answer” is one which must consider the Bible more broadly.

Let us make man in our image 

The best place to begin with understanding our creation is the original text and its auxiliary companion texts in other places. In Genesis 1:26-27 it states (NASB):
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
What is most observable from the text is how it qualifies this creation of mankind in God’s image. It is done so with emphasis or elevation of mankind being the ruler of earth. He is the administrator with lesser creatures and things at his charge. Here, then, we are clued-in regarding what the Godhead has in mind in creating humans in the image of God.

This creation, we may surmise, is with respect to man’s nature or essence. Again, I cannot point to some Biblical taxonomy of man’s essence which states that “thus and thus” are the attributes which qualify man as made in God’s image but we can note, both practically and in Scripture, man’s unique and varied essence which distinguishes him from all other life and enables him to commune with God as well as do the will of God. And in the case of this brief essay I will allude to a few things.
1. Foremost is the reality that mankind is the only creature on earth and created during human history either alive spiritually (only two qualify, Adam and Eve) or with the capacity to be enlightened by God the Holy Spirit as to the promise of the gospel and believe, be saved and then be spiritually resurrected (born again) from which he is bestowed eternal life/communion with God through which he is granted numerous spiritual assets and the opportunity to earn future eternal logistical divine wealth granted at the Bema Seat of Christ.

2. Man is also considered volitional thus, accountable to God for his decisions in life. It is only mankind who faces a judgment by God at the Great White Throne Judgment. All other creatures of planet earth do not have such a judgment. It is agreed that they are not reasonable nor volitional by the purpose of God in being created to serve mankind.

3. Man possesses eternal soul-life. When we read of the Great White Throne Judgment, we do not see animals or fish, not even plants, being thrown into what is described as the lake of fire. We only see volitional creatures which are men and angels. We all will either live with God or be separated from him in eternity via the existence of our souls which are eternal.

4. Man is a moral agent. We are capable of moral decisions, of knowing right and wrong. Animals, even the most sophisticated ones, can only be trained to respond. They cannot and do not reason as humans do. There may be some degree of animalistic reasoning, we do not know precisely how an animal considers everything but whatever they are capable of it is clear they are not accountable to God as volitional creatures in their decision making and this, by the way, is why we are permitted to kill animals for food and so forth. They are under our domain but this is not to say the Bible does not direct us toward the morality of animal care. It is not exhaustive but there are principles in Scripture which bind us.
It is our dominion and rule through these attributes given to us by God which immediately follows the declaration in Genesis 1: 26-27 of our being made in his image that gives us confidence that it is these proprietary administrative virtues/attributes which God primarily has in mind in making us in his likeness.

Can it be said then, that mankind is made in the image of God but that image is marred by sin?

It is important in understanding who we are that we know that we are both made in the image of God and fallen in our nature. I would simply state both and not attempt to reformulate the expression of our being made in God's image as having a marred image as I did in my former view. I do agree, however, that our being made in the image of God is not existentially the same as Adam and Eve in their sinless state, even after we are born again.

What about social justice causes? Isn’t the weight of mankind’s being made in the image of God robust enough to force arguments for social justice because of this?

Here is a good example of the kinds of very problematic questions which must first have errant assumptions corrected along with broadly ambiguous language clarified before being answered. What do I mean?

I mean that when we speak of “social justice” we have to have a definition. For some it means one thing and for another, something else. The truth is there are not many concrete demands God has placed on civil government during the church age. God prescribes to government that they protect its constituents, punish criminality and promote the general welfare of that nation.
  • It does not tell us who may or may not be a member of any nation.
  • It does not tell us how one nation must treat foreigners who enter illegally.
  • It does not tell us what kind of government must be formed.
  • It does not tell us who should or should not have the right to vote, if one happens to even live where voting is practiced.
  • It does not tell us to what degree we should, as a nation, consider the weaker elements of society. 
When what are commonly called social justice warriors crusade, they often do so with absolute demands and narrow views which insist that their way is the only righteous and morally acceptable way. Regularly, Evangelicals get sucked into this do-goodism scheme and allow themselves to get off-track in their understanding of Scripture and God’s plan for humanity whether via the kingdom on the left/civil government or with regard to the kingdom on the right/the spiritual kingdom.

I am not surprised to find many spiritually immature Christians easily recruited into such efforts. This is the result of human arrogance combined with theological/spiritual immaturity which the Bible calls zeal without knowledge. But even ignoring immature and arrogant believers, the world, itself, tends toward self-righteous moralizing to its own injury with respect to government and regularly they like to call upon the Bible with ill-gotten texts as their weapon of choice.

So, whenever someone mentions social justice, the Bible and the role of government, you always, always and always, need a definition of terms and then, if you are lucky enough to get that far in getting them to spit out what their assigned definitions are, you will still have to vet the meanings, themselves. In other words social justice warriors rarely will define terms for you and even when they do, they have imposed poor definitions which must be confronted and countered. Usually, if you get to this part of the process, they will get angry and leave your company because their impoverished thinking is about to be exposed.

So, is a government free from a public morality and social oversight?

If one was not paying attention they might conclude that yes, government is bound by nothing other than its own ideas. Nowhere however, has the Bible granted government a license to do as it pleases. It is clear from Peter’s epistle and the letter Paul wrote to the church in Rome that God ordains government to act as his agent in punishing criminals. 

Paul uses the term ministers, in referring to government agents which, by the way, is why government officials in some places are referred to as Prime Minister and so on. Such countries have, at some point in their history, understood left kingdom theology and practiced it or had it passed on to them (if only instinctively in a rudimentary form). These societies recognize government’s role as the instrument for civil establishment and means of punishing various kinds of threats to the well-being of a nation/state/tribe.

And to the theologically informed mind, we know that nations interested in acng as the client of God in matters of morality and justice are enhanced when they consider just what we are discussing, the nature of man and his creation in God’s image.

Such thoughtfulness by a government leads to an increase in the respect of man's dignity and the sanctity of life. Mercy is equally present with judgment in such societies.

The misuse of man’s creation in God's image

This leads me to the misuse of the reality that we have been created in God’s image. I believe in what Luther proposed and taught, that God has two realms of function intended for mankind which has come about with the annulment of the Theocracy of Israel and the inauguration of the church age. Those two realms or kingdoms are the spiritual kingdom or the kingdom on the right and human government/civil government or the kingdom on the left.

When social justice Marxists begin demanding that governments perform the duties of the spiritual kingdom by using the Bible for quasi-theocratic rule, we have a problem, a big one. Many of these crusaders will tell you they detest Christian theocracies until they wish to use the Bible as a means to justify their social action demands.

Yes, a government can and should benefit from understanding and acceptance of the truth that mankind was made in the image of God but that, in no way, suggests a prescribed or preferred social order apart from the very limited codes God has issued to society. This, however, is exactly what (pseudo) Evangelical social justice Marxists are seeking to do with their proprietary application of the image of God, doctrine.

They wish to demand entrance into a nation as an illegal immigrant based on this Biblical truth when the Scriptures, at no place, propose this necessary and moral application with the subsequent demand on governments to acquiesce or else they are in opposition to God’s Word. In fact, if this is so how is it said in Acts 17:26?

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
Conclusion

My greatest aim in writing this post was to express an adjustment to my theology and point to where my concerns still lie in its misuse.

Yes, we are all made in God’s image. Yes, we are marred, more than marred, fallen and unable in and of ourselves to reach to God and redeem ourselves and yes, while the church must be informed as to our creation, governments be should too, in developing its public policy with respect to man’s dignity and the sanctity of life.

Additionally, I reiterate, nowhere does God reformulate his revelation that we are made in his image or likeness, even after the fall rather, he simply provides more revelation for us namely, that we are fallen, born in sin and in need of spiritual resurrection through faith in the gospel.

But no, such a theological/divine reality is not carte blanche for demanding from governments all kinds of social justice/action/programs simply because you pull the “image bearers” card. That isn’t Biblical, it’s unbiblical.