Evangelicals must proclaim the Christian sexual ethic and the ‘Whole Gospel’ to an increasingly confused culture, Southern Baptist lead ethicist Russell D. Moore told pastors and others during a three-day leadership summit.
The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said fulfilling their God-given commission means Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians must truthfully address the deception foisted upon people by the devil and his demonic forces.
“[I]f we tell the culture around us what we think they want to hear or if we practice the sort of selective universalism that tells them what they want to hear only as it relates to sexuality, we will not breed evangelism,” Moore said April 22. “We will breed cynicism from a group of people who will say, ‘If we cannot trust you to tell us the truth about your gospel, then how can we trust you to tell us how to be resurrected from the dead.’“
Moore delivered one of the keynote addresses during the first ERLC Leadership Summit, which addressed the topic “The Gospel and Human Sexuality” April 21-23 in Nashville.
The way to address Americans “is not by more culture-war posturing but by a Christ-shaped counter-revolution that takes seriously what the Bible speaks about sexuality, about marriage, about human dignity and focuses that upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Moore said.
Photo by Kent Harville
Phillip Bethancourt, ERLC executive vice president (left), and ERLC President Russell Moore discuss ethics, culture, and the public square during a question-and-answer session of the ERLC Leadership Summit April 21-23.
He acknowledged the Christian view of sexuality in a sexualized culture not only will appear strange but may, in many cases, “seem even subversive to the people around us.”
“What I think we ought to commit to do as the people of God is not to run away from the strangeness of Christianity but to reclaim the strangeness of Christianity as it is found and focused on a crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ,” Moore said.
In too many of their circles for too long, evangelicals have had an “almost gospel” or a “discount-store prosperity gospel,” he told the pastors and other church leaders.
“[W]hen we are calling people to a Christian sexual ethic, if we have spent all of our time preaching a gospel that fulfills all the expectations that you already have of what it means to live your normal life – your best life now with heaven at the end of it – then of course it seems nonsensical” to tell those called to singleness the path to celibacy is difficult, to tell people they must fight against temptation, to tell spouses their marriage should not be ended when it becomes demanding, to tell Christians their lives are going to be ones of spiritual warfare, Moore said.
“The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not pretend that the path to sexual purity is easy,” he said. “The gospel of Jesus Christ says that the entire life of the Christian is one of bearing a cross, which is why we need the entire body of Christ … so that the stronger will bear up the weaker,” he told the audience.
Everyone needs “not an almost gospel but a whole gospel that speaks to us truthfully of God’s justice and truthfully of God’s justification to understand and to know the joy of what it means to follow and to walk after Jesus, which means sometimes that we walk in places that don’t seem to make sense…,” Moore said.
An “almost gospel is no match for the sexual revolution,” he said.
Among problems Moore cited as marking America’s sexualized culture are pornography, divorce, abortion, child abuse, the objectification of young women and challenges to the concepts of love, fidelity and family.
With Luke 3:2-22 as his text, Moore said the mission of John the Baptist, described in the passage, is the same as the mission of the church – “to point and say, ‘Behold the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.’“
God designed the human sex drive to be powerful so a man “will leave his father and mother, cleave to his wife, and they will become one flesh,” he said.
In the one-flesh union of a man and a woman, God “is showcasing, He is picturing, He is demonstrating the union of Christ and His church,” Moore said, adding, “That is not just a relationship. It’s a gospel tract. It’s an invitation hymn.”
Evangelicals must not only address the deceptions of the devil but his accusations, Moore said.
“You and I are living in a world full of sexual brokenness in which the devil is saying to people all around us, ‘I know who you are. I know what you’ve done,’“ he said. Many people inside and outside the church, he added, are hiding from the voice of God because of the devil’s accusation.
The call for people to be reconciled to God should be done with not only the message of Jesus but in the way He did it, Moore told the audience.
Speaking prophetically means doing so “in a way that opposes the devil without acting like the devil,” he said. “It is easy to demonize opponents. It is difficult to oppose demons.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Baptist Press’ Washington Bureau chief.)