An examination of Russell Moore’s position on religious liberty
Christians should embrace the US Constitution. In America, Christians have the right to exercise their inestimable privileges of faith without government interference. Is this important? Absolutely, since the Great Commission requires every born-again believer to put their faith into practice even if it is costly to do so (cf. Mark 8:34-38). Religious liberty certainly comes with a price. There have been an incalculable number of men and women who have sacrificed their lives with honor and courage, while Christ was sacrificed with His blood on the cross to provide the greatest freedom of all (cf. John 8:36). Christians should expect nothing less (cf. John 15:18-20; Mark 8:34-38).
The Constitution is invaluable to Christians: It protects the rights of Christian service members to practice their faith, and it protects their right to appeal to God’s Word alone (Sola Scriptura) for their conduct. This means that Christians can defend their faith (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15), preach the Gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4), evangelize unbelievers (cf. Matt. 28:18-20), call sinners to repentance (cf. Luke 13:3), expose false prophets (cf. Eph. 5:11), and never “accept” or “approve of” the things that God hates (cf. Prov. 6:16-19; 8:13).
Although the Constitution is a blessing, Christians must never claim that their religious freedom comes from the Constitution. On the contrary, religious liberty comes from the One True and Living God, who exists in three persons. God provided every person with inalienable rights when He created him or her in His image and imbued him or her with a living and reasonable soul. Therefore, when Christians are asked to trace the origins of their religious liberty, they should always appeal to the Triune God of the Old and New Testaments, and not the Constitution.
Russell Moore’s Position
Sadly, there will always be professing Christians who compromise their allegiance to God alone by appealing to the Constitution over Christ. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), exemplifies this behavior. Moore has been criticized for his organization’s decision to file an amicus brief on behalf of a Muslim group that has attempted to build a mosque in New Jersey. Here are a few statements from Moore that explain why he received so much criticism:
"What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody…”
"Brothers and sisters, when you have a government that says 'we can decide whether or not a house of worship can be constructed based upon the theological beliefs of that house of worship,' then there are going to be Southern Baptist churches in San Francisco and New York and throughout this country who are not going to be able to build…’"
There are several problems with Moore’s arguments that Christians need to be aware of. This article is not a personal attack against Russell Moore. Rather, this article is a theological argument that will counter Moore’s position on religious liberty so Christians can avoid being deceived by it.
A. Moore’s Position Appeals to Baptist History, and not the Holy Bible
First, Moore appeals to Baptist history, not the Holy Bible, to justify his position on religious liberty. This is a self-defeating position to hold for any Christian who claims to believe that the Bible is infallible, inerrant, and the ultimate authority. When Moore appeals to Baptist history and not the Bible to justify his argument to support Muslims to build their mosques, this should cause objective observers to wonder if the Bible is Moore’s ultimate authority. An ultimate authority is self-attesting, and does not appeal to a lesser standard, because it will cause the previously held ultimate standard to be rendered obsolete. This is why Moore needs to clarify his position as to which is more important: the Holy Bible, or Baptist history. Remember that Christ said, “Either you are with me or against me” (Matt. 12:30).
B. Moore’s Position Incites Emotions
Second, Moore appeals to emotions by inciting Southern Baptists to believe that they should support his organization’s decision to support Muslims to build mosques, and if they don’t, their missional efforts could one day be adversely affected by government interference based on theological beliefs. Again, for this reason, observers should be concerned that Moore’s foundation is analogous to the foundation of the fool who builds his house on sand and not the rock (cf. Matt. 7:26-27). There is no biblical application that will justify Moore’s position that exhorts other Southern Baptists to support Muslims’ right to deny the Trinity, and give adulation to their false god. Instead, Moore should be encouraging others to preach the Gospel to Muslims. The rewards are far greater (2 Cor. 5:17).
C. Moore’s Position is Inconsistent
To be consistent, if Moore supports the rights of Muslims to build their mosques, because Baptist history supports soul freedom for “everyone,” then he must concede that he would also have to start supporting women’s rights to kill their children (abortion), same-sex marriage, and the Westboro Baptist Church’s (WBC) practice of picketing outside of dead soldier’s funerals. This is not a reductio ad absurdum. In America, women can abort their children, same-sex marriages are being conducted, and the WBC are afforded the right to free speech: all are protected liberties. The legality of these practices in America does not make them righteous before God. It would be anti-Christian for a professing Christian to support any one of the aforementioned issues that are taking place in America. This is why Moore’s position on religious liberty is self-defeating: Moore’s support for Muslims to build mosques could easily be misconstrued as approving their right to worship a false god—which would be antithetical to his professed Christian faith—since the Bible warns us [emphasis added], “Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32).
This article is not arguing that Moore is wrong in implying that the government has no business interfering with the construction of a worship building based on the theological tenets of the worshipers. I am grateful that the government is not allowed to show partiality to one religion over another because it would be unconstitutional for the government to abridge anyone’s sincerely held beliefs. Why else am I grateful for this? The Bible does not state that “no one can come to Christ unless it is granted to him by the government.” Rather, the Bible teaches that: “…no one can come to me [Christ] unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:65). Given the fact that Christ is going to ostracize many false converts that will profess to know him (Matt. 7:21-23), Christians should not expect anyone to draw and subdue the unregenerate, except Christ (cf. Acts 4:12).
D. Moore’s Position Offers Unlettered and Disconcerting Counsel
Fourth, it appears that Moore is either naïve or unlettered about the Islamic tenets of faith when he advises his Southern Baptist brethren to support his organization’s decisions to support Muslims to build mosques. What analogy can describe the dangers of this? Plant a tree, and when it grows to at least six feet tall, tie a rope on the tallest branch, and place the rope around your neck, while your neighbor waters the tree to encourage its growth. A careful examination of the Quran will explain why this illustration makes sense.
Muslims must not take non-Muslims as friends (cf. Quran 3:28); must maim and crucify anyone who criticizes Islam (cf. Quran 5:33); must terrorize and behead those who affirm Scriptures other than the Quran (cf. Quran 8:12); must urge Muslims to fight stupid non-Muslims (cf. Quran 8:65); must kill non-Muslims when the opportunity arises (cf. Quran 9:5); must slay non-Muslims wherever they find them (cf. Quran 2:191); must make war with non-Muslims that live in their neighborhood (cf. Quran 9:123); must punish non-Muslims with garments of fire, hooked iron rods, boiling water, must melt their skin with bellies (cf. Quran 22:19), and must behead non-Muslims when they catch them (cf. Quran 47:4).
My hope is that this article will admonish Christians to attribute their sincerely held beliefs and liberties to the Triune God of Holy Scripture. Christians must avoid appealing to anything except the Bible, and must never elevate the Constitution above Christ. This is why Christians must not follow Moore’s position on religious liberty. Rather, Christians should follow the example of Christ, who preached the Gospel (Mark 1:15) and never encouraged His followers to support the rights of others to worship false gods.
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matt. 12:30).