Now that Christianity is strange to the larger American culture, Christians have an opportunity to reclaim the freakishness of the Gospel message, Russell Moore writes in his new book, Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel.
“As American culture changes, the scandal of Christianity is increasingly right up front, exactly where it was in the first century. The shaking of American culture will get us back to the question Jesus asked his disciples at Caesarea Philippi: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ As the Bible Belt recedes, those left standing up for Jesus will be those who, like Simon Peter of old, know how to answer that question.
Once Christianity is no longer seen as part and parcel of patriotism, the church must offer more than ‘What would Jesus do?’ moralism and the ‘I vote values’ populism to which we’ve grown accustomed. Good,” wrote Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in Chapter two.
In a Wednesday phone interview with The Christian Post, Moore explained that the Church in America can thrive, as the Church always has, when it is seen as abnormal or counter-cultural.
He also reflected on the events of the last month, which saw the murder of Christians in a South Carolina church service and the imposition of gay marriage on all 50 states by the U.S. Supreme Court. This time is “a crucial moment for the Church’s witness right now,” Moore said.
In part two of the interview, Moore explains why reminding himself daily, the next Billy Graham could be drunk right now, helps his cultural engagement.
Onward will be released on Aug. 1 and is available for pre-order.
Here is the lightly edited transcript of part one of that interview:
CP: June was an eventful Month for the Church in America. You had the racist shooting at Charleston Emanuel AME, followed by the Confederate flag debate and the incredible public witness of the families of those slain. That was followed by a Supreme Court gay marriage decision and Christians who opposed the decision were described by some as hateful bigots. And now we’re hearing about churches being set on fire by an arsonist. Have you had a chance to reflect on what these events tell you about the state of the Church in America today?
Moore: The events of this summer remind us of our responsibility to bear witness. Which means not only to do things but to explain to the world around us why we are doing them.
I think we see both in the redefining of family norms and in the ongoing racial tension around us, the Church has to speak for the future. And the future is not the abstract “right side of history” of sexual liberationists, the future is the kingdom of God. So we have to be informed about the kingdom of God and we have to live that out within our own congregations.
And I think we saw a great deal of that witness in the response of the families [of those slain at Charleston Emanuel AME].
One of the greatest joys I’ve had in this job is explaining to secular journalists and politicians why those families would react the way they did, to talk about forgiveness and in that to talk about the Gospel, how in a Christian view of reality forgiveness doesn’t mean doing away with justice, but that Christians believe in justice both in terms of the state and also, ultimately, in terms of the judgment seat of Christ, that forgiveness means Romans 12, giving place to the vengeance of God.
I think it’s a crucial moment for the Church’s witness right now.
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SOURCE: The Christian Post