Russell Moore to Justice Conference: Don’t be Silent on Unborn, Sexuality, and Hell

on June 5, 2016

You might say a Baptist dropped a bomb on the Justice Conference in Chicago on June 4. The annual gathering of young evangelicals is described as “one of the largest international gatherings on social and biblical justice” and is a project of World Relief. The Justice Conference customarily invites members of the Christian Left to Champion issues related to social justice. For example, last year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Cornel West, liberal political activist and Union Theological Seminary professor. So it’s a bit surprising that this year, wedged on the schedule between Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, was Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

During his twenty-eight minute discussion, Moore boldly laid out what it looks like to be a Gospel-centered social justice warrior. He tackled issues ranging from racial injustice, human trafficking, and refugees. But it was his mention of the sanctity of unborn life, sexual ethics, and the reality of Hell that had some in the room squirming uncomfortably in their seats.

Too often, Moore said, Christians are tempted to solely focus on the social issues that their peers or “tribe” approve. “When I’m speaking to people in my tribe of conservative confessional evangelicalism,” explained Moore, “I often have to say you are pro-life, and rightly so, but because you recognize the image of God and the humanity of God in the unborn child and in his or her mother, you must also recognize the humanity and dignity of God in people who might not be politically popular with you right now: with prisoners, with refugees, with immigrants. And that works the other way too.”

The bulk of Moore’s discussion urged his audience to recognize the dehumanizing of the unborn as equally unjust as the dehumanizing of other vulnerable groups more popular among younger Christians. “There are other justice-oriented Evangelicals who sometimes are very willing to speak out, rightly so on these issues of trafficking and racial injustice, but who are afraid to speak up on the issue of abortion…”

“If we are unwilling to speak to what is happening not only in our country but around the world with the dehumanizing of children because they are hidden with the wounding that takes place with women and men and societies by an industry that promises people an easy fix,” said Moore. “Then we will empower injustice and we will also signal to the rest of the world if you can just get the oppressed small enough and hidden enough and politically powerless enough, we will have nothing to say.

Moore’s comments were indeed a change in tone for the Justice Conference. Last year, evil was discussed largely in terms of white supremacy. But Moore pointed out that evil also looks like America’s abortion giant, Planned Parenthood. He encouraged his young listeners “to be the people to stand up to Planned Parenthood and say there are no unloved women and there are no unwanted children” and to recognize women in crisis are being sold “a violent so-called solution to their problem and they’re being told that all of this will happen in anonymity and with no consequences as an industry works to create both a supply and demand for this violent act.”

Apart from the sanctity of life, Moore briefly touched on Christian sexual ethics. He noted some Evangelicals are “afraid to speak up on a biblical view of issues of human sexuality because they’re afraid that somehow that means they will be associated with people in polyester somewhere that they don’t want to be like. How cowardly.”

After this particular comment came an audible “wow” from somewhere on the other side of the sanctuary.  Among the chatty youth group I had been sitting among all morning, there was a moment of shocked silence. Then came snarky murmurs soon afterwards.

Undeterred by my youth group friends’ murmurs, Moore continued, “If we are silent about what the Scriptures and 2,000 years of Church history has taught us about human sexuality and what it means to be right with God and what it means for children to grow up with both a mother and a father, if we are silent at any of those points then we’re really not the justice people, we’re really not Gospel people. We’re just people who are protecting our platforms and we’re just choosing on which one to stand.”

Next, Moore stressed that faithful Christians cannot neglect the reality of Hell. “There is a great valley that separates the just from the unjust and the basis for that separation is the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “We cannot be people who are concerned about Justice if we are embarrassed about the doctrine of Hell. If you are embarrassed about the doctrine of Hell because it reminds you of some uneducated backwoods preacher in your town, what you’re embarrassed of is not him. What you’re embarrassed about is Jesus Himself…”

In conclusion, Moore urged the young Christians to see the humanity “in those powerless faces are on the other side of prison bars, or on the other side of a refugee camp, or on the other side of the sonogram” and not be embarrassed by the totality of the Gospel, because after all, he said, “What we have to give is the Good News.”

  1. Comment by Leo Chappelle on June 5, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    The pressure on evangelicals and other socially conservative thinkers to reorder their values and their sense of the offense of the Gospel will only increase. The struggle for justice for the unborn will continue as long as abortion continues. The redefinition of marriage will not stand or else the cultures that spawned it will not stand. Assisted suicide and euthanasia are developing fronts in the war against truth and life. It is the commission of evangelicals to connect the 21st century to the truth of life in Christ. Russell Moore shows us how to do that.

  2. Comment by Joy Strube on June 6, 2016 at 12:05 am

    So appreciate his courage to give an unpopular dose of truth, and I appreciate this wonderful summary/review.

  3. Comment by upload on June 6, 2016 at 10:43 am

    The political ideology of the Christian left seems sometimes to be more important than the truth of Scripture. The Bible means what it says. Period. Not about some things, but about all things. When you shrug and cringe at one thing you don’t happen to like in the Bible, then you will eventually shrug and cringe at it all.

  4. Comment by Pudentiana on June 6, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    The clarity of Dr. Moore’s remarks is like a cool fountain on a hot cloudy day. Thanks be to God for the Truth which will always will out. Thanks be to God for Dr. Moore and all who stand with Christ at the Crossroads of this Culture offering a path to LIFE.

  5. Comment by Untwisted Truth on June 6, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Well written, articulate, real.

  6. Comment by Namyriah on June 6, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    sozo apo ho houtos skolios genea – escape from this perverse generation. Acts 2:40
    Somehow the religious left – and, increasingly, self-styled “evangelicals” as well – seem to think that Peter was preaching “embrace this sick generation and tell it how healthy it is.”

  7. Comment by LynnW on June 7, 2016 at 10:21 am

    I appreciate Dr. Moore so much. It is not easy to be where he is because he gets it from both sides (the left and the far right). Yet he carries the mantle for the Gospel so well. When did we decide that only parts of the Bible mattered? I am thankful that he talks about racial reconciliation and immigration as well as the unborn and traditional marriage. Sometimes I think people spend too much time reading the popular authors of the day like Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Vines, who are too willing to cede to wishy/washy scholarship, and not enough reading scholars like NT Wright and Scot McKnight or even Tim Keller whose years of study should give us pause to rethink our descent into a secular worldview as opposed to a spiritual one. People shortchange themselves when they do not see God’s redemption as given to us through scripture as a whole story nor when they refuse to take Scriptural authority seriously. (I have been amazed at some of the things I’ve read lately about the Bible–goodness, why call oneself a Christian at all if you say, “Oh, God didn’t really mean that; that’s just some old guy’s interpretation.” I guess we will just skip 2 Timothy 3:16.) Yes, I agree we have not always been as loving as we ought and we have a ways to go, but neither can we forget the call to holiness. It is both grace AND truth, not one or the other.

  8. Comment by Nat Alee on June 8, 2016 at 8:13 am

    I’m surprised Moore was invited at all, so I’m really glad he showed up and spoke Truth to people who were expecting only to hear what they wanted to hear.

    Good for him.

  9. Comment by BaronHardup on June 8, 2016 at 10:53 am

    What I don’t understand is how people can go to a book of ancient stories, parables and histories and use it as a sign post on any number of complex issues. We don’t use the bible to help us know about brain surgery or rocket science so why do we go to it for advice on human sexuality or family planning. And apart from what it says in this old book, from where else do you obtain objective information about ‘hell’? Precisely nowhere.

  10. Comment by Brad F on June 8, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    No one taking the bait, pobrecita?

  11. Comment by on June 8, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Well you obviously have all of the answers we need, ’cause you’re so darn smart. Tell me, is it hard carrying utopia around in your skull?

  12. Comment by Joan Watson on June 8, 2016 at 11:59 pm

    If you have not experienced the saving grace of God then, like the Bible says, this is all foolishness to you!

  13. Comment by Chester Beatty on June 16, 2016 at 11:53 am

    You are confusing advances in technology with advances in morality. The moral condition of the world today is very little improved from where it was in the NT. The moral imperatives in Scripture are there to enable us to live a balanced, healthy and whole life that in many instances will conflict with the humanistic narrative prevalent today.

  14. Comment by ER1975 on June 16, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Generally agree, but would clarify as follows: Overall, ethical conditions have improved greatly in almost every way since the 1st century–e.g., condemnation of slavery, potlitical freedom, treatment of women, health care, education, etc–and precisely because of the influence of Biblical Christianity (see “How Christianity Changed the World” by Alvin Schmidt). But human nature hasn’t changed one bit, and that’s where our problems lie.

    What BaronHardup fails to understand is that morality and ethics requires an absolute reference point. Christians understand the Bible to be relevant because it is the means by which the Creator has revealed truth to mankind–truth which has not changed, but which is also not exhaustive (i.e., it doesn’t address matters like brain surgery or rocket science). Remove the Creator as an absolute reference point to define right and wrong, and we are left with no defensible basis for morality and ethics. Then “might makes right” is just as viable–indeed, probably more so–than “love your neighbor.”

  15. Comment by Chester Beatty on June 16, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Well stated and I agree however even with the improvements you list we have killed more people in wars and skirmishes in the twentieth century than all centuries combined up to that point.

  16. Comment by OgtheDim on June 10, 2016 at 11:33 am

    “We’re just people who are protecting our platforms”




    We believe in what we believe cause we think its actually what God wants.

    Somebody telling us we are doing so to protect positions on a platform is somebody who is protecting their platform rather then listening.

  17. Comment by MikeL on June 17, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    You think its what God actually wants, but is it? It is not about how we “feel” or “think” on particular moral issues, on which God is clear, thus putting words into God’s mouth and making us the authority. It is about what God says in His Word. Do you or do you not believe the the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God? Do you believe God is the Authority on all things? Nowhere in the Scriptures does God ever affirm sin. It would take away Christ’s Authority to solely cover the sin and redeem the sinner. Yet I hear “Christians” affirming sin all the time, then doing mental backflips to reconcile what they think is right with what God clearly says is wrong. And with the doctrine and reality of hell, which Christ talked about in length, Christians are not doing anybody ANY favors by affirming sin.

  18. Comment by Jeff Ludwig on June 17, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    As usual Dr. Moore is a bold champion for the cause of Christ. I always enjoy reading his speeches and articles. I wish I could express myself as well. Further, once I sent him my testimony and he published it anonymously as, in it, I testified that I had helped a young woman to go to Washington DC to have an abortion. Later, by the grace and mercy of our wonderful Lord and Savior, I was saved, and forgiven for this terrible activity. Plus, I had not been a good son, and didn’t even go to my mother’s funeral not unlike the “existential hero” (he was no hero) Meursault in Camus’ novel The Stranger, who didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral. This was to show that Meursault was an existential hero — he did not have so-called “bourgeois, Judeo-Christian values” but he was authentically expressing his “freedom” (sic) in a vacuous world. Yes, heartless but authentic. Once I came to Christ, I saw that character not as a hero, but as a sinner needing salvation and the Word made flesh, the same as I. His conscience was seared; but the Lord can raise anyone dead in their transgressions and sins just as he raised me. Have you been going to church regularly, hearing the preaching, believing in Christ, but remain untouched in your spirit, your very being, accepting yet not quickened by His effectual call? Then, I implore you, come to Jesus today. Surrender unto him. Enter into the new life in Christ. Seek His eternal glory not your own satisfactions supposedly within a Christian context. Seek to satisfy and glorify Him within the context of eternal life with Christ. Amen.

  19. Comment by Josh on June 26, 2017 at 9:22 pm

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