Thursday, August 24, 2017

See That Bend Over There? Russell Moore Just Went Around It

'Bout a half-mile back on this river is where Russ Moore left
behind reasonable Biblical exegesis.
Alternate Post Title: Adventures In Eisegesis With Russell Moore.

In case you missed it, Russell Moore doesn't much care for "White supremacy". At all. In fact he dislikes it even more than he dislikes people that supported Donald Trump, and that is saying something, although it is becoming commonplace in our cultural narrative to assume that everyone that supported and/or voted for Trump is a de facto "White supremacist". For purposes of the remainder of this post, please assume scare quotes around the words "White supremacy" because I don't think most people, including and especially Dr. Moore, understand what it is and why it is different from White nationalism or ethnonationalism or just plain old nationalism.

Well Dr. Moore took to the pages of the Washington Post (Democracy Dies In Darkness! Plus Free Two Day Shipping For Amazon Prime Members!) to explain why he doesn't like White supremacy. He usually goes to the Washington Post when he has Something Serious To Say™ because what is the point of virtue signaling if the people you are trying to signal don't see it and no one Serious reads his blog. So anyway, Moore's post at the WaPo, Russell Moore: White supremacy angers Jesus, but does it anger his church?, skips over the actual issues and leaps right into histrionics. Dr. Moore says: "White supremacy makes Jesus angry.".

OK, maybe it does. But why? Well prepare to put on your eisegesis goggles cuz here we go! Dr. Moore implies that Jesus is OK with sinners, but what He really disliked is White supremacy:
The Scriptures show us two things that make Jesus visibly angry: religious hypocrisy and racial supremacist ideology.
OK on the first one, that actually shows up in the New Testament. Jesus was not angry with the Pharisees because they were too devout but because they focused on the externals and not the heart. But what about "racial supremacist ideology"? That seems a little odd since Jesus really never discussed racial supremacist ideology or even "racism" itself. So where does the good Doctor go to support His assertion that of all the sins in the world, Jesus is really only angry with hypocrisy and racial supremacy? Why to the cleansing of the temple of course!

Yeah, I don't get it either. The cleansing of the temple is a pretty well known event because it is the one time that Jesus seems to get really angry. That doesn't mean that He is soft on sin, His language about the consequences of sin at Judgment are pretty stark and frightening. But in His earthly ministry He generally didn't "raise His voice" except on this occasion. Why was He angry? Were the moneychangers wearing Klan hoods or throwing up Nazi salutes? Nope...

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:12-13)

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:15-17)

And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” (Luke 19:45-46)

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:13-17)

What Jesus was angry about was the making of the temple into a "house of commerce", people profiting from the exchanging of money. It was supposed to be a place of worship and here were people making it a house of trade for robbers. It was not even commerce itself that He objected to, it was the location. But according to Dr. Moore, what He was really mad about was the exclusion of foreigners.

In some way, those who clamored for space in the temple courts were blocking the way of those God had welcomed into his house of prayer. Jesus reclaimed the space for the God who desires all tongues and tribes and nations to worship him through Jesus Christ.

Yeah, except that is not at all what the Bible was talking about. While it was an usual event, it was a pretty clear event. The three synoptic Gospel record it almost exactly the same, with one exception where Mark mentions "...for all the nations". This is what Moore clings to as his "evidence" that the temple cleansing was a blow against "racial supremacy". Jesus is making an important point here about the perversion of the Hebraic practices in Phariseeism and in the mockery of the temple but He was not making a point about "racial supremacist ideology". He just wasn't and if He had intended to it would have at least warranted a mention in one of the four Gospels.

Moore continues down this path...

The religious leaders and those keeping the worship of God from the nations had something in common: Both were seeking to keep people away from the kingdom of God, people they didn’t feel were worthy of it. Jesus plowed through their barriers, and kept plowing, even after his resurrection from the dead. Immediately upon his enthronement in heaven, Jesus poured out his Spirit on those from nations all over the world. Seeing the multiethnic, multinational reality of these Spirit-bearing people, many were “amazed and perplexed,” asking, “What does this mean?”

According to Moore, what people were perplexed by was the "multiethnic, multinational reality" on display (the article links to Acts 2, the day of Pentecost). Was the rainbow coalition what had people "perplexed"?


What perplexed them is that the hearers were from all over the place but they heard these uneducated Galilieans speaking to them in their own tongue. They were amazed at that, not that there was a "multiethnic, multinational reality". It is absolutely dishonest to suggest that the amazement came from the diversity when the amazement is clearly stated as coming from the speaking of tongues (actual language, not gibberish) from uneducated men. It was a miracle and like many miracles in the New Testament, especially post-Resurrection, the intent was to grab attention so the apostles could preach the Gospel. In fact they were not even "multiethnic", they were all Jews:

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. (Acts 2:5)

Some were non-ethnic Jew proselytes or some appear to be Jewish exiles from the diaspora but all were Jews. That wasn't the point. The point was the miracle of the apostles speaking in a manner that men from around the world who spoke a multitude of languages hearing men speak to them in their native tongues, men who would have had no way of knowing those languages apart from a work of the Spirit. This is basic, Bible Exegesis 101, first year seminary level stuff but Dr. Moore, who should know better, plunges ahead and makes points that anyone should see don't fit, anyone except perhaps the average reader of the WaPo/Amazon.

Dr. Moore is trying to address a contemporary issue that he doesn't seem all that well-versed in and doing so not by taking broad themes from Scripture, by going to Acts 17:26 for example (although even that verse taken in context doesn't override ethno-nationalism at all, kind of the opposite), but instead by making a point from a completely unrelated passage that might seem convincing to the average Scripturally illiterate reader of the Washington Post but that ought to be completely unconvincing to someone with even a cursory understanding of the Scriptures.

Then just to make sure that you realize that White supremacy is bad, Dr. Moore goes to the hyperbole machine and it spits out this:

“Blood and soil” ethnic nationalism is not just a deviant social movement. It is the same old idolatry of the flesh, the human being seeking to deify his own flesh and blood as God. The Scripture defines this attempt at human self-exaltation with a number: 666. White supremacy does not merely attack our society (though it does) and the ideals of our nation (though it does); white supremacy attacks the image of Jesus Christ himself. White supremacy exalts the creature over the Creator, and the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against it.

So, is ethnic nationalism the mark of the beast or something? I would point out that the "ideals of our nation" include stuff like only White men being able to vote, only Whites being allowed to emigrate to America and chattel slavery being the law for the first century of our existence. Pretending that the United States was founded as a multi-racial utopia is historically ignorant. It is also worth pointing out that Russell Moore is both a member and employee of the Southern Baptist Convention. If the SBC is for anything, it is for the state of Israel. But what is the modern state of Israel? It is a modern enthnostate, a land granted to the Jews as part of the partition of Palestine to be a specific, self-governing Jewish state. Why was this place, already occupied by other people at the time of the founding of the modern state, given to the Jews instead of somewhere in Europe or North America? Because of the sacred nature of the soil and the historic ties. The Jews shed blood over the soil of Israel to protect their ethnic homeland as a home for Jews. Isn't that the very definition of "blood and soil" ethnic nationalism? Yet you won't hear Dr. Moore criticizing Jews for wanting an independent Jewish ethno-state. You can criticize White supremacy and White nationalism, which are not the same thing, but no one keeps their job in an SBC agency if they criticize Israel thanks to the goofy theology of dispensationalism that dominates the SBC and the "Israel is our closest ally and friend" nonsense. I don't begrudge the Jews for wanting an ethnic homeland but I do think it somewhat disingenuous to accuse Whites who want the same thing, rightly or wrongly, of bearing the mark of the beast.

What you end up with yet another example of Dr. Moore virtue signaling to the Important People that read the Washington Post and scolding his less enlightened fellow Southern Baptists for being insufficiently woke about White supremacy. Wrapping it all together is a criminal misuse of the Scriptures. God created His Old Covenant community as an ethnic nation-state where the most egregious violations came from intermixing (whoring after) other ethnicities. In the New Covenant Jesus Himself tore down the dividing wall between the Jew and the Gentile in the church but nowhere does it appear that He destroyed the ethnic and national distinctions between people. I am not arguing in favor of entho-nationalism, or kinism or White nationalism or anything of the kind in this post. I am just trying to make the case that if you are opposed to those things as a Christian, it is incumbent on you to show from Scripture why you are opposed and to not try to shoehorn contemporary events into historical Biblical accounts like Pentecost and the cleansing of the Temple. His case would have been better served with actual exegesis instead of frothing at the mouth invectives.

Dr. Moore heads up the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He seems awfully concerned about "racial reconcilliation" and the Trump presidency and "immigration reform", a topic I wrote about here as it relates to the ERLC, but he seems strangely silent when it comes to leftist agitators like the "antifa" and Black Lives Matter. I can say with a great deal of confidence that the organizers of the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally pose no threat to the religious liberty of Americans, of Christians and of Southern Baptists but that the antifa and others on the radical Left certainly do. As I have pointed out to others, when the Left runs out of monuments to be offended by, where do you think their attention will turn next? If you don't think that faithful Gospel preaching is in their cross-hairs, you are being willfully ignorant. Russell Moore would be serving his employers in SBC churches better by speaking out against the encroaching secular Leftist threat instead of haranguing his fellow Christians over their vote last November or a handful of White nationalists at a rally. Ever since taking over the ERLC, Dr. Moore has been veering off course and with each passing year the ERLC looks less like a ministry concerned with ethics and religious liberty and more like a way for Russ Moore to showcase himself.

I don't think editorials like this one from Dr. Moore do anyone any good. They are not going to convince any secular readers of the WaPo to consider the Gospel message or that Christians are not all wearing hoods to our worship meetings. I doubt they do much to sway Southern Baptists or Christians in general, especially for anyone who digs past the assertions of Moore and into the text. I don't see any White nationalists rending their garments in repentance because of Moore's slapdash reasoning, rather it likely reinforces their already low opinion of him. So what exactly was the point here? I don't honestly know apart from assuming it is just virtue signaling but I wish Dr. Moore would spend more time on actual threats to religious liberty instead of trying to show off how woke he is. The church faces a whole myriad of threats in this day and age but a handful of "alt-right" types marching around Confederate monuments is pretty far down the list.

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