moorerussellaToday, I have the privilege of posting an interview with Dr. Russell D. Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Moore is a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church and the author of two books, The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective and Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches. I highly recommend my readers take a look at the transcript of a sermon Dr. Moore preached in chapel in late 2008: “Joseph is a Single-Issue Evangelical“.

Trevin Wax: What kind of setbacks should pro-life citizens expect now that we have elected Barack Obama, a strong supporter of abortion on demand?

Russell Moore: Pro-life Americans can expect a radical abortion rights agenda from Barack Obama. This is not an accusation because this is precisely what President Obama promised in his campaign for the presidency.

Not only will Supreme Court Justices be strongly supportive of the legal framework behind Roe v. Wade, but President Obama and the new Congress will also support expansive funding of abortion in North America, and through foreign aid, abroad. By year’s end, we should see abortions taking place regularly on American military bases all around the world.

Trevin Wax: Statistics show that younger generations tend to be more pro-life than their parents. You have stated that this commitment to pro-life principles is more theoretical than realistic because abortion rights is now deeply embedded in our cultural ethos. Are you saying that younger generations are less committed to the pro-life cause than they think?

Russell Moore: I do not take great comfort in opinion polls stating that younger generations are more pro-life than their parents. I believe that this is largely because the abortion issue is off the table in many ways politically.

Few people realistically expect that abortion will be made illegal. So pronouncing one to be pro-life these days is more akin to a person speculating what side of the Spanish Civil War he would take rather than a person articulating a deeply-held view on a matter of current import.

Trevin Wax: Should evangelicals appeal to Scripture in their arguments against abortion when they debate in the public sphere? Or should they argue from moral and logical positions instead (e.g. Francis Beckwith)?

Russell Moore: Yes, I believe evangelicals should appeal to Scripture in their arguments against abortion. This does not mean that such arguments should be limited to biblical appeals. After all, the pro-life position on abortion rights is demonstrable from human biology, yes.

Nonetheless, there are biblical reasons why evangelicals and Roman Catholics hold to the personhood of vulnerable unborn babies. We should not be hesitant to say why we believe such things, even as we join with others of good will in articulating our opposition to the killing of the unborn.

We should gladly join hands with atheist pro-lifers such as the Village Voice journalist Nat Hentoff or with Mormon or Hindu pro-life citizens. We also should articulate that we believe this is so important precisely because we serve a King who has told us that we will be judged on the basis on how we treat the most vulnerable among us.

Trevin Wax: Should evangelicals should join hands with pro-choice politicians committed to reducing the number of abortions? In other words, is there room for us to work toward reduction of abortions instead of just working toward elimination of abortion?

Russell Moore: I do not believe at all that pro-life Christians should join hands with pro-abortion politicians speaking of “reducing the number of abortions.” This is akin to civil rights activists joining hands with pro-lynching vigilantes in the early twentieth-century America to “reduce the number of lynchings” through better funding of segregated African-American school systems.

The issue at hand is not simply the number of abortions, although that number is atrocious. The key issue is that the personhood of the unborn is denied. That cannot be ameliorated simply by more federal spending and certainly will not be reduced by “comprehensive sex education” as many of the pro-abortion activists are advocating.

Trevin Wax: Do you believe that in the next ten years evangelical commitment to the pro-life cause will increase or decrease?

Russell Moore: I believe that evangelical commitment to the pro-life cause will neither increase nor decrease because all orthodox Christians believe in the personhood of all human beings, born or unborn. This was a distinctive of the church from its earliest beginnings in the Roman Empire, attested to by extra-biblical, non-Christian sources as well as by the Scriptures themselves.

Trevin Wax: How can the typical evangelical church be committed in practical ways to the pro-life movement?

Russell Moore: Evangelical churches can be committed to the pro-life cause in the following ways:

First, we must teach our people that the Romans 13 responsibility given to the state weighs upon every citizen in a democratic republic. Those who vote for candidates who tell them up front that they are committed to denying the protection of the unborn will be held accountable at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This means that abortion, for Christians, is not a political issue or even a “moral issue.” It is a theological and spiritual issue.

This articulation though is not enough. Christian churches must, as our Lord’s brother James commanded us, care for the widows and orphans in their distress. This means that God calls Christian families to adopt unwanted children. It means also that Christian families and churches are to shelter unwed mothers and pregnant women who find themselves in a time of crisis.

There are various ways that a church may follow this calling but it is not optional for any church to obediently respond to Jesus in these ways.

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30 thoughts on “Being Pro-Life in a Culture of Death: An Interview with Russ Moore”

  1. Dr. Paul W. Foltz says:

    Amen to Dr. Moore’s comments. Obedience is not optional, it is a prerequsite with God. We must stand with God’s Word, which prohibits murder, in any form.

  2. Mason says:

    “Those who vote for candidates who tell them up front that they are committed to denying the protection of the unborn will be held accountable at the Judgment Seat of Christ.”

    Ought we vote at all then? I’m pro-life, but I don’t think the Republicans are going to truly do anything to reduce abortions, except talk about it to get votes. And in fact they endorse many things the Bible clearly speaks against, including but not limited to agressive war, taking more care of the rich than the poor, a track record of endorsing abuse of God’s creation, and a disturbing Imperialist tone in their veiw of the world. So either way we are voting for teribbly unbiblical political parties.
    No disrespect intended but the quote above feels very much like a scare tactic implying we better “get in line and vote the ‘Christian/Republican’ way” or face God’s judgment.

  3. weston says:

    Great Interview and responses Trevin!

  4. RJ says:

    Mason, I totally agree with you.
    Yes, abortion is wrong but there are other issues as well. If you want to look at innocent deaths look at the 30,000 kids a day who die from starvation and bad drinking water. This tragedy is totally preventable. Where is the Christian voice shouting for those kids. We had eight years of a VERY anti-abortion president and what did that get us? Social justice, which should be as much on the plate of every Christian as abortion, is almost totally ignored by the present Republican party. But, it very much is on the mind of our current president. I will be willing to bet that President Obama will do infinitely more to forward social justice than President Bush ever did reduce or eliminate abortion.
    And then there is the issue of what do you do with the girl who has an illegal abortion? Do we put her to death because she is a murderer?

  5. Trevin Wax says:

    RJ & Mason,

    I agree that there are other issues that need Christian concern. And it is primarily Christian activists who are bringing to attention these other needs. (So I don’t think the Christian voice is muted there.)

    But that does not minimize the atrocity of abortion on demand in this country. Russ Moore is not telling us to toe the Republican party line (at least on every issue). But on this crucial issue, what other party puts forth a consistently pro-life stance? The issue for me is not whether you are Republican or Democrat. After all, there are plenty of pro-life Democrats, MLK Jr’s niece as one example. The issue is whether or not we will stand up for the most innocent and vulnerable among us.

    The issue of what to do with a girl who has an illegal abortion is a red herring. Most laws protected vulnerable women who were conned into abortions by abortion doctors back before abortion was legal. I encourage you to look up the history of abortion in the U.S. to see how laws treated vulnerable women before Roe v. Wade. The doctors were usually prosecuted, not the women in dire straits.

    Ultimately, the issue comes down to this. Is the baby in the womb a human life? Science says yes. Therefore, why should other, more powerful humans have the right to take an innocent human life?

  6. Jason M. says:

    Mason & RJ,

    “We had eight years of a VERY anti-abortion president and what did that get us?”

    1. Two supreme court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade if given the opportunity.

    2. Prohibitions on funds overseas which would promote and encourage abortions

    3. Limitations on embryonic stem cell research. No new destruction of embyros with government funding.

    While you may be right concerning other social justice issues. You are entirely incorrect to think that Bush did not accomplish much when it comes to abortion.

  7. Mason says:

    Trevin,
    Thanks for the clarifications. You asked in your response,”why should other, more powerful humans have the right to take an innocent human life?”.

    I don’t think they should, abortion is a horrendus thing and I’m not trying to minimize that.
    I just think that in the end the political result of all this is that the Republican party acts like they care about abortion to get the Evangelical/conservitive Catholic vote, and then does nothing about it while doing all sorts of things I disagree with and not addressing social justice issues that would be easier to get support for. Such as fighting the AIDS epidemic or doing something about the fact that we in the West have more food production potential than we know what to do with while whole other swaths of the world languish in poverty and starvation.
    The unborn do have a right to life, but so do those on whom our bombs fall and those our food could feed. So it is not as cut and dried as saying one party is pro-life and the other is not if that pro-life applied to more than abortion.

  8. Dr. Paul W. Foltz says:

    Thus saith the Lord in Genesiis 9;6-”Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”
    God did not put any limitations nor specifications on this verse. Why should we/

    The girl, the doctors, the nurses, the legislators, the judges have blood on their hands.

    There is forgiveness in Christ, which sets the offenders free, for He died in their place. But if they refuse Chriist, they stand as guilty, condemned sinners.

  9. John-Michael LaRue says:

    “I do not believe at all that pro-life Christians should join hands with pro-abortion politicians speaking of “reducing the number of abortions.” This is akin to civil rights activists joining hands with pro-lynching vigilantes in the early twentieth-century America to “reduce the number of lynchings” through better funding of segregated African-American school systems.”

    Wow… up til now, I had yet to hear an evangelical speak directly regarding this ‘new’ pro-choice mantra about ‘reducing the number of abortions.’ The analogy given is right on target.

  10. RJ says:

    Trevin, I agree with what you are saying but I also totally agree with Mason’s reply. We can’t be hoodwinked by a political party who seems to have so much compassion for those yet to be born but total lack of compassion for those outside the womb.

  11. Trevin Wax says:

    Come on, RJ. The Republican Party may be throwing us a bone with regard to abortion (I readily admit). But you have to at least acknowledge a few steps in the right direction during the Bush administration.

    Also, to say that there is a “total lack of compassion” for those outside the womb is a gross exaggeration. Bush did more to stop the AIDS epidemic in Africa than any other president in history. Could the Republican Party be more compassionate? Yes.

    But I would rather support a party that is somewhat compassionate than one that has a truly “total lack of compassion” for those in the womb.

  12. Cole says:

    I think Moore might be going overboard in his comparison to the Civil Rights Movement. There is a plan in Congress right now that has anti-abortion people, from both sides of the aisle by the way, working on what they call the “90-10 plan,” which is a plan to reduce the number of abortions by 90% in the next 10 years. I think this needs our support, and the measures in the plan will I think be effective in helping reduce abortions.
    I also think many of you make a good point to address the issue of a need for social justice activism among the younger generation. Poverty is one of the biggest things that drives a woman to have an abortion if she gets pregnant, and that needs to be addressed more completely by anti-abortion advocates.
    However, I’d like to respond to Mason’s comment which read “I just think that in the end the political result of all this is that the Republican party acts like they care about abortion to get the Evangelical/conservitive Catholic vote…” While I agree, yes, people in the Republican party use the issue for political power today (something I resent, and kept me from voting in 2006), I think you need to check your history before you point fingers. Former president John F. Kennedy was the last pro-life Democrat, and a Catholic. After Roe v Wade, however, the Democrats, not the Republicans, noticed the enormous voting block that could be won if they ran on the pro-abortion issue. So, if you’re going to talk about a party using an issue to maintain power, please look on both sides of the aisle, because the Democrats do it just as much as the Republicans do if not more.

  13. RJ says:

    My, this is a lively discussion of some very important issues. I love it!
    You are right Trevin, I should not have used the word “total”; I should have left that word out but I stand by the other words in that sentence. Yes, I do admire Mr. Bush’s work with AIDS in Africa. It was a noble effort.
    Thanks also for the history lesson about people who had abortions before Roe vs. Wade. I’m not sure it would be applied the same today as then. I’m sure very anti-abortion lawyers would argue the woman having and abortion is the same as someone who put a contract out on the life of another. She might not have had the murder weapon in her hand but she is still just a liable and therefore should be prosecuted as such.

    As for Dr. Foltz’s bible verse -”Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Being a person who believes strongly in non-violence I use that quote often against wars, including the Iraq war started by Mr Bush.

    I think we all agree that abortion is wrong and a definite sin against God. But, maybe we differ on how to eliminate this wrong. Some say make it illegal and strictly prosecute the offender whether they be the doctors or the women. Others say attack the cause of abortions, one of them being poverty as cited above.

  14. Dan Martin says:

    Trevin, you are right that Bush did more to fund AIDS care internationally than previous U.S. administrations, Democratic or Republican. This is a pro-life action we all should applaud.

    Moore is also right about the opposition to abortion being a long-standing position in the church–it is explicitly forbidden in the Didache which is traditionally attributed to the teaching of the apostles.

    However, to create a dichotomy where all political groups/agents who oppose abortion are unquestionably in the right, while those supporting it are equally in the wrong, fails to consider the vast array of life-affirming or life-opposing choices those administrations make. The carnage in Iraq was an anti-life choice. The incredible spending of our nation on weapons of warfare while cutting funds to support the poor and disadvantaged, can be seen (with justification, I think) as an anti-life choice. The same judges who oppose abortion (ostensibly on pro-life grounds) have been on what many of us would consider to be deeply unjust sides of numerous other justice (and even life) issues.

    It is unfortunate that the abortion issue (both those opposed and those supporting it) has become so wrapped up in a political package. I agree with any Christian who says abortion should be opposed–however, I don’t necessarily support the means by which Christians such as Moore think that opposition should be worked out, and I frankly oppose many of the other political stances that come with those who have adopted the “pro-life” mantle. Does this mean I am denying the basic sanctity of human life? Not at all. I recognize that there are a myriad of life-promoting and life-impeding choices made by politicians (and others) of all stripes, and I prayerfully try to weigh the competing factors to achieve my best guess of a balance of good effects. I hope that my brothers and sisters, whether “conservative” or “liberal,” do the same.

    In either case, I never lose sight of the fact that all political parties need to be held to account for a wide spectrum of activities, while encouraged in those rare instances where they do good. This, too, should be something believers from all parties can and will choose to do. . .

    And finally, I think the church may have fallen prey to the illusion (and this one is particularly a trap of the religious right) that we can and should use the levers of government to force people to do things that in all reality can only be achieved when they have been regenerated by Jesus Christ. To ask law to do what we’ve failed to achieve by evangelism is both hopeless and wrong.

  15. Marie says:

    RJ, the difference between the aborted children and the children who don’t have clean drinking water is this:

    1. The aborted children are our citizens. Our influence over our own citizenry, and the rights of innocent citizens among us, should be our foremost concern. This is where we have the most power to help.

    2. The aborted children are being directly, not indirectly, murdered.

    3. We call it legal to directly kill our children in this country. It is not legal to directly poison a born child.

    4. Parents, particularly fathers, are commanded to provide for their own households. The children with the bad drinking water need a dad who will boil the water before serving it to them. Perhaps they need help to figure this out, and if so, I am all for helping them. But that is hardly comparable to the active evil of tearing a baby into little pieces and pulling him out of his mom headfirst.

    Your comparison to the two different crises is very flawed.

    Is this the idea?: “I can’t advocate against abortion, work against it, pray against it, witness against it, act against it, until every child on the planet is cared for perfectly?”

    How about this: “I can’t advocate against slavery, work against it, pray against it, witness against it, act against it, until no household servants worldwide suffer at all?”

    This line of argument is senseless. It sounds compassionate, but it is quite the opposite.

  16. YaknYeti says:

    I dispute the notion that it would be easy to feed all the children who are suffering from malnutrition in the world today. First, one would have to bring stability to the war-torn corners of the world in which many of these children starve. Second, one must deal with the heavily corrupt governments that absorb much of the aid given to help the poor in their countries. Third, one needs to find a way to distribute the food in a way that will not destabilize local agriculture. After all, if food suddenly became available for anyone who wanted it, how would local farmers make a viable income?

    I also disagree with comments that war spending is as anti-life as abortion law. I would argue that the war in Iraq was good for the Iraqi people (and thus “pro-life” in the sense mentioned above) in freeing them from Saddam’s rule. A final evaluation of that will have to wait several years, of course… But even if I am wrong, this issue is one where people with an equal respect for human dignity can disagree on its merits because of its complexity. Abortion law is not. If one accepts that the unborn child is a human being, with all the dignity and worth that name implies, then abortion is murder and is unjust. Therefore, abortion is much more clearly a pro-life issue than war spending.

  17. Mason says:

    Marie,
    I would fundamentally disagree with the proposal that we need to be concerned with our citizens above and beyond our concern with others outside an arbitrary national boundry. If you are speaking of the concerns of the state, then you have a point, but if you are speaking of us as the church then it is extreamly dangerous to so assosiate the church and our states concerns. We need to care about what happens here without losing sight of the fact that the universal church is not tied to any state.

    Yakn,
    At least from my side of it (and I would assume RJ’s as well) I’m not intending to imply that it would be easy to feed all those who are starving and/or malnurished. As you pointed out there are a great many complexities to doing so. What I was trying to get at is that feeding those people is something that seems like it would be easier to get support for, from people of a wide variety of political and theological backgrounds.
    As far as the assertion that “the war in Iraq was good for the Iraqi people” well, yes Saddam was horrible and cruel, but I think our going in led to more civilian death and displacement than anything they would have had otherwise. Even if that is not the case, my understanding of war is such that, sucessful or not, it was still immoral.

  18. Mason says:

    Yakn, I guess a good summary of my take on the war part of this could be seen if you inserted different phrases in your quote below, parenthasis are mine.

    “If one accepts that the unborn child (‘other’ people we make war on) is a human being, with all the dignity and worth that name implies, then abortion (lethal state sponsered violence) is murder and is unjust. Therefore, abortion is much more clearly (just as much) a pro-life issue than war spending.”

  19. Matt says:

    In reference to suffering in the third world, George W. Bush authorized more money for Africa than any president in history. He was pro-life at home and abroad. He just didn’t brag about it.

    And please, let’s lose the term social justice. That word came in vogue during the 1960s when evangelicals were busy adopting neo-Marxism.

  20. Dan Martin says:

    And please, let’s lose the term social justice. That word came in vogue during the 1960s when evangelicals were busy adopting neo-Marxism.

    All right, why don’t replace it with terms like these: good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed, year of the Lord’s favor (commonly understood to mean the O.T. concept of Jubilee, with debt cancellation among its commands). I’d say these concepts might predate the 60s by a teensy little bit, eh? ;{)

  21. Matt says:

    Since when did Old Testament laws apply to nonbelievers? Why should a secular government be held to the standards of the OT law? For that matter, why should a Christian?

  22. Dan Martin says:

    I was referring to Luke 4:18-19.

    But if you’re saying OT law shouldn’t apply to nonbelievers, does that not work against the argument of trying to repeal Roe v. Wade?

    The irritating thing about the Bible is that as soon as we get comfortable with our righteousness and the evil of the “other guy,” it comes and challenges us too. At least it should. . .whether we prefer “liberal” or “conservative” causes.

  23. Matt says:

    No, we can make a biological argument against abortion. Even without referring to Scripture, though that’s never a bad idea.

  24. Dan Martin says:

    No, we can make a biological argument against abortion. Even without referring to Scripture. . .

    Yes, we can, and if you want to do that in secular society, by all means do. It’s a perfectly reasonable position for a citizen of the United States to take, and a legitimate dialog to have (though I know of plenty of debate in biology as to just what defines “life”). But when you’re making a biological argument, you’re no longer making a Christian one, for though biologists can be Christians and Christians can be biologists, neither is a necessary criterion of the other.

    But the premise of this thread, both Dr. Moore’s book and Trevin’s comments, is opposition to abortion as a Christian, moral imperative. That can ONLY be done if and to the extent it’s supported in Scripture. And there, I turn your question back to you, for I contend that Scripture only has authority to those who have accepted, first and foremost, the One whose authority is behind, above, and beyond Scripture.

  25. Matt says:

    By that logic, we shouldn’t have laws against rape and murder.

    Abortion should be illegal because it is an attack on the vulnerable. Plain and simple. I may think it worse than animal abuse, but the premise is the same: a civilized society does not and should not treat those among us who are so vulnerable as disposable. Our motivation may be Scriptural, but our reasoning can be biological and ethical, and that is why we can make our case in a pluralistic society.

  26. John Sandeman says:

    William Wilberforce did not wait until he could get the perfect anti-slavery bill through the British parliament. He chanmpioned many bills to reduce the amount of slavery as he built his campaign to abolish slavery. These bills were stepping stones towards the goal of abolition.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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