By / Aug 13

Editor’s Note: View our Equip Austin playlist on YouTube to watch videos from this event.

AUSTIN—In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, Christians and churches must respond by speaking with confidence, conviction and kindness while also creating biblical community, speakers at the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty’s inaugural Equip gathering, said, July 29.  

“We have been called to be a people of both truth and grace, of both conviction and kindness, in a world that is often fearful and angry,” said ERLC President Russell Moore during his opening message, based on 2 Timothy 2:22-26.

Moore admitted that Christians often associate kindness with weakness or cowering to the culture, but sitting back silently while the world celebrates perversion of God’s design for sexuality is “not an option,” he said.

“If we capitulate or if we are silent about what the Scripture teaches about marriage and sexuality, we are not just avoiding a social issue or a moral issue—we are avoiding a gospel issue,” Moore said.

“The church now has the opportunity to articulate a distinctively Christian witness to marriage and sexuality.”

Moore went on to say that the church must learn to teach a biblical theology of marriage and singleness while recognizing that every member of the church is involved in the issue.

“We need the entire body of Christ together in the articulation, not only in what to avoid—“flee youthful passions”—but also what to pursue—love, peace, righteousness—and embodying that within our own congregations,” Moore said.

Paul’s admonishment to Timothy to “patiently endure evil” means Christians must be confident in their convictions but speak truth “with a Christian accent,” he added.

“People don’t change their minds because of a pile of arguments … (or) because we humiliate them,” Moore said. “People have hearts changed when they encounter the risen Christ, who calls them by name.”

Moore concluded his message by calling churches to reach “refugees from the sexual revolution,” those who have followed after lustful passions and found their promises empty and damaging. Those who are best able to reach these hurting individuals will be those who are confident in the truth and gracious in their offer of the gospel.

The three-hour event, titled “The Gospel & Same-Sex Marriage,” featured pastors and formerly gay Christians and addressed how churches and Christians should respond to the issue. The event, which was hosted by The Austin Stone Community Church and funded by a grant from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, was simulcast live over the Internet to homes and churches across the country.

A common theme throughout the evening was that churches needed to cultivate gospel community, which involves intentional life-on-life relationships.

Mike Goeke shared his testimony of separating from his wife to pursue a homosexual lifestyle before repenting and returning to his marriage. Goeke has a unique opportunity to reach those struggling with same-sex attraction in the church and warned that the solution is not in programs or special ministries but simply “for the church to be the church.”

Goeke, now pastor of First Baptist Church in San Francisco, said the primary reason many who are saved by Christ out of homosexuality often return to the lifestyle is because of loneliness. Several speakers noted that the LGBT community thrives on networks of close, personal relationships.

Churches, then, must model biblical community.

“When a gay person walks away from their entire world, when they walk away from their sexual identity and possibly their whole identity, when they walk away from their community to pursue Jesus, they often find no one in the church to walk alongside them,” Goeke said.

“Shiny, well-scrubbed, secret-bearing Christianity will never foster anything except more secrets. We need to pull community out of a list of programs and graft it into the DNA of our church.”

Healing community, Goeke said, is messy and inconvenient, but it is also life changing for every member in the church.

Rosaria Butterfield, a former English professor at Syracuse University who abandoned her life as a lesbian and gay activist when she converted to Christ, echoed Goeke’s plea for churches to display gospel community. Her own testimony includes a pastor and his wife who befriended her and welcomed her into their lives as they demonstrated and discussed the gospel with her.

Butterfield, author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, stressed that just like every person who repents and believe in Christ, those coming out of homosexuality are exchanging their old identity for a new identity in Christ, yet this transition is not simple.

Jackie Hill Perry, who also was a lesbian before coming to Christ, explained that the gospel creates community, saving individuals into communities of people called local churches. For this reason, she encouraged Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction to pursue friendships in the church.

“If God has said and created people with roles that will equip us and mature us,” Perry said, “then those of us who are struggling can’t decide, ‘I’m going to grow apart from the way God taught me to grow.’ We have to go to a local body because that’s where these roles are expressed.

“We need people to help us, and I know it’s scary, but fear is a great place to trust God.”

At the same time, Perry challenged churches to get beyond conferences and programs on the topic and to simply be the body of Christ.

“Most of us may not be able to empathize or understand the struggle with a specific sin such as homosexuality, but I believe that all people can empathize with sin as a whole,” Perry said. “I think that’s even more crucial to why the church should actually exemplify community.

“The thing about the gay community is that it actually is a community—you feel safe, you feel listened to, you feel heard, you feel understood. So I think it’s a problem when those who are unbelievers feel way more safe in a room full of unregenerates than they do people whom God knows.”

Matt Carter, pastor of preaching at The Austin Stone, admitted in a panel discussion at the end of the evening that it’s often easy for churches to stand for truth but more difficult for them to offer grace. He seeks in his preaching to “unashamedly preach the gospel in a loving way,” and by God’s grace, they have seen people drawn to Jesus as a result.

Carter encourages his church members to “look at people in this community the same way you would anybody that needs the love of Christ.” At the same time, Carter said, he has been asking himself and his church, “How can we be a family to these people whom we are calling to repentance? We’re calling these folks out of the only family they may have, and how can we be a real, genuine, authentic, biblical community for them?”

Butterfield said she appreciates this approach, and added, “We are calling people to lose a community, and of all people, Christians ought to be able to step into loneliness.”

ERLC plans to post sessions from the Equip event on its website,, in the coming weeks.

By / Jul 30

Time Magazine (and everyone else) reports that the Satanic Temple in Detroit has unveiled a bronze statue of Baphomet, “the totem of contemporary Satanism.” How ought American Christians respond to this?

1. We are not in a monuments-and-statues race. God withdrew us from that competition when He gave Moses the Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image”). The result was that Israel entirely conceded the arena of religious statues to all of the surrounding idolatries (or, at least, was supposed to do so). The same was true for Christians, who confronted Roman paganism not by building their own temples and statues but by championing the divine plan to make each believer a temple of the Holy Spirit and a monument to the power of the gospel. The Roman pagans had all the statues and all the monuments. Christianity still won, and won decisively. I’ll take a living God over a dead statue any day of the week.

2. Every idol is a satanic monument. Consider 1 Corinthians 10:19-22. There, the Apostle Paul told us that statues of Zeus and Aphrodite and Jupiter and Artemis were actually satanic statues. “What the pagans sacrifice is to demons.” Every golden Buddha in your city is a statue to Satan, as well as every Hindu idol. So, the fact that this statue is dedicated to Satan adds nothing new and only serves to make what God has seen all along obvious to everyone: There are satanic idols all around us.

3. Formulating a Christian response to idolatry is not a difficult task. This is one of those cases in which WWJD works out to be a pretty solid bit of guidance. What did Jesus do about a first-century landscape covered with idols? What did the Apostle Paul do in the Areopagus? The refuted idolatry and preached the gospel. Preaching from Isaiah 44:9-20 or Acts 17:22-31 will give you a good exegetical basis for proclaiming an appropriate Christian response. Neither Jesus, nor any of the apostles ever tried to tear down the idols in their world. They were more interested in changing people than in changing the landscape.

4. You know that your angry response is their objective, right? These “satanists” in Detroit don’t even believe that Satan is real. They’re in for the same shock that came upon the witch at Endor (1 Samuel 28:3-25): the discovery that what they tinkered with as a novelty or con-game is real and terrifying. They have no plans to worship this statue. They made it in order to enrage us. I’d encourage you not to give them the satisfaction. I think we shouldn’t take the bait.

The statue of Baphomet is more than “the totem of contemporary Satanism”; it is the totem of contemporary American culture. It is the same toying with spiritual realities as though they were pleasant (or unpleasant) fictions for us to use as we see fit, the same denial of ontological good and evil in favor of self-gratification, and the same angry, defiant fist raised against a loving God is the regnant philosophy of our people and our land.

We must ask ourselves if a bronze statue of Satan makes worse a nation that so clearly evidences the ongoing living work of the serpent from the garden. We must ask ourselves why we are sometimes more enraged and outspoken about a goat-head statue in Detroit than we are vigilant toward a real-live roaring lion seeking whom he may devour among our families and neighbors. We must take up the spiritual weapons of our warfare, and we must carry the good news of Christ’s victory over Satan to a perishing world.

By / Jun 30

The Supreme Court of the United States of America has made gay marriage legal in all 50 states and much of our country celebrates. The world with its rainbow flags waving proudly and plentifully was our world. We locked arms with our LGBT loved ones and friends and believed that they were truly and honestly our family of choice.

This is the world that we, Christopher and Rosaria, helped build—a world pursuing dignity and equality. The people you see celebrating the recent SCOTUS decision to redefine marriage (and with marriage, personhood) would have been us, not very long ago.

In 1999, when Jesus Christ revealed his saving grace and love to each of us, we learned that our unbelief, and the idolatrous sexual lusts that flowed from it, were no longer matters of personal choice. We accepted that following Jesus meant giving up everything. We understood that repentance meant fleeing from anything that embodied the temptations that we knew best and loved most. But even prior to our conversion to Christ, God provided the love and care of Christians, people who became for us a new family, new brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers in Christ—who knew and loved us before we were safe to love. Christians loved, accepted, included and surrounded us with biblical truth while we were still sinners, thus modeling the Lord himself. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit changed our hearts, we came to know this: the gospel is costly and worth it.

The days after the Supreme Court's ruling are like the days before it: God is seated on his throne in power and majesty—and one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess him.

We affirm that God has ordained marriage to be the union of a husband and a wife which Jesus himself restated in Mark 10:6-8 and Matthew 19:4-5. But even though some in our culture believe as Justice Kennedy wrote that marriage “embodies the highest ideals of love,” we disagree. Earthly marriage does not have a monopoly on love. God is love (1 John 4:7-19). The pinnacle of love is God’s love for us in Christ. Nothing is greater than that.

In actuality, marriage is a mystery and a reflection of a greater reality. Truly, the highest ideal of love is Christ’s love for his bride, the church. In Ephesians 5 and Revelation 21, marriage is analogous to Christ's redemption: the marriage consummation between the bride (redeemed sinners) and the Groom (Christ) shows that all redeemed people are married to Christ. Only in Christ can anyone experience the full definition of love and acceptance. As important as earthly marriage and family are, they are both fleetingly temporary, while Christ and the family of God (the church) are wondrously eternal.

We have failed to show the LGBT community another option to marriage—which is singleness—lived out in the fruitful and full context of God's community, the family of God. This does not mean as Justice Kennedy wrote that singles are “condemned to live in loneliness,” but that singles can have intimate and fulfilling relationships full of love. This is not a consolation prize. It can be just as rewarding and fulfilling as marriage.

Defining marriage as being between a husband and a wife appears unfair to the LGBT community, in part because a life of singleness is viewed to be crushingly lonely. Have we in the church inadvertently played into that lie with our idolatry of marriage while being pejorative and silent toward singleness? If singleness is unfair, then it is no wonder that marriage has become a right. Just as the LGBT community appealed to the rest of the world for dignity and respect, it is time for the church to fight for the dignity and respect of single women and single men.

Some are now comparing the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage with the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion. There is an important lesson for us to learn from the pro-life movement. Today, there are more pro-life millennials thanothers from previous generations who champion pro-life. When pro-life people, made up of more than just evangelical Christians, began fighting less and caring more for unborn babies and for women with unplanned pregnancies just as they were, a shift in focus brought about an important change. The question stands: will we begin caring for the LGBT community just as they are?

This is a defining moment in history. We have a faithful opportunity to shine for the gospel. Will we point people to marriage as the “highest ideal of love”? Or will we point people—whether married or single—to a life of costly discipleship pursuing the embodiment of love, Jesus Christ himself? The decision is ours to make.

In Christ’s love,

Christopher Yuan and Rosaria Butterfield

Lovingly endorsed by our families: Kent Butterfield, and Leon and Angela Yuan.

By / May 8

Daniel Patterson: Welcome back to the Questions and Ethics program with Russell Moore. I am here with Dr. Moore this morning and he has an interesting question for us today.

Russell Moore: You know, I was talking to a couple of veterinarians the other day, Daniel, and they were at the Gospel Coalition meeting, and they said we have an ethical question for you. They said we are veterinarians. We are Christians. And we have a lot of people who come in and they have a dog or a cat and they are treating this pet like a child. And so, what they are wanting are really extensive medical procedures that these veterinarians said they really would be much better off euthanizing this pet rather than spending all of this money on that. And so, they said how do we handle this as Christians when we are working as veterinarians out there in the public square. I thought that was a really good question because it is true that we have a sort of downgrading of children in some parts of American culture, and with that comes a raising up of pets to the level of children.

And sometimes what I think we as Christians want to do when we see that sort of thing is to ridicule it. You know, I’ve seen people pushing baby strollers with Chihuahuas in the baby stroller and talking to those dogs as though they are children. I remember when Maria and I were adopting our first two kids and we were going overseas there was a woman who was also going to adopt and she kept talking about her four-year-old and sort of the way that she handled discipline with her four-year-old, and we listened to all of her parenting tips for half a day before we realized that her four-year-old was a border collie. And it didn’t even register with her at all.

And I think there’s a sense in which we can look at that and we can say now isn’t that ridiculous the way that people are wanting to treat pets as children? And in many cases it is. But in some cases I think what is happening is you have people who may have a genuine longing for children and the children aren’t there because of maybe they never married or they had infertility or something like that. And so, they are kind of putting those maternal or paternal drives toward this pet. And I think for the most part that can be harmless within the life of that person.

I think when it becomes more dangerous is when we have at a societal level people who are fearful of children or phobic of children and who are then wanting to transfer that to pets and to treat pets as though they were children. At the societal level, I think that becomes harmful.

At the level though of a veterinarian, I think that the veterinarian has a responsibility to someone that he is discipling—so if this were someone in a church context, someone that the veterinarian is leading to maturity in Christ, someone that you would have the sort of relationship with that you could give a word of counsel about something else—about marriage or about friendship or about a sin in that person’s life—then that would be the sort of relationship where I think you could offer a word of wisdom and say you know, I think maybe it would be better to euthanize this pet than to spend this amount of money on this procedure. But beyond that, I think as long as it’s not a procedure that’s morally problematic, morally unethical, then I don’t really think that a veterinarian ought to feel a burden of conscience simply because a patient or actually I guess a patient’s owner is spending money that you would not see as being the best stewardship of funds. You don’t have responsibility to do that.

I think where it would become unethical is if the veterinarian were preying upon people—and I’m sure that the temptation is there in any kind of business—to come in when you have someone who has a sick pet to come in and say you know, if you really love Fluffy, then what you are going to do is you are really going to get the liver transplant in order to do that. Or if you really care about Flossy, you are really going to want to come in and do this extensive back surgery for her. I think that would be wrong for a veterinarian to do that in the same way that it would be wrong for a funeral home owner to take advantage of a grieving widow by saying if you really care about your husband, you really want this high-level, top-of-the-line casket that that widow can’t afford.

But if you have people who are coming in and they are using their money in order to act more generously than you would act, but not in a way that’s going to prolong the suffering of this animal or treat this animal with cruelty, and it’s not the sort of relationship that you have where you could actually disciple and shape that person, then I don’t think there is a problem with a veterinarian doing those things.

Patterson: Thanks for joining the Questions and Ethics program. If you have a question that you would like Dr. Moore to answer, email it to [email protected]. Join us next time as we help you apply the gospel to the pressing issues of the day.

By / Jan 29

Phillip Bethancourt: Welcome back to the Questions and Ethics program with Russell Moore. I’m Phillip Bethancourt, and we have an interesting question for you today, Dr. Moore. So, we got a letter here from a pastor in a small, rural church who asks a pretty seemingly simple question, but it gets more complex as the details unfold. “How should our church respond to a single, virgin woman in the church who became pregnant through in vitro fertilization?” So, he goes on with some of the details to say that she came in and spoke to them about feeling a sense of calling from the Lord that she should get pregnant through this method, even though she is single and a virgin and that they discussed it and counseled her through the issues, and then she went ahead and did it anyway. And so, now she is pregnant with child through this form, and they are trying to think through questions like is this something that they should carry out church discipline on, or should they throw a baby shower, or how should they navigate those issues? So, thinking through that type of situation, what type of counsel would you have for them and for our broader audience about how to think through issues related to in vitro fertilization?

RDM: Wow. Well, what I would say about this is okay, let’s step back and unravel what their problem is. First of all, I agree with the counsel that the church gave to this woman at the beginning that a child needs both a mom and a dad. Now, there are situations where children don’t have a mom and a dad because Dad left or because Mom died or there was some sort of bad situation that happened in the life of that child, and then what do we do? We equip and we support those single parents who are seeking to rear their children as best they can within the community of the body of Christ, and that’s a good thing that we ought to celebrate. I would have said to her exactly as this church did, don’t start out this child’s life without a father as an act of your choice and as an act of your will to do this. I also have problems, as I have outlined before, with in vitro fertilization. I think in vitro fertilization severs procreation from the one-flesh union of marriage, and I think there is a reason why God designed procreation to spring from that covenant, faithful love within marriage. There are all sorts of ethical issues that come along with IVF. So, I would have had all the concerns that the church had, maybe even more.

But, the situation they are dealing with now is what do we do now? She went ahead and she disregarded the church’s counsel, the pastor’s counsel, and she became impregnated having this baby. So, what do you do?

Now, I understand also the tension that these pastors feel because you are trying to think well, if we celebrate this are we now incentivizing other people to create families outside of wedlock without mother and father? But I think that that sort of misses the point here.

You know, there was just this morning, I was reading a really fascinating article. There is a newsletter by Ben Domenech called The Transom that I subscribe to. I get it every morning. It’s really well worth your time to subscribe to this. And he had a section where he is interacting with David Frum, who wrote a magazine article about why the abortion rate is falling, and Frum says there are really two reasons for that, and one of them is a reason that social conservatives will like, and another is a reason that social conservatives won’t like. The first reason is because the positive side of the pro-life message started to take root, this message that life is important and so forth. The second reason though, he thinks, is because there is a cultural absence of the stigma of single motherhood. Now, he says social conservatives aren’t going to like that. I mean, remember all the controversy that happened in American culture in 1992 when then Vice President Dan Quayle said that Murphy Brown, who was a sitcom character, was a bad role model because she was having a child out of wedlock. And Ben Domenech says you know, the stigma being removed from single motherhood isn’t really something that we ought to lament because the stigma never really kept single motherhood from happening; instead, the stigma often drove single mothers into isolation, and sometimes that isolation in recent years was the isolation of the abortion clinic.

So, I don’t think this church ought to take any action that is going to even unintentionally signal that we see the life of this child as being a bad thing. This child did not choose the circumstances of his or her birth, and this child is created and made in the image of God. God knit this child together in the womb. And so, they should receive this child with joy and with thanksgiving, even though they didn’t approve of the means that the mom went through in order to conceive her. The mom is not here in a situation of some kind of ongoing unrepentant sin. She is not in some sort of sexual relationship. She is not involved in fornication. She made what I think is a really bad decision, but now the decision has been made.

And so, what do we do? We welcome in those mothers and their children who need the support of the rest of the body of Christ. And there is going to come a time where maybe this woman has a completely different opinion about the decisions that she made. She is going to need the body of Christ around her. And frankly, she is going to need the body of Christ even if she doesn’t ever come to that situation. I don’t think that ministering to her and ministering to this child is going to cause a proliferation of virgin births by sperm donation in your congregation. I think it is very clear this is not what you are talking about when you talk about family and when you talk about mothering and fathering and children. But you can do that. You can talk about what the bible teaches about moms and dads while at the same time not driving this woman and her child away but bringing them in and saying we disagree with you, and we think this is not the right decision that you have made—the act itself is not a clear violation of a biblical norm in the same way that it would have been in some other situations—but we are going to receive you and minister to you.

That’s, I think, the best way that I can think of to navigate this very very difficult situation. But I am going to acknowledge to you it is a very complex and complicated situation. But I just think we have to be those congregations where we are probably not going to have a lot of these situations, but what we are going to have are a lot of women who are watching our congregations to say how will they receive me if I come forward and say I need help? So, your more typical situation is going to be with unwed mothers who become pregnant the old fashioned way, and a lot of those women are looking around and saying wait a minute—some of them in your communities think if I go to that church and I say I am pregnant the response is going to be oh my word! She must have had sex! You know, and get out of here, harlot! They think that’s what’s going to be the response of the church. Now, you and I both know there are very few churches that are going to respond that way. They are going to love those women. They are going to love the children. But they need to see examples of that happening in the congregation, of women who have conceived children where the congregation is saying look, we don’t agree with the sin behind this, but this child is not a symbol of sin. This child is made in the image of God and needs to be received and needs to be ministered to. That’s my thoughts on it.

PB: Thanks for joining the Questions and Ethics Program. If you have a question you would like Dr. Moore to answer, email it to [email protected], and we will be back again to help you apply the gospel to the pressing issues of the day.