Friday, January 8, 2016

"Onward," by Dr. Russell Moore

I recently finished Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, an delightful book from Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I'm a Mormon, and Mormons and Southern Baptists have several major points of doctrinal disagreement. Nevertheless, there's abundant common ground around the Savior of the world. I've followed Dr. Moore for several years. I enjoy and am grateful for his strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, his colorful and bold style of expression, and his enthusiasm and optimism for the success of Christ-focused spirituality in a secular age.

Below are a few of my favorite excerpts from his book:



Engage the culture less like the chaplains of some idyllic Mayberry and more like the apostles in the book of Acts. We will be speaking not primarily to baptized pagans on someone's church roll, but to those who are hearing something new, maybe for the first time. We will hardly be "normal," but we should never have tried to be. p. 27

It would be a tragedy to get the right president, the right Congress, and the wrong Christ. p. 31

We must learn to be strange enough to have a prophetic voice, but connected enough to prophesy to those who need to hear. We need to be those who know both how to warn and to welcome, to weep and to dream. p. 45

The United States, or any other modern nation, is not in a covenant with God. … A prosperity gospel applied to a nation is no more biblical than a prosperity gospel applied to a person. p. 75

Perhaps the best way to gain influence is to lose it. p. 84

We are the people Jesus warned us about. Our gospel arrests our culture first, with a kingdom that is too strange for us to comprehend. p. 85

The womb reminds us that we are not self-existent. None of us are "viable" apart from others and from the ecosystem God has built around us. The infant in the womb is dependent indeed upon his or her mother, and cannot survive without her. But that is not unique to the fetal stage of development. A newborn is just as dependent upon a mother's care, which is why the psalmist speaks of learning to trust God at his mother's breast (Ps. 22:9). Jesus quoted a line from this same psalm as he was being crucified, with his own mother looking on, from whom he had nursed as an infant. We aren't self-existent gods. Caring for those who don't seem to "matter" takes a kind of compassion that tells us life is not about instinct and gene-preservation and the will to power. We aren't animals. … Life is about more than perceived usefulness. p. 120, 124

Let's show that God has blessed us in a Christ who never had a successful career or a balanced bank account but who was blessed by God with life, and with children that no one can number, from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language. p. 124

But the church isn't white or American; the church is headed by a Middle Eastern Jewish man who never spoke a word of English. p. 126

A religion that needs state power to enforce obedience to its beliefs is a religion that has lost confidence in the power of its Deity. p. 145

The gospel is big enough to fight for itself. And the gospel fights not with the invincible sword of Caesar but with the invisible sword of the Spirit. p. 145

We need to spend more time engaging our neighbors with the sort of news that shocks angels and redirects stargazers and knocks sheep-herders to the ground. That will seem strange, and that's all the better, because it is strange. An Incarnation safe enough to sell beer and barbecue grills is a gospel that is too safe to make blessings flow, far as the curse is found. Not everything that offends us should offend us, and not everything that offends us is persecution. p. 151

A church can only stand for religious liberty if it knows that the Judgment Seat of Christ is more ultimate than the state. p. 153

Because we know that we will as believers eternally say, "Jesus is Lord," we can as citizens temporarily say, "Hail to the chief." p. 154

Any church leader this side of Jesus can be in error and in need of rebuke. p. 155

Caesar's coin, adjusted for inflation, sometimes adds up to thirty pieces of silver. p. 156

National identity is important but transitory. … We are Americans best when we are not Americans first. p. 160

I wonder how much we have conformed to a culture that sees a child as an "expense" rather than a blessing? p. 176

Christ … displays not just affection but cross-carrying fidelity to his Bride. p. 177

In short, too often we are as countercultural as we want to be, and that's not nearly enough to turn our churches, much less the world, upside down. p. 177

There is no family revolution that can get [Christ] back into Joseph of Arimathea's grave. Regardless of what happens around us, the gospel doesn't need "family values" to flourish. … To rail against the culture is to say to God that we are entitled to a better mission field than the one he has given us. p. 181

The people who disagree with us on family issues ... aren't part of some conspiracy, as though they were cartoon super-villains plotting in a lair. They are, like all of us, seeking a way that seems right to them. We ought to love those who disagree with us, including those who see us as bigots. They are not our enemies. p. 182

One can prepare oneself to be a husband or a wife. But one can never really be "ready." p. 186

In this fallen world, the devil is normal; it's the gospel that's strange. … We are consistently wrestling with our inner satanist, as we struggle to submit ourselves to the lordship of Christ, which still seems strange even to us. … The gospel we've received isn't just strange to the culture around us; it's strange to us too. That's what makes it good news. p. 193, 222

Jesus confronted with the goal of creating a crisis--the sort of crisis that brings the person face-to-face with the call to repentance, to faith, to the possibility of a new creation. p. 195

Only when we speak to their consciences can we get to where people are, as we all once were, hiding from God. p. 199

[Jesus] was confident in his Father's mission for him, and thus was free from the need, rooted in insecurity, to constantly prove himself. p. 203

The arc of history is long, but it bends toward Jesus. p. 204

The next Billy Graham might be drunk right now. p. 206

How often do we assume the good news of Christ is a message just like a political campaign or a commercial brand, targeted toward a demographic of a certain kind of buyer? p. 213

If the church is powered by the gospel, then the Body of Christ has tattoos. p. 214


The days ahead will probably be quite different than those faced by our parents and grandparents. We will be forced to articulate things we once could assume. … We may be seen as strange in American culture. If so, onward Christian strangers. Our message will be seen as increasingly freakish to American culture. Let's embrace the freakishness, knowing that such freakishness is the power of God unto salvation. p. 221