Moore: What Does the Gospel Teach Us About War?

“As we celebrate Memorial Day, millions of Americans will be reflecting on war. This weekend is, of course, a national time we’ve set aside for grateful contemplation for the liberties that have been won for us by those who sacrificed. As Christians, we too can be thankful for those who’ve defend life and freedom at the ultimate cost.

We should, though, use this national holiday to reflect as Christians on what the gospel teaches us about war. For some Christians, Memorial Day is a complicated experience. These Christians would argue that it is inconsistent at best for believers in the gospel to celebrate anything won by war. They think, “Didn’t Jesus settle this on the Sermon on the Mount? What’s hard to interpret about ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love your enemies’?”

In one sense, pacifism has biblical warrant. The New Testament does command us to live peaceably with all people and not to seek vengeance from those who do us wrong (Rom 12:18-21). This means revenge of any sort-whether through physical violence or through office gossip-reveals that we truly don’t believe that God will avenge his people at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom 12:19). Jesus and then his apostles also forbid the church from exercising vengeance on anyone (Matt. 5:38-44), and even from exercising judgment over those on the outside (1 Cor. 5:12).

And yet, in Romans 13, right after the Apostle Paul has called Christians away from vengeance (Rom. 12:14-21), Paul speaks of the Roman state “bearing the sword” against “evildoers” by God’s own authority (Rom. 13:1-5).

Paul’s admonition is consistent with the rest of the Bible. The Old Testament is, among other things, the story of a warrior people triumphing over their enemies and finding rest in the land of promise. Moreover, Jesus never commanded those in the military-even though these soldiers were serving a pagan Roman Empire-to walk away from such service, though he was quite willing to command prostitutes to abandon their employments. This is the biblical foundation for the belief in “just war” that was articulated by Augustine and has been shared by most of the church since.

Pacifism is problematic because it is utopian. Yes, the Bible affirms the way of peace. And the ultimate vision of peace is that of a restored creation in which there is no more war (Isa 2:4). And yet, the Bible also tells us that this shalom comes when all Jesus’ enemies are subdued, when, as the old gospel song says, “every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.” The Bible tells us that day is not yet here. We do not yet see all things under Jesus’ feet (Heb 2:8). In the meantime, governments must some times, though only carefully and as a last resort, go to war in order to protect the innocent and to restrain evil. Pacifists are right to tell us that war is always tragic. They are right to tell us to long for peace. But they are wrong to think that such peace can come by avoiding conflict. Passivity in the face of Hitler means a murderous Europe under a Nazi flag and, quite possibly, the extinction of the Jewish race. This is not peace, but horror.

But if pacifism is too utopian, so also is militarism. A Christian whose first response to news of unrest or persecution overseas is, “Just nuke them” is also speaking outside the way of Christ. Yes, military action is sometimes necessary. But Christians have always seen war of any kind as a tragedy-even when it is the least bad of the alternatives before us. Christians also recognize that a concept of “perpetual war for perpetual peace” is an illusion. Jesus rebuked Peter for believing the answer to Jesus’ arrest was the declaration of a violent counter-action (Matt 26:52). Sure, there will be a “war to end all wars,” but it will be fought at Armageddon-and it won’t be planned by the Pentagon.

In truth, questions of war and peace are never easy this side of the New Jerusalem. This is why Christians through the centuries have avoided both pacifism and militarism: holding to a “just war” concept that killing is never good but is sometimes best. This “just war” concept limits such action to duly constituted governments, and strictly contains the bounds of such warfare. The intentional killing of innocent non-combatants, for instance, is wrong and outside the parameters of just war.

We shouldn’t tie dye our shirts and pretend a United Nations-enforced peace can end bloodshed. But neither should we callously cheer the violence of war, as if it were a video game. Yes, we should visualize peace-but only a real peace, when the true Emperor of the universe rules over a world so truly pacified that we cannot even imagine the violence we once saw on CNN, or on Animal Planet. On that day, and maybe not until that day, there won’t be the sound of rattling swords, firing guns, or bombs bursting in air.

-Russell Moore

Moore: Strangers in Exile

“The assumption that the larger culture agrees with Christians on values issues led to evangelicals’ minimizing the theologically distinctive aspects of Christian witness. It also set up evangelicals to be disappointed when the culture did not turn out the way many expected it to turn out. So our response ought to be that we are always, in every culture, strangers in exile.”

-Russell Moore

Moore: The Confederate Battle Flag

“I think the Confederate Battle Flag is a symbol that causes a great deal of division and reminds us of a really hurtful legacy and past… I think there are some Southerners, black and white, who feel as though the rest of the country looks down on the South as uneducated and backward. And for some people, that was a symbol of defiance against that.”

“I heard someone say that concern over the [Confederate] Flag is sensitivity to micro-aggressions, to which my response is to say that kidnapping and enslaving people, breaking up families, terrorizing families, if that’s not a macro-aggression, I don’t know what is.”

“I think we can remember our past without valorizing parts of our past that we ought to see as wrong.”

“The Apostle Paul says that we should not prize our freedom to the point of destroying those for whom Christ died. We should instead “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19). The Confederate Battle Flag may mean many things, but with those things it represents a defiance against abolition and against civil rights. The symbol was used to enslave the little brothers and sisters of Jesus, to bomb little girls in church buildings, to terrorize preachers of the gospel and their families with burning crosses on front lawns by night.

That sort of symbolism is out of step with the justice of Jesus Christ. The cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire. White Christians, let’s listen to our African-American brothers and sisters. Let’s care not just about our own history, but also about our shared history with them. In Christ, we were slaves in Egypt—and as part of the Body of Christ we were all slaves too in Mississippi. Let’s watch our hearts, pray for wisdom, work for justice, love our neighbors. Let’s take down that flag.”

-Russell Moore

Moore: Religious Freedom

“Conservative evangelicals don’t want government support for our faith, because we believe God created all consciences free and a state-coerced act of worship isn’t acceptable to God. Moreover, we believe the gospel isn’t in need of state endorsement or assistance. Wall Street may need government bailouts but the Damascus Road never does.”

-Russell Moore

Moore: Adoption

“When we adopt—and when we encourage a culture of adoption in our churches and communities—we’re picturing something that’s true about our God. We, like Jesus, see what our Father is doing and do likewise (John 5:19). And what our Father is doing, it turns out, is fighting for orphans, making them sons and daughters.”

-Russell Moore

Moore: Soul Freedom for Everybody

At the Jul 2016 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, John Wofford, pastor of Armorel Baptist Church in Blytheville, Ark., asked Dr. Russell Moore during his ERLC report, this question:

“I would like to know how in the world someone in the Southern Baptist Convention can support the defending of rights for Muslims to construct mosques in the United States when these people threaten our very way of existence as Christians and Americans. They are murdering Christians, beheading Christians, imprisoning Christians all over the world,” the pastor said. “Do you actually believe that if Jesus Christ were here today, he would actually support this and that he would stand up and say, well, let us support the rights of those Baal worshippers to erect temples to Baal? Do you believe that, Dr. Moore?”

Dr Moore’s response was brilliant and prophetic.

“You know, sometimes we have to deal with questions that are really complicated and we have to spend a lot of time thinking them through and not sure what the final result was going to be. Sometimes we have really hard decisions to make. This isn’t one of those things.”

“What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody, And brothers and sisters, when you have a government that says we can decide whether or not a house of worship can be constructed upon the theological beliefs of that house of worship, then there are going to be Southern Baptist churches in San Francisco and in New York and throughout this country who are not going to be able to build.”

“The bigger issue, though, is not one of self-interest. The bigger issue is the fact that we have been called to the gospel of Jesus Christ. A government that has the power to outlaw people from assembling together and saying what they believe: that does not turn people into Christians. That turns people into pretend Christians, and it sends them straight to hell. The answer to Islam is not government power. The answer is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the new birth that comes from that.”

-Russell Moore

Southern Baptist leaders issue joint statement on the death of George Floyd

NASHVILLE (BP) — Southern Baptist leaders have published a statement grieving the recent death of George Floyd and calling for the end of “racial inequity in the distribution of justice in our country.” 

The statement, co-authored by SBC president J.D. Greear and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary president Jamie Dew was unanimously signed by all SBC officers, entity heads and state convention executive directors.

Statement on the death of George Floyd

As a convention of churches committed to the equality and dignity of all people, Southern Baptists grieve the death of George Floyd, who was killed May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minn. 

While all must grieve, we understand that in the hearts of our fellow citizens of color, incidents like these connect to a long history of unequal justice in our country, going back to the grievous Jim Crow and slavery eras. The images and information we have available to us in this case are horrific and remind us that there is much more work to be done to ensure that there is not even a hint of racial inequity in the distribution of justice in our country. We grieve to see examples of the misuse of force, and call for these issues to be addressed with speed and justice. 

While we thank God for our law enforcement officers that bravely risk their lives for the sake of others and uphold justice with dignity and integrity, we also lament when some law enforcement officers misuse their authority and bring unnecessary harm on the people they are called to protect. We further grieve with our minority brothers and sisters in the wake of George Floyd’s death, pray for his family and friends and greatly desire to see the misuse of force and any inequitable distributions of justice come to an end.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the Bible speaks to matters of justice and human dignity. We are taught by Scripture that human beings are distinct among the rest of creation as those beings which bear the divine image. From the beginning of life to the end, all human beings, both male and female–of all ethnicities, colors and ages–are sacred beings that God values and loves.

Throughout the law, the prophets, the gospels and the entire canon of Scripture, murder is condemned and God’s people are called to protect the vulnerable. The Bible further condemns injustice and the misuse of authority and force. And in the example of Jesus Christ, God’s people are called to love others, care for their needs, grieve with them in brokenness and labor for the well-being of our neighbor. To follow Christ is to follow in these examples He puts before us. 

Therefore, as a matter of Christian obedience and devotion, followers of Jesus Christ cannot remain silent when our brothers and sisters, friends and/or people we seek to win for Christ are mistreated, abused or killed unnecessarily. 

Therefore, we pray for our local, state, and national leaders as they seek justice, and call on them to act quickly and diligently to ensure that these situations are brought to an end. As a people, Southern Baptists stand ready to help towards that end. May God give us His favor, help and strength in this effort. 


James K. Dew, Jr.
President, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

J.D. Greear
President, Southern Baptist Convention
Pastor, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, N.C.


Marshal Ausberry
1st Vice President, Southern Baptist Convention
President, National African-American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention
Pastor, Antioch Baptist Church, Fairfax Station, Va.

Noe Garcia
2nd Vice President, Southern Baptist Convention
Senior Pastor, North Phoenix Baptist Church, Phoenix, Ariz.

Kathy Litton
Registration Secretary, Southern Baptist Convention

John Yeats
Recording Secretary, Southern Baptist Convention
Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Director

Ronnie W. Floyd
Treasurer, Southern Baptist Convention
President & CEO, SBC Executive Committee

Paul Chitwood
President, International Mission Board

Kevin Ezell
President, North American Mission Board

O.S. Hawkins
President, GuideStone Financial Resources

Ben Mandrell
President & CEO, LifeWay Christian Resources

Jeff Iorg
President, Gateway Seminary

Jason K. Allen
President, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Danny L. Akin
President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Adam W. Greenway
President, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Russell D. Moore
President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Sandy Wisdom-Martin
Executive Director/Treasurer, Woman’s Missionary Union

Rick Lance, Alabama State Baptist Convention
Randy Covington, Alaska Baptist Convention
David Johnson, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention
J. D. “Sonny” Tucker, Arkansas Baptist State Convention
Bill Agee, California Southern Baptist Convention
Nathan Lorick, Colorado Baptist General Convention
Fred MacDonald, Dakota Baptist Convention
J. Thomas Green, Florida Baptist Convention
W. Thomas Hammond, Jr., Georgia Baptist Convention
Christopher Martin, Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention
Nate Adams, Illinois Baptist State Association
Steve McNeil, State Convention of Baptist in Indiana
Tim Lubinus, Baptist Convention of Iowa
Robert Mills, Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists
Todd Gray, Kentucky Baptist Convention
Steve Horn, Louisiana Baptist Convention
Kevin Smith, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware
Timothy Patterson, Baptist State Convention of Michigan
Leo Endel, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention
Shawn Parker, Mississippi Baptist Convention
Barrett Duke, Montana Southern Baptist Convention
Kevin White, Nevada Baptist Convention
Terry Dorsett, Baptist Convention of New England
Joseph Bunce, Baptist Convention of New Mexico
Terry Robertson, Baptist Convention of New York
Milton Hollifield, Jr., Baptist State Convention of North Carolina
Randy Adams, Northwest Baptist Convention
Jack P. Kwok, State Convention of Baptists in Ohio
D. Hance Dilbeck, Jr., Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma
Barry Whitworth, Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania-South Jersey
Felix Cabrera, Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico
Gary Hollingsworth, South Carolina Baptist Convention
Randy C. Davis, Tennessee Baptist Convention
David W. Hardage, Baptist General Convention of Texas
Jim W. Richards, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
Rob Lee, Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention
John V. Upton, Jr., Baptist General Association of Virginia
Brian Autry, Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia
Eric Ramsey, West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists
Quin Williams, Wyoming Southern Baptist Mission Network