Russell Moore: Don’t call me an ‘evangelical’


Revelations-Series-Banner-770x150(RNS) Russell Moore may be president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

But don’t call him an evangelical -- at least not until the current election cycle ends.

Moore started introducing himself as a “gospel Christian” a few weeks ago.

That’s because, he said, “The word ‘evangelical’ has become almost meaningless this year, and in many ways the word itself is at the moment subverting the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

In an editorial in The Washington Post, he pointed to the conflation of “evangelical” with an election-year voting bloc. He noted polls don’t distinguish between churchgoers and those who self-identify as evangelical but who “may well be drunk right now, and haven’t been into a church since someone invited them to a Vacation Bible School sometime back when Seinfeld was in first-run episodes.”

And he took issue with other evangelical leaders’ behavior: some minimizing candidates’ profanity, affairs and courting of white supremacists, others “scared silent.”

That came after a rally by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Texas, where Trump not only unveiled the surprise endorsement of former rival and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but also repeatedly wrapped himself in the mantle of evangelicalism.

(Emily McFarlan Miller is an RNS correspondent)


  1. I feel exactly as Russell Moore does and for the same reasons.

    Donald Trump and his band of knuckle-dragging Kool-Aid drinkers might as well be aliens from space to me and to the people I grew up with. If these trousered apes want to own the word, “evangelical,” let them.

  2. Gospel Christian has no meaning to anyone either. It’s an inside the ball park term. No one on the outside knows what that means.

  3. Agreed. In fact, I’m inclined to call myself “Christ-follower” or something like that. The words “evangelical” and “Christian” aren’t really as descriptive of what I want to be.

  4. Wouldn’t that be what makes it a good term? People have a preconceived notion of what “evangelical” means. But not “gospel Christian.” Sooooo, you get to explain it to them.

  5. Good-bye Russell Moore.
    The thought police will now show you the door.

  6. Russell Moore just made a statement 15 million people outside the SBC will be interested in. Outreach.

  7. Good response Allison, even though we disagree about “all evangelicals”.

    The “apes” shouting against “the ape” Trump are very selective in their outrage. You called it right,

    Moore might have had a flawed understanding of the term “evangelical” going into his position at ERLC as well as current election cycle.

  8. Hmm. Notice the little escape hatch there: “…at least until the current election cycle ends.”

    Seems to me that if it is wrong to call Dr. Moore an evangelical BEFORE the November election, it’s just as wrong to call Dr. Moore an evangelical AFTER the election as well. There’s absolutely nothing special or magical about the end of the 2016 election cycle.

    And make no mistake: If Hillary wins in November, it won’t matter whether you call yourself a “Gospel Christian”, or an “Evangelical”, or a “Christ Follower”, or (by way of sheer honesty?) a “Christian Word-Gamer.” Hillary is going to marginalize and even PUNISH Christians who take a public stand against America’s unprecedented level of government-approved sin.

    Besides, as another poster suggested, the label “Christian” simply doesn’t mean much anymore. Yet the term DOES help narrow things down a little, if nothing else. “Evangelical” should likewise be viewed that way.

  9. Although I do not always with Dr Moore’s delivery, I agree with his criticism of Mr. Trump. If Americans believe that what Trump touts is representative of evangelicals then evangelicals have a huge image problem. I cringed the other day when someone asked me if I was for Trump. I asked, “How could you ever believe I’d be for Trump as president?” Their answer, “Trump is big with evangelicals.”

  10. A clear case of the gospel Christian calling the evangelical pot a no true Scotsman.

    There are a great many people who would agree with Moore. he’s no Christian.

    Until the election cycle ends? Good catch, Doc. So, this is one more time about the evangelical marriage according to the gospel with power, money, and dominion. Except that Moore is disappointed that some of his sheep are following another Sheperd rather than the Annointed One, according to the father of said Annointed one.

    Power trumps political trumps principle, every single time.

  11. This seems rather hypocritical of Russell Moore to disavow the label of evangelical because of other Christians’ extremism not being popular in spite of his own history of extremism and bigotry. This is just an attempt at marketing spin and won’t change the fact he’s still a bigot.

  12. If that’s your opinion of those you label”evangelicals”,Alison,frankly you’ve been meeting the wrong evangelicals.Perhaps you should revisit the word evangel and examine its true meaning. (Sadly,many of those who claim that label have lost its meaning as well.)—PEACE.?.

  13. I’d really like to know where Russell Moore has been the last THIRTY YEARS as the so called “Christian Right” or “Religious Right” has been waging war on the poor, jailing non violent drug users, cutting veterans benefits and basically selling their souls to the corporate beast? Why is he all of a sudden speaking out now? The “Christian Right” helped create Trumpenstein and now the monster is turning on them. The prosperity charlatans, wrath obsessed Calvinists, Left Behind loonies, seven mountains and NAR dominionists have all had a hand in creating Trump and the atmosphere which now exists in America. It appears now is the time to pay the piper (and no, I don’t mean John Piper!). Oh, and Russell, John Calvin has absolutely nothing to do with any gospel or “good news” in case you were wondering.

  14. I have called myself a “red lether Christian” in the past. Of course my intent was to indicate that I based my beliefs on the words of Jesus Christ. That is, except those that historical criticism indicates were quite unlikely to have been actually spoken by Christ. It’s important to suss out the editorializing that copiests and translators have inserted over the centuries.

  15. Debbo, there is a reason that no Bible translation, including ones used by liberal denominations, tries to decide which words Christ spoke and which He didn’t. It’s because biblical criticism is constantly in flux and has had to adjust its findings constantly to the findings of modern archeology, linguistics, and biblical studies. Also, it tends to degenerate into extreme subjectivity, as seen in the shoddy work of the Jesus Seminar, which became almost a Saturday Night Live-style parody of itself.

    You assume too much when alleging the “editorializing that copiests and translators have inserted over the centuries.” That allegation has yet to proven based on rules of evidence. But if you mean normal scribal errors that come with transmission, then of course there are errors….However, when compared to the full Bible, these errors are a tiny fraction of the whole and affect no major teaching or doctrine of Scripture.

  16. An evangelical is one who spends significant effort evangelizing, i.e., spreading the New Testament gospel. The best examples would be the the Apostle Paul and Christ’s disciple Simon Peter, both of whom were executed for their zeal. I would think there are very few in the current politcal group of the name “evangelical” that could hold a candle to the real ones. Too bad things like this set back the goals of Christianity. I can’t imagine a true evangelical voting for Trump.

  17. Yep No doubt I am a loser, a fool for Christs sake. I consider everything a loss compared to knowing Christ. You can call that anytime you want.

  18. “Moore started introducing himself as a “gospel Christian” a few weeks ago.”

    The fact that Moore still wants and needs a modifier to distinguish his brand of “real Christians” from everyone else is all you really need to know about Moore.

  19. That is hilarious. Thanks for that laugh. I’m still laughing. It was the part about the kool aid drinkers that got me.

  20. Funny. My typo made my comment more interesting.

  21. Jack, there is a great deal of evidence of editorializing. Look from one copy to the next. The oldest version of Mark available shows significant changes in subsequent versions. The most obvious are the 3 endings. Those kinds of instances exist throughout the scriptures. I’m not talking about minor changes. Additions are written into the margins, significant language changes are clear.

    Translating the OT from ancient Hebrew, a one-time dead language, resulted in some questionable results.

    Seriously Jack, trying to read the bible literally is foolish. More than a grain of salt is necessary. Use at least a tablespoon.

  22. Doing good is tough but a noble calling.

  23. Would spiritual bigot be an appropriate new label for Moore as opposed to “evangelical”? Seems more fitting.

    Reminds me of the child who takes his ball and goes home when it fails to bounce his way on the playground. The general attitude of others on the playground in such situations seems to be one of “good riddance”.

  24. Not very true to your SBC inclinations there Jack. You’ve just allowed room for “errors in transmission”. Thought the SBC was firmly entrenched in “Inerrancy”. Your slipping a little there pal. Don’t let your SBC leadership buddies see you penning such things or Moore and Mohler will be marginalizing you as well.

    It’s obvious, despite claims to the contrary, that the issue of “inerrancy” is still a point of contention in SBC life, “resurgence” not withstanding.

  25. Exactly the reason Moore et al should be challenged on some of their views, pontifications and declarations…….it’s doing “good”.

  26. James Reed:

    I’m an “evangelical”. I will definitely vote for Trump if he’s the choice I have in reaction to what the current ruling political class has done to the country over the last 10 years.

    You don’t have to “imagine”, I’ll send you a photo of myself so you’ll have an idea of what these strange “evangelical” creatures willing to vote for Trump look like.

    You guys want exclusive rights and ownership to the term “evangelical”. Take it, you can have it. Don’t think God’s going to be asking me on the day of judgement about my profile as an “evangelical”. He’s going to ask me what I did with and through Jesus Christ.

    Due to the rhetoric of Moore and others, the word “evangelical” no longer has spiritual connotations because they’ve assigned it purely political meaning.

    You and Moore are welcome to the label and all others you care to craft.

  27. If Moore is willing to speak about the “unfitness” of Donald Trump for office, why is he not willing to speak about the unfitness of the CJ Mahaneys and Mark Driscolls of the world for ministry?

  28. So, what exactly is your doctorate in, “Dr. ” Coelho? Bought it from Trump U.???

  29. No explaining necessary. There’s nothing real in there. Christianity is all about fanciful notions most of which are just empty fancies.

  30. “Evangelical” is just a term meaning “extremely deluded and ignorant”, and evangelicals are simply an embarrassment to America on the global stage.

  31. Scott, I’m not SBC, but actually, my view does not necessarily contradict the inerrancy doctrine. The inerrancy doctrine allows for scribal errors in transmission. It merely says that the books of the Bible are inerrant “in their original autographs.” Check it out and see.

    As for me, I am not dogmatic about inerrancy, but I do take a very high view of Scripture and believe that too many people are far too willing to surrender to wild charges of contradictions or errors with very little evidence that this is the case. They throw in the towel prematurely and that’s unfortunate.

  32. Debbo, you will get serious pushback from some of the most reputable scholars of our time, such as Craig Blomberg.

    As for the OT, recall the Dead Sea Scrolls. Dated about 20 to 21 centuries ago, they include material from numerous OT books — and a comparison between their content and what we have today yields exactly the opposite of what you’re saying. The correspondence was remarkable.

    You’re clinging to century-old speculations that have been punctured repeatedly by the findings of modern archeology.

    I would add that these hoary old theories were based on ignorance of the rules of historical evidence — ie how historians assess texts.

    Simply put, their starting point is to assume textual veracity and the burden is to prove a text is in error, not the other way around. If the text says Jesus said A, the operating premise is that Jesus said A until proven otherwise.

  33. Bart, your response tells us more about you (that you hate evangelicals) than about evangelicals.

  34. My apologies, Jack for SBC label.

    We are in agreement then on the matter of “inerrancy.”

  35. I actually thought the “trousered apes” phrase, which I admittedly borrowed from CS Lewis, was sort of funny, but I’m glad you liked the prior sentence.

  36. Scott, I won’t speak for James, but I’m perfectly fine with you Trump people taking the label, “evangelical.” I may still use it tomorrow, but to me, anyway, it will never have quite the meaning it once did, so you can have it. I am very convinced that one’s response to Trump is a real litmus test for who’s who and what’s what. It’s a bright red line in the sand.

    One thing I’m sure of…..I have yet to meet an evangelical from outside the United States who isn’t perplexed over how many US evangelicals are for Trump. A friend from Nigeria likened it to a form of Ba’al worship and Trump’s followers to devotees of a shaman or witch doctor. They think it’s nuts at best and a form of deep spiritual delusion at worst.

  37. No it’s factual. Ask a sampling of foreigners, and learn.

  38. I’m willing to let other people decide what group I’m in, even though I may or may not agree with it. Most people would classify me as a Christian based on my beliefs, and I accept that classification. Some would consider me Evangelical, which I am fine with. “Gospel Christian” would be fine with me too. But I would consider all of these terms to be descriptions of me, not identities.

  39. Jack:

    In the spirit of American “evangelicalism” …nuts to your friend in Nigeria.

  40. Harry, you really ought to spend some time with some evangelicals before claiming they are, “waging war on the poor, jailing non violent drug users, cutting veterans benefits and basically selling their souls to the corporate beast?” Various members of my family spent a week working in a food pantry in New Orleans, 2 weeks volunteering with free health care in Peru, 2 nights per week working with a group of successful women who volunteer to mentor and train other women (mostly underprivileged) in job skills and interviewing skills (including often giving them clothes suitable for interviews), taking boxes of food and presents to needy families at Christmas, providing emergency funds through a committee in our church for needs such as electricity bills, food, or car repairs so they can get to work. Many additional activities of this type are sponsored by my church. I am not sure what evangelicals you are talking about, but the ones I know really enjoy doing good things.

  41. Until Moore et al can become less “selective” in their outrage they are the yen to Trump’s yang. Jack probably should be more reserved about calling people “trousered apes”. Has anybody seen HIS family photos?

  42. It pushes both ways Jack, with exceptionallyrics reputable scholars on all sides.

  43. Scott, look up CS Lewis and trousered apes. Lewis wasn’t referring to physical appearance…..that’s Donald Trump’s domain — making fund of the way people look. Instead, Lewis was referring to attitude or mindset.

  44. To a point, yes…..until you get into the domain of the Jesus Seminar. Then we’re closing in on crazy-land.

  45. Bart, since evangelicals may be found on every habitable continent, it follows that some foreigners are evangelicals.

  46. Stephen, you have a lot more patience than I with the Harrys of life.

  47. Jack:

    Makes me wonder then why your choice of these particular words from Lewis.

    I may be from south of I-20 but I’m not so intellectually obtuse nor ill-read as to not understand the original intent of Lewis with the phrase you borrowed.

    Glad, however, you picked up on the nuance of expanded meaning in my comment. Unlike Lewis, you don’t always distinguish in your blog posts between spiritual/political/ emotional disdain…original intent of C.S. Lewis notwithstanding.

    Don’t think C.S Lewis did any poitical “blogging” as trial-balloons for his wordsmith exercises.

  48. you hit the nail on the head on your analysis of Moore., well said. thanks

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