One thing you hardly ever hear is that Alabama Baptists are soft on Scripture. We get knocked around for a lot of things we do, but hardly ever our commitment to the Bible. Now, that has changed. As hard as it may be to believe, Judge Roy Moore has found it necessary to chastise Alabama Baptists for “inconsistent theology” in their stand on the Ten Commandments.
The judge’s criticism came as a result of a resolution adopted during the annual meeting of the Alabama Baptist State Convention in Mobile this week. Messengers were asked to approve a resolution affirming the public display of the Ten Commandments. The resolution named Judge Moore as the key leader in the movement to bring about such displays. Once the resolution was on the floor, however, messengers chose to amend the motion by deleting references to the judge.
There were several reasons offered for the change. For one thing, Judge Moore is not the only civic leader promoting the displays. Messengers felt he should not be singled out above all others. There was also concern that naming Judge Moore as the key leader of the movement would be interpreted as endorsing the judge’s unlawful defiance of a federal court order.
This is where Judge Moore weighed in against Alabama Baptists. In a statement responding to the resolution Moore said, “For pastors to support such a display and uphold the right of a federal judge to say that we cannot acknowledge God as public officials demonstrates an inconsistent theology and a failure to properly understand (the book of) Romans … that all powers of God and the powers that be are ordained of God.”
The judge is wrong here. Alabama Baptists acted in concert with biblical teaching. Christians are instructed to follow the laws of the land. Only in extreme circumstances, such as if the law prohibited us from going to church or having a Bible in our homes, would defiance of the law be justified.
Judge Moore has sought to make his quest to display the Ten Commandments one of these extreme circumstances. He wants to make public displays of Scripture something God commands of us. If so, then he is justified in his defiance of the court. But his arguments do not follow Scripture. Nowhere does the Bible say that the state should acknowledge God—that is the job of the worshiping community within the state.
Unfortunately, on this point, Alabama Baptists themselves are in error. The resolution, even as amended, fails to follow biblical teaching for the proper use of Scripture. The resolution also fails to take into account what Jesus said about the Ten Commandments and their proper application within the community of faith. So long as these misunderstandings continue to exist among Baptists and other evangelicals, Judge Moore will find fertile soil for his single minded quest.
In spite of all that, however, it is worth pondering why Judge Moore did not celebrate the resolution. Alabama Baptists affirmed the belief that the Ten Commandment should be displayed in public buildings. They simply believe that those displays should be in accord with the law.
In fact, the only part of the original resolution that changed was any mention of Judge Moore. Is that why is he upset? If so then his criticism of Alabama Baptists would seem to indicate that for Judge Moore, the movement to display the commandments is less about God and more about him.
James L. Evans is pastor of Crosscreek Baptist Church in Pelham, Ala.