Joan Or John? An Ethical Dilemma -- By: Russell D. Moore

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 13:2 (Summer 2009)
Article: Joan Or John? An Ethical Dilemma
Author: Russell D. Moore

Joan Or John? An Ethical Dilemma

Russell D. Moore

Russell D. Moore is Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics. Dr. Moore is a Preaching Pastor at the Fegenbush campus of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, where he ministers weekly. He is a senior editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity and is the author of Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway, 2009).

Editor’s Note: As explained below, the following is a five-part response by Dr. Moore to an ethical question posed to his Southern Seminary ethics class. We have included it in this issue of SBJT as a wonderful example of theology in practice, especially in relation to the doctrine of human beings. Systematic theology is not merely the affirmation of particular truths that Scripture teaches, even though it is that. It is also the application of those truths to all of life with the goal of helping the church live out the Gospel in our daily lives to the glory of God. One can learn a lot about a person’s theology when one sees how it is applied to real life situations and what is given below is a fine example of seeking to take the whole counsel of God and to apply it to real ethical issues that we face. Regardless of whether you would have answered the question precisely in the way Dr. Moore answers it, may this article spur us on to work hard at bringing all of our thought and lives captive to Christ and to his Word.

Every year at the conclusion of my Survey of Christian Ethics class at Southern Seminary, I give my students a final ethical situation to answer for their final examination. They are graded not on their conclusion, but on how they arrived there. They answer, and then we discuss it communally as a class. The question below is this year’s dilemma. Also included is my five-part response to the question originally published at in May 2009.

The Question

This question takes place sometime in the future, in your ministry. Joan is a fifty-year-old woman who has been visiting your church for a little over a year. She sits on the third row from the back, and usually exits during the closing hymn, often with tears in her eyes. Joan approaches you after the service on Sunday to tell you that she wants to follow Jesus as her Lord.

You ask Joan a series of diagnostic questions about her faith, and it is clear she understands the gospel. She still seems distressed though. When you ask if she’s repented of her sin, she starts to cry and grit her teeth.

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