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Kristin Rudolph May 22, 2012
The president of one of the world's largest seminaries vigorously defended traditional marriage at a recent conference.
“We have the only message that is running counter to the wisdom of the age” regarding human sexuality, said Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. “We have to get over the idea that we somehow have a private message without public consequences,” he said at the Together for the Gospel conference in April. The conference, which met this year in Louisville, KY, is a biennial gathering of pastors committed to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ as the church's central message.
In light of the “moral revolution” that has altered our culture’s understanding of marriage, Mohler discussed how Christians must affirm and articulate their commitment to a biblical view of marriage, both within the church and in the public sphere. In the past, the church could affirm what civil society believed about marriage, while believing additionally that “it fits into a larger gospel structure and has a larger scriptural context,” Mohler said. But now “[W]e believe quite in contrast to [the civil definition of marriage] in many jurisdictions. We cannot say what the civil government now says about marriage. We not only need to say more, but we need to say something that is radically different.” “[Marriage] is the central civilizing institution of society,” and Christians “have an accountability to a civil understanding of marriage” in addition to the biblical understanding, Mohler explained. Marriage is “not merely a private understanding, it is a public institution,” that is being overhauled by a “complete moral revolution.” Describing this shift, he said: “There was a universal condemnation of homosexual behavior as recently as the 1950s, and what we now have in a very short amount of time, is an increasing condemnation of anyone who will not approve homosexuality.” “Short of supernatural and unimaginable” intervention, it is hard to imagine anything reversing this moral revolution “within any perceivable amount of time,” Mohler said. Despite the success of some state legislative measures protecting marriage, he warned: “This is going to be an enduring, permanent challenge that is going to affect every single local church … this is not a matter that politics is irrelevant to, but this is not basically a political issue.” Most importantly, “We’re going to have to figure out where we stand within the Church on marriage,” Mohler said. A biblical stance on marriage will have consequences, Mohler warned. For example, “What happens when someone presents themselves not only for membership but for admission to a Christian college … or for employment in a Christian school? What right do Christian churches and Christian denominations and organizations have to say ‘No, we can’t recognize that as marriage?’” Mohler emphasized: “These are not hypothetical issues … we have a society that increasingly begins to regulate what is considered acceptable and unacceptable discourse, and we’re going to find ourselves on the wrong side of that divide.” At the same time, “We’re going to have know how to demonstrate Christian love while … holding to Christian conviction, and that’s going to be one of the great, great challenges of this generation,” Mohler said. Within the church, “It is progress for us to admit that we have folks who are openly struggling with this.” There is also a need for “a comprehensive recovery of the Christian church’s convictions that marriage is a gospel issue, a biblical issue, an ecclesiological issue, a church discipline issue, a human flourishing issue.” Mohler proposed that Christians should address a broader range sexual sins because “every one of us is a jumble of sexual brokenness left to ourselves.”
Mohler stressed that the church should be a place where it is “safe to talk about this because the question is not ‘are you misdirected sexually?’ But ‘in what way are you misdirected sexually?’ … [T]his is what Christ died for and this is what the church can handle.” The church has a hopeful message in contrast to the world, which says: “‘If [homosexuality is] what your inclination is, that’s who you are. Know yourself, own yourself don’t let anybody tell you there’s anything wrong with that just be yourself.’ There couldn’t be a worse message to humanity than that.”
“God gave certain institutions that maximize human flourishing, the subversion of which lead to human misery," Mohler said. "We’re going to have to stand for marriage in terms of its actual reality … what has actually worked in human history.” Even though many Christians might attempt to privately hold a biblical understanding of marriage and “completely sever that from a civil understanding of marriage,” this is only possible “if we can sever what we believe is God’s means of aiding and establishing human flourishing from our social responsibility.” Ultimately, holding to traditional and biblical beliefs about marriage despite the cultural moral revolution is critical because “we cannot continue in the gospel ministry if we allow in the church a distortion of the gospel.”
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