Albert Mohler is the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and the author of numerous books, including Atheism Remix and He is Not Silent. The following are my notes from Dr. Mohler’s opening session at the Bold Church Conference in Columbus, Nebraska on September 30, 2012 (paraphrased).
I want to set forth a few things for us to think about because this conference isn’t just about boldness in ministry, but boldness in ministry about a few key subjects.
Everyone in his or her own sphere has a responsibility to be faithful on these issues… but at times boldness falters because we haven’t thought deeply enough, biblically enough, so we don’t know what to say.
The three big issues I want to speak on are:
- The defense of marriage and family
- The defense of life
- The defense of the gospel itself
There’s sufficient data to show us that younger evangelicals pay greater social capital in holding to these three areas… But tonight we’re going to be focusing on the defense of marriage and family. And one of the things we’ll see is that we’re ready to give an answer… the only problem is that we’re just not ready to give enough of an answer.
We’re expected to justify, to defend, everything. And the Christian preacher today is standing up and saying something that’s completely unheard of today. But, meekness matched with courage [boldness] is what we need today.
The world right now is talking about the legalization of same sex marriage. And it’s going to be a controversy for the rest of our lives—legalizing it isn’t going to change anything, anymore than Roe v. Wade changed anything in 1973.
In virtually any arena today, this issue is either being discussed or should be. I want us to kind of go backwards just a bit and consider how we’re to put together a framework for how we’re supposed to think about these kinds of things.
So how are we supposed to do that? The best place to start is with Genesis.
One of the first things we need to recognize as we study this text, is that we are no smarter than the world. We didn’t come up with this. But by grace, the one true and living God has spoken and we know what we otherwise wouldn’t know.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 ESV)
If God created the world, then the entirety of the world is his responsibility. If God created the world, then the entirety of the world is part of his plan.
So when we look at a question like this, we need to go back and look at what God intended.
In Gen. 2, we come to a crucial passage that tells us Adam had the responsibility to name all the creatures of the earth. “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Genesis 2:18 ESV). Notice that this isn’t followed by the creation of the woman, but Adam fulfilling his responsibility of naming the creatures of the earth.
Note that Adam didn’t note his own need—his Creator did. Adam didn’t know his own need yet. How does Adam find that out? First, through the act of dominion. He, the only one made in God’s image, names all the critters—they don’t name him.
God made one creature and one creature alone in His image, and that means to rule and we have the capacity to consciously know Him. The tiger, the giraffe, have the capacity to glorify Him, but not consciously. And God exercises this responsibility.
The Lord God had said, it’s not good for man to be alone. But what does he note? That there was not a helper fit for him [Adam].
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:21-23)
A few things to note:
- This is a sovereign act of God
- Adam doesn’t have any way to meet his need, but God does. It’s totally an act of God. He takes the rib from his side and fashions the woman from it.
- Note too that Adam then names the Woman.
We’re told that human beings need two things since God has created us as gendered beings. The woman was made to be the helpmeet for the man; the man was not complete until the woman was made. The woman was given to the man, not merely as a companion, but as a completion—and as a wife.
Now Adam is everything God intended him to be. By the end of chapter two, we not only have the declaration that creation is complete and declared very good, but that the man and woman were naked and not ashamed.
There was no shame in it [because] they were created for His glory.
Now if this is where the biblical narrative ended, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We’re not living in Eden, we’re living a long way East of Eden.
After Genesis 2 comes Genesis 3, and with it the Fall. It’s not merely that Adam and Eve fall, but that every atom becomes corrupted because of our sin. And Romans 1 says that we’re now so blinded to the truth that we can’t see it, and the creation itself is now so corrupt that it doesn’t always tell us the truth.
So it’s not that Christians are smarter, but that God has revealed the Truth to us.
And on the other side of the Fall, we have a couple of other expectations. One is that we’re prone to call good evil and evil good. . . . We can create all these theories and worldviews and ideologies to confuse the issues, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we cannot not know the truth. The question is what we do with it. But we create these worldviews and ideologies to justify what we do.
Sexuality in the Bible is one of the easiest to understand—it is stunningly easy.
God created us as sexual beings with a reproductive capacity. There’s no division between sexuality and reproductive capacity. When these are untied, there’s all kinds of room for all sorts of mischief.
We’ve separated sex from reproduction, but we’ve also separated reproduction from sex. So you’ve got lesbian couples buying sperm on the Internet and you’ve got gay male couples buying more than that, they need a womb. We invent all sorts of ways to do evil
That may sound very judgmental, but I can’t not be judgmental on this. I’d encourage you to test everything I say against the Scriptures.
I told you that the Bible’s teaching on sex is stunningly easy. And it is, sex inside of marriage is not only fine, it’s God glorifying and leads to human flourishing.
And every other sexual expression is sin.
Now, us conservative Christians tend to think unbiblically about sin—we tend to think of it as a catalogue of things we don’t do otherwise we’ll get our knuckles rapped. But sin is fundamentally robbing God of His glory… and that’s the sinfulness of homosexuality and all other forms of sexual sin. It’s that it robs God of his glory.
If you want to see a sexually confused society, you don’t have to look to postmodern culture, you just have to look at premodern Israel. You have to remember that there wasn’t something that was forbidden that someone wasn’t doing.
That’s good to remember.
Then you have to go to the New Testament and see how Jesus handled the issue. And here’s where you get the false argument that Jesus doesn’t say anything about homosexuality, which is only true only in the sense that He didn’t use the term and didn’t directly address it. But here’s what He did do.
Look at the Sermon on the Mount:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)
This is something Christians, especially liberal Christians, do is say “we’re not under the Law, Jesus abolished it.” But He didn’t abolish it, He fulfilled it… But the Christian isn’t left without a law for we are under the Law of Christ. And though the Law of Christ on sexuality is much lighter in terms of the number of verses, the weight is much heavier.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:27-30 ESV)
Notice that Jesus doesn’t relax the law, He makes it stricter, moving from the external to the heart. For the specific example of marriage, see Matt. 19:
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6 ESV)
Jesus points to the beginning. Before He can answer the Pharisees question, He has to point back to creation. What was the plan in the beginning? Very clearly, “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
In Romans 1, you have a comprehensive layout of the particulars of homosexuality, interestingly beginning with female homosexuality. Paul comprehensively lays out the problem, using homosexuality not as a way of saying, “Look at those sinners, those vile homosexuals,” but to point to the sinfulness of humanity. Paul not only declares homosexuality to be sinful because it’s idolatry. All human sexual sin is idolatry.
But Rom. 1 isn’t about “those” people, it’s about all people—backbiters, gossips, those who are disobedient to parents. We’re told by the culture that we don’t have the truth or the right to speak, but we have different responsibilities.
We must preach the whole counsel of God, and if you’re not speaking of these issues from your pulpit, you’re failing in your responsibility. We teach on these issues from Scripture—we’re not sexologists, we’re not experts, we’re preachers of the Word of God. And we need to put these things in the context of the gospel.
Christians are those who should expect sinful people to act in sinful ways and we can give firsthand testimony to this because we were just like that. But God snatched us out of that . . . not because we’re smarter, but because God has revealed them to us.
The Church has to understand how certain words don’t work in conversations. One of those is the word “fair.” Try to define “fair” in terms of God’s working in creation. It wasn’t fair that God chose Israel. It wasn’t fair that I got to hear and receive the gospel and someone else didn’t… “Fair” works between two kids in a sandbox but not in moral or theological conversations.
We must speak humbly about these issues. It’s not that we’re morally superior—in fact, we’re anything but. We cannot be heard as saying we need the gospel less than they do; we need it just as infinitely much as the non-Christian does.
Then there’s another issue. We’ve been proclaiming the Scriptures, we’ve been teaching the truth… and we’ve had to name things as Scripture does. There isn’t a human on the far side of puberty who isn’t a sexual sinner. There isn’t. There are folks who before their conversion who have experience XYZ and after their conversion struggle with temptations toward such things… and this is the whole point of the Sermon on the Mount [on this point]. . . . If we don’t think we’ve sinned, we don’t understand our need for the gospel.
While there are particular expressions of male sexual sin, there isn’t a man among us who doesn’t know what sexual sin is, and there isn’t a person among us isn’t a pervert in the sense of perverting God’s ideal for human sexuality.
And this means that for someone who struggles with same-sex attraction, we should be the safest people in the world to share their struggles with because there isn’t a person among us who doesn’t struggle with sexual sin in some way.
That’s how we talk to each other, but how about the world?
Put on the whole armor of God. And we shuldn’t be disappointed about that. It’s just the way it is. This is a wonderful time to be a gospel truth-teller because we’re speaking to a world that doesn’t know anything about it.
Speaking the truth in love has never been more difficult and never been more necessary, because it’s not just an issue of ethics but a matter of human flourishing. We need to be careful about how we speak about these things, making sure that we’re clear that it’s not that we want less for them, but more.
We’re going to have to contend for the truth, regardless of public policy. We’re going to have to learn how to become conscientious objectors on these matters. But the church has no option but to preach and teach the full counsel of the Word of God.
We live in a world where we have an argument that says you can’t legislate morality, but everything that’s legislated is on the basis of morality. So we must tell the truth and contend for the truth about marriage as best we can.
We must also avoid the false gospel of moralism—that God wants us to behave. He does want that, but it’s not all He wants for us. He wants us to behave so we don’t harm ourselves, but not so we can save ourselves. We don’t want anyone to trust in their behaving—we don’t save anyone by making them more moral. But we do want to protect others against harming themselves.
We must also be prepared to face the religious liberty and legal consequences. In the state of Massachusetts, you can’t have an adoption agency unless you’re willing to place children with homosexual couples.
But it all comes back to one thing: If we’re failing to defend marriage, we’re failing to defend the glory of God. We’re failing in our job.