Dr. Albert Mohler was a guest on Larry King Live last night as a member of a panel that was to discuss the topic of homosexuality within the church. King gathered quite a large and interesting panel that included: Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church; Reverend Jo Hudson, pastor of the United Church of Christ’s Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas, one of Texas’s largest predominantly gay churches; Andrew Sullivan, Time magazine columnist, and openly gay Catholic; Reverend Canon David Anderson, president and CEO of the Anglican American Council who opposes gay clergy in the church; Father Michael Manning, Roman Catholic priest; and Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They were joined briefly by Bishop Frank T. Griswold, chief pastor of the Episcopal Church of the United States.
If you were unable to watch the show, you may be interested in reading through the transcript. Unfortunately, the transcript cannot convey body language, tone of voice and other elements that are critical to human communication.
There are a few observations I would like to make about last night’s panel discussion.
King began with a couple of questions directed at Bishop Robinson. He asked Robinson if he had desired the office of bishop. Robinson’s response was, “Actually, at first, I didn’t want to be a bishop. God had to chase me for quite a long time before I would say yes. I knew this would be controversial and yet sometimes God asks us to do things that are hard. And in my prayer life, what I discovered was that God was promising to be faithful to me as God had always been faithful to me in my life and would stand by me during this very difficult time if I would just struggle and strive to listen to and for his voice.” It struck me as interesting that, when faced with a difficult decision, Robinson turned to prayer, and sought to hear God’s voice through prayer. Apparently he did not turn to the Bible which would have been perfectly clear on the Scriptural qualifications for a man who wishes to be a pastor or bishop. This is all too common in our day, as more and more people seek God’s voice, but without reading His Word.
It was interesting to see Bishop Robinson, Jo Hudson and Andrew Sullivan defend a view of mankind that regards people as generally good. It was also clear that they adhere to a faith that is subjective and largely of their own making. It is a faith in which the individual is the source of authority. This allows them to ability to ignore those parts of Scripture that they dislike. Robinson said “This [homosexuality] is something that one is. And that’s what’s so important for people to understand. God made me this way and declared me good. And that’s, that’s something that I have laid claim to.” He also said that “we follow a person who was always reinterpreting scripture and letting people know that it’s the spirit of what’s going on in one’s heart that is the real key and when he said love one another as I have loved you, it means that we need to be moving to the margins, doing justice work, working against racism. All kinds of things that Jesus would be doing in this day and time. I have no question in my mind that Jesus considers me beloved. Just as I am.” And finally, “What we’re saying is, look at our relationships. Look at the good that comes from them. If you look closely, you’ll see God showing up in them.” But where is the authority? Where is the adherence to God’s commandments? A man can look good but still be little more than a whitewashed tomb.
Meanwhile Hudson declared that she joined a church because she “fell in love with God” and that she “found a relationship with God that I discovered in the church and want to be a part of a community of faith that brings that love to other people.” She also insisted that the laws against homosexuality were contextual and that the words now translated “homosexual” in the New Testament are translated that way improperly. In reality, she believes, these words suggest some type of pedophilia. Of course it is simple enough to say that others have proven that these words are misinterpreted, but this is a far cry from actually producing legitimate proof.
A few days ago Ligon Duncan posted an article at the “Together for the Gospel” blog and suggested that “if you can get egalitarianism from the Bible, you can get anything from the Bible.” The same is true of homosexuality. I find it interesting that unbelievers know without any doubt that the Bible condemns homosexuality. If the Bible is clear on anything, it is clear on the fact that God regards homosexuality as an accursed affront to His design for sexuality. Unchurched people may hate the Bible for teaching this, but they accept that the Bible makes this very clear. But then there are leaders within the visible church who seek to undermine this understanding. It is people who regard themselves as Christians who so often seem to exert the greatest effort in making grey what is black and white. Those within the church often do much more damage than those outside.
Sullivan used an interesting (and original) line of reasoning, saying that, by denying his sexual orientation, he would be committing a greater sin than expressing his sexuality, for he would be bearing false witness against who he really is and against who God created him to be. And, as we might expect, and despite surely knowing the answer to his own question, he turned to the Old Testament laws and declared that Christians were being inconsistent in believing that homosexuality is wrong but not advocating the death penalty for homosexuality. Like the others, he seems to believe that people are inherently good, for “When you’re told as a child that what you know to be yourself is somehow evil and wrong, it’s a terrible wound that the church places in the souls of so many young people…” I will give him credit for quick thinking with the following jab at the Anglican Church: “It’s not that Jesus said little about homosexuality, he said nothing about homosexuality. The only thing he did say was that divorce was impossible and, of course, without a divorce, the Episcopalian church would not exist at all.”
Sadly, Bishop Griswold seemed to believe much the same as he spoke of a progressive truth. “Truth is unfolding. Isn’t it interesting that we learn more about truth in medical areas, truth about the world around us, but we can’t learn anything new about sexuality? Isn’t that strange?”
In opposition to these people, David Anderson and, to a greater extent, Dr. Mohler stated plainly and repeatedly that we are not good but that we are sinners in desperate need of God’s forgiveness. They were also, both implicitly and explicitly, discussing a higher authority. The first comment Mohler made dealt with authority and this comment stood in stark contrast to many of the others made throughout the evening. “The first thing should never be what really bothers me but whether or not as Christians, God has set a standard to which we are obligated. The issue is, always has been and always will be, the authority of scripture. The scripture very clearly tells us that our creator has a purpose for our sexuality.”
He dealt also with human depravity, saying “we are Christians here talking about the church in the New Testament and there we find the amazing teaching from the Apostle Paul that we’re made up as the church as those who come from many different kinds of sins, all of us, as sinners, speaking of homosexuality, as well as swindlers and others, Paul said such were some of you, speaking to Christians.” King replied with a simple question. “Reverend Mohler, are you a sinner?” Mohler responded with as simple an answer. “You bet I am, Larry, absolutely.” He went on to share the gospel. “It’s a matter of talking about sinners who are saved by grace, sinners who have repented of their sin and the message of the gospel is that all who repent of their sin and come by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved.”
There is a sense in which Dr. Mohler had the most difficult task of the evening, but at the same time, he may also have had the easiest task. While Mohler had to state views that were controversial and unpopular, and views that went against what many of the other church leaders believed, he spoke under the authority of the Word of God. He simply stayed true to the Word of God and shared news of ultimate acceptance and forgiveness.
His final comment summarized the issues of authority and depravity. “Well, I hope not on this regard because it comes under the authority of scripture, but I know the one thing that must not change is this, as one sinner saved by grace to other sinners, I say come to Jesus Christ and come to newness of life. It will change your sex life, for everyone. It will change every dimension of your life and that’s by the grace and mercy of God.”
I can say “Amen” to that!