How will evangelicals respond to the challenge of the Homosexual Movement? And how will the evangelical Church respond to those persons struggling with homosexuality? These are critical questions that, when answered, will indicate the larger direction of the evangelical movement.
First, evangelicals must establish our understanding of homosexuality on the Bible and rest upon an undiluted affirmation of biblical authority. The Bible is unambiguous on the issue of homosexuality, and only a repudiation of biblical truth can allow evangelicals to join the moral revisionists.
Our only authority for addressing this issue is that of God as revealed in Holy Scripture. We can speak only because we are confident that the one sovereign God and Lord has revealed Himself and His will in an errant and authoritative Scripture. On the basis of that revelation, we cannot fail to speak and to confront the spirits of the age.
We do so with confidence that the Christian claim to truth in the incarnation of the Son and the inscripturation of divine revelation is superior to any other claim to authority. Christians must neither cringe nor cavil in the face of secularism and its ideological manifestations. We must deconstruct the deconstructionists, turn the hermeneutic of suspicion upon the revisionists, and bear undiluted witness to the gospel and the Christian worldview.
Therefore, we speak about homosexuality because we speak on the basis of divinely-revealed truth. Our own ideas and conceptions of homosexuality are not authoritative—our duty is to understand the mind and intention of God.
At this point we must address another evangelical temptation. A growing number of evangelicals are shifting the debate over homosexuality and attempt to base their arguments on natural law. Their motive is clear—the assumption is that natural law reasoning will carry greater and broader cultural influence than arguments based explicitly upon divine revelation.
The problem must be admitted. Explicitly theological arguments are increasingly declared "off limits" fur cultural and political discourse. The dominant media culture and legislative processes seem impervious to moral discourse rooted in the Christian worldview. Perhaps, it is argued, natural law will provide a via media, a middle way between secularism and theism.
Evangelicals must, of course, affirm both general revelation and existence of natural law. God has most certainly revealed Himself in intelligible ways through the created order and the human conscience. But as Paul made so clear in Romans 1, the knowledge imparted by this authentic natural revelation is sufficient to damn, but not to save. Christianity bases its claim upon special revelation in both Holy Scriptures and the Incarnate Son, Jesus the Christ.
The moral order God has implanted in His creation is tangible, evident, and undeniable. Yet in contemporary America, as in Paul’s discussion in Romans, human beings reject that knowledge and suffer the consequences.
My warning on this issue is two-fold. First is the matter of theological principle. To revert to natural law reasoning is to retreat from the high ground of the Christian truth claim. In order to meet secular demands, the Church would shift its argument from the unassailable ground of Holy Scripture to the contested terrain of nature and the cosmos.
This is what, in another context, F. A. Hayek termed "a fatal conceit." From such an abdication there is no recovery. Though evangelicals and conservative Roman Catholics will find themselves compatriots in the cultural struggle, it is not possible for evangelicals to adopt natural law reasoning as a basis for moral argumentation and remain authentically evangelical. Natural law reasoning may provide a point of conversation and serve as a means of introducing the revealed law, but it cannot stand as a mode of evangelical moral discourse and reasoning.
But for some, it may seem that a step back from the special revelation of the positive law (as compared to natural law) is explained as a means to a greater end. Once a consensus or point of contact with the secular culture has been established, it is claimed, the discussion can be shifted to positive law and the Christian worldview. This raises the pragmatic warning: This strategy does not work.
The cultural elites and generations raised in the aftermath of the sexual revolution are no more moved by natural law arguments than by explicitly Christian assertions. Natural law reasoning is no more welcome in Congress or among the media than a recitation of the Ten Commandments. Furthermore, there is no common understanding in elite circles as to what the natural law would require. A reflection on the congressional hearings for the confirmations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas should make this reality abundantly clear. Natural law arguments are not culturally compelling.
Evangelicals should not hesitate to illustrate arguments from Scripture with allusions to nature and the natural order. But the order of ethical reasoning is critical: Evangelicals can turn to nature as illustration after basing the moral argument on Scripture. At its best, the evangelical temptation to turn to natural law reasoning is an attempt in a difficult cultural context to establish a moral consensus. But this strategy will not succeed. At its worst, this temptation represents a repudiation of the Gospel and an abdication of evangelical faith.
Our trust must be in the Sovereign God who is the Creator and Sustainer of all. He and He alone holds the prerogative to define and limit sexuality. It is one of His good gifts to His creatures, who in their rebellion have contorted and degraded His gift. Evangelicals must affirm that God has defined sexuality, and that our duty is to follow His command.
This means that evangelical Christians must with increased effectiveness uphold the biblical model of sexuality. We must affirm its goodness without embarrassment, give thanks for the gift and its enjoyment, acknowledge without hesitation that God intended sexual relations for pleasure as well as for procreation, and never retreat from the clear biblical teaching that sex is intended only for the context of committed and monogamous heterosexual marriage.
The model of sexual wholeness, lived daily in the lives of millions of families and couples, will bear eloquent testimony before the world—even when it is ridiculed.
We must learn to address the issue of homosexuality—and other difficult sexual issues—with candor, directness, and unembarrassed honesty. This is not an hour for prudish denial. To fail at the task of speaking clearly and directly to this issue is to fail to speak where God has spoken.
We must also acknowledge that the only inhibiting force in the world which limits the range and extent of sexual perversion is common grace. But for the continuing presence of common grace, the world would slide into even more degraded darkness. For that grace we must be thankful.
But the issue of homosexuality affords a unique opportunity for the confessing Church to bear witness to particular grace as well—to give witness to the Gospel as the only means of salvation and of Jesus Christ as the sole and sufficient Savior. Salvation and repentance must be preached to homosexuals—and to heterosexuals as well. East of Eden, not one of us has come before God as sexually pure and whole, even if we have never committed an illicit sexual act, much less a homosexual act.
Our ministry to homosexuals is not as the sinless ministering to sinners, but as fellow sinners who bear testimony to the reality of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
The gospel always comes as both judgment and grace. But the last word must always be grace. Our duty is to tell the truth about homosexuality—to name it as Scripture names it. But our responsibility hardly ends there, for our next task is to speak the word of grace, and to present the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ as our substitute, by whose blood we have been bought with a price.
To the homosexual, as to all others, we must speak in love, never in hatred. But the first task of love is to tell the truth, and the sign of true hatred is the telling of a lie. Those who genuinely love homosexuals are not those who would revolutionize morality to meet their wishes, but those who will tell them the truth, and point them to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to www.albertmohler.com. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to www.sbts.edu. Send feedback to [email protected].
See also the most recent entries on Dr. Mohler's Blog.