continued from part I >>>
The second public response Mohler offered was in personal correspondence he allowed North Carolina pastor, Les Puryear, to post on his site. Mohler was responding to Puryear's personal question to him concerning his statement about "homophobia" and the reference to "we've lied…"
In part Mohler wrote:
"...I point out that I never said anything remotely like what you suggest in your message. As you must know, my original statement made no reference whatsoever to the Southern Baptist Convention nor to Southern Baptists, but was a reference to 2,000 years of church history. I stand by the statement. I never spoke of "members of the SBC as 'liars' and 'homophobes,'" but I did speak of the failure of the Christian church over the centuries to deal with homosexuality in a fully honest and Gospel-centered manner...
...I cannot apologize for something I never said..." (//link)
Dr. Mohler's statement beckons response. First, why should Puryear not assume Dr. Mohler was speaking about both evangelicals and Southern Baptists in the CSM article when evangelicals (and, by implication, Southern Baptists) remained the exclusive topic about which Jonathan Merritt was speaking? Merritt was not referencing the historic Christian response to homosexuality over the last 2000 years. Instead he was speaking singularly about evangelicals using "clobber Scriptures," and the specific shift in evangelical circles toward gayness he observed. And, Merritt cited Mohler's words as solely indicative of the evangelical shift.
For Mohler, therefore, to suggest he was referring to 2000 years of church history when Jonathan Merritt's context was exclusively evangelicalism simply makes no sense to Merritt's context. Let's be perfectly clear: we are not suggesting Mohler was not referencing 2000 years of church history as he says to Les Puryear. Granted he was. But if Mohler was referring to 2000 years of church history, then Jonathan Merritt did in fact skew the context for Mohler's words. And, if Merritt skewed the context from which Mohler's words were lifted, then Merritt needs to be publicly corrected because he continues to use Mohler's words apparently out of context--at least out of context according to Mohler's response to Puryear.
Even for all this, Mohler insists to Puryear he was not referencing Southern Baptists. Yet if Mohler was not referencing Southern Baptists, then why did he specifically direct his answer to the question asked him toward the Southern Baptist Convention? In other words, did he not call upon Southern Baptists to repent of their homophobia? I agree with Dr. Mohler that he does not owe an apology for something he did not say. Yet as we showed above, Jonathan Merritt's context drew the clear implication from Mohler's words that he was referring to evangelicals as the ones who've lied about the nature of homosexuality. And, if it was evangelicals about which Merritt referred, by necessary implication, we cannot avoid the inclusion of Southern Baptists. Then again, if Dr. Mohler clearly called Southern Baptists to repentence for their form of homophobia, I'm wondering how Mohler can deny his words were applicable to them as toward evangelicalism in general. In this spirit, may I utilize a line Dr. Mohler spoke: I cannot repent for something I haven't done, Dr. Mohler.
The third public response just appeared in The Wall Street Journal. Entitled "Evangelicals and the Gay Moral Revolution" Mohler picks up similar talking points from his Phoenix convention response to the question asked him by a messenger. Much of the short essay solicits full agreement. Mohler rightly perceives the recent gay victory in New York as indicative of a moral revolution taking place before our eyes. He writes:
"In less than a single generation, homosexuality has gone from something almost universally understood to be sinful, to something now declared to be the moral equivalent of heterosexuality—and deserving of both legal protection and public encouragement. "
Mohler goes on to lament the failures of the Christian faith:
Our greatest fear is not that homosexuality will be normalized and accepted, but that homosexuals will not come to know of their own need for Christ and the forgiveness of their sins… .
It is now abundantly clear that evangelicals have failed in so many ways to meet this challenge. We have often spoken about homosexuality in ways that are crude and simplistic. We have failed to take account of how tenaciously sexuality comes to define us as human beings. We have failed to see the challenge of homosexuality as a Gospel issue. We are the ones, after all, who are supposed to know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only remedy for sin, starting with our own.
We have demonstrated our own form of homophobia—not in the way that activists have used that word, but in the sense that we have been afraid to face this issue where it is most difficult . . . face to face.
Several things may be said in response. First, the words Mohler wrote here are a cut above the confusing moral gibberish he affirmed in Phoenix. No mention of evangelicals (and, by implication Southern Baptists) intentionally deceiving anyone about the nature of homosexuality exists, which, in itself, makes this piece superior. Next Mohler vaguely alludes to our supposed "crude and simplistic" speech about homosexuality. It's hard to tell what Mohler means by this language. If he means employing the "God-hates-fags" innuendo or similar language to describe homosexuals, then Mohler is correct. The question then to ask is, who among Southern Baptists or even evangelicals employs this approach? The answer cannot be the Westboro clan since few, if any, commend their crusade apart from a general recognition of free speech rights.
If, however, Mohler demands we use language reminiscent of biological determinism, then we have a problem. If the Bible does not state the nature of homosexuality in terms of "sexual orientation" the way Mohler does, then no compelling reason exists why it is necessary for us to employ the language either. Nor may we be rightly criticized because we don't dance to Mohler's beat. Indeed why should we repent of either lying or homophobia when Dr. Mohler remains entirely unclear in his accusations?*
Third, Mohler says we've failed to see homosexuality as a gospel issue because, as Mohler says, we know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the "only remedy for sin, starting with our own." This is where I think Dr. Mohler creates more confusion. Basically he seems to convolute moral reformation with gospel transformation. Mohler says, "the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only remedy for sin, starting with our own." Who can argue with this—if we are speaking about being children of God…becoming disciples of Christ…being in Christ…possessing eternal life…believers being transferred from darkness to light…having sin forgiven...being born again, or any number of other ways to describe a right relationship with God? That is to say, if we are referring to heart transformation, then obviously the gospel remains the only remedy for sin, starting with our own.
Nevertheless, the gospel is not necessarily required for personal moral reformation. In other words, a person does not require the gospel to stop committing homosexual acts any more than a person requires the gospel to stop messing around with the neighbor's wife, stealing pencils from a school desk, or putting chewing gum in the teacher's chair. A person may morally change apart from the gospel, but a person cannot morally convert apart from the gospel. That is to say, a person can reform but a person cannot transform. The former is a human act and the latter a divine act. Drunks do not require the gospel to beat drunkenness. Alcohol Anonymous (AA) works well on many, many people. I was a drunk before I was saved. The truth is, however, I actually reformed from my drunkenness, at least in part, also before I was saved. Reformation came in part through discipline I gained from the martial arts.** Understand: reformation did not save me. But it did make life for those in my circle, shall we say, a bit less tortuous.
AA never has nor ever will transform a single drunk. The gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation to transform human hearts. And, while no amount of human reformation can accomplish divine transformation of the human soul, still moral betterment and preservation is possible apart from being transformed in Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ called us to be salt and light in our culture. And, when we're speaking of a socio-ethical issue like gay rights and behavior, we're speaking of an issue which is unlike personal ethical issues--pride, gossip, envy, etc., evangelicalism's so-called "respectable sins." Like Mohler said elsewhere,
It is critical believers realize homosexuality is not just another sin among others... And while there are many sectors of sin, the issue of homosexuality is not ancillary issue. It hits at the heart of what is wrong in our culture (Al Mohler, preaching at SEBTS, Baptist Press, 03/01/1995, embolden added)
We agree with what Dr. Mohler said to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary chapel attendees in 1995. Mohler appeared to have a clear grasp between socio-ethical issues and personal Christian ethics, drawing a clear distinction between the two. Nonetheless, I think Dr. Mohler now seems to conflate public reformation--reformation of which all human beings made in God's image are morally capable--into personal transformation--transformation of which only those who trust in Jesus Christ are eternally endowed.
May our Lord grant us all His will in understanding the times in which we live as the sons of Issachar understood theirs--"And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do...(1 Ch 12:32)
With that, I am...
*I remain frustrated that many Southern Baptist trustees appear to allow entity heads to continually brow-beat the Southern Baptist Convention. If our trustees do not soon get a handle on the political posturing of some denominational workers, they will single-handedly give the Southern Baptist Convention over to power hungry, top-down dictatorial leaders
**not all, mind you, but definitively some