The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention held a long-anticipated conference on marriage and sexuality in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 28-30. Attendance exceeded expectations. The content of each message, testimony and panel discussion was both challenging and encouraging to those who hold a biblical worldview.
We understand that no Southern Baptist and no Southern Baptist entity speaks for the whole of us. But at least three questions relating to Southern Baptists’ position on marriage were answered at the ERLC conference.
First, “Will Southern Baptists abandon biblical marriage?” I heard no calls for surrender at the conference; I saw no interest in backing down from the biblical view of marriage. No evolution of theology or adjustment to popular culture were suggested by any of the speakers. No backing down, no capitulation.
We still hold to the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture. Furthermore, the gospel of scripture is a life-changing gospel. There is no reason to surrender to the army of secularists surrounding us. There will always be a few liberals among us who will cower under social pressure. Some will change their minds and embrace the non-Christian worldview. But the overwhelming majority of Baptists will hold fast to the biblical standards of marriage.
Second, “Do Southern Baptists hate homosexuals?” Homosexual activists want to define our position for us. Their two-pronged strategy to silence all civil discourse is maintained by crying “hate” when they hear disagreement and by defining “love” as total agreement. This is unhealthy for the existence of a civil nation and it is unhealthy for their cause.
There was no hint of hate toward homosexuals at the ERLC conference. On the contrary, there were multiple calls for compassion and understanding – not as some define it, but according to the Bible’s definition of love. In addition there were multiple examples of compassion in the event.
Someone will always try to dig up a case of “Westboro Baptist” hatred. But those are isolated, demented illustrations of human depravity, and are not representative of rank-and-file Southern Baptists. I want to remind us that Westboro is not a Southern Baptist church, although the general public does not distinguish between varieties of Baptists.
Admittedly, we have much room for improving our communication skills on this matter. Our penchant for judgmental language must be transformed into a purer tone. That point was highlighted in multiple sermons, testimonies and panel discussions at the conference.
I believe God is using the current public crisis to teach us how to do a better job of reaching out to those who struggle with same-sex attraction in this sex-crazed society.
The third big question is, “Will we cease to call homosexuality a sin?” To many homosexuals, this is the linchpin. One gay activist protested in a tweet that as long as Baptists call homosexuality a “sin,” there is no tolerance.
Again, I heard no one at the conference compromised on the sinful nature of homosexual behavior. There was no suggestion that sin should be rebranded in a kinder package. The fallen condition of man from Genesis 3 to the present day remains the same. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ changes the heart of man.
Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivered the opening address at the Nashville conference.
He commended Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, for his “Courageous leadership demonstrated in calling together a meeting such as this and demonstrating what we sincerely hope and pray will be the right kind of conversation. As we do so, we do feel that sense of gravity that inevitably that there is something massive that is happening in our midst – something that requires a very significant Christian response.”
Sometimes in dealing with these issues we aren’t sure where to begin the discussion. Mohler said, “I want to make sure we start with the scripture.” He asked the attendees to open their Bibles to Romans 1 which he called, “… the most comprehensive, the most encyclopedic text dealing with the issues that seem to be right before us. And furthermore it puts into context the biblical theology that is priceless to us.” Mohler said Paul was not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation.
“This is a salvation that is needed by all mankind – not just some of us, and not just those with sexual sin, but all of humanity. None of us has an excuse, because the revelation of God is accessible to us.”
He said, “We can’t separate sexuality from the gospel, because the New Testament resolutely refuses to let us do that. … If at any point the church of the Lord Jesus Christ says that what God declares to be sin isn’t sin, we commit treason against the gospel.” Sin underscores the fact that mankind is separated from God and in need of the gospel for forgiveness of sin and to restore man’s broken relationship with God. “It is a slander against the gospel for us to redefine sin in any way, whether it be any of the sins listed [in scripture] or the sin du jour,” Mohler added.
Analyzing the moral revolution of recent decades, Mohler differentiated between moral changes, moral shifts and a moral revolution. A revolution changes the landscape of the culture such that the culture becomes realigned on the other side, he said.
The same-sex revolution has happened at unprecedented velocity, warp speed, Mohler said. “How did this happen?”
Pointing to the work of British thinker Theo Hobson, Mohler said three things take place in a revolution such as the same-sex revolution. “First, what was condemned has to be celebrated.” Homosexuality was universally condemned, but is now universally celebrated, he said.
“Second, that which was celebrated is now condemned.” The celebration of holy living and freedom of religion are now condemned.
Third, “Those who refuse to celebrate are condemned.” Everyone is forced to celebrate homosexuality or face condemnation.
As I observe the aims and tactics of homosexual activists, it is clear that the goal of their movement is neither tolerance nor equality. The goal is coercion and silencing of all who disagree with them. The movement will not be satisfied until all Christian voices are silenced and all opposing views are suppressed.
Speakers at the conference referred to many extremely troubling examples of litigation that proves the gay activists’ goal to suppress all opposition. They also emphasized the necessity of thoroughly teaching biblical marriage. That must be our new strategy.