I just left the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention’s inaugural national conference. Entitled “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage,” this conference was designed to equip churches, pastors, and Christians to minister in our 21st century context on the issue of the future of marriage and sexuality. It is safe to say that I am thoroughly encouraged, along with many others, by the work of this entity of our convention and the leadership of its president, Dr. Russell Moore. With the conclusion of such an informative and impactful conference, I would like to share 10 reflections:
- This conversation must begin with the Scriptures because, at its most basic level, this conversation is about authority – It was noteworthy that Dr. Mohler began the first session of conference with the Scriptures (Romans 1), and in our own conversations and thoughts so should we. As we tackle any issue in our culture, particularly when it comes to sexuality, we must constantly remember that at its most basic level this conversation revolves around the locus of authority. As evangelical Christians we absolutely believe there is an authority outside of ourselves and that authority, God, plainly reveals His design and will through His Word. Accordingly, in a later session David Platt, President of the International Mission Board, pointed out that the most deadly disease we face today is the prevailing idea that what God has said is subject to human judgment. As we seek to minister in this sexual revolution we must remind our people of the authority of Scripture in every aspect of life and we must equip them to see that God has spoken clearly on this issue. We must also rely on the Scripture as we seek to point our unbelieving friends to the gospel: we have all rejected the Creator for created things and exchanged what is natural for what is unnatural to suit our own pleasure. Only when we see ourselves in light of Romans 1 can we see the grace of the gospel in Romans 3 and 8. If we fail to preserve and present the authority of God’s Word on this issue, then we will not equip our people to withstand the tide of public opinion, and we will not really love our LGBT neighbors.
- This conversation is not as new as some of the revolutionaries think – In a large way many “Christian” advocates of gay marriage are striking new ground on this conversation as the overwhelming confession throughout Christian history is clear on what the Bible says about homosexuality. However, in another way, this is not new at all. In every generation there are those who seek to modify Christian doctrine in order to save Christianity from the Bible. As we have seen from the Marcions to Neo-orthodoxy, it hasn’t worked then and it won’t work now. Years ago I heard Dr. Russell Moore say what’s appropriate for this hour, “This is not new, this is just Schleiermacher with a soul-patch.” Ever since the beginning God’s Word has been challenged. May we in this generation cling to the Word and not be led astray by the oldest of temptations, “Has God really said?”
- This conversation must include heterosexual sexual sin – Throughout the conference a clear theme rang out: we cannot be selective in our moral outrage. Dr. Moore reminds us, “If we preach the Gospel except when it relates to the sins in our own churches, we are merely selling indulgences.” We have clearly seen that it is and has been unhelpful and damaging to rail against homosexuality from our pulpits, talk shows, and blogs and turn a blind eye to heterosexual sexual sin such as fornication and unbiblical divorce. As was said many times, decades of allowing spouses to abandon their covenant without any word of warning has ultimately done more damage to marriage then the same-sex marriage movement. None of us north of puberty, Dr. Mohler would remind us, are exempt from sexual sin. If we are to be courageous and compassionate heralds of the truth we must speak that truth in love to all sexual sin. That includes being bold enough to confront cohabitation and unbiblical divorce in our midst (even if it may offend good tithers) and holding out to all the grace available for any repentant sinner
Stay tuned in for parts 2 and 3, and if you missed all of the conference, check out all of sessions from the ERLC National Conference here.