Dr. Al Mohler discusses the cultural and judicial changes that are eradicating all vestiges of Christianity from the American way of life and encourages Christians to remain true to their faith while engaging those with opposing worldviews. (Part 2 of 2)
Dr. Al Mohler: Attendance at a wedding is not like attendance at a sporting event. Attendance at a wedding is by definition, an agreement that this is right.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: The issue of attending a same sex wedding can be really tricky and delicate and we're going to address that and more today on "Focus on the Family" with your host, Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, this is one of the questions that many people, not a large number, but many people will ask me when I travel on the road for Focus on the Family; supporters, those who pray for us. They'll talk about a wrenching decision that they have to make, maybe even their son or daughter's same sex wedding. It is tough, and you're right, we haven't had to consider these things until the Supreme Court legalized it and there are many more questions that are now surfacing that confront us each and every day in the culture. And Dr. Al Mohler not only addressed that issue, but much more when it comes to this divisive issue of same sex relationships. And let's get back into it with Dr. Al Mohler who is the president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY, and a former Focus on the Family Board member. He's written a number of books including, We Cannot Be Silent, which analyzes how a number of Supreme Court decisions, over not just the last year, but the last 50 years have brought us to where we are today in the culture. Al, welcome back to "Focus on the Family."
Al: It's great to be back with you.
Jim: Man, I can't stop thinkin' about the content yesterday and if you missed it, you need to pick up the CD or the download because it really was good and we're gonna build off of what we talked about. But for those listeners who are just coming today, we talked about the past 50 years or so and how the culture has, in essence, turned its back on a Judeo-Christian value system. Quickly recap for us that period of time and what's happened.
Al: Yeah, Jim, when you look at that period of time, it's a social, moral revolution that took place in several decades when most of us weren't watching it. We didn't see that's what was happening. But what you had was a sexual revolution, that didn't begin with same-sex marriage. It didn't begin even with the LGBT issues. It began with heterosexual misbehavior and it led to such things as the separation of sex and procreation, the redefinition of marriage fundamentally as being a temporary institution with the no-fault divorce.
And then there was a sexual revolution that began on the college campuses and elsewhere that has moved mainstream in America that has redefined the whole way that this society in general looks at sex, marriage, gender and a personal identity.
Behind all of that is this incredible idea of personal autonomy, that we know who we are and we define who we are, even in terms of gender or sexual orientation, in ways that no previous generation of human beings could have envisioned.
Jim: Yeah. You know, last time, Al, we talked and promised that we would go to some tough questions and I want to do that. So again, if you didn't hear the program last time, we gave a lot of background and I would get a copy of that program. But let's just jump into it.
Not long ago on this program we had Rosaria Butterfield, who came out of lesbianism. She was a tenured professor and it was refreshing to hear how the Lord got ahold of her, through kindness actually--a pastor and his wife, who befriended her and began to talk to her. And she came to grips with the truth of Scripture and she said in that program, "I had to realize, even as a lesbian, that I was not living with truth. I was living in a lie and I was sinning." It was incredible to hear her share that.
But let me ask you this in that context of her testimony. Let's say her transgendered friend showed up at your church on Sunday. How would you respond as the pastor of that church and lead your congregation with that person who stepped into the sanctuary?
Al: Let me first say, I'd want that pastor to hear Rosaria Butterfield's testimony.
Jim: Oh, it's powerful.
Al: Because it is simply one of the most transformative testimonies I've ever heard and what a sign of God's grace. And as Rosaria would say, it's no more powerful a demonstration of the Gospel than the salvation of any other Christian, any other believer. But boy, is it tied exactly to the very concerns we're talking about here today.
Here's the thing for the church. Is the church supposed to be made up of people who already think like us, believe like us, act like us, parent like us, engage the culture like us? Or is it supposed to be a place where we hope people will come to find Christ, even if they don't know that's why they're coming.
Al: And if it's not the latter, then it's not the churches we see in the New Testament. And so, in the New Testament, we have a very clear distinction between the church as the covenant people of God, saved by grace and living under the obedience that is our proper response to Christ.
And then there is the world, but how are they gonna get together? Well, it has to be that the church is a welcoming place, where Christians are not only glad, but just fundamentally joyful. The people who do not yet know Christ would come to hear Christ amongst us. We're empowered by Christ.
Jim: We're excited. (Laughing)
Al: Yeah, I mean, why else do we exist? Why else has the the Lord left the church in the world? Why are we still here, if not for this? We should be elated every time someone comes to our church to hear the Gospel of Christ, to hear Christ preached and hopefully, we certainly pray, to see Christ in us.
Now that doesn't mean that in order to show love then by our definition, we won't deal with whatever might make them feel uncomfortable. If someone treated us that way, we would never have come to Christ—
Al: --because we only come to Christ when we know we are sinners who desperately need a Savior. And so, what we have to do is develop a set of skills, of Gospel skills that leads us to actually do a reality check on our churches. If people unlike us are never here among us to hear Christ, what in the world are we doing wrong?
Al: Then the question comes, once they are here, what do we do? Well, we preach Christ and we also understand that it's not just the preaching. We need to develop relationships, because with Rosaria or with anyone else, it also comes down to the fact that someone so often loved us enough to develop a relationship with us, in order that we could see and hear Christ.
Jim: Well, in fact, Paul was dealing with that in the book of Romans, Romans 2:4, which says, "Don't you know it's the kindness of God that leads one to repentance" and—
Jim: --it's such a beautiful statement and I tell people when I speak, I haven't met anyone beaten emotionally or physically into the kingdom of God. I mean, it's just not the way the church should operate, nor the way God does operate. It's through His kindness and love. It's called "grace."
Al: It is called "grace" and grace is the Gospel. God is a gracious God and the grace of God is His unmerited love and favor given to us, that we would be saved, who don't deserve it.
Jim: Now when you paint that picture of a church that's pursuing a grace-filled approach and a truth-filled approach, why do we in the Christian church express so much fear. We want to separate and we don't want that person in the sanctuary. We don't want our children to see that individual or the two men holding hands. Why do we act with such lack of confidence and fear that somehow they will trump the truth of God?
Al: The evangelical church has had what I call a proximity problem. We have grown more nervous the closer in proximity a problematic behavior gets to us. And that's a real problem, because this proximity problem means, we try to get distance between ourselves.
Jim: 'Cause we're safer.
Al: That's it. We are safer. We will tell ourselves our children are safer. We'll tell ourselves the fellowship of the church is safer, but that's not so. You know, when the Apostle Paul talks about the fact that those who were involved in all kinds of sin, including very explicit sexual sin, including LGBT sin, which he deals with directly, he says, "But such were some of you, but you were washed." And in other words, if you had not come proximate, close to the Gospel, you would never have heard it. You wouldn't be here. You wouldn't be saved.
Al: And so, we just have to remember, we've gotta get over that. So, we gotta learn new skills, new skills like this. You walk into the church and you see two women or two men sitting together and it's clear they are a couple, do you move to the other side of the room or do you say, "Oh, I want my family to sit down next to this couple. We're gonna discover each other's names. We're gonna get to know one another and I am gonna pray right now that the reason they're here is because they're being drawn to Christ and I want to have the privilege of being a part of drawing them to Christ."
And that's different. That's a fundamentally different thing. The proximity temptation is, I want distance, but the Gospel says, get close.
Jim: Let me ask you this, too. I've noticed as I've engaged with those communities that believe differently, that we'll usually start every conversation with, "Listen, I know I am probably not going to change your mind, but …" And then we start the conversation. And I'm thinking of one individual in particular. That basically is how we started. He's a gay rights activist and that will be the tone.
But it doesn't prevent us from having dialogue and discussion. Now here's the problem. I've had Christian leaders communicate through newsletters and other things that, you know, when Jim Daly does this, he's jettising [jettisoning] biblical principle. And the irony is, I think I'm living it. I don't know why people would be fearful to meet with people who don't embrace God. That is our call, isn't it?
Al: Well, absolutely and you know, I think even the Christians who criticize you for doing that; also rather secretly admire it--
Al: --because it's generally rooted in fear.
Jim: It doesn't feel like admiration. (Laughing)
Al: Well, no, but it's generally rooted in fear and you know, the reality is, a lot of Christians are just afraid they won't know what to say. They won't know how to relate to someone. But you know, I have to travel all the time, as do you and you know, that means that you're in that unusual situation of being strapped in a metal tube next to someone for a number of hours, you know, in an airplane.
And so, you sit down next to someone. You really didn't choose this conversation. And it may not even turn into a conversation, but you know, if you think about life more in those terms, when you go to the Little League game, when you go to the concert, when you're in the shopping mall and you sit down on the bench and there's someone there, it's pretty much the same thing.
Here's an opportunity for a conversation. Are you gonna seize that opportunity for the Gospel? And you know, here's the thing, and you know, when I was a little boy, learning in an evangelical church what evangelism was all about, this is what we were told to do.
Al: This is exactly what we were told to do. You know, I was trained, when we went back knocking on doors and telling people, "We want to talk to you about Jesus. We're here from, you know, the First Baptist Church and we want to welcome you to the community."
Well, you knock on those doors now and what you're gonna discover is, you're gonna have same-sex couples open the door or you're gonna have someone who's in a transgendered lifestyle. They're gonna open the door. Are you gonna say, "Oh, never mind?" This is where we need to say, "Oh, I really want to get to know you. I want you to know who we are and I hope we'll be able to have some real conversations."
Jim: And that is the right attitude, but you know, the difficulty is, Al, we have conditioned ourselves as the broader church, to move away from that. We don't do messy living well. We want it tidy. What I would say also is, we don't do discipleship well. Paul is such a great example—
Jim: --going to Mars Hill, (Chuckling) embracing a culture that he was being threatened to, you know, physical harm he was being threatened with and everything else. And he stood and he was able to convert some. Why are we no longer adept at walking with people in their difficulty and in their messiness, in their sin?
Al: Yeah, I want to say, I don't think we're entirely incompetent at this. I think we're selectively incompetent. So, if we had someone who was struggling with cancer, we know how to deal with that. If we had someone who was struggling with alcohol, you know, the church has dealt with alcohol abuse for a long time. We kind of know how to deal with that.
We've got to learn how to deal with this and you know, Jim, I want to come back to something you said and that was the fact that there were people who criticized you for meeting. Let me tell you when I'll worry about Jim Daly. I'm gonna worry about Jim Daly, I'm gonna worry about Focus on the Family when you don't continue to teach the full wealth of biblical conviction and all biblical truth on these issues.
Al: You're having me on today to talk about a book that I have written, the entire book, to defend the biblical definition of marriage and a biblical understanding of sexuality. And so, here's the thing, you know, when you meet with someone who's with one of these LGBT organizations, they know who Jim Daly is. They know what you believe. When I engage them, they know what I believe. Someone should be worried about me as a Christian if I ever stop telling the truth and teaching the truth. And so, I hope that makes sense.
Jim: Oh, it totally does and Al, let me raise this question.
Al: That is a temptation, I just wanted to say.
Jim: Oh, it is.
Al: And because there are people who think, I can't establish a relationship unless this person thinks I don't think these issues are a problem. That's just not true.
Jim: When I look at this issue, I see the Old Testament orientation and the New Testament orientation. And what I see in that is an Old Testament that is by the rules. It's a lot about behavior. And I think if I understand it correctly, God was setting that up so we would know our own shortcomings, that we don't measure up. We are not good enough, that Jesus is necessary to be that sacrificial lamb for us, so that we can live in the New Testament, which is God's grace.
And in fact, let me read you a couple of Scriptures that I dwell on a lot and we don't want to cherry pick Scripture. I get that, but when you look at the bulk of the New Testament, I'm tellin' ya, there's two neon signs: salvation through Christ and Christ alone and don't become a Pharisee.
Jim: And Jesus went after that. You look at Colossians 4, verses 5 and 6: "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." It's not saying, "Club 'em. Go after 'em. Talk about politics until you beat them into the kingdom of God." Respond to that wealth of Scripture where in 2 Timothy, Paul is writing to Timothy saying, "Be kind to the world, because our hope is to take them out of the snare of the enemy, that we might teach them what is true. Don't get caught up in these quarrels that are useless." Speak to those Scriptures that are giving us the direction on how to talk to a world that doesn't know God.
Al: If indeed, we understand the power of the Gospel and we understand how good God's gifts are, including the Law, including marriage, including the love between a parent and a child, let's assume that we go to a Little League game and one of our kids is playing and here's a little boy on the Little League team and he's got two moms and they love that little boy and they are cheering him on.
Are we, as Christians, happy that little boy is loved? Yes, we are. Are we happy that there's someone in the stands for him? Yes, we are. Are we willing to establish a relationship with that same-sex couple, who actually think themselves to be married, when we actually don't, you know, in Biblical terms. And are we willing for our children to be friends and to establish a relationship?
Because there is something in a love for a child and there's something in the joy of a child, there's something in that context that we actually can use as a connecting point. We don't want less than this joy for that same-sex couple. Here's what's so hard for Christians to understand. We want more. They're never going to find the deepest joy in what they know now. We don't want for them a loss. We want for them a gain.
Jim: Right. I mean, that's powerful.
John: Yeah, Dr. Al Mohler is our guest on "Focus on the Family and wow, we're getting some really big concepts and some very practical ways to put Biblical truth into action. And he's mentioned his book. It's We Cannot Be Silent. We've got that and a CD or a download of this two-day conversation at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us and we can tell you more. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459.
Jim: Al, we talked about tough questions. Here's another one. You know, we're in the pitch of a presidential campaign. The caucuses and the primaries are goin' on. Romans 13:1 tells us to submit to authorities. It doesn't qualify what type of authority that is. In fact, when that was written, you know, Nero is the Roman emperor, not somebody who believed in all the things the early church believed in. Considering how (Chuckling) Romans were treating Christians at the time, you know—letting them be killed in the Coliseum, burning them as human candles in the palace—I wonder how the early church responded to that portion of Paul's letter. If that were written today, let's just say it, How do we fulfill that part of Scripture in a way that honors Christ?
Al: You know, one of the most revolutionary things Christ said was when He told His disciples, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God, the things that are God's. That's still our responsibility. We don't have Caesar, but we do have government. And government does have a rightful claim on us.
And by the way, that claim is not that we agree the government's always right and thankfully, we live in a democratic republic, where we have the opportunity to have impact and influence in the government.
But we do have to recognize that the gift of government is a good thing and that we also have to be stripped of any utopian illusions that somehow there's gonna be a perfect government that we will ever find.
Jim: Or a perfect person.
Al: Well, absolutely, I mean (Laughter), I've been at this a long time, as have you. Political disappointment is a part of every political experience, because politics can't deliver us.
Al: But government's really important and then that's why Christians need to be involved, but we also need to make certain we're not staking our hopes on any candidate as the means of our salvation from this or any other problem. Salvation comes only from the Son of Man, only from God. And thus, we have to pray that God will convict the conscience of this nation on the sanctity of human life, on the reality and goodness and beauty of marriage.
And we need to be engaged in the political process. Our goal, by the way, is to try to assist human flourishing, to do those things that would make human flourishing happen, that would lead to happier families, that would lead to more wholeness and would lead to stronger communities and to a demonstration of all the good things that God would give us in this life. And sometimes we seem to have influence. Sometimes we seem to have little influence, but we still have a truth to tell.
Jim: That's for sure. A couple of good other heavy ones. Will my pastor at some point have to preside over a same-sex ceremony? And what should our church do at that point? How do we respond?
Al: Well, a Christian minister must not preside over a same-sex ceremony.
Al: Because it is not only a violation of Scripture, it is a violation of the picture of the Gospel given to us in the Scripture, where the church is the bride and Christ is the bridegroom. It would be to defy the authority of Christ and to mislead people concerning sin, which means we're corrupting the Gospel. That's one of those things a Christian pastor must never do.
Jim: And Al, let me add this. Sometimes younger believers … and I don't mean to disparage anybody, but somebody in their 20s, let's just say—
Jim: --hears that. It feels harsh. It feels hard. Why are we saying "No, it's not harsh. We need to be able to express this truth, because it's fundamental to conviction of Spirit."?
Al: Well, let me just ask the fundamental question. Is it ever right to lie to someone?
Jim: Of course not.
Al: Of course not. Well, if we tell people they're married when we know biblically they're not, we just lied to them. If we say we think this can lead to your happiness and we know that it cannot, we just lied to them. If we say, "You do this and you will find all the social approval and everything else you're longing for and we know that's not true, we lie to them. At the most basic level, we know it's wrong.
John: So, Al, take that home to the vast majority of us who are not pastors. Should I go to a friend's same-sex wedding?
Al: You know, that's a very, very difficult question in terms of the social context. It's an easy question to answer from Scripture and that is, that a Christian must not attend a same-sex wedding for this reason. Attendance at a wedding is not like attendance at a concert or attendance at some kind of speaking event or attendance at a sporting event. Attendance at a wedding is by definition, an agreement that this is right.
In fact, those who are gathered for a wedding are called "celebrants." They are celebrating what's taking place. You know, just about every single wedding in this country still follows the Book of Common Prayer from the Church of England, in which we all know that language. "If anyone here present knows any reason why these two should not lawfully be joined in holy matrimony, let him speak now or forever hold his peace."
That means, going back to the biblical understanding of marriage, if you are there, you're celebrating and saying, "This is right." That's the one context where a Christian can't say it's right. We can say, "I love you." We can say, "I love both of you," and we can deal with them even as they may have had a same-sex ceremony and now we're in conversation with them and they think they're married. We can deal with that "convictionally" as Christians.
But how do you do that when you were at the wedding and how do you do that when presence at the wedding implies celebration? You know, no one's going to follow the fiction of being at the wedding and then coming up later and saying, in the receiving line, I really don't think you're married, by the way. I just came for … you know, this reason. You just can't do that.
Al: And so, that's one of those unique moments when Christians are gonna have to understand, my love can only be demonstrated in truth and because of that, I just can't go to a same-sex wedding ceremony.
Jim: How, in that context, because we do receive comments here from parents who have a gay son or daughter and they're in that position where they have to decide if they're gonna go. That is a heart-wrenching situation, 'cause this is your child. And you know, I get it, but man, that is hard to process.
Al: It's excruciating. I mean, just imagine the confusions we have set loose in this society. It's just heartbreaking when you think about it. In this moral revolution, we've got things that confront us that no previous generation of Christians ever had to consider or Christian parents.
But of course, it's never just going to be limited to that. That's the thing. Sometimes we think if we just do this one thing, we can demonstrate love and sometimes, let's face it, it's thrown at us that way. If you don't do this one thing, then our relationship is over and you don't love me.
You know, there are times in which I think, Christian parents have to understand when that line is drawn, we've got to live past that line. And sometimes it's going to take time, but I think Christian parents really have to think carefully. Will my attendance at that ceremony actually make it more difficult for me to love them and to be truthful with them and to be a Gospel parent to my son or daughter? Or will it make it more difficult?
And we should never underestimate the pain that is coming into so many families, the agonizing decisions coming here. But you know, Jim, that's another reason why we never need to act as lone rangers in this. We are so vulnerable for trying to figure this out on our own. We need biblical churches, biblical congregations, helping each other in the church to figure out, how do I handle this?
You know, we need to be talking to fellow believers, mature, biblically minded, truthful, Gospel-loving believers, constantly saying, "Look, here's how I'm trying to talk to this person. Here's how I'm trying to reach this person. Here's how I'm trying to think this through. Is this right?"
Jim: Al, what great advice this is and I hope people are hearing the heart of what you're saying. These are the things we have to grapple with. Perhaps for the first time in hundreds of years, the church needs to be more authentic, more real, more engaging, more in tune with Scripture, to your point, more knowledgeable of what the Word of God says, so that we can behave in such a way that the Gospel is lifted up and that people might come to their senses, of all stripes. No one is beyond the reach of God. No one.
Jim: And that is the great hope. I am thankful that you have written a powerful treatise in this regard called We Cannot Be Silent. It's not a defiant title; it's an embracing title. Thanks so much for bein' with us.
Al: Oh, Jim, what a privilege to be with you and I'm just so thankful for Focus on the Family and for how you're helping families and Christians to think through these issues. This is going to be the great challenge for the rest of our lives. We better just understand that Christ's intention for us, to deal with this for the rest of our lives and be faithful.
Jim: Yeah, it's His plan.
John: And I appreciate the emphasis on being faithful. That's so hard at times, but you've brought us hope and I trust that Dr. Al Mohler has given you some encouragement of moving forward and being faithful in that. We'll encourage you to call us here. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY. Request the CD and Dr. Mohler's book, We Cannot Be Silent. We also have a download of this and our mobile app as well. You can see those and the book at www.FocusontheFamily.com/radio.
And we'd appreciate your financial support of this non-profit organization. We have a world-wide ministry but it only happens because you faithfully pray and give to Focus on the Family. And when you contribute a gift of any amount today, we'll send Dr. Mohler's book, We Cannot Be Silent, to you as our way of saying thanks. Just make a donation when you call 800-A-FAMILY.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly, I'm John Fuller inviting you back tomorrow when Professor Alex Chediak shares how he helps students understand the real cost of a college education:
Alex Chediak: Even if you have the resources to pay for all of it. Your child's better off learning to value what they're getting. I tell my students the first day of class how much they're paying per lecture. And they don't skip class as a result.
End of Excerpt
John: That's next time on "Focus on the Family" as we help you and your family thrive.
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Al MohlerView Bio
Dr. Albert Mohler is the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a nationally-recognized leader among American evangelicals. He is a professor of Christian theology, an ordained minister, a columnist and the host of two radio programs, The Briefing and Thinking in Public. Dr. Mohler holds master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southern Seminary. He has authored several books including Culture Shift, Desire & Deceit and Atheism Remix. Dr. Mohler and his wife, Mary, have two children. Learn more about Dr. Mohler by visiting his website, www.albertmohler.com. Also, check out this blog post by Dr. Mohler which Jim Daly has mentioned on the Focus on the Family daily radio broadcast.