R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., was interviewed by Washington, D.C. pastor Mark Dever about the cultural impact of same-sex "marriage" at the Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville Wednesday (April 11).
Six states currently recognize gay "marriage," and two more have passed laws that are being challenged by citizens and could be overturned. The laws in those two other states, Maryland and Washington, have yet to go into effect.
The definition of marriage, Mohler said, is simple: "Marriage is the union of a man and a woman before the Creator in an exclusive and permanent relationship that models His own character and covenantal love."
Historically, Western civilization was built on the understanding of marriage as both a biblical and legal institution, Mohler said. The trend in recent times, however, has been to sever marriage away from its biblical understanding and more towards a legal understanding. This poses a problem for Christians as their views conflict with the state's definition.
"Christians have essentially agreed with the civil aspects of marriage, but have believed beyond the legal understanding -- that marriage fits into a Gospel structure," Mohler said. "We now find ourselves in a position of saying that we believe in contrast as to the state's definition of marriage."
With shifting attitudes toward homosexuality, Mohler noted the consequences for Christians who insist on holding to biblical marriage: "What we now have in an increasingly short period of time is the condemnation of anyone who will not approve of homosexuality."
Apart from a supernatural act, Mohler said he does not expect the culture to reverse its opinion on homosexuality.
The implications for pastors are many, Mohler said.
"You can count on this being an enduring, permanent challenge set to impact every single local church."
The cultural impact, Mohler said, will force pastors to address their position on marriage, and obligate churches to declare they don't believe certain couples are married -- when the government says they are. Parents, Mohler added, will need to train children on the biblical definition and role of marriage, in the face of what the culture is telling the children. Christian institutions also will need to address their legal rights, which may be curtailed.
"We will have to learn how to demonstrate Christian love, while also demonstrating Christian conviction," Mohler said.
Christians, he added, must "examine where we've fallen short of biblical fidelity on marriage. Where we have, we have lessened our credibility to speak on the issue."
One-sixth of the American population, he said, lives in a location where same-sex "marriage" is legal. Mohler offered sober analysis of the difficulties Christians will face.
"Society begins to regulate what is and what is not acceptable discourse. And we are going to find ourselves on the wrong side of that divide," Mohler warned.
Mohler called for the church to come to grips with sexual brokenness in its midst.
"It is progress for us to admit that we have church members who struggle with this ," Mohler said. "One of the problems is that conservative Christians tend to talk about sexual sin only when some kind of glass breaks and we actually have to talk about it."
When homosexuals hear Christians speak of sin, they should hear a clear message, Mohler said: "Everyone of us is sexually broken, and left to ourselves, there is no one who has had a perfectly God-honoring sexual orientation.
"... Anyone involved in pastoral ministry learns that the creativity of humanity when it comes to sexual sin is beyond our imagination."
Asked about when to speak about the issue of same-sex "marriage" publicly, Mohler replied, "We have to get over the idea that we have a private message without public consequences. The Gospel is a public truth."
Regarding the political implications of the definition of marriage Mohler, said, "We have to be careful not to believe the witness of the church on marriage rides merely on a political platform. We would be equally naïve if our understanding of marriage doesn't have political implications."
Together for the Gospel is a biennial conference that occurs in Louisville. This year's conference drew a crowd of 8,000 people.
Andrew Walker writes for the Institute on Religion & Democracy www.theird.org, where a version of this story first appeared. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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