Southern Baptist Leaders’ Rhetoric Unclear and Unhelpful
In recent years, leaders in the Southern Baptist denomination have been among the most stalwart and unequivocal faith leaders on the issues of homosexuality and gender dysphoria. In particular, Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, have demonstrated exemplary courage, wisdom, and grace in addressing the pagan sexuality that threatens to destroy the family, children’s rights, public education, church unity, and constitutional protections. Unfortunately, in the past year, both Mohler and Moore as well as Southern Baptist theologian Denny Burk have made statements that harm the cause of truth and, if not clarified or corrected, undermine the credibility of their leadership.
Since clarity is becoming a rarity, I want to be clear: Mohler, Moore, and Burk all believe that homoerotic activity is a serious sin that Christians are not permitted to engage in or affirm, and that marriage has a nature, central to which is sexual differentiation and without which a union is not a marriage.
Dr. Al Mohler
Dr. Mohler made this comment in 2014 at a conference held by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:
Now early in this controversy, I felt it quite necessary, in order to make clear the gospel, to deny anything like a sexual orientation. And speaking at an event of the National Association of Evangelicals twenty-something years ago, I made that point. I repent of that.
It was a confusing statement to many, in large part because the press took it out of context, omitting most of what Mohler said about “orientation.” Because the term “sexual orientation” means different things to different groups, it is confusing when a Christian leader like Mohler uses it. It’s even more confusing when the press dishonestly exploits his use of it.
“Sexual orientation” is innocuous if or when it is used as a kind of shorthand term simply to describe a powerful, seemingly intractable feeling or desire that arises non-volitionally. Christians could reasonably appropriate it in this usage to succinctly identify any type of besetting sin. Christians could refer to a “pride orientation,” a “polyamorous orientation,” a “minor-attraction orientation,” a “covetous orientation,” or an “idolatrous orientation.” We could tack “orientation” on to any powerful, deep-seated, unchosen, unwanted predilection to engage in any kind of sin, but Christians commonly don’t because they understand the unbiblical connotations and political implications embedded in the term “sexual orientation.” Dr. Mohler should understand that as well.
“Sexual orientation” is the language of “LGBTQQIAP” activists who more effectively utilize language than do conservatives. Embedded in the term are the arguable assumptions that homosexuality is immutable and innate, and because it’s innate, it’s—in their view—inherently good. Christians, like Mohler, also acknowledge a kind of innateness to homosexuality in the sense that humans have inherent fallen, sin natures and our sinful natures manifest in all kinds of powerful, persistent, unchosen disordered desires including homosexual desires. Here is what Mohler said that the secular press and homosexual activists largely did not report:
Biblical Christians properly resist any suggestion that our will can be totally separated from sexual desire, but we really do understand that the will is not a sufficient explanation for a pattern of sexual attraction. Put simply, most people experiencing a same-sex attraction tell of discovering it within themselves at a very early age, certainly within early puberty. As they experience it, a sexual attraction or interest simply “happens,” and they come to know it.
Given the depth of the Bible’s teachings on sin and this fallen world, this should not surprise us. In some sense, each of us finds within ourselves a pattern of desires — sexual and otherwise — we did not ask for, but for which we are then and now fully responsible. When it comes to a same-sex attraction, the orientation is sinful because it is defined by an improper object — someone of the same sex.
Christians also believe that the bondage to our innate sinful natures that grips us is broken by the broken body of Christ. Christ frees us for holiness. So the meaning of “orientation” by Christians would be very different from the meaning it holds for homosexual activists.
While the Holy Spirit sanctifies our corrupt natures, conforming us to the image of Christ, complete eradication of some sinful desires may not come until our next life, which leads to another problem with statements from these well-respected Southern Baptist leaders.
Evidently heavily influenced by the work of Heath Lambert, associate professor of Biblical Counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, they are rejecting what they call “secular reparative therapy” as ineffectual for facilitating change in unwanted homoerotic attraction, largely because it does not offer redemption.
Reparative therapy (RT) is a non-coercive form of counseling that helps clients—including minors—who desire to reduce homosexual attraction and explore their “heterosexual potential.”
Here are some of the issues that RT seeks to address:
The RT therapist does not simply accept at a surface level the client’s sexual or romantic feelings and behaviors, but rather, invites him into a non-judgmental inquiry into his deeper motivations. The RT psychotherapist always asks “why” and invites the client to do the same.
The gay-affirmative therapist, however, typically addresses this clinical material regarding homosexual attractions “phenomenologically” (i.e. accepting the attractions at face value without questioning their origins). This is a highly unprofessional omission.
The RT therapist must go much deeper: he recognizes, for example, that a teen may believe he is gay for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with his core sexual identity. His sexual feelings may be rooted in a need for acceptance, approval, of affection from males, or may reflect his loneliness, boredom, or simple curiosity. He may engage in same-sex behavior for adventure, money, peer pressure; or to express hostility against male peers, or general rebellion. He may also find himself reenacting an early trauma of sexual molestation by another male….
A higher-than-average percentage of homosexually oriented men were sexually abused in childhood by an older male. One study found that 46% of homosexual men compared with just 7% of heterosexual males reported homosexual molestation. The same study also found that 22% of lesbians reported homosexual molestation compared with just 1% of heterosexual women (Tomeo, et.al., 2001). In these cases where the person was molested in childhood, homosexual behavior reenacted in adulthood can represent a repetition compulsion.
Indeed, a teenager may become convinced that he is gay through the influence of a persuasive adult– a gay-affirmative therapist, mentor, teacher, or even his own molester. Such influential adults could succeed in swaying an uncertain youth that homosexuality, is for him, simply inevitable.
Homosexual behavior may also reflect some kind of developmental crisis that has evoked insecurities, prompting the fantasy that he can receive protection from a stronger male. Anxieties and insecurities regarding approaching the opposite sex (heterophobia) may also prompt the search for the perceived safety and ease of finding a partner for same-sex behavior.
Environmental factors such as incarceration in a prison, or living in a residential treatment facility where young males sleep together and are isolated from females, may promote same-sex behavior and consequent gay self-labeling. In addition, gay self-identification may represent a political or ideological statement to the world, as seen in radical-feminist lesbianism in the women’s movement.
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