Where are Southern Baptist leaders headed re: homosexuality?

"Conflicting views on statements related to homosexuality and reparative therapy have emerged following a just-completed Southern Baptist meeting in NashvilleConflicting views on statements related to homosexuality and reparative therapy have emerged following a just-completed Southern Baptist meeting in Nashville"

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Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Greg,

That is the point I was driving at earlier. If we define lust as an inordinate desire, either a legitimate desire that has been allowed to wander out of bounds (such as anger that seeks vengeance) or an illegitimate desire (such as homosexuality), then the lust indicates an area of my heart that is not conformed to the image of Christ. This is an area that is still in need of sanctification. I don't see how we can call that anything other than a violation of God's holiness, and missing the mark like that is always sin. If on the other hand, I am confronted with an opportunity to sin, a temptation, and there is no corresponding desire in my heart drawing me to miss the mark of holiness in the area at that moment, then we can say the temptation to lust there did not reveal any sin in my heart or produce any sin in my thoughts or actions. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Shaynus's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

Temptation is external, what you do with the temptation is internal.

I only changed the object in one sentence. The two scenarios are exactly the same as you described them. What you are describing the homosexual saying is sin. Until he sees it as such I doubt he can make much progress to victory.

Jesus was tempted. He did something with it. I think Don should have the answer to his own question. 

Don Johnson's picture

Are you saying the Lord's temptation was something inside him? A proclivity to something?

I think that would be a low view of Christ. The temptation is an external test. The problem is the perverted affections that all humans but Christ have.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Greg Long's picture

So heterosexual temptation is external only? There is nothing inside of me that has a proclivity to that temptation?

Chip, again you are confusing the sinful nature with acts of sin. Of course we are totally depraved, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Of course our desires are sinful through and through. The question is whether or not I am morally culpable for committing an act of sin when I am tempted to lust, whether homosexually or heterosexually. I can't imagine how you could possibly say yes.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Don Johnson's picture

Ok, let me say that I am not sure about the "only external" aspect of my argument.

I don't have time to do the research in the Scriptures to see if this theory can hold water. James 1.13-15 surely has a bearing, but perhaps it shoots me down, too.

In any case, my main point is that the scenario you described is not describing some kind of innate predilection. My restating your statement and simply changing the object shows that the "always felt that way, can't change" is sin. In fact, it is implicit in the conscience of the speaker, he is praying to God to remove this desire from him, so he knows it is sin. His conscience tells him so, and rightly so, I think.

So, if there is a predilection of some sort, it has to be expressed differently to somehow be 1) a natural thing he is born with 2) non-sinful in itself. Quite frankly, I don't believe such a thing exists. It isn't genetics, it isn't natural, it is a cultivated desire (from various factors), that in itself is wrong. I would say the same is true of anyone whose favored sin is immoral relations with people of the opposite sex. The only difference is that the cultivated desire is being expressed more naturally, but still is sin.

You will have to wait awhile for any further engagement from me on the topic, I will be sans internet most of the day tomorrow. Likely the conversation will have moved on from this point by then, so this may well be all I have to say at this time.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Greg Long's picture

Thanks, Don. Yes, I think James 1 is instructive here, and very clearly separates temptation from sin.

To paint another scenario, let's say I am at my computer and through no fault of my own, a sexually explicit pop up ad appears. Instantly I am tempted to look longer at it (lustfully), but in that same instant, I overcome that temptation and immediately click to close the ad (and then investigate further what I can do to stop any such ad from appearing again!). I hope no one would say that I sinned in that instant (or else you'd have to say that Jesus sinned when he was tempted, too). Now, simply change the scenario to someone who is, for various reasons, tempted homosexually, and a pop ad appears with a sexually explicit male posing, and I hope you wouldn't say that person sinned if he was tempted to look but overcame that temptation and closed the ad.

Back to my counseling scenario: Note that I didn't say what I, the counselor, would say in response. On the one hand, I would not dismiss his statements out of hand and say, "That's impossible; every time you are tempted it's because you choose to be tempted homosexually" which in effect condemns him for being tempted. On the other hand, neither would I shrug my shoulders and say, "Well, I guess that's just how things are for you. Just be sure you don't give in to that temptation." No, we would work on strategies to fight that temptation, which in many cases, over the course of time, would serve to lessen the frequency and possibly even change the nature of the temptations. From what I understand, many men with SSA report that their desires can shift to a greater or lesser extent from homosexual to heterosexual. Then again, others (including a man in my church) report that the desires/temptations lessen but never fully disappear, and that they must constantly be on guard to fight those temptations with the power of the Word through the Spirit, putting on the full armor of God--just like any of us must do with heterosexual temptations.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

dgszweda's picture

I believe there is a proclivity in relation to our temptation.  Some are situational, and some are innate within each of us.  If you look at the temptation of Christ in Matthew 4, the first temptation was to turn stones into bread.  This was a situational proclivity.  If Christ was at the marriage feast, being tempted to turn stones into bread, it would have been meaningless, because bread was all around him.  But he had a situational apparent weakness in Matthew 4 because he was fasting, and the desire for food at that moment was unique to him and his situation.

I believe the innate issue is something that is seen in Scripture as well as in practical areas of everyone's lives.  There are those I know who struggle with addiction.  Their personalities and who they are make them more susceptible to this condition, than say myself.  Many men struggle with impure thoughts of woman.  Many individuals would say that this is because of an innate desire in men and their attraction to woman.  Yet there are many men who do not suffer from this at all.  In fact there are some men who have no attraction to woman (and no attraction to other men either).  That doesn't provide an excuse in my opinion or legitimizes any sin whatsoever, it is just that we all struggle with various temptations that are unique to us as an individual.  Because we are born into sin, our current nature, including physically is corrupted.  There are females born with male body parts, there are individual born with severe mental issues or even severe physical issues which torment them and make them more susceptible to sin and temptation than others.  A child that is raised in an abusive home suffers from trauma and different temptations than those who are raised in a loving home.

Jay's picture

If Jesus could be tempted in all areas like us, and yet remain without sin (Hebrews 4:15), then I think that there has to be a dichotomy between internal and external sources of temptation.  Jesus could have no internal sources because of the virgin birth - he did not inherit Adam's sin nature.  And we all know that there were external sources of temptation from Matthew 4 (Satan would qualify as an external source, right?).

Now, if we affirm total depravity (which I think we all do), then I don't see how Shaynus could be wrong in that the fallenness / sinfulness of mankind extending to even our genetic makeup.  We are all under a curse, as well, correct?  Are we not subject to futility?

I haven't done any counseling yet along these lines, but I think I would approach SSA / SSO the same way I would approach my own sinful temptations to heterosexual lust.  I've just never seen a huge difference there except in terms of the object.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Mike Harding's picture

Greg, there is such a thing as a besetting sin, a sin that one person is more likely to commit than another person.  Many factors influence our lives making us susceptible to different sins.  When our theological adversaries speak of sexual orientation, however, they are speaking of an inherent biological tendency or necessity to have homosexual desires which then issue in homosexual acts. I don't see that argument in Scripture.  Quite the opposite.  Whatever Dr. Mohler meant in his public repentance on the concept of sexual orientation, its does not bode well for his position.  I respect Dr. Mohler for taking such a clear stand on the homosexual issue over the years. This was a great disappointment to me and appears to be a serious compromise.  Maybe he will clarify his confession or walk it back.  I will be interested to see if he does. 

Don Johnson is correct on the temptation issue.  The external aspect is not sin; however, when we are drawn away of our own lusts, that is sin.  This is why the Gospel is our only hope.  God never promised to redeem us from a so-called "orientation"; he promised to save us from our sin.

Pastor Mike Harding

Greg Long's picture

dgszweda wrote:

I believe there is a proclivity in relation to our temptation.  Some are situational, and some are innate within each of us.  If you look at the temptation of Christ in Matthew 4, the first temptation was to turn stones into bread.  This was a situational proclivity.  If Christ was at the marriage feast, being tempted to turn stones into bread, it would have been meaningless, because bread was all around him.  But he had a situational apparent weakness in Matthew 4 because he was fasting, and the desire for food at that moment was unique to him and his situation.

I believe the innate issue is something that is seen in Scripture as well as in practical areas of everyone's lives.  There are those I know who struggle with addiction.  Their personalities and who they are make them more susceptible to this condition, than say myself.  Many men struggle with impure thoughts of woman.  Many individuals would say that this is because of an innate desire in men and their attraction to woman.  Yet there are many men who do not suffer from this at all.  In fact there are some men who have no attraction to woman (and no attraction to other men either).  That doesn't provide an excuse in my opinion or legitimizes any sin whatsoever, it is just that we all struggle with various temptations that are unique to us as an individual.  Because we are born into sin, our current nature, including physically is corrupted.  There are females born with male body parts, there are individual born with severe mental issues or even severe physical issues which torment them and make them more susceptible to sin and temptation than others.  A child that is raised in an abusive home suffers from trauma and different temptations than those who are raised in a loving home.

Great post. Well said.

It's interesting to me that on the one hand we would categorically reject any kind of inborn tendencies or proclivities towards certain specific kinds of temptations when it comes to homosexuality, but then on the other hand most Christians would have no problem understanding what someone means when they say, "Yeah, I struggle with anger--I am Irish, after all" (or "...a hot temper has always run in our family.")

Now, to be clear, that does NOT mean that innate tendencies are the ONLY reason for homosexual temptations--just see the chart I posted above that there are probably a number of complex factors involved--internal, external, hereditary, historical, environmental, etc. Also, this does NOT excuse any sinful thought or action, regardless of any innate tendencies, proclivities, attractions, orientations, etc. (whatever you want to call it).

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Greg Long's picture

Mike, I understand that our "adversaries" use the term "orientation" in certain ways to excuse or justify sin. That does not necessarily mean that Mohler is using that term in that way, however. And it doesn't mean that the term "orientation" itself necessarily means those things.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

dgszweda's picture

Greg Long wrote:

It's interesting to me that on the one hand we would categorically reject any kind of inborn tendencies or proclivities towards certain specific kinds of temptations when it comes to homosexuality,

I agree.  I am not sure we can just reject the fact that individuals are born with a proclivity towards certain situations.  I agree it was never so from the beginning, but that doesn't mean that sin doesn't corrupt even our natural selves.  It wasn't from the beginning that individuals were born with two sets of sexual organs.  But they are.  And they are faced with tremendous challenges.  I think that we would be naive to think that sin cannot corrupt us even to this core.  Now whether there is a gene or not, I don't know, nor would I even care to speculate.  I just know that for myself I have struggled with certain sins all of my life.  That doesn't provide one ounce of excuse or indicate that I should be absolved of giving into my temptation, but when looking at my siblings, I have even noticed that each one of them, even though they are saved and we were raised in the same type of house, we each have our own struggles.  The sin that my brother struggles with it, I have absolutely no issues with.  Why do we treat homosexuality any differently.

Don Johnson's picture

Hi Greg, I thought we are getting off topic with our discussion here, so I replied to your post in a new thread here.

As to the topic, the seeming change by Mohler and other Southern Baptists is astonishing. Hopefully some of them at least are not communicating clearly or have been somehow misquoted.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Greg Long's picture

I have only had time to watch this one video from the conference, but I would HIGHLY recommend it. It is a panel discussion of four Christians who have struggled with SSA and/or have come out of the gay lifestyle (three remaining single and celibate; 1 who is married). They directly address some of the issues we are raising on this thread. Again, very helpful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJdEZv_24Uk

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Mike Harding's picture

 Here's a Huffington Post opinion piece noting the shift.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sharon-groves/is-the-southern-baptist-c_b_6078108.html

Here's the Wall Street Journal's take:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/southern-baptists-gay-community-break-bread-at-conference-1414691923

 

The article opens with:

 

A gathering of Southern Baptists here opened this week with Albert Mohler, stalwart head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, apologizing for “denying the reality of sexual orientation,” but saying orientation “can change.”

It closed with a pastor saying “no one goes to hell for being homosexual.”

“This was an amazing event,” said Mr. Vines. “Not for the public sessions but for the private meetings. It’s not like anyone is suddenly pro-gay,” said Mr. Vines. But, he added, “it feels like a new era.”

In a sign of the practical struggles Baptists face, some of the conference focused on advice. “What if you get invited to a same-sex wedding ceremony?” Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, was asked. “In that case, I would not attend the wedding. I would attend the reception.”  

What is interesting is that some media outlets began reporting earlier this year that SBC leaders were looking for ways to open dialog with the LGBT community and find common ground.  Here is an MSNBC article on this.

http://www.msnbc.com/craig-melvin/new-openness-gay-worshippers

Here is another article from the liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship:

http://baptistnews.com/culture/social-issues/item/29393-lgbt-leaders-open-to-dialogue-with-sbc

The Baptist News is the mouthpiece for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the moderate Baptist group that formed in the 1990s in response to the conservative resurgence in the SBC.  This is an SBC splinter group.  It is interesting that these folks would see an opening to engage the SBC leadership on LGBT dialog.  They have been noticing some cracks in the armor.

 

 

 

Pastor Mike Harding

Greg Long's picture

I agree that it is somewhat unclear what is happening here. But my take on it is summarized by the Ex. VP of the ERLC:

"This is the idea that we are holding on to clear Biblical principals in an unwavering way while presenting them in a winsome capacity seeking to persuade and engage and not vaporize."

Despite newfound gay worshippers in pews, Baptist doctrine still draws hard lines against gay members. “Membership is reserved for those walking with Jesus, and anyone acting in a relationship contrary to that is not granted membership,” Bethancourt said. “We’re looking at how we can still love and serve and minister to people despite different viewpoints.”

“I think in 10 years, the SBC will be right where they are right now in holding on to the view that marriage is between one man and one woman," Bethancourt said.

http://www.msnbc.com/craig-melvin/new-openness-gay-worshippers

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Mike Harding's picture

Greg, "sexual orientation" has become a legal term in our society that means precisely what I have described it.  When sexual orientation is legally added to legislative acts of city councils, state legislatures, etc., this is what it means.  Mohler knows this.  You would have to be a first class ignoramus not to, and he certainly is not that.  He should have chosen a different term to explain himself.  What he probably meant was same-sex sexual attraction. Major news media outlets are seeing this as a major shift in the SBC.  Mohler and Moore need to be much more careful here.  Now there is talk about organized collaboration with LGBT Christian organizations on social issues.  Moore won't go to a same sex wedding, but he will show up for the food. 

Pastor Mike Harding

CLeavell's picture

Thanks Greg for posting the link to the panel discussion. There are some great points made. I very must appreciate Rosaria Butterfield’s answer to the question of whether or not Christians should adopt the concept of “sexual orientation.”  She is making a very important point!

 

Greg Long's picture

I would encourage you to listen/watch Mohler's actual presentation, rather than just go by a cherry-picked quote here and there from it. From his exposition of Romans 1, Aftermath: Ministering in a Post-Marriage Culture, here is what he actually said:

We understand that there are those who are now, in terms of these biblical texts [that condemn homosexuality], there are rejectionists. There are those who are saying that human flourishing will only take place if these texts are stared down and rejected. And then there are others who are following a revisionist argument, saying, "No, we can make peace with this sexual revolution by understanding these texts in a way that the Christian Church never understood them before, or because data was lacking then that we have now."

And undoubtedly, data was lacking then that we have now. One of things we should not be embarrassed to say is that we are learning. One of the embarrassments that I have to bear is that I have written on these issues now for nearly 30 years. And in a couple of points, I have to say I got that wrong, and we’ve got to back and correct it—correct it by Scripture. Now early in this controversy, I felt it quite necessary to—in order to make clear the Gospel—to deny anything like a sexual orientation. Speaking at an event for the National Association of Evangelicals twenty-something years ago, I made that point. I repent of that. I believe that a biblical-theological understanding, a robust biblical theology, would point to us that human sexual affective profiles--who we are sexually--is far more deeply rooted than just the will, as if that were so easy.

But Genesis 3 explains that. It helps us to understand that this complex of same-sex challenges coming to us is something that is deeply rooted in the biblical story itself, and something that we need to take with far greater seriousness than we’ve taken in the past—understanding that that requires a far more robust Gospel response than anything the Church has come up with heretofore.

And this is a real challenge to us on biblical authority. If the revisionist arguments are right, then we’ve got to join them. I don’t believe for a minute they are right; I’ve done a lot of writing about why I don’t believe that. I don’t believe the Christian Church has misread Scripture for two millennia. I don’t believe that there was information lacking to the Holy Spirit that would have changed the meaning of these texts, information that is now available to us. But in terms of our ministry, in terms of our faithfulness, we’ve got to take all this into consideration, and we have to do so fast.

We need to be rescued not only by Scripture, but fundamentally by biblical theology, and we need to understand that it is on that basis, on biblical theology, that someone of the stature of Wolfhart Pannenburg, the recently deceased great theologian of Germany, said that a church that accepts a revision on this issue of same-sex relationships, is a church that ceases being one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. It’s an immense statement.

I understand your point that the term "orientation" can be used in various ways and that Mohler may have caused confusion with his statement, but we must at the very least allow Mohler to tell us how he is using the term. And from this presentation, it seems that he is using the term to argue what several of us are arguing on this thread--that trying to understand where same-sex attractions, proclivities, tendencies, (even "orientation") come from is not as simple as saying, "You chose to be that way," but that it is much more complex than that. BUT AT THE SAME TIME, declaring with clarity and conviction that any sexual activity (including lust) outside of the bounds of heterosexual marriage is sin and can only be combated by the power of the Gospel.

I've really enjoyed the videos I've watched so far from this conference. So far they have been rooted in both biblical and theological conviction as well as sensitivity and compassion. If anyone has seen something in any of the conference videos that is concerning, please make us aware.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

wkessel1's picture

From Pastor Harding's above:

“This was an amazing event,” said Mr. Vines. “Not for the public sessions but for the private meetings. It’s not like anyone is suddenly pro-gay,” said Mr. Vines. But, he added, “it feels like a new era.”

This seems to say something about the direction they are going.  Matthew Vine saying it was an amazing event and that is feels like a new era, seems to be implying that while they are not suddenly pro-gay, they are moving in that direction.

Just a thought.

Greg Long's picture

wkessel, did you get a chance to watch any of the videos from the conference yet?

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

wkessel1's picture

I have not had a chance, yet.  Having read summaries of the chapters of Mr. Vine's book, it just seems disconcerting that he would have thought there to be a change in the right direction; which is what his statements seem to imply,  I will endeavor to watch the videos and to get a better understanding.

Mike Harding's picture

Here is the conclusion drawn by the religion reporter, Sharon Groves, of the Huffington Post who attended the entire conference:

The SBC is a powerful organization that has been an unrelenting oppositional force in the culture wars, so I can't help but listen with interest when their theological leader Albert Mohler states, "We are accustomed to thinking from a position of respect and credibility, and now we are facing the reality that, to much of America, we are speaking from a position of loss of credibility, from the underside."

This recognition of a loss of credibility may show the kind of real humility that will make it possible for some of us to take a leap of faith that a genuine relationship can be possible. I, for one, long to see what it might look like to travel into the unknown terrain on the other side of the culture wars. We have a very long way to go, but there were signs at this conference -- amidst confusing, contradictory and even harmful messages -- that we might be heading in that direction.

 

She previously stated:

Even within this reality, the Southern Baptists we met were gracious and hospitable. They organized a behind-the-scenes conversation with an LGBT-affirming contingent that lasted well into the night; when we offered comments, they seemed genuinely pleased; they thanked us for coming and called us brave for showing up; they even retweeted our tweets without irony.

A number of them made incremental steps forward in a few key areas:

Leaders acknowledged the pain they have inflicted on gays and lesbians. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention, stated in his keynote address that he "repent[ed] denying that homosexuality was legitimate."  (Here she misquotes Mohler, but notice the impression his actual statement left with her) He and several other speakers also expressed regret over past depictions of gay people as the worst of all sinners.

They revised some of their longstanding messaging about gay youth. While they still depicted LGBT children as something negative, speakers stated emphatically that it is wrong to blame bad parenting for the sexual orientation of children. The president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), Russell Moore, even went so far as to say that "gay and lesbian homelessness is an issue that the Christian church ought to care about."

They addressed their public image problem often in honest and self-reflective ways. Russell Moore told the group in his closing sermon that the best way to stop "seeming like a bigot" is to stop being a bigot.

 

Pastor Mike Harding

JohnBrian's picture

(in)Frequently Asked Questions About the SBC (excursus)

A couple of them purport to quote Al Mohler–or someone else purportedly quoting him—repenting for "denying that homosexuality was legitimate," or something similar. None of them actually agree on his exact words. Actually, they all get them wrong.

Mike Harding wrote:
Alarming that Mohler would repent of previously not acknowledging the legitimacy of sexual orientation.

and

A number of months ago I discussed this issue at the lunch table with Dr. Mohler.  He made no excuses or allowances for same-sex attraction.  He then addressed a small group of believers in an extemporaneous speech about the issue and condemned the same-sex marriage proponents in the strongest of terms.  That was six months ago. This is a definite change in disposition.

Shouldn't we be a bit more skeptical of media outlets with a vested interest in creating an illusion of SBC softening than we are of someone like Al Mohler, who's been crystal clear for years on a whole array of issues related to biblical morality?

Yesterday (Thu, 11/06/2014) at 4:31pm Greg Long posted the text of the video referenced in this article. Watching the video of his speech shows that he has not changed his "disposition."

I am disappointed that there are amongst us those who were willing to assume the worst of Mohler based on a misrepresentation of what he actually said.

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Greg Long's picture

Yes, I'd rather watch Mohler in his own words rather than go by a Huffington Post reporter, especially as she blatantly misquoted him.

Today I'm watching Moore's interview with Rosario Butterfield, which is quite interesting, as she talks about how she was a tenured professor at Syracuse U and was a lesbian feminist. After she wrote an article in a local paper blasting Promise Keepers, a local pastor invited her over to dinner with him and his wife. That was the beginning of a relationship that led to her conversion. It is a model of how we should interact with our homosexual "enemies" (as she was not just homosexual, but outspokenly antagonistic to Christianity).

This is the third full-length video I will have watched, and I am yet to find anything I don't wholeheartedly concur with. But as I said, if anyone sees/hears anything of concern, please let us know.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Greg Long's picture

Again, if you don't have time to watch the entire 40 minute panel discussion, at least watch Rosaria Butterfield's answer concerning the term "sexual orientation" at the 16:35 mark here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJdEZv_24Uk&feature=youtu.be&t=16m35s (note, this was immediately after someone from the audience rudely shouted out something that interrupted the panel discussion, so if it seems awkward that's why).

Now, someone may legitimately say, "Wait a minute, I thought Mohler was now accepting the term 'sexual orientation,' while Butterfield is rejecting it." I think this is a valid point, but this goes back to the conflicting uses of the term. I might even agree with you, Mike, that I personally would have avoided using the term. But even if we object to the use of the term, once again we must at the very least try to understand what he meant in his use of it. He is NOT using it in the sense of an unalterable condition or identity that fixes and excuses one's sexual behavior. You can't possibly listen to his message and come away with that conclusion. He means exactly what everyone else on the panel believes, that there are predilections, inclinations, attractions, and temptations that are complex, that are not merely external, and that are not merely a choice of the will, that we must try to understand and help people fight and overcome by the power of the Gospel.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Kevin Miller's picture

I just thought of a comparison, and I'm wondering if anyone sees this comparison as valid. When I was younger, I was taught that any mental difficulties a person had, such as depression, were completely due to spiritual factors, such as a lack of trust in God. I have since come to realize that there are actual physical, medical issues involved in mental illness, but that doesn't stop me from also giving spiritual advice to those afflicted with such issues. Could this be the same thing that is happening here with homosexuality. Instead of saying that homosexuality is completely a choice to rebel against God's design, Mohler is acknowledging that deeper physical issues (such as orientation) may be at play, but that wouldn't stop Mohler from bringing in spiritual answers to the problem. Now, all that the secular people might be seeing is a softening of the position, but that doesn't mean there is a softening of the actual, ultimate spiritual solution to the problem.

Mike Harding's picture

John, The RNS which I initially sighted did not misrepresent what he had said.  The Huffington Post did which I recently pointed out.  Even in the lengthy Statement provided by Greg (thank you by the way), It is hard to figure out what exactly he is repenting of.  What is his personal definition of "sexual orientation"?  Why did he not affirm it before and affirms it now?  What data changed his mind?  What new data would contradict or reinterpret what the Apostle Paul says in Roman 1:18-32 where Paul clearly traces homosexual desire and behavior to human corruption based on Total Depravity?  The implication from Dr. Mohler's fuller statement is that homosexuality is not a choice.  We all acknowledge influences in our lives that can lead to sin--Influences which affect us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Nevertheless, homosexual behavior certainly is a choice and homosexual desire is sinful.  What I don't see in his statement is that homosexual desire or attraction (if that is what he means by orientation) is unnatural, contrary to the created order, and should not be equivocated with heterosexual desire which is natural and in keeping with natural law and the created order, albeit can be directed in sinful ways.  Is he interpreting the social sciences from Scripture or is he synergizing the social sciences with Scripture?  His fuller statement raises more questions than it answers.

And undoubtedly, data was lacking then that we have now. One of things we should not be embarrassed to say is that we are learning. One of the embarrassments that I have to bear is that I have written on these issues now for nearly 30 years. And in a couple of points, I have to say I got that wrong, and we’ve got to back and correct it—correct it by Scripture. Now early in this controversy, I felt it quite necessary to—in order to make clear the Gospel—to deny anything like a sexual orientation. Speaking at an event for the National Association of Evangelicals twenty-something years ago, I made that point. I repent of that. I believe that a biblical-theological understanding, a robust biblical theology, would point to us that human sexual affective profiles--who we are sexually--is far more deeply rooted than just the will, as if that were so easy.

Pastor Mike Harding

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