Dr. Albert Mohler is the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Some of us who have agreed with and supported Dr. Mohler for many years now see an unsettling inconsistency in some of his positions. One is regarding Critical Race Theory (See my book A Corruption of Consequence, chapters 9 and 10), and the other relates to homosexuality. This article addresses what I believe is his dangerous accommodation to homosexuality. Let me first and clearly say that I believe Dr. Mohler emphatically regards homosexuality as a sin. I have seen this expressed in his writings, and I hear this when he speaks as well.
For example, The Nashville Statement, A Coalition for Biblical Sexuality, was drafted in August 2017 as a joint venture of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) during an ERLC national conference. Dr. Mohler was an initial signatory along with Denny Burk. Denny Burk “commended the 2017 Nashville Statement on biblical sexuality as expressing ‘a more faithful, biblical vision’ than that of Revoice. Among the Nashville Statement’s affirmations: The adoption of ‘a homosexual or transgender self-conception’ is inconsistent with God’s purposes.” “In October 2017, Southern’s trustees made The Nashville Statement one of the seminary’s confessional documents, which all professors are required to affirm.”
My concerns and questions do not relate to whether Mohler believes homosexuality is a sin, but rather to his unnecessary and confusing language that many homosexuals see as accommodations, a sentiment with which I agree. His message at the 2014 ERLC conference “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and The Future of Marriage” demonstrates excessive hospitality to homosexuality.
Mohler said, “I have to say that on a couple of points, I got that wrong, and we have to go back and correct it, correct it by Scripture. Early in this controversy, I felt it quite necessary to make clear the gospel to deny anything like sexual orientation . . . I repent of that. I believe a biblical theological understanding, a robust theological understanding, would point to us that human sexual affective profiles of who we are sexually is far more deeply rooted than just the will if that were so easy. But Genesis 3 explains that, helps us to understand that this complex of same-sex challenges coming to us is deeply rooted in the biblical story itself. Something that we need to take with far greater seriousness than we have taken in the past. Understanding that requires a far more robust gospel response than anything the church has come up with heretofore.”
His repentance and disavowal of “anything like a sexual orientation” garnered such a backlash that he felt compelled to write an article explaining what he meant. On November 13, 2014, Dr. Mohler wrote an article entitled, Sexual Orientation and The Gospel of Jesus Christ, in which he said, “Subsequent to the conference, it became clear that the vast coverage of the conference in the national press raised some issues that need to be considered further. One of these issues is sexual orientation. As I explained in my address, I had previously denied the existence of sexual orientation. I, along with many other evangelicals, did so because we did not want to accept the sexual identity structure that so often goes with sexual orientation. I still reject that notion of sexual identity. But I repented of denying the existence of sexual orientation because denying it was deeply confusing to people struggling with same-sex attraction.”
Following are some of my reasons for concern:
For the sake of clarity, notice what he repented of. At the conference, he repented of denying “anything like a sexual orientation” (italics added), whereas, in his article, he said he “denied the existence of sexual orientation.” The critical difference lies in the word “like,” which makes the actual thing he repented of to be “the existence of sexual orientation” or “anything like” it. To wit, it was more broadly stated than the article’s phrase indicates. If he provides more clarity on which one he meant, I will accept his word since they are both similarly problematic. For now, I will consider most heavily what he actually said in his repentance statement. He deemed that his retraction of a clearly stated six-word position of “denying anything like a sexual orientation” required a twenty-six-hundred-word article to explain how his reversal did not mean what it seems. That left me wondering what he meant.
Maybe the need for a twenty-six-hundred-word article to explain that what he meant is substantially different than what the homosexuals mean by the term “orientation” might suggest he has been too hospitable and accommodating to the homosexuals. I wonder if he is willing to repeat this article with his extensive qualification each time he uses the word “orientation” to avoid confusion and distinguish it from the way it is commonly understood by the homosexual promoters of the concept. Because the understanding of this concept by the homosexual community is the same as virtually all people who are aware of these discussions. For example, the same can be said of the word “gay.” To repent of saying being gay is sinful according to the Bible would mean that one repented for saying being homosexual is sinful according to the Bible; to argue otherwise breeds confusion, not clarity.
If Dr. Mohler is repentant about denying the concept of sexual orientation as understood by the homosexual community and virtually everyone else, then the clarifying article seems superfluous at best and misleading at worst. If, on the other hand, he did not mean sexual orientation as understood by the homosexual community, then why did he repent over his previous position? What was there to repent of if he meant something entirely different than what the homosexual community means?
Why is there even a need to adopt their term sexual orientation in any sense when the more biblical and unambiguous phrase seems to be that they suffer from an early onset of homosexual temptation? The Bible uses words such as sin and enslaved (John 8:34), but it does not endorse orientation as understood by homosexuals. It seems the twenty-six-hundred-word article would not have been needed if he had corrected his position as he said he needed to “correct it by Scripture.” Why even use the words sexual orientation, which is the battle cry of homosexuals, rather than the clear biblical terms related to the grotesqueness of homosexuality such as sin, abomination, detestable, unrighteousness, degrading passions, unnatural, indecent, and enslaved. They would not require a twenty-six-hundred-word clarifier to explain what he meant, which for me was unsuccessful. Maybe it was not because the Bible led to his decision to repent, but rather as he says, “But I repented of denying the existence of sexual orientation because denying it was deeply confusing to people struggling with same-sex attraction” (italics added).
To bolster his case for his adoption of orientation, he denigrates the idea of homosexuality being a will problem as he seems to have held before his repentance by saying it “would point to us that human sexual affective profiles of who we are sexually is far more deeply rooted than just the will if that were so easy.” Apparently, he believes orientation (a non-biblical word) makes the issue of homosexuality deeper-seated than if it were a “will” problem.
From a biblical perspective, this argument does not make sense because man cannot make a spiritually restorative decision or do spiritually good work without God’s grace since the entirety of man, including his will, is corrupted by the fall (Rom 3:10–18). While man still has libertarian free will, his range of options is less than before the fall. We all recognize that every person is sinful, practices sin, and some sins affect some people more severely than others. Some sins may even affect us from an early age. However, they are still biblically understood as early-onset sinful temptations of a particular sin rather than an orientation. The use of the biblical term, sin, caters to none of the homosexual agenda, nuances, and confusion.
It seems biblical Christianity’s total dependence upon the grace of God teaches us that making righteous choices to move from sin to holiness is not “so easy” because if it were, we would not need the grace of God to overcome the power of sin. Moreover, remember that orientation does not connote an inherent deficiency, sinfulness, or need for repentance, whereas the word sin most certainly does. Why choose such a culturally nondescript word of accommodation like orientation when the biblical words are much clearer? To wit, replacing same-sex attraction or orientation with the biblical concept of sin or early-onset sinful desire does not require an article of clarification, much less one over twenty-six-hundred-words. Moreover, the descriptive early-onset sinful desires lead directly to the gospel, whereas orientation leads to human justification, and, therefore, no need for the gospel.
Knowing that Dr. Mohler is a Calvinist makes his repentance seem indefensible and even more confusing. The Calvinist perspective believes in compatible moral freedom, where determinism and moral responsibility are compatible. And man is responsible for his decision if he freely chooses according to his greatest desire even though he cannot choose otherwise in the moral moment of decision (see my article comparing libertarian and compatible moral freedom)
How can anything become more entrenched than that which God has predetermined a person can only will? It cannot, even though the particular sins with which an individual struggles can most surely be different (1 Cor 6:9–11). Mohler, being a Calvinist and compatibilist, argues for the enslavement of the will, which requires a direct, sovereign, irresistible act of God to liberate, and, therefore, should not be considered something that would be as he says in his repentance, “so easy.” When he acknowledged being wrong about sexual orientation, he said, “We have to correct it by Scripture,” but he gave none.
He said in his article, “I still reject that notion of sexual identity. But I repented of denying the existence of sexual orientation because denying it was deeply confusing to people struggling with same-sex attraction.” Was the change based on Scripture’s clear support of orientation, or was it to stop the confusion? It seems it was to stop “the confusion.” Because it seems far better to explain the biblical concept of the will that is corrupted by the fall and under the stronghold of sin, so much so that freedom requires God’s grace to be set free from the enslavement of sin that eternally separates one from God’s grace. That message could be given more briefly and biblically than twenty-six-hundred-words (Rom 7:14; 8:13), as I just illustrated. My suggested alternative does not discount the reality of a spiritual battle between the flesh (fallen humanity) and spirit (Rom 7:14–15; Gal 5:16–26). It is to say God has given us the provision of the Holy Spirit, Christ in us, and his transforming Word so that we can walk in victory over any sin (Rom 13:14; Eph 1:3; 5:18; Col 1:27).
Dr. Mohler contends that who we are sexually (sexual orientation) “is far more deeply rooted than just the will if that were so easy.” In his message, he says, “But Genesis 3 explains that, helps us to understand that this complex of same-sex challenges coming to us is deeply rooted in the biblical story itself.” This reference to Genesis is not further defined. Nor does he give Scripture, which may have been because of time constraints. But more troubling are these questions: Is not the corruption of the will something deeply rooted in the biblical story? Where is the scriptural reference allowing for the replacement of sin temptation with orientation? Does not the Scripture lay out from start to finish that sin enslaves, all struggle with sin, some struggle with a particular sin, one’s battle with a particular sin may be greater than another person’s battle with the same sin, and all of us were conceived in sin (Ps 51:5)?
Regarding these “same-sex challenges,” he says they are “deeply rooted in the biblical story itself.” I agree. Then he says this is “something we need to take with far greater seriousness than we have taken in the past. Understanding that requires a far more robust gospel response than anything the church has come up with heretofore.” I am baffled. When has the church not understood homosexuality to be deeply embedded in the biblical story, particularly in Genesis 3? We find it embedded in the fall and at various junctures throughout Scripture, always regarded as a sin and yet forgivable (John 3:16). When has the church not been serious about homosexuality? Is this supposed to refer to seeing it as a will problem? If so, I do not think that is not taking it seriously if the corruption of the will, as depicted in Scripture, is understood.
I contend the church has taken it seriously according to Scripture, at least, until the modern-day advancement and successes of the homosexual agenda gaining a foothold. In some places like conservative evangelicalism and the SBC, it has gained a throne. I suggest Dr. Mohler is contributing to this advancement by his acquiescence in adopting the battle cry of homosexuality and transgenderism. Why repent of a scripturally sound position to accommodate homosexual terminology? The biblically weak position of the homosexual agenda is no match for the theologically sound designation that uses language like sin, enslave, unrighteous, and unnatural.
Paul’s words are illuminating. He says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the Kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:9–11).
First, the sins mentioned are of such seriousness that they keep those who practice them out of the Kingdom. Those whose identity is wrapped up in their sins are included in this list. Second, these particular sins plagued some of the Corinthians, but not all. Others were tormented by different sins not mentioned in Paul’s list, as seen by his words, “and such were some of you.” Third, verse 11 makes it clear that God’s grace and salvation can deliver completely, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” That some do not experience complete freedom is not because of the impotence of God’s grace and salvation, but rather man’s unwillingness to appropriate God’s grace and provision (Rom 6:19; Eph 6:10–18). If anyone desires to identify with, live like, or be known for homosexuality, that is sin (Rom 1:24–28).
When we choose to use culturally devised words or words sinners use to euphemize their sins and distance their practice from sin as depicted in Scripture, we have sacrificed a necessary component of speaking the truth in love. We have accommodated their sinful agenda and undermined the Scripture and the gospel. We have thickened their human shield against the sinfulness of their sin. Such is the case with Dr. Mohler’s compromise in this area, regardless of how vociferously he speaks against homosexuality elsewhere.
 http://www.bpnews.net/51341/lgbt-christians-conf-draws-sbts-erlc-responses accessed 7/28/18.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wx4w6zcuNew&feature=youtu.be accessed 2/21/20.
 https://albertmohler.com/2014/11/13/sexual-orientation-and-the-gospel-of-jesus-christ/ accessed 2-20-23