by Bruce Bawer
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, laments that
In less than a single generation, homosexuality has gone from something almost universally understood to be sinful, to something now declared to be the moral equivalent of heterosexuality—and deserving of both legal protection and public encouragement. Theo Hobson, a British theologian, has argued that this is not just the waning of a taboo. Instead, it is a moral inversion that has left those holding the old morality now accused of nothing less than "moral deficiency."
Mohler would have us believe that while public views of homosexuality have radically changed, the theology that he teaches, and on which he bases his views of sexuality (among much else), has remained solid as a rock. On the contrary, the modern history of the Southern Baptist Convention (which I recounted here) is one of extremely dramatic theological redefinition.
The SBC once preached the supremacy of individual spiritual experience, individual conscience, and individual theological discernment – preached, in other words, precisely the kind of theology that would likely have placed it, in the year 2011, among those “liberal” churches that Mohler now decries for their supposed backsliding from tradition and orthodoxy. But in recent years SBC theology has increasingly hardened, decreeing that only men can be pastors and that a “wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” Such nonsense was never a part of original Baptist thought. Not until 1998 did the Baptist Faith & Message explicitly address homosexuality.
“We are about to find out just how much we believe the Gospel we so eagerly preach,” writes Mohler apropos of changing attitudes toward gays. But the Gospels, with their message of divine love, have nothing to say about homosexuality. In recent years, alas, the SBC, in order to lend support to its own changing message, has lifted up the less loving and more legalistic parts of scripture, giving them a validity equal to that of the Sermon on the Mount. It’s not the ancient Gospel message, in short, that Mohler is out to defend from the threat of open homosexuality, gay love, and same-sex marriage – it’s the newfangled legalism of the SBC.