Mohler: No Middle Ground on Homosexuality

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Al Mohler thinks Christians are going to have a harder time with the homosexuality issue than most other problems that future generations look back on and wonder what all the fuss was about. His reason is that there is no middle ground on homosexuality. [ht: Mark Olson] He quotes Theo Hobson:

Firstly, this is an issue that shuns compromise. It has a stark "either/or" quality. Either homosexuality is a fully valid alternative to heterosexuality or it is not. There is no room for compromise, no third way: poor Rowan Williams is trying to make himself a perch on a barbed-wire fence. You don't find such absoluteness in other moral debates, such a complete absence of shared assumptions and aims. This is not a normal moral debate but a pure clash of visceral responses.

Mohler adds his own agreement:

It is refreshing to see Hobson point to the "either/or" character of this controversy. He is precisely right -- there is no middle ground -- no third way. Homosexuality will be seen as either normal or sinful. Everything hinges on that assessment. If it is accepted as normal, those who consider it sinful will be seen as repressive, hateful, and dangerous to the good of society. This, he argues, is where the church now stands.

I disagree, very strongly. I've argued several times throughout the history of this blog that there is indeed a third position. Homosexuality need not be seen as either normal or sinful. It might be seen, as the apostle Paul saw it, as a consequence of the fall. Homosexuality is a condition whose social construction doesn't exactly fit the categories of NT Christians, and so Paul shouldn't be expected to have anything to say about what we call homosexuality. He did state very clearly that gay sex is sinful, but that's an action. I think, by extension, he'd agree that it's bad to deliberately and willingly accept the category of being gay as part of one's identity. But I don't think either gay sex or such identification with homosexuality is the same thing as homosexuality itself. Homosexuality is merely a condition people find themselves in. That can no more be sinful than a married heterosexual finding themselves attracted to people of the opposite sex besides their spouse.

Now I don't expect Mohler to agree with my position. But surely it is a third position of the sort he has ruled out without argument. (The way Hobson stated his binary, it's possible he'd see the third view as agreeing that homosexuality is not a fully valid alternative to heterosexuality, and thus his binary might remain. But Mohler clearly rules out a view like this one.) Since John Piper holds exactly the view I have just outlined, it's not as if no prominent evangelical has put it forward. There are places where a biblical view is going to come up against the view that nothing is bad at all about homosexuality. But I don't think it's a good idea to state it the way Mohler did, which rules out the view that homosexuality is an unfortunate condition tied up with an inclination toward certain sins but that the condition itself isn't sinful.

5 Comments

This feels like it might be a largely semantic issue. If Moher meant "gay sex" by "homosexuality", then what he said was consistent with what you say. It sounds like he just wasn't being careful with the distinction you're drawing. I would think he could just recast his point, being careful to observe the distinction.

That may be, but I think it would still be grounds for complaint. I'm more complaining about what he says than what he might mean by it, I even suspect Mohler when pressed on it does hold a view more like Piper's, but Piper is much more sensitive about his language, and that is indeed a huge difference when it comes to how some people are going to hear what they say. I know several Christians who have considered themselves gay (and think something is wrong with that and want to resist it) who would feel welcomed by Piper but not by what Mohler said.

I'm sure anyone who thinks nothing is wrong with anything to do with homosexuality would have plenty of problems with what Piper says, but I do think he's going to come across as much more welcoming than Mohler the way he talks in this particular post. Piper makes a big deal of welcoming gay people to his church, and he doesn't make homosexuality an issue at all in terms of whether they are welcome. When it comes up, he does preach his views on the moral question (and his sermons are not chosen topically usually but simply teach through a book, so he doesn't have as much opportunity to decide to talk about the issue as more topical preachers would), and I'm sure it affects who he has in leadership positions in the congregation, but it's not an issue in terms of being accepted into the community. I suspect Mohler is more conservative.

Maybe you're right. As one of the people who sees nothing wrong with any of it, it's hard for me to see that the two views are importantly different, but I'll defer on this matter to someone who knows the people who would be put off by one view and not the other.

I don't see the problem as either "homosexuality" or "gay sex". I believe there is a spirit behind the thoughts which lead to the actions. So the person would need to deal with the spirit before any "sins" could be dealt with. I have contact with many gay people and I believe none of them feel judged by me. If they were to ask my thoughts on it... it would probably be a different story.

I think in essence the view you put forth is basically the same as the first fellow, though his semantics are different. I believe his point is, if we were to use the heterosexual analog, Adultery is either wrong, or normal. Homosexual acts are either wrong or normal. The distinction you draw is a good one, I just think that the first fellow would probably agree with it.

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