October 7, 2015
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Wednesday. October 7, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Biblical counseling conference at SBTS protested over view of homosexuality as sin
In terms of the great, moral revolution taking place around us, sometimes, the headlines can seem quite distance. Or at least, somewhat so. Other times, the headlines can hit rather close to home. That was the case in recent days when headlines had to do with an event being held on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The event was the national conference of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, known as ACBC. This is an organization that is explicitly committed to biblical counseling—that is a counseling that will take place entirely within the context of the gospel and the sufficiency of scripture.
This was a meeting that drew about 2,300 people. The stated theme of the 3-day conference was Christian ministry as it’s related to homosexuality. The pre-conference that was held on Monday had to do specifically with Christian ministry and transgenderism. The event didn’t draw merely 2,300 participants. It also drew protesters and national attention. With the news stories about the event landing in USA Today and the Washington Post among other news outlets. Over the weekend, LGBT activist had announced they will hold a protest across from the seminary because of the meeting.Show Full Transcript
The protest was to take place about 10:30 on Monday and again, at 5:30 in the afternoon. It was also announced over the weekend that a group of local churches would be holding an event to counter the message of the ACBC convention being held on the campus of Southern Seminary. Deborah Yetter reporting for the Courier-Journal in a story that also ran in USA Today reported,
“About 40 people gathered in front of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to protest a 3-day conference on homosexuality and transgenderism.”
She went on to report:
“Organized by the Fairness Campaign, protesters prayed and held signs Monday opposing what they call misguided efforts at counseling based on the belief homosexuality and transgenderism are wrong or sinful. It prompted horn honks and shouts of support from drivers passing by the bucolic seminary grounds.”
The story also quoted the Reverend Maurice Blanchard, a gay rights activist who said,
“This is absolutely an utterly wrong [Speaking at the position taken by the ACBC and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary]. It’s spiritual abuse. That’s what it is.”
It is very interesting to know that this story that once again, appeared in The Courier-Journal and the later USA Today. Is a significant clarification of the claims that had been made by the protesters over the weekend. They had claimed that the approach taken by ACBC and Southern Seminary was support for so called reparative therapy.
It was described in the media as the belief that this kind of therapy should be employed in order to change persons who have a homosexual or same sex sexual orientation to a heterosexual sexual orientation. Heath Lambert the head of the ACBC and I held the press conference on Monday to make very clear to the press that, that is not at all the position we are taking. When it comes to reparative therapy, listeners to The Briefing know that I’ve clarified at many points that gospel minded Christians simply cannot look to any form of therapy, much less a secular therapy, for a rescue from sin. The big issue here is that the story that ran in The Courier-Journal gets the issue right.
Again, as Deborah Yetter reported for The Courier-Journal and the story that later ran at USA Today, the protesters were protesting what they described as, “The belief that that homosexuality and transgenderism are wrong or sinful.” Now, that’s the really crucial issue here. Those who are protesting, the conference being held on our campus were protesting what was being taught on the basis as scripture. They were clearly and quite publicly protesting any belief that there is anything morally wrong with homosexuality or transgenderism. They were specifically protesting the fact that homosexuality is a sin and likewise that it is a sin to reject the gender identity that is assigned by the Creator at birth in terms of biological sex.
These are complicated issues in terms of public controversy. But this is the kind of news story and this is the kind of event that really does demonstrate where the great dividing line is now to be found. It is not to be found over this or that therapy. It is to be found over the question as to whether or not, homosexuality and transgenderism, the entire LGBQ agenda – whether or not they represent sin. Now, from a biblical perspective, those who are committed to the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture understand clearly that the bible present a very consistent message. That is the God’s gift to sexuality is given to human beings in order to be enjoyed within the context of marriage within monogamous lifetime marriage, defined as the conjugal union of a man and the woman.
It comes as early in the Bible as Genesis 2 and it is described throughout the scriptures. Furthermore, when it comes to the transgender issues, they’re addressed directly in Genesis 1, where we are told that for His glory and for our good, God made every single human being in His image. As we are told, He made them male and female. Those are not just abstract categories of social construction. They are not merely evidence of what human beings have thought and what human societies have taught about sex roles and what it means to be man or woman. They are indeed rooted in creation itself.
Now, what we need to see here as we look at this unfolding story is something that really tells us where we are in terms of this cultural context. For one thing, we need to remember what we talked about earlier this year on The Briefing. That was an editorial piece that had been written by Frank Bruni of the New York Times. As we discussed, that particular essay published in January of this year pointed to the constriction of religious liberty that is now becoming very much a sign of our times. What we noted was that Frank Bruni had limited religious liberty to what he called, “that which was believed or taught,” to use his words. “In pews, homes and hearts.”
Now, as we stated back then, that is not at all genuine religious liberty. What we has saying is, that you have to right to hold whatever position you want to hold and teach whatever you want to teach on the basis of your religious authority, so long as you keep it to the pews, keep it in your families and keep it in your hearts. Religious liberty, he argued, goes no further. That’s a big problem but notice that we here face another problem. That is, that the protesters were protesting in event being held on the campus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was being held primarily in our chapel. It was meeting specifically of biblical counselors. Of Christians serving Christian churches meeting together in order to determine how we can most faithfully counsel Christians on the basis of the word of God.
What we need to note is, that those who are trying to re-define religious liberty to limit and constrict religious liberty- to use Frank Bruni’s words again, “to pious homes and hearts,” really didn’t even mean what they were saying. Frank Bruni may have written those words and those words are themselves in the salt upon religious liberty. That here, we have a protest against something that was taking place literally in the pious. This is a very telling moment.
I want to point out that those who are protesting have a first amendment right in one sense to protest. The seminary made no effort to try to prevent the protest but the protest is very revealing. Even more revealing was the fact that there were some churches that had formerly been associated with the Southern Baptist Convention who held an alternative gathering on Monday night, in order to present an alternative message. That message was that there is nothing sinful about homosexuality or transgenderism. That is made abundantly clear in the message of these churches. It was made abundantly clear even in the article I just cited.
In that article, the reverend Joe Phelps, pastor of Louisville Highland Baptist Church is described in these terms. As the reporter writes,
Phelps, whose church broke with the Southern Baptist Convention over homosexuality and other issues, said he was disappointed that the conference was at the seminary. Several members of his church,”
including the Reverend Maurice Blanchard earlier cited in the article was one of the plaintiffs seeking the right to be married. That lead to the case known as Obergefell, in which the Supreme Court ruled the legalization of same sex marriage in all 50 states this past June. Maurice Blanchard was also ordained to the ministry by Highland Baptist Church.
We are seeing here right before our eyes, in terms of this conference and the protest and the conference and the event being held at the Crescent Hill Baptist Church in town on Monday night -what we see is the great division that is now taking place. The division is not over merely homosexuality and the transgender issues. It’s not just the LBGT issues put together. It is rather the whole issue of what the gospel is and what Christianity is. Whether or not the bible is inerrant and infallible and thus, our sole rule for faith and practice. The churches that were represented in that meeting on Monday night as a counter voice to what was taking place on the seminary are churches that as the reported acknowledge had left the Southern Baptist Convention long before this particular issue.
They had left precisely over the question of biblical inerrancy and whether or not, the Southern Baptist Convention would hold to that conviction and hold it since the institution to that conviction. Now, we see how the divergences that took place in the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1970’s and ’80s and ’90s have now been represented in these two meetings that were held on one night in one city. One, doing its very best to clearly come to terms what the bible says about homosexuality and transgenderism, believing that the bible is our sole authority and that God alone has the right to dictate the gift of human sexuality. And that what we are looking at is the responsibility of the Christian church to lean into the sufficiency of scripture and the power of the gospel as the sole sufficient answers to the question. On the other hand, in that meeting that was held at the Crescent Hill Baptist Church, the meeting that is represented by the protesters who are out front of the seminary, they now advocate the full normalization of homosexuality. As Pastor Joe Phelps of Highland Baptist Church is quoted in this article.
“Not only are we welcoming and affirming of the LGBT community. They are called on to be part of the church.”
The entire focus and theme of the ACBC conference held on our campus was how to understand that the problem of all humanity is the problem of sin. And that the bible is quite specific about the forms that sin takes, including sexual sin, including same sex relationships and acts and to the question of transgenderism. Yet, the whole point of the conference was how the gospel of Jesus Christ is the sole and sufficient answer to the problem of sin. How all of us regardless of sexual orientation, once we come to Christ, are to follow him at obedience, obey all of His commands and live lives of holiness in obedience to Him. That’s the crucial issue.
And here’s the great divide that is now taking place and it’s taking place before our eyes. It’s taking place in terms of liberal denominations that are moving far to the left on these issues, trying their very best to stay at least in step, if not even ahead of the more revolution. And there are those who are continuing in terms of the Christian commitment to the churches affirmation of the sufficiency and authority of scripture and to the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And of course, also, to the doctrine of sanctification in the Christian life revealed in scripture.
Let’s be clear here. Those two rival meetings on Monday night represent two rival visions of Christianity. And I go back to the man I quote so often on this, and that’s J. Gresham Machen writing in the early decades of the 20th century who rightly and prophetically said, in terms of the bible, we’re not talking about two rival visions of Christianity. We’re talking about Christianity and some new religion that claims some kind of continuing identity with the Christian faith. It preaches another gospel. It holds to a very different authority than scripture.
That becomes abundantly clear. It is very clear in headlines we’ve been tracing for years now and even in recent weeks. And now, it becomes very clear in a headline that took place right on our own campus.
Hillary's effort to defend slowness to affirm gay marriage shows velocity of moral shift
Speaking of this more a revolution, it’s not just happening in terms of the headlines about American churches and denominations. It’s also happening in terms of the 2016 presidential race in the United States. A headline story that appeared in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times was this. “Pledging to fight in justice, Clinton stresses transgender rights in speech.” It has to do with former secretary of state and former United State senator, Hillary Clinton, now running for the democratic presidential nomination.
Amy Chozick writing for the New York Times says,
“In a forceful speech to an influential gay rights group. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday reaffirmed her support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. Just hours before vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr. contemplating his own presidential run was to address the organization.”
Now, what’s really interesting about this story is that here, you have two major Democratic figures. One, an announced candidate for the Democratic nomination, that’s Hillary Clinton, and at this point, a potential candidate for that Democratic nomination, that’s Vice President Joe Biden.
Now, as anticipation of the Human Rights Campaign meeting was taking place, it was also clear that Vice President Biden has the upper hand in terms of this issue. Hillary Clinton was actually playing defense going before the Human Rights Campaign, a major LGBT organization in order to try to say that all along, she’s been a powerful advocate in terms of the LGBT agenda and trying her very best to present herself as being on the leading edge of that moral revolution, when it’s actually Vice President Biden that has a better claim to that mantle, and he was just about to appear before the same organization. Later in the article, there’s another very interesting paragraph.
The reporter writes,
“Mrs. Clinton enjoys wide support among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters. Despite what many gay activist say was a delay and cautious embrace the same sex marriage.”
The reporter goes on to say,
“Mr. Biden express his support for same sex marriage days before President Obama made his support publicly known.”
That was you’ll recall when President Obama was running for re-election. Now, he had been against same sex marriage in 2008 when he was running for election. He was for it in 2012 when he was running for re-election. 2012, we should note, it’s just three years ago.
But of course, gay rights activists knew that President Obama was for same sex marriage all along. After all, he had been for it as an Illinois state senator before he was against it. When as a US senator, he was running for President. That was before he was for it again. As for Mrs. Clinton, she was against the legalization of same sex marriage until 2013, when she came out supporting the legalization of same sex marriage. We should note just two years before the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage. She also is carrying the baggage of the fact that her husband, former President Bill Clinton had put into place the so-called, “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that was reversed by President Obama. He had also signed into law the Defense Of Marriage Act passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress that identified and defined marriage (in terms of the federal government) exclusively as a union of a man and a woman. That was a law that was overturned by the Supreme Court in the Windsor decision in 2013. That was the very year that Mrs. Clinton eventually came out and said, she was for the legalization of same sex marriage. It is also noteworthy that in her address over the weekend, Mrs. Clinton also, according to ABC News, mocked Republican candidates for not being on the right side of the question when it comes to the gay rights.
She specifically criticized Ben Carson and United State Senator Ted Cruz. About Ted Cruz, she said,
“Ted Cruz slammed the political opponent from marching in a pride parade. He clearly has no idea what he’s missing. Pride parades are so much fun. I was marching in them back when I was first lady. You should join me sometime Senator. Come on.”
From a Christian worldview perspective, the whole point of my attention to this article is this. What we see is the fact that this moral revolution spreading so quickly. It’s moving at such a high rate of velocity that you even have very liberal candidates in terms of the Democratic party doing their very best to prove-at least to the best of their imagination, that they were there all along.
That’s a particular challenge for Hillary Clinton. It’s less of a challenge for someone like Barack Obama, or for that matter, Vice President Biden.
But Barack Obama was against the legalization of same sex marriage as recently as 2012, and Mrs. Clinton was against the legalization of same sex marriage as recently as 2013. They actually joined that part of this moral revolution only when it was politically safe and clearly, at least in terms of their understanding, to their political advantage. But that’s the real point. That tells us how the society is moving and it tells us how the culture is changing. It’s changing on these issues so fast that even candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination are scrambling to prove they’re on the right side of history and that they against all evidence have been on the right side all along. Which of course, even by their own logic, they have not. But they have to try to claim that they are.
And you also have religious leaders on the left in particular scrambling to join the moral revolution and they’re trying to do their very best even to get out ahead of it. That tells us a very great deal about the changing to reign in terms of modern America. This is what we’re now looking at. A moral revolution that is moving so fast, it is now spreading so pervasively to the culture that even those on the Democratic left seem not to be able to keep up with it.
As the scriptures remind us, when you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind. There’s plenty of evidence of that right before our eyes.
ABC Family changes name to avoid 'family friendly' perception for sake of market
Finally, there’s a very interesting story that appeared at USA Today yesterday, announcing that a cable TV network known as ABC Family is dropping from its name-well, virtually everything. Both ABC and Family. As Gary Levin write for USA Today,
“ABC Family has been a bit of an anachronism for years now. The network was founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, was once known as the Family Channel and still airs the religious 700 Club each weeknight. But its wholesome brand — it’s now owned by Disney, after all — is at odds with its millennial-themed programming, including Pretty Little Liars and The Fosters, which tackle contemporary topics such as teen pregnancy and LGBT themes.”
“in January, the network will drop its moniker and rebrand itself as Freeform. The name is meant to signal to its target audience of 14-to-34-year-olds, a group it has dubbed the “becomers” who are seeking their own identities, that they can participate in the network.”
Now, in terms of participate, that’s a very strange verb. I think it basically means watch.
As the story continues, network president Tom Ascheim says that change was sparked by research showing that while current fans understood the network’s programming, Non-viewers, too often associated ABC family with “family friendly” and “wholesome” attributes which discourage many of them from watching.
Now, this is a really interesting story. Once again, it tells us a great deal about what’s happening in contemporary American. It tells us that the words ‘family friendly’ and ‘wholesome’ are now negative in terms of TV programming. That while once, you had standards that actually called for the kind of viewing hours of prime time to be reserved for a family friendly programming.
Now, you have a network that’s actually changing its name in order to disassociate itself from anything that might be described as wholesome or family friendly. This is how morality produces marketing and this is how marketing reflects moral change. As the story quotes, Ascheim, he said,
“There was enough difference in perception between people who already like us and people who don’t know us, the name change will harmonize who our audience is, what our label means and what we stand for.”
USA Today said that he insisted that ABC Family, a sort of generational bridge between the tween targeted Disney Channel and ABC is to use his words. “Not trying to hide the connection with Disney and ABC.”
But, Levin writes, “The new name will do just that.”
He went on to say, “The goals to keep people already leave us happy while enticing new people to watch.” Well, the marketing message is this; as we discussed in terms of reason analysis of Hollywood. The writers and producers of these programs and increasingly, the advertisers buying time on these programs. Believe that what Americans are looking for can’t be described as wholesome and family friendly. Instead, especially when you look at younger Americans, and that’s what advertisers are looking for, they’re looking for programming that is morally edgy. Not at all family friendly. Not at all described by the word they put in quotation marks ‘wholesome’.
Just consider what that tells you about America. We are becoming, or perhaps, we have already all become an Asian in which the word wholesome is a brand killer. Not a brand maker. The story also quoted a marketing chief for the network who said that what they’re trying to do is to keep up with their audience as “their sensibilities and tastes evolved”. Well what we need to note is that when someone describes this in terms of the evolution of sensibilities and taste. What they’re not saying is the obvious: this is an evolution in morality.
And it’s one we ought to note. For while some will look at this headline and say, ‘look, it’s just one network changing its name,’ When you read the story and you see why they’re changing their name, you come to understand the headline really means a whole lot more.