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At Univ. of Virginia, Mohler calls for evangelical theology of sex & marriage

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (BP)–Few places are more inundated with the contemporary “safe sex” mantra than the secular university campus.

A group of students at the University of Virginia heard Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. call them to reject the spirit of the age that sees sex as a consumer product, marriage as a career hindrance and children as an economic nuisance.

Mohler’s three lectures Feb. 11-12 were sponsored by the Center for Christian Study, an interdenominational evangelical ministry to University of Virginia students.

“There is no greater lie in popular culture than the idea of ‘safe sex,'” Mohler said. “If anything is unsafe, it is sex. It is so explosive it is only allowed to detonate within the covenant of marriage.”

Mohler took on the ethical issue of contraception, rejecting both the Roman Catholic Church’s absolute prohibition on all artificial birth control and the typical evangelical laissez-faire attitude toward the question.

Tracing the history of contraceptive technology, Mohler asserted that the lack of evangelical ethical discussion on contraception is due largely to the way in which evangelicals were “taken by surprise” by the wide-ranging ramifications of the birth control pill. Without a coherent theology of marriage, evangelicals had no other recourse but to greet “the pill” with “applause and relief.”

“Evangelicals accepted this technology the way evangelicals accept almost any technology,” he said. “The question was not ‘Should we?’ but ‘How will we?'”

In recent days, however, Mohler said many evangelicals are beginning to rethink the contraceptive question as they are forced to construct a theology of marriage and sexuality in light of the cultural conflict over abortion. An appropriate evangelical position recognizes that “the biblical definition of marriage is directed by the gift of children” while the contraceptive culture has “led to the unraveling of the social structure and to a society which sees pregnancy as a condition to be resolved.”

Mohler suggested that Scripture allowed for a limited utilization of non-abortifacient contraceptives, but maintained that the overall direction of the marital relationship must be open to the gift of children. Mohler warned evangelicals to beware of abortifacient methods such as the IUD, Depo-Provera, Norplant and maybe even the popular birth control pill.

He pointed to an acknowledgment in the Physician’s Desk Reference manual as evidence that even some in the medical community are questioning the results of the birth control pill. Mohler asserted “the pill” functions “sometimes, perhaps often, perhaps usually, as an abortifacient.”

Acknowledging the difficulty of this issue, Mohler called on evangelicals to end their unstated moratorium on discussing the matter.

“Most evangelical churches have never heard a word from the pulpit on the issue of contraception,” he said. “That is a shame.

“I want to summon evangelicals to a discussion of this matter and to a theology of conception,” Mohler proclaimed. “So that evangelical couples may greet their children with celebration, not fear.”

In a lecture on gender issues, Mohler pointed to the increasing societal acceptance of homosexual relationships as “a challenge evangelicals cannot fail to meet with courage and grace.” He disavowed the views of those evangelicals who see homosexuality as a second-order issue.

“Fundamental truths about the Christian faith are at stake here,” he asserted. “If the claims of the homosexual movement are true, the entire body of Christian truth falters.”

Those church leaders who employ revisionist arguments to suggest that biblical texts such as Romans 1 do not refer to committed homosexual relationships are simply using a “hermeneutic of justification” whereby they find a “way of biblically justifying their own behavior.”

“The Protestant left is the secular temple of the popular culture,” Mohler contended. “We must confront them on this issue in the same way the Confessing Church in Germany took on the ‘church’ of the Nazi regime. You may put a steeple on top of your building and read the Bible within it, but that does not make you a church.”

The homosexual movement is a confirmation of the truth of Paul’s contention in Romans, Mohler said, that sinners by nature seek to push down the truth revealed about God in creation and in their own consciences.

“We should not be surprised when sin suppresses the truth, because truth is the searching light which seeks out sin and calls it by its name,” he said. “It takes the creativity of a mind which rejects the created order to come up with homosexuality.”

Mohler warned the students that the homosexual rights movement’s quest for societal legitimization has made great strides since the Stonewall riots of the 1960s. As evidence of this shift, he pointed to homoerotic advertising images targeted to teenagers by such companies as Abercrombie and Fitch.

The church’s response to the contemporary culture’s gender chaos is to preach “the atonement of Christ as liberation from sin in order to recover our true humanity under the sovereignty of God,” Mohler said, lamenting that many evangelical preachers “seem unconsciously to believe that homosexuals are outside the reach of the gospel.”

Instead, evangelicals should point homosexuals to Christ with the promise that “not only will you find righteousness before God through the imputed righteousness of Christ, but you will be welcomed into the fellowship of Christian men.”

In his final lecture, Mohler outlined an evangelical theology of marital sex based on Genesis’ description of the pre-Fall Edenic couple. Noting that contemporary culture has jettisoned any sense of shame except the “shame of having shame,” Mohler contended that a regenerate husband and wife “come as close as possible to understanding what it is like to be naked and not ashamed.”

Evangelical discussion on sex has for too long focused solely on telling teenagers to “just say no,” Mohler said, without exploring the full-orbed biblical celebration of the marriage relationship. He rejected as unbiblical and “degrading” the contemporary practice of delaying marriage until the mid-20s and later for economic and career reasons.

“We need to reverse the wisdom of the world which says wait until you are professionally situated,” Mohler said. “Which is more important — that you make partner or that you are a partner?”

Mohler outlined the biblical purposes for the marital sexual relationship, including partnership, protection from sexual immorality, procreation and sexual pleasure. He warned single students that premarital sex would have far-reaching implications for their future marriages since “the knowledge of the one is forever corrupted by the knowledge of another.”

The lack of an evangelical theology of marriage has led to churches condoning the “progressive adultery” of those unbiblically divorced and remarried along with an entire culture of professing believers who expect the church to marry them and the state to divorce them.

Mohler called on churches to return to biblical church discipline, warning Christian couples that their marriages were the business of the entire church.

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  • Russell D. Moore