LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Christians have a divine mandate to engage every aspect of culture with the truth of Christianity, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said on CNN’s “Larry King Live” Sept. 29.
A panel of religious and spiritual leaders appeared with Mohler to discuss a variety of issues including the prevalence of anger in society, same-sex “marriage,” the war in Iraq, capital punishment and religious pluralism.
The panel consisted of Mohler; Dennis Prager, author and nationally syndicated radio host; Maher Hathout, senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council; Deepak Chopra, author and spiritual advisor; and Michael Manning, Roman Catholic priest and internationally syndicated talk-show host.
“There is a comprehensiveness … to the Christian truth claim,” Mohler said. “God’s truth is public truth, and it applies to every dimension of life. Sometimes that will touch politics.”
As Christians engage culture, however, they must take care not to elevate politics above preaching the Gospel, he said.
“Ours is not a political message,” Mohler said. “Our main purpose is the preaching of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t think politics can solve the problem. It can only mitigate and restrain evil.”
In response to Mohler, Chopra warned that no religious group should ever claim to be on God’s side of any issue.
“As we mature … into an ecosystem that is more mature, we’ll have to make some really conscious choices,” Chopra said. “… Are we going to continue to behave the way we have behaved for thousands of years or are we going to develop a critical mass of consciousness that is going to say, ‘We’re in this together. There’s no us versus them.’”
Mohler responded by arguing that Chopra’s worldview ignores the reality of human sinfulness.
“I don’t think our consciousness is evolving,” Mohler said. “And if it is, it’s going in the wrong direction…. Human beings, in our sinfulness, will mess everything up, including religion. That’s why I believe we are entirely dependent on God’s self-revelation in the Bible.”
When asked how people should determine the truth about pressing issues, Mohler cited the importance of measuring all ideas against the objective standards of the Bible.
“The question is whether we’ve got it right,” Mohler said. “And on the basis of God’s revelation in Scripture, I have to take my stand as a Christian on the truth claim that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Him, and I have no right to negotiate from that to something else.”
While disagreeing with Mohler about the importance of Christ for salvation, Prager cited Christians as a group whose behavior has demonstrated the validity of its beliefs.
“The Christians of America have made a particularly good society,” Prager said. “And that is why, as a Jew, I am not happy to see Christianity disappear in this country…. The fruit is the test. You can tell me your religion is beautiful. I want to know how you act.”
One of the most pressing issues facing people of faith is same-sex “marriage,” the panel said. Hathout argued that homosexual activity “is not a community issue” and that Muslims regard sexual behavior as “a private matter.”
But Mohler asserted that Christians must discuss the issue of homosexuality openly in order to teach the world about God’s good plan for marriage and sexuality.
“At the very center of my understanding of all these things is that there is a sovereign wonderful Creator who has lovingly given us His design,” Mohler said. “And He has told us that at the very center of what it means to be man is to look to woman and as woman to look to man for completion and complementarity … in the institution of marriage.
“And so I believe that anything short of that leads not to happiness but to unhappiness and eventually brings judgment upon not only the individual, but upon the society that would tolerate it — much less celebrate it.”
In response to one caller’s question, Mohler said that capital punishment is called for in both the Old and New Testaments. As a follow-up question on the issue of capital punishment, King asked Mohler why Jesus had to die by means of a capital punishment administered by the Romans.
“He died for our sins because His Father sent Him in order that He would die in our place, as our substitute,” Mohler said. “[Jesus] shed His blood [as] the penalty for our sins so that all who believe in Him might have life and life everlasting.”
At the close of the program, King asked the panelists whether the future holds any hope for humans.
According to Manning, there is hope for the future because people of different persuasions are beginning to come together for meaningful dialogue.
Hathout asserted that there is hope for the future. A pleasant future, however, will require “a lot of work” on the part of humans, he said.
Chopra’s answer to King’s final question drew looks of incredulity from the other panelists.
“I will never give up hope,” Chopra said. “On the other hand, if we were wiped out, it wouldn’t make a bit of a difference to the universe. We are just a speck of dust in the junkyard of infinity…. What is a human being? A speck on the cosmic canvas.”
But the future does matter, Mohler said, because in the future lies a hope that is certain for those who place their faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.
“I look forward to that day when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father,” Mohler said. “In this world we will have trouble. But God is on His throne, and God will bring His victory through the Prince of Peace. That’s the day I look forward to.”