The following comes from a May 9 Mercator article by Michael Cook:
One surprising effect of the rise of same-sex marriage in the United States may be a convergence between evangelicals and the Catholic Church.
The best evidence for this is a recent book by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and one of the nation’s most prominent Evangelical thinkers. In We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking truth to a culture redefining sex, marriage, & the very meaning of right & wrong, he tackles the challenge of same-sex marriage. From a scriptural point of view, the idea seems obviously wrong, even abhorrent, but many Christians are swimming with the tide.
In a significant theological shift, Dr Mohler makes two surprising proposals for his evangelical readers. First, that evangelicals need to use arguments based on natural law. And second, that Catholics got it right on contraception and that the evangelicals got it wrong.
The natural law, an approach to morality which argues from evidence, common sense and philosophy was repudiated by modern Protestant theologians like Karl Barth and Jacques Ellul, but has been used for hundreds of years by Catholic thinkers. Dr Mohler observes:
“While traditionally used by Roman Catholic philosophers, theologians, and ethicists, natural law theory has also recently attracted the attention of some evangelicals. Of course, all Christians should affirm the reality of the natural law because Scripture itself affirms both the natural law and the reality of natural revelation. Also called general revelation, natural revelation refers to the fact that God embedded the knowledge of himself and of his law in the universe. In other words, the Creator displayed his own moral character and the appropriate moral structure of the universe in creation.”
Dr Mohler’s second unexpected proposal is that the tinder for the sexual revolution was widespread acceptance of contraception by evangelicals and Protestants. They were blindsided by the moral challenge:
“The energies of evangelical Christians had been devoted to so many other moral issues that birth control largely escaped focused attention. This set the stage for conservative Christians to be essentially co-opted by the contraceptive revolution when it took place, driven by the development and availability of ‘the Pill’ in the early 1960s. It is shocking now to look back and see how little conversation took place among evangelicals at that time.”
However, Pope Paul VI did hold the line, drawing on Christian tradition and natural law reasoning. He set down in his controversial encyclical Humanae Vitae that every act of intercourse must be open to life. He warned that the separation of sex and procreation would unleash a moral disaster.
Other Christians were skeptical and thanked God that they had no Pope to dictate sexual morality to them. But Dr Mohler says that Paul VI was the authentic representative of mainstream Christian thinking.
Of course, the central purpose of We Cannot Be Silent is not to recalibrate evangelical theology, but to reaffirm it. In a wise and moving conclusion to his cultural and theological analysis Dr Mohler acknowledges that Christians have failed to understand homosexuals and have often been too moralistic rather than forgiving. But the answer is not capitulation to the new culture, but the grace of God. Like Pope Francis, he prays for both mercy and justice. “We must remind ourselves again and again of the compassion of truth and the truth of compassion.”