Volume 42 - Issue 1
We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrongby R. Albert Mohler
As the title indicates, this book is a call to arms for Christians. The target is same-sex marriage and, more broadly, the sexual revolution of recent years. It is excellent as a polemic, because it is not only a polemic. Its call to arms is based on a carefully developed history of the sexual revolution and a sharp logical analysis of the issues.
It addresses my own bewilderment at the speed at which the same-sex movement has progressed: Mohler points out that in 2004 eleven states had referendums banning same sex marriage. In 2008, most thought homosexuality itself was immoral, and Proposition 8, an anti-gay marriage law in California, passed overwhelmingly. But by 2014 polls showed that the American public overwhelmingly supported same-sex marriage, and in the 2016 election candidates routinely attacked those who believe in traditional marriage as bigots. So in twelve years there was a vast change of opinion in the American electorate. How could this have happened so fast, regarding an issue that had been considered closed for thousands of years?
Mohler sheds light on this astonishing change by his longer term historical survey. In his view, the modern sexual revolution began with the growing acceptance of contraception in the early twentieth century, which separated sex from procreation. Then came no-fault divorce in the 1960s which, in Mohler’s view, brought drastic and tragic changes to family structure. Eventually cohabitation came to replace marriage entirely in some circles. And advanced reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertilization detached childbearing even from sex itself.
Accompanying these historical developments was a new view of marriage, from traditional “conjugal” marriage (a covenant cemented by public vows, establishing kinship relations) to “revisionist” views (contractual, defined by a loving emotional bond).
And as views of marriage changed, so did views of homosexuality. Mohler defends the traditional biblical exegesis behind the view that Scripture condemns all homosexual unions, not only those that are oppressive. In that connection, he expounds the biblical view of sex in a broad context, from Genesis 2, to Paul’s doctrine that marriage images the relation of Christ and the church, to the eschatological marriage supper of the Lamb.
But Mohler shows also the militant opposition to this theology that is part of the “gay agenda.” Since the Stonewall riots of 1969, there was a deliberate movement by gay activists to destroy common criticisms of homosexuality. (1) Homosexuality is not “crazy.” The activists successfully petitioned the psychoanalytic community to reverse its judgment that homosexuality was a mental illness. (2) It is not “sinful.” Gay activists led the fight in liberal denominations to reinterpret or discard biblical prohibitions. (3) It is not “criminal.” Although there were legal prohibitions of homosexuality as late as 2003, that same year the Supreme Court pronounced that such laws violated the Constitution. Justice Scalia said that this decision would lead to same sex marriage, and indeed it did. (4) It is not “subversive”: literature, films, and TV sought to portray gays as normal, unthreatening people (though some gays protested that this new stereotype inhibited their freedom). These goals of the gay community were astonishingly successful, but only because the defenses of traditional marriage had already been weakened.
The logical and historical conclusion of this development, Mohler says, is the transgender revolution. This is not just a movement to give help to those with gender dysphoria, but a demand upon society to regard gender entirely as a social construct, unconnected to biological sex. The transgender movement goes beyond the homosexual movement as such: now the question is not who an individual desires to bed with but who one wants go to bed as (pp. 68–69). Taking a male or female role in sex, or some other role, is entirely up to the autonomous individual.
Hence the willingness of liberals to force the whole society to abandon its one-sex bathroom policy in the interest of the very small minority in the country who are gender dysphoric. To many of us, this policy seems to be a wildly disproportionate response to the problem of a very few. But to the LGBT activists, this is an important part of the revolution that must be imposed on society by force, not inhibited in the slightest by considerations of religious liberty.
So the issue is no longer about sex alone. It is an issue of worldview. Is the world created by God, an objective reality to which we ought to conform, or is it a world we ourselves have formed, malleable to whatever we may choose to be? Here we see the truly radical implications of the sexual revolution. And the totalitarian impulses of the LGBT movement will not tolerate dissent. Their goal is to force conformity of behavior, but also of mind, of language, of philosophy, and of theology. Arguments for first amendment liberties seem to be lost on the LGBT movement.
At this point, Mohler reprimands the silence of the evangelical community. The sexual revolution would overturn the entire biblical worldview, and many evangelicals have gone AWOL in this crucial fight.
My general view of this book is very positive. I learned a great deal from the historical analysis, and Mohler has persuaded me of the sharpness of the conflict between LGBT activists and the gospel of Christ. Sometimes in the book Mohler’s critique goes farther than I think is biblically warranted; for example, he raises serious historical and moral questions about the use of artificial birth control. Mohler may be right, of course, that the loosening of the churches’ opposition to contraception since 1900 allowed people to rethink their convictions about marriage. As a historical assertion, that is arguable. But Mohler makes this point normative, not just descriptive.
I also take a somewhat different position from him on new reproductive techniques such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization. There are moral dangers here, but I think it is possible to practice these techniques without breaking biblical law. (I would not make such a case for surrogate motherhood or for artificial insemination by donor. For my arguments about these, see my Doctrine of the Christian Life [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008], ch. 40.) Again, it is possible that these developments have left some people open to the further loosening of the concept of marriage advocated by the LGBT community. That, I think, is unfortunate. But we should not be led by the great error of the LGBT movement to adopt views of reproduction that are more conservative than those of the Bible itself.
These “conservative” views are typically defended by natural law arguments rather than by biblical exegesis. Mohler commends natural law reasoning (p. 59–66), but he also commends sola Scriptura, the sufficiency of Scripture. Traditionally the former characterizes Roman Catholic thinking, the latter Protestant. There is some methodological overlap, of course, between the two communities. But there are, to say the least, tensions within any attempt to combine these two methods of ethical reasoning, and Mohler doesn’t help us to reconcile them. (For my suggestions on these issues, see Doctrine of the Christian Life, pp. 239–382.
For all of this, the rebuke we receive in the title of Mohler’s book rightly commands us to action. I hope that the Christian community will hearken to it. As Christian citizens, we must bring God’s word into the present deplorable situation, lest we be prevented from speaking it at all.
Reformed Theological Seminary
Orlando, Florida, USA