Message 6, Questions & Answers with Godfrey, Mohler, Lawson, and Sproul:
A questions and answers session with Drs. W. Robert Godfrey, Albert Mohler, Steven Lawson, and R.C. Sproul.
- Was salvation provided after the fall and before Christ? (00:30)
- If God gives faith and He wants everyone to be saved, why does He not give faith to everyone? (01:25)
- Does the Bible preclude the existence of life elsewhere in the universe? (02:04)
- Would you comment on the influence, relevance, and significance of traducianism as it relates to creation? (03:28)
- Are there distinctions of sin in hell? (05:41)
- What would you say to a healthcare worker who has to work on Sunday and never attends a church service? (10:08)
- How should we respond to the assertion that Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God? (11:26)
- As image-bearers of God, how should Christians think about Muslims given the constant threat of Islamic terrorism? (17:34)
- As a believer and a woman who has had an abortion, how can we as the church combat against the mentality that some sins are unforgivable? (23:35)
- Should Christians even use the word marriage to refer to same-sex unions? (34:30)
- How should a Christian witness to a transgender neighbor who is convinced that gender is relative? (36:30)
Note: Answers given during Questions and Answers sessions reflect the views of the individual speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dr. R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries. Here is our Statement of Faith.
CHRIS LARSON: Well, we’re going to jump right in to the topic and the flow of this conference, and we have a good number of questions that have already come in from our guests out here, related to the topic but, as the Q and A’s go, we open it up in terms of a theological and biblical free-for-all at times.
And so we’ll move the questions around in variety, and try and involve each of you. So the first question, and first person to jump in, press your button. Was salvation provided after the fall and before Christ? Was salvation provided after the fall and before Christ?
STEVEN LAWSON: Yes. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Obviously, people were saved. Am I hearing the question correct? Was there salvation after the fall and before Christ? Of course! I mean, people were saved in the Old Testament same way they were saved in the New Testament. By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. They were saved by looking forward to the coming of Christ, as we’re saved by looking back at the coming of Christ.
But there’s only one way of salvation. And anytime anywhere anyone is saved, at any point on planet earth, it is by the Lord Jesus Christ, and by grace, and faith in Christ.
CHRIS LARSON: If God gives faith, and He wants everyone to be saved, why does He not give faith to everyone?
R.C. SPROUL: There’s a false assumption in there somewhere. If He wants to give faith to everyone, He will give faith to everyone. And if He does give faith to everyone, then everyone will be saved. The Scriptures make it clear that not everyone will be saved, therefore He doesn’t give faith to everyone. Therefore, He doesn’t want to give faith to everyone for His glory.
CHRIS LARSON: Does the Bible preclude the existence of life elsewhere in the universe?
ALBERT MOHLER: The answer is no; that’s speculative. What it does make very clear is that the entire cosmos was created for the drama of redemption, as Calvin said. The cosmos is a theater of God’s redemption; what would take place in here, in order to save sinful humanity.
So we have no reason to believe there’s any other story out there. There’s nothing in Scripture that says there can’t be some form of life somewhere, but what we are told is that the cosmos was created in order that, on this planet, Jesus Christ, in space and time and history, would come to save sinful humanity.
ROBERT GODFREY: In fact, we know there’s extraterrestrial life. They’re angels. Don’t they count? Why do people never talk about the angels?
ALBERT MOHLER: You just did.
R.C. SPROUL: You know that the New Testament word for angel, angelos, appears more frequently than the word for sin, and for the word for love. So there’s no excuse for not talking about angels.
ROBERT GODFREY: Would you like to put in a good word for the angelic doctor?
R.C. SPROUL: Yes.
CHRIS LARSON: Dr. Mohler, would you comment on the relevance, influence, significance of traducianism as relating to creation?
ALBERT MOHLER: Yes. It’s significant. There is no doubt that, when God says, “Let there be life,” there’s life. And without God’s active will that there be life, none of us would be. We are all created in that sense. Traducianism has within it a very important answer to how sin is transmitted, in such a way that it appears not only that there is biblical evidence for how this is transmitted by that means, in terms of the soul, you know, being explained in its existence in a sinful state by that way.
But it also appears to have something to do with, with why Christ is presented in terms of the virgin conception. Now, it’s not tied — I’m not sure exactly how you asked the question, to be honest. It’s not tied just to the existence of the soul and what we would call “original sin,” but it’s also tied to how indeed — it’s not just creation, it’s the historicity of the Genesis account that would include creation and fall. Am I missing something in that question?
CHRIS LARSON: I believe it’s a general question. Influence, relevance, significance, as it relates to creation overall.
ALBERT MOHLER: Well, let’s put it this way: If there — there have been long debates over these issues and neither of these answers gets to a matter of orthodoxy. So long as all that is affirmed in the Scripture is affirmed. One could conceivably come up with an explanation for the transmission of sin that would not require traducianism. I just think it’s not the easiest way to get there — not the you know, it’s following Occam’s Razor. It’s not the easiest way to answer the question with the biblical evidence.
CHRIS LARSON: Are there degrees of punishment in hell?
R.C. SPROUL: Of course.
ROBERT GODFREY: We’re going to be able to answer a lot of questions today.
R.C. SPROUL: I think the New Testament makes it clear. There’s at least 25 references in the New Testament that speaks of the various degrees of punishment and reward, and or reward in heaven relative to the degrees of sinfulness of sin. Even though all sin is sin, there’s still a clear distinction in the New Testament between those sins that are covered, the multitude of sins that love covers, that the Roman Catholic distinction between “mortal” and “venial” is not something that we would hold, but it’s a distinction that we would agree with in part; that at least there are, there is a difference between less and greater sins.
And the New Testament follows that again, again and again. And the point that we’re talking about here is that we are heaping up our sins against the day of wrath, heaping up wrath, piling it up, treasuring it up, according to the apostle Paul. And so it’s not like if oh, if I commit one sin, if I — I’ve heard a guy say, “Well I’ve lost it after I’ve already committed that sin, so I might as well go ahead and finish the action.”
No, no, no. You’re just entering into a more egregious violation of that previous sin. I once heard a psychiatrist speak a refutation of the ethics of Jesus because Jesus said that every sin is equally heinous, he says. And then anybody know better than that.
And I said, “Jesus never said that every sin is equally heinous. Jesus said that every sin is real sin and violation of the character of God,” and all the rest. But even when He says, in His explanation of the Sermon on the Mount, that if you lust after a woman in your heart, He doesn’t say that’s as bad as actually committing adultery but He, what He is pointing out is that even if, even if you refrain from the actual act does not mean that you have been totally obedient to the commandment.
And so Jesus expands the implications, and repercussions, and consequences of the commission of sin. So that the Pharisees in their oral tradition had a simplistic understanding of the prohibitions of God. But Jesus never said that all sins were equally heinous.
STEVEN LAWSON: Just to add a couple of verses, Hebrews 2:2 and 3 says, “Every sin shall receive a just recompense.” So each individual sin would have the proper consequence to that sin. Some sins are greater, and there is a greater condemnation than others. And we see that established in the Mosaic law — “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
It means that the punishment fits the crime. It’s not an eye for a tooth, or a tooth for an eye, but an eye for an eye; meaning, if you take out someone’s eye, then you must replace that eye, so to speak. Or a tooth for a tooth. And it’s a matching up of the punishment for that sin, and in the, under the Mosaic Law, there were, I can’t remember the exact number but it’s 21, 23, something like that, sins deserve the death penalty where other sins did not deserve the death penalty. So there’s a distinction in God’s justice as He metes out the punishment for the crime. What is true in time will be true in eternity.
ALBERT MOHLER: Yeah, Paul tells us about God’s judgment being “to each according to his deeds committed in the flesh.” If it’s according to to each, that would indicate an individual judgment, in which there would be some variation. No one, no one found guilty — innocent of anything less, is guilty of an infinite assault upon the holiness of the righteous and omnipotent God. But I think R.C. put it exactly right. Even in the Sermon on the Mount, you know, it’s false to say, “Jesus said this is all the same.”
CHRIS LARSON: Dr. Godfrey, what would you say to a health care worker who must work on Sunday and so never attends a service on the Lord’s Day?
ROBERT GODFREY: Well, our Reformed heritage rightly has always taught that we’re to rest on the Lord’s Day, except in cases of necessity and mercy. Now, some of the really rigorous Reformed churches used to have three services on the Lord’s Day and I suspect, if there are three services on the Lord’s Day, a health care worker might well be able to arrange schedules so you could get to one.
I think Christians, even those very seriously involved in works of mercy and necessity should certainly be trying to arrange their schedule so they are not permanently barred from worship. There may be a small group of people who really can never get there for legitimate reasons, but worship, fellowship with God’s people, rest on the Sabbath Day ought to be such a high priority that we really pursue that as a goal, actively, and not be content to find reasons to to avoid finding a way to do it.
CHRIS LARSON: We hear from many sources that Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God. They don’t listen to Renewing Your Mind obviously. How should we respond to that assertion?
ALBERT MOHLER: You know, this frustrates me because it comes back again, and again, and again. You know, famously, someone observed years ago that we live in an age that is supposed to be marked by harmony. Obviously it’s not, but nonetheless the elites keep telling us everybody’s got to get along, and you have to say whatever and believe whatever is necessary to get along, and harmonize everything.
And the Western secular elites are in a particular urgency of their own collapsing worldview to try to argue that there’s no theological claim, claim that could be taken seriously, which is why they can’t understand a resurgent Islam. They have no intellectual equipment with which to understand a theological truth claim.
So they just can’t believe, so far as they’re concerned this has to be by politics, or sociology, or something else. And repeatedly, we’re being told, you know, you’ve got to somehow, you know, smooth out the theological rough places, and so you hear people saying, obviously the controversy recently at Wheaton College and elsewhere, you know, who say, “Christians and Muslims worship the same God.”
Well, we don’t. And, it’s not a question of linguistics. It’s not a question of, of Allah. Allah was a word for “god,” simply, you know, the word used for “god” before Muhammad ever came along, so it’s not “Are Allah and God the same?” Actually Allah and God might be the same if you’re talking with an Arab-speaking Christian who means the Trinitarian God revealed in Scripture. But the Allah taught of Islam, that Allah, which is what just about everybody means, is incompatible with the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we have as testimony for this Jesus Christ who just, for one example, in John chapter 9, says, “If you don’t know me, you don’t know the Father.”
And He was speaking to Jewish leaders who came to rebuke Him. And, so here’s this: Islam teaches — you see this on the dome of the rock mosque, the Al Aqsa mosque, you see it says, “There is only one God, Muhammad is his prophet, and he has no son.” The central — one of the central truth claims, one of the first three statements made to define Islam is that God has no son, that Jesus Christ is not the incarnate Son of God, or what we would go on to define as the second Person of the Trinity.
That — and that’s where, here’s the question: Can one reject Jesus Christ as the Son and truly know the Father? The answer to that, fundamentally, logically has to be no. But biblically, we’ve got Jesus saying it Himself in John chapter 9. We don’t have to extrapolate this. All you’ve got to do is read the Gospel, and Jesus makes that clear. And then I have people come back to me all the time and say, “Well, then you are saying that Jews do not worship the same God.”
And I say, simply, “I don’t say anything.” Jesus said that if you reject Him and you do not thereby know Him then you do not know, and in another place He says “never knew” the Father. I’m with Jesus. I don’t know anything to say other than what Jesus said, and I think it’s abundantly clear.
R.C. SPROUL: The difference though is that Jesus didn’t live in our day, where our culture is defined by relativism and its twin, pluralism. And the thing that’s most politically incorrect in our day is to declare exclusivity for Christ or for Christianity, or to say there’s only one Way, or for the Bible to say there’s only one Mediator between God and man and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ.
So we run right up against that in the culture. Everywhere we go, we hear the “tsk, tsk, tsk” of disapproval. It’s one thing I’ve found, and you’ve all found this, that, in this culture, it’s okay for an individual to affirm his own beliefs. That’s alright. But you cannot deny the antithesis. If you deny the antithesis, then you’re in cultural hot water.
That’s why, even in our Christology statement, we have to have affirmations and denials. Not only do we affirm this, but we deny its contrary. And, that puts us on a collision course with the pluralism and relativism of our day. But to ask a question like “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” really, it shouldn’t take more than five minutes to answer that question.
As you said, just look at the opening pages of the Qu’ran and compare it to the opening statements of the New Testament and you see that antithesis jump right out at you. You can’t eat your cake — have your cake and eat it too. That’s a straight theological proposition.
ALBERT MOHLER: Got to answer one other thing, because I talked to a reporter about this the other day and, and she was completely scandalized. I could just see, you know, the blood was just — she’d met one of these, finally she’d found one. And she’d heard we existed, but now she found one. And so I decided, “I’ve got to, I’ve got to — ” No, these reporters have this National Geographic moment with evangelicals who really believe in orthodox Christianity and all of sudden go, “Wow, they do exist! Fascinating species!”
But, at one point, I simply thought, “Okay, I’ve got to go ahead.” I said, “I want you also to understand that I don’t think Unitarians worship the same God. I don’t think Mormons worship the same God.” And I, I said, I went on down. I said, “This doesn’t, this isn’t a list in which we don’t think Muslims worship the same God. We don’t think anybody worships the same God unless they come to Him through Jesus Christ our Lord. And then there’s one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” It’s pretty exclusive.
CHRIS LARSON: Related to this, several different questions coming in about Islam and Christianity. How should Christians think about Muslims, given the constant threat of Islamic terrorism? Another question that expands that a little bit more: as image-bearers glorifying, who desire to glorify Christ, how do we respond to this terrorism? How does the individual Christian, the church reconcile the kingdom of the cross with the kingdoms of — the kingdom of the sword?
ROBERT GODFREY: That’s a big subject.
R.C. SPROUL: It is a big subject, and it has to do with our understanding of the role that, under God, government has to play. And we as individuals do not have the right to seek vengeance, but God has not only ordained a church, but He also ordains government to protect from the evil-doer and from unrighteousness, and has given the power of the sword to them, not to us.
But He has given the power of the sword to them. And it is the duty, I believe — even a non-Christian government I said it certainly has the responsibility to maintain, protect the sanctity of life, which our government certainly doesn’t do. We know that. But it still doesn’t excuse them from their responsibility under God. As long as we sanction abortion on demand, we’re not operating under God. We’re operating in outward defiance of God, and for the very purpose for which any government is established. And we need to understand that.
ALBERT MOHLER: Can I come back to the first part of that, because I do think it’s really important that we come back and say, look, when you see someone who may be dressed or otherwise presenting as a Muslim, our first thought shouldn’t be “potential terrorist.”
We should be thankful that the vast majority of Muslims in the world are not engaged in an active jihad against us or against the West. But, as I mentioned in The Briefing just recently, you know, this massive study came out saying we should be thankful that 90 to 95 percent of Muslims around the world, country by country, say they don’t support ISIS. But that does leave ten to five percent, which means tens, and tens, and tens of millions of people who are are given to this.
The other thing we have to recognize is that theology matters. We just come back to that again and again. And there is no form of Qu’ranic Islam, and by the way there’s no other form of Islam — we shouldn’t take — like biblical Christianity. But in the Qu’ran, holy war is built in as a central animating purpose; geographical conquest and the bringing of conquest to — the world is separated between the world of Islam and the world of war. And, and that’s why we have to understand that we should be thankful.
Most are not actively involved in terrorism, though we can understand, given that theology, how many would be; even their eschatology. But we do have to recognize that the distinction between Muhammad, who was revealed in the Qu’ran and bragged about in Muslim tradition as “a warrior with a sword bloodied by many” is in direct contradiction to Jesus as the Prince of peace who told Peter to put away his sword. And it is an opportunity for the preaching of the gospel in an age in which the thesis and the antithesis have perhaps never more dramatically been separated and made distinguished in the headlines of every day.
ROBERT GODFREY: We have had, at our seminary in the past, a student from Turkey. And he told us the story of a missionary couple who had been working in Turkey, which has historically been regarded as one of the safer, slightly more secular, more tolerant Muslim societies. And the man was out witnessing for Christ, and someone jumped out of the crowd and cut his throat and killed him publically. And the television carried this story, and interviewed his widow shortly after this had happened, and asked her what she would like to say to the nation.
And she said, “I would like to say, in the name of Christ, I forgive my husband’s killer.” And the Turkish student said, “That one sentence did more to communicate the essential nature of Christianity to the Turkish world than any number of books and missionary activities might have done.” Because Turkish culture is a revenge culture, and to have this testimony to forgiveness was arresting, perhaps baffling. And that’s why our Savior said to us that we’re to turn the other cheek, that we’re to love our enemies, however difficult that is personally.
Whatever cost that might lead to, that’s what we’re called to do and to be. It’s not what the American government is called to do and to be. They are to promote justice. They are to maintain order. They’re to protect citizens.
But we, as Christians, have to bear a different testimony. So however fearful we are, however angry we are, we have to try to let the words of our Savior live in our hearts, that we’re to love the enemy and turn the other cheek. And we have to labor for that because that will be the path to see conversions among Muslims. It’ll be the Word of Christ’s grace that converts them, not, probably, a Christian version of the sword. In fact, their sense that, in the Crusades, Christians were just as bloody as Muslims were is one of the great impediments, to this day, to the conversion, or to even hearing the gospel on the part of Muslims.
CHRIS LARSON: As a believer, and also as a woman who is post-abortive, how can we as a church combat against the mentality of some sins being too great or unforgivable? The most negativity and hatred I’ve experienced is inside my church walls.
ROBERT GODFREY: I think that’s such an important question to stop and and ponder because, again, we are called to be clear in recognizing sin as sin, and never compromising the law of God, the holiness of God, the truth of God by saying sins aren’t sins. But the gospel equally says there is no sin that cannot be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost. And we have to create an environment where we can both speak against sin, but make clear there is mercy for the sinner, that there is an appeal to the sinner to come.
And I think those of us in leadership in churches need, particularly, to think about that. As we think about the things we say in church and from the pulpit, we have to ask, “Would a homosexual visiting here feel any love, any concern, any compassion?” The same is true with the woman who’s gone through abortion. There’s, the same is true with so many different sins.
And I think we, as Christians, have to really think about it, not for a moment to compromise the, the holiness of God, the truth of God’s law, but to always try to be thinking how will we be heard and how can we be heard in a way that would actually draw the sinner to Christ instead of drive the sinner away. And I’m not saying that’s always easy, but certainly we want to say to any woman here who’s had an abortion, there’s mercy and forgiveness, full and complete, in Jesus Christ and that you should be a loved member of His forgiven community.
STEVEN LAWSON: Yeah, Chris, I think some verses to to add to that, at the end of Romans 5 — “Where sin does abound, grace does much more abound.” I think of James 2, that “God’s mercy has triumphed over His justice,” that, in 1 Timothy 1, that even the chief of sinners has been converted and saved. If we had said anyone in the world would not have been saved, we would’ve said Saul of Tarsus.
Yet, he became a trophy of God’s grace, and God’s grace was put on display in extraordinary measure because of the greatness and the depth of his sin. And so we in the church must preach the fullness and the freeness of God’s grace, the height, the depth, the breadth and the length of it that Ephesians 3 talks about; that we would come to know the height and the depth and the breadth and the length of the love of God in Christ; that it’s so deep it reaches all the way down to the depths of the sinner.
The length of it, it extends to eternity. The breadth of it is wide enough to gather in whosoever. And the height of it, it transcends our sins. So it’s in the preaching of the fullness and the richness of the atonement of Christ, how He has placated the wrath of God. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And He’s taken our sins and placed them behind His back. He’s taken our sins and buried them in the depths of the sea. He remembers our transgressions no more.
We just must preach that and apply that and pastorally extend that to those who have created, committed sins that they feel cannot be forgiven, as well as for those in the church to hear as they interface with other people who have committed extraordinary sins, to receive them as a brother and sister in Christ.
R.C. SPROUL: Could you read the — that question again for me, the beginning of that question?
CHRIS LARSON: As a believer, and also a woman who is post-abortive, comma.
R.C. SPROUL: Okay, go on.
CHRIS LARSON: How can we as a church combat against the mentality of some sins being too great or unforgivable?
R.C. SPROUL: Okay. Was there something else in there about…?
CHRIS LARSON: The most negativity and hatred I’ve experienced is inside my church walls.
R.C. SPROUL: Alright, the most hatred and negativity I’ve experienced is inside my walls, the walls of the church. I hope the strongest sense of disapproval about abortions that is ever experienced anywhere is inside the church. Abortion, ladies and gentleman, is a monstrous evil. And if a woman has had an abortion, she needs monster repentance.
She can still be saved, but I just wonder if, if she’s mistaking hatred for disapproval because, you know, at the abortion clinics here in Orlando, you know, you hear every day, women that come every day and say, “I’m a Christian. Jesus is going to forgive me. And I’m going to go ahead and I’m going to abort my child.”
And we hear people constantly making this mantra that, “If you really believe in love, and if you really care for us, and really believing in the mercy of Christ, you cannot speak against abortion so strongly.” And that scares me to death. Because I believe, just as everybody else has said here, that the, that abortion, the sin of abortion is not unforgivable, but it must have true repentance for that forgiveness to be realized.
And, again, if that person who’s asked that question is really experiencing hatred among the people of God, that’s a dreadful thing. It’s a horrible thing. It’s a horrible testimony against any church if what we communicate is hatred. But I wonder if they’re confusing hatred and serious disapproval. I can disapprove of something without hating somebody. I mean, if God loves me but then He disapproves of all kinds of things I do, then I don’t come to the conclusion that He hates me.
And this is one of the reasons why preachers are afraid to preach about this gross and heinous sin in our culture, that’s accepted by our culture, and actually glorified in our culture, even by presidential candidates, and sitting presidents, and so on, who exalt this kind of behavior. And there’s this bandwagon that, if you don’t get on it, you’re really politically incorrect.
But we have to say, as loudly as possible as Christians, we care about you, we love you, and all of that, but if we love you at all, we have to tell you that this can send you to hell forever! One abortion can send to hell forever, and will send you to hell forever if you don’t deeply and seriously repent.
ALBERT MOHLER: Chris, can I just add something to that quickly, because I appreciate so much where we are in this question at the moment and I have, in the church of which I’m — have been a part, a woman who had an abortion is now living as an incredible testimony to Christ and very actively involved in a local pro-life ministry, taking a very courageous stance.
But here’s what repentance looks like in that case. Our confession of faith that the seminary based upon, Westminster, says it’s an evangelical grace wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit which leads to a repugnance toward sin, a detestation towards sin. And I saw a sign of this when this woman, who’d had an abortion and who has, who repented, came to Christ, repented of her sins; this is a part of what she tells everybody about why they must not have an abortion, because not only is this what an abortion is in terms of the baby, this is what an abortion is in terms of me. Not only the murder of an unborn human life, it also means that I have — I’ve got to tell you this right now.
But this is what she said, and this is what’s so powerful. I wish every preacher were here, this, she said, “Repentance means I need to demand my preacher preach on this, lest anyone else might follow the same way.” I think that’s true for divorce, it’s true where evangelical scandals, too many preachers are afraid to preach about divorce.
It should be the people who have genuinely repented of sinful behavior who tell the preacher, “You need to preach on this.” And I agree, if there are people in the church who responded with hatred, that’s a form of moralism which is themselves – which questions their own repentance from their own sins. But I’m just always afraid the church is going to find a way not to tell the truth about sin, and to call people to faith and repentance.
CHRIS LARSON: Should Christians even use the word marriage’ to refer to same gender legalized unions, or is that giving a way to new word definitions?
ALBERT MOHLER: I’m going to jump on this because this is my everyday life. I would wish not to use the word “marriage,” and I will often speak of the “legal fiction” of same-sex marriage, or “so-called same-sex marriage,” etc. But, now that the Obergefell decision is handed down, we have a reality in which I don’t believe, ontologically, a man and a man can be married. I don’t believe morally, ontologically, theologically, in reality a woman and a woman can be married.
I do have to concede that, even though I believe it was unconstitutional and a judicial usurpation of politics that was also in violation of the constitution and of natural law, the Supreme Court has created a legal reality known as “same-sex marriage.” And we don’t get to say everything we want to say every time, so same-sex marriage, sometimes we’re going to have to say “same-sex marriage” with — while we don’t mean the same thing as “marriage,” but we don’t get to say, we don’t get to put in all the footnotes if we’re answering a reporter’s question, or someone like that. And that is one of the haunting moral realities of this horribly confused age.
I had to tell two men the other day that they think they’re married. That didn’t go over too well. Amongst other things, it didn’t go over too well. But I mean, they really do believe they’re married. They’re using the name and now, horribly, our government is affirming them in believing that they’re married. There is now a legal reality of same-sex marriage. It goes by the name “marriage.” I mean, I was living in a state where the county clerk, you know, just became a massive thing because of this very issue. So it isn’t real, but the law says it is. We’re living in Alice In Wonderland.
CHRIS LARSON: How should a Christian witness to a transgender neighbor who asserts that gender is subjective?
ROBERT GODFREY: Can I ask, because I’ve been curious and too lazy to find out on my own, but Al knows everything so, what percentage of the American population is transgendered?
ALBERT MOHLER: It’s estimated about 0.4. That 0.4. That’s four tenths of one percent. Yeah. Now, there’s a whole range (it’s a spectrum) from those who have been — who have “transitioned,” by their own definition, all the way, or someone who’s just dressing differently and presenting differently or at times presenting differently, but transgender is about estimated at 0.4 percent of the population.
ROBERT GODFREY: Because just looking at the question kind of historically and sociologically, it is intriguing the amount of time and energy that, that the opinion-makers of America are investing in their concern for the the rights and fair treatment of 0.4 percent of the population with complete indifference to any kind of respect for maybe 20 percent of the population who happen to be Christian. When certain presidential candidates reel off their support for the rights of varying groups, somehow we never seem to get mentioned. And I wondered if you have any thoughts about that.
ALBERT MOHLER: Well, just in terms of that — in terms of the question being asked, — and you know, Bob, I would simply say this: the way a moral revolution happens, and I love the way Theo Hobson describes — and he’s a liberal — how he describes a moral revolution. He says a moral revolution only takes place, you can have moral change, you know, things can change, you can change morality, but a revolution requires three things to take place. That which was condemned must be affirmed. That which was affirmed must be condemned. And the ones that will not now affirm must be condemned. And that’s where we are.
So, whereas homosexuality was condemned, now it is opposition to homosexuality that’s condemned, and the people who will not affirm homosexuality are condemned. And there was a banding together, it’s L.G.B.T.Q. and that’s going to be an alphabet soup, just keeps going, in terms of what’s going on here. And so the relative percentage in their moral and legal case doesn’t matter, because it’s all part and parcel to this moral revolution.
The transgender issue’s going to be much more pastorally difficult for the church than homosexuality. And it is because, if you think about it, a confusion at the end, at the level of personal identity, with gender is so basic, it’s prior to sex. It is prior to anything else.
And you know, on The Briefing the other day, I was talking about the fact that the New York Times had an article about the difficulties of transgender people getting medical care, and it pointed out that — and forgive me, I’m going to talk biology here for a minute. Don’t worry. But it pointed out, and I love this, it said that personal physicians to transgender women must remember they have a prostate gland, which means they are not women. But we are being called into this mass confusion.
And look, there are people who would ask a question like that who genuinely believe that gender is merely a social construct, but every cell in the body says otherwise. The entire genetic structure of the human being as male and female says otherwise. That prostate gland says otherwise.
And that’s just reminder of the fact that we are in a sinful rebellion. We should expect it to take very sophisticated ideological forms. And that’s what we see. Very persuasive in the courts. Why is it not persuasive among us? It’s because we operate on the basis of the Word of God where the creator defines us, and where He has been very specific about His intention for us as male and as female.
And we, we have to be heartbroken and pastorally sensitive, but this is an issue in which the church is going to have to tell people, “Your confusion here is not just about gender; it’s about who decides who you are.
And here’s good news: you were known before you existed, and God had a plan for your life in making you male or female, and you will never ever achieve wholeness and happiness apart from coming to terms with that as God’s gift, and then understanding that God’s ultimate concern is that you come to be His by means of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is going to vex us. It’s going to be very difficult. We’re going to be heartbroken over and over again. And we’ve got to risk being heartbroken over and over again because, if we’re to preach the gospel to anybody, we’re to preach the gospel to everybody. And we are sinners as are they. We know how much they need Christ.
ROBERT GODFREY: Have we got time for just one more? As a word of encouragement, in a Calvinist sense, so don’t get too excited — I read an absolutely fascinating book entitled From Shame to Sin by an ancient historian — that is, a historian of ancient history — who traced, in the later Roman Empire, the shift from pagan sexual morality to an increasingly Christian sexual morality.
And he said there were two prime areas in which the Christian message resonated with pagans in the ancient world. And that was: pagans believed sex was determined, and pagans believed that sex could quite properly be coerced. And Christian testimony against sexual determinism, and against sexual coercion is…
ALBERT MOHLER: You’ve got to define “sexual determinism.”
ROBERT GODFREY: Well, that the gods had made you desire what you desired. You had no control over that. And I thought how fascinating, because we live in a world where people are telling us all the time about the biological determinism of sex, and about how it’s right, in effect, to coerce people into sex. People are being coerced all the time, because they’re told, “If you’re not having sex, there’s something wrong with you.” And the Christian message broke through that paganism. That’s the good news. And changed the culture. That’s the good news. The Calvinist part is it took about 300 years.
So, let’s settle in for the long haul. Let’s not lose heart. And if the Lord tarries, let’s keep at this, because our message is a liberating, joyful message, not a message that’s going to harm people.
CHRIS LARSON: Amen. Thank you all. Would you thank our panelists this afternoon?