SEAN MCDOWELL BLOG
Book Review: We Cannot Be Silent by Albert MohlerPosted December 16, 2015 by Sean McDowell
With the release of We Cannot Be Silent, Al Mohler becomes the most recent evangelical author to weigh in on the issue of same-sex marriage. Since I have written on the subject elsewhere, and also did my doctoral work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (where Mohler is president), I read this book with great interest. And it did not disappoint!
To ensure his readers grasp the significance of the sexual revolution, and the specific changes at hand, Mohler begins with a wakeup call for Christians:
“We are facing nothing less than a comprehensive redefinition of life, love, and liberty, and the very meaning of right and wrong…The moral revolution is now so complete that those who will not join it are understood to be deficient, intolerant, and harmful to society. What was previously understood to be immoral is now celebrated as a moral good. The church’s historic teaching on homosexuality—shared by the vast majority of the culture until very recently—is now seen as a relic of the past and a repressive force that must be eradicated.”[i]
Mohler is quick to emphasize that the sexual revolution did not start with same-sex marriage, and it will not end there. As John Stonestreet and I state in our book Same-Sex Marriage, same sex marriage is not the root of the problem; it is the fruit of the problem. Mohler agrees and traces its roots back to the 19th century when intellectuals in Europe began rejecting the received Christian morality while viewing it as inherently repressive. He also rightly recognizes other important forces that have driven the sexual revolution such as urbanization, contraceptive technology, Kenseyism, legal precedents, no-fault divorce, and cohabitation.
In order for same-sex marriage to be accepted, certain cultural perceptions needed to be overcome. While some have criticized the idea of a “gay agenda,” Mohler strongly disagrees: “The reality is that there was such a plot and, out of a very small group of devoted activists, a strategy did emerge—a strategy that has been overwhelmingly successful” (36). Specifically, Mohler lists four factors that those arguing for the normalization of homosexuality and same-sex relationships needed to overturn:[ii]
- Overcoming “Crazy” – In the early 1970s the APA reversed its opinion that same-sex attraction is a form of mental illness. Mohler states, “The social acceptance of homosexuality could not have happened if psychiatrists and psychologists, the high priests of the therapeutic empire, were committed to labeling homosexuality a disease” (41). Now, thinking homosexuality is sinful is itself morally deficient and in need of correction.
- Overcoming “Sinful” – Again, Mohler makes the point clear, “The overwhelming victory of the homosexual movement in the last several decades could not have happened had it not been aided and abetted by liberal religious leaders, theologians, and church officials who were ready to declare that they had ‘evolved’ on the question of homosexuality and were ready to lead the church in a bold, new direction” (43).
- Overcoming “Criminal” – Homosexual behavior was still criminalized in America as recently as 2003. According to Mohler, “The leaders who moved to normalize homosexuality recognized that they needed both the culture and the courts on their side if their movement was to succeed. They persuaded the public by means other than the courts, but they still used the courts to add moral authority to their movement” (47).
- Overcoming “Subversive” – The perception that homosexual behavior was subversive to the moral order was the final barrier that needed to be overcome for same-sex marriage to be accepted. Mohler states, “The effort to normalize same-sex relationships has succeeded most when it presents homosexuals as harmless neighbors, kindhearted friends, and contributing members of a happy society” (49). This was accomplished largely through TV shows such as Will and Grace and Modern Family and movies such as Philadelphia and Milk.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when Mohler discusses how heterosexuals have done far more to harm marriage than gays. This is unmistakably true, and a point John and I repeatedly make in our own book. This is true for heterosexuals as a whole, but particularly true for heterosexuals within the church. In fact, because of its failure to both teach and model a biblical view of marriage, the church has largely lost its prophetic voice to culture on this issue.
Mohler lists many of the failures of the church in its approach to homosexuality, and as a model of humility and honesty, he takes responsibility for some of his own personal shortcomings as well. I loved this section! In our book Same-Sex Marriage, the first thing we do is encourage the church to personally seek repentance for our own shortcomings. It is only when we are aware of our own failures, and experience God’s grace, that we can truly speak to the world with humility and compassion.
It may surprise some readers how Mohler responds to the question of how Christians should view same-sex couples adopting children. While clearly proclaiming the true context for human flourishing as the natural family, he says,
“Yet we must always be ready to state publicly our gladness that children are cared for, even as we assert the deficiencies of the home in which these adopted children find greater security, love, nurture, and comfort…Frankly, we will make fools of ourselves if we suggest that it would be better for children to be consigned to the anonymous social welfare system, with little hope of eventual rescue, than to be adopted by homosexual parents who deeply desire to invest themselves in the care and nurturing of children” (92).
Another unique aspect of We Cannot Be Silent is that Mohler emphasizes how truth itself is compassionate. Evangelicals often emphasize (myself included) that we need to respond to this issue with both truth and compassion. While agreeing, Mohler points out that truth itself is compassionate: “A central task of genuine compassion is telling the truth, and the Bible reveals a true message we must convey. Those contorting and subverting the Bible’s message are not responding to homosexuals with compassion. Lying is never compassionate—and ultimately leads to death” (117).
Should Christians be concerned about religious liberty? Chapter 7 is a clear, insightful, and sobering chapter that all Christians should read. After citing many of the specific instances where religious liberty has been threatened, Mohler notes how the courts have shown increasing willingness to adopt the “take no prisoners” approach demanded by moral liberationists. Shouldn’t Christians take comfort in the First Amendment? Yet as Mohler observes, the First Amendment also guarantees freedom of religious, and religious liberty is “anything but secure” (126). What does this actually mean for Christians? Mohler explains:
“Employees and executives in many corporations and American institutions already face this threat [compromising convictions or going out of business]. They must either endorse the new moral regime or get out of the way. Christian humanitarian organizations face being cut off from access to ministry, unless they endorse the new sexual morality and operate by its precepts. Students in public schools face the denial of religious rights and free association rights. Christian couples may well face severe headwinds as they attempt to adopt children. These are not idle threats or issues of hypothetical concern. Every one of these threats is rooted in arguments already made in the public square or political and legal processes already in play” (132).
You may agree with Mohler. And you may disagree with him. But We Cannot Be Silent is a timely and important book. Mohler writes with a sense of urgency, but he also with charity and kindness towards those with whom he disagrees. I would urge you to get a copy of this book, read it carefully, and discuss your thoughts with others. This is a conversation the church simply cannot afford not to have. Far too much is at stake.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog at seanmcdowell.org.
[i] R. Albert Mohler, We Cannot Be Silent (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015), 1, 3.
[ii] Mohler rightly gives credit to Linda Hirshman for categorizing these four ideas in her Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution.