Christianity,  Culture

Is it crazy and hateful to suggest that gays can change?

Last week, Albert Mohler appeared on the CNN program “Out Front” with Erin Burnett to talk about Chick-fil-a and the gay marriage debate (see video below). In the course of the discussion, Mohler explained briefly what the Bible teaches about moral renewal in the life of a Christian. In short, he argued that the same Christ that redeems sinners also helps them to “change”—i.e., to put aside those things the Bible defines as sin.

Erin Burnett’s response was astonishing at one level and totally not surprising at another. It’s no surprise that she would be in favor of gay marriage. It is astonishing, however, that she would be so overtly dismissive of basic Christian morality—as if it were completely outside the bounds of rational discourse. She couldn’t believe that a Christian would suggest that homosexuals can or would even need to “change.” In the course of her remarks, she told Mohler that his statements were “crazy” and “hateful.” As usual, Mohler did a fantastic job representing the gospel and parrying the push-back from a hostile host.

There is a key take-away from this exchange that Christians need not to miss. What Mohler contends for is something that all Christians will have to contend for if they wish to be faithful to Christ. The focus of this particular conversation is homosexuality, but the implications of Burnett’s dismissal go beyond that single issue. Her incredulity calls into question what Christianity teaches about the nature of salvation.

The Bible teaches that Christ not only saves sinners from the penalty of sin but also from power of sin (Rom. 6:14). That means that genuine Christianity inevitably results in a changed life on the part of the one who trusts in Christ. From the moment of conversion, the Spirit of God progressively transforms Christians into the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18). Without this kind of holiness, no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). To reject God’s purpose of holiness is to reject Christianity altogether (1 Thes. 4:7-8).

What the Bible teaches on this matter is not aimed only at gay people. It goes for all sinners, gay or straight. Every person who receives Christ and believes the gospel must change. They cannot remain the sinner that they were without calling into question the validity of their conversion. As one preacher put it, “If the faith that saved you didn’t change you, then it didn’t save you.”

This does not mean that sinners become perfect all at once. There’s no waving of the magic wand to make one completely sinless in this life. It is not that way for any sinner, including gay ones. The work of sanctification is a progressive work that extends over the course of one’s life. There are stops and starts, triumphs and failures along the way. But it is nevertheless the mark of a Christian that he is working out his salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that it is God who is at work in him both to act and to will according to God’s good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13). For many gay people who come to Christ, it may be a life-long struggle. But the Bible teaches that they will have what they need for the fight (2 Pet. 1:3) and that they are not bound by this sin any longer (Rom. 6:6).

What Burnett dismisses as “crazy” and “hateful” is at the heart of the Christian faith. To deny that the gospel can change sinners—even homosexual ones—is to deny Christianity altogether. That is why Mohler’s answer was profoundly and biblically right. He didn’t give any ground on this issue, and neither should any Christian who wishes to give a defense of the hope that is in him (1 Pet. 3:15). It is neither crazy nor hateful to suggest that gays can change. It’s the essence of love that God enables them to do so.

We won’t be able to please all the people all the time. And that means that, occasionally, we may have to take our lumps. As the world rages against God’s word, we must stand firm to uphold it. And we must not be surprised when scoffers denigrate our ancient faith as folly and nonsense. “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).


  • Aaron Meares

    Great post, Denny. When Ms. Burnett blurted out, “That’s crazy” not only did I think that was terribly unprofessional, I also concluded that she must believe if something falls within the realm of one’s sexual conduct then it is off-limits to moral judgments. If she thinks it is impossible or absurd to alter one’s sexual behavior then no form of sexual expression could be considered degenerate. Apparently, she must also hold that it is “crazy” for serial adulterers or pedophiles or polygamists to reform their sexual conduct. I agree; Dr. Mohler did, as he usually does, an excellent job.

  • Andrew Nordine

    That was the point that I took away from the discussion too. It amazed me that society believes people can change on all sorts of other issues – i.e. drug addictions – but not on homosexuality. It’s as if the focus is so heavily on homosexuality that all sight is lost in every other realm of reality.

    • Derek Taylor

      True, Andrew – part of it comes down to almost 50 years of progression down the road of sexual revolution and another part is due to the promotion of the idea that homosexuality is 100% genetic/nature and 0% nurture. The god of this age has under a powerful delusion.

      • LaNeisa Jackson

        This is so on point that I had to say so. They have been in fact turned over to a reprobate mind. We must remember that when we interact with them. That is such a sad and scary place to be. Abandoned by God is a place that makes me afraid for them. Does being turned over to themselves mean they cannot change? God knows.

        • College Jay

          LaNeisa, no. Homosexuals come to Christ often, and there are many examples in every Bible-believing church of people who have struggled with this sin and are now saved. I’m one of them!

          People struggle with same-sex attraction from very early ages. Be careful with your comments. I think you’re misinterpreting Romans 1 if you think the presence of same-sex temptations means that someone has been “abandoned by God.” Many people who struggle with homosexual desires are the victims of sexual abuse or parental neglect. Others, like myself, may not know the origins of our temptations, but that doesn’t change God’s plan for sexuality.

          I think comments like yours could be particularly hurtful towards a child whose sexuality is developing abnormally. Instead of extending love, compassion, grace and healing, that comment puts forward the idea that God has abandoned that child, and that is simply not the message that we, as Christians, want to give, especially since the liberal forces in this country are waiting with open arms to snatch up those confused children with their warped ideas of love and self-acceptance.

          And so far I’ve only written about children who develop and struggle with same-sex attraction. I don’t think adult, practicing homosexuals are any different, though. What makes you afraid for the practicing homosexual any more than for the serial divorcee, the fornicator, the adulterer or the prostitute? Sexual sin is sexual sin, and Christ provides the same pathway out for all sinners.

          • LaNeisa Jackson

            College Jay,
            Thanks for these words of correction. I am encouraged that the answer to my concerned question of “abandoned by God’ is in fact, no. I hope it is simply a misinterpretation of my own doing. That would be easier to take.

            I am afraid for this sexual sin in particular because it is being redefined in culture as a birth right and even a civil right. The emphasis on its normality from birth will allow more confused children to be snatched by liberal predators than anything I may say. With homosexuality being redefined away from its sin reality, the danger is greater in my view

            I agree with you that Jesus can save all.

            • College Jay

              “The emphasis on its normality from birth will allow more confused children to be snatched by liberal predators than anything I may say.”

              That’s true. Today’s environment has put us on the defensive. In some ways, that’s a good thing. It should cause us to be more open about the “taboo” sins we may struggle with. Instead of struggling in silence, everyone, including children, should be unafraid to speak out about their pain and struggle without fear of abandonment. Especially with sexual sins, early intervention is best. When we do not offer hope and grace to homosexuals to counter the lies of this world, the leftists win.

              Obviously, there should be discretion — I am using a pseudonym, after all, and I’m grateful that Mr. Burk has allowed me to — but sin loves darkness, so I feel like an environment of openness is best for accountability and discipline.

              The causes of homosexuality are complex, diverse and not fully known, not even to honest, traditional researchers who haven’t given in to the academic thought police who claim it is solely based on genetics (and expel all dissenters from their ranks). Even the conservative researches admit that biology could play a factor, and for Christians, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Original sin affects our bodies, minds and hearts. What we all need to remember is that Christ covers all. Even if it may be a difficult fight against our own innately sinful flesh, He’ll give us all that we need to endure and succeed.

              Thanks for the discussion.

              • Derek Taylor

                College Jay,
                Thanks for sharing these personal and very thoughtful comments.

                I have a family member who is a professional counselor and he agrees with you that there is a mix of genetic and environmental factors, and sadly, sometimes that environmental factor involves abuse. Early or initial sexual experiences are extremely powerful and even if they are unwanted experiences, they do shape or mis-shape a person’s sexual blueprint. Certainly, there are many with SSA who are not products of abuse, but it is a very real factor for many.

                Also, the “powerful delusion” that I was referring to is not just SSA, it is also a larger deception that our culture is experiencing on the general topics of sexuality and gender. A comprehensive distortion of gender and sexuality, if you will, with the media and education system being the primary tools used to perpetuate an anti-christ worldview on these issues.

                Thanks again for your comments.

  • Frank Turk

    Denny — My first reaction regarding the interview is that of course they thing we are crazy. The Gospel is -foolishness- to those who want to reason, and a stumbling block to those who want a sign. We shouldn’t be even remotely stunned that someone who agrees that the killing of ferral camels is morally equivalent to murder is confused about other moral issues.

    My second reaction is that the question of change is a slippery one even in conservative circles. Do we mean that all sin is suddenly extracted from the sinner when he is born again? Or do we mean his affection for sin is defeated, and now there is a daily dying to the slavery of sin, a long walk which never ends until we are raised up in glory?

    I like Dr. Mohler’s responses, but I worry that we are not always consistent on the question of how and when sin is defeated.

    • Denny Burk

      It’s the latter: “his affection for sin is defeated, and now there is a daily dying to the slavery of sin, a long walk which never ends until we are raised up in glory.” That’s what I think progressive sanctification is.

      • Derek Taylor

        I believe it is normally the latter, but Denny, is it not true that you’ve encountered Christians who had a debilitating addiction to drugs or alcohol or something else and when they turned to Christ, something miraculous happened and they never had a taste for drink or that particular sin again? I’ll be the first to say this is the exception to the rule, but it does happen and is a clear demonstration of God’s power to change our desires, even instantly in some situations.

  • Josh Reighley

    I find it kinda interesting this form of “hypercalvinism” is perfectly acceptable to the secular left.

    I have often heard people make the argument “They didn’t choose this” “They didn’t want this” etc… The arguers often try to paint gayness vs straightness as a black and white issue, when really there are all sorts of gray. Ignoring the fact that there are even words for the gray (Bi-sexual). Then they will relentlessly mock and ridicule anyone who claims to be repentant or resistant to their homosexual urges.

    But then who is the oppressor? This guy isn’t allowed to be who he wants to be?

    That really is the core of the gospel. We are free to be somebody other than who we have found ourselves to be.

    • Derek Taylor

      Stephen Hawking and many other secularists/atheists also support the idea of determinism, albeit a different type of determinism than the Calvinist variety. If your worldview is that of scientific naturalism, you’re probably going to be very comfortable with the notion that we are all acting out roles that are written into the fabric of our DNA long ago. And furthermore, to resist your DNA’s coding is to resist the very laws of nature.

      • David Kent

        Yep. That’s the whole point of secular naturalism… removal of any and all personal accountability. “I am basically just an animal, so it’s ok for me to act like one.” When we eliminate God from the equation, we can do whatever we want (or so we think).

        -David Kent

  • Kyle Keating

    It seems to me that it is crucially important to define what we mean by change, especially when we are talking with the non-believing world. Do we mean change in behavior, heart, or sexual orientation? All of the above?

    Mark Yarhouse provides a good model for making meaningfully nuanced distinctions by pointing out change in behavior is a choice, whereas change in orientation is not. Christians are called to change their choices even as their hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit—but talking about change as a blanket term can lead to a lot of confusion if its conflated with orientation-change. To be fair, most non-Christians themselves conflate orientation and behavior into one inseparable category. So it seems both parties can be guilty of this overgeneralization.

  • Ken Temple

    The pro-homosexual agenda side is saying that the same sex attraction/desires cannot be changed and it seems when the general culture started calling it an orientation, and that has been accepted generally, they won a big part of the public battle of the discussion of this issue.

    Is the attraction/desire in itself sinful – before crossing the line into fantasy/lust (like for heterosexuals in Matthew 5:28) ?

    That is, is it a temptation without sin before it crosses the line into sinful lust or the actual behavior, or is the orientation/attraction/desire itself sinful?

    It seems that many modern Christians, are saying the behavior is sinful, but the attraction/orientation is not sinful in itself.

    Was calling it an “orientation”, and taking it off the mental disorder lists in the 1970s by the Secular psychology and psychiatry groups perhaps the major change in winning the public debate discourse? Along with allow homosexuals to adopt children, those 2 events seem to be what has shaped public opinion more and more. (And reactions like Erin Burnett’s)

    Erin Burnett’s facial expressions and saying, “crazy” and “hateful” reveal that she is not an objective reporter.

    I wish that Dr. Mohler had been able to ask why she called it “hateful”.

    Why did the video clip end where it did? I am interested in seeing the rest of the interview; it stopped just when they were getting into some important details about children being brought to counseling help to change by their parents.

  • Chris Andrews

    Ken, I wondered the same thing about the video cutting off. Mr. Mohler didn’t get much more of an opportunity to explain anything, as LZ Granderson continually asked questions before the interview ended. I did think that Erin Burnett was not objective at all in her interview, and it was clear by her moderation of the discussion. This comes as no surprise though.

    I found the rest of the interview on Youtube, so you can take a look at it.

  • David Kent

    It is crazy and hateful to suggest that gays CANNOT change.

    To say that a particular sin is intrinsic to the fundamental nature of a person is quite offensive.

    Were I to say, “Bob Smith is a voracious cannibal and it is impossible for him to be anything other than a voracious cannibal without ceasing to be Bob Smith”, then I have made a very rude statement indeed regarding the person of Bob Smith.

    (If your name is Bob Smith, I apologize. Unless you actually are a voracious cannibal. In that case, I do NOT apologize. You monster…)

    -David Kent

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