Andy Stanley, Al Mohler, and Homosexuality
Stanley gives a sermon about tension, and Mohler refuses to live in it.

Recently North Point Community Church's senior pastor Andy Stanley preached a sermon about the theological tension that is needed to live in the Way of the Christian faith. (Listen at North Point's website. The controversial section begins about 24 minutes in.) Well known conservative commentator and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Al Mohler, took offense to Stanley's non-mention of the sin of homosexuality in the sermon. Stanley illustrated a story of a wife, husband and daughter in his church—where the husband cheated with another man who eventually became his partner—and the journey for each of the participants. The reality of this family's new tension-filled dynamic illustrated for Stanley the tension between grace and truth in the Christian faith.

Stanley spent the majority of the sermon fleshing out his understanding of this tension by highlighting Jesus' changing response to sin through his words and deeds in the Gospel stories. Should sin be forgiven, or should a person be held accountable? Should we act harshly or be kind? Point a finger or ignore? As Stanley stated:

"We're all tempted to want to resolve that tension. But if you resolve it, you give up something important. It's what drove people crazy about Jesus. But he was comfortable with it. He was able to minister through it. And we dare not walk away from it."

It should not be a surprise that Mohler took a hardline stand against Stanley's nuanced message of tension.

Mohler's worldview leads him to take the role of a moral watchdog within Christendom to anchor and promote conservative social, theological, and political ethics in an ever-trending liberal Western society. "The larger culture has turned increasingly hostile to exclusivist truth claims such as the belief that faith in Christ is necessary for salvation," Mohler wrote in his post.

Using that filter I can grasp Mohler's point about sin not being mentioned in relation to the gay relationship in Stanley's illustration. Mohler has the expectation that every time homosexuality is mentioned, "sin" must be reiterated (you know, just in case there are any doubts). Since the progressive and LGBT movements are at the crux of cultural trends opposing strong conservatives like Mohler, when one of his own doesn't unequivocally reaffirm his understanding of orthodoxy, even if that was not meant to be the point of the sermon, he must respond. In his mind, not taking this opportunity to label homosexuality sin leaves Stanley and other nondenominational megachurch pastors on the road toward liberalism. Yet my experience has shown Mohler's assumption of a "slippery slope" is a theology-based academic construct much more than a functioning real-life theology of engagement.

May 08, 2012

Displaying 1–10 of 41 comments

Gorman

January 05, 2013  2:05pm

I posted several comments on another web site, Stand Up for The Truth, on this topic and what I said was akin to many of the posts here which quoted scripture on how to deal with sin in the church. So it is refreshing to read the comments that agree with, in my opinion, the clear teaching of scripture. But I would like to bring up another related problem I see in the church and that is compromise. Comments I've heard from many of the mega-church preachers, namely, Andy Stanley, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Robert Schuller to name a few, has been a watered down version of New Testament teachings. They all say they believe the Bible is inspired and infallible, and use proof texts to support what they are saying, but spin the texts to make them agree with their opinions. I haven't listened to this 8 part series of Stanley's Grace and Truth and I don't plan to, but why would it take 8 messages to tell somebody how to get saved. It may, on the other hand, take 8 messages to muddy up the Bible and confuse people about what scripture says. What I haven't heard from these churches are messages on Regeneration, Deliverance, Holiness, and Separation. We are to go into the world and preach the gospel, but we are not to bring the world and it's beliefs and values into the church. When you do, you wind up with churches like the Catholic church and Protestant churchs like the ELCA and other similar churches. These Mega-churches are getting very close to becoming like those churches and those churches got like that because they compromised the teachings of scripture on doctrine and sin. The Apostle Paul warned us about the destructiveness of allowing false doctrine and sin to come into the church and compared it to leaven. He said "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." It just takes a little yeast to cause the whole lump of dough to rise and change it's shape and texture. In the same way, it just takes a little compromise on doctrine or sin to cause the whole church to change for the worse. Paul says to purge out or take out the old leaven. So, let's obey the Bible and not compromise with the world.

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Robert

June 07, 2012  9:06am

Stanley is more worried about attendance and not offending anybody than he is of the speaking the truth. The water downed message is nothing new it's been happening for years Stanley is just another messenger.

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gwenkenzie@true love waits radiohead

May 17, 2012  8:58pm

I believe everything that we have comes from God alone. This includes our body and our very being, therefore we must take good care of it. We must be good stewards. It is not by accident that we are created human beings, ma or woman. We must honor, praise and worship Him. HE is the true lover of our soul.

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Amy

May 17, 2012  12:40am

How many of you actually attend Northpoint? It seems to me that a lot of people are unfairly judging Andy and our church based on a portion of a sermon that is 1 in an 8-part series addressing what Chritianity is really about. I sat through the entire series and never once was thrown by the illustration in question, because the point of the message was not if Andy thought homosexuality was a sin but that he thought truth and grace can be messy. I got out of the series that instead of rushing straight to truth and condemning all sinners to hell OR instead of running straight to grace and saying sin is acceptable, we must walk in the messiness of when grace meets truth. This is a tough topic to address when discussing any sin, albeit adultury, homosexuality, lying, cheating, etc, and I applaud our church for "going there". God's ultimate commandment (should you believe) is to love one another. When in a messy situation, ask yourself what does love require of me? Sometimes there is no good way to solve the tension between grace and truth; but I,for one, was moved. I have been angry at my sister for attending church while she was unmarried and pregnant. I wanted to hold her accountable. I wanted her church to throw her out. But instead they gave her a baby shower. I was furious, and I allowed my righteousness to turn me bitter. Andy's sermon helped me forgive her and ask her forgiveness for the wedge I created in our relationship based on my truths. In this situation, I chose grace moreso than truth, because the truth was pushing us further apart. She knows that i think what she did was wrong but she also knows that i still love her despite the messiness in our family now. I also feel that my sin has now lifted. I feel free again. I don't need Andy to condemn me each Sunday. I am smart enough to condemn myself. P.S. And for the record, a host team member is a volunteer that opens doors, says welcome, and passes out cards. They also help people find seats when we are crowded and pass out the offering buckets. To my knowledge this is not related to family ministry or leadership in any way. I don't even know if church membership is even required to volunteer to say hello to people in the mornings. P.S. S. Part of me hopes our church doesn't issue a statement about whether we are for or against homosexuality. I like living in the mess, and I love that I attend a church for unchurched people. I am still a work in progress, but I accept that in me and am learning to accept that in others.

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Mrs. Erven

May 16, 2012  8:06pm

I'm convinced no one would give this story a second thought if the guy had been straight and had an affair with another woman.

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Josh Hunt

May 15, 2012  2:19pm

I am a fan of Andy. It did seem that he was saying that adultery disqualified this man from service, but practicing homosexuality would not. Josh Hunt Good Questions Have Groups Talking

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sheerahkahn

May 15, 2012  11:29am

Karen, I've heard something similar to that, but not from a "Christian" source. When I was in the police academy we were going through holds, take-downs, and restraints, i.e. arm-locks, finger-locks, wrist-locks, and how to pass a violent person out if all else fails. Anyway, part of the drill was to break free to see if our "opponent" namely the other recruit had a good hold on us. No one wanted to look like the jackass who couldn't be held down so we all "succumbed" rather quickly. And to put it frankly, the holds we were applying to each other wouldn't restrained a squalling baby. The instructors got mad, and jumped in. Suddenly, there were gasps of pain, and immediate surrenders. For me, I got thrashed a couple of times, and I was pretty well pissed when I went up against the lead instructor. So I put everything into it, forced him to use a little bit more force than what I think he wanted to apply, but as far as I was concerned, I'm going to take him down. But he gets me, and I'm thinking, "that's it I'm done." so I surrender...he tells me "No give up!" I tried even harder, but I just didn't have it in me anymore as I was exhausted, and finally he releases me. He lectures us all in that by being easy on each other we're only making things worse. We have to be as hard and difficult as a criminal because when that time comes and we have to grapple with the bad guy our lives will depend on us learning how to use the holds correctly. "No give up!" Still sticks with me today, "no give up." That's all we ever heard in that cqc class, "no give up!"

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Karen

May 11, 2012  1:57pm

@Sheer, with regard to sin and repeated falls into temptation, I love this little story from the Desert Fathers. I think it describes the journey of repentance well: A young monk said to the great ascetic Abba Sisoes: "Abba, what should I do? I fell." The elder answered: "Get up!" The monk said: "I got up and I fell again!" The elder replied: "Get up again!" But the young monk asked: "For how long should I get up when I fall?" "Until your death," answered Abba Sisoes. —Sayings of the Desert Fathers @Bill, good thoughts. There's a difference in how we handle the situation with someone who is just coming to or exploring Christian faith and coming to church (who as you pointed out, may not yet be convicted a certain sin is, in fact, sin) and someone who knows the truth and falls in spite of strong convictions against what they're doing. It takes discernment to know what kind of spiritual medicine to apply. We don't want to lead babes in Christ and deeply remorseful mostly- involuntary backsliders to despair by overly harsh discipline, but we do want to help those who are being powerfully tempted to minimize their sin and relax their defenses against repeating it to be aware of how it is threatening to destroy their communion with God and others. In the latter case, a more strict discipline is in order. All the more true when the offender has had a position of leadership and responsibility in the flock. Then, for the sake of the flock, I think it is important to discipline the offender and remove them from positions of influence in the church (and make sure the discipline is known as wide as the offense is). It seems to me a lot of damage can occur, though, when there is a blanket "one-size-fits-all" approach to the same sin, even when the actual sinners vary greatly in their needs in terms of what will help them to get beyond their sin (and in terms of their influence on the rest of the flock).

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Bill Williams

May 10, 2012  10:54pm

Randy Parlor, that is a good point and I appreciate the balancing perspective. But to that I would add some words of caution: First, putting someone out of church because of willful sin should always be the last resort, and only after a Spirit-led, prayer-immersed process of ministering to the church member and loving them and encouraging them to turn away from sin. It must never be done in the front end, with an attitude that communicates, "You don't belong here until you stop sinning." Remember, not everyone accepts homosexuality as a sin, so it will take time and patience to work through that. Second, the idea that "Active homosexuals do not belong in church until they stop sinning," can give the impression that one believes that God will not accept us until we get our act together; which, of course, is untrue! He first accepts us, and THEN he provides us with the power for us to get our act together. I'm sure Original Anna did not mean to give the former impression. But I think it's important for us to be more careful with how we say things, sometimes. We need to think carefully not just about WHAT we say, but HOW what we say gets heard by others. Interestingly, as TracyV pointed out, the comments that have been posted in response to this article as well as to Mr. Stanley's sermon serve as an apt illustration of what he was trying to say: It is very hard to live with the tension between grace and truth! Most of us here–including myself!–have the tendency to relieve that tension by favoring one or the other. That's why it's so important for us to listen to each other's perspectives and to be willing to live in that tension no matter how difficult it is. After all, if it was easy, there'd be no need for us to depend on the Holy Spirit!

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Randy Parlor

May 10, 2012  10:17pm

God's word (instruction) is always right, but the the way of man leads to death whether he calls it grace, mercy, kindness, goodness or any other nice word!

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