FROM THE SEMINARIES: Iorg (Golden Gate) & Mohler (Southern) speak on marriage

EDITOR'S NOTE: "From the Seminaries" includes news releases of interest from Southern Baptist seminaries.

Iorg warns of 'recasting' Scripture's 'plain meaning'

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) -- "Many churches have radically and wrongly reinterpreted Scripture," Jeff Iorg said, "to fall more closely in line with society's shifting definitions of gender, morality, sexuality and marriage."

For those with a high view of Scripture, meanwhile, "The cost of teaching the Bible's plain meaning is often to be marginalized as uncaring and intolerant," said Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

Iorg was responding in a chapel message to affirmations of homosexual marriage by City Church of San Francisco and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA).

City Church has recanted its position on homosexuality and opened its membership to same-sex married couples, Iorg said. The PCUSA has adopted a new definition of marriage that embraces same-sex marriage as a viable option for Christians.

"In both cases," Iorg said, "the justification for their decision was not a rejection of biblical standards, but rather a redefinition of those standards."

Iorg cited the apostle Peter's words in 2 Peter setting forth the importance of holding the Word of God as authoritative.

"[Peter] warned of false teachers who would claim the Word of God as their authority, while contradicting its plain meaning with their twisted logic and rhetoric," Iorg said, noting that the apostle counseled Christians to take the Bible seriously, interpret it carefully and obey it fully.

"While the outside world may seem intimidating, the greater problem is so-called Christian leaders who claim to take the Bible seriously while recasting its meaning to suit their own purposes," Iorg said. "… [W]hen false teachers win the day -- whether culturally-elite media personalities or well-educated erudite preachers -- people are eventually destroyed by following their lead."

Iorg quoted 2 Peter 2:17-19, which describes false teachers as "springs without water, mists driven by a whirlwind" who cast a "gloom of darkness" and are "slaves of corruption." He referred to verse 20, which states that these teachers will end up worse off for having gotten entangled in false teaching after having already come to the knowledge of Christ.

"Peter blistered these false teachers," Iorg said. "When a false teacher takes a public stand, open rebuke is biblically appropriate."

Iorg outlined a variety of methods of appropriate rebuke, ranging from public statements to personal apologetics.

"Sometimes, your toughest apologetics will be done over coffee with a friend dealing with real-life situations," he said.

Iorg was careful to describe rebuking as the presentation of scriptural truth and confrontation of false ideas, as opposed to personal attacks.

"Your task is telling the truth as lovingly and patiently as possible, confronting false teaching rather than attacking the person who has been duped by it," he said.

Iorg concluded his April 2 chapel message by encouraging followers of Christ to uphold biblical standards both privately and publicly. "May God give us the courage to stand up graciously to Christians who contradict biblical standards," he said.

Marriage rooted in creation, Mohler says in televised forum

CINCINNATI (BP) -- The institution of marriage does not come from human or social invention but God's creation order, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said during a televised forum on marriage.

"The Changing Face of Marriage" was cosponsored April 15 by Cincinnati's ABC television affiliate and DecodeDC, a podcast/blog produced by Scripps Washington bureau.

"[The family] is the first school, that's the first government, and in a very real sense, in a biblical worldview, it's the first church," Mohler said.

"What takes place in the home is the most important human institution and it's absolutely essential for human flourishing. It's one of God's greatest gifts to His creatures. That's why we take it with such importance."

Mohler emphasized that his view of marriage is not merely a "snapshot" from American traditionalism, but that it goes "all the way back to God's intention in creation," which does not change across His revelation in Scripture.

"In the very second chapter of Scripture you have the union of a man and woman, and you have Jesus [affirming that]," Mohler said. "There's an overwhelming consistency there."

The biblical view of marriage is clear in the order of the natural world, Mohler said, since even societies outside the Judeo-Christian tradition have understood marriage is for procreation and should be an honored part of civilization.

"We didn't come up with that in the 1950s," he said. "I would argue we didn't come up with that in Western civilization at all, that it was actually written in nature by the creator who made it."

Since marriage is so central in human existence, it ought to be considered in terms of what leads to the true good of society, including the "well-being of children" and general human happiness, he said.

"Marriage is the presenting issue, and that's a big issue, but the larger issue is what's really going to lead to human flourishing," Mohler said.

When one of the moderators asked whether the Southern Baptist Convention encompasses differing opinions on marriage, Mohler said that since the controversy regarding biblical authority in the 1970s and 1980s, the SBC has been consistent in its message. In 2000, the SBC included a definition of marriage in its confessional statement, the Baptist Faith and Message.

The difference between a conservative view of marriage and a liberal one generates from opinions about divine revelation and the Bible, Mohler said.

"The dividing line didn't just all of the sudden happen over marriage," he said. "The dividing line happened in the 20th century, in the early decades, over miracles, and the doctrine of the Trinity, and the deity of Christ, and the authority of Scripture. Those lines are pretty much exactly what you could have predicted from the 1930s to the present when it comes to the issue of marriage."

The marriage forum at the Cincinnati TV station featured contributions from thinkers and writers with various perspectives on marriage and the family. The program included Stephanie Coontz, who teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and Chris Seelbach, the first openly gay member of the Cincinnati City Council.

Video of the forum is available at http://www.wcpo.com/marriage.

Compiled from reporting by Tyler Sanders of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and Andrew J.W. Smith of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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