Albert R. Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)’s flagship seminary, appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live alongside a panel of religious and spiritual leaders to discuss a variety of societal issues including same-sex “marriage,” the war on Iraq and religious pluralism, Sept 29, 2004.
Others on the team of panelists were: Dennis Prager, author and nationally syndicated radio host; Maher Hathout, senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council; Deepak Chopra, author and spiritual advisor; and Michael Manning, Roman Catholic priest and internationally syndicated talk-show host.
During the debate, Mohler explained the relationship between politics and Christian truth.
“There is a comprehensiveness ... to the Christian truth claim,” said Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “God’s truth is public truth, and it applies to every dimension of life. Sometimes that will touch politics.”
However, Mohler added, the main message cannot be proclaimed through politics.
“Ours is not a political message,” Mohler said. “Our main purpose is the preaching of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t think politics can solve the problem. It can only mitigate and restrain evil.”
On the other side of the debate was Chopra, who asserted that no one religious group should ever claim to be on God’s side on any issue.
“As we mature ... into an ecosystem that is more mature, we’ll have to make some really conscious choices,” Chopra said. “... Are we going to continue to behave the way we have behaved for thousands of years or are we going to develop a critical mass of consciousness that is going to say, ‘We’re in this together. There’s no us versus them.’”
In response, Mohler argued that a general consciousness does not lead to development. Rather, there is an objective truth and objective standard that must be followed.
“I don’t think our consciousness is evolving,” Mohler said. “And if it is, it’s going in the wrong direction.... Human beings, in our sinfulness, will mess everything up, including religion. That’s why I believe we are entirely dependent on God’s self-revelation in the Bible.”
“The question is whether we’ve got it right,” Mohler continued. “And on the basis of God’s revelation in Scripture, I have to take my stand as a Christian on the truth claim that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Him, and I have no right to negotiate from that to something else.”
Prager, meanwhile, rebutted Mohler’s comments on the importance of Christ for salvation. However, Prager added that he believes Christianity is beautiful, so long as the actions follow the beliefs.
“The Christians of America have made a particularly good society,” Prager said. “And that is why, as a Jew, I am not happy to see Christianity disappear in this country.... The fruit is the test. You can tell me your religion is beautiful. I want to know how you act.”
Going onto a separate topic, the panel discussed same-sex “marriage” – the most pressing issue facing the people of faith.
Hathout started off that homosexuality “is not a community issue” and that Muslims regard sexual behavior as a “private matter.” Mohler, however, explained that Christians openly discuss homosexuality because of the need to teach the public of God’s ultimate plan for marriage and sexuality.
“At the very center of my understanding of all these things is that there is a sovereign wonderful Creator who has lovingly given us His design," Mohler said. "And He has told us that at the very center of what it means to be man is to look to woman and as woman to look to man for completion and complementarity ... in the institution of marriage.
"And so I believe that anything short of that leads not to happiness but to unhappiness and eventually brings judgment upon not only the individual, but upon the society that would tolerate it -- much less celebrate it.”
The next question tackled by Mohler was capital punishment. Mohler explained that capital punishment is called for in both the Old and New Testaments. He also explained why Jesus had to die by means of capital punishment administered by the state.
“He died for our sins because His Father sent Him in order that He would die in our place, as our substitute,” Mohler said. "[Jesus] shed His blood [as] the penalty for our sins so that all who believe in Him might have life and life everlasting.”
On the last issue, Larry King asked the panelists if the outlook on the future is hopeful.
Chopra answered by saying he is hopeful, but that humans mean nothing in the larger universal scale of existence.
“I will never give up hope,” Chopra said. “On the other hand, if we were wiped out, it wouldn’t make a bit of a difference to the universe. We are just a speck of dust in the junkyard of infinity.... What is a human being? A speck on the cosmic canvas.”
In Contrast, Mohler explained that there will certainly come a day where the hope bears fruit for those who believe in Jesus Christ.
“I look forward to that day when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father,” Mohler said. “In this world we will have trouble. But God is on His throne, and God will bring His victory through the Prince of Peace. That’s the day I look forward to.”