LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS) — The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation must remind Christians that proclamation of God’s Word remains necessary for advancing the gospel and nourishing the church, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at the institution’s Feb. 7 convocation.
In an address titled “God Did It By His Word...Revisited: What the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Means for Southern Seminary” on Hebrews 4:12-13, Mohler said the seminary’s own theological reformation in the 24 years of his presidency occurred solely because of fidelity and faithfulness to the living Word of God.
“Looking back to the Reformation, God did it, and he did it by his Word,” Mohler said, alluding to Martin Luther’s statement that Scripture “weakened the papacy” as opposed to human efforts. “Looking at you all today, understand me when I say, God did it, and he did it by his Word.”
Because Christians find their primary identity in Scripture, Mohler said tracing a “line of faithfulness” to the church fathers helps believers understand what led to the crisis of the Reformation 500 years ago. While God has never been without his church, Mohler said, spiritual darkness marked the period prior to the Reformation.
“It’s not as if the gospel was not known and taught somewhere, it was just that everywhere one looked [there was] darkness,” Mohler said. “What was absent was the preaching of the Word of God, and light.”
Although the Solas as summary statements of Reformation teachings were not developed until the 20th century, the doctrines nevertheless were “the heartbeat of the Reformers” and Sola Scriptura is their foundation. Mohler said 20th-century mainline Protestantism illustrates this truth, as famous preachers like Harry Emerson Fosdick dismissed the relevance of God’s Word for the church.
“When God’s people cease to hear God’s Word they cease to be God’s people,” Mohler said, noting how many mainline churches are dying today. “And everything is lost, every doctrinal principle is lost, every doctrine is denied one by one.”
Mohler said Hebrews 4:12-13 demonstrates that “God will judge by his Word” and the church cannot live without it. While Luther hoped preachers in the Reformation would be effective in expositing Scripture, he knew “at the end of the day the Word will have to do the work or the work will not be done,” Mohler said.
During his welcoming remarks, Mohler said the ritual and regalia of opening convocation signifies the gravity of the seminary’s role in equipping future ministers with theological education. Reflecting on Southern’s “incredible inheritance” of a rich heritage of faith, Mohler said healthy teaching at the seminary means “health will go into our churches” and spread into the mission fields of the world.
Mohler also introduced new faculty member Tyler Flatt, assistant professor of humanities at the undergraduate school Boyce College, who will graduate in March with a Doctor of Philosophy in classical philology from Harvard University.
Audio and video of Mohler’s convocation address are available online at sbts.edu/chapel.