Ministers must contend for the true Gospel, Mohler tells grads

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Christian ministers must preach the one true Gospel in an age saturated with false gospels.

In doing so, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told graduates of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary May 16, ministers will discover the Gospel’s power to transform lives.

The Southern Seminary president made his comments during the 191st commencement of the Southern Baptist Convention’s oldest seminary. More than 200 students representing 36 states and eight foreign countries graduated with either master’s-level or doctorate degrees.

A separate ceremony was held later in the day for more than 70 graduates of the seminary’s undergraduate school, Boyce College.

“Our confidence is that the learning that has taken place here is not merely factual and is not merely accurate and is not merely true,” Mohler told graduates, “but is important and vital and urgently necessary for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ that those who minister...might rightly divide the Word of Truth.”

Preaching from Galatians 1:6-12, Mohler drew a contrast between the true Gospel and false gospels. He noted that this text offers several significant insights for ministers seeking to preach the true Gospel.

Ministers must have the courage to identify false gospels of our day, he said. If ministers do not confront false gospels, confusion will erupt in the church.

“Confusion in the church is always due to a false teaching or at least a false understanding of the Gospel, and a false understating of the Gospel inevitably leads to confusion in the church,” Mohler said.

“Human improvement gospels abound. Health and wealth gospels abound. The gospels of easy believism and no discipleship abound. We face this perpetual problem of false gospels, and thus we must always be on watch and guard the flock of God because false gospels kill.”

In this quest to preach the true Gospel, ministers should beware of false authorities that commonly propagate false gospels, said Mohler. Too often, believers think that a high position or a charismatic personality make one a source of authority.

Seminary graduates, he added, must be particularly careful not to think that an advanced degree in theology grants them special authority.

“I hope you’re proud of the diplomas to be presented today, but that diploma is no mark of authority,” Mohler said.
“The church is more often led astray by those who believe they are professionals than those who humbly understand that we, as earthen vessels, are called to be containers of the Gospel that the glory would be in Christ and not us. There is no professional authority.”

The key question for ministers is ultimately whether they will preach a gospel that pleases men or one that pleases God, he said.

“We will either seek to please God or to please men,” Mohler said. “Our frame of reference will either be the transcendent, eternal, infinite God, who has revealed Himself in Scripture, or our frame of reference will be the human beings to whom we will address ourselves. Whose favor will we seek?”

Quoting 2 Corinthians 2:12, Mohler warned that the temptation to please men will always be present.
“What an urgent warning this is lest we reduce our ministry to man-pleasing. We must have as our horizon to please the One who has called us, the only One who is a judge who can declare His verdict.”

If a minister will preach the true Gospel of God’s unmerited favor upon sinful humans, he will experience its power to save, Mohler said.

“The Gospel isn’t about how clever we are in figuring out what God would have us to do,” he said. “In our blindness, in our deadness, in our dullness, in our hardness of heart, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Paul on the Damascus road and to each one of us who knows Him, not as the one we have sought, but as the one who sought us.

“Only one Gospel saves. The Apostle Paul elsewhere says, ‘Woe unto me if I preach not the Gospel.’ It is because he knew the power of the authentic Gospel and the futility and the deadliness and the poison of the false gospels.”

The Christian minister’s responsibility, said Mohler, is to preach exclusively the Gospel which is revealed in Scripture.

“For if our ministry is established upon an admixture of human wisdom and the wisdom of God, we will soon find ourselves preaching another gospel, and we will soon bear the judgment of anathema from those who know the true Gospel,” he said.

“Graduates, we are bold as a faculty to pray that the Lord would use you as agents of the Gospel, the real Gospel, the authentic Gospel, the Gospel that saves. And graduates, understand that the greatest concern of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is that those who would minister in the name of Christ would preach any other gospel. May the Lord Jesus Christ be glorified in His church as His Gospel is proclaimed in power, in authority, and in clarity.”

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Mohler on CNN: Authentic Christianity seeks to meet Iraq’s deepest need

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Christian missionaries who are faithful to the command of Christ will seek to meet a spiritual need among the people of post-war Iraq that runs deeper than their need for food and shelter, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told a national television audience May 10.

Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, debated Charles Kimball, chairman of Wake Forest University’s religious department, on the issue of humanitarian aid and evangelism to Iraq on “CNN Saturday.”

A number of Christian groups are planning to provide humanitarian relief for the citizens of Iraq following the war. A debate has arisen over whether missionaries should also take the Gospel into the predominately Muslim country.

Kimball, who is opposed to efforts to tie humanitarian relief to evangelization, said attempts to convert Muslims in Iraq to the Christian faith “smacks of a kind of Christian triumphalism.”

Mohler said authentic biblical Christianity seeks to meet the physical needs of Iraq while at the same time being faithful to the command of Christ to “go into the world and make disciples.” Christians must point all persons to Christ, who alone is able to save, he said.

“I agree with Dr. Kimball that there are urgent humanitarian needs that really must be met,” Mohler said. “I agree with that wholeheartedly. I also agree with his call for sensitivity.

“But we cannot be so sensitive that we abandon the Gospel. We must understand that these people have an even deeper need than food and clothing and shelter. Those immediate needs point to deeper needs.”

Responding to a question from host Fredericka Whitfield on the offensive nature of telling Muslims that Christ is the only way to salvation, Mohler pointed out that Islam also is a faith that seeks converts, so Muslims should not be offended by Christian witness.

“That [one way to salvation] may be offensive, but it is no more offensive than the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been for over 2000 years,” Mohler said.

“Muslims, because they hold to a missionary faith, understand that. And I think we really respect each other enough to speak the truth to each other. I think it is the ultimate tribute of respect that one person can pay to another. As a Christian, that means telling them about Jesus Christ.”

Mohler said that Christians, by asserting Christ as the only way of salvation, are not implying that all Muslims are evil. The exclusive truth claims of Christ demand that the Christian point all persons away from false worldviews and toward the cross, he said.

“We are in a position where truth-telling requires us to say that we believe the Christian Gospel is the only way of salvation,” Mohler said.

“And that means that any other way that leads in any other direction away from the cross of Jesus Christ is a way that leads not unto life, but unto death. That is a non-negotiable issue central to classical, biblical Christianity.”

Kimball, an ordained Baptist minister and a 1975 graduate of Southern Seminary, said he is troubled by Christian truth claims that assert one way to salvation. He said “Iraq’s first need is humanitarian.”

“There are many ways to engage in Christian mission and witness,” Kimball said. “There isn’t a singular way. When we begin to talk in monolithic terms as though there is one true way and only one acid test for true Christianity, then we are starting down the road, I think, to the kinds of things that lead people to justify almost anything in the name of religion.”

Mohler pointed out that Christian missionaries from around the globe -- and not only from America -- are already proclaiming the Gospel in Iraq as well as in every other nation in the world.

The Christian mission did not begin in 2003 but began in the first century with the apostles, Mohler said.

“I’m not speaking operationally on behalf of Christian missions organizations, but I can tell you that this is the heart of Christianity, and Jesus said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me.’

“The only way someone who calls themselves a Christian can get around it is by thinking that Jesus actually didn’t say it [or] saying Jesus was wrong.”

Mohler expressed incredulity that the secular left in America is irate over the notion of religious liberty in Iraq, a basic human freedom that Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime has denied the people for many years.

“It’s just interesting that the secular left has all of a sudden become outraged at the idea that the people of Iraq should experience the same religious liberty and hear the same Gospel that Christians preach everywhere else,” he said.

“We would expect that as a basic freedom anywhere. And certainly [we would expect it] where freedom has been earned and where tyranny has been overturned.”

Mohler and Kimball also discussed the topic on the May 5 broadcast of National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air.”

On that program, separate interviews with Mohler and Kimball conducted by host Terry Gross demonstrated that the controversy also centers on different understandings of Scripture.

Kimball told Fresh Air that he grew up believing that Jesus was the only way to salvation but began to question this belief while in college.

Kimball is no longer a Southern Baptist but calls himself “a Baptist in the South.” Kimball said he began to have serious questions about the veracity of Scripture, particularly regarding the first three chapters in Genesis and the differences in the accounts of the resurrection as reported by the four Gospels.

Kimball said these questions helped him to “think outside the box” of historic Christianity and to seek meaning within other faiths.

“I learned to ask questions and think for myself, to think critically and to keep asking questions and seeking out truth, both within my religious tradition and beyond,” Kimball said. “Why is it that there are 1.3 billion Muslims, who for 14-plus centuries have found meaning and been able to guide their lives on the basis of their understanding of religion?

“I think that is an important question to ask as opposed to simply saying, ‘They’re wrong because my experience is right.’ I find that to be a sort of silly and dangerous way to approach these matters.”

Mohler told NPR it is important that the new Iraqi government establish religious liberty. Each person must have the freedom to follow his or her conscience in spiritual matters and to practice his faith of choice, he said.

Such liberty includes the freedom for Christians to proclaim the Good News of Christ, Mohler said.

“I would contend, as an American who believes in religious liberty, for the right of my Jewish neighbor to practice Judaism if that is his heartfelt belief and conviction and the same for every other citizen of this nation, regardless of his or her spiritual convictions,” Mohler said.

“As Christians, we have a responsibility to share the Gospel, but we do not believe in evangelism by coercion, much less by legislation.”

Mohler said it is also important for Christians to communicate the message that missionaries are doing their work under the banner of Christ and not under the banner of the United States government. Christians are united by their relationship to Christ and not by common ethnic or national background.

“I think it is incumbent upon us to make very clear, as Christians, that we are not there in the name of the American government, nor frankly, representing the American people,” Mohler said. “We’re there in the name of Christ. Christianity is trans-ethnic, trans-political, trans-national. That is essential to the Christian Gospel.”

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Salvation and Scripture at heart of Iraqi missions debate, NPR program shows

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Opposing views on salvation and the authority of Scripture are at the heart of the debate over Christian mission efforts in postwar Iraq.

The differing views became clear during a recent broadcast of National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” program featuring separate interviews with R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Charles Kimball, chair of the department of religion at Wake Forest University

A number of Christian groups are planning to provide humanitarian relief for the citizens of Iraq following the war. The controversy centers on whether missionaries should also take the Gospel into the predominately Muslim country.

During his interview with host Terry Gross, Mohler pointed out that Christ commanded his people to make disciples of all nations.

“(Evangelical Christians) believe He (Jesus) is the way, the truth, the life and that no one comes to the Father but by Him,” Mohler said. “Those who differ from us, from the Protestant left, for instance, have to explain how they will be faithful to the Gospel in that way.

“We do not offer Christianity as one option among many, (with) any (option) as good as any other. The Gospel tells us that Jesus is the only way.

“That’s why we are driven by a real compulsion to be obedient to the command of the Lord. And those who critique us, I wish they would be honest in telling the people in their own pews that they really do not believe that Jesus is the only way, because I think that they would find that most of the people in the pews of their churches really believe what we believe when we go into the world with the Gospel.”

Kimball, a 1975 graduate of Southern Seminary, served as director of the Middle East office of the National Council of Churches in the 1980s.

Kimball told “Fresh Air” he is opposed to efforts to tie humanitarian relief to evangelization. He says attempts to convert Muslims to the Christian faith might be viewed by the people of that country as Christian imperialism.

“In the first place, this is an area that is living with the history of the crusades and in the shadow of colonialism,” Kimball said. “It’s an area where people are already suspicious...of what U.S. intentions and U.S. motives are.

“To go into an area, especially to tie aid to some kind of proselytizing initiative, would be to fuel the worst sort of fears that this is a new kind of crusade or this really is kind of Christian imperialism.”

Following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Franklin Graham – chairman of the Christian relief agency “Samaritan’s Purse” – found himself at the center of controversy in the when he was quoted by the national press as having called Islam a “wicked religion.”
Mohler was asked if he agrees with Graham’s statement. He pointed out that any religion or belief system that leads persons away from Christ and points them to salvation through other means is evil because it destroys the soul eternally.

“I think we have to be careful because, of course, what we are not saying is that Muslims are evil or that all Muslims represent an ambition to be a terrorist or that kind of mode of life,” Mohler said.

“But we have to be honest and say, that (we) believe it is a horrible thing when one turns away from the Gospel of Christ and turns to anything else.

“And in our current context, Islam is, you might say, one of the major competitors to Christianity for the convictions and the souls of human beings around the world. So there is an opposition between Christianity and Islam and there has been for so long as Islam has existed.”

Kimball, who is also an ordained Baptist minister, said he grew up believing that Jesus was the only way to salvation but began to question this belief while in college.

The former Southern Baptist said he began to have serious questions about the veracity of Scripture, particularly regarding the first three chapters in Genesis and the differences in the accounts of the resurrection as reported by the four Gospels.

Kimball said these questions helped him to “think outside the box” of historic Christianity and to seek meaning within other faiths.

“I learned to ask questions and think for myself, to think critically and to keep asking questions and seeing out truth, both within my religious tradition and beyond,” Kimball said. “Why is it that there are 1.3 billion Muslims, who for 14-plus centuries have found meaning and been able to guide their lives on the basis of their understanding of religion?

“I think that is an important question to ask as opposed to simply saying, ‘They’re wrong because my experience is right.’ I find that to be a sort of silly and dangerous way to approach these matters.”

Mohler said it is important that the new Iraqi government establish religious liberty. Each person must have the freedom to follow his or her conscience in spiritual matters and to practice his faith of choice, he said.

Such liberty includes the freedom for Christians to proclaim the good news of Christ, Mohler said.

“I would contend, as an American who believes in religious liberty, for the right of my Jewish neighbor to practice Judaism if that is his heartfelt belief and conviction and the same for every other citizen of this nation, regardless of his or her spiritual convictions,” Mohler said.

“As Christians, we have a responsibility to share the Gospel, but we do not believe in evangelism by coercion, much less by legislation.”

Mohler said it is also important for Christians to communicate the message that missionaries are doing their work under the banner of Christ and not under the banner of the United States government. Christians are united by their relationship to Christ and not by common ethnic or national background.

“I think it is incumbent upon us to make very clear, as Christians, that we are not there in the name of the American government, nor frankly, representing the American people,” Mohler said. “We’re there in the name of Christ. Christianity is trans-ethnic, trans-political, trans-national. That is essential to the Christian Gospel.”

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More than 100 seminarians share Christ at Reaching Out 2003

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – More than 100 students, faculty and staff at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently took the message of Jesus Christ to the city of Louisville.

Participating in a variety of projects from servant evangelism to inner city outreach, 100 students partnered with eight faculty and staff members in the first annual Reaching Out project at Southern Seminary, April 26 part of the seminary’s Great Commission week.

“To see over a hundred students and faculty come out just to go out and share the Gospel is in some ways a dream come true,” said Chuck Lawless, associate professor of evangelism and church growth and a participant in Reaching Out 2003. “It’s evidence that evangelism is catching fire on this campus.”

For Calvin Fowler, an M.Div. student from Chattanooga, Tenn., Reaching Out 2003 provided a unique opportunity to water a Gospel seed planted by a Baptist pastor nearly 60 years ago.

While doing inner city evangelism, Fowler encountered two sisters and learned that their father had been a Baptist pastor. Neither woman professed faith in Christ, but one of them still had a tract their father had given her in 1944.

“So I was able to read through the tract out loud, from 1944, and it was really cool. It had verses on how to be saved, and it was a real blessing to talk to them,” Fowler said.

Through encounters like Fowler’s, Reaching Out 2003 participants distributed over 1,000 tracts, New Testaments, and copies of the “Jesus Film,” said Twyla Fagan, director of Great Commission ministries and coordinator of Reaching Out 2003.

Lynn Robinson, whose husband is an M.Div. student, discovered that in some cases these tracts have an immediate impact.

When one conversation did not present Robinson with an opportunity to share the Gospel, she left a tract and a Bible with the man to whom she was talking. Walking by the man’s house several minutes later, she found him intently studying the tract.

“We went on our way, and a little while later we come back, and he was sitting on the front porch of his apartment reading the tract and the Bible. We asked him how it was going, and he said it was ‘good,’” Robinson said.

Matthew Spradlin, an M.Div. student from Bakersfield, Calif., had the opportunity to lead two people to Christ while doing door-to-door visitation. At one house, Spradlin discovered a couple who was eager to hear the Gospel.

“They were a family that had been to church,” he said. “They just didn’t know the Gospel or how to be saved and have a relationship with Christ. So we shared with them, and at the end they said they would like to pray with us to accept Christ. So we got to listen to them ask Christ to come into their lives.”

Along with the 100 students, six professors attended Reaching Out 2003. For Larry Purcell, associate professor of leadership and church ministry, the event serves as a necessary reminder that the aim of seminary teaching is ultimately to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

“One of the things that drives me at times is that as much as we teach in the white ivory towers of education and academia, so often we have to get out where people are in the kingdom and to find out what it’s like in the market place because that impacts the way I deal with people here and the way I teach as well,” Purcell said.

Fagan dubbed Reaching Out 2003 a major success.

“Reaching Out 2003, for a first time event, was very successful,” she said. “We had over 100 people participating, and many lives were touched. I just couldn’t be more pleased.”

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Youth ministers must produce disciples, student minister says

LOUSIVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Youth ministry must move from merely making converts to growing disciples of Jesus Christ, said youth minister Rob Shelton.

For Shelton, this truth has meant investing 19 years as minister of students at Parkhills Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. In those 19 years, Shelton has led students at Parkhills take part in-depth Bible studies, participate in intensive discipleship groups, and read college-level books on the Christian worldview, he said at a youth ministry conference at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., April 15.

Making disciples, Shelton said, means helping youth understand that the Christian life involves more than just going to heaven when they die. Rather, it is about living a kingdom-focused life on earth and being the church in a lost world.

“The ministry itself is built around making disciples,” Shelton said. “The first step in discipleship is becoming a convert, but that’s not the end step. That’s not the thing we’re aiming at. We’re aiming at making disciples with the first step being to deal with the sin in your life and repent as Christ commands so that you can follow Him.”

To help other youth ministers produce disciples effectively, Shelton reflected on his own experience and cited four concepts that a youth minister must contemplate.

First, a youth minister must evaluate his role as a pastor.

“What does it mean for me to be a pastor?” he said. “I came to a stunning realization that I will be judged by Almighty God for what I produce. I’m going to be judged for what I do and how I do it and for what I’ve done to train these students who have been placed in my charge.”

Reflecting on 1 Corinthians 3, Shelton reminded youth ministers of their responsibility to build upon the foundation of the Gospel in students’ lives.

“The foundation’s laid and I’m supposed to build on that foundation, and I can choose what I’m building,” he said. “And it came to my attention that I better make sure I’m not producing stubble and straw and hay because the fire’s going to come in these kid’s lives.

“It’s going to come when they leave the walls of the church. It’s going to come when they go to college. And I’m going to be judged for how I’ve prepared them to be the church in the world,” said Shelton.

Second, a youth minister must reflect on his methodology. Too often, Shelton said, youth ministers focus on acting youthful to the exclusion of fulfilling their pastoral roles.

A youth minister’s primary task is to produce active followers of Christ, he said. Yet many youth ministers present the Scriptures such that students view the Christian life merely as a safeguard against going to hell, he said.

“I could fill a room, and I could get converts, but there were very few people who were following Christ,” he said. “They were just converts. That kind of struck me. I was presenting Christianity as a present for those seeking postmortem bliss. That’s how I was presenting it. There was no understanding of why Christianity was relevant now.

“Given the task, I changed how we presented what Christianity is. We’re still presenting the Gospel, but in a fashion that will motivate wanting to be a follower of Christ.”

Third, a youth minister must implement a specific plan for the task of disciple-making. More specifically, he must consider whether his current methods of teaching are compatible with producing disciples.

By using mass media and images from popular culture as teaching tools, youth ministers often inadvertently portray the Gospel as a commodity to be consumed rather than truth to be obeyed, said Shelton.

“I had to evaluate popular culture because I found that I was merely aping what was going on in the culture in order to try to teach how to be a disciple,” said Shelton. “I basically came to the conclusion that I couldn’t possibly produce the kind of disciples that are needed using the tools I was using.”

Fourth, a youth minister must know the final goal of ministry.

If you don’t know the goal of ministry, “then you’re just going to spin your wheels and go nuts,” he said.

“The goal in producing disciples is holiness. We’re to be a holy people. That word’s never emphasized any more, is it? We want to be relevant. We want to be creative. We want to be fun. We want to be all those things, but we are called to holiness. I keep that in mind all the time.”

Ultimately, leading teenagers toward holiness will cost a youth minister tremendous time and energy. But that investment will produce a glorious result one day, Shelton said.

“It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “You’re going to stick out, but I think when you stand before the judgment seat one day, it will be worth it.”

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Importance of missions task focus of SBTS commissioning service

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Southern Baptist Theological Seminary commissioned three families for career foreign missions service and nearly two dozen others for short-term stints during chapel service in late April.

The group commissioned by seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. included a number of Southern Seminary students who will plant churches in six states and Canada through the school’s “Nehemiah Project.” Participating students will plant churches in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee and Virginia.

Two short-term groups composed of Southern Seminary students will take the Gospel abroad this summer, with 13 going to Poland and 11 to Moscow.

“We pray God will bring glory to His name through the salvation of sinners in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ through the planting of churches and the establishment of Gospel witness,” Mohler said during the commissioning prayer.

After reading from Romans 10, Mohler pointed to verse 17 as a pivotal reminder that saving faith comes by hearing the proclaimed Word of God. The verse is vital because many in the modern-day church argue that salvation comes through means other than the preaching of the Gospel, Mohler said.

“Scripture is very clear that faith comes by hearing and not just by auditory response,” Mohler said.

“(Faith comes) by the hearing of the Gospel, by the hearing (of its) measured content. Thus, when we are commissioned to take the Gospel, to make disciples, to preach and to teach and to witness to all nations, we understand it is because, even as it is promised, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.”

Believers bear witness to the saving power of the Gospel and demonstrate the necessity of proclaiming it to the nations, Mohler said.

“We who are among the redeemed are living evidence of the fact that God does save,” he said. “And we are about the task of faithfulness in taking the Gospel, knowing that God is mighty to save.”

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Mohler: Theological education must be built upon truth of Scripture

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – A true theological institution is built upon an indestructible foundation of the absolute truth of God’s Word, R. Albert Mohler Jr., told The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s board of trustees Tuesday afternoon in marking his 10th anniversary as president of the school.

There are currently two models of theological education, one that holds to the inspiration and authority of Scripture, and one that rejects it in deference to the wisdom of the world, Mohler said, addressing the annual spring meeting of the trustee board. Southern stands boldly upon the authority of Scripture, he said.

Mohler was elected Southern seminary’s ninth president in March of 1993. Under his leadership, the seminary has been transformed into a conservative, confessional, evangelical institution that holds to the inspiration and authority of Scripture and is accountable to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“In the world of theological today, there is a polarization,” he said. “There are two different visions of theological education. If you were to go to a national listing of all the divinity schools, theological seminaries—freestanding and denominational—you get a list and look at them, and you say, ‘these schools must be about the same thing.

“They are accredited by the same agency, they have in common either the word ‘divinity’ or ‘theological seminary,’ they must certainly be about the same thing.’ That is profoundly wrong. In fact, that is an error that is not only evidence of confusion, but the promise of tremendous destruction in the vision of theological education.”

He compared these opposing visions to opposing groups of biologists, one that believes in cell theory and one that does not, or to groups of physicists, one that believes in gravity and one that does not, and to groups of doctors, one that asserts the existence of germs and one that denies them.

“Between those two polarities, there is an enormous antagonism,” Mohler said.

The wide gulf between the contrasting groups illustrates the deep differences between theological seminaries that believe the Bible to be the Word of God and those that believe the Bible to be a culturally-bound artifact, Mohler said.

“Imagine you had a group of theologians, some of them believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and others do not,” he said. “You have an incredible antagonism.

“Some believe that the Bible is the Word of God and bears God’s own authority as His self-revelation and others believe that it is the written record of religious persons throughout an evolutionary process coming to god-consciousness. There is a radical antagonism between those two understandings.”

Mohler identified six non-negotiable blocks upon which a true theological institution must build: truth, theology, trust, testimony of Scripture, and the task of ministry assigned to the church. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone for this foundation, he said.
All six have been foundational in Southern Seminary’s turnaround over the past 10 years, he said.

For example, the inspiration of Scripture, a biblical understanding of theology, and a focus on teaching them fervently, are pivotal among the building blocks for Southern Seminary, he said. Many so-called theological schools today teach little to no theology, but theology should drive every aspect of a divinity school, Mohler said.

“Everything had better be theological about a theological school,” he said.

“This ought to be the one place where the language of theology, the discipline of theology, the worldview of God’s truth set out in its comprehensive form on the basis of biblical revelation out to be the driving impulse of who we are, what we do, what we teach, who we hire, and what we are all about.

“If theology is not central to everything about a theological seminary, in the end it won’t be central to anything in a theological seminary.”

Mohler said it is inconceivable that a theological school would reject the inspiration and authority of the Word of God and still believe it has anything to say in preparing ministers for work in local churches.

“I do not understand why you would be about the task of theological education if you do not believe the Bible is the Word of God,” he said. “I do not understand why you would go and spend three years to get a master of divinity degree if you do not believe that God has spoken to us and we have this Word.

“I cannot imagine that churches would support a theological institution that isn’t sure what the Gospel is. And you cannot be sure of what the Gospel is unless you are sure of what the Gospel is not.”

Southern must continue to build upon these blocks because they represent absolute truth, but also because they point to a trust between the seminary and its denomination, churches, students, and faculty.

Mohler pointed out that many of Southern Seminary’s present faculty members left safe and secure jobs in other institutions to come to Southern even while the seminary was in turmoil during the changes of the 1990s because they believed the vision of the new administration.

Many students also trusted that vision before it was fully realized and came to Southern, and church members continued giving of their resources, Mohler said.

“This word ‘trust’ is of incredible importance to me,” Mohler said. “You (the trustee board) have entrusted so much to me and to those who have come with me and those who the Lord added in the years to come.

“A denomination (has also) trusted all of us. Behind that denomination are thousands of churches. You look at those churches and there are millions of faithful Christians, most of whom will never set foot on this campus, many of whom aren’t sure exactly how theological education works, yet they contribute their money. They give of their funds because they trust that we will (use) the resources given to us (to carry out) the mission given to us.”

Mohler said all who have been involved in the school’s amazing turnaround over the decade must remember that it ultimately it has been the sovereign work of God.

“There is the danger, of course, to think that we have done this,” Mohler said. “And that’s why an anniversary like this is so meaningful, but is also dangerous. This is God’s doing. This is about God’s priorities, God’s church, God’s determination to make His name great. God has allowed us to have a part in this.”

In seminary business:

* The board extended tenure to three faculty members. Charles E. Lawless, Jr. was elected associate professor of evangelism and church growth. George H. Martin was elected professor of Christian missions. Both have served as professors for several years in the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at Southern Seminary. The board also elected Robert A. Vogel as professor of Christian preaching. Vogel currently serves at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon and will join the Southern faculty in the fall.

* Trustees approved a $25.4 million dollar budget for 2003-2004, representing an 8.8 percent increase. The increase is particularly good news given the fact that many other institutions are cutting their budgets, Mohler said.

* Mohler announced the addition to the faculty of Ken Fentress as assistant professor of Old Testament. Fentress presently serves as pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Lisbon, Md. He will join the faculty in the fall.

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Mohler’s 10th anniversary: ‘A man who did not run’

In early 1993, Rick White and six other members of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s search committee prayed together in a south Florida hotel room regarding who would succeed the retiring Roy Honeycutt as seminary president.

White said God led them all to agree on one name, that of a 33-year-old journalist/theologian: R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Seminary trustees later affirmed the committee’s choice and elected Mohler to lead the Southern Baptist Convention’s flagship theological institution.

In a decade under Mohler’s leadership, Southern Seminary has been transformed into one of the leading conservative theological institutions in the world.

“We had no doubt that God led us to Dr. Al Mohler to become the ninth president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” White said, during a ceremony celebrating Mohler’s tenth anniversary as president. Current and former trustees, including former board chairmen gathered with the seminary community to mark the occasion.

White was the first chairman of the board of trustees to serve under Mohler. He is a graduate of the seminary and is the only trustee chairman to have served three terms.

Ten years after hiring Mohler, then a young editor for the Georgia Baptist newspaper, the “Christian Index,” White is thankful God raised up Mohler to lead Southern Seminary and describes him as a man who did not shrink back from the mission even in the midst of the cauldron of controversy.

“There is a line in (a) song that reminds me a lot of Al Mohler,” White said. “It says, ‘A hero is a scared man who doesn’t run.’ And when I think about the history of our transition and seeing what has happened today, (and) I look at the life of a young Christian leader; obviously, there were some scary moments.

But (he is) a man who did not run and God has honored (that) and we are now recipients of that.”

Southern Seminary’s Executive Cabinet presented Mohler – a voracious reader with a personal library numbering thousands of volumes – with a rare 1641 edition of “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.” Trustees gave Mohler a 1608 Geneva Bible and presented the family with a trip to Europe. Mohler’s wife Mary and children, Katie, 14, and Christopher, 11 were also honored at the ceremony.

Mohler faced difficult opposition as he led the conservative resurgence at Southern Seminary, particularly in the early years. Still, Mohler said he would repeat the process, painful though it was, all over again.

“These have been the most incredible 10 years of my life,” Mohler said. “And if I had to do it all over again, I would. I’m not sure I could have said that at every single point, to be very honest. But on the other side, it is sheer grace and I believe and pray and fervently hope it is to God’s glory that this institution is what it is.”

Mohler said he has had the rare opportunity to lead an institution through a dramatic change that could only have been accomplished by God’s hand.

“It is hard to imagine that this would have happened,” Mohler said. “It runs counter to the wisdom of the world. It is not something that you expect in an institution’s life. This kind of change does not happen and this kind of new opportunity is rarely granted.

Now, 10 years after the reformation began, Southern Seminary is experiencing remarkable growth, with enrollment well over 3,000.

This runs contrary to the wisdom of the world, which says that even to attempt such a change risks scaring many persons away, he said. Still, God’s truth as revealed in Scripture overcomes the risk and draws many to an institution that stands faithfully upon its authority, Mohler said.

“You (do) scare many people away,” he said. “But you look on this campus and at this faculty and the students and the trustees and the others who are gathered here, and you will see how God’s truth is like a magnet pulling persons who love God and His truth to a place that will take such things with seriousness.”

The president also expressed gratitude for his colleagues in the administration and especially for his wife and children.

“I thought I knew what marriage was all about,” President Mohler said. “We had our 10th anniversary as we were coming into this office. But I didn’t know anything about marriage until we spent 10 years here together.

“I discovered that this woman would stand with me through thick and thin. And I just cannot tell you what she gives of her heart and life to this institution and to me. All I can say is I would not be here without her. This institution would not be what it is without her heart and prayer and support and love.”

Mohler says that, though he set timetables and goals during the early days of his administration, he ultimately depends upon the sovereignty of God in carrying out the task of ministry through Southern Seminary.

“I am completely dependent upon the providence and sovereignty of God and that God is going to do things to His glory in His way and is going to unfold gradually how all this is going to take place and come to pass,” Mohler said.

Mohler believes a century’s worth of work has been accomplished in a decade at the seminary. Now, at age 43, he says the challenge is to continue to move the seminary forward, beyond the turmoil of the early years.

“What a stewardship is ours. And the great lesson to that is, to put it as simply, if not very profoundly, we can’t mess this up. Too high a price has been paid. Too rare an opportunity has been granted.”

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Iraqi relief controversy a clash of worldviews, Mohler tells TIME

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) –Conflicting worldviews are at the heart of the controversy surrounding Christian relief efforts in Iraq said R. Albert Mohler Jr. in an interview this week with Time magazine.

The national newsmagazine posted the interview with Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on its website Wednesday (www.time.com). TIME reporter Broward Liston interviewed Mohler on the issues of humanitarian aid and Christian missions to Iraq.

Mohler contrasted the way the secular and Christian worlds look at the Iraqi people, most of whom are Muslim.

The secular world tends to look at Islam as a function of Iraq’s ethnicity, Mohler pointed out, but Christians must consider them in a different light. Secularists consider attempts to convert Muslims to Christianity as an insult to their ethnicity, a view opposite that of Christianity, he said.

“But Christianity is a trans-ethnic faith, which understands that Christianity is not particular to or captured by any ethnicity, but seeks to reach all lost persons,” Mohler said.

“The secular world tends to look at Iraq and say, ‘well, it’s Muslim, and that’s just a fact,’ and any Christian influence would just be a form of Western imperialism. The Christian has to look at Iraq and see persons desperately in need of the Gospel. Compelled by the love and command of Christ, the Christian will seek to take that Gospel in loving and sensitive, but very direct, ways to the people of Iraq.”

Mohler sees another critical issue at stake within Operation Iraqi Freedom: religious liberty. Mohler said he would be sorely disappointed if America succeeds in the war but fails to establish a regime that considers religious liberty a priority.

He referred to the rebuilding of Japan after World War II as a direct parallel to the model Christians would like to see take root in Iraq. Douglas MacArthur, the de facto ruler of Japan following the war, introduced Western concepts such as religious freedom and tolerance that were new to the country.

“It would be an appalling tragedy if America were to lead this coalition and send young American men and women into battle, to expend such military effort, to then leave in place a regime that would lack respect for religious liberty.

“I think one of the major Christian concerns, and one of my personal concerns, is to see religious liberty (take a prominent position in) the vision of freedom that America holds up to the world.”

Mohler said the establishment of religious freedom in Iraq would clearly set it apart from its neighboring countries in the Middle East.

“No one is going to flip a switch and make Iraq a Christian nation,” Mohler said. “America is not a Christian nation; it is a mission field. Conversion can’t come at the point of a gun. I think this is a true test, in a postmodern, post-Cold War age, of how America is going to establish a model for the recovery of freedom.

“Religious freedom has to be at the center and foundation of that freedom. If Iraq were to be established in a way that religious freedom was honored, it would stand out from its neighbors in the area.”

Time reporter Liston wrote “To many, the image of American missionaries lined up at the border of Iraq waiting to render aid once the shooting stops, looks eerily like a second invasion. Or at least a profoundly destabilizing force, an army prepared to act on the inflammatory words lobbed between evangelical Christian ministers and the anti-American Muslim clerics.”

Mohler says that impression is false; Christians are merely acting in accord with a longstanding history of providing humanitarian relief alongside Gospel missionary efforts, particularly in times of war.

As a current example, Mohler pointed to relief efforts by Samaritan’s Purse, which are ongoing in Afghanistan in the wake of recent military maneuvers there. The missionary group, led by Franklin Graham, has set up hospitals near Afghanistan.

“Christian organizations have been involved in organized relief efforts throughout the history of the United States,” Mohler said. “You can look at almost every significant military endeavor and find precedence for Christians being actively involved in relief efforts.”

Above all, Christian missions will have to exercise patience and wise stewardship in its efforts to proclaim the Gospel among the Iraqis, Mohler said. Regions that are heavily Islamic have traditionally been resistant to the Christian faith, he said.

“Very honestly, Christian efforts have found Islamic regions to be very resistant,” he said. “I would not expect that in the Islamic world there’s going to be any immediate receptivity to organized Christian efforts.

“I think this situation calls for great wisdom and responsibility on the part of Christian organizations, as well as a full measure of conviction. I think it’s going to be a very interesting process to watch.”

For the complete interview see the article at:TIME Magazine

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Dembski: Christian worldview begins with creation

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – An orthodox Christian worldview must begin with a proper biblical understanding of the doctrine of creation, William Dembski, a well-known author and teacher of intelligent design recently said at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Dembski identified four biblical pillars upon which the believer must build a distinctly Christian belief system: creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. If one’s understanding of human origin is faulty, then his view of the world’s fundamental problem – which the Christian sees as being sin – and the solution to it will be equally false, he said.

Dembski serves as associate research professor in conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University. He is also senior fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture.

Dembski is author of numerous books including “Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology,” and “Mere Creation: Science, Faith, and Intelligent Design.” He is a leader in the intelligent design movement which seeks to demonstrate the purposeful way in which God has woven together His creation.

“There is a logic to our (Christian) worldview, to our existence, and it starts with the doctrine of creation,” Dembski said. “If we are wrong about creation, then everything else down the line is going to be wrong as well.

“Everybody has a worldview. There are really four fundamental components to a worldview. It starts with some sort of doctrine of creation or origins. Then, we must ask, ‘what is the predicament?’ Things are not all right with the world and how did that happen? For the Christian, of course, that is the doctrine of the fall.

“Then we must ask, ‘how do we get out of the predicament?’ For the Christian that’s the doctrine of redemption. Finally, we must ask, ‘where is it all going?’ For the Christian it is being redeemed and united, or reunited, with God.”

Darwinian naturalism, which asserts that humans are a product of time and chance having evolved from lower life forms over billions of years, arrives at its erroneous conclusions because it begins with the assumption that the universe has no creator, Dembski said.

Naturalism sees problems within society as arising merely from mankind’s inability to properly harness natural forces. Naturalism’s solution is to rearrange the material makeup of people through means such as drugs and behavior therapies, he pointed out.

Darwinian naturalism is taught in most high school biology classes, in most colleges and universities, and in some seminaries and religious schools, Dembski said.

Dembski used two images to illustrate the change in worldview that occurs when a person embraces Darwinian naturalism. First, he used the image of Michelangelo sculpting his famous statue of David. This picture illustrates God’s purposeful handiwork in creation, Dembski said.

“You look at nature, look at any tree, and that surpasses Michelangelo’s ‘David,’” he said. “You see an artist at work and you marvel with a sense of awe that comes from that.”

He used a second image, that of a football stadium packed with 100,000 spectators. Every member of the audience takes a penny and flips it. All whose coin comes up “tails” sit down while those whose result was “heads” remain standing. Subsequent coin flips continue until all are seated.

The laws of probability show that at least one person might be expected to have his coin land on “heads” and remain standing 17 consecutive times, said Dembski, also a mathematician.

This result would not elicit the same sort of marvel and adoration as Michelangelo’s “David” since the laws of probability predict the coin will land on “heads” 17 straight times by mere chance, Dembski said.

It demonstrates that Darwinism’s brutal “survival of the fittest” theory of human life undermines the glory of God, who is the sovereign Creator of the universe, he said.

“That is a very different reaction,” Dembski said. “You look at Michelangelo sculpting ‘David’ and that’s one reaction. You look at somebody getting 17 heads in a row in a football stadium, that’s an expected outcome, given the number of people there.

“And yet, this is precisely what Darwinism is saying: that life, the fact that (humans) are here, and all the marvelous diversity and complexity that we see in the living world is just an expected outcome of natural forces with no design behind it. It was just bound to happen.

“Natural selection is just serving to take those successful coin flips, just getting (many) heads in a row, and preserving those. And those who got tails are just going to fade away, although they don’t, as in the stadium example, sit down. Instead, they get exterminated. They are just wiped out of the gene pool. So, it’s actually a pretty brutal view of life.”

The most critical reason Dembski sees for fighting to demonstrate the falsehood of naturalism and the veracity of intelligent design, is for the glory of God.

“That is ultimately what is at stake,” he said. “These other views rob our Creator and Lord of the glory that is due Him alone.”

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