PHOENIX, Ariz. – Despite the controversial nature of Jewish evangelism, Scripture rings clear that Christians are under a mandate to proclaim the Gospel to Jewish persons, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told a group of Messianic Jews Monday.
While the notion of Jewish people being saved by faith in Christ is a notion contemporary society finds scandalous, the issue of preaching the Gospel to the Jews was not controversial during biblical times said Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The critical question in the debate is whether Scripture is seen as the absolute standard of truth and authority, he said while addressing the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship.
Drawing on Rom. 1:16 and several passages in Acts, Mohler said that Jewish evangelism is not only commanded but is a priority because the Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation for the Jew first and then the Greek.”
“In the book of Acts and in the apostolic age and in the opening chapter of Romans, you see there is no question about the necessity of Jewish evangelism,” Mohler said. “Not only that but there is even a priority that is indicated in the text.”
If the authority of God’s Word is rejected with regards to Jewish Evangelism, it also no longer binding on issues such as homosexuality, Mohler said. In fact, Jewish Evangelism, homosexuality, and the authority of Scripture are the three “trip wires” facing the evangelical church, he said.
This is particularly true because the first two hinge upon acceptance or rejection of the third—the authority of Scripture.
“The bottom-line question is this: Will we obey or disobey the Word of God?” he said.
The foundation of Jewish evangelism is the claim of Jesus Christ to be the Messiah in fulfillment of Israel’s expectation and the Old Testament prophets.
“It is clear from the biblical text, in the Gospels that Jesus is claiming to be none other than the Messiah, the promised one of Israel,” he said.
“(Christ’s messiahship was) established by Himself and authenticated by His words and His deeds. It is centered in His substitutionary death and was vindicated by His Father in the resurrection.”
Evangelicals have failed the Jews by failing to faithfully proclaim the Gospel to them, Mohler said. Part of the problem is a related failure by Christians to understand what is fully meant by the name “Christ,” he said. The name is a title and an absolute claim to be the Messiah, Mohler pointed out.
The current debate over Jewish evangelism is framed by a postmodern rejection of absolute truth and also a false understanding of what it means to be a Jew, said Mohler, who has debated the issue numerous times on national radio and television.
Once, a person who claimed to be a Jew was establishing himself as an adherent to Judaism. Today, “Jewishness” is seen merely as an ethnic designation and evangelism of Jews is viewed as aggressive imperialism or even ‘ethnic genocide.’
“Judaism has been turned into a folkway, a way of life, an ethnic identity and it is now considered impossible in a postmodern society to address Jewish people theologically,” he said.
Secularists now base their distaste for Jewish evangelism on political correctness and emotional arguments, not on claims of truth, Mohler said. Still, the Scriptures are clear in places such as Acts 2 that the Gospel is for Jews as well as all persons. In Acts 2, Peter preached to scores of Jews and many were saved through faith in Christ.
Today, even some segments of the church reject Jewish evangelism because of a false interpretation of Scripture that argues for two covenants: one for Jews and another for other persons. This is merely a fanciful interpretational device to try and skirt the issue, Mohler said.
Post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism teaches the two-covenant view and Pope John Paul II has declared that all monotheists—including Muslims, Christians and all monotheistic religions—who are sincere about their faith are saved, Mohler said.
“Sincerity is now seen as the entire ground of salvation,” Mohler said.
The Christian tradition is also beset with a legacy anti-semitism, Mohler said. By faithfully proclaiming the Gospel to Jews, Christianity can overcome this ignoble aspect of its history, he said.
One action Christians must avoid is a decision not to preach the Gospel to Jews aimed at overcoming anti-semitism, he said. Scripture promises that Jews will respond to the Gospel and that there will be a great ingathering of Jews into the Christian faith in the future, Mohler said.
“The great remarkable, magnificent conversion of Israel to the Gospel is going to be that inexplicable sign in history that the world cannot possibly explain other than by the sovereignty of God,” he said.
Mohler illustrated Jewish evangelism by comparing it to a medical doctor. A person with a potentially deadly tumor would want a doctor who would give them a truthful diagnosis, not one who would, in an effort to avoid offending them, tell them that all is well.
In the same way, Christians must tell unsaved Jews and all non-Christians the truth of the eternal danger they face and steer them to salvation in Christ. Because of this, proclaiming the Gospel is a genuine display of Christian love, he said.
“The act of Christian truth-telling, telling the truth of the Gospel to an unbeliever, Jew or Gentile, is the ultimate act of Christian love,” he said. “Evangelism is not driven by imperialism. It is not driven by nationalistic objectives.”
“It is not driven by materialistic concerns, but is the love of one sinner saved by grace to another sinner that is compelled by a greater love and that is the love of that sinner for his Lord. We love our Lord and thus we obey His commandments.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--As the story goes, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary founding President B.H. Carroll was dying and wanted to give his successor, L.R. Scarborough, one last charge.
So a few days before his death in 1914, he called Scarborough to his bedside and told him that if “heresy ever comes” to the seminary, “take it to the faculty.” If the faculty fail to take action, he added, then “take it” to the trustees. If the trustees don’t listen, then go to the convention.
If no one at the convention listens, he concluded, then “take it to the great common people of our churches. You will not fail to get a hearing then.”
Such stories are at the core of “The Sacred Trust,” a new book by brothers Emir and Ergun Caner that recounts the life of each of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 52 presidents. It is the first such book in more than a generation, according to its publisher, Broadman & Holman, the trade books division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Emir Caner is assistant professor of church history and Anabaptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Ergun Caner is assistant professor of theology and church history at Criswell College in Dallas, although he will be moving to Liberty University this fall.
The 238-page book includes a bio on each man who has wielded the gavel at the annual meeting. The book is more than a collection of facts: It is a compilation of interesting stories and events that molded their lives.
The first president, William B. Johnson (elected in 1845-46, 1849), shook the hand of U.S. President George Washington as a boy. The second president, Robert Howell (1851, 1853, 1855, 1857) battled J.R. Graves over the issue of Landmarkism.
As a pastor of First Baptist in Houston, K. Owen White (1963) fought for the inclusion of blacks in his church. As pastor of a church in Fort Pierce, Fla., Adrian Rogers (1979, 1986-87) and his wife lost their third child to crib death on Mother’s Day.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., wrote the book’s foreword.
“The president of the Southern Baptist Convention has no office in a denominational headquarters, receives no salary from his position, is given no staff for assistance, and has few unilateral powers,” Mohler noted. “And yet the SBC presidency is one of the most recognized and influential offices of leadership in the Christian world. Therein lies an enigma and an incredible story.”
The presidents appoint members to influential committees, preside over annual conventions and serve as spokesmen to the world, Mohler pointed out. The varied stories of the 52 presidents “help us to understand the development of the Convention’s self-understanding and program as well as its presidency.”
The Caners note that the historical presidential gavel, handed down from year to year and used at each meeting, is a reminder of the presidents’ “shared history, heritage, and legacy.” The gavel, made from wood from the Holy Land, was a gift from Southern Seminary professor John A. Broadus to the convention in 1872. The handle is made of “balsam wood grown near the River Jordan, and its head is made of olive wood from the Mount of Olives.”
The book tells how various presidents have stood firm in defending Christian and Baptist principles.
Richard Fuller (1859, 1861) used his pulpit at Seventh Baptist Church in Baltimore to argue against infant baptism. James P. Boyce (1872-79, 1888), who was baptized by Fuller, helped spark a revival on his campus as a college student, then later stood firm on biblical inerrancy as president of Southern Seminary.
The book also describes the various political and theological squabbles the presidents have encountered through the decades.
E.Y. Mullins (1921-23) served as chairman of the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message committee that addressed the controversy over modernism and evolution. Herschel Hobbs (1961-62) helped write the 1963 BF&M over concerns of liberalism within the seminaries. Rogers served as chairman of the 2000 BF&M committee that clarified a handful of Baptist beliefs and addressed various social issues.
Stories from the 1980s and 1990s -- the height of the Conservative Resurgence -- are included, such as Bailey Smith (1980-81) winning as an “unknown” candidate in Los Angeles, Charles Stanley (1984-85) withholding his name from nomination until hours before the vote and Morris H. Chapman (1990-91) defeating Daniel Vestal (the current-day coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) by the largest margin of victory for a first-term nominee in 11 years.
In the preface the Caners say the book is “an investigation” of the “heartbeats and the passions” of the presidents’ lives.
“These were men who dared to believe that the task of world evangelism was not too large a task, too costly a labor, or too steep a climb,” they write. “They dared to believe that we were equal to the task to which God called us, in his power alone. They have dared to inspire us to seek the face of God.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)-The Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has launched a new website that offers Christians up-to-the-minute analysis applying theology to current issues.
Russell D. Moore, a professor of theology at Southern and executive director of the Henry Institute, says the goal of the website is to provide current information and theological analysis that will help Christians to think biblically about current issues. The address of the site is www.henryinstitute.org.
“Christianity is not just about so-called ‘spiritual’ matters,” Moore said. “Christianity is about the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that claims every aspect of our lives.”
“Scripture commands us to take every thought captive for Christ,” Moore said. And yet too many of us are unsure of how to maintain a Kingdom vision in a world of spin control from Hollywood, Washington, and Wall Street.”
“Too many evangelicals are being discipled by Dan Rather,” Moore said. “We simply accept whatever worldview the culture throws at us-at least when it comes to the issues of the day.”
“The website seeks to equip Christians and churches to think through these issues from a kingdom perspective.”
The website will be updated regularly to include essays and articles on issues ranging from Israel and the Middle East to Christian responses to feminism to the current debates over evangelical identity.
The Henry Institute periodically holds symposia and panel discussions on contemporary theological, cultural, and political issues. Issues have included such questions as how to reconcile the love of Christ with a war on terror and how the Middle East peace process fits with Bible prophecy. These symposia will be made available for download from the site and heard by both Real Audio and MP3.
The site also includes a weblog commentary from Moore-”The Moore Report”-on current issues. Recent editions of Moore’s commentary have analyzed topics such as religious liberty in Iraq, Patricia Ireland’s leadership of the YWCA, the Democratic party’s identity crisis, and the controversy over baptizing a gay couple in a North Carolina church.
The site also links to a number of other websites that will provide Christians with information on cultural, political, theological, and public policy issues.
The Henry Institute was named in honor of Carl F.H. Henry, widely considered to be the dean of evangelical theologians. He is the founding editor of Christianity Today and is the author of more than 35 books, including the widely influential God, Revelation, and Authority.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Twenty-one Vietnamese students recently graduated from Boyce College as the inaugural class in a bilingual education program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s undergraduate college.
According to the program’s founder, An Van Pham, these students, 60 percent of whom hail from Georgia, will play a vital role in bringing much-needed theological education to ethnic congregations in the United States.
As director of language missions for the Atlanta Baptist Association, Pham conducted a 1993 survey which discovered that 75 percent of ethnic pastors in the Atlanta area had no seminary background. A full 50 percent had not even completed a four-year college degree.
So motivated by the need to educate pastors of non-English-speaking churches, Pham contacted Bob Johnson, then the dean of Boyce College, about starting a bilingual education program for Vietnamese ministers.
In the fall of 1993, 42 Vietnamese students began working toward an associate of arts degree in biblical studies. By 1999, the program had been modified in order to permit the students to earn a bachelor of science degree. Finally, on May 16, 2003, the first 21 students received their bachelor’s degrees.
Students attended weeklong classes at the Louisville campus several times a year for more than 12 hours a day in order to complete the program. Classes typically involved an English-speaking professor lecturing for much of the class time, Pham said, followed by an additional seven hours of Pham reviewing the material in Vietnamese.
“[The professor’s] part is to cover all his lectures in class,” Pham said. “My part is to review, be sure the students understood textbooks and handouts and lectures. I lead them in group discussions of questions they can discuss in their own language. Then questions that they could not ask in class, they ask in their groups and I am there to help them.”
Despite the occasionally difficult language barrier between professors and students, however, these students managed to perform at a comparable level to native English-speaking students on exams, said Pham.
The success of this bachelor’s degree program led administrators at the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Seminary to inaugurate a bilingual master of divinity program this year.
And the Vietnamese students have wasted no time in taking advantage of the opportunity to earn a master’s degree. In fact, several of them began work on their first master’s level class just hours after their Boyce graduation ceremony, said Pham.
The early success of bilingual education at Southern makes Pham optimistic about the future of the Vietnamese degree program. Currently, 33 students are enrolled in program.
But by January of 2004, “my goal is that the enrollment will increase to 40. By May of next year, my goal is to have up to 45 or 50 students in this class,” he said.
Graham School leaders share Pham’s optimism about bilingual education—so much so that they have begun preliminary discussions for a Spanish language master of divinity program, according to Chuck Lawless, senior associate dean of the Graham School.
In the final analysis, Pham said that bilingual theological education for church leaders is vitally important because it provides local leadership for the increasing number of foreign-language congregations in America.
“In 1987 I started to work in Georgia, and anytime we wanted to start a Vietnamese or a Korean or a Chinese church, we looked to move someone from California or Texas or New York to Georgia,” he said. “Now after 10 years we have strong education and we don’t need to move anyone from other states to Georgia. I can see now that they [Asian church leaders] are training and preaching to and teaching their own people.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)—God is so interested in the intimate, romantic, and sexual aspects of marriage, He inspired a biblical book—the “Song of Solomon”—on the subject, according to a new book by the dean of the school of the theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Within the pages of God on Sex: The Creator’s Ideas About Love, Intimacy, and Marriage, (Broadman & Holman Publishers) Daniel Akin unpacks for believers insights from the Scripture on the physical relationship within marriage.
Akin, who also serves as senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Seminary, writes in the introduction, “When sex and marriage are experienced and enjoyed together as God intended, the joys and blessings that are ours are seldom, if ever, surpassed in this life.”
The book examines the Old Testament book the “Song of Songs,” also known as the “Song of Solomon,” which Akin calls “God’s instruction manual for sex and marriage.” He argues that the Song of Solomon gives God’s design for the intimate aspects of marriage and family.
The casual way in which modern culture approaches sex is nowhere found in Scripture, he writes.
“Sex is good, it is God’s gift,” Akin writes. “This good gift of God will find its fullest expression realized when a man and a woman give themselves completely to each other in the marriage relationship.
“God knows nothing of casual sex, because in reality there is no such thing. What is often called sex is always costly. Sexually transmitted diseases, unexpected pregnancy, and psychological and spiritual scars are some of the results, and the price paid, because we have approached God’s good gift of sex all too casually.”
In the early chapters of the book, Akin brings the Song of Solomon to bear on such topics as beginning a relationship, proper praise and encouragement between marital partners, and fanning the flames of romantic love.
In the fourth chapter, Akin tackles a notion that John Gray popularized in his best-seller “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” He writes that Gray’s understanding of the obvious differences between men and women is partly correct, but fails to account for the fact that both sexes are from the same planet and must deal with their differences in God’s way to make marriage and romance work.
Playing off the foxes written of in Song of Solomon 2:15, Akin identifies seven “foxes” that may easily sneak in and destroy a marriage: role reversal, intimacy stagnation, stonewalling, time ill spent, outside interference, fatigue, and misunderstanding.
Of the “fox of role reversal,” Akin warns, “God made men to be men, husbands, and fathers. A man should never apologize for being a man, for being a masculine human being. God made women to be women, wives, and mothers. No woman should ever apologize for being a feminine person.
“You see, no one is as good at being a man as a man, and no one is as good at being a woman as a woman. However, there is great confusion about gender roles today, and men are especially suffering an identity crisis. In our day, men struggle with their maleness.”
As a remedy for male identity crisis, Akin recommends that, in preparing for marriage, a man look to an older and wiser man for mentoring.
In other chapters, Akin examines preparation for marriage, argues the biblical case for traditional marriage, and discusses “the beauty and blessings of sex as God planned it.” The book also examines the roles of men and women within marriage and shows the biblical definition of love that is to last a lifetime.
Throughout the study, Akin sets forth the catastrophic results of divorce along with the shallow view of marriage held by contemporary culture. As a remedy for divorce, Akin concludes with a look at covenant marriage and includes a copy of a marriage covenant that couples may sign.
The covenant is a declaration to God by both partners that they are committed to the marriage for a lifetime. This is God’s plan for marriage, Akin writes.
“God will honor you (in the covenant commitment), and together you will discover that this commitment will be a bond that will ensure that you make it, and make it well, to the end. God knows best.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Effective preaching must move beyond mere explanation of biblical facts and teach listeners how to apply God’s truths to their lives, according to a new book by one Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor.
In Preaching with Bold Assurance (Broadman & Holman Publishers), Hershael York, Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern, and Bert Decker, chairman and founder of Decker Communications, Inc., argue that the most successful preaching places a dual emphasis on exposition and communication in order to conform listeners to the will of God.
“If you get nothing else from this book, understand this: sermons are not about just imparting information. They should be custom-built to change lives. We don’t want to fill their heads; we want the proclamation of the Word to grip their souls and motivate them to conform to the will of God. Our approach to the Bible and to preaching, therefore, has application as its ultimate goal,” the authors write.
“Our prayer is that preachers will never choose between being either biblical or effective but learn that they can and must be both.”
To compose effective sermons, York and Decker argue that preachers must focus on three key elements of preaching: the text, the sermon and the delivery.
First and foremost, effective preaching demands an expository approach, they argue.
“Expository preaching is defined not by a style nor by a particular methodology, but by the end result of explaining and applying the meaning of the text,” they write. “Expository preaching is any kind of preaching that shows people the meaning of a biblical text and leads them to apply it to their lives.”
Unfortunately, however, York and Decker contend that true expository preaching has become a rarity in American churches.
“While many preachers will stand in a pulpit this Sunday, few who would call themselves expositors will. Fewer still will be the number of preachers who actually are expositional in their preaching.”
Yet expository preaching “is what God uses to change lives more than any other kind [of preaching], because a person cannot preach expository messages unless he is saturated with the Word of God. And the more our sermons are dependent on the inspired text, the more inherent power they will have,” York and Decker write.
For a sermon to be truly dependent on the Bible, the preacher must study the context, the content, and the application of his text, they argue. Such activities as outlining and diagramming passages are effective methods of engaging a biblical text.
Secondly, effective preaching requires skill in the act of sermon crafting.
“The sermon is the bridge we build between the text and the congregation,” write York and Decker. “With Bible-based truth and listener-based delivery, the sermon carries God’s Word to man’s ears and on to his heart. So it is essential that we be committed both to biblical truth and also to culturally relevant styles of communication.”
Part II of “Preaching with Bold Assurance” guides preachers in the technical aspects of building a relevant sermon, discussing such topics as sermon outlining, illustrating a point, introducing a sermon, and concluding a sermon.
Thirdly, effective preaching requires skillful sermon delivery.
“What is the most important thing in communicating?” the authors ask. “Is it content or delivery? Simply put—it’s both. You cannot effectively have one without the other. Just as you have spent years of study and preparation in learning how to handle the text, so must you learn how to handle the tools of delivering the message so that the message reaches your intended listeners.”
Most important to effective sermon delivery, argue York and Decker, is establishing trust with the congregation. To establish trust, a preacher must utilize both verbal and visual communication.
They caution, however, that preachers should not view their task as one of selling the Gospel.
“We are not at all suggesting that people accept the gospel based on the sophistication of our presentation. What we are suggesting is that they will not even hear the gospel if they do not find us credible. They must have an emotional response to the evangelist before they can ever hear the evangel.”
Ultimately, York and Decker contend that Christian preaching can be the most powerful tool of communication in the world because of its content and power.
“Christian communicators have the potential to become the greatest communicators in the world. If our message is biblical, then it is unquestionably true and has the inherent power of the Holy Spirit that transcends any human message or capacity.”
They conclude by admonishing preachers, “Never forget what a privilege God has given you. You speak for God! You are an ambassador of heaven, a bearer of the best news that people could ever hear. That responsibility demands and deserves your best.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The Southern Baptist conservative resurgence has been driven foremost by a deep concern for faithfulness to scriptural teaching and is not a reaction to increasingly secularized culture, writers in the spring issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology assert.
The issue, a publication of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, focuses on “Theology, Culture, and the SBC,” and interacts with Barry Hankins’ recent book, “Uneasy in Babylon.”
Thomas R. Schreiner, professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, contends that many of the issues addressed by Southern Baptist conservatives have cultural ramifications, but are fundamentally theological.
“[Hankins] rightly points out that many of the theological issues that took center stage also have cultural ramifications,” Schreiner writes. “But this is scarcely surprising. Faithfulness to the teaching of Scripture demands that we declare in public the teaching of Scripture that is contravened in our age and time.”
Schreiner, though, argues that a merely cultural explanation of the conservative resurgence does not fully explain why conservatives have raised certain issues.
“We emphasize inerrancy and the necessity of personal faith in Christ to be saved because many in the theological community deny these truths,” he writes.
Schreiner is one of four Southern Seminary faculty members who interact with “Uneasy in Babylon.” The others are seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., and professors Gregory A. Wills and Russell D. Moore.
Hankins, associate professor of history and church-state relations at Baylor University, offers a response to the Southern faculty.
The writers contend that the Southern Baptist conflict centered on the issue of biblical authority. Moore, assistant professor of Christian theology, says that Hankins miscalculates the extent to which cultural phenomena drove the conservative resurgence.
“Contrary to Hankins’ thesis, conservatives did not rally Southern Baptists around inerrancy in order to fight a battle against abortion, the sexual revolution, feminism or any other cultural phenomenon,” Moore writes.
“Instead these issues crystallized the debate over larger theological and missiological questions of biblical authority, the Great Commission, and the prophetic role of the church in protecting those the culture deems not worthy of life.”
Conservatives are most concerned with the advance of the Word of God, Moore argues.
“Baptist conservatives know they will not find Jerusalem in an idyllic southern culture or in a Republican White House or in a less profane Hollywood,” he writes. “They must seek to hold back the cultural darkness, but they know they will find a New Jerusalem only in the Kingdom of Christ -- a Kingdom that is seen even now in the advance of the Gospel around the world.”
Wills, associate professor of church history, says that theological conviction has driven conservatives to confront liberalism in the seminaries for decades. The resurgence of the 1980s was grounded in conservative activity from decades earlier.
“Conservatives believed that the denomination was drifting from orthodoxy,” Wills writes. “Although they raised some accusations against other denominational agencies, the seminaries were the main targets. Many aspects of the post-1979 campaign to expunge liberalism from the seminaries arose from the denominational experiences in the 1950s and 1960s.”
Echoing Moore in his critique of Hankins, Wills contends that conservatives “were not seeking a platform for countercultural political endeavors but an orthodox foundation for advancing the faithfulness of Southern Baptists in fulfilling the divinely ordained mission of the church.”
But Hankins argues that Moore and Wills misunderstand the thesis of “Uneasy in Babylon.”
“Rather than attempting to show that theology is subservient to culture war, I intended to argue that the two are so closely related that a failure to understand one is a failure to understand the other,” Hankins writes. “What Moore and Wills have done is set in opposition the two parts of my interpretation of Southern Baptist conservatives. I do not see these two as oppositional.”
Parties from both sides of the dispute, according to Hankins, tend toward reductionism in labeling the causes of the conservative resurgence. While conservatives often credit the movement wholly to theology, moderates tend to discount theological causes altogether.
“While abortion and the other issues I have covered in ‘Uneasy in Babylon’ are theological in one sense, the public and cultural impact of these issues heightened the perceived need to shore up the theology of the denomination, and the cultural component also helped convince rank-and-file Southern Baptists that something needed to be done.”
However, Mohler argues that the Southern Baptist controversy has fundamentally theological roots extending back to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the 1920s. Over the past 80 years, theological trends have polarized Southern Baptists into two distinct parties, Mohler writes.
The “’Truth Party’ insists that Baptist doctrine and polity are inescapably attached to a prior affirmation of biblical truth, to a clear understanding of biblical authority, and an affirmation of revealed truth as demanding our belief in certain doctrinal essentials,” Mohler writes.
The “Liberty Party,” on the other hand, “is established upon an aggressive assertion of individual rights to interpretation, theological formulation, and experience.”
Mohler concludes, “The defining issues are now before us. The Southern Baptist crisis now comes down to the urgent issue of conviction, confession, and cooperation. The question now presented to the Southern Baptist Convention demands an answer: Will we stand upon the absolute truthfulness and full authority of Holy Scripture?”
The journal also includes 20 book reviews, a sermon on women in the pastorate by Mark Coppenger, pastor of Evanston Baptist Church in Illinois, and an essay on the life and legacy of Herschel Hobbs by Union University President David Dockery.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Christians have a biblical mandate to work toward redeeming the culture for both the glory of God and the good of man, R. Albert Jr., told attendees of a conservative talk radio conference earlier this spring.
Speaking at the Salem Communications Talk Show Conference on March 21 in Washington, D.C., Mohler urged Christians to teach believers how to bring an eternal, biblically-informed perspective to bear on issues while living and serving society in this temporal world. Mohler hosts a weekly talk radio show called “Truth on the Line,” heard locally in Louisville and on the Internet at www.truthontheline.com.
“We must tell the truth and we must continue to tell the truth, explain, paint the big picture, seek to be persuasive,” Mohler said. “But in all things, (we must) be animated by a love of neighbor that is rooted in the love of God. We must have eternity on the horizon and we must have our mind set on eternal things in order that we may deal rightly with earthly things.”
Today’s society rejects norms that once served as bedrock foundations for a civil society such as fixed morality, absolute truth, ultimate meaning, authority, and belief in the God of the Bible, Mohler said. The postmodern mantra is an ode to the sovereign self, he said.
“The self becomes so sovereign that everything is determined by what the self wants, how the self feels, what the self desires, and now, what the self will define,” Mohler said. “And this replacement of truth with therapy leaves us in a situation in which people decide what is true on the basis of how they feel about it.”
Moral indignation over hot-button social issues is not enough, Mohler said. He urged radio hosts to articulate a view of Christian citizenship similar to that of fourth century church father Augustine in his classic book “The City of God.”
Augustine set forth a political theology on how Christians are to live as citizens of the city of man while simultaneously living as members of the city of God.
Augustine argued that the Christian’s motivation for loving the city of man and its citizens must ultimately be grounded in their love for God in accord with Scripture’s greatest command of Matthew 22:35-40.
This ‘first and greatest commandment’ says the believer must “love your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Christians are not to hide from the culture, but to engage it, Mohler said.
“If there is a danger in our age among Christians it is that we too would confuse the city of God for the city of man,” Mohler said. “We would confuse the heavenly city and the earthly city and we would exchange the proper love, which we should find in the heavenly city, for the truncated false love of the city of man.
“There are so many citizens of the city of man who do not even know about the city of God, but there should be no one in the city of God who does not know about the city of man. The Christian has a unique responsibility to both cities. We understand that our earthly calling is only a foretaste of things to come.”
Scripture is the final authority as to how Christians are to view their responsibility regarding the establishment of public policy, he said. Christians are to biblically redeem the culture for both the glory of God and the good of man.
“The liberal temptation is to confuse the city of man for the city of God,” Mohler said. “It might be that the conservative temptation is to ignore the city of man for the city of God. And both are forms of sin. Both are an abdication of Christian responsibility.”
In this day, even conservatives can fall prey to political temptation, he said.
“We are to love the city of God and we are to love those who are in the city of man. We are not to love both cities, but we are for the sake of the Creator, to love those whom He has created – the citizens of the kingdom of man.
“The proper proportion is difficult to achieve. The danger is that we will confuse the one city for the other and exchange the one love for the other. The only way to achieve this proper proportion is to make certain that we who are Christians set our sights on the city of heaven and measure our citizenship in the City of Man by the revealed Word given us from the heavenly city.”
Mohler urged radio hosts to make arguments from a comprehensive Christian worldview that is informed by Scripture instead of merely defending or rejecting a particular position of public policy.
Talk show hosts who are seeking to inform Christians on key issues of the day must establish credibility in areas of morality, cultural knowledge, argumentation, and theology. They must know the difference between true and false Christianity, he said.
“We must have moral credibility,” he said. “We must tie together the great issues of our day in a comprehensive moral worldview, rooted in understanding the City of God and in the City of Man, and this moral credibility means we have to make arguments, not just propose positions. We have to make moral arguments, not merely defend policy proposals.
“That is necessary, it is just not sufficient. We have to help our people to see, to form a big picture, to tie together the fabric and knit it all together. We must talk about cloning, euthanasia, justice, the death penalty, stem cell research, war and peace, and everything else, but we have to tie it together in some comprehensive worldview in a moral argument that helps persons to see.”
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.”
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.”