M is for Mohler
If asked to name the top two most outstanding theological scholars in the world today, one would be R.C. Sproul (about whom we will talk soon) and the other would without a doubt be R. Albert Mohler, Jr. His work has been the pursuit of excellence to the glory of God. In many ways, he exemplifies what a modern day renaissance man ought to be. He is so industrious that one of his former students jokingly referred to him as an android;perhaps he had something in mind like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Data. We want to distinguish the man from the myth, so let us turn to the facts concerning his life and ministry.
Currently, he is best known as President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Mohler was born in Lakeland, Florida in 1959 and has seemingly always been on the fast track to success. He attended college at the Florida Atlantic University where he was a faculty scholar, then earned a degree from Samford University before completing both an M.Div. and a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. During his student days, he served as assistant to President Roy Honeycutt. In 1983, he joined the staff of SBTS as Coordinator of Foundation Support and transitioned to Director of Capital Funding in 1987. After a short time away from the school, he was named its president in February of 1993. In case you overlooked that timeline, he went from Coordinator of Foundational Support to President in ten years. Since that time, he has had the opportunity to craft, fine tune, and hone the seminary into the incredible institution that it is today.
Dr. Mohler has had many opportunities in his fast-paced career. He has hosted his own natiowide radio program, served on the board of Focus on the Family, been a member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and been recognized by many organization and agencies. Time magazine called him “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.” and Christianity Today recognized him in 2003 as a leader among evangelicals. He has garnered the respect of people serving in media, news services, denominational position, and church involvement.
In terms of theological views, Mohler would be right in line with the company of the Reformers on many issues, including his view of the Roman Catholic Church. Because the Catholics advocate a works religion, he speaks against their system of doctrine. On “Larry King Live” in 2000, he addressed his concerns rather directly: “As an evangelical, I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is a false church. It teaches a false gospel. And the Pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office.” Then again on “The Briefing” in 2014, he restated it very clearly: “Evangelical Christians simply cannot accept the legitimacy of the papacy and must resist and reject claims of papal authority. To do otherwise would be to compromise biblical truth and reverse the Reformation.” While some might bristle over such a direct and negative view of Catholicism, we find such a stand for truth refreshing. Sometimes the reasons for the Reformation are forgotten; we need more preachers and theologians who will take an unpopular stand on issues such as false doctrine masquerading as the Gospel.
A Personal Connection:
In 2010, Mohler addressed the issue of Christians and the practice of yoga. “When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine… The embrace of yoga is a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion. . .”
Understandably, his stance surprised many well-meaning but uninformed Christians. There are many who attempt yoga purely as physical fitness without any eastern religious overtures, but what they arrive at is not yoga. It is simply exercise. We find it admirable that Dr. Mohler had the boldness to express his convictions. Even those who disagree with him on this issue ought to be able to appreciate that nuance. This is of special interest to me because of its direct impact on my ministry. During the time that Dr. Mohler spoke out against yoga, I was a student at SBTS and being interviewed by a church in need of a pastor. I was unsure of their doctrinal position. Apparently they were a more moderate congregation (which is code for liberal) than I realized. I was asked about Mohler’s view and I concurred with him. As a result – what a surprise! – the church felt led to pursue other candidates. I appreciated this as I might not have fully perceived our mutual incompatibility otherwise, but it also brought me a good laugh and a particular appreciation for Dr. Mohler’s ministry.
Mohler is a theologian who changed the world.
One of the most eloquent examples of Mohler’s theology came in the commencement speech at Union University in 2005. He challenged the graduates to “display the glory of God by telling and defending the truth, sharing the gospel, engaging the culture, changing the world, loving the church and showing the glory of God in their own lives.” His ministry has been consistently marked with a desire to impact the world for the glory of God. We ought to interact with the world around us and leave it better than when we arrived. Cultural engagement should be pursued by every Christian.
The strong missional side to Dr. Mohler’s thinking was particularly clear during the tragedies of 9/11/2001. He advocated the difficult mission of bringing Christ to those enshrouded in the darkness of Islam. “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.” What a tremendous statement of missional zeal! We could seek their destruction, but how much greater an ideal it is to seek their salvation. While we do not diminish the biblical idea of a just war, a more effective solution would certainly be to glorify God by their salvation and sanctification.
A description of Mohler’s theology would best use the terms evangelical, exclusivist, and Calvinistic. He is evangelical in that he desires all whom God elects to be saved which requires missional effort on the church’s part. He is exclusivist in that he believes that there is only one way that will happen – through Jesus Christ. He is Calvinistic in that he would adhere to total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints.
We write about theologians who lived long ago, but it is far easier to be verbose about those still living and interacting with this world – particularly true about those who have personally impacted your own life as he has ours. Mohler may very well go down in history as this generation’s Martin Luther, John Calvin, or Augustine. He is a godly example in his quest for godliness, zeal for the lost, theological accuracy, pursuit of excellence, and his courage and boldness – all for the glory of God.
Your comments are always welcome.