I am a fan of Dr. Al Mohler! I am glad he is one of our leaders.
I am constantly amazed at Dr. Mohler’s ability to articulate his positions. His statement on homosexuality at the SBC Annual Meeting this year was one of the best, most concise and biblical statements of a Christian approach to the subject I’ve ever heard. I’ve seen Dr. Mohler on national programs and always have been impressed at his ability to express unpopular biblical ideas in a persuasive way. When he speaks, I listen. And usually I think he hits it out of the park!
In a video from 2010 that has recently been making the blog circuit, Dr. Mohler swung and missed. He is articulate and persuasive again. But what he said was unwise, unkind and unhelpful to the future of the SBC. The video is from Together for the Gospel and is called, “DeYoung, Duncan, Mohler: What’s New about the New Calvinism?” The key section starts at 6:25 of that video.
Here is what I believe about Calvinism and the SBC.
1) Calvinism is the key theological issue today and is at the heart of most of the divisions that are splintering us as Baptists. When I was at Southwestern, all of us Calvinists could have met in a janitor’s closet for fellowship. But in the last 20 years or so, it has once again exploded onto the scene. It can no longer be dismissed as an insignificant minority. The issue is not going away any time soon.
2) If Calvinists and non-Calvinists do not find a way to coexist enthusiastically and partner in missions, the splintering will divide Southern Baptists to the point that we can no longer sustain the program of Cooperative Missions that has marked our existence. If we don’t learn to get along and walk together, the SBC is in a lot of trouble!
3) I think both Calvinists and non-Calvinists have been guilty of divisive rhetoric, caricature and unfair generalizations. The passionate proponents of both sides want to portray themselves as the defenders of truth, justice and the gospel way and the other side as the enemy of the gospel. I’ve seen plenty of sin and offense to go around on this issue.
Al Mohler has every right to be a Calvinist and to advocate Calvinism. In fact, the Abstract of Principles at SBTS requires him to be such. No one should question his right to promote his beliefs. Calvinism is within the boundaries of the BF&M 2000 and is historically evident in SBC Life. But the statement he made in that T4G video is destructive to the promotion of unity in the SBC. Here is a transcript of his words on that video.
There’s another aspect of this, and that is, where else are they gonna go? I mean, what options are there? If you’re a theologically minded, deeply convictional young evangelical, if you’re committed to the gospel and you want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ, if you want to see gospel-built and structured and committed churches, your theology is just gonna end up basically being Reformed, basically being something like this New Calvinism or you’re gonna have to invent some other label for what’s just gonna be the same thing. There just are not options out there. And that’s something that I think frustrates some people. But when I am asked about the New Calvinism, I will say just basically, where else are they gonna go? Who else is gonna answer the questions? Where else will they find the resources they need? And where else are they gonna connect? This is a generation that understands, they want to say the same thing Paul said. They want to stand with the Apostles. They want to stand with old, dead people. And they know they are going to have to if they are going to preach and teach the truth.
Dr. Mohler has the right to believe and advocate Calvinism. But it is not right when he denigrates all non-Calvinists as his does here. His words are disrespectful and demeaning to those who do not share the Reformed or Calvinistic perspective. I have heard the wailings from my Calvinist circles when our views were demeaned and misrepresented by anti-Calvinists. But, my fellow Calvinists, can you understand how offensive these words are to anyone who does not share Calvinist soteriology?
- Non-Calvinists are not theologically-minded? Deeply convictional? Committed to the gospel? Want to see the nations rejoice in Christ?
- Non-Calvinists do not want to see gospel-built, structured and committed churches? The only churches that are real, valid gospel churches are Calvinistic?
- There are no (presumably reasonable, biblical) options out there?
- Non-Calvinists have no answers and no resources to offer?
- Non-Calvinists do not preach and teach the truth or stand with Paul and Apostles?
I’ve listened to the whole discussion (almost 13 minutes long) and it is hard for me to see a context under which we can argue that Mohler’s quote is not insulting to non-Calvinists. If he has corrected, revised or expanded on these comments since this year-old video, I would love to see that quote. If he has apologized, wonderful. But this kind of statement is divisive and destructive.
It is hard to tell our non-Calvinists friends that we wish to coexist and partner with them in the gospel when the recognized leader of Baptist Calvinists comes out with a statement like this. Either Calvinists in the SBC want to work with those who are non-Calvinist, or we don’t. Either we want to take over the whole convention and its entities, or we don’t. Most Calvinists, since the GCR, have been moderating older comments and advocating working together on mission in the SBC regardless of Calvinism positions.
But, as a (four-point?) Calvinist and one who respects Dr. Mohler, I believe this statement was damaging to the SBC. We need to guard our rhetoric and watch our tongues. We need to articulate our beliefs, but avoid statements that are derogatory to others. And we need to show respect for those who hold a different view on this topic than we do. If not, the future of the SBC is not bright.
We can do better than this – on all sides of the SBC Calvinism debate.