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Mohler: Church must salvage America’s ‘culture of death’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP–America has slid into a culture of death, and “we must get our own house in order” to salvage it, observed Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. in the opening address of the Christian Life Commission’s 50th anniversary seminar at the Louisville, Ky., campus.

Christians “must recover our own moral authority,” Mohler continued, “which can only come when we are submitted to our Savior’s moral authority, to the Lord’s moral authority.

“And we must share the light,” he challenged as he reflected on what Romanians call “the night of candles” in Bucharest in 1989 when thousands gathered to contend for freedom against the oppressive Ceausescu regime. As they stared down tank and rifle barrels, armed only with unlit candles and courage, Mohler said, “The culture of life stood against the culture of death and passed the light from candle to candle. And I think that is an apt metaphor for us.”

In his address, titled “The Culture of Death and the Death of Culture: The Christian Challenge in a Decadent Age,” Mohler asked what the church should do and be in this age. His answer began, “We are to let the light shine in the darkness … a simple, urgent and uncomplicated command that is brought into sharp distinction when there is so much darkness surrounding us.”

The church of Jesus Christ must understand it is “a cognitive minority standing out in our minority status against a majoritarian decadence.” It stands in contrast to a prevailing culture characterized by abortion, the rise and acceptance of divorce, homosexuality, violence, and a general revolt against authority, Mohler said.

“The church must be a culture of life, contending for life at every level. In the womb, and in the nursing home, in the hospital ward, on the streets, in the schools, everywhere.” And even as a moral minority, the church must be engaged and not disengaged. “Our mode must not be to turn entirely inward, but instead to engage the culture in such a way that we bear open witness to life, even calling for the life of the culture.”

To do this, Mohler said, “The church must be the people of the truth, representing, bearing witness, contending for the truth” of a holy God. “We must bear witness to the truth of God’s wrath against sin and to the wonder and glory of his grace and the redemption of sinners.” This also means living in hope, he said. “To despair is atheistic. To be optimistic is hubris. We live in hope, biblical hope, because we know in whom our hope is placed.”

Mohler said the CLC’s 50th anniversary is an occasion to note a half century of witness and work in a time marked by tremendous change. “Historical perspective should always be before us … should require us to go back to the most basic issues and the most important events which have shaped this half century and see what hath been learned and what hath been demonstrated in the course of human events,” Mohler said.

Citing numerous examples to show the death of culture, Mohler quoted Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm who said this was a short century of “mega-death.” “More human beings were killed or allowed to die by human decision than ever before in history,” Mohler said, calling the great symbols of the 20th century not only the two world wars, but also Dachau and Buchenwald, the atomic bomb and the gas chambers.

Mohler mentioned the recent discussion of cloning, citing one philosopher who said people should give in and begin eradicating “the inferior.” He noted that RU 486, “the human pesticide,” is close to being distributed in America as bills to prevent late-term abortions remain stalled before Congress.

“There has been a cauterization of the American conscience so that this issue is not even understood in moral terms by so many,” Mohler said. He quoted author Walker Percy’s prediction of “pedothesia, the killing of children who are perceived to have no future,” as the next step toward the death of the culture. Regarding the cataclysmic changes of the last 50 years, Mohler quoted John Howard, president of the Rockford Institute, who said concerning the end of World War II, “It seems that that was a half century and a whole civilization ago.”

While “those who saw the dawn of the 20th century were determined this would be a century marked by the inevitable and the strategic onward march of human progress,” Mohler said, “the century now ends with a great sense of moral and cultural uncertainty and has left behind the debris of failed utopianisms and brutal totalitarian regimes. Death of culture is a necessary product and parallel to the culture of death. In the last 50 years we see the devolution of our moral discourse and of our moral actions from modern manipulation and death to postmodern chaos and even greater death.”

As the light was passed from one candle to another that dark night in Bucharest, Mohler recounted, “I think in a 5-year perspective, it is an apt metaphor for the Christian Life Commission, an apt metaphor for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, for the Southern Baptist Convention and for the church of Jesus Christ. Let us pass the light from candle to candle, and let us pass it well.”

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  • David Porter