LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Spiritual confusion exists in churches today because many Christian ministers have watered down the truth of the gospel, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told graduates of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary May 18.
The Southern Seminary president, speaking at the school’s 187th commencement, challenged the grads to avoid such spiritual confusion by never straying from the gospel message.
“We can observe the spiritual confusion of modern America, and we know that what this culture has grown accustomed to hearing is anything but the clear and simple straightforward preaching of the gospel,” Mohler said. “We see all around us a substitute spirituality in the place of authentic Christianity. Even in so many of our churches we see the doctrinal dumbing-down of American Christianity. Many persons have never rejected the truth because they have never heard it. They do not even know what it is.”
Mohler said those embarking on a lifetime of Christian service would do well to follow the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 6:3-16. It is here that Paul warns Timothy to guard against false doctrine and to “fight the good fight of faith.”
“The Christian minister does not volunteer for service,” Mohler said. “The minister is drafted, called [and] chosen. The apostle Paul shared this repeatedly with his protege in ministry, Timothy. … The minister of the gospel is not called to come up with something to say, but rather to preach the Word in season and out of season, and to hand down from generation to generation with a faithful succession of teaching that which was taught by the Lord Jesus Christ himself.”
The seminary awarded 10 different degrees to 153 students representing 26 states and three foreign countries. One of the day’s highlights was the recognition of the first graduates of two doctoral degrees — the doctor of education degree and the doctor of ministry in missions leadership degree. In a separate ceremony May 18, 38 students graduated with either associate or bachelor’s degrees from Boyce College, the undergraduate program of Southern Seminary. Certificates also were awarded to graduates of the Seminary Wives Institute, a program that provides biblical and theological training for students’ wives.
Quoting the fourth-century theologian Athanasius, Mohler told the graduates that every human soul is hungry for either virtue or vice, truth or lies.
“The minister of the gospel must be especially careful to feed only the truth and never the lie,” Mohler said.
The apostle Paul, Mohler said, was careful to avoid heretical teachers and those who did not speak with “sound words” or those who taught a “different doctrine.” Mohler said Paul would “not make a good postmodernist.”
“He does not demonstrate a relativistic understanding of truth, but instead the submission to the revealed truth of God,” Mohler said. “The Christian ministry is not an individual franchise. We’re not buying a license to preach, then trying to come up with a product that will sell. We’re following in a succession of faithful teachers and we are accountable to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”
Mohler pointed out that many false doctrines arise when theologians attempt to speak where the Bible is silent.
“Sometimes a false teaching comes out of a morbid interest in controversial questions,” he said. “The Word of God is not only infallible and inerrant, inspired and authoritative, [but] it is also sufficient. It tells us all that we need to know. It might not tell us everything we would like to know. … There are some things we are not given to know. So many heresies arise from an effort to answer a question the Bible doesn’t even consider.
“So much false teaching comes out of an ambition to come up with something new, when what we’re to do is to tell the old, old story.”
Mohler told the graduates that there is much to be gained through Christian ministry, although the gains cannot be measured in financial wealth and prosperity.
“Some think that religion is a way to riches,” he said. “That is hard to believe when you look at the faithful teachers of the gospel [and] you look at those who are spending their lives on the mission fields. … Authentic Christianity is not a way to riches — at least not material riches.”
Criticizing what some call the health and wealth movement, Mohler said the true rewards in Christian ministry can be seen “in transformed lives, in persons who come to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, in sinners saved by grace, in Christians growing in grace [and] in churches built up in the faith and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Mohler concluded by challenging the graduates to “fight the good fight” with the spiritual weapons found in 1 Timothy 6:11: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
“To the secular mind … it doesn’t appear like this is much to take into battle,” Mohler said. “Just think of the great military battles of history. Think of the great warriors and the great generals. How many of them are described as patient and gentle?
“But [those are the weapons] the Christian minister has. Those are the virtues we are to emulate. In the purist sense, there is no more powerful set of weaponry in the hands of the Christian minister than these virtues.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: COUNSEL TO GRADS.