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Mohler exhorts graduates as ‘torchbearers’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — New graduates of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary must be “torchbearers” for Jesus Christ, President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during the school’s fall commencement service. 

“Take the light; send the light; defend the light; declare the light; teach the light; preach the light,” Mohler said during the seminary’s 212th commencement exercises, where 195 students received degrees Dec. 13.

“And let the light of Christ shine, confident that, even as He is our light, He will draw sinners unto Himself. In other words, ‘preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching,'” Mohler said, quoting 2 Timothy 4:2.

Throughout the address, Mohler contrasted an 1838 commencement address at Harvard Divinity School by Ralph Waldo Emerson with the words of the prophet Isaiah found in Isaiah 9:2-7.

“Emerson’s ‘Divinity School Address’ is now remembered as one of the most influential commencement addresses ever delivered to an American audience,” Mohler said.

“Emerson was declaring theological independence from every authority and model, including the Bible, the prophets and the apostles,” he said.

In the Harvard address, Emerson charged students to go alone, in their own light, with their own immeasurable minds rather than being imitators, Mohler said.

“He declared each of the graduates, ready to assume the pulpit, as ‘a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost,'” Mohler said.

In contrast, the prophet Isaiah — in Isaiah 9:2: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” — reveals that “the people were walking in darkness, but have now seen a great light. They were dwelling in deep darkness, but the light has now shone on them,” Mohler said.

The minister’s task, he said, “is not to devise the light, but to send it out, take it boldly and let it shine.”

“Every religious system can be categorized in one of two ways: those that look for the light within and those that depend upon a light from without. The logic of the Bible could not be more clear: We are not to look within ourselves, but to preach the revealed word of God, the Holy Scriptures. We are to preach Christ, and not ourselves,” Mohler said.

In the end, Mohler concludes that “Ralph Waldo Emerson had it wrong.” Emerson’s way, Mohler said, leads to theological disaster and the abandonment of the Gospel ministry. Those who follow Emerson’s way lead many to destruction, he told graduates.

“The minister of Christ is a torchbearer, not a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost; but this is a greater calling, not lesser,” Mohler said. “By God’s sheer grace, the light has shone on us. Now we share that light with others.”
Compiled by the communications staff at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. A manuscript of Mohler’s address, “On Them Has Light Shined — The Christian Minister as Torchbearer,” is available at albertmohler.com.

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