LOUISVILLE, Ky.(BP)–Many churches misunderstand the basis for salvation and calling, necessitating a “great theological reversal,” R. Albert Mohler Jr. told graduates at the May 19 commencement ceremony for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Though the world and numerous congregations extol the “ergo” or self-worth in God’s salvific and sanctifying work, true Christianity recognizes that God saves believers for his own name’s sake.
“We begin with a holy God and the reality of rebellious sinners,” Mohler said. “Nevertheless, he saved them for the sake of his own name. … God calls us even as he saves us for the sake of his own name and his own glory.
“It’s not about our reputation. … It’s not about our giftedness and our charisma and our rhetorical skill. … It’s about God’s faithfulness. It’s about the fact that God not only glorifies himself in the salvation of sinners, he further glorifies himself in his church in the calling out of those who will serve in his name.”
Mohler presented diplomas to 137 graduates from 13 different degree programs during Southern’s 185th commencement. The graduates represented 28 states and six foreign countries.
In a separate ceremony May 19, Boyce College awarded 24 students with associate of arts and bachelor of science degrees. Boyce, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary, also awarded 20 certificates of ministry to graduates of the Seminary Wives Institute. Daniel Akin, dean of the Southern’s school of theology and vice president of academic administration, was Boyce’s commencement speaker.
The seminary’s commencement service included the annual recognition of the professor elected by a committee of faculty, students and one alumnus to receive the Findley B. and Louvenia Edge Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence.
Robert Stein, renowned scholar of the synoptic gospels and Mildred and Ernest Hogan Professor of New Testament, received the 2000 Edge Award. Stein, who joined Southern’s faculty in 1997, has published 12 books and numerous papers and academic journal articles.
Preaching from Psalm 106:8, Mohler asserted that the disagreement regarding the foundation and focus for ministry can be traced to a clash of two polar worldviews — the anthropocentric or humanistic worldview and the theocentric or God-centered worldview.
“The anthropocentric worldview has the human being at the center and humanism as the theme,” Mohler explained. “The deepest questions are to be framed in terms of our human reference. And truth must be compatible with our conception of human happiness.”
As all humans enter life with this frame of reference, many Christians maintain this mind-set even into adulthood, Mohler said, yet they remain spiritual and intellectual infants who follow their natural tendency to deny God his glory.
Due to the prevalence and popularity of this worldview, a theological renewal and reversal is needed, Mohler continued. Christians must return to the God-centered manner of thinking.
“This theocentric frame of reference is so lacking in modern spirituality and consumer Christianity,” Mohler said.
“What has now become endemic to contemporary theology and so much evangelical church life is this anthropocentric frame of reference that believes we really are at the center of the story.”
Yet the theocentric worldview, as demonstrated in Psalm 106, presents a completely different perspective, Mohler said.
“The great ‘why’ of salvation is answered in this text,” he explained. “God saved them for the sake of his own name. Salvation is not about our worthiness for salvation but our worthlessness. It’s not about our ability but about our inability. It’s not about our righteousness, but our absolute lack of righteousness.”
Not only should ministers apply this worldview to their salvation, but they should also examine their thinking regarding their calling, Mohler said.
“We know ourselves all too well to believe we’ve been called as a result of an ‘ergo,'” Mohler said. “We are called because of a ‘nevertheless.’
“We are sinners. We are weak. We are earthen vessels. We are frail. We are not competent for this. … Nevertheless God, having called you, will equip you. And by the Holy Spirit, he makes his ministers competent for the task.”
As the graduates focus on the future, Mohler encouraged them to remember this “nevertheless” aspect of Christian calling.
“The great word that frames our thinking, the mandate for our ministry, is this word ‘nevertheless,'” he said.
The world cannot comprehend and will question the sacrifice and dedication necessary to train and subsequently serve God, Mohler said. And the response to society’s scrutiny is simple.
“The answer has to be, ‘I was a sinner and a rebel from the holy God. Nevertheless, he redeemed me for the sake of his name. And he made me a part of his church, the body of Christ. And not only that, he has called me to serve that church. And though I am not worthy, nevertheless he has called me, and he will equip me, and he will see me through,'” Mohler said.
Mohler closed his address by recalling a recent conversation with one of Southern’s most famous alumni and one who modeled this theocentric worldview — former Southern Baptist Convention President W.A. Criswell, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church, Dallas.
“He asked me to say to you that he prays for you,” Mohler recalled. “He said, ‘You tell those men and women that it seems that it is God’s good pleasure that we shall not meet on earth.’ But he said, ‘You tell them that I’m going to be waiting on the lowest step of heaven’s throne, waiting to greet each one as they come to God’s glory.’
“Dr. Criswell will not be alone,” Mohler continued. “We are told that the great host of witnesses is glorifying God in what he is doing even in us.”