News Articles

Mohler & Spong debate truth of Scripture on PAX network

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)—The teachings of the Bible are true for all people at all times and must not be modified to conform to popular thinking, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said in discussion on PAX television network’s “Faith Under Fire” with retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, author of numerous books including, “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.”

Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said those who attack the historicity of Scripture undermine the ability to know the truth about God and experience meaning in life.

Noted author and apologist Lee Strobel hosted the Dec. 18 program.

“Christians throughout the centuries, who have been divided on some things no doubt, have been united in … clear understandings concerning who Christ is, what He did, about His bodily resurrection,” Mohler said. “That’s why Christians faced death with confidence. That’s why the Christian martyrs gave their lives for the sake of the faith.”

Spong argued that Christianity must be updated for modern times. In the 21st century it is not realistic for Christians to believe in miracles such as the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, he said.

“I believe God is real,” Spong said. “I believe that God was manifested in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. … I don’t believe that God is a being who lives above the sky who decides to invade the earth through the miracle of the virgin birth and then escape the earth through the miracle of the cosmic ascension. I think those are very weak first-century attempts to try to make sense out of a God-experience that was profound.”

Mohler said Spong’s position represents the “wholesale replacement of orthodox Christianity” and contrasted historic Christianity with the version of Christianity advocated by some postmodern thinkers.

“We have a basic choice here between the Christianity that was set down by Christ, preached by the Apostles and handed down by successive generations or this new thing that Bishop Spong wants to call Christianity, which is devoid of everything that is essential to the faith, beginning with even a supernatural personal God, all the way down to the incarnation of Christ, the saving work on the cross,” Mohler said.

Spong countered that Christianity is evolving and that scholars no longer believe the Bible to be an accurate historical document.

“I don’t know of a single reputable biblical theologian in the world today who treats the birth stories of Matthew and Luke as if they are literal history,” he said.

Spong also argued that the inerrancy of Scripture and salvation through Christ’s death on the cross are “unbelievable” in light of modern scholarship.

“I think the idea that somehow the blood of Jesus is necessary to cleanse people from their sins draws on concepts that I think are just plain unbelievable,” Spong said. “And I’m not really interested in a God who works out salvation by killing the Son of God. I find that an act of divine child abuse that I’m not drawn to at all.”

Mohler pointed out that those who deny the doctrine of salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection have abandoned one of the central doctrines of Christianity.

“The whole question of why Jesus died and the meaning of Christ’s cross and of His resurrection … is the very core of the faith,” Mohler said. “…Christ died in our place as the Savior who died a substitutionary death, paying the price for our sins. That’s not something that has been held by some Christians in some places. That is the heart of Christianity as held by all.”

Despite Spong’s denials that the Bible is inerrant, Mohler said noted that internal and external evidences point to the reliability of Scripture.

“There are good, sound, very solid reasons for believing in the veracity of Scripture, the truthfulness of Scripture,” Mohler said. “There are reasons found inside the Scripture, and there are external supports for understanding that as well.”

If the Bible is accurate, it depicts a brutal God who does not conform to accepted standards of morality, Spong said.

“Look back at the Bible for a moment,” Spong said. “In the Book of Joshua, God is said to have stopped the sun in the sky for the sole purpose of giving Joshua the ability to kill more of the Amorites. That’s hardly a noble purpose.”

Mohler responded that humans must not judge God. Instead humans must accept God’s Word and trust Him as a righteous judge, he said.

“We are in no position to judge the character of God,” Mohler said. “He is instead the One who will judge us. … It is not … my place to judge God. It is God who will judge me.”

All of history led up to the “conclusive, climactic revelation of God in Jesus Christ,” Mohler said. Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophecy and continues to save people today, he said.

Men and women must look to Jesus as the saving alternative to the postmodern denial of Christian doctrine, he said.

“We really have a choice to make,” Mohler said. “It’s between a Christianity grounded in Scripture as confessed by the saints and the Apostles throughout the centuries [or] something new that we’re going to call Christianity. I’m going to pitch my tent with the Apostles. That’s where I’m going to find my confidence.”