News Articles

Present generation must reclaim Scripture’s sufficiency, Mohler says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–After centuries of devaluing the importance of the Bible, “the sufficiency of the Word must be recovered in this generation,” President R. Albert Mohler Jr. preached Oct. 30 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
A model for such a reclamation project, Mohler argued, is Martin Luther and the other 16th-century reformers who reasserted the centrality of the Bible and ignited the Protestant Reformation in the process.
“Two centuries after the rise of the hermeneutics of suspicion, the legacy of modernity is all around us,” Mohler said. “If Scripture is just one book among other books, why order our lives according to its commands? If Scripture is just one book among other books, or even our book among other books, why stake our lives upon its truth or upon its claims to truth?”
Mohler led the seminary community in a “Reformation Day” chapel service observing the anniversary of Luther’s posting of the “Ninety-five Theses” on the Castle Church door in Wittenburg, Germany, on Oct. 31, 1517. Luther’s call for a debate on the granting of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church is dated by historians as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
Analogous to the time of the Reformation, the Bible has once again fallen on hard times in many churches, both among liberal Protestant and evangelical Christians, Mohler said.
“In many circuits of mainline Protestantism there are few pretensions of adherence to the Word and obedience to the Word as the Word of God,” Mohler said.
An example of such views can be found at Harvard University, Mohler noted.
Recounting a story from Peter Gomes new book, “The Good Book,” Mohler told how the author’s colleagues at Harvard looked with suspicion on an anonymous gift of pew Bibles for the Harvard Memorial Church soon after Gomes became its minister. “People will think that this is a fundamentalist church. If they see Bibles in the pew you will have an image problem,” Gomes quoted his colleagues as saying.
While liberal Protestants may be accused of “antipathy,” Mohler said many evangelicals are guilty of “apathy,” although they confess adherence to the Bible.
“The Word in so many evangelical churches is as silent as it is in liberal congregations,” Mohler said. Evangelicals who reject expository preaching as “too difficult, too time-consuming, too demanding for contemporary ministry,” reap a harvest of “biblical illiteracy” in their churches, he said.
Luther understood the importance of the Bible in reforming the church, Mohler said.
In 1522, five years after touching off controversy with the Roman Catholic Church, Mohler said Luther rejected arguments that reform must come through political or military force. “Christian love should not employ harshness here nor force the matter. … For it should be left to God. And his Word should be allowed to work alone without our work or interference,” Mohler said, quoting from one of Luther’s sermons.
“The Word must do this thing, and not we poor sinners. In short, I will preach it, teach it, write it, but I will constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion,” Mohler said, further quoting Luther. “I did nothing. The Word did everything. I let the Word do its work.”
Mohler noted among the charges contained in the Edict of Worms, handed down in 1521 by the Holy Roman Emperor declaring Luther a heretic, the German monk was accused of recognizing “only the authority of Scripture.”
“Brothers and sisters, at the end of our days, what an honor it would be to have it said of us, ‘We labored with him, but he recognizes only the authority of Scripture,'” Mohler said.
A “breathtaking testimony to the power and sufficiency of the Word of God,” demonstrated in the Reformation, is taught in Hebrews 4:12, Mohler noted.
The first “great truth” of the passage is that the Bible is “alive and effective,” Mohler said. Although some disparage Scripture as an “ancient relic,” the “Word of God, by definition, by the Lord’s own authority cannot return null and void,” he said.
“Too much evangelical talk about preaching assumes the presence of a great gulf between the biblical text and modern human experience. … The Word needs no bridge. There is no gulf. There may be a gulf in our understanding. There may be a gulf in our imagination. There may be a gulf in our preaching. But there is no gulf separating the Word from us. It is alive, not dead and not static. It is effective. We need not help it, assist it or build a bridge to it. We should get out of the way,” Mohler declared.
The Hebrews passage also teaches the Bible is a “sword,” Mohler said. “God’s Word is a lethal weapon. It calls forth judgment and decision.”
Mohler asked the seminarians, “How many of us preach the Word as if it is a hammer that shatters a rock?” referring to the prophet Jeremiah’s description. “So many modern preachers handle the Word as if it is a feather, rather than a hammer,” he reflected.
The Bible also “performs sovereign surgery” on souls and “penetrates us to the core,” Mohler said the Hebrews passage teaches. “We do not know ourselves like (the Bible) knows us. … We are not able to discern hearts and read souls, but the Word is able.”
Noting the Bible was the “sword of the Reformation,” Mohler asserted, “The greatest need of our churches is for a recovery of bold and declarative biblical preaching.”

    About the Author

  • James A. Smith
  • James A. Smith, Sr.
  • Sr.