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Scriptural authority, not culture, defines theology, Mohler declares

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Theological controversies within the Christian church — such as the debate over open theism — underscore the importance of scriptural authority in an ever-changing culture, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Aug. 28 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s fall convocation.

Mohler, the seminary’s president, made his comments just minutes after four faculty members signed the Abstract of Principles, the seminary’s statement of belief. The document, which is more than 140 years old, includes the signatures of such Southern Baptist forefathers as James P. Boyce and John A. Broadus and has been signed by every tenured professor in the seminary’s history.

Mohler used the signing to stress the importance of holding firm to the Word of God in a world of social change. The history of liberal Protestantism, he said, is an example of what can happen when secular beliefs creep into the church.

“Evangelicals in general — and Southern Baptists in particular — had better pay close attention to this pattern” he said. “This kind of alarm is often met with bemusement and dismissed as hyperbole, but the nagging reality of what theological seminaries can become and can destroy is affirmed by history and seen in the ruins of churches once faithful [but] now empty.”

Noting that some evangelicals today present the same arguments that were once only made by liberals, Mohler said that open theism — a fairly new theological system of belief — should not go unanswered. In general, open theists limit God’s omniscience by arguing that he does not have a complete knowledge of the future.

“With breathtaking arrogance, these theologians claim that God is so glorious that he does not have to be omniscient, which is akin to arguing that the Titanic was so glorious that it didn’t have to float,” said Mohler, who was preaching from Romans 11:33-12:2. “The God of the Bible is not standing by with ‘Plan B’ when ‘Plan A’ fails. He knows all things. He even foreknows all things.

“Theologians may debate how the divine foreknowledge is linked to the divine will, but never has any orthodox Christian theologian argued that God’s omniscience is partial, limited or blind.”

Because of such contemporary debates, theological education stands at what Mohler called a “crossroads.”

“There are inescapable choices to be made,” he said, “and these choices will determine whether evangelical institutions will remain recognizably Christian or will fall into the same pattern of intellectual, theological and moral collapse seen in so many colleges, universities and divinity schools.”

Mohler said that those who teach and study in evangelical institutions should take to heart the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 12:2, where he writes, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Mohler said that those who conform to the world are in essence taking the easy path.

“Swimming against the tide is tiresome and it is intellectually demanding,” he said. “Going with the flow of the dominant culture is the easiest option. But this is not an option for living sacrifices. We must stand on biblical truth, reason through the complexities of thought and out-think the opposition.”

Danger exists on both sides of academic preparation, Mohler noted. On one side, there is intellectual pride. On the other side, there is intellectual laziness.

“There is no room for anti-intellectualism in the Christian life, and there is no room for intellectual egotism and pride,” he said. “We are to have the mind of Christ, and this certainly requires us to think. The anti-intellectualism of contemporary evangelicalism has led to nothing less than unconditional surrender. We have left generations of young Christians unequipped for the battle of the mind, and the losses are staggering.”

Knowledge, Mohler said, is needed to confront an ever-changing culture. He pointed out that the apostle Paul warned against the hazards of cultural conformity.

“The current proletariat of the academic culture demands naturalism and excludes supernaturalism,” he said. “All views are tolerated except any view that will not tolerate all views and call all things true. Postmodernism has degenerated into a circus of moral relativism, sexuality majors, gender feminism, semiotics and fictionalized history.”

Instead of being captive to the culture, Mohler argued, Christians should be captive to the Word of God.

“Our captivity to the Word of God is a scandal to the secular culture and among the Christians enamored with that culture,” he said. “The secular intellectuals are blind to their own intellectual captivity to the spirit of the age. We must wear our captivity to the Word of God as a badge of intellectual honor and integrity.”

Before Mohler spoke, four tenured professors joined him on the platform to sign the Abstract of Principles: Theodore Cabal, professor of Christian philosophy; James Parker, professor of worldview and culture; Sandra Turner, associate professor of church music and worship; and Brad Waggoner, associate professor and dean of the School of Christian Education and Leadership.

Chapel messages can be heard on the seminary’s website at http://www.sbts.edu/news/audio/speakers.html
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: READY TO LEARN and SIGNING IN.

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  • Michael Foust