This year's Shepherd's Conference at Grace Community Church included a number of sessions that dealt with the worldliness found in evangelicalism -- another surprise -- and perhaps I'll explore some of those later after I've discovered everything covered at the conference. For instance, Phil Johnson treats the "young, restless, and reformed," while Nathan Busnitz confronts "evangelicalism's quest for popular acceptance." For the next couple of days, however, I want to work my way through Mohler's presentation. I've listened once to his whole seminar, so I'm going to provide an overall evaluation in this post. I will get into detail in the very near future.
For those of you who do not know, Albert Mohler is the now long time president of the flagship seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Albert Mohler himself is often referred to as the intellectual leader of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is not his first foray into teaching on separation. Mohler became well known for his essay and instruction about what he called a "theological triage." In the 2005 article, you won't find the word "separation" anywhere. Later in 2011, Mohler contributed a considerable portion of Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism, where he essentially distinguished his position from those of fundamentalism over the doctrine of separation. Again, Mohler didn't talk specifically about separation, except where he criticized the chapter written by the fundamentalist, Kevin Bauder.
In The Dividing Line, Mohler does approach the doctrine of ecclesiastical separation. When he says, "dividing," he does mean "separating." In his presentation, Mohler sounds like a traditional fundamentalist. Many fundamentalists would really enjoy what he had to say. He represented fundamentalist style separation in his speech like I have never heard an evangelical address the issue. It was fascinating in that way to hear an evangelical, even though a conservative evangelical, talk about the subject.
I rejoiced to hear Mohler speak on separation. I was glad that evangelicals are at least encouraging separation and giving some kind of instruction on it. I think everyone should be happy for this step taken by an evangelical. What do I think of what he said?
Overall, the presentation was terrible for many reasons. First, his presentation was not biblical. He did not report what the Bible teaches on the subject (which you could get if you read the book, A Pure Church). You will not get ecclesiastical separation correct if you do not look at what the Bible says about it. People need biblical instruction and he does not give it. That is very sad. I started to listen to the panel discussion from the conference and in it the three panelists talked about theology. John MacArthur said you must start with biblical theology before you move to systematic. I heard the other speakers, "Amen." Mohler does not start with biblical theology, so he failed there. He talked for over an hour and did not give biblical teaching, where the Bible is rich with teaching on this subject.
Second, Mohler doesn't even practice what he teaches in his own session. If he did practice what he taught, he would need to leave the Southern Baptist Convention. I have not heard that he has done that yet.
Third, Mohler gives no justification for his conclusions than his own seat-of-the-pants theology and his own philosophy. Maybe that's good enough for that audience. I would hope not. However, it is not unusual for evangelicals to seek biblical exposition on many different subjects, but look for some kind of pragmatism on the doctrine of separation. How could anyone who claims to be biblical sit through that session and either agree or enjoy it?
I could give some more minor criticisms of Mohler's presentation. I recognize that from the three points, one would think I didn't like what he said. I didn't, but I was glad that the conference and Mohler tried to say something about it. Mohler did edge and dance around the subject without really teaching it.
I believe that the reason we're hearing finally and now on separation is because of the same sex marriage issue. We're seeing same sex marriage accepted in churches. Many are starting to pull separation out of the mothballs because they can see they might need it as a tool in their toolbox, just to preserve a certain proximity to the status quo.
Mohler makes some very strong statements. It's hard to think he believes some of what he states. Do evangelicals really believe what he says? I know they don't practice what he says. I would be hard pressed to find one evangelical in the world who practices some of what Mohler said. I'll tell you what those statements were when I provide my analysis here in the next few days.