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Christian light in cultural darkness
October 25, 2004
By Jeff Robinson
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. addresses the chapel audience during the seminary's annual Heritage Week Oct. 12. His sermon was entitled "Darkness at Noon." Other speakers during Heritage Week included Russell D. Moore and James Merritt. Photo by David Merrifield
Christians must prepare to withstand a pervasive darkness that is producing a post-Christian culture in America, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during his Heritage Week address Oct. 12 at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In a sermon entitled "Darkness at Noon," Southern Seminary's president preached from Joel 2 and Hebrews 12, warning listeners that America has reached a state of advanced cultural decay.
Mohler's sermon was part of Southern Seminary's annual Heritage Week observance, Oct. 11-15. The title invoked a 1940 novel by Arthur Koestler that portrays the nightmarish Soviet politics of the Russian Revolution.
"We live in a time of prosperity [but we also] live in a time of trouble," Mohler said. "I want us to see around us a darkening sky and gathering clouds. I want us to sense that something has happened, that [something] is even now happening in our culture.
"It is going to change everything that we know about min-istry in terms of the challenge before us. It is going to draw out the reality of who the church is in the midst of the gathering conflict. We no longer see the first signs of cultural trouble, but we now see indicators of advanced decay."
Mohler outlined three manifestations of the encroaching darkness. The first, he said, is the coming of a post-Christian age to America — one that mirrors the radical secularization of countries in Western Europe, where only two percent say they attend church.
Elites that govern the political, academic, entertainment, judiciary and legal spheres in America have already embraced and are aggressively advancing a post-Christian worldview, he said.
The post-Christian age is already visible in the loss of traditional definitions of truth, beauty, love, marriage and family, among other things, he said. One obvious example from pop culture is the proliferation of reality television shows that flippantly portray base and debauched behavior, he said.
"We can see the ravages of a post-Christian culture," he said. "Sacred things are profaned; they are trampled underfoot. We see the evidence in our culture, in art and music and in literature. We are a people whose cultural and moral aspirations are indicated by the Nielson ratings. We are a nation entertained by a show called 'Desperate Housewives.'"
A second manifestation is the closing of the postmodern mind in which a push for tolerance winds up being rabidly intolerant, he said. This notion has led Sweden to imprison a Christian minister for preaching a biblical sermon in which he spoke of the sinfulness of homosexuality, Mohler said.
The third manifestion — the commis-sioning of a post-compliant church — points to the Christian response to the grow--ing darkness. The church must counter the culture with biblical truth in every arena, he said, and must be prepared to confront a postmodern world on its own turf.
This task will require three levels of reordering, Mohler said: in the church, in the denomination and in the seminary.
In the church, ministers must thoroughly equip believers through an unwavering commitment to biblical preaching.
"It is biblical preaching that will fuel evangelism," Mohler said. "It is biblical preaching that will produce missionary fervor. It is biblical preaching that will explain how the Holy Spirit of God will apply the Word of God to the hearts of people so that they will [not only] know what marriage is, but they will live what marriage is and raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
"They [must] know the truth and stand in the truth and testify to the truth and always be ready to give an answer to the hope that is within them. That is only going to come if they are taught and fed, and that will only happen if the pulpits in America center in the preaching of God's Word."
In the Southern Baptist Convention, leaders must encourage local churches to work together and encourage each other to be a pillar and buttress of biblical truth. As the cultural skies darken, Mohler predicts a rebirth of cooperation among Baptist churches.
"We have to get ready for a day when our statistical reports may not be what they always have been," he said. "Because there is going to come a day when we find out how many we really are, and it's not 16 million. I don't know how many we are. I do know this: If there came a day when officials showed up and said, 'It's going to cost you a thousand dollars a year of tax to be a member of this church,' we'd find out how many members we have.
"I think we are going to see in the age to come a true revival of Baptist associationalism, when congregations are going to band together in this hostile environment and say, 'How are we going to encourage each other rightly to preach the Word, rightly to order our ministries, [and] rightly to be bold?'"
Seminaries must train up ministers who are willing to be face intense persecution for the sake of the Gospel because the post-Christian culture will grow increasingly strident in its hatred for the Gospel, he said.
"I think Southern Seminary's great challenge right now — not in some long distant future, not one day, someday, but right now — to do everything we can as a seminary, as a faculty, as a community, to train, to educate, to encourage and to inspire a generation that may very well go to jail for preaching the Gospel," he said.