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Mohler: Humble messengers needed for a bold message
February 05, 2003
By Michael Foust
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. calls for bold "Christian truth-telling" in his spring convocation message. Photo by David Merrifield
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The world needs more Christians who will humbly stand up for biblical truth and courageously confront the issues of the day, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Jan. 28.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president, speaking at spring convocation, said Christians should follow the apostle Paul's example as found in Acts 20:18-31. It is there that Paul tells the elders of Ephesus that he did not hold back in declaring "the whole purpose of God."
"This requires courage," Mohler said. "It requires time. It requires wisdom."
Mohler said that year by year an increasing number of basic Christian beliefs are mocked. It is difficult to explain to someone the plan of salvation, he noted, if they refuse to believe in sin.
"The task of Christian truth-telling in this age leads to social awkwardness," he said. "... It leads to intellectual scorn.
"[Some people] look at you as if to say, 'You'll grow out of this one day. We all did. Civilization has. You're just a little late.'"
Some pastors, he said, are preaching a "half gospel" to congregations starving for truth.
"You can't tell the whole truth in every sermon," Mohler said. "You can't do it all in one day. It's over the course of a ministry. ... The temptation for most of us is to try to get people to where they will not be offended when we get to [a particular text]."
Speaking truth in today's world will lead to criticism, Mohler said, pointing to recent examples in which the Southern Baptist Convention has been the source of controversy.
In 1998, the SBC added an article on the family to its statement of belief, the Baptist Faith and Message. Convention supporters said it reflected a biblical model of marriage, but critics said it reeked of sexism. Mohler said his wife, Mary, a member of the committee that drafted the family amendment, received many media calls -- including one all the way from Australia. Mohler said the interviewer viewed the statement as bizarre and primitive.
Similar criticism followed when the convention adopted the 2000 BF&M as well as when it passed a resolution supporting Jewish evangelism, Mohler said.
He told how he was recently confronted with a simple question during a television debate. The question: What if you're wrong?
"If we are wrong, then we are so wrong that the damage is incalculable," Mohler said. "If we are wrong, then we are so wrong that we are promising heaven to people on false promises.
"... If it's based upon a false promise, then we're fools. If we're wrong, then we're so wrong that we repress people. If we're wrong, we're wrong about God having given us a law, and we're wrong about what we understand to be sin."
But if evangelicals are right, Mohler said, then they "have no real options" other than to stand up for truth.
"If we have a sure and certain foundation for what we believe and what we teach, then the only question is whether we'll be faithful or unfaithful in the teaching," he said. "The only question is whether we'll be bold or hesitant in the telling."
The controversies, Mohler said, boil down to one central issue -- the doctrine of revelation.
"It all really comes down to whether God has spoken," he said. "Because if God has spoken and we know that he has spoken, and he has spoken to us in this Word ... then we are obligated for the teaching and telling of it."
A model for bold "truth-telling," Mohler said, is the apostle Paul, who never shied away from tackling a controversial subject.
"The pastor's, preacher's, teacher's first responsibility is to feed the flock of God," he said. "We have to decide whether we're going to feed the flock the whole meal or whether we're going to try to be a theological dietician.
"It is not loving to withhold truth for fear of truth that hurts or truth that may even offend."
But the minister must also proclaim the truth to the world.
"The apostle Paul did not direct his ministry only to the church of God," Mohler said. "[He also proclaimed it] in the public square, as he was habitually in his missionary travels in the marketplace [and] as he was contending for Christianity as a public truth.
"We want the world to hear us speak of the gospel, and we must go out into the world and tell the gospel."
That gospel message must be proclaimed with humility, Mohler said, citing Acts 20:19 where Paul says he serves the Lord "with all humility."
"It is to be the humility of the person, not the humility of the message," Mohler said. "Unfortunately, in the Christian ministry, somehow in our own sinfulness we are prone to be humble about the message and rather un-humble about the person."
Like the apostle Paul, ministers must preach the gospel even when no one is listening, Mohler said.
"When we face the Judge as pastors, as teachers, as evangelists, as missionaries, the question for us is not going to be, 'Did they receive it?' The question for us is going to be, 'Did we tell?'" he said.
Mohler read Acts 20:26, where Paul says that because of his faithful proclamation he is "innocent of the blood of all men."
"The judgment of the non-responsiveness to the gospel ... is either going to be justly laid at the responsibility of the preacher, the teacher, the teller or upon the hearer," Mohler said.
"At the end of the day, will we be innocent of the blood of all men?"