Mohler Calls Tim Keller’s Brand of Social Justice “Toxic.” Supports it anyway.

Recently in a Q&A with students, Albert Mohler explained his stance on Social Justice, now pushed heavily by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and basically anyone within Albert Mohler’s sphere of influence. Only seven short years ago, Mohler was against Social Justice and took the negative side of the debate with Jim Wallis, arguing that it is not a priority of the church. Today, Mohler’s stance has radically shifted.

Mohler sought to explain that there were two basic kinds of Social Justice, one of which is bad, and one is good. The bad side of Social Justice are those of the radical left, who Mohler identified as the “left wing of Marxism” and identified the Frankfurt School as a progenitor of those ideas. There is another side to Social Justice, Mohler goes on to argue, implicitly the evangelicals who have become recently “woke” and received their passion from the Bible rather than from the leftist Frankfurt School.

Mohler said:

There are two concepts of Social Justice out there, and have been from the very beginning. The one that’s getting a lot of attention right now is a notion of social justice that is rooted in what is basically a Marxist source and explicitly you can draw a line. As a teenager, I was having to look at these issues and grapple with them because the New Left, as it emerged in the 60′ and 70’s, was emerging as I was a young person. And as a Christian apologist, very young Christian, trying to think these things through, this New Left Marxism was right in my face and right in the classroom where I was taught. And, it’s a very toxic worldview…Critical Theory, the Frankfurt  School, coming out of the left wing of Marxism in Europe was basically – and this is key – a repudiation of consensual politics.

You can watch the video below. Start at about the 25-minute mark.

Within several minutes, Mohler makes the statement cited above, clarifying plainly that the Frankfurt School of Marxism is the bad side of Social Justice. He clearly juxtapositions the radical left out of the Frankfurt School with the focus of those like Tim Keller, Russell Moore and the Gospel Coalition. In fact, Mohler goes on in this video to cite Tim Keller as an example of the good side of Social Justice as an exemplar of what we should emulate.

Mohler, speaking of the good side of Social Justice, claims that these men take their philosophy from the Bible. Speaking of laws relating to justice in Deuteronomy, Mohler says:

That did not come from the Frankfurt School, nor from the New Left, but from trying to translate Deuteronomy…Do I believe in Social Justice in the Marxist version? No. And I will fight that with every fiber of my being…

However, what I find hard to believe Mohler doesn’t know, is that Tim Keller is a proud product of the Frankfurt School of Marxism. Keller doesn’t hide his allegiance to the Frankfurt School or its pivotal influence during an impressional period of his life. Keller is boldly, radically, and proudly aligned with the Frankfurt School, which Mohler calls, “toxic.”

In The Reason for God (2008), Keller divulges that the Frankfurt School and Neo-Marxists had a profound influence on his thinking. He claimed – and I quote – to have been, “heavily influenced by the neo-Marxist critical theory of the Frankfurt School.

This is the kind of Social Justice that Mohler said he would spend every fiber of his being fighting.

As one researcher put it “Keller closes [his book] The Reason for God hoping his readers will become ‘true revolutionaries’ and will ‘go from here’ into churches that are devoted to actions of social justice. He seeks to spawn the realization of the ‘desperate need’ he felt as a college student ‘to find a group of Christians who had a concern for justice in the world but who grounded it in the nature of God rather than in their own subjective feelings’ (link).”

[Tim] Kauffman writes in his two-part article at The Trinity Review in reference to Keller, “There is one high-profile Marxist who is particularly effective at repackaging Marxism for a Christian audience, but due to his ability to disguise his economic philosophy, he is largely flying ‘under the radar’.” 

And again:

It may come as a surprise to his conservative evangelical readers that Tim Keller’s recent book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, is simply a recapitulation of Marx’s theory of alienation, and that Keller’s solution to the problem of alienation is indistinguishable from Marx’s. It will surprise his readers to know that Keller’s theory of wages is derived from Marxism. It will surprise his readers to know that when Keller recommends modern examples of churches that implement a Christian economic ideal, he identifies churches and organizations that are thoroughly Marxist, and are inspired by leftist Saul Alinsky, the author of Rules for Radicals. In this article, we will review Keller’s words and his sources to establish his economic theory. What we shall find is a consistent call for a transition from a capitalist economy to a socialist economy through class struggle based on Marxist principles—all cloaked in the language of Biblical Christianity.

Again, Kauffman apprises us of the boldy Marxist influence in Keller’s work. In Keller’s book, Generous Justice, he explains that Gustavo Gutierrez had a profound influence on his thinking. Keller writes in Generous Justice:

This emphasis in the Bible has led some, like Latin American theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez, to speak of God’s ‘preferential option for the poor’.[16] At first glance this seems to be wrong, especially in light of passages in the Mosaic Law that warn against giving any preference to rich or poor. (Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:16-17) Yet the Bible says that God is the defender of the poor; it never says he is the defender of the rich.

Gutierrez is a Jesuit Priest and the founder of the Marxist Liberation Theology Movement. And Gutierrez is Keller’s muse.

Similarly, again as Kauffman points out, Keller claims to have been heavily influenced by Reinhold Niebuhr, author of The Nature and Destiny of Man. Neibuhr argued that socialism and Marxism are intrinsically tied to a theistic – and even a Biblical – worldview. Keller embraces Niebuhr in his book, In Every Good Endeavor.

Keep in mind that Tim Keller is co-founder of The Gospel Coalition. Tim Keller is who Albert Mohler claims is doing Social Justice right, taking ideology from the Bible rather than from Marxists, Neo-Leftists and the Frankfurt School. As has been thoroughly documented, Tim Keller claims otherwise. Tim Keller is the one who self-identifies as a student of these Marxist ideologues.

Tim Keller’s brand of Social Justice was called “toxic” by Albert Mohler. Albert Mohler said he would fight that brand of Social Justice with every fiber of his being.

Albert Mohler may not keep his word, but we should.


For more information and indisputable citations of Keller – in his own words – espousing the ideas of the Frankfurt School and credit it with his ideology – read this from The New Calvinist and this (thoroughly researched and cited, with 110 footnotes) from Tim Kauffman at The Trinity Foundation.