From time to time at Pulpit & Pen, we employ a term of our own invention: website orthodox. This term is used to describe a Christian
public figure whose confession of faith (as published on his website) meets the standard of Christian orthodoxy but whose behavior does not reflect biblical fidelity. Andy Stanley’s picture is printed next to this term in the dictionary of our minds. Today I introduce another term: Al Mohler Orthodox. This term is used to describe a Christian public figure whose confession of faith and public pronouncements reflect whatever is currently popular in his own denomination (and most lucrative for his career).
Albert Mohler is the long-time President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, but he’s much more than that. He is a Southern Baptist figurehead, a luminary of the denomination. He is, as demonstrated by his blog and daily podcast, a well-read and brilliant man with communication skills which are second to none. For a long time his statements effectively served as canon for reformed blogs and discernment sites like this one. I’ve hardly leveled a criticism against the worldwide disaster that is Hillsong without citing Albert Mohler’s opinion of that organization:
It’s a prosperity movement for the millennials in which the polyester and middle-class associations of Oral Roberts have given way to ripped jeans and sophisticated rock music.https://albertmohler.com/2019/02/16/cool-church-question/
Over the years Pulpit & Pen has levied criticism after criticism at Baptist leaders, moving from website orthodox megachurch decisionists to reformed and reformedish preachers such as John Piper and Matt Chandler. I used to jokingly wonder, after Pulpit & Pen took aim at yet another popular Bible teacher, “Who are we going to go after next, Al Mohler?”
Well, here we are.
As Southern Baptist and wider evangelical culture becomes ever more culturally progressive, it’s hard not to see the political maneuvering of Al Mohler and think, “Is Mohler turning to the left?” If he is, it wouldn’t be the first time he has taken a turn. There was a time when Mohler was a moderate. He is currently known as the conservative seminary president who purged the most liberal of SBC institution of its liberal theology professors (male and female), but in 1984 a young Al Mohler was ardently opposed to the complimentarian position. In fact, when the SBC adopted a resolution against women in the pastorate, Al Mohler very publicly opposed it. In 1984, it was not yet clear that Paige Patterson’s (now historic) plan to wrest the SBC from liberal control would be a success. By the time that Al Mohler adopted complimentarianism, the position of the conservatives, there was little doubt that Patterson’s conservative resurgence would be a success. Mohler’s timely flip-flop on the issue at SBTS is well-documented in 1997 PBS documentation Battle of the Minds.
Nearly three decades have passed since the conveniently and newly conservative Al Mohler took over SBTS and rid the institution of abject heretics like Molly T. Marshall. Some may have forgotten Mohler’s timely zig-zag. It’s important not to in light of more recent behavior from Mohler.
First, there is the matter of what has been called in The Wall Street Journal the SBC’s “softening tone on homosexuality“. At a 2014 ERLC Conference on the subject of homosexuality and marriage (at which homosexuals were invited to converse with Southern Baptists) Mohler stated:
Now early in this controversy, I felt it quite necessary, in order to make clear the gospel, to deny anything like a sexual orientation. And speaking at an event of the National Association of Evangelicals twenty-something years ago, I made that point. I repent of that.https://pulpitandpen.org/2014/12/10/the-curious-case-of-al-mohler/
Twenty-something years ago, it was a lot easier (just like it was easier to support female pastors in 1984) in evangelical and wider society to take a position like the one Al Mohler repented of, one might even take such a position to cheers. When the culture shifted, so too did Al Mohler. Five years later, Mohler again shifted in the face of cultural pressure. Recently, Mohler released a statement apologizing for his long-time support of embattled pastor C.J. Mahaney. For years Mahaney’s Calvinistic religious organization, Sovereign Grace, has been embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal. For years, Al Mohler has supported and partnered with Mahaney. When the #MeToo movement and scathing report on sexual abuse in the SBC was published by The Houston Chronicle this month, it didn’t take long for Mohler to distance himself from Mahaney.
I’m not saying that the man is blown about by every wind of doctrine, but I am making the case that one of the SBC’s most stalwart and powerful figures is “Al Mohler Orthodox.”
In times like these, a faithful denomination needs a man with the conviction to lead, not the conviction to flip.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.