Mohler on the Future of the SBC

Very few men could carry the mantle “elder statesman of the Southern Baptist Convention,” but I heard one today. Dr. Albert Mohler held a forum on the campus of Southern Seminary on the future of the Southern Baptist Convention. He delivered an address that he recently gave at the first meeting of the Great Commission Task Force (audio, video). This is the most lucid analysis that I have heard of the current state of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Mohler tackles the big questions that every single Southern Baptist should be wrestling with. You need to hear this one.


33 Responses to Mohler on the Future of the SBC

  1. Denise M. August 19, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

    Listened to it, loved it, it was incredible! Def. worth sharing.

  2. Matt Svoboda August 19, 2009 at 7:09 pm #

    Mohler is one of the smartest men on the earth, but he sure is boring to listen to.. At least he is a little better live.

    While he was boring, he had a lot of great things to say and he was very challenging for the whole SBC.

  3. volfan007 August 20, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    I have a question for yall. Should the Church be culturally relevant, or should we be counter cultural? Will people be thirsty for the Gospel if we are like them, or if we are wonderfully different than them?

    And, the Early Church was different than the world. In fact, they were called peculiar, strange, different. They were more concerned with being holy and preaching the Gospel. So, how does our modern day Churches quest to be relevant jive with the way the Early Church operated? And, who did the most good for the Kingdom of God?


  4. David Rogers August 20, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    The Early church was “more concerned with being holy and preaching the Gospel.”

    They also neglected/ignored ministering to people based on ethnic-cultural grounds (Acts 6); they disagreed with one another on restoration of people (Paul-Barnabas) they were hyper-biblicist (the circumcision party), hyper-ecstatic as a substitution for true Spirituality (the Corinthians); they were supportive of one preacher over another (the Corinthians again); they were enamored with their successes (the Laodicean church) and so on and so on.

    There is no such thing as a non-culture affected church. Every human being is born into and shaped by a culture and even after conversion that culture’s shaping influence still functions within and on them. Biblical revelation and Spirit-filled guidance should shape and hone and tone and tone down some of the cultural influences but there is not even one instance of a total cultural erasure in any believer.

    Counter-culture or relevant to culture in some ways boil down to the same thing. Every counter-cultural movement is actually relevant to another species of culture. The key is whether the church will be submitted to the Spirit in its historicized living within the cultures into which it has been sovereignly placed by God to be interactive among.

  5. David Rogers August 20, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    By the way, I haven’t listend to Dr. Mohler yet so my comments are not reactive to anything he may have said or neglected to say.

  6. David August 20, 2009 at 7:02 pm #

    David (volfan),

    I understand what you are getting at, but I think Dr. Mohler addressed that concern. WHAT we need to reach people with is the gospel, and Mohler knows that and fights for it better than anybody I know. The question he was facing in his talk was HOW we reach them.

    It may have been after the talk when he was answering questions (I have heard the q & a unfortunately didn’t make the recording), but he said we shouldn’t get our practices from business and/or retail, but there are things we can learn from them.

  7. volfan007 August 21, 2009 at 11:33 am #

    It seems odd to me that a five point Calvinist would say what Dr. Mohler said. If someone depends on the Providence of God, as five pointers claim to do, and they depend on the working of the Holy Spirit in salvation, as they say that they do; then how does the statements that Dr. Mohler said jive with these beliefs?


  8. Nathan August 21, 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    What particular points of Dr. Mohler’s conversation are you speaking about?

  9. volfan007 August 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm #


    Well, that we would have to change if we want to be more attractive to the lost crowd would be one. That the change is needed if we expect to not die? I mean, how does the SBC needing to become younger and appeal to the younger, or else die play out with the view that five point Calvinist say that they have about the providence of God? And, how does the make the Churches more attractive, get away from the 1950’s view of Church in order to reach the crowd of today play out with the five point Calvinists view of election and the working of the Holy Spirit in salvaion?

    I really do not understand how Dr. Mohler could make such assertions, and others, and it jive with five point, reformed theology. And, I never thought that I would ever hear Dr. Mohler say such things.

    Can anyone help me understand this?


  10. Nathan August 21, 2009 at 1:28 pm #


    I won’t presume to speak for Dr. Mohler, but evaluating the convention’s previous model (programatic cradle-to-grave philosphy) with a culture that looks far less like the 50s and 60s doesn’t have to have a disreguard for Reformed Theology, does it? I would also think that Reformed philosophy is not so dogmatic that churches should not have to come together and discuss how to reach their community (albiet through the power of the Spirir).

    I won’t put words into your mouth, but your comments could be taken to say that “God will save the heathen when He is ready.” William Carey had a plan and a vision to reach the lost although he went into that mission through the power of the Spirit and in the sovereignty and grace of God.

    I took Mohler’s comments more as a charge to not be satisfied in our past, not to assume today is like yesterday, but to prepare for an ever-changing future. I did not take his comments to say that any of this will occur outside the sovereignty of God nor that we could win souls for the Lord apart from the Spirit’s calling.

    However I would agree that we must be very careful in making any plans that are deisgned merely to appease the culture. But I don’t think he was going in that direction.

  11. volfan007 August 21, 2009 at 3:32 pm #


    So, are you saying that five point, reformed, Calvinist beleive that we can change the way we do Church, and it will lead us to reach more people for Christ by doing so?

    That, if we change the way we do SB work, that it will lead us to win more people for Christ in foreign lands?

    That there is something that WE CAN DO to bring more people into the kingdom of God?

    That there are things that…if we dont do…that those lost people wont get saved?

    And, is that not what Dr. Mohler was saying in this speech?


  12. T August 21, 2009 at 4:09 pm #


    I really fail to see how the Reformed theology issue is relevant to Dr. Mohler’s talk at all. It sounds to me like you are using his statements to pick a bone with a theological view you disagree with. I could be wrong. Nevertheless, I don’t care to engage you on this point, so this is all I have to say in hopes that you really are simply curious:

    There’s a tension within Scripture between human responsibility/action/agency and God’s sovereignty/will/providence. The best Reformed theologians recognize this tension and live within it. It’s a mystery that no one in the history of the church has resolved.

    Dr. Mohler is living within the tension. Yes, we need to change our methods. We need to take the gospel to places it has not been taken. We need to tell people about Jesus Christ who have never heard. If massive changes are what’s required to make this happen, then at the end of time, we’ll look back and recognize God’s providence directing these changes. But the changes won’t take place if we sit in front of our computers and debate the merits of Calvinism.

    A true Reformed view of providence makes people humble after, rather than lazy before, the fact.

  13. Andrew August 21, 2009 at 5:00 pm #


    Because someone believes in the Five Points of Calvinism and God’s sovereignty, doesn’t mean they are off the hook. That’s just an all too common mis-characterization of Calvinism.

    I would say Mohler’s belief probably runs more along these lines: God is sovereign to save those He chooses (Eph 1:4). Christians are the means God uses to save (Rom 10:14). God is not surprised by our failures or our successes, since every good work we do was prepared beforehand for us (Eph 2:10). Whatever Christians choose to do or don’t do to share the Gospel was already within God’s sovereign plan. Therefore, we should continue to pursue ways to be faithful to the Great Commissions, believing that God will sovereignly use and bless our efforts because He is the architect.

  14. David Rogers August 21, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    I am no Calvinist. And I have not listened to Dr. Mohler’s talk . . . yet (but I did read the Baptist Press write up on it). And I’m sure I will find something to disagree about since I find him flat wrong on many things (Calvinism, for one).

    But should one listen to the lost or make the Gospel relevant or change the way we do the institutional display of the Gospel (i.e. “do Church”) so that God is manifestly glorified within the time in history and society that he has placed the Church and also made understandable to the lost to whom we should witness? We want God to be glorified not only by first century people but also for the glory of God to be recognized by those living now. We listen to the society in which people live now and say God’s way is more glorious and surpasses their limited understanding. But we start where they are (Paul on the Areopagus started with basic Greco-Roman philosophical/religious understandings and was in the process of moving to a full bore Gospel presentation when he was stopped. But he apparently had listened enough to know how to start speaking to them.)

    We speak the Gospel in English to English speaking people because God has saved us within a culture of English speaking-ness. We don’t invite the lost to learn the original cultural language of the Gospel we have in the New Testament (Koine Greek). Many of us believers won’t even conform to the cultural language into which and through which God sovereignly inspired the Scriptures. We gloss over that. We think we are being fully “biblical” and the Gospel some of us preach comes through the barrier of English translation. (I’m not demeaning translations, far from it, but merely recognizing that it is not so easy to say we just need to preach the Bible when the Bible itself was in three foreign languages and semantically conformed to past cultures and societies that we ARE NOT replicating in our twenty-first societies and cultures and “just Bible preaching” churches. I’m not saying we should become first century Palestinian or Greco-Roman followers of Jesus. I’m saying we should recognize that we are acculturated in our own culture already and must demonstrate the Gospel as 21st century persons to 21st century persons without denying what God seems to desire to reveal to all cultures and societies across the centuries.)

    Should we be like the Early Church? The Didache, which claims to communicate the tradition of the apostles, indicates that baptism should be done preferably with cold water. Who’s going to tear out the water heaters in the baptistry? In the culture of the early church, the women covered their heads, should we be like them?

    All of our actions today even in some truly Bible preaching churches are conformed to some version of some culture that is non-biblical (U. S. flags in the sanctuary, for example). The question is what hermeneutic does one apply to decide to which culture does one conform, to which culture does one counter propose, to which culture does one transform, to which culture does one give as an alternate?

    Whatever culture we say the Church should be like, I guarantee it will NOT be like the culture of the early church, nor can it, nor should it.

    The Gospel has always been acculturated. It always will be. The incarnation is the reason why.

  15. David Rogers August 21, 2009 at 5:38 pm #

    Here’s a link to an article that addresses some of what I was trying to say.

  16. volfan007 August 22, 2009 at 1:17 am #


    What I am asking is how does what Dr. Mohler said in this speech go along with HIS five point Calvinism? How can HE…Dr. Mohler…say the things he did, and it fit with his five point Calvinistic theology. That’s what I’m trying to understand.

    How does this speech about being culturally relevant jive with his theology? It doesnt sound like a five point Calvinist talking here.


  17. David Rogers August 22, 2009 at 1:34 am #

    A culturally relevantly communicated Gospel makes the point that the glory of God shines on all human societies and cultures. God creatively interacts in all stages of human history and shines forth his glory in whatever society and culture comes about. The message of God’s revelation comes to every society and His glory is able to address that society in a way that the people of that society can see its relevance for their lives. It transcends their culture and also strangely seems to be more organic to it than they ever imagined. One should seek cultural relevance in order to juxtapose the message of the Gospel to the culture and thus reveal that the Gospel does indeed address what the human culture is truly longing for in its creative fumblings.

    Mohler may not have said it this way but I think that this would be consistent with a Calvinist vision. While I’m not a Calvinist on the specifics of conversion to Christ, the Reformed emphasis on the glory of God does have some positive theological insights (but then again, those insights are not unique to the Reformed perspective anyway).

    Thus, it is not necessarily a matter of becoming culturally relevant to get people saved but more of becoming culturally relevant in demonstrating the glory of God among a particular lost cultured people and showing God’s glory even to their permutations of living.

    Any Calvinist here is welcome to correct my suppositions here.

  18. David Rogers August 22, 2009 at 1:44 am #

    Calvinism isn’t centered in the mission of saving the lost which the five points addressed; it is centered in the displaying of God’s glory in all of creation. The five points only serve as one of God’s means for glorifying himself. Cultural relevance is more about the glory of God being displayed in its addressing of that culture than it is in the saving of individuals, although the elect of that culture are saved during that particular means.

    Once again, I note that I am not a Calvinist but I am supposing that one might try this as an explanation.

    Calvinists, please correct, amend, rebuke what I’ve explained in your name.

  19. volfan007 August 22, 2009 at 10:06 am #

    David Rogers,

    I dont think that you are answering what I’m asking.


  20. David Rogers August 22, 2009 at 11:56 am #


    Sorry about that.

    I think I’m trying to say that Mohler’s Calvinistic motivation is not rooted in attempting to persuade people to get saved by being culturally relevant, but that the Church should be culturally relevant because it is one of the ways that God is glorified more, and one of the means through which the present day elect come to Christ in their own specific time period and societal/cultural background. While I disagree with Mohler’s views on the nature of the elect, I think he can make a consistent case within his Calvinistic framework and his call for cultural relevancy.

    Of course, I could be wrong.

    David Rogers

  21. volfan007 August 22, 2009 at 1:30 pm #


    Thanks. Now, I understand what you’re trying to say. I still cant see how Dr. Mohler’s statement, speech, jives with his view of election and predestination.


  22. Andrew August 22, 2009 at 4:08 pm #


    I believe Mohler would consider himself a compatibilist. This means that God’s sovereignty and human free will are two sides of the same coin. One does not overrule the other. Our fidelity to the Great Commission is a matter of obedience/disobedience, but there should be no denying that it is well within the realm of God’s sovereign plan. The issue with seeing it any other way, is that we begin to see our works apart from God’s sovereignty and attempt to take credit ourselves. The Calvinist gives credit where credit is due; to our great God. He has prepared the works for us to walk in.

    I don’t think Dr. Mohler is speaking so much about being “culturally relevant” per se, as much as much as saying we should not cling to an outdated and irrelevant paradigm and pretend it is the only biblical way to do/be the Church.

  23. volfan007 August 22, 2009 at 11:03 pm #


    I’m not a five point Calvinist, and I believe what you just said.


  24. Andrew August 22, 2009 at 11:54 pm #


    You might be a Calvinist and don’t even know it. 🙂 I think a lot of people get turned off to Calvinism by poor explanations (and demonstrations) by Calvinists or straw man arguments from opponents. Maybe you have a similar experience…

  25. volfan007 August 23, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    I have been talking to another five point Calvinist about this on another blog. The explanation from that blog…from different ones…was that the reason that Dr. Mohler could probably say this is because he believes that God ordains the means, as well as the end. In other words, if the SBC changes things, or Churches change some things in order to reach more people, then it was God who ordained the changes in order to reach more people.

    Of course, the filp side to this would be…if the SBC does not make changes, do five pointers beleive that God ordained that the SBC die? Or, if churche wont make changes, that God ordained that those Churches would die?


  26. volfan007 August 23, 2009 at 11:45 am #


    Another thing. Those of us who are not five point Calvinist and you five pointers are probably closer in theology than most people realize. It’s the minor points of theology where we disagree…until someone makes the minor points into a huge deal.

    I do not believe in limited atonement, nor in irresistible grace.


  27. David Rogers August 23, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

    Volfan David,

    “Of course, the flip side to this would be…if the SBC does not make changes, do five pointers believe that God ordained that the SBC die? Or, if churches won’t make changes, that God ordained that those Churches would die?”

    Here is where we, you and I, agree. This is one of the problems I also have with Calvinism, and I await to have a Calvinist respond to this question. And if churches don’t respond to this impetus, God wanted them not to respond. If he wanted them to respond, they would. He is glorified and ordained their non-response and their decline and he is glorified and ordained their response and increase.

    David Rogers (not Adrian’s son)

  28. Andrew August 23, 2009 at 2:48 pm #


    I think you are right that we are often closer than we think, but I think many times also that we tend to fight against sound doctrine until God reveals it in our own lives. I became a Calvinist, not because of Calvin or any person, but because God revealed to me His grace in my own life. I saw that all the praise was due to Him for my salvation.

    You may be surprised what you believe when its called by a different name. Do you believe in universalism (that because Jesus died, all are saved whether or not they repent)? If not, then you either believe in limited atonement or think that the atonement failed to accomplish its full extent. Limited atonement means that the doors are open that all may come in, but those who enter are the ones for whom Jesus’ blood effected salvation.

  29. Andrew August 23, 2009 at 2:50 pm #

    David Rogers (not Adrian’s son),

    Yes, I think it is possible for God to ordain our non-response. He did the same with His people in Isaiah’s time (Isaiah 6:9-13). In your view, why would that be problematic?

  30. David Rogers August 23, 2009 at 3:04 pm #


    Your statement:

    “Limited atonement means that the doors are open that all may come in, but those who enter are the ones for whom Jesus’ blood effected salvation.”

    I don’t think the phrase “all MAY come in” is sincerely meant in the Calvinist system. Calvinism means that it is God’s pre-ordaining election-selection that causes the process of atonement to be effective. No, “all” may not come in. Only “some” will come in. By necessity, Calvinist logic links atonement and election. It is disingenuous to suggest that the non-elect “may” when in reality they can not and will not because God does not want them to be atoned for. The doors are not open. They are definitively shut before the creation of any individual that God does not want to enter in. That is the consistent Calvinist position.

    I see Isaiah 6:9-13 first and foremost as persuasive rhetoric toward motivating Isaiah to preach and how intensely he is to preach without letting up. Preach the word until they hate you. Also secondarily, I interpret it as a judicial hardening that is conditioned on their non-responsiveness to the past revelations from the prophets and the Torah not as a unconditional divine pre-creation determination.

  31. Andrew August 23, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    David Rogers,

    If I invite you to my home for dinner, knowing that you will decline the invitation, you still MAY come. Knowing that you will refuse does not impact the invitation. At the same time, God is not obligated to invite any. Their is a great temptation to think that God is obligated to have mercy. Quite the opposite is true. If anything, God is “obligated” (perhaps “inclined” is a better word) to uphold His justice, which He chose to do in pouring out His wrath upon His Son. The question here is, does our theology start with God or man?

    Isaiah 6:10 seems to present Isaiah’s role as an active one. He is not only to preach to hardened hearts, but to actively “make” their hearts hard. I haven’t studied Hebrew, so please (anyone) correct me if I’m reading the English translations wrong.

  32. David Rogers August 23, 2009 at 3:41 pm #

    No, I can not come if God has preordained that my car engine will remain disabled and my legs are broken and no one will bring me.

    God chooses not to do anything to repair my broken will. He chooses to repair the broken will of those who do come but He refuses to do what is necessary for the lost to come. God’s inaction for their lostness guarantees their damnation for their sinfulness. Or, if you are supralapsarian God’s action for their lostness guarantees their damnation for their sinfulness. God has the right to do that, but the question is does the Bible reveal that God does such as that. I am not convinced of such.

    Isaiah’s preaching has the effect of making their hearts dull. But I still suggest that it is a conditioned judicial hardening due to past rebelliousness. Besides, it is also a corporately directed hardening (“this people”) and does not have to apply to every last single individual. That would be reading far too much into the phrasing and misunderstand the act of preaching as a corporate act.

  33. volfan007 August 23, 2009 at 3:46 pm #


    I am not a universalist, and I dont believe that the death of Jesus failed in any way. I believe that the death of Jesus was sufficient to cover the sins of everyone who has ever lived, is living, and who will live. And, if some do not get saved, then it’s their fault. It’s their failure. Not the Lord’s. So, there are more ways to look at this than what you gave me.

    Also, just to share with you, I seriously considered becoming a five point Calvinist, back when I was in seminary. I had a group of seminary students who sought to convert me. But, the more I studied Calvinism and the Bible, the more convinced I became that Calvinism falls short of a true understanding of the Bible….as does Arminianism.


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