Orthodoxy must include passion for lost souls, Mohler tells students
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The Christian is not called to a life of peaceful passivity but to one of active "wartime" obedience in winning lost souls to Christ, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Aug. 26 in his annual convocation address at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The annual address was Mohler's 11th since being elected president of Southern Seminary in 1993. In his first convocation a decade ago, Mohler preached a sermon on the critical nature of a seminary's standing firmly upon a confession of faith entitled "Don't Just Do Something, Stand There."
Playing off his first address, Mohler entitled his anniversary sermon, from John 9:1-7, "Don't Just Stand There, Do Something." He urged students to be rigorous in their study of theological disciplines while also doing the work of God by proclaiming the Gospel through missions and personal evangelism.
Mohler warned against "seminary syndrome," which causes students to see the ministry as being temporarily put off until studies are complete. There is no such thing as "ministry on hold," or "evangelism on pause," he said.
"My concern is that we can get it all right and all wrong at the same time," he said. "My concern is that we will teach the structure of the faith and miss its spirit [or that] we will be satisfied with a knowing left incomplete without a doing."
It is vital that ministers and all Christians understand biblical doctrines such as the sovereignty of God, justification by faith, and others tied to redemption, Mohler said. But a genuine understanding of the Gospel will by necessity lead to a compulsion to tell others about the "old, old story" of the saving grace of God, he said.
Mohler pointed to the myriad of New Testament commands that call Christians to action -- go, teach, witness, serve, tell, preach, feed and endure, among many others -- as evidence that the Christian life is not merely a lifeless "head game."
"It (understanding doctrine) must lead to a compulsion to tell others, to see sinners come to faith in Christ or it is no true theology," he said. "There really is no danger of being orthodox and [also] un-evangelistic, because if so, your orthodoxy is no orthodoxy at all."
In his inaugural convocation, Mohler addressed the necessity of a seminary adhering closely to a confession of faith. At the outset of Mohler's presidency, the school was firmly in the hands of theological moderates.
In the decade since, Southern Seminary has undergone a reformation during which it has hired a faculty fully dedicated to believing, living and teaching the school's confession, the Abstract of Principles, Mohler said.
While the Abstract of Principles trumpets historic Christian orthodoxy, Mohler said the seminary's founding fathers penned the confession with a "missionary theology" in view. The same is true for the Southern Baptist Convention's statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message, he said.
"The theology defined and confessed in the Abstract of Principles and the Baptist Faith & Message is a missionary theology that is transformed into Great Commission passion," Mohler said. "If you lack that passion, you do not understand the theology. It is a head game and not a heart reality.
"It is so easy for us to live in this community and for us to be busy about our academic task and forget that there are people gong to hell around us. But we are witnesses who have to make the point clear: You will either obey the Gospel or you will disobey the Gospel. There is no neutrality.
"It [the Gospel] is not a product that is set out for consideration. It is the Gospel that saves. All who desire salvation will find it in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and none will be denied. But those who deny their salvation bring eternal judgment upon themselves."
The church has fallen into a lethargic "peacetime footing" when it should urgently be waging spiritual warfare on behalf of souls lost in a culture that is decaying at a frightening pace, Mohler said.
The church has followed post 9-11 America in lulling itself to sleep with the notion of a false peace, he said.
"How much more so is the tragedy of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, falling into comfort in a culture such as this, playing war, while living at peace," Mohler said.
"We need to get the church back on a wartime footing, for we are called to battle. We are called to transform. We are called to preach. We are not called to sit and merely to receive."
Pointing to the brevity and uncertainty of life, Mohler exhorted students to make the most of every moment in both the classroom and the ministry.
"The shortness of time should be very much on our minds," he said. "Every day ripped off the calendar is a day that cannot be lived again. We must work the work of Him who sent us while it is day."
Southern Seminary's professors must lead students by example in personal evangelism, Mohler said. He warned students against viewing evangelism as something they are called to do only at some point in the future. Missions and evangelism are both urgent and non-negotiable, he said, because the glory of God is at stake.
"To those of us on the faculty, if we are not driven to lead our students into evangelism, then we must teach somewhere else," Mohler said. "Students, if you think evangelism is something you are called to do at some point in the future, rather than the present, or something that someone else is called to do, [then] go study somewhere else.
"And beloved, if your theology does not issue in a determination to see the glory of God in the salvation of the lost and [you do not] see that as a sacred privilege, then take your theology somewhere else," he said.
"Southern Seminary must be an institution, and we must be individuals, known not only for what we believe, but for what we do. For it is in the believing and the doing that we behold the glory of God."
Before Mohler's sermon, two professors signed the original Abstract of Principles: Charles E. Lawless, Jr., and Robert A. Vogel. Lawless is associate professor of evangelism and church growth and is senior associate dean of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism, Missions and Church Growth. Vogel is professor of Christian preaching.
The Abstract of Principles document, which is more than 140 years old, includes the signatures of such Southern Baptist forefathers as James P. Boyce and John A. Broadus. It has been signed by every tenured professor in the seminary's history.
Mohler also installed two professors to endowed professorships. Lawless was installed as the William Walker Brookes associate professor of evangelism and church growth. George Martin was installed as the M. Theron Rankin professor of Christian Missions.