The pervasive indoctrination we see today is largely secular, but when religious views are given attention, often they are the views of theological liberalism. Decision recently spoke with Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and soon-to-be nominee for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, about the role liberal theology plays in leading people away from saving, Biblical faith.
Q: Why is it that liberal theological views are still the most likely ones to be quoted in news articles and documentaries, even though liberal churches have been declining for years?
A: The cultural elites are sold out to moral liberalism and to the idea that human progress and human liberation mean abandoning the doctrines of Christianity. And by and large, they are the people who make the documentaries. They’re the people who control Hollywood. They’re the people who are steering the engines of cultural production in this country.
Q: What does liberal theology teach, and how did it become so influential?
A: A kind of theological liberalism is now very much in the air that most Americans breathe. The movement didn’t start here; it’s traceable to Germany and Great Britain in the 19th century. It quickly came to the United States, and we can see Protestant liberals in 19th century America who were beginning to deny the revealed teachings of Scripture and especially who were trying to reduce the supernaturalism of Scripture.
Some of the doctrines that were most offensive to the modern mind were the virgin birth of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead and, of course, the Biblical teaching that Christ is the only way of salvation. All of these came to be denied, but at the center of it was the denial of the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God. Denial of these doctrines went hand in hand with the denial of the verbal inspiration of Scripture.
At the time that Protestant liberalism emerged, most people did not question the great truths of the Christian faith revealed in Scripture. But we’re living in a highly secularized age in which orthodox Christianity is now the outlier.
Q: What’s at the root of denying the verbal inspiration of Scripture?
A: All we have to do is look to Genesis 3 to understand how theological liberalism happens—when we hear the serpent ask Eve, “Has God really said?” Questioning the Word of God is not new, but it is clearly revealed to be sin. Indeed, the root of all sin is questioning the truthfulness of God and His Word.
And one of the interesting things to note is that wherever theological liberalism has taken hold, the church has gone into a precipitous freefall. The liberal denominations have been abandoned by their members, and it’s easy to understand why. There’s no power of God unto salvation where the Gospel is denied. There is no theological power or conviction where the Scripture is subverted. But a secular society is insistent that theological liberalism is the only acceptable form of religion because, after all, there’s no threat to a secular power structure from liberal theology or liberal churches.
Q: Is there a particular issue that is spurring a strong push toward liberal theology?
A: I think we have to be honest that it’s the LGBTQ revolution. Right now that is the greatest engine for theological liberalism because it is coming with such cultural force, demanding that the church reformulate its understanding of human sexuality and gender and marriage. But we have to recognize we can’t do that, because God has revealed to us in Scripture exactly what He wants us to know.
We also have to recognize that if you change the morality, you change the theology. I think some Christians are under the illusion that you can reformulate Christian morality without reformulating all Christian doctrine. But that’s impossible because, for example, the Bible’s doctrine of sin is specific about what sin is. If we declare something the Bible says is sin not to be sin, we’ve just redefined the Gospel.
Q: Isn’t it illogical to take such a selective approach to believing Scripture?
A: Well, in our sinfulness, that’s the way we are. We want to be able to go online and pick and choose our beliefs like we would pick and choose our clothing or our tastes in music. But that is not Christianity. Christianity is the Gospel of Christ based upon the authority of God’s Word, and it comes with an entire structure of belief that is interconnected and interdependent. There is no multiple choice when it comes to Christian doctrine as revealed in Scripture.
Q: What are the consequences of this, both for the theologians themselves and those convinced by their message?
A: With theological liberalism, the world is happy and Christians starve. And eventually, the world ignores you and Christians leave. Look at the liberal denominations. They’re being abandoned. They’re plotting their own extinction. Look at how many of the denominations that have gone liberal are now just barely skeletons of what had existed before.
We need to recognize that theological liberalism is the message of theological death. And there were those who saw this when the liberals first started teaching and preaching—orthodox Christians who understood that theological liberalism was not a new form of Christianity; it was an entirely new religion claiming to be Christianity.
Q: What Scriptures seem particularly relevant to you regarding this issue?
A: One of the most important texts is Jesus’s high priestly prayer in John 17. It’s in that passage that Jesus prays to the Father for the unity of the church. But it’s not a unity based in having a common mood or some kind of amorphous common discipleship. It is a unity based in truth. In John 17:17, Jesus says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Jesus says the true ground of Christian unity is truth.
Then you have a passage like verse 3 of Jude. We are to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” That’s really important. We understand that Christianity is not going to be reformulated. That anyone who brings a new Christianity is bringing what the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Galatians called “another gospel.” And consider what Paul writes to Timothy: “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me” (2 Timothy 1:13). The Bible is very clear about orthodoxy.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
Interviewed by Bob Paulson, Editor.