As someone who admires from afar the President of Southern Seminary, Al Mohler, I was a little concerned when I saw a link to a talk he gave at Brigham Young University on the topic of religious liberty: A Clear and Present Danger: Religious Liberty, Marriage, and the Family in the Late Modern Age — An Address at Brigham Young University. Dr. Mohler is a staunch defender of Biblical orthodoxy, an unapologetic advocate for God's design in gender, a fearless champion for the doctrines of grace and many other positions I support and respect his advocacy for. But to go before the audience of Brigham Young University with anything but a call to repent and turn from their false religion? That had me concerned. I was pleasantly surprised to see this paragraph in the opening of the transcript of his talk:
I come as a Christian theologian to speak explicitly and respectfully as
a Christian—a Christian who defines Christianity only within the
historic creeds and confessions of the Christian church and who comes as
one committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the ancient and
eternal Trinitarian faith of the Christian church. I have not come as
less, and you know whom you have invited. I come knowing who you are—to
an institution that stands as the most powerful intellectual center of
the Latter-Day Saints, the most visible academic institution of
Mormonism. You know who I am and what I believe. I know who you are and
what you believe. It has been my great privilege to know friendship and
share conversation with leaders of the LDS church, such as Elder Tom
Perry, Elder Quentin Cook, and Elder Todd Christofferson. I am thankful
for the collegiality extended by President Cecil Samuelson at this great
university. We do not enjoy such friendship and constructive
conversation in spite of our theological differences, but in light
of them. This does not eliminate the possibility of conversation. To
the contrary, this kind of convictional difference at the deepest level
makes for the most important kind of conversation. This is why I am so
thankful for your gracious invitation.
I think that is well said. He is a Christian and speaks as a Christian who only recognizes Christianity within the historic creeds and confessions. He singles out the Trinitarian faith, something anathema to the mormon beliefs of his audience. Unlike some Christians who have gone out of their way to gloss over the insurmountable gap between the pagan polytheistic religion of mormonism and orthodox confessional Christianity, Dr. Mohler is quite clear that he speaks as a Christian to religious people that are not. I was glad to see this stance because it is critically important that as the civil religion of America dies that the church be crystal clear about who we are and what we believe in.
In spite of his gracious and clear statement above, I remain troubled by his very presence at BYU in this context. Religious liberty, Biblically defined marriage and strong families are all very important and are under daily assault. They are however, and let me be clear, not Gospel issues. In other words no matter how important they are, we are called to a very particular calling, the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, His redeeming work on the cross for propitiation of sins and His Kingdom. That is our calling and everything else is secondary. I don't for a second think that Al Mohler or other men I respect like Russell Moore are elevating religious liberty or traditional marriage to the level of the Gospel but many people may not see the distinction. Those seeking to assault marriage or silence the faithful count as their enemies evangelical Christians and mormons alongside Roman Catholics, Jews, muslims and others. In this case the enemy of my enemy is not my friend.
We are warned in Scripture to not be yoked with unbelievers ( 2 Cor 6:14 ) and that admonition goes beyond simply not marrying unbelievers. When a Christian stands in front of an audience that likely held few if any Christians our message should be obvious: repent and believe. I don't think that means that every single time we talk to an unbeliever we need to say nothing other than "Repent!" but for a Christian of the prominence of Al Mohler in a public venue like this one I am afraid that the cause of mormonism gets more of a boost than the cause of the Gospel. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has become a master marketing organization and the contemporary iteration of their marketing strategy is built on shared values and "we are not that different from you" messages. Events like this bolster their strategy.
As the days of Christendom finally come to an end, the church will find our former "friends" in the secular world will be nowhere to be found. I understand the impulse to seek alliances where we can to advance causes we feel are important. Amidst this seismic change to the religious climate we must be ever more vigilant to not lose sight of the peculiar and unique Gospel, a Gospel that leaves no room for imposter religions. Mormonism and other aberrant false religions are a far greater threat to the faith than the ACLU or activist judges creating a right to "gay marriage". My sincere hope is that Christian leaders would choose to be persecuted for the faith before we link arms with unbelievers.