Bishop Al Mohler Strikes Again

Panel Discussion: Revisiting Inerrancy from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

Baptists don’t have bishops, right?

That’s what I thought, having been reared in the related denomination of Congregationalism. Growing up, I was taught that we — congregationalists and baptists and others whose polity is considered “congregational” — were vehemently anti-hierarchical. Our tradition started because Henry VIII and the Anglicans had not differentiated themselves enough from Rome. We were, from our founding, anti-papist, anti-bishop.

In congregational polity, nothing is more sacred than individual hermeneutical authority. That is, every believe has the freedom to interpret the Bible, the freedom to follow the dictates of her or his conscience, the freedom to worship with fellow believers.

So it always surprises me when congregationalists or baptists act like bishops. In my book, The New Christians, I wrote,

So we’ve got Baptists who aren’t supposed to have bishops with Bishop Al Mohler and Bishop Paige Patterson excommunicating liberals and moderates, and we’ve got real-life Anglican bishops who won’t break bread with one another. Do we need more evidence that the church in America is in trouble?

That was after I’d described how “high church” Anglicans and “low church” Baptists had basically switched their de facto polities. And it’s happening again.

In the above video, Al Mohler, the president of Southern BAPTIST Theological Seminary presides over a panel of his professors as they reaffirm their commitment to biblical inerrancy. Of course, none of us was wondering if SBTS was still committed to the (fading) modernistic doctrine, so they weren’t reaffirming this for their own students. They were firing across the bow of other baptist churches and organizations that might stray from this doctrine.

These are not battles I’ve ever fought, but if inerrancy is something that you struggle with, then read Peter Enns’s point-by-point demolition of the hour-long video.

Oddly, after 45 minutes of historical, metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, the panel puts Rachel Held Evans’s book in its crosshairs. Skip to minute 43. They talk about “evangelical publishers” who publish books about “biblical womanhood” that mock the scripture. Etc.

Now, I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, but one does wonder who actually put the pressure on Lifeway — the bookstore chain of the Southern Baptist Convention — to not sell Rachel’s book. (No, one does not really wonder. One knows.)

John Piper tweeted, “Farewell Rob Bell.” He was sending a message to his troops: Don’t read this book, for I do not approve of it (even though I haven’t read it, I’ve just seen a blog post about it). That backfired. Rob’s book solds thousands more copies than it would have without that tweet, and Rob rose significantly in public prominence.

Similarly, Bishop Al is telling his troops, Don’t read Rachel’s book, for it makes a mockery of scripture. And he’s warning evangelical publishers to stop publishing books like Rachel’s.

But guess what, this will backfire too. The future of Protestantism in America is not reactionary, closed, and fearful; it’s open-minded, thoughtful, and fearless.

  • DaveSchell

    Nobody is disagreeing with anybody in this clip. What kind of boring fake “conversation” is this?

  • Chris

    While I appreciate the factual knowledge of the Bible that my Southern Baptist upbringing gave me, stuff like this is the reason why I personally rejected the SBC and moved to moderate Baptist affiliations. When I realized that I was continuing to move in a direction on a different arc than the whole of those affiliations, I ended up moving to one of the mainline denominations, where I currently serve. I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to contend with inerrancy and literalism arguments in mainline life, I also find (at least in the corners I’ve experienced so far) that they don’t do as good a job with education about the Bible (not just facts and stories, but that is certainly part of Biblical education nonetheless). I’m hopeful that Rachel and others seem to be leading the way in taking the Bible seriously, but not always literally. And from my experience, the conservative resurgence in SBC life also places a much higher emphasis on pastoral authority as well (to an extreme, especially in some cases). This too, to me, seems to fly in the face of traditional understandings of “priesthood of the believer.”

  • Daniel Darling

    By mocking these Christian leaders with designations like, “Bishop”, you are contradicting your claim to openness and tolerance.

    • Andy

      You know, there are better ways to try and be like Jesus than to nail yourself to a cross, Daniel.

    • Frank

      Shhh! They don’t like it when their own hypocrisy is exposed. They will just try and deflect it to someone else.

    • Rob Davis

      This is definitely a huge misunderstanding of emergent folks like Tony…

  • Evelyn

    I don’t quite understand how it is a “mockery” to live like a biblical woman for a year. Maybe it is because women aren’t supposed to actually read the bible and live according to it’s ordinances. So, women should just let their men-folk read the scripture, decide what is right and wrong, and accept the men’s opinion of what they should do rather than thinking for themselves. This is somewhat evident in the fact that there are no women on the stage. I can’t believe that they couldn’t even find a token woman.

  • Scot Miller

    I don’t know if I should thank you or curse you for posting this video. All I can say is that I knew Al from 1981-84. When I first met him, I was impressed with how politically well-connected he appeared to be in Southern Baptist circles for an M.Div. student (he was a BIG name dropper), but he was hardly an inerrantist at the time. While he may have changed his idea about biblical inerrancy, he appears to have been faithful to his political opportunism. It’s just a shame that he spends his time rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic….

    • Frank

      Coming from someone who along with friends are constantly reorganizing deck chairs on the titanic of “progressive” Christianity. Sad? Clueless? Irrelevant? *shrug

      • Andy

        I’ve re-read your comment about nine times, Frank, and your intended meaning gets less and less clear each time.

        Scot: you’re awesome.

        • Frank

          Maybe you will understand the significance of your inability to comprehend!

          • Evelyn

            Why bother with comprehension when you can just be told what to think? I mean, literally … told … exactly … what … to … think … at … all … times.

          • Frank

            One day you may grow up!

  • Gregory

    The video left out the song that they used to open this meeting. It is one of my favorites.

  • Scot Miller

    It’s hilarious that their operating definition of inerrancy, which they claim is a “strong” definition, is that “the scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted” are true in all they affirm to be true (my emphasis). First, there is no such thing as the “original autographs.” Talking about the “original autographs” is like talking about the golden tablets that Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon. But even more hilarious is the notion that these fictional autographs can be “rightly interpreted.” So, who gets to interpret them correctly? I guess they do.

    I’d like to know how these guys would address the Southern Baptist history of biblical interpretation over the practice of slavery. As someone who grew up a Southern Baptist, coming to terms with how Southern Baptists interpreted slavery in the Bible helped free my thinking from inerrancy. To be perfectly honest, there is a much stronger biblical case for slavery than there is for abolition.

  • Michelle Krabill

    Oh my gosh. I skipped ahead to the part about RHE. I find this just disgusting.

  • nathan

    A baptist buddy of mine from seminary asked me one time who i thought the president of the SBC would have been if the moderates had survived double decade conservative tantrum.

    i said i had no clue since i, thankfully, wasn’t an SBC baptist.

    he said: Al Mohler.

    Basically, the guy was an opportunist AND is a polemicist masquerading as a theologian. Just witness the staggering breadth of sanctimony on his blog, and the descriptions of him in his CT cover story. He’s a veritable renaissance man when it comes to having an opinion about everything. It would be excellent if he and his ilk actually read a book like John Dickson’s “Humilitas”.

    He could learn a thing or two about “competency extrapolation”.

    This garbage coming out of the Louisville sewer is part and parcel with the pseudo-intellectualism embodied in Dinesh D’Souza. It’s just more high-handed when it comes to personal piety.

    • Rob Davis

      At what point does a Christian college, university or seminary education become illegitimate?

  • John Musick

    Once again the owners of the White Star Line tout the flawless design of their ship while arranging the deck chairs.

  • Lee P.

    2nd vote here for Scot’s awesomeness.

    • Evelyn

      I already thought Scot was awesome but this just takes the cake.

  • Rob Davis

    Any time there is a book published that might cause a problem for evangelicals, these doofuses get together and have a “forum.” Unless and until more progressive evangelicals start rejecting these fake conversations, I’m going to continue assuming that all evangelicals agree with them – including everyone connected to Acts 29. They have become the voice of evangelicalism. Roger Olsen seems like the only one trying to hold on tightly to the word evangelical. Maybe it’s time he let it go and let the Deciders and Definers have their way. I don’t think the ship can be turned around at this point.

  • Mike W.

    Prayer at 00:23 “We’ll be good stewards of the responsiility to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” Loaded phrase! The meaning of “contend”, “the faith”, “once for all”. Could write a book based on this phrase and what it means and how it’s used.

  • Mike W.

    This Panel is not a model for diversity!

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  • Leah

    Andy why the snide comment towards Daniel? Does the truth hurt that much?

    • Michael

      I think it’s because we are tired of conservative evangelicals trying to pretend they are the victim of attacks. There are better ways to make one’s point than to make oneself the victim. As for snide comments, ad hominem arguments like: “Does the truth hurt that much?” seem quite snide to me. “Let us remove the log from our own eye before pointing to the one in our neighbors?” “Let not seek so much to be understood as to understand.”

  • Morgan Guyton

    Here’s what I had to say about why Al Mohler doesn’t get Rachel Held Evans. Man, Tony, you’ve got a lot of trolls on your blog. You should put out some garlic or something.

  • tripp fuller

    this was painful.

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  • Mike

    Mohler isn’t the only one who took issue with RHE’s book. There are two reviews by women at Desiring God by Trillia Newbell, and The Gospel Coalition by Kathy Keller.

  • don bryant

    This photo scares me!! These are sort of my guys, at least in conservative trajectory. But the “heaviness” of this photo creeps me a bit.

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  • Michael

    I do have a question of my own though. What leads you to say, “. . .“high church” Anglicans and “low church” Baptists had basically switched their de facto polities?” As a “high church” Anglican, I do not think that has happened. Hopefully, you’ll help me to see where it has.