This week marked the 2019 annual Shepherds’ Conference at John MacArthur’s Grace Church, a traditionally very conservative, biblically-grounded gathering of like-minded believers to teach and preach the Word of God while exhorting believers to go into the world and to the same. MacArthur and Grace Church, while not classically Reformed in doctrine, are both conservative in theology and Calvinistic in soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). In other words, in MacArthur’s 50 years of ministry, he’s held unapologetically and unwaveringly to sound biblical ideology.
This year, The Shepherd’s Conference invited three Evangelical leaders — leaders who have been under fire over the last year for their prominent roles in advancing the cause of social justice. These leaders were Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, and Al Mohler.
During the conference, a Q&A session was held which was moderated by Phil Johnson, executive producer of MacArthur’s Grace To You. The session was largely overtaken by the topic of social justice, and the concerns of many who see these men as complicit in — if not outright perpetrators of — this movement. Johnson asked some very direct questions, and the conversation, by any discernible standards, got heated really quick.
It was very obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense that Mohler was extremely uncomfortable and offended by Johnson’s directness — Al Mohler became noticeably angry.
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Mohler, who refused to sign the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel which was sponsored by MacArthur, Phil Johnson, and others, previously stated that though he has little disagreement with the content of the statement, he saw it as an opportunity to have “meaningful discussion” about the subject. This, of course, was his opportunity for that “meaningful discussion,” and it didn’t really end well.
When Johnson pressed Mohler on the issue of social justice creeping in incrementally through two organizations he’s heavily involved in, The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel, Mohler lashed out very defensively,
But Phil, you’ve known me for a long time, you know the answer to the question is “yeeesssss.” But I’m not going to be forced into a situation in front of thousands of people in which I have to say I’m going to have to do it your way. Sorry! I’m just not.
Mohler, who had been pressed heavily by Phil on this issue for nearly an hour, who had just stated moments before that he is open to anyone examining his ministry and methods for dealing with social justice, refused to engage Phil in meaningful discussion.
Al Mohler has spent his entire life and ministry refuting error and defending the faith, and his work over the years is much appreciated for that. It is also obvious that Al Mohler is in stark disagreement with much of the social justice rhetoric coming out Evangelicalism today. Mohler, however, is almost single-handedly responsible for it — and now, he’s having to cover himself to fight the monster he created.
There is no question that the social justice gospel, at least in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is product Russell Moore, the head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Moore is responsible for the Evangelical’s push to remove the Confederate flag from all government buildings in the South, he’s responsible for the Church’s “softening tone” on LGBTQ, and he’s led the Evangelical fight to oppose U.S. President Donald Trump. In fact, Russell Moore is a favorite among the Jim Wallis Sojourner’s camp — a highly progressive Evangelical outlet which Al Mohler rightly criticized — and has rarely, if ever, been painted in a negative light at their website.
And yet, Russell Moore is a product of Al Mohler. Mohler, during the Q&A at Shepherd’s, Mohler, at least twice, defensively pleaded: “look at the people I platform,” and “look at the people I invite…” as proof that he is not on board with the “extreme” rhetoric to which Johnson refers.
Now, six years after Moore was placed in office — at the hands of Al Mohler’s enormous influence — Moorer has successfully created a social gospel built around the Marxist idea of Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory (CRT) emerged as an offshoot of Critical Theory, a neo-Marxist philosophy that has its roots in the Frankfurt School and its methods are drawn from Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. CRT teaches that institutional racism exists within every structure of society and that these structures are intrinsically designed in such a manner as to protect and preserve “white supremacy” in our culture. Further, CRT does not rely on factual statistics or objective evidence to support the theory, rather it relies on anecdotal evidence and personal experience.
As a result, we now have outlets, such as The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel — which Mohler is heavily involved in — promoting such extreme political ideas as “white privilege” and slave reparations. Al Mohler has been silent, and the silence is deafening. For to speak against his fellow Southern Baptists, especially the ones he’s responsible for placing in office — though he obviously claims he disagrees with most of this — would likely be his undoing.
To give Mohler the benefit of the doubt, it is possible, most likely, that he didn’t see the endgame of this movement. No doubt it began with pure motives. But at this point, Al Mohler is going to have to speak up and speak out lest his silence be affirmation and approval of the monster he’s responsible for creating.