Southern Seminary's president Albert Mohler Jr. addressed a sermon entitled Darkness at Noon for seminarys annual Heritage Week on Oct. 12.
Christians must prepare to withstand a pervasive darkness that is producing a post-Christian culture in America, Mohler said, warning listeners that America has reached a state of advanced cultural decay.
"We live in a time of prosperity [but we also] live in a time of trouble," Mohler said. "I want us to see around us a darkening sky and gathering clouds. I want us to sense that something has happened, that [something] is even now happening in our culture.
"It is going to change everything that we know about ministry in terms of the challenge before us. It is going to draw out the reality of who the church is in the midst of the gathering conflict. We no longer see the first signs of cultural trouble but we now see indicators of advanced decay."
Preaching from Joel 2 and Hebrews 12, Mohler outlined three manifestations of the encroaching darkness.
The first, he said, is the coming of a post-Christian age to America, one that mirrors the radical secularization of countries in Western Europe, where only two percent say they attend church.
Elites that govern the political, academic, entertainment, judiciary, and legal spheres in America have already embraced and are aggressively advancing a post-Christian worldview, he said.
The post-Christian age is already visible in the loss of traditional definitions of truth, beauty, love, marriage and family, among other things, he said. One obvious example from pop culture is the proliferation of reality television shows that flippantly portray base and debauched behavior, he said.
"We can see the ravages of a post-Christian culture," he said. "Sacred things are profaned, they are trampled underfoot. We see the evidence in our culture in art and music and in literature. We are a people whose cultural and moral aspirations are indicated by the Nielson ratings. We are a nation entertained by a show called 'Desperate Housewives.'
"Look at what has happened to marriage and family [and] the idea of romantic love. We have largely destroyed the purity of marriage. And marriage is under attack by those who would transform it into something that it cannot be and never was and actually never will be. We see all of this and wonder how it can happen [even though] the Scriptures have told us that sinners love darkness rather than light.
A second manifestation is the closing of the postmodern mind in which a push for tolerance winds up being rabidly intolerant, he said. This notion has led Sweden to imprison a Christian minister for preaching a biblical sermon in which he spoke of the sinfulness of homosexuality, Mohler said.
In the past year, Canadian parliament passed Bill C-250, a 'hate speech' code, that includes sexual orientation among protected classes. The statute makes it illegal for pastors or Christian broadcasters to say that homosexuality is sinful.
"This is not across an ocean," Mohler said. "This is across an invisible northern border."
The third manifestion is the commissioning of a post-compliant church. The church must counter the culture with biblical truth in every arena, he said, and must be prepared to confront a postmodern world on its own turf.
This task will require three levels of reordering, Mohler said: in the church, in the denomination, and in the seminary.
In the church, ministers must thoroughly equip believers through an unwavering commitment to biblical preaching.
"It is biblical preaching that will fuel evangelism," Mohler said. "It is biblical preaching that will produce missionary fervor. It is biblical preaching that will explain how the Holy Spirit of God will apply the Word of God to the hearts of people so that they will [not only] know what marriage is, but they will live what marriage is and raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
"They [must] know the truth and stand in the truth and testify to the truth and always be ready to give an answer to the hope that is within them. That is only going to come if they are taught and fed, and that will only happen if the pulpits in America center in the preaching of God's Word."
In the Southern Baptist Convention, leaders must encourage local churches to work together and encourage each other to be a pillar and buttress of biblical truth. As the cultural skies darken, Mohler predicts a rebirth of cooperation among Baptist churches.
Seminaries must train up ministers who are willing to be face intense persecution for the sake of the Gospel because the post-Christian culture will grow increasingly strident in its hatred for the Gospel, he said.
"I think Southern Seminary's great challenge right nownot in some long distant future, not one day, someday, but right nowto do everything we can as a seminary, as a faculty, as a community, to train, to educate, to encourage and to inspire a generation that may very well go to jail for preaching the Gospel," he said.