Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler explained why he did not sign last summer’s John MacArthur-led statement condemning evangelicals' embrace of social justice as dangerous to the Gospel.
Mohler, an influential voice in conservative evangelicalism who frequently voices his opinions on current events through his daily podcast, took part in a panel discussion last week at the 2019 Shepherd’s Conference at MacArthur's Grace Community Church in California.
During the panel discussion moderated by Grace to You Executive Director Phil Johnson, Mohler and other panelists on stage were asked why they didn’t sign The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel.
The statement spearheaded last year by the 79-year-old MacArthur claimed that social justice “values borrowed from secular culture are currently undermining Scripture in the areas of race and ethnicity, manhood and womanhood, and human sexuality.”
The statement seemed to challenge the embrace of social justice causes by influential institutions such as the Southern Baptist Conventions Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and The Gospel Coalition.
“Are you not concerned about the liberalizing drift [of the social justice movement] and all the rhetoric that goes along with that?” Johnson, who has worked for MacArthur for decades, asked Mohler.
Mohler, who didn’t sign the statement last year, didn’t seem too pleased with the question. He stated that he took a “bit of offense” to the question because he has laid out his concerns with the political left and “cultural Marxism” over his 30-plus years in ministry.
“When it comes to concerns about the evangelical left, … I have been quite vocal. Anyone who knows the conversations among evangelical leaders knows exactly where I am on these issues,” Mohler responded.
“How best to articulate that concern in this particular moment, that is not easy. I have tried to help interpret these issues as clearly and biblically and charitably as I can. [I] am afraid we are going to lose an enormous number of evangelicals to various kinds of the social gospel because that is a lot easier to find satisfaction in than evangelism.”
When directly asked why he didn’t sign, Mohler explained:
“I want to be very honest. You have known me for a long time. So you know of my concerns. I am having before God trying to address those concerns the way I think best consistent with 35 years of public ministry,” Mohler said. “I was not particularly appreciative of being handed a statement.”
Mohler stressed that when it came to the statement, he had no opportunity to “offer any particular consultation or suggestion.”
“It is not pride of authorship but I am just reluctant to sign onto anything that is not creedal and confessional that doesn’t express exactly how I want to say something,” Mohler explained. “Not signing should not be interpreted as a rejection of common concern. I don’t think that is fair.”
During the panel, MacArthur, who will step down as president of The Masters University in California in May 2020, stated that he is not trying to pick a fight with his friends on the stage who didn’t sign his statement.
“I got a lot of heat from people on the internet,” MacArthur said of the response to last year’s statement. “I said, look these are my friends. These are men I love. These are men who serve Christ. They have given their lives to him. God has given each of you guys a formidable place in the kingdom and you all had an impact on my life. …. I don’t fight my friends. Why would I do that? I don’t want to become an island. My enemies have already eliminated me, if I get rid of my friends, I may have nobody but Phil.”