Last week I began this series with Al Mohler Signs The Manhattan Declaration: Is This a Clear Case for “Gospel-Driven Separation?” At the conclusion of that article I indicated that Mohler signing The Manhattan Declaration (TMD) was not his first questionable decision along these lines and that we would review similar events. I also mentioned we would look at how Dr. Dave Doran might answer questions such as,
“In recent years Roman Catholics and evangelicals have made common cause in the political arena, uniting forces in struggles over the abortion issue, homosexuality, etc. These joint efforts have brought together leaders from both sides who had never worked together previously. Personal friendships have been formed, and, as a result, serious doctrinal differences have begun to be down-played. Since there is agreement on some social issues, and since these issues are so important in the life of America today, many leaders on both sides are willing to minimize doctrinal conflicts on the plea that we need to cooperate in ‘saving America’.”1
Will Dr. Doran make the application of his own counsel on Gospel-Driven Separation? Does he “admonish” (2 Thess. 3:15) Mohler. If Mohler refuses correction would Doran “mark” him and warn men to “avoid” him (Rom. 16:17)?”2
It was my intention to address both subjects in a single article. This has proven difficult partially because I prefer brevity in blog articles. Today, for your consideration, I am going to present a number of events in the ministry of Dr. Mohler. In a future article we may take another look at Dr. Doran’s Gospel-Driven Separation series in which he defined the “biblical obligations” for just such a “compromise (of) the faith by granting Christian recognition and fellowship to those who have denied essential doctrines of the faith….”
Al Mohler & Ecumenism
The message of ecumenism is that doctrinal differences are not so great that they can’t be set aside to work together for some common cause. Similarly, ecumenism can be defined as the setting aside of theological differences to work in cooperation towards mutually shared goals.
To be fair Mohler is adamant that his signing TMD is not a caving in on fidelity to the justification by faith message. Mohler does not set aside personal theological differences with Roman Catholicism. In Why I Signed The Manhattan Declaration Mohler stated, “I could not sign a statement that purports, for example, to bridge the divide between Roman Catholics and evangelicals on the doctrine of justification.” Al Mohler is not a full-blown ecumenicist like J. I. Packer and Tim Keller. In signing TMD he did, however, enter into a cooperative effort with men who represent Roman Catholicism’s sacramental system and this may be an ominous signal.
“He (Mohler) does not…embrace the ecumenical evangelism of Billy Graham.”3
Does Al Mohler keep his distance from the “ecumenical evangelism of Billy Graham?” There are examples in the ministerial record of Al Mohler that show his signing TMD is not a one time, first time foray toward ecumenical compromise. Signing TMD actually adds to a pattern of honoring and/or joining in fellowship with rank liberals and new evangelicalism’s ecumenical compromise.
I. Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism
Al Mohler is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), which houses the Billy Graham School…. Al Mohler became president of SBTS in 1993. In all fairness, therefore, arrangements for honoring Graham by naming the school for him in 1994 probably preceded Mohler’s presidency.
With Billy Graham’s most recent Universalist statements, I believe the pressure has been mounting for Mohler and the SBTS. Leaving Graham’s name, knowing his legacy, on a school dedicated to training believers for world-wide evangelism must certainly be problematic. Honoring Graham’s legacy of ecumenical evangelism is a giant leftward step away from the so-called “conservative” branch of evangelicalism with which Mohler is presently identified.
II. Honoring a Liberal Theologian
In June 2009 Southern Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated its 150th anniversary. Part of the celebration included dedication of a new pavilion to commemorate the event. Following Dr. Mohler’s message, the seminary honored its seventh president Duke K. McCall by announcing the dedication of its new pavilion in his honor.
“This is what boggles my mind. Here you find a staunch theological conservative (Al Mohler), backed by other staunch conservatives (e.g., chairman of the SBTS board, Mark Dever), naming a pavilion in honor of a man whose service at SBTS produced the mess which Mohler is credited for reversing. Recognizing him at the event is one thing, but naming a pavilion after him? What biblical justification can there be for something like this?”4There is, of course, no legitimate “biblical justification” for honoring men who undermine the Word of God.
“Symbolic gestures are important. Naming schools after new evangelicals like Billy Graham and buildings after liberals like Duke McCall are symbolic gestures that mean something. And they mean something bad to many of us. I just don’t get it.”5I just don’t get it either. If you don’t get how Mohler can name structures for evangelism after one of the founders of contemporary ecumenical evangelism and to honor an alleged moderate who tolerated theological liberalism, you definitely won’t get this next one.
III. Billy Graham Crusade in Louisville, KY.
Dr. Al Mohler served as chairman for the 2001 Billy Graham Crusade in Louisville, KY.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and chairman of the Greater Louisville Crusade’s executive committee, said he is thankful that Graham has come to Louisville again. “There has been a group of persons who for many years have been praying together that the Lord will bring Dr. Graham here for a major crusade,” Mohler said. “The seeds of this were really sewn in 1956. Rare is the city that has the opportunity to host a Billy Graham crusade. Far rarer is the city that is able to have Dr. Graham come twice.6Al Mohler endorsed, promoted and served as crusade chairman for the last half century’s high priest of ecumenical evangelism, the Rev. Billy Graham. Ecumenical evangelism may not be Mohler’s personal practice, but through his chairmanship of the crusade he did at the very minimum lend tacit support for and endorsement of Graham’s ecumenical evangelism. Just prior to the crusade Mohler told the Baptist Press,
On Saturday night, Graham is expected to preach to a crowd of young people… . It's being billed as the “Concert for the NeXt Generation,” and will feature Christian rap and rock music… .
In Louisville, the crusade has drawn tremendous ecumenical support -- involving nearly 600 churches from 53 denominations -- and leadership ranging from the pastor of Southeast Christian Church, a nondenominational megachurch, to Southern Baptists and black Baptists, to Presbyterians, Methodists and Episcopalians.”7
“This is a remarkable opportunity for our students to be involved in one of the great evangelistic movements in Christian history…We have urged all our students to be involved in every possible role. To miss this would be a tragedy….A Billy Graham Crusade comes to a community only once in a generation -- if at all. God has given us this opportunity, and we dare not miss it. Our students will gain hands-on experience in the work of a major crusade, and will learn evangelism and follow-up by direct participation.”8
“Dr. R. Albert Mohler…opened the first meeting on Thursday, referencing hope among the local Christian community that the crusade would have lasting results. ‘Nothing else has brought together the kind of ethnic and racial and denominational inclusivity as is represented in this crusade; nothing in my experience and nothing in the recent history of Louisville has brought together such a group of committed Christians for one purpose’.”9Wanting to give benefit of the doubt I looked for, but in vain for any documentation in which Dr. Mohler might have apologized for and/or repented of having chaired the Billy Graham crusade. I did find a published letter he wrote to another blogger explaining his decision to pull out of D. James Kennedy’s Reclaiming America for Christ conference where he would have shared a pulpit with Roman Catholics and for that I was grateful. His signing TMD, however, indicates he does not fully appreciate the necessity of absolute separation from the Roman Catholic Church and its priesthood.
On Sunday, 11/29 I sent Dr. Mohler an e-mail to notify him that I would be publishing this article. That I would address his having served as chairman for the Billy Graham Crusade. I expressed my concerns and linked him to the previous article as well. I did my due diligence, giving him benefit of the doubt on the subject matter of the new article. He replied to my initial contact and I followed with an offer to publish his response and explanation of his chairmanship of the crusade if he wishes to make it public.
To My IFB Brethren (& Every Believer)
I trust most IFB men were aware of most if not all of Mohler’s actions above that took place prior to his signing The Manhattan Declaration. The question is: In light of what has become an obvious pattern in the ministry of Al Mohler will Reformed IFB men begin to “admonish”, “mark” and “avoid” him? Men in the IFB community can claim there is no ecclesiastical fellowship with the “conservative” evangelicals and that, by strict definition, is essentially correct. The problem, however, is that we have Reformed IFB men, in increasing numbers, attending and encouraging others to participate in the mounting number of evangelical fellowships where men like Al Mohler, John Piper, Mark Driscoll and C. J. Mahaney are in leadership and have the platform.
The actual gatherings and the growing close-knit on-line community around T4G, The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God and Shepherd’s Conference are IMO fast becoming the first cousin of an ecclesiastical fellowship. Hence, my concern over why the “biblical obligations” for Gospel-Driven Separation are not being consistently brought to bear with Mohler over TMD and in regard to other deserving cases in “conservative” evangelicalism when it is clearly warranted.
“I don’t know if the Manhattan Declaration will actually do anything to stop abortion or prevent the destruction of marriage. Even if it does, though, the price for doing so is too high—fidelity to the gospel. This declaration does, however, provide an excellent opportunity for conservative evangelicals to fully and forcefully reject ecumenical evangelicalism. And I mean reject it completely, not merely say you oppose it while you actually engage in it.”10
Al Mohler joined with Roman Catholic priests as an original signatory to TMD. He did so at the expense of “fidelity to the Gospel.” Al Mohler chaired the Louisville Billy Graham crusade, which at the minimum was a tacit endorsement of Graham’s ecumenical evangelicalism. Mohler may personally oppose ecumenical evangelicalism, but by his chairmanship of the Graham crusade he lent it credibility. In essence Dr. Mohler stood behind Graham’s ecumenical evangelism.
Billy Graham has turned thousands of (alleged) converts over to Roman Catholic and modernistic churches. Mohler knew this when he accepted the chairmanship of Graham’s Louisville crusade.
For the objective, unbiased on-looker Mohler’s joining with liberals and Roman Catholics to sign TMD would remove any doubt of his ecumenical mind-set. Furthermore, Mohler was not simply an attendee at the Graham crusade. He was not a minor bit player on an advance team for the Graham crusade. Al Mohler was the chairman, the chief executive for the Graham crusade. Al Mohler is well past the time when one might afford him benefit of the doubt.
I am encouraging all men in IFB circles to act in fidelity to the Word of God, to obey what you find in passages that Dr. Doran identified as the “biblical obligations” (2 Thess. 3:15; Phil. 3:15-17; Rom. 16:17) for Gospel-Driven Separation. We are obligated to obey what is there. This is “an excellent opportunity for (all IFB men) to fully and forcefully reject” this brand of “conservative” evangelicalism exemplified by “conservative” evangelicals such as Dr. Al Mohler.
For additional documentation and commentary please continue to the discussion thread.
1) Dr. Ernest Pickering: Holding Hands with the Pope: The Current Ecumenical Evangelical Craze This excerpt, which was in response to Chuck Colson’s Evangelicals and Catholics Together (E&CT), is just as applicable to The Manhattan Declaration (TMD) as it was in 1994 to E&CT. IMO, TMD is the first cousin of E&CT and may have been crafted to in part reinvigorate the raw ecumenism of E&CT under more subtle terms, i.e., a Trojan horse for full-blown ecumenism.
2) In subsequent Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 articles it appears Dr. Doran may be finding his voice for and indentifying the just cause to “admonish” (2 Thess. 3:15) evangelicals and warn those in his (Doran’s) sphere of influence to “avoid” (Rom. 16:17) them. I commend him for these new articles and am hopeful he will move closer toward a definite application of the “biblical obligations” for Gospel-Driven Separation.
3) Dr. Dave Doran, All Over Manhattan, 11/25/09
4) Dr. Dave Doran: Honor to Whom DisHonor is Due, 6/25/09.
6) Graham, in Louisville for crusade, aims 'to preach as long as I live' Baptist Press June 20. 2001.
7) Leslie Scanlon, Billy Graham Brings His Crusade to Louisville, The Presbyterian Outlook, June 22, 2001.
8) Baptist Press, Hundreds of Southern Students Prepare for Graham Crusade, May 3, 2001.
9) Proclamation Evangelism Network, Greater Louisville Crusade, June 21-24
10) Dr. Dave Doran: The Manhattan Melting Pot