In Defense of Albert Mohler II

It is amazing to me that someone can quote an article that refutes, word for word what they wrote earlier, and then focus on something that they don’t like, and completely miss the refutation of their position. Bojidar Marinov is a case in point. This morning he linked to a discussion that Albert Mohler had on his radio program last year. I found it hilarious what Marinov did not quote!:

Mohler: Yeah, you know I think many Christians are basically unaware of the fact that there has been a tremendous theological investment in this throughout the history of the Christian church. And you have on the one end a Constantinianism which is most closely associated with the Catholic church historically that basically the church and the state can unify in a way that leads to a Christian society. On the other hand you do have the radical reformation and the Anabaptist who have an extreme sectarianism and do their very best to withdraw from the public square from any engagement. And in the middle you’ve got all kinds of other things. I mean we’re talking here about two cities using the great model given to us by Augustine the great bishop of the fifth century. But when it comes to, for instance, the Reformation churches the Reform churches and Lutheran churches went in two very different directions. And the Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms of two completely separate spheres that turns out not to be too helpful in American in the 21st century. The reformed understanding of the Christian influence in culture it’s also there but I’ll tell you and that’s where I would find my home. But Pete I’ve got to tell you, the great concern I have when people start quoting Abraham Kiper and others is that there’s the ambition or at least the sense of possibility even of the Christian political engagement that can create a Christian culture. You’re not really suggesting that there can be the creation of a Christian culture rather than that there will be Christian influence in this culture.

Wasn’t this the same Bojidar Marinov that said that Mohler held to the two kingdoms views of David VanDrunen? Do you really think that David VanDrunen would agree with that above statement, since Mohler says that Luther’s view of the two kingdoms is “unhelpful?” Marinov’s research on Mohler is shoddy at best, and is shown in the fact that he can cite an article in which Mohler contradicts the views that Marinov attributed to him in the last article he wrote! It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Worst of all, the section that Marinov quotes from Mohler’s show is ripped grossly out of context. Here is the entire context of what was said. It follows upon the quote given by Albert Mohler above:

Wehner: Yes that’s an important distinction. No I don’t think we can create a Christian culture. I think part of that frankly is grounded in scripture itself and Christ said that the world hated me and the world will hate you. And really in a deep way this is not our home.
Mohler: That’s right.
Wehner: And it wasn’t supposed to be our home. Look, what’s one of the you know when Ananias talked to Saul before the conversion what did he say? He was quoting the Lord, I’m going to show you all that you must suffer for my sake and over and over again in the gospels, in the epistles, what are we told? We’re told that there’s going to be persecution and hardship but keep, let the eyes of your heart be enlightened to the hope that is ours in Christ in the coming kingdom. So there’s always tension between those two cities. And I reject the idea that you can have a Christian culture or that we have a Christian America that doesn’t mean that you can’t advance what we would deem to be Christian objectives. The Appalachian Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Pro-Life Movement, I think you can argue with a great deal of persuasion. You know advance things that advance justice and advance things that I think that the Lord would care about. But that’s really quite different than think that you can take power, and take control, and take authority, and take dominion over culture, or society, or political movements that’s just outside of our realm. We weren’t called to do it, and I don’t think we can do it.
Mohler: You know looking back at the new Christian right it’s very easy to look back and see that there were major category errors. There were precious important, urgent, threatened values and moral convictions that had to be preserved and had to be the issue of our contention had to be asserted in the public square in a way that can only be described as a matter of basic Christian faithfulness. But that same faithfulness in this new era calls us to rethink the equation.
Mohler: My conversation with Pete Wehner about the book he has just written with Michael Gerson entitled City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era is an attempt to reset. And you know as I think about it, it raises certain questions in my mind. I think the most basic questions of Christian political engagement when it comes to actually how we make a tangible approach to a government or to a society visible before our eyes. The background question has to be what exactly we can or should expect from government. When I come back with Pete Wehner that’s the question I’m going to ask him.

Now, what is fascinating is that they are talking about something that even Gary DeMar has mentioned, and that is that Christ’s kingdom is not ultimately of this world. Does Marinov deny that? Further, does Marinov believe there is such a thing as a Christian culture? For the record, I would say that there are multiple Christian cultures. Christianity is not a culture, but Christianity transforms culture. When Christianity was born, Greek, Roman, Hebrew, Egyptian, and Arabian cultures all existed. After Christianity exploded across the known world, Greek, Roman, Hebrew, Egyptian, and Arabian cultures all still existed. Christianity transforms culture; it, itself, is not a culture. With Islam, for example, that is not the case. Islam cannot but implement seventh century Arabian culture wherever it goes. There is an “Islamic culture” in that sense. There is not a “Christian culture” in that sense, and to say that there is, is more like Sharia law than the law of God.

The problem is that, again, Marinov holds to a form of monism that states that you cannot make distinctions. I may not agree with the way these distinctions are formulated by Albert Mohler or his guest [for example, I don’t agree with the concept of natural law, or Wehner’s idea that we should not use the Bible in politics which he has said elsewhere], but that doesn’t mean that Dr. Mohler or Wehner deserve to be misrepresented. It is perfectly correct to make a distinction between the society as a whole and the heart of the individual. In fact, I think Mohler sums up the issue with Marinov very well:

We can look backwards, and we can certainly see where there was too much optimism on the part of the new Christian right. There was a political hubris that had basically made its way into our evangelical worldview and understanding insofar as we, apparently, in terms of what was said by many of our leaders actually seemed to imply that we believed that if we just got the laws right, the people would be right. Well there’s a biblical order here that reminds us that the law insofar as the law is put in place by fallible human creatures, that that law actually reflects the culture that produces it. Now one of the confidences of Pete Wehner and Michael Gerson is that the law can have a moral influence on society. I share some of that confidence. But I’m also aware of the fact that the laws are never much better than the people are. And what we have in a society is the reality that what we end up with is a civic order is remarkably akin to who we are as a people. We are armed as Christians with the theological reservoir of resources that enable us to understand this.

Something has gone seriously wrong in the Theonomic movement. The assumption that you can bring about a Christian culture simply by passing Christian laws is absolutely anti-Biblical. Christian cultures can only come about when false worldviews are shown to be false gospels, and the true gospel of Jesus Christ is embraced. Again, Marinov believes, as he said in our discussion, that the gospel is a mere message, and has no ability to justify anyone. Hence, his salvation must rest in the state’s ability to make laws. However, as Mohler has rightly said, if the heart is not changed, people will still hate God’s law, and will simply seek to get back into power [either by vote or by force], and make the laws exactly the way that they were. There is only one way to cause people to love the law of God: the gospel of Jesus Christ. When you make the law equal to the gospel, as Marinov’s monism does, people will continue to hate the law of God, and it will never be the foundation for law.

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5 Responses to “In Defense of Albert Mohler II”

  1. Richard Says:

    Amen and Amen! Thank you for this!

  2. Richard Says:

    It IS interesting that theonomists such as Marinov who would place us back under the law to make us more “godly” seems to have no compunctions about violating the Ninth Commandment themselves. Weird, no?

  3. otrmin Says:

    Richard,

    Actually, there are many theonomists who I know would *never* engage in this kind of behavior. I would never expect this from Greg Bahnsen, and I would never expect something like this from Kenneth Gentry. The difficulty is that Marinov has grossly simplistic views of language that do not enable him to see the complexity of the way in which the law relates to the rest of scripture. Hence, he doesn’t understand how someone like myself can hold that there is a distinction between law and gospel, but not a separation. For Marinov, and distinction must entail a separation, and that is why I said he is a monist.

    Theonomists such as Bahnsen are more careful than this. I even quoted the sections of Theonomy in Christian Ethics to Marinov where Bahnsen specifically denies that the gospel belongs to the realm of the state. It was largely ignored. I agree in principle with what Theonomy says, but the problem is that Theonomy is gone so far of the rail, and has become so reductionistic, that I never dare call myself a Theonomist. As I found when I studied at Trinity, the way in which the Torah relates to the rest of the Hebrew Bible and to the New Testament is an extremely complex topic. To take some of the grossly simplistic views that are found amongst the newer Theonomists, and not consider the linguistic complexity of the Hebrew Bible is to, I believe, actually bring shame on the law of God. This is especially the case when we try to mold the law and the gospel in to one entity rather than two distinct, but related entities.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  4. Richard Says:

    Adam,

    Thanks for this input. I am having to deal and disciple with someone who is into Vision Forum and Mr. Marinov; it is very frustrating. When he forwarded me the article about Mohler (and Keller!), I reacted with incredulity that someone could categorize them as 2K types; it was just sloppy (as was calling them “cowards.”)

  5. otrmin Says:

    Richard,

    If I may, I would like to recommend that you read a book that I ran into when I was at Trinity. It is by a Hebrew Scholar named Christopher J.H. Wright, and it is called, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. He interacts with theonomy, and points out areas where theonomy needs to really mature in its understanding of the law. Now, I don’t agree with him on everything. He is an English European, and hence, he seems to not like free market capitalism too much, but he adequately points out some weaknesses in the way theonomists handle the law. He did his doctoral dissertation on the topic of the Old Testament ethics at Cambridge University, so he certainly knows what he is talking about.

    Also, I have never seen any of these new theonomists such as Marinov respond to him. The problem is he agrees with pretty much all of their foundational principles of Theonomy, but his interpretations of the Torah are far more polished and thorough than folks such as Marinov and Vision Forum.

    God Bless,
    Adam

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