Al Mohler during Page Lecture Series: The Church needs “missionary self-knowledge and a missionary passion”
Lauren Pratt | October 22, 2021
Which is worse? Being persecuted or embraced by the majority culture?
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler posed this question during the Page Lecture Series Oct. 19-21. He discussed the predicament and power of ministering within a post-Christian context. Using the example of the Roman Empire, Mohler explained that Christianity experienced hostility from Rome, but under the rule of Constantine, it became the state religion. However, the fall of Rome threatened the continuation of civilization and the Church.
In rethinking what it means to the Christian’s witness in the post-Christian age, Mohler explained it faced cultural opposition throughout the Church’s history.
“In one sense, a part of the role of the Church as a sign of contradiction is that we are a predicament everywhere in all places at all times,” said Mohler.
Mohler explained the different eras of modernity and Christianity’s place in society within those eras, including early modernity, high modernity, and late modernity. As technological and educational development improve, society finds Christianity less relevant in the high and late modern ages. Mohler explained that as society views time in three phases—pre-Christian, Christian, and post-Christian—progressing as a society inevitably means leaving behind Christianity as an antiquated religion.
The shift from the early modern age to the modern era is a society that elevates emancipatory freedom or the liberation of oppressive authorities. This freedom has led to the high modernity era, where questioning Christianity moved from the social elites to mainstream society. Mohler used examples such as Time Magazine’s 1966 cover story, “Is God Dead?, the rise of the sexual revolution, and the LGBTQ+ movement to serve as reminders to the Church that the tides of the American Christian majority have changed.
“Being post-Christian will lead to Christianity becoming the embarrassment, even as it was the center of identity during that age of Christianity and Christendom,” said Mohler. “It now becomes the great embarrassment.”
Mohler also noted that the Republic of Ireland provides a helpful example of this conecpt. Christianity has historically dominated Ireland, but the country has undergone a massive cultural shift in recent decades. Whereas in the 1990s, church attendance held steady at 90 percent, it is now projected that by 2025, this number will drop below 10 percent.
In Mohler’s second lecture on Thursday, Oct. 21, he discussed the power of ministering in a post-Christian age and the Church finding its core identity in the mission God has given it.
Citing the Candian philosopher Charles Taylor, Mohler noted three conditions of belief within Christianity: a point at which it’s impossible not to believe, a point at which it’s possible not to believe, and a point at which it’s impossible to believe.
Mohler said that every culture has an aspirational direction, an understanding of what the good life is. He explained that Christianity now finds itself under subjection to cultural “oughts and ought nots,” whereas, in previous decades, the Church controlled the moral majority of what was deemed right and good.
Mohler challenged students to consider the Church’s call to be a missionary people with a missionary identity rooted in Christ.
“I am talking about a Church with a missionary self-knowledge and a missionary passion that isn’t just an adjustment to changing times, but rather is transformed into an understanding that missiology is now everywhere all of the time,” said Mohler.
Using the example of Saint Patrick of Ireland, Mohler added that the Church has the responsibility of walking into the face of adversity with the hope of the gospel in a post-Christian context.
“It’s not enough that the truth be found in the Church,” said Mohler. “It’s our responsibility to take the truth to those who desperately need to hear the gospel.”
As part of the Page Lecture Series, PhD students and faculty were invited to attend a Q&A between Mohler and SEBTS President Danny Akin.
To watch the Page Lecture Series, visit www.youtube.com/c/SEBTS.