America’s spiritual state ‘confused,’ Mohler tells Focus on the Family

Communications Staff — February 10, 2003

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Shortly after President Bush delivered his State of the Union speech Jan. 28, Focus on the Family caught up with R. Albert Mohler Jr. and asked him to address a matter of even greater importance — the “spiritual state of the union.”

The interview with the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president appeared online on Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink website.

Mohler said the spiritual state of the union is “mixed,” burdened by confusion over authentic Christianity.

“I really think it is a mixed picture, because America continues to demonstrate very high levels of religious participation — and even claims of religious belief — that are clearly distinct from the secularism of Western Europe,” he said.

“But at the same time, Americans are obviously having a very difficult time applying the beliefs they claim to hold to the issues of everyday life. And postmodern America is such a confusion of spiritualities that authentic Christianity unfortunately appears to be just one option among the others. It gives a whole new meaning to being ‘salt and light’ in the midst of this culture.”

Mohler described the church as “having a hard time understanding how to bear witness in this society and how to think in a way that is distinctively and consistently Christian.”

He gave high marks to Bush’s presidential address — particularly his confrontation of a handful of social issues.

“I thought the president’s State of the Union speech was an absolutely remarkable and historic presidential address,” Mohler said. “The president put himself on the line, for instance, for a total ban on human cloning and for an end to partial-birth abortion, and a very bold initiative on AIDS and … the mentoring of children of prisoners, etc.

“The president was trying to build a moral consensus on those issues of grave moral concern. The reason why that is remarkable is that America no longer has a moral consensus on those issues, and that to me is the chief symptom of what I think is our spiritual state.”

The simple fact that Bush had to address issues of life “demonstrates that the spiritual state of the union is not good, and it should not leave Christians satisfied,” Mohler added.

Part of the problem with the spiritual state, Mohler said, lies at the feet of professing Christians who simply blend in with the culture.

“If you simply look at patterns in the culture, from entertainment to moral issues … there clearly is a great deal of compromise and accommodation in the church,” Mohler said. “[T]here are liberal denominations out there that advocate that accommodation is basically the only way to fit into this society — or as they might put it, ‘to minister to it.’

“But we have to bear the scandal of the gospel as authentic Christians and say to the world there is a higher wisdom than the world’s wisdom. There is a word we have to speak to this culture, and that is a word that is rooted in the objective truth of God’s revelation and [that] tells Americans, frankly, what we often do not want to hear.”

The gospel message must be distinct, Mohler asserted.

“We do not present the gospel as one saving message among others,” he said. “We do not even present the gospel as a better way to heaven than any other way. We must proclaim the gospel the way Jesus defined it, and the Apostles preached it. This is the Lord who said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to Father but by Me.’ And when the Apostles, even upon threat of their lives, explained the gospel, they said, ‘There is no other name given under heaven and earth whereby men must be saved.’

“That is very difficult to get across to modern America. It sounds horribly intolerant, politically incorrect and exclusivistic. But it’s the gospel — the only gospel that saves.”

A return to “biblical Christianity” is the only way the church will get out of its current confusion, Mohler said.

“We have to be, as the church, the community of Christ’s people under the authority of the Word,” he said. “That must affect not only the way we think, but also the way we live. And in so doing, we are going to stand out from this culture in a very distinctive way. Now, there are those who warn us that standing out in such a way will limit our opportunities for witness. That may be true, honestly speaking. That contrast between the church and the world may make some people love the world all the more, because they love its pleasures and they love its promises. But on the other hand, it is the only way the church can be the church and — I would argue — it’s the only way we can have a truly Christian witness.

“Because, after all, if we are saying to the world, ‘Just come join us, and we’ll add a little something to your life,’ there’s no gospel there. But what we’re saying is: ‘Come and be transformed by the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.’

“That’s a radical message. And what we need are Christians ready to live out a radical Christianity.”

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