Mohler tells winter 2013 graduates to be torchbearers for Christ

Communications Staff — December 16, 2013

IMG_9605-webAt the winter commencement service of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 157 students received degrees, Dec. 13, 2013.

At the ceremony, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the seminary, delivered a commencement address, “On Them Has Light Shined — The Christian Minister as Torchbearer,” in which he charged graduates to be a torchbearers for Jesus Christ.

“Take the light; send the light; defend the light; declare the light; teach the light; preach the light,” he said during the seminary’s 212th commencement exercises. “And let the light of Christ shine, confident that, even as he is our light, he will draw sinners unto himself. In other words, ‘preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching,’” he continued, quoting 2 Timothy 4:2.

Throughout the address, Mohler contrasted a 1838 commencement address at Harvard Divinity School by Ralph Waldo Emerson with the words of the prophet Isaiah (Isa 9:2-7).

“Emerson’s ‘Divinity School Address’ is now remembered as one of the most influential commencement addresses ever delivered to an American audience,” Mohler said.

“Emerson was declaring theological independence from every authority and model, including the Bible, the prophets and the apostles,” he said. “Do not be imitators, he charged the students, go alone, in your own light, and with their own ‘immeasurable mind.’

“[Emerson] declared each of the graduates, ready to assume the pulpit, as ‘a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost’,” Mohler said.

In contrast, the prophet Isaiah — in Isaiah 9:2: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” — reveals that “the people were walking in darkness, but have now seen a great light. They were dwelling in deep darkness, but the light has now shone on them,” he said.

In the end, Mohler concludes that “Ralph Waldo Emerson had it wrong.”

Mohler said: “The minister of Christ is a torchbearer, not a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost; but this is a greater calling, not lesser. By God’s sheer grace, the light has shone on us. Now we share that light with others.”

Mohler’s entire address is available in audio and video at the SBTS Resources page, A complete manuscript of the address, “On Them Has Light Shined — The Christian Minister as Torchbearer,” is available at

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