The proof of seminary health is its ministers, Mohler says

Communications Staff — June 19, 2003

PHOENIX, Ariz.—The health of a seminary is most clearly seen in the kind of ministers it produces, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Wednesday at the annual Alumni Luncheon of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

A seminary may have letters of approval from academic and accrediting agencies, but if it does not produce ministers that preach the authentic Gospel to the glory of God, then they are nothing, Mohler told the assembly of some 410 people.

“You really find out what a seminary is when you look and listen to its graduates,” Mohler said.

“That’s when you find out [when you see] just one alumnus of this school who is faithful in teaching and preaching the Gospel, faithful in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth in obedience to the command of the Christ and fulfillment of the Great Commission. You (the alumnus) are our letters of commendation.”

Mohler recently marked the 10th anniversary of his election as president of Southern Seminary. Within the past decade, the school undergone a transformation from an institution moderate in its teaching and doctrine to one that is a leader within conservative evangelicalism.

Speaking on 2 Cor. 2 and 3, in which the apostle Paul called the churches his “letter of commendation,” Mohler said the proof of Southern Seminary’s profound change is in the ministers it has produced.

The seminary has also increased greatly in enrollment, facilities, faculty, and annual events. Both the turnaround and the growth is entirely the work of God, he said.“After 10 years as president of Southern Seminary, all I can say is, only God could do this,” he said.

“We are in Phoenix, Arizona, 1772 miles from Louisville and there are so many gathered in this room who have come because, in some way or another, your life has intersected with the mission of SBTS. And we have no letters of commendation, save you.”

Mohler said he takes Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 2:17 as a warning to theological seminaries to avoid producing mere peddlers of the Gospel.

There are many today who seek to merely make money from preaching pseudo-gospels of prosperity, self-esteem, and self-help, Mohler said, but the seminary that would glorify God must avoid peddling.

“It is a warning to me 10 years later, even as it was 10 years ago, that we must not be about the task of training, teaching, preparing peddlers of the Word of God,” Mohler said.

“Though we live in an age where peddling is not only popular in the secular sphere, it is also somewhat expected in many churches. The pandering, peddling preacher will always be popular until someone gets a sniff of the real Gospel. Then the falsehood is immediately made apparent by the fact that this preacher is putting off the wrong smell.”

The school that seeks to prepare ministers to preach the true Gospel does it with the confidence that the Holy Spirit will apply the Gospel and seeks no glory for the institution, he said. In turn, a minister who faithfully proclaims the genuine Gospel will be—in the words of the apostle Paul—an aroma of life to believers and an aroma of death to those who reject Christ, he said.

While a seminary prepares ministers in one sense, ultimately the Holy Spirit calls, forms, and prepares a minister, he said.

“Along with Paul [in 2 Cor. 2], we are not seeking to get anything out of this enterprise but the satisfaction of seeing the Word of God at work and seeing God glorified in the preaching of His Word,” Mohler said.

“There is certainly preparation we can and do offer. There is education we must and do impart. There is training that is our assignment, but in the end it is the Spirit of God that makes a minister, calls a minister, forms a minister, prepares a minister. The seminary cannot lead that minister in triumph, but God does. He promises always to do so.”

Mohler said the transformation at Southern Seminary is proof that God will honor the institution that stands upon the one true Gospel.

“The world said this couldn’t happen,” he said. “God has chosen the weak things of the world the shame the strong. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. And God has chosen Southern Seminary to show that He will bless His Word and He will bless an institution that will pay the price to stand on the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

“We come together, not to celebrate an institution, but to give thanks to God and to share a vision of God’s glory in what He has allowed to take place through one institution and its work and its family and its story.”

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