R. Albert Mohler Jr. took questions for nearly two hours at the University of Southern California (USC) addressing a range of hot-button issues.
Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. took questions for nearly two hours at the University of Southern California addressing some of the most significant hot-button issues in society.
The event was the third stop on the Ask Anything Tour, a series of public question-and-answer forums with Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on university campuses around the United States.
At USC, some 500 students crammed into one of the historic auditoriums on campus. Previous events took place last year at the University of Louisville and at UCLA in a partnership between Southern Seminary and the discipleship organization Ligonier Ministries.
Gospel and social justice
Early on, a student asked Mohler about recent discussions among evangelical Christians about the nature of the gospel and its relationship to social justice. Before answering the question, Mohler emphasized that debates about this question can make differing “sides” seem further apart than they are in reality. He gave an example of a hungry child in need of food, pointing out that any Christian would feel a responsibility to intervene and help the child.
“If we stop trying to frame these [questions] as ‘issues’ and just think about reality, it gets clarified,” Mohler said, noting that the debate about the gospel and social justice is exacerbated by a moment in American society in which almost everything is politicized and put into binary categories.
“We’re in an age in which people want to line up,” Mohler said. “But I think we have to step back as Christians and ask, ‘What is the gospel?’
“The gospel is the good news that salvation comes to anyone who believes.”
Mohler distinguished between Christian action and the gospel, describing a tendency among Christians to use the word “gospel” for all sorts of Christian thought and activity. “There are many good things in the Bible that are not the gospel,” he said.
He clarified that whether or not particular instances of justice are intrinsic to the gospel, Christians have an obligation to pursue justice – an even greater obligation than the world around them.
“We have to be more for justice than the fallen world because justice comes from God,” Mohler said. “What we have to make sure first and foremost is that the gospel is clear.”
A few questions centered around manhood during the March 1 event, particularly in relation to how a young man can grow in manhood without falling into toxic masculinity. Mohler answered by acknowledging the tension and arguing that this represents a problem to which Christians claim a unique solution.
Mohler promoted a vision of older men discipling younger men in the context of a local church, noting, “The church ought to be one of those places where older men and younger are together.”
This will help not only in younger men becoming mature, Mohler explained, but it points to a solution to toxic masculinity in the broader culture. This problem has been at the forefront of the #MeToo movement during the past year or two. Part of the problem, he said, is men not holding other men accountable.
“One thing we need to develop is a culture where men expect more of each other,” Mohler said.
Christians and Muslim evangelism
Toward the end of the event, a man who identified himself as a Muslim suggested from the floor that theistic religions should work together in proselytizing atheists and non-theists. His question centered around proposed ways Christians and Muslims can work together toward this end.
Mohler responded by citing the foundational commonality between Christianity and Islam – theism, a belief in a god – but countered that Christians in evangelism do not merely promote theism.
“I don’t think we gain anything by people going from atheism to theism,” Mohler said.
“Christianity is not about who believes in God and who does not,” he said. “It’s about who is in Christ and who is not.”
In the nearly two-hour question and answer event, Mohler also answered questions about the believability of the Bible, gene editing technology, hell and politics.
The morning after the event, Ligonier Ministries hosted Truth and Consequences, where Mohler was joined by Ligonier teaching fellows Burk Parsons and Stephen Nichols in teaching Christian students and student ministry leaders at USC and surrounding colleges about apologetics. The three organized their talks around three theological premises: God is, God speaks and God saves.
Video from the USC event, as well as information about future tour stops, is available at askanythingtour.com.