Please make sure you read both of the next two paragraphs, before reading the rest.
For years and years I have heard what a brilliant guy Al Mohler is. He's a genius, he only sleeps fourteen minutes a night, he reads fifteen books every day before breakfast and commits them all to memory, he's "world-class," and all that. My respect for him grew as I heard him tell the tale of reforming SBTS. He is a hero. So with great anticipation I've tuned in to see him to go head to head with two enemies (in one way or another) of the Gospel that Mohler loves. Both times, I was bitterly disappointed. I expected to hear the truth vindicated and error destroyed; instead, I heard a man seemingly more concerned with being genial. They weren't 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 moments.
It's probably my fault. I probably am missing some deep and wonderful reason for what I'm seeing, or not listening to the right debates, or listening to them wrong. But I feel as if I'd heard for years that "Bobby Zippo" is the greatest guitarist ever, and I go to two concerts to see him set forest fires with soaring, transcendent guitar solos — and all I get is some tame rhythm guitar and a couple of timid notes. I don't doubt Mohler is everything I've heard, and has the goods I don't; I just don't understand why he doesn't seem to see these head-to-heads as opportunities to deal some decisive death to some deathly, damaging, corrupting, harmful error.
Case in point: Mohler's recent "debate" with Jim Wallis, worshiper of liberalism and enabler of the worst people in America. A religionist who likes to use the word "Jesus" to further his political agenda. The question for the debate was "Is Social Justice an Essential Part of the Mission of the Church?"
If you were in Mohler's shoes, what is the first thing you'd do? The first thing I'd do, lesser light that I am, is the first thing I've done already: focus on defining "gospel" and "social justice." Seems basic, right?
To his credit, Mohler did, towards the very end, raise the first question more confrontively. He did let it be known that he didn't share Wallis' (appalling! disastrous! idolatrous!) definition... but he didn't really tear it down to the ground, either.
Again and again Wallis said, in so many words, that liberalism is his god, and "Jesus" is allowed along only insofar as he agrees with Wallis. How so? Well, Wallis said he left Jesus when he thought Jesus wasn't a socialist; Wallis only came back to "Jesus" when he found a way to make Him sound like he shared Wallis' socialism. So who's the god, to Wallis? You see it. I see it. But it wasn't targeted in the debate.
Wallis' whole worldview is at odds with the Bible. As Andrew Lindsey points out, Wallis' Christian heroes are heretics. He makes an absolute mash of the Bible. Examples: Jesus healed people, and what that means is that government tyranny over private lives and confiscation of goods so as to hand out free medical insurance should be absolute. Obviously. Right? And Luke 4:18f. means that government should penalize the productive to give money to the unproductive. Duh. Right? And the Occupy people (violent, raping anarchists) are deep and thoughtful people who should be understood and encouraged and enabled by the church. And on and on.
This is a massive, huge thing — or I'm badly off-target.
Wallis is asked to define the Gospel, and his response is a nightmare monstrosity. One of his anecdotes is a girl who sees some social action, and says "If that's what Christians do, I want to become a Christian." Really? That's all? Wow, so much for 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and Romans 10:17, eh? Because it is crystal-clear that, to Wallis, involvement in social liberalism and massive government tyranny is the Gospel, the core of the Gospel, the heart and center of the Gospel.
How so? Well, all of the above, plus Wallis says we'd better all become socialists and Democrats (I'm bringing forward what was allowed to remain in the background) or young people will leave the church. So there. Can't have that. Must tailor the message to accommodate their priorities. Duh.
Who's the god in that system?
So in other words, it's like when Sam Storms said that, if he could be convinced that the apostle John were a premillennialist, he'd conclude that John was wrong. If we are to take Wallis' words seriously, he is saying that if he could be convinced that Jesus were not a socialist of the Wallis variety, he'd just leave Jesus again.
My problem is that I, dim bulb that I am, saw that over and over in the debate, but the debate itself didn't bring it up. Wallis was given a pass again and again, because (I guess) he's such a jovial, jolly soul, and the audience seemed very sympathetic. Mohler himself was unclear except in defining the Gospel — at one early point he said he didn't really like debating the question, because the church should be involved.
But again, Wallis' whole worldview is undiscipled. It is a non-Gospel-tilted worldview. It is a classic example why I think the message of TWTG is so important, and why I wish the influential (like Mohler?) would look at the book and give it a higher profile. Wallis has a god he can negotiate with. He assumes his feelings and judgment are sufficient. He assumes he has the right to set up a system of priorities, and then find a god who lines up with them. He sees people primarily as helpless victims in need of enablement and handouts, not criminals against God in need of repentance and redemption and reconciliation to God.
So, I thought it was a really important debate.
I just wish Wallis had had an opponent who was passionate about vindicating the truths that Wallis despises, and decimating the errors he adores.
PREQUEL: on Wallis' shaky relationship to truth
UPDATE: a bit of Biblical clarity about "justice."