Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rude thoughts on the Wallis-Mohler debate

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.

As to the second question, Mohler seemed to let Wallis' definition stand, seemed to share it, seemed apologetic that the orthodox church wasn't doing more of it, seemed to suggest that holding the real gospel would necessitate the church getting into it.

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."

43 comments:

Robert said...

I haven't watched or listened to the debate yet, but if it is as you describe it I am saddened. Mohler usually does a wonderful job of taking on difficult issues head-on and this isn't really what I would call a difficult issue...the church has been dealing with this longer than I have been alive. This just makes me sad.

DJP said...

Yes, nobody should take my word for it, everyone should listen and judge for himself. I am not saying Mohler is a bad guy, not even close. I think he's a good guy.

That's why I was disappointed.

But maybe I'm wrong.

Fred Butler said...

This is probably one of the best rants I have read in sometime. My heart is genuinely warmed.

No you're not wrong. Al is a big sweet marshmallow of a guy. It makes him too nice at times. We shouldn't be nice with soul damning falsehood.

Robert said...

I'm not saying that I think you're wrong...I had actually heard somebody else mention the same thing and just haven't had the time to listen to it yet. I'd probably say that Fred is right that he is too nice. You know, we don't always have to be nice to be loving...Jesus was very severe at times because the instances and issues called for it.

Barbara said...

I must have watched a different debate. I caught what I could catch of it when it was streaming (there were serious streaming issues for the first half) but what I saw was truth held up in a very 2 Timothy 2:22-26 kind of a way - a way which, frankly, does seem to find itself rare and in growing disrepute of late.

Sir Brass said...

Dan, it could very well be that as good of a speaker as Mohler is, he just isn't as good in debates as debates.

We can perhaps say the same in regards to R.C. Sproul or John MacArthur too, right?

Not all excellent ministers of the gospel are equally equipped for a defense of the faith in the form of an actual debate (don't misread me, please :) ).

DJP said...

Well, just take those two names. I listened to their discussion of baptism a few years ago. My memory is that it was good, brotherly, contentful, focused.

But then they were/are brothers. I'm not so sure Jim Wallis is a brother.

Sir Brass said...

My point was more that someone who does not regularly debate (and by debate I mean scholarly debate... see my profile for just who might be my primary example for what that means) is not always going to do very well. Being disarmed by the charm of your opponent can trip up someone who is not very practiced in debate, even if the one disarmed is well known for being unequivocal and bold in his defense of the gospel.

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

”This is a massive, huge thing — or I'm badly off-target.

It is and you’re not!

That’s why I keep sending people the link to this:

http://www.summit.org/blogs/the-presidents-desk/barack-obamas-red-spiritual-advisor/

This guy has the ear of the most powerful man on earth and it shows in pretty much everything Obama does. I don’t know which came first, the chicken (Obama) or the egg (Wallis) but together they continue to move this country towards Socialism and pin the whole idea on Jesus as they go. It’s disgusting.

I haven’t watched the debate yet, but based on your comments Dan, it sounds like Mohler let Wallis off easy, that’s disappointing.

Michael B. said...

"I just don't understand why he doesn't seem to see these head-to-heads as opportunities to deal some death to some deathly error."

Because you're a person who can pretty much say anything he wants with impunity. Let's imagine you write on your blog that the Jews in the holocaust are all burning in hell because they sinned and never accepted Jesus as their savior. You might get some angry comments on your blog, but that's about it. Since you're a house-husband and a very small time author/pastor, you don't have to worry about losing your job. But most Christians don't have your security and privilege. For your average Christian man out there, writing or saying very offensive comments online or in person could cost them their jobs. So, while I'm not fan of Mohler, it's wrong of you to insinuate that he's such a coward and you're such a hero.

Stan McCullars said...

I guess I got stuck asking myself why Mohler would want to debate a mocker like Wallis in the first place.

It seems to me that if you're debating "Is Social Justice an Essential Part of the Mission of the Church?" it should at least be with someone who undelniably was part of the church. For instance, I don't think it would be beneficial to debate that topic with T.D. (Trinity Denying) Jakes.

Stan McCullars said...

Dan,
Congrats! I had no idea of your security and privilege.

For the record, I am someone who needs a steady income and I basically believe that Jews in the holocaust are all burning in hell because they sinned and never accepted Jesus as their savior.

I think I would reword it a bit. First, the thought of people suffering in hell for eternity is a very sobering one and not one to be taken lightly. I would also clarify that it was only the Jews in the holocaust that have actually died as Jesus-rejecting Jews that are burning in hell. Such Jews (and every other person that has ever died), are burning in hell NOT because they never accepted Jesus as their savior but rather because they were sinners who died under the wrath of God, having died without their sins being forgiven.

By the way, at lunch today I was telling my wife how much I respect you as a Bible teacher. You are, in a manner of speaking, one of my heroes.

Susan said...

You go, Stan. Beautiful defense of Dan without feeding the troll. Hip hip hooray!

Barbara said...

By the way, one of the benefits of watching the streaming video in real time was the on-site chat feed running beside it. My favorite entry (I recorded it): "If this debate was about warm milk, snuggies, and the muppets - Mohler GOT OWNED!"

Wallis was just plain incoherent. Just seems to be a matter of what you have ears to hear. Mohler wasn't lacking in truth, and he's right - we do have a role to play in being examples to the world including in how we treat the lost sinners in it. He made it clear that the Gospel is first and foremost and not to be sacrificed for the sake of comfort. And I would reiterate that whole "gentleness/kindness/with patience" thing that Paul told Timothy to use in correcting Hymenaeus and Philetus. As I recall, their error was pretty big too. I just figure Jesus knows better than we do when it comes to things like that and it seems to me that Mohler used that. Of course, if this is just a pile-on-Mohler's-perceived-weakness session, then I guess I have no place in it. I am really losing my taste for blogging when this is what it turns us into.

DJP said...

I'm truly sorry you see it that way, Barbara. I'm always happy to see your name as a commenter, and I'm sorry you're not pleased with my thoughts.

You don't think anything could be credited to the fact that I listened to the whole thing, and you didn't?

I agree with you, if the point was who could be the nicest and most genial, it was a tie, or perhaps a slight edge to Mohler.

I think I'd just ask you to re-read me. I don't know how I could have bent over more backwards to speak as well as I could of Mohler, while at the same time saying that I do not think he effectively exposed and targeted ideas which I think are poison, as well as a dead-wrong, Pelagian version of the Gospel.

It seems you really want me to un-hear what I heard, and un-think what I thought of it. I just can't do that, unless you offer me more specifics, and engage me beyond simply telling me you don't like what I wrote.

Barbara said...

It's deeper than that, Dan. It's the bigger thing, it seems that the blogosphere in general seems to lend to this idea that just because we have something to say, we should necessarily avail ourselves of an audience and say it. I'm dealing with a lot of conviction myself for many times speaking my opinion - especially a critical one - when I should have remained silent, especially when it involves other people. I had to eat the fruits of it back in May and June, having been surrounded by the same thing in the name of good doctrine, and when the same people then turn around and devour you...well it frankly shook me out to the core to the point that I would have left church entirely if not for the fact that I have actually met Jesus - ("If this is the fruit of this doctrine, I want no part of it" - but knowing that it isn't, and graciously kept by the Good Shepherd and brought to a church that teaches good doctrine and at the same time bears the fruit of the Spirit rather than just all flesh). As a result, I have just lost my taste for it.

I'm sorry, it's not meant to be critical of you, just I guess an expression of grief. Dr. Mohler is a brother who did no harm to the Gospel, who stood up for it and proclaimed it, it was held up in clear opposition to what Wallis said and I thought it spoke for itself very clearly. If his only offense boils down to just being more gentle than I would have liked because for whatever Al Mohler is or isn't, he is a brother and one who is not in grave error, has committed no sin transgressing Christian love, has acted in obedience to the Scriptures in his handling of it, who am I to say I didn't like it and create a point of division where there need not be one? I have had cause to echo Francis Schaeffer's same struggle that resulted in his book "True Spirituality" - because of this kind of thing for too long. It's like a snake that squeezes the life out of my heart. That passage in 2 Timothy 2 has been instructive and helpful to me and stands out and serves me as a reminder that if even the worst Gospel-offending offenses calls for handling according to the fruit of the Spirit (kindness/gentleness/patience), how much more so should those whose differences are not on matters of first importance? Maybe there's less to talk about but then maybe we all talk too doggoned much as it is. I'm sorry. I'll go now.

DJP said...

Barbara, agreeing with me or voicing approval of everything I write is not a requirement, as far as I'm concerned.

No doubt I'm not as big a man as Al Mohler. But I can take you (over the months) seeming to express appreciation for me and what I did, but voicing disagreement when you think it's warranted.

But isn't that what I just did, in re. Mohler? And if a wee little man such as I could accept your criticism, don't you think he could without losing a step, as well?

Regardless, God bless you, and I for my part hope you don't disappear.

Barbara said...

Thank you for your kindness, Dan. You even entitled your post "rude thoughts" and so it is, I suppose. Point taken, though. I should speak less, too.

jmb said...

I haven't listened to the debate yet, but, if it's like you describe, I think it's another indication of a tendency I and others have noted. Namely, the more well-known and influential your "opponent," the more you will bend over backwards not to be critical of him. By "you," I mean Calvinists who are themselves well-known and influential. (Doesn't have to be Calvinists; I'm just more aware of them than others.) It's as if mutual "success" is a bond that somehow de-emphasizes important doctrinal differences. I'm pretty sure they'd be much tougher on relative nobodies.

Daryl said...

Dan,

I listened to the whole debate as well and couldn't help thinking how much I wished James White were in Dr. Mohler's shoes.

I saw what you saw. Wallis continually telling stories to explain why he thought that Jesus came to help poor people as much as he came to save the world, and Mohler reiterating the not-trueness of it without ever actaully holding Wallis' feet to the fire.

I wish the definition of the Gospel had been clarified at the outset rather than at the end. Mohler clearly laid that out.
Wallis...well I couldn't make head nor tails of his idea of what the gospel was.

Mohler could've decimated him easily, I thought, but let him off with a smile.

I found it frustrating, and wondered why they were debating, or if they even were.

Wallis responded to virtually nothing, continuing to challenge. And Mohler continued to say what amounted to "I disagree...partly."

The division is clear. Why wasn't it clear in the debate?

DJP said...

Thanks Daryl, all.

Just to be crystal clear: I didn't want Mohler to attach Wallis personally.

But Wallis' ideas, worldview, and perverted Gospel needed serious dismantling and countering.

I think many had to have come away thinking, "Well, they basically agree about everything; it's just that Mohler thinks the Gospel comes earlier, and Wallis things the whole thing is Gospel."

And that just is not true.

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

So Michael B.,

Just so I’m clear. You’re not disagreeing with what Dan’s assessment of the debate is, you’re just saying that Mohler gets a pass because he has more to lose than Dan? IOW, in your opinion, it would be alright for a Christian to compromise as long as he/she is just trying to protect their job?

Oh, and for the record, I am a fan of Mohler’s (although I disagree with him signing The Manhattan Declaration) and I also agree with Stan’s feelings on Dan as well.

Stefan said...

Dan:

May God help us, but I have to agree with Barbara's comments.

Through this blog and Phil's blog, I have grown and benefitted in my walk with Christ, and the theological dimension of my faith has been greatly deepened as a result, all for the sake of the Gospel witness, so that I can testify to the goodness of God in the surety of His promises.

But the recent tendency on both blogs to become increasingly aggressive and antagonistic towards those outside of our camp seems to fly in the face of Paul's counsel to Timothy in 2 Tim 2:22-26—and this at a time late in Paul's life when he could have been most cynical about false teachers, languishing in prison while all Asia had deserted him.

If a man such as Dr. Mohler can treat his oppenents with such gentleness and respect, how can we assail him when he is conducting himself in accordance with the counsel of the inspired Word of God? Fellow believers in error and the elect among the non-believers of the world are the witnesses to our conduct.

God grant that all of His lost sheep may come to Him through the undiluted proclamation of the Gospel, but may He also grant us to remember that we too are undeserving sinners in desparate need of the blood of Christ as the atonement for our sins.

Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJP said...

So, you listened to the entire debate, Stefan?

Michael B. said...

@Stan McCullars

I have to say your post on Jews from the holocaust burning in hell really caught me off guard. Even your most die-hard Jesus-exclusive folks will generally back down on the thought of Anne Frank burning in hell, as they're ashamed of a theological god that would do such a thing, but not you. What surprised me more, is that you are willing to post your name. I saw in your profile that you're a CPA at a bank. I was also greatly taken aback by this, as I can't imagine what kind of bank would hire such a person.

DJP said...

Which will strengthen the impression of many that, though you position yourself as qualified to be a critic, you really truly don't get the basics of what it means to be a Christian.

Most people think it's a good idea to gain a basic understanding of a thing before evaluating it, much less criticizing it.

I commend that to you, Michael B.

DJP said...

(The usual response would be to insist that you have a perfect understanding, even though you just showed you clearly do not. This would complete the endless do-loop of Proverbs 18:2.)

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

Well, I have to say, when I first thought of Mohler debating Wallis it wasn’t 2 Tim 2:22-26 that I was hoping for but more of something along the lines of Matthew 23:27-28. IOW, I wasn’t looking for a MacArthur vs. Sproul type of moment where two real Christian men get together and have at a biblical subject. IMO, Wallis is a phony… a poser… a person that uses the Gospel to get what he wants, and drags the Gospel through the mud in the process. Therefore, to put it bluntly, I would hope for Mohler to “clean his clock”.

Now, if I, not even being a very small time author/pastor have such high hopes for the decimation of someone like Wallis, I can’t even imagine the expectation that someone like Dan would have, and the disappointment that would follow if it didn’t happen.

I used to be quite a boxing fan and I remember the many times I would get all pumped up for a fight and the expectation that my superior guy would knock-out his lesser opponent only to find myself screaming at the T.V. set, “throw it-he’s wide open” and my guy just wouldn’t let it go.

I haven’t watched the debate yet, but if Dan is correct in his assessment (and I expect he will be) I have a feeling I’ll spend most of the time yelling at Mohler to throw the knock-out punch only to settle for a lackluster decision. Thanks for the heads up Dan, I'll bring extra snacks to try and compensate. ;-)

DJP said...

A brother complained (privately) about the title. Clearly, it struck some differently than I meant it; others, not so much.

Here's where it came from: the whole problem with the debate, to my mind, is it seemed as if Mohler were focusing on being polite to the man Wallis, rather than ruthlessly deconstructive of Wallis' horrid ideas.

So where the title came from is: well heck, if Mohler won't say it, I will, even if that's perceived as rude. Because when it comes to poison like Wallis', I don't think politeness, if it leaves the poisonous ideas intact, is appropriate.

Stefan said...

Dan:

I have listened to the entire debate, minus the Q & A. I stopped at the 101-minute mark, just after Mohler finished his last rebuttal.

What I heard from Dr. Mohler was the paramountcy of the Gospel, a defense of biblical justice in all of its ramifications, and a clear delineation between the biblical mission of the Church per se (proclamation of the Gospel; making disciples) and the implications of Great Commission discipleship for individual Christians, living as citizens of the City of God within the City of Man, called to participate in God's restoration of fallen creation, which will only be finally, perfectly complete in the age to come.

What I heard from Wallis was something not entirely dissimilar. He made a biblical case for his interpretation of what the Gospel of the Kingdom implies, although he was too heavy on the anecdotes. He claimed to be equally minded towards the evangelistic proclamation of the Gospel and the doing of good works, but in the very act of so doing, is equating salvation with its second-order implications. I was also concerned with his assumption that we must appeal to the world by winning them to the Gospel through the doing of Kingdom work, which seems to be muddling things.

What I heard in totality from both Mohler and Wallis was a good expounding upon what biblical justice is, what its implications are, what the mission of the church is, and what we as individual redeemed people are called to do.

***

When I posted my comment last night, I had not yet listened to the debate (like Robert, Ron, and jmb), but I was relying upon your own description of Mohler's handling of it, your expressed disappointment in his approach, and the broader issues Barbara raised in her 4:14 p.m. comment.

DJP said...

Then you have not listened to the whole debate. But I give you points for what you endured.

You illustrate my concern. You do think they were saying about the same thing, with some nuances here and there. I think they were not.

But if they were saying the same thing, then I have even more problems with Mohler than I state in the post. To which I refer you again, now, because I really do explain there why I was concerned.

It is as if (to go to Jakes) someone had this vaunted discussion with him, said "Do you believe in the Trinity," Jakes replied "I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit," and the interviewer said "OK, then, that's clear."

It's only clear if you don't know the background.

Ditto Wallis and "social justice" and "the Gospel."

s.driesner said...

I am listening to the "debate" (I'm at the beginning of the Q&A right now) and I absolutely share Dan's concern. I do believe that Mohler is too much letting his desire to be genial to trump the need for muscular challenges to Wallis' errors. This is not to say that Mohler is not passionately defending God's truth in the debate, but he needs to be drawing sharper distinctions.

This is illustrated at about minute 84 when Mohler says something that muddies the proper ordering of priorities. He concedes that "there is a lot of common ground here ... the hard stuff gets to the question of definitions."

I would not have put it that way.

I would (hopefully) have said, "There appears to be a lot of common ground here, but our definitions are in complete disagreement, and it is our definitions which provide the foundation for why we are to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God." When Mr. Wallis talks about the Gospel, he is not talking about the same Gospel which the Bible proclaims, i.e. 'The righteous man by faith shall live', rather his Gospel is one where salvation is through good works, the very thing condemned as anathema by Paul in Galatians and condemned by Jesus when He confronted the Pharisees, calling them whitewashed tombs and hypocrites. We also disagree on what is meant by 'justice', 'salvation', even who Jesus was and why he did what He did."

Then again, knowing me, I'd probably freeze up and babble incoherently.

BTW, I vote with Daryl -- I would *love* to see a James White vs. Jim Wallis debate.

To those on this thread that fear how supposedly antagonistic this blog and TeamPyro have become lately, what you are calling antagonistic is merely the muscular, clear, gracious, Christ honoring response to error that the Church desperately needs, and I commend Frank, Phil, and Dan for it.

Dave said...

I have only listened to 75+ minutes. This is the first that I have heard of Jim Wallis - I can actually follow him compared with Rob Bell... I find Mohler to be prepared and is addressing the topic i.e. "social justice"; not the theology of Jim Wallis. I am able to track with Mohler. What is "social" justice? What is the purpose of the Church and individual? Mohler does emphasize that the responsibility of the Church is to preach the Gospel and make disciples and let them go and do good (as faith without works is dead), and the primary purpose of the Church is not visible - to see people transferred from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light. Did I not listen to the same debate?

DJP said...

When you finish the entire debate, please re-read the post (if you've the time and inclination), and tell me. I'd be interested to hear.

PuritanD said...

Being one who has heard the whole debate, I cannot help but leave a comment.

One aspect of the debate that tends to be forgotten is the audience of college students w/o critical thinking. For some strange reason, these kids tend to be turned off to speakers who come across less genial than the other. I remember being at a "dialogue" between Brian McLaren and a college professor with a friend of mine. During a break, my friend ignored the solid biblical points brought up against McLaren's position. Why, because of the "heavy handedness" of the opposition speaker.

Though I cannot read Dr. Mohler's mind, I do wonder if he was trying to be winsome more with the audience than mopping the floor with Wallis' silly arguments.

DJP said...

I don't doubt you're right about perception.

You are a minority: a commenter who has actually listened to the entire debate. What do you make of my comments on the substance of Mohler's response to the substance (or whatever!) of Wallis' argument (or whatever!)?

PuritanD said...

DJP

I do agree that Mohler could have done better. At the same time, I thought that it was frustrating that Wallis refused to actually debate the issue. I was reading many comments given during the live debate. All wondered who asked for story time w/ Wallis.

It does make one pause that to have a good debate you do need a decent argument to oppose. When Wallis refuses to give such argument, one wonders what Mohler could have done even better.

I along with you have a deep respect for Mohler. Overall, I do not think of your comments as being overly critical. I do think we need to keep in mind the mushiness of the audience since my expectations and yours were probably more on the high end (yelling at the computer screen) than that of those sitting in the chairs.

DJP said...

Thanks! All fair thoughts and points.

Still, I think it could have been done, and done perfectly genially. Suppose you, right now, are in some sort of a debate with TD Jakes. He says, "PuritanD and I both agree that what matters is faith, and what matters is that we love God. On that we are together."

Would you really say "That's right," and let it go until the end? Or would you say, "Can you tell me what you mean by 'faith,' and what you mean by 'God'?" And if he somehow comes up with an orthodox-sounding or -approximating response, wouldn't you either ask more questions, or bring in other things he's said, to flush him out so that you can destroy the cancer?

PuritanD said...

Dan,

Sorry for the delay, out on the East Coast here.

I am not disagreeing with you. I think that Mohler could have easily gone for the jugular with grace. If anyone can be gracious, Mohler can. This is the first time I heard Mohler in a debate setting. I have seen him speak and preach at a couple of conferences, one being homeschool the other Biblical counseling. He does not hold back in such situations.

Was he caught flatfooted? Was the lack of Wallis holding up his end of the bargain, problematic? I don't know. I am not necessarily giving him a pass, he slipped and hopefully will learn and be better the next time.

Believe me, I would definitely demand that TD Jakes define every single term in any discussion, and probably twice just to make sure. Any one trying to use "manifestations" defining the Trinity needs to be pressed.

Scooter said...

Ok, I finally slogged through the entire debate, though my wife says I dozed off once or twice.

I think I agree with you Dan. Albert Mohler had a lot of good things to say, while Wallis sounded, well, like Wallis. You can fly a 747 through his definition of "social justice" and still park some Leer jets on each side. Most of his argument seemed to go, "Because I felt this way, everyone must be and we need to change."

If Wallis wanted to affirm the question in the debate, then he should have explained how the Scripture passages he cited lead to the conclusions he draws. He did neither. His use of Scripture is no better than a Mormom or Jehovah's Witness. I just wish Mohler had pointed that out before the Q&A session, where it was obvious they didn't agree on a lot.

Stefan said...

Dan:

I've now listened to the first 25 minutes of the Q & A, from minute 101 to 126. Frankly, I hear Mohler being very clear in articulating his position, in directly disagreeing with Wallis, and in refuting the latters' muddled exegetics.

At 110-112, he gives a very succinct summation of the biblical Gospel, in explicit disagreement with Wallis.

At 115, in response to Wallis' question regarding what "bring good news to the poor" means, Mohler's response to Wallis' interpretation is a simple, definitive "that's not what the Bible says."

At 117 or so, Wallis gets back into his position that the concept of "justice" is integral to the Gospel, and Mohler restates the clear delineation between the biblical, apostolic, kerygmatic Gospel itself on the one hand, and its implications on the other.

When Wallis brings up the matter soon thereafter of the position of the "atonement-only" churches during fractious periods in recent history, Mohler says at 119 that he can't help Wallis with his childhood preacher, and points out that this wasn't a theological failure, but of the churches' failing to make disciples.

When a lady accused Mohler of being "dualistic" around 122 (whatever she meant by that), Mohler sounded positively exasperated, pointing out that he literally doesn't have the power to cast out demons, heal the sick, etc. (good choice of words, if you think of it as a literal translation of the Greek dunamis!), but to proclaim the Gospel and to carry out his calling as a Christian disciple.

At 124, when Wallis was painting a picture of the early Church in terms of 20th-century social equality, Mohler's response to the verse Wallis was citing was, "You keep twisting that."

I had to stop at 126 because it's getting late and I wanted to write this comment.

I'm not sure quite what more you were looking for from Mohler. He seemed to be clear in standing his ground, and refuting Wallis where he disagreed. If it's a broader question of how Christians should be involved in civil society, there is clearly some agreement between them based upon what Scripture teaches, so inevitably it was not going to be a total disagreement between them on each and every point.

Nevertheless, Mohler did argue quite forcefully and articulately—and also civilly—for a clear distinction between the biblical Gospel on the one hand and its discipleship implications on the other.

And just to reiterate, I am not in any way particularly enamoured by Mohler. If there is some way in which he's falling short of the Bible as a Christian teacher, call him on it. But I haven't heard anything yet to lead me to conclude that he fumbled the ball here.

Stefan said...

Finished out the last 9 minutes after I posted my comment last night, and Mohler held up his end right through to the end.