When Criticizing Al Mohler Gets You ‘Church Disciplined’

It should be evident to anyone paying attention that Albert Mohler is not a good guy. And by should, I mean it is apparent, obvious, clear, manifest, conspicuous, perceptible, pronounced, or undeniable. And yet, the powers of human observation aren’t universal and so some conservatives have yet to become convinced that Mohler is not one of us.

There are reasons for this, of course. The first of which is that some have the unfortunate trait of watching only what a man says and not what he does. While Mohler has criticized Critical Theory and claimed with his best theatrical voice that Critical Theorists would only teach at Southern Seminary over his dead body, he’s summarily staffed the teaching roster at SBTS with Critical Theorists and fired the professors who had an inkling of trouble with it. While Mohler has done everything humanly possible to advance Critical Theory at Southern Seminary, he’s spoken words that are clearly the opposite of his actions.

Secondly, some folks presume that because Mohler has been conservative in the past he could not possibly be liberal now. While the presumption is illogical – as though people can’t or don’t change – normalcy bias is a potent elixir. Never mind that Mohler was once a liberal before becoming a conservative seemingly overnight, and that logic dictates that once changed, he could always change back again.

Third, some folks aren’t aware of the Overton Window and will happily grade conservatism on a sliding scale. So long as Mohler stays to the right of Jim Wallis, some will consider him a conservative, no matter how far the left Jim Wallis daily steps. So long as he remains slightly more conservative than the larger culture, it’s enough to consider the accusation that Mohler has gone liberal to be slanderous.

Fourth, some folks are happy to consider anyone a conservative so long as they make tacit support for Scriptural Inerrancy. While this was indeed the 17th Parallel during the Conservative Resurgence, the battleground has changed. In the 1980s, conservatives and liberals argued about whether or not what the Bible said was true. In 2020, conservatives and liberals alike affirm inerrancy (they have to in order to remain employed) but now the argument has moved to what the Bible says, not whether it’s true. But on the issues – like female ordination or social religion, for example – neither side has budged in 30 years.

For those who are paying attention, it is not controversial to say that Albert Mohler is perhaps the most brashly double-minded man in evangelicalism. His spoken positions are by-and-large 180 degrees from his actions. And no one can condemn post-modernity, moral relativism, or doctrinal slippage quite as eloquently as Albert Mohler. Unfortunately, no one can engage in post-modernity, moral relativism, or doctrinal slippage as eloquently as Albert Mohler, either. As I will discuss on my podcast this evening, if Mohler huffing and puffing against compromise while simultaneously engaging in it isn’t controlled opposition, nothing is.

Nonethless, for some undiscerning evangelicals, criticizing Albert Mohler is akin to criticizing Christ himself. And engaging in that criticism is all-to-often treated as a form of apostasy that must be met with church discipline.

As a case in point, one particularly articulate Social Justice opponent, Jacob Brunton, reported yesterday being excommunicated from his local church for various vague offenses related to criticizing Southern Seminary and the overflowing latte swamp that pools up there.

I’ll let you read his post yourself, but a few things stand out to me about it as perfectly ding-dang-diddly normal and altogether common in churches under the vice grip of Big Eva.

  • Elders lobbing nebulous accusations of slander and calumny without feeling it necessary to say how or even if his accusations are untrue
  • Elders claiming that step 1 and step 2 of church discipline can be done over Messenger in a 24 hour time period
  • Elders claiming that asking how he is in sin is proof in and of itself that he is in sin
  • Elders announcing his ex-communication to the church rather than having the church body decide the matter
  • Elders refusing to let him be present to address their accusations or appeal his ex-communication

Of course, none of this is how Baptists are to do church discipline, which is how the Bible tells us to do church discipline.

Excommunication, theoretically, is a matter of handing someone over to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:5). It is the very same as declaring someone to be an unbeliever. That seems a bit harsh for the high crime and misdemeanor of criticizing celebrity pastors.

On top of the sheer disobedience to the Bible and good Baptist polity for how discipline ought to be done is the irony of it all. Anathematizing someone (this is what the third stage of discipline, excommunication, is) for being divisive while simultaneously kicking them out of the body for an ill-defined breach of decorum is neither decent nor in order (1 Corinthians 14:40). Rational men would be offended at the irrationality of it.

In all, I know of several hundred young men who have been excommunicated from their churches for criticizing Albert Mohler or another leader in the Southern Baptist Convention. I’m unaware of a single instance in which it was done by a vote of the congregation, but all by the fiat of eldership (a fiat that does not Biblically exist).

Spurgeon was cast out of the Baptist Union for the same reason, but at least during the Downgrade Controversy the errant brothers had the guts to put it to a vote.

I’ll be discussing this and rightful, Biblical church discipline in tonight’s program. It will be linked here.

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