Al Mohler’s Address

Before I give the substance of Al Mohler’s session, I have to address a comment that will not come out of the queue. It accuses Steve Lawson and Al Mohler of being Anabaptists. A quick lesson in history. The Baptists came from the magisterial Reformed tradition, NOT the Anabaptist tradition. The Anabaptists have their descendents in the Amish and the Mennonites. To confuse confessionally Baptist theologians (as in, London Baptist Confession Baptists) with the Anabaptist tradition is slipshod history. They are from two completely different swaths of the Reformation tradition.

His session is called “I’ve Got Half a Mind, Too.” The Christian mind is necessary for the Christian life. He wishes to conduct an autopsy on the mind of the age. He’s really dealing with the Noetic effects of the Fall. He notes that Bebbington’s definition of “evangelical” does not include anything in the way of distinctive thinking or whether evangelicals think at all. So, we need to think about thinking. This requires, of course, a great deal of intellectual energy. There is another factor, which is the difference that conversion makes in our thinking. We face an intellectual crisis of monumental proportions today, especially when it comes to postmodernism. People are skeptical now about whether it is possible to know anything. The Enlightenment has greatly affected the way we think. Now, we have supposedly left the postmodern way of thinking, and are now in the “Late Modern” period.

Mohler reflects on Romans 1:18ff. Here we learn that the knowledge crisis is not new, but rather ancient. That sin constitutes a conspiracy against the truth is vital knowledge for us. The Fall brought about a tremendous confusion in knowledge. As we deny the truth, the culturally collective tendency to rationalize our sin comes to the fore. Modern universities (such as Harvard) tell us that they are seeking the truth. However, it is a massive and intentional evasion of the truth. This is because the theme of Romans 1 is not about what people DO not know, but rather about what they WILL not know. Their ignorance is thoroughly intentional. We should therefore not use our conscience as our guide (Jimminy Cricket notwithstanding), because even our conscience is corrupted by the Fall. Idolatry is the end result of our corrupted thinking. This is because corrupt thinking inherently dethrones God.

1. The Fall affects our thinking. 2. It is genetic in our thinking. 3. Therefore, God has hidden certain things, even for our own good.

There are (at least) 15 Noetic effects of the Fall. 1. Our thinking is now opposed to God. All knowledge comes from God, so if our knowledge of God is corrupted, then so is our knowledge of everything else 2. Ignorance; 3. Distractedness (we all have theological ADD) 4. Forgetfulness; 5. Prejudice; 6. Faulty Perspectives; 7. Intellectual fatigue; 8. Inconsistencies; 9. Failure to draw the right conclusions; 10. Intellectual apathy (we are all apathetic about some knowledge); 11. Dogmatism and close-mindedness. 12. Intellectual pride; 13. Vain imagination; 14. Miscommunication; 15. Partial knowledge. Even when we know rightly, we don’t know completely. Mohler says there are fourteen, but in his speech I (LK) counted 15 effects of the Fall on our thinking.

One of the beautiful things about the Gospel is that Jesus Christ has started the rescue operation of how we can escape or neutralize or lessen these effects through the grace of God.

There are five principles of modern thinking: 1. anti-realism, especially in moral issues; 2. moral relativism; 3. therapeutic universalism (you’re either in therapy or in denial); 4. radical pluralism; 5. pragmatism. We have moved from impossible not to believe in God to possible not to believe to impossible to believe.

I (LK) have to admit that trying to keep on the train of thought is very difficult. He talks very fast, and he is so brilliant that he is trying to give us five thousand points in one hour. It’s like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hydrant.


  1. John Harutunian said,

    March 15, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    “therapeutic universalism (you’re either in therapy or in denial)”

    Bravo! Beautifully put.
    But in the light of Mohler’s overall thrust, I do tend to wonder, “Why should a Christian parent ever send his son/daughter to Harvard?”

  2. March 15, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Re: John @ 1:

    Actually, your son or daughter can go to Harvard… if they’re ready. You can get a great education at Harvard, but you have to go looking for it. There are great minds there, as there always have been. It’s kind of like graduate school, even for undergraduates. It’s not exactly like, e.g., Grove City College, where a good education is nearly forced on you.

    It’s on a case-by-case basis. If I had a son or daughter uncertain of their faith, I wouldn’t send them there. On the other hand, if my son or daughter was well-versed in the biblical worldview, with preferably a classical Christian education, I think they would do fine there. Same goes for Yale or Princeton.

  3. John Harutunian said,

    March 15, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    >The Baptists came from the magisterial Reformed tradition, NOT the Anabaptist tradition.

    As a Christian with somewhat High Church leanings, I must ask you: On what basis do you categorize one tradition as being “magisterial”, and another as not?

  4. Steve Tipton said,

    March 15, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    it is magisterial if it had the backing of the civil magistrate. the anabaptists did not, therefore was not part of the magisterial reformation.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    March 15, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    The term “magisterial” has to do with whether the group in question was willing to work with the local magistrates. The Lutherans and the Reformed were all willing to do this. The Anabaptists were not.

  6. paigebritton said,

    March 16, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    So if the general noetic effect of the fall is that “All knowledge comes from God, so if our knowledge of God is corrupted, then so is our knowledge of everything else, what effect, if any, does regeneration have on our acquiring “knowledge of everything else”?

  7. David Palmer said,

    March 17, 2012 at 1:31 am

    “The Baptists came from the magisterial Reformed tradition, NOT the Anabaptist tradition. The Anabaptists have their descendent in the Amish and the Mennonites.”

    I have found this statement to be not strictly true.

    Last year I was part of a writing team that put together a document defending traditional marriage, “Revising Marriage?” in the context of a push the induce the Australian Parliament to amend the law of marriage to include same-sex couples. The document was written by two Catholics, two Presbyterians, two Anglicans and two Baptists. The document was endorsed by the Australian leadership of the Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran Churches, the evangelical half of the Anglican Church, Salvation Army, Christian Reformed, Seventh Day Adventist, big church Pentecostals. The group that might be expected to sign , the Baptists held back. Why? Their Anabaptist heritage. In “Revising Marriage?” we argued natural law, and then the Biblical/theological case. The Baptist rejected the natural law component in the document.

    Baptists in my experience do not accept the 2K/natural law teaching of the magisterial Reformed tradition.

    I understand the point about Reformed Baptists, but being Calvinist for them only goes so far – church order and the covenantal understanding of the sacraments being obvious points of division.

  8. greenbaggins said,

    March 17, 2012 at 7:10 am

    David, there has (unfortunately) been some cross-pollination of the Anabaptist tradition with the Baptist tradition. But this was not the origin of the Baptist tradition, which was entirely from the Reformed camp. Certainly, some Baptists have today imbibed some of that spirit. However, I was making a comment about the origin of the Baptist tradition. And it is still certainly wrong to lump in Mohler and Lawson with the Anabaptists.

  9. March 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm


    I appreciate the spirit of your prefatory comment. We do have much in common with our Baptist brothers and sister but to complicate things just a little, as I understand things, the early Baptist movement (as distinct from the Anabaptists) was the product of English Brownists (radical separatists with an over-realized eschatology) who fled to the Netherlands who came into contact with the Mennonites. The earliest Baptists took their view of Baptism from the Mennonites and combined it with their vision of the separated church. This would be c. 1611. The earliest Baptists were not Particular but General (on the atonement).

    The Particular Baptist movement (their nomenclature) developed subsequently and was organized by 1644 as symbolized by the First London. Thus, though there are significant differences between the 16th-century Anabaptists, they aren’t entirely separate as a matter of causality. On the differences: most of the 16th-century Anabaptists denied the gospel of justification sola gratia, sola fide (the later Menno was an exception), an orthodox Christology (they taught the doctrine of Christ’s “celestial flesh”) and the civil obligations of the Christian. They also tended to mysticism and apocalyptic chiliasm. They were willing, in some cases, to use the magistrate when it suited them. Thus, the relations between the Baptists and the confessional Reformed in the 16th and 17th centuries is complex.

    I’m not sure that it’s entirely accurate to suggest that the Baptist movement emerged from the Reformed churches. Certainly the Particular Baptists did identify with much of the Reformed doctrines of God, Christ, man and soteriology but they had a different hermeneutic and ecclesiology and those differences were understood in the period.

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