“He took a generation of young ministers into an intellectual cul-de-sac and now they can only keep running in circles.”

So said Rev. Dr. Gary Furr about Rev. Dr. Albert Mohler. The occasion was the upcoming anniversary of Dr. Mohler’s installation as president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary thirty years ago.

Fortunately, I got out more than a decade before he arrived. I finished a master of divinity in 1977 and a doctor of philosophy in 1982. He came behind me earning the same two degrees. His doctoral dissertation sits next to mine separated only by that of my friend and mentor, the Rev. Dr. Dale Moody who taught at the school for almost 50 years.

The seminary is not the same school it was when I was a student. I was blessed to spend eight years there when the seminary was an open and intellectual place. Now, it is closed to all but a narrow perspective on God, scripture, and theology. Mohler saw to that. He fired anybody that did not like his brand of fundamentalism.

Mohler wasn’t always what he is now. Credible witnesses quote him as saying 40 plus years ago, as he returned from an annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, “I see which way the wind is blowing.” He went with the wind, even though he told me in an interview more than 20 years ago it was not the wind but the influence of C. F. H. Henry.


But I wonder which theologian he credits for his latest conversion: from never-Trump to always-Trump. That happened two years ago when he was running for president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He needed to shift further to the right to appease the broad band of Trumpsters doing to the Convention what a similar group of people did back when I was a young minister.

It didn’t work. Mohler lost the election. In fact, he didn’t even make the run-off.

But over his career, he has not lost many times. Tacking further and further to the right, he has fought successfully to install Biblical Inerrancy, Five-Point Calvinism, and Complementarianism throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.

That last ism is what most of us would call discrimination against women. Women, he and others assert, are neither equipped nor capable of exercising any kind of authority over men. That includes holding high office in the church, the seminary, or the denomination.

This is what Dr. Furr meant when he described Mohler of leading his people into an intellectual cul-de-sac. They run around in tight little circles convincing each other of the urgency of their cause, all the while unable to lead their churches, their convention, or the nation to address the real issues of our day. This became clear when, in another fit of fear, he and his institutional henchmen denounced the reality of systemic racism in our country.

Unable to see neither the color line nor the gender line, Dr. Mohler had led his theological tribe to circle their wagons in the afore-mentioned cul-de-sac and declare war on American culture. He published his book The Gathering Storm, which reads like a preface to the political movement known now as Christian Nationalism.

Mohler is not alone in his campaign to take the United States back to 1950, or 1850, or even 1750. His seminary, reports contend, now enrolls 5,000 students.


I wonder about those numbers. How many of these are in affiliate programs like Boyce (Bible) College, how many are online and non-resident (following the lead of Liberty University), and how many are in their co-curricular women’s studies classes (where the wives of male ministers are allowed to learn)?

These suspicious numbers are not enough to cover for the precipitous slide into serious crisis that has marked the last 20 years of Southern Baptist life. Millions have departed the fellowship; thousands have demanded justice for women; and once again the network is embroiled in a struggle for power.

All of this makes me sad. Sad for the students. Sad for the country. Sad even for Dr. Mohler.

It also makes me think of one-time General George Custer, of the United States Army, during and after the Civil War. He led his 7th cavalry in the campaign to wipe out the Native Americans living on the western plains. Until he didn’t. He died.

It was an early bout of White Christian Nationalism. Custer ended up buried in a shallow grave on a slope above the Little Bighorn River. His dream of a nation free of those who would not conform ended up shaming all of us.

So, I’m not just sad. I am ashamed.

But still, thirty years later, I am also pleased: that I got in and out of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary before the Rev. Dr. Albert Mohler arrived, that I got a proper theological education before the Rev. Dr. Albert Mohler converted himself and the school into a sorry excuse for an institution of higher learning, and that I own two signed diplomas before the Rev. Dr. Albert Mohler could stamp his name on the paper and his ideology on the school.

Such things make me happy. Thank you, Jesus.



Published On: March 22nd, 2023 / Categories: Commentary /

Recent Posts