National Edition

Leading evangelical Christian theologian, commentator talks about future of ministry, society

Published: Thursday, Oct. 24 2013 8:45 a.m. MDT

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler, left, walks with Elder Richard Hinckley and LDS Church media spokeswoman Ruth Todd after a media interview in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Leading conservative Christian theologian, educator and minister Albert Mohler Jr. says he first considered a career in law and politics. "I wanted to go where the ideas were most interesting and (where) I thought the opportunity to shape culture and lives was most direct," he said.

But growing up in a home where the local Southern Baptist church in Lakeland and later Pompano Beach, Fla., was the central focus in life, Mohler realized his most exhilarating ideas were rooted in his faith. He also experienced what he called a life-changing recognition of the "short-term impact of politics and the long-term impact of the gospel."

"I was at my church so much and enjoyed it so much that I imagined doing what the pastor did, and it struck me, 'This must be what a call to the ministry looks like.' I talked to all the people who would know and they said, 'Yes, that's exactly it,' " he recalled.

More than 30 years after that decision, Mohler has maintained his passion for interesting ideas, a keen interest in politics and a sense of mission about taking on contemporary culture from a conservative Christian worldview. In addition to his duties as president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mohler produces a daily podcast on current news and events, writes regular commentary posted on a personal blog, and fits in interviews with leading thinkers for his periodic "Thinking in Public" podcast. He also tweets several times a day to his nearly 70,000 Twitter followers.

"I don't sleep a whole lot," he said in an interview Tuesday at the end of a two-day visit to Utah, where he met with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and spoke at Brigham Young University. Described in the popular press as an articulate voice and intellectual leader of evangelical Christianity, Mohler spends about one-third of the year traveling to speak and lecture. "Another strategic time for me to work is on airplanes," he said, explaining how he gets it all done.

At the end of a day of meetings with LDS Church leaders — and before spending an evening with young evangelical church planters in Salt Lake City — Mohler shared his views on the next generation of evangelicals and the challenges an increasingly secular society poses for religion in America.

In your speech at Brigham Young University, you talked about a "breakdown in the immune system of human society." Elaborate on that analogy and what is causing the breakdown.

What I mean to depict is an individual has an immune system that's necessary to fend off things of which we are not even aware. Illness is a breach of that immunity system. We have rather intentionally lowered the resistance level in our society to some very dangerous developments, and we find ourselves in a situation of enormous and fairly radical moral change.

What's at stake are the most basic institutions of human life and basic moral instincts and intuitions that make social life possible and lead to human happiness and human flourishing. I want to affirm that marriage and the family were given by God to human beings as two of his greatest gifts. Anything that weakens or redefines or subverts those gifts will lead to profound human unhappiness.

What do you see as posing the biggest threat to marriage: divorce of heterosexual couples or same-sex marriage?

I don't think I can answer the question in those terms. I will say this: Divorce has done far more damage to human lives than same-sex marriage has. ... Same-sex marriage is different in that divorce, if society decided to address it, can at least be remedied not by changing the institution (of marriage) but by returning to it — by returning to the notion of enduring monogamy as the expectation and the enduring nature of the marriage covenant. Same-sex marriage changes that because it actually redefines what the institution is.

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