Dr Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is one of the biggest names in the New Calvinist camp. He is a conservative theologian that is committed to the doctrines of Calvin. Time has called him the ‘reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S’. Dr Mohler is on the council of The Gospel Coalition and a member of the Board of Directors of Focus on the Family.
Widely sought as a columnist and commentator, Dr. Mohler has been quoted by the New York Times, The Wall St. Journal, USA Today and the Washington Post, among others. He has appeared on many national news programs in theUSA, and until recently (July 3, 2010), hosted The Albert Mohler Program, a nationwide radio show devoted to engaging contemporary culture with Christian beliefs. As the head of the Southern Baptist Convention and President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mohler has pursued a conservative version of the Christian faith. In most areas he is doctrinally orthodox and faithful to Scripture.
Al Mohler endorses the New Calvinism
Mohler is on record claiming to be a five point Calvinist. In a discussion with other Gospel Coalition council members, Kevin De Young and Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler said that no convictional, thinking evangelical who wants to embrace the apostolic faith will come to any other conclusion than ‘The Reformed’.
Al Mohler: ‘Where else are they going to go? If you’re a theological minded, deeply convictional young evangelical, if you’re committed to the gospel and want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ, if you want to see gospel built and structured committed churches, your theology is just going end up basically being Reformed, basically something like this new Calvinism, or you’re going to have to invent some label for what is basically going to be the same thing, there just are not options out there, and that’s something that frustrates some people, but when I’m asked about the New Calvinism—where else are they going to go, who else is going to answer the questions, where else are they going to find the resources they going to need and where else are they going to connect. This is a generation that understands, they want to say the same thing that Paul said, they want to stand with the apostles, they want to stand with old dead people, and they know that they are going to have to, if they are going to preach and teach the truth.
But when it comes to conduct, Mohler is not always consistent with the Calvinistic theology that he proclaims. Herein is the dilemma—while teaching sound doctrine for the most part, Dr Mohler’s teaching on Christian conduct does not always match his doctrinal stance. Let us examine what the Albert Mohler Program has to say about hip-hop culture. But first, we need to remind ourselves of the nature of hip-hop culture.
Mixing the holy and the profane
The ungodly spirit of hip-hop culture is well documented and beyond dispute. Hip-hop has come to dominate youth culture in the USA, the UK and other parts of the world. It has generated a multi-billion dollar industry of music, clothes, jewellery, movies, and more. It is not difficult for a true believer to discern that hip-hop is a worldly culture guided by the spirit who works in the sons of disobedience. Hip-hop culture is a bastion of filth—promoting violence (Cop killer by Body Count), drugs, irresponsible sex, (Na Palm’s debut album ‘Late At Night’, we love sex, drugs and hip-hop), excessive materialism, and delinquent behaviour. It appeals to the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and is grounded in rebellion and lawlessness. Almost all hip-hop, gangsta or not, is delivered with an aggressive, arrogant, confrontational cadence. Rap music mirrors the brutality of rap lyrics in its harshness and repetition; it is the music of the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 5.6).
The idea that this wicked culture can be redeemed and brought into the Church, and turned into holy hip-hop, is wrong because the music style cannot be separated from its immoral associations. Hip-hip music invariably corrupts God’s people, for they have disobeyed his command to separate from evil. ‘And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them’ (Ephesians 5.11) Our Christian duty is to ‘abstain from every appearance of evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5.22). Therefore, as Christian believers we are not to be ‘unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? …Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6.14-18).
As we have already noted, the uncleanness of hip-hop culture is beyond dispute, and Scripture is clear that Christian people are to separate themselves from the works of wickedness, and every appearance of evil. Yet leading New Calvinists have formed a close association with the wicked culture of hip-hop, and even coined the term ‘holy hip-hop’.
The Albert Mohler Program promotes hip-hop culture
The Albert Mohler Program has given prominent air time to two well known Christian rap artists, namely Marcus Gray, also known as Flame (2008), and Lecrae (2009). Please see the videos below.
These two radio programs, hosted by Dr Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, openly promoted hip hop culture and Christian rap music. Dr Russell Moore spoke about how the church can dialogue with the hip-hop culture. He said: ‘There is something in hip-hop that we can learn from in all kinds of ways, in our evangelism, in our discipleship, in our preaching, especially in our preaching.’ He asserted that the lyrics of rap music are really very deeply doctrinal and theological. He also claimed that the church has much to learn from hip-hop culture about proper biblical contextualisation. He even invited Lecrae to recommend a list of Christian rap artists. The effect of these programs, coming from the Albert Mohler Program, with the blessing of Southern Baptist Seminary, is to endorse rap and hip-hop culture among theological students and young Christians. The Albert Mohler Program has welcomed the world into the church—it has put no difference between the holy and the profane.
Interpreting Mohler’s position on hip-hop culture
For Dr Mohler to allow his radio program and the Southern Baptist Seminary to be used to promote hip-hop culture is difficult to understand. As President of a Theological Seminary, Dr Mohler is a mature Christian leader, and therefore should be able ‘to discern both good and evil’ (Hebrews 5.14). He knows the command of Scripture, ‘Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5.21-22). Surely with his deep knowledge of Scripture, and the gift of discernment that God gives to mature Christians, he must be able to recognise the wickedness of the hip hop scene. Surely he must be able to discern the worldly spirit of rap music. Surely he knows that friendship with the world is enmity with God.
Yet despite his vast knowledge of theology, and his prominent position as a leader of the Church, he has chosen to allow the Southern Theological Seminary to promote the Christian hip-hop movement. And by doing so he has made worldly music acceptable to thousands upon thousands of young theological students who are taking the perverted messages of rap music and hip-hop culture into churches around the USA. All this, dear reader, is difficult to understand. But Scripture, through the prophet Ezekiel, helps us to understand the appalling significance of a Baptist Theological Seminary that promotes hip-hop culture in the name of Christ.
In Ezekiel chapter 8, God shows the prophet Ezekiel ‘the image of jealousy’ in the Temple (Ezekiel 8.3). God’s hand brings the prophet ‘to the door of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the image of jealousy was, which provokes to jealousy’ (v3). God then instructs Ezekiel to dig into the wall of the Temple to see the wicked abominations that were being worshipped in the temple. ‘And He [God] said to me, “Go in, and see the wicked abominations which they are doing there.” So I went in and saw, and there—every sort of creeping thing, abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed all around on the walls. And there stood before them seventy men of the elders of the house ofIsrael’ (v10-11).
Matthew Henry interprets the appalling scene that met Ezekiel’s eyes.
‘All the idols of the house of Israel, which they had borrowed from the neighbouring nations, were portrayed upon the wall round about, even the vilest of them, the forms of creeping things, which they worshipped, and beasts, even abominable ones, which are poisonous and venomous… He sees this chamber filled with idolatrous worshippers. There were seventy men of the elders of Israel offering incense to these painted idols. Here was a great number of idolaters strengthening one another’s hands in this wickedness.’
In the same way, Albert Mohler and his Southern Baptist Theological Seminary have brought ‘the image of jealousy’ (hip-hop culture), with its vile images, into the Church of Jesus Christ. The Lord God of Scripture is a holy God and will not be associated with images of wickedness. As God withdrew his glory from the Temple of Israel, so he will remove his blessing from those who provoke him with the abomination of hip-hop culture.
You can learn more about Pastor John Piper, Dr Tim Keller and Pastor Mark Driscoll in the book, The New Calvinists (2014), published by The Wakeman Trust and Belmont House Publishing. The book is available from The Metropolitan Tabernacle bookshop or from Amazon More on John Piper and his Christian Hedonism at The Real John Piper website