On YEC and Hell, Albert Mohler Takes Up the Evangelical’s Burden

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological seminary, and the man Time magazine once (weirdly) called America’s “reigning intellectual in the evangelical movement”, is a young earth creationist.

He also believes in hell.

Literally. Think Hieronymus Bosch here.

And in a recent blog post, he offered the following complaint against saner Christians:

Liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism have modified their theological systems to remove this offense. No one is in danger of hearing a threatening “fire and brimstone” sermon in those churches. The burden of defending and debating hell now falls to the evangelicals–the last people who think it matters.

And what a burden it must be! Defending hell belief is a decidedly uphill intellectual climb. It’s even a Sisyphean one.

And actually, Mohler himself declines this absurd effort (at least he didn’t attempt it in his post). He just wants Christians to preach hell without blinking:

Many evangelicals seek to find any way out of the biblical doctrine that is marked by so much awkwardness and embarrassment. . . [I]t would surely be easier to persuade secular persons to believe in a God who would never judge anyone deserving of eternal punishment than it would to persuade them to believe in the God preached by Jonathan Edwards or Charles Spurgeon. But the urgent question is this: Is evangelical theology about marketing God to our contemporary culture, or is it our task to stand in continuity with orthodox biblical conviction–whatever the cost? As was cited earlier, modern persons demand that God must be a humanitarian, and He is held to human standards of righteousness and love. In the end, only God can defend himself against His critics.

In other words, Mohler is saying that many of his fellow evangelicals have decided, in order to win converts, to downplay the sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-God routine, and just talk about a personal God who loves people unconditionally. Mohler condemns this, preferring Edwards and Spurgeon as models: if hell belief was good enough for them, it’s good enough for Mohler.

But this is nostalgia substituting for argument. And notice that, when push comes to shove, he clearly doesn’t think that hell can be defended to contemporary secularists:

In the end, only God can defend himself against His critics.

Put bluntly, Mohler here is abdicating his responsibility in discourse to provide direct warrants for what he believes. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” is not an argument, but Mohler treats such a string of declarations as if it is sufficient for one. 

And Mohler makes the same move with young earth creationism. Ultimately, the Bible is simply to be believed:

As I have stated repeatedly, I accept without hesitation the fact that the world indeed looks old. . . . The Bible itself offers a very different understanding of natural phenomena, with explanations that should be compelling to believers.

So Albert Mohler has the same basic intellectual move for both his young earth creationism and the doctrine of hell: the Bible “should be compelling to believers.” Period. It doesn’t matter what conclusions one’s unassisted reason would otherwise arrive at (the Enlightenment be damned):

Ever since the Enlightenment, theologians have been forced to defend the very legitimacy of their discipline and proposals.

Yes, well, that’s the Enlightenment for you. And if you resent it, you resent reason.

I like this quote from the Italian literary critic, Piero Camporesi (and which Mohler quotes in his post with disapproval):

We can now confirm that hell is finished, that the great theatre of torments is closed for an indeterminate period, and that after 2000 years of horrifying performances the play will not be repeated. The long triumphal season has come to an end.

It has come to an end, that is, for those who have absorbed the two core values of the Enlightenment: the Rights of Man (which repudiates torture) and universal reason (which treats humans as rational beings and demands evidence and good reasons for claims). But, as Goya long ago observed, the sleep of reason produces monsters.

File:Goya - Caprichos (43) - Sleep of Reason.jpg

Source: Wikidpedia Commons.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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8 Responses to On YEC and Hell, Albert Mohler Takes Up the Evangelical’s Burden

  1. A Christian telling everyone to ignore reality and to believe the absurd simply because it is written in the bible .. is anyone surprised by this?

    • santitafarella says:

      Jared,

      I guess I’m trying to bring out in the post that even someone who is supposed to be an intellectual within the movement cannot really muster plausible intellectual arguments for YEC and hell.

      —Santi

  2. MPuckett says:

    Mohler has a clear point: The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, clearly presents satan as the fallen creation of God, and the enemy of man, with Hell as a real place where fallen angels and those who refuse to accept God’s love and forgiveness go. Those who refuse to accept the full tenets of the christian faith lash out out christians as we are “supposed to be about love”. First, of course we are hypocrits – all humans are, and the Bible says that all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory – for there is none righteous – no, not one. This is why God sent a savior to redeem mankind. Non-believers are quick to ask about the “God is love” passages, but immediately protest the passages relating to sin. If hell isn’t real, there is no purpose for there to have been a savior. These same non-believers will look a person unblinkingly in the face, in asnwer to the question, who was Jesus?, and respond – a good man, a teacher – - but alas, He cannot be merely a teacher. Jesus only gives us two options: He unequivicolly stated that He is the Christ. Therefore, He must either be a disillusioned lunatic, or He must be exactly who he said he was. Interesting how no other being in all of the annuls of time have impacted the world as Jesus has, with many millions claiming a personal relationship with him, from Popes, to Presidents past and present. And yet, when I am in an airplane 33,000 feet above the earth and look down and see how very tiny we humans are in the scheme of things, and I read how a tiny creature called “santitafarella” thinks that his 2.7 pound brain can accurately determine whether God exists or not, now – isn’t that absurd? Of course it is.

  3. santitafarella says:

    MPuckett:

    You said, “He unequivicolly stated that He is the Christ. Therefore, He must either be a disillusioned lunatic, or He must be exactly who he said he was.”

    You missed an option. The gospels did not report his words correctly. He did, afterall, presumably speak in Aramaic and the gospels are in Greek. And all scholars agree that the gospels we have were written 30-70 years after Jesus lived, and not in Israel but elsewhere in the Roman empire. So it’s plausible that you’re missing an option—simple error in reporting—right?

    —Santi

  4. Pingback: Hell Apologists Watch: Albert Mohler wants people to awake “in the morning” and go “to sleep at night with the fear of hell never far from consciousness” | Prometheus Unbound

  5. Pingback: 50 Elite Academics Respond to the God Question | Prometheus Unbound

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