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.
Source: Wikidpedia Commons.