Panel talk turns testy for SBC leader who declined to sign social justice statement

"Appearing on stage with MacArthur, [Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and Ligon Duncan] were asked about the apparent rare point of disagreement in matters of public theology at the conference sponsored by Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, where MacArthur is pastor/teacher." - BNG

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TylerR's picture


Mohler has political realities to deal with that JMac (et al) simply don't. We can chat about whether Mohler is right to let those realities shape how and when he addresses the issue, but the bottom line is that is why he didn't engage on the panel. I understand. 

I watched the video. Quite awkward. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

My question here is whether the statement really gives any clarity about various issues related to social justice.  Reading it, one can see some likely implicit rebukes of the movement, but if one takes things at face value, I don't know that most fundagelical advocates of social justice movements would even disagree.  Maybe I'm missing something, but if I'm right, hopefully Johnny Mac issues some refunds for a pointless conference.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

I'm inclined to think that these friends may have had this conversation in some form in private.

I also got the impression that it was a bit of a "gotcha" question.

Mohler didn't sign it. Neither did I. So what?

If anyone of us finds an atom of enjoyment in watching these friends have this awkward moment, we should be embarrassed.


"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jonathan Charles's picture

I appreciate MacArthur’s ministry, I’ve be benefited from it, but I tire of those, mainly pastors I fellowship with, for whom all that MacArthur says and does becomes the standard. 

Jay's picture

Does anyone know if GCC will be posting the media for this session and the rest of the conference?  There was a fair amount of discussion on Twitter about this yesterday as well and I would like to see it.  The media link in the RNS article points to a link on YouTube that has been yanked offline.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

TylerR's picture


The video appears to be gone from Facebook and Youtube. Hopefully, it'll be back when the formal Shepherds Conference media is posted. It wasn't as bad as the internet is making it seem. Dever tap-danced and seems to be mildly sympathetic to the "our culture propogates systematic racism" argument. Duncan made some good points about approaching this issue apologetically, but one wonders why he endorsed Eric Mason' s book, which I have yet to read. Mohler just didn't want to talk about the issue in this format, for political reasons (I believe). 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

T Howard's picture

I saw the video on YouTube yesterday before GCC had it removed. Phil clearly had an agenda. Phil overstated some of his points. But yes, Mohler and Dever floundered a bit. I liken Phil Johnson to Johnny Mac's pitbull. When he smells red meat, he keeps up his attack. Even after Johnny Mac would step in to reduce tension, Phil would ratchet it back up.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Unfortunately, I did not get to see the video so I am not able to fully get the whole picture of what was going on.  However, I found this quote from Dr. Al Mohler quite interesting from the article.  

Mohler said he did not sign MacArthur’s statement on social justice and the gospel because he “was not particularly appreciative of being handed a statement” to endorse without an “opportunity to offer any particular consultation or suggestion.”

“It’s not pride of authorship, but I am just reluctant to sign onto anything that’s not creedal and confessional that doesn’t express exactly how I would want to say something,” he said. “Not signing should not be interpreted as a rejection of common concern. I don’t think that’s fair I think you understand that.”

I find it interesting that Mohler, with so much of his writings and podcasts dealing with culture, sexual ethics, and social justice, was not consulted as part of the SJS contributors.  In fact, I find it very interesting that none of the Southern Seminary professors/leaders were consulted, especially when their seminary has an entire Masters and Doctors program devoted to Christian ethics and public policy (which would crossover into social justice) and would've lent the group much more scholarly credibility.  

On another note, I also find it interesting that with all the talk from the SJS group about Cultural Marxism and Victimhood (especially within Black Theology), they would've consulted the leading evangelical scholar (who happens to be from the conservative PCA denomination) dealing with Victimhood and Racism who wrote the book: "Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience In America" which is Dr. Anthony Bradley.  Bradley wrote this article 11 years ago about Marxism and Black Theology.  

Several within the SJS group have insinuated that Bradley has changed and been influenced by cultural Marxism, Victimhood, and Critical Race Theory since the book was written, but having read carefully several of Bradley's books, articles, and tweets, it just isn't true.  If he sees racism (both systemic and individual) he will call it out.  But I've also seen in some of his recent works where he refutes accusations of racism against whites because the data shows otherwise, even if it is popularly accepted in the broader culture.   For instance, I am currently reading his newest book, "Overcriminalization and Mass Incarceration."  He points out certain places where Michelle Alexander's book "The New Jim Crow" was both right and as well as wrong when it came to systemic racism within the criminal justice system.  As important of a landmark book that Alexander's work was, there were some faulty racial assumptions about whites and even some inaccuracies that need pushback for the sake of truth.   

  However, Bradley is bombastic at times (the messenger can get in the way of the message) and looks down on non-denominational and Baptists Reformed folks for limiting Reformed theology to Salvific Purposes and pushes Reformed folks to be more Kuyperian like himself.       


TylerR's picture


I'll read Eric Mason's book. I don't have time (or the desire) to read much on this distasteful subject, which comes with several freight-trains of bombast and arrogance from certain characters on both sides, typically on social media. My primary concerns from what I've seen of this troubling movement are these:

  1. People are individually responsible for their own sins. The concept of corporate repentance in a New Covenant context is quite slippery and (whatever else may be said) it necessarily imputes collective sin to a broader culture. This broad-brush approach is quite tricky in a New Covenant context, and I find it counterproductive and unhelpful. 
  2. A Christian's identity is in Christ. That banner is the only one that has eternal significance. It incorporates you into the New Covenant family, and that objective status is the primary self-identity Christians need to uphold. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?