Al Mohler - Pharisee

Al Mohler, a well known evangelical leader in the United States, is a Pharisee.

I urge all people in the Christian blogosphere to examine the reasons why I am making this claim, to write posts explaining your own thoughts, to write emails and letters to Al Mohler, and to remove his link from your blogroll.

Reformisionary, a Calvinist within the Southern Baptist Convention, has written a very disturbing article about abstinence from alcohol in the church. Due to the SBC's return to Biblical Christianity over the past 20 years, quite a number of pastors and churches have enjoyed being exposed to the Word of God, and the power of the Spirit working through the Word as it is preached and examined.

Ironically, one of the results of this move has been the discovery that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is not wrong. In fact, God is seen to be the creator of wine for the express purpose of "gladdening the heart of man" as it states in Psalm 104. I won't go into all the arguments for and against the issue - others have done a better job and I don't want to reinvent the wheel.

The fact is that the SBC has held to the firm belief that drinking alcohol is sinful, and that Christians should be teetotal. Yet the Bible says otherwise.

So where does Al Mohler fit in?

Mohler is the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. A seminary that is to American Baptists as Princeton was to 19th century Presbyterians. Moreover, Mohler is actually a Calvinist - quite rare for Southern Baptists. He was also a signatory to the Cambridge Declaration. In recent times, Mohler has been involved in the Justice Sunday meetings, my opinion of which can be found elsewhere on my blog. I have also recently criticised Mohler for a recent article he wrote on his blog.

Despite being one of those behind the Cambridge Declaration, Mohler seems to have abandoned Sola Scriptura - the idea that the Bible is the supreme, sole and sufficient authority that determines how to act and what to believe. How do we know this? Because Mohler supports abstinence.

Of course, such an issue may seem minor - after all, there are plenty of Christians out there that hold on to all sorts of things that aren't important. The problem isn't that Mohler supports abstinence, he has now overtly accused those who disagree with it as being disobedient to God and to the leaders in the church that God has appointed.

Mohler admits that there is no biblical backup for abstinence. But then goes on to argue that churches should enforce abstinence on its members and, most especially, those who seek to pastor such churches.

This is NOT a case of Romans 14.13-23. Mohler is not arguing that we should suspend our rights for the well-being of weaker brothers. In his mind, those who drink are the weaker brothers.

Perhaps one of the most disgraceful things to occur was this:
Closer to the end, Mohler told the story of going to lunch for a meeting with a group of evangelical leaders across denominational lines. If anywhere, this is the place for a Christian to show generosity to those who aren't compelled as he is about the issue of alcohol. But as a couple of leaders ordered beer with lunch, Mohler actually spoke up and asked a Lutheran pastor (friend of his) to not get a beer "so that sitting here in this Southern town where anyone can walk in and see this table, people do not then barrage me with phone calls associating me with drinking, which I'm not doing." He finished the story, "I could not allow my own personal integrity to be questioned, I would of had to have left the lunch." (quoted from Reformissionary's web site)

As I point out in the comments thread of this posting, Mohler is acting like the Apostle Peter in Galatians 2 - he separates himself from his bretheren. Where is the Paul to come along and rebuke him?

It does get worse however. Mohler says this:
"I can assure you of this: if you (the audience are seminarians and future Baptist pastors) are associated with the use of beverage alcohol, I think I dare exaggerate not to say that 99% of all doors of ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention will be closed to you."

A statement of fact or a veiled threat? If he discovers that one of his students drinks alcohol, will he "turn the screws" to force the student out, or will he ensure that he never gets work in the SBC again? And why? The student didn't sin.

As Reformissionary points out, the issue is not alcohol or whether someone believes in the right thing or not - it's about legalism. It's about enforcing rules that Jesus never enforced for his church. It's about adding to the Word of God, and forcing people to obey the decrees of men. It's about supressing dissent from those whose minds have been informed by God's word.

And, sadly, Mohler appears to show that it's about politics too. I wonder if Mohler actually believes the same as those he criticises, but sides with the abstinence crowd to ensure that he retains his power and position within the SBC.

Please read Reformissionary's post before commenting here.

From the Theosalient Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.


Anonymous said...

i am sorry. you don't know me. and i say this with as much kindness as possible. but, it seems your last post about "flaming" doesn't match up with this harsh personal accusation - no matter how true it may be. even if he is a pharisee, i wonder whether this response is appropriate..

hey, i am no Molher fan by any stretch of the imagination (did i even spell his name right?!) but it seems that your post here is rather harsh towards him.

again, not trying to be a prick. i just see some inconsistancy here...but hey, i could be wrong. it happens all the time!

Paul W said...


I don't know much about Mohler, but I have seen some of his statements on marriage and singleness, which sound very graceless IMHO.

Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight) said...


I was aware of irony of having a posting about Mohler following my posting about being nice to people.

Was I being honest in the post about not flaming people? Yes. Was I being honest about saying that Al Mohler is a Pharisee? Yes.

The question is whether my attack on Mohler is flaming, or whether it goes against what I previously posted.

Why did I write that article about Mohler?

I wrote it because the guy explicitly came out with unbiblical teaching. This is more than two guys having an online disagreement over something like Baptism or the Second Coming. Mohler's stance on Alcohol is plain wrong, and goes against the clear teaching of scripture. It divides the church and hurts the body of Christ.

Mohler's stance is also strong and confident. He's not some guy sharing an opinion, he's a guy who is asserting power - he has power as Principal of his seminary and he has power within the SBC. A man with power in the church who is not making decisions based on the clear testimony of scripture is a serious problem.

Contrast this to a couple of Christian bloggers who disagree over things. Say you have one of what imonk calls the "Truly Reformed" - TR for short - having a disagreement with a Boar's Head Tavern writer who likes N.T. Wright. The two may be in actual conversation in a comments thread. It's THIS that I am talking about in my posting about being nice and civil. It's about NOT writing posts that flame other bloggers.

If Al Mohler should actually come here and start discussing my article and defending his stance, then I would definitely keep it nice and civil.

Nevertheless I will consider my actions here. A part of me does feel as though I myself have acted with hypocrisy. I am not convinced - but if you (or anyone else who is reading this) does think that I am being hypocritical then please make comments about why you think that is the case. I am not above rebuke and I will offer my apologies to all (including Al Mohler) if I am convinced of my sin.

I also hope that Al repents of his view as well - and works to remove unbiblical teachings within the SBC such as abstinence.

Thankyou Todd for your comments - thank you for saying "I say this with as much kindness as possible", which is a good way to convey your true feelings.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your forthright post! "Pharisee" is probably the most over-used pejorative in evangelicalism, but you have used it correctly (the Scripture evidence bolsters your case). The bottom line is that Mohler's legalism, condescending separatism (cf. Luke 15:2), lack of grace, and arrogance make up all the elements of a Phariseee -- just as you've said.

One has to ask: If this was anyone *other* than such a prominent leader, would we speak or think differently of this person's spiritual status? Are some people playing favorites, in violation of 1 Tim 5:21? I ask because, well, the Gospels are clear that Pharisees are not saved. So long as Mohler claims to the basic truths of the Gospel, I can't say one way or the other. But on the other hand, the harder the uncircumsized heart, the harder it is to give enternal reassurance. Like I said, if it weren't Mohler, how would we think of a guy off the street?

As I've pointed out elsewhere, Jesus drank, maked wine, and served it (to a drunk wedding party no less)! To disqualify men from minstry for engaging in a behavior that Jesus modeled is nothing less than saying Jesus sinned, or at least exercised poor judgement. He won't come right out and say it, but anyone with an IQ over their shoe size can follow this:

Mohler: Drinking is sin.
SBC: Drinkers are disqualified from minstry.
Bible: Jesus drank (Matt. 11:19, Luke 7:34)
....therefore Jesus is disqualified from ministry due to sinful alcohol use.

If we heard a teacher (like Jesus Seminar folks) teaching that Jesus sinned, would we not dismiss them as false teachers and unsaved? Oh, but it's Mohler... does that make one bit of difference?

PS: Yes, there are those who voice their strong opinion that it's wrong for Christians to voice strong opinions, but pay no mind to those whose rebuke is so hypocritical on the face of it.

David C. Kanz said...

The Biblical command is against "drunkenness" (Ephesians 5:18 Gr. methusko)and a prolifigate lifestyle, not a command for total abstinence. The other part of that command is to be filled (Gr. playroo)with the Holy Spirit.

Our Baptist tradition is replete with many examples of Phariseeism based on political considerations, (i.e. career security) That really seems to be the core issue here and in most instances of this kind of position taking.

I live in the south, though the SBC is hardly limited to the south, and I will bear testimony here that Mr. Mohler probably needs to be adressing more core problems with the SBC than setting up straw men to distract people's attention.

Case in point is how the SBC calculates the amount of retirement pay for its pastors based on Sunday School attendance, size of congregation and building programs which have been initiated and completed.

The whole of evangelical Christianity is easily distracted by the straw men issues, Pharisee issues, which accounts for the relative sterility of the same.

Anonymous said...


thanks for your open response. i have to admit something here. i didn't see that there was a LOT more to your post (the "read more" link missed me somehow) and to me, this makes a pretty big difference.

one of the things that didn't sit well was that your labeling him a pharisee and then not writing much to back it up.

i very much appreciate your open heart to consider your words, i think that tells a lot about your motive.

i agree. Mohler is walking in thin ice here. especially a man of his status and "power" needs to really be careful.

what i sense here is that Mohler is fear. He's scared that this generation is on the slippery slope. Usually, when one smells/feels fear, they try to control things as much as possible.

Either way, whether that makes him a pharisee, i dunno.

In galatians, Paul was pissed because they were adding things to the gospel like circumcision, sounds like if Paul were to write a letter to Big Al, it would be a pretty intense one.

anyways, thanks for your openness...

Unknown said...

Paul was angry... but also made the most passionate and rigorous appeal for Peter and the Galatian's restoration...

Rich said...

Salient - just a note about Pyro and the lack of response about alcohol. I know that JM requires all pastors/elders to abstain from all alcohol. Rumor has it a document was to be signed but I know that is not the case. PJ being an elder at JM’c church makes it a tough position. While I was in school a student wrote an excellent paper on the issue and there were rumors that the part about drinking would be taken out of the student manual (rumor only at the time) based on the paper’s biblical argument.

The paper caused quite a stir, a good one in my opinion. But the pastors I talked to generally avoided the conversation - which is understandable, given their position. I do not think you'll get a reply on this one. Though I too would love to hear PJ's comments.

Pastor John said...

Dr Mohler a Pharisee?
That's a bombastic and irresponsible statement that's going to require significantly more evidence than you provide.
Dr. Mohler is in fact one of the most gracious people I have ever met. You would have to barely know him and live on the other side of the world to think otherwise.
So he doesn't think people should drink, neither do I (http://thoughtsofacountrypreacher.blogspot.com/2006/11/hair-dryers-alcohol-and-sbc.html) - are you going to say that I'm lost because of it?
That is truly pharisaical thinking - adding to what it takes to get saved. I guess it is no longer grace by faith, now its grace by faith and having a beer.
I think people should check their eyes for logs on this blog.