NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Thursday, June 27th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The Olasky Interview.
EICHER: Yeah, but not just any Olasky Interview. For years you’ve heard WORLD Editor-in-Chief Marvin Olasky talk with some of the nation’s leading authors, politicians, and opinion shapers. We’ve aired excerpts here on The World and Everything in It. And we’ll continue doing that.
But you need to know those excerpts are only a fraction of the full interview. There’s much more to those conversations that we just don’t time for on this program.
REICHARD: That’s right. So today we’re excited to launch a 12-episode season of The Olasky Interview! These episodes are a combination of some recent interviews and some classics from the past.
You’ll hear from people like Ann Voskamp, Bill Bennett, and Dr. Ben Carson—before he got into politics.
EICHER: Yeah, and you know I think we’ve added real value beyond just the stand-alone interview. Because our colleague Jill Nelson is co-hosting The Olasky Interview and she opens each program dialoguing with Marvin about these interviews.
So you get to hear why he chose these newsmakers—and what he found most interesting about them. Very helpful, and helps to set the context, gives you a bit of a roadmap of what’s to come.
Now, we’re launching The Olasky Interview by simultaneously releasing three episodes. They’re all available right now. The guests: George Friedman, Rosaria Butterfield, and Albert Mohler. And then over the next nine weeks, we’ll release one more per week for a total of 12 this season.
Just go to iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts, and hit subscribe. And let us know what you think!
REICHARD: Well, today we’re going to preview the interview with Albert Mohler. He is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He also hosts The Briefing, a highly popular weekday podcast.
And Mohler serves as a member of the WORLD board, although he wasn’t a board member at the time of this conversation, which we recorded in 2015.
Here now is Marvin Olasky.
OLASKY: Tell us a little bit about about growing up. I understand you grew up in Lakeland, Florida. Spring training home of the Detroit Tigers. Absolutely. And what was it like growing up there.
MOHLER: You know I grew up in an idyllic middle class Christian home. Loving mother and father. I was the first born of four kids. I never went to anything but a public school from the first grade to the 12th grade. And in those early years, that public school was, was just an extension of home and an extension of church.
That changed when I was a teenager. And we moved from Lakeland to Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, Florida. And I will just tell you that was a huge shock. That was a completely different world. It made my intellectual curiosity a matter of incredible urgency. And it was, I mean, I had an apologetic crisis really young. I had an eighth grade history teacher who declared himself to be an atheist, and I did not have good answers. And that that panicked me.
OLASKY: Were your parents able to, to answer any of these questions? Did you ever discuss this with them?
MOHLER: No, no. I did discuss it with them. I think I scared the daylights out of them. And they were just wonderful loving Christian parents and my father was a grocery store manager. He was also a man of ideas. He never dissuaded me from, from seeking to understand these things and did his best to help to get me to places where that could happen.
One of things a lot of people don’t know is how easily it is to crush, especially a young person, or for that matter any person, but especially a young person asking questions. If that’s dismissed as subversive to the faith, that is treasonous or wrong, that can have a crushing effect. Or if if it is responded to with a kind of ah, of anxiety that implies I don’t actually have an answer to this.
OLASKY: So when you go to college then are you already prepped, prepared for the type of stuff that’s going to be thrown at you there?
MOHLER: Yeah I was. And what I thought would be thrown at me was exactly what was thrown at me. And that was actually a great intellectual crucible.
OLASKY: Did you talk back to the professors?
MOHLER: Many of the people who helped me the most intellectually were unbelievers. One of the things I discovered is the great teachers really do love to teach. They really do love students who love to ask questions and love to be engaged in conversation. And so I discovered that they were not put off by this kind of question.
OLASKY: And college was where?
MOHLER: I began as a faculty scholar at Florida Atlantic University. So I entered college as a junior. And and that was sociologically tough but academically good. I then transferred however because I had a very clear sense at that stage in my life as an 18, 19 year old of God’s call to ministry. And I wanted to study what that university could not provide me. So I transferred to Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. And that was a different kind of challenge.
OLASKY: How was that a challenge?
MOHLER: It was a wonderful experience. I hated to leave. But it was a baptism in a sense into all the theological foment and the theological controversies that would basically consume the rest of my life. It was it was a religion department pretty heavily invested in neo orthodoxy which I hardly understood as a category yet but later came to see in terms of exactly of what, what was being taught.
OLASKY: So then having been properly schooled at that point and moving along. Then at the amazingly young age of 33, you become president of the flagship Seminary of the Southern Baptists. Were you amazed by that? Did you expect that?
MOHLER: I don’t think any sane person would expect that. It’s explicable only under a very narrow set of circumstances which happened to pertain. The Southern Baptist Convention was going through an incredible period of theological revolution. What was called a conservative resurgence. Almost alone in the life of major denominations. Had a conservative takeover of the mechanisms and institutions of the denomination.
When they asked me in the search process, “What would you do?” I told them what I would do. And they evidently wanted that done. You can’t bring reformation and leave everything in place. You’re going to have to have a clear understanding of what the confessional identity of the school is and you’re going to have to make it stick. I mean institutions drift left. That’s a Genesis 3 reality. They never drift right.
And if truth is the principle then you can’t say OK then we can accept you know 45 percent heresy as a way of getting towards 35 percent heresy. You’ve got to say: “If a confession states the truth of what we expect every professor signs to teach in accordance with and not contrary to all that is contained therein.” They were willing to do something radical because they knew something radical needed to be done.
OLASKY: So the theological liberals refer to it as a purge. Do you accept that terminology?
MOHLER: Oh, well, it’s not the first word I would use, but it is an accurate word. I mean nearly the entire faculty of one of the largest theological institutions on the planet was, was replaced within a four- to five-year period.
OLASKY: OK. But was replaced—a rare passive use—by you. I mean basically, you replaced them.
MOHLER: Yes. I replaced them. I own that as my responsibility. That’s why I was hired. And that’s what I did.