Do you love your spouse, or do you truly cherish them? Gary Thomas encourages couples to make a daily effort to go beyond the ‘duty’ of love, and combat the natural inclination to drift apart by choosing to see the best in their spouse.
Dr. Al Mohler: We’re going to find out where the Christians are when being a Christian may mean you can’t make law partner, when being a Christian means you can’t get accepted to medical school. We did not choose to be alive in the year 2021, but Christians understand it’s not by accident.
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John Fuller: Well, we’re certainly living in very challenging times and it is easy to become discouraged as we watch, uh, the culture just decay around us. Today on Focus on the Family, Dr. Al Mohler will offer some great perspectives and insights and he’ll encourage you to depend on God in all things. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Uh, John, I know our listeners and viewers are very concerned about the direction things are going in our country today, and there’s good reason to be. It seems like we’re on the back side of influence as the Christian community. I mean, we all recognize that this nation, I think most of us recognize this nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, the framers were, uh, so wise in how they gathered, uh, those thoughts in, of course, the Constitution to guide our social order, but things seem to be unraveling, and I can’t think of a better guest than Dr. Al Mohler, uh, who is involved in observing the culture, understanding the culture, of course, he’s a theologian and bringing scripture to bear on what we’re experiencing in the culture today. Uh, he says it this way in his book, The Gathering Storm, “The secular age writes checks it cannot cash. It claims to uphold human rights, even as it undercuts any argument for human dignity and natural rights. It invents new rights like same-sex marriage at the expense of fundamental rights, such as religious liberty. It claims a high view of human dignity, but aborts millions of unborn human beings in the womb.” Man, that is powerfully said.
Jim: And I want to also say Dr. Al Mohler is a former board member to Focus on the Family.
John: We’ve had the privilege of his wisdom, uh, helping guide the ministry here and he is certainly a leader among, uh, evangelicals. He’s the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, an esteemed authority on contemporary issues. He has a podcast. He appears on national news programs. He’s a rather prolific author and, uh, Jim, you mentioned it, his, uh, book that we’re talking about today is The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church. And we’ve got copies of that here at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Dr. Mohler, it’s great to have you, albeit by phone today. Thank you for joining.
Dr. Mohler: Jim, it’s great to be with you and, uh, I’m just so thankful for Focus on the Family and thankful for this conversation. Good to be with both you and John.
Jim: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it because, uh, you know, the meetings that I’m having across the country with donors and political leaders and church leaders, there seems to be, uh, uh, uh, a definitive concern about where the culture’s at and where we are going. So in that context, let’s just start there, kind of the overview of where you believe we’re at.
Dr. Mohler: Yeah, Jim, we’re actually just on the, uh, the, the far side of the modern age. Uh, so many things were set loose, uh, just in the beginnings of the time we call the modern age or what academics call modernity. The, the fact is that everything changed, but the changes are accelerating now and, amongst the leading edge, uh, changes is secularization. And, with that secularization, it’s not just that increasing numbers of people, especially in the elites of our culture, are growing distant from Christianity, they’re growing openly hostile to it because the values and the goals of, uh, so many driving the culture right now are actually in direct collision with what Christians believe to be absolute truth. And so we’ve got a big collision that has been looming before us, but you can’t deny it now and, uh, court decision by court decision, university policy campus by campus, uh, Hollywood, uh, statement by Hollywood statement, we’re seeing how this happens with big legislation looming before us too.
Jim: Uh, your book title, The Gathering Storm, I think, was inspired by the former prime minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill. Uh, explain that connection, what he coined, as well, the gathering storm.
Dr. Mohler: Yeah, Jim, it means a lot to me. Churchill’s been, uh, a fascinating figure to me ever since I was a 13-year-old. And, uh, Churchill, of course, is known as the great savior of England and of Western civilization during World War II, but people forget that he spent about 20 years outside political power there in Britain because of his warnings about the threat of Nazi Germany and, especially in the 10 years before he became prime minister, he was written off as a, as an obsessive crank because he kept pointing to the, the militarization of, of Nazi Germany, to Hitler’s war aims. He kept pointing to the fact that all of the elites in Europe were so willfully blind to that reality. After the war, and, of course, England had had to turn to him for leadership in order to survive, after the war, when he was a hero now, he wrote that six-volume history of the Second World War and the very first volume was entitled The Gathering Storm, and that entire volume really was what took place before the war, when everyone should have seen the war coming and Britain could’ve prepared for it. Tragically, it didn’t and that’s the whole point of that title.
Jim: And in connection then to the spiritual warfare, I guess, would be the direct correlation. You’re suggesting Christians are now seeing the gathering storm of spiritual battles, uh, from the universities, from, uh, big tech, modern media, what’s happening. Uh, describe the landscape in that re-, uh, from those institutions that are really arrayed against people of faith in this country.
Dr. Mohler: You know, Jim, you know, I think it’s helpful sometimes to just think about how social forces work and, you know, Christians, uh, haven’t had to give a lot of attention to that, but we have to give attention to it now. And, and so the way social forces work is that you’ve got, uh, the, at the elite level, at the, at the level of the people who make the movies and who decide what’s news and, uh, you know, run the political parties and, in particular, uh, those who are in charge of the, uh, of the major image-setting universities, they basically inhabit a world and, and, in that world, uh, what we would consider to be orthodox Christianity, little o, just, uh, you know, the tradition of Protestant, or, for that matter, Catholic Christianity, even just theism, the fact that there’s a binding, uh, authority of, of a living god, that’s growing increasingly unthinkable. And so here’s the thing, it means that Christians and the Christian church are the one major force in society that can’t go along in the direction that virtually every other social force is going, and so that’s why, all of a sudden, we feel so alienated on the college campus, we seem so alienated from Hollywood. Uh, you can just go down the list from the, the mainstream media, from, uh, increasingly, the political class. And, and so here’s we, we understand this wasn’t an accident. This has been happening for some time. It’s just so far along now that, uh, you know, grassroots Christians can’t deny it. It’s happening right before our eyes.
Jim: Well, yet there are some in the church that certainly deny it or embrace it, um, and I really want to hear from you about how culture and the things that work against the word of God are seeping into-
Dr. Mohler: Yeah.
Jim: … the church and, and the church’s value system, of course, its principles, its orthodoxy. In fact, you were involved with the Southern Baptist Convention having to expel a couple of churches within your convention that were embracing same-sex marriage.
Dr. Mohler: That’s right.
Jim: I mean, you’re at the forefront of this as a theologian, as, uh, as a seminary president. H- how is culture, um, seeping into the church and then how do we, as pastors and as leaders and as churchgoing people, how do we buttress the church so it doesn’t give in to these cultural nuances?
Dr. Mohler: Yeah, such a good question. You know, my, uh, hero in so many ways, especially as a young Christian, was a man by the name of Francis Schaeffer. Uh, I got to meet him. He had a determinative influence in my life and, as he pointed out, the, the two great issues for Christianity is that, number one, there is a God and that, number two, He speaks. And so the first principle of Christianity, uh, is that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, holy and righteous God who created the world and rules over it and thus His truth is true truth, as Schaeffer had to say it. A world in which people are saying, you know, truth’s merely a claim, God’s existence, God’s authority is true truth. And then the second thing is that He speaks in the Bible and so where you find authentic Christianity, you find scriptural Christianity because, when, when the Bible speaks, God speaks. It is His inspired, inerrant, and infallible word. Where you find those two beliefs, you actually find, uh, what well might be Biblical Christianity. Where you find those beliefs denied, there may be a tall steeple out front, there may be someone wearing vestments inside, but as Martin Luther would have said during the Reformation, it’s not a church. The liberal theology says the world’s changing and we have to change with it. And, by the way, that, that argument began early in the 20th century, where the, the liberals said, “Look, we’re going to change the doctrine, but we’re going to keep the morality.” Well, you saw how long that lasted. By the end of the 20th century, it was, “We’ve got to change the doctrine, we’ve got to change the morality.” And, uh, it, it didn’t start with the LGBTQ revolution, but it got there in a hurry. And so the one thing that Christians need to be watchful about is that, uh, we’re the last people on earth practically, at least in, in our own country, who really believe that morality doesn’t change and it mustn’t, that truth doesn’t change, it can’t. And so we’re just, we’re just very much out of step with the society, but there are those, Jim, and this is what you’re talking about, inside our churches who are saying, “You know, maybe we can change just a little bit,” and, uh, and that’s the beginnings of the theological liberalism. You change just a little bit and then, of course, you’ve changed and then you have to change a little bit more and, and then you, you can see exactly how this goes. Liberalism is an omnivorous beast, it is never satisfied and, and that’s why the liberal protestant denominations around us have been evacuated of people. There’s just no truth there.
Jim: Yeah. Le- let me ask you this, um, this balance between the grace of God and the judgment of God and how, uh, there are certain aspects or certain scriptures in the New Testament that certainly encourage us to be kind toward the world, to live at peace with all men if it be possible. How do we, especially on the back side of having the significant influence in the culture for 240 years, as the Christian community has, how do we manage now being on the other side of that power, uh, pendulum and where we are seen no longer as influencers in the culture? How, how do we balance all of that? How do we treat the world graciously, but remain firm in our principles?
Dr. Mohler: Well, that’s going to be a, a tough challenge, and you put your finger right on it, uh, because, for one thing, if being kind means surrendering Biblical truth, that’s a definition of kindness that’s foreign to the Bible. The, the Bible doesn’t define kindness or grace at the expense of truth. Uh, you know, it’s really interesting when you consider the prologue to the Gospel of John and, and the most famous verse there is, of course, uh, John chapter one verse 14, “We beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Uh, they’re together and, in God, they’re combined. We’ve got to figure a way to demonstrate that same unity in grace and truth. And so we, we can’t be graceless. We can’t act like we hold our position by moral superiority, but we also can’t compromise the truth. Basically, uh, everything important in life comes down to requiring grace and truth, from a Christian understanding, and now the difference is, Jim, and this is implicit in your question, the difference is that now the culture thinks we’re those people.
Jim: Right (laughs).
Dr. Mohler: And, and this is uncomfortable for so many Christians because, throughout Western civilization, Christians have been considered at the center of the society. But holding now to Biblical morality and Biblical truth, it puts us increasingly on the periphery of society and that’s going to have, that’s going to have real impact about the, uh, the way that Christians do and do not have access to the professions, do and do not get accepted to the universities. How likely is it that someone who holds to orthodox Biblical Christianity is going to get tenure at the university? Look, what we’re seeing is that society is using all of its powers of coercion to bring the entire society into line. And, of course, it’s not just the LGBTQ+ issues, but, but they are the leading issues right now. So just consider what’s happened in Major League Baseball. Just consider what’s happened when Hollywood says, “We’re not going to be doing anymore films, uh, in state X or Y.” This is punishment. This is coercion. Uh, this is the powers that be saying, “Get into line.” And, uh, you know, they’ve got a big bat, they’ve got … whether it’s economic or cultural or, or just, uh, social esteem, what’s called cul-, uh, social or, or cultural capital, just the ability to say, “Okay, you’re a rogue state. Uh, you’re, you’re a outlier group.” And, and on a college campus, you know, there lands an 18-year-old, just consider the pressure put on that teenager under this circumstance.
Jim: Without a doubt.
John: Yeah, there are lots of challenges these days to live out our faith in this culture, uh, but we have Dr. Al Mohler here today with us on Focus on the Family guiding us through how to think, at least a little bit, about these matters, and he goes into great depth about, uh, so many different topics, uh, that are in the news these days and things that we have to know about, as Christians, in his book, The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church. And we’ll recommend you look for a copy of that at our website, focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or give us a call, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Uh, Dr. Mohler, I want to go back to Francis Schaeffer. You mentioned him.
Dr. Mohler: Yeah.
Jim: I’m thinking of something very specific that he said after the decision of Roe v. Wade in the early ’70s. He warned the culture that, if you do this, you’re going to dehumanize human begins and that it won’t stop just in the womb. It’ll become euthanasia, it’ll become prescribed death for those who are, uh, mentally handicapped, physically handicapped, and he was ridiculed for that opinion in the ’70s, but yet that prediction is now coming to pass.
Dr. Mohler: Tragically enough, you’re exactly right. Schaeffer was prophetic and, uh, it, it wasn’t just that he had the, uh, the, the insight by observing the culture. He spent so much of his life in Europe, where so many of these, uh, these trends were already far underway. Uh, he was quite familiar, in his own lifetime, with the, uh, the threat of Nazi medicine and, and with the fact that, even before the, the rise of the Third Reich in Germany, there was an effort to subvert human dignity and, and arguments for killing those who, uh, were defined as Lebensunwertes Leben, life unworthy of life, and, uh, when, when, uh, when Francis Schaeffer was talking that way in the 1970s, ’80s, in, in the United States, people dismissed him, as you said, as a crank, but that’s exactly what we’re hearing right now. That’s exactly the logic of the, the euthanasia movement and, of course, that is exactly the logic of the abortion, uh, movement, and, uh, with tragic carnage by the millions, babies turned into objects, denied as persons.
Jim: And it’s so true and that’s something, of course, we’re going to continue to fight here at Focus on the Family. I know, uh, Dr. Mohler, you do as well, through your writings, your books, etc., which kind of takes me to the next point. When we’re working in what seems to feel like early Rome, right, first, second, third century Christian church in Rome, where everything’s arrayed against us, you know, Nero’s in power, um, and I do want to talk to that idea that the church has … this isn’t new to the church to be under, uh, the thumb of culture. But in, in that respect, when, when we’re looking at, um, you know, the forces arrayed against us, uh, you know, sometimes we just have to stand boldly, right?
Dr. Mohler: Well, that’s right. As a matter of fact, that’s a Biblical command, “Therefore stand.” We’re going to find out where the Christians are when being a Christian may mean you can’t make law partner, when being a Christian means you can’t get accepted to medical school. We’re, we’re going to find out where the Christians and we don’t get to choose the times. I didn’t choose when I was born. We did not choose to be alive in the year 2021, but Christians understand it’s not by accident. This is by God’s grace and to his Glory and-
Dr. Mohler:… and our purpose is to live faithfully. And I want to be careful not to use the word, uh, persecution. It can feel like that, if you’re, if we’re denied a job, denied access to, uh, you know, college admission or, or a similar thing. There are Christians who are in danger right now of losing, you know, their lives for their, their faithfulness to Christ.
Dr. Mohler: So, at this point, I want to say it’s marginalization, it’s suppression, uh, it’s definite discrimination. It’s, uh, it’s a real threat. But, Jim, you know, the hard hand of the state turns really hard in every case against those it sees as its enemies and that’s a warning to us that Rome is not unthinkable.
Jim: No, and it’s so true and, and, uh, there’s where, I think, the church needs resources that can help provide argument, in a good way, uh, debate points, so that we can engage the culture and, uh, I know you do a lot of that through your blog. I hope people attach to that. We’ll, uh-
Dr. Mohler: Yes.
Jim: … we’ll mention that-
John: It’s over there. Mm-hmm.
Jim: … and you can go to Focus on the Family and we’ll connect to your blog and other material. But, Al, uh, toward the end here, I want to get more practical. Um, I’m thinking … I meet a lot of the donor community to Focus and, man, (laughs) we’re so grateful to each person that helps us financially to, to carry out the mission here at Focus, to strengthen marriage, to help parents do the best job they can do. One of the things that I’m hearing more frequently now is, uh, their sons and daughters in their twenties, these are Christian homes, and for the most part, these are Christian young people, but cohabitation has kind of taken over within that 20-somethings and they’re justifying it by saying, “Well, we’re not sure if marriage is going to be the right thing, but we want to kind of live together.” Speak to the parent about that discussion with their 20-something about cohabiting or other things that, uh, liberalization, uh, is taking hold of them in their twenties.
Dr. Mohler: Yeah. You know, Jim, this is where, uh, you know, uh, a parent doesn’t want to respond, first and foremost, as a social scientist, but, uh, but rather as a parent and that means representing truth, grace, love. But, you know, it is really important to say to young people, uh, “Do you have any idea how unsuccessful cohabitations turned out to be as a romantic relationship?”
Dr. Mohler: “Do, do you understand that, in the United States, uh, it, it was often claimed that cohabitation would lead to marriage? We now know that it generally doesn’t. Do you recognize that you’re giving each to the other sexually without making any long-term commitment? How do you think that’s going to work out?” In other words, (laughs) th- there are good truths to present, not to mention the fact that God has presented his pattern, uh, for us and that then that true human flourishing is only going to happen within that pattern and that pattern is marriage first, cohabitation after, that is, living together in the conjugal union of marriage. And, you know, the, the Biblical sexual sequence is just so important, and it begins with commitment. That commitment issues into the, uh, the comprehensive relationship. You can’t have the comprehensive relationship, uh, before there is the commitment. Marriage, indeed, is a covenant. Uh, this is going to test a lot of Christian parents, but, uh, the one thing we can’t do is act as if we love our children so much we’re not going to confront them with the truth. Love them means we, we don’t reject them, we don’t push them away, but we also don’t buy into the idea that this is just like marriage by another name. It’s not. It, it’s a covenant without a covenant. It’s, uh, it is not going to end well and, of course, parents love their children and that’s a, that’s a big concern.
Jim: Dr. Mohler, what can Christian parents do to help their children? Let’s, you know, assume they’re anywhere from, you know, 7 years old to 15 years old. Uh, what can we do to help prepare our children for this chaotic world?
Dr. Mohler: Well, you know, Jim, Christians, first of all, have to do what Christian parents have to do in every generation and that is raise our children in the nurtured admonition of the Lord, which means we surround them with God’s truth, and so getting them actively in a local church is just really, really important. And it’s not just because, in a local church, they hear the truth of God’s word taught, that’s the first thing, but it is also the fact they become a part of a peer structure with fellow Christian families and kids their own age who are learning how to think Christianly together and, uh, that peer structure within Christianity, within a Christian church, turns out to be just incredibly important. The second thing is we’ve got to maintain, as parents, some kind of filter control over what is coming into the minds, into the eyes and ears of our children, especially when they’re younger but, increasingly, as long they’re in our house, there are certain things that just aren’t watched, aren’t seen. We don’t act naively as if that, uh, that material is not out there in the culture all around us, but, you know, at every young age, the mind and the heart are very tender. Things that are impressed upon those minds and hearts at a young age, uh, tend to stay there for a lifetime. And, uh, and then, finally, we just, we really need to make certain that our, that our children know good arguments. I mean, how many of our children really could define why God de-, gives us marriage as a union of a man and a woman? They need to not only know that God gave us marriage, they need to know, in a Biblical argument, why God gave us marriage, why it’s important, because if they don’t have good arguments, we shouldn’t be surprised that they fall to the very bad, the very persuasive arguments of the other side.
Jim: And I think, Al, uh, that really is a good place to, to end, uh, with this last question. You know, as believers, uh, the Lord says, “Fear not. Um, live at peace,” like I said earlier. How do we stay hopeful? Some are talking about how do we get back to where we were? How do we put the genie in the bottle, so to speak? How do we go back to marriage being understood as being one man, one woman? I don’t know that we can, at this moment, get back to that. That’s going to have to be a revelation over decades-
Dr. Mohler: Yeah.
Jim: … I think. But again, how do we, within the body of Christ, operate emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, in this current age?
Dr. Mohler: Well, that’s the question. It’s going to require a whole new set of skills, convictional skills, evangelistic skills, uh, cultural skills, uh, of Christians. And, you know, I like, I like the way you put that, Jim. I think it’s wrong for Christians to think that we can somehow turn back the clock. History doesn’t work that way.
Dr. Mohler: But, uh, we do understand, just from a Biblical perspective, that, uh, that, uh, even as you, you look at a prophet like Jeremiah or you, you look, look at a king like Josiah, there are times in which there is an opportunity for recovery. You don’t turn back the clock, uh, but you do come to understand, okay, maybe here’s an opening to talk about why God gave us marriage as the union of a man and a woman as a lifetime covenant union. Maybe this is an opening for us to talk about why it’s important to talk about the fact that every single human being, uh, from the moment of fertilization until natural death, is made in God’s image. Maybe this is an opportunity where we can recover some ground. But, you know, Jim, the other thing is that’s more likely to happen person by person than it is right now using the mechanisms of the culture at large. We don’t have a Christian Hollywood. We can’t, we just can’t compete with Hollywood on its scale anyway. Uh, we don’t have an alternative government. We don’t have an alternative court. We’ve got to work within these structures and, uh, and seek to be faithful and to remain faithful and that’s going to take Biblically-minded Christians tied to the scripture and led by the Holy Spirit and under the lordship of Christ. But, you know, I say those things and I realize, at any time, that’s the safest place for Christians to be.
Jim: Al, this has been so good, but I want to, uh, take a couple more questions and go online and, if folks want to follow us over there-
Dr. Mohler: Sure.
Jim: … they can go to the website. I want to ask you some more questions about the culture, religious liberty, my good friend, your good friend, Jack Phillips up the road here, the baker in Colorado that, literally, has been harassed by the state, by the human rights commission here in Colorado. We’ll ask you some questions about that. So, if you want to, uh, be with us and continue that, uh, go to our website and you can connect on that, uh, on that extended program. Uh, Al, it’s been so good to have you with us. The Gathering Storm, this is the kind of resource, as parents, uh, you really need to be equipped with, uh, The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church. I would say, pastors, this helps you to make certain that you’re staying true to the principles, the orthodoxy of the church, and, uh, yet being gracious toward a world that needs that tenderness, but don’t give up your principles. Don’t give up the, the orthodoxy of the church-
Jim: … in lieu of affirmation from the culture. It doesn’t go well when we do that. Uh, Dr. Mohler, thank you, thank you for being with us today.
Dr. Mohler: Jim, as always, what a great privilege. Uh, we’ve never needed Focus on the Family more, so, uh-
Jim: Well, I appreciate that.
Dr. Mohler:… God bless you. And I’m thankful Focus on the Family is strong and faithful; may we stay so.
Jim: Amen and thank you for that. If you can make a gift of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of Dr. Mohler’s great book, The Gathering Storm, as our way of saying thank you for joining the ministry team and helping us do the very things we’re talking about here, engaging culture, saving babies from abortion, saving marriages, and helping parents do the best job possible to raise their kids. Uh, you can make that donation online or call us.
John: Well, stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800-232-6459 to get your copy of The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church by Dr. Al Mohler. And, while you’re at our website, uh, make sure you stay informed on news that affects you and your family by signing up for the Daily Citizen, which, uh, arrives at your inbox in the morning. It’s got a great synopsis of what’s going on in the culture and the news that you need to know. All the details, again, are at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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