Book Review – R. Albert Mohler – Culture shift

R. Albert Mohler – Culture shift: engaging current issues with timeless truth. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Multnomah Books, 2008.

I just recently finish reading this book and here is my recap.

This is a must read for every Christian leader. Dr Mohler laid out a path in which the Christian culture can interface with the secular culture. He argues the point that there is no truly secular space in this debate. Any discussion on morality and justice has to flow from a point outside of our own conscience. The church has to understand, as Augustine argues in his book, The City of God Against Pagans, that there are two cities that are constantly dialoguing. These two cities are the City of God and the City of Man.

The City of God is eternal and has as its core purpose the Glory of God. On the other hand the City of Man is “filled with mixed passions, allegiances, and compromised principles”.[1] He identified three secular arguments for the eradication of religious discourse from the public square and reasoned why those arguments have no standing. He said that the idea of secularism is based on the argument that the culture ought to be established purely on secular terms. He called this the ‘oughtness’.

In the book Dr. Mohler referenced Robert Reich former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration because his argument is for a separation of religion and government. He highlighted Robert Audi, professor of philosophy at the University of Nebraska, for advancing the argument for a pure secular space in public policy and Kathleen Sullivan professor of law for advocating a religious liberty, as so far as it is consistent with the establishment of a secular, moral order.

These points of views form the basis of secular resistance to religious engagement in Public Square. These points of views, he argues have no standing. There are no truly secular states. Secularism denies the existence of God because as Dr. Mohler said, “if God did not exist, that would bring immediate demands upon society-obligations and prohibitions that society would not be able to simply ignore without admitting that it is only tacitly or operationally secular.” Any question regarding life and death, human identity, existence and meaning of the universe has to consider the possibility of the existence of God. There are no truly secular arguments. He continues, “Anyone who wants to make an argument about anything beyond procedure will have to deal with questions of meaning, morality and value. These are areas that are larger than any human frame of reference”.[2]

Dr. Mohler posited that the myth of secular motivation is exposed by the argument that, “ A human being can never know what he would believe if he were not motivated by what centrally motivates him.” You will not know yourself to a level that you separate yourself for your motivations. How can we depend on the arbitrator of rules and laws to make the right and just law if they are to ignore everything and believe there is no other motivation than ultimately ones own existence? The judge or the politician should ignore his religious and non-religious worldview and make decisions in an abstract way.

With this understand Dr. Mohler then suggested five theses for dealing with Christian morality and public law. The first point is that liberal democracy must allow all participants in the debate to speak, within the context of the constitution, wither it is offensive or not. Those that are deciding and overseeing public policies and laws must declare their convictional basis. There must be limits on secular and religious discourse. For example the state should not be sponsoring and setting up one religion over another or should one mayor/governor institute a law outside of the legislative process. There must be room for comingling of secular and religious arguments, motivations and outcomes. The rights of all citizens must be recognized. This type of environment assumes a certain level of risk of offense by defending and allowing free speech. He concluded the book by looking at different spaces in public discourse and suggested ways the church can positively interact with secularism.

[1] R. Albert Mohler, Culture shift: engaging current issues with timeless truth. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Multnomah Books, 2008, Kindle location 101.

[2] Mohler, Culture shift, Kindle location 217