The president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and member of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Church prepped the seminary students to explain the cross of Christ in lieu of the upcoming movie, “The Passion of The Christ.” R. Albert Mohler Jr., like many other Christian leaders, hopes to use the film’s powerful portrayal of the suffering of Christ as a great evangelistic tool to revive the nation’s spirituality.
"It is an incredible opportunity to talk to people who are, of all things, already talking about the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ," Mohler said during a Feb. 19 gathering.
"So I am praying that we as believing Christians will get ourselves ready, prayerfully and strategically, to be deployed as truth-tellers to speak to the reality of the cross which is so central to our faith, the cross on which the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world accomplished our salvation.
"The cross that is not only a symbol, whether of jewelry or of decoration nor [is it] merely a context for a film, but rather the cross which is the ground of our salvation, the center of the Gospel itself."
Mohler acknowledged the concerns of critics involving the possibility of invoking anti-Semitism in the hearts of Christians. However, Mohler carefully pointed out that these are not criticisms on tie, but one of the four gospels themselves.
"The accusation gets back to the fact that the ones who hurl that charge at the movie are the same who charge the New Testament itself with being anti-Semitic," he said. "Thus ... when it is the Gospels -- the four canonical Gospels -- that are under attack, then each of us must be ready to give a word of defense.
"I think it is not insignificant that the main critique of the movie from the secular world is that, in their view, it too faithfully and too literally and too powerfully demonstrates and portrays what is recorded in the New Testament concerning the death and the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Therefore, Mohler encouraged the students to be prepared through deep reflection, to give an answer to what the Gospel upholds: the cross of Christ.
"We should be extremely circumspect,” he said. “I would not have made this movie. Should we commend Christians to go to the movie? I'm not sure. I'm really not.
"I think that's an issue in which there will be Christians who will come to very different convictions about this and I think it is a good opportunity for mature Christian conversation inside Christian circles about these matters related to the Second Commandment, the incarnation, the Christian cultural mandate, what it means to be a Christian artist [and] how one should approach these issues. That is a good conversation and should be an elongated and elaborated discussion among Christians for some time."
Mohler emphasized, however, the need for the students to reflect among themselves and other Christians, before taking the discussion out to the public. What is vital, he said, was not to argue with others, but to give a clear presentation of the Good News of salvation for sinners, which is the true significance of Christ's passion.
"Let us pray to have our hearts ready to tell people the real story about the cross," Mohler said. "Let us have our debate about the movie among Christians and not with lost people, in terms of whether it should have ever been made or how we should evaluate this over against the Second Commandment or other legitimate and vital biblical concerns.
"Let us understand that we are called as always to bear the offense of the cross and that means to stand without compromise upon the truth of God's Word. Let us also be ready to give a word of the Gospel and to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us."