Mohler and Wallis debate justice and the church


“The separation in our minds,” T.S. Eliot once wrote, “which results simply from dwelling constantly upon the adjective social may lead to crimes as well as errors.” The logic of Elliot’s claims highlights how qualifiers occasionally obscure what they originally qualified.

This tricky relationship was on full display in last Thursday’s debatebetween Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners magazine, and Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The question was whether “social justice is an essential part of the mission of the church,” with Mohler staking his ground around the negative and Wallis the affirmative. Debates themselves have limited usefulness, but as far as they go this was a helpful and instructive one. The formal remarks were largely preparatory for the final 15 minutes of direct conversation, during which I wondered why the whole time wasn’t spent this way.