(Editor's note: This sermon was preached as part of a convocation service at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, the seminary where Dr. Mohler serves as President.)
In Deuteronomy chapter four, we encounter one of the great touchstone passages in all of Scripture. My heart and soul are absolutely struck by the question—a rhetorical question, but a very real question—asked in verse 33: "Has any people heard the voice of the Lord, the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire and survived?"
What brings us here? What brings us to this institution, to this campus, to this hour? What brings us dressed in academic costumes, ready for learning and study? Something summons us here. There is some mandate, some basis, some foundation.
This is a theological seminary and college. We dare to speak of God. We even dare to define what we do here as Christian education. What an audacious claim! We actually claim that here we teach what God has taught.
There ought to be a bit of humility in recognizing the audacity of that claim. It would be a baseless and a foundationless claim, an incredible claim, if God had not spoken from the midst of the fire and allowed us to hear. On what authority are we here? To dare to speak of these things, we must speak invoking the authority of God, who alone could speak these things, who alone could reveal Himself and tell us what we must know. All this points to a big and inescapable question, the question in fact that haunts the postmodern mind: On what basis can we claim to know anything?
The great philosophical crisis of our day is an epistemological crisis. It's a crisis of knowing, a crisis of knowledge. In particular, it is a challenge for Christianity and for the Christian thinker, the Christian theologian, the Christian minister, the Christian preacher, and the Christian institution. How do we know what we claim to know? How dare we teach what we dare to teach? As Francis Schaeffer well understood (and he took it as the title of his most significant contribution), we speak because He Is There and He Is Not Silent.
I first read that book as a sixteen-year-old, and to be honest, I think the greatest assurance I got from the book is that some smart person believed in God. But even at that age, lacking the vocabulary to understand what I was experiencing, I understood the epistemological crisis. How do we know anything? How can we speak of anything?