The Briefing 05-09-14

The Briefing 05-09-14

The Briefing

May 9, 2014

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

It’s Friday, May 9, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

None of us is unbiased. It is impossible for anyone of us to think in purely objective terms. That’s a very important insight of the Christian worldview. It’s rooted in a couple of very clear Christian affirmations. The first of these is the reality of human sin. Sin affects our thinking. The fall has corrupted our thinking so that none of us is as objective as we would like to think ourselves to be, or even as we might try to be. It is important to be intellectually faithful and intellectually honest but we are never able to be totally objective. The second Christian insight drawn from Scripture affirms the first, and that is that one of the realities of being human is that every single one of us thinks out of a limited set of intellectual principles and operations. We call that a worldview. Our decisions are made out of those worldviews. Our moral judgments are made out of a worldview. Every one of us has one whether we recognize it or not. This points to the importance for Christians of developing, in faithfulness to Christ in obedience to Scripture, a truly Christian worldview; a worldview that is consistent with Scripture, and consistent with the totality of Christian truth. But the reality is, that around us is a great deal of confusion about how intellectual bias operates. There’s even the denial the intellectual bias is real or at least is necessary.

Recent evidence has come along to prove this point that the Bible teaches emphatically. One comes from Gregory Mankiw, an economist writing in the economic view column at The New York Times. He’s writing about the work of another economist, Matthew Gentzkow; he teaches at University of Chicago, and he’s just received the John Bates Clark medal by the American Economic Association. That’s the award given by economists to the best economist under the age of 40. He’s been doing some interesting research. He’s been asking a very interesting question. Looking at the media and the political and ethical bias of the media, looking at various media sources some of them categorized on the left, that is in a liberal direction, some on the right, in the conservative direction, the assumption by federal government, under the regulatory agencies, is that the ownership of these media outlets determines the political slant or the moral slant, the worldview slant we might say. So, this particular economist decided to find out if this was true and, even as he and a colleague put together a measure to evaluate how liberal or conservative the media outlet was, the determination was that the ownership really wasn’t the big issue. As a matter fact they came to a rather stunning and surprising analysis, and that is that these media outlets, in terms of their political bias, the bias is really determined by the people to whom they’re trying to broadcast or the people to whom they’re trying to sell newspapers. It’s the market that appears to determine the political bias. Another key insight is this, as Mankiw writes,

If a paper serve the liberal community is likely to lean left and if it serves a conservative
community is likely to lean right.

Now that leads to some very interesting observations. First of all, here you have one economist writing about another economist in a media outlet, one of the most influential in all the world, known as The New York Times. And here you have the affirmation that there is no such thing as objectivity. As a matter fact, you have the very clear affirmation that there is such a thing as media bias. That’s an achievement of sorts, but then you also have the very interesting observation that is reported in this research and that is that religiosity also plays a role in the story. It turns out that the more churchgoing a community is the more conservative its paper is. Now this research didn’t try to answer the question why, but the Bible helps us understand why. Those who attend church, presumably, are those who are more likely to believe in a revealed truth and in the authority behind that revealed truth, in a God who would reveal himself in the Bible and that God would then set forth teachings that are to be obeyed, not merely taken into consideration. And so it comes as no surprise to find out that the worldview of the community is indicated, at least in part, by whether or not the residents of that community weekly go to church.
But while we’re talking about media bias, this week’s issue of The Atlantic is out with a report saying that journalists are generally, by their own self-analysis, miserable, liberal, overeducated, underpaid and middle-aged men. The report is by Derek Thompson. He’s talking about a research report done on American journalists.
The most important issue for our consideration is this: like the rest of the country journalist feel more comfortable identifying themselves as independents rather than identifying with either political party.
But listen to the next sentence.
But among journalists who do align with one of the two major parties four in five said they’re Democrats.
In other words, those journalists who do identify in a partisan way four of the five of them identify with the Democratic Party. Now if you look at the major media outlets in this country, whether these media outlets are television broadcasting, radio or newspapers, you don’t have to have this report to know that pattern. As a matter fact four out of five sounds like something of an understatement.

But it’s not only journalists who are bias it is also justices of the United States Supreme Court. This Tuesday’s edition of The New York Times had an article by Adam Liptak, a very keen observer of the nation’s highest court. The headline “For Justices, Free Speech Often Means ‘Speech I Agree With.’” Now this is a very thorough article but what it comes down to is this: when you consider free speech cases before the United States Supreme Court, and you consider the very well identified justices on the right and on the left, those who are conservative and those who are liberal, it comes down to this: the research indicates that the justices generally rule in favor of free speech when they agree with the speech; when the speech aligns with their own political Persuasion. A group of law professors and researchers produced the study and as The New York Times reports the study states,
While liberal justices are overall more supportive of free speech claims than conservative justices, the votes of both liberal and conservative justices tend to reflect their preferences for the ideological groupings of the speaker.
As Liptak reports, social science calls this kind of thing in-group bias. The impact of such bias on judicial behavior has not been explored in much detail, though earlier studies found that female appeals court judges are more likely to vote for plaintiffs in sexual harassment and sex discrimination suits. The report is rather lengthy but it’s also conclusive. It demonstrates, beyond the shadow of any kind of reasonable doubt, that justices of the nation’s highest court do tend to rule in accord with their own political convictions and views. Now, who’s shocked by that? Well, The New York Times doesn’t appear to be shocked by it as it offers this report, and the professors that did the report don’t appear to be shocked by it when they report on their study. And, I’m not shocked by it as I read this newspaper report on the research report undertaken by the law professors. Why? Because I, who have my own bias, reading about others who have their own bias, am ready to be convinced the bias matters and so should you. So, what should Christians do with this? It throws us back on our understanding of what the Reformers called sola Scriptura. At the end of the day, we have to be corrected by something. We’ll be corrected by public opinion. We’ll be corrected by our neighbor, or we may be corrected by someone who just is in agreement with their own value system. But what’s important for Christians is to have our thought process, our judgments, our decisions corrected by Scripture, instructed by Scripture, in order that we would be obedient to Scripture, and we seek to be obedient to Scripture, in order that we might be obedient to Christ. It really is important for all of us to understand that no one is totally objective and perhaps the most dangerous person is the one who thinks he or she is actually objective and unbiased. The responsibility to Christians is to make sure as Scripture says, “that we bring every thought captive to Christ.”
We should note that only some of that research we just discussed was undertaken by economists and most Americans find the research produced by economists to be of little value and little interest. As a matter of fact, the discipline is known in the academic world as quote “the dismal science” because people generally either go to sleep or get aggravated by economic reports. And yet the field of economics, from a Christian worldview perspective, is one of the most important and vital intellectual endeavors of all. It’s one of the most important parts of the research university, one most important issue that we can track. Why? Because as Christians we understand what the Bible teaches clearly, and that is that even as we are made in God’s image we are economic creatures. We are inescapably economic creatures and what the Christian understands, as informed by Scripture, is that our economic lives, our economic choices indicate exactly what we believe. In other words, we will demonstrate our convictions with how we handle currency, how we handle wealth, how we handle money. But one of the reasons why many people simply find economics the dismal science and try to stay away from it is because it appears to be so statistical on the one hand and abstract on the other. What in the world does this have to do with my life?
That leads me to reflect upon the fact that this week Gary Becker, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, died at age 83. He was a Nobel Laureate. He also had been awarded the presidential Medal of Freedom. Why is he so important? It is because Gary Becker pioneered a science of economics that was brought down to human scale. He believed that the most important issue economically, wasn’t money, but what he called human capital. He believed that the real wealth of a civilization or culture wasn’t in its assets measured by energy, resources, and currency and gold, but rather whether or not its population, the people who made the community or the nation, were increasing in terms of their ability to flourish and to function economically and otherwise. He suggested that the wise government is the government that invests in its people; the government that removes obstacles and structures that would impede human learning, human capital, and human development. He argued that the societies that tried to coerce the human spirit, totalitarian regimes, such as the Soviet Union in the 20 century, basically destroyed themselves by destroying their own human capital, by creating disincentives and by so devaluing human beings, filling them in gulags and executing them as extreme examples, the same thing is found, of course, in the communist revolution in China under Mao, that there was no investment in the people and thus the society eventually failed to flourish. Gary Becker understood that if individuals flourish, the society will flourish, but he also understood something else that was revolutionary during the 1960s and 1970s. He understood that the most basic unit for understanding how societies build human capital is not the individual but the family. In other words, Gary Becker, the economist, pointed to the centrality of the family in human society. He made very clear that if you are trying to build human capital you’re going to have to build the family. He also understood that, economically speaking, when a society begins to change, it’s going to show up most clearly in changes in family life. For instance, the entry of women into the workforce, the fact that Americans after the 1960s began having fewer children, he said those are moral choices but they’re going to impact the economy and furthermore it’s because changes in the economy have impacted the way people live, and if we’re not careful they will impact the family, and if we’re not watchful it will impact the family with damage and that will fail to build human capital. Gary Becker and his colleague Milton Friedman of University of Chicago helped to reshape American economics in the 20th century, generally and more libertarian and in a more conservative direction. Gary Becker was intellectually productive, writing a column for BusinessWeek and in a blog right up to the last weeks of his life. But the key insight in his academic contribution is one that should be very important for the Christian worldview. A society that will last is a society that builds human capital, and you build human capital, not just by trying to build individual capital, but family capital. And a society that doesn’t honor the family is actually destroying itself.
Speaking of economic factors, our economic choices do indicate our moral values. Or, you might say, our moral values reflect in our economic choices. This is reflected in another very important article, this one from several days ago, also in The New York Times. The writer is Stanley Luxemberg. The headline is this “Welcoming Love at an Older Age, but Not Necessarily Marriage.” It’s about a new phenomenon, at least in terms of the number of individuals involved. A skyrocketing number of older Americans, including elderly Americans, are deciding, as heterosexual couples, to cohabitate rather than to get married and they are clearly doing so because of economic considerations. As Luxemberg writes,
Americans have long been retreating from marriage. While more people of all ages are living together, the growth of unmarried couples is fastest among the oldest segment of the population. In 2010, 2.8 million people aged 50 and over cohabited, up from 1.2 million in 2000.
In other words, a spectacular more than doubling in just a decade of Americans over age 50 who are cohabiting. Luxemberg writes,
For many, the decision to remain single is a matter of money. A partner who remarries stands to lose alimony, Social Security or a survivor’s pension. Young people may be eager to marry for love, but older couples are more practical and worry about paying the bills.
That was said by Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington. Susan Brown, a professor of sociology Bowling Green State University, who studies cohabitation, says that for young people living together tends to be a transitory arrangement that eventually leads to marriage but for these older Americans this is cohabitation for the rest of their lives, without marriage actually being on the horizon. Stanley Luxemberg, writing for The New York Times, is wise enough to understand this is a major change in how human beings relate to one another. And, the retreat from marriage, which began in certain sectors of the society, certainly not amongst the oldest, is now fastest-growing among those were 50 older and as you look at the age span, is growing even faster among those who are 60 and 65 and older. Luxemberg’s article deals with the fact that many of these older Americans consider themselves religious and at previous points in their lives they would never have considered cohabiting with someone of the opposite sex. They would’ve never considered living together without benefit of marriage. So, what is changed? Well, their economic situation might’ve changed, but as this article makes very clear their moral values had to change before they made these economic decisions. The money decision is the primary issue here. The financial complications certainly present the opportunity for a moral change to be revealed but the moral change has to come first. There is no way that someone who is truly holding to a biblical understanding of morality could come to the end of life and all the sudden say ‘You know, I guess I never really did believe in that. Now, these economic considerations mean that I can cohabit with another person. I can live with someone of the opposite sex and feel no guilt about it.’ No, the reality is that the economic decisions prove that the moral decisions have already been made. The moral change has already taken place. This article in The New York Times is proof positive of the fact that secularization is having a radical effect in this culture, and it also points out that the death of cultural Christianity, which many people think is happening mostly among the young, has also happened among those who are older. And, as common sense tells us, it had to happen there first and just maybe what happened amongst older Americans is reflected in what’s now taking place among younger Americans. Common sense says it can’t go the other way and it’s not only common sense its simple chronology. Luxemberg concludes his article by making clear that this is an ongoing pattern. It’s not going to change anytime soon. More and more Americans are deciding to live together. Marriage is receding in the horizon, but what’s most interesting from this article and rather heartbreaking, as a matter fact, is the fact that for an increasing number of older Americans, a skyrocketing number of older Americans, the morality they said they held to before has been discarded because of economic considerations right now.
Finally, while even talking about the media, thinking in terms of rather critical analysis in terms of bias, we also need to recognize the importance of the media in the world culture. Just consider the pictures of people now holding up signs of white paper with the hashtag “Bring Back our Girls.” It refers, of course, to the abduction by Boko Haram in Nigeria of now considered be over 300 teenage girls they’re threatening to sell into sex slavery and to sell off as wives. Why the media interest? Well, just about everyone in the world knows this is a horrible situation and something should be done about it. Why are we talking about it? Well, the news had to get to us. Somehow we had to find out about this, and as we found out about it we are presented with an opportunity, no, even obligation, for moral judgment and that moral judgment is now going viral. All around the world are people who are saying something must be done. We need to recognize the power the media in our society can sometimes be used for ill, but it can sometimes be used for good. So as we go into this weekend, let’s pray these girls indeed are found, that they’re released, that they’re rescued and returned to their families.

Yesterday we talked about the viral video done by Emily Letts about her own abortion. You’ll find my article analysis at It’s entitled “I Feel Super Great about Having an Abortion: The Culture of Death Goes Viral.” That’s at

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember the release of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information, go to my website at before me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College just go to I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Reports on media and Supreme Court evidence there is no true intellectual objectivity

Media Slant: A Question of Cause and Effect, New York Times (N. Gregory Mankiw)

Report: Journalists Are Miserable, Liberal, Over-Educated, Under-Paid, Middle-Aged Men, The Atlantic (Derek Thompson)

For Justices, Free Speech Often Means ‘Speech I Agree With’, New York Times (Adam Liptak)

2) Gary Becker, who articulated significance of family for economy, dies

Gary Becker, an economist who changed economics, Washington Post (Catherine Rampbell)

Gary Becker, 83, Nobel Laureate, Dies; Applied Economics to Everyday Life, New York Times (Robert D. Hershey, Jr)

The Wisdom of Gary Becker, Wall Street Journal

3) Cohabitation of the elderly indicates economic choices reflect moral values

Welcoming Love at an Older Age, but Not Necessarily Marriage, New York Times (Stanley Luxemberg)

4) Media assist spread of  moral outrage over Boko Haram kidnappings

How our girls are bringing Nigeria back, Washington Post (Uzodinma Iweala)

Hey Boko Haram, pick up a Quran and bring back our girls, CNN (Arsalan Iftikhar)

#BringBackOurGirls. And bring back our country, President Jonathan, The Guardian (Chibundu Onuzo)

5) The culture of death goes viral

“I Feel Super Great About Having an Abortion” — The Culture of Death Goes Viral, (R Albert Mohler, Jr.)


R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).