The Briefing 08-22-14

The Briefing 08-22-14

The Briefing


August 22, 2014

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

It’s Friday, August 22, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


You may not be aware of it, but childlessness is now claimed to be a lifestyle category. This point is made abundantly clear in the Financial Times by Janan Ganesh, who wrote an article accusing those with children, and the larger society, of being intolerant to those who choose not to be parents. He goes on to argue,


A childfree life is as good as any other [he then goes so far as to say] – and often better


He writes,


There is nothing like that moment when you cradle a friend’s newborn baby, gaze into its helpless eyes and realize, with a pang, that you would rather be almost anywhere else.


Well, maybe you haven’t had that experience, I would add, but evidently Janan Ganesh has had that experience and he thinks that those who do not share that experience often respond to the childless, the deliberately childless, ‘the child free’ – as some in the United States call themselves – with intolerance. He then writes, and I quote:


We are no longer citizens, sporting just one indivisible identity. We have become our genders, pigmentations, sexual leanings, lifestyle choices and credal enthusiasms, and our expanding notion of rights is always taking in new minorities: transgender people, the depressed, the merely offended.


But then he says,


There is one exception to all this mutual reassurance. The tent of identity politics [he accuses,] was never pitched wide enough to cover people who forswear parenthood. There is no childfree “community”, lobby or discourse to speak of. The childless are political unpersons – not persecuted but not noticed either.


He then continues in his argument to suggest that the welfare state is itself stacked against the childless. Why? Because the welfare state privileges those with children and represents a financial transfer from those without children to those with children – something he believes should be seen straightforwardly as being unjust and wrong. But wait just a minute. Why in the world would welfare systems, taxation systems, and societies at large privilege the raising of children? Why would tax structures appropriately recognize children and parenting as a responsibility on behalf of the larger society? It is because of a simple fundamental fact that the author of this article profoundly ignores, and that is this: if there are no children, there is no future for society. Every single human society throughout history has privileged the procreation and raising of children, and it is done so precisely because that’s the very essence of the civilizational drive. To be a conscious being is to be driven by a survival instinct, and societies as collectives of beings are no different. The survival instinct of every single society is been to recognize the importance of the raising of children – and to privilege and honor those who bear that responsibility in any generation – or at least that’s been true until most recently. And we also need to recognize that the biblical worldview has pointed to the fact that that is not only a civilizational imperative, it is a reality of human life, of the reality of the family and marriage, and of God’s plan for humanity from the very beginning. After all, as early as Genesis 1:28 there is the mandate that Adam and Eve are to multiply and to take dominion and replenish the earth.


Interestingly Mr. Ganesh actually references a recent controversy having to do with the historian Niall Ferguson of Oxford University and of Harvard.  Mr. Ferguson got into trouble for suggesting that some economists may lean towards liberal theories of the use of capital if they have no children, and thus are not concerned, because of those children, for the future. Even though Niall Ferguson was roundly criticized for an argument – that frankly is rather obviously true – it also turns out that Mr. Ganesh says, as one who is deliberately childless, there’s a point to be made there. In his words,


To be childfree is to encounter what economists call a steep discount rate: money is worth more now than in the future. Pension provision aside, there is little reason to defer gratification. College fees, a nest egg, a house big enough for a playroom – there sure are a lot of things to not bother saving for.


But the essence of the worldview that he represents is also made abundantly clear in his column in the Financial Times. He writes,


Any distaste we feel about this account of the good life is at odds with almost everything else we believe. After all, the whole point of the liberal journey that western societies have been on since the 1960s – and, really, since the Enlightenment – is the primacy of the individual.


Well, there you have it – the end result. The logical conclusion of this kind of absolute individualism is to de-privilege families, parenthood, and children – severing individual from society. Suggesting that all that society is is an accidental coagulation of individuals. And according to this worldview, every one of those individuals should be concerned about nothing more than his or her own rational self-interest – owing nothing to anybody else and certainly not to the future.


Ganesh goes on to say that the unfinished business of liberalism is to extend the dignity and respect to those who “Stand far from the breeding crowd.”


So there you also have another sneering indication of the worldview behind Mr. Ganesh’s column. The world is divided between the breeding crowd and those who yearn for something better – a life unencumbered by children, without the responsibility to build a play room, or to have a savings account for college. All those things are simply encumbrances that the absolutely self-directed individual can very well do without, thank you. He concludes his article,


Going childfree is not a frigid denial of life, it is the ultimate immersion in life.


Well let’s just put it this way: it is the ultimate immersion in the completely self-centered life, in the life of unbridled, unrestricted, infinitely asserted, individualism. Some Christians are surprised, and others are irritated, to realize that in the Scripture there is not even a category for a married couple that does not desire children. Deliberate childlessness of the variety championed in this article by Janan Ganesh is absolutely foreign from the Christian worldview. It is also the statement of what may be called, a terminal generation. If everyone followed Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative and did exactly as to Janan Ganesh does, this would be the last generation on earth. Of course Mr. Ganesh isn’t worried about that, because he’s quite happy for someone else – he calls them the breeders – to take up that task.


The intersection of biblical authority and popular culture is illustrated in a recent article that appeared in World Magazine. Jeff Koch reporting for that magazine writes about the Christian music group known as Gungor, suggesting that the group has now drifted from biblical orthodoxy. As Koch notes,


[Gungor is] known for creating a supple pop-eclecticism that transcends traditional genre limitations while maintaining Christian themes.


But then he says and I quote,


But their latest work reveals a band transcending not just musical genres but religious ones—wandering away from a biblically defined Christianity to a land twixt and tween.


Koch points back to an article that appeared in the October 25, 2013 edition of the Oakland Press in California in which Michael Gungor said that at some point in his recent life, he had “lost his metaphysic,” if you will. He also said that he had experienced an existential crisis sometime late in 2012. This led him to question many of his beliefs about life and the Christian faith, and as he told the paper


I’ve kind of let go of a lot of the concerns I had and just am trying to be present in life. And, interestingly, it affected the music greatly. A lot of the stuff we’d written about before was very grand and idealistic and big ideas, and this album [speaking of one of his most recent albums] to me is a little more earthy, a little more about being right here and right now.


In the group’s more recent music, they’re speaking of what Mr. Geiger said


We thought were true, but no longer are. Stories that we lived by, defined ourselves with, but can no longer believe in.


In an article entitled “What Do We Believe?” published at the group’s website, Michael Gungor wrote,


I have no more ability to believe, for example, that the first people on earth were a couple named Adam and Eve that lived 6,000 years ago. I have no ability to believe that there was a flood that covered all the highest mountains of the world only 4,000 years ago and that all of the animal species that exist today are here because they were carried on an ark and then somehow walked or flew all around the world from a mountain in the Middle East after the water dried up. I have no more ability to believe these things than I do to believe in Santa Clause or to not believe in gravity. But I have a choice on what to do with these unbeliefs. I could either throw out those stories as lies, or I could try to find some value in them as stories. But this is what happens…[he continued] If you try to find some value in them as stories, there will be some people that say that you aren’t a Christian anymore because you don’t believe the Bible is true or “authoritative”. Even if you try to argue that you think there is a truth to the stories, just not in an historical sense; that doesn’t matter. To some people, you denying the “truth” of a 6,000 year old earth with naked people in a garden eating an apple being responsible for the death of dinosaurs is the same thing as you nailing Jesus to the cross. You become part of ‘them’. The deniers of God’s Word.
In an article published at their website just a few days ago entitled “I’m With You,” Mr. Gungor went on to say that there is ample scientific evidence to know that human beings


…did not come from two individual 6000 years ago.


He went on to say,


We can PROVE these things beyond a reasonable doubt with science.


Concluding that column Mr. Gungor wrote,


Gungor is not, and has never been a fundamentalist band seeking to spread young earth, biblical literalism across the planet. Sorry if that disappoints you. Still, I hope some of us can use this opportunity to find unity within disagreement rather than turn it into another fundamentalist witch hunt over something extremely peripheral to what really matters.


The most important words in that particular senates are the words the conclude it, where he says that these things are “extremely peripheral to what really matters.”


That claim we’re going to have to consider. In an article that appeared at the website of BioLogos, a group representing theistic evolution in the main, Gungor said in the interview and I quote


I think a way forward is to adopt the position of so many Christians throughout history: Let scientists do the science, and if that plainly contradicts something we read in Scripture, then re-interpret how we are reading Scripture. The Bible makes for a great religious text, but it is not such a great science book. And vice versa.


With that statement Michael Gungor, whether he intends it or not or even recognized it or not, has revealed what is known as his epistemological authority. He’s made very clear what intellectual authority gets to trump all others – and his words are very straightforward.


If science, he says, conclusively proves something and it’s in conflict of Scripture, then you reinterpret the Scripture. So the authority, quite clearly, is modern science. Whatever the prevailing consensus is of modern science, whatever science claims to have “proved” – to use those quotation marks – at that point he says you have to reinterpret the Scripture.


In his interview with BioLogos he responded to the new story in World Magazine by saying,


I had to go through a period of perspective shifting, which can be a very scary and even painful thing to go through. But the perspective that I moved to could be summed up like this: Is it possible for a myth to be beautiful, important, and even “true”? And I now absolutely believe that the answer to that question is yes. There is a beauty to a great symphony or piece of poetry, for example, that has nothing to do with the other elements of “truth” like historical accuracy.


Speaking of Adam and Eve in the Genesis accounts of creation Gungor said,


Likewise, does believing that Adam (a name meaning “man”) and Eve were not actually two individual naked people in a garden 6,000 years ago having conversation with a snake make the idea that “the wages of sin is death” any less true? In fact, are there any truths other than historical accuracy that we can glean from those stories that are less “true” if those stories are myths and poems? I don’t see any.


Well, Michael Gungor might not see any problem here, but the big problem is in virtually everything he says. He uses the category of myth exactly as the 19th century Protestant liberals used it, to deny the historical accuracy of Scripture or the possibility of historical revelation. When Michael Gungor speaks of his perspective shifting what he’s actually doing is shifting into theological reverse, moving right back to the last decades of the 19th century, associating with theological ideas which were a part of that Protestant liberalism which also came over to the United States, infecting many denominations and seminaries. You see it is actually impossible not to live by an epistemological authority – that intellectual authority that determines what gets to trump other claims to knowledge. We will either believe that the Bible is the inerrant and fallible word of God, that it is the specially revealed word of God – which is our ultimate intellectual authority because it is indeed the word of God – or we will see it merely is a collection of inspirational and spiritual writings that are to be ‘reinterpreted,’ that’s Michael Gungor’s word, when it comes to claims of a superior intellectual authority – in his case, modern science.


His category of myth, by the way, runs face-to-face with the fact that that is exactly what the Bible itself repudiates. That’s exactly what the apostle Peter addresses in 2 Peter when he writes that the apostolic message concerning Jesus Christ was not a cleverly devised myth, rather he said, we were eyewitnesses of these things, pointing to the fact that the claim here is to an absolute historical accuracy, not to some kind of mythological meaning. There are several other dimensions of this situation that deserve our attention; one of them is the fact that this is inherently arbitrary. Michael Gungor says he can’t believe in a historical Adam and Eve anymore, but he wants to make very clear he still believes in the miracles of the New Testament; but why? He has just pulled the rug out from under his own intellectual argument, because if he is just allowed the naturalistic assumptions of modern science to deny the reality of Adam and Eve, how can he not follow those same naturalistic claims of science when they denied the possibility of the miraculous? Now I want to be clear, I’m saying that Michael Gungor doesn’t believe in the reality of the miracles, I am saying that if he does – I hope he does – he is simply doing so arbitrarily; having pulled the rug out from under his own intellectual argument.


This also points to the fact that what we’re talking about here is not the so-called slippery slope argument (Which I should also add isn’t always a false argument). It is a false argument if you say that a person denying one doctrine, then therefore has to go on to deny all other doctrines. That’s not true. Because many people actually are mentally incoherent and theologically inconsistent, but the theological peril should be expressed this way: if you decide that you’re going to undercut biblical authority when it comes to very clear historical claims that you say now have to be reinterpreted by the assured findings of modern science, then when it comes to any other issue, if you fail to follow those same naturalistic assumptions, you’re just being arbitrary. It may not be that you will also deny all those other doctrines that run into direct conflict with the naturalistic scientific worldview, but if you do not do so it will simply be because you decided not to do so, not because you are consistently recognizing an intellectual authority. And that’s exactly what the Scripture claims to be.


In the formula that evangelicals have known throughout the centuries, when the Bible speaks God speaks. The issue remains that simple. In reality, the fact that Adam and Eve were real, objectively, live human beings, who lived in space and time and history is essential to the entire biblical narrative; not just to the interpretation of Genesis 1 and following. One of the saddest aspects of this particular theological compromise is that it appears that Michael Gungor thinks that what he has achieved here is something new. It isn’t new. It’s just back to the future. It’s back to Protestant liberalism. And what, by the way, did Protestant liberalism achieve? The undermining and subversion of the church in the name of saving it – saving it from itself. We’re not called to save the Bible from itself, the Bible makes explicit truth claims. We’re not to try to save the Bible’s from those truth claims, but rather to receive them for what they are – the word to us which is the word of God. I’m indebted to World Magazine for bringing this to our attention, this is not – I remind you – a tempest in a teapot.


Finally, a consideration: the importance of the issue of education and worldview. This week’s issue of Time magazine includes a story about the burgeoning controversy over the Common Core project, in terms of the nation’s public schools. And as article by Haley Sweetland-Edwards and Holly Springs makes very clear, that the Common Core project, which was undertaken by Congress and by the United States government with the cooperation of most of the states five years ago, began as a project that was supported largely by both conservatives and liberals – at least those involved in the project. But now, it is under attack by both conservatives and liberals for equal and opposite problems. As Time magazine reports,


The standards were designed by state officials as a way to make sure that students in, say, Montana are learning at the same level as their counterparts in Maine. But as Common Core is rolled out this month in every grade level at every public school in the 41 states that have adopted it, the political controversy surrounding its implementation threatens to derail a program once hailed as a model of bipartisan accomplishment.


Why? Well the most important thing we need to recognize is that the answer the question why, is the inevitable infusion of worldview and education. You simply can’t talk about education without dealing with which worldview, what worldview, is going to be the dominating focus of a curriculum, or in this case of an entire educational approach. Why did conservatives and liberals support this in its inception five years ago? Well, conservatives are very pleased that one of the ambitions of conservative educators, going all the way back to the Reagan administration and beyond, was to achieve measurability in terms of testing, to come up with a way of knowing whether children are learning anything, as a way of finding out at the educational process is actually producing educated citizens. On the left, the interest is very different. The interest on the left was in creating what it considered to be a coast-to-coast set of standards and expectations for the curriculum, along with an understanding of the professionalization of the teaching class. So there were two very different ambitions that lead to one project known as Common Core, and yet it’s coming apart at the seams – as Time magazine’s article is merely a hint of. It would be impossible to offer complete review of the Common Core controversy, but this much should be clear –when you hear the words Common Core, you need to think back in American educational history to the words common school. The idea of the common schools should be traced back to secular theorist Horace Mann who wanted to free the schools from the influence of the church, and who also wanted to create a school in every local community that would reflect that community, and would create in that community a common body of knowledge and a common citizenship. The common school basically came to an end at the beginning of 20th century when control over the schools, including over hiring policy and curriculum, passed into the hands of credentialed professional educators rather than in the hands of local citizens elected through local school boards.


The common schools were to teach reading, and writing, and arithmetic, geography, and history, and math, but as the common schools developed into the public schools, they took on other responsibilities as well. And those responsibilities were laden with worldview significance, along with the original disciplines. But the public school project of the 20th century, largely led by humanist advocates such as John Dewey, that school project was intent upon, in the words of Dewey: separating children from the religious prejudices of their parents. The Christians looking at this need to recognize that something very fundamental is at stake here. First of all, the affirmation that education is more important than many people ever conceive. Education is about the creation of persons, not only the perpetuation of knowledge. Some worldview is going to be communicated and is going to be fundamental to the entire educational process. And when it comes to Common Core, the development of national standards is basically the fulfillment of everything Horace Mann and John Dewey wanted, but at a national level. And that means that the common school project is officially dead, and that the public schools no longer belong to the public locally, but in terms of control over the curriculum, all things are now nationalized. And that means that the current project of the Common Core is that the child in Maine and the child in Montana and the child in Mississippi, to use the language of Time magazine, would not only know the same things but also share the same worldview, and that’s why a lot of parents in Montana, and in Mississippi, as well as Maine, are concerned and rightly so.  We’ll be tracking this issue in controversy as it develops in month ahead but it’s very telling, that here, even as the first year of full implementation of Common Core is supposed to happen, it appears the entire project is falling apart at the seams.



Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at You can follow 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 tomorrow for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Childlessness as a lifestyle immersion in the self-centered life

Being childless, Financial Times (Janan Ganesh)

2) Gungor reveals modern science, not Bible, as his ruling authority

Gungor drifts from biblical orthodoxy, World Magazine (Jeff Koch)

Gungor keeping his feet on the rock, Oakland Press

What Do We Believe?, Gungor Music (Michael Gungor)

I’m With You, Gungor Music (Michael Gungor)

Faith after Literalism: An Interview with Michael Gungor, BioLogos Forum

3) Common Core controversy indicates importance of worldview to curriculum

Crashing the Core Curriculum, TIME (Haley Sweetland-Edwards and Holly Springs)




R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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