The Briefing 08-29-14

The Briefing 08-29-14

The Briefing


August 29, 2014

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


It’s Friday, August 29, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Rising number of Americans dependent on welfare threatens ability to reform system

Monday’s edition of Investor’s Business Daily has a very interesting article asking the question as to whether America is reaching a tipping point. As the paper reports,


The Census Bureau found 51 million on food stamps at the end of 2012 and 83 million on Medicaid, with tens of millions of households getting both. Another 4 million were on unemployment insurance.


Furthermore, the percentage of American households on welfare has now reach 35%.


If we include other forms of government assistance such as Medicare and Social Security, almost half of all households are getting a check or other form of government assistance. The tipping point is getting closer and closer.


So what is the tipping point? The tipping point is an economic measure in which nations are warned that once this point is reached, it becomes virtually impossible to fix the financial crisis of entitlement programs. Putting these numbers together, America’s growing close to the point when almost 100,000,000 people will be receiving, in one way or another, federal assistance. And that means that roughly one third of the American people will be directly receiving financial benefits from the government. One third of the population is huge and when you take out children and think just of the voting population, it becomes very apparent that approximately half of all voters in the nation could well be soon receiving some form of direct government financial assistance. Once that point has been reached in other countries, it has become virtually impossible to reform and restructure those programs simply because, given the number of people involved, it’s politically impossible to do anything that that number of people would oppose. In the case of several European nations, that tipping point was reached over a decade ago; in some cases, even earlier. Those nations were forced to go through an extremely traumatic restructuring of the entire economy in order to overcome the entitlements crisis, and in some cases they just kicked the can down the road, so to speak, setting the stage for an even more traumatic and potentially disastrous event yet to come.


Back in 1996 the Republican Congress worked with then-President Bill Clinton to reform the welfare system, moving those on welfare to the necessity of work. As the paper reports,


This was a huge policy success as millions of former welfare recipients — more than half that were enrolled in the program — moved on to the economic ladder by getting jobs



But even as most Americans still think that the welfare system has been reformed, the paper reports that the number of those on welfare, currently covered by those provisions, is down to 5% – meaning for 95% of recipients, those provisions aren’t even in play. Furthermore, the entitlement system in some states is so out of proportion that persons can make more by not working than by working. In the state of Hawaii for example, a recent report indicated that a family, if participating in all qualified programs, could receive as much as $60,000 a year in entitlement payments. As the study also indicated, a public school teacher in the state averaged a salary of approximately $15,000 less per year. Meaning that those on welfare, if they participated at the top of the program, would actually be receiving about 25% more than a school teacher in the same state would be making by working.

2) Integrity of labor important to recognize this Labor Day weekend

While the editors of Investor’s Business Daily are certainly trying to make a moral point, along with the math they relate, the Christian worldview points to an even deeper dimension of the issue in play here. The Christian worldview points to the dignity of work, of the integrity of labor. And as Americans get ready for the Labor Day weekend, Christian should pause for a moment to reflect upon the meaning of work and what it means to be made in God’s image. In Genesis 1:28 the human creatures given the responsibility of dominion and also the assignment of labor and work. The biblical theology reveals it to be made in God’s image is at least in part to be given the capacity to make things, to do things, to make things happen, to work and the labor, and to see the link between labor and its reward. The Bible dignifies labor, stating explicitly that the workman is worthy of his hire.


Furthermore the biblical worldview includes a severe sanction upon sloth and laziness. The apostle Paul told Timothy that as he thinks about the life of the church, a man who will not work to support his family is defined as being worse than an unbeliever.


The Labor Day holiday in the history of United States is an opportunity to pause and reflect upon the contributions of labor, originally organized labor, to American society and the building of the nation. Sadly, as is the case with so many national holidays, most Americans simply see it is a long weekend with a day off. But Americans should ponder the contribution of labor to our society, and Christians, at an even deeper level, should ponder the meaning of work and what it means to be faithful to God, even as made in his image we are given the assignment of labor, the assignment of work, and the dignity of a task.


Evangelical Christian should also keep in mind that the Reformers in the 16th century, Martin Luther in particular, taught that every single believer had a vocation from God. A calling. The Latin word for that calling is ‘vocation,’ and while the church historically understood that vocation to be extended those who are called into the ministry of the church, Martin Luther retorted that every single believer had a vocation, a calling, to which he or she was fitted by God and to which every single believer should aim with faithfulness in order to be obedient to God and to display the glory of God in a fallen world.


It’s sad enough that Americans would forget the meaning of Labor Day. It’s a far greater tragedy if Christians do not pause to reflect upon what it means for God to love us, and show that love in such a way that he gives us a calling, a vocation, prepares us for a special purpose, and give us the opportunity to find both fulfillment and joy in that vocation.


Furthermore the Christian church should validate and honor those vocations, understanding that together the church is called to deploy and fulfill those locations, not only to the glory of God (which is paramount), but also for the good of the church, and for human flourishing, for the building up of community, and for the valuing of the things that last and matter. Keep in mind, of course, what we read in Genesis 3; as a result of the Fall Adam is told that his labor will be harder than it should have been. He will now work by the sweat of his brow. But throughout the Scripture, work and labor are still dignified, and furthermore vocation is honored. Even a fallen world where work is often very difficult, where work is often demonstrated by the sweat of the brow, that sweat has a certain dignity and that labor has a certain integrity.


We are to honor that integrity, we are to celebrate that dignity, and we are to honor those who labor. Furthermore, the biblical worldview also, as so often, turns the conventional wisdom of the world upside down. The world looks at those who labor and those who work and makes a distinction between white-collar and blue-collar, between the professional class and the laboring class. But if anything, the Bible gives ample honor to the laboring class. While honor is certainly due to professionals, in terms of the preparation dedication to the calling and the vital urgency of the task, we need to keep in mind that laborers are of equal importance and dignity, and that those who find their calling in the trades are making a priceless and essential contribution to human flourishing and to the building up a society.


Just imagine where we would be without plumbers for example, or electricians or carpenters. How many Christians pause the ponder the integrity and the value of a garbageman?


So even as Christians join with our neighbors in enjoying the long weekend and the Labor Day holiday, we should pause to think about more than our neighbors may contemplate: the meaning of this holiday isn’t just a day off, it’s the recognition of the importance of the days on.


And keep this in mind to even as most Americans are taking a day off, a lot of Americans are at work and if they were working, we couldn’t take the day off.

3) Moderate Christians viewed as threat to sexual revolution by Vanderbilt administration

Next, we often had to note that the sexual revolution and the legalization of same-sex marriage and the normalization of homosexuality in particular have brought very real challenges is to religious liberty, especially for Christians and Christian organizations. And now this week a blockbuster article hass appeared in the magazine Christianity Today. Written by Tish Harrison Warren, it’s entitled “The Wrong Kind of Christian.”


As she begins the article,


I thought I was an acceptable kind of evangelical.


I’m not a fundamentalist. My friends and I enjoy art, alcohol, and cultural engagement.

We avoid spiritual clichés and buzzwords. We value authenticity, study, racial reconciliation, and social and environmental justice


With those words Tish Harrison Warren does her very best to establish her identity in the left dimension of American evangelicalism. As it turns out, she was involved in a ministry on the campus of Vanderbilt University, a dimension of the work of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an organization that has long been respected for its work with American college and university students, as well as the international programs for students around the world.  But as she writes, even as she had clearly situated herself on evangelical left (as it turns out she’s also now an ordained minister), she makes very clear that even being that kind of evangelical did not prevent a head-on collision with the new moral authorities at Vanderbilt University.


Some time ago we reported on the fact that that university, on the front edge of discrimination against Christian organizations, had instituted a so-called ‘all comers policy’ for all students recognize organizations including Christian organizations. The all comers policy meant that persons had to be received into the organizations life without any discrimination whatsoever on the basis of race or ethnicity or of sexual orientation. But the policy actually went even further requiring that there be no test or criterion that would invalidate anyone from becoming a leader or officer in the organization. Effectively, Christian organizations were told that they could continue to be organized and recognized on the campus of Vanderbilt University so long as they actually ceased being Christian, at least in any meaningful theological or moral sense.


The story told by Tish Harrison Warren is truly important. In her words,


In May 2011, Vanderbilt’s director of religious life told me that the group I’d helped lead for two years, Graduate Christian Fellowship—a chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship—was on probation. We had to drop the requirement that student leaders affirm our doctrinal and purpose statement, or we would lose our status as a registered student organization.


I met with him to understand the change. During the previous school year, a Christian fraternity had expelled several students for violating their behavior policy. One student said he was ousted because he is gay. Vanderbilt responded [she says] by forbidding any belief standards for those wanting to join or lead any campus group.


Later in her essay, she writes these words,


Like most campus groups, InterVarsity welcomes anyone as a member. But it asks key student leaders—the executive council and small group leaders—to affirm its doctrinal statement, which outlines broad Christian orthodoxy and does not mention sexual conduct specifically. But the university saw belief statements themselves as suspect. Any belief—particularly those about the authority of Scripture or the church—could potentially constrain sexual activity or identity. So what began as a concern about sexuality and pluralism [she writes] quickly became a conversation about whether robustly religious communities would be allowed on campus.


Her next words deserve are particularly close attention. She writes,


In effect, the new policy privileged certain belief groups and forbade all others. Religious organizations were welcome as long as they were malleable: as long as their leaders didn’t need to profess anything in particular; as long as they could be governed by sheer democracy and adjust to popular mores or trends; as long as they didn’t prioritize theological stability. Creedal statements were allowed, but as an accessory, a historic document, or a suggested guideline. They could not have binding authority to shape or govern the teaching and practices of a campus religious community.


As she says later, she thought all this had to be a misunderstanding, and that reasonable parties could sort it out. But as she relates, when she met with university administrators the tone of the conversation began to change. The administrators began to use the word ‘discrimination’ is used a lot, as she says, specifically regarding creedal statements. In her words, “it was lobbed like a grenade to end all argument.” Quite explicitly the word ‘creedal’ was made to be the analogy of ‘racist’


As she later writes,


The line between good and evil was drawn by two issues: creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad—not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus.


It didn’t matter to them [she writes] if we were politically or racially diverse, if we cared about the environment or built Habitat homes. It didn’t matter if our students were top in their fields and some of the kindest, most thoughtful, most compassionate leaders on campus. There was a line in the sand, and we fell on the wrong side of it.


Eventually she makes clear they were forced off the campus, denied official recognition and direct access to students on the Vanderbilt campus. They were forbidden from even using the name of Vanderbilt University in identifying the organization. They communicated their existence to other students by wearing T-shirts that simply said “We are Here.”


She then concludes,


What’s happening at Vanderbilt is happening at other universities. Increasingly, orthodox beliefs and practices are forbidden as those in power forfeit a robust understanding of religious pluralism.


As I’ve long argued, what we see in America right now is a clash of liberties; an inevitable class of liberties in the wake of a moral and sexual revolution. The way I would put it is this; we see a direct head-on collision between religious liberty and what we might call erotic liberty, rooted in sexual autonomy. And time and again, what we are witnessing is the victory of erotic liberty over religious liberty. This is happening not only on college campuses, but also in the courts. And keep in mind, of course, that the United States Constitution neither includes and certainly does not state anything about erotic liberty. It does emphatically and explicitly include protection for religious liberty, but the growing supremacy of erotic liberty in our culture means that religious liberty is simply being trampled upon. In many cases marginalized, in other cases it simply denied outright.


There are other important dimensions of Tish Harrison Warren’s article as well, keep in mind the fact that she did everything possible to situate herself on the evangelical left; to make very clear that she and her organization were by no means fundamentalist. But that wasn’t enough. As she included in her article, so far as the secular administrators were concerned, there is no distinction whatsoever between the fathers of the Church and contemporary fundamentalists. What she didn’t make clear in her article is the fact that in the view of so many secular authorities, to hold any specific theological beliefs is to be a fundamentalist.


As I said it’s a blockbuster article the demands our attention. It’s like to make a lot of waves in the Christian community. What is not likely to do is change anything on the campus of Vanderbilt University.

4) Newspapers are more conservative, if the terms are redefined

Finally, the “Uncommon Knowledge” called of Sunday’s edition of the Boston Globe included a very interesting article, the headline “Newspaper’s Not so Liberal After All.” Well, since the article appeared in a very liberal newspaper, it caught my attention.


Here’s what it stated,


Are newspapers dominated by liberals? Not really, according to an analysis that compared newspapers’ editorial positions on ballot propositions with the positions of voters, parties, and interest groups. It turns out [says the report] that newspapers are relatively moderate and that newspapers leaning left are balanced out by newspapers leaning right. In fact, [the paper reports] newspapers seem to be more libertarian.


Looking deeper the report it becomes very evident that in the case of this research, liberal and conservative are in the eyes of the beholder. The position labelled here as conservative and the evaluative mechanism used to measure conservatism indicate that what these researchers call conservatism isn’t a conservatism American conservatives would recognize. The researchers also tended to undermine their own argument with this fact,


A majority of voters supported the conservative, antigay rights alternative on 68 percent of [ballot propositions]. Newspapers, however, endorsed this alternative only 3 percent of the time.


So, even as 68% of the people living in these communities supported efforts to define marriage, for example, as the union of a man and a woman, and the newspapers to the same option only 3% of the time, they’re not liberal. At least that’s their story and they’re sticking with it.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information to my website 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


And speaking of Boyce College I look forward to introducing you to the college and to its programs and mission. We’re holding a special preview data Boyce College this upcoming October 31. Come learn how we are preparing the next generation of Christian men and women to serve the church and to engage the culture learn I hope you and your family have a wonderful Labor Day weekend, and I’ll meet you again on Tuesday for The Briefing.



Podcast Transcript

1) Rising number of Americans dependent on welfare threatens ability to reform system

Government Dependency In U.S. Nears The Tipping Point, Investors’ Business Daily (Editorial)

2) Integrity of labor important to recognize this Labor Day weekend

3) Moderate Christians viewed as threat to sexual revolution by Vanderbilt administration

The Wrong Kind of Christian, Christianity Today (Tish Harrison Warren)

4) Newspapers are more conservative, if the terms are redefined

Newspapers, not so liberal after all, Boston Globe (Kevin Lewis)

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).