The Briefing 09-08-14

The Briefing 09-08-14

The Briefing


September 5, 2014

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


It’s Monday, September 8, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) InterVarsity ejected by California University system over creedal basis of group

“America’s college and university campuses are increasingly resembling closed countries.” By referring to closed countries, of course, the author of the article published over the weekend at Mission Network News points to the reality that there are many countries in the world that are officially declared to be closed to missionary activity. Now Julie Oosterhouse, writing for Mission Network News, tells us that at least some of the most important state university systems, as well as some of the leading private universities in America, are becoming, as it were, closed countries when it comes to Christian witness and Christian ministries on their campuses.


The specific reason for Oosterhouse’s article in Mission Network News has to do with the fact that the entire University of California system has now derecognized the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Just days ago, we discussed the fact that Vanderbilt University had done the same. Effectively derecognizing InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and casting them off the campus and out of bounds – in terms of ministry to the college and university students there at Vanderbilt. But now we’re talking about the University of California, and not just one university – but all 27 campuses of the University of California system. And we’re not talking about a private university – we’re talking about America’s largest network of public universities. What we’re looking at here is a major closing of the American heart and the American mind; starting where the mind is most concentrated in terms of its formation, that is on the American college and university campus. But as Julie Oosterhouse writes,


Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be a missionary in a closed country? Well, that situation is actually not too far from your front door. College campuses continue to derecognize any religious organizations requiring leaders to hold a set of beliefs.


That’s a very crucial way of stating the case – and it is exactly right. What we have here is not the case of a university saying that it objects to this or that belief, but rather to the fact the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, or any Christian organization for that matter, would require any beliefs whatsoever – any beliefs at all.


As we saw in the case of Vanderbilt University, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s cardinal sin there was that it was identified as creedal, in other words holding to a specific set of beliefs – a very short set of beliefs – that were required of all in leadership. These beliefs are not required of all students who participate, as a matter fact all are welcome according to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. But in terms of leadership, it simply makes sense. It’s only rational that for a Christian organization to continue to be Christian, it must require certain core Christian beliefs of those who will be in leadership. At Vanderbilt University the administrators made very clear that any requirement of any beliefs whatsoever would be so problematic as to disqualify the group from official recognition.


But make no mistake, the key issues here are related to sex, sexuality, sexual orientation, and sexual preference. What we’re looking at here is the very fact that the requirements of biblical authority, of Christian orthodoxy, required by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship just might – the argument by the politically correct administrators go – make some moral judgment that would be negative towards someone, or anyone’s, sexual practices or sexual orientation. According to the new thought police on America’s college and University campuses, that simply unacceptable. In a statement on the website of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship related to the California State University system, the ministry, one of the most respected in terms of college ministry in American history, states this – and I quote:


In 2012, shortly before retiring, the chancellor of the California State University system issued a new policy that requires recognized student groups to accept all students as potential leaders. Our chapter leaders are required to affirm InterVarsity’s Doctrinal Basis. This new CSU policy does not allow us to require that our leaders be Christian.  It is essentially asking InterVarsity chapters to change the core of their identity, and to change the way they operate in order to be an officially recognized student group.


The InterVarsity statement went on with these words,


While we applaud inclusivity, we believe that faith-based communities like ours can only be led by people who clearly affirm historic Christian doctrine. The policy affects 23 chapters within the California State University system, such as Cal State Northridge. The policy exempts sororities and fraternities from gender discrimination; we believe there should be a similar provision for creedal communities.


That excerpt from the statement issued by InterVarsity concerning the California State University system is itself rather clever, and very interesting. Linking the rights of sororities and fraternities to discriminate on the basis of gender, after all they received an exemption for that kind of discrimination, to the right of faith-based, specifically Christian organizations, to discriminate on the basis of religious belief. At both Vanderbilt University and in the California State University system, exemptions were given up front to sororities and fraternities. And while we’re being honest about the situation, the kind of discrimination, in terms of both membership and leadership, that you see in America’s college fraternities and sororities, this goes far beyond anything that might be contemplated by a Christian organization. After all, fraternities and sororities in their rush process, do not even have to give any reason at all why anyone is denied membership in either the fraternity or the sorority. But, notice right up front, the very use of the words fraternity and sorority makes very clear that sororities are limited by gender to women and fraternities limited by gender to men. But both Vanderbilt University and the California State University system banned any kind of discrimination on the basis of gender. But, as it has already been said, exemptions were given up front to sororities and fraternities. One reason for that, no doubt, is the political power held by alumni of those organizations. But what we see here is a very clear double standard, and what we also see is the specific targeting of organizations established on the basis of Christian belief in terms of this kind of discrimination.


Just like at Vanderbilt University, the leaders of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on the California State University campuses have indicated that they will do their very best to perpetuate their ministry now – even though they are derecognized by the University. This means that they will not be allowed the kind of access to campus facilities that they’d had in the past. As in the case with Vanderbilt, they cannot use the names of the universities in terms of their own promotion. And what we’re looking at here is not only the “derecognition” of these organizations, but the stigmatizing of evangelical Christianity.

2) Public schools end relationship with Gordon College evidences rise of new thought police

Back in July controversy erupted at another college, this time a Christian college. The college was Gordon College in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. You may recall the controversy over the fact that its president, Michael Lindsay, had simply signed a letter – a letter signed by about two dozen other college and university leaders, asking for President Obama to allow for a religious exemption in terms of the employment nondiscrimination policy that he handed down in the middle of the summer. President Obama refused to extend that exemption. But the specific controversy in Boston this summer had to do with the fact that the city, and its intellectual elites, were completely outraged that the president of Gordon College – very clearly established as a Christian college – would claim the right to a religious exemption to operate in terms of its own hiring admissions on the basis of Christian doctrine and Christian truth. That outrage was overwhelming, leading to a series of articles and editorials in newspapers such as the neighboring Boston Globe.


But in recent days there have been other announcements – the city of Salem, very close to the Gordon College campus, had announced earlier in the summer that it would immediately cease allowing Gordon College to have access to one of the city’s historic buildings that the college had not only used by lease for a period of time, but was also basically maintaining and improving because of its historical status for the entire community. The leadership of the city of Salem simply said that it was unthinkable that the city would allow any of its facilities to be used by an organization that discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation or sexual behavior in this way. Just in the last few days, another announcement has come – you might say, another shoe has dropped. In this case, it is the neighboring community of Lynn, Massachusetts that announced in the pages of the Boston Globe that it would no longer allow Gordon College students to work as volunteers in that city’s public schools. As Oliver Ortega for the Boston Globe reported,


The Lynn public school district this week severed an 11-year partnership with Gordon College, citing the college’s opposition to federal hiring protection for gays and lesbians. The move ended a partnership that had sent dozens of Gordon [College] volunteers into the city’s public schools.


Now, we need to notice a couple things right up front. There is no insinuation in this article that there is anything that is ever happened, related to a Gordon college student, that wasn’t entirely in line with what the Lynn public schools had hoped these students would perform in terms of their volunteer work. There’s no complain about the students whatsoever. The complaint is about the university – and not just about the university, but about the fact that the university’s president signed a letter, along with many other American college and university presidents, asking President Obama to grant this limited exemption. That was simply a bridge too far for the Lynn public schools. But in this article by Oliver Ortega there’s actually more that demands our attention. Ortega tells us that during the school board’s deliberation of this issue, one member the board – school committee member Charlie N. Gallo – said,

Gordon needs to say, ‘I’m sorry for the request in the letter,’ [He went on to say,] It “shouldn’t be incumbent upon Lynn public schools to train people in Gordon College not to discriminate,”


If you were looking for evidence of the rise of a new thought police in America, it’s hard to come up with any better proof positive than that statement coming from the school committee board member in the city of Lynn, Massachusetts. Sounding more like one of Stalin’s show trials in the Soviet Union during the 1940s and 1950s, this school board member now demands, in effect, that Gordon College officially, in writing, repent. And of course what this article makes abundantly clear is what the college is now demanded to repent of, is not merely the fact that its president signed a letter asking for a limited religious exemption to a hiring antidiscrimination policy, but that the college repent of its own Christian identity and of its commitment to Christian truth and of any policies in hiring admissions, housing, or anything else, that would discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or sexual behavior – even if, as the community seems well to recognize, Gordon College was established as a Christian school and the Christian churches historically understood same-sex behaviors to be sinful. All that simply has to give way now to the new thought police, and to their new demands.

3) Judge dismisses all argument s against moral revolution of same-sex marriage as bigoted

These articles, all covering developments just in the last several weeks and days, point to the radical shift in the intellectual and moral culture all around us. We’re looking at a fundamental change in the contours of America – of America’s moral landscape, of the way most Americans think. Increasingly, evangelical Christians committed to the Scripture and other people of deep beliefs, related to their own theological convictions, are now being treated as outlaws – not only as politically incorrect outlaws, not only as intellectual outlaws, but as moral outlaws. And in one sense, it’s not just Christians who are being singled out; it’s the entire history of our own civilization.


That became abundantly clear just in recent days when a three-judge panel of the seventh US circuit Court of Appeals based in Chicago, struck down bans on same-sex marriage in Wisconsin and Indiana. The oral arguments for these two cases were held only in recent weeks, and this was a stunningly quick decision handed down by the three-judge panel. Writing for the panel was Judge Richard Posner, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Posner generally defies any easy description as either conservative or liberal, in this sense he is mostly, rightly understood, as libertarian. But as many other judges have pointed out, this widely published judge is, if anything, mostly confident in his own decision. And in a sweeping statement in the decision handed down just last week, judge Posner dismissed the moral wisdom of two millennia as based in nothing more than discrimination and invidious prejudice. Celebrating judge Posner’s opinion, Mark Joseph Stern writing at Slate.comwrote,


Posner isn’t interested in making new law: The statutes before him are so irrational, so senseless and unreasonable, that they’re noxious to the U.S. Constitution under almost any interpretation of the equal protection clause.


Mark Joseph Stern means, as he celebrates Judge Posner’s decision, that the judge found that the laws of Indiana and Wisconsin, defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, to use the phrase here, are noxious to the U.S. Constitution – irrational, senseless, unreasonable. And, I have to state, that looking at Judge Posner’s opinion, Mark Joseph Stern’s description is rather accurate. That is exactly what Judge Posner is arguing. But just consider what he’s actually doing here; he is overthrowing two millennia of moral wisdom – suggesting that, if at any point, any society had limited the legal definition of marriage to the union of a man and a woman, it was acting irrationally, senselessly, unreasonably, noxiously. Judge Posner’s opinion, by the way, includes some very unusual language. Consider this section,


Heterosexuals get drunk and pregnant, producing unwanted children; their reward is to be allowed to marry. Homosexual couples do not produce unwanted children; their reward is to be denied the right to marry. Go figure.


Well, that “Go figure.” statement basically turns two millennia of human wisdom on its head; linking marriage to procreation and the raising of children. The fact that some heterosexuals do that badly is, in judge Posner’s decision, to be set alongside the fact that heterosexual couples, since they


[…] do not produce unwanted children


Actually have what, in his view, is evidently a morally superior demand for entrance into legal marriage. On the other hand, a critic of Judge Posner’s opinion, Ed Whelan, writing at National Review said, and I quote,


In judicial rulings against marriage laws, the ratio of hubris to reasoning has been very high. It’s no surprise that Seventh Circuit judge Richard Posner’s ruling … against Indiana’s and Wisconsin’s marriage laws increased that ratio.


One of the things we need to note in this Seventh Circuit decision is the fact that Judge Posner is attempting to do something rhetorically. He is attempting to use the force of his words and the force of his argument to make any argument on behalf of natural marriage appear to be silly, irrational, wrong, prejudice, intolerant, and to be discarded by any right minded person. As Judge Posner sees it, and he states this quite emphatically, there are not two opposing arguments here –with the argument for same-sex marriage coming out on top – he doesn’t even recognize there is any argument on the other side. Any argument put forth, even one that is consistent with 2000 years of civilizational experience, is simply dismissed as being nothing more than a silly form of dangerous prejudice. According to the count at National Review, there have been at least now 30 decisions by court, at one level or another, since the US Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor, handed down in 2013 that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act – whereby our federal government defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.


What we’re looking at here is a very clear moral shift in the society – a moral revolution that will leave no part of our society and culture untouched. But it’s not just that this revolution will leave no square inch untouched, it will leave none of us unaffected. It now affects InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a venerable Christian ministry that did not intend to enter the culture war. It now affects just about anyone who enters the space of America’s colleges and universities. It now affects anyone who, in public, would make an argument on behalf of marriage as exclusively the union of a man and a woman. Increasingly, we’re going to be seen as moral outlaws. Given the kind of argument found in Judge Posner’s decision, we’re not even going to be allowed to make our arguments – or at least are arguments are going to be dismissed as nothing more than silly nonsense, dangerous prejudice, noxious and irrational arguments. The fact that human beings in Western civilization have held to this unitary understanding of marriage for 2000 years, is simply now been dismissed as nothing more than a long nightmare of institutionalized prejudice. And what we’re looking at here is a change that will affect every church, every family, and every student arriving on a college and university campus. There are many Christians today who think they can be conscientious objectors to this particular moral battle, who believe that they don’t want to enter culture war, they don’t want to enter any kind of public debate, they’re not even trying to make an argument – all they want is to be left alone.


Well will just ask InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on the California State University campuses how the strategy of just being left alone worked for them – they did everything they could to cooperate with the University. They did everything they could to make very clear that their discrimination was simply as a Christian organization, determined by its very essence, to continue to be Christian. They made every effort to try to meet any reasonable expectation by the college and its administrators – that simply wasn’t enough; first Vanderbilt, other universities, and now California State University – the entire system. And then comes, just in the same week, this decision handed down by this three-judge panel, the Seventh Circuit, in which the judge writing the decision, Judge Richard Posner, simply says, any argument against this moral revolution is silly. Anyone who would stand in the way of this particular revolution is simply going to be rolled over by the force of condescension and outright rejection. You know there are no doubt many Christians, many people in our own churches, who, looking at these developments, simply look back and wonder and say, I don’t remember signing up for this. And our response has to be very simple; yes you did, and I can tell you when you did sign up for this – you signed up for this when you were baptized.


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’m speaking to you from Atlanta, Georgia. I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) InterVarsity ejected by California University system over creedal basis of group

College campuses resemble closed countries, Mission Network News (Julie Oosterhouse)

California State University System, Intervarsity

2) Public schools end relationship with Gordon College evidences rise of new thought police

Lynn public schools sever relationship with Gordon College, Boston Globe (Oliver Ortega)

3) Judge dismisses all argument s against moral revolution of same-sex marriage as bigoted

Judge Posner’s Gay Marriage Opinion Is a Witty, Deeply Moral Masterpiece, Slate (Mark Joseph Stern)

Posner’s Sloppy Sophistry—Part 1, National Review Online (Ed Whelan)

Posner’s Sloppy Sophistry—Part 2, National Review Online (Ed Whelan)


R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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