The Briefing 09-23-14

The Briefing 09-23-14

The Briefing


September 23, 2014

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

  It’s Tuesday, September 23, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview. 1) Islamic State threat to Westerners  clear statement that warfare is always theological “You are not safe, even in your bedrooms.” That was the threat that came yesterday from the group known as the Islamic State, and this threat was addressed not just to governments, but to the peoples of Western nations. As the Telegraph, a British newspaper, reports, “The Islamic State issued a rallying call yesterday for Muslims to attack and kill European and American citizens wherever they could be found and warned the West ‘you are not safe even in your bedrooms’. The chilling warning [says the paper] that civilians and military personnel would be targeted alike came as John Kerry, the US secretary of state, held a series of meetings with counterparts in New York to back US air strikes and other actions to degrade and destroy [the group known as] Isil.” Within hours, the nation of France confirmed that at least one of its citizens had gone missing while the citizen was traveling in Algeria – and the French government issued an urgent travel warning to all of its citizens traveling abroad. The threat from the Islamic State came through its spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, who spoke variously; both to members of the Islamic State’s military forces and to those he was threatening to attack. Speaking to his own troops he said, “Do not let this battle pass you by wherever you may be. You must strike the soldiers, patrons and troops of the tyrants. Strike their police, security and intelligence members. [He went on to say,] If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that joined a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be,” Speaking to those in Western nations he said, “You will pay the price as you are afraid of travelling to any land. You will not feel secure even in your bedrooms. You will pay the price when this crusade of yours collapses.” Once again, speaking to the soldiers of the Islamic State he said quote, “Hinder those who want to harm your brothers and the state as much as you can. The best thing you can do is to make an effort to kill any infidel, French, American or any of their allies. [He then said,] If you are not able to use an explosive charge or a bullet, then single out the American or French infidel or any of their allies and smash his head with a rock, slaughter him with a knife, run him over with a car, throw him from a high place, choke him or poison him.” This threat came as Western nations begin warning each other and their citizens of the threat of so-called lone wolf attacks. You’ll recall that just a few days ago the nation of Australia launched a massive police and military operation in order to apprehend suspects who were expected to be preparing to do just this kind of thing – a lone wolf attack; in the case of Australia, an effort to find a random Australian citizen and then video his execution, his beheading, in order to send a message to the West. This is clearly an intentional effort to intimidate, and not only to intimidate but to do so with the kind of language that simply hasn’t been seen, at least in terms of the modern age, for well over a century. There’s been no group with this kind of military presence, not to mention with this kind of social media savvy, that has been uttering these kinds of words, issuing this kind of message, calling for very real terrorists embedded in very real Western nations to conduct very real public random executions, all in the name of jihad or holy war. What we’re looking at here is a reversion to previous eras of human existence. What we’re looking at here is something that amounts to a pre-civilizational condition. What we’re looking at here is the refutation of any claim that the human historical progress is always moving forward, towards greater liberty, greater safety, and greater security. Now we’re looking at a threat that makes all too clear that is anything but true. We often do not pause to consider the fact that the Christian worldview, based in Scripture, tells us that very near under the surface of civilization is a very uncivilized state. Living very near to the very serene exterior of a human being who may be sitting next to us on a plane, is something that is not very serene at all – a heart or soul filled with tumult, turmoil and sometimes terroristic intentions. The Christian worldview also affirms the fact that in a sinful world, we repeatedly refer to the fact that this is a fallen world, the equation that stares us in the face is the reality that evil is closer – far closer to us than we would like to imagine – and that security is far more rare, if existent at all, than we would like to think. One of the challenges faced by President Obama is the fact the he continually appears to look to the world as if the world is filled with what we would call rational actors – people who act in a rational way. You recall that the President once in an interview described his understanding of foreign-policy as a warning to the nations of the world not to do stupid stuff. But that’s the kind of warning that might be appropriate to issue to a middle schooler, not to a warring nation, and certainly not to a group that not only threatens the kind of terrorism we just heard from their spokesman, but has carried off the very kind of terroristic attacks and brutal murders that have been now made infamous by means of the national and international media. Secular observers tend to be surprised over and over again by the fact that the irrationality shows up rather than rationality, disorder rather than order, and of course insecurity rather than security. But the world from the very beginning of the experience after Genesis 3 has been a world filled with peril far more than safety, with insecurity far more than security, with sin always as the Scripture says lurking at the door – looking for the opportunity. In the case of the Islamic State what you have is an embrace of the dark side, of evil, of sin, of violence, in its most extreme forms. Justified, given the twisted rationality of this group, by what it considers to be a divine command from Allah to wage war against the infidels. Rarely do you have the kind of language that we have just seen coming from this spokesman for the Islamic state in such unvarnished theological terms – using terms like infidel and disbeliever. And how in the world Western secular elites intend to confront this kind of a theological challenge from a vantage point of pure secularism? The Bible affirms over and over again that the only way to defeat a bad theology is with a better theology. Just think of 1Kings 18, of the prophet Elijah and the battle of the gods. But when the group known as the Islamic State looks to the secularized nations of Western Europe, it doesn’t even see a challenge, certainly not a theological challenge. The Islamic State understands that secularism is no match what so ever for its theological vigor and conviction, no that’s where Christians have to step in and say ‘the battle is always essentially theological, whether it’s recognized or not.’ And this statement from the Islamic State makes another point very profoundly and that is this: sometimes, indeed many times, a theological war of this nature is extremely deadly; more dangerous, more deadly, than a secular worldview can ever understand. 2) Climate change march reminder of difficulty of stewarding the earth well Meanwhile in New York City on Sunday a major protest took place as the New York Times reports, “Legions of demonstrators frustrated by international inaction on global warming descended on New York City on Sunday, marching through the heart of Manhattan with a message of alarm for world leaders set to gather this week at the United Nations for a summit meeting on climate change.”   As reporter Lisa Foderaro reports, “The march attracted leading lights in the environmental movement, most notably former Vice President Al Gore. It drew the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, who will preside over this week’s United Nations climate summit meeting. And it included Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, fresh off his announcement that he was committing the city to an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050.” But, Foderaro says it was mostly an event for ordinary people, and it is estimated that over 300,000 of those ordinary people crowded into the streets of Manhattan in order to participate in this protest. Later in her article she writes, “The climax of the march came in the early afternoon. All along the route, crowds had been quieted for a moment of silence. On Avenue of the Americas at 57th Street, there was an eerie silence as marchers raised their arms and looked down. Then at exactly 1 p.m., a whistle pierced the silence, setting off a minute-long cacophony intended as a collective alarm on climate change. There were the beats of drums and the blaring of horns, but mostly it was whoops and cries of the marchers.” Well if you’re wondering what you missed when you missed this protest in New York City, you can get a pretty good idea by this front-page coverage in the New York Times yesterday. And of course the point of the article is that there will be this week, starting today at the United Nations, a summit on climate change that is intended to build support for addressing climate change. But as the New York Times also makes clear, notwithstanding this massive protest, the reality is that this summit meeting on climate change isn’t even intended to come up with any formal process or formal goals. This comes several years after an attempt in Copenhagen to come up with a similar set of rules and regulations to be agreed upon by the major emitting nations of the world when it comes to carbon gases broke down. It also comes after the Kyoto protocols, signed onto by many advanced nations, also fell apart when even the nation of Japan, the lead signatory to that arrangement, dropped out because the process is simply too expensive. The editors of the Wall Street Journal reported to the protest and to the upcoming summit meeting by pointing out what it calls one, not so minor, problem. In the words of the editors, “The world's largest emitters are declining to show up, even for appearances. The Chinese economy has been the No. 1 global producer of carbon dioxide since 2008, but President Xi Jinping won't be gracing the U.N. with his presence.” India’s the number three emitter of carbon in the world, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in New York but he’s skipping the climate summit. Russian President Vladimir Putin, his nation’s number four on the list, has other priorities. Japan’s number five on the list, it’s uncooperative after the Fukushima disaster has damaged support for nuclear power. Saudi Arabia, by the way of course one of the major oil producers in the world, is dispatching its petroleum minister – not exactly a sign that it intends to cut petroleum production. The Christian worldview affirms that we should be concerned for the ecological condition of the cosmos, in so far as we have any controller impact upon it. We are assigned the biblical responsibility of stewardship as human beings. We are given in Genesis 1:28 the mandate of dominion, but that dominion is clearly in the context of a stewardship. We are not the owners of this part of the cosmos known as planet Earth; we’re merely the stewards of what has been entrusted to us. As is made abundantly clear in both Testaments, what we face is the reality that we will one day give an answer for our stewardship of all that has been entrusted to us. When the Master comes and demands an account, every servant will have to give an answer and be judged for that answer. That raises the very important issue that is documented by Steve E. Koonin in an article that appeared over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal. He writes about the fact that climate science is anything but settled, but he’s not denying the human impact on the climate, nor even is he denying the very real dangers of climate change. He writes, “The crucial scientific question for policy isn't whether the climate is changing. That is a settled matter: The climate has always changed and always will. Geological and historical records show the occurrence of major climate shifts, sometimes over only a few decades. We know, for instance, that during the 20th century the Earth's global average surface temperature [that is average] rose 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.” That’s over the last century, not the last several decades. Then he writes, “Nor is the crucial question whether humans are influencing the climate. That is no hoax: There is little doubt in the scientific community that continually growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due largely to carbon-dioxide emissions from the conventional use of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate.” He goes on to say those influences are going to continue over the next several decades simply because of the amount of carbon already released into the atmosphere. Even if those carbon emissions were to end immediately and cease, there would be no impact upon the climate in terms of stopping the impact of this kind of influence for decades yet to come. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t take action where we could, that’s where he comes back to write, “Rather, the crucial, unsettled scientific question for policy is, "How will the climate change over the next century under both natural and human influences?" Answers to that question at the global and regional levels, as well as to equally complex questions of how ecosystems and human activities will be affected, should inform our choices about energy and infrastructure. [Then he says, and this is so important,] …here's the catch—those questions are the hardest ones to answer.” We actually do not have the scientific ability to answer the question that is now pressing upon us. We actually don’t have models that either look backwards in time with sufficient accuracy. As he says, many of the backward planning models that are used in order to suggest the rate and impact of climate change vary so much that they can’t all be right, at least only one of them can be right, if any of them are right. Furthermore he says, looking at the present and the future, we simply lack the kind of scientific models that will indicate if changing ‘a’ will truly bring about ‘b’ or if indeed we would end up with ‘c,’ ‘d’ or ‘e’ or some variant far in the extremes that is simply outside our ability even to predict, or perhaps even to anticipate. Then comes an exceedingly important editorial published in yesterday’s edition of the Financial Times of London,also aimed at this summit meeting at the United Nations on climate change. The editorial board of the Financial Times writes, “Climate politics makes for strange bedfellows. Among opponents of action to combat global warming, those who support it are often known as ‘watermelons’, because they conceal their true socialist agenda beneath their green skins. [They go on to write,] Some in the environmental movement, many of whom took the streets in protests around the world on Sunday, agree with that view. They see climate change as justification for abandoning market economics in favour of some generally ill-defined alternative. Naomi Klein, a veteran campaigner against globalisation, describes global warming as a historic opportunity to create a “more just economy”, with less “mindless consumption” [Those are her words]. Other environmentalists go further, arguing that the only way to keep the earth habitable is to stop economic growth altogether.” That’s an amazingly clarifying paragraph, there’s some people who are trying to say that global warming presents us with the opportunity to completely up in the entire world economic order, to put capitalism to rest, and instead to shift towards, what the editors of the Financial Times described as, an agenda to keep the world habitable by stopping all economic growth altogether. We need to just ponder what in the world that would mean. First of all it’s a rejection of the mandate given for dominion in Genesis 1:28, instead of subduing the earth, this is a call to simply stop – to replace human action with inaction. But we also need to recognize that it’s a recipe for massive human misery. Stopping all economic growth means increased poverty, sustained starvation, it means that those nations that are now trying to pull themselves out of poverty will be told it’s too late – you missed the bus. That’s why the editors of the Financial Times write about that agenda, and I quote, “It is bad politics because it stands no chance of winning widespread popular support. If the prospect of catastrophe was certain and imminent, people might be prepared to make great sacrifices to avert it. But the potentially cataclysmic effects are decades away, and the unavoidable uncertainties in climate modelling make it impossible to be sure when particular consequences will strike, if at all. Radical environmentalists want people to give up freedom and prosperity now to avoid distant disaster, which may not happen anyway. Good luck with that.” And so they write. Christians should understand the importance of these questions, the ecological crisis is often dismissed by conservative Christians as being a merely secular and liberal concern – that’s not so. As Francis Schaeffer reminded evangelicals in the 1960s and 70s, the care of the earth from a Christian stewardship perspective is very central to the teachings of the Scripture; and as biblical Christians we must take that would do consideration. But even as we consider the kind of scientific evidence or the confused evidence that’s being brought to us on climate change even as we recognize there’s a real problem here and that draws forth some real responsibility, we also need the humility, the intellectual and moral humility – lets add to that the political and scientific humility – to admit that we really don’t know what to do in this case. And the editors of the Financial Times are exceedingly correct when they point out the basic injustice, indeed the morality, of telling people trying to come out of poverty that they simply missed the opportunity – climate change has simply cancelled that option, instead get used to your mud huts and your dirt floors. The Christian worldview would instruct that we should look at this issue squarely and humbly, understanding that we are indeed stewards and we should learn everything we can about how we might respond to this in a way that would lead to true human flourishing and human happiness and of course the care of the planet – not as an end in itself, that’s a purely secular idea, but rather as the creation that demonstrates the glory of God, who has assigned us a very important and crucial stewardship. Being good stewards of this opportunity and responsibility means that we have to be humbly active and aware, seeking understand these things and adding all of this up in a moral calculus that honors the fact the human beings are not an imposition upon this planet, but instead are only beings made in God’s image and granted the consciousness, the moral understanding, and the intelligence, to even conceive of climate – much less climate change, much less a responsibility to be good stewards of all that is entrusted to us. And from a Christian perspective, lets be honest – it’s hard to take seriously a group, no matter how large, whether three or 300,000 that crowds onto the streets of Manhattan for a moment of silence, interrupted by a minute which is supposed to be a warning with drums and blaring horns, whoops and cries of the marchers. It’s even harder to take seriously one of the latter paragraphs of that front page article in yesterday’s New York Times, “In front of the Flatiron Building, on Fifth Avenue, a 3,000-pound ice sculpture spelled out ‘The Future.’ Dripping onto the sidewalk, it had been carved over two days in Queens by a group of Japanese ice sculptors. ‘I would say we are melting down the future,’ said Nora Ligorano, one of the artists who conceived the work. ‘It’s a comment on what we are doing to the planet.’” So let’s get this straight: a group of Japanese ice artists built a massive 3,000 pound ice sculpture in New York City, in the middle of two hot days, and surprise – it melted. Offering the moral meaning they claim that “it’s a comment on what we’re doing to the planet.” Like I said, an article like this appearing on the front page of a newspaper like the New York Times reminds us all to pointedly of the unseriousness of many people who claim to be deadly serious. 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 Nashville, TN and I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.  

Podcast Transcript

1) Islamic State threat to Westerners  clear statement that warfare is always theological

Islamic State: ‘You are not even safe in your bedrooms’, Telegraph (Damien McElroy and Philip Sherwell)

2) Climate change march reminder of difficulty of stewarding the earth well

Taking a Call for Climate Change to the Streets, New York Times (Lisa Foderaro)

People’s Climate Demarche, Wall Street Journal (Editorial Board)

Climate Science Is Not Settled, Wall Street Journal (Steve E. Koonin)

Saving the climate need not destroy the economy, Financial Times (Editorial Board)


R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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