The Briefing 09-25-14

The Briefing 09-25-14

The Briefing


September 25, 2014

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


It’s Thursday, September 25, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Obama UN address reveals insufficiency of secular vocabulary in facing evil

Just listen to these words,

“There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil.  The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.  So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”

The quiz might go something like this; who said that? Which President of the United States? In one sense, just looking at that particular sentence you can imagine that that statement could have been made by President George W. Bush or now, as it was yesterday, by President Barack Obama. Yesterday President Obama gave his annual address to the General Assembly of the United Nations. And it was President Obama, not President George W. Bush, who used that language about evil and what he called the “dismantling of this network of death.”  Now just keep in mind that back in 2008, when President Obama was running for President, he ran against just about everything George W. Bush had stood for as President – especially the kinds of comments that President Bush said immediately after the 9/11 2001 attacks, and consistently thereafter. You’ll recall that President Bush spoke of what he called the “axis of evil.” And there were many on the President’s left, especially liberal members of the democrat party and some such as Barack Obama – later to become a United State senator, and eventually of course to become the President – who claimed that that kind of language was completely out of place; more at home in the medieval world than the modern world – a form of moralizing, they said, that amounted to very dangerous foreign policy. But now that kind of statement is not being made by George W. Bush alone, it was made by Barack Obama as he spoke at his annual address to the United Nations General Assembly.

And he spoke in the background to beginning what military analyst believe will be a year-long struggle against the group known as the Islamic State. But of course President Obama doesn’t want to refer to it as the Islamic State, preferring to call it ISIL – doing his very best to avoid using the word “Islamic.” But in his recent presidential statements, and in this address to the United Nations, President Obama has to use the word evil. He refers to ISIL with the words, “this brand of evil.” And President Obama didn’t use President Bush’s phrase, “axis of evil,” instead he spoke of the network of death. But having shared the word evil and referring to the network of death, President Obama, against many of his own instincts and certainly his recent pattern, found himself using language he hadn’t used before. Christians looking at this need to come to a couple of observations; first of all, there are times when the word evil is the only appropriate word – nothing else will suffice. This isn’t maladaptive behavior, this isn’t a pattern of anti-social behavior, this is pure unadulterated evil – it is murderous terroristic evil, and President Obama referred to this as, to use his phrase, this “brand of evil.” He didn’t mince words. And that tells us something, it tells us that even those who do their very best to avoid using the kind of, well to use the expression of some liberals, ‘moralistic language.’ When it comes to dealing with something like the Islamic State, the only word that fits is the word ‘evil.’ As we have said over and over again on this program, one of the problems for seculars with the word ‘evil’ is that it requires some sort of theological definition.

But the second thing we need to note is that President Obama, who along with many others, had derided President Bush for speaking of the “axis of evil” now talks about a “network of death.” An understanding that evil is more complex than having a single, simply identified, evil opponent. Instead, this is a network of evil, an axis of evil, or to use President Obama’s new phrase, “a network of death.” Anyway you construe it, once you speak of evil, and you speak of this kind of conspiracy, you’re making very clear that what President Bush spoke about in 2001 is the very same challenge we are facing now. And as President of the United States, bearing that responsibility in rallying the American people, and now attempting to rally the world to this cause, President Obama finds himself using the same kind of vocabulary that had been used by President George W. Bush. When it comes to an enemy like the Islamic State, the secular vocabulary of the secular left just won’t suffice.

2) German committee on incest shows triumphing of erotic liberty over idea of family

An absolutely horrifying news story came from Germany as it was published in the pages of a major London newspaper, the Telegraph. Justin Huggler reporting from Berlin provides the headline, “Incest a ‘fundamental right’, German committee says.” As he writes,

“Laws banning incest between brothers and sisters in Germany could be scrapped after a government ethics committee said they were an unacceptable intrusion into the right to sexual self-determination.”

In a statement released by the committee, the body said,

“Criminal law is not the appropriate means to preserve a social taboo. The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family.”

Again and again on this program, I’ve made the argument that in the contest of contemporary liberties, erotic liberty is triumphing over other forms of liberty – in particular, most recently, religious liberty. But now in this statement from an official Germany government committee we see that erotic liberties now triumphing even clearly over the idea of family. To use the language of the German committee, the right of adults, here defined as the right of “adult siblings to sexual self-determination,” triumphs over what is described in this statement as the “abstract idea of protection of the family.” A couple of very important issues here; first of all, the issue of personal autonomy is triumphing all out of bounds of any moral proportion. It’s all out of bounds of any sexual or moral sanity when you have the phrase used by this committee of “sexual self-determination.” That’s one of the most fundamentally anti-Christian statements imaginable – that is, a statement that is in direct opposition to the Christian worldview.

The biblical worldview tells us that we are not capable of sexual self-determination; our sexuality is determined by our Creator – as in our gender. The idea of this kind of self-determination is simply something that exceeds almost anything seen in previous epics of human history. And when it comes to the family, one of the scariest aspects of this article is the way that the natural family is described simply in terms of, “the abstract idea of protection of the family.” So now the protection of the family is nothing more than an abstract idea, when the concrete reality to which that abstract idea has to give way is sexual self-determination. It’s hard to imagine how any society can maintain, even the smallest minimal amount of moral sanity, if this kind of logic takes hold. But at least in terms of this official German government committee, this logic just hasn’t merely taken hold – it’s clearly in the driver’s seat.

As Huggler reports,

“Their intervention follows a notorious case in which a brother and sister living as partners in Saxony [that’s a German state] had four children together.”

And as it turns out, two of the couple’s children are disabled and as Huggler says, it’s believed that “incest carries a higher risk of resulting in children with genetic abnormalities.”

Now that’s an understatement. He’s writing here with undue care. It’s not merely some kind of moral theory that suggest that sexual relations resulting in reproduction among related couples will sometimes lead to a higher incident to genetic abnormalities, that’s a scientific fact. And furthermore, it’s a fact that is well known – not only by medical doctors but by anyone involved in the reproduction of animals on a farm. But what you have here is a refutation, not only of the moral tradition that has shaped human societies for millennia, but you also have a refutation of any kind of moral sanity that results in any kind of protection of the family. As the article makes very clear here, the Ethics Council, that is this committee, that was appointed by the German government, dismissed the argument that the risk of genetic abnormalities was even significant on the basis, says this report, “…that other genetically affected couples are not banned from having children.”

Now keep in mind the fact that in recent debates here in the United States over the legalization of same-sex marriage, the argument has been made, and that argument is correct, that the redefinition of marriage to allow for same-sex couples to marry will inevitably mean, eventually, if not very quickly, to the fact that other people who want to gain access to marriage will be allowed to do so. Polygamy is probably next in line – but, what about incest? You may recall that some of those who have been arguing for the legalization of same-sex marriage in this country, have assured us again and again that there are no public health reasons against same-sex marriage, but there are profound public health concerns about incest. Well this German committee said, while accepting the scientific evidence, that simply is not enough to prevent the goal of sexual self-determination when it comes to adult citizens – even, as in this notorious case in Saxony, they happen to be brother and sister.

What you hear in this news report from Germany is not merely a horrifying news development. It’s not merely a sign of the greater loss to sexual sanity then perhaps many of us feared. It’s a sign of an entire human civilization crumbling. Because when you think about what is just dismissed in this article as the abstract idea of the protection of the family, you’re looking at the central thesis of how civilizations were built in terms of what is now called western civilization itself. Any review of human history will reveal this unquestionable fact, there is no civilization that has either triumphed or survived that has not protected the family. But now you have an official German committee, describing the protection of the family as nothing more than an abstract notion, and explicitly rejecting the protection of the family as a goal in favor of sexual self-determination. No civilization was built with this understand of sexual self-determination, and the minimization of family. And we can be assured that no society can survive this kind of transformation. Oh, and by the way, the next time you hear someone arguing for the legalization of same-sex marriage – argue that those who raise these other issues are guilty of nothing more than scare tactics and slipper- slope argumentation – just point to this news report from Germany, it wasn’t made up. This news report is based upon the official report of a German government committee.

3) Young Americans increasingly see marriage as product, not process of adulthood

Shifting now to the United States, what about the state of the family here, and the state of marriage? An article that appeared in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times by Claire Cane Miller tell us that marriage is increasingly taking a back place to other concerns – especially, among young adults, financial security. She writes,

“Of all the milestones on the road to adulthood, [people] are increasingly forgoing one of the biggest: marriage. Twenty percent of adults older than 25, about 42 million people, have never married, up from 9 percent in 1960,”

This is from yet another Pew Research Center report, this one released just yesterday. As the article makes clear,

“So as the left and right debate the relationship among marriage, parenthood and poverty, young people seem to be sending policy makers a message: that marriage is not necessarily part of the plan. That shift could reshape [says the article] not just American families, but also policies like those around taxes, children and entitlements.”

Later in the article we read,

“But with the rise of birth control, household technology and women in the work force, marriage became less about economics and more about love,”

Now, that’s a very interesting statement. And it’s an argument that’s made by someone that I’ve cited many times in the past, Stephanie Coontz – she’s written a new book entitled Marriage, A History. She is the leading marriage revisionist, that is, she argues that marriage and family need to be radically redefined in multiple ways in order for marriage and family to meet the needs of the modern age. But it’s very interesting that this article turned to her, that’s not really a surprise, because the argument that she makes, that marriage simply has to give way – as does family – to new social realities, is what many people, especially the policy makers among the elites, say is the only way we can go. All we can do is merely respond to these massive social changes. But in the article by Claire Cain Miller we also read this,

“Though marriage was once a steppingstone to economic stability, young adults now see financial stability as a prerequisite for marriage. More than a quarter of those who say they want to marry someday say they haven’t yet because they are not financially prepared.”

And the final words of the article is these,

“In other words, marriage has gone from being a way that people pulled their lives together to something they agree to once they have already done that independently.”

So, this article straightforwardly states that what we’re seeing in these trends in regarding marriage – or more properly the absence of marriage – is the fact that in previous generations, young adults saw marriage as a way of pulling their lives together. Now, they believe they must do that independently, and only after they’ve pulled their lives together do they intend to enter into marriage – merely as a companionate and romantic institution. But that’s the real problem, because marriage was never seen as the product of growing into adulthood, but rather as the process of it. And furthermore, marriage is how most young adults, throughout human history, have pulled their lives together – exactly as the final paragraph of this article indicates. But when you young adults who are now saying, ‘I can’t get married’ or ‘Won’t get married until I get my life together, professionally, financially, and in every other way’ they are never going to get married. Because it turns out that marriage itself, in terms of its benefits as given to us by our Creator – the marriage benefits include the ability at pulling one’s life together in a way that that life can never be together apart.  And that’s why if you are waiting for marriage, only after you’ve pulled your life together, you’re never going to get there.

So how in the world do we find ourselves in this predicament? Well, sociologist and theorist of other sorts will certainly tell us, at least how they think it happened. But from a Christian worldview perspective, at least this much should be considered – it turns out that when human beings know that their life is determined by the Creator, and that they are to find their fulfilment – well let’s use the language of the article – pulling their lives together, in terms of God’s purpose and plan, then they’re going to accept what God gives as their good gifts (such as marriage), and by the enjoyment and fulfillment of marriage, find themselves pulling their lives together. But if you are living in a secular age, or are operating out of a secular worldview, and thus there is no notion of a Creator who has a plan and purpose that’s functioning in the thinking, it’s very easy to imagine, ‘we’ll come up with our own plan to pull our lives together. We’ll come up with our own plan for marriage, childbearing, reproduction, and all the rest.’ And as it turns out, vast millions of American are saying ‘My own plan is that I must pull my life together before I get married.’ Sad to say, that’s just not going to happen.

One other profoundly important aspect of this report from Pew is the affirmation, once again, that we are entering into a society – basically a two-tiered society – on marriage: with those who are wealthy and well educated getting married, and staying married – and those who are at the bottom rungs of the economic and educational period, well they’re not getting married. And when they do get married, they’re not staying married. What we’re looking at in many of these situations reveal to us in terms of the data, are patterns that reveal moral changes that are more vast and more amazingly swift than we ever really could have imagined. We’ve seen a reversal of roles in terms of American society. It was once the most educated and wealthy, they were the ones who saw marriage as a bourgeois institution they could do without – and many of them did. The radicals, especially, the educated wealthy radicals of the 60’s and 70’s, well they’ve grown up and come to understand. Or perhaps even their children understand more profoundly, that marriage is not only a good idea, it’s a moral necessity. So the children of many of the moral radicals of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s turn out to be, at least on the issue of marriage, very conservative – if not by what they say, then by what they do. But the shift works the other way, and that’s the tragic part. The great middle class of America, the great blue collar class of America that had been the mainstay of marriage and of marriage fidelity and stability for generations, if not centuries, well that cohort of Americans is now deeply troubled when it comes to marriage. There are indeed financial considerations in play here, there are professional and educational considerations in play, but as you look at these pathologies, we have to come back to that same point over and over again. You can’t fix the pathologies in order to try and achieve marriage. To the contrary, marriage has to be understood as a very essential way of escaping these pathologies, and the moral and sociological patterns that produce them. That’s the kind of logic however that a secular age resists with every white blood cell, so to speak, in its intellectual immune system. The secular left, and especially the creative elites, they are so committed to individual autonomy and to all those aspect of the moral revolution, that they really can’t even conceive that the family unit – and at the heart of the family, the marriage unit – is absolutely essential in terms of its millennially honored form for the very cultivation of civilization and the survival of civilization, any alleviation of all sorts of human pathologies that lead to real human suffering. They really can’t understand that marriage and family, rightly understood and rightly defined, rightly honored and rightly structured, are absolutely necessary for human happiness and human flourishing. And so what we see in these various news stories that have come together today is the reality that you have testimony from a report about the United States and the official report of a German government committee. You have evidence of the fact, that on one hand – social and moral sanity can simply be entirely lost. And on the other hand, that it can also be regained. In the case of being regained amongst those who are the most educated, and the most wealthy in America – who have learned lessons the hard way about the importance of marriage. And in their own marriages, tends to be deeply conservative, if not by how they speak and how they vote – but by how they live and how they raise their own children. In other words, they wait until marriage to have children, and once they get married and have children they stay married. In the oddest twist in this late modern age, what we need is for many of those who have relearned the lessons of marriage, but are now socially on the political left as far as what they preach for everybody else, what we need from them is not to practice what they preach – but to the contrary, we need them to preach what they practice.

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 Jacksonville, FL and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Obama UN address reveals insufficiency of secular vocabulary in facing evil

Obama’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly, Wall Street Journal —Transcript

2) German committee on incest shows triumphing of erotic liberty over idea of family

Incest a ‘fundamental right’, German committee says, The Telegraph (Justin Huggler)

3) Young Americans increasingly see marriage as product, not process of adulthood

Marriage Rates Keep Falling, as Money Concerns Rise, New York Times, (Claire Cane Miller)

Record Share of Americans Have Never Married, Pew Research Center (Wendy Wang and Kim Parker)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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