The Briefing 09-26-14

The Briefing 09-26-14

The Briefing


September 26, 2014

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


It’s Friday, September 26, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Resignation of influential and controversial Eric Holder reminder of importance of elections

The announcement came yesterday that US Attorney General Eric Holder would resign his office. This ends one of the longest tenures of any Attorney General of the United States and it brings to an end one of the most historically significant. Significant in the first place because Attorney General Holder is the first African-American to play this very decisive role in the American political system. The Attorney General. is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America, and the Attorney General is, constitutionally, the attorney who acts on behalf of the United States.

But Eric Holder will also be remembered as one of the most significant Attorneys General in the history of United States because the of many of the positions that he took, and the policies he established in his long tenure. Because Eric Holder will certainly be remembered as one of the most radical Attorneys General in the nation’s history.

That was made clear in an article about his tenure published in today’s edition of the Seattle Times. Writing for McClatchy’s Washington Bureau, Michael Doyle, William Douglas, and Lesley Clark wrote

“The Columbia Law School graduate was the first African American to lead the Justice Department. During his tenure, the department dealt with major issues, including civil rights, crime, same-sex marriage and terrorism.”

The very next paragraph of the article reads like this,

“He had setbacks: He was forced to drop plans to try a major terrorism suspect in New York, for example, and was found in contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives for refusing to turn over documents in an investigation of a Justice operation gone bad.”

That operation, of course, was known by the codename “Fast and Furious.” As the McClatchy article in the Seattle Times makes clear, he had “investing considerable time and effort on civil rights, voting rights and drug-sentencing issues, scoring wins in several areas.”

But Christians considering the tenure of Eric Holder will be reminded the fact that he was the Attorney General who ordered the Justice Department, under the direction of President Barack Obama, to cease defending the Defense of Marriage Act. This was a remarkable act by an Attorney General of the United States. The constitutional role the Attorney General and the oath of office requires the Attorney General to uphold the law of the land. And Congress had passed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996; it was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton after both houses of Congress had passed the legislation overwhelmingly. But the Attorney General, acting under the direction of President Obama, ordered the entire federal government to cease defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

That act, known as DOMA, defines marriage for the purposes of the federal government as exclusively the union of a man and a woman. And the Attorney General’s decision no longer to defend DOMA set up the situation that led to the Supreme Court decision in the Windsor case in June 2013 whereby a majority of that court struck down DOMA as unconstitutional. That is one of the landmark decisions for same-sex relationships and eventually for same-sex marriage in the nation’s history. And of course, we’re also looking at something else; we’re looking at the fact that this Attorney General also gave advice to the Attorneys General of the 50 states suggesting that they too should consider ceasing any effort to defend various forms of legislation and constitutional amendments in those states that would also have defined marriage as exclusively the union of a man and a woman.

The Attorney General is an inherently controversial figure. And as he retires after a very long tenure – not unprecedented, but unusual in that office – he leaves having left a lasting impression not only on the Justice Department, but on the nation as a whole. That’s why many people be watching very carefully to see who will succeed him in that very important role. Once again, President Obama will make the nomination. But this resignation comes as midterm elections are arriving in November, and the composition of the United States Senate may be very different then after that election than it is now, and there is no doubt that it will be a new Senate, however comprised after the 2014 elections, that will establish whether or not President Obama’s nominee is confirmed and will take office.

This points again to the fact that these midterm elections are exceedingly important. It is rumored, at least by many, that the Attorney General scheduled his resignation in order – at least in part – to activate the Democratic base to understand just how important it is for that constituency to maintain control of the United States Senate. But Attorney General Holder also reminds us of the fact that the Attorney General, like so many other strategic positions in our federal system of government, is inherently tied to the election of the President of the United States. One of the most important political adages of American history is this; elections have consequences. And one of the consequences of electing Barack Obama president in 2008 was that the Justice Department came under the leadership of Eric Holder. He was a champion and a hero to many in the civil rights movement and especially to those in the Democratic left, including the proponents of same-sex marriage. He also became a symbol for everything that was wrong with the Obama Administration’s approach to the law, to marriage, and to the role of the Justice Department in the federal system of government.

There is no doubt that the Attorney General of the United States plays a very crucial role. And when you look at the history of this country and understand that several of the individuals who upheld that office have had a decisive impact on their own times. That certainly will be true of Eric Holder, and as we are reminded that elections have consequences, we are also pointed once again to the fact that when we look at our system of government, it matters greatly who sits in the most important chairs. Behind the most important desk. And that is not limited to the Oval Office, though it certainly begins there.

2) Southern Baptist Executive Committee rightly disfellowships from ‘Third Way” church

Meanwhile, as the week comes to an end, it’s important we recognize that one of the most important events of the week, in terms of American Christian life, was the fact that the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention voted unanimously this week to decide that the New Heart Community Church in La Mirada California, to use the language of the committee, “does not presently meet the definition of a cooperating church.” That technical language means that the Executive Committee, voting on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention, decided that this church in California is no longer a Southern Baptist congregation. When the Southern Baptist Convention met in Baltimore in June of this year, the denomination had just learned days before that the New Heart Community Church had affirmed its pastor in declaring the congregation to be a ‘Third Way’ church in the issue homosexuality, in effect allowing for the affirmation of same-sex sexuality and relationships.

In an hour-long video that was posted to the New Heart Community Church’s website, the pastor, Danny Cortez, explained his personal change of mind on the question of homosexuality and traced his journey back to a beach day in August 2013, when “I realized I no longer believed in the traditional teachings regarding homosexuality.” As the pastor told his story, he related the fact that he told his then 15-year-old son of his decision only to hear from his son a simple declaration: “Dad, I’m gay.”

In short order, other events transpired. Drew Cortez, Danny Cortez’s son, posted a coming-out video on YouTube. Pastor Cortez then told his congregation of his change of mind on homosexuality. He told his church, as he acknowledged, that his change was a ‘radical shift’ (to use his own words) that put him at odds with the historic understanding the Christian church, and also with the Southern Baptist Convention’s confession of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message. Eventually, the church would split over the issue. Those who remained declared their intention to affirm the pastor and become the ‘Third Way’ church that he proposed, allowing for disagreement on the question of the sinfulness of homosexual acts and same-sex marriage.

As I argued with the church made its announcement, there is no third way. A church or denomination will either believe and teach that same-sex behaviors and relationships are sinful, or it will affirm them. In short order, every single congregation in America will face the very same decision. The question is this; do we affirm same-sex relationships or not? Those who suggest that there is some way around this supposedly binary choice are fooling themselves and they’re confusing the church. Consider this; the only way to construct a third way is to suggest that one can allow for the affirmation of homosexuality without actually affirming it. That simply doesn’t work. To allow an affirmation is to make the affirmation.

This was the sad lesson that was learned by conservatives in the Church of England on the question of women priests. The third way presented then to the Church of England promised that those who believed that women should not be priests could coexist within the church with those who affirmed that women should be priests. The problem is that the church had to decide who would be priests – and they decided for the ordination of women. Thus, the third way was just an argument to get to the eventual goal that the church would have women priests. The ‘Third Way’ disappears really quickly when the church has to decide if it will recognize or celebrate a same-sex marriage. There’s no third way when that decision arrives. And there are limitless decisions that will eventually have to be made.

It’s really important to understand the documentation in this case. The deacons of New Heart Community Church sent a letter to the SBC Executive Committee, and in the letter the church affirmed once again its decision to be a ‘Third Way’ congregation, arguing that even as some members of the church affirm same-sex marriage the church itself had taken no position on the question. The church, said the deacons has “no official stance on same-sex marriage.” But, amazingly enough, that very senates was followed by a section of their letter in which the deacons wrote this, and I quote

“Finally while our church remains without an official stance on same-sex marriage, our preaching pastor has officiated a same-sex marriage. We do not believe that this alone would confirm that our church has acted to affirm or endorse homosexuality. But,” the deacons wrote, “we accept that the SBC may have a different view of such terminology.”

Indeed the SBC does, and the denomination’s Executive Committee voted unanimously to dis-fellowship the congregation. The church, while claiming to taken no position affirming homosexuality, also went so far as to inform the Executive Committee in this letter, that the church – to use its own language,

“will accept as voting members at least, and possibly as servant leaders additionally, LGBT persons who we discern are, as leaders, loving, faithful, fitting, worthy, respected, and clean of conscience that they are disciples in the way of Jesus.”

There is no third way. There’s never been a third way on a question of this magnitude and consequence. In this sad case, it was the issue of homosexuality that defined the dividing line, but there been many necessary dividing lines before in history the Christian church. I want to know that I had an opportunity to meet privately with Pastor Danny Cortez when he came to Nashville to speak for his church before the Executive Committee. He is a very kind and gracious man, who really seems to believe that there is a third way in the situation, but he also admits that the third way is not a lasting destination.

Division is always painful, but on a clear question of biblical truth division is sometimes the only act that faithfulness to Scripture will allow. This is one of those moments. And homosexuality and same-sex marriage now looms as the great dividing line that will certainly tear some denominations apart and will lead yet others to define the terms of their convictional cooperation. That’s exactly what the SBC Executive Committee did. And they sent a signal that the Southern Baptist Convention intends to stand without compromise on this question. In other words, the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, on behalf of the denomination as a whole, saw clearly the impossibility of any third way. The issue is now inescapable, not only for the SBC Executive Committee but for every church, every denomination, every seminary, indeed every Christian organization. The question will be asked, and some answer will be given. When the question is asked, any answer that is not completely consistent with the church’s historical understanding of sexual morality and is also fully consistent with the full affirmation of biblical authority, will mean a full embrace of same-sex behaviors. If not immediately, then eventually. And also a full embrace of same-sex relationships. There is no third way, and as this sad case makes very clear, there never was.

3) President Carter’s comments reveal homosexuality a church dividing line of deep significance 

Meanwhile, just the day before the SBC Executive Committee took that action, former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn appeared before students at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan. They made remarks, and in those remarks President Carter made very clear his own support of same-sex relationships.

He said, “ I never knew of any word or action of Jesus Christ that discriminated against anyone.” That’s an interesting statement; very revealing and not entirely unexpected. That’s the kind of statement made by many who argued the Christian church is simply going to have to embrace same-sex relationships. But we need to note very carefully what’s going on here. President Carter pointed to Jesus, suggesting that Jesus never discriminated against anyone. That’s one of the statements that you frankly just have to unpack word by word.

Discrimination, in this case, is one of the odd words that fits our contemporary political context, but really doesn’t fit the Scripture. What in the world does discrimination mean in this case? There is no question that Jesus Christ, very consistently, held up the Law and held up the moral principles of the Law, making clear that not one jot or tittle of the Law would disappear until all had been fulfilled. Of course, he is the very one who by his active and passive obedience perfectly fulfilled the Law. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus went so far as to make very clear that the moral law continues amongst his own people. He went so far as to argue that indeed it matters in the interior not merely in the exterior life. It’s not enough to demonstrate an external compliance with the command such as ‘you shall not murder’ or ‘you shall not commit adultery.’ Jesus said not only that those moral principles of the law continue, but that now it’s not enough for his people even to have anger in the heart – tantamount to murder – or lust in the heart – tantamount to adultery. Christians have to be exceedingly careful never to try to draw any line of division between Jesus and the Scripture. Jesus said of the Old Testament Scriptures, “these are they that testify of me,” and concerning the New Testament Scriptures, he promised his own disciples that the Holy Spirit lead them not away from the truth went into truth, and that is the evangelical affirmation of the total trustworthiness and truthfulness of Scripture.

President Carter’s statement didn’t come out of a vacuum. He and his congregation separated from the Southern Baptist Convention years ago over other issues related to the conservative affirmations made by the denomination. Furthermore President Carter, back in 2012, told the Huffington Post in an interview, “I personally think it’s very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.”

In comments the former president made there in Michigan on Monday night the President went further, speaking about his congregation’s current policy. He said,

“I’m a Baptist, and I believe that each congregation is autonomous and can govern its own affairs. So if a local Baptist church wants to accept gay members on an equal basis, which my church does by the way, then that is fine. If a church decides not to, then government laws shouldn’t require them to.”

In that statement, the most important section is where the former president identifies his own church, Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, formerly a Southern Baptist church, as being a church that, in his words, “accepts gay members on an equal basis.”

Once again homosexuality demonstrates itself to be a dividing line in Christian churches and denominations. President Carter spoke of his church long after that congregation had voluntarily separated itself from the Southern Baptist Convention. The very morning after the former president made those comments in Michigan, meeting in Nashville Tennessee the SBC Executive Committee pointed to the same dividing line, dis-fellowshipping the New Heart Christian Church there in California from the denomination. In our generation it certainly appears that the issue homosexuality, at least in the United States of America and Europe, may well be the dividing line for many years to come.

4) United parents a key factor in Derek Jeter’s exemplary career

Finally there’s a story to make you happy and to make us think. As USA Today reports this morning,

“Derek Jeter, trying to blink away the tears, and holding a towel over his face, walked slowly around the Yankee Stadium infield Thursday night, his head spinning, trying to digest what just happened.

When he finally reached the dugout, hugging his family, and walking through the tunnel for the final time toward the clubhouse, he finally surrendered, with the emotions oozing out of his body.”

As Bob Nightingale for USA Today writes,

“In one of the most surreal and remarkable farewells in Yankee history, leave it up to Jeter to deliver the dramatic game-winning hit in the Yankees’ 6-5 triumph over the Baltimore Orioles, just minutes after the Yankees had blown a 3-run lead.

[Jeter said] “It was sort of an out of body experience…It was a weird range of emotions. I was just trying not to cry.”

Well good try; he did cry.

As Daniel Henninger wrote for the Wall Street Journal, what happened last night brought an end to 20 years of Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees. As he wrote,

“Once the cheering stops at Yankee Stadium, if it ever does, the retiring Captain’s admirers will be left to figure out what, exactly, Derek Jeter represents.”

He then made a rather interesting statement about Derek Jeter’s career he said, “It was exemplary. A model.” And he wasn’t speaking of athleticism, at least not exclusively. He was speaking about character. Henninger writes,

“Sports, unlike modern life, is played by rules. Derek Jeter appeared to believe that he should play his sport and live his life by rules. Among the words one may now attach to the baseball career produced by that decision are dignity, composure, equanimity and silence.”

Henninger points to the fact that the other athletes of taken a very different understanding of their role, Charles Barkley once said “I am not a role model.” But Derek Jeter seemed believe that he was. Henninger writes,

“Though exemplary, was Derek Jeter the exception? In statistician-speak, was he an outlier?”

Henninger then went back to 1967, when Paul Simon recorded a song known as “Mrs. Robinson” about the state of the nation as it was then. As you will recall, that song by Paul Simon included the line “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio ? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.” Simon answered, “Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away.”

Henninger then writes,

“Now we have Derek Jeter’s departure, and Paul Simon’s 47-year-old question returns, still relevant—whether Derek Jeter is the norm, or whether American culture has ratcheted down to something less admirable.”

As the New York Times itself reflected about Derek Jeter, there never was even a tinge of controversy to his entire career. In terms of modern sports, especially for sports at this level, especially a sports tenure of this length, that’s rather remarkable. And that fact in itself is very sad.

But why did that happen? Why was Derek Jeter an outlier in terms of character and being a role model? Well the answer that comes in yet another article in USA Today, and that’s what should have our attention. In an article about Jeter’s retirement, Bob Nightingale wrote,

“They have watched him for 40 years now, from birth to a child to a man to an icon.

They drove him to Little League games. Hauled him around to travel ball. Watched all of his high-school games. Attended his New York Yankees’ signing day. Went to his major-league debut. Celebrated his World Series triumphs. And toasted his 3,000th hit together.

Now, [he writes] Charles and Dot Jeter will be seeing their son play baseball [today] for the final time at Yankee Stadium.”

He then writes, “Yes, just like Derek Jeter’s adoring fans, his parents recognize it’s time to say good-bye.” Dot Jeter told USA Today, “You spend your whole life trying to instill in them [speaking of children] a sense of family, a sense of pride.” she then said, “Don’t disappoint yourself, we tell them. But you never stop worrying. I still worry all of the time.”

So if Derek Jeter was an outlier in terms of his exemplary character in terms of sports career – the fact that it wasn’t even a whiff of controversy – well Christians should understand that one key reason for that is the fact that his mom and dad were in the stands, together. And they stayed together, and they raised him together, and Derek Jeter himself in this article made very clear that his parents were and remain decisive influences in his life; sitting there in the stands, always watching, always encouraging, always challenging to use his mother’s words, “Don’t disappoint yourself.”

It had to make a decisive difference that this young man, this boy when he was in Little League and on those traveling teams, and playing in high school, had two parents – not just one but two – sitting in the stands. Sitting in the stands consistently and their home as well. Speaking of his parents, Jeter told USA Today,

They’re the ones who taught me right from wrong…the ones you lean on when you need someone to talk to. And I talk to them a lot…They mean everything to me”

The retirement of Derek Jeter may lead some people to question just how important sports might be. I’ll leave that for some other discussion. But you can’t question how important parents are. That is made emphatically clear, not only in this article, but more importantly and Derek Jeter’s own words and in his career. As the week comes to an end, we’ll take good news where we can get it.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information to my website There you’ll find the full article on the situation about New Heart Community Church and the decision by the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. To follow me on Twitter go 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 Santo Domingo, capitol city of the Dominican Republic, and I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing



Podcast Transcript

1) Resignation of influential and controversial Eric Holder reminder of importance of elections

As attorney general, Holder made friends, enemies and history, Seattle Times (Michael Doyle, William Douglas and Lesley Clark)

2) Southern Baptist Executive Committee rightly disfellowships from ‘Third Way” church

Homosexuality as Dividing Line — The Inescapable Issue, (Albert Mohler)

3) President Carter’s comments reveal homosexuality a church dividing line of deep significance 

President Jimmy Carter stands up for LGBT rights: ‘Jesus didn’t discriminate against anyone’, Christian Today (Lucinda Borkett-Jones)

Former President Jimmy Carter On Gay Rights: Jesus Christ Never Discriminated Against Anyone, Huffington Post (Carol Kuruvilla)

4) United parents a key factor in Derek Jeter’s exemplary career

Derek Jeter’s unbelievable closing act at Yankee Stadium, USA Today (Bob Nightengale)

Where Have You Gone, Derek Jeter?, Wall Street Journal (Daniel Henninger)

 Of All His Numbers, the One on Jeter’s Back Matters Most, New York Times (Harvey Araton)

Jeter’s Parents on End of Era: ‘This Won’t be Easy’, USA Today (Bob Nightengale)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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