The Briefing 11-12-14

The Briefing 11-12-14

The Briefing


November 12, 2014

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


It’s Wednesday, November 12, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Failure of pollsters to predict 2014 elections result of voters not voting

Well more than a week after last week’s midterm elections, one thing has become abundantly clear and before we move on from the election this needs to be noted. One big group lost hugely in terms of the election last Tuesday; I’m not talking about either party, I’m talking about a specific group of researchers, of specialist and commentators – the pollsters. As Reid Epstein of the Wall Street Journal reports,

“If the magnitude of the Republican wave in Tuesday’s election was a surprise to many people, it was in part because it was a surprise to the people paid to predict it—the pollsters.”

He goes on to say,

“In state after state, pre-election polls showed Democratic candidates remaining competitive in contests where they ultimately were trounced.”

The situation is actually even worse than that introductory paragraph in the Wall Street Journal story may indicate because given the space of more than a week after the election there has now been more time to go back and look at the pre-election polls. Some of them very expensive, some of them supposedly very authoritative, and then compare them to the eventual reality – they were off, they were off by a huge margin.

And that raises a very crucial issue, one that should inform every intelligent voter. One of the things we have to keep in mind is the fact that the polls are not merely reflective of the political environment – they also have an influence on that very same environment. Study after study has demonstrated that polls have a great deal to do with voter turnout. The fact that these polls often have a partisan aspect is reflected in the fact that when many the pollsters are introduced in the mainstream media, they are identified either as a Republican or a Democratic pollster. A closer look at the modern political equation of election campaigning indicates that you have the media with their polls, you have independent political organizations with their polls, you also have every major campaign with a paid set of pollsters –  sometimes the lead pollster inside the campaign – usually there are shadow pollsters that are also used to aggregate information. The end result of all this is supposed to be more clarity about the electorate, about what the electorate wants, about where the electorate is headed. But the evidence of last Tuesday’s election comes down to the fact that the evidence sometimes is fundamentally wrong.

The pollsters didn’t just miss much of what took place last Tuesday; they missed it by a mile. Looking back on their mistakes and miscues, many pollsters are saying the problem is that the American people are becoming less predictable – not so much in terms of how they will vote but –  this is crucial – whether they will vote. It turns out that the pollsters may mainly have been off, not in terms of predicting how people would vote one way or the other, for one candidate or the other, but whether they would vote at all.

That gets back to another issue that Christians understand. Sometimes we are prone, as fallen, infallible, sinful, human beings to lie to others and to ourselves about our intentions – even the intention to vote. In America where there’s a very high premium put on citizenship and the exercise of that citizenship, it’s embarrassing for someone to tell a pollster or survey taker, ‘no I don’t actually intend to vote.’ Therefore one of the interesting things, and just see Genesis 3 lurking in the background of this, one of the interesting things about modern polling is that one of the major concerns of pollsters is determining just what percentage of people are most likely to lie to them.

There’s another very important aspect of this more worldview perspective, assumptions always play a major role. The assumptions that go into the making of the poll and the taking of the poll have a great deal to do with what comes out as the eventual result. And of course those who hear the poll, at least the numbers reported, whether in the media or otherwise, generally are very unfamiliar with the assumptions that went into the poll. And often they have very little knowledge of exactly what questions were even asked. What they are told is that the assimilation and analysis of the poll data indicates that this percentage of persons is likely to do this, the other percentage to do something else.

But there is another very important perspective on this that Christians should pay heed to and that comes down to this: a frightening percentage of Americans, as it turns out, don’t actually know how they’re going to vote until they vote. Given so much that we’ve talked about in terms of the elections, given the vast worldview divide, given the increasing ideological separation of the candidates and the parties, one would tend to think that anyone with strong convictions of any form would have a very good idea, early on in a political context, how one’s vote is likely to be exercised. It tells us something important that a considerable percentage of Americans actually don’t know how they’re going to vote until they actually do vote. That also tells us something else, they’re not voting on the issues, they’re not voting on worldview, they’re not voting on ideology, they’re voting on something else; perhaps something that is an emotional tie or a lack of an emotional tie to a candidate. Perhaps they just like the way one looks or the way one sounds. In any event, a good number of people don’t know how they’re going to vote until they do vote and that also leads to the fact that pollsters are taking what can only be described as a fairly educated guess at best as to who will vote and those voters will vote. Well, come the next election cycle we’ll all probably be very interested to hear the polling data, especially as a Presidential election approaches. But just keep in mind that date November 4, 2014 when almost all the pollsters got it wrong – really wrong.

2) Disastrous legacy of communism example of lasting importance of worldview on civilization

On Monday we talked about Sunday’s 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yesterday’s edition of the New York Times had an incredibly important and insightful article by David Brooks, a major opinion columnist for that newspaper. His piece was entitled, “The Legacy of Fear” and what it deals with is the legacy of communism. And as it turns out, he offers some data and analysis that most of us probably have not seen before. He writes this,

“Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the biggest surprise is how badly most of the post-communist nations have done since. There was a general expectation back then that most of these countries would step out from tyranny and rejoin the European club of prosperous nations. Most of us [he says] did not appreciate the corrosive power of distrust, and how long it would take to heal the mental scars caused by it.”

Now one of our major concerns on The Briefing is the importance of worldview and the legacy – the lasting impact of worldview thinking not only on individuals but upon societies and civilizations. This article by David Brooks makes that abundantly clear and fairly frighteningly so.

He quotes Branko Milanovic, an economist at the City University of New York who has measured the wreckage in a recent essay published at his website Global Inequality. According to Brooks he looked at the growth rates of post-communist countries and broke them down into four groups. The fourth group is at the very bottom of the list, these are those nations described as ‘basket-case’ nations by Brooks. He says they haven’t even recovered the level of real income they had in 1990. These failed nations include Ukraine, Georgia, Bosnia, Serbia, and still others.

The next group, that’s the third group, include those nations that are merely so-called moderate failures – just consider that term a moderate failure. They have per capita economic growth rates under 1.7% a year. They’re nations like Russia and Hungary. They are falling steadily further and further behind the West.

Then finally there are those that are the success stories. These are the very few in the post-communist world. These are those that are actually catching up with the West. These include the nations of Poland, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan; and yet David Brooks notes they have something that generally makes the difference. That’s at least the case in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan and that is that they have oil or something else valuable in the ground they are digging out. That’s to say they’re not really modern diverse technological economies, they are economy still based upon selling something – generally like a mineral. But to give them credit, they at least are economically keeping up with the rest of the West. That’s just three countries in the post-communist world: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and finally Poland. But Poland as it turns out makes an emphatically important point.

Considering the failure of so many these countries in the post-communist world David Brooks asked the question ‘why?’ He says the first issue could very well be leadership. Good leaders make good decisions, bad leaders made bad decisions and those decisions had legacies. Next he says there’s the issue of institutions. Most of the post-communist world simply lacked virtually all the institutions that make for economic growth: creativity, entrepreneurship, and all the rest in the West. And lacking those institutions, it’s taken a generation and more than a generation for some of these nations even to get started in trying to catch up; much less keep up.

But from a worldview perspective it is the last issue that David Brooks considers that should certainly have our attention. He writes this,

“Finally, and most important, there is the level of values. A nation’s economy is nestled in its moral ecology. Economic performance is tied to history, culture and psychology.”

Now that’s a point we’ve made over and over again. Many Christians are indeed unaware of the fact that the science of economics – that discipline of thought – began in a concern for morality. As a matter fact Adam Smith, the very founder of modern economics, was concerned with a theory of moral sentiments. He wanted to understand why economic behavior demonstrated a basic moral worldview and why different moral worldviews would lead to different forms of economic behavior. As David Brooks considers this rather shocking news (shocking I think to most of us) that the post-communist world has sphered so poorly. He comes back to say the first thing we learn from this is that worldview really does have consequences. He talks about the enduring legacy of communism that spread so much distrust, horrifying ideology, and disastrous theory into the world. The nations that were shaped by a generation and more of communism, especially those nations that since the end of the second World War to 1990 suffered under direct Soviet communist oppression, they basically were so philosophically warped, their worldview was so pernicious that even now these nations are not thriving – some of them not even coming close to thriving.

But David Brooks gets to the moral issue and he says that really is a huge difference. He points to Poland as the outlier, as I said earlier, why would Poland be doing so well? He writes,

“Poland…had been invaded throughout its history, yielding a pragmatic, survivor ethos.”

A very deep moral strain, a deep strain of courage and conviction within the Polish people that have led them to survive all kinds of invasions and hardships and deprivations – even genocides – in the past. So now the Polish people are those that can count themselves and their nation among one of the very few success stories in the post-communist world. But as David Brooks says, this isn’t merely about economics, it’s never merely about economics, it’s about morality and it’s about worldview. Ideas always matter; bad ideas matter for a frighteningly long time.

3) Reproductive technology permits hugely problematic separation of sex and reproduction 

Finally in terms of the vast worldview and moral revolution we are currently experiencing in the West, here comes a headline from one of Britain’s major newspapers The Telegraph that should absolutely shock us. But upon reflection it may not shock us as much as previously it would have. Here’s the headline: “Sex will soon be just for fun not babies, says father of the Pill.” The man who is quoted here is Carl Djerassi, one of the major developers of the oral contraceptive now commonly known as the pill. He now argues, over a generation after the development of the oral contraceptive that,

“Sex could become purely recreational by 2050 with large numbers of babies in the Western world born through IVF.”

Djerassi told the Telegraph he expects that the pill will become obsolete, by the way, his own invention he says will become obsolete because men and women will choose to freeze their eggs and sperm when young before being sterilized. Now upon first reading this kind of new story sounds like something out of George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley Brave New World; this doesn’t sound plausible. But then again just think of some of the headlines that are not only about the future but about the present that we’ve consider just in recent days and weeks.

One of the things we noted is that there are now Silicon Valley companies that are paying for egg freezing as a benefit to their female employees, a rather controversial move. But that’s not science fiction, that’s an actual personnel change taking place in the year 2014 in the state of California. A policy innovation that is expected by many to spread far beyond Silicon Valley throughout the country, meaning that the society at large now values women in the workplace far more than women in the home – especially women who are at home as mothers.

Djerassi says that the future of sex and reproduction is that the two will be completely severed. Speaking of the future he says,

“For them the separation between sex and reproduction will be 100 percent.”

He speaks of the rise of a so-called ‘mañana generation’ in which you have frozen reproductive cells merely waiting for some kind of future combination through in vitro fertilization. Now one of the things that even Professor Djerassi notes is that these technologies, though very present in our own time, are not yet perfected to the degree he expects they will be by the middle of this century. He says that IVF and the kinds of advanced reproductive technologies that many people are using now will become not just more widespread but absolutely standardized by the time we reach the midpoint of the 21st century. If some individuals were writing this kind of prognostication they can be written off as someone who has no business speaking to the issue or is some kind of ideological crank.

But Carl Djerassi can’t be dismissed so easily. He is after all the father of the Pill and he’s been at the forefront of reproductive technologies for the last four decades. Right now in vitro fertilization is primarily used, he says, by women who have reproductive issues, some kind of reproductive problem. He says that’s going to shift and it’s going to shift very quickly – to the fact that

“The vast majority of women who will choose IVF in the future will be fertile women who have frozen their eggs and delayed pregnancy,”

Speaking of the future he says that young people will simply freeze their reproductive cells and put them on hold – that’s the mañana generation – and then they will have themselves sterilized that will obviate any need for contraception or birth control because the only way to have a baby in the future is going to be by the intentional use of advanced reproductive technologies – in particular IVF.

Christians looking at this news story need to understand something that is of basic and fundamental importance. One of the great problems of our age is the separation of sex and reproduction. This is something that our Creator did not intend to be separated as they are our in our modern and postmodern culture. And what we now have is a Wild Wild West of reproductive technologies in which you have sex and reproduction being ever further separated one from the other. The separation of sex from reproduction is what has led to widespread sexual promiscuity, it is what has undermined more than anything else marriage as the basic institution respected as the union of a man and a woman – at the very heart of that institution is the monogamous union of a man and a woman. And one of the most damaging effects of the contraceptive revolution is that it has facilitated so much extramarital and non-marital sex. Then add to that the devaluation of human life by the contraceptive mentality.

The contraceptive mentality, not only the pill but the availability of other forms of birth control and ultimately abortion itself, has led to the situation that every pregnancy is now as one medical ethicist describes it, ‘a tentative pregnancy.’ The widespread phenomena right now, growing in virtually every Western culture, of same-sex couples having children. And just notice a matter fact the redefinition that is required of ‘having children’ is entirely dependent upon these advanced reproductive technologies; left on their own, there is no way for a same-sex couple to have a child. It requires the very kind of donor gametes and advanced reproductive technologies that Dr. Djerassi says will become absolutely commonplace for all couples, indeed for all people, in the future.

So the sexual revolution as we know it here in 2014 could not have happened without the technology of the Pill and these advanced reproductive technologies and now comes the very father of the Pill – speaking in one of the most respected newspapers in London – saying, ‘well, just wait for the future because in the very near term future sex and reproduction are not merely going to be separated as they are now,’ they’re going to be, as he said, 100% separated.

Christians looking at this kind of story must see two things and see them clearly. In the first place this is the world our children will inherit; this is the new picture of the moral norm that the generation now rising is going to understand as what the society takes for granted. The second thing we need to understand is this, Christians may never appear as more of the moral minority we are likely to be, more of the cognitive doctrinal convictional minority that Christians are going to be called to be in this coming generation, than when we consider the fact that we may be the last people on earth who know that sex and reproduction are not to be fundamentally separated. At the end of the day it may turn out that that may be one of the most counterrevolutionary subversive ideas against the modern regime that is even now taking shape around us.

A footnote to that story, The Economist, again one of the most influential magazines in the world, has come out with a new story this past week indicating that Britain, for example, is having to do a great deal of advertising to which young men trying to get more donor reproductive cells for use in in vitro fertilization clinics. As The Economist writes,

“The number of single British women [note that’s single British women] seeking sperm rose by 55% between 2000 and 2012, which was also the first year in which more women over 45 used donor eggs than used their own.

Now we can’t pass over that paragraph, it is so morally explosive. Here you have The Economist telling us that there’s been a 55% increase in single British women seeking this kind of reproductive assistance between 2000 and 2012. Meaning in that 12 year period there’s been a 55% increase in single women in Britain who intend to have a baby without a husband of any kind, without a man involved in the situation at all except as a cell donor. And then you have what might be even more shocking, the fact that in the year 2012 Britain became a nation in which more women over age 45 used donor eggs rather than their own.

There’s another very interesting aspect of the story. It turns out the whole purpose of the story is this, to make very clear that Britain faces a crisis in which there are more women now seeking to become mothers without men than there are men willing to help women in the process. Much of what is in this article in The Economist, one of the worlds most respected magazines, is just going have to be left unsaid. But there’s a final paragraph that should actually have our attention. It tells us that one nation in the advanced West has become a net exporter of these kind of reproductive cells, that’s the nation of Denmark.

The Danish government now keeps track of exports of beer, Lego, and let’s just says reproductive cells in order to trace its economic growth and development. Oh, and as you look to the future just consider Denmark. According to The Economist Denmark’s population would be shrinking if not for IVF babies. With that in mind, perhaps Dr. Djerassi is off, but off because he thinks that change will come later rather than sooner.

Finally while considering the challenges that we all face, let’s just consider for a moment what Christian parents face as a challenge in dealing with these issues with their own children. One of the problems we see in the society around us is that our own children are becoming sexualized so early; being forced to receive information, especially from the public school culture and the media around us in so many so-called experts, trying to reach our children and to reach them around us. But one of the great challenges facing Christian parents these days is how and when to talk to their own children about these issues. Articles like these we’ve consider today may present interesting and somewhat difficult and challenging conversations for Christian parents and their own children; teenagers and young people. But the articles point to something even greater than that and that is the responsibility of the Christian Church, of Christian leaders, and of Christian parents to address these issues. Because if our children, as they look to the future, are not deeply committed to living lives that are explicitly based upon biblical authority, the sovereignty of God, the gospel of Christ and the totality of the claim that is made upon us, a claim that reaches every aspect of our lives – including, as the Bible makes clear – very especially our sexual lives and our reproductive lives, then they are not only going to be ill-equipped to deal with this coming future. They are also going to be in a situation in which they will be extremely vulnerable to the wisdom of the world rather than the wisdom of Christ. It’s high time that Christians learn to talk about these things in the appropriate, biblical, and modest way – but talk about them we must, because if we don’t, we too will be listed among the unfaithful.

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’ll meet you tomorrow for The Briefing.




Podcast Transcript

1) Failure of pollsters to predict 2014 elections result of voters not voting

Pollsters Missed Their Mark in Many States, Wall Street Journal (Reid J. Epstein)

2) Disastrous legacy of communism example of lasting importance of worldview on civilization

The Legacy of Fear, New York Times (David Brooks)

3) Reproductive technology permits hugely problematic separation of sex and reproduction 

Sex will soon be just for fun not babies, says father of the Pill, Telegraph, (Sarah Knapton)

Nice to gamete you, The Economist

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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