The Briefing 12-17-14

The Briefing 12-17-14

The Briefing


December 17, 2014

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

  It’s Wednesday, December 17, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview. 1) Deliberate targeting of Pakistani children clear rejection of just war theory The headlines coming out of Peshawar, Pakistan are shocking to say the least. They are very difficult to take. It appears that yesterday Taliban terrorists entered an army school filled with students, mostly aged 12 to 16, and killed at least 132 of them. The New York Times this morning is reporting that at least 145 people were killed, but that includes at least nine of the Taliban terrorists who were killed in the operation, in response it was launched by Pakistani Special Forces. There are also reports that the terrorists had put bombs within the facility, booby trapping them in order to delay a military response, and that at least some of the terrorist blew themselves up as the Pakistani military entered the facility. There are several dimensions here of central importance for the Christian worldview but one is front and center and that is the fact that this was the deliberate targeting not only of civilians but of children; of students aged primarily 12 to 16. They were enrolled in a particular school that is run by the Pakistani military and the Taliban, in claiming responsibility for the attack and the killings, said that the murder of the students came in response to a military action undertaken by the Pakistani military against the Taliban in which they claimed the Pakistani military had killed some of their own civilians. In retaliation they specifically targeted the school filled with schoolchildren dressed in their school uniforms. According to initial reports the majority of the students killed in one place were in the auditorium of the school where they were receiving first aid instruction. This horrifying story out of Pakistan reminds us of a similar headline that emerged a few years ago out of Russia when separatist Islamic forces there entered a school and killed schoolchildren in a strategic effort very similar to what was undertaken in Pakistan yesterday. The grief of the Pakistani people was palpable and of course all of us can understand that. The scenes of parents running through the streets of Peshawar trying to find their children, looking first at the school where they were denied entry, and later in hospitals, eventually also at morgues, is absolutely heartbreaking. But the Christian worldview points us to something that is vitally important here and that is the fact that the Christian understanding of legitimate war specifically outlaws this kind of targeting; first of civilians and in a particular of children. The Christian church struggling to come to an understanding of the theological justification for the use of force under, at least some circumstances, developed what is known as just war theory. The church sought to build upon a biblical understanding of when and under what circumstances war might be necessary. The conclusion of Christians throughout the ages, the Christian consensus, is that war in the first place must always be the last resort possible. The only conceivable justification for the use of deadly force is that it would stop an even greater injustice or evil. That’s a recognition that in a fallen world sometimes the use of violent force is necessary, even what is rightly described as war. One of the principles of Just War Theory is that war must always be defensive, never offensive. That is to say, it must be started as the last resort in order to defend oneself or one’s nation against an impending threat or an actual invasion. It must never be about the conquest of territory or the gaining of some kind of political or military advantage. Furthermore (and this is very important), Just War Theory is divided into the grounds by which war will be justified and then the acceptable grounds on which a war can be conducted. And one the most important principles of the Christian biblical thinking in terms of just war theory is the principle of what is called discrimination; which is to say that Christians, based upon the biblical worldview, must specifically discriminate against fellow combatants and civilians and must take every reasonable precaution in order to protect civilians and to direct deadly force only against those who are trying to initiate deadly force. This is a very important qualification and what we’re looking at here is the fact that the Taliban are not only well described as terrorists, they are specifically Islamic terrorist. The goal of the Taliban in Pakistan is to topple the Islamic regime that is there and replace it with a more strict Islamic regime that will uphold sharia law. This is an intra-Islamic discussion in Pakistan; Pakistan is an Islamic state, even though various of its governments have claimed to be secular in terms of allegiance. But what we’re looking at here is the fact that the Taliban now consider the Islamic government of Pakistan to be insufficiently Islamic. And they are using any force necessary, they believe justified by the Quran and by the Muslim tradition, in order to achieve those gains. And the ultimate example of that horrifying worldview is exactly what we now see in the headlines coming out of Peshawar. We’re looking at not only the killing of children, not only the killing of civilians, but the intentional, targeted, ruthless, cold-blooded execution of children who were in school. Sadly what we see in so many cases is not only the secular media trying to put this into a secular context in which frankly it makes no sense, there is no secular motivation on the part of the Taliban here. But we also see an almost intentional evasion of the Islamic dimension to this story. Now in a very interesting development earlier this week given the incident in Sydney in which you had a lone Islamic terrorist who may have been basically psychologically deranged but nonetheless, as he was taking control of that chocolate Café in Sydney, Australia he put up a black flag that had on it the shahadah – that is, the Muslim declaration that there’s only one God and that Mohammed is his prophet. It was explicitly an Islamic communication. But several newspapers, including the New York Times, actually ran headlines in which they identify the flag as black – as if the color the flag is what was important. Well what’s important in that headline is what it’s missing, not what it’s getting. And that is that it was an explicitly Islamic act, at least undertaken in the name of Islam. And now we’re looking at the situation in Peshawar and we’re seeing a similar reluctance to say what is actually at stake here. President Obama for instance spoke of the attack genuinely as horrific; no doubt he sees it in those terms. He then said that in this heinous attack terrorists have once again shown their depravity. Well that’s profoundly true, but these terrorists are showing not only their depravity, they’re showing the rejection of civilization. But they’re showing not only that, they’re showing their rejection of a Christian understanding of the rules of war. In the deliberate targeting of children, we’re looking at an act of moral extremity and depravity that is almost unfathomable to most people in the West. The grief and the sorrow of the Pakistanis, in terms of the targeted killing of their own children, is felt by people all over the world. But this is something that needs not only to require an emotional response of compassion and co-suffering, but also an immediate response of outrage and of the understanding, once again, that worldview matters. As you look at these headlines out of Peshawar, there is no conclusion to come to otherwise than that worldview matters tremendously, often in a deadly way. 2) Plummeting Russian rouble will reveal citizens’ priority – nationalism or food This is not nearly as important a story in terms of the world scene, but it is important from a Christian worldview; we’re going to be watching something very interesting in terms of the situation in Russia. Just a few days ago Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia who is delusional in terms of his understanding of Russian destiny, actually declared in a speech what has been described in the Russian media as a sermon, in which he basically spiritualized his leadership and Russia’s place of leadership in the world. But now, Vladimir Putin, whose expansionist vision of Russia has scared virtually all of Europe and is upset the international scene, is facing what might be the crisis that could doom his own leadership – and that is the collapse of the Russian economy. Earlier this week there were headlines from various newspapers and magazines around the world. The Economist, one of the most authoritative financial journals in the world, published a headline just a few days ago entitled Russia: A Wounded Economy, and then the subtitle, “It is closer to crisis than the West or Vladimir Putin realize.” Then just a couple of days ago the Washington Post ran a headline, Sorry, Putin. Russia’s economy is doomed. Matt O’Brien in that article says that the latest news from Russia is that even as its central bank raised interest rates in an attempt to stop the ruble, the ruble is actually collapsing – that’s of course the Russian currency. And just in the last 24 hours it has fallen at least 17%. Now that is a colossal fall. Just imagine if your dollar was discounted by .17 in a single day after falling almost 50% in value over the last several weeks and months. What we’re looking at here is a very interesting question from the Christian worldview and that is what holds a civilization together and what are the fundamentals that make for peace, that make for stability, social cohesion. One of them is people have to be able to eat, they have to be able to take care of their children, they have to be able to feed their families. Russia, given Vladimir Putin’s expansionist imperialist leadership, his autocratic rule, and his expansionism that led him simply to grasp the Crimea and annex it to Russia, furthermore to send his own troops into Ukraine and sending Russian military planes so close to some Scandinavian countries that they fear it’s even a risk to civilian aviation. Vladimir Putin is singularly to blame for this particular crisis. But there’s something else that comes into play here and that is that sometimes things that are outside of leaders control can contribute to this kind of crisis. In this case it’s the fall of the petrodollar. What we’re looking at here is falling oil prices, that’s one of Russia’s major sources of income, and now you’re looking at the fact the lower gas prices at your gas pump mean continuing economic turmoil in Russia and continuing fall of the ruble. But the thing to watching from the Christian worldview perspective is what’s going to happen when the Russian people find their bank accounts are basically empty or are discounted by a terrific, even horrifying, amount. We’re going to find out just how committed the Russian people are to their very Russian leader, if in his Russian imperialist vision he actually tanks the economy so that they can’t feed their children. This is a very sad morality tale being played out before our eyes and as the year comes to an it’s going to be very interesting to see if the Russian people who were rallying behind Vladimir Putin’s nationalism just a few weeks ago are going to be so ‘gung ho’ to stand by their imperialist leaders as something of a new czar when they can’t feed their children. That’s when we’re going to find out just what the Russian people think about their own leader. 3) China’s Communist control of family planning undermines effort to buoy birth rates Speaking of the Christian worldview it really comes into play with another story from the international scene. This one comes from Oxford University as is released by Policy, a major think tank there at Oxford University. The headline has to do with the fact that China’s relaxation of its notorious one child only policy, well its relaxation hasn’t had much of an effect. There isn’t much of a birth boom going on in China even though the government has restricted, at least in part, its one child only policy. The background of this is really crucial. China’s one child only policy is a draconian policy put into place by China’s communist leaders; it was put in place in the 1970s and certainly enforced in subsequent years in order to prevent the expansive population of China from growing. But there were unintended consequences. The unintended consequences include what are called the broken branches; that is the young men, numbering by the tens of millions in China, who will never have a wife, who will never have a normal family, they will never have a normal life. And China’s government is singularly responsible for this because it goes hand-in-hand with the prejudice against girls and young females in China, which has led to the abortion of untold millions of baby girls and even the infanticide, that is the deliberate killing, of many baby girls because if the government says you can only have one child, many Chinese families have said, ‘if we can only have one child, that child is going to be a boy even if you have to abort or kill our baby girls.’ But then there’s more of course, as there always is in this kind of story, and that is that the collapse of the birth rate in China given the one child only policy has led to the fact that there’s now an explosion of the elderly in China and there are insufficient young people coming into the economy and into the workforce even to keep the economy going at its current rate, much less to care for and pay for all of the exploding populations of the elderly in China. That’s why China’s government responded. China’s government relaxed, at least in part, the one child only policy – not because of some kind of moral enlightenment but because of economic and sociological desperation. But they weren’t desperate enough to change the policy much. They’ve actually required couples to gain an explicit government permission to have a second child and in many cases local government still depend upon tax money coming in from couples taxed at exorbitant rates in order to have the privilege of a second child. So what we have here is a Chinese government, a Communist Party that is absolutely determined, even today, to control the reproductive decisions being made by couples and families in China and the disasters being seen worldwide by anyone who simply looks at the facts on the ground in China. Why won’t they change the policy? It is because they are so committed to their worldview of party control, and of the government party control of the most minute and intimate decisions – even the reproductive decisions of a couple or of a family, even the decision to have a child. Now even as the situation in Pakistan shows us the great distinction between the actions of the Taliban and the Christian understanding of Just War Theory, the situation in China points to the dramatic distinction between the worldview of the Communist Party in that country and the Christian church. Another of the most basic facets of Christian moral thinking is something that many Christians simply aren’t very aware of, that is called the principle of subsidiarity. It’s a very important principle in Christian thinking and it comes down to this: the Christian worldview says that if God created the institutions that are given to us in creation – for instance, particularly, marriage and the family that come prior even to the government, prior even to any sort of external institution – then creation itself points to the fact that this most basic institution is, after all, most central to society itself and human flourishing and in the intimacy of that most basic institution the most important decisions about civilization are actually made. That is such a crucial part of the Christian worldview that many Christians simply don’t have to think about. And being unaware of that very important principle of Christian thinking, they don’t know exactly what you’re looking at when they see this headline coming out of China and they don’t understand why this points to the importance of Christians thinking as Christians. The principle of subsidiarity is extremely important. It says that it is fundamentally wrong to believe the reproductive decisions should be made by a government at any level rather than by a husband and a wife within the institution of marriage. The principle of subsidiarity says that God gave us the gift of marriage and the gift of family in order that the most important decisions about civilization are actually made in the most central institution. It’s small to be sure, but its influence is massive. The principle of subsidiarity tells us that government can never replace what must happen inside the family; that government can never effectively and efficiently, much less faithfully, actually raise a child. That government cannot make the decisions on behalf of the family that the family must make for itself. The principle of subsidiarity points out that government can never replace the mother; that when government tries to be a parent, it’s a very inefficient parent. Now sometimes, in terms of the brokenness of the family, government has to step in, society has to step in, in order to do something in order to rescue those who are left vulnerable. But what we have now in society is the assumption that maybe it’s government that should act first, government that should make the decisions. And furthermore we have government even here that is increasingly taking on that kind of rather hubristic and arrogant responsibility. We also have bureaucrats and others from government agencies surrounding the family saying they know best, when the Christian worldview says no that simply is not true; parents know best how to raise their own children and they must be trusted to make those decisions because not only are they the parents but actually no one else can make those decisions so faithfully and so efficiently. The news coming out of China about the one child only policy, and why even relaxing it a little hasn’t made much of a difference, points out that the big problem here is that government is still trying to make the decision. If government were trying to make the decision about birthrates in this country, just imagine the kind of push back there would be. There would be pushback from the libertarian impulse of the American people saying, ‘you have no right to tell me how many children I’m going to have.’ You can imagine how Americans would respond to that kind of government influence. On the other hand, would Christians understand that there is something even deeper at stake? Would Christians even here push back with something deeper than a libertarian, ‘get your hands out of my personal affairs’ impulse? Would Christians here understand that this is basically an assault upon creation? That what God gave us in the family and the institution of marriage is prior to every other institution on earth – especially government – and as such it must be respected in just that way? What’s coming out of China is not just a headline about the failure of the government’s attempt to relax its one child only policy, the real headline out of China should be read this way: the Chinese government is still trying to control the intimate decisions that should be left to the family and disaster ensues. Whether the headlines say that are or not, that’s what they are saying. 4) Gender-specific toys continue to confound the ‘anti-gender agenda’ Finally, coming back to the United States, one of the things that the elites are trying to do in this country is to push a gender agenda that argues that gender simply is a social construct; that there’s nothing essentially important to whether one is born male or female, and that building distinctions on being male or female is always and in every case, wrong. And at the Christmas season one of things that infuriates those trying to push this agenda is the toy advertisements and the marketing of toys towards children; but after all, you look at these toys, they’re not basically being directed towards children, they are being directed towards boys and girls. A headline about this comes in a story written by Elizabeth Sweet; here’s the headline, Toys Are More Divided by Gender Now Than They Were 50 Years Ago. Well, looking at the article, that’s not exactly what’s communicated. But what is communicated is that children right now basically are listing toys they want, especially at younger ages, that are explicitly girl toys and boy toys. And in many cases, the article also makes clear, the girl toys and the boy toys are the very kind of girl toys and boy toys that girls and boys wanted 50 years ago. We’re looking here the fact that girls often want the kinds of toys that are related to the context of domesticity and, furthermore, boys are often looking for the kind of toys that have to do with trucks and construction and guns and all kinds of other things that just about anyone knows could be colored blue or pink. This is not to argue that the marketers always get right in terms of boys and girls, or that all toy should be addressed simply to one gender or another, it is to point to the inflexible issue that the Christian worldview well understands and that is even though the cultural elites may keep saying it doesn’t matter whether you’re a boy or a girl, you can be a boy today in a girl tomorrow it really doesn’t matter, it’s all a matter of fluidity – that’s what the national media and others are trying to tell us. Try telling that to a second grader, it’s not going to work. And if anything, the article in the Atlantic actually points out that those so-called gender stereotypes when it comes to toys have been there just about all along. For example the article cites a 1925 ad of Sears for an erector set the stated, “Every boy likes to tinker around to try to build things with an erector set. He can satisfy this inclination and gain mental development without apparent effort. He will learn the fundamentals of engineering.” Well as a boy who proudly had an erector set I’m not certain I learned the basic fundamentals of engineering, but I did learn how to build things, how to connect things, and I had a lot of fun with it. But my point in raising this article is to point out that the elites are simply frustrated by the fact that when you go to the toy store, you find out the gender still matters, it matters hugely and that perhaps the people on earth who right now at least in this society who are most conscious of what it means to be a boy and girl, are actually – here’s a surprise – boys and girls. And it turns out that that shows up at Christmas in terms of the toys they desire and even the toys that marketers have the sense to direct to them. Who would’ve thought it. You know in looking at this story I simply reflect upon the fact that if the cultural elites are frustrated with conservative Christians, that we won’t just get with the program, what in the world are they going to do with the elementary school? 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 again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Deliberate targeting of Pakistani children clear rejection of just war theory

Pakistani Taliban Attack on Peshawar School Leaves 145 Dead, New York Times (Ismail Khan and Salman Masood)

Pakistani forces reclaim school after ‘horrific’ Taliban attack kills at least 141, Washington Post (Tim Craig)

Statement by the President on the Terrorist Attack on the Army Public School in Pakistan, White House

2) Plummeting Russian rouble will reveal citizens’ priority – nationalism or food

A wounded economy, The Economist

Sorry, Putin. Russia’s economy is doomed, Washington Post (Matt O’Brien)

3) China’s Communist control of family planning undermines effort to buoy birth rates

Why reform of China’s one-child policy has had little effect in boosting fertility levels, University of Oxford (Policy)

4) Gender-specific toys continue to confound the ‘anti-gender agenda’

Toys Are More Divided by Gender Now Than They Were 50 Years Ago, The Atlantic (Elizabeth Sweet)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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