The Briefing 01-22-15

The Briefing 01-22-15

The Briefing


January 22, 2015

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


It’s Thursday, January 22, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Anniversary of Roe v Wade reminder abortion still urgent issue of Christian responsibility

Today comes around as yet another anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. It was handed down on January 22 of that year – 42 years ago today. Since then approximately 57,000,000 American babies have been aborted in the womb. And since then it’s almost as if an entire world has changed.

In the 42 year since Roe v. Wade we’ve seen the world change in so many different ways. We’ve seen modernity progress. We’ve seeing issues of human rights debated. New context and new challenges have presented ominous threats – new threats – to human dignity and the sanctity of human life. But on this anniversary we come back again and again to the fact that it is abortion, more than any other single issue, that demonstrates just how much of the biblical life ethic has been lost in modern secular societies. Seen in that light, the last 42 years of been years have been years of incalculable loss; the loss of so many unborn children. The loss of so many different boundary lines when it comes to human dignity.

But we also need to note something to the contrary, the past 42 years have also seen the fact that the abortion issue has not gone away. In fact it has not only not gone away, it has resolutely remained on the American mind and in the American conscience. And one of the things we need to note is that actual progress has been made; some ground has been gain. More Americans believe that abortion is wrong in the year 2015 than said so in the year 1973. Far more evangelical Christians are aware of the issue of the sanctity of human life and the threats to human life presented by a disposable society than was true in 1973. Back in 1973 there were a good many Roman Catholic activists on the lines against abortion, but in the year 2015 evangelicals have now for decades been also on the front lines of the fight for the dignity and sanctity of every single human life at every point of development.

And one of the things we need to note, to note with appreciation, is not just that some ground has been gained in the culture but ground has been gained in the church as well. One of the things in retrospect we need to note is that evangelical churches were woefully unprepared to deal with this issue when it arose and exploded on the national scene with the Roe decision in 1973. At that point it’s clear most evangelical pastors had never actually spoken to the issue. Far too many evangelicals had been drinking deeply from the wells of human autonomy and had basically accepted abortion as yet the latest innovation in terms of America’s moral development.

Before criticizing the culture – that’s important as well – we need to first recognize that the church was at fault. That evangelical churches, evangelical pastors, were simply asleep at the switch – and sinfully so – when the issue of abortion was catapulted in the national prominence. Far too many evangelicals believe that it was someone else’s problem, that it was an issue that had no place in the pulpit, and that somehow it could be avoided lest there be the discussion of awkward issues or controversial questions from the pulpit.

These days that seems like a rather pathetic and hopeless naïveté and yet it was very common in the early 1970s, it was common in 1972; it was certainly common when the decision was handed down in 1973. Nothing immediately appeared to change, but there was an awakening in the evangelical conscience. Progressive and yet noticeable, it happened because there were some very brave prophets of human dignity who made very clear biblical arguments in the vacuum of so much evangelical silence. There were those who were willing to put their reputations on the line and to make the comfortable uncomfortable by raising issues that were of urgent biblical concern.

Over the past 40 years and more, evangelical Christians have learned to talk about a Christian worldview and the importance of worldview thinking; largely because of the catalyst of the issue of abortion and the sanctity of human life. More than any other single issue, this has awakened evangelicals to the fact that there are millions of people around us who do not believe what we believe and whose worldviews are shaped by very different fundamental assumptions. And furthermore, we’ve come to understand that those assumptions can mean the difference between life and death.

The Roe v. Wade decision did not emerge from a cultural vacuum. It emerged in an age in which not only the sexual revolution had made such progress in 1960s, but more fundamentally issues of human autonomy. The claim that every single human being is – more than anything else – an autonomous being capable and responsible for nearly unfettered choice became popular not only in the secular culture, but it had made very invasive inroads into evangelical thinking as well. Furthermore, a very dangerous and insidious form of moral pragmatism had emerged also in some evangelical circles. With some prominent figures – including some evangelical preachers – saying quite openly that in some sense, abortion just might be the lesser of other evils.

Finally while we are searching the evangelical conscience on this issue we need to recognize that racism also played a part. One of the reasons why many Americans – including no doubt many American evangelicals – at least subconsciously did not find such offense when the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down was because they believed, and had good reason to believe by the statistics, that the abortions that were likely to be carried out were the abortions of someone else’s children. The eugenic roots of the abortion movement – that is the roots of that movement in the ideology as Margaret Sanger, founder of what would eventually become Planned Parenthood  taught, ‘more children from the fit and less from the unfit’ – those eugenic roots are very clearly at the very base of the momentum towards abortion in an elite culture.  You put all that together and there is an enormous sense of evangelical culpability on the issue of abortion when we look back over the 42 years since Roe v. Wade.

As a matter of intellectual and theological integrity, I have to note that the Southern Baptist Convention in the years prior to Roe v. Wade had actually passed at least one resolution that seem to offer some explicit support for the legalization of abortion in some form. I say that with enormous shame. That is one of the issues that led to what was called the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention. And in that resurgent there is no doubt that the issue of abortion played a very important part in helping people to understand just what was at stake, not only in terms of the sanctity of human life but the interpretation and the authority of Scripture.

Over the course of the past 42 years we’ve come to a deeper understanding of exactly what was happening in the Roe v. Wade decision. We know, for example, by the very journals of the Justice who wrote the majority opinion, Harry Blackmun, that the majority of the court was actually determined to find some way to legalize abortion. The legal argument actually came subsequent to that ambition. That becomes abundantly clear. The artificial argument that was put forth in this majority opinion, dividing human pregnancy into three different trimesters, was actually something invented simply to find some way to argue for a woman so-called right to choose when it comes to abortion.

Much ground has been gained in the church, and for that we must be exceedingly thankful. And the realization of how we got here should make us also considerably humble. But when we think about the culture there’s also reason for hope because some ground has been gained. As we have often discussed, the fact is that the images that are presented on American refrigerators, images of unborn children through ultrasound, those have become conscience changers in terms of the issue of the sanctity of human life. It has become far more difficult now to deny the personhood of that unborn child.

There have also been significant medical and scientific developments. There has been the acknowledgment of the existence of fetal pain and the so-called age of viability. The point of viability for the unborn child has been significantly reduced to younger ages. That’s why right now Congress has a bill before it to consider making abortion far more difficult to obtain after the 20th week of gestation.

Of course from a Christian biblical worldview perspective an abortion at 20 weeks is actually no more tragic and no more sinful than one at two weeks, but the issue is that ground has been gained. The argument, at least in some circles and to some extent, has been won. There is recognition among more Americans now than in 1973 that abortion is to be avoided whenever possible. And the number of Americans who identify as pro-life for the first time in recent years has been greater in statistical terms than those who identify themselves otherwise.

Even as ground has been gained there is much more ground still that is contested and our job is hardly over. Evangelicals have been in the front lines of developing ministries to women who are expecting children, women who otherwise might obtain abortions. Evangelicals have also been on the front lines of developing ministries that affirm and facilitate adoption; the adoption of children who also might have been aborted – but beyond that, the understanding that there are millions and millions of children who desperately need parents.

The evangelical conscience cannot be limited to the issue of abortion, but it cannot avoid the issue of abortion. Indeed a closer biblical consideration of the issue of abortion and the sanctity of human life points to the fact that it is one of those preeminent issues that simply, not only cannot be avoided, but must be embraced as a major issue of the evangelical conscience and furthermore as a major issue of evangelical responsibility.

Even as we celebrate the fact that some ground has been gained we understand that the challenge before us is absolutely tremendous and that nothing less than a bold evangelical witness is necessary; and not only verbal witness, not only the witness of communication, but also the witness of action – the witness of putting righteous deeds to accompany righteous words. And ultimately of course the evangelical conscience does not begin and end with the sanctity of human life but rather with the fact that the sanctity of human life is directly tied to the fact that a loving and sovereign benevolent creator has created every single one of us, at every single point of development, in his image and that is the reason why every single human life is precious.

But that points to another fundamental evangelical responsibility, and that is to develop a comprehensive biblical theology, a theology that is taught from the pulpits and taught by parents; a biblical theology that becomes the sum and substance of evangelical faith, a biblical theology that explains our obedience to the great commission and also our obedience to the Bible’s message of life. So on this 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade there is sad news, undeniable sad news, heartbreaking sad news; the death of over 57 million unborn children since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. But there is other news too; the reminder of our responsibility, the glad responsibility to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of life to a society that more than ever before desperately needs that message.

2) ‘Free-range’ parenting furor displays common grace of society concerned for welfare of children

Next one of the most important Christian theological categories is that of common grace something that is neglected by many evangelical believers. Remember that Jesus himself said that God causes the rain to fall upon both the just and the unjust. There is common grace that is extended to many people who will never come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Common grace explains why the restraint of law means that people do not do all the evil things they might otherwise do. Common grace means that the law that is written into the human heart by our creator is indeed a sign of God’s grace; He loves us enough to restrain us, even by that power we call conscience. Common grace is also seen in weather; the sun shining on crops and the crops bringing forth their fruit. Common grace is also seen in the fact that almost everywhere you find children, you find parents. And where you find parents and children, you find a bond that can only be described as love.

Evidence of this kind of common grace comes in a recent series of articles to appear in major newspapers including most especially, the Washington Post. And it’s a really interesting story on now what is called ‘free-range parenting.’ I know no better way to tell the story than the way that reporters Donna St. George and Brigid Schulte tell it for the Washington Post. As they write,

“Two days after the story of their children’s unsupervised walk home from a park became the latest flash point in an ongoing cultural debate about what constitutes responsible parenting, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv were still explaining their ‘old-fashioned’ methods of child-rearing.

They eat dinner with their children. They enforce bedtimes, restrict screen times and assign chores. They go to synagogue. More controversially, they let their 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter venture out together to walk or play without adults.”

Danielle Meitiv said,

“How have we gotten so crazy that what was just a normal childhood a generation ago is considered radical?”

Well you surely heard about free-range chicken, now we’re talking about free-range children; it really is an interesting controversy.

As the post reports,

“The idea of free-range kids has been around since 2008, when New York journalist Lenore Skenazy set off a firestorm with a piece titled ‘Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone’”

It then developed into a huge controversy that is between the extremes of “helicopter parents” on the one hand – you recognize those from our cultural conversation – and “free-range parents” with their free-range children on the other side. The Post cites that author, also pointing out,

“In the past, children stayed out for hours, slept in backyard tents and wandered their neighborhoods. [Skenazy said] These are things we all did on our own, and now we don’t let our children do, and there is no real or rational reason except we’re fearful,”

Actually almost every major media source, including the Washington Post, has verified that point. For instance here’s one paragraph from the Post story,

“Federal statistics show that the violent crime rate has fallen dramatically from its peak in 1991 and is about what it was in the late 1960s but lower than in the early 1970s, when many more mothers were at home and children roamed freer.”

In a similar article Petula Dvorak, also in the Washington Post, says

“It’s a different world today, you say? Why, yes, it is. Since 1993, the number of children younger than 14 who are murdered is down by 36 percent. Among children ages 14 to 17, murders are down 60 percent. Fewer than 1 percent of missing children are abducted by strangers or even slight acquaintances, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.”

The Post then says,

“It only seems scarier because we know so much more. From across the nation, stories of missing children are delivered to the palms of our hands every day. In the old days, it seemed so much safer because the tragic stories were largely restricted to hometown papers and local newscasts.”

There’s really something of importance for Christians to note here. One is the controversy about free-range kids; the other thing is to note the very important clarification that’s coming in these major media outlets, and that is that even as parents are more fearful than ever before, the crime rates – undeniable in terms of the numbers – indicate that children are far less likely now to suffer from this kind of violence from a stranger than they were even in the 1960s or 70s. And furthermore the risk of any child actually being assaulted or abducted by someone who isn’t known to them, almost as a family member in most cases, is extremely remote. Horrifyingly enough there are such cases, but you know the reality is these articles are pointing – even in secular context – to the fact that many of us actually operate more out of fear than out of the facts. And when it comes to children there is no doubt that many of our own children are being shielded from the normal experiences of childhood because we’re simply afraid to let them out of our site.

As you might expect, when it comes to this Jewish couple and their children in Washington, DC it wasn’t long before they were brought up on charges. And here’s something else that’s kind of good news and bad news. It turns out that when you track the story down, they let their 10-year-old and their six-year-old walk home from a park, a woman – who doesn’t know the family – saw the children walking alone and was alarmed and called the police. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well in most cases you would say that is probably a good thing; it’s actually a good thing that a neighbor cared enough to do something when she was alarmed such as calling the authorities. On the other hand, it’s at that point that just about everything got out of hand because once the police were called they then had to investigate the case. And they turned it over to a government agency that seems to think that its job is to make certain that children are never alone under any circumstance.

Another reassuring thing, the Washington Post, one of the most liberal newspapers in America, is pushing back on this idea with not just one but a couple of articles in which they are pushing back on this age of anxiety and even on this government kind of intrusion. They are also noticing the fact that there’s good news and bad news here. We do have neighbors who are intrusive to call the police but they also care enough to call the police. We’re looking at police who are probably just pretty much doing their job, even as are looking at a government agency that seems to believe that it knows better than parents when it comes to whether or not children can walk home safely from a park.

And from a Christian worldview perspective, and especially for Christian parents, there comes another article; seemingly out of the blue, disconnected to those two articles in the Washington Post. This is an article that appeared in the January 20 edition of the New York Times; it’s about a similar issue. It’s by Jane E. Brody in the personal health column and its title, Giving Children Roots and Wings. You won’t be surprised; this article is about free-range kids. But it’s not just about little kids 10-year-olds and six-year-old, it’s about college students who raised this way can’t solve problems on their own.

Her article cites Peter Gray, a research psychologist at Boston College who’s written a book entitled “Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life,” No kidding – that’s one title. In an interview with the New York Times Dr. Gray said,

“If children are not allowed to take routine risks, they’ll be less likely to be able to handle real risks when they do occur.

Case in point: His college’s counseling office has seen a doubling in the rate of emergency calls in the last five years, ‘mainly for problems kids used to solve on their own,’ like being called a bad name by a roommate or finding a mouse in the room. ‘Students are prepared academically, but they’re not prepared to deal with day-to-day life, which comes from a lack of opportunity to deal with ordinary problems. Over the past 60 years [says Dr. Gray], there’s been a huge change, well documented by social scientists, in the hours a day children play outdoors — less than half as much as parents did at their children’s ages,’”

This is one of those story for which there is no black or white answer from a Christian biblical worldview. As I’ve said, it’s testimony to common grace how happy we should be that so many people care about the welfare of children; including so many parents, even parents who otherwise don’t agree on much, do agree that the welfare of children in this case is to be of paramount importance. But when it comes raising children it turns out there is no absolute biblical commandment when it comes to free-range children, yes or no.

I do know this; Dr. Gray is onto something when he says that kids who simply haven’t had the normal experiences of childhood and have never had to learn responsibility are incapable of making normal decisions and handling normal issues when they arrive on the college campus.

I’m not exactly sure what to do with the new cultural notion of free-range children, but I do know this, there’s good news in the fact that parents are thinking about their kids in this way and it is probably good reason to look at some of the little ones in your house right now and say, ‘it’s time to go outside.’


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) Anniversary of Roe v Wade reminder abortion still urgent issue of Christian responsibility

Roe v. Wade – Case Brief Summary, Lawnix

Roe v. Wade, Wikipedia

2) ‘Free-range’ parenting furor displays common grace of society concerned for welfare of children

Montgomery County neglect inquiry shines spotlight on ‘free-range’ parenting, Washington Post (Donna St. George and Brigid Schulte)

Why are we criminalizing childhood independence?, Washington Post (Petula Dvorak)

Parenting Advice From ‘America’s Worst Mom’, New York Times (Jane E. Brody)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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