The Briefing 03-09-15

The Briefing 03-09-15

The Briefing


March 9, 2015

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

It’s Monday, March 9, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

 1) 50th anniversary of Selma march points to importance of Christian worldview to civil rights

This past weekend marks the 50th anniversary of one of the darkest hours in America’s Civil Rights history. It was 50 years ago in early March of the year 1965 that those who were trying to bring attention to the injustice of Jim Crow laws as they were known across the American South, sought to bring attention to their cause by marching from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery. And yet the march failed – twice it failed. In both cases, the first and the second, there were those who opposed the civil rights movement who intervened. In the case of the first march this included police, and there were at least 600 protesters – those who were intending to march in the parade – who were gassed and otherwise besieged in that first attempt.

When a second attempt was made a couple of days later it ended in violence further along the trail from Selma to Montgomery. Only the third march succeeded; in about the middle of March when, as it turned out, it took FBI agents and federal Marshals protecting the marchers that enabled them to get safely to Montgomery and to make their point. But by then the point had been made. Not so much by those who were involved in the March, but by those who opposed it. Iconic images of those who were wounded simply seeking peaceably to protest by crossing the Edwin Pettus Bridge in Selma have become seared into the American conscience. Pres. Lyndon Johnson at that time understood the power of the symbolism and he moved quickly to push what became known as the Voting Rights Act through the United States Congress where it eventually passed.

What we need to notice as Christians looking at this anniversary is the fact that the actions of those who opposed the marchers now seem to be inexplicable. It seems to us nearly incomprehensible that there would’ve been those who opposed African-Americans simply demanding to be understood as equal citizens with equal rights in a nation that officially pledge itself to equal justice for all. For Americans, particularly for American Christians, looking back at this 50 year anniversary, there is the humbling acknowledgment of the evil that lurks in the human heart in the form of racism.

One of the most unsettling realizations as we look back to 50 years ago is how many Americans, including churchgoing Americans, were quite happy to allow and even to voice support for a system of injustice that meant there was one kind of justice for white Americans and another for black Americans. In so many cases the Jim Crow laws pointed to the reality that there had been, at least in recent American history at that time, separate water fountains and separate schools for American schoolchildren. But one of the things that becomes most evident is that the righteousness of the cause of those marchers in 1965 was made evident not only in terms of their witness and their argument, not only in terms of their activism, but in terms of the mirror image that American saw in the actions, the words, and the faces of those who opposed them – those who arrested them, those who beat them.

Along the path of these street marches, at least 3,000 protesters were arrested – mostly for the act simply of protesting and protesting a system that almost all Americans now would recognize was horrifyingly unjust. How could it be that so many people supported a system of such inequality? How was it that so many people felt defensive in the face of challenges to that unjust system and actually put themselves on the line to defend it rather than to overturning it. This is one of the darkest realizations in terms of fallen humanity. We are capable of massive self-rationalization, we are capable of massive lying to ourselves, and we are capable of supporting horrifying injustice. And in the case of the Civil Rights movement what we see is the righteousness of a cause that eventually reached the conscience of the American people.

But one of the most important truth we need to realize on this 50th anniversary is that the arguments that won the day in terms of the civil rights movement were arguments that were, by and large, offered by the most influential leaders of that movement – deeply biblical in terms of the shape of the argument and in terms of the substance. Some of the most important of these victories of course were won in terms of protests and eventually in terms of courtrooms and legislation. But as is always the case, the major battle was for the hearts of Americans. And arguments that won the day were, as offered by the most famous leaders of the civil rights movement, couched in biblical language. Using the very language of the Bible to demonstrate the equality of all human beings and the fact that America was at that time settling for a grossly unequal and unjust system.

We need also note that in the year 2015, as we face new challenges when it comes to racism and new challenges when it comes to understanding the relationships between all Americans, the reality is that not only as we look to Americans, but as we look throughout the entire world, only the biblical worldview offers an adequate explanation as to why all human beings are worthy of respect and worthy of the recognition of rights – basic human rights. It’s because only the biblical worldview, that explains that every single one of us is made as the loving creation of an omnipotent and sovereign creator, explains why humanity is distinct and why every single human being is worthy of respect and dignity. It is because every single human being is created in the image of God, and it’s because every single human being thus possesses those realities we call human rights, not because we are humans who deserve rights but because we are creatures made by a heavenly father who endowed us with certain rights and privileges simply because he made us in his image.

And one of those most basic rights is the right to be respected by every other member of the human race, understood that we are all united in the fact that we are creatures made by God. We are all united in the fact that Adam and Eve are our common mother and father – that means, in the ultimate sense, we are all truly brothers and sisters. It is also the gospel of Jesus Christ that explains our common need as fallen humans for a Savior. It is also the Christian gospel that points to the common provision for our salvation through the substitutionary atonement achieved by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the understanding clearly revealed in Scripture that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved and that means that those who confess with her lips that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead will be saved. And we are promised, not just the picture of a potential, but of a reality in which men and women from every tongue and tribe and people and nation are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and are eventually seated and what we know as the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Christians do well to remember that we do not support the equality of all human beings and the respect that is due to every single human being regardless of race, skin color, ethnicity, or even stage of development because we simply believe in justice – no. We believe in the full equality of all human beings because we believe in the gospel. We do believe in the demands of justice, but far more than that, we believe in the call of obedience to Jesus.

2) Lingering mystery of Malaysia Flight 370 reminder of untold secrets of human heart

Also speaking of anniversaries over the weekend, yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the strange disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. That was a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing that simply disappeared, disappeared without explanation. And one year later, the wreckage of that aircraft still has not been found – that is a Boeing 777, a very large jumbo jet that has inexplicably disappeared not only for days not, only for hours, but now for an entire year.

By now, as international press looking back in the one-year anniversary make clear, there is virtually no hope that any survivors will ever be found. That’s because the main theory right now is the very theory that first emerged in the aftermath of the plane’s disappearance and that is that the plane must be somewhere in the South Indian ocean, it must be somewhere on the seafloor, and it must be there because someone eventually intended for it to be. That is to say, that one year after the disappearance of the plane, the main theory now being held by investigators is that it was a deliberate act.

Last Friday’s edition of the New York Times included an article by Michael Forsythe and Keith Bradsher. Their point, as they report from Kuala Lumpur, is that officials there are beginning to be settled in a public way on the fact that the only explanation that seems to work is the explanation of what they call a rogue pilot. The article begins by citing the chief pilot of Malaysia Airlines; that is Nik Huzlan. He’s speaking of the fact that he finds it very difficult to believe that one of his friends, including the pilot and the copilot of the disappeared flight, could have possibly been involved in an effort not only to kill themselves but 268 other human beings.

As the reporters tell us, and I quote,

“Mr. Huzlan is convinced that deliberate human intervention, most likely by someone in the cockpit, caused the aircraft, on a red-eye flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, to suddenly turn around, cease communication with air traffic control and some six hours later run out of fuel and fall into the ocean. But he also said that he had never seen anything in more than 30 years of friendship that would suggest that Mr. Zaharie was capable of such a deed.”

Mr. Huzlan said,

“Based on logic, when you throw emotion away, it seems to point a certain direction which you can’t ignore.”

And then he said these words that are of particular importance from a Christian worldview perspective. He said,

“Your best friend can harbor the darkest secrets.”

The reality is we do not know what happened to this airliner and to the 269 souls aboard. But we do know this: it’s very hard to believe, given the circumstances, that this was not a deliberate act. That statement made by the chief pilot of Malaysia airlines deserves our close attention. Speaking of the pilot, in this case the chief pilot rather than the copilot, and at this point the chief pilot is the chief suspect, he said,

“Your best friend [and this man was his best friend] can harbor the darkest secrets.”

When we look back at the 50th anniversary of the Selma march, when we look back at the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of the Malaysian airliner, both of them come to us with major lessons. But of course one of the most troubling aspects of that one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Flight 370 is that we really don’t know how the story is explained; we really don’t know the details, we don’t know why – and that’s the most difficult question because human beings are made to ask the question ‘why?’ We simply can’t avoid asking that question and we want to know because, as God made us in his image, he made us moral creatures and we understand there is a moral issue that is at the bottom of this entire question.

Was this in truth a deliberate human act? That seems almost incomprehensible – that’s the word the gets bandied about and reported in the international media over and over again. And yet, it isn’t quite so incomprehensible as we would like to claim. As the chief pilot of Malaysia Airlines now tells the New York Times, he has come, over his own inclinations and wishes, over against his own experience of friendship with this pilot, to believe that the most likely explanation is that his friend flew this plane (in one very real sense) into the ocean – deliberately killing himself and 268 others.

You know when we look at the disappearance of this airliner we ask the question why because we want to know if there was a mechanical problem. We want to know if there was a weather problem. Those explanations would settle our mind somewhat because even as that would not lessen the tragedy of the 269 deaths, at least they would not be direct moral responsibility, human moral responsibility, involved. Far more ominous to us, and we know it even as we say it, is that the reality of murder in this case is far more haunting to us. The horrifying idea that a pilot could get behind the wheel of an aircraft, go into the cockpit and fly the plane to a high-altitude, only then to disable the mechanisms whereby it was directed, disabled all communications, and effectively set an autopilot to lead the plane away from civilization into the open expanse of the South Indian ocean only to run out of fuel and eventually crash.

There are those currently searching much of the Indian ocean right now – an area far larger than the state of West Virginia – in which computer projections indicate there is the greatest likelihood that the wreckage will be found. But one year later and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, no wreckage has yet been found. The reality that is the most important issue for us is the reality articulated by that chief pilot, it’s the moral reality when he said “your best friend can harbor the darkest secrets.” That’s even scarier to us than an airplane crash. The reality that someone we know, someone we think we know, can harbor these horrifyingly dark secrets – as it now appears the chief pilot of that airplane may well have harbored.

That statement made by the chief pilot of Malaysia Airlines was made better by the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 17:9 when he stated, and I quote,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

It is impossible for us as sinful humans to understand the true nature of the sinfulness of the human heart. As the prophet said, who can understand it?

3) Rise of ‘new’ secular religions point to spiritual nature of humanity

Yesterday’s edition of the New York Times included a very important commentary by Ross Douthat in which he cites the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari. Harari is arguing that the problems now faced by humanity are so new that, in his words, the old answers simply are irrelevant. And when he speaks of old answers he’s writing from the context of modern Israel, dismissing all religious truth claims as being a part of that irrelevant past, the answers offered by the past that we can very well now do without – indeed he argues we should do without them, we should simply dismiss them. Ross Douthat’s point is that secularist making this kind of argument, like that made by Harari, had better be very careful what they ask for because to put it bluntly, if they get what they ask for, they won’t like it when they get it. That’s because Douthat understand what Harari does not and that is that there are no explanations, there are no answers, there are no truth claims being made by the secular world that can in any way suffice; can suffice to uphold human dignity, can uphold any promise of a human future.

Douthat says that one of the problems that we should face is the reality that so many in the elites actually nonetheless believe the secular assertions, they believe the secular promises. As Douthat writes,

“This argument deserves highlighting because I think many smart people believe it.”

I think Ross Douthat’s right in that, and I think it points out the fact that there are many intelligent people who hold to rather unintelligent worldviews. But one of the most important aspects of Harari’s argument is where he states,

“In terms of ideas, in terms of religions, the most interesting place today in the world is Silicon Valley, not the Middle East.”

In terms of the biblical worldview, the most important thing for us to note is Harari’s celebration of the fact that in Silicon Valley we are witnessing the creation of what he calls ‘new religions:’ techno-utopian religions, trans humanist religions, and as Harari sees it, it is those religions,

“…that will take over the world,”

Now just to be honest, I’m not very fearful that these new trans humanist and techno-utopian religions from the Silicon Valley are indeed going to take over the world. But I point to this important article in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times because it points to a profound biblical truth and that is that God made us as spiritual creatures; he made us with a spiritual capacity, he made us to ask spiritual questions, and to seek spiritual answers. And as many have noted throughout the history of Christianity, those who reject Christianity saying that they want nothing to do with religion and spiritual realities, they do not turn to a truly secular worldview, no they very quickly turn to some alternative religious worldview and that’s easily explained by the worldview of the Bible.

According to the Bible it’s actually theologically impossible to be an atheist. I don’t mean that the Bible says there are not those who claim to be atheist, maybe even those who believe themselves to be atheist, but even as the psalmist said, the foolish said in his heart there is no God. And as Paul makes very clear in Romans 1, God has implanted the knowledge of himself in all of creation. And as he makes clear elsewhere in Romans, that includes the revelation of himself within the human conscience.

It should be really interesting to us that here we have a testimony coming from an Israeli historian, writing from a clearly secular worldview, that when he looks to the future he has hope in the fact that there are new religions – exciting new religions – coming out of the Silicon Valley. Biblical Christians can appreciate at least this much from Mr. Harari’s argument: the recognition that these new philosophies, these new worldview coming out of Silicon Valley, these worldviews that hold up the promise of a utopia coming from technology, these promises of trans-humanism whereby human beings by technology in modern medicine can eventually live forever, at least Mr. Harari understands rightly that these are religions.

Finally, speaking of Silicon Valley, a very important article about California appeared in the weekend edition of the Financial Times from London. What makes this article really interesting is that here you have a British newspaper trying to explain California to British readers. The articles is entitled, California is too far out for politics; it’s written by Gary Silverman. His point is basically this: even though California is the most populous American state with 39 million people – as he notes, that’s about three times as many as the nation of Greece – even though California’s annual economic output is about $2 trillion – that’s roughly the same as Russia – and even as many of America’s largest companies, especially high-tech companies, are located there in Silicon Valley (he notes Apple, Google, and Facebook together) have a total market capitalization rivaling the gross domestic product of Spain, he says nonetheless it’s very curious because even though California has all these assets and all this power, this huge population, it doesn’t seem to be poised to elect a President of the United States – that is, anyone who actually from California. And this is where Mr. Silverman’s article gets really interesting because he points out, very adroitly and quite accurately, that in California conservative candidate simply don’t have a chance. No conservatives been elected to statewide office here in over a decade. But when it comes to the issue of liberals from California, as Mr. Silverman points out, largely trying to explain California to a British readership, California’s liberals are simply too liberal even for most of the liberals elsewhere in the country. And so he explains the conservatives can’t get elected in California and the California liberals can’t get elected outside California. It’s an interesting quandary.

As we well understand, politics is reflection of worldview and if you want to understand the politics, especially of the left in California (and right now, politically speaking, the left is in the driver seat) maybe we need to look back to the worldview explanation offered by that Israeli historian, Prof. Harari. Maybe it’s because of these new religions coming out of Silicon Valley. At least to Mr. Harari’s credit, he understands this is a spiritual issue, that these worldviews are inherently religious. You have to wonder how many, on the far political left of California (and that means left in control) understand that as secular as they think themselves to be, their worldviews are inescapably theological, inescapably religious.

Think back to what professor Harari said about religion; these new religions coming out of the Silicon Valley. He said of the Silicon Valley, in terms of religion, it is

“…the most interesting place today in the world,”

His point is very clear. When you’re looking at Silicon Valley you’re not just looking at a digital revolution, you’re looking at a religious revolution as well.


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


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I had the privilege of preaching over the weekend in Kingsburg, CA. I’m speaking to you now from Los Angeles, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.



Podcast Transcript

1) 50th anniversary of Selma march points to importance of Christian worldview to civil rights

‘Bloody Sunday’ Commemoration Continues in Selma, NBC News (Elisha Fieldstadt and Amber Payne)

Revisiting Selma, New York Times (Malin Fezehai)

2) Lingering mystery of Malaysia Flight 370 reminder of untold secrets of human heart

To Explain Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight, ‘Rogue Pilot’ Seems Likeliest Theory, New York Times (Michael Forsythe and Keith Bradsher)

3) Rise of ‘new’ secular religions point to spiritual nature of humanity

The Case for Old Ideas, New York Times (Ross Douthat)

California is too far out for politics, Financial Times (Gary Silverman)


R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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