The Briefing 03-27-15

The Briefing 03-27-15

The Briefing


March 27, 2015

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

It’s Friday, March 27, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Discovery Germanwings copilot crashed plane exposes inability to know the mind of others 

Yesterday the big news was the late breaking story on Wednesday night that authorities in both France and Germany had come to the reluctant conclusion that the Germanwings flight that crashed Tuesday in the French Alps had done so by deliberate human action. But as the story began to develop yesterday it became increasingly clear that it was the copilot on the plane who had actually crashed the plane deliberately into the mountain.

International media eventually identify the copilot as a 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz, and the explanation was that he had been the one who had locked himself into the cockpit and he had been the one who would reset the flight computer on the plane to go from its cruising altitude down to an altitude of less than 100 feet – running the plane effectively right into the French Alps. The plane disintegrated upon contact.

After the world began to settle on the notion that it was indeed a deliberate human act, there were immediate questions. Yesterday on The Briefing we discussed the fact that even those who operate out of a secular worldview had come to the immediate conclusion that there was a categorical difference between an air disaster and an act of murder – in this case, mass murder, 150 people were killed. But it’s also important for us to recognize that there was an inevitability to the second round of questions. As reporter Stephanie Kirchner and Anthony Faiola reported for the Washington Post last night, there is now evidence that there was an intentionality behind this that goes beyond our moral imagination. Or that’s at least what the international media are now saying, that it goes beyond our moral imagination.

Of course that’s not exactly true; this doesn’t go beyond our imagination. It just enters into the realm of moral horror. And it does raise obvious questions that have to be answered by every single worldview and that is this: how could a human being, trained as a pilot, a young man who even as a 14-year-old teenager had indicated an obsessive interest in flight, how could someone with this kind of training, this kind of background, the kind of testing that goes into the training of pilots, end up being someone who, without any notice whatsoever, without any signs of mental or emotional turmoil, could end up locking the pilot out of the cockpit and flying the jetliner into the mountains? As the Washington Post reported last night,

“…the tragedy turned from air disaster to criminal investigation as authorities in multiple nations scoured for clues to what could have compelled a man to hurl a packed commercial airliner into a mountain. Germanwings parent company Lufthansa on Thursday expressed stunned shock, describing Lubitz as ‘100 percent fit to fly.’”

Well that statement flies in the face of the now accepted reality even by Lufthansa. This was not a pilot who is actually 100% fit to fly, what they did mean is that given their operational corporate airline criteria he appeared to be 100% within the expectations of one who will be fit to fly. But as we now know, we couldn’t read the mind of the man who got behind the cockpit and crashed the plane. No one else could. No pilot would’ve gotten on that flight and taken off with the copilot he had any suspicion would follow this course of action. The passengers wouldn’t have gotten on the plane, even as they passed the cockpit going to their seats and would’ve had a view in all likelihood into the cockpit with the two pilots. No one saw what was coming, that’s the truly frightening aspect of all of this.

The secular worldview looks at the reality that the pilot appeared to be 100% fit and ask the question, ‘what was missed?’ but we now know that it is perhaps true that nothing was actually missed because we understand, as the Bible teaches us, that it is impossible for any individual, no matter the expertise, nor any group for that matter, to be able to completely read the mind and the emotional state of another human being. And as the Bible also makes clear, we’re actually not able even to know our own emotional state and our own pattern of thinking, we can’t read our own hearts as we might urgently wish so to do.

The Washington Post report last night included these words:

Those who knew him, [speaking of the copilot], could not reconcile the reserved young pilot and avid runner who lived with his parents with the accounts of French prosecutor Brice Robin, who said Thursday that Lubitz’s actions appeared to be a deliberate attempt ‘to destroy the plane.’”

They went on to write,

“The dramatic revelations from the black-box recordings, meanwhile, seemed to challenge a fundamental faith of flying — the sanity of the people at the controls. In the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, cockpit doors have been re­designed for strength to keep people out, but leaving planes vulnerable to a danger that instead lies within.”

The report went on to quote German Chancellor Angela Merkel who said,

“It goes beyond the imagination.”

We know what she means, but it’s unlikely she actually means precisely what she said. The truly horrifying reality is that now we cannot not imagine it, it’s something we now cannot get out of our minds; the problem is we can imagine it.

An insight from a pilot’s perspective was published as an op-ed in the New York Times by Andrew B. McGee, who worked for over a decade as a commercial airline pilot. He writes about getting inside a pilot’s mind and one of the points he makes, indeed it is the most important of the point he makes, is that it is actually impossible to do what he is talking about – to get adequately into a pilot’s mind. He calls for increased psychiatric and psychological testing for pilots, but even as he writes that proposal it’s evident that he doesn’t actually believe that would entirely solve the problem. He writes,

“I worked as a pilot for about 10 years before going back to school to become an architect. There are a few oddballs I can remember flying with, but mostly we’re just talking quirks and eccentricities. Never did I fear a colleague intended to kill himself, or everyone onboard.”

He writes about some of the pilots he flew with; he writes about their quirks and eccentricities. But one of the most important issues we can draw from the article is the fact that that German pilot almost assuredly got on that Germanwings airliner, he went into the cockpit and willingly took off with this copilot. He left the cockpit in all likelihood having no idea that the pilot with which he had been flying the plane wasn’t indeed simply marked by quirks and eccentricities – but by a murderous intent. Here’s what we can count on in coming days: we can count on the fact that authorities and the general public are going to be struggling to try to understand the why. Why would anyone do this? How could it have become imaginable? How in the world did it actually happen? And one of the things you can count on is that there will be an effort to come up with some plausible reason.

Last night the Telegraph of London broke the story that German police said they had made what was called a significant discovery in his home. This came after an extensive search for what might be considered evidence in what is now a criminal case. But one of the things we need to keep in mind is this: even if some evidence is found, if there is some significant discovery that indicates what might have been this copilot’s motivation, it still will not be enough to explain the why. It still will not explain why a copilot committed such a murderous act – mass murder by aviation.

And one of the things we need to note right up front is that there is, morally speaking, certainly from a Christian worldview, no plausible reason. Any reason that may be found may go part way towards explaining the motivation of this copilot, but in terms of reading his heart, that is simply beyond our real ability. It’s beyond our pay scale so to speak, it’s beyond what we can understand, it is not beyond the creator who knows our hearts far better – infinitely better – than we know ourselves.

2) Triumph of erotic liberty over religious liberty evident in outcry over Indiana religious freedom bill

In the United States one the most important news stories had to do with the state of Indiana where Gov. Mike Pence yesterday signed into law a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. And in so doing he set the stage for an incredible controversy that is now reverberating not only through the legal and political worlds, but through at least some denominations as well. There are huge lessons in this conversation and we need to look at them quite closely. More than anything else what this controversy demonstrates is just how far America has changed – morally and culturally speaking – in the span of less than a generation.

It was back in 1993 that the federal government adopted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It was supported by an incredibly broad coalition of religious groups, including both religious liberals and conservatives; it was in the aftermath of a Supreme Court decision that had constricted religious liberty. And as a remedial active legislation the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was adopted by Congress, it passed without any opposition whatsoever in the House of Representatives. It was passed by the Senate by a vote of 97 to 3 and it was signed into law in 1993 by Pres. William Jefferson Clinton. Now, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, being adopted by several states, is a matter of intense controversy. And not only controversy, intense opposition, and that’s incredibly revealing.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act we should note did not unleash any long series of challenges to laws or for that matter even any major social discussion. There was no evidence, there is no evidence, that the federal government’s passage of the RFRA, or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, went on to cause any form of discrimination against anyone that became, in any way, a matter of public consequence. But as TIME magazine reported last night and I quote,

“Indiana Gov. Mike Pence vigorously defended the state religious objections bill that he signed into law Thursday as businesses and organizations including the NCAA pressed concerns that it could open the door to legalizing discrimination against gay people.”

One of the most interesting things we should note about that lead paragraph is that the legislation, at the state level, here is simply described as “the state religious objections bill.” That’s very strange language, but it tells you that the secular media assumes that what’s really at stake here are religious objections – not religious liberties, not religious freedom. When the legislature of Arizona passed similar legislation the Gov. of Arizona, bending to political and economic pressure, did not sign the law. But yesterday Gov. Pence did, and the Gov. of Arkansas has indicated that he is poised to do the same.

The really interesting issue is that back in 1993, we’re just talking about 22 years ago, the nation as a whole represented by the unanimous vote in the House of Representatives and the overwhelming vote – again it was 97 to 3 in the United States Senate – believed that the law was not only right, but righteous and necessary. So did Pres. Bill Clinton, who very proudly and publicly signed the bill. But now we’re talking about a very different set of moral and political conditions, and the big changes is the moral revolution and the central issue as homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage.


The next thing we need to note is the public backlash, we need to note who is complaining about the bill and the kind of language and argument they are using. We also need to look at the kinds of institutions and organizations that are now bringing very intense pressure. First you have politicians even within the states, such as the Mayor of Indianapolis, saying that this bill simply isn’t good for business – we’ll look at that claim more closely in just a moment – but you also have other organizations, not only gay-rights organizations, you also have organizations like the NCAA as that lead paragraph in the TIME article last night made very clear. Here’s another paragraph the makes the situation even more graphic. I quote,

“The Indianapolis-based NCAA, which is holding its men’s basketball Final Four in the city next weekend, said in a statement it was concerned about the legislation and was examining how it might affect future events and its workforce. ‘We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill,’ [that was said by] NCAA President Mark Emmert said in the statement. [He also said,] ‘Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.’”

One of the things to watch very carefully is not just how this impacts the state of Indiana or the city of Indianapolis, but how this impacts the member schools of the NCAA. One of the key questions is this: how close is the NCAA to making an issue of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual activity when it comes to same-sex behaviors and same-sex marriage, or even the issue of gender, an issue of its requirement for member schools? That’s a huge question. Pressure is also coming from at least one mainline Protestant denomination; in this case the Disciples of Christ.

As Religion News Service reported yesterday and I quote,

“Though the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has made Indianapolis its headquarters for nearly a century, the denomination is considering pulling its next biennial convention out of Indiana over a new state law that allows businesses to turn away gay customers.”

Well one of things we need to note is that it is not at all clear that this would allow businesses to turn away gay couples. The issue behind this of course is the very publicized controversy about certain cake bakers and photographers and florists and others who are being asked not just to serve gay customers, but to be actively involved and artistically expressively involved in same-sex marriages, same-sex weddings –that is a hugely different issue. But as Laura Markoe of Religion News Service goes on to report,

“Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Thursday (March 26), the day after receiving a letter from church leaders pleading with him to veto it and threatening to move their 2017 General Assembly outside the state.”

When it came to the pressure exerted on the state of Arizona, some of that pressure even came from the NFL – threatening that the city of Phoenix just might not be an appropriate setting for the Super Bowl in the future. There are other big issues that are clearly at stake here, and that’s the influence of corporate America. Indianapolis is a major American city, and there are several businesses that are headquartered there and some of them – especially those with massive national profiles – are putting pressure on the states because, in their view, the moral revolution when it comes to LGBT issues is simply over and the rest of America (including Christian America) should simply deal with it. Religious freedom is just not a major issue in their view and that should be extremely troubling.

That point was made very clear in a March 5 report that comes from Reuters published in Fortune magazine. According to the headline, many of America’s largest companies have signed on even to briefs in support of the legalization of same-sex marriage in the upcoming case before the United States Supreme Court. As Reuters reported,

“Many of America’s largest companies rallied behind the gay marriage cause on Thursday as the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments for April 28 on the contentious social issue that promises to yield one of the justices’ most important rulings of 2015.”

Listen to the next paragraph,

“A total of 379 businesses and groups representing employers across various sectors, including Google Inc , Apple, General Electric, American Airlines Group Inc , Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Johnson & Johnson, have signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in support of gay marriage”

Again, remember that’s 379 major American companies. That’s the kind of leverage now being brought not only against the Gov. of Indiana and the state of Indiana for that matter, but also other states that are considering similar legislation – including Arkansas and most crucially right now the state of Georgia.

Another very important signal was sent yesterday by the editorial board of the Washington Post in an editorial entitled, Keeping Them Safe From Gay Marriage. The editors wrote and I quote,

“Alarmed at the prospect that the Supreme Court will sanction same-sex marriage in every state, conservative state lawmakers are intensifying efforts to provide legal cover for evangelical Christians and others who regard homosexual unions as an affront.”

They then write the following paragraph,

“There can be legitimate debate on the balance between religious liberty and laws intended to prohibit discrimination.”

I can simply say we can hope there can be that legitimate debate, but thus far that legitimate debate has not taken place. The editors then, remarkably enough, write the following words, and again I quote:

“For instance, a bill the Georgia Senate approved this month bars the state government from infringing on an individual’s religious beliefs unless the state can demonstrate a compelling interest in doing so.”

Now we just a minute, wouldn’t the editors of the Washington Post believe that any state, including the state of Georgia, should avoid infringing upon any citizens religious liberty unless – and again these are there words – “unless the state can demonstrate a compelling interest in doing so.” Do the editors of the Washington Post really mean that a state should be able to trample upon the religious liberties of its citizens without a compelling interest in doing so? That doesn’t even get to the issue of how that compelling interest might be defined. The editors are clearly saying that they are opposed to a bill, now publicly opposed, that would (in their own words):

“…bars the state government from infringing on an individual’s religious beliefs unless the state can demonstrate a compelling interest in doing so.”

If the state of Georgia, or any state, doesn’t have to have a compelling reason to infringe upon an individual citizens religious liberty, then mark these words: religious liberty is effectively dead.

Note also the obvious political fact that it was Pres. Bill Clinton who signed this bill and celebrated it in 1993. Now at least one potential candidate for the Democratic nomination, at this point the only real Democratic candidate anticipated for the Democratic nomination, his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has said that she opposes this kind of legislation. That’s just how much the world has turned, how much the moral revolution has moved in terms of less than a generation in the span of 22 years. We’re talking about a moral revolution of unprecedented scale, and as we have so often noted, unprecedented velocity.  Here’s evidence that should be of concern to every Christian, and for that matter to every citizen who prizes liberty.

Once again, as we had been tracing, erotic liberty trumps religious liberty. There is always, in any society at any time, a conflict of liberties, a contest for which liberty is most basic. According to the new cultural elites, according to those corporations putting pressure on the state of Indiana, according to all those who are pressing back against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of the state level – when just 22 years ago they celebrated it at the federal level – what we’re looking at is the fact that right now, in almost every case, a liberty that isn’t even mentioned in the Constitution to say the least – that is erotic liberty – is triumphing over religious liberty and that is one of the saddest development we can contemplate.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to  For more information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to For information on Boyce College just go to

I’m speaking to you from Ashville, North Carolina and I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Discovery Germanwings copilot crashed plane exposes inability to know the mind of others 

French prosecutor: Co-pilot took doomed flight on deliberate dive, Washington Post (Stephanie Kirchner and Anthony Faiola)

Inside a Pilot’s Mind, New York Times (Andrew B. McGee)

Police find ‘clue’ at home of Germanwings’ co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, The Telegraph (Josie Ensor)

2) Triumph of erotic liberty over religious liberty evident in outcry over Indiana religious freedom bill

Indiana Governor Defends Signing of Religious-Objections Bill, TIME (Tom Davies)

Disciples look to pull convention from Indiana over religious freedom bill, Religion News Service (Lauren Markoe)

Hundreds of companies urge the Supreme Court to back gay marriage, Fortune (Reuters)

Keeping them safe from gay marriage, Washington Post (Editorial Board)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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