The Briefing 04-03-15

The Briefing 04-03-15

The Briefing


April 3, 2015

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


It’s Friday, April 3, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Shabab attack on Kenya university targets non-Muslims, especially Christians

The headlines came late on Thursday afternoon: al-Shabaab had attacked a Kenyan university, killing at least 147. Even as the report began to unfold it was clear that the authorities there in Kenya believe that Christians have been specifically targeted among the 147 in order to be singled out for execution by the terrorist group. The report that came yesterday afternoon in the New York Times said the gunmen attacked the university campus in northeastern Kenya early on Thursday, clashing with guards, forcing their way into dormitories, taking hostages, and singling out non-Muslims.

Another report made quite clear that the targeting was made against Christians who had gathered for early morning prayer. The group all Shabaab, according to the New York Times is an extremist group based in Somalia, affiliated with Al Qaeda. It issued a statement to a radio station it controls claiming responsibility for the killings. According to the New York Times, the al-Shabaab fighters attacked University early on Thursday, began separating Muslim from non-Muslims and started “an operation against the infidels.”

Even if the group al Shabaab is identified as an affiliate or at least allied with Al Qaeda, CNN asked the question ‘What is al Shabaab, and what does it want?’ It identifies the group is a Somali organization the United States has designated as a foreign terrorist group in March 2008. It wants to turn Somalia, says CNN, into a fundamentalist Islamic state – that according to research from the Council on Foreign Relations. The group has been blamed for attacks in Somalia that have killed international aid workers, journalists, civilian leaders, and African Union peacekeepers.

The French Presse Agency also reported that there are Christians currently being held hostage in terms of this attacked by the al Shabaab group. CNN went on to report

“The dangerously porous border between Somalia and Kenya has made it easy for Al-Shabaab militants to cross over and carry out attacks.

“In a December attack at a quarry, Al-Shabaab militants separated Muslims from others and executed the non-Muslims.”

A pattern that has now been carried out on a far larger scale in this attack on a college campus there in Kenya. Just last month United States embassy warned that attacks were possible, “throughout Kenya in the near-term” following the reported death of the key al-Shabaab leader identified as Adan Garaar. And then the embassy stated.

“Although there is no information about a specific location in Kenya for an attack, U.S. citizens are reminded that the potential for terrorism exists.”

Well, now we know the location. The precise location. The specific location of the attack. We now know that it took place with 147 dead. We now know even according to the spokesman for al-Shabaab that they singled out non-Muslims, including and especially Christians who were gathering for early morning prayer. And that’s the news late on Thursday afternoon, reminding us once again we live in a very dangerous world.

2) Secularism not prospering in world scene, Islam projected to become majority affiliation

Also yesterday the Pew Research Center released research indicating that Islam can become the largest religious group in the world by the year 2050. It’s a really interesting research report because it indicates that Muslims are indeed growing faster than any other religious group in the world right now. It also reveals that what we’re looking at is a pattern in which Christianity is going to lose about 100 million adherents in the continent of Europe between now and 2050. The report also indicates there be more Muslims than Jews in America by the year 2050, although other research indicates that might happen far sooner – even in the midpoint of the 21st century. The retreat of Christianity in terms of Europe is made abundantly clear in a report indicating that by the time we reach the midpoint of this century Muslims could indeed reach a critical mass in terms of the population of several European cities. Not a majority, but a majority in many neighborhoods and a significant minority large enough to create a major interest group even to affect the culture writ large. Some historians of Islam indicate that Islamic domination in a culture can come with as low as 15% of the population.

And the reason for that is something again that modern secular people don’t seem to understand; a theological argument is far stronger than a secular argument. So if you put an organization in place, or you look at a neighborhood in which it might be 85% largely secular and 15% Muslim, the fervor and the intensity of those 15% of Muslims can far outweigh the intensity of the secular society.

The other very interesting thing is reported by Emma Green of the Atlantic. It’s that secularization simply isn’t taking place according to plan. As she writes,

“The data seems to undermine the theory that the world is on an inevitable, historical march toward secularization. The number of people who don’t claim any particular religion is expected to rise modestly in the next few decades, but the world is going to grow much faster than the religiously unaffiliated population will.”

This is one of the most interesting patterns we note in terms of our modern times. It has been often stated (usually was some concern) coming from the so-called blue states that the blue states in the United States are under reproducing the red states. That is to say, more liberal states are under-reproducing when compared to the more conservative states. That’s one thing to note we also see that in many modern secularized nations, the birth rate has fallen so precipitously that is well below the needed replacement rate. And now we know that Muslims a reproducing faster than the secular population. And, as Emma Green writes with tremendous perception here, we’re looking at the fact that even if there is a modest uptick in the number of the religiously unaffiliated, they’re going to be vastly outnumbered by those that are quite decidedly affiliated. And the affiliation that will mark majority will now likely be Islam.

The final two paragraphs of Emma Green’s article are certainly worthy of our attention. She writes about China, indicating that China’s going to be a very interesting story to see how religion plays out there, but then she writes,

“For both Christianity and Islam, the region with the most potential will be sub-Saharan Africa, where the population is expected to double in roughly four decades due to extremely high fertility rates. The number of Christians in the region is also expected to double, reaching over 1.1. billion people, and the Muslim population is projected to grow by an astounding 170 percent” – remember that’s between now and just the year 2050 – hitting nearly 670 million. Largely because of these trends, researchers estimate that two-thirds of the world’s population will be Christian or Muslim by 2100.”

That’s an astounding sentence; one we shouldn’t pass by very quickly. Because this means that all of the other major religious systems in the world will be in effective percentage retreat by the year 2100. If two thirds of the world will be either Christian or Muslim that means only a third of the world’s population remains to be Shinto, Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, or for that matter, secularist.

She then writes,

“The world is on track to become a more homogeneously religious place, not a more diverse and secular one. Theories of secularization are based on a vision of a world culturally dominated by the West, and it’s true that the United States and Europe may become somewhat less religious in the coming years. But in terms of sheer numbers, the West is shrinking, and the rest of the world is on a very different path: one that’s headed toward God.”

One that we might clarify, is certainly not headed for secularism.

3) MLB’s ‘ambassador of inclusion’ reflects growing cultural pressure on Christian atheletes

Next, when it comes to the cultural and moral revolution taking place around us, a very important article appeared in the April 4 edition of World Magazine. It’s by veteran journalist Marvin Olasky; it’s entitled “Cultural Hardball,” and it has to do with major league baseball.

It turns out that a major development took place last year in major league baseball. It was probably under the radar even of many serious sports fans. Olasky tells us that last July 15, major league baseball named its first Ambassador of Inclusion and gave him the assignment of “developing educational training initiatives against sexism, homophobia, and prejudice.” Billy Bean’s a veteran baseball outfielder, but he’s now pass with the assignment of being the Ambassador of Inclusion for major league baseball. But the major point of Marvin Olasky’s article is this: there is now a chilling effect taking place among players in major league baseball and by implication other professional sports as well, simply because if they run afoul of the new ethic of sexual inclusion when it comes to LGBT issues, they can find themselves not only outfielders, they can find themselves out in the cold.

Marvin Olasky tells us, for example, about New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, telling us that Murphy (who is identified as an evangelical Christian) found himself in hot water when asked about the visit to his team by baseball’s Ambassador of Inclusion. He said of Billy Bean,

“I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him. I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.”

In the report Murphy also, according to Olasky, made the observation that Christians haven’t been,

“articulate enough in describing what our actual stance is on homosexuality. We love the people. We disagree [with] the lifestyle.”

But then Olasky writes,

“Murphy wasn’t looking for trouble: MLB was paying Bean to provoke discussion. General Manager Alderson was sending him to hang with players.”

Olasky makes clear it was a reporter who asked Murphy to respond. He then writes,

“Nevertheless, some gays vociferously attacked Murphy not only for his opposition to homosexuality but for calling it a “lifestyle.” Many of the more than 300 Google-listed media reports on the dust-up followed that line: Bean himself wrote that Murphy “spoke his truth.” A Mets spokesman quickly told ESPN that Murphy “will no longer address his religious beliefs and will stick to baseball.””

Here’s the big lesson: he wouldn’t have been told to stick to baseball if he had taken the opposite position. He would’ve been celebrated. Might have found himself on the Oprah program. Certainly would’ve been lauded by the new Ambassador of Inclusion. But because he ran afoul of the new mandate of absolute inclusion when it comes to LGBT issues, it was said of him by his own leadership for his team that he would no longer speak to his religious beliefs and will “stick to baseball.”

When someone tells you that religious liberty is by no means under attack ,just think of Daniel Murphy has been told to stick to baseball and don’t talk about your religious beliefs. But as is made abundantly clear if he had taken the opposite position, he would’ve been celebrated; told to talk about his religious beliefs, so long as they are the right religious beliefs. The religious beliefs that would undergird the new message of inclusion as represented by the Ambassador of Inclusion.

The most important lesson from Marvin Olasky’s article has to do with what he calls the chilling effect that we now find in major league baseball and elsewhere. He also writes,

“A chilling effect was also obvious when I contacted the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which stipulates that “neither heterosexual sex outside of marriage nor any homosexual act constitute an alternative lifestyle acceptable to God.””

But, as Olasky tells us, Deborah Hamilton of Hamilton Strategies – that’s the public relations firm hired by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes – told Mr. Olasky that the FCA would not comment on the silencing of Daniel Murphy, who was a student FCA member and has run an off-season FCA camp in Jacksonville. Instead, the public relations officer said,

“FCA would like to maintain a friendly position in the sports world and being a Christian organization, they have a firm, biblical foundation, but they would prefer not to get involved at this level on this issue at this time.”

That’s the very definition of the evidence of a chilling effect. You have a public relations officer saying ‘we have a conviction, we’re in not going to stand by it. We’re not really going to tell you what it is; we’re not going to speak to it when it’s applied to a situation where religious liberties are infringed; we’re not going to speak to it is a convictional issue because we want to maintain our good relationships. We want to maintain our posture when it comes to relating to major league baseball.’

As I have been warning for some time, this similar chilling effect is coming from groups like the NCAA. Just look at the response of that organization to the fracas over the Indiana religious freedom restoration act. Later his article Olasky points to the trajectory of the future when he writes,

“The New York Mets Game in Port St. Lucie on March 12 began with the traditional singing of our national anthem. Fans started applauding at the last line: “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” But will teens hoping for a baseball career have to start thinking like judges hoping for Supreme Court consideration: Don’t leave a paper trail? Don’t talk about anything controversial?”

That’s an incredibly important insight. It’s not only the controversy that may attend right now to a major league baseball player who has run afoul of the Ambassador of Inclusion  – it’s what lesson’s being sent to teenagers who want someday to be considered by a major league baseball team. Are they asking the questions – the very questions that Olasky mentions? Are they asking do I dare speak to this? Do I dare leave a paper trail? Do I have to act, as he says, like a future Supreme Court Justice – hoping for consideration, but afraid of being trapped by something I said on the basis of conviction even decades ago?

That’s the chilling effect are talking about, and that’s how a moral revolution happens. It doesn’t just happen by legislation and bureaucratic rules. It doesn’t just happen by policy and court decisions. It happens by the kind of cultural signals that are sent. By the kind of intimidation that eventually filters down not only to the players on a major league baseball field, but also to the players on your local Little League field. Because you know full well, they’re paying attention to the signals being sent by major league baseball. And one of the signals right now is being sent by the appointment of and the purpose of an Ambassador of Inclusion.

4) Robert Schuller’s legacy involvement in message compatible with twentieth century values

It is hard to know sometimes what to do with a major obituary. It’s hard to know sometimes how to speak with respect, but also to speak to the importance of life and what it means in terms of a Christian worldview. That kind of challenge was presented yesterday when television evangelist Robert Schuller died at age 88. He died after a short struggle with cancer, but he died most famously as the founder of what became known as the Crystal Cathedral there in Orange County, California.

As Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports for the Washington Post,

“At his peak, Robert Schuller was one of the most influential preachers in the country. But his ministry began to crumble under financial pressure after his retirement in 2006. The $18 million Crystal Cathedral with 10,000 panels of glass held 2,890 people. At one point, his congregation was estimated to have had a membership of 10,000 under his leadership.”

But now, that building is no longer the Crystal Cathedral. It instead will become the Cathedral for the diocese of Orange of the Roman Catholic Church. The Crystal Cathedral, that is Robert Schuller’s ministry, effectively no longer exists.

Stuart Lavietes, writing for the New York Times says that Schuller was,

“a California clergyman who started his ministry by preaching in a drive-in movie theater and transformed it into an empire, building the landmark megachurch the Crystal Cathedral.”

He also writes,

“for more than 40 years, Dr. Schuller was an apostle of positive thinking and a symbol of success. A charismatic shepherd, he was one of television’s first preachers to reach audiences around the world with a hopeful message of self-healing and self-empowerment.”

But he also writes these very important words – he says,

“His ministry represented a new wave in mainstream American Protestantism, one that held out hope not just for achieving personal salvation, its traditional concern, but also for solving personal problems. Dr. Schuller proclaimed a “theology of self-esteem” and a belief in the power of “possibility thinking.”

There’s more to the story, as you might expect, because if you go back into the biography of Robert Schuller you discover that this man who was eventually ordained as a minister in the Reformed Church in America came under the influence, as he says in his own story, of positive thinker Dale Carnegie and of positive thinking preacher Norman Vincent Peale. Under their influence, what he called for is nothing less than a new Reformation in Christianity. This new Reformation he called for was based not in the traditional biblical doctrine of salvation through the atonement achieved by Christ, but rather in self-esteem that was rooted in self-confidence and a therapeutic understanding of the self. Possibility thinking was Robert Schuller’s central message. He told fellow preachers not to worry about repeating themselves in sermons, insisting that every message must be about the development of a positive mental outlook. He by the way didn’t want to call his messages sermons, he just wanted to call them messages. Sermons implied something more stuffy, more specifically religious.

He was ordained in the Reformed Church in America, but he minimized historic Christian orthodoxy and replaced that with his message of positive thinking. His 1982 books “Self-esteem: the New Reformation” became the manifesto for the Reformation that he called for in terms of Christianity. He explicitly replaced the message of salvation from sin with a message of rescue from low self-esteem. In his 2001 autobiography entitled “My Journey” Schuller told of the massive influence of Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale in his thinking. He told his decision early in his ministry to replace theology with therapy.

In his words,

“I realized that every sermon I preached (whether formally from the pulpit or casually at a coffee shop) should be designed, not to ‘teach’ or ‘convert’ people, but rather to encourage them, to give them a lift. I decided to adopt the spirit, style, strategy, and substance of a ‘therapist’ in the pulpit.”

Dennis Voskuil, professor of church history at Schuller’s alma mater, that is Western Theological Seminary in Michigan, placed Schuller in the context of the movement known as New Thought, going all the way back to the aftermath of the Second Great Awakening and figures such as Mary Baker Eddy, the founder  of Christian Science. He said,

“Robert Schuller is indirectly related to a long line of popular religionists who have proclaimed the gospel of this-worldly well-being through positive thinking,” he wrote. “His lineage includes such disparate figures as Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, Mary Baker Eddy, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, Ralph Waldo Trine, and Norman Vincent Peale. While there are many ideological branches on this family tree, all of its members have stressed a utilitarian message of self-help through some form of mind-conditioning.”

But in the most important section of Voskuil’s description of Robert Schuller, he says this  –  and these are the most important words,

“By several standards, then, Schuller is an unconventional evangelical. But while he may be unusual, he is by no means unique, for he is merely one of the most prominent of a large and growing group of evangelicals who are promulgating the gospel of success.”

If this were an issue limited Robert Schuller, we really would need to talk about it. Or at least we could talk about in terms of a specific moment in the history the 20th century when American Christianity was seduced by a gospel of success, Robert Schuller being one of the most famous of the prophets of that new gospel. But Voskuil’s exactly right. This isn’t limited to Robert Schuller. And even if his message is not compatible with biblical Christianity, it was very compatible with American culture in the late 20th century. It is still compatible now with those who want to replace the message that leads to salvation with a message that leads merely to success.

The growth and expansion of the prosperity gospel in our times is evidence of the fact the Dennis Voskuil is exactly right. It’s not all about Robert Schuller. It’s about a major doctrinal weakness in American Christianity. So even as we go into the weekend in which Christians around the world are going to be in a special way commemorating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, we need to remember what that gospel is. As the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15,

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

That is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The death, burial, and resurrection are the central truth claims of Christianity. And that, according to the apostle Paul by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is the gospel. And in that gospel the true church always stands.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember the release of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. A new edition will be available tomorrow morning. Remember we want your question i in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. 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’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Shabab attack on Kenya university targets non-Muslims, especially Christians

Shabab Attack on a Kenya University Kills 147, Officials Say, New York Times (Isma’il Kushkush and Rukmini Callilmachi)

147 killed, hundreds rescued in attack on Kenyan university by al-Shabab, Washington Post (Jessica Hatcher)

What is Al-Shabaab, and what does it want?, CNN (Holly Yan)

2) Secularism not prospering in world scene, Islam projected to become majority affiliation

The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050, Pew Research Center (Staff)

Islam Could Become the World’s Largest Religion After 2070, The Atlantic (Emma Green)

3) MLB’s ‘ambassador of inclusion’ reflects growing cultural pressure on Christian atheletes

Cultural hardball, World (Marvin Olasky)

4) Robert Schuller’s legacy involvement in message compatible with twentieth century values

Televangelist and Crystal Cathedral founder Robert Schuller has died, Washington Post (Sarah Pulliam Bailey)

Rev. Robert H. Schuller, ‘Hour of Power’ Evangelist, Dies at 88, New York Times (Stuart Lavietes)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).