The Briefing 04-07-15

The Briefing 04-07-15

The Briefing


April 7, 2015

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


It’s Tuesday, April 7, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Frank Bruni demands Christian theology capitulate to standards of modern age

That vast high velocity moral revolution that is reshaping modern cultures at warp speed is leaving almost no aspect of the culture untouched and untransformed. That’s becoming increasingly clear. The advocates of same-sex marriage and the more comprehensive goals of the LGBT movement assured the nation that nothing would be fundamentally changed just if people of the same gender were allowed to marry one another. We knew that couldn’t be true, and now the entire nation knows.

The latest ground zero, of course, for this moral revolution has been the state of Indiana. You’ll recall that just a matter of a few days ago legislators there passed a state version of the federal law known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Then, Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill into law. The controversy that followed was a free-for-all of misrepresentation and political posturing. Within days the governor had capitulated to the controversy by calling for the laws revision, a revision that may well make the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act a force for weakening religious liberty in that state rather than for strengthening it.

Business political and civic leaders piled on in massive act of political posturing. The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act we should remember became law in 1993 in another mass act; but that one, a bipartisan cooperation. The act passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and with 97 affirmative votes in the Senate. You’ll recall that Pres. Bill Clinton signed the bill into law, celebrating the act as a much-needed protection of religious liberty. President Clinton called religious liberty the nation’s first freedom and went on to state, and I quote,

“We believe strongly that we can never, we can never be too vigilant in this work.”
But as we have so often noted, that was then but Indiana is now. Hillary Clinton, ready to launch her campaign for president, condemned the Indiana law as dangerous and discriminatory – even though the law in its federal form has not lead to any such discrimination; that law, you will recall, that was signed into effect by her husband.

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, took to the pages of the Washington Post to declare in his words that the Indiana law would,

“…allow people to discriminate against their neighbors,”

For its part, the Washington Post itself published an editorial in which the paper’s editorial board condemned a proposed law in the state of Georgia, a state version there again of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that would prevent the state government.

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

So, as we noted a few days ago, the Washington Post believes that a state should be able to infringe a citizen’s religious liberty without a compelling interest. That the only conclusion a reader can draw from the editorial.

As we have noted, the piling on continued with the governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, announcing that he would even forbid travel to Indiana by Connecticut state officials – conveniently forgetting to mention that his own state has a similar law, as does the federal government. The NCAA, that is the National Collegiate Athletic Association, piled on, as did a host of sports figure from across the country. More than one pundit pointed to the irony of the NCAA trying to posture on a question of sexual morality, but the pile on continued. Law professor Daniel O’Conkle of Indiana University stated the truth plainly when he said I quote,

“The reaction to this is startling in terms of its breadth—and to my mind—the extent to which the reaction is uninformed by the actual content of the law,”

In a similar vein Douglas Laycock, who is a professor of law at the University of Virginia and we should note is also a proponent of same-sex marriage, declared,

“The hysteria over this law is so unjustified.”

He went on to say,

“It’s not about discriminating against gays in general or across the board . . . it’s about not being involved in a ceremony that you believe is inherently religious.”

But now, even as the dust is eventually clearing in Indiana it’s not apparent that the real issue is not the RFRA in Indiana, or Arkansas, Georgia or any other state. The real issue is the fact that the secular Left has decided that religious liberty must now be reduced, redefined or relegated to a back seat in the culture. The evidence for this is mounting and it is dangerous.

One key indicator is found in the editorial pages of The New York Times. That’s the most influential single newspaper in the world. The paper has appointed itself the guardian of civil liberties and it has championed LGBT causes for decades now. But the paper’s editorial board condemned the Indiana law as “cover for bigotry.” The most chilling statement in the editorial was this:

“The freedom to exercise one’s religion is not under assault in Indiana, or anywhere else in the country. Religious people — including Christians, who continue to make up the majority of Americans — may worship however they wish and say whatever they like.”

There you see religious liberty cut down to freedom of worship. The freedom to worship is most surely part of what religious liberty protects, but religious liberty is not limited to what happens in a church, a mosque, a temple or a synagogue. That editorial represents religious liberty redefined right before our eyes.

But the clearest evidence of the eagerness of the secular Left to reduce and to redefine religious liberty comes in the form of two columns by opinion writer Frank Bruni. The first, you’ll recall was published back in January, it included Frank Bruni’s assurance that he affirmed “the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish — in their pews, homes, and hearts.” Religious liberty was now redefined so that it has no place outside pews, homes, and hearts. Religious liberty no longer has any public significance. Just to note very quickly, that is not religious liberty as was enshrined in the Bill of Rights and certainly not as was respected by the founders of this nation.

But Frank Bruni really does not believe in religious liberty, even inside churches and even when it comes to the hiring of ministers. In that first column he write back in January,

“And churches have been allowed to adopt broad, questionable interpretations of a ‘ministerial exception’ laws that allow them to hire and fire clergy as they wish.”

The ability of churches to hire and fire ministers as they wish is declared to be “questionable.” Remember that line when you are told that your church is promised even “freedom of worship.”

But Bruni’s January column was just a prelude to what came in the aftermath of the Indiana controversy. Now, the openly-gay columnist demands that Christianity reform its doctrines as well. He opened his column in the paper’s edition published Easter Sunday with this:

“The drama in Indiana last week and the larger debate over so-called religious freedom laws in other states portray homosexuality and devout Christianity as forces in fierce collision. They’re not — at least not in several prominent denominations, which have come to a new understanding of what the Bible does and doesn’t decree, of what people can and cannot divine in regard to God’s will.”

That taken alone is a really interesting paragraph; it is extremely revealing. But that paragraph of course is not taken along. Bruni issued an open demand that evangelical Christians get over believing that homosexuality is a sin, or suffer the consequences. His language could not have been more chilling. Again I quote,

“So our debate about religious liberty should include a conversation about freeing religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”

Well there you have it, right in his very words, a demand that religious liberty be debated (much less respected) only if conservative believers will get with the program and, watch his language very carefully, bow to the demands of the modern age. Christianity and homosexuality he said,

“…don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere,”

He reduced religious conviction to a simple matter of choice. In his words, and I quote,

“But in the end, the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It’s a choice. It prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since — as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing. It disregards the degree to which all writings reflect the biases and blind spots of their authors, cultures and eras.”

So the only religion that Frank Bruni respects is one that capitulates to the modern age and is found, in his words and I quote, “rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”

That means giving up the inerrancy of Scripture, for one thing. The Bible, according to Bruni, reflects the biases and blind spots of the human authors and their times. When it comes to homosexuality, he insists, we now know better.

This is the anthem of liberal Protestantism, and the so-called mainline Protestant churches have been devoted to this project for the better part of a century now. Frank Bruni applauds the liberal churches for getting with the program and for revising the faith in light of the demands of the modern age — demands that started with the denial of truths such as the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, miracles, the verbal inspiration of Scripture, and other vital doctrines. The liberal churches capitulated on the sexuality issues only after, and we should note this very carefully, capitulating on a host of central Christian doctrines. Almost nothing is left for them to deny or to reformulate.

Now let’s note this. It is interesting to see how quickly some can get with the program and earn the respect of the secular gatekeepers. Frank Bruni cites David Gushee of Mercer University as an example of one who has seen the light.

“Human understanding of what is sinful has changed over time,”

That is David Gushee as quoted by Frank Bruni in the column. Bruni then states that Gushee

“openly challenges his faith’s censure of same-sex relationships, to which he no longer subscribes.”

But David Gushee agreed with the church’s historic condemnation of same-sex relationships, even in a major work on Christian ethics he co-authored, until he released a book stating otherwise just months ago. Once a public figure gets with the program, whether that person is David Gushee or Barack Obama, we learn the lesson very quickly that all is very quickly forgiven.

Bruni also notes that:

“Christians have moved far beyond Scripture when it comes to gender roles.”

Well, he is right to understand that some Christians have done just that, and in so doing they have made it very difficult to stop with redefining the Bible on gender roles. Once that is done, there is every reason to expect that a revisionist reading of sexuality is close behind. Bruni knows this, and of course he celebrates it.

It’s very important that we take these two columns by Frank Bruni and we take them very seriously because what they represent is a full-throttle demand for a theological capitulation and a fully developed reduction of religious liberty. In his view, and let’s note it is now stated in full right in the pages of The New York Times, the only faiths that deserve religious liberty are those that bow their knees to the ever most costly demands of the modern age.

That is incredibly revealing isn’t it? It is incredibly revealing that the verb he chose was “bowing.” One of the earliest lessons Christians had to learn was that we cannot simultaneously bow the knee to Caesar and to Christ. We have to choose one or the other. Frank Bruni, whether he intended to do so or not – and we can be certain that he did not – he does help us to see that truth with new clarity.

2) NY Scout group hires openly gay scout in direct challenge to Scouts’ halfway policy

In another front in this moral revolution that demands our attention, over the weekend the New York Times ran another article entitled, With Hire, Boy Scouts Affiliate in New York Defies Ban on Gays; it’s written by reporter James Barron. He writes,

“Taking the first step toward a possible face-off over the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on openly gay adult members or employees, the organization’s New York affiliate said on Thursday that it had hired a gay Eagle Scout.”

According to the paper the young men is scheduled now to work at a Boy Scout camp this summer. The New York group is known as the Boy Scouts’ Greater New York Council and it announced the hiring of the young man who grew up in Maryland and is now a student at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. He became a prominent figure, according to the paper, among those speaking out against the ban on gay people over 18 in scouting. Richard Mason, a board member of the Greater New York Council, said and I quote,

“We’ve had an antidiscrimination policy for a very, very long time. This young man applied for a job. We judged his application on the merits. He’s highly qualified. We said yes to him irrespective of his sexual orientation.”

Now back in 2013 the Boy Scouts abandon its long-standing policy, a policy that previously they had defended successfully all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The Boy Scouts back in 2013 changed their policy to allow for participation by openly gay scouts, but only up to the age of 18. And furthermore, the group changed its policy only halfway – dealing only with scouts themselves and not with scout leaders or with employees of the organization. When the scouts changed their policy back in 2013 we noted that the change simply wouldn’t satisfy the moral revolutionaries.

That’s also a very important lesson for us to observe; the moral revolutionaries demand total capitulation. A halfway measure simply does nothing, or at least it does nothing but set up a total capitulation. Because those who are pushing for the Boy Scouts to abandon their policy – which had been established on moral principle – a policy that leaders of the scouts said even in weeks preceding the change was fully expected and supported by the parents of most scouts, and they abandoned convictional principle for mere pragmatic compromise.

But that’s the kind of compromise that won’t stand and this article is setting up a collision between the Boy Scouts organization in New York City – which, according to the paper is not alone in defying the national bodies’ new policy. This headline story in the New York Times serves as notice that the Boy Scouts are going to face a very significant challenge, not only from outside.

By the way while we have been watching with concern the unfolding controversy in Indiana, one of the things we have noted is how major corporations were among the very first to demand that the law be revised or withdrawn in the state of Indiana. They were among the very first to say that the religious freedom bill was, in the words of some corporate leaders, bad for business and thus bad for Indiana. The same thing was true back in 2013 with the Boy Scouts of America because it was corporate members on the board, including CEOs of major Fortune 500 corporations, who were facing stockholder action from their own shareholders if they didn’t force the Boy Scouts to capitulate. And as we’ve seen, it was a halfway capitulation setting up a total capitulation.

It doesn’t take much of a prophet to see where this is headed. There’s going to be a challenge from inside the scouts – that’s what this headline is all about – as well as challenges coming from outside the scouting organization. And having abandoned principle, there’s really nowhere for the national scouts to go but total capitulation. It will also be very telling to see what participation levels in the scouts really represent since the change in 2013. The Boy Scouts have not been very clear about those numbers but eventually the story will be told.

Oh, and again when it comes to the prediction of total capitulation, another evidence of that is that the new CEO of the Boy Scouts of America, and that is none other than Robert Gates. The former Defense Secretary had stated that he had ‘pushed the Boy Scouts as far as he could go back in 2013’ stating that personally he wanted the total capitulation. Now, this story gives us very good advance notice that that’s almost precisely what surely will come.

3) Concern over ISIS destruction of art curiously overshadows same threat to human life

Next, a story that reveals a great deal about the place of art and culture, in terms of our society in the present. The author of this article is Hugh Eakin, who is a senior editor the New York Review of Books. That’s a very prestigious journal, one of the most important book reviews published in the United States. In many ways it’s a barometer of the cultural and intellectual elites in this country. Mr. Eakin wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times in which he decries the fact that the Islamic state, identified in the article as Isis, is destroying so much art and culture he says it has to stop. In the beginning of his article he asked ‘will the world do nothing to stop extremist groups and destroying some of civilizations most treasured monuments?’ he says, This is the question that has confronted Western governments with stark urgency in the week since the Islamic state (he does use the term there) released a video of militants smashing ancient sculptures in the Mosul Museum in early March, he says. Following reports that extremists attacked the ancient Assyrian sides of Nimrod and Hatra, Iraqi officials pleaded for American airstrikes to stop them, but so far he says “the United States and its allies have wrung their hands.”

I make mention this article not because I do not share the concern about the destruction of cultural artifacts. That is indeed a concern. Any intelligent and caring person should care about the willful destruction of civilization. As a matter fact, one of the things that demonstrates the nihilism of the Islamic State when it comes to civilization, is the fact that it is so wantonly, strategically, and publicly destroyed so many sites of historic value; in terms of civilization.

No, the reason I draw attention to this article isn’t because of the concern over the destruction of art and culture; the statuary and the museums. It’s the fact that this is getting so much attention, while in just the previous few days at least 147 people have been killed by Islamic terrorists just in one university campus in Kenya, and the Islamic State, the group that is targeted in this article for its destruction of so much culture, is actually far more dangerous for its destruction of human life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being concerned about the destruction of the artifacts of civilization; with the artifacts of culture. What’s really strange about this article is that it appears in a place of such significance making such an open call for military action, when the larger issue of the sanctity and dignity of human life is right before us in the wanton destruction of humanity and the extermination of so many human lives by the very group that is here assaulted and criticized, though rightly, for destroying cultural artifacts. There is a time to get to the destruction of culture, to the destruction of museums and art, but that’s only when the higher, the infinitely higher value of human life has been established, and when human lives have been defended. It’s more than odd that an article like this would appear in April of the year 2015, with the Islamic state ,infamous for beheading so many prisoners in killing so many people, and the big issue that attracts the attention on this op-ed piece is art and culture. It’s not again that articles aren’t important is just that right now, the overarching issue of the protection of human life should sweep virtually everything else off the moral screen.

4) Defense of college ‘protections’ against free speech fails to justify campus restrictions on speech

Finally, in recent days, we’ve been looking at a very important argument that is even reaching well into the secular world over the shutting down of free speech and free expression on America’s college and university campuses. We looked to Brown University where there was the example of students being protected and that was the word that was used and made to feel more comfortable and safe by avoiding, by shutting down debate on issues in which certain students simply no longer see the possibility of any valid opposing viewpoints. We’ve also noted that in the main, the kind of viewpoints that are being shut down are those that defend classic civilization, classic liberties, and, as the California State University system just to take one example, has demonstrated Christian speech about the Bible and about the gospel. As I say, there are certain letters that have appeared from students defending this new kind of suppression of speech, and one of those was cited in the pages of the Wall Street Journal over the weekend. It was written by a young man who is a senior at Brown University, a member of the class of 15, and the letter that is cited in the Wall Street Journal makes the point emphatically. He writes, and I quote,

“The current rally the generational pundits make against me and my peers in college today is that we have forsaken freedom of speech and multiple viewpoints for comfort. What does the word comfort even mean?”

He goes on to write ,

“I’m afraid that it is a product of jargon that is too easily mistranslated by these opinion columnist hoping to pass a deadline. If they delved with any honest intent into the vast discourse of social justice they would see how far from the mark they really are.”

To begin with, he writes,

“when students claim a lecture or event is uncomfortable it’s not because the chair cushion is sagging nor is it because we simply don’t like the idea that is being touted before us.”

He goes on to write,

“It’s because the speakers promoting these ideas do not display an effort to be inclusive in their thoughts.”

Now at this point we can simply interject ‘what in the world would that mean?’ He goes on to write,

“When I say your argument makes me uncomfortable, it’s because I am greatly concerned that you have not done the requisite thought and research into generating an inclusive thesis that considers as many nuances as necessary to deliver a sound debate.”

Let me just interject at this point, there is no debate left once you interject what he demands as ‘the inclusive thesis that considers as many nuances is necessary.’ He goes on to say,

“If you do not believe that skin color, age, religious identity, sexuality, class or disability has an effect or have an effect in cultural, political, or economic problems; that we debate at universities, then it is you [he says,] who is trying to remain comfortable despite such frightening realities.”

In this sense he concludes,

“being uncomfortable is the strongest form of rhetoric that our millennial generation wields in the struggle against all forms of oppression,”

That reminds me of a cut line I saw under a cartoon some years ago in which the central character said to another ‘I guess what I mean is I had more respect for your position until you explained it.’ That’s almost the way I feel reading this letter from this young man at Brown University when he explains his position. It makes it far worse because he really is saying that they will not tolerate speech that they find uncomfortable and by the time they describe what that means it’s even worse than we thought.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to  Remember the release of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. A new edition was posted last Saturday. 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 Destin, FL and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Frank Bruni demands Christian theology capitulate to standards of modern age

Your God and My Dignity, New York Times (Frank Bruni)

Bigotry, the Bible and the Lessons of Indiana, New York Times (Frank Bruni)

2) NY Scout group hires openly gay scout in direct challenge to Scouts’ halfway policy

With Hire, Boy Scouts Affiliate in New York Defies Ban on Gays, New York Times (James Barron)

3) Concern over ISIS destruction of art curiously overshadows same threat to human life

Use Force to Stop ISIS’ Destruction of Art and History, New York Times (Hugh Eakin)

4) Defense of college ‘protections’ against free speech fails to justify campus restrictions on speech

What makes free speech uncomfortable, Wall Street Journal (Joseph DiZoglio)


R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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