The Briefing 04-10-15

The Briefing 04-10-15

The Briefing


April 10, 2015

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

It’s Friday, April 10, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Obama opposition to gay conversion therapy collides with Christian hope of transformation

As we discussed yesterday, late on Wednesday evening the White House posted a statement from the President of the United States indicating that he is now publicly opposed to so-called “conversion therapies” when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity; particularly when it comes to minors, and the President was, in his words, “open to federal legislation that would outlaw the practice nationwide.” Michael Shear reporting for the New York Times wrote,

“Mr. Obama began his political life opposed to gay marriage and accepting of limits on gay service in the military. But now he support same-sex marriage and has sought greater equality of treatment for gay men and lesbians in the government and the private workforce. In his first term, he pushed the Pentagon to end the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy that had kept gay service members and serving openly.”

Shear also says the president will not explicitly call for a federal law banning therapist from using such therapies on their patients, but he is open to conversations with lawmakers in both parties. The article said that the president would be supporting efforts to outlaw the practice state-by-state, working at the state level. The White House use the term “conversion therapy” referring to therapeutic practices that seek to change sexual orientation. And the White House stated that the president and his administration are now solidly against such practices.

From a Christian or biblical worldview perspective there are a couple of urgently important issues here. First of all, when it comes to therapy Christians have to remind ourselves, quite regularly, that we can invest no ultimate hope in any form of therapy for any major human problem. This isn’t to deny that therapies can sometimes be helpful. It is to say that from a biblical perspective we understand that the most basic human problem isn’t something that can be addressed adequately by therapy. In this therapeutic age is very important for Christians to remember that our basic understanding of the diagnosis of the human problem is theological. Therefore there is no ultimate hope in any therapy.

The second thing Christians have to understand is that what’s really being addressed here in the use the term “conversion therapy” really get to the heart of the issue, is the suggestion that persons who have a same-sex attraction or are struggling with their own gender identity should not seek to deny the impression within themselves of what they are, who they are, and what their sexual orientation may be. The very clear implication of the White House statement is that person that declare themselves to be homosexual or to have a same-sex pattern of attraction or to be struggling with transgender issues should certainly just be accepted as who they are, who they say they are, or they believe themselves to be without any reference to any kind of objective moral code that would regulate human sexuality and our understanding of sex and gender.

That’s where Christians can’t go. Not Christians who are committed to biblical authority, who believe that the Bible has given us a pattern for human sexuality and a pattern for gender that isn’t merely something that has been socially constructed by the accumulation of human wisdom, but is instead a gift to us by our Creator. When it comes to that term conversion therapy there’s something else to Christians need to remember above all else. And that is our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ and our knowledge of that gospel is what promises the fact that the oldest passed away behold the new has come.

Our ultimate trust is in God who has given us the gift of the gospel and the promise, not only of conversion, but the promise of regeneration and renewal of life and transformation that comes by the work of the Spirit within us. As the believer in Christ follows Christ in obedience, as the means of grace, including the community of the saints and local church and the preaching of the gospel where these things become for the Christian an understanding is how we moved in to greater holiness. And that holiness is defined by obedience to Christ and that obedience to Christ is defined by God’s self-revelation, which is found in the Bible.

This is where the biblical Christian worldview runs into direct contradiction, a literal head on collision, with the president’s statement as published at the White House website on Wednesday night. It is because Christians are committed to a gospel that promises that there is the possibility of real transformation. And there is the promise of growing in holiness and obedience to Christ. And if we believe, as Christians believe of biblical authority, that God has given us a pattern for human sexuality and for gender, then it is our responsibility to lean into faithfulness and to move towards obedience and that is true for all of us regardless of what we understand to be our sexual orientation. This is where the wisdom of the secular world, now made clear in the statement released by the White House on Wednesday night, absolutely addresses itself to a direct challenge to the Christian faith.

Do we really believe in the power of the gospel? That doesn’t mean that we believe when someone comes to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that their entire pattern of sexual temptation or sexual confusion disappears. That’s not true. But it is true that we are given the promise of genuine transformation. And nothing is outside the transforming power the gospel. And the call to all of us, regardless of our sexual orientation, is not to make that sexual orientation the main issue but rather to understand that are calling is to be obedient to Christ in all things including our gender identity and our sexuality.

The Christian church has no ultimate investment in “conversion therapy.” But we haven’t ultimate and eternal investment in conversion theology. That truth above all else must be kept in mind when reading a headline such as this.

2) Rand Paul points to urgency of asking abortionists when abortion might be immoral

Next, we have been looking at some very important developments on the issue of abortion and the sanctity of human life. But something happened in recent days that should have our attention. It emerged in a very clearly political context but there are deep worldview implications here at stake. This development was well described and reported by Philip Elliott writing for the Associated Press. The AP interview headline with US Senator Rand Paul soon after his announcement that he would be running for president of the United States, includes these words:  “Paul won’t spell out abortion ban exceptions.”

In an interview on Wednesday with the Associated Press, as the report here indicates, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is dodging a central question about abortion: What exceptions if any should be made if the procedure were to be banned?

The AP report continues: “In an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday, Sen. Paul would not say if his opposition to abortion rights includes an exception in cases of rape, incest, or risk to the life of the mother.” The senator said, “the thing about abortion, and about a lot of things, is that I think people get tied up in all these details of sort of your this or your that are your hard and fast on one thing or the other.” In the art of politics that’s known as an attempted dodge. Indeed, Sen. Paul did not want to answer the question, about whether or not he would support legislation to limit abortion that would not grant exceptions, and again, the AP pose the issues in the cases of rape incest the risk of life to the mother.

Now as the AP conceded, Sen. Paul has in the past voted for legislation that has included such exceptions and he is voted for legislation that did not include such exceptions. And as he is just this week announced that he’s running for president of the United States, at least for the Republican nomination, Sen. Paul would not say if he now would support legislation that would not include such exceptions. That’s a story in and of itself.

That’s not enough of a story, in this context, to deserve our attention on The Briefing. The reason we’re talking about this issue on The Briefing today is that in this interview, Sen. Paul did something rather amazing: he pushed back and where he pushed back reveals the greatest worldview divide on the issue of the sanctity of human life that is imaginable in modern America.

Sen. Paul pushback saying that life is special and deserves protection meaning that one way or another he was determined to stand up for the sanctity of human life and to support legislation that would limit abortion. Now, again, the headline news, as far as the Associated Press was concerned, is that the presidential candidate and United States Sen. wouldn’t answer the question about whether or not he would support legislation that would limit abortion that would not grant those exceptions.

But what makes this story ultimately far more important is what took place later in the day on Wednesday when Sen. Paul made a campaign appearance in Milford, New Hampshire. Because, as the Associated Press, reports later in the day when asked after that campaign stop about the interview, which the Democratic National Committee had sent to reporters, Sen. Paul said:

“Why don’t we ask the Democratic National Committee, ‘is it okay to kill a 7 pound baby in the uterus?

You go back and ask (DNC head) Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she’s okay with killing a 7 pound baby that’s just not born yet. Ask her when life begins and ask Debbie when she’s willing to protect life. When you get an answer from Debbie, come back to me.”

Now that’s interesting enough because what Sen. Paul did in pushing back to that group of reporters was to say “you’re acting as if the most interesting and important question is whether or not exceptions will be granted to a law that would protect unborn life. Why don’t you go past the other side,” he suggested, and he suggested quite emphatically, “if they actually believe that the sanctity of human life should be extended to a 7 pound baby in the womb.”

Now, the Senator’s choice of that 7 pound illustration gets to the fact that a 7 pound baby is clearly viable. The Supreme Court, by the way, has stated that the state that is the government has a right to protect unborn life once the point of viability has been reached. Now, this is where the situation gets a lot more interesting. It’s because Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz responded to Sen. Rand Paul’s challenge by saying,

“I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story.”

That is one of the most revealing political statements made in a very, very, long time. This is a potential game-changer when it comes to the issue of legislation about abortion because what we have here is a very high ranking Democrat—indeed one of the Democrats most responsible for national strategy, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee—a party that stated in its 2014 national platform that it is not only for abortion under almost any circumstance, but also is for government funding of abortion, this representative had the audacity to say, when the question was whether or not a 7 pound baby in the womb is deserving of the protection and the respect that comes to sacred human life, she said “I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story.”

In other words, this member of Congress said in response to Sen. Rand Paul’s challenge, effectively, that she does support without any reservation—again, she said “Period. End of story.”—a woman’s right to terminate the life within her even at 7 pounds of gestation, clearly viable outside the womb. Again, we just need to hear her words “I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story.”

That, again, is one the most revealing and important statements made about the sanctity of human life in a long time. But of course it isn’t a statement about her understanding of the sanctity of human life, not when it comes to that unborn life because even that 7 pound baby has no moral consequence whatsoever when it comes to this legislator speaking of the role of the law in protecting human life. She says she’s not interested in any legislation that would protect that unborn life and she ended her statement with “Period. End of story.” In other words, we are to take her at her word.

What’s really interesting and incredibly revealing in our current cultural context is how many in the mainstream media point of pro-life figures and politics and declare them to be extremists if they won’t declare their absolute requirement of so-called “exceptions” when it comes to issues of legislation to protect unborn human life. And yet, when you have the head of the Democratic National Committee declare in her own words that she would not support any legislation to protect an unborn human life even a 7 pound baby in the womb, that what you’re looking at here is a worldview divide that’s a lot greater than most Americans, even most American Christians, have yet understood.

And we’re also looking at a mainstream political culture and we’re looking at a media culture that doesn’t jump upon the statements made by this Congresswoman, the head of the Democratic National Committee, identifying them as extremist when she has just sat in her own words, “Period. End of story,” that the matter of this unborn baby’ life, should be left simply to the woman and her doctor. Using the language Roe vs Wade, the decision handed down by the Supreme Court legalizing abortion at all 50 states back in 1973.

The word “extremist” is always an interesting word. It’s one of most important words in terms of our contemporary vocabulary when it comes to propaganda and trying to shape public opinion. There are those who have been talking about “pro-life extremists” in the mainstream media for the better part of four and five decades now. Where’s the conversation about those who are pro-abortion extremists? Where’s the conversation about the extreme position? Or we can at least hope that most people in this culture would see it as an extreme position in which you have a member of Congress say that the matter of the sanctity of life of the 7 pound baby in the womb is of no public significance; only a private concern a matter solely between a woman and her doctor, “Period. End of story.”

3)  On 40th anniversary of parenting book, damage of dismissing parental roles evident

Next, it is interesting that even in the secular culture there’s a great deal of unease about how children are being raised and what’s really going on when we watch the formation of generations yet to come. When we’re looking at children and young people today, is quite common for an older generation have concerns. But in many ways, what’s really revealing about the current cultural conversation, is that so many people are concerned not so much about the kids but about their parents and about their parenting philosophy; their parenting worldview, sometimes just referred to as a parenting style.

When even the secular culture thinks there just might be a problem here, that’s very interesting, which is why I draw attention to an article that appeared on the 40th anniversary of a book’s publication. The article appeared in the March 30 edition of the Weekly Standard; it’s by Abby Shachter. And what she’s writing about is the 40th anniversary of Midge Decter’s book Liberal Parents, Radical Children, first published in 1975.

As Shachter, writes, “the immediacy comes from her observations [that is, Midge Decter’s observations] about what was then a new way of child rearing, the effects of which have lasted and are prevalent today. At the same times some of Decter’s analysis, especially having to do with the academy, serves as more of a starting point for recognizing how much things have changed for the worse.

According to Shachter, Midge Decter, 40 years ago, set out to define and analyze and indict the generation of parents that raised the baby boomers. As Shachter says, Decter admits that she was focused on a minority of parents but she was also clearly representing a turning point in American life.

As she told People Magazine, “She was part of the liberal elite she describes in the book, although she credits her husband with preventing her from parenting like them. She was spurred to write when she read the suicide rate among children had exploded 250% between 1960 and 1972.” In other words, she desperately wanted to know why. She wanted to know not only about the skyrocketing suicide rate among teenagers and young people, but also about the parents “who raise these thousands of pot-heads, sexual revolutionists, communards, dropouts and the terrible choices they made.”

Midge Decter’s first point of analysis is that these children were being raised by parents who had decided “to throw away traditional parental roles.” That’s very interesting. Out was the parent as authority and in was the parent as the facilitator, the guide, the counselor the therapist. No longer an authoritative mode of parenting, no longer a clear list of “rights” and “wrongs,” “do’s” and “don’ts,” but rather a constant period of parental encouragement and moral negotiation. Decter made very clear that the parents of the baby boomers had largely trying to renegotiate the roles of parenting and to renegotiate parenthood itself. And the results, she says, is that these kids simply were raised; not in any conventional sense. And when it came to their parents, they wanted to be the friends of their children. They abdicated traditional parental roles and parental responsibility.

But this is what’s really interesting in Shachter’s article on the 40th anniversary of Midge Decter’s book. She writes that when you look at Decter’s book from the vantage point now of 40 years’ time, what becomes apparent is that things are not better now, but in many, ways worse.

As Shachter writes, “40 years later the joke is on the parents, some of whom have so ill-prepared their offspring for adulthood that they choose instead to keep the fantasy going by moving to college with the kids. Instead of being a place to achieve some separation from parents and a little independence, universities make every effort not to offend.”

Now, at this point, Shachter’s actually tying these issues back to some of the headlines we’ve been discussing on The Briefing, especially when it comes down to the shutdown of free expression and the free exchange of ideas on America’s most influential college and university campuses. Midge Decter’s book 40 years ago, effectively warned that this would happen. Because when parents abdicate parenting, when they abdicate traditional parental roles and all parental authority they produce a generation unable, and for that matter just incapable, of moving towards adulthood. And that explains, as Shachter makes very clear what Midge Decter warned about 40 years ago.

If you have liberal parents, they often produce radical children. And then when those radical children become parents themselves, whom do they produce? Well as Shachter and Decter together would say, just look at the college campuses today especially the most influential and elite academies and colleges and universities today. When you look at the students on those campuses, by in large you’ll see a test of the parenting philosophy exercised by the parents of those students. Midge Decter saw it 40 years ago and now we have in this article, celebrating the 40th anniversary of her book, the reality that also should sober us. Things are in many ways not getting better now. If anything, they’re getting worse.

4) Reader’s Digest condensation of the Bible exposed danger of abridging the full counsel of God

Finally, yesterday the New York Times had an obituary for John E. Walsh. As the headline in his obit stated, this was a man who distilled the Bible. He died at age 87. Now, what does it mean that John E Walsh distilled the Bible? This goes back to the 1970s and one of the most interesting things that happened when it came to the Bible during that decade. Reader’s Digest, then one of those widely circulated periodicals in America was known for releasing, on a periodic basis, condensations of major works of both fiction and nonfiction. And then, in the 1970s, it announced it would do the same with the Bible. Indeed, it reduced the Bible from approximately 800,000 words to something like 500,000 words.

As Sam Roberts, writing the obituary about the editor of that work, John Walsh, tells us: “the abridged Reader’s Digest version supervised by the Rev. Bruce M. Metzger, did not skimp on any the 10 Commandments and considered favorites like the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer to be sacrosanct. But in the end it boiled down the Old Testament by 50% and the New Testament by 25%. None of Jesus’s words were changed, but about 10% were deleted.”

Now, the Reader’s Digest condensed Bible was a matter of tremendous controversy back in the 1970s. When it comes to the Bible itself you’ll recall that in the very final words of Scripture it says that there should be no one who would add to or take away from the Scripture. Mr. Walsh, according to the obit by Sam Roberts, “said he was initially appalled by the notion of tinkering with Scripture where the book of Revelation warned against changing the words of the book of this prophecy. But he got over it and the Reader’s Digest condensed version of the Bible was indeed published. But by the time it was published very few people seem to care; it didn’t have much impact.”

But there and does lie a parable because in reality the danger to any Christian is that we will effectively try to create our own condensed form of the Bible, our own Reader’s Digest condensed version. This is the danger theologians speak of, of having a Canon within the Canon. That is a set of Scripture from within the Bible we recognize to be effectively the Word of God for us, while disregarding the rest. Well we can look back at the parable of the Reader’s Digest condensed version of the Bible and recognize what a mistake it was and why, in effect, it is absolutely wrong to try to condense down the Bible, reducing the words of Jesus by about 10%, cutting the Old Testament by half.

Clearly, very important theological judgments are being made, theological judgments that are not left to us. But we are instead given the full counsel of God in Scripture. So when we look at this obituary of a man who is remembered decades later for being editor of the Reader’s Digest condensed Bible, this should serve as a warning to us all and a parable for our own times lest any of us should effectively decide to have our own version of the condensed Bible.


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Podcast Transcript

1) Obama opposition to gay conversion therapy collides with Christian hope of transformation

Response to Your Petition on Conversion Therapy, The White House (Valerie Jarrett)

Obama to Call for End to ‘Conversion’ Therapies for Gay and Transgender Youth, New York Times (Michael D. Shear)

2) Rand Paul points to urgency of asking abortionists when abortion might be immoral

AP Interview: Paul won’t spell out abortion ban exceptions, Associated Press (Phillip Elliott)

3)  On 40th anniversary of parenting book, damage of dismissing parental roles evident

The Kids Aren’t Alright, Weekly Standard (Abby Shachter)

4) Reader’s Digest condensation of the Bible exposed danger of abridging the full counsel of God

John E. Walsh, Who Distilled the Bible, Dies at 87, New York Times (Sam Roberts)



R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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