The Briefing 05-05-15

The Briefing 05-05-15

The Briefing


May 5, 2015

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


It’s Tuesday, May 5, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Value of democratic process as a national worldview test enhanced by increase of candidates


As of this morning there are five, as of later today most likely six, in coming weeks certainly more – we’re talking about declared candidates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 2016. As of last week there were three United States senators that were declared candidates: Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul. The timing of the announcement made by those senators is at least in part due to the rules of the United States Senate when it comes to campaigning.

At the end of last week retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson added his name to the mix, announcing in an interview with the media the he would also be a candidate for the Republican nomination. In yesterday’s news he released a video announcing his campaign. But Carson’s video released yesterday wasn’t the only an announcement. Similarly former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina, who would also run previously for the United States Senate from California, announced that she would be an official candidate for the Republican nomination in 2016.

Later today it is expected that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will also make his announcement. As the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, both Carson and Fiorina are hoping to build support among voters disenchanted with Washington and the Republican leadership. Ben Carson was world-famous as a neurosurgeon; he is one of the most famous pediatric neurosurgeons in world history – long before he did anything that would promise any future in politics. In 2013 he spoke at the national prayer breakfast and in so doing he made very clear that he was concerned about the nation’s morals and what he called its moral decay – speaking of the larger culture. The Wall Street Journal had responded then with an editorial entitled, Ben Carson for president, speaking of the boldness with which the neurosurgeon had spoken at that national prayer breakfast. But that was then and this is now.

Now as the 2016 race has begun in earnest, there will be an increased media attention upon Dr. Carson and even as he is being championed by many for his stand on social issues, the glare of national attention will now come to his positions on a number of issues that he has not had to speak to in the past – including foreign-policy and domestic affairs, including the economy.

Carly Fiorina has been a major figure in American corporate life, most famously including her tenure as the chief executive officer of the computer giant Hewlett-Packard. But when it comes to national politics, or for that matter state politics, even local politics, neither Dr. Carson nor Carly Fiorina arena has ever held an elective office. That points to one of the very interesting aspects of the American electorate when it comes to both parties, at least in cycles. Voters in both parties tend to say they want an outsider for President of the United States, but when it comes to actually voting those same voters who say they want an outsider to the political system, they virtually never choose the outsider they say they prefer. Businessman Ross Perot ran as a third-party candidate and a corporate businessman like Herman Cain who did run in the Republican primaries did not make it all that far.

The Washington Post yesterday ran a very interesting editorial to this point. In one sense the Washington Post is something like the consummate insider media guide because it is after all the Washington Post. The editors of the Post point out that the last time a major American political party nominated an individual who had neither held elected office nor won a major war was in 1940 and that candidate was the failed candidate Wendell Willkie. It was in 1952, that was the last time either the major parties nominated as President of the United States an individual who had not held previous elected office, and that of course was the Republican candidate Dwight David Eisenhower – who had after all been the supreme commander of allied forces in Europe during World War II and was generally considered to be the most respected man in America at the time.

When it comes to Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, they’ve got a rather awesome mountain to climb, but this is after all the political process that they have decided to enter, and this does give voters a genuine choice. One of the most interesting things that will happen over the next several weeks and months is that Americans, first in places especially liked Iowa and with the media focus the rest of us looking over the shoulders of Iowans, are going to gain a keen insight into who these candidates are, how they handle the pressure, what their positions are on an array of issues, and whether or not when Americans look at these candidates they see a President in the making.

The editors of the Washington Post make the rather obvious assertion that the presidency is generally not considered to be a starter job, but they end their editorial yesterday with these words and I quote,

“As of today, Ms. Fiorina and Mr. Carson are politicians on the national stage; we look forward to seeing what they can do.”

That’s the attitude we should all take when it comes to any of these announcements made by any of these candidates. Let’s indeed see what they can do. Once they made the announcement that Fiorina and Carson made just in the last couple days, they are the Washington Post editorial board stated, politicians on the national scene and we’re going to find out indeed what they’re made of.

That’s where Christians looking at an election process like this have to understand that the dance of democracy is a very important process. More than anything else we understand that it is an exercise in the fact that a candidates worldview will eventually come out. In that sense a national election is perhaps one of the most regularly scheduled worldview tests not only for candidates but also for the electric. We find out what their worldview is inevitably, but the electoral results don’t really reflect their worldview so much as ours. Since this is a democratic republic, in short order we’re going to find out not only a great deal about the candidates, we’re to find out a great deal about the American people and what the American people actually believe. Their worldview, our worldview, will also assuredly come out.

Finally on the topic of the 2016 elections, later today it is expected that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will also make his announcement that he will be a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2016. Back in the 2008 presidential cycle on the Republican side Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses and then went on to win seven other states in terms of a race for the Republican nomination. The eventual nominee of course in 2008 was Mitt Romney. Since leaving the 2008 race and the governorship of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee has gone on to be a rather successful conservative speaker and commentator on Fox News with his own program until he had to leave Fox news in preparation for this expected announcement.

When it comes to having run for the republic nomination back in 2008, the good news for Mr. Huckabee is that a good many of voters know a great deal about him – and the fact that he actually won the Iowa caucuses and seven other states. Of course when it comes to that political calculation there is also the fact that it was back in 2008 that he won the Iowa caucuses and those seven other states, and in terms of electoral politics that’s an entire generation ago. In other words, the profound reality at the end of today begins where it left off and leaves off where it began.

By the time the sun goes down tonight there will be, by all reckoning, six declared candidate for the Republican nomination and it is likely that at least one Governor, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and a former Governor, Jeb Bush of Florida will also join the fray. There could well be others. The bottom line is that the race for the Republican nomination is wide open and the worldview questions of course are wide open as well.

2) Texas gunmen exposes collision between honor religion of Islam and gospel religion


Yesterday on The Briefing we talked about the late breaking news that had to do with the killing of two gunmen outside a cultural center in Garland, Texas outside of Dallas. The two gunmen had been shot by Dallas police after they had opened fire and the big question was, was this some kind of random incident or was this part of the larger challenge of Islamic terrorism? And yet, as the New York Times reported yesterday, as we had feared, the story was bigger than may have at first appeared.

Reporting from Garland, Texas the New York Times writes,

“One was an extrovert drawn to basketball as well as to Islam, who had been identified by the F.B.I. as a jihadist terrorism suspect and was once a regular at Friday Prayer at a mosque near his Phoenix apartment. The other was more quiet, ran a carpet cleaning business in Phoenix and often prayed at the same mosque, sometimes accompanied by his young son.”

As reporters Manny Fernandez, Richard Pérez-Peña and Fernando Santos tell us, it is not entirely clear what led the two men identified as Elton Simpson, age 30, and Nadir Hamid Soofi, age 34, who lived in the same apartment complex in Phoenix, to come to the Dallas suburb and open fire on Sunday outside a gathering that showcased artwork and cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. The shootout, according to the Times, during which Mr. Simpson and Mr. Soofi dressed in body armor, fired assault rifles at police officers left both of them dead. But then the Time states the most important of the revelations,

“What has become clear, however, is that what took place in a suburban Texas parking lot near a Walmart has pointed up the volatile tensions between the West’s embrace of free expression and the insistence of many Muslims that depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is a sacrilege. It served as a grim reminder of the attack 16 weeks ago on the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper.”

Now, the story coming out of Garland is decidedly still somewhat confused. It isn’t known if this is part of a larger conspiracy for a network of Islamic terrorism. It is known that one of the men was known as a terrorism and jihadist suspect by the FBI. As the Times reports,

“Mr. Simpson, an American-born convert to Islam who was adored by the young men who frequented the Islamic Community Center in northwest Phoenix, was convicted in 2011 of lying to F.B.I. agents — denying that he had made plans to travel to Somalia when in fact he had. Federal prosecutors charged that he wanted to go ‘for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad,’ but a judge ruled that the government had not proved that part of the charge, and sentenced him to three years’ probation.”

Just several months ago, according also to national media, the FBI and local law enforcement in Phoenix had opened a new investigation into Mr. Simpson, but it appears that there had been no federal investigation of Mr. Soofi. This points to the fact that even though we have a vast law enforcement network, even though we have a vast system of intelligence even when it comes to terrorism threat, there is no way that every single person who might be involved in jihadist efforts can be identified – much less tracked. And as the action of the federal judge in the case of Mr. Simpson makes clear, even when someone is at least accused by prosecutors of being a potential jihadist, if the government doesn’t prove its case according to American law, then the case falls apart. And in this case the man was simply given probation for lying to the FBI.

What is abundantly clear to anyone looking at this situation is, as the New York Times has suggested, the situation at Charlie Hebdo has now come to the United States and it comes with the full force of all the worldview issues that are at its very base. There is a direct collision between the Western ideal of the free expression of ideas and the Muslim understanding that it is a sacrilege that ought to be punished – indeed often by violence – to depict the prophet Mohammed, much less than a way that is satirical. Islam in that definition is an honor religion, and time and again we have to point to the vital contrast between Islam, a religion that teaches the duty of every faithful Muslim to protect Islam from any dishonor and especially the prophet Muhammad from any dishonor, even the dishonor of being graphically depicted. And on the other hand Christianity which is not an honor religion – or at least it isn’t an honor religion when it comes to the disciples of Jesus Christ being assigned the responsibility to defend his honor. It was he who would be despised and rejected of men. He took our dishonor, he bore human scorn on our behalf, he does not call his disciples to protect his honor.

Now the book of Revelation does make clear that he will vindicate his own name, and as the book of Philippians tells us, when that Day of Judgment comes every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father. But that is brought about by divine judgment and by the divine will, not by the disciples of Jesus Christ because we are not assigned that responsibility nor do we have that authority. Rather we are to be witnesses of the one who is identified in Scripture as the suffering servant. We are to be witnesses of the gospel of the one who laid his life down willingly for his own. We are to preach the gospel, not to defend the honor of Jesus. And now that we have this that even the secular worldview understand as a direct collision between the Western ideal of free expression and the Muslim understanding of the honor of the prophet Mohammed, we as Christians have to understand that that’s not the only collision we are witnessing. The even more profound collision is between Islam as an honor religion and Christianity as a gospel religion. Let us remember the instructions that Jesus gave to Peter when Peter was tempted to try to act to defend the honor of Jesus. As Jesus told Peter, put away your sword.

3) Fascination over Nepali deities reveals distance between secular and Eastern worldviews


Finally as we are thinking about the clash of worldviews, our hearts continue to go out for the people of Nepal, even as the death toll in terms of that nation’s recent earthquake has now exceeded 6,000. As we are praying for the people of Nepal, and we need to continue to pray because the rebuilding of that nation and the grieving of those families will surely continue for many months to come, we also have a bit of display of the differences between the majority religious faith of Nepal on the one hand and Christianity on the other.

One testimony to this came over the weekend in a cover story that appeared in the Financial Times, the headline; Houses Of Nepal’s Child Goddesses Stand Intact Amid Quake Devastation. As reporters Victor Mallet and Binod Bhattarai report from Kathmandu,

“Amid the devastation of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, where the old royal palace and Hindu temples were reduced to rubble by last week’s earthquake, one house …stands almost unscathed: the home of the Kumari, the city’s living child-goddess and the nation’s protector.”

One of the members of the family that guards the 10-year-old girl revered by Nepal’s Hindu said,

“We believe that it was her powers that might have protected the place, although there are some cracks inside…”

That man, who was one of the protectors of the child goddesses, stood outside the intricate wooden doors, says the Financial Times,

“…of the Kumari House, leaning on one of the brightly painted stone lions that guard the entrance and watching troops and rescue teams sift through the debris of the historic square with their bare hands,”

As the Financial Times reminds us, it was a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in central Nepal a week ago this past Saturday that killed more than 6,000 people; including tourist who were then visiting fragile Hindu temples, villagers in whose homes were destroyed in the foothills of the Himalayas, and climbers swept away in an avalanche that tore through Everest base camp. But in the aftermath of the earthquake we also have the support in the Financial Times telling us about Kumari, identifies as the 10-year-old girl who is Kathmandu’s child goddesses and the protector of the nation.

The Financial Times goes on to tell us that Matina Shakya, who is Kathmandu’s Kumari, is the most prominent of the child goddesses who represent the fearsome Hindu goddess Durga and are worshiped in the poly towns until they reach puberty and are replaced. When the earthquake struck says the Financial Times, demolishing most of the older structures in the square, she was upstairs in the house where she is revered and had just finished eating. The Time says it isn’t clear how the Kumari, as she is known, reacted to the earthquake, although the selection process for the position is so severe that she might have been less frightened than other girls her age. Now I read directly from the Financial Times again when I read,

“…not only must a Kumari have a body like a banyan tree and a neck like a conch-shell; she must also calmly endure a test of nerve in which the young candidates are confronted in the dead of night by men in demon masks and a roomful of severed buffalo heads.”

Now when we talk about a clash of worldviews, often we’re talking about something that is far more subtle than this. It tells us a great deal that this appears on the front page of one of the most influential newspapers in the world, the Financial Times published in London, and the very placement of this new story in the Financial Times tells us that the editors of that paper, along with the reporters behind this story, understood that here you have something that would interest Western readers precisely because of that clash of worldviews – although they almost certainly wouldn’t put it that way.

There certainly is a direct contrast here between biblical Christianity as we know it and the fact that here you have in Nepal 10-year-old girls who are child goddesses and especially child goddesses who are considered to be protectors of the people over against a very fearsome Hindu deity – in this case a Hindu goddess. That tells us a great deal about the contrast between Christianity and a different belief system, in this case very specifically Hinduism. Hinduism being at least in this senses a subset of an Eastern worldview with its cyclical pattern and within this case of Hindu a very polytheistic worldview.

But what we also need to note is that the placement on the front page of the story in the Financial Times tells us that the editors of this paper almost assuredly looked at the very existence of the Kumari in Kathmandu as pointing to something that is quite obviously different than the worldview of most of the readers of the Financial Times. But that raises an obvious question, what do the editors of the Financial Times think that the default worldview of their own readers might be? If it’s one that would find as absolutely astonishing the existence of the Kumari in Kathmandu, what would the editors of the Financial Times think that the default worldview of their own readers might look like?

Well, when it comes to the Financial Times it’s pretty indicative of the worldview of the Western elites, a highly secularized worldview. It should tell us something that in Kathmandu the existence of the Kumari, understood to be a 10-year-old girl, makes sense and to the editors of the Financial Times and others in the Western elites, the modern secular worldview simply makes sense, it is simply obvious because it’s the most prevalent and accessible worldview.

But Christians must always keep in mind that worldviews are never quite so obvious and that’s why we have to give such careful in strategic biblical attention to developing a worldview that is indeed Christian rather than simply picking up the default worldview around us. It is easy to see when it takes place on the part of others; it takes far more discipline to make sure that it doesn’t happen in our own thinking and in our own hearts. To be a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ in obedience, is to develop a worldview that is genuinely Christian and genuinely biblical. And the Bible itself is our only rescue from the worldviews of the age around us.

4) Hindu pyres following quake reminder of significance of Christian doctrine of resurrection


Finally, another article from Kathmandu that demonstrates the consequences of worldview thinking; Chicago Tribune newspapers reporter Julie Makinen reported a story with the headline, Hindu Funeral Pyres Line the River. As she reports, the funeral pyres are now following the rivers outside Kathmandu. She describes a scene whereby one family stacked the body of one of its victims on a funeral pyre and hired a professional body burner to stack logs of the salwood, a teak-like timber, onto a small platform and then laid packets of ghee, a clarified butter amidst the timbers to ensure the flames would take light.

One by one, we are told, the women’s three sons prostrated themselves at her feet, their weeping uncontained by the surgical master stretched across their faces. Then we are told the eldest son performed an ultimate responsibility of the eldest son, laying the flaming stick that started the funeral pyre that consumed her body. I will not going to further detail from the story, but as Makinen ends the news report she says,

“Ideally, the dead are cremated on the day of death or the day after. But like many Nepalese men, [this woman’s] sons were working overseas and had to fly home for her funeral, so her rites were delayed until Monday.”

But as is reported, with the death toll now exceeding 6,000, the funeral pyres continue to burn especially along the rivers of Nepal. One of things we need to note very quickly is the reason why this kind of very formal cremation is very much a part of the Hindu understanding of death is because they understand the necessity of freeing the spirit from the imprisonment in the body. This is not something that is unique to Hinduism and it’s a rather complicated belief. But it comes down to a direct contrast with Christianity and to the reason why Christianity throughout its history, along with Judaism, has traditionally disfavored cremation.

It is because cremation in the societies of most cultures is understood to be tied to a worldview in which there is some necessity of the spirit gaining release from the body – often understood as an imprisonment in the body. To put the matter squarely, here we have another glaring contrast from which we ought to learn a great deal. Biblical scriptural Christianity doesn’t hold in any sense that we are spirits trapped within a body, rather we are a psychosomatic unity – as evangelical theologians have affirmed – body and soul together. The spirit in the body combined, even in the sense that we are saved by the power of the resurrected Christ who was, we remind ourselves, bodily resurrected and as he is now so we shall one day be. Not liberated from our bodies, but instead experiencing by God’s grace, a glorified body.

We will not inhabit this earthly body, first Corinthian 15 tells us that it must pass a way, but we look forward to a resurrection body. That is the promise, not liberation from the body, but a glorified perfected body as a part of the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As he is now, in terms of this body, so one day we shall be. He is the first born of many brothers.

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 Pompano Beach, FL, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Value of democratic process as a national worldview test enhanced by increase of candidates

Three New GOP Candidates to Enter 2016 Race, Wall Street Journal (Reid J. Epstein and Elizabeth Williamson)

Ben Carson for President, Wall Street Journal (Editorial Board)

Enter the un-politicians for 2016, Washington Post (Editorial Board)

2) Texas gunmen exposes collision between honor religion of Islam and gospel religion

Gunman in Texas Was F.B.I. Suspect in Jihad Inquiry, New York Times (Manny Fernandez, Richard Pérez-Peña and Fernando Santos)

3) Fascination over Nepali deities reveals distance between secular and Eastern worldviews

Nepal earthquake fails to shake child goddess from her home, Financial Times (Victor Mallet and Binod Bhattarai)

4) Hindu pyres following quake reminder of significance of Christian doctrine of resurrection

Hindu Funeral Pyres Line the River, Chicago Tribune (Julie Makinen)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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