The Briefing 05-14-15

The Briefing 05-14-15

The Briefing


May 14, 2015

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


It’s Thursday, May 14, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Utah anti-discrimination law already considered insufficient compromise by LGBT community

On Tuesday an antidiscrimination bill went into effect in the state of Utah. As Michelle Price for the Associated Press reports,

“A Mormon church-backed anti-discrimination law that protects gay and transgender people and religious rights took effect Tuesday amid skepticism from some LGBT residents over whether it lives up to its promises.”

As you’ll remember some months back on The Briefing we discussed the fact that this piece of legislation in Utah had come about given an unprecedented kind of negotiation between LGBT activists and the Mormon Church – which is so politically and culturally dominant in the state of Utah. It was declared to be a grand compromise whereby the LGBT community gained what it was demanding, in terms of antidiscrimination protections especially when it comes to public accommodations and to employment and other issues, and as legislate doors promise there in Utah at the time, it would also protect the religious liberty interests of all religious groups in Utah – including, most centrally when it comes to the Utah population, the Mormon church.

But now I want you to notice the introductory paragraph that came out, just this week when the law took effect, that paragraph from the Associated Press. The last sentence tells us that even as the law went into effect, it did so “amid skepticism from some LGBT residents over whether it lives up to its promises.” Going back to when the law was first passed, I pointed out that it would not last. It virtually cannot last and that’s because this supposedly unprecedented compromise is a very fragile compromise.

The LGBT community was looking for the support, or at least they were looking to end the opposition of the Mormon Church, to any form of antidiscrimination legislation. But it was promised that that antidiscrimination legislation would offer ample protections for religious institutions, churches, and other organizations. But now what we’re being told, in the very lead paragraph of this story, is that there are those within the LGBT community who are already pressing to eliminate those religious liberty protections on the very first day that the law went into effect; this was predictable, and now it’s actual.

Going back to the story by Michelle Price she writes,

“Gay rights groups pushed for an anti-discrimination law for years and finally succeeded during the 2015 legislative session with a deal that won the crucial backing of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

She goes on to say,

“LGBT residents say the law is a positive step, but they worry it still allows discrimination because religious organizations and their affiliates – such as schools and hospitals – are exempt.”

Now let’s just go back to the fact that when this legislation was passed this was the point that was being trumpeted as the achievement, and now you have an Associated Press story coming out the very week the law goes into effect in which those who had called for the law and had largely celebrated its passage are already indicating that it doesn’t go far enough. And how does it not go far enough? It doesn’t eliminate the religious liberty rights of religious organizations – specifically, as identified here, schools and hospitals.

As if that’s not ominous enough, consider the very next words in this article:

“One example they cite is Brigham Young University, which is owned by the Mormon church and can still evict people from student housing for being gay.”

In terms of religious higher education, specifically I will speak of Christian higher education, the big three issues are housing and admissions and hiring. And the issue of housing basically is a stand-in for the larger issue of student services. If indeed a school cannot operate on the basis of its own religious convictions in housing and in hiring and in admissions, then it is not at liberty to operate as a Christian institution. The same thing would be true for a Mormon institution such as Brigham Young University or an Orthodox Jewish institution or a Roman Catholic institution.

Now that we have LGBT activists in Utah openly declaring that they are dissatisfied with this law that went into effect just this week, we’re being served notice once again. Why once again? Well just a few weeks ago before for the United States Supreme Court the solicitor general of the United States, in response to a direct query from the Chief Justice of the United States, answered that the issue of housing in religious institutions would be in question. And now you have activists in Utah specifically identifying the problem they seek to solve as being the fact that Brigham Young University, as a Mormon institution, is operating by Mormon theological principles in terms of housing, most specifically here, but that can be expanded quite easily to the issues of hiring and admissions as well.

Going back to the article from the Associated Press Price writes,

“In endorsing the measure, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it follows the principles set out in the faith’s call for laws that balance religious rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

We can understand why Mormon authorities would say that then, we have to wonder what they’re going to say now that the very religious liberty protections that they negotiated into this law are certainly going to be the subject of subsequent legislative review, and you can be sure almost immediate court action.

And speaking of the larger issue of that cooperation, Price also writes,

“LGBT critics of the anti-discrimination law said that cooperation is tenuous, and point to comments made by members of the faith’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles just weeks after the law was signed.”

And as the Associated Press report goes on to say, in that case members of the top leadership of the Mormon church had stated Mormon theological and moral principles in which they defined marriage solely as the union of a man and a woman. Now we just need to note the religious liberty implications of this controversy in Utah because even as there it is the Mormon church that is front and center in the controversy, elsewhere it will be any other believing community. And we need to note that even in Utah there are evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, and others when it comes to those whose religious liberties will be at stake here.

The main point in my citing these latter words from the article is this, here you have the claim that cooperation exists between a religious organization and gay-rights activists when it comes to striking a balance, and yet that balance is coming undone as many gay-rights activist say the very accommodations that were put into place, the recognitions of religious liberty, are untenable and unviable and to be opposed. But you also have the problem that here that cooperation is supposedly now threatened by the fact that the Mormon church is stating Mormon doctrine when it comes to the definition of marriage for that faith. So what does that tell us? It tells us what we already knew – that religious liberty is very much at stake; that religious liberty is very much under threat. And it’s under threat not only when it comes to religious organizations, institutions and schools, but even when it comes to religious leaders articulating the theological and moral convictions of their own faith in public. That in itself is being complained of in this article and that tells us a very great deal indeed.

2) Concerns over religious liberty rise as liberals urged to be magnanimous in victory 

On this issue, by the way, just a few days ago The Economist, one of the world’s most influential magazines, in this case published in London, wrote an editorial entitled The New Culture War; the subtitle: “if gay marriage triumphs, liberals should take care not to rub it in.” It’s a very interesting article, I am cited within the article in terms of my response to the oral arguments of the United States Supreme Court, but the really interesting part of this editorial, coming from London, are these words,

“Alas, at the very moment when the public seems ready to move on, there are signs that gay rights could spark a new round of cultural combat. The alarm is being sounded by moderate legal scholars and theologians who have spent years pondering fights over religious liberty and how to protect it within a legal order built around equality.”

The most important aspect of this article is that it appears in The Economist, a secular, largely financially dominated, magazine. The second thing is that it identifies those legal scholars and theologians who are now concerned about the religious liberty implications of same-sex marriage with the word moderate. Coming in this context, that is journalistically signaling that these are legitimate and very ominous concerns.

And in the editorial they then shift to a meeting that took place on May 4 and to words stated by John Inazu of Washington University School of Law. He was speaking at something called the Faith Angle Forum, described as a twice yearly gathering of academics, religious leaders, and political journalists. Listen to the next words,

“A shadow hangs over traditional Christian colleges, non-profit institutions (including some large hospitals) and businesses run by those whose beliefs lead them to see gay marriage as a grave sin,”

That was the magazine’s summary of the words offered by John Inazu of Washington University School of Law. The editorial concludes with these words,

“America has a long tradition of protecting minority beliefs through rights of free assembly and speech. Such rights have in recent years protected Christian groups on liberal campuses and gay groups in conservative spots, and remain a valuable means of bridging deep divides. If the summer brings the nationwide legalisation of gay marriage, liberals should be magnanimous in victory.”

Well that’s a very interesting argument. It is coming down to the fact that The Economist is making the judgment, also being made by most others watching the Supreme Court, that the court is likely to declare that gay marriage is to be legal in all 50 states. The big question then is: what comes after when it comes to religious liberty? And specifically citing what the magazine acknowledges are legitimate religious liberty concerns, especially when it comes to Christian colleges and similar institutions, the magazine calls upon the side of victorious in this new moral revolution to be, here are the words, “magnanimous in victory.”

And yet, day after day, we’re having warnings that it will be exactly the opposite. The latest of those warnings comes in the very response to the law that took effect just this week in Utah. The really interesting thing, in terms of the current cultural moment, is that those who had insisted for so long that same-sex marriage would not come with infringement of religious liberty are beginning to say, ‘well maybe it will, maybe that is inevitable; maybe that’s a problem.’

3) Attack on conservative view of marriage conflates historic shifts with radical redefinition

Finally on this issue, the Washington Post ran a very interesting article by Trevor Burrus, identified as research fellow at the Cato Institute Center for Constitutional Studies. When it comes to the marriage issue, the headline on this articles interesting, Conservative Say Marriage has always been between a Man and a Woman. They’re Wrong; the subhead, “matrimony is a constantly changing social institution.” What I want us to note in this is the shift of argument. It’s a very interesting propaganda device and it takes place right within this article, even within the headline and the subhead. Conservative Say Marriage has always been between a Man and a Woman. They’re Wrong. The subhead is: “matrimony is a constantly changing social institution,” and the subhead is almost assuredly right. It’s truthful. Anyone who is looking at the situation of marriage over the centuries understands that in some sense of course it has been a changing social institution, and yet when you look at the headline that is over the subhead stating that the claim that marriage is always between a man or woman is wrong, well there you have a severe disconnect. But that tells us a great deal about the kind of arguments we face in the larger culture.
So are being told that marriage is a constantly changing social institution, well anyone operating from a biblical worldview understands that in terms of the legal structure, in terms of the culture of romance, in terms of what’s being called now companionate marriage, there have been radical changes. In terms of marriage even as a man and a woman being isolated from the larger extended family, that’s a rather recent development. Changes, in terms of the family unit and indeed the economic identity of the husband and the wife in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, those came. The culture of no-fault divorce effectively changed the institution of marriage. Even the contraceptive revolution and advanced reproductive technologies are changing the nature of marriage.

But what isn’t changing is the fact that marriage, everywhere throughout all times, has been – with exceedingly few exceptions – the union of a man and a woman. And those exceptions are so unique that they have to keep going back and citing the same ones. Such as Emperor Nero, anyone who would suggest that one of the most corrupt of the Roman emperors is somehow an indication of what was normal in the Roman Empire when it comes to marriage is making a ludicrous historical claim. And those who are making the claim rarely even make it in such a bold form, instead they just throw it out as if there has been a question throughout human history as to what marriages it. That’s why it’s important to recognize that there was a moment of sanity, of moral sanity and historical sanity, when the justices of the United States Supreme Court – well several of them – actually pointed to the fact that marriage has been the union of a man and a woman, to use the very words one of the justices, “for millennia.”

Trevor Burrus, writing from a very libertarian worldview makes the argument and I quote,

“Marriage has seen so many forms that it is almost difficult to give a universal definition of the term.”

That’s the kind of claim that fails on its very face. Imagine going society by society and asking what marriages is; is there any question that it is the union of a man and a woman? Even in some of those societies where there will be the exception of polygamy, is there any question the marriage is defined as being between male and female? If you go throughout time, if you ransacked your back issues of National Geographic magazine, if you go to the literature virtually every culture as long as literature has existed, is there any question that marriage is understood to be the union of a man and a woman? Or even where there are exceptions in terms of number, the union of male and female? Of course not. That just shows the fact that there is desperation in the kind of argument being made here.

But the really dangerous thing is that if this argument is made widely enough and often enough, people will believe that it’s true. But of course, finally if this argument is true, it leads to absolute moral anarchy and that’s absolutely affirmed in the last words of this essay. Burrus writes,

“Social institutions evolve faster than recalcitrant and reactionary governments. People are now FWB (Friends With Benefits) rather than ‘going steady,’ and they’re ‘Facebook official’ rather than ‘being pinned.’ When social institutions evolve, those who are stuck in the past often prefer to use the coercive power of government to keep things ‘the way they should be’ than to go with the flow. That ‘flow’ has already changed the institution of marriage, and the Supreme Court should go with it.”

Well we simply have to ask, go with it, how far? Go with it, what’s next? Go with it, until what? When he says the Supreme Court should simply go with the flow we have to recognize the flows not going to stop when it comes to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

4) Silicon Valley efforts to solve mortality right recognition of death as the Last Enemy

Finally, anyone operating out of the Christian worldview will also find very interesting, another article that appeared in the Washington Post. This one is about Silicon Valley’s tech entrepreneurs trying to solve a new problem. What’s that problem? Mortality. It is a very interesting article, especially interesting that it appeared in the Washington Post. It turns out that many of the richest Titans of Silicon Valley are now investing deeply, and we mean hundreds of millions of dollars, in technology they believe will defy death and achieve human immortality.

Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal, is now estimated to be worth $2.2 billion, aged 47, is intending to spend a lot of that fortune investing in new biomedical technologies and new forms of engineering that he claims, and hopes, will solve the problem of human mortality and lead to the virtual everlasting life on planet earth. Speaking of the research he is funding he says quote,

“If you think you can only do very little and be very incremental, then you’ll work only on very incremental things. It’s self-fulfilling,”

He has indicated he doesn’t want to work on incremental things, he doesn’t want to solve small problems, he wants to solve the problem of human mortality – he wants to achieve everlasting life. This is a very serious article and it’s about very serious people. It’s being reported in one of the most serious newspapers in the United States, and these people are putting serious money into this project. They are funding researchers and scientist trying to come up with the promise of everlasting life. The researchers at work on this project seem to be driven by an incredible optimism when it comes to the capabilities of technology and they are also obvious being drawn by the quest for immortality – in this case to be delivered by science, something that has fascinated modern people ever since the advent of modernity.

Just look at the fact that so much science fiction is been predicated on this quest. But here we are not talking about science fiction; we are talking about well-funded scientific research. It has led to concerns even on the part of some secular scientists, one of them cited as Laurie Zoloth, a bioethicist at Northwestern University. In her estimation, some of these billionaires are obsessed with longevity and they may be driven, according to the Washington Post, as much by hubris is by a desire to do public good.

Zoloth said, and I quote,

“It’s incredibly exciting and wonderful to be part of a species that dreams in a big way, but I also want to be part of a species that takes care of the poor and the dying, and I’m worried that our attention is being drawn away to a glittery future world that is fantasy and not the world we live in.”

Going back to Peter Thiel, he said and I quote,

“I’ve always had this really strong sense that death was a terrible, terrible thing. I think that’s somewhat unusual. Most people end up compartmentalizing and they are in some weird mode of denial and acceptance about death, but they both have the result of making you very passive. I prefer to fight it.”

And then he made another statement that should particularly have our attention. As the Post reported,

“Peter Thiel is the embodiment of Silicon Valley culture at its individualistic, impatient extreme.”

He believes,

“…death is the ‘great enemy’ of humankind.”

Now here’s what’s really interesting, at one point and at one point alone, Peter Thiel’s worldview intersect with the worldview of Scripture because we are told in Scripture indeed that death is the great enemy. We are also told in Scripture that it is the final enemy that is defeated by Christ, and we’re being told that indeed there is the promise of everlasting life. But it’s never going to come from a laboratory; it’s never going to come by technology. It is highly revealing that you have so many incredibly rich, incredibly powerful, incredibly smart people, investing so much money believing that they will be delivered from the great enemy of death by technology. It is almost as if in the entrepreneurial culture of Silicon Valley a serpent appeared to some of these entrepreneurs and said, ‘I will deliver you, all it will take is technology. Eat of that tree.’

Here we simply have to come back to the fact that the biblical worldview alone adequately defines death and tells us what it really is. It isn’t less of an enemy than Peter Thiel thinks; it’s even more of an enemy. And when it comes everlasting life it’s never to come from a technology, it is not going to come from a test tube, and it is going to come only by the redemption that is accomplished for us in Jesus Christ. And it comes to those who believe in him and repent of their sins.
It took the Washington Post hundreds and hundreds of words to talk about this new initiative from Silicon Valley, it takes the Bible only a few words to give the only real answer: for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life.


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 Remember we are taking questions for Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Just call with your question, in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058.

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Utah anti-discrimination law already considered insufficient compromise by LGBT community

Some LGBT residents critical of Utah anti-discrimination law, Associated Press (Michelle Price)

2) Concerns over religious liberty rise as liberals urged to be magnanimous in victory 

The new culture war, The Economist

3) Attack on conservative view of marriage conflates historic shifts with radical redefinition

Conservatives say marriage has always been between a man and a woman. They’re wrong., Washington Post (Trevor Burrus)

4) Silicon Valley efforts to solve mortality right recognition of death as the Last Enemy

Tech titans’ latest project: Defy death, Washington Post (Ariana Eunjung Cha)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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