The Briefing 05-29-15

The Briefing 05-29-15

The Briefing


May 29, 2015

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


It’s Friday, May 29, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) FIFA corruption charges exposes incompetence of humans to self-police sin

The question is this: is there any dimension of human existence that is not corrupted by sin? Here’s the answer: no. And here’s the evidence: just consider the last couple of days when criminal indictments were brought by the Atty. Gen. of the United States against FIFA, that is the world organization that organizes and governs international soccer. We’re looking here at the fact that the United States – represented by its Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch – has brought criminal indictments against some of the highest-ranking authorities in the international world of professional soccer.

The indictments did not come out of the blue. It was well known that the American Justice Department was working on investigations, and the United States will not be alone. The nation of Switzerland is also highly involved in investigations of corruption of the highest levels of FIFA. But let’s remind ourselves what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about a game. We’re talking about a game that evolved into a sport. And we’re talking about a sport that became a big business. And once you have a game that becomes a sport that becomes big business you have the opportunity for big corruption.

We’re talking out of business, a worldwide enterprise that involves billions of dollars a year. And in particular, the limited indictments brought by the United States Justice Department brought criminal allegations alleging at least $150 million in bribes. One of the most interesting things heard on the worldwide scene is that given the totality of the money involved in FIFA, $150 million doesn’t add up to that much. As a matter fact, in the last 12 months FIFA spent over $100 million just on attorneys’ fees. And indictments handed down this week mean they are sure to be spending a great deal more.

One of the things the Christian worldview informed by the Scripture helps us to understand is that sin in its insidious force works its way into every nook and cranny, into every crack of a civilization, into every dimension of human existence. You might think that one of the most innocent would be play. And yet as you know, even if you’re looking at just two kids in a sandbox play can turn anything but entirely innocent. And when you’re looking at a worldwide opportunity represented by multiple billions of dollars a year, and when you’re looking at the prestige and the egos, and you’re looking at the reputations that are at stake – when you’re looking at the confluence of glory and pride and money and profit, you’re looking at a recipe for moral disaster.

One of the things that immediately people will say – it’s a commonsense response – is you have to put adequate guards and matters of accountability into place. And when you look at FFA – let’s just remind ourselves of this: FIFA’s supposed to be the organization that watches in order to govern soccer and its moral integrity. Now you have very credible criminal investigations brought not just by the United States, but soon also by Switzerland,  and with the full authority of the United States government behind them, including the active involvement of the Atty. Gen. United States, and their being brought against the very organization that exists in order not only to govern soccer, but also to protect what is known internationally as football against any allegations of corruption or immorality.

Sepp Blatter, who’s been the president of FIFA now for a matter of years is not the direct target of one of these indictments, at least not yet. And yet he’s been standing at the top of an organization that has been accused – credibly accused – of corruption for years now. And even now, even yesterday, he insisted that FIFA has to be left alone to police itself. The New York Times reported yesterday that Blatter said that these were, in his words, “unprecedented and difficult times” for his organization. He said it must do a better job of policing itself. But as the New York Times tells us, he largely avoided taking responsibility for the actions of what he called a tiny minority arrested in a corruption inquiry this week.

One of the most interesting questions raised in the context of this controversy over FIFA is how in the world you can have someone as president of the organization given now over a decade of sustained allegations of corruption, who at the end of that decade, and only after criminal indictments are headed down, says we must be left to police ourselves. Blatter said,

“We, or I, cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it. But it must also fall to me to be responsible for the reputation of our entire organization, and to find a way to fix things.”

Anyone familiar with the literature of the 20th century would hear that almost as a refrain from something like Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, or something, perhaps, even older. It sounds like it could come from Dante. Here you have a man who is been at the top of an organization accused of immorality for years, who says ‘I’m responsible,’ but takes no responsibility.

He then has the audacity, facing scrutiny from the entire watching world, to say, ‘We haven’t done a good enough job of policing ourselves, even though we are basically when it comes to international football, the policing organization. And yet, we must be left to police ourselves, even now.’

There are so many interesting moral dimensions of this – one of the things is the tight ethical squeeze this now puts on the sponsors of international soccer. The New York Times again is reporting that many of the major corporations who are spending billions of dollars in advertising and sponsorships in international football, they now are saying they’re going to have to reassess the situation. But that doesn’t mean they’re pulling back their sponsorship. You see, this is one of the situations in which a cost-benefit analysis is just the way the world thinks. They have to measure whether or not at this point it is more expensive for them to spend the advertising or to withdraw the advertising. They have to decide whether or not the scandal is bad enough that it’s too expensive morally for them to associate their brand and their logos and their image with international soccer. At this point, many these companies are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Once again, a lesson from the Christian worldview: when some scandal like this breaks there is almost the immediate response to say, let us govern ourselves. That’s what Sepp Blatter said. And yet, we remind ourselves, this is the organization that has spectacularly failed to hold itself accountable, much less the rest of international football. And then you have the immediate response coming from those who’ve been funding the operation, saying we’re going to take a wait-and-see attitude. We’re going to reassess.

I think that was sympathy for these corporations. They find themselves in an untenable situation. They simply don’t know how bad this corruption scandal is going to be. If, like previous scandals, it blows over rather quickly, the business will go on like usual. But the sign that the United States Justice Department is brought criminal indictments of this magnitude, that tells most people around the world this one isn’t going to blow over.

The biblical worldview reminds us of so many things that come out in the headlines concerning FIFA. The most important of them is this: we are simply incompetent and governing ourselves. In a sinful world even the organization, perhaps especially the organization that is formed to govern international soccer and its integrity falls prey to the corruption that is demonstrated by the fact that the president of the organization says that if people are intending to do evil, they will. And then you’ve got the rest of the world, including those sponsors with so much at stake, wondering just how bad is this going to get.

Well, the way sin generally works is this, when a scandal breaks of this magnitude at the beginning it’s just a hint of what is to come. And when it comes to the statement by Sepp Blatter saying we simply have to be left to police ourselves, well just remember this: just think of those preschoolers in the sandbox when they look up and say, ‘just let us police ourselves.’ In a fallen world, neither one of those statements make sense.

2) Attempt to blame infidelity on genes part of human conspiracy to excuse immorality

Here’s another symptom of a fallen world. We try to come up with rationalizations for why we sin. And furthermore, the complexity of the situation is each of us actually feel more comfortable with rationalizations for our sin if we can find some cold comfort in the rationalizations of other sins as well. Thus, I direct our attention to a major article that appeared in the New York Times. It’s by Richard A. Friedman, who is a professor of clinical psychiatry at the Weill Cornell Medical College. He’s also contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. He writes an article –  just listen to this headline, “Infidelity lurks in your genes.” The subhead of the article, “Evolution doesn’t explain why women cheat, but hormones and their receptors might.” If you think this is interesting, well just wait.

Richard Friedman writes,

“Americans disapprove of marital infidelity. Ninety-one percent of them find it morally wrong, more than the number that reject polygamy, human cloning or suicide.”

And for this he cites a 2013 Gallup poll. Now we talked yesterday about the moral shift in America and about the fact that fewer Americans now believe adultery is wrong than was true about 14 years ago. But it’s still true that the vast majority of Americans believe at least this: they believe that adultery is wrong. So Friedman starts out on a rather strong ground when he makes the point that Americans believe that infidelity, that is marital infidelity, is wrong. And then he goes on to say,

“Yet the number of Americans who actually cheat on their partners is rather substantial.”

He goes on to document the rates of adultery –  by the way this point, I’ll simply interject that’s one of the things is rather difficult actually to statistically verify. But nonetheless was just take his argument that marital infidelity is on the rise in America. That’s probably something is pretty safe to judge. The article takes its key turn when Friedman writes,

“We are accustomed to thinking of sexual infidelity as a symptom of an unhappy relationship, a moral flaw or a sign of deteriorating social values. When I was trained as a psychiatrist we were told to look for various emotional and developmental factors — like a history of unstable relationships or a philandering parent — to explain infidelity.”

But then he says,

“During my career, many of the questions we asked patients were found to be insufficient because for so much behavior, it turns out that genes, gene expression and hormones matter a lot.

“Now that even appears to be the case for infidelity.”

So without going into the details of his argument concerning genes and hormones and hormone receptors, let me just get to the bottom line. Professor Friedman, who again, is a clinical professor of psychiatry, is arguing that in a large number of cases went infidelity happens it is Simply because of a biological impulse. Whether that is rooted in a genetic evolution (which he clearly affirms, especially when it comes to men) or in hormones and hormone receptors which he now affirms especially when it comes to women, the bottom line is what he’s arguing for is a biological causality for moral behavior. Or in this case, clearly immoral behavior.

What we have here is nonetheless very clear evidence of what we’re left with what all we have is a naturalistic and materialistic worldview. He writes,

“Sexual monogamy is distinctly unusual in nature: Humans are among the 3 to 5 percent of mammalian species that practice monogamy, along with the swift fox and beaver — but even in these species, infidelity has been commonly observed.”

Now what you have here is yet another effort to reduce human beings to the level of being merely an animal. In this case, even a mammalian. And it turns out that in the animal kingdom monogamy is largely exceptional, but let’s just point out the obvious. Among animals marriage is nonexistent. That’s nonexistent in this article.

This article is so distant from the Christian biblical worldview that marriage only appears as the context in which sex outside of marriage might occur. This is a form of moral insanity that is growing more and more pervasive in our culture. And yet we need to understand not only the fact that the argument’s being made, we need to understand the reason why the argument is gaining traction. It’s because we as sinners want to be told we have not sinned. We want to be told that is not our moral responsibility, that is not our moral action. We want to be told the matter what the sin might be, that it is somehow rooted in something we could not not do. Something that was driven by a biological necessity. Something that is an accident of evolution embedded in our genes. Something that is rooted in our hormones or hormone receptors. Something that is simply a part of what it means to be a part of nature.

But this is where the biblical worldview simply intervenes to say human beings are not simply a part of nature. And when it comes to the moral expectations made of us, they are profoundly not merely natural. They are supernatural. Even as we are created by a sovereign divine Creator who made us in his image –  human beings uniquely in his image – he made us moral creatures and he gave us he gave to human beings the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman as the very molecular unit of society on which the rest of society would depend. Animals beyond human beings, no matter how conscious they may be no matter how much intelligence, they may have no matter whether they are reptilian or mammalian or anything else, they are not moral creatures in this sense. And they are not made in the Creator’s image in any way, and they are not given the gift of marriage. And they are not accountable to marriage.

The fact that dogs and cats do not practice monogamy has nothing to do with human beings, because dogs and cats are not given the institution of marriage, and they are not moral creatures accountable to the institution of marriage. But we are. What you have here is a part of that vast human conspiracy to avoid moral responsibility, and in this case to avoid the obvious. How in the world can anyone make an argument about marital infidelity without dealing with the marital part, with marriage? It simply doesn’t exist in his argument. And that tells us a very great deal.

It would certainly be convenient for us if we were told that our sin really isn’t sin at all, it’s just a behavior that is rooted in biological causality. Of course second of argument doesn’t even work in a human court, much less in the divine court of judgment.

That article appeared in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times and I waited because subsequent editions have brought letters in response to the article and the letters themselves are revealing for instance Henry Friedman who is an associate professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, said that the arguments made by the other Dr. Friedman in his original essay the New York Times are simply based upon a generalization. He says that extramarital infidelity is simply too complex to human behavior to be reduced to any form of biological argument. The Christian worldview would respond to this Dr. Friedman by saying the problem isn’t that sin is so complex, but actually that it’s so simple.

Yet a third Dr. Freedman appears. This one another psychiatrist, a former president of the New York County branch of the American Psychiatric Association. The third Dr. Freedman writes a second letter that appeared in the New York Times in which he says,

“Human beings can control behaviors. Even for some who may be at a disadvantage because of their biology, strength and motivation can be attained with the help of psychiatric treatment or other means of assistance.”

So now comes the third Dr. Freedman to argue that there is some biological element, but it can be overcome with psychiatric treatment. The Christian worldview would respond all three Drs Friedman by pointing out that the Bible teaches us that marriage is a gift to human beings to which we are accountable in every conceivable form. And marital infidelity is wrong, it’s called in the Bible ‘adultery’ precisely because it is extra marital.

In a fallen world, there is no doubt a biological dimension to almost everything. But the Christian worldview simply does not accept a biological argument for causation of our behavior. When it comes to moral responsibility the problem isn’t in our genes, it’s not our hormones; it is ourselves. We are indebted nonetheless to all three Drs Friedman for helping us to see this in a very clear way through their contributions to the New York Times.

3) Naturalists inadequately struggle attempt to explain experience of awe

Meanwhile, following on a similar theme, the New York Times ran another article, this one by Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner. The entitled article; “Why do we experience awe?” Now that’s a really interesting question. And once again, this article in its own way (by the way it appeared in the very same edition of the New York Times) points to the fact that in a naturalistic worldview, you have nothing but natural explanations and everything has to be defined in purely natural terms, including a three letter word that doesn’t appear to work in a naturalistic worldview. That three letter word: awe.

The two authors write,

“Here’s a curious fact about goose bumps. In many nonhuman mammals, goose bumps — that physiological reaction in which the muscles surrounding hair follicles contract — occur when individuals, along with other members of their species, face a threat. We humans, by contrast, can get goose bumps when we experience awe, that often-positive feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world.”

They then ask the question, why do human beings experience awe? Well they try to explain that awe is a social emotion, that it’s brought about by the fact that human beings have a need – socially, not just individually –  for some experience of transcendence and some experience of wonder. They’re writing about what they call an ‘awe deficit’ that is occurring in a modern society in which too few actually go outdoors.

Writing in a way that’s reminiscent of the naturalist Henry David Thoreau they write about the fact that human beings need to be in nature in order to have the periodic experience of understanding that we’re part of something bigger. We’re part of something grand. We’re part of something that transcends ourselves. We’re part of something that would bring about a moment of awe. It’s really interesting, however, that these two authors discuss all as merely what they call,

“the often-positive feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world.”

Now once again we have the naturalistic worldview at work. Here we have a couple scientists trying to explain that one of the problems of the modern world is that we are so disconnected now from nature, we’re so attached to our digital devices, we stay indoors so much of our lives, that we’re not outdoors have any experience of looking at a valley, looking at a sunset, looking at the stars, and having experience of awe, complete with a goose pimples they physiologically described.

But of course the biblical worldview would respond by asking the question, why in the world would human being even looking at the stars, or looking at a valley, or looking at a sunset, or looking at anything experience what might be described as awe?

There’s something else in the biblical perspective that comes up here. We are told that our God is an awesome God. One of the problems of the word awesome so easily thrown around in our common English parlance is that awe in the Bible is particularly and specifically assigned to the human response to being in the presence not merely of a transcendent vision, not merely of nature, but of God. Oh, and by the way, the other problem with the biblical worldview in terms of awe, measured against this naturalistic very materialistic worldview concerning awe is that in the Bible the experience of awe, isn’t rightly described as an often positive social emotion.

In one of the classic expositions of awe found in Scripture we look to the prophet Isaiah 6 were he writes,

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory!””

Isaiah then tells us,

“And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.”

And what did Isaiah say then? He said,

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Now that is a biblical definition of what it means to experience awe. That awe does not lead merely to goose pimples, and it certainly can’t be described as simply an ‘often positive social emotion.’ It doesn’t, as these two scientists are arguing, necessarily lead to human altruism. In the case of Isaiah when he actually had this vision of the one true and living God who was in the temple, high and lifted up, it was Isaiah, who said, ‘I am undone, woe is me trying a man of unclean lips, and I live in the midst of the people of unclean lips.’ And how did he know? He said, “For my eyes to seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

So let’s think about the deep distinction between the Christian biblical worldview and the naturalistic worldview. The naturalistic worldview tells us that sin is something that happens by some biological necessity or evolutionary accident for which largely we are not responsible. The biblical worldview responds that we are moral agents made in the image of God, and that we are inherently, inescapably responsible.

The naturalistic worldview says that we are impoverished if we don’t take a look at nature and have the experience of goosebumps in looking at the fact that we’re so small and nature is so large. The biblical worldview responds by saying looking at nature and being impressed simply isn’t enough. When one has a vision of the one true and living God, the response is an awe that leads to an understanding of the fact once again that we are sinners. And we shouldn’t be surprised the sin makes his way into every dimension of our existence, even in our play.

But as we go into the weekend, let’s remember the people especially in the Southwest, and especially in states like Texas that have been ravaged by sudden floods. But even as we’re praying for those in Texas and beyond, let’s remember this; this too is a sign of what it means to live in a fallen world. A world in which even nature itself is corrupted by our sin. A world in which event like this, along with the reality of our sinfulness, point to why we need a Savior, and why we are awaiting a day that is yet to come. To a new heaven and a new earth. But that comes only by a biblical worldview. The naturalistic worldview isn’t looking for anything like that.


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 our website at For information on Boyce College just go to Remember we’re taking questions for Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question and call in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058.


I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) FIFA corruption charges exposes incompetence of humans to self-police sin

Global soccer corruption case deeply rooted in USA, USA Today (Kevin Johnson)

Sepp Blatter Says FIFA Must Police Itself, New York Times (Sam Borden, et al.)

Scandal Creates a Tricky Spot for FIFA Sponsors, New York Times (Richard Sandomir)

2) Attempt to blame infidelity on genes part of human conspiracy to excuse immorality

Infidelity Lurks in Your Genes, New York Times (Richard Friedman)

Blame Genes for Extramarital Affairs?, New York Times

3) Naturalists inadequately struggle attempt to explain experience of awe

Why Do We Experience Awe?, New York Times (Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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