The Briefing 06-08-15

The Briefing 06-08-15

The Briefing

June 8, 2015

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


It’s Monday, June 8, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Transgender and feminism agendas collide over admission policies at women’s colleges

Sometimes within just a matter of days or even hours a confluence of issues comes together in order to demonstrate what’s going on in the culture in an unmistakable and unavoidable way. That took place in the last days of last week and going into the weekend, including yesterday. It has to do with the transgender issue, and I’m not talking here about a celebrity case that has been much in the news. I’m talking about something that if anything is more important in the long run. And that has to do with policies changing within institutions and the collision of worldviews when it comes to how in the world institutions, including some the most famous feminist institutions in America, are going to deal with the transgender revolution.

From time to time on The Briefing I pointed out that what we have here is a set of conflicting absolutes. The feminist movement has its own set of ideological absolutes and it has to do with the fact that women, according to the feminist theory, are a besieged minority that must be identified in terms of being women in order for their cause to be heard and for their case to be made. And so you have in the feminist movement a major strain known as gender feminism. In some cases it argues that the feminine gender is actually superior to the male sex and in other ways it simply points to essential differences. Another mainstream of the feminist movement is that men and women are not basically different but they just have a different biology. But that biology is important because they argue that biology has been the cause of the oppression of women and girls throughout the centuries. And that leads to the collision with the transgender revolution because the feminist revolution is actually heavily invested in that old so-called binary understanding of male and female. And then you have the transgender revolution arguing that that binary system of understanding male and female simply has to go. It has to go entirely. In its place is a fluid understanding of gender and the thing we need to recognize right away is that you can’t have gender feminism and this fluid idea of gender and hold them simultaneously, at least not sanely.

But as I said, the most interesting development right now is taking place in institutions that are heavily invested in the feminist ideology. And there are seven institutions, seven very famous liberal arts colleges in the United States often known as the Seven Sisters that are amongst the most feminist institutions in America. These are women only colleges, all of them on the ideological left, all of them very committed to feminism, most of them very old and long-standing in terms of their tradition.

The headline came at the end of last week that Barnard College would be the last of the Seven Sisters to admit and to accept transgender students and this gets to be a very complicated tale. As Susan Svrluga reports for The Washington Post, in the fall of 2015 Barnard College will admit transgender students. This came after the trustees of the institution had gone through a year of what were described as intense discussions. These included public forums and online surveys of alumnae of the school,

“But it came [says Svrluga] at a moment of intense national interest in transgender issues.” She then gets right to the point, “Within the last academic year, all of the best-known women’s colleges have reconsidered their admissions policies, acknowledging a dramatic cultural change in the ways that people define themselves. What was once simple — male or female — has become far more nuanced for many, a complexity that traditional women’s colleges are taking on as they seek to be inclusive yet hold onto their missions.”

But even a cursory review of this issue makes very clear you can’t have both. You can’t have a commitment to the total radical inclusivity that denies that binary understanding of male and female and hold onto the traditional mission of a women’s college. Debora Spar, the president of the college and the chairperson of the board Jolyne Caruso-FitzGerald released what they called a joint letter in which they join two things which actually can’t be joined together. They said,

“There was no question that Barnard must reaffirm its mission as a college for women. And there was little debate that trans women should be eligible for admission to Barnard.”

Now just follow the complexity of the policy that was announced in the joint letter.

“To be considered for admission, an applicant must select ‘female’ on the Common Application”, that is commonly used by many colleges and universities, “and her application materials should support this self-identification.”

It’s not exactly clear how the admission materials are to support that assertion. Now remember that women transitioning to male will not be accepted for admission, but then The Washington Post said,

“Barnard students who choose to transition to male while at school will still be eligible to earn a degree.”

At the end of last week, Elizabeth Harris reported for The New York Times that,

“With its new policy, Barnard follows other prestigious women’s colleges in articulating a stance on transgender applicants and students at a moment when transgender people are more visible than ever.” She went on to acknowledge, “But the rules vary by institution. The policy at Wellesley, for example, is similar to Barnard’s, as is that of Smith College.” But then she reports, “Mount Holyoke, on the other hand, has one of the most inclusive policies of any prestigious women’s school.” Harris says, “In addition to welcoming transgender women, the school also accepts transgender men, as well as those born biologically female but who do not identify as either gender.” Then get the next sentence, “Only those born biologically male and who identify as men are ineligible to attend.”

The website for Mount Holyoke actually says,

“The following academically qualified students can apply for admission consideration:

  • Biologically born female; identifies as a woman
  • Biologically born female; identifies as a man
  • Biologically born female; identifies as other/they/ze
  • Biologically born female; does not identify as either woman or man
  • Biologically born male; identifies as woman
  • Biologically born male; identifies as other/they/ze and when “other/they” identity includes woman”

But then it again identifies those who cannot apply,

“Biologically born male; identifies as man.”

As Harris reports, Hollins University in Virginia takes a different approach than the other sisters in the group.

“Applicants born male will be considered for admission only if they have “completed the physical sex reassignment surgery and legal transformation from male to female,” according to campus policy. Students who transition from female to male will no longer be eligible for a Hollins degree.”

So in just a matter of days the Seven Sisters align themselves with Barnard College becoming the very last to join the transgender revolution. But the schools are joining this revolution in different ways. And while trying to do two things that are absolutely contradictory to try to maintain an identity as an historic women’s college, while denying that women is a meaningful category that has anything necessarily to do with sex.

Now remember that was at the end of last week going into the weekend and then comes the Sunday edition of The New York Times – always interesting, but on this count, this weekend, especially so. The front page article in the review section of The New York Times asked the question, “What makes a woman?” It’s by Elinor Burkett, a journalist, a former professor and a feminist, who was very upset with the direction of the ideology taken by the transgender revolution. Why? Because as she points out, there is now an automatic collision between old order feminists and the transgender activists. Burkett asked the question,

“Do women and men have different brains?” She then says, “Back when Lawrence H. Summers was president of Harvard and suggested that they did, the reaction was swift and merciless. Pundits branded him sexist. Faculty members deemed him a troglodyte. Alumni withheld donations.”

What she doesn’t say is that in short order, Lawrence Summers was out as the president of Harvard University. But now Burkett says that which got Lawrence Summers fired just a matter of a few years ago as president of Harvard University, is now taken to be the absolute orthodoxy of the transgender revolution. Pointing to the most recent celebrity gender transition she points out that the transition was celebrated as a way of realigning a body with the brain. The brain, it was claimed, is female.

Elinor Burkett says that’s the very argument that feminist have been arguing against for the last several decades. That argument that cost Lawrence Summers his job as president of Harvard University just a matter of a few years ago. Now it’s being celebrated by popular culture and being applauded by the very people who opposed it just a matter of a few years ago. Much of Elinor Burkett’s article, and again, it was the front page article in the review section of yesterday’s New York Times, is unmentionable in terms of this explicit nature on The Briefing. But suffice it to say that Burkett’s point is that she is a woman and that the feminist movement makes a great deal of the fact she is a woman and she argues that the binary understanding of human beings as male and female is being undermined by the logic and the ideology of the transgender movement.

In recent months on The Briefing we’ve discussed articles in The New York Times magazine and in The New Yorker indicating this very collision, but it’s interesting that now The New York Times, just days, virtually hours after the announcement by Barnard College that the newspaper itself reported, it now reports there’s a major problem here. This article comes from the far left in terms of worldview and one of most interesting things about it, there are two points I want to make – one is that Elinor Burkett, who is a radical proponent of abortion, sees that the abortion-rights movement as identified with women and she points out that many abortion-rights organizations now are actually trying to join the transgender revolution, at least in terms of political correctness by not mentioning women, even though by definition, only those who are born women are able actually to have a pregnancy, which leads to the very issue of abortion and the logic of the abortion-rights movement.

Burkett points to the quandary of these women’s colleges, and remember this comes out just a matter of about 48 hours after The New York Times reported on Barnard College and she writes,

“Women’s colleges are contorting themselves into knots to accommodate female students who consider themselves men, but usually not men who are living as women. Now these institutions, whose core mission is to cultivate female leaders, have student government and dormitory presidents who identify as males.”

Well here’s one very influential feminist writing from the left who says that simply isn’t going to work. A second point that becomes very clear in this article to those operating out of a biblical worldview is an acknowledgment that Elinor Burkett makes. She makes the point that so long as babies are born and someone observes the baby and says it’s a boy or it’s a girl, there will continue to be an assignment made at birth. In her own way, consistent with her own worldview for her own reasons, Elinor Burkett still thinks that matters. So do biblical Christians, of course, operating out of a very different worldview and on the basis of very different assumptions.

2) Children’s books important tools in furthering transgender agenda

A story by Alexandra Alter, here’s the headline,

“Transgender Children’s Books Fill a Void and Break a Taboo.”

The most important aspect of the article is for Christian parents to understand that this ideology is now very much, very strategically aimed at children. The very point of this article is that we now have coming an entire series of books addressed to children, including elementary aged children, telling them the message of the transgender revolution. Alter reports,

“Children’s literature is catching up to the broader culture, as stereotypes of transgender characters have given way to nuanced and sympathetic portrayals.” Altar goes on to report, “This year, children’s publishers are releasing around half a dozen novels in a spectrum of genres, including science fiction and young adult romance, that star transgender children and teenagers.”

David Levithan, the vice president and publisher of Scholastic Press said,

“In our culture, it was really something that was in the shadows, but suddenly people are talking about it. As our culture is starting to acknowledge transgender people and acknowledge that they are part of the fabric of who we are, literature is reflecting that.”

Alter tells us that in coming months there will be an entire series of these books. She points in particular to a book that was published by Duet addressed to the young adult audience. It is about

“a transgender teenage boy who falls in love with an older boy on the beach in Cape Cod.”

Later in the article Alter writes,

“In August, Scholastic will publish “George,” a middle-grade debut novel about a boy who knows he is a girl but doesn’t know how to tell his family and friends.”

Now we need to note that The New York Times is telling us, and parents need to be aware of this, that these books are being addressed to middle grade children. Alter then defines that when she writes,

“The next frontier for authors writing about transgender people seems to be middle-grade literature, or books aimed at 8- to 12-year-olds. In November, Disney Hyperion published “Gracefully Grayson,” a novel for readers ages 10 and up about a sixth-grade boy who feels like a girl.”

It’s sometimes hard to know exactly what to do with the confluence of articles like this, but the one thing we must not do is ignore it. Many times we’re being told that conservative Christians just can’t get these issues off their minds. Well one of the reasons is The New York Times can’t keep it off of the front page. And in a story like this, a confluence of stories like this, there’s a pattern that Christians need to observe very carefully. Because we are looking at how the culture is driven, shaped and formed. And we’re looking at the fact that the people who were driving this revolution understand they’re going to have to reach children and now they intend to do that. And remember we’re talking here about the definition of what’s being called the middle grades and they are identified as children ages 8 to 12. This tells us just how young they are aiming their attention and it will not stop there because just as in the picture book Heather Has Two Mommies, now about 25 years old, you can count on the fact that even now, the transgender revolution is changing the way that books for the very youngest children are written too.

Just as you really can’t have an historic women’s college consistent with its mission and join the transgender revolution. You can’t join that revolution and then put out picture books that include a mommy and a daddy, a son and a daughter, a brother and a sister, without adding a good deal of what the culture is now calling validity to the mix. But it’s worse than that, of course, because in this rebellion against the gift of gender, this culture is increasingly making it impossible to use terms like mother and father, son and daughter, brother and sister, even boy and girl, or man and woman with any definite meaning whatsoever.

It’s hard to say at this point where the transgender revolution is going to end. As I said, it has planted the seeds for its own destruction in the radical nature of its ideology. It is an unstable project individually and culturally but we can tell where it’s headed. It’s headed towards a great deal of acceleration in this culture and the way to accomplish that the leaders of this revolution know is by aiming as young as possible.

In so many ways as virtually anyone has now observed, the entertainment and information complex has been a major engine for driving the sexual revolution. The pictures we see on television, the betrayals we see from Hollywood, the understandings that come to us by the mass media, these have massive culture and ideology shaping impact. But just imagine the amplification of that impact when it comes to the very youngest eyes and ears. The pictures they see, the messaging that they receive, Christian parents better be very aware of this when it comes not only to those are children but also teenagers and young adults. If we do not ground the coming generation and the understanding of what it means to be male and female, as one of God’s greatest gifts to his human creatures made in his image, then we are going to simply see the same kind of insanity we now see in the Seven Sisters of these historically women’s colleges written virtually across the culture, including our own churches and denominations.

It is really interesting, very telling that you have the most influential newspaper in the United States, perhaps the most influential newspaper in the world, reflecting in a single issue, not to mention in a single week, this kind of confusion that is sown by this kind of moral revolution. It is evidently confusing even to those who are the readers, writers and editors of The New York Times who you can count upon believe themselves to be a part of this revolution, but they’re not all moving in the same direction and they can’t be because the ideologies of feminism and the transgender revolution are eventually irreconcilable.

As a pastoral challenge, the transgender revolution at the individual level is going to require the greatest conviction and compassion of the Christian church deeply committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the totality of the Christian worldview. At the public level, you can see this debate that is primarily most interesting right now, is not between those who are arguing for the Christian worldview on the one hand and those who are the proponents of the revolution on the other – that’s an interesting debate.  But right now the even more interesting debate is on the secular left, amongst secular liberals who can’t decide right now which way to go – feminism or the transgender revolution. At least some of them recognize you can’t have both.

3) Gospel and prosperity theology incompatibilities evidenced in Creflo Dollar jet decision

But finally it’s also important for Christians to understand, also occasioned by headlines as we went into the weekend that you can’t have the gospel and prosperity theology. Those two are irreconcilable opposites. Prosperity theology or the so-called prosperity gospel is one of the most dangerous heresies now facing Christians worldwide. You can have the gospel of Jesus Christ or you can have the prosperity gospel, but you cannot have both. And the proponents of prosperity theology are out there replacing the gospel of Jesus Christ with a false gospel that doesn’t promise salvation from sin and all the promises that come in the gospel of Jesus Christ accomplished in the death burial and resurrection of the incarnate son of God, with a false gospel that promises health, wealth and prosperity instead.

This comes in mind with headlines that appeared in papers such as The Washington Post as we went into the weekend, telling us the Pastor Creflo Dollar is going to buy that $65 million private jet because God wants him to have it. You may recall that Creflo Dollar made infamous headlines in recent months, when it was discovered he was trying to raise $300 donations from his mailing list to buy him a $65 million private jet. What he was trying to buy was a Gulfstream G650, which as The Washington Post says, “isn’t just any private jet.” Faced with controversy, Dollar’s ministry backed off that effort to try to raise the money for a $65 million jet through $300 contributions. But at the end of the week his ministry announced that, those donations aside, the ministry is simply going to buy the jet for Creflo Dollar.

The board of World Changers Church International, according to The Washington Post has announced that the ministry will now go ahead and buy a Gulfstream G650 jet anyway, “at a time, place and price of our choosing.”

So take that, controversy. The board went on to say,

“We wholeheartedly reject the notion that the ministry’s airplane project is an imposition on our community or that it somehow takes advantage of our people. We plan to acquire a Gulfstream G650 because it is the best, and it is a reflection of the level of excellence at which this organization chooses to operate.”

To the credit of The Washington Post and Abby Ohlheiser, the reporter on this piece, she reports,

“Most Christians, evangelical or otherwise, do not consider prosperity gospel to be a mainstream interpretation of Scripture.”

That’s if anything, an understatement, but at least it’s important that she got that right in the article. The ministry statement included these words,

“A long-range, high-speed, intercontinental jet aircraft is a tool that is necessary in order to fulfill the mission of the ministry.” The statement went on to say, “In light of an unfortunate accident that recently resulted in the ministry’s aircraft being declared a total loss, it is our intention to purchase another airplane at a time, place and price of our choosing. We respectfully request that those who are not involved respect our right to practice what we believe, and only ask of the press that they report facts, and not fictional reports or biased perspectives.” The statement then read, “We encourage our community, and our pastors, to dream big, because we know that God loves us just that much.”

As I pointed out many times, the main problem with the prosperity theology isn’t that it promises too much. It is that it promises too little. Wealth and prosperity are passing at their very best and they are illusory and dangerous. This is evidence of that at face value. The most dangerous part of the statement from this board is where they defend the purchase of a $65 million jet because “we know that God loves us just that much.” But in reality, God does not love us that way. He loves us at an infinitely higher price for an infinitely higher gift. As John 3:16 reminds us,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.”

That’s the gospel of Jesus Christ; the prosperity gospel isn’t a gospel at all.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to For information on Boyce College just go to I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Transgender and feminism agendas collide over admission policies at women’s colleges

Barnard will admit transgender students. Now all ‘Seven Sisters’ colleges do., Washington Post (Susan Svrluga)

Barnard College, After Much Discussion, Decides to Accept Transgender Women, New York Times (Elizabeth Harris)

What Makes a Woman?, New York Times (Elinor Burkett)

2) Children’s books important tools in furthering transgender agenda

Transgender Children’s Books Fill a Void and Break a Taboo, New York Times (Alexandra Alter)

3) Gospel and prosperity theology incompatibilities evidenced in Creflo Dollar jet decision

Pastor Creflo Dollar might get his $65 million private jet after all, Washington Post (Abby Ohlheiser)

Statement From the Board of Directors, Creflo Dollar Ministries

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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