The Briefing 06-10-15

The Briefing 06-10-15

The Briefing

June 10, 2015

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


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

1) Opposition to upheld Texas abortion law reveals entrenched nature of abortion movement

The big news yesterday was on the abortion front but the news really goes back to the year 2013. In that year the Texas legislature was considering a law that would have put restrictions largely based on parallels with the healthcare system upon abortion clinics in that state. Opponents of the legislation then and up to yesterday had charged that would lead to the closure of a good many abortion clinics in the state. That was something they at all costs wanted to avoid. National and international headlines are made back in 2013 when a pro-abortion member of the Texas legislature, Wendy Davis held a very long filibuster that eventually ran timeout in the legislative session. It was only when then Texas Governor Rick Perry called a special session of the legislature that the bill eventually passed. And yet it is been held up largely through court challenges ever since 2013.

But a major victory for the state of Texas and for the pro-life movement came yesterday. It came as the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit seated in New Orleans upheld the Texas law. Now what we’re looking at is a very interesting piece of legislation that has been made possible in recent years because of decisions made by the United States Supreme Court. In the years after the court’s infamous 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the court had made clear it was allowing some restrictions on abortion. Many people looking at the Roe v. Wade decision actually misremember what the decision called for. The decision did give government an opportunity to step in on behalf of the unborn child in the last trimester and even in the middle trimester under certain conditions. And what the state of Texas was doing was pushing the legislative envelope in order to protect unborn children in that state.

Yesterday the Fifth Circuit gave the state of Texas a very big win in terms of the legislation and now the law can go into effect. To understand what’s at stake just consider the story that appeared yesterday in the Los Angeles Times. James Queally the reporter says,

“The ruling, which effectively affirmed the 2013 passage of House Bill 2, will force the closure of all but eight of the state’s clinics.”

Heather Busby executive director of a group known as pro-choice Texas said yesterday,

“It’s a travesty that a state the size of Texas will only have eight safe, legal abortion clinics. The 5th Circuit has once again put their political ideology above the law.”

That’s the kind of statement you expect from someone who has lost this kind of court decision. But we need to recognize that the math here is probably accurate. If you look at the restrictions that Texas House Bill 2 will put on abortion clinics those restrictions will make those clinics meet many of the requirements that will be also required of healthcare facilities such as emergency care centers and hospitals. But let’s just imagine for a moment that we’re not talking about abortion at all. As a thought experiment in order to get some sanity on this, let’s consider the fact that we’re merely talking about surgery of some form. Now if the surgery were any other form of surgery it would require the kind of regulations that are called for in this House Bill. In other words, what this bill actually does is to require abortion clinics in Texas to meet the minimal kinds of expectations and requirements that would be required of a hospital center or of any other place that would conduct surgery.

What this does reveal of course, is that for decades these abortion clinics have operated with something far less than those very medical requirements. As the Los Angeles Times reported, the bill required that doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic and it also required clinics to have the same equipment and building requirements as ambulatory surgery centers even if those facilities only administer oral antiabortion drugs.

The Los Angeles Times is also accurate in pointing out that the Texas bill will ban nearly all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Furthermore, it requires that abortion inducing drugs must be administered only when a physician is present. In terms of the legal argumentation behind the decision of the Fifth Circuit, one of the interesting issues is the phrase “undue burden.” That’s where the Supreme Court left the issue by saying that restrictions on abortion at the state level cannot put an undue burden upon a woman seeking an abortion. Honestly it all comes down to how judges will interpret the phrase “undue burden.”

Once again we see how deeply entrenched the abortion issue is in America and those who believe that every unborn life is deserving of protection must celebrate the decision handed down in New Orleans yesterday. At the same time we have to understand just how determined the pro-abortion movement is in America and how much they fear the closing of any abortion clinic under any circumstance. Of course the next question is not whether but how fast this case is likely to be appealed to the United States Supreme Court. And as many observers have noted it’s going to be very, very difficult for the nation’s highest court once again to avoid the question of abortion. Like it or not, and they do not like it, that court bears responsibility for this abortion issue in the first place. And once again, the high court is going to face the issue of abortion unavoidably.

2) Responses to Campolo statement on homosexuality historic moment for evangelicalism

Next, yesterday the New York Times had on its front page a story headlined, “Evangelicals Open Door to Debate on Gay Rights.” It came just the day after prominent evangelical figure Tony Campolo, well identified on the evangelical left, had announced on his own website that he was calling upon the church to accept in terms of full inclusion same-sex couples who were in lifelong, monogamous commitments. He didn’t restrict that just to the word marriage.

Goodstein writes an important article and the importance of the article in the eyes of the editors is reflected in the fact that it landed on the front page of the New York Times. What she’s talking about here is at least partly based on a conversation held at Biola University in which one of the participants was Matthew Vines. Vines is author of the book that came out last year, entitled “God and the Gay Christian.” As Goodstein reports,

“He wrote it after he dropped out of Harvard; went home to Wichita, Kan.; came out to his parents; and studied Scripture and biblical exegesis on homosexuality. The book prompted a nearly instant rebuttal from the Reverend R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.”

She then correctly cites me as saying,

“If we accept his argument, we cannot do that without counting the cost, and that cost includes the loss of all confidence in the Bible.”

Vines had been invited to be a participant in a discussion at Biola University on these very issues. The really interesting thing about this article is how an editor at the New York Times summarized it in terms of that subhead. I repeat it again,

“Looking for ways to change, but not capitulate.”

That’s a fair representation of what’s found in the article. But what’s also clear in the article is that those who moved to a position like that of Matthew Vines are going to find it very difficult and I believe rightly so, to continue to identify as evangelicals. I really appreciate the fact the New York Times quoted me rightly in that article because as it’s connected to that subhead that’s the real point. We can’t change our position on the morality of homosexuality without abandoning scriptural authority. And we can’t abandon scriptural authority on this issue without fatally undermining the authority of Scripture on every issue. And that’s why yesterday ended up being so important in terms of the evangelical movement.

In a story that is still unfolding, Tony Campolo actually became the catalyst for what might in the long run be far more important developments. One of them has to do with David Neff, long identified with Christianity Today magazine from which he retired in 2012 as editor. Responding to Tony Campolo shortly after Campolo’s announcement, David Neff indicated his agreement with Tony Campolo. The importance of this simply cannot be overstated. We’re talking about someone who is at the helm of Christianity Today, which prides itself on being the flagship magazine of the evangelical movement going back to its founding by Billy Graham and its first major editor Carl F.H. Henry. And we’re talking about a magazine that still has incredible influence in the evangelical movement. It serves itself as something of a barometer of where evangelicals are and are headed on many of these issues. So it was huge news yesterday when a retired editor of Christianity Today came out emphatically for the recognition of openly gay couples in the church.

In a subsequent statement that Neff placed on Facebook he said this,

“I think the ethically responsible thing for gay and lesbian Christians to do is to form lasting, covenanted partnerships. I also believe that the church should help them in those partnerships in the same way the church should fortify traditional marriages.”

Well that statement was a thunderclap that reverberated throughout the evangelical world yesterday afternoon. In one of the most important responses, indeed, historically the most important response, Mark Galli on behalf of Christianity Today’s editorial board responded with a headline editorial that says this,

“Breaking News: 2 Billion Christians Believe in Traditional Marriage.”

As Galli wrote,

“News and reality are not always the same. Take the matter of marriage. When a prominent evangelical leader, like Tony Campolo, announces his support for gay marriage, it’s likely to get reporters’ attention. It is indeed news, in that it is still unusual to hear an otherwise orthodox Christian announce heterodox views on sexuality. But in the case of Campolo, it may not be the kind of news that garners much attention. (One reason: His organization Red Letter Christians has argued for same-sex marriage several times.)”

Before going any further, I simply have to note the interesting phrase that Mark Galli used in his opening paragraph, and that’s the phrase “otherwise Orthodox Christian.” That deserves a great deal of thought and reflection itself. But Galli went on in the editorial to say we were surprised when former Christianity Today editor David Neff on Facebook praised Campolo’s move. He then went on to cite this statement that David Neff made about the inclusion of same-sex couples and David Neff’s argument that the responsible thing for gay and lesbian Christians to do is to move into covenanted relationships.

Galli then stated very clearly,

“At Christianity Today, we’re saddened that David has come to this conclusion. Saddened because we firmly believe that the Bible teaches that God intends the most intimate of covenant relationships to be enjoyed exclusively by a man and a woman. We’ve stated this view explicitly in many editorials, and it is implicit but clear in many of our feature stories.”

Galli went on to write a particularly important paragraph in this very important editorial statement from Christianity Today. Acknowledging the fact that there is such a huge moral shift taking place around us, Galli then writes,

“But it’s not at all certain that the rapid cultural shift in America on gay marriage will be mirrored in the Christian church. North American and European Christians who believe in gay marriage are a small minority in these regions, and churches that ascribe to a more liberal sexual ethic continue to wither. Meanwhile, poll Christians in Africa, Asia, and practically anywhere in the world, and you’ll hear a resounding “no” to gay marriage. Scan the history of the church for 2,000 years and you’ll have a hard time turning up any Christian who would support same-sex marriage. The church has been and remains overwhelmingly united. It’s undergoing stress, certainly. But the evidence doesn’t support a narrative of division and collapse on this point.”

In an even more important statement, Galli went on to say,

“The reasons for this are many, but one that most commentators and same-sex marriage advocates fail to recognize is the profound theology that undergirds our ethics.”

He traces this through church history and then he says,

“It is not driven by an irrational prejudice of people living in the past, as the American zeitgeist assumes. It’s a consistent, nuanced, and, we believe, biblical working out of a theology of sexuality.”

Because this editorial is so important I want to reflect upon a couple of other statements made in the editorial Galli continues,

“We at Christianity Today are sorry when fellow evangelicals modify their views to accord with the current secular thinking on this matter. And we’ll continue to be sorry, because over the next many years, there will be other evangelicals who similarly reverse themselves on sexual ethics. We’ll be sad, but we won’t panic or despair.”

And then in a statement I genuinely do not know how to understand, Mark Galli wrote,

“We’ll be sad, but we won’t panic or despair. Neither will we feel compelled to condemn the converts and distance ourselves from them. But to be sure, they will be enlisting in a cause that we believe is ultimately destructive to society, to the church, and to relations between men and women.”

Let me tell you why I don’t know how to interpret that statement. It’s because if we believe that someone has genuinely articulated a position that we truly believe is “destructive to society, to the church, and to relations between men and women.” It’s hard to know how we could justify not separating ourselves from them. That’s the part that I simply do not know how to understand.

3) Democratic appeal to party base an overreading of leftward trend in American people

Yesterday is one of those red letter days in the evangelical movement. It’s an indication of what we’re going to face in days, months, and certainly years to come. It’s also an indication of the fact that we’ve reached a particular historical moment in the evangelical movement in the United States. A moment that brought about this editorial in Christianity Today magazine. On the one hand, the editors at Christianity Today had little choice but to respond given the fact that one of their former editors, a man who had been at the head of Christianity Today for many years, had come out in favor of same-sex couples in the church. But in terms of an emphatic affirmation of marriage as it is defined in Scripture, the Christianity Today editorial was very, very clear and for that we should be very, very thankful.

That same editorial pointed to some of the continuing questions, the evangelical movement is going to have to answer and we’ll be tracking those as well. But as I said in the beginning of this segment, this development is actually far more significant than the announcement made by Tony Campolo on Monday. The announcement that actually served as the catalyst for what David Neff had to say in response, and what Christianity Today had to say in response to that. But as we leave this story, it’s important to recognize one other point made not so much in the editorial by Mark Galli at Christianity Today, but in the headline of the editorial. Remember that headline was “Breaking News: 2 Billion Christians Believe in Traditional Marriage.” It doesn’t make news when a Christian affirms the traditional understanding of marriage, but it makes headline news when someone identified as a leader in the church, world leader in Christianity or a leader in what’s identified as the evangelical movement comes out in support of same-sex marriage. But that doesn’t mask the fact that not only for most Christians throughout Christian history, but right now for most Christians around the world, marriage is a very settled issue, settled by Scripture, defined as the union of a man and a woman to gather exclusively for a lifetime.


Next, another editorial caught my eye yesterday; this one was in the New York Times by columnist David Brooks. It’s entitled,

“The Mobilization Error.”

He’s writing about the 2016 presidential race. And he’s writing about the fact that candidates have to choose in terms of the contemporary political moment, one of two strategies in order not only do when their party’s nomination, but somehow also to win the presidency. He writes,

“Every serious presidential candidate has to answer a fundamental strategic question: Do I think I can win by expanding my party’s reach, or do I think I can win by mobilizing my party’s base?”

Those operating from a biblical worldview have to understand that there are huge worldview implications of that kind of question. David Brooks comes back to say,

“Two of the leading Republicans have staked out opposing sides on this issue. Scott Walker is trying to mobilize existing conservative voters. Jeb Bush is trying to expand his party’s reach.”

That’s an interesting read of the Republican side; he’s using two examples – one Governor, one former Governor, saying that Scott Walker is trying to win the Republican nomination by trying to define himself in terms of mobilizing the base of the Republican Party. Meanwhile, Jeb Bush looking not only to the nomination, but also to the general election is trying to figure out how many constituencies he can draw into his campaign, those who will support his candidacy who might be outside the traditional Republican court. Those are two very different strategies. I think David Brooks is right in pointing to those two examples. But then he looks to the Democratic Party and he says,

“The Democratic Party has no debate on this issue. Hillary Clinton has apparently decided to run as the Democratic Scott Walker.”

What he means by that is the Clinton campaign has made very clear, it’s not going to run to the center, not at all. It’s going to run to the left and do it’s very best to put together a strategy to win in November 2016 by running on the left and trying to mobilize as many voters from the left to go to the polls as possible.

David Brooks think that’s a really bad idea. He thinks it is bad for Republicans or for Democrats. He’s writing, particularly to Hillary Clinton, suggesting that this is bad because it isn’t going to be good for her party and it isn’t going to be good for the country. He points out that no one in recent election cycles has won with this kind of strategy unless his name is Barack Obama. And as Brooks indicates Barack Obama had a particular talent, at this point a singular talent, for bringing out increased voter participation among the true believers in his party, the constituencies most likely to agree with him. He did turn out a sufficient number of those voters to win not just once but twice. But David Brooks is writing to Hillary Clinton publicly here by saying that’s not going to work for you. It certainly didn’t work for your husband. He also says that this will be a legislative disaster, particularly for a Democrat because if a Democrat is elected running to the left. That Democratic president he says may live in the White House, but is going to have a very difficult time getting any legislation through with the Republican House and Senate. As Brooks says,

“If Clinton runs on an orthodox left-leaning, paint-by-numbers strategy, she’ll never be able to do this. She’ll live in the White House again, but she won’t be able to do much once she lives there.”

But then reading the worldview of Americans, David Brooks writes,

“The mobilization strategy over-reads the progressive shift in the electorate. It’s true that voters have drifted left on social issues. But they have not drifted left on economic and fiscal issues, as the continued unpopularity of Obamacare makes clear. If Clinton comes across as a stereotypical big-spending, big-government Democrat, she will pay a huge cost in the Upper Midwest and the Sun Belt.”

All that is really interesting. The political analysis by David Brooks is one of the better pieces that he has produced in recent months. He really gets to a very genuine issue and it points to a genuine dilemma that could be faced by the Democratic Party. But of course it’s a party that’s already made its choice very, very clear. Hillary Clinton is going to run to the left, she’s not going to run to the center. So where’s the great insight for the Christian worldview? It’s the fact that worldview really matters. And in this case, Americans tend in identification with those two parties to have very well defined worldviews, worldview A or worldview B, and those worldviews are so deeply entrenched and so clearly defined that there is a decreasing interest in both parties on those so-called swing voters who are supposedly in the middle.

Just think about the issues we discussed today on The Briefing. On how many of those issues is there any real middle ground? We reach the point in the American culture and we reached the point in American politics where that middle ground is disappearing fast. It’s not because the issues aren’t important it’s precisely because the issues really are.


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 Remember we’re taking questions for Ask Anything Weekend Edition. 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) Opposition to upheld Texas abortion law reveals entrenched nature of abortion movement

Controversial Texas abortion law upheld by federal appeals court, Los Angeles Times (James Queally)

Court Upholds Texas Law Criticized as Blocking Access to Abortions, New York Times (Manny Fernandez)

2) Responses to Campolo statement on homosexuality historic moment for evangelicalism

Evangelicals Open Door to Debate on Gay Rights, New York Times (Laurie Goodstein)

Breaking News: 2 Billion Christians Believe in Traditional Marriage, Christianity Today (Mark Galli)

3) Democratic appeal to party base an overreading of leftward trend in American people

The Mobilization Error, New York Times (David Brooks)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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