The Briefing 06-22-15

The Briefing 06-22-15

The Briefing

June 22, 2015

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

  It’s Monday, June 22, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview. 1) Nation shocked by forgiveness given by families of Charleston shoot victims to shooter A chastened grieving and humbled nation has appropriately focused over the last several days on Charleston, South Carolina. As we now know, on Wednesday night nine people attending a church service at the Mother Emanuel Church as it is known, the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church there in Charleston, South Carolina, nine people were murdered in cold blood after a young man had sat with them for about an hour in a prayer meeting and Bible study and then opened fire, killing the pastor of the church and eight others in the church meeting. This is one of those violent crimes that simply focuses our imagination because the moral importance of this is impossible to deny and as our cultural conversation has gone in so many different directions in the grief and the shock in the aftermath of these killings, even in just these days it has become clear that virtually every thoughtful American knows that this is a very important moment. Something very important is now on the forefront of our national conversation and Christians have a unique responsibility to think this issue through on biblical and gospel terms and to be able to speak to our neighbors about even as the cultural conversation is largely consumed of this issue. It needs to be. Christians have a particular responsibility to think clearly about these issues and to speak compassionately, especially in the aftermath of a tragedy of this magnitude. The moral issues simply present themselves in such a way that Christians have to speak to them. The national conversation in the aftermath of this horrifying event took a very interesting form as the nation went into the weekend. South Carolina law allows for those who are the victims of a crime and in this case this means, especially the parishioners at the Mother Emanuel Church and the loved ones of those who were killed in these murders, have an opportunity to confront the one who’s been arrested with a crime and to speak to him. And yet it’s very unusual even within this legal context that that kind of confrontation would take place during a bail hearing but that’s what took place in Charleston on Friday. Less than 48 hours after the killings, some of those most affected by the murders confronted the young man arrested for the crime, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, and they confronted him not only with their grief and anguish and anger but with something that took the nation largely by surprise, forgiveness. The words of forgiveness uttered in that courtroom on Friday shocked the nation leading the headlines across the country in which media tried to come to terms with exactly how those who were so grieved by the intentional killing of their loved ones could speak of forgiveness to the one who had been arrested for that crime and furthermore, the background of the crime has been increasingly evident. It was deeply rooted in a sense of white supremacy and in the sin of racism. And as we take a closer look at the statements that were made in that courtroom, we come to even a new understanding of what is at stake from a biblical and a gospel perspective. As Mark Berman of the Washington Post reported, Nadine Collier the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance said at the hearing addressing herself to Dylann Roof, “I forgive you.” She went on to say, “You took something very precious from me.” And remember, that was her mother. She went on to say, “I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.” Felicia Sanders as the Washington Post says her voice trembling spoke of her son, Tywanza Sanders, a young man who was killed in the murders. She spoke to the young man arrested for the crime and said, “We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with welcome arms. Tywanza Sanders was my son. But Tywanza Sanders was my hero. May God have mercy on you.” The sister of another of the victims, DePayne Middleton-Doctor said, “I acknowledge that I am very angry. But one thing that DePayne always enjoined in our family … is she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hating, so we have to forgive. I pray God on your soul.” The New York Times shocked by the language used by these loved ones of the victims referred back to that policy in South Carolina law that allows the victims or the loved ones of the victims to confront the one who was arrested for the crimes and yet they wrote, “But it is unusual for that right to be invoked in something as mundane as a bail hearing.” But look closely at the next words, “And the words spoken Friday by the survivors were rarer still.” The national media reported only a small number of the words spoken by the relatives and loved ones of the victims of these crimes, but it is so interesting that the national media, the secular media focused on the theme of forgiveness. The question that we can only hope an amazed nation is asking is what would be the source of that forgiveness. Where would that forgiveness come from? How would it be expressed? How could those who lost so much speak to the one who has just been arrested for this horrifying crime and speak words of forgiveness? One of the things this should draw to our attention is the fact that the very idea of forgiveness in this sense is deeply shocking to the secular mind and we should understand why there is no reason in terms of secular logic why this kind of forgiveness should be extended. There is no ability of the secular worldview in and of itself, certainly now a secular worldview that is largely based in the fact that human beings are biological accidents in a great cosmic pattern, what we now see is that the secular media are amazed when this kind of statement is made. Now the other thing we need to note from a Christian perspective is that the notion of forgiveness here, which is so deeply rooted in the Christian faith, was not explicitly Christian as reported by most of the secular media and yet that’s another very interesting point. I don’t know exactly what words were spoken by all of these relatives and loved ones of the victims. I don’t know all that they had to say I do know what was reported in the media and that tells us a great deal. But what’s missing here is also a vital importance. What’s missing in the reporting is the understanding that this kind of forgiveness is rooted essentially in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the fact that in Christ we who come to faith in him are forgiven our sins as we remember, Christ died as our substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. He was the sinless one who died in the place of sinners and forgiveness of sins and life everlasting come to those who come to Christ by faith. Forgiveness has been a very important issue in the moral conversation of our culture for some time. It entered into that conversation in a remarkable way in the generation that followed World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust. One of the big questions, then and now is whether from the secular perspective forgiveness is even possible or whether it’s even admirable in one sense. There were those who argued after the Holocaust that it was immoral to forgive sins of that magnitude, the killing of millions of millions of persons, especially millions and millions of Jews. In the Jewish theological conversation in the aftermath of the Holocaust, there was a division of opinion as to whether or not forgiveness should be extended to the killers of their own loved ones and relatives. And we simply have to understand the scale of the issue here - we’re talking about the intentional murder of millions of persons. The question was asked, especially in the second half of the 20th century, how can forgiveness come in the aftermath of such a crime? And who would be able morally speaking, who would be qualified to extend that kind of forgiveness? As I said there was a division of opinion in Judaism of the time and that is an ongoing conversation about whether or not forgiveness is the appropriate response to the Nazi perpetrators of the Holocaust. But what was very interesting, what was extremely clear in that courtroom in Charleston on Friday is that what struck the national consciousness, what shocked so many people is that in the immediate aftermath one of the most important instincts that came from those who were the loved ones of the victims in this case was to forgive and to express that forgiveness even as they addressed themselves directly to Dylann Roof. But there was actually more to this at least in some media reports, one of the loved ones of the victims actually called upon Dylann Roof to repent of his sin. That’s a very crucial issue. The gospel tells us that salvation comes to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. In terms of our human responsibility to forgive, about that Christ himself was emphatic; we have an absolute responsibility to forgive those who sin against us. But when it comes to understanding forgiveness it is the minor portion of the equation theologically speaking, in terms of how we or any human being for that matter would respond in forgiveness to one who has done wrong. The larger issue theologically speaking is whether or not we or any individual will know the forgiveness that can come from God and God alone. It tells us a great deal that so many were shocked when words of forgiveness were used in that courtroom. And as Christians we have to admit that as accustomed as we are to that language, we too are sometimes shocked by the depth of the demonstration of the Christian understanding of forgiveness that can come even in the immediate aftermath of this kind of horrifying crime. We can only hope and pray that this provides an opening for an even more clear presentation to the culture of the gospel of Jesus Christ in all of its power. It is clear that so many in this increasingly secularized culture were deeply shocked by what took place in that courtroom on Friday. We can only hope and pray that that shock will be an opening into a deeper understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because as Christians understand and must always affirm that is the only message that tells us of how forgiveness can come to a sinner from a holy God. And that message takes us directly to a cross in an empty tomb. And it takes us directly to that imperative found in Scripture, repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. 2) Heresy of racism forced upon society’s consciousness by Charleston shooting Another aspect of our cultural conversation in recent days also demands our Christian attention and our very careful Christian response, a direct and emphatic Christian response. That is the issue of white supremacy. It has become increasingly clear that law enforcement authorities believe that the young man accused of these crimes now facing nine capital counts of murder was motivated by an ideology of white supremacy. We need to understand even as on Friday on The Briefing, we talked about the sin of racism that that is often rooted in what is precisely identified here; a profoundly unbiblical and ungodly notion that simply has to be identified for what it is the heresy of racial superiority. The word heresy has to be used very carefully in the Christian life and in Christian theology. We do not refer to every doctrinal disagreement or even every doctrinal error as heresy. Heresy should be limited to a false teaching that directly subverts the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s why throughout the history of the church, most heresies have related to the question of who Christ is and what Christ achieved on the cross. That’s why throughout Christian history most heresies have related to the questions of who Christ is and what he accomplished for us in his death, burial and resurrection. But there are other issues that directly attach themselves to the gospel and one of those is the question, is every single human being of equal dignity? Is every single human being of equal dignity because every single human being is equally made in God’s image? That is a crucial question and it gets to the gospel because it is vital for us to understand that when Christ died, He died for sinful humanity. He did not die for one race, there is no biblical justification whatsoever for the attachment of any understanding of superiority or inferiority to any person regardless of racial or ethnic identity, regardless of skin color, in this case emphatically we have to say there is no superiority or inferiority tolerated in the biblical worldview and especially in the gospel of Jesus Christ for any claim of superiority or inferiority on skin color. We also have to acknowledge that in the history of Christianity some of these claims have been made disastrously and sinfully so. One of the most sinful forms of that argument has occurred in what’s historically been known as the argument about the Curse of Ham, which is a misunderstanding, a profound misunderstanding of the curse placed upon Canaan by his father Noah. That has nothing to do with skin color, nothing whatsoever. Christians have to understand several things immediately and we need not only to understand these things, but to speak publicly to them. In the first place, there is no biblical justification for racism in any form. There is no biblical justification for any notion of racial superiority whatsoever. Next, we have to understand that any assertion of racial superiority is an assault upon the Imago Dei, upon the image of God. And we have to understand that as God made every single one of us to his glory, he intended for us to display all of the diversity that is found in all of the physical features, including skin pigmentation that we find in humanity. This is to the glory of God. We have to also understand that this is so important to the gospel and even to how the gospel is portrayed in Scripture in terms of the picture. We are told to look forward to that day when before the throne of God there will be men and women from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. That is what the kingdom is going to look like, that is what the marriage supper of the Lamb is going to look like. So when the secular world rightly understands that racism is wrong, Christians have to come back and say, ‘you have no real idea how wrong it is.’ It is not only an assault upon humanity; it is by direct extension in the biblical worldview an assault upon the creator. There are so many things for Christians to discuss and to think through in this cultural moment. But we have to understand there is no issue more compelling right now then this. 3) Gay marriage’s moment dependent on shift in culture’s moral judgement of homosexuality Next, as we go into this week, one of those other issues looms so large before us. By Tuesday of next week, by June 30, the course of the Supreme Court for this term will be set. All of its major decisions will be handed down. There are several major decisions left, none more important than the decision in the case concerning the legalization of same-sex marriage. And everyone waking up this Monday morning understands that that decision could come today or in the course of this week or in the first two days of next week. It is coming soon. It is coming fast. Both sides in our great cultural conversation about this are paying very close attention to what will happen over the next several days. In Sunday’s edition of the New York Times, Frank Bruni a very well-known openly gay columnist that newspaper, writes about what he calls, “Gay Marriage’s Moment.” It’s a very important article among other very important articles to emerge in recent days. He writes about the pace of cultural and moral change that has brought the gay-rights movement to this moment. He writes, “Now we stand nervously and hopefully on the brink of a milestone. Before the end of June, a month associated with wedding bells and wedding cake, the Supreme Court will issue a major decision about the right of two men or two women to exchange vows in a manner honored by the government. It may well extend same-sex marriage to all 50 states, making it the law of the land.” Now most informed observers of the court expect that one way or another the court is going to do that very thing. He then raises one of the issues that emerged in oral argument before the court on this case. Is this a very fast movement? Is this something that is taking place in the blink of an eye, historically speaking? He says no and he goes back to the beginnings of the movement to legalize same-sex marriage. He goes back to some of the earliest efforts to even begin a conversation about same-sex marriage. We need to note, most of those are taking place if at all in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. But even at that point as he acknowledges, same-sex marriage didn’t really seem to be a legal reality. Here first we have, “Evan Wolfson, a chief architect of the political quest for same-sex marriage, wrote a thesis on the topic at Harvard Law School in 1983.” Now 1983 was just 32 years ago. Once again, he is actually making the point he denies. In terms of history, this is the blink of an eye. In his article Sunday he writes, “Same-sex marriage isn’t some overnight cause, some progressive novelty, especially not when it’s put in its proper context, as part of a struggle for gay rights that has been plenty long, patient and painful.” He goes on, “Yes, the dominoes of marriage equality in individual states have tumbled with a surprising velocity. My first Op-Ed column, in June 2011, noted that New York had just become the sixth state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage. The count today is 37 states and Washington, D.C. I’m amazed at this still.” So one of the things I want us to note is, he is actually making the point he denies. This is an extremely recent novelty. As Justice Samuel Alito said about two years ago in oral arguments in a different case, “same-sex marriage is younger than the smart phone.” Considerably younger. But Frank Bruni getting ready to celebrate what he expects will be a victory at the High Court writes about his amazement that as recently as two years ago, someone like Hillary Clinton, now running for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States and until fairly recently, the Secretary of State of the United States under President Barack Obama wasn’t for same-sex marriage, although she now is. As he looks at it Bruni writes, “A Supreme Court judgment for marriage equality wouldn’t be a rash swerve into uncharted terrain. It would merely be a continuation of the journey of gay Americans — of all Americans — across familiar land, in the direction of justice. It would be a stride toward the top of the hill.” His general argument is that Americans shifted in their view of the morality of homosexuality, of homosexual relations and homosexual behaviors, and that led rather automatically to an increased public support that produced a political opening for the legalization of same-sex marriage. In his essay he cites several things that added momentum to that moral revolution. In one paragraph he writes, “Alfred Kinsey told Americans in the late 1940s just how common same-sex activity was.” Now that’s a very crucial data point for him to cite because what we now know, it is now affirmed by virtually every credible study, is that Kinsey’s data were horribly flawed. What Bruni doesn’t acknowledge is that no research scientist now would point to Kinsey’s research and give it anything like academic credibility. Kinsey was trying to normalize many sexual behaviors that went far beyond homosexuality and that was his agenda. And when it came to how he conducted his research, he goes beyond what we can safely discuss on The Briefing. But what’s most important and revealed in this essay by Frank Bruni on Sunday is that people on both sides, people on both sides of this issue understand exactly what is at stake. The decision expected by the Supreme Court is no small decision and looming even larger than that is the great moral revolution of which this decision is one way or another, a very important part. As we all await the announcement of the decision by the nation’s highest court, we should all recognize how much is at stake. We’re talking about marriage here. We’re talking about morality here. We’re talking about a sexual revolution that has unleashed many other revolutions and will not stop with this. On this Monday morning we sense that the days before us are momentous and they are. And that means that Christians have a particular responsibility to think clearly and to speak clearly, to think biblically and to speak biblically. To understand that there is no way to avoid the importance of these issues and there is no way to avoid the conversations that will inevitably come. So as we prayerfully enter this week, let’s be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us and let’s be ready to speak of biblical truth and the Christian worldview to the issues that surround us. And let’s seek in all of these things to be faithful to scripture and to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.   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) Nation shocked by forgiveness given by families of Charleston shoot victims to shooter

‘I forgive you.’ Relatives of Charleston church shooting victims address Dylann Roof, Washington Post (Mark Berman)

In Charleston, Raw Emotion at Hearing for Suspect in Church Shooting, New York Times (Nikita Stewart and Richard Pérez-Peña)

2) Heresy of racism forced upon society’s consciousness by Charleston shooting

Dylann Roof, Suspect in Charleston Shooting, Flew the Flags of White Power, New York Times (Frances Robles, Jason Horowitz and Shaila Dewan)

3) Gay marriage’s moment dependent on shift in culture’s moral judgement of homosexuality

Gay Marriage’s Moment, New York Times (Frank Bruni)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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