The Briefing 06-23-15

The Briefing 06-23-15

The Briefing

June 23, 2015

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


It’s Tuesday, June 23, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Netherlands considers extending right to die to children under twelve as culture of death progresses

A shocking headline came yesterday from the Netherlands. It was reported in The Guardian, the major British newspaper of the left. The headline is,

“Dutch pediatricians: give terminally ill children under 12 the right to die.”

We’ve been watching over the last several years how the logic of euthanasia has been reaching its extremities. It began in the secularized nations of Europe and there it has begun to take hold to such an extent that in some nations such as the Netherlands and in Belgium, the logic of the culture of death has now exceeded the point that even had been feared just a few years ago. We’re now looking at euthanasia being offered by policy now to children not only as young as the age of 12, but the new proposal calls for removing age restriction altogether.

The original press report came over the weekend from the French Presse Agency, it’s datelined from The Hague in the Netherlands and it reads,

“Terminally ill children in unbearable suffering should be given the right to die, the Dutch Pediatric Association has said, calling for the current age limit of 12 years old to be scrapped.”

The article goes on to cite,

“Eduard Verhagen, a pediatrics professor at Groningen University, who is on the organisation’s ethics commission, said: “We feel that an arbitrary age limit such as 12 should be changed and that each child’s ability to ask to die should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”

We need to notice how the culture of death moves forward on this kind of logic. In the first place, the right to die as it was characterized was to be extended only to those who are in extreme ages and were facing an unquestionably terminal diagnoses, and then they were also to be understood to be suffering from what was described as unbearable suffering in the final stages of a terminal illness, and then the logic of the culture of death moved forward. The next step was to remove the restriction having to do with terminal diagnoses. Instead, any kind of unbearable suffering was supposed to be legitimate grounds for a right to die. And in this case, we need to note the right to request a physician’s active assistance in the process of dying. Then the culture of death moved forward so that there was no longer actually a physical suffering that was to be required in order to ask to die. It was extended to psychiatric conditions and to what was then classified as unbearable psychiatric suffering. And then the next step of logic was to move to younger and younger ages.

All the previous discussion had been about those who were unquestionably adults who were claiming to make an adult decision. But then the logic of the culture of death moves towards younger ages, moving to those who were just under the age of majority, those who were classified as near adults. Then they moved it back to the age of 12 and now as we read in this report from The Guardian, the current effort undertaken by pediatricians in the Netherlands is to remove any age limitation or restriction whatsoever. One of the things we need to note most closely is that when you talk about the issue of euthanasia and we talk about the so-called slippery slope. The reality is that there is a slope and that it is tragically and sadly slippery. It is inexorably, inevitably slippery and that’s because once you begin to buy into this logic, there is no way that the logic doesn’t get extended further and further and further. There’s another aspect of this that is so important – one of the great distinctions often made by the advocates of euthanasia is between voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia means that the person whose life is to be ended has to voluntarily acting in sound mind request that act. Involuntary euthanasia means that decision one way or another is made by someone else. Almost all of the early calls for euthanasia were entirely limited to so-called voluntary euthanasia.

The one aspect of the slippery slope is that voluntary euthanasia never stays there, it moves towards involuntary euthanasia and we need to watch how that happens. In the first stage that happens when someone says the person who would have otherwise demanded the right to die is now incapacitated and cannot do so. So acting as the legal authority for that individual, I on that person’s behalf demand the right to control the right of death. The next stage comes very quickly when people say this individual, if he or she had had the option to speak about this during their lifetime is the kind of person who would have asked to end life under these circumstances. Therefore, on that individual’s behalf, I therefore make the request. It isn’t very long until the third stage is reached and that’s when people say for the good of society, given the amount of investment that this is now costing in terms of medical care, given the fact that this person has become a burden upon the individual’s family and the larger society, there is no moral reason to allow this person to live any longer. It would be humane in terms not just of the individual’s frame of reference but the entire society or the related family to say that death is the better option.

This is where the Christian worldview reminds us that we never at any point have the right to say in terms of the so-called right to die that we have the right to determine when that death is going to take place. The Christian worldview reminds us the human life is sacred because it is a divine gift and God is sovereign over our lifespans to the degree that we simply admit that we do not choose when we are born. We do not even choose that we are born. Likewise, we have no right to choose when we will die and under what circumstances that we claim will be acceptable to ourselves. Another thing missing from this is the understanding that medical care has advanced greatly in terms of removing the kind of suffering that often comes at the end stage of a terminal disease and it is our Christian obligation to seek to remove suffering under any circumstances where that is possible, but as horrifying as that suffering may under some circumstances be, it is not justification for a so-called right to die. It isn’t a justification for the creature’s declaration that death would be preferable to life.

Looking back at this article from the Netherlands we need to note one other statement made by this member and remember this, of the Ethics Commission of the Dutch Pediatric Association. He said,

“If a child under 12 satisfies the same conditions, pediatricians are currently powerless. It’s time to address this problem.”

Powerless? Powerless to do what? In this case, let’s state the matter bluntly and plainly, powerless – according to Dutch law right now – to kill. We saw just in recent days that in the California Senate, a bill to authorize legal assisted suicide as it is called move forward after the California Medical Association removed its opposition to the bill and that Medical Association did so because they said there’s been a shift in public opinion. They acknowledge that right up front. But as we’re looking at this horrifying news from the Netherlands we need to recognize that this could not have happened if the vast majority of the people there in the Netherlands held to the historic and biblical understanding of human life that was at the very center of Western civilization even as the Dutch nation was born. This is one of the inevitable out workings of a secularized worldview. This is one of the signs of what happens when a culture redefines itself in terms of its most basic beliefs and having denied God, denies that life itself, human life in particular is God’s gift. This is what that kind of society increasingly inevitably looks like.

2) GOP struggles to find platform as less religious America veers politically left

This leads quite naturally to a second news article; this one was a front-page news story in USA Today last week. The headline of the article by Rick Hampson,

“If Americans skew less Christian, GOP faces challenge.”

My interest in this article is far less about the politics then about the worldview issues that are involved. But here’s the point of the article and this is why it was on the front page of USA Today. According to Rick Hampson and this article, the Republican Party’s going to find itself in a decreasing position politically because it has tied itself to the interests of a great many American Christians and as the number or the percentage of American Christians decreases, as America is secularized as well, the Republican Party he says, may find itself with a smaller constituency. Now here’s where the story gets really, really interesting. There is no doubt as the Pew Research organization and many others have been documenting, there is a rise in the number of nones, that is those with no religious affiliation whatsoever, n-o-n-e-s, they are now called. There’s a rise to the point that one out of five Americans now says he or she has no religious affiliation and one out of three under age 34. That’s very significant. No one should deny it. We’re also watching the progressive secularization of this country, not in the same way as Europe and not in the same pace but nonetheless secularizing on its own terms and its own schedule.

But remember, this is a front-page news story at USA Today and the front-page news story is warning the Republican Party that as the percentage of Americans who identify as Christians fall that party may find itself in a minimized political posture. Now let’s just look however, at the numbers the article actually cites, let me read directly from the article by Rick Hampson,

“Yet just last month the Pew Research Center released a survey showing that the percentage of Americans who call themselves Christian has been going down a point a year, to 70.6% in 2014.”

Now wait just a minute – while we’re talking about Europe, we need to note that the number of persons there, the percentage who identify as Christians is not only below 70% it is catastrophically below 70%. There’s no doubt that 70% of Americans and in this case we can round it up to 71% , 71% of Americans identifying as Christian is less than it was even recently. As Pew says, it’s going down about a point a year or at least has in terms of the last several years in terms of the immediate past. But we’re still talking about 71% of the population. We’re still talking about 71%. That is a very clear majority. That means seven out of 10 Americans now in one way or another, even still identifies as some kind of Christian. In other words, I’m drawing attention to this new story because it is pointing to something that is happening, but it’s not happening nearly as fast as the headline placement in the headline itself in the story would have us to think.

But in this article, there is actually a wealth of worldview material. For one thing, one of the points made by the article is that those who now identify as the nones tend to skew rather dramatically to the left, politically and morally. Now once again, that should tell us something. Just think about the previous story that is datelined in Europe. Europe has become heavily secularized and that came with a radical increase in the political liberalism, the moral liberalism that characterized that continent. That’s why we were talking about the Dutch Pediatric Association and the issue of euthanasia. We’re talking about it in the Netherlands and the Netherlands is one the most secularized countries in Europe. Then we shift and look at the United States and to those who are identifying as the more secular among Americans also are skewing, they are tilting in the very same worldview direction. And that’s where Christians have to understand that’s actually what we would expect. We would expect those who are moving in a more secular direction to be moving to the left politically and morally and this article in USA Today says that is exactly what’s happening. Hampson writes,

“The political implications of the changing face of American religious identities are stark. Nones are far more likely to vote Democratic — in 2012, Barack Obama got 70% of religiously unaffiliated voters, compared with 26% for Mitt Romney — and skew liberal on issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and legalization of marijuana.

“Conversely, in recent general elections three in four evangelicals have gone Republican. So on the GOP campaign trail, it still seems like 2006.”

Now that actually points to something else that is a fundamental importance. On the left there has been a consistent movement leftward. Just to put the matter bluntly, looking back at 2006 2008, 2010, right up until 2012 major Democratic candidates may have believed in same-sex marriage but they did not dare say so publicly. That changed in 2012 with President Barack Obama, it changed even later with Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State, who didn’t affirm the legalization of same-sex marriage until she left that office and until she began planning her own campaign for the presidency. So if you look at the left, there has been a progressive move leftward, just to take that one issue which is the legalization of same-sex marriage. But Hampson says if you look on the Republican side and if you look at those who identify as Christian, it looks he says like 2006. What’s he saying there? He’s saying that on these key issues, those on the political right haven’t shifted and that’s a very important issue as well because if we are committed to the Bible as our authority and that’s where we gain our definitions of human sexuality and marriage then there really is no place to move and so it looks like 2006. But in one sense it looks far, far older than that if he’s honest and it’s likely to look exactly the same if we hold to biblical conviction moving in the future. The left has the option of moving progressively leftward. But if we are tied to a biblical definition the text isn’t going to change and we can’t change either.

Finally, there’s another very important issue that is covered in this article. Hampson asked,

“What about the Democrats? After presidential nominee John Kerry’s loss to George W. Bush in 2004, it seemed the party had “a God problem.”

“They thought,” said Mark Silk, who teaches religion and politics at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, “America is a religious country and we need to be in touch with that.”

Then Hampson writes,

“The party, including the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns, tried to reach moderate evangelicals,” that’s there term, “in 2008, but eventually concluded it was a lost cause.”

Hampson then writes,

“By the 2012 election, one in four Obama voters had no religious affiliation. And among Democrats today, Silk says, “political language is much less religious than it was eight years ago.”

Well as I said, that is a really interesting article. Something of a counterpoint to that original article we discussed that was datelined from the Netherlands. It turns out that worldview really matters and the prevailing worldview in a society, even if in the United States, biblical Christianity is waning. Even if the number of nones is growing, we’re still talking about the fact that the majority of those in America at least hold to some understanding of a binding moral authority and they still are operating out of at least the memory or the residue of a Christian worldview that has been virtually rejected in Europe and has disappeared a generation ago.

How long will this remain so in America? Time will tell. But at this point it is another very clear affirmation of the importance of worldview and the fact that our politics eventually will reflect the worldview of the people because, and we know this – the worldview does eventually produce the politics.

3) Elisabeth Elliot’s life inescapable example of forgiveness through the gospel

Yesterday, on The Briefing I mentioned that forgiveness was very much in the news over the weekend. Even the secular media were surprised by the language of forgiveness used by the loved ones of the victims in the Charleston shooting, even as they were directly addressing themselves to the man who would been arrested for the shooting. I discussed the fact that forgiveness is shocking, especially to those who no longer operate out of a Christian worldview. But many in the secular media did not trace that forgiveness back to the roots of that forgiveness in the gospel of Jesus Christ. But a contrary example actually also appeared in the mainstream secular media over the same days and in this case it was in an obituary. And the obituary was for Elisabeth Elliott, who died in recent days at her home in Gloucester, Massachusetts at age 88. Once again, it turns out that the obituaries published in the New York Times are very, very important from a worldview perspective. This editorial is written by Sam Roberts and he begins by writing,

“Elisabeth Elliott, a missionary who inspired generations of evangelical Christians by returning to Ecuador with her toddler daughter to preach the gospel to the Indian tribe that had killed her husband, died Monday at her home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, She was 88.”

Roberts went on to write,

“Ms. Elliot wrote two books stemming from her experience in Ecuador, and together they became for evangelicals “the definitive inspirational mission stories for the second half of the 20th century.”

That was a quote from Kathryn Long, a history professor at Wheaton College in Illinois. Now the background of this story is really, really important and most evangelicals are at least vaguely familiar with Elisabeth Elliott and her martyred husband Jim Elliott. And Sam Roberts in this obituary published over the weekend in the New York Times tells that story and that’s very, very important.

Elisabeth Howard (as she was known before she married Jim Elliott) was born December 21, 1926, and she was herself, the daughter of missionaries. She enrolled in Wheaton College where she majored in Greek and planned to become a translator of the Scripture, but there she met and eventually married Jim Elliott and together they trained for missionary service in Ecuador. In Ecuador, the Elliott’s had a heartfelt passion to reach the Waorani people, also known as the Auca Indians at the time with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They had translated the New Testament into that language and they had used their airplane to air drop love packages that included gifts and portions of Scripture to the Waorani people. And then in 1956 Jim Elliott and several of his missionary colleagues decided to fly their plane to the region and to meet the Waorani people on foot. As Sam Roberts writes,

“After Mr. Elliot and his colleagues landed by plane on Jan. 2, 1956, he kept rehearsing a message of good will — “Biti miti punimupa,” meaning “I like you, I want to be your friend” — from a Waorani phrase book. Three tribe members made a friendly visit, but then there was apparently a miscommunication or a perceived threat. After the missionaries failed to make radio contact with a base station, searchers found their bodies pierced by wooden spears.”

Now as we discussed over the weekend, the issue of forgiveness was in the press and it shocked an increasingly secularized American people. But then we read this from Sam Roberts,

“Ms. Elliot renewed contact with the tribe over the next two years. In 1958, accompanied by her 3-year-old daughter and the sister of one of the murdered missionaries, she moved in with the Waoranis, known to their neighbors as Aucas, or savages. She ministered to them and remained in their settlement, in the foothills of the Andes, subsisting on barbecued monkey limbs and other local fare and living in rain-swept huts.”

Even after the way a Waorani had killed her husband and his colleagues, after they had served as martyrs for the gospel of Jesus Christ, having gone to the tribe with the mission of befriending them and taking to them the gospel of Jesus Christ, two years later, Elisabeth Elliott moved with her toddler to live with the very people who would killed her husband and demonstrated by her love to them, the forgiveness that she not only knew was rooted in the Christian tradition, that she knew was the living evidence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The widows of the martyrs back in 1956, who had died in this incident, said that their prayers were for the salvation of the Auca people, again they’re now known as the Waorani. They said that they look forward to when the tribe would also join them in Christian praise and we need to note that day happened.

Several years ago when I was present at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, the church for the Shepherds Conference there had actually brought the wreckage of Jim Elliott’s plane and headed there for us all to see, and seated next to me at a dinner that night was one of the warriors who had been involved in the killing of Jim Elliott and his colleagues. He was then a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and he gave in terms of the most beautiful testimony, his account of how he had come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior through the love that was shown to him and his fellow tribespeople by Elisabeth Elliott and the other widows who took the gospel to them after they had killed their husbands. I can promise you this, I will never ever so long as I live forget that testimony. It was one of the most powerful I have ever heard, coming to me from a new Christian friend who had at one point been involved in the killing of Christian missionaries they understood to be a threat.

But I can only wonder how many people went beyond the front page stories, important as they were to the obituaries of the New York Times to find this incredible testimony to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was published in an almost half page obituary on Elisabeth Elliott. The world doesn’t understand this kind of testimony and that’s why I think there was so much interest in the integrity of this testimony that it appeared just as it did in this major obituary in the New York Times. Jim Elliott and his colleagues died before I was born, but I have been throughout my lifetime so touched by his testimony as well. Many Christians know the most famous quote from Jim Elliott, written when he was a student at Wheaton College long before he became a martyr for the Christian gospel, and I end on these words,

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”


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 Boyce

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Netherlands considers extending right to die to children under twelve as culture of death progresses

Dutch pediatricians: give terminally ill children under 12 the right to die, The Guardian (Agence France)

2) GOP struggles to find platform as less religious America veers politically left

Religion and politics: Do the ‘nones’ have it?, USA Today (Rick Hampson)

3) Elisabeth Elliot’s life inescapable example of forgiveness through the gospel

Elisabeth Elliot, Tenacious Missionary in Face of Tragedy, Dies at 88, New York Times (Sam Roberts)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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