The Briefing 09-11-15

The Briefing 09-11-15

The Briefing

September 11, 2015

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

It’s Friday, September 11, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Gay marriage celebrant's rebuke of Christians shows moral judgment inescapable

Yesterday’s edition of USA Today had an article on God and the issue of same-sex marriage. What’s most remarkable about this article is that it appeared in the first place. It was on the inside front page of USA Today written by Terry Byrne she says,

“I’m not one to preach.But last weekend I was called upon to perform a marriage out of love for two young men, deeply in love.”

It’s a very interesting article for the very fact that what it tells us is that secular Americans are increasingly willing, and that’s an understatement to tell us what we as Christians ought to believe about any number of issues but most particularly those related to the moral revolution around us, specifically, the issues of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Tellingly, Terry Byrne writes in this article,

“I’m not a Christian. But one of the grooms I married was raised Catholic, so I spent weeks thinking about how to weave God’s word into the ceremony. Mostly, I focused on the love passages.”

Recently, there have been several movements of people to say I’m a Christian, but I’m not this, trying to say that even as they identify in some sense to some degrees as a Christian they do not identify with the text that are identified in Scripture as being judgmental when it comes to human sexuality and so you have social media movements, you have public advertising programs, you have other things going on in which people are trying to say you can be a Christian without having to carry the full weight of everything that is revealed in the Scripture. And now you have USA Today not an insignificant media source to say the very least, that is publishing an article by a woman who performed a same-sex marriage and who did so even as she says she’s not a Christian, but is now going to tell Christians how we are to read the Bible. As she said, mostly she focused on what she identified as the love passages, but here’s the first passage she cites in the article, its Matthew chapter 7:1-3,

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. … And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

Here it’s very interesting that she uses the King James version and that she goes to Jesus in the sermon on the Mount and it’s interesting that she goes at a verse that she believes says that Christians should not make moral judgments. Jesus was very, very clear in his condemnation of judgmental-ism and in his condemnation of hypocrisy. Clearly in this verse, Jesus is saying that it is morally wrong, it is not valid for his disciples to point to send in someone else while ignoring sin in themselves. Furthermore, the picture that Jesus holds up is of someone who claims that a speck in another’s eye is more important than the beam that is the major piece of wood that is in our own eye. The risk of hypocrisy is always present, that’s something every Christian should understand. But we also need to see very clearly that Jesus is not saying that we are not to make moral judgments. Jesus himself over and over again made moral judgments. The Sermon on the Mount is actually about making moral judgments and in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does not diminish the law rather in fulfilling it he makes very clear that it is not merely external but internal. That’s why Jesus says it’s not enough to say thou shalt not murder you have to go on and say that if you hate you have already begun to commit murder in your heart, similarly with lust and adultery.

Jesus is very clear that we are not to judge the human heart that is outside our competence as believers or for that matter just as human beings. We are to judge behavior, that’s very, very different in establishing even how Christians are to deal with sin in another’s life in Matthew chapter 18, Jesus actually set down the means, the proper means whereby Christians are to address sin in the lives of others, most particularly inside the church. But what you have here is a secular author who says right up front she’s not a Christian, citing the gospel of Matthew in order to say that Christians are wrong when we make moral judgments in particular on the issue of the sinfulness of homosexuality or the legitimacy of same-sex unions. Now what we need to note here is not just the argument, the argument is fairly easy to deal with. What we need to note is the cultural signal that is being sent when USA Today publishes this article and considers it noteworthy, worthy of this kind of space in the print edition of the newspaper. Terry Byrne doesn’t end there; she goes from the New Testament back to the old. She goes to Numbers 15:15, a very interesting verse for her to choose, she cites numbers,

“For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the Lord.”

She doesn’t tell us exactly why she chooses this verse, but the single word heading over it is equality. Now in so far as this verse does deal with equality, it deals with the equality before the law of those who are the sojourners in Israel, those who are not members of the covenant and those who are. As the Bible is making very clear, Israel is not to have two different sets of rules for those who are in Israel and those who are merely among Israel. But then she’s extending it, very clearly, that’s the whole implication of the article to suggest that equality is then to be extended not only to persons, but to behaviors and to sexual relationships. Byrne is identified in the article as, “a multiplatform editor at USA TODAY.

And it’s clear that other editors at the newspaper considered the article important enough to appear in the print edition of yesterday’s newspaper. But one thing very evident in the article and in the placement of the article is that what’s here is not merely an argument, it is a cultural signal being sent to the larger culture and to Christians in particular that we better get with the program. Because now we are being told, after all, by someone who tells us she’s not a Christian that this is the way the Bible should be read, which is obviously suggesting that to read the Bible otherwise is driven by prejudice or some kind of just simple discrimination. In the article she writes, and of the two grooms that she brought together in the same-sex ceremony, one of them had a mom who would not attend because she is a faithful Catholic and she could not bless the union. Terry Byrne writes,

“I am not one to judge. She is a lovely woman who loves her son dearly. I only pray she can live with no regrets.”

But in so far as Terry Byrne sees the ceremony she wrote this,

“Yet the joie de vivre expressed by the grooms and 60-plus merrymakers was transcendent.”

A very interesting word for her to choose. She then continues,

“A few relatives may not have been in attendance, but God was surely there, in the light on everyone’s faces.”

Terry Byrne then tells us that she said in her sermon at the wedding,

“I hope that someday all men who love men and women who love women — and everyone in between — will no longer feel scorn and hostility from certain corners of society.”

Now remember that this very same person has just told us that it’s wrong to judge and went to the Sermon on the Mount as if Jesus is making that very point, and then tells us,

“I am not one to judge.”

And then she very clearly moves to moral judgment. That’s something that we as Christians need to note, it is impossible for any sane person, not to move to moral judgment. It is impossible to have a civilization without making moral judgment. In one sense it’s what civilization in itself represents. What any society actually constitutes is an agreed set of moral judgments. Without those moral judgments there is no common life. Every society on earth makes moral judgments. The question is whether or not those moral judgments are right and sustainable and credible.

Once again we also see the kind of moral statement made that I don’t believe the speaker actually means when she says,

“I hope that someday all men who love men and women who love women — and everyone in between — will no longer feel scorn and hostility from certain corners of society.”

What does the ‘everyone in between’ mean? I do not know Terry Byrne, but I’m fairly convinced that even she would find some sexual relationships unworthy of blessing.

Finally, one statement we need to note is where she said,

“A few relatives may not have been in attendance, but God was surely there, in the light on everyone’s faces.”

Well if that’s the verification you’re looking for, you can find yourself blessing virtually anything. To be a biblical Christian is to understand that we do not find our verification in the light in anyone’s eyes, including our own. We find our authority, ultimately and solely in the authority of God’s word, not in the light of anyone’s eyes.

Part II

Obama invites gay Catholic to meet with Pope at White House in order to embarrass Pope

Speaking of signals in the larger culture, the White House is one of the most important symbolic institutions in the world, about that there can be absolutely no doubt. There’s a lot of attention being given of course to Pope Francis’s visit of coming to the United States and a story came from Milwaukee telling us,

“A Marquette University grad’s poignant note to President Barack Obama about his hopes as a gay man and a Catholic have garnered him an invitation to join the president when Pope Francis comes to the White House on Sept. 23.”

There is so much to unpack in the story, but the main thing I want us to focus on is this, President Obama in extending this invitation to an openly gay man who is calling for change within the Roman Catholic Church, for President Obama to invite him to be in the White House when Pope Francis makes his visit to the White House is sending one of the most clear signals the White House could possibly send. President Obama has invited this man basically to embarrass Pope Francis and to set the Roman Catholic Church in the position of that kind of embarrassment before the watching world as his very own personal guest in the White House. As one who is demanding that Pope Francis change the doctrine as well as the practice of the Roman Catholic Church. Again, there is so much to the story that could be unpacked but the one central fact I want to bring to our attention is that the President of the United States has decided to make a point and he has decided to make a point using the occasion of the Pope’s visit. And he has extended an invitation to a man who is openly gay and has openly challenged the Roman Catholic Church in order that the president would put the Pope in the position of hearing a message very clearly, you should change your position. The President of the United States who has made his own evolving position, to use his own word, increasingly clear over time is now saying to the Roman Catholic Church, you need to change your doctrine and convictions and he is doing so by means of a very public and not insignificant invitation.

Part III

Claim of new human ancestor discovery example of constant shifting of evolutionary theory

Lots of headlines have come in the last day or so about an anthropological discovery that was made in South Africa. As John Noble Wilford reports for the New York Times,

“Acting on a tip from spelunkers two years ago, scientists in South Africa discovered what the cavers had only dimly glimpsed through a crack in a limestone wall deep in the Rising Star Cave: lots and lots of old bones.”

According to the study,

“The remains covered the earthen floor beyond the narrow opening. This was, the scientists concluded, a large, dark chamber for the dead of a previously unidentified species of the early human lineage — Homo naledi.”

Scientists yesterday announced they had found this new hominid species and this international team of more than 60 scientists led by Lee R. Berger, an American paleoanthropologist who is at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg said that the name, that is Homo naledi is named for the Sesotho language and for its word for star. The New York Times story continued,

“Besides introducing a new member of the prehuman family, the discovery suggests that some early hominins intentionally deposited bodies of their dead in a remote and largely inaccessible cave chamber, a behavior previously considered limited to modern humans.”

The story also tells us that researchers,

“Have not yet nailed down their age, which is difficult to measure because of the muddled chamber sediments and the absence of other fauna remains nearby.”

The researchers tell us that their anatomical studies of the species suggest that it had a brain no larger than an average orange which, according to the scientists,

“Indicated that the species evolved near or at the root of the Homo genus, meaning it must be in excess of 2.5 million to 2.8 million years old.”

Many Christians looking at the headlines in the New York Times and elsewhere are asking the question, what are we supposed to do with this? And the answer to that is simple and straightforward, we are to do with this what we do with all other claims having to do not only with evolution in general, but with the evolution of the human species as it is claimed, specifically, because you will note that evolutionary scientists have to keep changing their story about the nature of human evolution as they present it and how different fossils and discoveries are supposed to fit into what they claim to be the story of human evolution.

One of the most significant but rarely acknowledged truths about human anthropology is how often they have to change the way they tell the story, often at the most fundamental level. Just in recent years, scientists have had not only to change, but to reverse many of the claims they had made in terms of even published, supposedly authoritative textbooks just a few years ago. Now you have what is claimed to be the discovery of a new species and yet you can almost count on the fact that in fairly short order there are going to be other scientists pushing back on the claims about this research, claiming that it isn’t what these researchers claim it to be. What you do not have in the mainstream media is often an honest follow up on the fact that the studies that have been presented with such headline news are later retracted or significantly revised if not reversed. What you get instead is the broad cultural assumption that what you have is a continuing development of a consistent evolutionary theory that’s merely being presented now with ever greater detail. The reality is that simply isn’t so. As a matter of fact, there are huge disagreements even among evolutionary scientists as to what these or any other fossils mean. Sometimes, Christians are concerned about how we will counter every evolutionary claim made by scientists. We need to note something very carefully here. Sometimes the most important thing we can do is stand back and let other scientists make those very arguments themselves.

Finally on this topic, we are reminded when it comes to evolution or marriage or anything else, our fundamental authority is nothing that is established in human wisdom, but rather is everything that is revealed in God’s word. And when it comes to these claims, it’s also interesting to note that even in this report in the online edition there is a fascinating correction at the end of the article. I cite the correction that was dated September 10, 2015, that’s just yesterday, listen to this,

“An earlier picture with this article was published in error, and the accompanying caption misidentified the fossil reconstructions it showed. The model skull in the photograph was of Australopithecus africanus; the model hand was of Australopithecus sediba. The models did not represent the newly discovered Homo naledi species.”

To the credit of the New York Times, they published a timely correction, but what about people who have the previous edition of the story with the photographs misidentified? The motto for Christians looking at this story is indeed that there is more and sometimes less here than meets the eye and that’s not limited to the pictures, it’s also extended to the text.

Part IV

Parents using texting to communicate with teens sacrifice conversation for convenience

Finally, when it comes to family life in the modern age, Wednesday’s edition of the Wall Street

Journal had a fascinating article entitled, “Have U Made Yr Bed? [With emoticons at the end].”

And the text of the headline was clearly in terms of the kind of text you send by means of text messaging. The subhead of the article,

“To talk to their teens, parents text, even when everyone is at home; how texting can help families communicate better.”

The article is by Sue Shellenbarger she writes,

“Screen time often interferes with family life, but one digital medium can actually help parents communicate with their children: the text message. Texting can give parents and teens a way to express themselves and make life at home more peaceful, though it is too one-dimensional for involved conversations.”

At that point we simply have to say – what an understatement. Shellenbarger goes on to tell us about Amy Kossof Smith, who says,

“Texting helps her get the attention of her three teenage sons, ages 13, 16 and 18. when she or her husband Mitch called in the dinner from downstairs. They have two choices: “We can yell at the top of our lungs three or four times or we can pull our phones out and text them.”

This mom went on to say,

“We get into their zone. We usually get a much quicker response.”

Shellenbarger then says,

“Like many parents, she finds it convenient to text from room to room within the house. Teens are already texting to their friends via text, making it easy for parents to communicate the same way.”

Now at this point, I’ll simply remind you this is published in the Wall Street Journal on the front page of the personal Journal edition. Shellenbarger also cites this statistic with this quote,

“The 8.6% of teens who text frequently during family meals tend to have poor family communication over all.”

For that she cites a 2013 study of 1858 parents published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Let me just raise a very important observation here, if you need to survey, 1858 parents for the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to find out if the 8.6% of teens who text frequently during family meals, “tend to have poorer family communication overall”,  you’re paying too much for science.

How in the world could it be otherwise? Let’s just look at this squarely – here you have almost 9 percent of teenagers who report, no their parents report the fact that they text regularly during family meals and we are told that they tend to have poorer family communication skills. How in the world are we to deal with people who would find that statistic surprising? Not the 8.6 percent who text during meals, but the fact that those 8.6 percent tend to have poorer family communication skills. Sometimes I admit we simply have to wonder what planet we are now living on. To Shellenbarger’s credit she acknowledges that a good many conversations that parents need to have with teenagers can’t actually be adequately carried via text. She gets to the point that for instance, it’s very important for parents to watch the body language of teenagers as they are involved in many important and sensitive conversations. To that I would simply respond, it’s also important that teenagers see the body language of their parents during this very same conversation.

Shellenbarger also recognizes the fact that many teenagers today lack of the skills of adult conversation, partly because they simply haven’t had enough conversational experience. That’s what leads me to ask the question about the story itself and about the headline that once again appeared in the Wall Street Journal? Here you have a reporter saying that it just might help some communications for parents to communicate with their teenagers via text message. To that I would simply have to respond yes, no doubt, it might be in many cases easier, but easier is the wrong word here. Parenting isn’t supposed to be easy and there is something that is just vitally and urgently important about face-to-face conversation and about a parent’s voice or for that matter, a teenager’s voice. The mom cited in this article says in her house it comes down to a simple choice, they can yell to the kids upstairs or they can send them a text message. I never thought I would hear myself say these words, but here’s the preferable choice, yell upstairs to your children.

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 on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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