The Briefing

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Part

Wall Street Journal

What Will Tax Reform Do for Puppies?, by Adam O’Neal

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017

Tags: Audio, Creationism, Evolution, Gratitude, Tax Code, Thanksgiving

Transcript

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

It’s Wednesday, November 22, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

​We’ll see the intellectual insecurity of the evolutionary establishment. We’ll see why a same tax code has credits for babies but not for puppies, and we’ll understand gratitude as fundamental to Christian faithfulness and also as a powerful apologetic.

Part

The intellectual insecurity of evolutionary establishment

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the continuing debate between proponents of evolution and creation is the fact that the debate is continuing. As a matter fact that in itself is the central irritation of the secular left because as they say it now well over a century after Charles Darwin and the theory of Darwinism and the seeming ubiquity of evolution amongst the scientific elites there still is a debate in American society. And we should note, not just in America. The fact that there is still a debate between the proponents of evolution and divine creation. Well, that's a major stumbling block for the left. It's evidenced in a recent article that appeared just this week in the New York Times in the Retro Report Clyde Haberman wrote an article with the headline,

“Evolving Tactics Helping Creationists Put Science on Trial in the Classroom.”

It’s actually an article based upon a video documentary. Again it's in that series in the New York Times known as Retro Report and just consider what it means that the first word before report is retro. So far as the secular elites are concerned to deny evolution, to deny materialism, the fact that all that exists is simply material to deny naturalism. The fact that purely natural and that means by no means supernatural explanations will tell us the story of the universe, well, it turns out that to reject that is to be considered retro. You can expand that to say retro grade. Haberman writes,

“Darwinism has long been under siege in parts of the United States, even if its critics have practiced their own form of evolution, adapting their arguments to accommodate altered legal circumstances. This installment of Retro Report shows the enduring strength of the forces that embrace the biblical account of Creation or reasonable facsimiles of it. For some of them,” he writes, “the rejection of broad scientific consensus extends to issues like climate change and stem-cell research.”

Now at this point, we must interject and say that when he writes that the rejection of broad scientific consensus extends for some creationists, you recall he said to issues like climate change and stem cell research, well there you need to note a blurring of the lines between questioning a scientific consensus and drawing moral concerns about a scientific practice. It's not that anyone I know as a creationist or as an evangelical Christian doesn't believe in the existence of stem cell research. What we believe in is the fact that it is a serious moral concern that is reflected in creating human embryos and then destroying them just for the sake of human stem cell research. That's a blurring of a distinction between a quite legitimate moral concern and a questioning of the scientific consensus. So far as the intellectual elites are concerned they thought that the final dagger had been put through the heart of creationism in 1925 in the now infamous Scopes trial. It wasn't that creationism lost then in the courtroom. It was that then the elites thought creationism or any denial of Darwinism of evolution itself had lost in the court of public opinion. But Haberman then writes,

“The anti-evolution spirit, however, never died. Creationism — a belief that God brought about the universe pretty much along the lines set forth in the Book of Genesis — thrived in school curriculums in some states. But that idea also failed to pass judicial muster. The Supreme Court concluded in 1987 that requiring it to be taught in public schools as if it were a science ran afoul of the establishment clause.”

Well indeed that was the result of that Supreme Court case in 1987. That case basically said that what is called creation science doesn't deserve a place in the public school curriculum. Later that same judgment was extended to the idea that intelligent design should be included in public school curricula. Intelligent design is an intellectual tool that says that the irreducible complexity of the cosmos cannot be explained by purely natural explanations. Their argument is that a simple, straightforward, honest assessment of the cosmos indicates that it was designed and designed by some intelligence, thus intelligent design. Now here we need to note that intelligent design is indeed a very useful and to Christians obviously true intellectual tool. But the Christian affirmation of creation goes far beyond the intellectual tool of intelligent design. It moves all the way to the affirmation of biblical creation.

Haberman's recent article published just this week by the way in the New York Times is intended to sound an alarm at least on the left and at least amongst the scientific establishment about the fact that even though biblical creationism or creation science was banned from the schools and even though intelligent design was in their view unmasked as scientific creationism under a different guise, well their argument is and the alarm is being sounded about a new development that is taking place in many school districts across the country in which critical thinking is being brought as a requirement to the science curriculum in the public schools. This is the method of teaching that is sometimes referred to as teaching the questions. According to this method, which has been endorsed by some of the proponents of creationism and intelligent design, there is no insinuation that we can prove design or that we can prove a Creator, but basic questions are asked about the intelligibility and the coherence and the adequacy of the theory of evolution at least as defined by current science. And this Retro Report in the New York Times is sounding a specific alarm and the alarm is this: many people don't recognize that thus far this particular approach of critical thinking or teaching the questions hasn't been successfully challenged in court. Why? Because there cannot be any credibility to the claim that it is a violation of the establishment of religion. Because there is no statement of religion. It is just about questioning evolution. Now it's an interesting article and behind this is an interesting video. And what we really need to understand at this point is Christians trying to think about this particular development is the fact that what is demonstrated here is the incredible intellectual insecurity of the evolutionary establishment. They are so committed to their understanding of the sole authority of what they now call settled science that they are simply insecure even believing that teachers in the public school classroom being required to ask fundamental questions and to encourage fundamental questions about evolution that they are actually subverting evolution.

But let's just observe that that intellectual insecurity is based in reality, the insecurity of knowing that millions upon millions of people though indoctrinated into the worldview of evolution aren't buying it. They certainly are buying it as a sufficient explanation for the cosmos. Furthermore, they're not buying it morally. When it comes to what it means to be a human being. There is the intuitive understanding that we are not mere cosmic accidents, and thus our lives are not mere accidental experiences that there is indeed a spiritual reality to what it means to be made human and that we are not just atoms and molecules. Just consider the implausibility of evolution as a sole sufficient explanation for the cosmos when you look at the face of a newborn baby. I've mentioned on the Briefing the research that perplexes so many scientists indicating that young children are particularly resistant to the theory of evolution, or for that matter to materialism and naturalism. Why? Because they draw the inference from the cosmos that they draw from their house or from anything else that somebody made it. Somebody built the house we live in, somebody built the road we drive on, certainly, someone made the world, the cosmos we inhabit.

Judge from a Christian worldview perspective it's really important to understand that the evolutionists and the creationists are both right and understanding what's at stake. What's at stake is everything. We also need to understand that when you're looking at the public schools you're looking at the big battleground when it comes to the clash of worldviews. But you're also looking at something else. And that's this, you're looking at the fact that you really can't have a sexual, you can't have a moral revolution, so long as there is a Creator, a creator who made us and gets to tell us who we are and what it means to live and how we are to live. It might well make the intellectual elites furious, but the controversy continues.

Part

Why a sane tax code gives credits for babies but not for puppies

But next in terms of observing the worldview confusion around us, there was a very odd article that appeared in Monday's edition of the Wall Street Journal. The headline was,

“What Will Tax Reform Do for Puppies?”

Adam O'Neal, assistant editorial features editor at the Journal suggests that,

“Congress is preparing to maybe even double the Child Tax Credit. But what about couples who opted for dogs instead of children? Or those who are preparing for parenthood by taking on a cuddly critter for a couple of years? It’s as if the Child Tax Credit’s biggest boosters are stuck in 1997, when Congress first approved the handout.”

He goes on to argue,

“The Child Tax Credit instead exists to transfer wealth to a preferred group (human families) from an undesirable one (childless superconsumers). No doubt a child’s life is infinitely more precious than a dog’s, but a puppy’s owner deserves economic security as much as a human parent. Maybe subsidizing only families with small humans made sense 20 years ago, but preferences change. Republicans must ask themselves: What do we really have to offer a farmer in Fargo with four French Spaniels?”

He also says that today there are about 90 million dogs in the United States spread, he explains, over 60 million households. So he suggests that actually these days opting for a tax credit for pets, specifically for dogs, could be almost as politically popular as tax credits for children. But then he says that even though Republicans might be trusted to extend this tax credit only to dogs he says watch out the Democrats will expand it further. He says they will come behind the dog tax credit with a feline tax credit. He went on to say,

“Democrats could even target the millions of families with turtles, rabbits, horses, lizards and tarantulas.”

Well let me give you some relief here by the time you get to about the midpoint of the article you realize it’s being written at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek. In this case Adam O'Neal really doesn't want a dog tax credit. He really doesn't fear a feline tax credit. What he does understand is that changes to the tax law also come with moral implications and with consequences. He concludes his article by arguing that the best thing would be simply to lower all tax rates, but by the time you look at the article, it's also important to recognize that we do need to explain why there is a child tax credit, why there are deductions when it comes to favoring families, especially those raising children. And here we need to remind ourselves that any tax policy reflects the worldview of the society, and we also have to understand that it’s making a statement not just about behavior now, but about the behavior that a society wants to encourage even the behavior it accounts on. One of those behaviors is families having children. One of the behaviors absolutely necessary to society is the fact that some people otherwise known as parents as mom and dad have to make sacrifices for the entire society by raising children, the next generation of those who are known as human beings, but at least in economic terms also have to be counted as future consumers and taxpayers and employees.

So this is where Christians have to think carefully and understand that more is actually involved in the tax code or any reform of the tax code than they may have thought. There are deep moral realities that are inevitably confronted in this kind of tax code or legislation. And we also have to recognize that every reasonable, rational sane society has to recognize its vital dependence upon parents for having children and going to the sacrifice of raising them. In this sense, the tax code is not the most important issue. It's a reflection of the most important issue, and that is whether or not we really believe that society needs children in order to have a future. And yes, one way or another our tax code will answer that question.

Finally, we turn to tomorrow's observance of Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Some want to talk about historical dates and consequences and want to trace it back to the inclination of Thanksgiving that is commemorated in our memories of that meal between those called the pilgrims and Native Americans. We also understand that it has been of importance to presidents who have given a succession of presidential Thanksgiving proclamations. But as Christians we have to understand that even as tomorrow is something of an arbitrary date on the calendar, Thanksgiving is one of the most enduring and important of all biblical teachings. We also have to concede that it’s far more important as a biblical theme than most Christians seem to understand. We look for example at Romans Chapter 1 where Paul tells us that God's invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. That by the way, is the greatest refutation of naturalism and materialism. If you want to look at intelligent design, well there it is. But as Paul tells us, it’s not merely intelligent design. It is the specific revelation of the one true and living God in the creation that He has made. But in verse 21 we read,

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

The important thing there to recognize is that that phrase they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him that what we’re looking at there has a deep biblical rootage that goes back far before Paul wrote this letter to the Roman Christians. In that passage in Romans chapter 1, Paul makes a linkage between a refusal to give thanks and idolatry. He says that human beings did not honor God as God nor did we give thanks to him. We also need to remember that when the apostle Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy Chapter 3 he describes the last days in terms of terrible times as the ESV translates times of difficulty. He explains it this way,

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control,” he goes on.

But you'll notice that that word appears again, ungrateful. They were unwilling to honor God as God or to give thanks to him. And now in these terrible times at the end, we are told that human beings in their sin will become even more ungrateful. But when Paul identified ungratefulness at the very foundation of human sinfulness, the refusal to honor God as God or give thanks, and when the apostle Paul linked ungratefulness to idolatry, he was actually looking back to a persistent biblical theme. It appears in the Old Testament for example in Psalm 106. Where we read,

“Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.”

So what is the psalmist talking about? He is talking about the fact that not long after the Lord rescued Israel from captivity to Pharaoh in Egypt, the very people of God who had been rescued did not remember Him, and they were ungrateful and they created an idolatrous image, a golden calf. The great question was how could it be possible that a people who had been given so much whose first reflex to God should be un-diluted gratefulness could so quickly turn from him in ingratitude and in idolatry? The reality is that ingratitude points to our infinite need of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we need to understand that in contrast gratitude is one of the primary hallmarks of genuine Christianity. Genuine Christianity, love of Christ, love of the Gospel, obedience to Christ, obedience to God's word is actually rooted in gratitude if it's rightly and biblically understood. And ingratitude, then turns out to be the ultimate insult to the Creator. Ingratitude turns out inevitably to be demonstrated in one way or another in idolatry.

Part

Gratitude as fundamental to Christian faithfulness and also as a powerful apologetic

About this time every year we face the perplexity of the fact there so many people who declare themselves secular who feels some impulse to describe how thankful they are to find some way very incongruous with their worldview to describe why they feel the sensation of gratitude. When it comes to the greatest blessings of life even the very fact of our existence, according to the modern, secular, materialistic worldview, there is, let’s just remind ourselves, no one to thank. And even though this provides us with ample opportunity to do some worldview analysis and understand the inadequacies and contradictions, the absolute absurdity taken at face value of the secular worldview, our response should not be to pride ourselves in our greater consistency, but to understand that our proper response is just an even deeper gratitude to a gracious and loving God who while we were yet sinners provided for our salvation in the atonement accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact left to our own devices, we would be just like Israel so soon after the Exodus, creating our own form of the golden calf. But rather it should plunge us into an even deeper sense of gratitude to God, a perpetual sense of gratitude, a theological sense of gratitude, a worshipful sense of gratitude and furthermore a sense of gratitude that extends to every dimension of our lives as Christians and as Christian congregations.

And finally we need to recognize that gratitude is actually a very powerful Christian apologetic. We understand that every single human being has that instinct and intuition towards gratitude that gives us the opportunity to explain why, but even more importantly to explain how that attitude can be rightly directed. For Christians any conversation about gratitude is an immediate entrance point into talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so with grateful gospel hearts, we will go into the American season of Thanksgiving ready to tell people why they do feel thankful, why they should feel thankful and what that feeling of thankfulness should tell them. And then we get to tell them about Jesus Christ and the gospel. And so in that hope I wish to you and your family a most blessed Thanksgiving.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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