Thursday, January 25, 2018
Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018
Tags: Audio, Germany, Rachael Denhollander, USA Gymnastics
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Thursday, January 25, 2018. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
We’ll see an amazing testimony to the gospel, to the reality of good and evil and to Christian truth in a Michigan court room. We’ll see an amazing display of theological confusion amongst some German theologians, and we’ll ask whether pro-life politicians in one party are an endangered species.
An amazing testimony to the gospel, to the reality of good and evil, and to Christian truth in a Michigan courtroom
In a dramatic scene in a Michigan courtroom yesterday, a judge faced a convicted defendant, Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar and then sentenced him to between 40 and 175 years in prison. Nassar was the former team doctor for the American women's gymnastics team, and he was convicted of the serial abuse of young women and girls in his role as the world-famous physician for the American gymnastics program. The judge in the case, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, had allowed almost 160 girls and young women all identified as victims of Dr. Nasser to give victim impact statements to be used in sentencing. And as she read the sentence out yesterday, the judge looked to the defendant now convicted of crimes and said, and I quote,
“It is my honor and privilege to sentence you.”
She then said,
“I just signed your death warrant.”
Earlier in her sentencing statement, the judge had faced the doctor and said you've done nothing to deserve to walk out of a prison again. The crimes alleged and now proved against this team doctor for American gymnastics are almost beyond comprehension. We are talking about the serial abuse of young girls and young women that goes back a matter of decades. We are talking about one of the most esteemed doctors in the history of the U.S. Olympic program. We’re talking about a doctor who had access to young girls and young women and who abused the trust that was invested in him by so many in the Olympics movement and by so many parents and young women and girls. And he instead became a monster, exactly the word that was used by some of the victims as they described their experience with the doctor.
Scott Cacciola and Victor Mather reporting for the New York Times summarized the story this way,
“Dr. Nasser Dr. Nassar, 54, was accused of molesting girls for years under the guise of giving them examinations or medical treatment. Some were as young as 6. Many of them were Olympic gymnasts. In November, he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing seven girls.”
This came after he was already sentenced to 60 years in prison in federal prison for charges of child pornography. In the case of Dr. Nassar the story only broke after one very brave woman made her own accusations in public against the doctor that was then followed by an avalanche of other accusations. The woman whose accusations broke the story and eventually broke the doctor was a young woman by the name now of Rachael Denhollander. In her statement concerning the sentencing of Dr. Nassar, she not only spoke eloquently from the deep reservoirs of a Christian worldview, but she spoke directly to the doctor with the power of the Christian gospel. The words of this young woman bear our close attention. The doctor as he was being sentenced was carrying a Bible visibly. That was considered by many of the victims to be manipulative with the doctor effectively using the Bible as a prop in order to engender sympathy during his sentencing hearing. But Mrs. Denhollander pointed to the Bible that Dr. Nassar had, and then she said bravely,
“If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.”
Later referencing the Bible again, she spoke of absolute truth and the objective reality of right and wrong. She said and I quote,
“the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds. The Bible,” she said conveys the message of, “final judgment where all of God's wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should,” she said, “you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.”
“I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me,” she said though she bravely continued, “though I extend that to you as well.”
Speaking again of the reality of right and wrong of evil and good, she said,
“Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was. And I know it was evil and wicked because the straight line exists. The straight line is not measured based on your perception or anyone else's perception, and this means I can speak the truth about my abuse without minimization or mitigation. And I can call it evil because I know what goodness is. And this is why I pity you. Because when a person loses the ability to define good and evil, when they cannot define evil, they can no longer define and enjoy what is truly good. When a person can harm another human being, especially a child, without true guilt, they have lost the ability to truly love.”
She continued by saying to the doctor,
“Larry, you have shut yourself off from every truly beautiful and good thing in this world that could have and should have brought you joy and fulfillment, and I pity you for it. You could have had everything you pretended to be. Every woman who stood up here truly loved you as an innocent child, real genuine love for you, and it did not satisfy.”
Then addressing the judge Mrs. Denhollander said,
“I ask that you hand down a sentence that tells us that what was done to us matters, that we are known, we are worth everything, worth the greatest protection the law can offer, the greatest measure of justice available.”
She then asked the question,
“how much is a little girl worth?”
Those are words very difficult to hear, very difficult to read, very difficult to say. They are difficult words we need to hear, and of course they are difficult words that have the ring and the authenticity of biblical truth. This is the kind of argument that can only emerge from Christian conviction and from the Christian biblical worldview. The references here to good and evil, to right and wrong, to a straight line of judgment, most importantly the references to sin and guilt, the necessity of repentance and the substitutionary atonement of Christ and the promise of salvation, all of this only makes sense, it is only coherent if everything revealed in the Scripture is true. And as we consider this story that is now so much a part of the American attention and conversation today, we need to be thankful as this judge was thankful for young women who were brave enough to accuse this doctor so esteemed and respected throughout the Olympic community of what he had done and to stay by their story and to make it stick consistently testifying in order to bring about not only a criminal conviction but the end to this kind of abuse that endangered so many others.
Then addressing the first of those young women to speak up Rachel Denhollander, the judge said,
“You started the tidal wave. You made all of this happen. You made all of these voices matter. Your sister survivors and I thank you. You are the bravest person I have ever had in my courtroom.”
But what so many in the world missed is that the moral clarity that was so evident in that courtroom yesterday cannot really emerge from a secular worldview. It can only emerge from a biblical worldview. And yesterday it wasn't just the witness to good and evil that appeared. In the voice of Rachel Denhollander, there was a powerful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel that speaks so honestly about sin, and the Gospel that so honestly promises in Christ salvation from sin.
An amazing display of theological confusion among some German theologians
But next we shift from Michigan to Germany where we are told in a story that ran in several American newspapers that the Catholic Church there is grappling with blessings for gay marriage. The story begins with what we already know,
“Roman Catholicism firmly opposes same-sex marriage as unnatural”
That's the opening line to the story that ran in the Colorado Springs Gazette. But it’s not only that. It's not just historic Catholic teaching. The current catechism of the Roman Catholic Church defines same-sex sexual behaviors as objectively disordered echoing Paul from Romans 1 when he speaks of such acts as against nature. But nevertheless the report tells us,
“Germany’s creative theologians have little leeway there. But the theology of giving a blessing to a gay couple,” according to the article, “is less clear, and two bishops have now spoken out in favor of considering some form of benediction as a way to adjust to the changing times.”
So let's just consider that opening paragraph. Here's what we’re facing. Even though the Roman Catholic Church here in Germany and everywhere according not only to its historic teaching consistent with historic biblical Christianity, but in accordance with its current authoritative teaching in the form of the catechism, declares same-sex marriage to be impossible and same-sex sexual behaviors to be objectively disordered and unnatural. But some creative – that’s how they're described here – German Catholic theologians are looking for what's described as a little leeway, a way even though the church condemns same-sex marriage to find a way to bless same-sex unions. Now if that sounds confusing to you, just remember those last words in the opening paragraph. This was seen as,
“a way to adjust to the changing times.”
So even before we look at further details in this proposal, we do need to understand what we’re facing here. We’re looking at liberal German Catholic theologians in the face of cultural pressure trying to find middle ground between the Catholic churches historic and current condemnation of same-sex marriages as against nature and the public demand that the Catholic Church and others get in line and get with the program and find a way to come to terms with same-sex marriage. The way these liberal theologians are suggesting the Catholic Church can adjust to changing times is not at this point to approve of or to conduct or to create ceremonies for same-sex marriage but rather to come up with a way to offer a priestly blessing. Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, a German bishop, said,
“Even though ‘marriage for all’ clearly differs from the church’s understanding of marriage, it is now a political reality,”
The Bishop went on to say,
“We have to ask ourselves how we should deal with people who tie this knot. Some of them are active in the church. So how are we going to accompany them with pastoral care and in the liturgy? “We could think,” he said, “about giving them a blessing.”
Now here we need to pause again because as evangelical Christians many will be unaware of what this means. The description here of a blessing is a priestly blessing, which according to the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is indeed a priestly act in order to set apart or to sanctify something or someone to divine service or to invoke divine favor upon them. Now that's what’s really important here. The kind of blessing that’s being discussed in this proposal is only to be conducted by a priest, one who is invested with what the Catholic Church believes is sacred total authority, and thus it is a conveyance of grace. It is a call for divine favor. That's what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the Roman Catholic Church saying that same-sex marriage is unnatural, immoral actually even impossible, and Roman Catholic bishops in the nation of Germany saying yeah all that's true but maybe we can find a way nonetheless to offer a priestly benediction, a priestly blessing. Remember what that means is that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that God is against same-sex marriage that God not only is against same-sex marriage but could never define marriage as the union of a man and a man and a woman and a woman. Yet they are saying that maybe it is still possible to find a little wiggle room a little leeway and find a way for a priest to nonetheless invoke God's favor on what God condemns.
In another bizarre turn an auxiliary Bishop there in Germany, this particular Bishop of Munster said,
“I’m not for ‘marriage for all,’ but if two homosexuals enter a same-sex relationship, if they want to take responsibility for each other, then I can bless this mutual responsibility,”
He went on to say,
“This is valuable and praiseworthy, even if this bond is not in complete agreement with the church.”
Now sometimes we just simply have to step back and look at a breathtaking understatement that takes the form of an absolute moral evasion. As I've said what we’re actually looking at is the fact that the Roman Catholic Church condemns same-sex marriage, says it is against nature, invokes divine authority to say that it is unnatural objectively disordered, and now you have a bishop of the church saying yeah all that's true but maybe still we can say that even though same-sex marriage is not in complete agreement with the church – there’s that evasive understatement – he says maybe we can find a way to bless it. Now here we need to note that the liberal Protestant denominations in Germany not only perform and celebrate same-sex unions, but they did so even before such unions were legal in the nation. That happened only in fairly recent times. But we’re looking at the fact that the abandonment of truth in this case the truth of what marriage is is acknowledged in this story to be the political price that churches and denominations congregations are going to have to pay if we’re going to get along in changing times.
One same-sex marriage activist within the Roman Catholic Church in Germany speaking of the need for these blessings said,
“Dog, cats and motorcycles get blessings, but we’re not worth one?”
Well hear again and evangelical Christian can only step back and say that whatever these blessings are that are supposed to come with sacred total authority from only one designated as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church that kind of blessing may be found in the Roman Catholic Church for dogs and cats and motorcycles or anything, but it’s a notion of blessing not found in the Bible. One professor of liturgy, nonetheless, Benedikt Kranemann, a professor of liturgy at the University of Erfurt, he said,
“I think it’s a problem theologically if we make blessings dependent on a moral assessment of human behavior,”
Well that's not even an argument I'm going to take on because it falls so flat on its face. I’ll simply say this – what meaning would a blessing have if we are blessing what God not only refuses to bless but curses? There are so many lessons in this particular story. But one of the most important is this, there is no middle ground. There is no way to create a blessing that can somehow be theologically, morally and biblically justified when it comes to something that the church must not even recognize. The Roman Catholic Church is right when it declares same-sex marriage to be unnatural. The catechism of the church is absolutely right when it declares same-sex relationships to be objectively disordered. That's language that right now is embarrassing to many in the Roman Catholic Church now in Germany and not just in Germany. And furthermore there are many Christians who are embarrassed by the explicit language of Scripture when speaking to the very same issues and questions. There are a thousand different varieties of theological failure but certainly near the top of that list has to be trying to find a way to bless what God would not allow us to bless.
Are pro-life politicians in one party an endangered species?
Next coming back to the United States, the Wall Street Journal recently ran a column asking the question,
“Does the Endangered Species Act Protect Pro-Life Democrats?”
This is a question we have seen coming into view for a matter of decades now. If you went back to the 1980s and 1990s even into the early years of the 21st century, it was possible to find at least a handful even over a dozen of pro-life Democratic members of Congress, both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. Furthermore looking at statehouses and even gubernatorial positions, there were some pro-life Democrats, but the pro-life Democrat has become an endangered species and a species becoming more endangered every day. As the Democratic Party is hoping to regain majorities in both the House and the Senate midterm elections, many Democratic leaders have noted that if that is going to happen it’s going to require a lot of pro-life voters to vote for Democratic candidates. And that means they're going to have to run and support pro-life Democrats for many of those congressional seats and at least several of the Senate seats as well. And even though a few months ago some leading Democrats, including 2016 presidential candidate and devotedly pro-abortion Senator Bernie Sanders, had argued that if Democrats are going to gain majorities they’re going to have to run pro-life candidates and support them, well even though that argument was made it was quickly shot down by other Democratic leaders and especially the pro-abortion movement, which has a stranglehold upon the Democratic Party.
Deviating even so slightly from the pro-abortion orthodoxy, the Democratic Party can quickly lead to someone being found outside the party, certainly outside the party's favor and support. Now all of that is not just theoretical. It's being lived out in space and in time, and it's being lived out in the city of Chicago where representative Dan Lipinski identified as one of the few antiabortion Democrats in Congress left has basically been primary-ed now by the leaders of his own party, and furthermore even though Congressman Lipinski showed up to speak and to represent the pro-life cause at the Illinois March for Life, he failed to show up for an assigned slot at the National March for Life. In explaining why he didn't speak of the National March for Life, Representative Lipinski said that he withdrew once it was clear that President Trump was going to speak to the group. But we now know that he was under sustained pressure from leaders of his own party, and two fellow members of Congress Democrats from Illinois have actually supported his opponent in the primary. That would be members of Congress Luis Gutierrez and Jan Czajkowski who are primarying in their own colleague from their own state and their own party as we’re looking to the 2018 election.
We’re talking about a member of Congress whose voting record on labor issues has earned him a 92% lifetime voting record from organized labor. That is to say we’re not talking here about a conservative on fiscal or economic or labor matters. But his violation of party orthodoxy on the issue of abortion is enough for leaders of his own party to put them under pressure to try to isolate him and now to try to defeat him in their own party's primary. That headline article in the Wall Street Journal that came out considerably before this incident with representative Lipinski asked just the right question. When it comes to the Endangered Species Act will it be able to be extended to protect pro-life Democrats in Congress? All the evidence indicates that the pro-life Democrat in Congress is actually one of the most endangered species of all.