Thursday, May 24, 2018
Thursday, May 24, 2018
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Thursday, May 24, 2018. I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The Wrath of God Poured Out — The Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention
This edition of The Briefing is a bit more personal because I have to speak of the wrath of God poured out, which means the humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention. The last few weeks have been excruciating for my denomination and for the larger Evangelical movement. It is as if bombs are dropping, and God alone knows how many will fall and where they will land. America's largest Evangelical denomination has been in the headlines day after day. The SBC is in the midst of what has to be described as its own horrifying Me Too moment.
At one of our seminaries, controversy is centered on a president, now a former president, whose sermon illustration from years ago included advice that a battered wife remain in the home and in the marriage in the hope of the conversion of her abusive husband. Other comments represented the objectification of a teenage girl. The issues only grew more urgent with the sense that the dated comments represented ongoing advice and counsel, but the issues are actually far deeper and wider.
Sexual misconduct is as old as sin, but the avalanche of sexual misconduct that has come to light in recent weeks is almost too much to bear. These grievous revelations of sin have occurred in churches, in denominational ministries, and even in our seminaries. We thought this was a Roman Catholic problem. The un-biblical requirement of priestly celibacy and the organized conspiracy of silence within the hierarchy helped to explain the cesspool of child sex abuse that has robbed the Roman Catholic church of so much of its moral authority.
When people said that Evangelicals had a similar crisis coming, it didn't seem plausible, even to me. I have been president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 25 years. I didn't see this coming. I was wrong. The judgment of God has come. Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention. The terrible Swiss sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance. There can be no doubt that the story is not yet over.
We cannot blame the requirement of priestly celibacy. We can't even point to an organized conspiracy of silence within the denominational hierarchy. No, our humiliation comes as the result of an unorganized conspiracy of silence. Sadly, the unorganized nature of our problem may make recovery and correction even more difficult and the silence even more dangerous.
Is the problem theological? Has the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention come to this? Is this what thousands of Southern Baptists were hoping for when they worked so hard to see this denomination return to its theological convictions, its seminaries return to teaching the inherency of the Holy Scriptures, its ministries solidly established on the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Did we win confessional integrity only to sacrifice our moral integrity?
This is exactly what some of those who oppose like conservative resurgence warned would happen. They claimed that the effort to recover the denomination theologically was just a disguised move to capture the denomination for a new set of power-hungry leaders. I know that this was not true. I must insist that this was not true, but it sure looks like their prophecies had some merit after all. As I recently said with lament to a longtime leader among the more Liberal faction that left the Southern Baptist Convention, each side has become the fulfillment of what the other side warned. The Liberals who left kept marching to the left in theology and moral teaching. The SBC, solidly conservative theologically, has been revealed to be morally compromised.
Among the issue of hottest theological debate was the role of women in the home and in the church. The SBC has affirmed complementarianism, the belief that the Bible reveals that men and women are equally made in God's image, but that men and women were also created to be complements to each other, men and women bearing distinct and different roles. This means obeying the Bible's very clear teachings on male leadership in the home and in the church. By the year 2000, complementarian teachings were formally included within the Baptist faith and message, the denominations Confession of Faith.
Is complementarianism the problem? Is it just camouflage for abuse males and permission for the abuse and mistreatment of women? We can see how that argument would seem plausible to so many looking to conservative Evangelicals and wondering if we have gone mad, but the same Bible that reveals the complementarian pattern of male leadership in the home and in the church also reveals God's steadfast and unyielding concern for the abused, the threatened, the suffering, and the fearful. There is no excuse whatsoever for abuse of any form, verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual, or sexual. The Bible warns so clearly of those who would abuse power and weaponize authority.
Every Christian church and every pastor and every church member must be ready to protect any of God's children threatened by abuse and must hold every abuser fully accountable. The church, and any institution or ministry serving the church, must be ready to assure safety and support to any women or child or vulnerable one threatened by abuse. The church must make every appropriate call to law enforcement and recognize the rightful God-ordained responsibility of civil government to protect, to investigate, and to prosecute.
A church, denomination, or Christian ministry must look outside of itself when confronted with a pattern of mishandling such responsibilities or merely of being charged with such a pattern. We cannot vindicate ourselves. That is the advice I've given consistently for many years. I now must make this judgment a matter of public commitment. I believe that any public accusation concerning such a pattern requires an independent third party investigation. In making this judgment I make public what I want to be held to do should, God forbid, such a responsibility arise.
I believe that the pattern of God's pleasure and design in the family and in the church is essential to human flourishing. I believe that the Bible is the inherent and infallible verbally-inspired word of God. I believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the great good news that any sinner who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. I believe that theology rooted unapologetically in Scripture is the only sure foundation for the home, the church, and the Christian life. I also believe that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." You hear that, of course, as Galatians 5, verses 22 to 23. Where this fruit is not present and visible, Christ is not present.
The Me Too moment has come to American Evangelicals. This moment has come to some of membership friends and brothers in Christ. This moment has come to me and I am called to deal with it as a Christian, as a minister of the Gospel, as a seminarian college present, and as a public leader. I pray that I will lead rightly. In Romans 1, verse 18 we are told, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." This is just a foretaste of the wrath of God poured out. This moment requires the very best of us. The Southern Baptist Convention is on trial and our public credibility is at stake, and beyond that, the credibility of Evangelical Christianity. May God have mercy on us all.
Next, I want to make another personal comment about The Briefing. Sometimes I'm asked, "Why did you speak to this issue, but not to that issue?" Well, on some issues I simply have to say there are two situations in which I cannot ethically speak, I cannot speak with ethical integrity. One of them has to do with a situation in which I have privileged inside knowledge that cannot ethically be shared. In such a situation I'm simply bound by ethics not to speak where I cannot speak to divulge what is privileged information or information that is of a personal nature that I do not have the right to communicate.
The second situation has to do with the fact that I am president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which means I serve the Southern Baptist Convention. One of the ethical obligations that comes with a job such as mine is that I cannot speak publicly into a situation that is rightly between another president and an institution's board of trustees. In such a case I have to wait until the board of trustees does its work. That's simply another ethical boundary that comes with this kind of position, and thus it was the board of trustees that assists our institution that met and ended the meeting early yesterday morning. Thus, I could speak to the issue the way I did today on The Briefing.
After Tuesday’s primaries, it’s clear that the arrow of the modern Democratic party is increasingly pointing to the far left
As we think of today's most pressing headlines, most revealing headlines, we also have to turn to Tuesday's primary election in several states. Most importantly, the primary election in the State of Georgia. In Georgia, Democrats voting in the primary chose Stacey Abrams, a former legislative leader, as the first female African American gubernatorial nominee in American history. If she were to be elected, she would be the first black woman to serve as governor of any state. On its face that's good news, certainly we were thinking about racial justice and inclusivity. It's good news the same way that it was good news, on that ground, that America elected an African American man as president of the United States.
It says, on those terms, good things that one of America's two major political parties in one of the 50 states chose an African American woman to be the gubernatorial candidate, the standard-bearer for their party in the fall, but of course things are never so simple, either in electing a president of the United States or, for that matter, the governor of a state. The big issue, as we're thinking about worldview analysis and thinking about the changing political landscape of the United States, is that the Democratic Party in the State of Georgia has nominated now a woman who is very well-identified with the political left as the party standard bearer.
And when we're talking about the party's left, we're talking about a left that is so far to the left that leadership in the party in Washington clearly preferred in Georgia, as elsewhere, to find a more mainstream candidate. But as we have seen in election after election in primaries, especially in the Democratic Party, for that matter, particularly in the Democratic Party, what we have seen is voters making a decision for the left or the far-left over more moderate or mainstream candidates. Abrams ran with the endorsement of Liberal groups, as USA Today reports, including Our Revolution, the activism spin-off organization, we are told, of Senator Bernie Sanders and his 2016 presidential campaign.
Her nomination also represents a very different strategy for the Democratic Party, nationwide on the one hand; on the other hand in a state like Georgia, a deeply red state in recent years. That different strategy is this. Over the last several election cycles, the Democratic Party has chosen more moderate mainstream candidates. One was the daughter of longtime US Democratic Senator Sam Nunn. Another was a grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. In both cases, the Democratic candidates were more Liberal than the Republican candidates, but not by all that much. They were clearly running for the political center. The Democratic Party strategy in those elections was to try to win back the center, but the strategy that is reflected in this nomination in Georgia is to not to win back the center, but rather to move the entire party to the left.
The electoral strategy is to mobilize unregistered voters or Democratic voters who have not voted in recent election cycles to mobilize them by clearly leftist political ideas and to get them to the polls for the Democratic candidate to win without the center. And when it comes to the vote on Tuesday in Georgia and the Democratic Party, Stacey Abrams won with 76% of the vote. That's pretty stunning. There's another figure that's even more shocking. She won 153 of Georgia's 159 counties. By any measure, that is a spectacular political achievement.
We have been noting the leftward shift of the Democratic Party over the last several decades, even the last several elections, but what we have seen just since the fall of 2016 is rather unbelievably fast as we're thinking about political transformation, a shift decidedly away from the center not only in Georgia, but nationally as well. A shift to openly Liberal politics that would not have been acceptable within the Democratic Party, certainly within a major nomination process even just, we'll say, two years ago, not just a generation ago.
Early this week the New York Times ran a really interesting story about the sidelining of both former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Both of the Clintons are now considered by many in the formative influence of the Democratic Party to be about the old discredited moderate past. Calling either Hillary or Bill Clinton a moderate, especially on social and moral issues, may sound astounding, but that should simply tell you how far the Democratic Party is moving far to the left.
Something else to observe here is that at this point this electoral strategy does not look destined for victory. The reason is simple. It's math. The numbers do not yet add up, but that just points to something else. When you look at a political party, you are looking at an argument. You're looking at an argument over economics and politics and policies and worldview. You're looking at arguments over moral issues, including of course issues like abortion. You're looking at arguments that develop over time, and you're looking at arguments that really take the shape of an arrow. They point in a direction.
What we are watching in the unfolding of the story right now in the Democratic Party is that that arrow is pointing so far and so fast to the left, and given the way politics moves forward with generational change and a great momentum in the culture, that arrow is not likely to be reversed. It's indicating the direction of the party not just for the midterm elections in the fall, but far further beyond. As we look at the shifting worldview of Americans, that's the big story. It won't be over in November.
Trump administration moves to eliminate Title X funding from organizations that conduct abortions—most notably, Planned Parenthood
But next on that crucial issue of abortion, on Tuesday night President Donald Trump made official and formal the fact that his administration is moving to eliminate Title X funding, as it is known, funding of over $120 million a year in federal tax money from organizations that would administer and conduct abortions or counsel persons referring women to where they can obtain an abortion. This is big news. It's not a revolution as we're thinking about these regulations. In many ways it is a return to what was a policy under President Ronald Reagan. Remember he was elected in the year 1980. President Ronald Reagan served two terms. During those two terms he established this policy, in mainlines exactly what President Trump announced on Tuesday night.
He was followed by President George H. W. Bush who continued that policy, so you put the Reagan and Bush administrations together, you're looking at 12 years. In the 1992 election, Bill Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas, defeated incumbent President George H. W. Bush, and on the very first day that President Clinton was in office, on his inaugural day in 1993, President Clinton signed four executive orders on abortion, and in every single one of those cases he reversed an executive order and an administrative policy of the Reagan and Bush administrations. It's really important to recognize here that the president who holds that pen holds enormous responsibility and power. President Clinton was able, by four single signatures, to reverse 12 years of pro-life victory under the Reagan and Bush administrations.
We should now celebrate the fact that President Trump has made clear that he will put his pen to a change in regulations that would return the policy and deny funding, Title X funding to organizations connected with abortion, and of course the main organization at stake here is Planned Parenthood. And as you would expect, the supporters of Planned Parenthood are crying foul, but here's where to me the story gets really interesting. I'm reading from the Saturday May 19 print edition of the New York Times, an article by Julie Hirschfeld Davis. The headline of the article, New Abortion Limits Challenge Family Planning Programs.
This was a news article that came before the president's speech, but after signals had come from within the administration that this change of policy was forthcoming. She writes, quote, "A Trump administration proposal to bar federally funded family planning facilities from providing or referring patients for abortions is aimed at forcing organizations like Planned Parenthood to make a simple choice: cease offering abortion services or lose some of their government money," end quote.
But as I reported on a previous edition of The Briefing, Cecile Richards, until recently the head of Planned Parenthood, had told of a conversation extremely revealing that she had had with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. In that conversation reported in her memoir, she said that the president's daughter and son-in-law had presented her with a choice. The choice, "You can keep your federal funding or you can keep doing abortions." Cecile Richards said that she rejected the choice. Planned Parenthood, she said, would never abandon doing abortions, and of course they are the biggest abortion provider in the United States.
You'll note from that introductory paragraph from the New York Times that Planned Parenthood was immediately in the news, and not only was it in the news, it was on the editorial page. The cultural left will do everything it can to defend abortion, to fund abortion, and to fund and defend Planned Parenthood. The editors of the New York Times ran an editorial entitled Pandering, and Endangering Women. The editors accused President Trump of appealing to the religious right. They used the word in the headline of pandering. They went on to say that the denial of Title X family planning funds from Planned Parenthood would, quote, "Devastate groups like Planned Parenthood, preventing them," said the editors, "from providing a range of reproductive health services and curtailing women's constitutionally protected right to abortion," end quote.
Well, now wait just a moment. The Hyde Amendment, that was passed by Congress and signed first in the law by President Jimmy Carter, denies any direct funding of abortion with federal taxpayer money, so what's the connection then that the editors of the New York Times are making between the loss of Title X funding by Planned Parenthood and the curtailing of a woman's right to abortion? Well, it's because they just admitted the big truth that they have been trying to deny. That is, the defenders of Planned Parenthood, and that is that funding any part of Planned Parenthood actually helps to support Planned Parenthood in their horrifying and murderous business of abortion.
It's almost as if the editors didn't think that anyone would read their editorial, but they put it right here in black and white, and again I read the words, quote, "The rule could devastate groups like Planned Parenthood." But then I have to wonder, do the editors of the New York Times read their own paper? That was the Sunday, May 20th print edition, but I mentioned that news article from just the day before, the 19th of May. You'll recall the in the editorial, the editors said that this defunding of Title X funds, quote, "Could devastate groups like Planned Parenthood."
But then in the previous edition of the paper, we read this paragraph. Note the contrast. It's not just a contrast. It's a contradiction. Quote, "Still, stripping Title X money from the organization would not decimate it." The organization, Planned Parenthood of course. Quote, "Three-quarters of the federal money its clinics receive comes through Medicaid. The largest effect," said the Times on Saturday, "would most likely be felt by women who do not have health insurance, particularly in states that did not expand Medicaid under the 2010 Affordable Care Act," end quote. Did you notice the contradiction? On Sunday, the editors said that cutting this funding could devastate Planned Parenthood, but on Saturday the same newspaper said that losing the money, quote, "would not decimate it," end quote.
So what's the distinction here? Well, what's most important is to recognize that the editors of the New York Times revealed the fact that funding any part of Planned Parenthood is actually funding abortion, or at least indirectly supporting the organization that is the biggest provider of abortions in the United States. But what their news article revealed so tellingly just a day before on Saturday is that even the loss of this funding would amount to only the loss of about 25% of the federal tax money that annually flows to Planned Parenthood. As the article makes clear, three-quarters of the funding comes from Medicaid, and that funding may be as large as $350 million a year.
Big lessons here, it matters who holds the presidential pen, but it also is a big lesson that one president follows another and was is merely an executive order in one administration can be almost instantaneously reversed in the next.
Big lesson, you can adopt the Hyde Amendment and assure the American taxpayer that tax funds are not going directly to abortion, but the big lesson is also that hundreds of millions of dollars of federal tax money is still flowing to Planned Parenthood. In this case, the big lessons are indeed hard lessons.