The Briefing

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Wall Street Journal

Another Religious Test in the Senate, by Eugene F. Rivers III

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019

Tags: Audio, Masculinity, Nashville Statement, Netherlands, Sexual Revolution, U.S. Senate

Transcript

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

It's Wednesday, January 9, 2019. I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part

Will pastors in the Netherlands who affirm biblical Christianity face criminal prosecution? Controversy over The Nashville Statement explodes among the Dutch.

Back in 2017, a group of evangelical Christians concerned about the confusion of the age wrote and adopted a statement that became known as the Nashville Statement. A statement that affirmed a biblical understanding of gender, sexuality, and marriage. And also spoke, on clearly biblical terms, to many of the most controversial issues, issues that the church now faces inevitably, in the context of our modern American civilization. But, of course, the situation is not merely American, it is increasingly worldwide.

And furthermore, many of the issues that the Nashville Statement had to address in 2017 had actually emerged earlier in another context. Specifically, the context the Europe. That takes us to a headline that has developed just over the last couple of days, news has come from the Netherlands that 250 Christian leaders, that is both pastors and other leaders, have signed the Nashville Statement, and the fact that they did so has now made headline news around the world. In particular, what's so important for Christians here is that it demonstrates the increasing opposition, even overt hostility to traditional Christianity.

In the case of the developments in the Netherlands, the response from so many, including potentially even from the government of the Netherlands, is that anyone who holds to a traditional, biblical understanding of human sexuality, that understanding of human sexuality and gender that has marked the Christian church for over 2,000 years, is now simply out of bounds in contemporary society.

Indeed, one of the headlines coming from the Netherlands is so ominous as to tell us that the Dutch government prosecution service is deciding whether or not the very signing and publication of the Nashville Statement is actually a violation worthy of criminal prosecution. Dutch News reports, "The prosecution service is examining whether the Nashville Statement on marriage and sexuality breaches the law after a recent Dutch translation was condemned by equality organizations."

Listen to the language used in this report. I'm reading the exact language, "The document, signed by around 250 hardline Protestant ministers, states that marriage is the ‘covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman’ and that ‘it it is sinful to approve of homosexual impurity or transgenderism.’"

The use of the language "hardline Protestant ministers" is clearly intended to send shivers down every secular spine. But notice the words that the same report indicates represents this hardline position. The words are absolutely what virtually every Christian church, every Christian denomination throughout the last 2,000 years would have believed and affirmed without question. Now, in 2019, that's enough, at least in the Netherlands, to have these pastors identified as "hardline Protestant ministers."

As you might expect, there are some massive developments of long standing behind all this. Remember that in 2001, the Netherlands became the very first government on earth to legalize same-sex marriage. What makes this extremely important is recognizing that the Netherlands demonstrates the trajectory of European secularization perhaps better than any other single nation.

By any measure, the Netherlands is now one of the most secular societies on earth. Almost every single documented survey or research report indicates that the vast majority of citizens in the Netherlands indicate that they have no religious identity, even though the majority have historically had, by their family ties, some kind of Protestant identity.

But the numbers are actually staggering. One report from 2015 indicates that 82% of citizens in the Netherlands indicate that they rarely or ever have entered a church building. And furthermore, 59% indicated that they had never even once in their lives entered a church building. Another report that came out earlier in the decade indicated that for the first time in the Netherlands, atheists actually outnumbered theists within the culture of the Dutch.

Now, what makes that really interesting is that as you look at the kinds of religious self-identifications that are possible, this might lead some to think, "Well, this simply means that there were few who identified as theists because they identified as some form of historic religious beliefs." Say, Judaism or Christianity. And amongst Christians, either Protestantism or perhaps Roman Catholicism. But that's not the case. The remainder were agnostic, or having no religious identification, or some other kind of secular dimensionality.

What we're looking at here is a situation in which a country that had been historically anything but secular, ever since the last two decades of the 19th century has been quickly becoming one of the most secular societies on earth. And it's also important to recognize that the Netherlands, and especially the city of Amsterdam, has gained a reputation for sexual liberalism. Even sexual libertinism. And it is also, we should note, been an international center of sex trafficking.

But as you think about what is represented in the pushback to 250 Christian leaders and pastors signing the declaration in the Netherlands, you also come to understand that the real question here is not who did sign it, but who didn't? The interesting and alarming issue here is that so many who are identified in some way with an historic Christian denomination in the Netherlands, pressed back against the Nashville Statement.

Now when the statement was adopted in the United States in 2017, there was also pushback. There was pushback from Protestant liberals and others in the secular community who have absolutely joined the LGBTQ revolution. That was expected. But there was also pushback from some others who didn't want to identify as Protestant liberals, they wanted to identify in some way as evangelicals, or as evangelical-like. They stated that the Nashville Statement fell short of what a statement should say. That the Nashville Statement could have been better.

Now, that's an interesting claim. And, by the way, it's true of every single statement that has ever been adopted throughout the history of the Christian church. The scripture is inerrant, no other statement, no human document is inerrant. But the situation needs to be pressed back, the question needs to be reversed. If the Nashville Statement can be improved upon, then do so. If it could be more biblical, then demonstrate how.

The reality is, and I'll state this quite clearly, those who in the main rejected the Nashville Statement, did so because they do not want to be publicly identified with any statement of sufficient clarity on these questions. It was really interesting and it will be even more interesting in days to come to see how many of those who were identified in some sense with the Christian church there in the Netherlands will respond to this statement. We simply have to raise the same challenge. The issue is not who did sign the statement, the issue is who didn't and why not?

And of course the reality behind that is the absolute compromise and acquiescence, the surrender of so many historic Christian denominations to the LGBTQ revolution. And even before that, to the revolution in human sexuality that marked so much of the 20th century. You look at all of this and you recognize it's the same sad story.

In the Netherlands, the general society is considerably more liberal, more secular, and at least as this headline would indicate, more hostile to historic biblical Christianity. So much so, as we indicated, that merely publishing and signing this statement may be, as the Dutch prosecution services indicated, a criminal offense.

Going back to the Dutch News story, it states, "A spokesman for the public prosecution service said it was examining the statement to see if there was any basis for a criminal investigation. The service," according to this news report, "gave no indication how long the study might take."

The article then goes on also to tell us that Article 1 of the Dutch Constitution states that, "Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted." Now, let's just state that there might be some kind of loss in translation from the Dutch to the English, but that statement is not only the epitome of modern secular liberalism, it is morally incomprehensible. The statement that there cannot be any discrimination on any grounds whatsoever is insane. And the very fact that the Dutch prosecution service is considering charges against those who hold to historic Christianity shows you just what kind of agenda is actually behind that kind of language.

The leader of one Dutch political party historically associated with reformed Protestantism, that is the SGP, signed the statement. This led one individual in the Netherlands, identified as opera singer Francis van Broekhuizen, to file a formal police complaint against Kees van der Staaij. And the paper explains that that is the first step towards any kind of potential criminal prosecution.

The press report also uses dismissive language about this particular party, by the way, it is the oldest continual political party there in the Netherlands, by explaining that it only holds two seats on Parliament, that's out of a 150, and "draws most of its support from the Dutch Bible belt." Yes, there is still a Dutch Bible belt.

It is interesting historically also to remember that between 1901 and 1905, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands was Abraham Kuyper, one of the most important Protestant theologians of the 20th century. A prominent Dutch clergyman and journalist and politician statesmen. But that was a long time ago. We're not only talking about an entire century ago, we're talking about a development before the transformation of Dutch society into one of the most secular on earth. And, as these news reports indicate, one of the societies that just might be increasingly hostile, even with the threat of criminal prosecution, to those who dare to hold to historic biblical Christianity.

One other word about this, of course, there are many in the United States who would say, "Well, that's the Netherlands, it can't have anything to do with Christians in the United States." But of course it can. Remember that back in 2001, when in the Netherlands same-sex marriage was legalized, even many who later became avid proponents of same-sex marriage, said in 2001, "It can't happen here." But it did happen here. Nationwide in 2015 with the Obergefell decision handed down by the US Supreme Court.

The difference between 2001 and 2015 is only 14 years. Consider that an ominous warning as you consider this headline news story from the Netherlands.

Part

Can US senators block a federal judge nominee simply because he is a member of an historic Catholic organization that—brace yourself—is Catholic? This threatens the religious liberty of all.

But you also have to add another headline news story from much closer to home in this case, in the United States. The news story here has to do with one of President Trump's nominees to the federal judiciary. In this case, Brian Buescher, nominated for the US District Court in Nebraska. The big issue here is that two Democratic senators have written directly to this nominee challenging him as to whether or not his membership in the Knights of Columbus, an historic men's fraternal organization of the Roman Catholic Church, should disqualify him from serving on the federal bench.

The two Democratic senators are Hawaii's Mazie Hirono and California's Kamala Harris. They wrote to him charging that the Knights of Columbus hold to extreme positions. And they then went on, as is indicated in an article by Eugene Rivers that appeared in The Wall Street Journal, to insinuate that Mr. Buescher's membership should disqualify him.

When he was asked, we are told, if he should quit the organization if confirmed as a federal judge, Mr. Buescher responded, "I have not drafted any policies or positions for the national organization. If confirmed," he said, "I will abide by the code of conduct of the United States judges and will not affiliate with any organization in violation of the code."

It's frankly frightening to have this kind of letter sent. It's horrifying to have this of question asked. And it's also rather embarrassing to see a Federal Court nominee have to respond in this fashion. It's also important to recognize that the two Democratic senators, both women, indicated that the fact that the Knights of Columbus is a fraternal organization, that is an organization of men, was also problematic. Let's just remind ourselves of something. Back in the 19th century, organizations of men emerged across many sectors of American society. This became a very important matter and in the Catholic Church the fraternal organization known as the Knights of Columbus was established in 1882.

If you look at American Protestantism, you will also find in almost every Protestant denomination a similar kind of organization. In Roman Catholicism, the Knights of Columbus are known for their charitable work. But they are also known by their pledge to defend the doctrine and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It turns out, that's the problem. How would the Knights of Columbus be in trouble in secular America in 2019? Well, it would be because they hold to the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Teachings about abortion, marriage, and sexuality. Teachings of the Roman Catholic Church still holds to officially and which have not changed even under the current more liberal Pope.

Evangelical Christians need to understand what is behind this and the fact that the target is not only on the Knights of Columbus, it will be upon just about anyone who dares to be a part of any denomination that holds to historic Christian teaching. The issue here is to recognize it's not the Knights of Columbus that are in the bull's eye, it's the Roman Catholic Church. And it won't be just the Roman Catholic Church.

And furthermore, as you look at the kinds of questions asked by these two senators, this reminds us of the fact that in 2017, Senator Dianne Feinstein responded to another nominee to the federal bench by stating that now Judge Amy Coney Barrett was marked by the fact that, "the dogma lives loudly in you." That's to say, just bluntly and explicitly that Senator Dianne Feinstein of California was ready to say that this individual was disqualified to sit on the court simply because she actually believes the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church of which she is a member.

The issue here is not Catholicism, the issue is secularism. The reality is that the same kind of questions could just as well be addressed to a member of a Southern Baptist church. Or a PCA, that is Presbyterian Church in America church. A Missouri Synod Luthern Church or any kind of denomination or church that stands for historic Christianity and defines morality, and reality for that matter, in historic Christian and biblical terms.

Eugene Rivers, who wrote the article for The Wall Street Journal, put the issue this way, "If Catholics like the Knights can be targeted, what should members of my Pentecostal church expect? We share traditional views on abortion and marriage. What about Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Mormons and evangelical Christians? Even the Reverend Martin Luther King's biblical beliefs," he said, "would be anathema to Senators Harris, Feinstein, and Hirono."

He also pointed out, by the way, that Democratic icon, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was himself a member of the Knights of Columbus. So also, by the way, are former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and current Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

The most important worldview dimension to understand here is the fact that secularism is not neutral when it comes to religious belief. It's not neutral at all. It turns openly, overtly hostile. And that's what we're seeing right now in the Netherlands, but lest we draw any comfort from the distance from the Hague here, let's just remember that this particular set of questions was addressed to a Federal Court nominee in the United States by two United States senators, following the lead of a third Senator who had already opened an aggressive form of questioning against a Federal Court nominee simply because of her church membership.

One rather concerning symbol, to say the least, of these developments is the fact that at Hague, that is the capitol of the Netherlands, it is also the home of the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. There the gay rights flag, the gay pride flag, was raised within government territory in an answer to the controversy about the signing of the Nashville declaration. That is to say, once again, there is no neutrality. That gay pride flag in the Hague demonstrates that graphically, if colorfully.

Part

Is traditional masculinity itself toxic? The American Psychological Association reveals guidelines that would transform both boyhood and manhood.

But next we have to quickly get to another issue of incredible concern here in the United States. Here is a headline for you coming from the American Psychological Association, "APA issues first-ever guidelines for practice with men and boys."

Now that's a very interesting news release from the American Psychological Association. It was dated January, 2019. What could it possibly mean? Well, as it turns out it means that the American Psychological Association, the dominant professional association that establishes professional and ethical guidelines for psychologists, has decided that traditional notions of masculinity are inherently dangerous, harmful, and unhealthy.

Stephanie Pappas, writing the official release for the organization wrote, "APA’s new Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men strive to recognize and address these problems in boys and men while remaining sensitive to the field's androcentric past. Thirteen years in the making," she wrote, "they draw on more than 40 years of research showing that traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful and that socializing boys to suppress their emotions causes damage that echoes both inwardly and outwardly."

Now, when you look at that kind of language we have to ask the question, "What does it mean?" We noted, by the way, that before the end of the year, the phrase "toxic masculinity" was indicated as one of the most interesting new phrases of the age. But let's just consider, if you're talking about toxic masculinity, does that mean that there is a non-toxic masculinity?

In the case of the longer report issued by the American Psychological Association, what is centrally indicted is what is identified as "ideological masculinity." There are several different dimensions to it that are identified here and every single one of them can obviously be distorted and abused. Christians understand that there can be, and often is demonstrated, a toxic masculinity in a sinful world, just as there is a toxic femininity. Or any number of other dimensions of human existence.

But when you are looking at what is identified here as traditional masculinity, or in the longer report, "traditional masculinity ideology," you're actually looking at much that is simply not a part of toxic masculinity, but of the basic difference between men and women. And what is denied in this report, implicitly and explicitly, is that humanity depends on there being a difference between men and women.

But reading this literature, the entire report and the publicity about the report, there's something else that comes immediately to the fore. And that is this, you are looking at the fact that the LGBTQ revolution is very much behind this. The article, the release by Stephanie Pappas, indicated the influence of second wave feminism in the 1960s and the developments in psychology thereafter. But it's also incredibly revealing to see in this report how it is alleged traditional notions of masculinity are very difficult for those who are struggling with gender identity, and in particular those who might be undergoing some kind of gender change.

So here is one of the most incredible insights you gain from all of this. We discover that in order to attempt not to make persons confused about their gender, harmed or further confused, the entire society is supposed to confuse the fact that there is supposed to be some difference between men and women. Now, even as you look at this report, there are certain dimensions of traditional masculinity that of course can be distorted, just as any form of traditional femininity can be distorted.

But at the center of the attack here is not some kind of toxic masculinity, but rather masculinity. The insinuation here is that in the end, men and women, males and females, boys and girls, must be just generic humanity. But that flies in the face of the biblical worldview. There is no generic humanity. In the very first chapter of the first book of the Bible we are told, "male and female created he them." There is a difference.

And furthermore, human society and human welfare depends on that difference. We actually depend on the difference between men and women when it comes to issues such as nurturing and even protecting. That's not to say that no woman ever protects a man and that men have and should have no nurturing ability or responsibility. But it does say that there is a difference that is due to something more than mere culture and ideology and human oppression. There is a basic difference here. And looking with realistic, honest lenses throughout human history, we see that it has always been so.

But nonetheless, that doesn't stop the American Psychological Association from issuing this huge report and even in its own released news, telling us that it's traditional masculinity that is the problem. The problem that is to be overcome by psychological practice.

But this news development also serves to remind us that there is nothing on planet Earth, once again, that is neutral. There is no profession that is neutral. There's no professional organization that is neutral. And it is increasingly hard to see, given these official APA guidelines for the psychological practice with boys and men, how in the world this can be honestly and consistently squared with any form of historic biblical Christianity.

The document is publicly available and this means that anyone can now go to this set of guidelines and discover the worldview and the approach that we are told is now to be taken by psychologists who are members of the American Psychological Association.

And we are again reminded of the ominous development that it is quite foreseeable, that it will be extremely difficult for convictional biblical Christians to operate in so many of the major professions in the United States. In this case, the field of psychology, not exactly surprisingly, serves to make that point abundantly, alarmingly clear.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.

I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

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