briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, October 18, 2019

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

It’s Friday, October 18, 2019. I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

California Mandates Abortion Pills Be Available on Every Public University Campus: The Power of California to Set Precedents for the Rest of the Country

By now, we are accustomed to headline after headline on the issue of abortion, but one that comes in recent days is of particular interest because of the precedent that it establishes. And that precedent has been established intentionally.

Melody Gutierrez of The Los Angeles Times reports a story with the headline “Abortion Medication to be Available at California’s College Health Centers Under New Law.” We’ve seen this law coming. It was Senate Bill 24, a matter already legislated by the general assembly there in California and on Friday the governor of the state, Gavin Newsom, signed the bill into law.

What’s at stake here? As The LA Times report tells us, “California will become the first state in the nation to require public universities to provide access to abortion pills on campus under the bill signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last Friday.” As the article tells us, Senate Bill 24 will go into effect in 2023 with the University of California and California State University systems required to offer students medical abortions. The paper then explains that a medical abortion is a nonsurgical way to terminate a pregnancy that involves taking two prescription pills hours apart during a woman’s first 10 weeks of pregnancy to induce a miscarriage. The paper also explains that it is different than the morning-after pill, which releases a high dose of synthetic hormone found in birth control pills that delays or stops the release of an egg.

The governor of California—he had previously been the infamously liberal mayor of San Francisco. Then he served two terms as the California Attorney General. He stated, “As other states and the federal government go backward, restricting reproductive freedom, in California we are moving forward, expanding access and reaffirming a woman’s right to choose.” He went on to say, “We are removing barriers to reproductive health—increasing access on college campuses and using technology to modernize how patients interact with providers.”

What are we to understand here? Here’s what is most important. The state of California has established another precedent. This is another news story that begins with California being the first state in the nation to do what? To mandate public universities, not only to offer abortion pills, but to provide them without cost to the students. This story is so important because it’s about the state of California intentionally establishing a precedent, and largely, as this story says, for the signaling that that precedent includes in order that it will eventually become a new standard that will apply to all 50 states. The state of California, the nation’s most populous state, with its massive state university system, is now saying this should be considered normative coverage for students. But beyond that, the state of California is now openly declaring that students in the state university’s system of public university campuses should not even be inconvenienced to the slightest degree in order to obtain a medical abortion, and that the killing of the unborn child within them should be made by legally-mandated coercion as absolutely easy as possible.

So, this story may appear to many Americans, including pro-life Americans, to be just another story, just another lamentable headline. Some people are going to look at it and not wrongly see that geographic distinction in America’s moral divide that we often talk about. This is not the kind of headline that would be imaginable coming from the state of Alabama, or the state of Georgia even. It’s not a headline that would even at this point be conceivable in a state like Ohio. But it is imaginable and is now actual in the state of California.

And it’s, furthermore, not making an accusation to point to California and say they are signaling a direction they want the nation to take. That’s exactly what the governor of the state made clear when he talked about other states and the federal government, in his words, “Going backward, restricting reproductive freedom.” Now again, note the language. The governor doesn’t use the word “abortion.” Instead, he speaks of “reproductive freedom,” the euphemism, and also “a woman’s right to choose.”

It’s also interesting that even in the state of California, with its massive democratic majorities in the house—frankly it is Democrats who hold every major statewide elected position—it is very interesting to note that the governor made this statement as a written statement released to the press. He didn’t speak on camera. What does that tell us? It tells us that somewhere in the background of the governor’s calculation must be, at least we can hope, that at some point in the future this might be an embarrassing development by the state of California. But that’s looking to the future.

As you look to the present in the American political system, you are looking at this massive divide on the issue of the sanctity of human life, on the issue of the definition of marriage, on the definition of sexual morality. Issue after issue, there is this undeniable divide. But we need to watch because this divide is becoming ever wider. As we have seen, pro-life states are pushing the pro-life logic further than they have in the past, and pro-abortion states are pushing the pro-abortion logic further than they have in the past. That’s what’s going on here.

But it’s not a balanced picture because the state of California—with its massive population, and of course its unbelievably large state budget, with its very influential public university system—the state of California has an outsized influence on other states. And the state of California is counting on that.

This is a pattern we need to note has applied long before. When those who are producing textbooks for America’s public schools look at preparing a textbook, which after all they hope will bring revenue, the only way that textbook will become profitable is if a sufficient number of states with a sufficient number of students elect to use that particular textbook. So for years now, there have been three states that have had an outsized influence in textbook selection. Those states have been California and Texas and Florida. Those three states, given the size of their population and their representative nature of much of the US, means that if you can’t sell your textbook in Florida and in Texas and in California, you’re probably not going to be able to sell enough copies of your textbook.

Now, this leads to that moral divide and what it means for California to set a precedent. Because California is so large with so many millions of students enrolled in its public schools, when a textbook decision comes up, and when California and the authorized agents in California decide which textbooks will and will not be used, they have a massive influence. Which means, in effect, that if we watch closely, decisions made in Sacramento, California can have a great deal to do with textbooks that might show up in a rural county in Arkansas.

California has also often presented itself as a model for legislation. Indeed, California-model legislation has shown up all over the country. This was true, for example, in no-fault-divorce laws that emerged in states like California, but then spread basically throughout the entire nation. But when we look to this legislation, now signed into law, Senate Bill 24, we need to understand that the state of California is now signaling to the entire world of higher education in the United States that this is the kind of student healthcare coverage that should be demanded by students. And it should be funded by states and required, if necessary, by state legislatures.

Don’t underestimate the power of the state of California to establish these precedents, and also don’t underestimate the fact that a liberal class of college administrators nationwide is committed to the abortion agenda, as well as the sexual and gender revolution. They are looking for this kind of precedent in order even to use the coercive powers of educational associations, if necessary, to make this the standard for what should be expected on public and, by extension, private university campuses all over the United States.

But finally, on this issue, I want to go back to an argument that was made by the legislators and the governor as to why this law was necessary in the state of California. It is because of their absolute determination to make it as easy as possible, as uncomplicated as possible, for a woman to be able to obtain an abortion and to terminate the unborn life within her.

Even the last governor of California, Governor Jerry Brown, who was himself famously liberal and supportive of abortion rights—he vetoed this legislation, even in recent years, because he said it was unnecessary because abortion was already available to college students; and the state of California was, furthermore, already paying for abortion; and at virtually every single California public university campus, there was an abortion provider within about five miles. That’s deadly enough to the unborn. But it wasn’t enough for the California legislature, and it clearly wasn’t enough for the California governor. And that’s why this headline from California on abortion looms even larger than many other recent headlines for what it means, not only for California, but, by their plan, for the rest of us.

Part II

A Model of Convictional Courage: Sydney Archbishop Challenges Anglicans to Hold Fast to the Biblical View of Marriage or Leave the Church

But next, we turn to Australia. An amazing article appeared in The Guardian, but it comes from Australia. The headline, “I’m gay, married, and not leaving my church.” Joel Hollier is the author of the article. The subhead of the article, “For years I believed and taught the same thing as the Anglican archbishop of Sydney, buying into the false narrative of ‘gay v God.’”

At the end of the piece, he is identified as a University of Sydney PhD candidate, a Sydney Anglican, and a former pastor. He’s also the author of a book entitledA Place at His Table: A Biblical Exploration of Faith, Sexuality, and the Kingdom of God.But the big point behind this is that Mr. Hollier doesn’t believe that God has a negative view of homosexuality, and his book is an experiment, like so many others, in getting around the Bible’s clear teachings on the ordering of sexuality and the definition of marriage, even the definition of sin.

But the catalyst for our interest in this particular story is the fact that we’re looking at an article that appeared in a London newspaper written by a man identified as a former Australian pastor complaining even in the first paragraph about the presidential address recently given by the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies. Indeed the Archbishop of Sydney did address same sex marriage, and he did address homosexuality; and Mr. Hollier is complaining that he did so still believing that homosexual behavior is a sin and that same sex marriage is unbiblical.

Hollier wrote, “It’s safe to say that Davies is in many ways acting defensively and out of fear. His interpretation of scripture has him believing that to bless same-sex marriage is to bless sin, with sin being the very thing that separates humanity from God. The stakes are high. He fears the barrage that has led to an unprecedented acceptance of same-sex marriage in the very pews he is trying to protect. His team is, by many counts, losing.” Fascinatingly, Hollier goes on,”Davies is not acting in isolation, nor is he entirely unreasonable. In fact, he is acting wholly consistent within his belief system. “I should know,” he says, ” I believed and taught the same thing for years, during which time I deeply lamented the headway that LGBTQIA+ affirming leaders were making, distorting the purity of the church. I believed,” he writes, ” in every way, that my condemnations came from a place of love.” But then he goes on to say, “I had bought into the false narrative of ‘gay versus God.’”

Now, that’s a very interesting argument, and as I said, it’s interesting that it appears in a London newspaper about an address given by the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney. But the point is that here you have a former pastor complaining that his current Archbishop still believes, still believes, that the Bible reveals homosexuality to be a sin, and sin separates sinful humanity from God, and that Christ is the only answer to our sin and that the Bible’s clear teachings and commandments concerning sin and righteousness still prevail.

It’s also fascinating that this man who complains about his Archbishop’s beliefs recognizes that he is not being unreasonable, and furthermore, that the Archbishop, “Is acting wholly consistent within his belief system.” Indeed the Archbishop is, and in effect what Mr. Hollier is saying is that he and his Archbishop hold to entirely contradictory understandings of the nature and character of God, of the nature and inspiration and authority of scripture, of the definition of sin, of the rightful understanding of marriage, of the right ordering of humanity in terms of sexuality and gender.

At the very least, we need to understand that we’re not just talking here about an ethical disagreement. We’re not even merely talking about two different models of theology. We’re talking about two different theologies, ultimately even about two different understandings of God. But Joel Hollier has written this article to complain that his Archbishop there in Sydney still holds to such a biblical theology. This made me turn to look at the presidential address given at the 51st Senate of the Diocese of Sydney there in Australia by the Archbishop, the most Reverend Dr. Glenn N. Davies. What exactly did he say?

The Archbishop appears first to raise the issue of homosexuality as he laments a decision made six weeks previously by the Diocese of Wangaratta. The bottom line is that that diocese adopted a new regulation for marriage that basically facilitates the recognition of same-sex marriage within the diocese. Soberly, the Archbishop then said this in his presidential address: “The more serious breach of fellowship within the Anglican Church of Australia is the explicit and cavalier endorsement of same-sex marriages, which is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and the doctrine of Christ.” He goes on to point to the current law of the church that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, an exclusive and permanent union ‘forsaking all others…till death us do part.’”

But then, courageously, the Archbishop of Sydney went on to say, and I quote, “Yet our view of marriage is not a popular one in Australia, nor is it consistent,” he pointed out, with the current marriage law in Australia that recently authorized same sex marriage. He says, “Nonetheless, God’s intention for marriage has not changed. We honour him when we abide by his instruction. We cannot bless same- sex marriages for the simple reason that we cannot bless sin.”

He traced the rebellious actions in the Wangaratta Synod, and then he continued in his address, “Friends, we have entered treacherous waters. I fear,” he said, “for the stability of the Anglican Church of Australia. These developments,” he said, “have the potential to fracture our fellowship and impair our communion. I have stated this on numerous occasions at the annual National Bishops’ Conference, but sadly to little effect.” The Archbishop then cited Scripture, the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:2-5: “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”

The Archbishop then reminded the Senate gathered, “Next year the General Synod will meet in a special session to confer on the issue of same-sex blessings and same-sex marriage. It has been planned,” he says, “by the General Synod Standing Committee as a consultation, with no opportunity for making decisions.” He then says, “However, the time has come to take action and make decisions, and these recent events have made it all the more imperative to do so. The General Synod,” he said, “must make a clear statement about the teaching of the Bible on the sanctity of sex within the marriage bond of a man and a woman, so that marriage is held in honour among all and the marriage bed is not defiled (Hebrews 13:4).”

“My own view”—this is stunning language coming from an Archbishop—”My own view is that if people wish to change the doctrine of our Church, they should start a new church or join a church more aligned to their views – but do not ruin the Anglican Church by abandoning the plain teaching of Scripture. Please leave us. We have far too much work to do in evangelising Australia to be distracted by the constant pressure to change our doctrine in order to satisfy the lusts and pleasures of the world.”

I can only say that I pray for the day that the average evangelical pastor in the United States of America would summon the courage to speak as courageously as the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney on these central and unavoidable issues that are necessary to our understanding of sin and sexuality, but also to gospel and church. Within the worldwide Anglican communion, the Sydney Anglicans by tradition are either loved or hated. It is because of their deep evangelicalism tradition that shows up so much that all you have to do in Anglican circles worldwide is say Sydney, Anglican, and everyone understands. The liberals go crazy, and the evangelicals are encouraged.

But it’s also important that we note the sober explanation given by the Archbishop as he is seeking to pastor his own people. He speaks of the fact, candidly, that the biblical view of marriage is not the popular view. In Australia right now and in the United States, it’s not even the view that is ensconced in the definition of marriage in law. It is not going to be popular, and those who hold to biblical truth are likely to be even more and more marginalized in society.

But honestly, the most refreshing part of his argument to me is the fact that he had the courage to say if you disagree with the doctrine of this church established in Scripture, then leave. Do not try to liberalize this church at the expense of the authority of Scripture and the power of the gospel. Instead, leave us and join some communion that agrees with you. In this address and in the controversy that surrounds that, we clearly see an Archbishop speaking out of heartbreak, but also, we need to note, out of courage.

Part III

What’s Best for Children? The Wall Street Journal Boldly Argues that Marriage Is the Best Environment for Raising Children

Finally, we turn to a recent article that appeared this week in The Wall Street Journal. It’s by Erica Komisar. The title “Political Correctness is Bad for Kids.” We’ve talked about that deep moral divide in the United States, growing ever deeper and wider. But one of the things we need to know is that it centers on, in so many ways, not only sexuality, but, inevitably, the definition of marriage and the pattern of family that is considered to be normative in the entire society.

Komisar writes, “Family life shouldn’t be politicized, but a new poll suggests that it is.” This is very interesting. This data is going to tell us of the divide in America that is now so deep, even over an issue as simple and straightforward as the family. Komisar writes, “Only 33% of U.S. liberals agree ‘that marriage is needed to create strong families.’” This, according to a survey from the Institute of Family Studies. We’ll be looking even more closely that survey in coming days. “The figures are 80% of conservatives and 55% of moderates.”

So again, consider that 33% of liberals say that marriage is needed to create strong families. 55% of moderates agree, but one of the things we need to note is that there really aren’t that many moderates when it comes down to these kinds of questions. The moderates appear moderate when answering a pollster, but as we see, for instance, in America’s political system, when you have two different candidates at two different parties with two diametrically opposed platforms, there really isn’t much room for moderates because there isn’t a third way.

But the data also tells us that 80% of conservatives agree that marriage is necessary. The problem there is that that’s 20% short of conservative sanity. You really can’t hold to a position that says we want to conserve what is most important in the society and then say that marriage is expendable. At the very least, we’re looking at at least 20% of the supposed conservatives in this poll representing themselves as more than anything else confused. But nonetheless, you see that divide: 33% on the left, 80% on the right. That’s not an insignificant divide. Those are really representing two different moral worlds.

But Komisar wrote her article not only to talk about the divide, but to talk about the fact that marriage, “provides children both emotional and material security, and the ideal environment for children is a loving household with both a sensitive and empathic mother and a playful, engaged and protective father.”

Now again, we saw statements made by the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney that would have been considered unnecessary and uncontroversial even in his own church and communion a generation ago. Consider how unusual it might have appeared, just a generation ago, for someone in The Wall Street Journal to have to argue that the ideal environment for children is “a loving household with both a sensitive and empathetic mother and a playful, engaged and protective father.” What we need to note is that those are now fighting words. Those words are now an argument.

And furthermore it’s an argument that wouldn’t even have been imaginable a generation ago because even the words mother and father, or for that matter, male and female, man and woman, boy and girl—they are themselves being subverted by the gender confusion which goes as the order of the day.

Komisar makes the observation, “Children need a balance of secure attachment and healthy separation, and the traditional two-parent structure provides it. Mothers,” she writes, “are uniquely suited for sensitive nurturing which helps regulate distress and is critical to early development. Fathers,” she writes, “provide balance by teaching children to regulate their aggression and become independent. In my practice,” she writes, “I have seen an increasing number of moms who are single by choice. Although the mother,” she writes, “have the attachment part down, they don’t have a man around to help the separation process, and the kids struggle as a result.”

Later in the article, she points to the insanity against all the evidence of arguing that family structure is irrelevant to the thriving of children. Clearly, it is relevant. And not only is it relevant, we come to understand the issues are even deeper than just the flourishing of children. It is the flourishing of the entire civilization, of which children are a part. It is the nurturing of families that is the responsibility of every civilization, but we’re now living in a civilization that refuses rightly to even define the family it seeks to nurture.

We saw a different model of courage and truth-speaking when it came to the Archbishop in Australia, but consider the model, again of courage and true speaking, that comes from this writer, and, frankly, in The Wall Street Journal in its willingness to publish this article. Komisar writes of truths that are certainly made clear in revelation, but we need to understand that they are also clear in the structures of creation.

We’ll be looking next week and bracing ourselves for the letters to the editor and the other response that will surely come to this author and this article. Christians understand that telling the truth will come with consequences, but we also understand that not telling the truth also comes with consequences. And those consequences, deadly and dangerous.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

I hope you’ll join me for Together for the Gospel 2020 in Louisville this upcoming April. I’ll be speaking along with my friends, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, John Piper, and others on the theme “Entrusted with the Gospel.” Early-bird pricing ends on October the 31st, so register today to save. You can learn more or register at I’ll certainly hope to see you there.

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I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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