The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, January 15, 2021

It’s Friday, January 15, 2021.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Will the Biden Administration—As Promised—Be the Most LGBTQ-Friendly Administration in American History?

Whilst Joseph Biden prepares to be inaugurated, on January the 20th, as the 46th president of the United States. Some very interesting cultural signals are being sent. One of those is reflected in a headline in The Washington Post, “Biden’s Ambitious LGBT Agenda Poises Him To Be The Nation’s Most Pro-Equality President In History.” The article is by reporter Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, and it’s interesting for many reasons, one of them is this, when the headline says that Joe Biden will be the most pro-equality president in history, and this is on the LGBT agenda, that means more than Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States. But wait just a minute, that’s actually the way that it was back then. Back in 2012, when the Obama-Biden ticket was running for reelection, it was then vice president, Joe Biden, who came out supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage and basically forced, in terms of timing, then President Obama, to declare the same.

Now, don’t misunderstand. Barack Obama was for same-sex marriage, infamously. He was for it when he was a state legislator for a brief time in Illinois, he was against it after having been for it, when he ran for the United States Senate and then shortly thereafter, when he ran successfully for president of the United States. So, he was for it and then he was against it, and then in 2012, he was for it again. But his timing, not his position, but his timing was basically triggered by Joe Biden. And Joe Biden has set out to go far beyond even Barack Obama. When you look at the LGBTQ array, Joe Biden is putting a very big emphasis on the “T.” Now, that tells us about difference. Not only between say Barack Obama and Joe Biden, there’s no reason to believe there’s any real moral distance there at all, but the timing is interesting.

Barack Obama was elected president first in 2008 and then reelected in 2012. At that time, the democratic ticket was considered groundbreaking on LGBTQ issues. But putting the “T” in there is a little ambitious at this point because the “T” really didn’t become a big factor in LGBTQ until sometime later. It was basically gay and lesbian equality that was the nomenclature of the day, but LGBTQ began to emerge at just about that time. And the “T” is what is really different when it comes to Joe Biden. But maybe that just means it’s what’s really different when it comes to a major democratic candidate in 2020, rather than 2012, that’s eight years of time. But in the midst of this moral revolution, that’s an enormous amount of time because the revolution is going forward so fast. Just consider the fact that national polling and surveying on the question of same-sex marriage saw Americans switch their position, in terms of the majority, in a period of just seven years, this is one year more than that.

But the article by Emily Wax-Thibodeaux goes on to be very specific about the fact that those who are pushing the LGBT agenda, they’re investing a great deal of hope in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Later in the article, we read this, “Biden has promised that his administration will look like America, and he said that he will provide anti-biased training for federal employees and offer incentives for States that adopt programs that help prepare transgender people for the workplace.” Now, notice a lot of this. This is a very interesting use of language, because we’re told that he is going to provide, the federal government will provide, anti-biased training. Now, when you consider the nomenclature, anti-bias sounds morally right until you understand that the bias in this case means any negative moral judgment towards anything connected with the LGBTQ agenda. And that includes telling federal employees that they have to join the moral revolution.

And that means every letter in LGBTQ, and as you will know, the letters will be expanding. But then the post writes, “But he could face his most laborious hurdle in passing the equality act, a package of measures that protects against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, that was passed by the house in 2019, but blocked by the Republican-led Senate.” Now again, very interesting, the equality act is indeed the great moral lever that the LGBTQ activists intend to use as we look to national legislation. The equality act would basically give not only momentum, but established legal protection to the LGBTQ list of concerns.

The Equality Act would also represent a direct collision with religious liberty, that is acknowledged in this article, by the way, and to the credit of The Washington Post, the article cites Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, she’s quoted as saying, “Biden has made it clear that he intends to weaponize the law to crush dissent, in order to implement a far left agenda that impacts” she said, “not just people of faith, but all Americans who want to live life, according to their convictions. The government can’t engage in religious bigotry.” She went on to say, “We live in a pluralistic society. The government should not single out and punish those who believe that the best home for a child includes a married father and mother.”

Now, why that particular example? Well, you might say, first of all, it’s primary, but secondly, it has to do with the fact that there is particular concern in her comment for, just to give an example, a Christian adoption in foster care program that would dare to operate on the basis of Christian convictions. The Equality Act is deliberately intended to prevent a Christian adoption and foster care ministry from operating on those Christian convictions, that a child is best served by a married father and mother. You can do the math and figure out what’s going on here.

But another very interesting signal was sent in yesterday’s print edition of USA Today, in the sports section no less, on the front page of the sports section, and the sports section of USA Today is extremely political and it is extremely liberal, Scott Gleeson writes the article with the headline, “Biden Administration Could Spark LGBTQ Advancement.”

Now, wait a minute, that doesn’t sound like a sports story, but it is a sports story, and it’s a bizarre sports story, because Gleeson is writing that it just might be that Donald Trump was so repressive when it comes to the LGBTQ agenda, that’s the implication in the article, that professional athletes didn’t come out of the closet because of some kind of repression. Now, it’s really interesting to note that Gleeson basically subverts his own argument in this case, he has to back off of this specific issue as to whether or not LGBTQ athletes would come out of the closet during the Trump administration, but he does quote an openly gay high school basketball coach from New York who said, “It’s hard to say Donald Trump hasn’t played a significant role in impeding progress for LGBTQ people as a whole.”

And then we are told that this basketball coach, gay, who teaches politics, that’s the way he is identifying. He also said, “Then in the sports world, where homophobia and toxic masculinity already exists, we’re talking about a lot of fear factors that can make being your true self challenging.” So, Donald Trump is blamed, and then maybe he’s not. But even more interesting, later in the article, the reporter cites Billy Beane, Major League Baseball’s vice-president, and special assistant to the commissioner, who said that the political climate could have played a slight factor, says USA Today, in an athlete’s personal decision to stay closeted: “Over the last several years, people have been rewarded for divisive activity, especially on social media. And the political culture galvanized people who maybe were afraid to be homophobic or racist. Culture is not easy to change. Homophobia and racism, and most men feminizing each other growing up have been built over 100 years. So, it takes a while to take that wall down.”

Now, just notice the language, once again, we are actually told in summary, that Billy Beane said that this current political climate, the last four years, could have played a slight factor in an athlete’s personal decision. Now, why is that important? It’s because it basically refutes the very opening premise of the article itself. It’s pretty evident that it just comes down to finding a journalistic excuse to put a big LGBTQ story on the front page of yesterday sports section of USA Today, and it is a very big article. But it’s also apparent that in this article, there is the hope that all of this is going to change, and there will be an acceleration of advancement for the LGBTQ agenda in sports, professional sports, and elsewhere in the society, after the inauguration of Joe Biden.

San Diego Loyal soccer player, Collin Martin, said, “I think we did see a domino effect of athletes coming out in high profile sports.” So, that’s speaking of the Obama years, “It’s clear that a lot of progress happened under Barack Obama’s administration. Sadly, sports have been slower to show the same type of LGBTQ representation as other entertainment fields, but that political progress is still extended to sports.” Again, two articles, very different articles, two different newspapers, The Washington Post and USA Today, but both of them, sparked by the coming inauguration of Joe Biden, and the hope, indeed, in some cases, a rather bizarrely contextualized hope, that this is going to mean a big advance for the LGBTQ community.

Part II

An Historic London Church Affirms Commitment to Scripture While New Church of England Document Undermines Historic Christian Teaching

But next, we’re going to shift to a far more important dimension of these issues. And this is going to take us to London, and it’s going to take us to one of the most important and historic evangelical congregations of The Church of England, there in London. And this church is actually at the ancient center of what is known as The City. The City of London, which means its primary financial district.

The church is known as St. Helen’s Bishopsgate. Bishopsgate, very, very historic, St. Helen’s, a very venerable congregation in The Church of England, and it has been very well known as a prominent evangelical expository pulpit, under the ministry of pastors such as Dick Lucas and William Taylor. William Taylor is the current minister of the church. But just in the last several weeks, at the website of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, The Church of England congregation in The City of London were told that the church is now “a state of broken partnership” with The Church of England House of Bishops, over the Bishop’s handling of sexuality. The Church Times of London reports, “The statement from St. Helen’s, dated 16 December, criticizes divisions in the House of Bishops over sex and marriage.”

And, “The appointment to influential leadership positions of people who openly advocate change to the Church of England’s doctrine and/or forms of service.” Particularly, the leadership of St. Helen’s Bishopsgate objected to a document that was released in November of last year, entitled, “Living in Love and Faith.” It’s known within the Church of England as LLF. And The Church Times describes it as seeking to “broker fresh dialogue about same-sex relations and marriage, a topic that has become a touchstone of orthodoxy for conservative evangelical churches.”

Now, The Church Times is a very influential periodical, covering The Church of England, and it speaks as an inside voice. And thus, it’s interesting that explaining this story to a Church of England readership, we’re told that St. Helen’s is, in this case, distinctively evangelical, and conservative evangelical churches have looked to the issue of same-sex relations and marriage as touchstones of orthodoxy, it’s as if that has to be explained. But that tells us a very great deal. It’s one thing to have USA Today, The Washington Post talk about the incoming Biden administration. It’s another thing to consider what is on the one hand, in some churches, a mixed message, and in another churches, actually a radically biblical message.

This headline news story tells us that this one evangelical congregation, covered in this story, is refusing to just go along. Now, the article itself is not particularly clear about what it means for a Church of England congregation to be “in a state of broken partnership”, it’s not clear what that means. But whatever it means, it does indicate, the article is clear about this, that St. Helen’s Bishopsgate is not departing from The Church of England, but it has already sought alternative Episcopal oversight from the current Bishop of London. She would come down to being just about the third ranking church person within the Church of England, and as you can tell from the pronoun, she is a woman, and not only that, a woman of rather liberal theology. The statement from St Helen’s Bishopsgate goes on to say,

“Whilst St. Helen’s is encouraged by the faithful work of some involved in the LLF project, the clarity and consistency of the Bible’s teaching on sex and marriage is in market contrast to the House of Bishops’ muddled message. In good conscience, St. Helen’s is no longer able to remain in gospel partnership with The House of Bishops until they again, speak and act consistently in accordance with the plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage, as recognized by the church down the centuries.” Again, an extremely clear statement. It is a statement from this congregation, of the fact that it is opposed to the muddled message sent by the House of Bishops of the Church of England on these issues. And by the way, as we’re going to see, it is indeed a muddled message, but the church also speaks as an evangelical congregation to its confidence in, I’m going to quote the statement again, “The plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage. And as that teaching is recognized by the church down the centuries.”

Now, here’s what’s important, very, very important in evangelical conviction. This church isn’t saying that the church has merely taught this with some reference to scripture. It is saying that scripture is plain in its meaning and in its text. And the church has recognized biblical authority and the plain straightforward teaching of scripture on these matters. It is the bishops who have muddled the message. Scripture is not muddled at all.

The statement includes words from the pastor of the church, the rector, the Reverend William Taylor, who said that even as it is with drawing, is withdrawing particularly from activities “that imply partnership in the gospel.” Again, very, very important, and that statement goes back to three years ago by William Taylor. It’s referenced in this article because it’s clearly germane. And here you have a pastor who dares, on the basis of Christian biblical conviction, to say that his church can’t participate in activities that imply partnership in the gospel, when the church believes that it is the gospel itself, that is being confused or, I’m going to go back to their word, muddled.

Part III

Truth May Be Lonely But It Nonetheless Remains True: The Church of England Attempts to Hold Irreconcilable Positions on Sexuality Simultaneously

Given the fact that this text, the “Living in Love and Faith” document, it’s sub headed, “Christian Teaching and Learning About Identity, Sexuality, Relationships, and Marriage.” Considering the fact that this text is at the center of the controversy, I felt that I should go and get it and read it. All, I should add, 450 pages of it. There’s a lot to it. But the most important thing about it is recognizing that the word, muddled, as in muddled message, is exactly what is demonstrated in this document.

And there is a particular pattern to which I want to draw attention. It is the way that some people try to present clear Christian truth as if there is an equally authoritative or alternative vision to it. So, it says, on the one hand, this is what some say, on the other hand, this is what others say, as if they are biblically equivalent arguments. Even the way the document begins, sets it up for disaster, because the introduction, which is addressed as a welcome, tells the reader that the reader may be one of two kinds of persons, both of whom are invited to receive this document and think about it. For example, if you’re someone who likes to start, says the document, by thinking about life and God and how it is that the church is the way it is, then part one, they say, should be your starting point.

“Or you may be someone who likes to start by taking a good look at the world we find ourselves in, just head for part two.” Says the introduction, “Maybe you are the kind of person who wants to make sense of things first from the perspective of faith. Part three is where such readers should start.” But let’s just note, as Christians, we need to understand clearly, we start with scripture, we start with theology, we turn to everything else secondarily. If we invite people to start somewhere else, well, don’t be surprised when this ends up in disaster. And that’s exactly where this document ends up. Now, it doesn’t end up there, in a conclusive way, by denying biblical orthodoxy. It merely, as if you can say merely, subverts biblical orthodoxy by saying, “Look, this is what the church has taught. There’s some people who believe this, this is what people believe the church teaches, what the Bible reveals, but then there are others who believe otherwise, and they should have an equal voice in this as well.”

The “on the one hand, on the other hand” approach undertaken in this document becomes very clear by the time you get to page 256. For example, at the top of the page, we read this, “Some of us maintain in lined with the Church of England’s teaching in this area, that marriage between a man and a woman, held together by promises before God and the wider community, is the only proper context for a sexual relationship.” Now, you’ll notice that this is the official teaching of the Church of England, the sentence actually says that, but the document by the Church of England is actually addressed, as some of us maintain, as if it just states on the very beginning, that in the Church of England, there are those who do not believe in the doctrine and teaching of the Church of England, and those who want to change it.

So, some of us, according to this document, believe in what we’ll just summarize as the Church of England’s historic affirmation of a biblical definition of marriage, but then we read on the same page, the very next paragraph, “Some of us say that the critical point in a relationship is where the couple have committed themselves to the lifelong relationship of marriage, and that this promise to be with and for each other, and whatever children come through their union, is the point at which sexual intercourse becomes a fully responsible action of love.” In other words, sex outside of marriage? That’s okay, some of us think. But the two somes of us, thus far, aren’t the extent of the somes of us. By the time you get to a couple of pages later, there’s a third,

“Some of us hold that a faithful commitment can take other forms than marriage. And that there are many people who, in other ways, have made a commitment to live together as a couple that the church can recognize as good. While at the same time, also inviting them to take a further step to confirm their commitment before God and the community.” This is the third group of “some of us,” we’re moving to the left with every stage, but that’s not all, there is a fourth “some of us,” just on the very same page. “Some of us say that sexual activity belongs as appropriately to same-sex as it does to opposite sex relationships. Whether we think that means within a same-sex marriage, or within the relationships of those who have committed themselves to marriage, or within other patterns of faithful commitment.” Now, let’s just state the obvious, once you accept that some of us, and by this, you mean one church, includes all four of these positions.

And after you were at least honest enough to say that only the first position is actually the official teaching of the church, you’ve actually offered three alternatives to a singular orthodoxy, you can see where this is going. Now, as we step back a moment, let’s recognize, it’s theologically illegitimate for any church to acknowledge that this is the church’s historic position, and yes, there’s even an acknowledgement that it is basically the position sustained by a plain reading of scripture, but then there are alternatives, and actually, the way it’s set up with the, “some of us, some of us, some of us, some of us”, it appears, just by implication, that there are more, “some of us” who don’t believe the church’s historic position, based on scripture, than those who do. Now, there is a sense in which the very poverty in historical context of the Church of England even began with the tension between the some of us and the some of us.

There have been different parties under the Church of England for some time, that’s one of the dangers of being a state church in, what is known in Britain as an Erastian system. It’s all inclusive, and all inclusive, eventually means, all inclusive. Some of us, others of us, still others of us, you just continue down the list. But I want us to note two other dimensions of this. One is the fact that this is a halfway house somewhere. This document that has been released is not just intended as a period piece in order to document what some of us think and others of us think, no, it is intended as, the document says, to advance the discussion. The discussion is going somewhere. Where will the discussion go? Well, I will state this, and I don’t claim to be a prophet, you don’t have to be a prophet.

The setup here, is to change the teaching of the Church of England away from its historic position based in scripture to something else, that’s the second observation. The third observation is this. When you look at this, the, “some of us, some of us, some of us, some of us,” by the time you look at these four alternatives, just on the question as to whether marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and the only arena for legitimate sexual expression. When you look at the some of us versus the, “some of us, some of us, some of us”, what does that mean? Well, by the time you look at the beginning and the end, these are two irreconcilable positions. The church will officially have an official teaching. It has one now, but the church has been subverting it, and even its House of Bishops has been subverting it. Thus, the protest from St Helen’s Bishopsgate.

But furthermore, it has a position, in actuality, which is very different from its position in doctrine, but that’s not going to last, that’s not tenable. And we’re also looking at the fact that Britain is a very liberal society in social ethics. And thus, the demand is that the Church of England is going to have to get with the program, join the sexual revolution, recognize and perform same-sex unions, ordain openly gay clergy, you go down the entire list. And pretty soon, you can end up where this is going. This is headed headlong into disaster. Where will conservative, evangelical, orthodox Christians in the Church of England to be left? They’re going to be left out in the cold. What will churches like St. Helen’s Bishopsgate do? Well, we don’t know, but we do know this. Right now, we can and should pray for them and be thankful for their conviction and for their example.

And in this predicament, the Church of England is not alone. Any church, any congregation, any denomination, any Christian institution that does not clearly, stalwartly, unreservedly, affirm the plain teaching and plain reading of scripture on these issues, is going to succumb, and succumb quickly, to the moral revolutionaries. The surrender will be fast, in this context, and it will be total. And the pressure is coming from every side, just consider where we began, a new story in The Washington Post, and a story on the front page of the sports section of USA Today. And then we turn to a courageous evangelical congregation in the ancient and historic city of London. And then we are reminded of a very important truth. Truth may be lonely, but truth, even lonely, remains true.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’m speaking to you from Orlando, Florida, and I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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