The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

It’s Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021.

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

Part I

Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments Over Texas Abortion Law — What Happens Now?

The Supreme Court sat for three hours yesterday considering oral arguments and filings made by opponents and defenders of the Texas abortion law. Just a matter of about a week ago, the Supreme Court announced that it would consider a challenge to the constitutionality of that law, but it did so on very narrow terms. Those narrow terms were made very clear yesterday. For example, we talk about this as an abortion case, but the Supreme Court in its deliberations yesterday did not really directly address the question of abortion at all. We are looking at a challenge to the constitutionality of the Roe v. Wade decision, that infamous decision by the Supreme Court legalizing abortion on demand, but Roe really wasn’t under consideration at least directly yesterday.

Instead, the court decided to take the very important, but very narrow question of standing. This leads to a bit of worldview analysis and historical review that will help Americans and American Christians to understand at times how our courts work. The question of stand comes down to this, who is qualified, and that means also answering who is not qualified, to bring a case before a specific court. In this case, we’re talking about the federal courts, Roe v. Wade was a Supreme Court decision. That means it represents the federal government and the challenge to Roe v. Wade thus is going to be heard in the federal courts. That’s why the big Mississippi abortion case coming before the court in just a month, those oral arguments on December the 1st, that case coming through the federal courts represents the most important challenge, the most crucial historical, and constitutional challenge to Roe v. Wade in recent decades.

Texas case, not so much, but the Texas case as we have said is extremely important. We are looking at the issue of abortion being the presenting question, but standing has to do with whether or not an individual, or an organization, or for that matter a government has a right to represent the case, and to make a claim in court. Now, when it comes to the federal courts, standing has to do with all kinds of issues, including the fact that there have to be two identifiable parties to be brought before the court. That’s why in every case of just about any significant action by the court, you hear it as X versus Y, A versus B. That’s because you have to have two parties, both represented in court. Sometimes the federal government is the party, but then you usually have a representative of a government.

That’s why so many of the cases involve an Attorney General’s name or a similar kind of government official whose name is a stand-in for the government. As you’re considering standing, another issue comes up. There has to be a definable claim of harm, of actual harm. Now, the interesting thing that the court is considering right now, the interesting question is whether or not the federal government, say A in this case, and you have Texas abortion providers say B in this case, whether either of them actually have standing to sue the state of Texas over this law in any federal court. That’s a huge question. I will simply cut to the chase and this one and say that I believe rightly understood, neither of these parties has any right to challenge the Texas law in the federal courts. The Texas law was rather ingeniously written in order to prevent that kind of challenge.

The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal got right to the case in an editorial published in yesterday’s print edition. The headline in the editorial makes the point, the abortion case that isn’t. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not a case. It means that this case properly speaking is not about abortion. Now, the interesting thing about this editorial is that it honestly, and more than once, makes the point that if Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, and remains the law of the land, then this Texas law, the Mississippi law, any law curtailing abortion, any law defending, and protecting unborn human life is unconstitutional. If Roe v. Wade is thus the constitution in this sense, then the pro-life movement is sunk. Of course, that also explains why the pro-life movement has understood from the beginning that it must challenge Roe v. Wade directly and again, happily, hopefully, that’s what is coming in the Dobbs case from Mississippi, and it will arrive at the court for oral arguments on December the 1st.

But right now we’re talking about the case before the Supreme Court yesterday in oral arguments, November the 1st. This is where the editors of The Wall Street Journal write correctly about the Texas law, “The law in our view is clearly unconstitutional under the court’s abortion precedent. But here’s the rub,” continued the editors, “Federal courts don’t have jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit by the abortion providers or the justice department. Full stop. Federal courts only decide cases and controversies between parties and both plaintiffs lack legal standing to sue.” Now in the oral arguments held yesterday, some of the conservative justices pointed with great suspicion at the claims made by the Biden administration and the Justice Department.

The Justice Department is claiming that it has a right as the federal government to consider challenges to have standing, to seek an injunction against the law that was duly passed by the Texas legislature, and signed into law by the Texas governor. They have pointed out, the conservative justices, that that would be a very expansive power by the federal government, as the justices pointed out, basically allowing the federal government to claim a standing or a jurisdiction in just about any state where it claimed that a federal law or a federal court precedent was at stake. As the editors wrote, “The Constitution’s Supremacy Clause doesn’t grant the feds the freewheeling power to sue states whenever it believes they are abridging the constitutional rights of citizens.” As the editors explain, “If that were the case, a GOP justice department could sue to enjoin democratic state gun control laws. Federal courts would then be dragged into arbitrating myriad political fights.”

By the way, one of the purposes of our constitution is not only to establish what cases should be considered by the federal courts, but what cases should not. That’s an extremely important constitutional issue. Confusing that is a constitutional danger, but another confusion is also dangerous. The Texan abortion providers, which are seeking to bring this federal case against the Texas abortion law, are bypassing the Texas state courts in this sense. That’s the problem. The law at question was adopted by the state government of Texas. Thus, it should be a matter first of all for consideration by the Texas courts. Trying to go immediately to the federal courts for relief is basically bypassing the issue. There are even more complicated questions when it comes to the arguments even about standing on behalf of the Texas abortion providers.

It was clear that as you’re looking at the Supreme Court, you do have a liberal-conservative divide, but as you’re looking for instance, at some key fundamental constitutional questions and questions about the relationship between the states and the federal government, not all of those questions break down as a simple left, right, or conservative-liberal dichotomy. The bottom line we should expect of all of this is that big abortion case is not this one. It’s the one coming. The Dobbs case in December that will be considered by the court. The decision probably not handed down until next June. There will be some ruling by the court in all likelihood, on the Texas case far more quickly because the court is going to make the decision as to A, whether or not these cases against the Texas law can continue in any court. And B, if in light of that unfolding future, the Supreme Court would put an injunction or a stay, a hold on the application of the Texas law until those constitutional questions work their way through the courts.

Now, here’s what you need to think about. Several weeks ago, the Supreme Court made very clear that it was not going to put such a hold or such a stop on the application of the Texas law. It was going to allow the law to operate going forward even in light of the challenges. Remember, that was a very narrow ruling. The big question is whether or not one of the conservative justices might change his or her mind on the question and allow a hold on the Texas law pending future considerations. Let’s just state the obvious. We certainly hope not.

Part II

Christian Worldview Issues At Stake In Global Climate Summit — Human Responsibility For Dominion and Stewardship Of God’s Creation

Now, we shift our attention to the opening of the Glasgow Summit on climate change. It opened with all the usual fanfare, and with an awful lot of language, and an incredible amount of international pressure towards individual nations making promises about how soon they will reach net zero emissions.

Now, as you look at the political situation, you understand that the pressure is really huge and the pressure’s on the big economic players, including the United States, and China, Europe, and Russia, but there’s also pressure on the emerging economies and they intend further to emerge. The understanding is that the older economies may bear a moral responsibility to reach net zero earlier than the emerging economies. And so, you have dates like 2030, 2040, 2050, but you’ll notice they’re going out further 2060, 2070, 2080. The reality is, and this becomes very clear, that the promises may be completely detached from reality. Furthermore, there’s another big issue here, and it comes down to timing. It comes down to human nature and political responsibility. Just think about this for a moment. If you can put your goal for say net zero carbon emissions, and that kind of climate impact, according to the theory, if you can put that further out, you really don’t have to deal with it today or tomorrow.

You can put it off to another administration, another government, another prime minister, another president. The Closer you date, that goal, the more pressure you put on your own country, the more pressure you put on your own government. What we need to note right now is that President Joe Biden intentionally, and this also reflects the base of his party, and especially the increasingly powerful left-wing, he has state his administration, and the honor, and integrity of the United States of America in moving very quickly. But here’s the problem, even as the President went to Rome and then went to Glasgow, he went without any significant legislative achievement even though he had state his political reputation on going to these meetings with such a victory. He went without one.

Furthermore, you’re looking at the fact that any kind of honest historical analysis would indicate that an awful lot of these nations have been making promises they never intended to keep.

Part III

Political Virtue Signaling In Glasgow As Leaders Meet For Climate Summit — But We Are Headed for a Great Trade-Off

But there’s some other stories going on here. We need to look at them, including what the President said, what prime ministers and other government leaders have said. We also need to look at what was said in the past and what did and didn’t happen. First, let’s just remind ourselves of the Christian worldview issues that are at stake here. Number one, if there is damage to the planet, then we need to be concerned about that. Christians should be on the front end, the leading edge of defending a responsible biblical stewardship of planet earth. It’s because we understand that God has made the entire cosmos, including this remarkable planet for his glory.

He has made it as a human habitation. We are given in scripture, the twin demands of exercising dominion and exercising stewardship. The best way to understand this is just to think of the world that God has given us as a garden. Even as Jesus told parables along a similar theme, we are to be judged on how we kept the garden. That means two things. It means number one, we use the garden for its intended purpose. We don’t treat the garden as something that we should not intrude upon. No, we are to till it. We are to exercise our toil in it. We are to plant. We are to weed. We are to harvest and enjoy the harvest. That means that the turning of wilderness into airable agricultural land is in terms of the biblical theme, a good thing. Now, the modern ecological movement in its secular materialistic form and its political energy, rejects what I just said. It rejects the idea that this planet was made as a human habitation.

It begins with the idea that this is a cosmic accident. We are cosmic accidents. We have to figure out how to manage this accident together. Thus they see any kind of human impact, in general terms, as generally negative, whereas, Christians see it as generally positive, but that second theme is stewardship. That means that Christians understand that we will give an answer to God for how we have maintained the garden, desecrating the garden, poisoning the garden, degrading the garden. Well, those are forms of sin as is not using the garden to its intended purpose. All that being said, it is basically almost universally the secular understanding that is in reign in Glasgow and behind the entire understanding. Now, Christians may be divided over the extent to which there’s a human contribution to climate change but the reality is that just about everyone now knows that climate change does represent a challenge to us.

Now, what we do with that, that’s a very different question. How we measure that, another big question. How we define the issues, massive questions, but this means that what we are watching is right now a bare-knuckled political and public relations effort in Glasgow. The question is, will it make much of a difference? Well, here’s where a bit of historical perspective will be helpful. The first big international meeting along these lines took place in Japan all the way back in 2008. It produced what was known as the Kyoto Protocol. Now, here’s the point. Very few nations actually kept up with the promises in that protocol, but technologies did intervene so that some nations actually found themselves in the position of working towards an actual lowering of carbon emissions. Just to give you an example, in the United States from 2005, which was the height of our level of carbon emissions, to the present, there’s been a 20% drop. That’s one-fifth. That’s pretty significant.

As Justin Gillis points out in the New York Times, all those gains from Kyoto and indeed going up to the Paris agreement, they were wiped out by increasing emissions from emerging economies. That means nations such as Brazil, India, just to give two examples, China is the biggest one, back in the beginning of this, the United States was the biggest emitter of carbon, but now clearly it is China. In 2015, many nations came together in what was known as the Paris Climate Agreement. President Trump pulled the United States out of that agreement. In statements in Glasgow, President Biden said he intended to bring the United States back into the agreement, but as Justin Gillis points out in the New York Times, “Even so, the national pledges made at Paris were wholly inadequate. If met, they would still would have allowed global warming to rise to dangerous levels. Recognizing this were told, the delegates in Paris adopted a ratchet mechanism requiring countries to show up every five years and to make new, bold pledges.”

That’s the political point. The reality is that should have happened last year, but because of COVID 19, it didn’t. So, what’s taking place in Glasgow right now is that five-year ratchet meeting, and boy has the politics and the ideology ratcheted up. Now, this raises another issue for Christians to consider. When we are looking at this kind of question, almost everything comes down to some kind of trade-off. Do we want people in the emerging world to have refrigerators? The answer is yes, we do. That is a public health issue. It would be absolutely selfish, unquestionably unthinkably selfish for those of us in what have been defined as advanced economies to say that those in emerging economies shouldn’t have the stuff that we have. Again, just consider air conditioning. Air conditioning uses massive amounts of energy in the construction, and manufacture of the equipment, in the installation, not to mention in the use of it, but at the same time, the reality is that when there is a failure in air conditioning, people die in unusually hot times. It is a public health crisis.

You’re looking at the fact that there are trade-offs, how much air conditioning, how that should be priced, and how access should be arranged. Here’s something else to notice. There is no global government. Christians should be extremely thankful for that. A global government would be a moral and political disaster. It would crush human freedom. It doesn’t make biblical sense, but the absence of a global government means that nations are basically left to set their own priorities to try to agree with some kind of joint action. Then again, these countries are going to do eventually what is in the country’s best interest. None of these countries is going to choose poverty over wealth. None of these countries is going to choose not having cars, not having refrigerators, not having air conditioners over having them, so everything is going to come down to some kind of trade-off.

We will trade-off a certain amount of what’s anticipated as climate change for maintaining the use or even extending the use of technologies that are absolutely essential to modern life. We’re not giving them up. You’d have to abandon the cities. People would starve to death. They’d freeze to death. They would die of heatstroke. The reality is no, that’s not going to happen. The greatest sign of the fact that’s not going to happen is the fact that the people there in Glasgow used all the modern transportation, including an unconscionable number of private jets, in order to get themselves to the meeting to condemn the use of the very same technologies and transportation systems. There’s a lot more to consider here, but two big issues just to leave as a partial consideration. One is this. John Carey, the former Secretary of State, who is now President Biden’s Chief Climate Advisor and Representative, he made the point that the Biden administration is seeking to have the United States adopt climate goals.

That means also net zero goals that at present simply can’t happen. In a statement of amazing honesty, the former Secretary of State said that was based upon the hope that some new technology would emerge that could help us to meet those goals. Now, you look at that and you say, what sense does it make to say that we’re going to be planning decades out for the impact of a technology that doesn’t even exist yet? Even as I would argue that’s bad politics in order to state some kind of agreement for political change now, and technologies that don’t even exist, the reality is that a part of the exercise of dominion that we find in the book Genesis is yes, human beings turn out to be amazingly filled with ingenuity and innovation unleashing that ingenuity and innovation is actually a God-honoring act.

Before closing this consideration, just a couple of issues. You’re going to have to watch the language. Notice how theological language jumps in here. You have apocalypse now. You have warnings of catastrophe, of a judgment that is to come, but the judgment is not coming by a holy and righteous God. The judgment is coming by an angry cosmos and a frustrated planet.

Part IV

Virtue Signaling, Royal Version: The Prince of Wales and His Magical Aston Martin — No Kidding, It Runs on Fuel Made from Wine and Cheese

The other thing we just need to note as we bring this consideration to a close, is this sheer silliness of so much of this. USA Today, yesterday reported that Britain’s Prince Charles spoke to the Glasgow conference. He said that meeting “is quite literally the last chance to save the planet from the ravages of climate change.” The prince of Wales said this, “As the future of humanity and nature herself are at stake, it is surely time to set aside our differences and grasp this unique opportunity to launch a sustainable green recovery.”

Now, Prince Charles is known for his new age beliefs and for his deep ecology as a worldview. I’ll simply state that is in direct contradiction to the historic Christian worldview. The Prince has been known for giving into these flights of fancy about new age religion. He has been influenced by people such as Laurens Jan van der Post and this new and well, it was then new, but still rather radical ecological position, but the Prince also holds to positions and he often makes claims that simply can only be met with some form of ridicule. Now remember, just over the weekend at the Glasgow Summit, Prince Charles said that the action at that meeting was quite literally, he spoke of the last chance to save the planet from the ravages of climate change as USA Today says. He spoke about the future of humanity and nature herself being at stake.

What’s his answer? Well, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t fly on private aircraft or at least the Royal equivalent of private aircraft. It does mean he tells us that his Aston Martin sports car gifted to him on his 21st birthday by the Queen herself, now runs on biofuel that is made out of wine and cheese. I kid you not. Look it up. He claims to be running his Aston Martin on a fuel that is made even from some of the subs from High Grove, his estate. The point, however, is this, the making of that biofuel is almost assuredly, and that’s an understatement, it is assuredly more dangerous to the climate than just using regular automotive fuel. This is feel-good environmentalism. It is virtue signaling of the Prince of Wales of sort and it is also just a kind of silliness that brings disrepute upon the entire enterprise. He made the point quite seriously, or as seriously as he often pontificates in sermonizes.

He really believes this. He is not only virtue signaling, he thinks this a great achievement, his Aston Martin, which by the way, very few people on planet earth will ever actually see much less own. His Aston Martin runs on a biofuel made from wine and cheese and therefore brothers and sisters, humanity is saved by the Prince of Wales and his sports car. And then he went on to say quite ridiculously, but also quite seriously, “It smells delicious as you’re driving along.” And this coming from a man who means to be taken seriously. He is after all the man who would be king.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’m speaking to you from Asheville, North Carolina, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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