Friday, March 11, 2022
It's Friday, March 11th, 2022.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Objective Reality is Real and Knowable: Even In an Age of Fake News, The Truth Will Always Come to the Light
One of the things that we continue to track as we think about the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the fact that the truth will eventually come out and will eventually be known to all. We're living in a world in which it is sometimes increasingly difficult to know the difference between, say, news and so-called fake news. But here's something we really need to understand as Christians, facts are facts.
The Christian worldview is predicated upon the fact that facts really do exist, that objective reality is indeed reality, and that it is ultimately knowable. First of all and here's something that should come of comfort to Christians, that absolute reality is known perfectly indeed omnisciently by God. So even if there is not a single human being who has accurate knowledge, that knowledge is secure in the fact that the self-existent glorious God holds that knowledge perfectly himself. Nothing is hidden from his sight. Even invisible realities such as human thoughts are laid bare to him.
But it is also true that those creatures made in his image, human beings, who are truth-seeking beings by the nature God has implanted within us, we are drawn to truth and we are drawn to a quest for truth. And we are also in a situation in which there is so much information flowing around us that the downside is that there's opportunity for propaganda, for so-called fake news, and for distortion. But it is also, on the other hand, an opportunity for almost any fact on the ground to become known and for a denial of reality to eventually be shown for what it is.
Just consider the horrifying images, and now the hard news reports coming from Ukraine indicating that Russian forces undertook an attack upon a maternity and children's hospital in the Southern region of Ukraine. The country's president, that is the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, described the attack as an atrocity. And CNN is reporting along with other mainstream media in the United States and in Europe that even as the Russians had agreed to a 12-hour ceasefire in order to allow civilians to leave, the reality is that the Russians do not honor those ceasefires and there no more dishonorable way of demonstrating that than by shelling and attacking a maternity and children's hospital.
Now, here's where things get interesting because you hear at least some people out there saying, "Look, Russian authorities are saying that Ukrainians are lying, that this wasn't really operationally a maternity and a children's hospital. It was instead a military installation. And the pictures that the Ukrainians and others are sending around the world represent fake news."
But here's the problem. And this is where Christians are called to not only seek the truth, but also to think in ways that are rational and fact-based and clear and honest. And the overarching fact is that we're talking about two nations and one has invaded the other. Ukraine did not invade Russia, and Russia was certainly under no threat from Ukraine. The Ukrainians had not amassed hundreds of thousands of troops and tanks and jet attack aircraft and bombers on the border with Russia. No, it was the opposite that took place right before the watching eyes of the world with aerial surveillance and satellite images, and eventually with the horrifying confirmation that came by the fact that Russia moved to an active invasion of Ukraine.
And what has been undertaken by Russia in the course of this military operation that can be described in moral terms as nothing other than an aggressive invasion requires the Russians in this predicament to try to say to the Russian people, but also to the watching world, "Don't believe what you see. Don't believe all the evidence. Don't believe the videos. Don't believe the images. Believe us." I have heard others in the media say that what we have here are competing narratives.
Well, that might be true, but Christians understand that the most important reality is not narrative, it's fact. It's objective reality. And the big question is which narrative, what narrative accurately describes the facts, the historical occurrences. Francis Schaeffer, one of the great apologists of the 20th century, reminded Christians that we have to continually come back to space, time and history, events that take place in space and time and history.
And in this sense, even in the midst of the fog of war, Christians may be the last people on earth who remember that we are not living in the twilight zone. We are living in a very real world. And as creatures made in God's image who rightfully seek the truth, we have to understand that the truth really does exist. Life is not just a matter of battling narratives. And what is taking place right now in Ukraine is certainly not warfare made deadly by narrative. It's being made deadly by bullets and by bombs and by rockets.
An Important Battle Won in Midst of Budget Atrocity: Hyde Amendment Reinserted into Spending Bill, Protects Taxpayer Money from Funding Abortions — For Now
We're going to turn to the Mailbox in just a minute, but first, we need to look at a couple of very current and urgent issues. One of them has to do with the fact that even as Congress has now adopted a vast omnibus spending bill to continue to fund the government through the end of the year, by the way, an absolute budgetary atrocity. A sweeping $1.5 trillion spending plan that demonstrates the recklessness of our government puts our own grandchildren and great grandchildren at grave risk. This is just creating a budgetary nightmare.
But nonetheless, the big issue I want to discuss as a part of this bill is the fact that against all the intentions of the Democrats and even with democratic majorities in the House and in the Senate, efforts were successful to reinsert the Hyde Amendment and two other funding restrictions in order to prevent the American taxpayer from being compelled to contribute directly to abortion by federal funding of abortions themselves.
Let's just look back at a bit of crucial history here. The Hyde Amendment was adopted by Congress. It was a bipartisan act shortly after the Supreme Court of the United States handed down the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand in all 50 states. There was a concern, let's just point out an absolutely necessary concern on the part of many in Congress, both in the House and in the Senate, that it was wrong to force the American taxpayer to pay for abortion considering how many Americans clearly understood and understand abortion to be the murder of unborn babies.
And it was named after the late Illinois Republican Congressman Henry Hyde, who authored the legislation. And since then, every annual budget and at least the vast majority of budget writers, any plan for expenditure that has gone through the Senate in particular has had to include the Hyde Amendment and two other similar restrictions that prevent taxpayer money, which is after all confiscated from American citizens, from being used to pay for abortions.
Now, the Democratic Party has been overwhelmingly opposed to the Hyde Amendment and to these other restrictions for a matter of decades now, several presidential election cycles. And yet in opposite fashion, the Republican Party and its platform every four years has become ever more adamant in the fact that the Hyde Amendment is absolutely necessary and is to be supported by Republican candidates.
But something really interesting on the Democratic side happened on the way to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. That has to do with the fact that for over three decades, Joe Biden had served in the United States Senate as a Democratic Senator from Delaware. And during that time period, and during the entire eight years that Joe Biden served as Vice President under President Barack Obama, he was an eager and consistent defender of the necessity of the Hyde Amendment.
He made very clear statements saying that it would be morally wrong to force the American taxpayer into complicity with abortion. But all that changed on the way to the 2020 Democratic nomination. Joe Biden found himself in the position where his party had moved so far to the left and so far into a pro-abortion position that it would not conceivably nominate a candidate who would argue for, or even allow for the continuation of the Hyde Amendment.
Furthermore, Democrats really thought they were in the driver's seat and the advocates for abortion funding thought that they were the wave of the future when Democrats, given the 2020 elections ended up with control of the House and the Senate and the White House.
But spending bills take 60 votes. And the reality is that at least three Democratic senators still support the Hyde Amendment. President Biden, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the majority leader in the Senate, had indicated that it was their intention, if not their absolute promise to the pro-abortion movement, that spending bills would be stripped to the Hyde Amendment and other restrictions.
But here's at least a bit of good news in all of the tumult recent headlines. The Democrats were unable to get the spending bill through without conceding to Republicans the necessity of putting the Hyde Amendment back in. There simply wouldn't have been enough Republican votes to get the spending bill through if the Hyde Amendment had not been put back in place.
But it's a reminder to us of a very fundamental moral issue in the United States. And that is that the Hyde Amendment was never adopted as legislation that would be binding in future budgets. And even as Congress is not supposed to bind future congresses in terms of the actions it takes in spending bills, that's exactly what it does. Also, we should add in treaties.
The issue here for us to remember is that every single spending bill is another requirement that the Hyde Amendment be put in place otherwise, one way or another, the American taxpayer will very quickly find himself and herself in the position of paying for abortion, the murder of unborn children and doing so by the confiscatory power of the tax system in the United States.
‘Our Policy is Based on the Citizen, Not Woke Corporations’: Florida’s Governor Speaks Back to Disney CEO
But finally, before turning to the Mailbox, I discussed in recent days on The Briefing, Disney CEO Bob Chapek making a statement, basically very defensive, unapologetic to Disney employees, that the Disney company was actually very much opposed to legislation in Florida that has now passed the Florida House and Senate stating that very young children in the Florida public schools are not to be exposed to any kind of class discussion considering sexual orientation and gender identity. And furthermore, at any grade, the public schools are not to be dependent upon any ideology of pressing a certain ideological form of gender identity or sexual orientation on the students of any age.
Now, the legislation itself, which Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has pledged he will sign, is a very important issue. We're going to be taking a closer look at it. One of the things we need to understand are the media distortions. Democrats and others on the left have been arguing that this bill is to be described as a "Don't Say Gay" bill, but there's nothing like that in this bill. That is nothing more than political propaganda and the mainstream media are largely running with it.
Governor DeSantis there in Florida has pointed out that all you have to do is show parents the actual text of this legislation. And I think it is a very sure bet. I think the governor is absolutely right that the vast majority of parents looking at the legislation will say that is exactly what we would expect of the public schools.
The pushback from the left and from LGBTQ activists is just another demonstration of the fact that they depend upon access to and control of the public schools in order to further their agenda. It is actually the role of parents to push back on that agenda. It's the role of legislators to side with the parents on behalf of the children.
But the most interesting angle on this right now has to do with the Disney Corporation and CEO Bob Chapek because it was Chapek who took to an email sent to Disney employees basically apologizing for not doing enough. Chapek said, "No one should be confused. Disney is opposed to this legislation." And he went on to say, and this became the really interesting point of our consideration a few days ago that he thought it was more effective that the company would use its entertainment products and its culture formation products in order to present narratives that would change American hearts and minds in favor of the LGBTQ revolution rather than to take public stances as a corporation in the political process.
But here's what you need to know, the LGBTQ community was not satisfied with that. I simply have to say, I think Chapek was at least accurate in saying the power to form culture is more important even than the power to form law. But the LGBTQ movement takes no compromises. And in this case, Chapek finds himself under the gun. He said that he has now demanded a meeting with the Florida governor in order to express Disney's "disappointment and concern". In his earlier statement, the Disney CEO has said, "While we have been strong supporters of the community for decades, I understand that many are upset that we did not speak out against the bill."
Chapek went on to say, "We were opposed to the bill from the outset. But we chose not to take a public position on it because we thought we could be more effective working behind the scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle." But then he went on to say, "Ultimately, we were unsuccessful."
By the way, Chapek sent other signals to the LGBTQ plus community saying that Disney would give $5 million to organizations in the LGBTQ space and would sign a statement orchestrated by the activist group, the human rights campaign stating the company's opposition to any and all similar legislation.
But as interesting as this story already is, it got a lot more interesting yesterday when video was leaked of a meeting between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and supporters in the city of Boca Raton. That video demonstrated that the Florida governor said not only that he would sign the legislation, but that he would call out Disney for its corporate activism.
The governor said to this group, "When you have companies that have made a fortune off being family friendly and catering to families and young kids, they should understand that parents of young kids do not want this injected into their kids' kindergarten classroom." He went on to say, "You have companies like a Disney that are going to say and criticize parents' rights. They're going to criticize the fact that we don't want transgenderism in kindergarten, in the first grade classrooms."
The governor went on to say, "If that's the hill they're going to die on, then how do they possibly explain lining their pockets with their relationship with the communist party of China? Because that's what they do," said the governor, "and they make a fortune and they don't say a word about the really brutal practices that you see over there at the hands of the CCP." That means the Chinese Communist Party. And so the governor concluded, "Our policies got to be based on the best interest of Florida citizens, not on the musing of woke corporations."
Now, this statement was made to a private group. It was leaked on Twitter in the form of a video, but Governor DeSantis is a politician who holds an office that indicates his experience in dealing with the media. And he certainly understands that as an office holder and as a potential future candidate with national consequence, anything he says in private is likely to be broadcast eventually in public. We have to believe that Governor DeSantis intended for those words to become public. In any event, we should be very glad that we heard them.
Looking at this conflict, it is absolutely certain that this story is only going to get more interesting in the days ahead, and we together will be following it very closely. Just consider how much is at stake. We're not just talking about the public schools as institutions, we're talking about our children and our grandchildren.
Can I Fight in a Just War If A Member of My Family Serves in the Opposing Military? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
But next, we turn to the Mailbox for the week. And I always appreciate the intelligent, thoughtful questions that come in from listeners to The Briefing. Sometimes, they relate to the most recent headlines, sometimes to enduring issues, and sometimes to things we may never have talked about on The Briefing before.
We turn first to a question from Leo asking about the war in Ukraine saying, "Does the Bible justify standing up for your country," his country is Ukraine and serving in the Ukrainian army against Russia and against Putin, "even if it means to stand against your relatives who are serving on the other side," that is in the Russian army.
Leo, a very intelligent question, a couple things come immediately to mind. In the crucible of war, it is a matter of nation against nation, not family against family. But sometimes, it is indeed an involvement of family that shows up on the battlefield. This is true in the Old Testament, for example. It's also true throughout much of our national history as well as the history of the world. Just consider the fact that during the period, for example, of the American War of Independence, you had family split then.
Perhaps the most famous of those split families was the Franklin family, with the father, Benjamin Franklin, one of those who put his name on the Declaration of Independence, and he pledged his personal honor and his life, indeed his sacred honor, to the cause of American independence, knowing that that would mean war. His own son, Franklin, served as a colonial governor of New Jersey and was stalwartly to the end of his life, a British loyalist, in other words, on the other side of that war.
This became quite acute in the 20th century in two world wars, both of which involved the United States against an enemy that involved Germany, whether it was Kaiser Wilhelm's Imperial Germany in World War I, or it was Nazi Germany led by Adolf Hitler in World War II. In both cases, one of the most interesting developments was a wave of German-Americans who signed up to fight in the American military knowing that virtually with inevitability that some of them would be facing off against German members of the armed forces who could well be drawn from their own community and even from their own extended family.
In 2 Timothy 2, Paul writes of three different metaphors for the Christian life, and in particular, for Christian service. Those metaphors are the soldier, the farmer, and the athlete. And each one of them, says the Apostle Paul, has to operate according to a certain set of expectations and rules. The athlete has to work hard in training. The farmer has to be diligent in the work of agriculture in order to gain a crop. And the soldier is not to entangle himself in the affairs of everyday life, but is rather to serve the command of his commanding officer.
And of course, there are limitations to any of these metaphors. The Apostle Paul is not saying that the Christian soldier, upon the command of a superior officer, should carry out some kind of atrocity or violation of basic morality. But he is saying that the service of a soldier under a commanding officer is indeed a picture of Christian discipleship. And there can be no question that as you think in terms of Christian Just War theory, that is a Christian understanding of a righteous and just war in a fallen world, there are times when the call of country is greater even than the call of kin, particularly when you are looking at issues as basic as will be revealed in many armed conflicts.
Why Do You Often Say ‘Let There Be Life’ When Referring to A Baby Formed in the Womb? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Next, we turn to a question from Nathaniel. He says, "I wonder if you could talk about your use of the phrase, 'Let there be life,' which you use often on The Briefing regarding the sanctity of human life. Obviously," he says, "this phrase is not in the Bible as such though it mimics," I would say it more than mimics, it mirrors the image, the language that is of Genesis 1:3. He then says, "Why do you use this phrase? Why do you say at times that God says let there be life? Is this just drawing out the principle of God's creation of every human being?"
Well, Nathaniel, you're right. It is an intentional effort to go back to Genesis 1:3, where God's act of creation is revealed unto us as verbal. God says, "Let there be," and the entire pattern shows God's sovereignty as creator and the fact that all he has to say is, "Let there be," and it is. Now that is the most powerful demonstration of God's sovereign act in creation we could imagine. We affirm creation ex nihilo. That means out of nothing, God didn't take stuff that already existed and form it into something else. No, he created everything that is by his sole sovereign power, and he did so by his word.
So Nathaniel, this is just making an extension because the Bible is also clear that every single human life is God's creation. And so even as God said, let there be and it was, there is a very clear biblical sense in which every one of us exists, but not because of the will of our parents but rather because of the will of God. It's just a way of expressing as clearly as I know how the biblical truth that there are no accidental lives, that every single human being who has ever lived and will ever live exists only because God, in some way perhaps known only to himself, willed that we should be. So, we are.
Should We Use Genetic Modification As A Means of Procreation? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Next, a very interesting question came in from Logan, a sophomore in high school. He said that in his class, his AP Biology class, he and his classmates had watched a documentary on the discovery of genetic modification to cure diseases. He then writes, "There was a segment on how this may end up replacing sex as a method of procreation." "I was wondering," he writes, "what the Bible has to say about something like this."
Logan, what a brilliant question. And yes, what an important issue because we are talking about what it means to be human and made in God's image. And it also reminds us of a basic Christian principle, a basic principle of Christian thought and a biblical theology, and that is that God has decreed not only the end, but the means. So that's to say, God has not only decreed that you should exist, that I should exist, that every single human being who has ever existed would exist but the means whereby we are to exist.
God said to the first man and the first woman, be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. That is a biological process of reproduction through what is described as the conjugal act of marriage. Then that unitive and procreative act is where babies are to originate in terms of the human story.
Another basic principle of the Christian worldview is that we are not to seek to abstract the real in order to replace it with the artificial. This has to do with a whole range of issues, but it means that the context of marriage and God's location of babies coming from the reproductive order, given to the man and the woman united in marriage that's real and that is where the reproduction is to originate. It is not to be supplemented by or replaced by some kind of synthetic artificial context such as, say, a test tube or in this case, some form of genetic modification.
And you'll notice one of the lies that comes from the modern world, which is we can improve upon God's plan. God's plan comes with this problem or that problem, trust us to come up with a better plan with no problem. One of the first responsibilities of an intellectually faithful Christian is to recognize that argument for the lie that it surely is.
Is the Command ‘Be Fruitful and Multiply’ for all People? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Finally, today a question on a similar theme, Ryan writes in to say, "In the Old Testament, the command to be fruitful and multiply was given multiple times to Adam and Eve, to Noah and his family after the flood, and to Jacob." But he goes on and asks, "Is being fruitful and multiply a general command for all people? And is it for Christians or is it merely now a wisdom principle or not even that?"
Ryan, a very good question and an incredibly relevant question, but it's a question with a clear biblical answer. When you locate the original command from God to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, it is located in creation itself. That is to say, it is in the most basic teaching of scripture that is addressed to all human beings of all places, and all times, of all races, of all ethnicities until Jesus comes, period. So this is a command that is given to humanity.
And one of the things we need to note is that nowhere in the New Testament are any of the ordinances and commands of creation reversed or even minimized in the context of the new covenant, no. Ryan, really good question, all human beings everywhere within the context of God's purpose of marriage are to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. That is for all people in all places until Jesus comes.
And Ryan, your question comes in the midst of a week in which there are even more reports that there are additional nations. And this is the trend looking at the future in which deaths on an annual basis outstrip births. That is a great gain for the culture of death. For Christians, that should come as a matter of the highest and gravest concern.
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'm speaking to you from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and I'll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.