The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, March 25, 2022

It’s Friday, March 25, 2022.

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

Part I

Fido Goes Paleo? Vegan? Ashwaganda Root Dog Food? When Pet Owners Feed Their Pets As They Feed Themselves, They Reveal More Than They Think

We often discuss the fact that the Christian worldview depends upon maintaining certain distinctions. The Bible begins by making distinctions. The most crucial distinction is the distinction between the creator and the creation. Don’t mix that up, you end up with a form of heresy. But it’s not just the creator and creation, it is within creation how God has made distinctions.

A distinction for instance, between the light and the dark, a distinction between the waters and the dry land, but then a distinction among the animals. Most importantly, a distinction between the animals and the one creature made in God’s image, human beings. And then among human beings, that basic distinction between male and female.

You could see just about every form of sin as being at least in some form, an effort to try to violate the distinctions that God has made, to avoid the very clear distinctions that God has revealed, first of all, in creation. Look at Romans 1, but is also amplified and specified in his word.

Now, you wonder, where are we going with this? Well, we are going to pet food. A headline that ran in the New York Times, “Feeding Pets like They’re People.” Now, it tells you something, that even the New York Times recognizes that pets and people are not, at least hypothetically, to receive the same food. The fact that many pet owners now are feeding their pets like themselves, it tells us something about our society.

Priya Krishna is the reporter in this article, the subhead tells us, “Owners are putting animals on paleo, vegan and other human diets, a practice that concerns some health experts.” So the concern of the New York Times, I guess we should anticipate this, is not a worldview confusion. It is instead something that just might not be good for Fido.

Krishna begins the article by telling us about Karl Malone. “Carl Malone starts his day with a breakfast that includes ashwagandha root and psyllium husk powder. His dinner is always seasoned with ground turmeric and then he takes his joint supplements. He goes on two brisk walks daily and avoids restaurant food as his doctor recommended he lose weight.” We are then told Carl Malone is a dog, an 11-year-old sandy brown Australian shepherd mix.

We are then told that Carl’s owner “believes that this wellness regimen, a blend of advice from friends, her veterinarian and pet newsletters and nutritional remedies her family grew up with in India has greatly improved her companion’s health.” We’re then told that this pet owner in California “used to think as long as her pets were housed and well fed, they would be fine. But we are told the increasing focus on wellness, particularly among younger people persuaded her that she needed to do more.”

This pet owner said, “Their quality of life depends upon their health.” We are then told, given the fact that so many human beings are spending so much on unique diets for themselves, “For many owners, the answer is customizing their pets’ diets to match their own eating habits.” Let’s just assert here, this is probably not going to end well.

Evidently for some people it’s a family commitment. We’re told about Oscar, a Terrier-Chihuahua mix living in Brooklyn, the dog we’re told is a vegetarian, just like his owner. We are then told that the owner is “a public health policy specialist who feeds the dog store bought vegetarian pet food.” This owner said, “He is part of our family. It would be weird to me if one of my kids started eating meat.”

Another pet owner described taking care of her dog, Moses, and we are told that she takes care of this dog by “feeding him wild caught salmon, sweet potatoes, boiled eggs, coconut oil and rice, the same ingredients we are told she uses to make grain bowls for herself and her husband.” This owner said of the dog, “It helped me to be more in tune with him and it is helping me stay on track with my own illness.”

There is a news angle to this article we are told, and here’s a shock. The US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have really clear guidelines about how you are to feed your pet. We are told that this federal agency has cautioned pet owners about certain animal diets. And we’re told that it regulates how pet food is manufactured and labeled, “but offers much vaguer guidance on the ingredients.”

The big worldview angle comes in with this paragraph, “As human birth rates has steadily declined in the United States, many people have come to think of pet ownership as a kind of parenthood. It’s a flex to say my dog eats as well as a human,” said Sean McDonald, aged 30, a chef in Toronto who “prepares elaborate meals, primarily raw food for his chocolate Labrador named Hazelnut.” And evidently, this is advertised on his TikTok account.

But an expert cited in the story who works for a kennel club said that imposing this kind of diet on a dog might not be such a good idea. This authority went on to say, “Dogs will eat anything you put in front of them, but it is not necessarily in their best interest.” Well, we’ve all learned that, haven’t we? Dogs will eat just about anything you put in front of them. And by the way, don’t put it in front of them if you don’t want it to be eaten.

But the point is here that this is a classic example of what psychologists call projection. It is human beings projecting on animals, a desire for, and a benefit from whatever diet fad these human beings, who after all, would otherwise in a sane era be called pet owners might inflict upon their pets. The big issue here of course is the confusion between human beings and their pets, between human beings and any other species. You also have the confusion, very sad here, seen in the fact that so many people in our contemporary society seem quite willingly to confuse children with pets, and instead treat their pets as children, even speaking of them that way, and as we now see feeding them that way.

The article goes on documenting so much other, well, weirdness when it comes to human beings inflicting their diets on their pets and claiming of course they are benefiting their pets in the process.

No one in the article seems to note the more basic confusion between human beings and the pets themselves. But then again, if you’re operating out of a secular worldview, how do actually maintain that distinction? But all this reminds me of a development that came just a few weeks ago. And this is traced back to the Vatican where Pope Francis actually released a statement in which he said that one of the problems in the modern age is that pet owners are selfish.

Religion News Service ran an article on this issue. The Pope had said, “Many couples do not have children because they do not want to. Or they have just one because they do not want anymore, but they have two dogs, two cats. Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children.”

Now I’m simply going to say that the Pope is, on this issue, unquestionably right, but you could imagine he stepped right into a public controversy. And boy, has he been hearing about it. For example, there are who want to correct to the Pope, Religion News Service mentions that one who was puzzled by the Pope’s remarks was “the Reverend Sarah Bowen,” an animal chaplain–you heard that right, an animal chaplain at the Compassion Consortium, “an interfaith and inter species religious organization based upon,” here’s another quote, “reviving lost connections between animals, humans and the earth.”

Well, here’s a little memo to the Reverend Sarah Bowen, in all likelihood, the connections you’re supposedly reestablishing never existed and don’t exist. Bowen, by the way, doesn’t like to talk about pets. She wants to talk about “animal companions.” We are told that she shares her home in the greater New York City area with three, presumably that means three beings. We’re told that the three include her human husband and two felines.

In speaking about cats, we are told that this person, again, identified as an expert on interfaith and interesting species religion. She said that cats have a religious dimension too, asking whether or not people who had watched cats hadn’t seen them in an “utterly blissed-out state.” She then explained that that complete relaxation, says RNS, is not unlike prayer. Oh yeah. You look at a cat in a blissed-out state, that’s just like prayer.

Actually, we recall that the Christian worldview reminds us that to be human is to be made in God’s image. And it is those made in God’s image who can pray. That cat looking at you with such an intense stare, swishing her tail is not in prayer. Rather, that cat is thinking, “I’m superior to you.” That’s what that cat look means.

Part II

A Life That Tells the Story of the Twentieth Century, and the Story of America — Madeleine Albright Dies at Age 84

But next today, before we turn to the Mailbox, I want to consider the meaning of the life and death of former secretary of state Madeline Albright. She died on Wednesday of this week of cancer at age 84. Most Americans probably recognize the name. They have some recollection of Madeline Albright on the world stage as the United States ambassador to the United Nations and as Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton. But most of them, the vast majority of Americans probably do not know how Madeline Albright’s story tells the history of the 20th century and something extremely special about the United States of America.

A quick look reminds us that Madeline Albright lived one of the great lives of the 20th century. She wasn’t actually born Madeline Albright. She was born with the name Marie Jana Korbelová. She was born in Prague in Czechoslovakia in 1937. And when she was born, she entered an extremely dangerous world. Her father, Joseph Korbelová was a very important Czechoslovakian diplomat in the service of that government. But in 1939, recall that Hitler and the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, setting the stage for what would become World War II.

And understand something else, Joseph Korbelová and his wife, the parents of Marie Jana Korbelová, were Jewish. It would be only decades later that Madeline Albright would discover that she herself was Jewish and that three of her grandparents had died in the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews. Joseph Korbelová took his family, including young Marie Jana Korbelová to London in order to escape the Nazi tyranny and the destruction and murder of World War II. But he actually moved his family right into the line of fire in the blitz.

But young Marie Jana and her parents survived World War II. They survived the blitz. They survived in London. And after the end of the war, they went back to Czechoslovakia where her father, once again, took up responsibility as an important Czechoslovakian diplomat, but then came the Soviets, almost immediately after the end of World War II and the defeat of the Nazis, almost immediately after the liberation of Prague by the allies, the Soviet Union moved in and in just the blink of an eye, Czechoslovakia, along with other nations, became enslaved behind what was rightly called the Iron Curtain. And thus the Korbelová family had to flee a second time. The first time from the Nazis, the second time from the Soviets.

At one point, Marie Jana Korbelová had been sent to a girl school in Switzerland in order to be apart from the communist threat. And she changed her name there to Madeline, which had been a nickname given to her by her family. She just officially changed her name to Madeline. But then having fleed the Nazis, the family fled the Soviets and came for refuge, claiming political asylum in the United States. And the Korbelová family was indeed given political asylum. Joseph Korbelová moved to Denver where he took a position teaching foreign policy at the University of Denver. And the family changed his name from Korbelová to Korbel. Joseph Korbel, as he became known would eventually become the dean of the graduate school there at the University of Denver. And right now the university’s school of international relations bears his name.

And here’s something else to understand. This tells you something about the foreign policy establishment of the United States. As a graduate professor there at the University of Denver, Joseph Korbel had an enormous influence upon one student to whom he became a mentor. That student was Condoleezza Rice, who later would become, to a Republican president, national security advisor, and who also would become secretary of state of the United States.

By 1957, Madeline Albright would become a naturalized American citizen. She married as a young woman and took her husband’s name, Albright, thus Madeline Albright. And then she would go on to earn a doctorate at Columbia University. Now remember this, the family’s business was foreign affairs and Madeline Albright began to teach international relations at universities, including Georgetown University in Washington. She captured the attention of those in government, and she would eventually serve on the staff of Zbigniew Brzeziński.

Again, a very important name in the history of the 20th century. Zbigniew Brzeziński became national security advisor to president Jimmy Carter. Madeline Albright would serve on Brzeziński’s staff. Zbigniew Brzeziński was himself a refugee from communism. He had fled Poland and came to the United States. And thus, he became a very high ranking American official, actually national security advisor to the president of the United States. And he knew the danger of communism and the Soviet regime firsthand. He became known as a rather famous hardliner in American Cold War diplomacy. Madeline Albright served on his staff.

But then for the sake of time, we will fast forward to the presidency of Bill Clinton. Clinton appointed Madeline Albright as the United States ambassador to the United Nations. She made quite a name for herself in that role, staring down other regimes and governments. She also was credited with organizing what can only be described as a coup that removed then UN secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who was seen by Americans and our allies as both ineffective, and was actually suspected of worse.

But history will record that it was during Bill Clinton’s second term that Madeline Albright would make history as she became the first woman United States secretary of state. Now remember, in terms of the cabinet, that is the top ranking cabinet position. The role of secretary of state established by our constitution as one of the most important in the American government. Madeline Albright became secretary of state of the United States. Now remember, that position is in the line of succession to the presidency, but not unless you are natural born as a citizen, which Madeline Albright was not. She was secretary of state, but she was outside the line of presidential succession.

At the same time, she was very much in the line of fire during years of international testing. Now, as she was the United States secretary of state, Madeline Albright was known as an advocate for a very assertive US foreign policy. And that became very clear in matters of conflict around the globe. Her firsthand experience of having fled Nazi and Soviet tyranny led her to advocate for a more aggressive use of United States armed forces. And infamously at one point, she had a conflict with the then chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, general Colin Powell, and secretary Albright ask him, “What’s the point of you having this superb military for, Colin, if we can’t use it?”

Now, Colin Powell and Madeline Albright would eventually become very close friends, and Madeline Albright spoke at Colin Powell’s funeral just a matter of months ago. When she was secretary of state, Madeline Albright would usually be surrounded on public occasions by a retinue of mostly male staffers. The press began to refer to America’s foreign policy leadership as Madeline and her boys.

Now, one of the hallmarks of Madeline Albright is the fact that she wore, every day, a bejeweled pin. She wore a pin, sometimes known as a broach, and that broach or pin was to send a signal, it became a trademark for her. People would ask before she entered a room what pin is she wearing today? The reason for that was that she was communicating. Her staffers would say if she was wearing a particular American eagle bejeweled pin, watch out.

Now, as I speak about Madeline Albright, I want to point out she was a democrat. She served the democratic administration. She supported democratic candidates. She was often described as a feminist. She certainly in my view, far too liberal on a host of issues. The very fact that her political allies included Bill and Hillary Clinton, I’ll just say that speaks for itself. I could never have voted for the candidates that Madeline Albright served. My politics are not her politics to say the very least.

But to understand Madeline Albright’s life, and remember, she was born in 1937. She died just in Wednesday of this week, is to understand much of the history of the 20th century. But as you consider the life of Madeline Albright, just consider what it says about the United States of America. Here, you have a young girl who had to flee for her life from the Nazis, born in Prague. She then had to flee Prague again, as she was fleeing from the tyranny of the Soviets. She, with her family, came to the United States and then she would serve as secretary of state of the United States of America. What a country.

Part III

Should I Remove My Daughter from a School That Employs A Transgender Teacher for Children in the First Grade? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

But next, we turned to the Mailbox for this week, some really interesting questions. One dad wrote in about his daughter, five years old, and he asked about a very difficult situation. It turns out that in the school where his daughter is a student, there is, as a first grade teacher, someone described as “a very flamboyant transgender teacher in that grade.”

Now, the dad goes on to say, it is not necessarily the case that his daughter will have that teacher as her teacher, but then he asks, what does this really mean? What does a parent think? Well, here’s the thing. I think it’s really important that we understand that especially when you’re talking about a child that age, you are talking about a basic challenge of being able to say to a child, look, we actually are accepting, say the identity and authority of that person in the classroom, but we understand that people really are born male or female.

You can understand the difficulty of making that argument to a six year old. One of the difficulties Christians face in this time is that the society is so conforming itself to the unbiblical ideology of the transgender movement. You could say the entire LGBTQ movement, but here, we’re talking about the transgender movement, that it becomes very, very difficult even to say, spare children, the youngest of children from direct confrontation with things that are going to confuse them. And even as parents are there to seek, to clarify and to instill truth in the hearts of their children. The fact is we’re also responsible for seeking to protect our children from having to think about certain issues far too early.

I think the teacher being in an institutional position of authority here really does complicate the question. It makes the parental challenge here far more difficult. Just to be honest, I would find it very difficult to leave a child that age in a situation in which the child’s affections and intuitions and moral impulses are going to be shaped by the reality of that individual, in the authoritative position of a teacher in the classroom. Or to put it another way, parents have to understand that there is only so much you can do to undo emotional and intuitive experiences your child has and ones that may never actually be known to you, or they become known to you far too late.

Part IV

Will My Mother Go to Hell for Believing Her Baptism Gets Her to Heaven? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

A very moving question comes in from a man speaking about his mother who is now at the very end of her life and her mother insists that she’s saved because she was baptized in the church of Christ when she was 16. This writer communicates, “My mom is now facing several health challenges and it looks as if her time on earth is short. Is she really going to hell because she thinks that one must also be baptized to go to heaven?” No. No one’s going to go to hell for that. As a matter of fact, theologically and biblically, just remember we go to hell as God’s just verdict on our sin, unless God’s just verdict on our sin falls on Christ rather than on ourselves. That’s the very nature of the substitutionary atonement achieved by Christ on the cross. Salvation comes to those who in faith confess the Lord Jesus Christ as savior and repent of sins.

Now, baptism is the first act of obedience as we follow the command of the crucified and resurrected Christ. But baptism itself is not the saving work. Baptism does not regenerate and confidence in our baptism is a misplaced confidence. Our confidence is only to be in Christ. And our understanding is that salvation comes by Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. And to this listener, I would simply say, bear witness to Christ to your mom and do everything you know to just repeat over and over again and emphasize in every way you know that salvation comes to those whose faith is in Christ, not whose faith is in baptism.

Part V

Why Does the Apostles’ Creed Single Out Pontius Pilate? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

A very interesting and informed question came from Richard asking, why do the Nicene and apostles creeds give such prominence to Pontius Pilate? He goes on to say the only named persons on either creed are members of the Holy Trinity and the Virgin Mary. Why Pontius Pilate singled out this way? Now let’s just remind ourselves that Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor who was actually complicit in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Pontius Pilate betrayed Christ. The crucifixion of Christ took place under the Roman authority of Pontius Pilate.

And so Richard, if you ask the question, why is his name in the creed, as in the apostles’ creed, he suffered under Pontius Pilate, the answer is because it affirms that it took place in space, time and history. Scripture records that he did suffer under Pontius Pilate. And that’s just a way of saying, look, space, time and history, look it up. You can find references to Pontius Pilate. It was during his governorship there in Judea that Jesus Christ was crucified on the authority in terms of Roman law, of Pontius Pilate. That’s why Pontius Pilate’s name is in the creed. Just to underline again, the fact that the death of the Lord Jesus Christ was in space, time and history. It was a moment in time, it really happened.

Part VI

Does Romans 2:14 Mean that Gentiles Can Obey the Law Without the Holy Spirit? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Tim asked an interesting question pointing to Romans 2:14. He says he struggles to understand the verse. He says a surface level reading of the verse would seem to indicate that gentiles have the power to obey the law without being indult by the holy spirit. Well, let me just point out that you are reading carefully, Tim, but in this case, Romans 2 is not pointing towards their total obedience to the law that would satisfy the righteous demands of God. But to the fact that even as they order their lives according to a moral law, let’s be thankful, most people, even those who do not know Christ obey that moral law to a considerable extent. Otherwise, you couldn’t drive on the road. You couldn’t walk out without being afraid of being robbed. In other words, the restraining power of the law of God shows up even among the Gentiles.

Now, that point is made actually by the apostle Paul in verse 15, Paul writes, “They,” meaning the Gentiles, “show that the work of the law is written on their hearts while their conscience also bears witness.” Now that’s really important. So there is no one, as Paul says in Romans chapter one, who has an excuse, we are all without excuse. Even if we do not have the 10 Commandments, the law of God is written on our hearts. Let’s be thankful for that. But let’s also understand that Paul says, no one’s going to be in heaven because of that natural revelation, the word of God written on our hearts. That means no one has an excuse, but only those who come to know the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. In that very same book, the apostle Paul says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.

Part VII

How Does the Holy Spirit Speak? Is It Through a Microphone? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Question from a Three-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

But finally, I often mention that I privileged questions coming from teenagers and young people and children. But this is a first, a question from a three year old. In this case, a three year old boy who asked his mom, does the holy spirit have a microphone? Evidently hearing about the Holy Spirit speaking, he wanted to know how the holy spirit speaks, perhaps to an entire congregation. How does that happen? Well, I am happy to respond to this three year old boy that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have a microphone. The Holy Spirit speaks in holy Scripture. In the Bible, when you read the Bible, you are hearing the Holy Spirit speak, and by the power of the Holy Spirit inside our hearts, the Bible speaks a lot louder than a microphone.

Such a great question from a three year old. Out of the mouth of babes. By the gospel of Jesus Christ, may that three-year-old boy grow up to hear the Holy Spirit in his heart by the Scriptures.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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