Friday, April 8, 2022
It's Friday, April 8, 2022.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Elections Have Consequences: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Confirmed as Next Justice of the United States Supreme Court
The next justice of the United States Supreme Court will be Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, that by the decision of the United States Senate yesterday to confirm her to that position after her nomination by President Joe Biden. And so, Judge Jackson will become Justice Jackson. But that will take place only either at the end of June or in the beginning of July. More on that in just a moment. The fact is that the decisive vote came yesterday. That 53-47 vote was basically along party lines. All 50 of the Democrats voted for her in terms of her nomination and three Republicans joined with the Democrats in that vote, thus 50 plus 3, 53.
The three Republican senators were Utah Senator Mitt Romney, Maine Senator Susan Collins, and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. You put those three together, I discussed them yesterday on The Briefing, but what we now have is the fact that a basically liberal, actually quite definitively liberal justice, Stephen Breyer, who has served on the Court now for a matter of decades, will be succeeded by another liberal, almost surely to his left. Judge Jackson was extremely reticent, as you will remember, to speak much about her judicial philosophy. She even actually denied that she had one. But nonetheless, she was nominated to that post by President Joe Biden who had made a pledge during the presidential campaign that he would appoint a Black woman if he had the opportunity to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court.
He was given that opportunity with the announcement of the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer. And then, he had a choice between eligible Black women, by his own definition, his own restriction, who could have been nominated to the bench. He chose of those who were well-known to be under consideration the one considered to be the most liberal. It is also really important to understand that some of the non-profit activist groups behind her were not only looking for a very liberal justice, they were also groups that, in one case in particular, are calling for a so-called reformation of the Supreme Court by adding additional seats in order to dilute the conservative majority. But yesterday's vote just sets the stage for Judge Jackson to become Justice Jackson.
And that points to an anomaly here. This is an unusual situation. In the usual situation, you have either had an immediate vacancy with the president making a nomination such that the confirmed candidate is then immediately sworn into office, sworn into the seat on the United States Supreme Court, or you have a justice make a retirement announcement at or near the end of the term, which means that the president and the Senate have the opportunity to conclude the process before the beginning of the next Supreme Court term after the summer recess. But in this case, Justice Breyer actually made the announcement at about the midpoint of the Supreme Court term which set up the process that led to yesterday's confirmation.
So, what's the anomaly here? The anomaly is that Judge Jackson will remain Judge Jackson there on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for a matter of some weeks until the seat is actually vacated, then and only then can she be sworn into the seat and take her place on the United States Supreme Court. So, we're just accustomed as Americans to having a confirmation vote in the Senate and then having the newly confirmed candidate almost immediately sworn in not going to happen this time, but it's because of how Justice Breyer structured his retirement from the Court.
Should Student Loans Be Forgiven? Would That Really Be the Just Thing to Do? A Closer Look at the Argument
But next, I want to discuss another issue of policy related to the Biden administration. This one's big, it raises a host of worldview issues. It requires us to think pretty carefully here, to weigh alternatives.
And we're talking about the fact that the White House had announced just this week that it will offer yet an additional extension when it comes to payments on principal and interest for student loans. Now, just recall the fact that this pause, this interregnum in terms of the payback on these loans was occasioned because of COVID. And so, because of COVID, the government said, "We're going to allow people not to pay on their federally insured student loans because of the hardship of the pandemic." But let's just note that virtually, every other similar restriction having to do with the pandemic has not only expired and not been extended, but it's been expired for some time. But that takes us into an interesting intersection of policy and worldview, and frankly, one that requires us to think for a moment.
So, as we're trying to think about a just society, we want a society that's just and equitable, a society that also honors freedom and liberty, how exactly do we think about something like student loans? Well, for one thing, we're not just talking about student loans, not loans that we've taken out in the private sector, we're talking about federally endorsed, we're talking about federally backed student loans, federally insured is the way it's often described. And this means that the federal government actually puts its money into this program and it supervises how these loan programs are arranged and how candidates may apply for them, how much money can actually flow through them. And we're looking at a situation in which we have a national disaster facing us when it comes to these federally insured student loans.
What's the disaster? People have taken out as loans far more money than they can rationally pay back. Yes, it's true. An awful lot of people are graduating from college, university, and especially from graduate school with crushing levels of debt. And now they are calling to the government, "Relieve us of this debt." Now, you have the Democratic Party that officially is saying that there ought to be a loan forgiveness. There are some like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, very prominent Democrat who ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination who are calling for the elimination of all student debt. Just forgive it. Of course, what we're looking at here is a massive redistribution of wealth.
You're talking about a massive amount of money here amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars and we're talking about a vast amount of money that would be transferred simply by some kind of political policy from the government, which means from other Americans, to those Americans who have the student debt. And there is no doubt that many people are being crushed by this debt. But they took out the debt. They signed all those loan agreements. They understood at the time what they were doing and they just piled up the debt. Now, one of the things we need to understand here is that universities, the entire academic industry, had a lot to gain by having these federally insured student loans.
It basically enabled so many of these colleges and universities to recruit people become a student saying, "Don't worry about the bill, just sign this paperwork, take out these federally insured student loans and you can pay them back in the future when you're making all money that we promise you're going to make if you conclude your education and get your degree from us." So, there was a massive redistribution of wealth from the American taxpayer to American colleges and universities that participate in these federal programs. By the way, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College by conviction do not participate in these loan programs.
But we just have to concede that as you look at American higher education, it has largely been funded, not to mention expanded, by the vast billions and billions of dollars that have flowed into those universities because of students taking out these loans, and it's students, of course, and their families. So, what's just and equitable here? Is it just that there are people who have this massive student debt? Should we just say, in the name of justice, we should eliminate that debt? Well, wait just a minute. That would mean, again, forgiving them a debt. That's like giving them a check for that amount of money. And in some cases, we're talking about six figure sums. And the American taxpayer says, "Don't worry about that, we'll pay that."
Well, the problem is the American taxpayer is you and me. But here's another issue when it comes to equity or justice. This would actually be a massive redistribution of wealth coming from other American taxpayers given to financially advantaged Americans when it comes to those who, after all, have had the opportunity to attend college, most of them graduated from college, they have the benefit of that education, and frankly, they took out that money with the pledge that they would pay it back. It's estimated that since the beginning of the pandemic, the loan pause as it has been called, has cost American taxpayers more than $100 billion. That's right. Just during the pandemic, $100 billion that has been charged to the American taxpayer simply because principal and interest payments on these student loans were put on pause.
Now, the White House has put them on pause again. And furthermore, the White House is sending signals that it wants to move towards something like a loan forgiveness. Now, another thing we need to notice is that the White House made the explanation that the after effects of the pandemic mean that this pause should be continued, continued through the summer. That means, again, at the cost of the American taxpayer. But wait just a minute. Unemployment is actually at record lows. This is actually the least justifiable time in terms of the American economy for the government to say, "In the name of the pandemic, we're going to allow you to pause your loan payments."
The situation is never going to be better than it is right now. Unemployment for college graduates, according to most estimates, is about 2%. That's a record low. Something else to look at here is the fact that you had people who took out private loans and during the pandemic, on average, they actually paid them back at higher rates than before the pandemic. Which is to say, maybe they got stimulus payments, maybe they had other money they decided to simply use it wisely to pay down their debt. But those who held the federally insured student debt, they were actually given an incentive not to pay it back. It's good for Christians to consider at this point the worldview implications of an economic term, a policy term known as moral hazard.
Moral hazard is defined as an incentive given to people not to repay what they have taken on as an obligation. It's basically generalized as an economic term that means incentivizing something wrong rather than incentivizing something right. Now, the example that is often given and particularly rightly in this case by the American left as an example of moral hazard is the government's temptation to corporate bailouts. And so, you have companies that make very bad economic decisions, they take on unreasonable risks, and yet you have the government bail them out. Chrysler, in the late 20th century, is the greatest example of this. And the theory of moral hazard simply says you're just incentivizing other companies to make similarly bad decisions believing that the government will bail them out at the end.
Well, all this conversation about a pause or a cancellation of student debt, that is just another way of creating massive moral hazard, saying to students, "Hey, you should not only take out this debt because, after all, you're going to get a college degree, but after all, the government may actually cancel this debt on the other side." But in the issue of justice, we need to think about something else. There are two issues of justice here. Number one, what about all those students who've repaid their debt? What about all those people, over the course of the last several decades, who have faithfully repaid their debt? How just is it now, just to wipe out the debt that is held by current student debtors? Or there's another thing, how many students didn't go to say they're college A because they simply decided, "I can't afford to take that much out in loans"?
So instead, they went to a community college. They went to a regional state university. They went to a different college saying, "I'm not going to go to that college because it's irresponsible for me to take out that much debt." But another kid from the same class decides to go to that extremely expensive college and take out that debt backed by the federal government, and now, all that debt is wiped out. The person who made the financially responsible decision may actually still owe money, that the person who made the vastly irresponsible decision now doesn't owe at all. Thanks to the American taxpayer. Once again, you had the temptation of big government to take a popular action in the name of justice, and yet the closer you look at it, you realize, "This is not justice at all. This is just a robbery disguised as an act of justice."
Are You Arguing That God Misleads Us by Making the Earth Look Old When It is Actually Young? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
But next, we're going to turn to The Mailbox.
As always, really great questions from listeners. I really appreciate you listening and also asking the questions. More questions that we can get to in any given week, but we'll do our best to hit some of the most important of them. Now, this week on The Briefing I discussed creation and the necessity of an accurate biblical understanding of creation in order to even have a rightful understanding of the gospel and of the storyline of Scripture. And I talked about defending the young age of the earth. But I did not deny the fact that the earth looks old. I just said you have two different opportunities to explain that.
Either the world looks old because it is as old as it looks or there are other explanations even as given us in scripture, in terms of the compression of time, such that the world given even what's revealed to us in scripture concerning the vast energies and pressures involved in both creation and just to give another example, and the flood, and then add to that the consequences of sin. You add all that together and my suggestion is that there is no reason why we cannot use modern science, whether it's x-rays or a CAT scan, anything like that. There's no reason that we should stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon and say, "No, it doesn't look that old," it's simply that we have a very different intellectual starting place.
Ours is with the truthfulness of God's Word and with the goodness and perfection of God's revelation, the trustworthiness of scripture. And that means that as we look at the world, we look at it through a scriptural lens. And so, one of the questions that came in basically said that I was denying in my explanation the fact that the world looks old or that God merely made it to look old as if somehow that's going to mislead us. But I just want to come back and say that's not what we're saying at all. I'm saying that the world does look old. There is no doubt, that as you look at carbon dating and other issues. The world does look old just as you look at the Grand Canyon. Yes, it looks like it would take that river a very, very, very long time to cut through all those rocks and sediment layers and all the rest.
Now, I'm saying that the Bible doesn't just tell us about the accuracy of God's creation, it tells us about the stress of the flood, it tells us about other consequences that were brought about by human sin, creation, groaning under the weight of sin. But there's some good questions that have come in.
Did God Create Time? Does God Exist Outside of Time? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Travis asked the question, "What about time itself? Is it a creation of God? Does God exist outside of time?" Well, that's exactly the biblical definition, Travis. And that is, that God is not bound by time, time is not in God. God does not age, He is eternal. That's one of his biblical attributes. He doesn't change. Now, actually, the Scripture tells us that God doesn't change, therefore, we are not destroyed. That's a very good thing for us to know.
But the Scripture tells us of God's creation of time. As a matter of fact, we're told that time will be no more. We're also told that we, even in our bodies and to the cosmos itself, shows the effects of time. So, the Bible's very clear, time is created. Now, you say, "Where in the Scriptures is time created?" Well, that's a fascinating question, and I'm going to say time is created in Genesis 1. You say, "Where?" Well, it is in the creation of the cosmos, and in particular, say, of our universe and the spheres. Once you have space and you have motion, you have time. That's just the law of physics. And so, even as you're look at Genesis 1, it is clear that among the good creations of God, given to us in the creation account there in Genesis is the creation of time. When you have matter in motion, you have time.
By the way, Travis also raises the issue of saying when you think about God's creation, I gave the example where at least I've given it elsewhere, and Travis brings it up here about Adam. Adam was created an adult male. That was not a misrepresentation. That was simply the fact that Adam was made as a fully functioning man. Now, Adam's descendants would be born as infants and would have to go through all the phases of life.
But none of that would've happened had Adam been created as an infant, he was created an adult male. You would've looked at Adam, and given what we know about humanity, you would've thought that he had been alive for some number of years, simply by the fact that he was fully mature. That was not God misrepresenting creation. The Scripture actually explains exactly what God did in creation and why.
Why Do You Think Creationism is Necessary for Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
David wrote an extended email in order to say that he has an engineering background, a scientific background, and he said, "It's just not enough to say the world appears to be old." He says, "After all," and I'm having to summarize his argument, "there are many different tests, there are many different technologies that indicate the age of the earth." Again, I'm not arguing against that, David. I am not arguing against the fact that the world not only appears to be old, but that the world is telling us the truth. I'm simply saying that the truth that is revealed to us, even in the physical evidence, is a truth that includes not only God's creation of the earth, but the effects of sin, the effects of the flood, and all the Scripture reveals.
It has to be taken as a totality. We are not just given Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. We're also given Genesis 3, we're given Romans 8, we're given 1 Corinthians 15. We're given an enormous number of texts that help us to understand the timeframe in which we understand the creation of the world and also our time and space in it. But David asked a particularly pointed question. He says, "When I say that if you get creation wrong, you're going to get everything that follows wrong including the gospel." He says that he challenges that and wants to know why I can make that statement. He says, "Why do you believe that creationism is necessary for biblical Christianity, in the gospel of Jesus Christ?"
So, I'd simply say that as you look at Jesus affirming in historical Adam, as you look at the apostle Paul also speaking of the first Adam being Adam himself, and Christ as the last Adam or the second Adam, just thinking about the covenantal history, as you understand this, we see that creation is actually in the gospel itself. But that also raises another issue. As you think about those who hold in general to an older earth, and again, I'm talking about those in general who hold to an older earth, then you're going to have also, embedded within that older earth narrative and explanation, you're going to have an explanation of why there's so many different species, why there's so many different forms of life and how you have development.
And that's going to create a problem, at least in my view, and I'm going to be emphatic about this, with how you end up with Adam being the special creation in the sequence that we see in the book of Genesis. I know there are figures like Hugh Ross and others who disagree with me, but that's exactly what it is, a disagreement.
I think it's important to say there are Christians who affirm the gospel. There are Christians who preach the gospel clearly, who I think are wrong and inconsistent on this issue, but I'm not contesting. And actually, I'm very thankful for the fact they teach and preach the gospel. But our Christian's theological stewardship is to know not only where ideas lay, but where they are headed, and the consequences of those ideas as we look to the future.
Should Christians Advocate for the Overturning of Obergefell v Hodges? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
I really appreciate Brooke writing in like this. And she raises the fact that as we've talked about such court decisions as Roe v. Wade, we've discussed the fact that the Court invented rights and simply read them back into the Constitution. And then she says, "Well, if that's true about Roe v. Wade, shouldn't Christians also be advocating for the overturning of Obergefell v. Hodges?" And just to remind us, that's the 2015 decision by the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage. And Brooke, I would simply say, you are emphatically right. I want to be very clear, you are absolutely right. It's a matter of political opportunity. And by the way, long term, one of my concerns about the conservative movement in the United States is that it will not press on in order to try to achieve a reversal of Obergefell.
So, what we're going to have to do is watch this very carefully and strike at every opportunity. The opportunity right now is Roe v. Wade with the Dobbs decision and we simply have to hope it and pray that the Court will do the right thing in that case. But as your question implies, that is not the end of the story, it's just opening to the next chapter in the story.
What Do You Think of the Conservative Silence Over the Hiring of Caitlyn Jenner as a Contributor for Fox News? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Next, we got questions from several listeners, two of them were Newland and John writing in asking about Fox News hiring Caitlyn Jenner, I'm simply going to use that name, the public name, as a commentator. And according to Newland, Fox explained this saying, "Caitlyn's story is an inspiration to us all." Newland says, "Conservatives were relatively quiet. Why?"
Well, Newland, this conservative was quiet because I didn't know about it. I certainly did not know of this development nor did I see those words. But let me say now, emphatically, this is neither conservative nor right. You cannot have the LGBTQ revolution and claim a conservative identity. It simply doesn't work. You may be more conservative on some issues than other people, but we as Christians understand that a worldview is composite. It's comprehensive, it is a whole. And if you're going to deny the very order of creation over here, you're going to have a very hard time identifying as a conservative in any consistent way at any other point. And when it comes to the news networks, there's a lot to be said there.
But to all listeners who are thinking about this issue, I would simply point out to you that television news, especially when it comes to the cable news networks, is a combination of news and entertainment. And don't miss the fact that entertainment, and by that I don't mean that it's supposed to be something that's funny, or jolly, or a comedy, entertainment can simply be defined as that which captures your attention and from which you don't turn.
Is There a Difference Between Mercy and Grace? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Finally, Helena wrote in, 16 years old from North Carolina saying, "This past week in Sunday School, my teachers and I were discussing mercy and grace. We cannot come up with a distinct difference." Wow, what a good question, Helena, and I'm thankful that you had this discussion in Sunday School.
Maybe I can give you something to take back to Sunday School this coming Lord's Day. And that is that the biggest difference between mercy and grace is the context. In this situation, mercy really is something of a legal term. Think of it as in a courtroom where a judge extends mercy rather than finding someone guilty and assigning the full consequence of that guilt. Mercy can be extended when someone is a debtor where mercy means the forgiveness of that debt. Mercy can be extended in any number of other context. But mercy has that legal connotation. And we can think of it most importantly when we think about a final judgment, we think about God as the righteous judge, and we think about God judging those who are in Christ by his mercy, the mercy purchased atonement of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Now, the old definition of grace, I learned just as a child, Helena, I think it's still just a wonderful definition: unmerited favor. It is God loving us when we are unlovable, God accepting us when we are unacceptable, God embracing us when we are unembraceable. And it is because God in Christ loves us when we are unlovable. And that is unmerited favor. Because in Christ, we are beloved. So, Helena, you and your teachers are actually right. You can't make a fundamental distinction between grace and mercy because they are simply hand in hand in a New Testament theology. The distinction is merely the context in which one is primarily legal more than the other.
But you cannot have mercy without grace, nor can you have grace without mercy. And in Christ, we have grace and mercy infinitely. And there could not be a better way of ending a week of The Briefing than with the words grace and mercy.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You could 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'll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.