The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, May 5, 2022

It’s Thursday, May 5th, 2022.

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

Part I

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Responds to My Pro-Life Argument from Yesterday’s Edition of The Briefing: "I Think That’s Kind of an Outlier Position When It Comes to the General Public"

Yesterday on The Briefing, I discussed comments about abortion made by the president of the United States. Those comments came up at yesterday’s White House press briefing. And press secretary Jen Psaki responded. Here’s the clip from what happened yesterday.”

[There is a] Conservative. His name is Albert Mohler has commented on president Biden stance and an unusual position on abortion. I’m now quoting. He said that he and his administration do not trust the public in various areas to have the right to determine whether or not abortion should be legal in that area or not. So he’s essentially saying that Biden does not think that states should have the rights to determine how abortions… To the degree that abortion-

The president believes that it should continue to be federal law that women have the right to make choices with their doctors as it has been for 50 years. And I would just say with all due respect to the person you mentioned, even a Fox News poll over early this month showed that 63% of Americans want road to stand. So I think that’s actually an outlier position as it relates to the American public.

I appreciate the reporter listening to The Briefing and making this point, having the courage to raise this point in the context of the White House press briefing yesterday. But I want to look particularly at the fact that the white house press secretary Jen Psaki did not respond directly to my comments nor my quotation from the president in his comments that were made on Monday. But rather she just turned to defend the White House position on abortion rights. And let’s just remind ourselves, President Biden is now basically for any abortion at any time undertaken by any American woman or the White House has sometimes actually said pregnant person. And for any reason, and furthermore, the president is now calling for taxpayer funding. The president was responding to the leak of what we now know was an authentic draft of what we can hope will be the majority opinion in the Dobbs case on Mississippi coming from the Supreme Court.

But what we’re looking at here is the fact that the issues are now squarely on the table. The press secretary responded that the president believes, “It should continue to be federal law that women have the right to make choices with their doctors as it has been for 50 years.” Now one of the things we need to note here is that the use of the term federal law, it’s just a little slippery, and that’s not a surprise coming from a press secretary. Because it is not federal law that established abortion rights in the United States, it was a decision of the United States Supreme Court. Now, you can say that has legal authority, it’s legally binding, but nonetheless, even right now, even today, there is no national legislation authorizing abortion or, for that matter, creating what would be called abortion rights.

The White House press secretary went on to say “And I would just say with all due respect to the person,” and as you know, I am that person, she went on to say, “you mentioned even a Fox News poll over this month that showed 63% of Americans want row a stand.” She said, “So I think that’s actually an outlier position,” meaning my position, “as it relates to the American public.” And let’s just consider that for a moment. Again, they come back to this again and again, here we are told that even a Fox News poll earlier this month had showed that 63% of Americans want Roe v. Wade. They want it to stand.

Well, one of the things you need to do whenever you hear something like that is go to the actual survey or poll, look at the question that was asked. Look at the exact wording of the question and then look at how the answers came from the American people understand that all of this is basically said in the context of a war of statistics, data and polls, and whether you’re on one side of this issue or the other, you can basically go shopping for the data you’re looking for in order, supposedly, to make your point.

But the fact is that as you are looking at the current situation, the current crisis point in American history on the question of abortion, this didn’t come about by any survey, this didn’t come about by any opinion poll, and no conservative Christian defending the pro-life position should assume that opinion polls are our authority. Instead, we understand that the issue here is the intentional destruction of an unborn human life. And one of the things we just simply have to acknowledge is that even if the vast majority of Americans believed that a woman supposedly has a right to destroy that unborn life, that would not simply say to conservative Christians, “Pro-lifers you just go home and stop contending for the sanctity of human life.” No, it just tells us more about what we’re up against. It also tells you by the way that the vast majority of the American people almost assuredly could not tell you exactly what is in the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973.

The fact is they have been electing Republican presidents who have been for years, for election cycles, being very clear about the determination to reverse Roe v. Wade. And they’ve also been electing other political leaders who have been making the very same point. Now the White House press secretary might have argued that the American people are confused or inconsistent on this issue. But what you can’t argue is that this is merely an outlier position. That’s what she said about my position. Referring to me as “the person,” she said, “that’s actually an outlier position as it relates to the American public.” Well, here’s the reality, we as American Christians are not primarily concerned about measuring public opinion on abortion. This is a basic principle of Christian worldview thinking, our first concern is not how to communicate the truth.

Our first concern has to be what is the truth. What is the truth about the nature of that unborn life? What is the status of that unborn life? Is that unborn life sacred because every single human life is made in the image of God? That’s the foundational question. We have to answer that question. I believe the Christian biblical worldview answers that question emphatically. The answer is that we must understand human life to begin when God says, “Let there be life,” when the sperm and the egg come together at what is described as fertilization and that the dignity and sanctity of human life made in God’s image extends throughout the entirety of the lifespan and under every conceivable condition. The White House press secretary refers to this understanding as an outlier position, but let’s just understand, when it comes to historic Christianity, it is not the outlier position.

It is the majority conviction, it has been held with rather remarkable consistency throughout Christian history. By the time you get to the modern era, yes, there are more liberal denominations that are out of step with the biblical position here and with Christian reasoning, but just consider the fact that when you look at American evangelical denominations, very clear pro-life witness. When you look at, just to say, the institutional weight and authority of the Roman Catholic Church, a very consistent dogmatic teaching, identifying every single human life as deserving and demanding protection from the very moment of conception. Yes, it’s a very clear position. And so what you have here is the fact that the president of the United States is the one who is actually out of step with the very church that he claims to identify with. And the White House press secretary is simply trying to dismiss all pro-life Americans, all of us, simply by saying that we are in an outlier position as it comes to the American public.

Again, let’s just underline this fact, we must be willing to be in an outlier position, if that is what the truth demands of us. But I also want to say, it is not at all clear when you look at the data that the American people are actually all gung ho for the Roe v. Wade decision. Most Americans don’t even understand how the decision actually operates in terms of setting the parameters for abortion. It’s also worthy of note that this brave reporter in facing down the White House press secretary and addressing this question, took it right to the point of the president’s remarks on Monday to which I had responded, where the president says that there should be a federal policy on abortion and that the states and localities should have no right whatsoever to legislate or to limit abortion. And the White House press secretary did come right back to say that the president “believes it should continue to be federal law.” She goes on to say, “As it has been for 50 years.”

Now, just think about this for a moment, if you’re talking about a matter of life and death, you’re talking about the very definition of human life, you’re talking about, who should live and who should die, and you’re suggesting that the moral judgment on which you are establishing your position is something that goes back 50 years? But it’s not every day that the White House press secretary responds to The Briefing. So as I think about this exchange, I’m going to counter to win.

Part II

Yet Another Doctrinal Catastrophe: Church of Scotland Prepares to Approve Same-Sex Marriage

But next as an issue of priority, we’re going to shift the scene to Scotland, where the news is coming that the church of Scotland has now reached the point that it is ready to move forward and officially recognize same-sex marriage, allowing its clergy to perform same-sex marriages. Just let those words settle in for just a moment.

Same-sex marriage, church of Scotland. Now, as we’re talking about the church of Scotland, let’s just remind ourselves, this is not just another liberal Protestant denomination, going down the long slide to doctrinal doom, rejection of the holy scriptures, violation of the clear teachings of the Bible, the authority of Christ, the gospel. It’s not just another liberal Protestant denomination bending the knee to the idols of the sexual revolution in the modern age. No, this is the church that in human terms is most closely identified with John Knox. Going back to the Protestant Reformation, going back, particularly to the Reformation in Scotland, going back to John Knox’s concern for a true biblical church, a true gospel church, a church that would stand on the authority of scripture. It is that church that will continue to have a statue of John Knox outside its buildings. Yes, it is that church that has now turned its back on scripture to this point. Christianity today and the associated press are both reporting that it is now 29 presbyters in favor of the recognition and, for that matter, the performing of same-sex marriages, and 12 presbyters opposed.

We are told that the issue will now go before the church of Scotland general assembly, that will be meeting in Edinburg in May. Very interesting just to look at some of the tidbits we’re offered here for one thing, clergy are not going to be required to marry same-sex couples, but they’re going to be authorized to do so. The church doesn’t have a liturgy for the solemnization of same-sex marriages. So it’s going to have to develop that. One of the most interesting statements coming from the church at this point is this, “The church recognizes that there are diverse views on the subject to same-sex marriage. We are committed to ensuring that debates on this subject are held in a spirit of humility and grace, that the tone and tenor of discussions are civil and people are respectful of those who hold opposing views.”

Now here’s a sign of doctrinal collapse. It can happen in a church, it can happen in a school, it can happen in an entire denomination, as we’re looking here. That sign of doctrinal collapse is referring to something like respect to those who hold opposing views, when the opposing views have everything to do with whether or not the church is going to stand for orthodoxy or fall into heterodoxy. And so when you talk about respect for opposing views, you simply have to say that at least inside any biblical church, there can be no respect for a radical notion. There can be no respect for a rebellion against the word of God. That doesn’t mean you don’t love the people, but it does mean you love the truth and honor Christ to the point you will not let your church be divided on an issue in which the scripture is so abundantly, transparently, unquestionably clear.

There’s something else to consider. And that is when you consider the point reached by the church of Scotland here, you realize this didn’t happen out of a vacuum. It didn’t happen in an instant. You’re looking at a process and that process takes us back, for example, to the year 2005. That’s when Scotland legalized so-called civil partnerships for same-sex couples. Then just nine years later in 2014, Scotland authorized the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Well, what about the church of Scotland? Well, the church of Scotland took a very interesting path to reach this point. You would have to go back to years like 2013 and 2015. In 2013 the church held to its position that very clearly defined marriage as exclusively the union of a man and a woman. But at the same time, the church said that it would allow some clergy, and this would mean also groups of clergy and entire presbyters or districts or provinces of the church, to hold to a contrary position.

Now here’s the issue, the charter, the constitution, the governing documents of the church of Scotland make clear it is a creedal church, it’s a confessional church. In other words, it holds two specific doctrines. But over the course of the year, say from 2013 to 2015, the church basically said, “We will allow those who are in fundamental disagreement with our teaching, who contradict the confession of faith, nonetheless, to be ministers in good standing.” Now it’s at that point, you need to recognize that a good many of the gospel ministers in the church of Scotland exited, they headed for the doors and it was exactly the right thing to do. It was a tragedy for those pastors. It was a tragedy for the churches they had been serving, but it was a victory for truth. It was a stand for conscience. It was, as one author said, “a sad departure,” but it was a necessary departure.

One of those pastors who had to leave by conscience, the church of Scotland was someone who had been very deeply committed to it and had been a pastor within it, David J. Randall, one of those exiting pastors wrote a book published by banner of truth trust, “It is a very sad but necessary testimony.” The title of his book, A Sad Departure, the subtitle, Why We Could Not Stay in the Church of Scotland.

This book offers ample documentation and evidence of how a church or a denomination goes into a doctrinal decline that eventually results in open opposition to the word of God. He points out that in 2007, the general assembly of the church of Scotland had received a report in which the group said that even as there were different views on the church’s attitude towards homosexuality, “There was somewhat surprise at the degree of concord reached regarding the plain meaning of scripture in the specific mentions of same sex sexual activity end.”

So in other words, back in 2007, the church of Scotland was already in trouble because there were those trying to press for a revolution, a rebellion. When it comes to sexual morality, there was at least agreement then on the plain teaching of scripture. Back in 2013, a report of the Theological Commission on same sex relationships in the ministry reported to the general assembly “Every single reference to homosexual acts in the entire Bible is negative and condemnatory, as everyone on the Theological Commission recognizes. Everyone on the Theological Commission on both sides of this debate agrees that there is not one positive reference to homosexuality in the entire Bible this agreement is significant.” That was 2013, but that’s at the very same time the church is saying, “Well, that’s what Scripture teaches, and that’s what our law and doctrine require that we’re going to allow pastors who disagree to remain in good standing.”

Once a church does that the stage is set for total doctrinal collapse. There is actually nothing to prevent, total doctrinal collapse when you reach that point. Evangelical Christians, confessing believers, those who uphold the theological teachings of the church of Scotland had sought to defend those teachings and often at personal expense. But this became the breaking point.

Even as David Randall wrote in his book, “Among evangelicals, there is not really any disagreement about the issue at stake in the recent controversy within the church of Scotland. The issue at stake,” he writes, “is the place and authority of the Bible in the church. It is in connection with a proper response to the crisis that disagreement has arisen, with some believing that they should remain in the church of Scotland with the aim of bringing it back to its proper foundations, while others have concluded that the game is up and it is time for a sad departure.”

Part III

Doctrinal Decline and the Collapse into Theological Liberalism: The Same Pattern Again and Again

Now, as you’re looking at this, you need to recognize something. In most cases, in most cases, believing Christians stay in unbelieving churches too long. The truth was spoken by Nigel Kenny, identified as the Scotland officer for the Christian Institute. He criticized the church saying, “This is a very sad development in the life of the national Kirk.” The word “Kirk” is the Scottish word for church. He says that “that church has in its constitution a commitment to the Bible as the supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice.” Nigel Kenny continued, “The Bible is crystal clear that true God honoring marriage is only between one man and one woman. Jesus’ own teaching on this and Matthew 19 could not be clearer, but it seems that the majority of presbyters are more interested in taking their cue from culture rather than Christ.”

Here’s where we need to note, the kind of argument that presses the church in this kind of direction away from scripture. In other words, you look at this and say, “Look at the overwhelming consensus, even by the study groups of this denomination of this church, about the Bible, there’s a very clear consensus about what the Bible teaches. So what does it take to lure a church a denomination, a seminary, a school, a Christian college, a Christian organization away from Scripture? What does it take?” Well, I think the words there are exactly right. It’s the pull of the culture and it comes as a very interesting argument. The argument is often this, we’re going to have to change our doctrine, or we’re not going to be able to reach people. That’s the argument you hear. We’re going to have to change our doctrine because our doctrine, as it stands, is repugnant to the very people we are trying to reach.

Now here’s where Christians need to step back and understand that framing the question that way, well, you’re already at the brink of disaster. Because we are not as Christians told that our job, our responsibility, our great commission is to reach people, but rather that we are to reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are actually to confront them with the truth of the gospel. We can only do that because of the truth of Scripture. And we are to confront them with the knowledge of their sin, because it is only the knowledge of their sin that drives them for rescue to the atonement accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ.

As you look at the apostolic model in the new Testament, none of the apostles soft pedal sin, or tried to back off from Scripture at any point whatsoever. But rather they understood that scripture is what the Holy Spirit uses to convict us of sin, in order that we will know of our need for Christ and be drawn to Christ by the power of the gospel.

I think of a liberal like Harry Emerson Fosdick back in the early decades of the 20th century. He preached to a church most famously known as the Riverside Church in New York City, basically built as a cathedral to theological liberalism. And Harry Emerson Fosdick often presented his argument for liberal theology by saying that this is what our culture will hear. The culture will not hear orthodox Christianity, the culture will not hear, he said “conversation about hell, conversation about sin.” We need to understand the new rules the culture has given us. That’s the very thesis of theological liberalism. We face new rules, we’re going to have to operate by those rules. Harry Emerson Fosdick said “When it comes to, for instance, many teachings of the Old Testament, many historical occurrences in the Old Testament, they don’t make sense to modern people. So, we should stop trying to preach them as if they are true.”

Now I want to be abundantly clear. It is very evident at this point that when you’re looking at many modern secular societies and especially rapidly secularizing societies, the people in those societies…. This takes us back to the White House press conference yesterday. There is no question that many people in those societies do now operate by the new rules of the new morality. Their minds have shifted. Their hearts have shifted on this issue. They are now, indeed, shocked by anyone who would hold to the fact that marriage is and can only be the union of one man and one woman.

We shouldn’t doubt the fact that in those societies, the societies are operating by new rules. The argument comes that the church is going to have to live by those same rules. But here’s something else to note, in every single case you look at through the history of the Christian Church, particularly you look at the history after theological liberalism emerged in the early 20th century.

Just look at the last century, virtually every single denomination, every single church, every single institution that said in order to hold people, in order to attract people, in order not to offend people, you’re going to have to abdicate the Christian faith. Notice that those churches, those buildings, those theological seminaries, those Christian colleges, those denominations, have actually been the ones most evacuated of people. In his book, A Sad Departure, David Randall quotes James S. Stewart, one of the most famous Scottish preachers of the 20th century in a statement that I will use today to close The Briefing.

This is what pastor James S. Stewart said in his writing A Faith to Proclaim, back in 1953. He said this “The greatest drag on Christianity today, the most serious menace to the church’s mission is not the secularism without, it is the reduced Christianity within. The religious generalities and innocuous platitudes of a palate, anemic Christianity, which is simply in the language of arithmeticians, the highest common factor of a half a dozen different religions. Did not Paul himself say ‘I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means, save some?’ Yes,” writes pastor Stewart. “Indeed, but not at the self-defeating cost of changing Christianity into something else. Not at the cost of soft pedaling the historical supernatural elements without which Christianity does not exist or of dissolving the divine intolerance for the faith in a more as a religious relativism.

Anyone observing the church of Scotland over the last several years will be unsurprising by these latest headlines. This has been something that has basically been written into the genetic structure of that church once it abandoned its own constitutional responsibility as a confessional church, and more pressingly, abandoned the scripture and abandon the authority of Christ on these questions. Once that happened, then the church is not only headed into decline, it will be headed into outright doctrinal rebellion. But it also tells us something about the day of declining conviction, when you remember that John Knox was at the point of the threat of his life, willing to stare down a Catholic queen and an Anglican king.

Meanwhile, today’s theological liberals are unwilling to bear the disrespect and disapproval of the faculty of the Harvard Divinity School or the editorial board of the New York Times.

The saddest departure is a departure from the truth. And that’s exactly what we see happening now in the church of Scotland.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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