The Briefing

Documentation and Additional Reading

Part

Part

Wall Street Journal

Pig Heart Transplanted Into Dying Man Had an Animal Virus

by Amy Dockser Marcus and Joseph De Avila

The Briefing

Friday, May 13, 2022

Tags: Audio

Transcript

It's Friday, May 13th, 2022.

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

Part

Corporations and Moral Causes—Are Investors Awakening to the Downside of Corporate Virtue Signaling?

We're going to look at a range of issues today, but one of them has to do with the issue of issues. And especially when it comes to corporate America, just how involved should major corporations be on social issues? What's the background to this? Well, the immediate background, you can come to pretty quickly. It's controversy over Disney's foray into so many areas of social liberalism and in particular, the LGBTQ agenda and the fact that there are those who simply now look to Disney as not only a woke corporation, so to speak, but as a corporation that is increasingly defining itself by liberal, moral and social positions. Now the situation is convoluted, but no doubt, you're pretty familiar with it by now, at least most Americans are.

Disney found itself a bit in trouble with some of its own liberal employees, especially LGBTQ employee groups, because the company had not been vocal enough in their view in opposition to specific law that was then being proposed and has now been adopted in the state of Florida. Among other things that law would prohibit the teaching of LGBTQ identity issues in schools, especially in grades K-3, with other restrictions for inappropriate instruction thereafter. The opponents of the bill called it the Don't Say Gay Bill. That was a misrepresentation, but the media ran with it, Disney's employees ran with it. Before long, the Disney CEO was in full strategic retreat in the face of angry employees and the Disney corporation started making demands of Florida's government identifying very clearly, not only with the LGBTQ agenda, but holding meetings with employees and other events in which the leadership at Disney fell all over itself, indicating every way it intended to meet LGBTQ demands, including the content of its entertainment.

Now, the point in raising Disney, simply to say, it is the most recent flashpoint, but it's not the only flashpoint. Every major American corporation is facing similar pressures and similar temptations. But there's a big question here and that is, what is the purpose of a corporation? And now we see a major divide in this society. We won't take too long on this, but let's just consider the question, what is a corporation for? Why do people invest their economic energy and their economic capital in a company? What is the moral responsibility of a company? There are basically two answers to that question in the modern economic sphere.

The first of them is the classical capitalist answer. It was given quintessentially by a Nobel Prize winning economist named Milton Friedman. Friedman said basically the business of business is to increase value for shareholders, and if it does so, it will do well by its employees. It will also, in order to do so, have to do well by consumers. As he said, "If you lose track as a corporation of what your purpose is, and if the bottom line of that purpose does not mean adding shareholder value, then people should not invest in your company and people shouldn't see your company as a trustworthy place to work, much less invest.

But during the last several years, and in particular, in the first two decades of the 20th century now into the third, there is another understanding of the purpose of corporations. This is represented now by the initials E.S.G; that often refers to an investment philosophy based upon environmental, social and governance principles. That's E as in environmental, S as in social and G as in governance principles. Now, basically that's being pushed by the left. The left is suggesting, look, corporations are to exist, not just for the good of the shareholders or the so-called stakeholders, but they are to exist for the good of the entire community. Even as this sounds like something akin to socialism or some form of government intervention or social intervention in the economy, well, whatever you're going to call it, that's basically what it is.

It's arguing that corporations should take stances on particular issues having to do with the environment, social, that means social justice on the left, and also looking at governance issues and that would mean such things as representation on the board, representation in the company. As you have this philosophy of corporations arise, it says, "The corporations arise in order to do social good." Now, again, the first answer that would come from the classical capitalism or classic free market answer will be the corporations do good by doing good by doing well for their investors. And in order to do that, they have to have a good product, they have to market it successfully. If the product has basic flaws, then guess what? The investors aren't going to get their money back. If the marketing is false, it turns out consumers aren't going to buy it.

So the whole idea of the free market economist is that the market will simply make those decisions, it will reward good companies, it will punish bad companies. But along comes the left saying, "No, that's not good enough. We need to tell companies what the good is. We need to tell companies the agenda that they are to follow and the social justice or other social issues they are to take a stance on. We'll tell them what stance they're supposed to take." The left has been very active on this for some years. You look at someone like Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, this is basically the central theme of her economic policy. But all of this sort of comes to a head in yesterday's edition of the New York Times with an article by Ephrat Livni and the headline is, "Rich Investors Urge Avoidance of Social issues." Now this tells us something, it tells us that at this crucial moment, all the controversy over Disney, the controversy over other companies, the demands on the left that companies take positions on these issues.

Some in the investor class are standing back and saying, "No, I don't think that's a good idea. That's not why I invest in your company and furthermore, how exactly is that working out for Disney?" This gets to something else we need to understand, and that is that investors are in one sense risk averse. The whole idea of being an investor and frankly, most of you are whether you know it or not through your retirement plan or through some other kinds of savings account. Most Americans are now, if they are employed, in the investor class to some extent, especially when it comes to long range in retirement planning. The reality is that many American investors are simply saying, "Look, I'm investing in a company because I want it to gain in value. I want my investment to grow." And again, from a Christian perspective, that is basically a very good thing.

That is a modern representation of the dominion mandate that is given to humanity in Genesis 1, corporations legally are basically collectives of persons. They enable collective action, collective investment in an organization that limits liability. And if that liability weren't limited, by the way, you couldn't possibly have a retirement plan. But it's interesting that this article appeared in the New York Times, which is a very liberal newspaper after all. But the article tells us that several billionaire investors are now warning companies, "You had better put limits on just how involved you intend to be and how extreme the positions you adopt might be." The statement that is now to be circulated by certain of these investors "will urge companies not to get involved in social political or environmental issues."

Now that doesn't mean, by the way, they're not to make environmental policies concerning their business rather they are not to grandstand on these issues. But this gets to something else, even as congresses is, of course, looking at this, and in particular, the House of Representatives under Democratic control wants to hold investigations about these issues. Here's something you just need to keep in mind. Let's say, let's just take the argument for a moment that companies do exist in order to try to promote some kind of particular political, ideological or social causes or social values to use the modern parlance. Well, here's the question, what values would those be? Whose values would those be? And here's where just a little bit of candor in the New York Times goes a long way, especially coming from that newspaper.

Listen to this, "Societally there is little alignment on values. Jeffrey younger of the NYU, that's New York University Stern School of Business, said the fights were the same in business schools across the country, with some professors backing the Milton Friedman-esque model focused on profits, and others pushing a broader stakeholder capitalism approach. But there is a profit motive to E.S.G, this professor told DealBook. If shoppers and investors are looking for environmentally positive offerings, then it makes sense for businesses to respond."

Fascinating. This tells us two things, number one, businesses think they just might have to take positions on some issues, but they also understand that taking those positions will come at a cost. There are people who might be impressed by their new position, but there are likely stakeholders, shareholders, members of the public and consumers who will not like those postures taken. But this gets to something else. I think the most important sentence in this entire article is the one that introduces that paragraph, "Societally there is little alignment on values." That's just massively important and it's also manifestly true. We are living in a society that simply doesn't agree on some of the most basic moral questions of the age.

So let's say you do have a major consumer products company, who are you going to please? The people living in the villages in Florida who would tend to be retirees more conservative, or the young denizens of Silicon Valley in the tech sector. Because as it turns out on these issues, you're not going to please both, whose market do you want? Whose consumer choice do you want? Which political posturing is likely to alienate some and attract others? Most people didn't go into business even to answer these questions nor to have to deal with them. Looking at this issue, we do understand that we live in a moral universe and everyone has to take positions on certain moral issues just because you have a moral responsibility and sometimes the inevitability of answering certain questions. But many of these corporations aren't being asked questions they have to answer, they are trying to get out in front of ideological parades by what amounts to virtue signaling.

As it turns out, that comes at a cost. It comes at a cost because in this society right now... And this is where worldview analysis is really important. In this society right now, we are not as Americans or as Americans say investors, or as American consumers, we are not agreed upon what exactly is a virtue and what is a vice. Companies that decide they want to take a stand, well, they have to also understand they're going to pay a price.

Part

The Ethical Problem of Xenotransplantation Turns Deadly? Man with Pig Heart Transplant Dies from Pig Disease

But next, also in terms of worldview issues, one of the basic distinctions we talk about essential to the Christian worldview is the distinction between human beings and other living creatures. Now, there are other distinctions, the distinctions that are even found in scripture, the distinctions between night and day, the distinction between the seas and dry land, the distinctions between sentient life that is conscious life and non-conscious life.

There are all kinds of distinctions found in Scripture, but as we point out, the two most important of these distinctions for us to keep in mind is the distinction that makes human beings different from all other creatures, and the distinction that comes down to two words in the very first chapter of Scripture, male and female. But what I'm going to talk about here is confusion over the first of those issues, not the second. So just a matter of a few months ago, it was announced that a patient had had the first successful heart transplant in which the heart was a pig. This was a pig heart transplanted into a human. Now there are all kinds of reasons why it's a pig and not something else, and it is because there is a genetic kind of similarity between human beings and pigs when it comes at least to some major organs and tissues that would indicate that it just might be possible that certain kinds of tissues, organs, and other biological features coming from pigs might be successfully transplanted into human beings.

Now why the need? Well, the need becomes clear when we understand that there are more people in need of donor tissues, donor organs, and in particular donor hearts than are available by human donors. And so, we understand this would actually lead to a betterment of the human condition if human beings could actually receive successfully heart transplants, perhaps even other organ transplants coming from pigs. But as I discussed when we talked about this the first time, this xenotransplantation is actually a very morally problematic issue, because there is a create or given distinction between pigs and human beings. And as it turns out, it's one thing to transplant a heart valve from a pig into a human being; that's now rather routine. It's another thing to transplant a heart. The heart is an organ, the heart comes with a complex architecture, the heart also comes as a far larger representation of what had been in a pig that is now in a human being.

The human being in this case was David Bennett, who was identified as a 57-year-old handyman and father of two. And he was a subject of this pig heart transplant rather than a human heart transplant, not just because of a shortage of organs, but because he had not qualified for the transplant program. So he took a risk and it was undeniably a risk, the risk of becoming the first human being to receive a heart transplanted from a pig. Of course that didn't come out of the blue, there had been a lot of experimentation, a lot of theorizing, a lot of laboratory work and frankly, a lot of concern.

Here's where, as I mentioned on The Briefing, we have to understand that there are barriers between the human and other creatures in such a way that it is questionable at least to the extent that you could simply borrow from a pig and put in a human being. That species barrier is not something that is merely a social construct, it's not just some kind of moral intuition, it's actually something real. Now that doesn't mean that the transplanted heart from a pig was not ethically acceptable; it is to say it's ethically suspect until we can figure out exactly what that would mean. We'd understand that transplanting a brain from a pig into a human being would be categorically wrong, we don't have to think about that. But when it comes to a heart, at least it's an open question, but as it turns out, the news has come to us in recent days that David Bennett has died. And the big news here is not just that he died, it's what he died of. He died of a pig disease.

Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, where the surgery was conducted, said that they had screened the donor pig for this particular porcine virus. But after the patient's death, this doctor said, "We are finding out it was not the case." That is, it was not the case that the test that were conducted at the time were sufficient. He went on to say that more sensitive tests will be used in the future. The article in the Wall Street Journal concludes doctors don't know if the virus damaged the pig heart, or if the virus infected Mr. Bennett. The same doctor said, "So far we have no evidence of either of those things," adding that they were continuing to conduct tests.

I raise this today in order to remind us not only of the human toll with this particular experiment, but Mr. Bennett was likely to have died anyway, because of his defective heart. But as we think about the consequences in worldview dimensions here, just think about the fact that God made a distinction between human beings and animals, and in the end, we cannot disrespect that distinction. That again, doesn't say we can't use pig valves, it doesn't say categorically we can't use pig hearts, but it does say this is not going to be easy. The second thing for us to keep in mind is that there are limits to medical treatment, regardless of what that treatment is. There are limits to how efficacious, how effective, how successful just about any kind of medical treatment or surgical innovation can be. Even when they add years to life, they do not conquer the problem of death. That as it turns out is beyond our human reach and God told us that it was so.

Part

How Does the U.S. Aid to Ukraine Fit into Christian Just War Theory? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

The next we're going to turn to the Mailbox, always good questions coming from listeners.

Sometimes they're related to something discussed on The Briefing, sometimes they're related to a concern that I might not yet have addressed. Tim wrote in asking about the situation with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And he says, "Sometimes we like to see our biggest adversaries fall so much we don't stop to question the means by which we contribute to that downfall." He says, "The manner in which the United States is contributing help to Ukraine, according to the President, this includes all kinds of top notch American weapons, is essentially waging war versus proxy. Does that comport with biblical morality and just war theory? If so, why?" Well, Tim, you raise some good questions and by the way, next week on The Briefing, I'm going to go into some detail about how the situation in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing battle there in Ukraine, how we are looking at a subtle but important shift as I think Christian just war theory would be applied.

There are some issues of concern, including the use of American intelligence and frankly, even the admission by the government that certain forms of American intelligence have been shared with the Ukrainians that might have specifically targeted some Russians. Well, just looking at that, you recognize these are not easy questions. These are complex questions, and this just gets to another issue that's important to the Christian worldview. And that is the more complicated the context, the more complicated the analysis is going to have to be. And so, just as you think about this, you asked a question, would for instance, the United States contributing these particular weapons, including very advanced weapons, come down to essentially waging war via proxy? Well, maybe it does and maybe it doesn't, but as you're looking at, say World War II, that's exactly what we did in continuing to give armaments including what were then the most advanced armaments eventually to Britain in order to fight Nazi Germany.

I don't think anyone now questions if that was the right thing to do. Now, by the way, the cogency of your point is also very clear here and that is because by the time the Lend-Lease program was fully underway, it was basically well understood that Nazi Germany and the United States of America were belligerents at war, whether or not American soldiers and sailors were directly in the fight. So something I'm going to say, Tim, I think there is a sense in which the United States and Russia are now belligerents when it comes to this context, perhaps even the larger context of the future shape of the world. But it still makes a difference that the United States is not directly involved as a nation, it still makes a difference that no one is fighting in American uniforms right now in terms of this effort. But the thin divide between Ukraine and Western allies appears to be getting thinner and thinner and I think that's a very legitimate concern.

You ask how this kind of involvement might comport with just war theory. Well, I don't know that there's a really clear answer to that, that's a part of the complexity here, but I would think given the importance of your question, that a couple of issues would come to fore. One of them would be this, one of the requirements of just war theory is that a war be legitimately declared. Now, is it the case that the United States has declared war on Russia? The answer is emphatically no. As a matter of fact, the United States and its Western allies are saying that, "We are not going to war directly with Russia." But does that mean, nonetheless, that we are helping Russia's enemies? The answer to that has to be yes. So there is a sense in which we are involved, but we are not involved as a belligerent.

If we were, it would require a just legitimate authorization of that action. And here's where we need to know, the United States' Congress in a bipartisan fashion has given official endorsement and indeed has approved the funding that the Biden Administration is undertaken in order to assist Ukraine. So at this point, it doesn't appear. Since Russia was clearly the aggressor in this situation, that doesn't mean that there were no acts of legitimate concern on the part of Russia. It's simply to say that Russia had no right to invade another nation. You look at that and you recognize at this point, there is nothing that violates Christian just war theory. But as I say, next week on The Briefing, I'm going to be looking at some recent developments and saying I think there are reasons for concern here.

Part

Should Christians Engage in Contemplative Prayer? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Question from Ken came in saying that, "Leadership training in my church, a Southern Baptist Church, we had a guest teach us to engage in contemplative prayer, Lectio Divina, should Christians engage in this kind of practice or avoid it?"

Well, I'll simply say, Ken, I am not encouraging about these particular practices. I don't want to encourage that is to say more people to give themselves more and more to contemplation. And so this just gets to a question, number one, with this particular form of spiritual devotion, which often means reading scripture and then meditating on it, contemplating on it; well, in other words, is that wrong? It can't be wrong, but let me tell you the wrong direction that concerns me and that is how certain people would define contemplation. Because let's just face it, as we think about contemplation, eventually the big problem is what we focus our minds upon. This is where I tend to be just far more Puritan far more reformed and historically Baptist in my understanding of devotion. I think it needs to be saturated in the word of God and largely limited to the word of God as our focus, because I trust only the word of God to direct me properly to Christ.

I do not want to trust my own imagination or my own mind to get there even if the originating thoughts came from scripture, and then I'm going into some deep process of contemplation thereafter. I'll simply say that in my experience, and I want you to hear the way I put that, in my experience... This is consistent with my theological instincts, but I want to say in my experience, I fail at contemplation. I can only trust that the word of God will faithfully get me to the knowledge of God in a way that glorifies God in a way that is centered in Christ. I want to stay in the word that's why I much prefer the approach taken by professor Don Whitney in his works on Christian devotion and basically learning to pray the Scripture. That to me is a far more Puritan, far more biblical way of advancing here in terms of spiritual faithfulness and our devotional responsibility.

So I am not saying that it is un-Christian to practice such contemplation, I'm simply saying, let's ask the direction that the contemplation takes us. I want to make certain that my heart and mind are directed deeper and deeper into the word of God, not abstracted from it.

Part

I Am a Member of a Faithful Gospel Church, But It’s A Part of a Liberal Denomination. Should I Leave or Stay? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

But next a question comes from Sloan asking about what it means to be in a conservative church in a liberal denomination. Sloan's basically saying that when I said that at some point a denomination that is dying heretical denying the word of God simply has to be abandoned, well, Sloan asked what about the local church? What about local church that's conservative and faithful, even if it's in the context of a larger more liberal and increasingly faithless denomination? And in this case, it's the Episcopal church.

Well, Sloan I simply want to say, I cannot tell you, I can't even attempt, I wouldn't attempt to bind your conscience about when you should or shouldn't leave your church. I will simply say that at least a couple of trip wires would have to be this: that your church is no longer able to function in an unquestionably biblical way upon sound biblical conviction. That would be a very essential trip wire. The second thing is, if your church requires you to be in support of, or what's called positive declaration of positions that you believe violate biblical conviction. Now, as you look at this, you recognize there would be other trip wires. So say in Episcopal Church, let's just take Episcopal, so let's just take the Bishop. It could very well be like other conservative Episcopal churches things seem to be going well for your church until a liberal Bishop takes office and then everything changes.

I do understand the issue here, and that's why I took the question and wanted to discuss it on The Briefing today, because it's very difficult to leave a church that is preaching the gospel, that does love Christ, that does honor scripture and by that I mean a congregation. Then again, I'm a Baptist so I'm going to say congregation in church is the same sentence. But as we think about this, let's understand that there have to be limitations for all of us, whether we're Baptist, Methodists, Episcopalian, or Anglican, or you could go on the list.

There have to be limits to how we can continue in cooperation and communion with those that frankly, we have to judge eventually as having left the faith or leaving the faith or subverting the faith and not teaching the faith. And I simply am even going to say, I can't say exactly when that point comes for you or for your church or for other faithful Christians in your church. But I do want to say in a denomination that is resistant to reformation and correction by the word of God, that moment, that point is going to come.

I just pray for you as I pray for others that you will know that point and see it for what it is when it does come.

Part

Why Do the Media Treat Abortion as a Catholic Issue? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Wayne writes in saying, "When the media look at, say, pro-life churches, pro-life religious voices, pro-life religious denominations, why do they single out Catholics far more than say Southern Baptist or Evangelicals?" Well, there's a complex answer to that wing. Let me just say part of it is the media's much more familiar with the Roman Catholic Church and knows how to get a hold of the Roman Catholic Church.

Number two, for a long time, and this is to the shame of Evangelical Protestants, Roman Catholics were the only voice articulating a consistently pro-life position and opposition to abortion. That was certainly true in 1973, but there's something else going on here and it comes down to the fact that Catholicism is now fractured itself.

If you are looking for persons to make the case against the Catholic Church on abortion, you'll find plenty of people if you're a media reporter who identify as Catholic and are ready to say they don't agree with the Catholic Church. Now, can that happen in the Southern Baptist Convention? Can that happen in an Evangelical Church? Well, to some degree it can happen, but the reality is that right now it's far more likely to happen with the Roman Catholic Church. And the Roman Catholic Church is just so universally well known. The media will turn and of course, there's also official church teaching in the Roman Catholic Church, to which a second point, you have a Pope and a papacy. Now as a Baptist, I believe that's an unbiblical office, but the fact is it does offer big media power and that's one of the reasons why you're going to see a lot of the ire of the pro-abortion movement directed at the Roman Catholic Church.

But it's also directed at us increasingly and you're going to see that primarily now in the charge that those who uphold the sanctity and dignity of human life are nothing more than what are described as Christian nationalists. That's the way they're trying to go at us. We'll take more questions Lord willing next week and in the meantime, keep sending intelligent, thoughtful, important questions.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can call 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.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).

Topics

Abortion Adultery Anglicanism Animals Art & Culture Ask Anything Atheism Bible Birth Control Books Childhood Church & Ministry Church History College & University Coronavirus Court Decisions Death Divorce Economy & Work Education Embryos & Stem Cells Environment Ethics Euthanasia Evangelicalism Evolutionism Family Film Gambling Heaven and Hell History Homosexuality Islam Jesus & the Gospel Law & Justice Leadership Manhood Marriage Mormonism Obituaries Parental Rights Pluralism Politics Population Control Pornography Preaching Publishing Race Religious Freedom Roman Catholicism SBC Science Secularism Sex Education Sexual Revolution Singleness Social Media & Internet Spirituality Sports Technology The Apostles' Creed The Gathering Storm The Mailbox The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down Theology Tragedy Trends United States Womanhood