Friday, May 20, 2022
It's Friday, May 20, 2022.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
What About Disinformation About Disinformation? Biden Administration Says it Shuts Down Disinformation Board
Well, it was, until it wasn't, there was for a matter of days, a federal Disinformation Governance Board within the federal government's Department of Homeland Security, the Biden administration had announced it. The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, had announced it in comments made to Congress by the way. Apparently, the secretary believed that this was going to be news, but not particularly controversial. That was one of the great political miscalculations of our age. The very idea that a federal agency would have anything that might be called or would function as a Disinformation Governance Board really did and does sound like something out of George Orwell's Dystopian World in 1984, or Aldous Huxley in Brave New World.
To use the term Orwellian is just a reminder of that dystopian future that had been envisioned by Orwell looking at the Soviet Union in particular and the repression by a totalitarian state. A part of what makes a totalitarian state totalitarian is that it seeks to control everything. That's the total in totalitarian. It wants to control everything when it comes to the government, when it comes to the economy, when it comes to the culture, when it comes to the arts, when it comes to the military. But totalitarianism has to press beyond that. It has to press into the home, into the very house. It has to have total control over the family, total control over marriage, and eventually total control over the raising of children.
Now, one of the problems by the way with totalitarianism is that even in the surveillance day, even with artificial intelligence, even with all the threats we have right now to our liberty and freedom, the fact is that no government thus far has been able to accomplish actual totalitarian control. But the issue is the attempt. And the issue is the use of the government to repress and to oppress to control. Totalitarianism also implies that the government will seek to control totally information and even to control truth.
Now, one of the things Christians understand is the realm of the pre-political. The realm of the pre-political is actually one of the greatest threats to totalitarianism. Now, what are we talking about when we talk about the realm of the pre-political? We're talking about that which comes before politics. It is prior to politics, it's more fundamental than politics. It is something not created by politics and something that in the end can't be controlled by politics. So what's in the realm of the pre-political? Well, for one thing, the moral law. For another thing, marriage and the family. For another thing, the function of the family in raising children. All that is pre-political. None of that comes by government assignment. We as Christians understand it comes by assignment from the creator.
When you have a collapse of all things into the government, that means the denial that there is anything pre-political, that there is a distinction between the public and the private, that there is anything that has a higher authority, anything or anyone that has a higher authority than the government itself. That explains at least in part the intuition, the instinct on the part of so many Americans. And I'm glad to say, at least in part across the political spectrum, to say this government has no right to have a Disinformation Governance Board. One of the interesting observations made in the Washington Post and elsewhere is the fact that it's not just people on the right wing, not just conservatives who were concerned about this. It turned out that many genuine liberals were as well.
But that points out a distinction that we often have to define here on The Briefing. It's a distinction on the one hand between conservative and the right, and the distinction between liberal and the left. Classical liberals would never have supported a government effort to try to constrain information this way. But those on the left would. And playing to form, the Biden administration actually appointed a woman of the left to be the head of this agency that didn't last very long. It turned out that the woman they had chosen for this role had actually been on the record, arguing for some people to lose the ability to speak and to communicate on social media platforms and also was calling for the social media platforms to censor speech, and in particular conservative speech. So all this just adds up to the fact that the Biden administration has had to beat a retreat on this particular story. And thus, at least at this point, the Disinformation Governance Board is not going to function after all.
But then again, and this is for those of you looking for a conspiracy on a Friday, then again maybe it turns out that it's actually disinformation that the government is putting a pause on the Disinformation Governance Board. Maybe. We'll never know.
‘More People Believe in U.F.O.s than Believe in Congress’: House Subcommittee Holds Hearings Over Phenomena Still ‘Unidentified’
But then next speaking about disinformation and information, it's sometimes hard to tell the two apart. We do know as Christians there's a distinction between the true and the false, the truth and the lie. That's absolutely fundamental to Christianity. We just don't trust the government to be the agent of deciding which political arguments are going to be classified as true or false. That's an overreach for government.
But what's really interesting along similar lines is that there have been people for a matter of decades who have argued that the federal government has been covering up for a half century or more reports about people coming, or I shouldn't say people, but beings coming from outer space, vehicles coming from outer space in what were previously described as UFOs. The suggestion has been that the government has been covering up data and information, hiding it from the American people. Well, as it turns out, a house subcommittee, in this case the House Intelligence Committee subcommittee on counter terrorism, counter intelligence and counter proliferation heard testimony last week from defense officials on what had previously been called UFOs or unidentified flying objects. And now more recently had been given like so many things, a new name, in this case it is UAP, unidentified aerial phenomena.
Joseph De Avila reporting for the Wall Street Journal tells us, "U.S. defense officials released videos of unidentified flying objects during the first congressional hearing on the subject in more than half a century." We're told that the hearings took place just this Tuesday. And we are told "unidentified aerial phenomena or UAPs as how the federal government refers to what is commonly called UFOs." Sounds like interesting stuff. We are told that one clip of a video showed the view from the cockpit of an aircraft and a split second flash of a spherical object flying to the right of the aircraft. We're also told that in this testimony, the deputy director of Naval Intelligence, Scott Bray, said, "Analysts have been unable to explain what the object is."
I just want to stop for a moment. Let's just think about language for a moment. We're talking about what has been a fascination to so many people. And I'll admit, certainly as a teenager in particular in south Florida, I found this to be very, very fascinating because of all the reports that originated from that region of the world. Furthermore, you're just thinking about all the advances and what's going on in science and astronomy, the space age, sending human beings, the United States, sending them to the moon and then back safely again, the Cold War, all of this just added up to a lot of speculation that that must be something we see out there and that it might be hostile. Or furthermore, it might be visitors from outer space. And thus, the language about UFOs and all the conspiracy theories that came telling us that the government was actually in possession of information, perhaps had even captured some of these alien beings and were holding them in Area 51 where other experiments were being undertaken, perhaps Americans or others on earth, earthlings as we called ourselves, have been taken away.
But the end of the issue here still comes down to the language. The language is either UFO for unidentified flying object or UAP for unidentified aerial phenomenon, but the key word there is the word unidentified. And the fact is, they are still unidentified. The entire congressional hearing came down to acknowledging that unidentified issues are still unidentified. Our government puts its reputation on the fact they are unidentified. The official here, Scott Bray, identified as deputy director of Naval Intelligence went so far as to add some new vocabulary. Speaking of some of the phenomena that are now recorded even on video, he said that these are "unmanned aerial systems". Now you'll just note again that's the kind of expansive language that could include almost anything except, well, the word unmanned means there's not a man in it.
Other media, including international media, we're glad to jump on this story. The British broadcasting corporation known popularly as the BBC spoke about the subcommittee hearing there at the Capitol building. And we are told that top intelligence officials at the Pentagon said that the phenomena had been subjected to rigorous analysis. Rigorous analysis, meaning that still most of the objects identified as unidentified are still unidentified after all the rigorous investigation. But don't worry too much. One of the top Pentagon intelligence officials said, "Any object we encounter can likely be isolated, characterized, identified, and if necessary, mitigated." Did that give you much confidence? You'll notice that the keyword in that sentence is likely. But I have to tell you that my favorite statements in the transcript of this particular house subcommittee meeting came from members of Congress. And I have just decided I'm not going to mention them by name. One of them said that the Pentagon's failure to identify all these unidentified objects adequately is "tantamount to intelligence failure that we certainly want to avoid."
Well, I'll just suggest, I'm assuming that we want to avoid all intelligence failures. But in this case, this member of Congress said this is an intelligence failure that we certainly want to avoid. Well, amen to that. Another member of Congress who was not a member of the intelligence committee, but we are told was sitting in on the hearing, he didn't like what he heard according to the New York Times, "He said that the Pentagon was not transparent about its findings, and that officials were too dismissive of theories that the videos could show objects coming from space or alien craft." The member of Congress said, "We just got hosed. On some level, I think it's a coverup. He says, I have a t-shirt I sell on my website. It says more people believe in UFOs than believe in Congress." Now remember, this man is actually a member of Congress. And I'll just go on the record and say, I believe that he exists.
As you can tell, I took some delight in reading these news reports because they're just different than other news reports because you have people trying to report on these issues with a straight face even though some of what they have to write, and some of the nations indeed and some of the world's most influential newspapers, well they're not exactly sure how to report this. Here's one of my favorite paragraphs in the New York Times: "Officials are also skeptical that the phenomena could be unknown Chinese or Russian technology, but concede it would be a significant concern if they were. That possibility we are told lawmakers and officials have said is why the phenomena need to be examined more carefully." Again, I'm in enthusiastic agreement. If it did turn out that the Chinese or the Russians were behind this, well, I'd want to know. It would be, as these officials said, a significant concern if they were.
Again, I'm not using names on this because it goes between the parties, but it's really interesting that another member of Congress said, "We fear sometimes that the DoD, meaning Department of Defense is focused more on emphasizing what it can explain, not investigating what it can't. He said, I'm looking for you to assure us today that all conclusions are on the table." Now, what do you expect someone to say in response to that? Yes, all conclusions are on the table, but we find it easier to explain what we can explain than to explain what we can't explain. We'll try to explain that further.
Scientists Debate Dispatching Cosmic Roadmap to Earth but Some Are Critical of ‘Celestial Outreach’
But if you're looking for things to be concerned about, I want to go back just a couple of weeks ago to an article that ran in the Wall Street Journal telling us that "an international group of scientists has updated a message of friendship to alien beings and is proposing to beam it to a ring of stars near the center of our galaxy. On earth, though, other scientists aren't feeling as welcoming." Seriously, this is a half-page article in one of the most authoritative and respected newspapers on planet Earth. The newspaper that is taken with greatest seriousness on so many matters of politics and on economics. And now we are being told in an article by Aylin Woodward, it's almost a full half page in the print edition that scientists are divided between those who think that sending this message to aliens beyond the earth, if they exist, is a good idea, and those who think it is a bad idea.
And to put the matter bluntly, there are some scientists, now living and dead, who are arguing that this just might be something tantamount to a lot of directional signs out in outer space telling people how to get to earth and find us. Or something like a trail of crumbs left in outer space that would allow aliens to follow the crumbs to planet earth. And we're talking about very smart people here. We're talking about people who had worldwide scientific reputations. For instance, Stephen Hawking of Cambridge University in England we're told that he was a critic "of such celestial outreach." The Wall Street Journal tells us in a 2010 interview, the renowned physicist warned that advanced aliens might be "looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach."
This isn't entirely new in our nation's conversation. Speculation and reports about unidentified flying objects go back even to the early decades of the 20th century, even to the realm of science fiction as it emerged in the 19th century. But even more recently, as the journal tells us, "Other cosmic misses have been sent in recent decades" and NASA included a message to aliens on each of a pair of voyager spacecraft launched toward the solar system's edge in 1977. The journal tells us, "That message sent in the form of a gold plated photograph record included analog encoded images and a selection of sounds from earth, featuring whale calls and thunder claps, greetings recorded in 55 languages and 90 minutes of music, including Chuck Berry's iconic Johnny B. Goode."
I'm going to end on that today, just going back to 1977. Evidently, we thought it was wise to send a message to aliens in outer space in the form of a photograph record. But what if they don't have a record player? You probably don't. But then again, you're probably not an alien. Believe it or not, that's all serious news for a Friday edition of The Briefing.
Was Jesus in Hell in the Time Between His Death and Resurrection? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Now we turn to The Mailbox. I appreciate so many of the questions sent in by very thoughtful listeners. That includes Monica writing in a question for her daughter. Where did Jesus go when he was dead for three days? Was he in heaven or hell? And this mom says, "The question came up as the kids and I were studying about how Jesus is completely God." The best way to say that is, truly God. Monica, thanks for asking the question.
One of the interesting things here is that some of that language goes back to the Apostle's Creed, one of the earliest creeds of Christendom, where as the creed progresses, it says that Jesus Christ was crucified and that he descended into hell. Now, part of the problem there is linguistic. The word that is intended there is the Hebrew word Sheol, but the Hebrew word Sheol actually means the realm of the dead. So that doesn't mean hell, or as it's translated into the Latin, Hades, doesn't mean the same thing as Gehenna, which is hell, as in an everlasting place of punishment. But as you're looking at this, you do realize we're seeing something of a divine mystery here. The biggest point you are making to your children is absolutely right, Monica. And that is, that Jesus Christ is God in human flesh, the second person of the Trinity, co-equal with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. Within the Holy Trinity of the Father, of the Son, and the Holy Spirit, each truly God, and yet God is one.
It's one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith. And so also is that time between what we call Good Friday on which Jesus Christ was crucified and the first day of the week, which we often refer to as the festival of the Resurrection when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, bodily raised from the dead. The important point in that section of the creed is to affirm that Jesus Christ truly died. He didn't swoon. He didn't just look dead. He actually died. He entered the realm of the dead.
Now, I think one of the things that helps us here is that we have biblical texts that flesh that out. The most important of those biblical texts I believe is found in the gospel of Luke, Luke chapter 16, where Jesus speaks about the rich man and Lazarus. And the thing to recognize there is that what's referred to there is Sheol. It is this realm of the dead. It is Hades. It is indeed what we're looking at when we understand that Jesus genuinely died, he entered the realm of the dead. So did the rich man, so did Lazarus. And yet at the same time, the final judgment and hell are waiting in the future. The Bible tells us that hell is being prepared, Jesus tells us that, for those who will bear its eternal punishment.
So Jesus did not go to hell in that sense. And he didn't go at that point to heaven in that sense. He went to the realm of the dead just like every single human being who dies. That's a part of his identification with us. That's a part of the reality of his incarnation. His death was like our death, but he did not remain dead. He was raised by the power of the Father on the third day. And then you remember he does ascend to heaven just a few days even after the resurrection appearances. And so Jesus is in heaven right now. As the Bible says, he is seated at the right hand to God, the Father almighty. And we are told that he is coming to judge the living and the dead.
One of the interesting passages for us to consider is found in 1 Peter 3:19, where we find reference to Christ in the spirit proclaiming victory to Old Testament saints such as Noah. Now, the Bible teaches it. I believe it happened just as the Bible indicates/reveals that it happened. This might be referring to exactly what we're talking about here. But Monica, the big issue is simply to affirm that Christ, in his death, died a death just like ours. And he entered the realm of the dead just as we do, but he did not stay dead so to speak because God raised him from the dead. And recall that in 1 Corinthians 15, we are told that he was raised from the dead as the first fruits of those who would follow him. And that means those who by faith come to know the Lord Jesus Christ is savior, we are promised not only salvation, but we are promised that we will one day be resurrected with him.
Should We Sing Worship Songs that Come from Doctrinally Aberrant Churches? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
But when I speak about The Mailbox, generally it's an electronic mailbox. I was glad to receive an actual postal letter. Michelle wrote in asking about whether or not it is wise to sing songs in worship or as Christians that come from theologically aberrant movements or churches or movements that teach false doctrine. She specifically references Bethel Church in Redding, California. But the point she raises is quite important. I simply want to turn back and say, Michelle, there is not an absolutely clear answer to this. Because actually when you look at an historic Christian hymnal, it is not the case that every one of those hymn writers was or remained Orthodox.
The question that has been asked by the Christian church is whether or not the hymn is orthodox and biblical. One of the reasons for that is the fact that as we sing most hymns, we are thinking of the words of the hymn, not particularly the hymn writer. And of course, we're looking at some hymns that are old enough where the writing is contested or unknown. But Michelle, you ask a very legitimate question. I'll simply say that I would avoid that music. For one thing, I like to sing historic Christian hymns. In worship, I like for worship to be organized around historic Christian hymns that has stood the test of time. Now there's some new hymnody that is being written and we love those hymns as well. Hymns such as "In Christ Alone," they are just as theologically vibrant and rich. And frankly, they have already passed the test of theological orthodoxy and the love of the church.
But there are other songs that simply don't meet that test. A lot of them I think are simply going to pass off the scene. And some of them, as you say, come from very problematic sources. Here's the problem. When we do know the source and we know the source is theologically problematic, it becomes honestly pretty difficult to sing that song without thinking of the theological associations. So with reference to that, I would say don't use it in worship. Move on. Find a song that's tested, true, and truly testifies of the greatness in the glory of God.
Would the Reversal of Roe v. Wade Be a Detriment to Religious Liberty? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Alex wrote in asking a question about the potential reversal of the abortion decision, Roe v. Wade, asking if it will affect religious liberty. Will it hurt religious liberty? I simply want to point out that argument is being made by many on the left who oppose the idea of any kind of action by the Supreme Court to reverse Roe v. Wade. One of the arguments that some on the left are making is that if we identify the unborn child as an unborn child, we're making a theological judgment that would hurt, harm, constrict the religious liberty of those who disagree.
And you look at that and you say, "Well, that might have a certain amount of logic to it," except for one thing, the law is going to decide who is and is not a human being. Period. The law is going to have to do that, because otherwise the law can't function. And so in that effect, the law is going to make a statement that I believe should err on the side of affirming and supporting and protecting human dignity and the lives of human beings by the most generous definition possible. And that is to say, I believe that life begins at conception and it continues through the entirety of one's natural life. But I'll simply point out, you don't even have to go that far. You don't have to go to any theological argument in order simply to say the beginning of human life, when human life is detected, that's when we should begin to protect and defend human life.
Now, Christians believe more than that, but you'll notice the point is here that this is just a rhetorical ploy to try to deter Americans from pushing to a pro-life position and to try to deter the Supreme Court from reversing Roe v. Wade.
Do We Have to Affirm Creation Ex Nihilo? Didn’t God Make Adam Out of Dust? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Interesting question sent in by Michael asking about creation ex nihilo, that means creation out of nothing. The theological affirmation that God did not use any preexisting materials that he had not created, but rather that he created all things out of nothing. And then formed the world, made human beings, did everything God did in creation out of nothing, out of something he had created. He did not take any preexisting material.
Now, there's another theological issue here. Michael's asking is it really necessary to believe in creation ex nihilo. He points to the fact that God had formed Adam from the dust, that the dust was there before Adam. He also created other artifacts of creation from existing matter, such as water. But the point is, Michael, that the scriptural account and the theological logic of the Christian Church is that there is nothing that existed that God did not create. And by the way, if there is a single atom, particle, or molecule that existed without God, before God, not by God's creative act, then our theology is completely turned upside down because we have to adjust to a form of dualism. That is to say we have a preexisting God, but there was also a preexisting something else. And that would violate everything, the entire super structure of theology, which is why getting the doctrine of creation right is so absolutely mandatory. If we get something that important wrong in the beginning, it's going to affect everything that comes thereafter.
Michael, I appreciate you listening, appreciate you asking a good question. From time to time, it's just good to remind ourselves of the logic and the biblical foundations and the function of so many of the teaching of historic Christianity. And in an increasingly secular age, we're going to have to be talking about all of these teachings, all of these doctrines, all of these moral commandments over and over again and speaking about them very naturally, and we hope biblically.
I want to say one further thing as I close, and that is that many listeners to The Briefing send in questions saying, "I wish you'd address this or that." One of my answers to those questions is to address exactly what you are suggesting in a subsequent edition of The Briefing. Sometimes it's not answered in a Q&A like today, but rather in the fact that what you suggest is actually an issue I take up at some point Monday through Friday on The Briefing. I want to thank you for those suggestions as well.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.