The Briefing

The Briefing

Friday, June 3, 2022

Tags: Audio

Transcript

It's Friday, June 3rd, 2022.

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

Part

What Do Musk, Bezos, Gates, and Buffet Have in Common? Money. And They’ve Lost A Whole Lot of It This Year — What Does That Even Mean?

Have you had a bad year financially? Well, I'll tell you this. If you've had a bad year, it's not as bad as several of the richest people in the world who have had really bad years. I know you're feeling badly for them, but there's actually something here we need to look at. The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article, the headline, The 50 richest people have lost a combined $563 billion this year. They've lost, I repeat, a combined $563 billion this year. You're crying already I know.

Joseph De Avila reporting for The Wall Street Journal tells us, "The top 50 richest people in the world have lost more than half a trillion dollars on paper this year, a stunning loss of wealth that exceeds the gross domestic product of Sweden and is greater than all the market caps of all but six companies in the S&P." That's the Standard and Poor's 500. The 50 wealthiest people "which include Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have had a combined $563 billion in net worth evaporate this year." And that's just through the third week of May. That according to the source Bloomberg Billionaires.

Now, do not feel too badly for these extremely rich people. Elon Musk, who is the CEO of Tesla, he's also currently listed as the world's richest man, he currently has a net worth we are told of $201 billion. He's lost a few billion on paper. Just in recent months he has lost almost 70 billion. But then again, he still has something like $200 billion. So he is not in the poverty line somewhere.

But as you look at this, you recognize we're really talking about a financial reality so far removed from where most of us live that it's almost impossible to imagine. But this does raise some very interesting issues about our economy. Exactly what you want to think about on a Friday as you are grieving the loss of so many riches of these very rich people. What does this have to do with lessons about the economy? Well, for one thing, a lot of this money isn't. What I mean to say is that it isn't money. It is actually financial speculation. It is evaluations of stocks and other investments, and it is the value of currency. Every single one of those things goes up and down, and so does the projected net worth of these individuals.

But that raises another very interesting question. It's a question that's raised in scripture. How much are we worth? Well, the reality is, that if you're thinking about riches or wealth, even the wealthiest people don't actually know how much money they have. It's because so much of it is beyond the valuation, or it is in investments such as, say Tesla Motors, which may go up and down and any day may be worth more or less, but is actually, and here's a key point in terms of economics, is actually worth exactly what someone is willing to pay for it right now.

The Bible actually gives us warnings about wealth and about riches and certainly about what is now an almost infinite array of possible riches. We are told that riches are often deceitful and that people often will be willing to do exactly the wrong thing in order to gain, or at least to believe they will gain financially. The Bible is very clear about the dangers agreed and the seductiveness of wealth. But the Bible's also clear about something else. And that is this. Ultimately, everything that amounts to wealth on planet earth will disappear, even that which is not grounded in speculation, it's all going to burn up in the end. Not one of us is able to take any of these riches into heaven. And as the Bible itself makes clear, heaven is not exactly filled with wealthy people.

But it is interesting isn't it that the richest people in the world as of the third week in May had already lost 563 billion this year? Does that mean they're having to sell off yachts and private jets or they're going to be having a garage sale or something out on the front lawn? And the answer is, of course, no. It is because they are looking at a super abundance of wealth that is so excessive in terms of anything that we can imagine that they can lose or gain several billion dollars a week and not actually notice it. I'm just going to go out on a limb and think that virtually no one listening to The Briefing today is in such a predicament.

But this article in The Wall Street Journal also has some interesting material in it, not just about the losses experienced by billionaires in recent weeks. We're also told that the number of billionaires in the world increased by 573, that's billionaires from March of 2020 to March of 2022. So in that two year period, we are told the economy produced 573 new billionaires. And that amounts to a grand total as of when this article appeared just a few days ago of 2,668 billionaires around the world. That's a pretty precise number, 2,668 billionaires.

We're also told that in the beginning of the pandemic, a billionaire was created every 30 hours. So every 30 hours a new billionaire appeared in the midst of the pandemic. But of course, we're on the other side of at least much of the pandemic and its effect. We're on the other side of other big changes in the economy. We're on the other side of the rise of inflation. And that means that certain billionaires aren't worth as many billions as they were before. But to put this in further perspective, I'm reading this from the print edition of The Wall Street Journal and the article about the richest people in the world losing 563 billion isn't on the front page. It's not even on the front page of the second section. It is on page B2 in the print edition. That tells you something about the elusiveness of riches. Evidently, these people can lose $563 billion, and that not even make the front page of the financial section.

Part

Constitutional Questions Erupt over Free Speech in Social Media as Supreme Court Places Hold on Texas Law to Limit Censorship by Platforms

But as this week comes to an end, I want to mention one important news story that emerges from the Supreme Court of the United States. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court blocked a Texas law that would have banned the most important and largest social media companies from removing posts based upon certain views or viewpoints that would be expressed. This was a law that emerges out of Texas. Interestingly in the architecture of the law, somewhat like the Texas law that allows citizens to sue citizens when it comes to an early abortion, Texas had adopted this legislation that would've prevented the largest social media platforms from censuring certain forms of thought. And in particular, the background to this is the complaint that those sites tend to sense your conservative thought far more than liberal thought.

And by the way, I think that's pretty much true and demonstrably so. But a majority of the Supreme Court put that Texas law on hold for now. That is to say they issued a stay until the issue can receive further investigation and further consideration by the court. It was a 5-4 vote. As the Supreme Court's Adam Liptak notices, it was a very interesting coalition in the dissent. That is to say that the five made more sense than the four. The four included three of the most conservative justices, Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch, but it also included a liberal jurist, one of the Supreme Court justices. In this case, Elena Kagan. So as you're looking at this, you recognize the issue of social media and the constitutional and legal issues that are associated with social media are so new that you're really looking at some interesting left-right, liberal-conservative divides, and combinations on these issues.

Now, as you're looking at this particular law coming out of Texas, the important thing is to recognize that Justice Alito in his dissent, joined by two other conservative justices, basically went on to say something that's very important. And that is, he says, "Look, eventually this question is going to be decided by the Supreme Court because these social media platforms want it both ways." They want to have the rights and freedoms of being associated as a media organization, but they do not want to have to allow everything to be published that might be put on by someone who has a Twitter account or a Facebook account. You just go down the list. They want to say that they are free from accusations of censoring. At the same time, they claim a right to censor.

The most important point made by Justice Alito in this case is that social media represents a new development so new that new legal considerations, laws, and protections are going to have to eventually be considered by the Supreme Court. The justice wrote, "It is not at all obvious how our existing precedents, which predate the age of the internet, should apply to large social media companies. But Texas argues that its law is permissible under our case law." He went on to say that he felt that Texas law ought to be allowed to continue in place. But nonetheless, Justice Alito's main point is that the Supreme Court was setting up what is inevitably a major consideration of free speech rights and other legal and constitutional issues associated with social media.

One of the most important arguments made by Justice Alito and others in this case is that social media platforms can't have it both ways. Either they are actually media platforms, then they must be judged as media platforms. Or they are something else, in which case they can't claim the protections of a media platform. What are the big issues we're all going to have to face is that increasingly these big social media platforms are at least holding out the potential of viewpoint discrimination. They're actually holding out, if not exercising, the ability to say, "Look, we'll allow that as a viewpoint. We won't allow something else." And there is demonstrable evidence that it is conservative viewpoints that are being overwhelmingly denied access to the social media platforms. You rarely see any similar judgment towards the left.

Justice Elena Kagan in the more liberal justice did not explain why she voted as she did in the minority. But eventually, we're going to know where the Supreme Court decides many of these issues because they are inevitable as they will come before the Supreme Court of the United States. And we are in uncharted territory. This is going to be one of those issues we're going to have to watch very, very closely, both for concerns about the freedom of speech and the freedom of religious speech we might say, but also just looking at the power of social media in our lives. This is by no means an inconsequential matter.

Part

Moving Testimonies Abound as Ireland Census Provides Citizens Opportunity to Write a Statement to Be Read in 100 Years

But finally, before turning to questions from The Mailbox today, I want to go to a very interesting news story that appeared just in recent times in the New York Times, having to do with Ireland's census.

Now, the United States underwent a census just a matter of about a year ago, at least the completion of that census. But we're also looking at the fact that every nation basically has to eventually have a census in order to understand how its government can operate, how many people live there, who is and is not a citizen, all kinds of massive questions associated with the census. And we need to recognize that references to the census go all the way back to ancient history, and most famously the census that was called by Caesar Augustus. The census that eventually required Joseph and Mary to go to the birthplace of Joseph's family in Bethlehem, the city of David, where the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah was born.

In one sense, a census takes place today pretty much like it took place in times of old. It comes down to counting people, counting how many people live in a house. But Ireland came up with something very interesting in its most recent census. It allowed a blank space where people could report to the census, undertaken there in Ireland, something about their family that they wanted to be sealed away in Ireland's National Archive. I'm raising this issue today because many of the statements made by the Irish people to be included in these time capsules are absolutely touching to our hearts.

One woman wrote in a statement that she was willing to release, and by the way, this had to be voluntarily released by people responding to the census in Ireland at this point. One woman wrote in giving her name and saying, "The branch of the family tree I am on dies with me. I am an only child and have chosen not to have children myself. No one will ever do a genealogy search for me. When I die, I will be forgotten most likely." Later in this statement, this particular respondent said, "This time capsule is an opportunity for me to once more have someone say my name, think of me, know that I lived and that I loved my life and see a glimpse of my life from 2122." Now that's the date at which this time capsule is to be opened.

How sad this is. How touching this particular story is. As someone writes in saying that she, partly by her own decision, is the very last person on the last branch of her family tree and saying no one in the future is going to do any genealogical study. There's not going to be any family tree done in the future because she's the end of her family tree.

Another one of these responses written into the census document, and yet released to us, comes from a mother who wrote, "Tonight as we count those in our house and our family, we are thinking so much of our beloved little girl Eston Luna. She was tragically taken from us five years ago, just before her fourth birthday in a car crash. Eston was our firstborn child and the love of our lives. She was never counted in a census. And so we are so relieved to be able to mention her here. She was beautiful, creative, funny, so smart and clever, and confident beyond her years. We were honored to be her parents and honored still to grieve her for the rest of our lives. Eston Luna, we carry you in our hearts. Love always, mommy, daddy, Manix, and Lucy."

The mother who gave that response to the census wrote, "Filling out that part of the form about naming the people in the house, it seems so clear that Eston should be there too, but she wasn't. The time capsule let us say how much we loved her and missed her. And it was great to have even that small little thing for people in the future to look back on."

Eileen Murphy who's head of the Irish Census explained the project this way, "Some people have put their baby's hand prints on the form and you'd wonder if their child will still be alive in 100 years to see it again. Some people have buried physical time capsules in secret places and used the census' time capsule to draw maps showing where it's hidden." She concluded, "The Irish have always been storytellers. And this is projecting that into the future. I think it's really caught fire in people's imaginations." It's just an incredibly sweet and poignant story coming from Ireland. And one regardless of which side the Atlantic we are on, I think we can all as human beings understand.

Part

How Would You Address a Transgender Person in a Casual Conversation? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, we're going to turn to The Mailbox.

I always appreciate your questions. We're going to try to get to several of them today and always give privilege to questions that come from young people. Heather wrote in from Ontario in Canada, asking a very interesting question. It's an encouraging question coming from a young person who wants to be able to share the gospel with others, including those who identify as transgender. Heather raises many of the issues that simply arise when people say "Here's my preferred pronoun, here's my name. If you're using my old name, you're dead naming me. You're denying my existence." All this goes on all the time.

She asked the question, "How would you address a transgender person in a casual conversation?" She says, "Because even while I don't want to compromise my conscience and my convictions, I also want to be able to carry a normal conversation with a transgender person in the future. Because if I can't do that, how will I be able to lead them to Jesus?" What an incredibly wonderful gospel question, and yet what a difficult question. But Heather, you asked the question and you deserve an answer. I'll simply say that I know some things we have to keep in mind as we think about how to answer this question. For one thing, we cannot affirm someone in a delusion. We cannot affirm them in sin or in even an identity that is grounded in sin. So I can't tell a transgender person that they actually have changed their gender, or actually they've all of a sudden found their gender is distinct from biology, their biological sex. I cannot join them in that confusion. I don't think that's an act of love.

But at the same time, when someone comes up and says, "Here's my name" well, that's a very different thing, especially the way names work. And so we can certainly respond to someone. The illustration I give is that I have had to deal with this in some fairly routine situations where I'm in a professional context and someone comes up and introduces themselves and says, "Hello, my name is Debbie." But I actually don't say to a person to whom I'm introduced in a business setting, say in a bank, I don't say, "Yeah, you say your name's Debbie, but I don't think that's it. What's your real name?" Now instead, honestly, I don't think there's any compromising conviction if I just simply say, "Glad to meet you" and assume that for the course of that conversation, the only name I know about this person is Debbie.

So I hope the distinction here is both legitimate and clear and understandable. I'm simply responding in a respectful way to a person who's been introduced to me, and the person goes by this name. I don't believe there's any surrender of integrity or conviction in simply operating on the basis of that name. If on the other hand I am asked to give positive affirmation of the fact that I actually believe that someone who's biologically male can be a female or vice versa, I can't do that. That's a bridge I can't cross.

Heather, I don't want to underestimate the challenges I think all Christians are going to face, and in particular, younger Christians. Because just given the trend lines and frankly what I think right now is a pretty demonstrable social contagion when it comes to a lot of transgender identity developments these days, I think you're going to face this. Your generation's going to face this in a way that is going to be neither a short amount of time nor easily figured out. This is where we need the local church. We need the local church as a body of baptized, faithful believers, thinking through these issues and thinking through these issues in explicitly biblical in gospel terms. They're going to be questions we're going to have to face say two or three years from now we can't even imagine right now. But you ask a question we can't imagine, and I'm trying to answer it honestly.

I'm suggesting that we can't enter into a delusion or a lie, but we can and should speak to someone with respect and with care and recognizing their dignity even if that dignity has been confused by their own claim of a transgender identity. The reality is we have to see them, we have to do our very best to see them as Christ would see them and then as Christians respond in an authentically Christian way. You know, Heather, as I look at your question, I think there's full evidence of the fact that you do want to respond in a very Christian way.

I want to think about one text in Scripture, and I want to think about how this might apply. In 1 Corinthians 9, the Apostle Paul speaks of evangelism and says, "To the Jews I became as a Jew in order to win Jews. To those under the law, I became as one under the law, though not being myself under the law that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law. Not being outside the law of God, but under the law of Christ that I might win those outside the law. To the weak, I became weak that I might win the weak. I become all things to all people that by all means I might save some. I do it for the sake of the gospel that I might share with them in its blessings."

Now, if we put that into context in terms of how to understand the scripture, one of the things that becomes clear is that the Apostle Paul never joined in a rationalization of sin. The Apostle Paul was bold to say, "This is sin. This is the truth. This is Christ. This is what sin looks like. This is the remedy for sin in Christ." And he always spoke the truth. But there is a sin in which the Apostle Paul is saying here about conversation that he did not want there to be an artificial barrier. Or for that matter a barrier that should actually be dealt with later, rather than say, right now at this point in the conversation.

The Apostle Paul was not speaking here of any sort of misrepresentation or of any sort of theological or doctrinal or moral compromise, but he does appear to be saying that he wants at least to be in a conversation with people so that he can talk to them about Christ. Eventually, that's going to have to get to the claims of Christ and the entirety of biblical truth. But you know, Heather, I love your question. And we're all going to have to learn some new skills as Christians in how to deal with an increasingly confused world and the very confused people in it.

Part

Does President Biden Take the Lord’s Name in Vain When He Says ‘For God’s Sake’ in His Speeches? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

I'm glad to hear from readers of all ages. Judy writes in to say, "Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I cringe every time, and she says, several times in most of his speeches, President Biden uses the phrase 'for God's sake.' Isn't this taking God's name in vain?" Okay. Judy, you ask a good question. It's going to take just a minute to unpack this. Number one, do I believe that it's taking God's name in vain? And the answer is yes. How do we know that? It is because I don't think President Biden in using that expression actually means to invoke the person of God, the existence of God whatsoever. I don't think there is any reference he actually means in worship or otherwise to the one true in living God. Instead, he is using an expression meant to introduce urgency to whatever is going to follow.

And that's the purpose by the way for which many people use strong or stronger language, sometimes bad language, profane language. I talked about that on The Briefing this week as a matter of fact. But taking God's name in vain is a much larger commandment as found in the Ten Commandments than just not using this kind of expression. It actually means not slandering God by invoking God's name, where it is wrongly invoked. And by the way, this is a case of that. It's not the only kind of case of that. Using this kind of language is not the only violation of that commandment.

But you know, there's something else going on here so let me just thus far into it, say a little bit more. And that is the fact that as you were looking at say, just the English language, there are some expressions that meant something, say in the medieval world, that mean something else now. So for instance, there were even legal formula, there were doctrinal formulas, there was worship language that was sometimes used. And so sometimes when you see a phrase like "For God's sake," there could be a legal, moral, or even worship context behind that that's buried in the midst of history. But the way it's being used right now is just as some form of what could be called emphatic speech. It's at the expense of the right kind of speech about the one true and living God. Speaking of taking God's name in vain in this sense, whether it's a politician or anyone else, Judy, it comes down to this.

We should never use God's name unless we are intentionally, rightly, worshipfully, biblically, speaking of him or to him, period.

Part

Why Won’t We Be Married in Heaven? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Another great question. This one comes from Luke and it's about why there is no marriage in the kingdom of Christ. Why in heaven are we not married? And Jesus made very clear we are not married in heaven in that sense, but we are married here on earth, those of us who are husband or wife. And marriage is a covenant that was, and at this point, Luke is very wisely pointing to the fact, it is given in creation. It's not just a remedy after the fall. So if it's given in creation, why will it not be recapitulated in the new creation? Luke, that's a great question. So in other words, nothing in creation, say in Eden, is going to be missing, lacking, or incomplete in its fulfillment in heaven and in the kingdom of Christ.

You ask a really good question and the question comes down to this. Why then was human marriage itself established before the fall if it will not be revisited in the new creation? He says, "I understand that the whole point of marriage is to model Christ's sacrificial committed love to the church for humanity. So why then was it established before the first sin if Adam and Eve already dwelt in the presence of the creator?" Again, I love the question, Luke, but it comes down to this. It comes down to the fact that marriage is completely present in the new creation, or it will be completely present in the new creation. But it will be completely present in its total fulfillment which is the bride and the bride groom, the bride groom being the Lord Jesus Christ and the bride being his redeemed people.

Now, the Apostle Paul himself referred to this as a mystery. And that's very helpful to us. So in other words, we're never going to be able to completely understand this, but again, the promise is, that in the kingdom, in heaven, we will completely understand this. As we are in the new creation by the covenant promises of God, then we will indeed understand this fully. But at this point, we do not. But nonetheless, we can understand this much. And that is that the swift transition of the marriage language when turning towards eschatology, towards the relationship between Christ and the church. With Christ the bride groom and with the church as the bride, that is not a replacement of marriage as we know it here on earth between a man and a woman and that covenant relationship. It is rather the fulfillment of it. Luke, I appreciate you and your dad, Mark, both listening to The Briefing and I appreciate this really good question.

I just want to reiterate something else that's very important for us, central to the Christian worldview. And that is that in the new creation, nothing in the original creation is lost. Nothing is lost and replaced with something else. So the relationship between Christ and the church and the covenant of redemption is not a replacement for the love of a husband and a wife on earth and the covenant of marriage. It's not a replacement. It is an ultimate infinite fulfillment. Again, it's a great question and ultimately it is a mystery. But it's not a mystery that we don't know anything about. It's a mystery that we are told in advance we cannot now fully comprehend, or at least as fully as we will one day fully understand.

Part

What Is the Importance of the Doctrine of Biblical Inspiration? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Another question comes from Tyler.

Tyler asked a very upfront question. "What is the importance of the doctrine of biblical inspiration? Why is it necessary to believe that imperfect men inspired by a perfect God wrote the Bible instead of God writing it directly like Muslims believe about the Quran?" Well, another smart question. Tyler, you know what? If we're going to come up with a good doctrine of revelation as to how the scripture came about, then we might come up with something like the Muslims or the Mormons. I say the Mormons because it comes back to golden plates that were discovered and interpreted to peek stones, Joseph Smith, and that whole account.

Mormonism has a doctrine of revelation. It wasn't through Joseph Smith, it was to Joseph Smith. Interestingly, Tyler also brings up the Quran and the traditional Muslim claim of inspiration or revelation in this case is that Muhammad, the prophet, was absolutely passive so much so that he contributed absolutely nothing at all to the Quran itself. And at least many Muslims claim, he was illiterate his entire life. Not only did he not have any active role in receiving the revelation, he actually couldn't even read it.

The Christian doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture... And by the way, we can't turn to anything other than Scripture in order to understand that Christian doctrine of Scripture. In the Scripture itself, in the Bible itself, we find references such as this. In 2 Peter 1:21, to the fact that God, for his glory, and according to his own sovereign righteous omnipotent perfect purposes purposed to give us the Scripture through human authors, writing as human authors. And I love the way the text translates it here in the ESV, "Carried along by the Holy Spirit." And thus the Bible is inspired, it's infallible, it's inherent, it's totally trustworthy. And it's trustworthy even in telling us how it came to be and why it's trustworthy.

There's much more for us to think about even on that important question, but we're out of time for today.

Thanks for your questions. And thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information good 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.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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