The Briefing

The Briefing

Thursday, June 30, 2022

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Transcript

It's Thursday, June 30, 2022.

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

Part

Looking Back and Looking Forward as This Season of The Briefing Comes to a Close — What To Watch for In the War of Ukraine

This is, as you might expect, the last edition of The Briefing for this season, and we'll be back August the 1st with the new season. But nonetheless, there are some big issues we simply have to confront. Before the season comes to an end, we need to look backward just a bit and forward just a bit to put ourselves into placement as we head into the summer.

Now, one of the things on our mind in recent months of course has been Ukraine and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And we have talked week by week about the big worldview issues that are involved in that war, but now we're looking at something just a little bit different. As we're looking at the summer, we are also looking at the fact that this just can't go on like it is forever. Now, that's a rule by the way. It's often referred to as Stein's rule in the United States named for Herb Stein, the former chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers in the Nixon administration.

Herb Stein's law comes down to this, "If it can't last forever, it won't." Well, as we're thinking about what can't last forever right now, there are people who had counted on the fact that Russia can't last as long as Ukraine. But over time, it is simply the fact that the stronger nation is likely to have the upper hand, or in one sense, the more determined nation. And it's hard to imagine that the Ukrainians are less determined than Russia, but Russia's autocratic leader is after all an autocrat. And Vladimir Putin has to contend with no other authorities, practically speaking in Russia. And his neighborhoods in his capital city are not being besieged by Ukraine the way Ukraine's capital is being besieged along with other major, and for that matter, even peripheral Ukrainian towns and cities by Russia.

We're looking at the fact that Russia apparently has a plan B, or C, or D, whichever it is. This is not Vladimir Putin's original plan, but clearly Russia does not intend to leave Ukraine intact. And if nothing less, intends to seize areas in the east, in the so-called Donbas region. Will that placate? Will that satisfy Russia? It's hard to say. But it's something we need to keep in mind is that you're looking at two countries, and I don't mean Russia and Ukraine, I mean, Russia and China, two enormous land masses that can withstand invasion, absorb military action, and just wait out a very long military action, wait out longer than just about anyone else. And that would include, not in fortitude but just in strength, Ukraine.

The other big issue we're going to have to watch as we move through the summer is the extent to which the Western Coalition can hold together. In the immediate aftermath of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine, western nations came together in an unprecedented unity. But that unity does not necessarily last because you're looking at European nations that among themselves don't have the same goals when it comes to this situation, and the United States and its European allies don't exactly have the same goals. So we're going to be looking at some very interesting moves over the next several weeks. Watch it closely because you're going to see a distinction between what is said and what happens on the ground.

The other big issue, and we say this with great concern for the Ukrainian people, the other big issue is that the country is being largely destroyed by the military action of Russia's army. That is simply a devastation Russia can continue to inflict. The question is, is it a devastation Ukraine can long endure? It has endured so much. The question is, how long can it endure? We've attempted to speak consistently about the Christian worldview dimensions of war and of military action of invasion, and there's no doubt that Russia is the aggressor here.

But as you're looking at the scales of history, Christians also have to understand the world, the fallen sinful world is not always fair. Indeed in many cases, it isn't fair at all. And even as there are those who would seek to have some kind of fair resolution of this crisis and Volodymyr Zelensky the president of Ukraine says, "The only satisfying fair result is Russia to give back all the territory that it has seized," the reality is, a decreasing number of Western political leaders actually believe that's going to happen. My prediction for the next several weeks, Western leaders are going to have to recalibrate their language to match their actual evaluation of the situation on the ground now and in the future.

Part

Japan Understands What Marriage Is and Legislates Accordingly: Court Upholds Ban on Same-Sex Marriage and Affirms Procreation

We're going to cover a lot of ground on The Briefing today. And now we're going to switch from Russia and Ukraine to the nation of Japan, and in particular to the city of Osaka in Japan where a major court has handed down a rather stunning decision. That court has upheld Japan's legislative ban on same-sex marriage. This had come after other courts had ruled otherwise there in Japan, and it came after at least some form of a gay rights movement or an LGBTQ movement in Japan was pressing for the elimination of the ban, the overturning of the ban on same-sex marriage. Or you might put it another way. This is actually the positive way to put it, Japan does understand what marriage is and has legislated that marriage is and can only be, in Japan, the union of a man and a woman. And the family is defined out of that union.

Now let's just point out, that is completely consistent with the natural law. That is consistent with creation. That is consistent with the Christian understanding that the west has been abandoning in the face of a secular onslaught. But there's something else to understand here, and that's why Japan is so insistent on marriage being, and only being, the union of a man and a woman. The reason is Japan needs babies. And you're only going to get babies if you understand what marriage is. Japan is facing what is not wrongly called an existential crisis here. It actually is looking at a crisis as to whether it will have a national future because of a declining birth rate.

The last thing Japan can afford right now is to say a man can be married to a man or a woman to a woman. But this court in Japan has just come back to affirm the reality of marriage. And Judge Fumi Doi in this case, and it's a court as I said in Osaka Japan, he said that marriage is heterosexual and that heterosexual couples are in a system established by society to protect a relationship between men and women. This comes from a National Public Radio's report and translation "who bear and raise children." That is again men and women who bear and raise children. And he went on to say that giving same-sex unions, that same status, is not only inconsistent with the law, it's inconsistent with Japan's need for babies. I'll just simply point out that there isn't a single successful society on earth that has not figured that out.

It's also really interesting to see a report from the associated press that tells us two things. And both of these things, the associated press thought it had to report in this case. Number one, it says that Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations that does not recognize same-sex unions. So we are told the continuing chorus and refrain from the secular authorities and the progressive powers that be is that if you are not forcing sex marriage, you are just not with it, you are not part of the modern age, you are not a modern industrial economy. You don't belong in the Group of Seven. So here Japan is being in effect shamed for being the only member of the Group of Seven that doesn't have the legalization and recognition of same-sex unions. So Japan's the outlier. But then here is the last sentence of the same article, presumably by the same reporter who is not named, "Taiwan is the only Asian nation or territory that is legalized same-sex marriage."

But wait just a minute. Earlier in the article, Japan was supposedly the outlier because it's the only member of the Group of Seven, that is the major industrialized nations of the earth, that doesn't recognize saying sex marriage. But then at the very end of the article, it's as if the ship turns all the way around and Japan is with virtually every other Asian nation, every other Asian nation with the singular exception of little Taiwan, which is the only Asian nation too have legalized same-sex marriage. Predictably, same-sex couples have announced they will continue their battle in the courts.

And that's the way they often win, simply by bringing the case, the argument over and over and over again until fatigue sets in. I can only hope that fatigue does not set in in Japan and in its courts as it did here in the United States of America.

Part

Two Reformed Denominations Make Important Moves to Defend Biblical Teaching on Homosexuality

But now we're going to shift back to the United States. The summer is the season in general when Protestant denominations meet. They have their convocations, their house of delegates meeting. They have their annual convention, whatever it is, they come together. And there are major headlines that come out from at least some of America's major denominations. We talked about the Southern Baptist Convention earlier. The United Methodist church has not met during this time, but is anticipating a meeting in which the official breakup of the church is likely to take place, the disuniting of the United Methodist Church, and that's a liberal conservative battle in itself. We will talk about that more in the new season of The Briefing as those events are underway.

But I want to make reference right now to two basically reformed denominations. One of them calls itself reformed, the Christian Reformed Church and the other one is the Presbyterian Church in America. So a reform denomination, a Presbyterian denomination out of the same theological family. Both of them took very important actions to uphold a biblical understanding of sexuality. And in particular, to do so in the face of the LGBTQ challenge, the most important of these decision was taken by the Christian Reformed Church as it held its Senate at Calvin university in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And in the course of that meeting, the Christian Reformed Church voted by a vote of 123 to 53. Now that might not sound like such a big number, but you're talking about a church that has a representative Senate, and this is an equivalent, something like its Senate or its legislature, and the delegates to the Senate voted... The point is here overwhelmingly. They voted by that margin of 123 to 53, to confessionalize the denominations statement on homosexuality as sin. It's opposition to homosexual sex and relationships.

Now, that's massive. I used a term there. Some of you might not know, to confessionalize. What does that mean? It means that the denomination said, "We consider this now to be such an important issue that we are putting it within our confession of faith, which is required of the entire Christian Reformed Church and of its schools. And thus, eventually of its faculty." To confessionalize means that confessing members of the church have to state their agreement with the confession. That most importantly, think of it this way, churches and the ministers of those churches in the process of ordination and continuing in ministry must affirm the confession of faith. Confessionalizing means this is not just a moral statement, not just something like a resolution, not just a document appended to the confession. It is now part of the confession itself. It is now required for the confessional affirmation in the Christian Reformed Church.

Now, that's a small reform denomination. It's largely centered in the upper Midwest. You could think of Michigan as the home territory for the Christian Reformed Church. It has Dutch roots along with the reform church in America there. But what we are really looking at here is seismic. And it's a lot bigger than this small reform denomination. It ought to be bigger. And all those who uphold a biblical understanding of sexuality, we need to be understanding and celebrating what the Christian Reformed Church has done. It has taken the bold and convictional step of confessionalizing what it knows the Bible to teach on homosexuality. What will be the most obvious and immediate effect? It will be that the denomination has now said, "This is a matter of the status of necessary and obligatory confession that we state a biblical understanding of human sexuality." And that means the biblical condemnation of homosexual behavior.

Where's the collision coming? With churches? Yes, with some churches, no doubt. With some pastors? Yes, no doubt. But the big collision is going to come with the denomination's most famous school, it had been known as Calvin College. It is now known as Calvin University. And that particular university located in Grand Rapids, Michigan has had an outsize influence in the intellectual and cultural conversation of American evangelicalism. This is a school and a denomination that has vastly out punched its weight. But now you're looking at the fact that the punch might actually have to be directed at the denomination school, because there are many faculty within that school who had already stated their opposition to what is now a confessional requirement of the Christian Reformed Church. Some of them have been the very critics coming from the intellectual and theological left who have been hurling attacks and assaults and critique upon other denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention.

And now the big question is, how long will it take for a decisive break to eventually come between the university and its church, or at least between the church and the university on the one side and dissident faculty on the other? There have been a number of faculty who signed statements. There has been an uproar on the Calvin University campus because of a faculty member who had supervised at a same-sex marriage whose contract was then canceled. You had a protest, you had many famous members of the faculty there at Calvin University who signed the protest. And there had been some members of the faculty who shown up, for instance, in their social media wearing something like a gay pride t-shirt. And so you're looking at the fact that we are now anticipating a collision. It will come of necessity. It's now a matter of confessional statement by the Christian Reformed Church. And here's the interesting thing. Those who voted understood exactly what it would mean.

I also mentioned the Presbyterian Church in America, two big actions. One of them got a lot more in terms of media attention than the other, but the one that didn't get so much media attention is actually by far the bigger issue. The one that got a lot of media attention in the PCA General Assembly recently was the fact that the Presbyterian Church in America announced that it was leaving the National Association of Evangelicals. There's a lot behind that. Some of the argument just came down to money, money that could be spent on missions rather than on upholding the NAE or the National Association of Evangelicals.

But in an historical context, this really is a big deal because the National Association of Evangelicalism had represented for many years, but not so much recently, something of the establishment in the evangelical world. But that very establishment has been breaking up over at least many the issues we have discussed. And there were theological, and perhaps even more emphatically, there were moral issues that separated at least some in the NAE from many in the PCA. So that break, I think, was very honest. It's historic. It made news.

The second big action was the approval by the General Assembly of an overture. The overture now goes to the presbyteries, and a sufficient number of presbyteries have to affirm it that's local jurisdictions within the Presbyterian Church in America. It has to come back then to the General Assembly if it gets a sufficient number of presbyteries in the approval and the General Assembly has to approve it again. It's a complicated process. The Presbyterian Church in America is indeed very Presbyterian and its polity means it might move slowly, but it moves deliberately.

Here's the point. There's a lot at stake in this overture. The overture basically condemns what is known as the side B argument. What is that? Well, once again, we're talking about homosexuality. We're talking about same-sex affections and relationships. The argument known as side B is in contrast with side A. The difference between side A and side B in this argument comes down to this. Side A is affirming of homosexual identity and of at least some form of homosexual behaviors and homosexual relationships. The side B position also affirms the reality of homosexual identity. In other words, people are identifying as LGBTQ and as you know, any number of other things. And yet they are saying that they are not committed to, and they are not supportive of, and they do not endorse same-sex sexual behaviors.

Now you look at that and you say, "Well, that seems to be a pretty clear difference." One affirms homosexual behaviors, the other doesn't. And yet theologically, the distinction between side A and side B begins to fall apart when you understand the fact that both of them are based in a form of modern ideology and identity politics and a modern understanding of affirming identity in such a way that both side A and side B would use language about being, for instance, a gay Christian. The Presbyterian Church in America in its General Assembly voted that such an identity is incompatible with ordained ministry in the Presbyterian Church in America.

And now I need to be clear. The Presbyterian Church in America had already confessionalized or the equivalent in terms of making very clear commitment to a biblical understanding of sexuality and affirming the Bible's condemnation of same-sex sexual behaviors. So side A was not an option. It was not an argument. It was side B that was the issue. And the important aspect of this is that the Presbyterian Church in America took at least an important first step in understanding that a homosexual or same-sex orientation is itself sinful. It's not morally neutral. It is itself an identity that is incompatible with a biblical understanding of discipleship.

So that was an important step. It didn't gain so many headlines because frankly it's kind of difficult and complex to understand or to discuss. But it's the kind of thing we need to note very, very carefully. So let's just state it. I hope that the Presbyterian Church in America will move forward that a sufficient number of presbyteries will affirm the overture and that when it comes back successfully to the General Assembly, the General Assembly will affirm it again. And thus it would become a part of the BCO, the Book of Church Order of the PCA, and thus obligatory applied to the entire denomination. That's just a very important issue. Good news out of the PCA. Good news out of the CRC.

Part

‘I’m Up for Some Pride Bocce.’: Former Bush Speech Writer Celebrates Pride Month, Questions Bible’s Teaching on Sexuality

But next on this issue, not so good news coming from former members of the administration of George W. Bush. I'm speaking of Michael Gerson, who had been the president's chief speechwriter and had been often credited with many of the president's words that was public, by the way, and it was publicly acknowledged by the White House. He is now a columnist for the Washington Post and he regularly takes stabs to his right, which includes most conservative evangelicals. A recent article that he wrote at the Washington Post is entitled "How the Gay Rights Movement Found Such Stunning Success." The point is in this article, he's all for it. He writes about the fact that most people "now regard the equal treatment of gay people as a minimal commitment of a just society." Later, he writes, "In the conflict over gay rights, supporters have asserted a compelling view of human dignity while opponents have struggled to explain how broadening rights harms others." He continues, "The advance of same-sex marriage it seems has generally ended in cake and dancing." In other words, he's all for it.

Here's the important issue to understand. George W. Bush did not support same-sex marriage. George W. Bush was elected as a moral conservative. And in his administration, he stressed a morally conservative line. He stressed his understanding that marriage should be and should only be the union of a man and a woman. Arguably, the very close reelection win in 2004 has to be credited in states such as Ohio that turned out to be crucial to the fact that not only was the president on the ballot, but a constitutional amendment or other measure defining marriage legally as the union of a man and a woman exclusively, it was also on the ballot. Which is to say, I don't think George W. Bush would've been elected much less reelected if he had not held to a very clear anti same-sex marriage view. But what we see are so many former members of the Bush administration following the example of at least one president Bush, and that would be president George H.W. Bush, who before his death actually served as an official register or a registered witness at the same-sex ceremony between two women in that case.

Gerson went on to explain why he believes the acceptance of same-sex marriage has been so widespread so fast. And then he writes this, "Among religious young people, certain questions are growing more insistent. Why should we assess homosexuality according to Old Testament law that also advocates the stoning of children who disobey their parents? Isn't it possible," he writes, "that the Apostle Paul's views on homosexuality reflected the standards of his own time, rather than the views of Jesus who never mentioned the topic?" Now here's the thing. Michael Gerson has often described not only as a graduate of Wheaton College, but as an evangelical himself. I'll just state boldly and clearly, that is not an evangelical understanding of Scripture. Period. He openly suggests that the Apostle Paul's view on homosexuality is found in the New Testament letters is attributable to ancient prejudice that was represented by the Apostle Paul, rather than binding Christian truth.

He concludes by writing, "It is still possible for the gay rights movement to destructively overreach, as in denying the right of religious schools and charities to shape their own institutional standards. But in the meantime," says President George W Bush's famous former speechwriter, "I'm up for some Pride bocce."

Now, we'll come back to the larger pattern in the worldview issues in weeks and months to come. But it simply is important to say that one of the things that is very sad to watch is people who had previously been known for holding to a certain moral position consistent with Scripture, who now appear to be openly celebrating the fact that society is living in rebellion to those very truths.

In that particular pattern, Michael Gerson is a lead illustration, but sadly he is hardly alone.

Part

Watch the White House: Biden Administration Scrambles in Wake of Roe Reversal

As we get ready to go into July, it is clear to us that the biggest news story of this past year has been the reversal of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme court of the United States. One of the interesting things to watch right now is the Biden administration scrambling to try to meet at least some of the expectations of the leftward powers in that same party, demanding that the federal government and the Biden administration respond to this disaster as they would characterize it by doing something. The most interesting developments in recent days can only be explained by relatively insane proposals coming even from some members of the president's cabinet. Proposals that the White House itself has had to come back and say, "No, we're really not looking at that."

Reversing Roe v. Wade was a vital, urgent, essential importance in moral terms and in constitutional terms. It will take some time to figure out exactly what the reversal means in political terms. But it is at least at this point, interesting to note that those on the left said, "Look, the Republicans got what they want. The dog has been chasing the car. Now the dog caught the car. What's it going to do with the car? But it turns out that right now, the tumult is certainly not on the celebrating right, but on the increasingly unhinged left."

Part

New Zealand Moves to Tax Cow Burps. Seriously.

But at the end of every season of The Briefing, I try to draw attention to something in the cultural conversation, something in the news that will just make you happy to be alive.

And in this case, it is a headline coming from New Zealand as reported by National Public Radio. I'm reading you the headline exactly as NPR gave it. "New Zealand announces world first plan to tax cow and sheep burps." That's right. The Pacific and rather liberal nation of New Zealand has decided that it is going to go right after some of the central culprits in terms of climate change and too much methane, or as some in the British world would say methane, in the universe or in the atmosphere in particular. And so they are going after the culprits. And the culprits turn out to be primarily cows, but to a lesser extent also sheep.

What are they doing that is so nefarious as to affect climate change? They are burping. Evidently, they're burping frequently. And when they burp, they burp a lot. Scientists have spoken to this, Ashley Brown reporting for National Public Radio in the United States says, "Methane emissions from animals is a well known issue. Cows alone are responsible for about 40% of those planet warming gases globally, mainly through their burps." Now you may remember that cows have a multi chamber digestive system, and sometimes even what's described as a complex stomach, but one scientist at the University of California, Davis says that, and by the way this particular scientist has spent two decades, according to NPR, studying the greenhouse gas contributions of hoofed animals, "If you tell me how much your animal's consuming, I can tell you pretty closely to the actual emissions using mathematical models. Much of the gas," said this professor, "is formed in their stomach, so in their guts, particularly in the first chamber." And don't forget these last words in his paragraph, "And so they belch it out."

Here's something else perhaps you didn't know. According to this news report, there are seven times more cows and sheep than people in New Zealand. And just a matter of days ago, the New Zealand government released what's described as a draft plan to have farmers pay for their animals emissions starting in 2025 in the language of the government, the proposal is to "Introduce a farm-level split-gas levy on agricultural emissions with built in incentives to reduce emissions and sequester carbon." The point here is that we are being told that one of the major contributors towards the problem of climate change is burping hoofed animals, most importantly, cows, to a lesser extent, sheep. In New Zealand, where the cows and sheep vastly outnumber the human beings, who presumably also burp, it turns out that farmers are going to be taxed in accordance with the relative burping of their flock and herds.

Now in a perfect world, and we are not in a perfect world, the reporter would've gone to interview one of New Zealand's cows to see what the cow would say. And the cow looking up in this perfect world from eating his or her green grass would have answered the reporter's question with... Well, you guessed it. I don't have to say it. And so I guess there's some satisfaction in knowing that as we come to the end of this season of The Briefing, as well as this addition, the final story for this annual season is probably the favorite story of middle school boys in our listening audience.

And to make sure we draw out the worldview implications, just remember that when you look at a cow being a cow, you see a creature made by God for his glory.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

As we come to the end of this annual season and this addition of The Briefing, I want to thank in particular some without whom this podcast could not be made. I want to thank producer Graham Faulkner and engineer Ryan Modisette, along with so many others who have assisted and encouraged. Most of all, I want to thank my dear wife, Mary, who has sacrificed so much and has been so supportive, knowing that whatever else takes place Monday through Friday, The Briefing has to take place. Without her support, this could never happen.

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.

Remember, we'll be back on Monday, August 1st, 2022 for the new annual season of The Briefing. Until then, thanks for listening.

May God bless you, and I will see you on August the 1st.

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.

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