The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, August 26, 2022

It’s Friday, August 26th, 2022.

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

Part I

A Looming Disaster: South Korea Tops Its Own Record for Lowest Fertility Rate — And Is Still Trending Downward

We’re going to be looking at some different issues today, big issues we’ve considered this week. We’re going to shift a bit to look at some issues that have a longer horizon. Then we’re going to turn to questions.

We’re going to go first to South Korea. South Korea made headlines over the last several years for its low fertility rate. As a matter of fact, recently, it has had the world’s lowest fertility rate. The head headlines right now are telling us that this past year South Korea has surpassed its low birth rate to an even lower birth rate. Indeed, right now, the world’s lowest fertility rate. This news has caught the attention of many around the world. John Yun, reporting for the New York Times, tells us South Korea broke its own record for the world’s lowest total fertility rate, last year, as census data showed. Experts project, it will drop even further this year, adding to concerns about the country’s shrinking and aging population.

The statistics are actually pretty overwhelming and we’re talking about fairly recent history. Let’s go back to the year 1970. In the year 1970, South Korea had a total fertility rate of 4.53. So 4.53, that is above the replacement rate. At that rate, South Korea would have a fairly fast growing population. Lots of babies, lots of young families, lots of strollers, but you compare 1970 with just say 2018. By 2018, the total fertility rate in South Korea had dropped below 1.0.

Now, I know you’re thinking about an interesting question. What would be, say, an adequate population stability fertility rate? You can pretty much figure this out. It would be slightly over 2.0. Let’s just look at it this way, if you have two parents and they have two children, that’s a total fertility rate of 2.0. Then you have relative stability. Now, I have to say relative stability because just given health statistics, if you have a total fertility rate of 2.0, you’re not actually going to have population stability. You’re going to need something like 2.2, just given health injury accidents, mortality concerns. Let’s just be clear, 1.0, it’s disastrous.

Now, I want us to think about the big worldview issue here, because this really does raise issues, not only for South Korea, but far beyond. For example, if you go to a fairly near neighbor to South Korea, say, go to Japan, you’re talking about a total fertility rate that is also well below the replacement rate so much so that Japan’s population is aging so fast that you have serious headline news about nursing homes and other care facilities having to turn to robotic technology to care for the elderly and those who are aged simply because there is no alternative. There just aren’t enough young people coming into the workforce to maintain those jobs. Now, as you think of industry, while automation helps out for a while, but the fact is that the economy itself begins to fall apart because consumer demand shrinks. There’s just no other way around it. Consumer demand goes down and you’re looking at a nation like Japan, a nation like South Korea.

Relative wealth have come to those two societies in the modern age fairly recently. That then raises a very, very interesting and ominous issue of worldview importance. Do wealthy countries just stop having babies? Do cultures that are affected by modernity, the modern age, high technology, social media, higher education urbanization, and all those transitional issues; do such cultures just decide we’re going to stop having babies? Now, we need to note something. The culture actually never makes such a collective decision.

Not officially. There’s no mass meeting of the population there in South Korea, which people said, “Hey, let’s just have fewer babies.” As a matter of fact, let’s start having babies at half the necessary replacement rate. No, those decisions are made rather intimately. Those decisions are made rather individually. We also need to keep this in mind, there is a social and a cultural context to people making those decisions.

Now, for one thing, if you’re looking at a society at any given moment, there is a certain picture of the good life. There is a certain assumption of the nature and purpose of human existence and why we are here. There’s an understanding of the culture and what it needs. There is a sense or a lack of a sense of civilizational responsibility. Furthermore, there is either the presence or the absence of an ethos that says we need young people to get married. We need married young people to have children. We need lots of children, and we need to privilege marriage and the family for the raising of children, because that is essential for the future of our civilization.

Now, you’re probably wondering, well, if we’re talking about South Korea and 1.0 being absolutely disastrous and the world’s lowest total fertility rate at present, what is the similar statistic for the United States? Well, it’s 1.66. That 1.66 is without reference to people moving to the United States, joining the workforce in the United States. If you’re looking at the United States, you’re actually looking, and have historically looked at, a very different pattern than you find throughout much of Asia, where there just isn’t much cultural openness to anyone moving from outside the culture, into the culture.

The reports coming out of South Korea point to the grim reality of what an increasingly childless culture looks like. Even as John Yun writes, “the implications of the low fertility rate are already being felt across South Korean society. The population has shrunk in the past two years. Schools have faced shortages of students.” I’ll just stop for a moment here. Right now in the United States, there are many school districts complaining that they don’t have enough teachers, but in South Korea, they don’t have enough students Going back to the report and I quote, “the military has expanded eligibility requirements for conscripts and the dwindling number of working age people imperils the pensions of retirees” end quote.

In the modern age, with the declining population and a declining total fertility rate, that turns out to be a really big issue. Even if you look to the United States, the whole idea of the social security program, which by the way, isn’t based upon investments, it’s based upon taking from current wage owners to support those who have retired in the past. There’s some reserve funds and other things, but basically social security has never been funded. Right now, there is no plan to fund it, except out of the wages of those who are working at the time. If you decrease the number of those who are working at the time, and at the same time, you increase the number of those who are retired. Guess what? You have a huge math problem.

South Korea, according to recent reports, is now following the example of Japan in trying to figure out how much it can shift to robots or some form of artificial intelligence or similar technology.

From a Christian worldview biblical perspective, this is a very sad story. It’s a sad story that is likely to become a tragic story. We have to think about this as Christians understanding some of the arguments, some of the anecdotes that are being cited.

For example, one professor of policy there in South Korea said quote, “how difficult must people find it to get married, give birth and raise children for this number to be so low. If we take this as a compressed measure of basic life, it’s a troublesome figure.” Well, it’s an understatement to say it’s a troublesome figure. I want to consider the statement made by this academic. Raising the issue or the implication that somehow getting married and having children, right now, must be so hard. It must be so expensive. It must be so arduous. It must require so much appearance in this current cultural context that people have simply been dissuaded from having children. Here’s the problem. When you look at the following birth rate here, it is rarely, if ever, correlated with increasing poverty. No, here’s what we need to notice from a Christian worldview. People start to have fewer children as they start to get richer.

Those statistics correlate in this society. It’s just hard to take it face value, the statement that it’s harder or more expensive to take care of children today than say 200 years ago. Now, no doubt there are economic factors, but a part of this is that the picture of the good life, the picture of the economic life that people want today, it is not based upon any kind of rational expectation. It’s based upon the picture of the good life given by the society. Here’s what’s most ominous, that picture of the good life, in many cases, has nothing to do with marriage. It has nothing to do with family. It has, evidently, nothing to do with marriage and family and having babies. We’ve talked about the fact that under the communist regime in China, and again you are noticing a Pacific and Asian pattern here, but it’s not limited to those Pacific and Asian countries.

You’ll notice that the communist party in China, having adopted the murderous and draconian one child only policy in the seventies, is now basically trying to find any way it can to encourage couples there in China to have babies. The evidence is that once a society gets into the habit of having fewer babies or no babies, that is a very difficult trend to reverse. A demographer there in South Korea made a very ominous statement. He said, quote, “life isn’t going well for a lot of young people. For many, it’s natural not to have kids or marry at all.” Now, there’s one aspect of this I think we really need to consider it. Evidently, and Christians should have known this all along and many Christians did. Evidently, it takes massive social and cultural prioritization and support to encourage young people to get to the point of marriage and after marriage, to get to the point of having children and deciding they want not just one hobby child, but they actually want to have children. Their picture of the family is something that is beyond even the total replacement rate of 2.0 or slightly more.

What does it take? Well, evidently it takes a massive cultural civilizational, social and moral force. That’s exactly what most civilizations have at least found the way to provide. Even societies that didn’t know what air conditioning was and had no idea of even representative democracy. The one thing they did know how to do was have babies.

Furthermore, throughout most of human existence to add a child was to add wealth. We’re now in a situation where the opposite is true in economic terms. Now, if you have more children, you have higher costs. You have more tuition bills. You have more dentist bills. You’ve got more everything, higher food bills. There are many people who are saying, that’s not what we’re going to do. At least another part of that is the background of what young people in particular consider to be the good life.

You can look at this coming from a different direction. The rise of a great deal of the consumer and tourism market is predicated upon the fact that people either aren’t married or if they’re married, they certainly don’t have children. They have an enormous amount of time and enormous amount of say, well here would be the word you would hear, freedom. In order to decide, they just want to go here, they just want to go there. We really are looking at the fact that children have become a choice in a technological and yes, birth control society. In which many people just say, “Hey, there are certain people into that lifestyle of having children. There are certain people who are not. Don’t judge me.”

I just want to remind Christians as we bring this to an end. We’ll be looking at this issue in other dimensions in days and weeks to come. I just want to remind us that for Christians, we just have to look to the first chapter of the Bible, where when the creator created human beings as the beings made in his image. The first and most important command he gave to his human creatures is be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.

Let me tell you what should make your heart happy. It’s when you go to a place, like for example, the campus of the institution I’m honored to lead, and you look around, you see all the strollers, all the babies, all the preschoolers, all the children. Where you see the lawn covered with young families and all these children aggregating. You have a very happy heart. If you go to a church and in that church you find a growing nursery and a need for nursery workers, and you find strollers in the hallway and you find children walking down the halls holding the hands of their parents, then you see a sign of health.

Now, Christians understand that is not an absolute sign of the fact that you’re looking at a good theology. You’re looking at a church that believes the gospel. You’re looking at biblical Christianity. No, but it does tell you that if you do not see those things, you probably are not looking at biblical Christianity. You are not looking at a commitment to the gospel and you are certainly not looking, at least not yet, at a picture of the flourishing of humanity and of the good life. That vision of the purpose of humanity that is given to us in the scripture for the glory of God. We’ll also be looking in days ahead to how all of these issues come together in spinoffs. Just about every issue is going to come down to whether or not there are babies in a society.

You’re looking at economics, the consumer society, education. We’ll be looking at this in days ahead, but there are worldview reasons why in general terms, those who identify as conservative and vote that way have more children. It might go the other way. Maybe the people that have more children vote that way, or the people who vote that way have more children. Either way, it’s going to be really interesting.

Part II

What are the Succinct Elements of a Biblical Worldview? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, we’re going to turn to questions. I always appreciate the questions sent by listeners. Sometimes there are questions that look at something specific, that requires a bit of detail. Sometimes they are really big picture questions. It’s healthy for us to have a mix.

Philip wrote one of those big picture questions. He asks for a succinct summary of the elements of a biblical world view. Now, that really is a huge challenge for us because of the word succinct. It’s really hard, sometimes, to be succinct. But nonetheless, that’s a good exercise. He goes on to say, “do you have a summary or chart comparing, contrasting the elements of a conservative worldview or a Christian worldview with a liberal worldview or a secular worldview?”

Well, let’s just think about that for a moment. A worldview is a way of looking at the world. It is an understanding of reality, an understanding of morality an understanding of time, an understanding of human nature. Well, we’ve gone through just a little bit there, it’s an understanding of everything. Eventually, all of us have to consider at least something of everything. That might sound like an interesting play on words, but it’s actually true. We have to think about everything in some sense, but we don’t think to the same extent about everything or not every individual does. If you’re a geologist, then you’re going to have some deep worldview issues related to fundamental questions in geology. Not every Christian’s even going to be able to understand some of those questions because they are embedded in an entire discipline of academic expertise.

But you know what? Every one of us has to have some theory of what we’re walking on when we walk upon the surface of the earth. We have to have some explanation for the appearance of the earth for time and for different natural phenomena in the earth and in the geological structures of the earth. We’re not all geologists, but we all have to have at least some understanding of geology or the basic questions that ask. We’re not medical doctors, but we got to know something about our bodies. Not just what’s gone wrong or what’s gone right, but why are we made the way we are made? How does the body interact? What are the different systems? Furthermore, what does it mean to be fearfully and wonderfully made? How is it that we are categorically different from other creatures?

G.K. Chesterton, the British wit, often pointed to the fact that if you’re looking for the proof that you have to think in theological and biblical terms, he said, “just ask the question, what’s gone wrong with the world?”

You’re going to have to answer the question, “what’s wrong?” People do horrible things. There are termites and there are tumors. Why? Now again, let me just remind you, the Christian worldview takes all of those problems and pathologies back to the reality of sin and thus, back to the reality of the fall.

Now, that leads me to say just to remind ourselves, every single human being has to have some operational understanding of whether, well, just say the cosmos is real or unreal. Whether there is actually something that is right and wrong, or if that’s just some kind of abstraction. Whether or not our experience as individuals is real, you could just go down the list. How does time operate? There are certain worldviews throughout human history in which time is cyclical. There are others in which time is linear. That’s the Christian view, by the way. It’s the Judaeo-Christian view. It’s the biblical view. It starts with creation. It ends in the book of revelation. That’s a straight line, not a bunch of circles.

Now Philip, you ask, is there a summary chart contrasting and comparing? Yes, there are some out there. I think you can probably find them just looking at Christian sources. I just want say that I think one of the new developments in helping Christians to think about Christian worldview formation is the coming together of worldview studies and Christian apologetics theology on the one hand and biblical theology on the other hand.

Let’s just put it this way. Let’s just say that every single worldview has to ask and answer at least four questions. Number one, why is there something rather than nothing? Number two, what’s gone wrong? Number three, is there any rescue or remedy? Number four, where is history headed?

It just so happens that those are the four major themes of biblical theology. Creation answers the question, why is there something rather than nothing. Not just something, but this creation. Why does this creation exist rather than not exist? That’s the doctrine of creation, that great movement throughout scripture. Creation order becomes the driving energy towards understanding so much of, indeed, all of the rest of scripture.

Well then you say, what’s gone wrong? Well, what’s gone wrong is sin. That takes us back to the fall. That is the second big movement. If you think of this like an orchestral symphony, this is the second movement. First movement creation, foundational to everything. Second movement, the fall. This explains criminality. It explains tumors. It explains roaches. Well, it explains everything is going wrong in the world. It’s essential.

The third movement, as I said, is redemption. Is there any hope? Is there any remedy? This is where the atonement accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ and the drama of redemption is the Bible’s way of saying yes. Here it is. Where is history headed? Everyone’s wondering about that. History is headed towards the fulfillment of the kingdom of Christ, in all of its glory. It’s a very interesting story about how we’re going to get from here to there.

Just given the limitations of what we can do in answering a question, Philip, ill tell you, there are a lot of people who are probably asking the same question. There is a lot more to be said, but I honestly believe there’s not less to be said. Believe it or not, you ask for succinct. Honestly, I think that’s about as succinct as I can be.

Part III

What Conservative and Liberal News Sources Should I Use to Help My Daughter Learn How to Evaluate the News? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, there’s a question from a mom asking about homeschooling and a daughter. She wants to introduce her ninth grade daughter to the issues of news analysis, and she wants her to read two stories from alternative viewpoints. One would be conservative the other liberal, and she’s asking for a recommendation. Well, I’m just going to suggest that one of the ways to think about this is to understand that we’re not talking in this case about a secular press and a Christian press, but rather we’re talking about a more generally liberal press and a more generally conservative press. By the way, there aren’t that many conservative, rather authoritative or major news outlets. Especially as you’re thinking about the printed media and this mom, hopefully specified, that’s what she’s thinking about.

To a limited and imperfect extent, I would say that in worldview analysis, one of the ways that I think you and your daughter would have a bit of fun and a lot of learning is to look at the distinction day by day between the editorial sections, and especially the official editorial columns, of the New York Times on the one hand and the Wall street Journal on the other hand.

Now, when you look at those two, the New York Times is going to be far more liberal in its editorial comment than the Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal is probably not going to be as conservative as you want to be. Nonetheless, one of the interesting things is that when there’s a major event, when there is major news, both of those editorial boards are going to respond in one way or the other. Often it’s like they represent, not just two different readerships and two different constituencies, but in worldview analysis often you’ll see, it’s like they occupy two different worlds.

To Lindsay, this mom, I would also say one thing to remember is that as you’re looking at any major newspaper like that in a print source, there’s a distinction between the editorial comment being made by the newspaper and by its editorial board. Those are the editorial columns and the opinion columns often known as op-eds or commentary pieces that are also run beside it. One’s an official statement from the newspaper’s editorial board. The other is a commentary or editorial they have decided to print. Now, they’re responsible for both of them. As you look at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, both of those categories in the Times are usually more liberal, usually significantly more liberal than both of those categories in the Wall Street Journal.

You just have to look at it, figure this out. I think it’s great you’re going to do that and help your daughter to see the difference.

Part IV

I’m a Christian Who Qualifies for President Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness. Should I Accept It? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Finally, we received a significant flood of questions from listeners about yesterday’s edition of The Briefing, having to do with my analysis, pretty pointed analysis, of the Biden Administration’s announcement concerning the so-called forgiveness of student loan debt. You can look at yesterday’s edition. Let’s just say I find that an absolutely disastrous proposal policy and likely unconstitutional as well.

Yesterday, I mentioned a very significant number of practical and ethical and political, but mainly moral concerns about the announced White House policy. The question coming in, at least from many listeners, is okay, what do I do? I have student aid. According to this new policy, if it stands, then my student aid or a significant number of my student aid will be forgiven. Is it ethical? Is it right for a Christian to take advantage of what the White House has called this “limited loan forgiveness?” I’m simply going to respond saying, there’s a lot to think about there. More than we can go through comprehensively today, but here is at least a start.

Number one, it would be important to consider any of these huge questions, insofar as we’re Christians, with the local congregation and with other Christians to think this thing through, in order to gain the wisdom of other Christians.

Most importantly, the wisdom of the leadership of our church, of our elders, of others thinking this thing through. The wisdom of very serious and seriously committed Christian friends and others in the congregation to say, okay, let’s think this through. What are the issues we should consider together? The second thing I want to offer to those who wrote in is that you are not likely to find just one answer. It would be easy if we could just say just one answer. I think the policy is wrong. I think that over and over again, and with the distance of today from yesterday, let me just say, I think it even more strongly. But if you just look at the structure of this moral question, it has to do with the fact that without any undertaking on the part of those who are the borrowers in this case, the lender is it this stands, changing the rules.

That means that I don’t believe I have the right to bind the conscience of Christians on this issue. As you are looking at the government’s action, some of it may be taken without any involvement whatsoever by the borrower. Which is to say that according to at least some in the press and the White House statement found at its own website, much of this will simply happen. Some will have to apply for certain kinds of benefits from this particular policy. The fact is, I don’t believe at this point, I would know as a Christian how to bind to the conscience of others, other than to say, I think this is a disastrous, morally wrong policy. It is a disaster which in this case means that the lender is unilaterally changing the policy. Let’s see if it stands. I fear that it will.

This is an issue in which you’re going to have faithful Christians who may come to different conclusions. By the way, I think that that is another indication of the wrongness of the policy itself. As I say, this particular policy is morally wrong if for no other reason that it injects so much moral risk into our entire economy, the entire system of higher education and our national politics. I certainly wouldn’t claim at this point to have the last word on this matter because it’s an unfolding story and there are a lot of details yet to be worked out and announced. We’ll be tracking this with you.

I deeply, deeply appreciate listeners to The Briefing, who by such large numbers on this question, indicated you, if no one else in this world, you’re determined to do what is right. For that, I am sincerely thankful.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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