The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, October 7, 2022

It’s Friday, October 7th, 2022.

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

Part I

Should My 5-Year-Old Listen to The Briefing? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

We’re going to be able to spend the entire episode of The Briefing today on questions from listeners. And as always, outstanding questions. We’re going to take questions from men and women, young and old, but I’m going to start with two questions, both by moms of five year old boys. That can’t be a coincidence. One of the moms writes in asking about whether or not her five year old son should listen to The Briefing. She says, “I have a five year old who’s a very deep thinker. He loves to learn and is very interested in current events.” She goes on as a mom to say, “I think he would enjoy listening to The Briefing. But what about some of the topics?”

Well, there’s good news and bad news here for you, mom, in the sense that your five year old both does and doesn’t pick up on what you might think he would pick up on when you’re thinking about conversation or any kind of media exposure or just walking through the zoo or in a conversation with friends. The reality is that it’s difficult for us as parents sometimes to know exactly what our children have or have not picked up on. Sometimes, later you discover they picked up on something you thought they completely missed, and by the way, it works the other way around. But nonetheless, I’ll simply say I think there is much of The Briefing that would interest a five year old. But a five year old has a limited attention span and so you, as mom, you’re going to know and you’re also going to know when there’s something you perhaps think not best considered by a five year old at this particular stage of life.

And yet I hear from so many families in which they have children ranging from teenagers down to preschoolers, The Briefing is on. They use this as an opportunity for family conversation. That’s one of the main reasons I do The Briefing, by the way, is to help Christian families and Christian parents, Christian college students, high school students, middle school students, to think about these things and to talk about them with other Christians.

Nothing would make me happier than to know that The Briefing is helping to equip parents and families as well as students at every level, to be able to deal with these issues and think about them through the lens of a biblical worldview. A five year old can do that to a certain extent. A five year old can do that with parents to a far greater extent. The glory of God is certainly evident in that. And I’ll simply say, mom, as parent, you’re going to know how this will work and how it will not. But I love the fact that you’ve got a five year old, very deep thinker in your house who loves to learn and is interested in current events.

I would just do everything I can to encourage that and to use the judgment that God has given you as a parent as to how and how much your five year old son can be introduced to these issues.

Part II

Does God Love Bad Guys Who Go to Hell? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a 5-Year-Old Listener (And His Brothers) of The Briefing

Evidently, among our listeners is another very thoughtful five year old. This is a little boy whose name is Paul, and he asked his mother a question the other night. And that question is, “Does God love bad guys that go to hell?” Now, I also love something else, and that is the fact that this mom tells me that the five year old boy asked the question and his six and eight year old brother suggested that mom write to me because of The Briefing. Boy, that makes me happy. And to the entire team there in this household, I’ll simply respond. This is a really good and thoughtful question and it’s a question that many adults have but might not dare to ask. And so let’s think about it for just a moment. Let’s start in the very first chapter of the Bible. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

That’s the very first verse of Scripture. And one of the things we are told even in the first two chapters of Scripture is that God loves what he creates. So in a sense, God loves and God always loves that which he creates. He creates human beings. And I’ll simply say to a five, to a six, to an eight year old, when God made us to be human beings, he made us able to know him, able to obey him and able to love him. And it means more than that, it never means less than that. And God loves what he creates. At the end of every day of creation he said, “It is good.” After he created human beings, he said, “This is very good.” But the Bible tells us at the same time that God hates sin, and that means that God rightly punishes sinners. And to the adults, I’ll simply say this is the language of God pouring out his wrath upon sin and the Bible makes very clear there is a dual destiny.

Those who come to know salvation and the forgiveness of sins through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, on the basis of his absolutely accomplished atonement, they will be in heaven with God. And then that is in contrast to hell, where eternal punishment is poured out as the wrath of God is poured out upon sin and that means also upon sinners. But I love this question, especially the way a five year old boy asked the question, “Does God love bad guys that go to hell? In one sense, yes, because God loves what he creates and he loves his own image. We don’t know everything we want to know about the reality of hell, but we know enough in scripture to know of its dreadful reality and of the fact that the only way to avoid the punishment of God in hell, poured out the wrath of God, poured out upon sin and sinners is to know the Lord Jesus Christ is savior and to love him and to be safe in him forever.

And so to this five year old, to the six and eight year old, and to all of us, I’ll simply have to say that in some sense, God loves even as he pours out his wrath upon sin. We’re told that God hates sin. Now, how do we balance that? Well, we certainly don’t balance it by trying somehow to minimize God’s judgment, God’s wrath, God’s righteousness, and the threat of hell. The reality of hell. The very last thing we can do is minimize that. But at the same time when we talk about God, we’re always talking about the fact that he is infinitely righteous and infinitely just and infinitely gracious and infinitely holy. He’s infinitely loving all at the same time. That’s impossible for human beings. It’s particularly impossible for sinners. We can’t even imagine how God and his perfection can be all of these things all the time, perfectly forever.

The most important thing we can affirm is that everything in scripture is true, and that God, in the end, is absolutely satisfied. He is absolutely satisfied with himself, with his creation, and with what he has done in salvation and in judgment. I’m not sure all that will be absolutely satisfying to a five year old, a six year old, an eight year old, or a 68 year old or an 86 year old. But the reality is our task as Christians is to affirm everything that God reveals about himself in scripture and to love him because he first loved us.

Part III

Can You Shed Light on the Prevalence of Supernatural Events in the World Today? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Davis wrote in and he’s writing a senior thesis as a senior in high school, I think that’s impressive by the way. And he says he’s writing about the prevalence of supernatural activities in the world today. He says, “This could include but is not constrained to demonic, angelic activity, miracles, prophecy, and tongues.”

He says he listens to The Briefing and he was wondering if I could give some output on the topic. So Davis, yes, thank you for asking the question and the first thing I want to do is refute your question. Now, take this in a good spirit. What I mean by that is, I believe that everything God does is supernatural and God uses natural means to accomplish supernatural purposes. But the most important supernatural events that take place in the world today will come down to the sharing of the gospel and the transformation of a single sinner coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the supernatural reality. And the supernatural reality is seen in the preaching of the gospel, the preaching of the word of God. Those are supernatural activities, the very means of grace. And I love the way the Puritans refer to them as the ordinary means of grace are supernatural because God is working through them. To call sinners to himself, to transform sinners, to conform us to the image of Christ. The preaching of the word, prayer, the act of Christian worship.

All of this is supernatural in a way that many people don’t recognize. And so when you talk about supernatural activity, yes, that would include demonic, angelic activity. Do I believe that those exist and operate in the world? Yes, I do, Davis, I certainly do. Miracles, well, when you think of miracles, prophecy, and tongues, I simply want to say that miracles do happen. I’m absolutely confident they do happen, but in a different context than what we see in scripture where most commonly miracles occurred as confirming signs. As a matter of fact, in the Gospel of John, the miracles are themselves usually referred to as signs because they are pointing to the divine identity of Jesus Christ, who was, after all, not just the miracle worker, but God incarnate, the son of God in human flesh. And so all that’s to remind us that we should expect the miraculous as attestation and confirmation signs of who Jesus is. But the confirming authority now for who Jesus is the scripture, not miracles. And also when it comes to prophecy in tongues, I believe those are absolutely valid within biblical terms.

But those biblical terms, most importantly placed them in the apostolic age. And in the apostolic age, they again attested to the authenticity and the supernatural origin of the apostolic preaching. And again, I think the most important thing is to understand the attestation of our preaching today is the word of God. And the word of God, the inherent infallible God breathe, living word of God is itself the supernatural reality that is set loose through the preaching of the word and the taking of the gospel to the ends of the earth. And the Holy Spirit uses the witness of the gospel to open hearts, the message, the power of the gospel, the telling of the story of Jesus, and calling sinners to faith and repentance. God uses those to bring about a supernatural effect in sinners, regenerating them, bringing them to life and causing them to seize upon Christ, to believe on him. And so the most important thing I would say, Davis, is that the ordinary means of grace are indeed the most important supernatural elements in the world today.

Because Jesus, the Lord of the church, uses those ordinary means of grace to call sinners to himself, to edify his church, and to give attestation and evidence for the gospel. You got to love the fact that somewhere, somehow a school is requiring high school seniors to write a thesis project. I find that really encouraging. Thanks for writing me Davis, and thanks for listening.

Part IV

Where in the Bible Does It Say What Rights We Have? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Terry writes in saying, “I know our constitution gives us rights and they are called God given rights, but are they? Where in the Bible does it say what rights we have?” Well, Terry, that’s a really good question. And yes, indeed, our own political tradition begins with the Declaration of Independence and its statement that all men are endowed by our creator we’re certain in alienable rights, and we’re told among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The keywords there, by the way, include among these, which is to say, this isn’t an absolutely extensive catalog, but it’s a place to start.

And so if you’re asking, are God given rights given by God? The answer, Terry, has to be yes. If they’re real, they’re given by God. And that means that by the way, governments don’t give rights, Supreme Courts don’t create rights. Rather, the role of government is to respect rights that are given by God, that is to say by the creator. And Christians have been thinking for centuries about how we would know what those rights are. There’re several ways to think about them. First of all, those rights would have to be grounded in our status and that status is that we are each made in God’s image. And so as we are made in God’s image, we are equally made in God’s image. Even the founders of our country didn’t originally live up to that statement, but the country has grown up in its understanding of what that means.

And Christians know that when we say all people, we actually mean all people. And that’s because of a status that is given to us by the creator and is to be respected by a government, not granted by a government. And then we also have the fact that as we are thinking about what our rights, we have to understand that a part of what we understand from God is that he gives us certain commands and certain functions are very clear in the fulfillment of those commands. And certain functions are also clear in the constitution of a human being. This includes the ability to express thoughts, the ability to use language, the ability to create associations or social relationships. And so we come to understand those have to be translated rightly into an appropriate language of rights. But of course, being made in God’s image and commanded by God, one of the most important issues we come to understand is the priority of proper worship.

And that means that at the very least, a government has to respect the fact that we are made spiritual beings, and thus must have the liberty to acknowledge God and to worship God. And so what we would call religious liberty is based upon that very fact. And by the way, it just points out that even as we’re thinking about this, think of the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. That we are to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Government has to respect those rights. Now there’s more to it than that, and that leads into a very long Christian conversation and a very long political conversation. But it’s most important, and I will say this, Terry, to answer your question directly. If those rights do not come from God, they’re not real.

If they do come from God, they’re pre-political. And it is the responsibility of government to come to terms with what they are and to respect those rights. In function, by the way, we have human beings, even in the first chapter of scripture being given responsibility for dominion of the earth. To be fruitful and to multiply. We’re also told to till the earth and to enjoy the produce that comes by that harvest. All that’s just a reminder of the fact that even what we call economic rights are derivative of what’s made very clear in Scripture, both in what we find in Scripture about the very nature of humanity and also in the commands that God addresses to us.

Part V

What is the Distinction Between the Preaching and Teaching of the Word of God? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next from out West, comes a question from Grace, and she’s referring to what she hears over and over again, and that is the phrase, the preaching and teaching of the word of God.

Now, 16 year old’s asking this question, I respect that a great deal. She’s asking, what’s the distinction between preaching and teaching? Well, sometimes, Grace, it’s hard to know the distinction between preaching and teaching because preaching includes teaching, but not all teaching includes preaching. And so at the very least we come to understand that preaching should be based upon the proclamation of the gospel and the proclamation and exposition of a specific text of scripture. Teaching is a broader issue, and by the way, that’s the basis in the Greek language, even for the word we know as doctrine. The doctrine is the teaching of the church and so there is no absolute distinction between the two, which is why you picked up on it, Grace. We use the two together, as in the preaching and teaching of the word so often. But in the New Testament, you see different words being used for preaching and teaching.

And even as you look at the teaching office and the church, it includes preaching and teaching. And as you look at spiritual gifts and all the rest, you come to understand that God has gifted some men in the church in particular, for the congregational responsibility of preaching and teaching. But teaching goes far beyond just what takes place in the life, even of the local congregation in worship. Teaching’s what takes place in the home. Teaching’s what takes place in the Christian school. And so we come to understand that teaching is a broader mandate, but when you’re talking about preaching, it certainly includes teaching.

And so even as there’s a linguistic distinction found between the two in the New Testament, when the preacher’s preaching, he’s preaching and teaching; which is why you picked up on the fact we often put those two words together and necessarily so.

Part VI

Am I, as a Paramedic, Complicit in the Culture of Death If I Am On an Assisted Suicide Call and Do Not Stop It? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, a massively important question came in from Adam. Adam is writing from Ontario, Canada, where, as a young man having recently graduated from university, he’s working as a paramedic there in one of the provinces of Canada. And he writes about an experience he just recently had that has shaken him, and he’s asking a very deep question. He says that his particular team got called to the site of where someone was undergoing what can only be described as euthanasia or assisted suicide. And the technical issue was getting an IV started. Since the young man writing this is not certified to start IVs, but his teen partner was. It was the other paramedic who went in and applied the iv. Now, the question is, he’s asking whether or not he sinned by not blocking what he believes to be a grotesque sin against God. That is to say, the sin of euthanasia, the sin of ending a human life.

Adam, I want to tell you that on The Briefing in coming days and weeks, we’re going to be looking more closely at the state of assisted suicide or euthanasia. And by the way, assisted suicide is actually becoming euthanasia explicitly in the nation of Canada. We’re going to be looking at the Canadian example, which by the way, is actually even striking fear in some secular hearts because of the direction inevitably it takes. But you ask a very, very good question, and that question comes down as to whether or not sitting in the truck you were being unfaithful, even as your partner was carrying out something in which he was morally culpable, becoming involved with bringing about the death of this woman.

The young man paramedic writing this question was not personally involved, but he was in the driveway. And then he says, “So my question is, have I sinned by just sitting and waiting as this happened? Is it okay to sit idly by as this happened while being involved in it the way I was? Nothing I could do would’ve stopped it from happening. My thinking is starting to feel like the camp guards just following orders.”

Adam, my heart goes out to you and you are describing one of the great ethical challenges that will come not only to Christians who serve as paramedics or in other medical professions, but in many other professions and just in daily life, not only in Canada, but increasingly in the United States. The issue comes down to complicity in the culture of death and Christians have had to think these issues through. The most important thing, and Adam I want to underline this, is that you must not do yourself. You must not take any positive action yourself. The Christian witness is really clear on this. You must not take any positive or affirmative action that would bring about something you know to be sin, and that would include the termination of an unborn life.

That would include the use of some kind of mechanism to bring about the death of a living human being, such as an assisted suicide or euthanasia. There could be any number of other issues as we well know and talk about on The Briefing, in which medical professionals and others understand they are a part of a medical system, such things may take place even in the hospital where they work. But the one thing they know is that they cannot, for example, become personally complicit by any action taken in the culture of death. I hope that first distinction is really important. Now, what you do beyond that is something that I think it would be good for you to talk about with mature and faithful, biblically minded, gospel Christians in your own church there. I want to get to a second principle, and we’ll probably have to talk about this more on The Briefing in time to come. But as you are thinking about the very historical analogy you raise, and that would be camp guards. And by that, you mean camp guards in complicity with the Holocaust and with the evil of Nazi Germany.

One of the issues that Christians had to come to terms with is that there reaches a point, or at least hypothetically we can acknowledge a point. When the only righteous action that a Christian can take is to declare the entire regime sinful, opposed to God, idolatrous and without any possibility of remedy and that means illegitimate. And at that point, you declare yourself the enemy of the regime, that is to say the enemy of the state. Now, that is eventually what believing faithful Christians, by the scores, had to do in Germany. They just basically had to say, “I cannot acknowledge this regime, this government as being anything other than say what you find in the Old Testament in the form of Pharaoh or one of the evil kings, and someone who ordered Christians or ordered the Jews in the Old Testament to do that which they knew they could not do.”

And at that point they sometimes had to suffer the consequences and that’s been the history of God’s people throughout the ages. I don’t know what exactly will unfold in terms of your experience as a paramedic in Canada, but I can tell you there are pharmacists in the United States. There are surgeons all over the world. There are medical doctors, other medical professionals who know already that this stress point, this crisis moment will come. I think it’s fair and it’s accurate to say that on both sides of the American, Canadian border, most Christians are not yet ready to declare that the regime, so to speak, the government is in a position in which it cannot be corrected, it cannot be reformed, it cannot be mitigated, and it’s evil. If we do reach that point, in which we declare the state to be idolatrous and completely opposed to God, we’ll have to take the actions that follow and suffer the consequences that will follow.

In the meantime, Adam, I’m thankful you’re listening. I’m thankful that you wrote in this question and the excruciating issues that you raise. I think it points to the fact that many Christians will be locked out of many professions simply because we cannot bend the knee to Caesar when Caesar demands that we directly disobey God.

Part VII

What is the Appropriateness of State and National Pride for Christians? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Finally, a proud Texan living in Houston writes me in. His name is Austin, and he says, “I noticed that you discussed Kentucky issues quite frequently, so I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the appropriateness of state and national pride for Christians.” He says, “I find that I have much more pride in Texas than I do in America, so I’m curious if you have similar feelings for Kentucky.” What a great question and it points to a basic issue of the Christian worldview. And that is the fact that we really do have a proper patriotism that should be most powerful where it’s closest to us. And thus, we should understand that what we call the doctrine or the teaching, the principle of subsidiarity, which means that the greatest weight, the greatest truth.

The greatest conservation of good things, the greatest human flourishing is going to come in the most basic unit and the respect for the most basic unit of civilization. That begins with marriage, it extends to family, and then it extends to neighborhood and then to town or city, wherever you may live. You might even say metropolitan area. That doesn’t sound too affectionate, but many of us live in a metropolitan area and then state, nation. And I’m going to argue, and I have argued publicly that our own patriotism pretty much stops there. We know we’re a part of a larger global community, but we also know that it’s more global than community. We know that society works most essentially at the most basic level. And by the way, Austin, I’ll have to say. Number one, your name is about as Texas as it gets. And number two, I’m not surprised this question came from Texas because as a non-Texan who loves Texas, the one thing you come to know is that Texans love Texas.

I’m a native Floridian. I still very much love Florida, but my entire adult life, I’ve lived in Kentucky and I have come greatly to love the commonwealth and the people of Kentucky. I think one of the ways God influences our lives, and by the way, brings about strong communities is through a sense of rootedness and of identity. There’s a reason why two rival high schools will play harder than two schools that don’t have much to do in linking them together in a community.

I am very thankful to be an American, Austin, and I’m very thankful also to be a Kentuckian. I sure hope the day never comes when I have to choose the one over the other. Another basic biblical principle, by the way, is that we have to begin our love in specific terms before we can ever extend that love in general terms. Those who say they love humanity but don’t like human beings, well, they are refuting their very claim.

Love and loyalty start locally, and then they expand, but they don’t expand infinitely. A proper patriotism understands those respective loves in right balance. So many good questions, I’m thankful for them and keep them coming. We’ll try week by week to get to as many of them as possible.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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