The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, October 28, 2022

It’s Friday, October 28th, 2022.

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

Part I

Marriage Delayed and Children Foregone: The Age of People in First-Time Marriages Is Rising, and Fertility Rates are Declining — We Better Watch This Closely

In just a bit, we’re going to get to questions from our listeners but first of all, I want to look at some issues in our national conversation that have a great deal to do with how human beings live or are supposed to live, or huge questions about what has happened to the way the human beings are now living. Why do we see some of the patterns that we see right now?

Couple of patterns that should have our attention, particularly as Christians, is the pattern of the delay of marriage and delayed advent of adulthood for that matter in terms of the lives of many young people and a redefinition of marriage. And also, and this is where Christians understand, these two things are tied together, a significant fall in the total fertility rate or the birth rate. People are having babies later if having them at all, they’re having fewer children per couple. If you’re talking about a couple at all, all kinds of moral complexities. Some of them may possible by the technological revolution of advanced reproductive technologies as they are known. Some of it made possible by changes in the morality of the nation, how we define marriage, think of marriage, think of family. All of this has a very, very important impact not only in the society writ large.

And frankly, we’re looking at declining birth rates throughout most of the nations of the earth right now representing a significant national threat. More about that in just a moment. But it is also very important to us as Christians as we think about the impact of these issues on individual lives. So with a concern for individual human beings made in God’s image, that is men and women who are our neighbors and the people including the children of the future, we have a lot of concerns here. But also concerning society, which after all we understand to be a part of God’s plan even in a fallen world. So let’s look at some of these issues.

It’s very interesting that among the major media, there are some particular news organizations that seem to give a lot of attention to these issues. One of them is actually the Wall Street Journal. Now ask yourself for a moment, why would the Wall Street Journal which is the most influential economic newspaper in the United States. It’s an authoritative media source. It’s one of the old establishment media, it’s one of the largest circulated newspapers in the United States as well. But as you’re looking at the Wall Street Journal, why would these things be of interest? Well, for one thing, the Wall Street Journal is editorially at least a good deal, more conservative than most of the other major national media. If you want to have a little view of how that looks, just consider any one given day the editorial page of the New York Times compared to the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. And that would be true, by the way, today. You can just go check it out.

But nonetheless, you are also looking at the fact that the Wall Street Journal is after all a newspaper with an inordinate interest in the culture as represented in the economy. And that means that, readers of the Wall Street Journal and those who are the economic influencers in our society, they’ve got to pay attention to the big changes taking place even at the level of marriage, family fertility rate, because you’re doing the math that all eventually does come down to math, including how many diapers you’re going to sell, say in 2026.

So just recently the Wall Street Journal ran an article by Claire Sainsbury that headline’s this, “More People are Marrying Later in Life.” Now that’s very interesting. What occasions this story? Well, for one thing we’re told, “More Americans are getting married for the first time in their 40s and 50s.” Research shows the rates of first marriages in midlife have increased by 74% for women and 45% for men between 1990 and 2019, according to a study published in June. Let’s just stop there for a moment. That’s massive, people getting married for the first time. Isn’t it interesting that in the age of divorce, we have to put it that way? We’re talking about people getting married for the first time at significantly later ages, not only than the recent past but we simply also have to say than at any point throughout the history so far as we know it, of humanity.

The article cites Susan Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Boeing Green State University in Ohio who said, “Marriage delayed doesn’t mean marriage for gone.” Well, that’s an interesting statement because actually that’s been something a lot of people have been very much concerned about. Just looking, does this mean people are never going to get married or does it just mean that they’re getting married later? Well, let’s look at that article. The article just says, “Look, Americans are getting married later. And especially the exact statistics cited here is that the age of first marriage at an advanced age, say the 40 and 50s, that percentage of the United States and its population is now growing significantly.” So much so that it’s caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal.

Now, here’s where I want us to just step back as Christians and say, “What do we think about this? Why does this story appear to be important?” Well, for one thing, as we’re looking at marriage, we’re looking at what we continually remind ourselves about on The Briefing, we’re looking at the most basic civilizational building block by God’s creation design. So going back to Genesis 1, God made us male and female. Male and female created thee them, and then immediately comes the mandate, be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. And then the creation of marriage, as we see in Genesis 2, just the very next chapter. Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh. And the man and the woman were naked in the garden and were not ashamed, which is to say marriage is a part of God’s perfect plan for humanity.

And Christians understand that as we think about the world around us and as we think about human beings, we come to understand that marriage is the first thing we need to talk about after we talk about human beings being made in God’s image as male and female. There is simply no room in the biblical worldview for thinking about even what it means to be male and female in a world together without reference to marriage. After all, we’re just talking here about Genesis 2.

Now, throughout most of human history, getting married was not something that could conceivably be delayed for any large number of people till say the 40s or the 50s for a couple of reasons. Number one, as you’re looking at the expectation of marriage, that was basically one of the central and non-negotiable hallmarks of adulthood, and that turns out to be really important and it also turns out to be very biblical. Now you’re saying, “But does that mean that God’s intention is that every single man and woman be married?” No, but it does mean that the vast majority are meant for marriage, and it does mean that even those who are not married are, well just consider the phrase not married. They’re not married with reference to marriage. Marriage is the simple way that God shows us that civilization is to be built upon the conjugal bond between a husband and a wife, a monogamous, exclusive, lifelong union that is to be understood and privileged as the basic building block of civilization.

But there’s another reason why marriage basically wasn’t delayed, and that is that people needed to get married. And for one thing, as you’re looking at sexual morality, you understand that any sex outside of marriage was sanctioned by the society, not merely defined by God and made clear in scripture as sin. So in so far as you had a society that said, “We understand that sexual activities be limited to marriage.” Well, amazingly enough, young people tended to get married. But there’s a civilizational, a communitarian understanding of this that’s also important. The community, the neighborhood, the town, the nation needs young couples to have babies and to invest the time and attention and devotion necessary to raise them in order that the society will be not only continued, that’s rather necessary, but also if possible, strengthened.

So as you look at civilization throughout history, there isn’t a government that did not consider the coming together of its citizens in marriage and the reproduction of human beings by means of children born to parents. There’s not one civilization that did not take that issue with absolute seriousness. That’s why as you look at laws across nations, you’ll notice that laws privilege marriage. And as you’re looking for instance, even at something like the tax code in the United States or in most other European nations, there is an understanding that even the tax code should at least not disincentivize people being married.

But as we’re looking at this particular report, we’re talking about marriage being delayed this far. You recognize that we’re talking about a major shift in the way that human beings, well, as we live as human beings think, and as we relate to one another, there’s a lot more invested in that as well. But let’s just state the obvious, people who are getting married in their 50s and 60s, we do not look to them to populate the nurseries. And it is really interesting from a Christian perspective that as you look at this analysis offered in the Wall Street Journal, it’s very interesting to see that marriage, in the case of most of those who are quoted in the article and whose marriages are reflected in this research, marriage is about more than anything else, companionship and some romantic fulfillment.

Now, companionship and romantic fulfillment are a part of God’s intention in marriage. The marriage ceremony, the vows and the order of service that is familiar to most of us. And by the way, in the English speaking world, almost every marriage service is derived in one way or another from the book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, right down to the, if anyone knows any reason why these two should not be joined together in holy matrimony, let him speak now or forever hold his peace. Well, whether you recognize it or not, that goes back to an old Anglican expression. And as the book of Common Prayer order for the right of marriage describes the purposes of marriage, it deals with companionship and the rightful affection as the old book of Common Prayer said that the one sex has for the other.

And of course, they’re the conjugal rights that come with marriage, but also that old book of Common Prayer, ceremony of marriage includes as one of the purposes of marriage for the increase of mankind, which means, well, you figured that out already, babies. Now, I am not saying that it is not righteous for adults, say a man and a woman in their 40s or 50s or for that matter, 60s or 70s or 80s to get married. I’m not saying that.

I am saying that if that’s the norm, and if civilization honors that as the norm, that’s a civilization on its way out, not on its way in. Someone ought to at least have the honesty to recognize that.

Part II

‘Gathering Together for Dinner Can Feel Like an Impossibility’: Families are Now So Busy That Many Children Never Have a Family Meal — And the Children are Suffering

But just before turning to questions, I want to look at another article that just recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the headline in this one, “Why it became so difficult for families to eat together.” Now again, we as Christians understand that is a very important issue. Why would the Wall Street Journal think this is an important issue? Well, because the Journal is looking at the way human beings live and how we should understand that looking to the future. And here’s the big news, an increasing number of American families are too busy to eat dinner together. As a matter of fact, the research is indicating that there are a significant number of children who never actually seem to experience a family meal in which all the members of the family are sitting down and enjoying a meal together. This article is by Julie Jargon and Andrea Peterson, and I just want to tell you in it is reflected a lot of heartbreak, but in it is also reflected some of the key insights that come from biblical Christianity.

Now, just consider this, the authors tell us, “Nationwide surveys show that the number of dinners parents and children eat together has fallen in recent decades. The primary reason, the conflicting schedules of working parents and kids.” But the paragraph before states something different, and I want us to think about how we get to the one from the other, “A youth mental health crisis that was building for a decade before the pandemic has worsened over the past two years. In 2021, 44% of high school students said they felt persistently sad or hopeless in the past year.” That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “At the same time, mounting scientific research shows that gathering for regular meals and conversation might be one way to build children’s emotional resilience.” Now, who would’ve thought that? Who would’ve thought that human beings in particular in the context of a family ought to gather together and eat together?

Well, here again, you just have to note, except in circumstances of extreme poverty, social dislocation or something like war, this is what most human beings have considered normal, not every once in a while, but at least once a day, seven days a week. It is really interesting, is it not? To consider the fact that it wasn’t a Christian moralist, a Christian ethicist or a Christian preacher who said, “Look, I think I can make the connection between increasing rates of depression and children and teenagers and a lack of families eating meals.” But it wasn’t a preacher who said that, it wasn’t a Christian moralist who said that. It’s the Wall Street Journal that says that reporting on research by social scientists. It just points to a fundamental truth. God made us as social creatures. He made us as social creatures to be primarily socialized in the context of the family.

And it is not some evolutionary, materialistic, naturalistic accident that human beings are most social when we eat. There is something about a communal meal that changes the entire context. People say things they wouldn’t say if they weren’t eating. They talk to people they might not have a conversation with while they’re eating. They have eye-to-eye contact in a shared experience of pleasure and fulfillment as they are eating.

For the Christian we understand there’s a good deal more than that. God has made provision. The family prays together before the family eats. Someone has worked very hard, not by accident in most cases, the mother in the home to prepare a meal for her family. Others have participated in this and even as there are those who make provision for the meal and those who prepare the meal, there is the shared enjoyment of the meal. There are traditions of the meal, there are shared dishes, favorite desserts that become a part of knowing one another, and you’re never going to have the same experience in the drive through line at a fast food restaurant. You’re never going to have the same experience eating in the car with the children in the back seat looking at the back of the heads of their parents in the front seat. It is not the same thing. It will never be the same thing.

This report tells us about research which is indicated, “A correlation between a family’s frequency of gathering at the dinner table and the positive outcomes for children.” Listen to this, “But researchers debate whether the dinners themselves are causing the benefit or are a proxy for a family’s wellbeing and resources.” Another issue that might be helpful to all is the fact that these meals and the experience of sharing the meal together is significantly discounted by the presence of, well, you knew it, a smartphone. But not only that, a television even playing in the background. “The presence of screens during dinner, something that is overwhelmingly common according to several studies, can undo some benefits of communal meals. Having the TV on in the background has been found to reduce the quality of children’s meals. More recent studies have shown that meals without digital distractions are associated with lower obesity rates and higher quality family interactions.”

Who would’ve thought?

So in summary to the glory of God, I guess the bottom line of today’s episode of The Briefing, based upon this research in our consideration of the Christian worldview as this, get married, have babies, have dinner together.

As you know, there’s more to it than that but as we also know, there’s not less to it than that.

Part III

When Does Personhood Begin? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Now we turn to questions, as always.

Great questions sent in by listeners. One is a medical doctor who wrote in an OB-GYN. He wrote in about conversations about the sanctity of human life and about when personhood begins. He raises an interesting question.

He says, it’s one thing to say that human life begins at fertilization, but when does personhood begin? This doctor says, “Well, there’s some complexities to this including twins, because twins in the beginning are one fertilized egg,” and this is the case of course of identical twins, “but they become two different persons.” So at one point, does personhood begin? Well, there’s some interesting questions in this. I appreciate this doctor writing in. He says, “How do we argue in personhood begins in this situation?” Well, it comes down to this doctor. I think for one thing, the main issue we have to press back against here is the assumption that personhood is a subjective experience. That someone’s a person when they know themselves to be persons. And you might think, “Well, that’s an extreme argument,” but that’s increasingly the argument being made on the secular left.

Peter Singer, a professor at Princeton University goes so far as to say that one is not a person deserving of rights until one has the conscious ability to know oneself as a person. That’s absolutely frightening. And by the way, that would allow not only for abortion right up until the moment of say birth, it would allow for infanticide because that baby is made in the glory of God and that baby is a person. But that baby though she knows she’s hungry, does not yet know she is a person. That subjective dimension can’t be our understanding of when personhood begins.

The issue of personhood, by the way, becomes very, very important once we enter into the conversation about who has legal standing. Persons have legal standing. Now, even with all the confusion in the courts right now, that’s why a pig can’t show up in court with an attorney but a human being can, as a person. And when we talk about something like homicide or even an injury to a person, well, it requires a legal definition of a person. Here’s the logic of the Christian understanding, at least as the Christian Church is basically sought to understand this issue through the last 2000 years, and that’s been an ongoing conversation. But there’s a continuity and the continuity has been this, that whenever God says, let there be life, God’s intention is made manifest at that point.

And here, doctor, I would simply say if indeed we’re talking about identical twins, that was God’s purpose from the beginning. So even as some scientists may look and say, “That’s one fertilized egg,” it is actually already two persons. And the logical issue here is what becomes so dangerous. And that is because if we come up or try to come up with any point after fertilization where personhood is supposedly going to begin, that means that before then that is not a person. And this is where I think from the biblical perspective, just think of David and the Psalms for example. We have to understand that personhood is a part of God’s eternal plan that is actualized in what we would know is the coming together of those two cells to become a fertilized egg.

And at that point, and at no point after that are we safe in saying, “There’s a human person.” Because that is God’s intention and that should be the natural biological outcome. If there are two people, well, that’s what we recognize, that was God’s intention. When did they become persons? Well, it wasn’t in some moment of the differentiation or the development of that fertilized egg. It was in God’s purpose from the beginning. If we arbitrarily come up with some point after fertilization, then we cause grave injury by the way, to the entirety of humanity because every single human life that becomes contingent upon meeting whatever qualification we might come up with. And that’s a formula for absolute moral disaster.

Doctor, I’d love to hear more from you. Let me know what you’re thinking.

Thanks for writing us at The Briefing.

Part IV

Why Did God Put the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a 7-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

Next we have a question from a dad. He’s named Nick writing in about a seven-year-old son named Jude who asked a question, “If God is good and all-knowing why did he place the tree of the knowledge of evil in the garden of Eden knowing that Adam and Eve would sin?” Well, Nick, I have to say you have a very thoughtful seven year old in asking that question. I’m glad to respond to it. There’s a basic Christian answer to this that is found in scripture, and here we have to look at the entirety of biblical theology. But it comes down to this, God and his sovereignty determined that he would bring himself greater glory and show human beings a greater form of love by redeeming us as sinners from our sin through Jesus Christ than if in the garden we had never known sin and never known him as the one who has saved us from our sin.

Let’s put it this way, John Calvin, one of the great Protestant reformers, he simply put it with this very easy formula. In the garden, had human beings never sinned, we would know God as creator and that would be glorious. But in the church, we know God is creator and as redeemer and that is infinitely more glorious. In that sense, we understand that whatever God does is right. So Jude, let me just tell you, if God does it, it’s right. Why did he do it? It is because he had a better plan than we would have for ourselves. And that plan is shown in what God sovereignly determined from the beginning is the way that he would redeem sinful humanity from our sins. That’s why Jesus came, and that’s what Jesus came to accomplish and he did.

Jude, I love your question and I simply want to say that it is so sweet to know that God loved us so much that he wanted to show us his love by sending his only son that whosoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life. That’s a greater understanding we have of the love of God than we would’ve had, had Adam and Eve never sinned.

That’s the best way I know to answer it. I think that’s the way the Bible answers it.

And to both Nick and Jude, I want to say thank you for this question and thank you for listening and sending this question all the way from Senegal in Africa.

Part V

What is the Distinction Between Justice and Fairness? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, Patrick writes in asking about something I had mentioned on The Briefing, and that’s the distinction between justice and fairness. And in all fairness, he asked the question, “What’s the difference between the two?” Well, what I mean by that distinction, Patrick, is this, fairness is often a matter of our human evaluation and understanding. We really don’t ask two five year olds playing in a sandbox to play just. We ask them to play fair because fair is something that human beings can understand and it’s not something that absolutely requires justice and fairness is something that can be contextual. It’s something that might mean one thing in this circumstance, something else in another circumstance.

We might have arguments about what is actually fair in any given situation, but fair is not enough when we think about the attributes of God. God is not described in this moral sense is fair, but rather is just, and it is he who is just and who executes justice and justice might not even look to human beings as fair, but it’s better than fair. It’s infinitely greater than fair. It corresponds to God’s righteousness, his omnipotence, his holiness, the entirety, all of his perfections, which he holds infinitely and perfectly and eternally. So justice is an attribute of God that is revealed to us, and we are called to do our best to execute justice. But many of the moral dimensions that we understand in everyday life comes down to a dispute over fairness. Fairness points to justice, but justice is far greater than fairness.

It just might be that you could think again of a relationship between a parent and a child, when the child might complain to the parent that’s not fair, and maybe by an understanding of fairness it’s not fair. But the parent might respond and say, “Well, it may not be fair but it’s right and it’s right because it’s just.” Justice is a higher standard, it is a far greater reality than fairness and justice is that which corresponds objectively to the moral character of God.

When most of us use the word fairness, we’re not shooting for anything that high.

Part VI

Do Verses 4 and 5 of Proverbs 26 Contradict Each Other? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

But finally for this week, a question sent in by Glenn, he’s looking at Proverbs 26:4-5 and he’s asking, “Do they contradict one another?” Let’s just remind ourselves of the verses. Verse four, answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Verse five, answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. Well, that does sound at first is if it’s saying, “Do this and then don’t do this, or don’t do this and then do this.” But Glenn, it’s a smart question and it just reminds us, first of all, that scripture doesn’t and can’t contradict itself, and especially when we’re looking at two verses sequentially like this in Proverbs 26. God’s getting our attention and then we look more closely. Verse four, again, answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.

In context that appears to be saying, you cannot argue with the fool on the fool’s own terms without entering into foolishness yourself. But on the other hand, show the fool the foolishness, and that appears to be, I think what Solomon is telling his son here. That’s the wisdom that comes in Proverbs 26. Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. You can’t enter into false patterns of thinking without, well, thinking falsely. But on the other hand, you need to show the fool the foolish way of thinking. “Lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

Glenn, sometimes we just have to be honest and say, “The fool might not leave that conversation knowing that he is a fool, but the very fact that you have shown the fool is foolishness and he stays in. It means that once a fool, sometimes always a fool.” But then again, there is the possibility that the fool confronted with his foolishness will see the foolishness and abandon it, and frankly, isn’t that what has happened to all of us? Sometime we all need, when we’re uttering a foolish thought for someone to tell us, “That’s foolish,” without entering into our foolishness. Honestly in the Christian life, all of us, if indeed we’re growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, to look back at something we thought, something we said, something we imagined at some point in our lives and say, “That was foolishness and we should be thankful to be rescued from it and shown the truth.”

It’s sad in one sense ever to have been foolish. It’s a lot sadder to be determined to remain in that foolishness. Glenn, thanks for asking the question. Every single one of us as Christians should be very thankful that we are at times rescued from foolishness by the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.

By the communion of saints and being in the fellowship of other believers and by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it comes in a conversation with another believer. Sometimes it comes in the middle of the night when the word of God that was preached all of a sudden leaps into our minds in order to say, “Well, I thought that at one point, that was foolish.” That’s actually a picture of the gospel itself.

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’m speaking to you from Wilmington, North Carolina, and I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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