The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, November 11, 2022

It’s Friday, November 11, 2022.

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

Part I

In Historic Turn, Benjamin Netanyahu to Lead Israel Again: What Does Bibi’s Return to Power Mean for Israel?

Lots to talk about and think about, this week, especially about the midterm elections, but we’re going to hold further comment and analysis on those stories until next week. And one reason is that we still have returns that are coming in very slowly, and some of those might not be in even over the weekend. But we should have at least a clearer picture of what we’re looking at in the political and moral landscape of the United States. But now, I want us to turn from the United States to Israel because, in the big news of the last several days, has been the rise, again, a former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to be the political leader, the head of government in Israel because not only were elections held in the United States, but elections were also held in Israel.

And Israel has had so many government elections of late because there have been so many government crises that this really turns out to be a very big story, especially since you may remember that Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister of Israel as recently as about a year ago. But he left in the light of a scandal and the breakup of his political coalition. But he’s back, and he’s back arguably even stronger. There’s a bit of background here that I think will be particularly interesting to Christians. One of the things we need to recognize is that the Israeli election that will bring Benjamin Netanyahu back to power is one that underlines, in a new and emphatic way, the religious character of Israel as a nation, or at least the religious character of the coalition that will bring Netanyahu back to office as prime minister. Now, if that shocks you, just consider the fact that the history of Israel, going back to the foundation of the modern nation in 1948, was explicitly secular, even as Israel was designated as a Jewish nation.

And that is because most of the founders of the modern state of Israel were decidedly secular, even as they were Jewish, and when I say secular, I mean avowedly secular. There was a sense in which the religious character of Israel and religious parties in Israel were put on the fringe, on the periphery, and that’s what makes this most recent election and the winning coalition so important. It is because arguably, for the first time, you have, with the comeback of Benjamin Netanyahu, a coalition that includes what are often described as far-right religious parties that are absolutely determined to underline the religious character, the Jewish character of Israel, not just as a matter of heredity and ethnicity and nationality, but as a matter of religion and of theology as well.

Netanyahu is, himself, a very interesting character. He comes from a very well-known Israeli family. His brother was one of the most famous casualties of the Israeli raid on Entebbe that freed the hostages, and as you’re looking at this, you recognize that Benjamin Netanyahu is also the man who has served longest as the prime minister of Israel, the longest serving of any prime minister in Israel’s history. He first went to office as prime minister in 2009. He continued until 2021, and now, in just a matter of days, if not hours, he will be back as Israel’s head of government and prime minister. But this time, his coalition is decidedly different. The coalition that broke up, leading to the resignation of Netanyahu in 2021, was a coalition made up of Netanyahu’s party, the Likud party, with more centrist parties. But the coalition that will bring him to power, this time, is a coalition of his Likud party and far more conservative and explicitly Jewish, that is to say, religious parties.

Now, all of this also points to contemporary, political tensions, not only in Israel but around the world, and what just has to be described as a very tragic weakening of support for the nation of Israel among many in Western Europe and some on the left in the United States. You might suppose there is a big story there, and indeed, we need to look far more closely at this story. The modern state of Israel was established in 1948, and it was by official action of the United Nations. In 1947, the United Nations had passed resolution 181 on the disposition of the British mandate in Palestine, as it was known. That basically set the stage for the rise of Israel as a modern state. When the founders of the modern state of Israel, the next year, 1948, established the nation and announced it to the world, they made very clear that Israel was to be defined as a Jewish state, as a Jewish nation.

And furthermore, the United Nations had used that very language in 1947 in a document known as the United Nations Partition Plan for British Palestine. That turned out to be really important because the legitimacy of Israel, as a nation, it began in a claim that it was a Jewish nation, that is to say, it was to be a Jewish state. It was to be a state defined by the fact that it was, uniquely in the history of the modern world, a state designated as a refuge for the Jewish people. And of course, the political and historical context to that was the horror of the Holocaust and the deaths of so many millions of Jewish people at the hands, most directly, of Nazi Germany and the Third Reich, but also of many others, and of course, the tragic history, going back centuries, of the persecution of the Jewish people.

All of this in the aftermath of two developments, and those developments were the triumph of the Western allies over Nazi Germany and then the breakup of the British mandate in Palestine that gave the opportunity for the Declaration of Israel as a modern state. It’s also important to recognize that one of the major issues that gave credibility to the establishment of the Jewish state was the almost immediate recognition of Israel, as a nation, as a Jewish state, by the United States of America and, most importantly, by the American president at the time, Harry S. Truman. That became an absolute game changer. And even as the United States and Israel have had certainly some bumps on the road, in terms of international relations, the reality is that Israel and the United States have been extremely close allies for the entirety of the history of Israel. It’s also important to recognize that Israel, financially and politically, could not have existed nor been founded in 1948 without incredible reservoirs of support, especially from the Jewish population in the United States of America.

I will never forget, a few years ago, having dinner in a wonderful restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then looking on the wall and seeing a portrait of Golda Meir, the famous woman who served as the prime minister of Israel. Now, my first thought was, why would a portrait of Golda Meir be in this restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? It is because, sitting in that restaurant, I came to the historical realization that Golda Meir, who at one point was certainly the most famous of the prime ministers in Israeli history, particularly in the United States, it was across the street from this restaurant that Golda Meir had grown up as a girl in the United States, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. But there’s something else we need to note here, and that is that we have a divergence taking place. And Christians need to watch this divergence with great interest and, furthermore, with concern.

And that divergence is between those in the West, who are clearly operating from a more secular perspective, and that ends up being liberal or progressive, in general terms, as you’re thinking about worldview and outlook, politics, morality, and all the rest, and those who are moving in a more conservative direction, which not coincidentally, ends up being markedly more religious. I’ll just use that term, markedly more religious than those on the left. And in the main, that means the more orthodox branches of Judaism, and it means the more traditional populations of Roman Catholics, and it means the more evangelical among Protestants, and so you really are looking at that divergence. It’s the divergence between those who are ardently and self-consciously theistic, theological, on the one hand, and those who are increasingly secular. One of the sad things we’re watching right now is that the political left in Europe, but also now in the United States, is turning quite hostile to Israel and, in particular, to Israel in its identity as a Jewish state.

It is simply, to secularists, unthinkable and increasingly unacceptable that there would be any state on planet Earth that is defined in terms of its religious identity. And of course, that does require a certain historical explanation, and the Holocaust should be sufficient explanation to understand why it is so. It is also one of the tragedies of history that that land was not empty, it was not unoccupied, and thus there was, by the action of the United Nations. And remember, the British mandate as a part of the British Empire, had created its own identity for the area, and the reality is that that set up a rather permanent network of conflicts between the Israeli population, the Jewish population, in what is now the state of Israel, and what has been defined usually as the Palestinian population. But the reality is that nothing stays the same, and it’s not just worldview transition in Western Europe and in the United States of America moving largely in a secular direction, to the left.

And it’s not just the move in the opposite direction increasingly in Israel, as seen by the most recent elections that will bring Netanyahu to power. It is also the case that birth rates really matter, and when you’re looking at Israel, you have to see the fact that the Israeli population is not experiencing a birth rate that is going to maintain Israel as a Jewish nation, under the contemporary context of any expanding population of Palestinians within the borders of the state. Now, just understand that that represents a great deal of the tension in Israel, and it is something that’s reflected also in challenges to many western nations, and for that matter, even many Asian nations around the world. Falling birth rates are a very bad thing wherever they are found, and increasingly, they’re found all over the globe. That, in itself, is a very sad testimony about the importance and the function of a worldview. A worldview that doesn’t produce babies is, by definition, irony intended, a sterile worldview.

It’s also important to recognize that the current government that will now form a coalition in Israel, in far more conservative terms, the conservative impulse in Israel is largely because of the failure of the Israeli left that had assured the Israeli population that there would be a peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. But that peace has not been found, and instead, there’s been increasing violence and tension between the Jewish population and the Palestinian population. A long story there, longer than we can deal with today, but I will simply say, it is the failure of the Israeli left and of any coalition of the center and the left that opened the door for this conservative coalition. And by the way, you’re going to hear many people in the West say that this conservative government in Israel is a far-right, extremist government.

When you’re looking at any coalition government, you are likely to have some who might be described as being on the political fringe or the extreme, but the reality is that a lot of this is simply scare language from the American and European and, for that matter, also the Israeli left.

And finally for today, on this issue, it’s important to recognize that many Christians feel a special commitment to the Jewish people and to the state of Israel that is, for Christians, theological, even if, for many of the residents and citizens there in Israel, it is not so theological.

That’s an interesting irony, but one important to note, nonetheless.

Part II

Why Do You Consider Salvation By Grace Alone an Essential Doctrine? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

But next, we turn to questions. I always appreciate the quality of questions sent in by listeners to the briefing. Remember that you can send in your own question by simply emailing it at

But now, let’s turn to the first question, and it is about justification by faith alone. Jason writes, “In your article on theological triage, you place salvation by faith alone as an essential doctrine.” He says, “Can you give some historical precedents for this?” He then asks, “Was this a clear,” in speaking of the reformation, “Was this a clear teaching of the church before the Reformation? And if so, when did the Catholic Church depart from it?”

Very interesting question, and Jason, it actually leads to the necessity of taking a little responsibility, here, for some honest, historical work, and it comes down to this. Yes, I believe that there were preachers, throughout the history of the Christian church, who have faithfully preached the gospel, which is justification by faith alone. I don’t believe that Martin Luther was the first. I do not believe that the apostles were the last. I believe that, all throughout the history of the Christian church, there must have been those who honestly and urgently preached the gospel, which is justification by faith alone.

But by the time you get to the 16th century, the tradition of the church was not justification by faith alone, and the common preaching of the church, then the Catholic church, as you would know it, was not defined by justification by faith alone, and indeed, an entire structure of theology and liturgy and practice and, of course, indulgences and all the rest was put together in a way that was directly contradictory to the doctrine, or the understanding of the gospel as justification by faith alone. And that’s why there was a division in the church. Now, Martin Luther, the reformer in the 16th century, he did not start out, first of all, to break with the Roman Catholic Church. That just happened of necessity. He didn’t start out focusing on the doctrine of justification. He started out by pointing out abuses and corruption within the Roman Catholic system and calling upon the Pope to address them.

But in argumentation and given the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church, Martin Luther began to develop what became the theological framework of the reformation, and this eventually would be codified in the so-called five solas. Sola gratia, that is that salvation’s all of grace, sola fide, all of faith, solus Christus, all by Christ, on the basis of the authority of scripture, sola scriptura, and ultimately and pervasively and eternally to the glory of God, which is soli Deo gloria. Those five solas, or onlys, marked the framework of the reformation faith and the birth of Protestantism, and as Luther and his successors have pointed out, the Roman Catholic Church believed in Scripture. The Roman Catholic Church, then and now, believes in justification. The Roman Catholic Church believes in grace and in Christ. It is the word alone or sola that is combined with every one of those terms, that differentiates the Protestant understanding from the Catholic understanding.

Now, Jason, I’ll just say that our ultimate purpose should not to be Protestant rather than Catholic, but to be, first of all, biblical and to hold to the gospel. And I’m simply going to argue that I am a Protestant because I believe that the Reformation was the recovery of the gospel, on the authority of Scripture, and thus that this gospel is to be the only gospel preached by the church. And a gospel church is going to be a church that preaches this gospel. But then, you ask a very intelligent question, and it’s got a little twist in it. You ask this question. “Was this a clear teaching of the church before the Reformation? And if so, when did the Catholic Church depart from it?”

Now, if Luther were available here for an interview, I think Luther would say the church departed from it centuries before Luther arrived on the scene, and yet, it was clearly being refuted by Catholic preaching and by practice, at the time, but it wasn’t yet codified. And so, your question actually turns out to be very interesting. In one very real sense, the Roman Catholic Church didn’t officially, doctrinally deny justification by faith alone until it was responding to the Reformation, in what became known as the Council of Trent, particularly in session six of the Council of Trent, in the year 1547. So, that’s exactly 30 years after Luther’s famous nailing of the 95 theses to the door of the church, there at the Wittenberg Castle. So, you’re looking at this, you recognize, 30 years after the Reformation is understood to have begun, the Roman Catholic Church answered the Reformation with the canons or decrees of the Council of Trent. It took years for these to unfold, and thus, we have an honest disagreement here.

We can say that with great respect. We have an honest disagreement. The Catholic position on these issues, in the official doctrine of the Catholic Church, is very different from the doctrine of the Protestants and especially of those who stand as the heirs of the reformation, who would claim biblical authority to hold to a very contrary view of the gospel. And thus, you ask, “When did the Roman Catholic Church make this official?” I’ll simply say in the session devoted to the doctrine of justification, but in particular to canon 24, in which the Roman Catholic Church handed down an anathema. That is to say, someone who teaches this is to be understood as a heretic. Let him be anathema. Listen to this, “If anyone sayeth that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God, through good works, but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof, let him be anathema.”

So, I think Luther would say, along with the other Protestant reformers, the Catholic church had been teaching contrary to justification by faith alone for a long time, but it didn’t make it official until it was responding to the reformation in the canons and decree of the Council of Trent. And I’ll simply say, with the distance of something like 500 years, this is still a very honest disagreement between the Roman Catholic Church and Evangelical or Protestant Christianity.

We differ over the very nature of the gospel, and it comes down to a disagreement over that one word, sola or alone.

Part III

If Marriage is Supposed to Be a Monogamous Relationship Between a Man and a Woman, Why Did Many of the Old Testament Patriarchs Practice Polygamy? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, I want to turn to another very good question from Brett, and Brett writes in about marriage. And he says, “You say that God’s intention in marriage, from Genesis forward, is that marriage be the exclusive union of a man and a woman.” But then he asks, “How do we answer those who argue against that definition of marriage and instead bring up the Old Testament patriarchs and kings?” And here, he’s speaking specifically of polygamy, the practice of numerous or multiple wives. The first thing I want to say, Brett, is that, when you are looking at polygamy, heterosexual polygamy, and then you compare that to what is defined as same-sex marriage, we still have a category distinction. And the category distinction is that polygamy is not against nature, to use Paul’s language in Romans 1, whereas same-sex relationships, romance, and sex are against nature, and so that’s a clear distinction.

First of all, polygamy, I believe, is a sin, but it is not a sin that is against nature. It is, however, a sin against God’s intention. First of all, we have in Scripture, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” You do have the arrival of polygamy in the patriarchs and beyond, and this is where we understand that there’s a crucial question. And that is, did the patriarchs sin? And the reality is that there was evidently a dispensation, during that time, in which God at least did not curse them for their polygamy and did not punish them in their earthly life for this polygamy. But it’s also clear that polygamy was often, in itself, a sin.

And furthermore, Jesus himself makes this clear in Matthew 19, when he spoke about marriage, and he said, “Have you not read that he who created them, from the beginning, made them male and female and said, ‘Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh, so they are no longer two, but one flesh.’ What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” It’s interesting that, in the words immediately following that passage, and remember it was a Pharisee that had asked him about divorce, the Pharisees then came back and asked Jesus, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”

Jesus’s answer is just really instructive. In verse 8, in Matthew 19, Jesus responded to them, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning, it was not so.” And so, that’s a very interesting statement, coming from Jesus himself, that a certain accommodation, whether it’s divorce and, by extension, polygamy, it was due to the hardness of hearts. It was not God’s plan from the beginning. We should honor God’s plan from the beginning. But same-sex marriage is not the same thing even as polygamy.

Because even though I think it’s right to identify polygamy as sin, and that’s certainly true by the time you get to the New Testament. Just consider not only the words of Jesus, but also the amplified words of the apostle Paul. Here, you come to understand that it’s not, nonetheless, a sin against nature. That’s a very different thing.

The Scripture takes it with enormous seriousness.

Part IV

Can You Clarify the Distinctions Between The Right and Conservatism (and The Left and Liberalism)? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, a good question from Cole.

He says, “On The Briefing, you have, in passing, noted that the right is not the same thing as conservative. I assume you’d say the same about the left and liberal or progressive. Can you explain this difference more?” He says, “I tend to think of the right and conservatism as the same thing.” That’s because they’re very closely related, Cole. You’re absolutely right about that. By the way, the terms left and right go back to the assembly, during the time of the French Revolution, when it was the liberals who were on the left and the conservatives or traditionalists who were on the right. And thus, it was just a matter of that reference between the left and the right, but they stuck as political labels. And that’s where we need to recognize that conservatives are, in general terms, on the right, and liberals are, in general terms, on the left.

But here’s where we also need to understand that, if liberal, taken honestly, means any kind of commitment to classical liberty, any kind of political spectrum that is still committed, nonetheless, as liberal to liberty, in this sense, that’s distinct from the left, which can be decidedly anti-liberty. And thus, you have a coercive left. You have an even radical left. You have a communist and a Marxist left, and it’s not, perhaps, right to call them liberal because most liberals would not go that far. That’s why, in political language, you hear references to liberals and to leftists, and in general terms, that means that the leftists are politically, ideologically beyond the liberals.

The same thing is true on the other side, where it is true that conservatives are on the right, and it’s true that most on the right are in some sense conservative. But there are those on the right who are far beyond conservative. They’re not really seeking to conserve. They actually are radicals of the right. They may be seeking to put in place a totalitarian or fascist state from the right, and thus, there are those on the right that conservatives would want to have nothing to do with, the same way that there are, or at least have been, those on the left that classical liberals would want nothing to do with.

Now, the problem is you have, on both sides, the accusation, coming from conservatives, that liberals are actually melding in with the leftists, and you can see the argument, in the mainstream media, that conservatives are now indistinguishable from the right. But honestly, that simply is not true. And that’s why I want to argue for a spectrum that has a center point, and that’s not neutrality. There is ideological significance there too. But as you move to the left, you have the liberals and then, beyond the liberals, the leftists, and then on the conservative side, you have the conservatives and, beyond the conservatives, the rightists.

Now, of course, a lot of this comes down to who gets to define the terms. Every one of these is a contested term. But as a conservative, I want to say that conservatism has an essential character, and the position has essential content that differentiates it, not only from those on the left and from liberals, but also from those who are ideologically merely on the right, but who deserve, in no sense, the label conservative.

Part V

Why Don’t Muslims in the West Face the Same Religious Liberty Issues as Christians? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Finally, a question from Jason, and he asks a very interesting question. He says, “When you think about all the issues concerning wedding photographers and cake bakers and hospitals and all the rest, with the intersection or the conflict between the LGBTQ movement and religious liberty.” He says, “Where are the Muslims?” He says, “I haven’t heard much from American Muslim groups. Is there a very practical reason for that? Not many Muslim cake bakers, photographers being asked to use their artistic talent for same-sex weddings, or not many Muslim hospitals being required to perform abortions or gender-affirming surgeries?”

Very interesting question, and one of the answers we have to give here is that, when you look at Islam in the West, you look at Islam in the United States, you have to make a distinction between those who identify as Muslim, but who do not hold to traditional Quranic Muslim teachings, and then those who do. But the other thing to recognize is, when you raise the issue of, say, a Muslim hospital, so far as I am aware, there are no Muslim hospitals in the United States of America.

And it just points to the fact that the institutional presence of theistic religion, in the United States, is overwhelmingly Christian, and that’s why most of the collisions between religious liberty and the LGBTQ revolution are identified with Christian institutions. But as we shall see, Orthodox Judaism and classical Islam, given the teachings of the Quran, Roman Catholicism, and evangelical Christians are all in the same place, in terms of being out of step with the demands of the new sexual and gender ideologies.

Once again, I appreciate the questions. You can send your own to I’ll get to as many as I can.

And 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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