Friday, December 16, 2022
It's Friday, December 16th, 2022.
I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Buyer Beware, There’s Always a Worldview Story Behind Toys: American Girl Publishes Book Pushing Puberty Blockers to Adolescent Girls
Well, worldview determines just about everything. Eventually we work out who we are and what we believe.
Our most basic beliefs, our most basic understanding of reality works out in every dimension of life. And that includes not only in the big issues of life, had to do with life and death and right and wrong, but also what we find humorous and the toys that entertain us.
And yes, I say us because adults do have toys. They're just will generally a bit more expensive than the toys of our children. But nonetheless, to think of childhood is to think of toys, and that's a natural combination. Children and toys go together.
Childhood is an age in which play is actually something like an occupation. Play is how children learn, is how they learn actually many of the most important facts of the universe. It's also a way they learn to relate and they learn who they are and they learn how to have fun.
They learn how to cooperate, but they can play sometimes by themselves. They prefer to play with others and they like to play with toys. I mentioned yesterday that throughout human history you can find archeological evidence of coins. Did you know you can also find archeological evidence of toys?
And some of them, by the way, are toys that we could actually recognize right now. Balls were early on discovered and invented and enjoyed by human beings and particularly given to the youngest among us.
And it's not only that, it was also toys that make noise, toys that look like other objects of life, including miniatures of animals and also, say, small boats in a fishing village. Dad has a boat and now the child has a boat.
But the toys also tell us a great deal about the particular understanding of childhood held by a certain age or a generation. That's what makes the history of toys particularly interesting. Of course, throughout most of human history, toys had to basically be energized by the child.
Only with the advent of power and batteries and all the rest did toys achieve a certain kind of power of their own. But toys also reflect who we think we are. Toys reflect an idealized understanding of humanity in human endeavors.
And when it comes to dolls, well, dolls have a very particular place in the pantheon of toys. Because dolls are representative human beings and generally throughout most of human history, they have been dolls that have been babies or very young children.
That changed, by the way, in the 20th century and that's a part of our discussion today. But in this case, I'm talking about dolls that have now engendered controversy and in particular dolls now owned by the Mattel Corporation. I'm talking about the American Girls Series.
Throughout history, dolls have been mainly played with by girls and they have tended to be girl dolls. And the American Girl Series began as a project of historical reproductions of girls idealized from certain periods of American history.
They were given names, they were given personalities they were given period dress, and they became a way basically of associating with history and with an ethos of girlhood and they were wildly successful with the American Girls products actually being transformed into American Girl stores and with long lines generally out front.
American parents, toy makers discovered, were actually willing to pay far more than had been known before for dolls for their daughters. And it became something of a mother-daughter experience sometimes going to the store and the girls would often have a collection of this doll and that doll and with the appropriate accessories and dressing all the rest.
But now that looks so, well, yesterday. As a matter of fact, that line has been known as historical characters, but it is by no means the major focus of the American Girl brand today. As far back as 2014, eight years ago, the historical characters line of product became BeForever.
That's one word, B-E forever, BeForever. It's understandable that calls for greater diversity, we're also a part of the background of the marketing and merchandising of the American Girl Series and the dolls multiplied.
But the point is that if you're talking about this kind of moral imperative now you're eventually going to run right into very crucial letters, and those letters are not G-I-R-L or D-O-L-L. They are L-G-B-T-Q. The current controversy about the American Girl Series is that it comes now with a book series and one of the latest issues in that book series is a 96 page book that is all about puberty blockers and transgender identity.
Reporter Vanessa Serna for the Daily Mail offers a very extensive investigative report. She begins with these words, "American Girl has stuck to its guns and refused to apologize for pushing advice for pre-teens to obtain puberty blockers if they feel different despite widespread outrage over its controversial new book."
The new book is entitled, A Smart Girl’s Guide: Body Image, by American Girl author Mel Hammond. Now as the report tells us the book includes lines like this, "If you haven't gone through puberty yet, the doctor might offer medicine to delay your body's changes, giving you more time to think about your gender identity."
If nothing else, this just reminds us of the fact that in today's cultural context that context demands that you take sides. You're going to take sides for or against puberty blocker. Period. You're going to take sides for or against transgender surgeries or so-called gender affirmation surgeries.
You're going to eventually come out for or against the use of puberty blockers for children including very young children, children before they reach puberty. You're going to be talking about whether or not it is right or wrong.
You're going to have to choose a side here to have a series of books for very young girls including one that presents to them rather undiluted forms of LGBTQ ideology, emphasis on the T.
You have to wonder how many American women who had known these American Girl dolls back during their own childhood if they expected that the series would now reach the point in which a book from the series states this, "The way you show your gender to the world through clothes and behavior is your gender expression. Your gender expression can be feminine, masculine or somewhere in between and it might change! Maybe you'll experiment with bright dresses and long feminine hairstyles, or you might try baggy shorts, plaid shirts and a buzzed haircut. Your gender expression should make you feel at home in your body."
Later in the book these children, including pre-teens, are given advice on their chosen personal pronouns.And once again, the issue of drugs such as puberty blockers is actually brought up in this book. And also the book includes language about the fact that if you don't want to talk about this with the adults in your house, and that would include your parents, well, there are organizations that will talk to you about these issues.
And the implication here is that those people will be far more encouraging towards the child. The ideology is in quintessential form with this kind of statement and I read directly from the book, "While gender expression is what you show on the outside, gender identity is how you feel on the inside, a girl, a boy, or someone who doesn't quite fit into either category."
"When a baby is born," says the book, "a doctor looks at the baby's body parts to assign it sex, whether the baby is female or male. Most kids grow up feeling comfortable in the sex the doctor assigned and this kind of person is cisgender," and it's spelled out phonetically.
"But for some," says the book, "That assigned sex doesn't match who they know they are inside. A kid who is assigned as a male might know herself to be a girl inside, for example." Notice the pronoun there. This is not only describing the ideology, this is pushing the ideology.
The language of non-binary is also explicitly presented to the children who would read this book. I was interested to see a response to this from an author by the name of Bethany Mandel who writes for a Deseret News in Salt Lake City.
She is identified as a homeschooling mother of five and a widely published writer on politics, culture and Judaism. She describes exactly what is reported in the Daily Mail in this new book in the larger approach taken by the American Girl series.
And she says this, "The revelations coming right at the height of the holiday shopping season could not be more poorly timed for the company." American Doll and Mattel, that's the company that owns American Doll now, "Now have a choice. They can stake their position and risk the financial backlash or they can try to regain some of the trust they've lost."
"In the coming days the company's response to the outrage will reveal its decision, decision and then American parents can shop accordingly." Now I appreciate the clarity in that challenge this author has given, but I'll simply suggest that it's coming way too late.
Over the last several years, this brand owned by Mattel has been marching progressively to the left and with increased stridency and openness as you see in this book in the American Girl Series. I mentioned that American Girls, a brand is now owned by Mattel, but Mattel basically rose to prominence in America on another doll and that doll was named Barbie.
And this year, by the way, Mattel brought out the first transgender Barbie. But trust me, Barbie did not start out transgender. There was no question what Barbie was advertising. American parents bought their daughters, at least I think they were buying them for their daughters, the Barbie dolls without recognizing that the doll began in Germany as a very explicit.
I'm not going to go any further, a very explicit toy and not for children. Ruth Handler brought the doll to the United States, named the doll Barbie and with her husband founded the Mattel Corporation. Yes, there's a huge worldview story behind toys and sometimes even behind toy companies, not to mention individual toys and rather very well-known toy brands.
We're going to move to questions, but it is really important that we recognize that there's a battle for the hearts and minds, for the eyes and the imaginations of our children.
And at Christmas with toys so much a part of the cultural conversation about Christmas, we need to understand that there are those who are seeking to inform our children and to form our children, your children with the toys they are trying to sell you for your children.
And with the product lines that are associated with those toys, they're going after the hearts and minds of a America's children. And millions of Americans, including countless American Christians, probably don't want to think about that kind of cultural dimension, that kind of moral dimension, that kind of worldview dimension when it comes to something that should be as innocuous as a doll.
But these days in modern America, nothing is inherently innocuous and that comes as a warning to us all. Buyer beware when it comes to the American Girl series, they're trying to sell a lot more than a doll. Trust me on this.
Why Did It Take So Long for God to Send Baby Jesus? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a 3-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing
Next we're going to turn to questions and in particular to questions that focus on Christmas.
Some of these are new. Some of these even as they're sent in by listeners are kind of recurring questions and some of them are particularly sweet. For instance, a question that came in from Judah age three asking, why did it take God so long to send baby Jesus? Well, you know Judah, that's very much a part of the Christmas story.
The people looking for Jesus and praying for Jesus and waiting for Jesus had to wait a very, very long time. And I think you can understand that sometimes we want something even more when we have to wait for it. We understand just how important it is, just how much we want that day to come.
And Judah, there is a verse in the Bible, it's Galatians 4:4, and we're told, "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law that we might receive the adoption as sons."
Judah, what God is telling us here is that he sent Jesus at just the right time. Certain things had to happen in order that when Jesus came we would know who he is. God knew exactly when that time was and he just told his people to pray for the coming of this baby, to wait for the coming of this baby, to be ready for the coming of this baby.
And he told us some things about this baby, including the fact that this baby would be born in the town of Bethlehem, which Jesus was just as God had said. Now, Judah, I'm going to guess that sometimes it's hard for you to wait for things.
I just want to tell you that grownups sometimes have a hard time waiting too. And you ask a really sweet question, why did God's people have to wait so long for God to send Jesus? And the answer is, it is because God who loves us more than we can even understand, knew exactly when to send Jesus to save us from our sins.
Should Churches Gather on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day This Year? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
But next, a question that recurred this year, several people sent it in and it has to do with Christmas Eve coming on Saturday night and Christmas thus coming on the Lord's Day on Sunday. And the question is, when should churches meet? One form of the question was this, should churches gather on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day this year?
Well, that requires us to think for just a moment, and I think it's probably best that we started the end of the question and move backwards. So we do know this, the one thing that is made clear in scripture is that God's people gather on the Lord's Day.
So that means on Sunday, that means Christmas Day. And so yes, local congregations should meet on the Lord's Day, not because it's Christmas Day, but because it's the Lord's Day. But moving backwards, this form of the question said, should churches gather on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?
But that comes back to something else, and it's something that's kind of recent in church history, especially recent in evangelical history. When would evangelical churches gather on Christmas Eve? And the answer was rarely, if ever. There generally wasn't a Christmas Eve service among evangelicals.
That's something that developed by the 1980s in the 1990s in a widespread way, there might have been some congregations that had a Christmas Eve service. It was sometimes as well as a New Year's service known as a watch night service. In other words, waiting for Christmas or waiting for the new year to come, but it was not invested with liturgical significance.
That was a very important issue to evangelicals and generations past. Catholics, for example, and other liturgical churches, including the Anglicans or the Episcopalians might formalize a right for Christmas Eve, but Evangelicals had no such rite. That is our r-i-t-e, no such liturgy, and no such expectation through most of evangelical history.
Now let's be clear, there's absolutely nothing wrong with an evangelical congregation having a Christmas Eve service. As a matter of fact, there's something right about it in the same way that Evangelicals out of a reformation impulse often avoided rather assiduously Good Friday services because that appeared to be something like a Catholic mass.
And that's a different thing entirely. The reality is that there's nothing wrong with having a Good Friday service on the Friday before what is celebrated as the Sunday of resurrection. We know that every Sunday celebrates the resurrection and nothing wrong with having a festival of the resurrection.
There's nothing wrong with having a festival of the incarnation that we know as Christmas. There's nothing wrong with a Christmas Eve service regardless of the day of the week on which Christmas Eve falls. The point of the gathering on December the 25th this year is not that it is Christmas, but that it is the Lord's Day.
It happens also to be Christmas and that can be a very sweet coincidence. Now we also understand that there are Christians who because of travel and because of other family responsibilities and just because of dislocation, might not be with their own congregation on the Lord's Day on Christmas Sunday.
But the fact is that local congregations should gather this year on December 25th, not because it's Christmas, but because it is the Lord's Day.
Does Jesus Have Mary’s DNA? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Another question was sent in by an adult who overheard a teenager ask a question the previous Sunday. The question was this, does Jesus have Mary's DNA?
And I go back to the very same verse that I just read and answer to Judah's question Galatians 4:4, that Jesus was born of a woman. In other words, there is every biblical indication that Jesus did have Mary's DNA, she was his mother. He was conceived in her womb. Now his conception was by the Holy Spirit.
There was no human father, but Mary was very much the mother of Jesus in every way. It's really, really important we recognize that Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. It means the Son, the second person of the Trinity taking on human flesh and that meant real human flesh.
And having been conceived in a real human mother, well, she was, as I say, in every way his mother. The Scripture is very, very clear about that. There is no mystery as to the fact that Mary was the mother of Jesus and Jesus was the son of Mary. Now at the same time, simultaneously he was and is the Son of God.
So Jesus did not have DNA from a human father. He did not have Joseph's DNA because Joseph and Mary had not yet known one another. But there is no biblical reason whatsoever that we would believe anything otherwise than that Jesus had Mary's DNA.
Now no one would've known then and frankly until very recently in human history what DNA is, but the way the Christian Church has affirmed this throughout its doctrinal history is to say that Mary was in every way the mother of Jesus.
Why Is It Assumed That There Were Three Wisemen? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Sometimes there are questions that just come to us when we're thinking maybe reading scripture. One of them is this.
Why is it assumed that there were three wise men or three magi? And of course that's Matthews gospel. And the answer to that question is we really shouldn't assume there were three wise men. There is no number given to them. They are plural. We do know that wise men from the east, the Magi, but even as they came because they saw the star and knew at least in part the meaning of that star.
And they came because of the birth of a king, a king signaled by that star and they came to give gifts to that king of gold and frankincense and myrrh. And by the way, those were royal gifts. This was a set of gifts to be given to a king that would've been immediately understood by all there in that part of the world in the first century.
But the point is that we have no idea how many kings there were, how many wise men there were, how many magi, we have no idea, but we do know they brought three different gifts. And that's why we have often just from traditions spoken of three wise men. And by the way, one of the most important aspects of Matthew's account about the wise men is not how many of them there were or even about the three gifts that they brought, but rather the response that they gave to Jesus.
As we find in Matthew 2:10, "When they saw the star, they rejoice with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and fell down and worshiped him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to him, gold, frankincense, and myrrh." The most important thing there is not just that they brought the gifts, those gifts were high in symbolism, gold and frankincense and myrrh, but it's what they did when they saw the child with Mary, his mother.
They fell down and worshiped him.
Where Was Jesus Before He Was Conceived in Mary? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Another really good question came from a listener, where was Jesus before he was conceived then ascended to the right hand of God? That's a really good question. Remember that Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. This means that he assumed human flesh, real, authentic, genuine human flesh, that he was born of the Virgin Mary.
And you asked the question, where was Jesus before he was conceived in Mary? He was with the Father. Now that's made very clear. I think the most crucial text for our understanding here comes from the words of Jesus himself in John 17 and what we know as the high priestly prayer of Jesus.
As Jesus begins his prayer to the Father there in John 17, he says, in what we know as verse 4, "I have glorified you on the earth. I have finished the work which you have given me to do, and now Oh Father glorify me together with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was."
So that speaks not only to the time before Jesus was conceived within the womb of Mary, it tells us of where Jesus was when he was with the Father in perfect fellowship with the Father, before the creation of the world. It is to that perfect fellowship with the Father in heaven that Jesus returned in the glory of his ascension.
But the difference now as Jesus is with the Father again seated at his right hand, is that he is now the Lord Jesus Christ incarnate, reigning. And that means that Jesus did not leave his body on earth, rather his resurrected body was ascended unto the Father.
So what is new where Jesus is with the Father in his perfect fellowship with the Father now after his obedience in the young incarnation obedience all the way to the cross, what is new is that Jesus is now also in flesh, resurrected flesh with the Father.
And what's also new is that given his obedience, the Father has elevated him, given him the title, Lord, that is found in Philippians 2 and is also now seated in the place of honor at the right hand of the Father.
What Does Isaiah Mean When He Says that the Government Will Be on Jesus’ Shoulders? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
The final question we're going to be able to take this week is this. What does it mean when Isaiah says the government will be on his shoulders? Well, that is prophetic messianic language, and it refers to the fact that Jesus as the very son of God, and we believe in retrospect, clearly prophesied by Isaiah even in this passage.
We believe that what is spoken of here is the kingly aspect of Jesus' work and his office. He is prophet and priest and king. You'll recall by the way we were just talking about the Magi, the wise men, remember that they had seen the star in the East and they understood the star to mark the place where the king of the Jews was born and thus they went to Bethlehem.
This is a part of the fullness of the New Testament revelation about Jesus and also about the fulfillment of the Old Testament in the life and indeed even in the birth and in the accomplished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah may not have been able to see clearly, God's people throughout those centuries may not yet have been able to see clearly.
But looking backwards, we are able to see clearly that this is a prophecy about the Messiah, indeed about the Lord Jesus Christ the Savior. And it is a prophecy pointing to the fact that he is indeed king. That's what it means when it states that the government shall be upon his shoulder.
The government in this case on his shoulders means, it is by his authority. And one day, as we know, when the day of the Lord will come, the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ will be revealed in its fullness. We as Christians understand that in the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the kingdom is already here.
And so we can state as just a matter of fact that the government is upon his shoulders. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Remember this promise of the increase of his government in peace, there will be no end upon the throne of David and over his kingdom.
And remember that passage concludes with the words the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. And that is exactly what the zeal of the Lord of hosts has done and in completion on the day of the Lord will do. The magnificence of Christmas underlines the fact there's so many questions, good questions for Christians to consider and it's good for us to have this kind of thoughtfulness addressed to Christmas.
I appreciate thoughtful questions coming, but then again, I just appreciate all of you listening to The Briefing. And as we think about Christmas, I just want to wish for you and pray for each and every one of you and for your families a most wondrous Christmas filled with the joy of Christ.
We consider these issues day by day on The Briefing because the headlines come at us fast and furiously, and one of our challenges is to think about these things as Christians. But there also comes a moment when we need to think about other things and we need to give priority to stepping back from some of these headlines for a few days in order to focus on things eternal.
And that's exactly why families joined together. It's exactly why congregations joined together. It's exactly why it is right and proper to make Christmas and the celebration of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious birth of Christ in Bethlehem, to make this a focus here as the year comes to an end.
And that means that the next edition of The Briefing will come on Tuesday, January 3. That's going to be a few days from now, and that time will pass all too quickly. But I just want to wish for you and pray for each of you that most wondrous Christmas, may the joy of Christ fill your hearts and fill your homes.
May the promise of the gospel give you such great joy. May the fact as we've just been reminded so sweetly today of the fact that God's people waited so long for the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, may we greet the celebration of his birth with undiluted joy.
And may you have the precious gift of time with your family and your loved ones as you celebrate the birth of Christ together for unto us, a child is born, unto us a son is given. Merry Christmas.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. More informational Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
Lord willing, I'll meet you again on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023 for The Briefing.