The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, March 3, 2023

It’s Friday, March 3rd, 2023.

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

Part I

A Once-Religious Society Falls Deeper Into Secularism: Spain Expands Abortion Rights and Trans Rights for Teenagers

The transition from a society that is dominated by Christian influence to one that includes Christianity among its influences to a post-Christian condition in which Christianity has almost no social significance, we’ve seen that in several nations, most importantly, in Western Europe, where the process of what is called secularization has now been well underway for a matter of decades.

But in general, even as I’ve spoken about the geographic fact or the social fact that secularization tends to be most accelerated and most present if you’re in a city, on a campus or on a coast, that’s just a longstanding pattern. It is also true that in Europe, secularization has been far more dominant in the north rather than in the south. That is to say where the climates are colder rather than where the climates are warmer.

Whether that has anything to do with it, that’s unclear. But even as you have in the south of Europe, nations such as Spain and Portugal, you have had nations that have had a very long, very historic tie to some form of Christianity and have been, at least until recently, far less evidenced by secularization than countries in the north where, for instance, in some of the Scandinavian nations, and you could say now you’re looking at Britain and of the nations catching up with Scandinavia, the process of secularization has been underway for a fairly long time, already very evident, so much so that current generations don’t know that their nations ever were dominated by an understanding of Christianity, if not an absolute commitment to it.

But what I want us to look at right now is Spain, because the headlines coming this week that are of greatest importance in this regard are coming from Spain. For instance, this headline in a story from the Associated Press that ran in the Los Angeles Times yesterday, “Spain okays laws on teen abortion transgender rights.” Now an observer of these issues and the continent of Europe might think that if Spain is in the headline, Spain, which has been so historically dominated by Roman Catholicism for, you could say over a thousand years, you could look at Spain and say Spain as well as other nations in the region have been more resistant to the social liberalization that has marked much of Western and Northern Europe. But in this case, it’s Spain okays laws on teen abortion and transgender rights, and these are very liberal laws.

The AP story begins, “The Spanish Parliament approved legislation expanding abortion and transgender rights for teenagers.” We are then told that the driving force behind the laws was Equality Minister Irene Montero of the group known as United We Can, and that party’s described as the junior party in Spain’s left wing coalition government.

Now, every word in that sentence turns out to be important. This is a left wing coalition government. And this just points to the fact that even though for century, Spain was dominated by Roman Catholic citizens and Roman Catholic voters, even the direct influence of the Roman Catholic Church, secularization has now come to Spain. And as a matter of fact, Spain has become one of the nations where secularization and moral liberalization are happening fastest. That’s why this particular legislation made the Los Angeles Times yesterday. There are plenty of nations that have okayed laws on teen abortion and transgender rights.

But what does it say that this particular legislation is being produced by a left wing government at the direction of a left wing minister in the nation of Spain? We’re talking about truly radical legislation, “The changes to sexual and reproductive rights mean that 16 and 17-year-olds in Spain can now undergo an abortion without parental consent.”

You also have the fact, “In addition, the changes enshrine in law the right to have an abortion in a state hospital,” and then we also have the portion of the law related to the transgender equation. When I say radical, I want you to hear just how radical it is, “Minors 12 and 13-years-old will need a judge’s authorization to change while those who are 14 to 16 must be accompanied by their parents or legal guardians.”

“Previously, transgender people needed a diagnosis by several doctors of gender dysphoria,” but that’s not the case here. Instead, what we have is a center left coalition in Spain pushing the sexual and gender revolution and pushing it downward in age even to teenagers in both counts, when it comes to abortion and transgender rights.

Now, the Associated Press understands the anomaly here. It understands the big story, in one sense, a story bigger even than just the issues of abortion and transgender surgeries, “The abortion law builds on legislation passed in 2010 that represented a major shift for a traditionally Catholic country transforming Spain into one of the most progressive nations in Europe on reproductive rights.”

Now, that’s astounding. It’s just so important we need to understand it because what it warns us about is this. You can have a country that appears to be heavily committed to one moral identity until all of a sudden, it isn’t. But you’ll notice that you don’t shift from holding a pro-life position to neutrality. You go very quickly through neutrality, if you pause there at all, to moving from a pro-life position to a radically pro-abortion position because the logic of the entire legislative project takes you in one direction or the other. Mediating positions don’t last for very long. When you have a society being transformed as fast as what we see in Spain, well, that just has to demonstrate that there is a massive worldview realignment that’s already taken place.

Now, either one of these major items of legislation, big moral legislation on teen abortion and on transgender rights, none of that would have been possible just a matter of a generation ago, but now, they’re actual, they’re brought into effect. That’s what the headline news is telling us here, and that points to that underlying worldview shift. And as the Associated Press notes, this is due to the lessening of the influence of Roman Catholicism in the country, “The abortion law builds on legislation passed in 2010 that represented a major shift for a traditionally Catholic country transforming Spain into one of the most progressive nations in Europe on reproductive rights.”

You look at the shift there, even the Associated Press notes it. You have a country that was once dominated by a Roman Catholic worldview, and in this moral sense, that is for the better part of these issues, very much connected to historic Christianity, a pro-life position, a pro-marriage position, a position understanding the normative morality of sex as limited in expression to the union of a man and a woman in marriage. That’s fundamental to Christianity. That’s not even distinctively Roman Catholic.

But now Spain, rather than representing that traditional Christian understanding and morality, it now represents one of the most socially progressive, that’s the word that’s used here, nations in Europe on reproductive rights, and you could add some other issues to that as well. It’s just a warning to us that nothing remains the same when this process of change starts and when it gets underway.

Because many people who advocate some form of social liberalism say, “Well, we’re going to go this far, but we’re not going to go any further.” Well, good luck with that. That’s not going to happen. Once you begin to detach a society from any normative ethic, then well, this is what you’ve done. You’ve detached the society from any kind of normative ethic. That means that eventually, the left will win. The activists for change will overcome those who are resistant to change.

That’s the way activism works. That’s why Western societies have been moving in more liberal and progressive directions by their own designation for the better part of the last century and more. The activists win precisely because they bring action, they bring energy, and yet, they could not win if the total society had not undergone a fundamental change, which once again, is best summarized by the word secularization.

Part II

Some Moral Sanity Preserved in California: Sirhan Sirhan Denied Parole Yet Again

But I’m going to turn back to the United States for a moment and just remind us that even in a morally confused age, and even in a more secularized society than it’s ever been in the past, such as in the United States, there is still a residual moral knowledge that cries out and we need to pay attention to this. There’s still a residual moral knowledge that even in a society that wants to deny any objective right and objective wrong, that society contradicts itself by saying certain acts are so evil that they are beyond our imagination and even beyond cultural forgiveness.

I am looking at two big headlines that have appeared in recent days. I’m going to look at the articles as they appeared in the last couple of days in The New York Times, but both of them about situations that are really localized in California. They’re national stories, the California was the Dateline. The first has to do with the fact that a California panel on Wednesday of this week, denied parole again, to Sirhan B. Sirhan, the man convicted for the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Now, as you look at that, you recognize that the state parole board, or at least an advisory board had recommended that Sirhan Sirhan, the convicted assassin of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who at the time was the frontrunner for the 1968 Democratic Presidential nomination. He was assassinated in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles just after he had given a victory speech for winning the Democratic primary in the 1968 presidential campaign winning the California primary passing through the kitchen of the hotel, he was assassinated by gunshot by Sirhan B. Sirhan.

Sirhan said that he had undertaken the act because of his opposition to Senator Kennedy’s support for Israel, and in particular, the pledge he had made to send military planes to aid Israel. California law requires that the parole board consider cases such as Sirhan Sirhan, he was given a life sentence. He’s now 78 years old. What made news a matter of just recent history is that the parole board itself had, in reviewing the case, indicated that it might be appropriate for Sirhan Sirhan to be released on parole. Some members of the Kennedy family, by the way, supported that decision, but the vast majority did not.

Listen to this, “On Wednesday after hearing Sirhan’s 17th parole hearing, the new recommendation was made by a commissioner and a deputy commissioner who were not part of the review panel in 2021.” Governor Newsom had no comment. “The assassination of Mr. Kennedy stunned the nation, occurring as Americans were grappling with deep generational and cultural divisions, the Vietnam War and the movement for civil rights. Mr. Kennedy, the brother of a beloved president who only a few years before had also been assassinated, had just won the Democratic presidential primary election in California.”

Now, some had suggested that age should justify Sirhan Sirhan’s parole. He served long enough. But other members of the Kennedy family and the public in California responded with an outcry saying, “This life sentence has to mean a life sentence.” Now, the big issue I’m pointing to is the problem of moral evil, and in this case, a very sensational demonstration of moral evil and the assassination of an American presidential candidate, and of course, the second assassination undertaken against members of just one family, the Kennedy family, in the span of just a few years.

What does that tell us? It tells us that there’s a residual moral certainty that at least resides within a majority of the American people. In this case, in the state of California where that moral impulse is. Look, parole might be justified in some cases, but not in this case. Even as you’re looking at a convicted criminal who’s now 78 years old, well, most of the members of the Kennedy family who had input into the parole board’s decision, and by the way, Governor Newsom had called for a reconsideration once the parole board seemed to be moving in the direction of granting parole. That wasn’t politically survivable in all likelihood for Governor Newsom, at least on this issue and furthermore, again, that basic moral instinct kicked in.

At least as Christians, we need to recognize that. One thing we see is that even in an age that is more and more at least officially committed to a moral relativism or at least a moral progressivism, when it comes to certain crimes, there’s the understanding that just doesn’t apply. We will not feel safe if this man is set loose among us. What we say about parole on the one hand, well, we’re going to take it back in this case.

That also has to do with an obituary that ran also in The New York Times, other newspapers as well, about a woman who had a key role to play, or you might say even two key roles to play in the Manson movement in the murderous 1960s. Charles Manson was one of the most infamous and notorious figures of the 1960s and beyond in the United States. He established what amounted to a criminal gang that was combined with a religious or semi-religious cult in which he was basically the guru, the center of gravity, and of course much, much more.

He called for a basic understanding of nihilism in which he tested his disciples by their willingness to follow his instructions right up and through the process of mass murder, calculated cold-blooded mass murder. The murders, which so shocked to not only California but the nation, were identified as the Tate-LaBianca murders, which took place in 1969.

Now, I just want us to notice the moral proximity here. The assassination of Senator Kennedy, 1968. The Tate-LaBianca murders and the Manson trials in the late 1960s, the murders just one year later in 1969. This was a period in which it appeared that the United States was just coming apart at the seams morally and one of the things Christians understood is that there is a deep spiritual dimension to this. Charles Manson didn’t just form a gang or what he called the Manson Family. It wasn’t just committed to the use of drugs and other crimes including robbery. It was a murderous cult. It shocked the American moral understanding. It was a deep, deep blow to America’s self-confidence because after all, these were not persons who had come into the United States from without. There were young people who’d been raised within the United States during the period of its great post-war prosperity.

The murders were absolutely gruesome, and I’ll just leave it at that. But the point is that this is an obituary for Linda Kasabian, and she was the lookout and she basically drove the getaway car for these murders. But later she turned on Manson, she turned state’s evidence, and she had a very important role to play in the state’s prosecution against Charles Manson and those who had actually carried out the murders. Now, this points to some other huge moral issues.

But what I just want to underline right now is that even in an age in which many people said when it comes to sexual morality, all the rules are off, every morality is just relative. It’s just a matter of personal preference. Morality is just another form of oppression. When these murders took place, the very same people turned around and said, and let’s thank God for this clarity.

They turned around and said, “That is objectively wrong. That is an immoral act. Society has to respond to these murders with not only law enforcement, but with the most effective and indeed extreme penalties available to us in society.” Now, Charles Manson would die in prison just a matter of a few years ago. And now Linda Kasabian has died after having been paroled. But what’s also interesting in this is that her parole was inherently controversial because the huge question came down to this. Could anyone who had been involved at any level, much less the direct involvement of Linda Kasabian in these murders, how could she ever be safely reintegrated into society? By the way, another interesting fact that’s revealed in the obituary is that she basically, post parole, had to live under an assumed name. She had to hide her identity because let’s just put the matter clearly. No one is going to feel safe if they found out that Linda Kasabian was their neighbor.

All this just to look back in one state to the late 1960s and recognize that even as the process of secularization and moral liberalization was taking place then, there were limits to how far a society was willing to go, especially when it came to the unavoidable recognition of very real, moral evil. That’s a point of moral sanity and from time to time, we just need to be thankful for it and recognize that that moral sanity is only there because we are made in God’s image.

Part III

What is the Definition of Virtue? Is Being Virtuous Contingent on Accepting Christ as Lord? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, we’re going to turn to questions, and I always appreciate questions from listeners to the briefing. Hudson wrote in, he’s a sophomore in high school, 16 years old. He discusses a recent class time, a discussion that the class had on virtue. By the way, it’s kind of encouraging that a class of 16-year-olds was discussing virtue. But he goes on to say, “We were asked to come up with our own definition of virtue. My definition of virtue was grounded or founded on 2 Peter 1:5-29. I believe that pure virtue is founded on the salvation decision, meaning those outside of the redemption of Christ Jesus cannot be virtuous.” Now, he says, “Is this true? Is the most important virtue the acceptance of Jesus Christ as your savior? And what is the definition of virtue?”

Well, wow, huge questions, Hudson, and I appreciate you asking them. Here, I’ll simply have to say that when it comes to discussing this kind of moral language, we could say you could use the word virtue, and that’s often compared to vice. You could use the word noble, as in someone who is acting noble versus someone who is not. As you look at that, you recognize some of this language is a matter of perception. Some of it’s a matter of social custom, but you’re right to say there has to be a deeper theological, there has to be a deeper moral reality than that.

But I also want to turn this another way and say, even as you’re saying that one can only be virtuous if one is a follower, a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, there’s a sense in which you have to be right, but there’s another sense in which there is a right way, a correct and almost necessary way to describe certain persons who are not Christians, even in the ancient world as something like virtuous pagans rather than less virtuous pagans or noble pagans as might be compared to less noble pagans. This was a problem for the early church. Let’s be clear. This was a very big apologetic challenge for the early church, because the fact is that there were so many noble lives as measured by a secular definition of virtue, even a classical definition of virtue. There were many in the ancient world, who clearly were not Christians, but they seem to embody virtue. They seem to embody nobility.

Now, I want to say, Hudson, you’re right in that not one of us is just, not one of us is good, not one of us is true. Everything that is good, everything that is true, everything that is truly noble in us, everything virtuous in us comes by the Lord Jesus Christ. It comes entirely by grace. It comes on the basis of His sinless life, His moral perfection, and the atonement that He accomplished for us. And so, Hudson, I just want to say that my definition of virtue is moral behavior, character and attitude that corresponds to the law of God. I think that’s what virtue is. But here’s just where we need to concede intellectually that even as we live in a neighborhood, we would rather live in a neighborhood of virtuous pagans than live in a neighborhood of non-virtuous pagans.

It just points to the fact that human being’s made in God’s image. It kind of takes us back to where I was just a moment ago. Made in God’s image as moral creatures, there is at least the capacity for human beings, even lost sinful human beings, and this is by grace as well, it’s by common grace, given to all human beings, there is the potential to live lives of greater and not lesser nobility and virtue corresponding to God’s own character. But of course, no one is in heaven by nature of our virtue. All those who are in heaven will be there solely and exclusively and eternally because of the priceless, infinite, unblemished virtue of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hudson, you’re absolutely right to point to the necessity of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. But I just want to come back and say, we have to be careful that not even that is accounted unto us as virtue. Salvation is all of grace, in the beginning, in the end, and in the middle. And yes, it is the virtue of Christ that saves us, and having been saved by Christ, we are called to live, even the apostle Paul put it this way, virtuous lives.

Part IV

Why Did Humans Start to Eat Meat After the Flood? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Jana wrote in to ask a question, and by the way, I especially appreciate this. She identifies herself by saying, “I’m a homeschool mom of six spanning ages five to 17.” Well, bless your heart. I don’t know how you had time to send me this question, but I’m thankful you did. She says that in conversation with her children, one of her daughters asked why God allowed for humans to eat meat post the flood when we had been originally designed to subsist on plants.

This mom says, “I postulated that perhaps post flood, drastic change to the climate would’ve made it necessary to broaden sources of complete protein as certain plant species would potentially not have thrived well post flood.” What an incredibly thoughtful mother. I’m, however, not going to argue botany. She says, “The kids all wanted me to ask Dr. Mohler if you had any insight on the introduction of animal meats into the human diet.” What a great question, what a fun question, and what a fun family, evidently, talking about such things as a Christian family.

Let me just say this. We need to keep in mind that the sovereignty and omniscience of God means that even as God reveals Himself progressively to us in scripture in such a way that one thing happens after another, actually God doesn’t change His moral disposition, nor does He change His fundamental plan. That’s what I point out. We have to be very careful as Christians. We don’t say the Old Testament, the Old Covenant was God’s plan A, but that didn’t work so we had to move to plan B, which is salvation accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ. No. Jesus Christ is the lamb of God slain before the foundation of the earth. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

But that just reminds us of the fact that even in the flow of covenantal history, even in the flow of biblical theology, by the time you get to Genesis 9 with the Noahic Covenant coming after the flood, even as the world is now affected by sin, this was not a surprise to God who had planned our diet from the beginning.

But there’s something else here we simply as Christians need to note. The eating of animal flesh, which requires the shedding of animal blood, has not only dietary but theological significance in the scripture. And so, this is all part of God’s plan and a part of God being God is that he tells us the parts of the plan he wants us to know and he doesn’t tell us the other parts.

I just have to say, and I say so without the slightest twinge of conscience. I just recently ate a delicious meal of meat, actually more than even one kind of meat. It was in many ways, a meat feast, and I was able to eat it without the slightest twinge of conscience because of the Noahic Covenant and the fact that God gave us meat to eat.

Now, just to get into one detail of your question, I think that means that God made our digestive system in order that after the fall and even after the flood, we would be able to process the meat that we eat. And so, I’ll just say I’m thankful to God that he did. I’m thankful to God for the Noahic Covenant because we have meat to eat, among other things. But I’m more thankful for the New Covenant, the Covenant of Redemption, whereby I am saved and it’s God’s continuous purpose through a succession of covenants and I just want to thank you for writing this question, and I just want to tell you, I admire your family for having such a deep, and I think, very responsible biblical conversation.

Part V

How Could King Solomon Be Called Wise While Having 700 Wives and 300 Concubines? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Alston, who’s a seminary student at a Southern Baptist institution, he says he’s always loved the Old Testament and the valuable lessons that God teaches us through his word, but he says he has a huge question about King Solomon.

How is it that Solomon can be described as a man of such great wisdom, and remember that this was Solomon’s request of God, that he would be given great wisdom, how can he be so wise “and yet be so foolish in having 700 wives and 300 concubines?” Now, we should also mention the fact that in the Book of Proverbs, there’s a clear denunciation of such foolishness, and Proverbs, of course, is associated with Solomon himself. How do you put all this together? Well, two things, Alston, and I’m going to say one’s more important than the other.

Number one, human beings are horribly inconsistent. Even as we look at this in a grotesque form in King Solomon, the fact is we have to acknowledge it in some form in ourselves. We see inconsistency in the mirror, not only in Solomon.

But there’s another fact and, it kind of takes us back to the virtuous pagan. Even as Solomon is wise in many respects, he is extremely unwise in other respects as 700 wives and 300 concubines would bear testimony. I’ll simply say that it’s almost beyond…it’s beyond my imagination. It’s simply staggering.

I guess that’s a good reminder to us that it is God who is wise and not we ourselves. Even as we speak of God is all-powerful and all-knowing, He is all wise. Immortal, invisible, God only wise. He’s the only wise one, and it’s a very good thing for us to take a human being identified as one of the most wise among us and be very thankful that the Bible is equally clear by showing that was a very limited wisdom, and that’s why we are dependent upon the wisdom of God.

Part VI

Should We Use Instruments in Our Worship, Or Should We Sing Acapella? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Finally, a question from a 15-year-old named Grace. What a beautiful name. She asked the question, “Do the Scriptures show that we should use musical instruments to accompany our singing as we sing praises to God or should we just sing acapella? Acapella meaning, of course, just human voices, just the voices?” Well, what’s the answer to that question?

Well, I can’t really tell you from Scripture, the answer to that question. I’ll simply tell you that it raises a major question in biblical interpretation, and I’m going to tell you what it is. It comes down to how to apply what Protestants call the regulative principle, which is to say, our worship should be regulated by the word of God.

Now, the word of God is extremely clear about certain things stated positively. We should sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The preaching of the word of God should be the central act of worship. There should be the singing of hymns. There should be the delivering of prayers. God’s people should come together, and of course, they’re the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

But the point is language as used in worship is extremely important, and the most important issues in worship have to do with language, using words and getting the words right. When it comes to how to sing songs, the regulatory principle comes down to this question. Are we in scripture, limited to obedience to the things that God has directly commanded? Or are we able also in our worship to do things that God has not expressly forbidden? Those are two different ways to understand the regulative principle, and to be honest, it’s a good thing for evangelical Christians just to remember that this is a very valid debate, and just to underline the fact that our worship is to be regulated by scripture.

The use of instruments in worship is not directly addressed by scripture. There is no explicit authorization. There is no explicit prohibition. It is left up to the church as a wisdom issue, and I’ve never been a part of a church that did not allow some musical instruments. I have visited churches where they were not allowed and everything was acapella.

I think a prudence argument could be made either way, but I am not in a position to say, since there is no scriptural prohibition, that it is expressly wrong for a church to use instruments to accompany the singing of hymns. The command positively is that we are to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, encouraging one another in biblically-directed worship.

Again, a wonderful good question from a young person. I like questions from persons young and old, but it is interesting that so many of the important fresh questions come from very thoughtful young listeners, and I am thankful for every listener, especially for those who as young people, write in with such good questions.

We’ll turn back to more questions next week.

But for now, thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at 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 before a live audience in Santa Clarita, California, and I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).