The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, April 21, 2023

It’s Friday, April 21, 2023.

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

Part I

A Word from the Heart: My Sincerest Thanks to Listeners for Prayer and Encouragement

I am glad, indeed, I am very glad and thankful to be back with you today for The Briefing. I want to express appreciation to all of you, who listen to The Briefing and have expressed concern and prayer and support during the last several days when I had to miss the program due to a health crisis and I’ve been honest by putting out reports that say that health crisis involved bilateral pulmonary emboli.

I’m just very thankful the Lord preserved me and I am going to be following all the medical advice and doing all the right things just because I am very thankful to have this opportunity. I’m thankful to God for preserving me, for an incredible medical team, and particularly for my wife and family who love me so much, for the staff with whom I get to work.

It’s just a reminder, the fact that we are not alone. We stand in a giant web of dependency and all of that comes back to the faithfulness of God in giving this opportunity and so I want to be a good steward of that. I just want to thank you again, first, for listening and also for your prayer and concern in recent days.

I will also just say that the Lord has a way at times of telling you what you’re not going to do as in The Briefing, among other things, for the last several days.

Part II

Once a Technological Innovation Now a Bygone Artifact: Netflix Ditches DVD Rental Business

But I do want to turn on this Friday to question soon, but as we are looking at this week, this Friday edition, I want to mention just a couple of news stories. Not the most important of the week. We’ll be turning to the more important, to the heavier worldview considerations next week on The Briefing, Lord willing. But I do want to mention today just a couple of very interesting things that tell us something of where our culture is going.

Number one, we are still dependent upon technology and we are influenced by technology to a degree that many of us just don’t think about. Furthermore, the timeline of technological change and the velocity of that change means that, by definition, almost anyone coming of age at a certain moment takes those technologies for granted, as if they have always been here. Now intellectually, those smart young people know those technologies have not always been here, but in their lives basically, they’ve always been here. Then, of course, we have the technological imperative that tells us that things are likely to change in fast and unpredictable order when it comes to many technologies.

But you reach a certain age in the society and somewhere in your house there is likely a drawer or a box with lots of stuff that you don’t need anymore, but you once unquestionably needed or at least it was a part of your life.

Take, for example, your drawer or maybe it’s a box somewhere of useless technological equipment. You once needed it, you once used it, you may have depended upon it almost hour by hour. Some of you remember the Blackberry, which was such a technological revolution in itself, the ability to send this kind of text message long before phones were able to fulfill that kind of function.

But then you probably have a good many phones somewhere in your drawer or in your box. If you’re of a certain age, you probably have flip phones, you have bag phones. If you haven’t thrown them away, you have phones for which there’s absolutely no use, except in order to show them to your children or grandchildren and say, “This was once a phone.”

But it is interesting when you have one of these shifts on the technological plates of society. One of those shifts was announced just in recent days when Netflix has announced it is getting out of the DVD business.

Now, in many ways, the success of Netflix as a company in terms of its initial explosive growth had everything to do with the DVD. First, you had the transition from the VHS tape to the DVD and then, of course, to streaming technologies. But the DVD was the big game-changer because the distinction between the VHS tape, that was a magnetic tape, and the DVD was the fact that the DVD was digital. Indeed, the DVD stands for Digital Video Disc.

The DVD was, the most important word there was not the disc or the video. It was digital. It was the digital revolution that made the DVD possible. And, all of a sudden, what had required feet upon feet, yards upon yards of magnetic tape within a complicated device was now reduced to a single disc, the same kind of DVD disc you would use in your computer, if you remember back that far. You had these discs and, all of a sudden, a full-length motion picture could be on this disc and, furthermore, with digital technology at a visual and video standard far beyond that of the VHS tape.

All of that appeared to be a giant revolution and it turned out that’s exactly what it was. I think that most listeners to The Briefing are likely to be surprised by the fact that Netflix has just ended, or announced the ending, of its DVD program. You probably thought it was ended a long time ago. But actually, millions and millions of people in America have still used the DVD and they have still looked to Netflix as a source of those DVDs.

Netflix is not getting out of the DVD business because DVDs don’t work anymore. They do. They’re getting out of the business because the DVD has been transcended by the new streaming digital technologies, unless you do not even need the physical object of the disc, the disc as in DVD. So DVDs are out of the Netflix picture going forward after 25 years of Netflix engaging in this DVD-by-mail business.

Here are a couple of interesting notes from Nicole Sperling’s report in the New York Times, “At its peak in 2010, roughly 20 million people subscribed to the DVD service,” that’s 20 million in the year 2010, “but the practice is long felt anachronistic, and the company said that it will ship its final DVDs to customers on September the 29th.” Now, how many customers would that be? Netflix won’t say, but evidently those numbers are not so large that Netflix intends to continue the business. Nonetheless, this is an historic turning point.

The Netflix chief executive Ted Sarandos said, “Those iconic red envelopes changed the way people watch shows and movies at home, and they paved the way for the shift to streaming.” He then said in a letter to subscribers, “To everyone who ever added a DVD to their queue or waited by the mailbox for a red envelope to arrive, thank you.”

Some trivia provided by the company, the very first DVD that was mailed out by the rental company was Beetlejuice starring Michael Keaton and Geena Davis. The most frequently requested DVD of all time in the Netflix catalog was The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock. In terms of numbers, over the course of the last quarter-century, the company has sent out more than 5.2 billion, that’s billion with a B, DVDs.

Now, most of the media attention to Netflix has to do with whether or not its current business model is viable and will attract a requisite number of investors with sufficient confidence and a significant number of customers willing to pay the Netflix subscription cost, but the point is the big technological change and the end of the company’s DVD service does tell us something about the pace, and you might even say the inevitability of the technological cycle. That cycle eventually comes to the point where a technology just isn’t commercially viable anymore.

Now, there’s something else for us to note, or at least for us to think about, because there are many people who have said, “You know, I still prefer the DVD because when I buy a DVD I own that DVD.”

Now, that gets to a very interesting legal question. It is not certain, at least as might be contested in many courts, who actually owns what on a commercially produced DVD. Most likely the answer actually comes down to some sort of licensing that is related to the DVD, the use of the DVD under certain circumstances. For instance, you would not be able, according to the DVD contract, to receive a DVD and open your own theater and sell tickets for people to see the movie. It was a personal use.

But still when it came to a DVD, and remember they came in the plastic packages that had the outside advertising for the movie and you could put them in a DVD library that could take up feet within your house, at least you felt like you owned something. But when it comes to streaming services, what do you own? Well, you own the right to watch what you pay for and if you pay enough to continue to watch those things going in the future. You basically have no ownership whatsoever.

Is that a part of the technological imperative? Many people predicted, by the way, that the DVD would mean the end of the movie theater because people could get such high-quality technological copies of the movies they want to see. And the big question was how fast will a movie be released on DVD because if it’s too fast, it’s going to eat into the box office sales.

But then two things transformed that equation. Number one was the streaming video that basically made even going out to buy a DVD seem like an onerous complicated process. The second big thing that happened was COVID. The reality is that the movie theater industry has not even come close to recovering from COVID and from streaming, and they may never be able to know exactly which factor contributed how much do the changing habits of Americans when it comes to viewing.

But all that in a worldview perspective just reminds us that when you are looking at technology, almost any technology, you are looking at a technology that probably has an expiration date somewhere out there in the future, whether you can see it or not.

But then let’s just consider a couple of alternative ways of looking at technology and time. On the one hand, you could take that DVD disc and we have a pretty good dating system from it just given Netflix, you’re talking about 25 years, that’s a significant period of time. But the DVD is now, right now, an anachronism. If you use it, you can still get away with using it. If you like it, you can still use it, but you’re not going to be able to get a lot of new product when it comes to DVDs. But if you’re hoarding all those DVDs somewhere, they are still going to play at least for a very long time.

But 25 years is just 25 years. Compare it with another technology, let’s just talk about one of the most epic of all technological developments, the wheel. It turns out that the wheel as a technology is extremely efficient, extremely effective, extremely popular, absolutely necessary. Without it, you cannot have anything related basically to the modern world. Try pushing along a car with square wheels. If you look at the latest rocket technology or hypersonic missiles, you’re talking about the ability to move things unbelievably fast and fast at an unprecedented historical frame. But if you’re talking about moving a box or moving yourself not on a rocket, guess what? We’re stuck just about where we were in 1958.

It turns out that technological change is uneven. Those who invented the wheel, they can say, “Well, that wheel is still being used, and it’s pretty much what it was before, still round.” But it’s really hard to imagine that you would go back to an airplane engineer in the 1950s and say, “Oh yeah, you remember that jet aircraft that you invented back in the 1950s? That is still pretty much how Americans are flying in state-of-the-art aircraft right now. How are things in 2023? Just about exactly the same as they were in 1958, although a bit safer.”

Part III

A Parable of the Decline of the Value of Weddings?: David’s Bridal Files Bankruptcy for Second Time in Five Years

But next, also speaking about change, the announcement has come that David’s Bridal has announced a second round of bankruptcy. So the company had first filed for bankruptcy some years ago, and then it was saved, in one sense, by an investor. But right now, David’s Bridal is in the position of announcing bankruptcy for the second time in five years.

You might be surprised to know that David’s Bridal currently has about 300 locations across the United States. It has something like 9,236 employees it is going to be laying off. We should be concerned for all of them to find good jobs.

The company, in making the announcement about the bankruptcy filing and the impending layoffs, also sought to assure very concerned and perhaps anxious brides-to-be that they are going to continue to fulfill current contracts and orders.

The company, in filing for bankruptcy protection, also announced that it intends to continue exploring a sale of some or all of its assets. It intends to continue in business in some form and, by the way, this is the way sometimes these things happen. You have a giant company, 300 locations, thousands of employees and it does survive, in some sense, but it might survive as a website with just a few employees located somewhere else in the world doing business under a continuing name.

Now you ask, what does all this mean? Well, of course, there are financial ramifications. There are community impacts here, 300 locations closing. There is another sense, though, in which we understand this could be pointing to something more basic, and that is something that points to the decline of marriage and the decline of weddings just being a part of that, the decline in the wedding business. Of course, COVID had an impact here as well. Even though weddings did not end, a lot of them were postponed.

But as a Christian speaking to this, I think part of our bigger concern here is that weddings just don’t mean what they used to mean. They do not, at least in terms of the cultural meaning, come with the same kind of priority and singular focus that was true in times past, and I think we recognize that is a moral and theological loss that will come with inevitable sociological consequences. It’s not just a matter of one bridal company announcing its second bankruptcy within five years. This is a bigger change than has to do with selling bridal gowns.

But a major change in the selling of bridal gowns just tell us something about our society and, frankly, when David’s Bridal was a young business, no one had any question who a bride was and the fact that the one who would match the bride is known as a groom and that the groom would be a man and the bride would be a woman.

Now, the bankruptcy of one bridal company is not exactly a civilizational crisis, but we as Christians recognize that the decline of marriage and thus, the decline of the importance and meaning of weddings in our society, is indeed a moral crisis.

Part IV

How Should Christians Think About Snowflake Adoptions? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Okay, now we’re going to turn to questions.

Several listeners sending questions about IVF technology, other advanced reproductive technologies. I’ve written a lot about that, by the way. I can’t say as much in an answer on The Briefing as I have in book chapters and other writing projects in the past. I’d be glad to refer you to those.

But there’s a basic principle at stake here that I think might be helpfully expressed, and I want to thank Jacob and other listeners.

Jacob writes in saying that he had been interested in the discussion of IVF on The Briefing. He goes on to say he has some questions. He says that, “Of course, it is pretty well known now that IVF creates a number of embryos, that is babies that are eventually discarded after the parents have a successful pregnancy,” so he stipulates that upfront. He then talks about snowflake adoptions whereby at least some of those embryos, a very small percentage I would add, might be adopted by parents who are not the biological contributors of either one of the gametes in this case so that’s another complication. He goes on to say, “In this case, the parents who deliver the baby are adopting the child, rather than surrogately gestating the child for another family.”

I’m going to quote Jacob here. He says, “My wife and I have both adopted and fostered children who were already born, and I appreciate your words that the children themselves are precious and in the image of God. This seems like an extension of that logic to try to give birth to babies who would otherwise be discarded. Nevertheless, the intrusion of technology like this may have unintended ethical consequences.” He asked would I say more about this in an upcoming episode?

Well, yes, Jacob, and I appreciate the fact that you’re not only thinking this through with your wife, you’re also thinking about how to share this with your congregation. I want to give a principle here, and the principle is of abstraction from the natural and normal context. This is where the Christian worldview tells us that moral risk goes up with that abstraction. So that might sound like a rather complicated issue, but I think we can understand it real easily.

So let’s put it this way. When it comes to having a child, and, by the way, there’s a very interesting language here. Having a child in the history of humanity has basically meant and has only meant a man and a woman and, of course, rightfully within the context of marriage, engaging in the marital union and out of that union coming the gift of a child. That’s what having a child throughout human history has meant.

When you have a man and a woman who are married to each other and the conjugal act takes place within that context of marriage, there is absolutely nothing wrong and everything right with a baby coming into that context. The baby is recognized not only as the inevitable outcome of the conjugal act over time, it’s also recognized as God’s gift. The baby is a human person made in God’s image, and that pregnancy is God’s gift. God said, “Let there be life.”

So what is the ethical risk for a married man and woman engaging in the conjugal act and out of that coming a pregnancy? The ethical risk is zero.

Now we’re humans and thus we are sinners, and thus there’s sin somewhere in the equation because we’re sinners. But there’s nothing wrong with a good act which is undertaken exactly the way God has commanded that act to be done and where God gives the gift exactly as God promises that that gift might come.

But after that, you recognize there is additional moral risk with every single abstraction and so with every single abstraction you say, “What does that mean?” Well, first of all, let’s just say the couple isn’t married, okay, greater ethical risk, greater presence of sin right there.

Let’s say that when it comes to reproduction in the modern age, all of a sudden, there appear to be opportunities or alternatives, technologies that didn’t exist before, and they emerged in the context of something that’s actually quite simple, which is given even modern knowledge of the reproductive process, something that is physically done, well, something that is physically done, let’s say to a married man and a woman in order to increase the opportunity for a successful pregnancy, you would say that within that context that risk is very low. But the moment you take the gametes from the man and the woman and you put them together in a context abstracted from the bodily union, now, I didn’t say that’s wrong. I just said that brings in the opportunity, indeed the inevitability, of greater moral risk.

A part of that greater moral risk is the fact that regardless of what technology is used, if the union of the sperm and the egg come outside the woman’s body within the context of the marital act, then there is an element of choice that is, all of a sudden, or of decision that is, all of a sudden, put into the equation that wasn’t there previously.

Then you say, “Well, that word choice,” that has a haunting ring to it and, yes, that is because in the abortion discussion, it’s the very same issue.

Christians would insist the problem is with the ethics of choice is that there shouldn’t be a choice here. And extending that Christian logic, that means if there isn’t a choice, when God says let there be life and there is a pregnancy, there is not a legitimate choice to end that pregnancy, there is also, by the same extension, no real choice, that is simply a matter of choosing yes or no, when it comes to the creation of human embryo. If there is a human embryo that has been created by a biblical logic, there is an imperative that that embryo be honored, recognized and respected.

Okay, so let’s abstract even further because these days we can abstract a lot further. You can turn the embryo into a product. You can do all kinds of genetic testing, even pre-testing in order to understand whether or not this is an embryo you will accept or not. But at that point, you have decided that the human embryo is a consumer commodity, not a gift of God that represents God’s gift of life. As an image-bearer of God is now formed in this embryonic state, the very logic of this flies directly in the face, it’s a contradiction of the biblical logic.

So you say, “Well, let’s look at that technology. Could it ever be used legitimately?” And the answer is this, that technology is now never without moral risk, but the moral risk is lower for a married couple that is committed to implant or to transfer into the mother’s womb every successfully formed embryo by that technology. So it does mean very clearly that there is an ethical category that’s been created by this modern technology that didn’t exist in terms of the moral responsibility of peoples in generations past, of couples in generations past.

But we’re even beyond that now because now you have the entire industry of surrogacy in which you basically have a woman as a rent-a-womb. And, of course, much of this was exposed by how much surrogacy business was going on between Americans and women in Ukraine. That was all made very clear with the interruption of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fact that many Americans had evidently contracted and that included same-sex couples and individuals, by the way, using these purchasable gametes in terms of the biological industry, able to have a human embryo that they would then own, and then they would hire a woman to carry that embryo in the womb through the process of gestation until birth and then deliver the baby as what can only be described as a finished product.

Now, the Christian worldview says that every single human being is made in God’s image and is to be welcomed, fully welcomed, in humanity as an image-bearer so the ethical burden here is not upon the child ever. No child is responsible for the conditions of his or her conception or gestation. That is simply not a child’s responsibility. The child is being welcomed as an unalloyed good.

But even as Jacob and several other listeners have indicated, you have an industry now in terms of donor gametes and then you have donor embryos and you have embryos that are placed in storage, and you have absolutely unquestionably formed human embryos that no one actually intends to transfer into any womb at any time. The level of ethical risk and ethical complexity has just gone up and up and up.

Then you talk about, well, what about, say, adopting one of those embryos that otherwise would not be transferred into a womb? And Jacob, I have to say, that is an entirely good thing, but it’s a good thing that has to be categorized morally as a rescue. It is not a good thing that there are human embryos that have been created and are now frozen and no one intends to transfer into a mother’s womb. That is not a good thing. But the fact that those embryos now exist and some of them may be given the gift of gestation and eventually of conscious life, well, that’s a different thing and yet, it’s in a context of great risk.

There is a biblical notion of rescue and adoption that is just noble, and that’s something we need to recognize and, in a technological age, those opportunities for adoption are going to come with technological complexity.

Part V

What is the Difference Between Reading About Violence and Watching It in a Movie? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a 13-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

Okay. I love getting questions from young people, and they’re always smart. Sometimes they’re a little complicated. That’s the situation when Violet wrote me just recently.

13-year-old Violet wrote in asking, “What’s the difference between reading a book and watching the movie if the question here might be violence?” Because it turns out that she had proposed watching a movie series of a certain book series she had read, and she asked her parents if they could watch the movies. They said it was inappropriate for her age because of the violence shown. Violet, then asked, quote, “Is there a difference and what’s the difference between reading a book and watching the movie?” She says, “If reading the books was okay, why isn’t watching the movie?”

Well, Violet, I thank you for writing the question, and I hope you wrote this question with your parents’ knowledge. All I want to say is I’m not about to get between you and your parents on this issue, but I do have an answer that I think might help here. That is that your parents understand something and that is that what the movie provides that the book doesn’t is a set of visual signals about the interpretation of the book in which, frankly, there is more than the book present when you look at the movie. The movie is not simply the book turned into a movie. A motion picture or a movie is actually a product of all kinds of creative people, from directors and cinematographers to people who are writing the screenplay. That is to say they’re taking the book and they’re adapting it to what characters would say in the actual dialogue of a movie.

But you also have interpretations of scenes and all the rest and without mentioning the particular series that you mentioned, I’m going to mention the Lord of the Rings cycle by J.R.R. Tolkien and the Peter Jackson series of films. Peter Jackson had to take a lot of imagination in terms of his interpretation of Tolkien’s famous work, the Lord of the Rings, in order to bring that movie about. And the great debate among Tolkien fans was just how faithful or unfaithful many of these film production or movie versions might be.

But, Violet, I think there’s something else at work here, and that is the fact that we are visual people and we’re verbal people. That is to say, God made us so that we learn and we’re impressed by looking at pictures and you could put motion pictures or movies in that category and also looking at words. They’re two different ways of knowing, and I think often they have two different effects on our heart.

Violet, I’m also going to say something. Your parents had raised the issue of violence. I think there’s some other moral issues that those who honor God and are instructed by the Bible have to keep in mind. That is that movies can glorify sex and violence and wrong things out of proportion to what can be done similarly, just with words. Furthermore, as you are reading a book, the mental images that come to your mind are those mental images that are the product of your thinking and the words on a page, someone else adding another interpretation and making that into a picture or a moving picture, a movie that really does come with a very different impression.

But Violet, I’m very thankful for an intelligent 13-year-old sending me this question, and I’m very thankful that you have the parents you have. I just want you to hear me say that. This is a really sweet thing. I’m thankful for your question and for how you posed it.

Part VI

What Does It Mean for Jesus to Be Tempted in Every Way? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, I want to turn to another question.

Linda wrote in saying, “If Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, was He tempted in the area of,” and she put a word in there, I’m just not going to repeat the word in order to make a point. When the book of Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way we are, yet without sin, we just need to affirm that means in every way we are, yet without sin.

So even as Linda wrote in thoughtful question, she put one word in there at the end, “Was he tempted in the area of blank?” I’m simply going to say there is no blank in human existence for which Jesus did not die and which He did not know and yet he knew all these things.

He was tempted in every way as we are, the most important words yet follow, yet without sin.

Part VII

Could Mankind Experience Physical Injuries Before The Fall? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Finally, a question that comes from Jordan, and Jordan says that he is training to become a physician assistant. He is a student in Indiana, and I’m thankful you’re undertaking that very important work, Jordan.

Jordan asked the question, “Could mankind have sustained injuries, broken bones, contusions, rolled ankles, et cetera, prior to the fall?”

By the way, you would echo that question, Jordan, of course, by asking about the kingdom of Christ to come, which is a recapitulation, in many ways, of the perfection, in fact, in every way, the perfection of the Garden of Eden, but yet with the infinitely greater reality that this is the kingdom of Christ bought by His blood and is the kingdom of the redeemed in which the redeemed have the knowledge of Christ and the knowledge of the redemption that is brought by Christ, which was something that wasn’t even there in the perfection of Eden and also that humanity now knows the freedom from the very things that were the effect of sin. And, yes, I believe illness and injury are among those effects.

So as hard as it is for us to believe that there could be a realm of existence in which we would not suffer injuries, broken bones, contusions, rolled ankles, et cetera, and there’s a lot of et cetera, I can bear testimony to it, I think the only possible biblical answer, Jordan, is that we will not need physician’s assistants, nor physicians in the Kingdom of Christ for rolled ankles any more than for, say, typhoid fever.

But you turn that around, Jordan, and it just points out that in this fallen world right now, in this age, we desperately do need those who will treat us for everything from pulmonary emboli to rolled ankles and I’m thankful you are joining those ranks. Christians understand by the biblical worldview, the inherent righteousness and goodness of responding to a fallen world with rescue.

So thank you for joining Team Rescue when it comes to this fallen world.

Again, 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 so thankful I was with you today, and Lord willing, 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.

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