The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

It’s Wednesday, April 26, 2023.

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

Part I

Here We Go Again? Campaign 2024 Takes Shape as President Biden Announces Campaign for Second Term

Well, we knew he’s going to do it, now he says he’s going to do it. Joe Biden announced yesterday that he is running for reelection to a second term as President of the United States.

President Biden did not make this announcement in a formal speech. He made it in the release of a video and it is a precedent breaking event because there is no president who has ever been this old, much less has run for reelection. If, indeed, President Biden were to be elected to a second term and were to fulfill it, he would be 86 years of age when his second term came to a conclusion. Obviously, huge questions about this. It’s an historical development just to have a president announce that he’s running for reelection, not that that’s unusual in itself.

It is generally considered these days that a president who does not successfully serve a second term is an historical liability, just in terms of influence and power, even rankings among presidents. A one termer is often referred to as something of a placeholder in American politics, and yet Joe Biden, who was expected to be just that and who actually gave indications of that effect, he didn’t say he would only run for one term, but he did speak of his understanding of his place in history as a transitional president. But evidently, he’s not ready to transition out and he has announced that he is running for this second term.

Now, there’s a lot for us to consider here. First of all, we’re looking at the American presidency. We’re looking at the most important, most powerful, most influential political position on earth. We’re looking at the historic development of the American constitutional order. The American Constitution as it was seeking to serve the needs of an emerging and young nation came up with the separation of powers between the executive, the legislative and the judicial, and put at the center of the executive branch a President of the United States, the nation’s chief executive, and the Constitution clearly called for, what was described in the Federalist Papers, as energy in the executive. There’s a good reason why in American politics presidents are understood to bear the responsibility and the constitutional role to lead.

But a President of the United States is not chosen or appointed, he is elected, and that elected function means that a president has to run for office and a president has to run again for office if that president wants to serve a second term. That always turns out to be quite a tricky affair because, in general, the power of the incumbency means that if you do have a president in the first term, that president has a significant electoral advantage just by being the elected President of the United States in the upcoming election that would be over that President’s second term or another president’s first term. Unseating an American president is a rather significant historical achievement, but so is holding onto the presidency in a second term, particularly when popularity and poll numbers are low. For Joe Biden, those numbers are very low.

All things being equal, Joe Biden has announced that he’s running for a second term in office from a posture of political power or a deficit of that power when it comes to polling numbers and approval ratings that would indicate that, under normal circumstances, he really wouldn’t have much of a chance of reelection. But he knows and he’s counting on the fact that the American voter will calculate this is not a usual time. This is not a situation of normal circumstances. Joe Biden was elected president in the 2020 election and he basically conceded this primarily because he was not Donald Trump.

You have a situation in which there is at least a good possibility there will be a similar electoral question presented to the American people. It could be a rerun of the 2020 race. It could be the current president versus the former president. What you had in terms of the announcement and all the background conversations that have been held on the Democratic side, what you have is the President saying, “Look, I beat Donald Trump and I can do it again and I don’t think anyone else can.”

But there’s also something more, and that is the fact that it’s generally considered a form of treason inside a party to try to unseat an incumbent of your own party running for a second term. That is one way to go down in party politics as an absolute traitor.

But there’s another very interesting dance going on here and that is simply because of the President’s age and fairly weak posture in the polls. That comes down to the fact that President Biden is old. As a matter of fact, he is quite old. He is the oldest person ever to hold the job and he’s asking for another term. Again, he will be 86 years old if he were to fulfill a second term. That’s very old, any way you cut it, just ask an 86 year old. Very few of them are president. Wait, none of them has been yet.

The interesting dance going on right now on the Democratic side is how many people are jockeying for position just in case something happens. I mean, just in case there is all of a sudden an opening in the field. Just in case it doesn’t turn out to be plausible that President Biden really can serve or be elected to a second term. That leads to another calculation and that is that with every passing day, it becomes more likely, just in terms of the actuarial tables, that you would have a President Kamala Harris, the current Vice President of the United States, if something should happen to President Biden in the remainder his first term or in a potential second term.

This leads to an entirely new political calculation because, even on the Democratic side, there is an astounding lack of support for Kamala Harris in terms of serving as the actual President of the United States. But according to our Constitutional Order, if indeed Joe Biden is elected and Kamala Harris is his Vice President elected to a second term and something should happen that should lead to a succession crisis, then indeed Kamala Harris would become the President of the United States. Now, Joe Biden was counting on the fact that most Americans wouldn’t make that a primary calculation in 2020, but it becomes just again by the mathematical, just by the actuarial tables, it becomes a more likely concern in 2024. Remember, this is 2023. We’re still basically a year and a half from the 2024 election.

There’s another calculation we have to take into account here, and that is the fact that when Joe Biden ran for President in 2020, it was an extremely abnormal campaign because it was a campaign conducted under the circumstances of COVID. And so, the strategists behind the Biden campaign for a general election strategy, basically, came up with the idea that he would run for President from his basement in Delaware, which he did.

But to turn that matter to the present, it’s going to be very difficult for the President of the United States to run from a basement in Delaware or even more likely to try to run from something like the Rose Garden and the Oval Office and the White House because Americans want to see their candidates even when that candidate is the incumbent President of the United States. They also want those candidates to confront cameras, microphones and questions, and that’s where Joe Biden has presented ample evidence that he just is not ready for that kind of pressure and public scrutiny. Why do we say that? Well, it’s because the press has been saying this for some time, complaining about the fact that President Joe Biden has rather astoundingly refused to follow the normal presidential pattern of the press conference.

Instead, the White House has come up with a strategy whereby he appears to hear a question in a public event like getting on the airplane or welcoming someone to the White House and decides whether or not he wants to answer the question. But increasingly, he answers the question with something like one word or two. It’s very difficult to understand how you can get through a presidential campaign that way.

Michael D. Shear of the New York Times wrote this, “And despite his press secretary pledging that Mr. Biden would ‘bring transparency and truth back to the government’, the president has granted the fewest interviews since Ronald Reagan was president, only 54. Donald Trump gave 202 during the first two years of his presidency. Barack Obama gave 275.”

The story continues, “More than any president in recent memory, Mr. Biden has taken steps to reduce opportunities for journalists to question him in forums where he can offer unscripted answers and they can follow up. The result,” critics say, “is a president who has fewer moments of public accountability for his comments, decisions and actions.”

The article where Michael Shear points out that the press is onto the game whereby the President hears whatever question he wants to hear, if he wants to hear any question at all, and he responds to the question often with an elaborate answer and that means, tongue in cheek, one word. Several times the President has responded to a question about a major matter of world affairs with the answer no.

Tamara Keith, White House reporter for NPR, the current President of the White House Correspondents Association, said that there’s, “A qualitative difference between these informal gaggles and a formal press conference where the press prepares and the President prepares and the public is able to gain insight into the President’s thinking and approach to policy.”

Now, it tells us something that the press, which certainly leans left and certainly leans Democratic in this sense, is pointing out that they are frustrated with a President who just isn’t making himself available. But it’s one thing for a President, in effect, to hide in the White House, that’s been done before. It’s another thing for the President to hide from the American people and be unwilling to enter into this kind of fray.

The American people, regardless of the candidate, do have a legitimate interest in whether or not this person can still think on his feet, whether or not a candidate is able to make cogent arguments, whether or not there’s a problem. Americans are not likely to be satisfied with assurances of a vague and general sort that the President is doing just fine, thank you.

Part II

A Campaign Built on a Radical Redefinition of Freedom: President Joe Biden’s Presidential Campaign Reveal Shows His Evolution on Some of Our Culture’s Biggest Moral Issues

As I said, the President announced his plans for reelection in a brief campaign video, very slick, just over three minutes long. What’s really important for us to note from a worldview perspective is that the President is running with abortion front and center. How front and center?

Well, listen to how the ad begins, “Freedom, personal freedom is fundamental to who we are as Americans. There’s nothing more important, nothing more sacred. That’s been the works of the President of my first term to fight for our democracy. This shouldn’t be a red or blue issue to protect our rights to make sure that everyone in this country is treated equally and that everyone is given a fair shot at making it.”

But then, he went on to warn, “But you know around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take on those bedrock freedoms, cutting social security that you paid for your entire life.” Footnote there, it’s not clear that any opposing candidate has done any such thing. “While cutting taxes from the very wealthy, dictating what healthcare decisions women can make.” Now, what’s really important to understand is that the visuals also communicate at one point positively the President in his reelection campaign video, this is produced for the campaign, the voice is the President’s voice. It includes a shot of a woman outside the Supreme Court holding up a sign that says abortion is healthcare.

There’s no subtlety here. It is a direct non-controvertible statement that the President of the United States is running on abortion for a second term. This President has made very clear, even more than he did, and that’s of particular importance, even more than he did when he ran for President in 2020. It is clear that he has shifted to the left and is serving the purposes and the agenda of the far left of the Democratic Party, particularly on these moral issues and particularly on the issue of abortion.

The 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden, of course served as Vice President of the United States for eight years serving President Barack Obama. That was 2009 to 2017. He was in the United States Senate from 1973 to 2009. He was one of the youngest persons ever elected to the Senate when, at age 29, he was elected to the Senate from Delaware. Again, he took office in 1973, so that means a couple things.

Number one, he’s gone from being one of the youngest to now the oldest serving as President of the United States. We’re talking about a political career on the national stage holding national office in terms of the Senate, the Vice Presidency, and now the Presidency, for all but four years between 1973 and 2023. That’s just astounding, but it also tells us something else. During those years, Joe Biden has actually been several different people, politically speaking.

Earlier in his career as a United States Senator and as a very self-declared Roman Catholic senator, Joe Biden was far more towards the pro-life side than he is now, so much so that he spent much of his career in the Senate as a supporter of the Hyde Amendment that would prevent the spending of federal tax dollars for abortion. But in running for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination, the President was forced by expediency to abandon that principle. Ever since then, he has run to the far left of the Democratic Party and, for that matter, the Democratic Party is itself running as far left as it can on the abortion issue. Right now, it sees abortion as a winning campaign issue.

Almost assuredly, we’re going to have a showdown over the question of abortion in the eventual 2024 Presidential race, and that assumes that Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee or that any Democratic nominee will be either where he is or likely to his left, if you can imagine that on abortion. On the Republican side, it’s almost sure that some kind of pro-life conviction will show up in the eventual 2024 Presidential nominee. I will predict right now there’s going to be a big fight over abortion within the Republican contest for the nomination. And then, after that, there’s going to be an even larger conflict and contest over abortion when it comes to the faceoff between the eventual Democratic and Republican nominees.

President Biden, in this reelection statement in the video, also made very clear support for LGBTQ issues. You could go down the line. The President offered the theme of freedom, but it is clearly largely in terms of personal moral freedom. There is very little attention to what it takes to, as a nation, work together to resolve many of the nation’s most pressing problems. The President actually seemed to speak of the nation as a collective of individuals.

By the way, if you’re into numbers, you might be interested to know that the median age of a President of the United States on Inauguration Day for the first term is 55 years, 104 and a half days. Again, if you love the numbers, 55 years, 104 days plus a half a day. As you well know, there’s going to be a lot to talk about days, weeks and months ahead.

There are few issues of greater political consequence for this nation than the election of a President of the United States. And so, understanding all the worldview issues that are invoked here, we’ll be watching it closely and we’ll watch it together.

Part III

An Astounding Moment in Church History: Conservative Anglicans Break from Archbishop of Canterbury Over Blessings of Same-Sex Unions

But next, let’s shift to something which is of direct theological importance from Kigali, Rwanda comes the report that conservative Anglicans have decided that it is now necessary to at least threaten breaking communion with the Church of England and, in particular, with Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the primate of the Anglican communion. This is an enormous step. It’s one that is almost inevitable by the way, and it’s incredibly revealing as you think about what this tells us about the current state of the church around the world in terms of standing or not standing on biblical morality or on a biblical definition of marriage or, even these days, on a biblical definition of what it means to be a man and a woman. We’re talking about a crisis in the church and there is no church that will be untouched by this crisis.

In relatively short order, we’re going to know where everyone stands. The Wall Street Journal’s Francis X. Rocca reported, “Conservative Anglican leaders said that their church, riven by disagreements over homosexuality, could no longer recognize England’s Archbishop of Canterbury is first among equals and called for an overhaul of how the global denomination is led.” Technically, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the primate of the Church of England. The Church of England is the mother church of what is known internationally as the Anglican communion. But remember, the Church of England is a national church and Anglicanism shows up in other national churches, in the United States in the main, historically. Over time, that has been the Episcopal church in the United States. The word Anglican turns out to be a rather awkward word to use when, after all, America was born in a revolution against England, thus Anglican. Thus, you need a new name, Episcopal.

But as you’re looking at the worldwide communion, the word Anglican is the norm. By the way, the conservative Anglicans, and that included many who have left the Episcopal church in the United States, have gathered together in Anglican communions now recognized as a part of the global Anglican communion. They’re largely conservatives and that’s the point. They are conservatives who now see it necessary to break with the Church of England and with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Now, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is not incidental to this. It is not just his office, it is also this individual personal Archbishop of Canterbury. Because Justin Welby, when it was announced that he would become Archbishop of Canterbury, was identified as some kind of evangelical. It turns out the kind of evangelical he is, is the kind of evangelical who isn’t very evangelical.

Just a matter of weeks ago, the Church of England, and in particular the Archbishop of Canterbury, affirmed that the plan is for the Church of England to bless same-sex unions. Given the law right now of the church and of the state in England, the Church of England will not be performing those ceremonies, but it is going to move officially to bless them. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself has clearly been, in theological motion on this issue, going from saying that he really couldn’t recognize the idea of a same-sex marriage to now clearly wanting to move his church in the position of actually performing them. But blessing, even if it isn’t performing a wedding, is just as bad in the sense that you’re making a theological statement by blessing, saying this is a good thing.

Even if the current law in England doesn’t allow the Church of England and its priests to perform same sex unions, and that’s clearly just a matter of time, blessing them is a radical theological act that is directly in contradiction to scripture. You are blessing marriage in contradiction to the way marriage is defined clearly in scripture, and that’s where those who are involved in the more conservative wings of Anglicanism and what is known as GAFCON, after meeting together in Africa, they said just days ago, “We’ve had it with the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

Now, that’s a huge story. It’s a huge story just in terms of world history, of Christian history. You’re talking about a major development in the history of Christianity and, in particular, a major development in English speaking Christianity. The BBC, which after all is the British Broadcasting Corporation with a lot of interest in this, began their story by Harry Farley writing, “A group of Anglican leaders from around the world have rejected the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as their leader after the Church of England backed prayers, a blessing for same sex couples.” The story goes on. “Archbishops representing 10 of the 42 provinces in the Anglican communion have signed a statement saying they no longer recognize Mr. Welby as leader of the global communion.”

They also added that the Church of England is now disqualified in their sight as the historic mother church of the Anglican communion. “It is the first time that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s leadership has been rejected by such a large group of churches.” But here’s where, in the span of church history, we need to recognize something. If you were to go back in time, and by this I don’t mean a century, just go back a generation, and say, “There is going to be a break between many conservative churches in the Anglican communion and the Church of England.” The question would be, what would that break come over? Well, you might think, indeed, you would almost assuredly think it would be over some kind of major theological issue, a doctrine like the doctrine of the Trinity or the doctrines concerning Christ, or it would be something like that, but instead it’s the issue of homosexuality.

Now, let’s understand that it’s not just homosexuality in terms of what would previously even be invoked by that word. It now refers to the entire LGBTQ revolution and even the revolution that previously could have been discussed as homosexual is now in a situation with a transgender revolution of undercutting reality and defying scripture at an even deeper level. But here’s the point. We are looking at a giant theological crisis and it’s just good for Christians to understand this.

The challenge of the LGBTQ movement, of its ideologies and of its demands, the challenge of same-sex marriage, the challenge of the transgender movement, the non-binary arguments, all of that is a direct challenge to the most foundational understandings of Christianity, even the most foundational understandings of creation, the most basic understandings of the authority of the word of God and the right of the Creator to establish in creation, in his word, in his covenant, what it means for us to live rightly ordered lives.

When the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that the Church of England is moving forward in blessing same-sex unions, it effectively is blessing exactly what scripture does not allow. Thus, these churches in Africa, elsewhere around the world including conservative Anglicans in the United States, they’re making the declaration not only that they don’t like Justin Welby. They have nothing personal against Justin Welby. That’s not the issue. They are saying that he has disqualified himself and his church has disqualified itself as being the mother church and the leader in the Anglican communion. Thus, just in the span of church history, this is an astounding development. It took place just days ago in Africa.

That tells you something else, where would a huge story of this kind of theological significance, of this kind of ecclesial, that is this kind of church reality, where would you expect the dateline of that story to be? London? Washington? New York? Even some major city in Eastern Europe or maybe in Canada? No, Africa. It is because so much of the center of faithfulness on these biblical questions has shifted from the north to the south, and it has certainly shifted from an increasingly secular Europe to an increasingly courageous Christian community in Africa.

Speaking of the Archbishop’s role in all of this, the statement from the bishops in Africa, and remember it included bishops from all over the Anglican communion, these conservatives, but they were meeting in Africa, the statement said, “This,” meaning those blessings, “Renders his leadership role in the Anglican communion entirely indefensible.” It’s also interesting that, in the statement, these conservative bishops threw the responsibility back on the Church of England for its unfaithfulness stating, “The Church of England has chosen to break communion with those provinces who remain faithful to the historic biblical faith.”

Now, here’s a huge question we just need to consider. Is that an overstatement or not? Because coming from the left, people are saying, “If you’re going to break, why would you break over something like this?” That’s where those who are standing on biblical authority and they’re standing for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, who have to say, “Look, if you are moving to endorse and to celebrate and to bless what scripture makes unthinkable and impossible, then it is you who have departed from the Christian faith, not we.”

Now, Lambeth Palace is the historic seat of Archbishops of Canterbury, and that historic palace is the site where statements on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury are released, so they’re date lined Lambeth Palace. And so, it’s often even personalized where we are told that Lambeth Palace said something, that means the Archbishop of Canterbury or his staff. If you’re going to look at something that’s quintessentially almost cartoonishly exactly how you would expect a very weak and equivocating archbishop of Canterbury to respond to people who’ve just declared it to be basically apostate, what kind of statement would come from Lambeth Palace? Well, you almost just can’t make this up.

The spokesman for Lambeth Palace said that the palace, “Fully appreciates the stance taken by these bishops,” who just after all declared the Archbishop of Canterbury to be illegitimate. But the spokesman for Lambeth Palace went on to cite what were called deep disagreements among Anglicans over sexuality and marriage, and went on to say, “In a world of conflict, suffering and uncertainty, we must remember that more unites us then divides us.”

Did they not get the very clear message coming from GAFCON that what divides them is more significant than what unites them? This is not merely a debate over sexuality or marriage or the blessings of the church’s liturgy. This is over whether or not there is a commitment to biblical Christianity and to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

I want to end by citing the statement known as the Kigali commitment that was released by the conservative Anglican bishops.

When it comes to the word of God, just consider how important it is that those Anglican leaders declared this: “The current divisions in the Anglican communion have been caused by radical departures from the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some within the communion have been taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies of the world. Such a failure to hear and heed God’s word undermines the mission of the church as a whole. The Bible”, said the bishops, “is God’s word written, breathed out by God as it was written by his faithful messengers. It carries God’s own authority, is its own interpreter, and it does not need to be supplemented, nor can it ever be overturned by human wisdom.”

Now, to those Anglicans, this Southern Baptist says a hearty amen.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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