The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, April 28, 2023

It’s Friday, April 28, 2023.

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

Part I

‘My Best Day in the Navy is When I Survived Dec. 7, 1941. It Was Also My Worst Day.’: The Oldest Survivor of the U.S.S. Arizona Sinking Dies at 102

The hymn states it rightly, time like an ever rolling stream bears all its suns away. We are temporal creatures and death comes. But it’s also true that you have cycles of history in which, at one point, it’s likely that a lot of people living in the United States of America knew someone who fought in the Revolutionary War, that’s just a matter of fact. At some point, after the revolution and for some time thereafter, it wouldn’t have been uncommon at all for someone to meet someone who had been a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Fast forward, the same thing was true of the Civil War. Later, it was true of World War I and certainly it was true of World War II.

Historically, it becomes something that isn’t all that surprising to something that’s absolutely remarkable, and that’s when you recognize you are at a moment of generational transition and the very last of a generation are passing.

That’s exactly what’s happening right now with the veterans of World War II and, in particular, the early veterans of World War II. Obviously, there are no living veterans of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War or of World War I, something that became true, by the way, only in the last couple of decades. But, when it comes to World War II, it’s very interesting that when you think of World War II and American entry into the war, the key date is December 7, 1941, the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

When you go back to that date and you go back to the most infamous loss on that date of the USS Arizona, as of just a few weeks ago there were only two survivors, and now only one. Just a few days ago, Ken Potts died. He was the older of the two known veterans of the USS Arizona who survived the sinking and then survived all the way into the 21st century.

He died just a matter of days ago in Provo, Utah. He had just celebrated his 102nd birthday. It was the National Park Service that announced his death because the National Park Services administers the memorial known as the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. That’s where the attack took place, that’s where the Arizona sank, and the largest single loss of life in American naval history. That is where hundreds and hundreds of American sailors are buried with their ship, under the waters of Pearl Harbor.

It is estimated that more than 900 of the dead were effectively buried with the sinking of the USS Arizona, 900 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines who were reported to have been killed in that attack, and that is where their bodies remained. As Sam Roberts of the New York Times reports, the Arizona’s death toll accounted for nearly half the military personnel killed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt called a date which will live infamy.

That was, of course, the attack that prompted the United States to declare war on Japan. Almost immediately, Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich declared war on the United States and, thus, the United States of America found itself within just a few days of the attack on Pearl Harbor involved in two different theaters of war and what was rightly known as World War II.

The attack on the Arizona was particularly infamous on what President Roosevelt called the day that will live in infamy because the sneak attack came as there were so many sailors on board the USS Arizona, and most of them went down with the ship very quickly. With massive explosions coming so quickly that only 93 of those aboard actually survived the attack got off the ship, the ship not only exploded in the attack, it also sank so quickly that we’re talking about an absolutely devastating loss of life and we are looking at a very long national memory.

We are looking now at the fact that there is only one known survivor of the USS Arizona still living. Ken Potts, who died, as I said, just days ago on his 102nd birthday, lived a quintessential American life for a boy or a young man of his time. At the time of the attack, he was a 20-year-old mate upon the ship and also a crane operator. He had been on leave in Honolulu for two days. He was there at Pearl Harbor when the attack came and Navy personnel were ordered back to their ships. Getting back to his ship he said, “We had to drag sailors out of the oily water, we couldn’t think much about it. You didn’t think much of anything. I guess you’re in shock. All you worried about was staying alive.”

The U.S. Park Service announcing the death of this veteran said, “Attempting to navigate through the flaming harbor, Potts and other crewmen pulled men from the water and took them to shore on Ford Island.”

As I said, an amazing and yet very American life. He was born on April the 15th of 1921 in a farmhouse in Honey Bend, Illinois. It didn’t have running water, it didn’t have electricity. His father worked in a radiator factory. As a boy, Ken Potts attended a one room schoolhouse but he only attended through the eighth grade. Had he wanted to go to high school, he would have had to walk 14 miles round trip. That wasn’t very practical so he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and then he decided that he would join the military. And so, in what branch of the US military would a boy from the heartland of America decide to enlist? Well, in the Navy, of course.

The only ship on which he ever sailed or served was the Arizona. He sailed from San Pedro, California on the Arizona to Pearl Harbor, and it was there that the Japanese attack came and the Arizona was destroyed. After the sinking of his ship, Potts was then assigned to Pearl Harbor as his place of work for the U.S. Navy during the war. After the war, he had jobs building houses and, at one point, managing a used car lot. He married a woman named Doris and together they had children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Ken Potts was always proud of the time he served on the USS Arizona and in the United States Navy but when it came to the USS Arizona and the memorial he didn’t want to go back on the ship. He said at one point he said he got off once, a friend said, he’s not going to go back on board again.

It’s just important that we recognize the passage of time and the debt we owe to so many who fought in so many battles and who stayed in service in so many wars who fought on behalf of this nation and defended our liberty and freedom. A generation who fought so nobly in the Second World War is passing from the scene very, very quickly. Now, when it comes to the US Arizona, just a matter of weeks ago there were two veterans still alive. Now, only one.

Part II

The Quest for Justice Must Not End: The Last Remaining Nuremberg Prosecutor Dies at 103

But a second death also needs our attention. This man died at age 103 and he was not well known as a veteran of US military but rather for being the last surviving prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Trials that were held against the Nazi war criminals after World War II. In this case, the man’s name is Benjamin B. Ferencz, and Ferencz was the last of all the surviving prosecutors of the Nuremberg Trials.

Those trials, of course, were instrumental in convicting many of the Nazi war criminals of their crimes and, indeed, going down in history as an act of justice undertaken by the United States and allies simply because of the absolute necessity of making a moral statement about justice, and righteousness, and accountability after the horrifying crimes of the Nazi regime and the Third Reich in Germany.

Now, there were actually, given the atrocities of the time, war crimes trials held under allied supervision in both the Pacific theater, having to do primarily with those who had served in the uniform of the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces, and then also in the European theater and, in particular, war crimes tribunals held in order to try the Nazi war criminals. Benjamin Ferencz, as I said, died just a few weeks ago at age 103. He was a Harvard educated lawyer and he was very, very clear about the evil that was represented by the Nazi regime.

He had been a Jewish soldier in Europe and a war crimes investigator at Buchenwald, Mauthausen, and Dachau. He had been born to parents in Transylvania in Europe. He was then raised in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan and, as Robert D. McFadden says for The Times, “He was plucked from obscurity as an army corporal because he had researched war crimes for a professor. Mr. Ferencz was sent to newly liberated concentration camps by General George S. Patton in the closing stages of the war and rose to prominence as the youngest prosecutor at the post-war Nuremberg Trials.”

Now, one of the reasons Mr. Ferencz was chosen for this responsibility is not just that he was a Harvard educated New York lawyer but also because he was fluent in French, Spanish, German, Hungarian, and Yiddish. Now, as most Americans know, although probably just in general terms and if that dimly, the Nuremberg War crimes were used to bring the war criminals of Nazi Germany, in particular, to accountability, 13 trials were held in Nuremberg and that was the very city, of course, where the Nazis had held some of their rallies leading up to the war.

The most famous of the Nuremberg tribunals took place in 1945 to 1946. In that situation, those trials resulted in the conviction of 24 of the senior leaders of the Nazi regime, thus of the Third Reich. That would include Herman Gehring who was, after all, the closest associate to Adolf Hitler. Now, you recall that Gehring was sentenced to death but he cheated the hangman by committing suicide by cyanide pill the night before his scheduled execution.

In one of the later trials, the trial in which Mr. Ferencz was the chief prosecutor, the Nuremberg Tribunal undertook to try the notorious group known as the Einsatzgruppen. Those were the groups of Nazis that carried out some of the most horrifying atrocities of the entire Second World War. There were 22 Nazi defendants, including six generals, and they basically were directly in charge of the infamous SS extermination squads.

The death toll of those squads is likely unknowable because it’s so high but it includes, for example, 33,771 men, women, and children in just one place near Kiev called Babi Yar. It’s also estimated that something like 25,000 Latvian Jews were liquidated in a matter of just a couple of days. You also just had repeated war crimes like this that were undertaken with murderous intent and with murderous effect.

Now, you think about the span of world history and you think about this trial, this would be one of the biggest trials in the entire history of the world and yet, Ben Ferencz, it was for him the very first trial in which he was the prosecutor. So in his very first trial, he actually landed and was given responsibility for one of the most heinous crimes being tried in the entire 20th century.

He was effective in his prosecution and then he was deeply involved in trying to help the Jewish people regain reparations from Nazi Germany. He also became a major proponent of what became the International Criminal Court. It was actualized quite late in his life, actually in far more recent years. It was only in 2002 that the International Criminal Court was established in the Hague, and yet, there’s another story behind this that’s a little more complicated.

As you look at the horrors of the Nazi regime and you look at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, it becomes almost impossible to argue that there was any way around holding those trials and holding those Nazis accountable and, yet, this was a very complicated issue and it did not become a precedent for international trials headed toward the future. Furthermore, the legal basis for these trials and for the sentences that were carried out and the legal basis for an ongoing International Criminal Court is actually not so clear.

The United States of America which, after all, conducted, at least in leadership, the International Criminal Tribunals in terms of Nuremberg, it does not participate at all in the International Criminal Court nor does it officially recognize its jurisdiction.

Now, from a Christian worldview perspective, there’s a lot of things to think about here. For one thing, you have the demand of justice. When you’re looking at the evil and the atrocities of, say, the Second World War, and in particular the Nazi regime, it is simply a matter of human justice that there had to be accountability. Indeed, justice required that there had to be trials. As a matter of fact, the trials were something of a great civilizational triumph because in previous context the enemy simply would have had its leadership liquidated. There wouldn’t have been a trial, there simply would have been a disappearance.

So the trial was itself a testimony to the American understanding of the due process of law and, yet, at the same time, this is not without a lot of complications at the international level. It’s one thing to have the United States of America under our national constitutional system understand how courts are to be organized, how trials are to happen, how the rights of defendants are to be preserved and the cause of justice is to be pursued. It is far more abstract, far more complicated, and far more dubious to be able to translate that to anything that begins with the word international.

Evidence of that comes even right now in terms of groups like the United Nations and other human rights organizations where, for example, you have people leading totalitarian and autocratic regimes. You have them representing those countries serving as the chairperson or as the chairman of these tribunals. That just shows you that when you say the word international you lose the constitutional system and the moral clarity that is, at least, approximately possible when you get to something like a nation conducting its own affairs, conducting its own trials, upholding its own laws, and prosecuting its own system of justice.

Looking at this, you recognize this really is complicated but it’s also really important to recognize that Benjamin B. Ferencz, this last of the surviving Nuremberg prosecutors, has died just in recent weeks at age 103. And so, one of the last two survivors of the Arizona died just days ago at 102, this prosecutor in one of the most important legal and moral events of the 20th century died just weeks ago at age 103.

Just to state the obvious, there are not many left. And so, the time is coming quite quickly when most Americans, almost all Americans, will be in the position of knowing no one directly who was a veteran of World War II.

It’s also true to say that in terms of historical consciousness that means that even though we are the same nation we will have entered a new era, a new era in which there is a knowledge lost. There is an experience that is now eclipsed. There’s a chapter of history that really is, at this point, just history.

But looking at the question of justice here and understanding just how complex and even controversial the Nuremberg Trials were at the time, the understanding was justice requires something to be done, and something to be done in the name of the rule of law, and something to be done in the name of vindicating those who died and making very clear that they were human beings who deserved to be remembered and whose murderous deaths deserved to be prosecuted.

But, at the same time, this is also a reminder for Christians that all human justice is merely approximate justice. When it comes to human justice, there were more who escaped prosecution than were actually caught and tried and punished but, when it comes to the eternal judgment of God, no one will escape.

Part III

Gender and the Trinity? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Now we turn to questions. I appreciate listeners sending in such good questions. I wish we could get to them all and, I’ll say, I try to choose the questions I think will be most beneficial to listeners, most timely. I also, just to be honest, privileged questions coming from young people.

Now, we’re going to start off today with a very young person. Here is the way the message was written to me. “I’m a 13-year-old male from California who lives in a Christian household and enjoys listening to your podcast with my mom.” So Enoch, thanks for listening with your mom, thanks to mom. He then writes this, “I was reading the book, Facing the Facts, for 12-16 year olds, about the truth about sex and a few questions came to my mind.”

Well, I had no idea where this was going but, don’t worry, here are his questions, I think they’re going to be of interest to everyone. Here’s what he asked.

Number one, is there gender in the Trinity? Well, the fast answer is, we are talking about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Two of those names, two of those members of the Trinity are gendered by name. God is revealed as Father. Jesus told us to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven.” He is revealed to us as our heavenly Father, not as our heavenly mother. And thus, yes, that’s a gender distinction. But God, the Father, does not have a body so this is not a biological reality. It is instead a reality that is simply communicated to us by the fact that he names himself Father.

When it comes to Jesus the Son, well, first of all, the Son is a gendered reference. Son, not daughter in this case. But we also have the fact that, of course, Jesus came and was born in Bethlehem. He became incarnate. He assumed human flesh and that flesh was genuinely human and it was also distinctively male. And that was very much a part of what was understood about Jesus at the time and is a part of the confession of the Christian church all the way throughout history. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Holy Spirit.

And, yet, as you look at the mystery of the Trinity, Enoch, I just want to tell you, it is just very important that we say what the Scripture says, that we don’t invent ways of speaking that the Scripture doesn’t authorize but also that we don’t fail to say what the Scripture is really clear about.

Now, Enoch asked a number of questions. I’m going to take the second one. He said, “Why didn’t Jesus marry?” Well, that is because Jesus’ mission given to him by the Father, and remember he said his only will was to do the will of his father. He came to do what his father assigned him to do and it was to die on the cross paying the penalty for our sins so that he may take many sons and daughters to glory. So we are his spiritual children. He didn’t come incarnate in human flesh in order to be a human father with a human mother and to have human babies who were his children. Instead, we become his children and, through him, we are adopted as sons and daughters of God.

And to this young man I simply want to say, “Don’t stop asking questions. I think God is actually pleased when all of us ask questions arising from Scripture to say, how do we understand this better? How do we know God’s truth more accurately?”

Part IV

You Said Our Culture is on a Transgressive Trajectory. Did the Term ‘Transgressive’ Originate With You? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Vick wrote in asking, saying, “I heard you use the word transgressive, I’d not heard this in the context before.” He then says, “Was this an original usage with you?” Well, let me just stop at this point, Vick, and say, no, that was not original with me. As a matter of fact, the use of the word transgressive in this sense doesn’t come from people who are more conservative protesting against this transgression, rather just coming from those who are advocating, for example, a change in morality on LGBTQ issues, a redefinition of marriage.

And a part of what they argue is that they should celebrate transgressive behavior. That is that which breaks all societal norms and even offends many people in order to desensitize society about what they want to bring about in their moral revolution.

So no, I did not invent the word in this sense but I think it does and I think, Vick, you’re on to something here. It does actually insinuate and reveal more than those who use the language from the left intend. They are transgressing in more ways than they know.

Part V

Would Those Brought Back from the Dead (like Lazarus) Have Regretted Returning to Earthly Life? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Kathy writes in and she asked another interesting question. She says, “When you consider those in the Bible who were given new life after death…” and in this case we mean physical life. Just consider Lazarus or Tabitha or she says any of the others who were brought back to life in the Bible. She says, “Wouldn’t they rather have stayed in heaven instead of returning to a world marred by sin?” Kathy, I think the answer is almost assuredly yes. I think that’s very clear in the teaching of scripture itself, but these miracles by which these dead persons were given life is to point to the power of God which transcends even death. And, of course, ultimately realized in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.

Just remember, none of those persons who experienced life after death by biblical miracle in the Old or New Testaments. You consider Lazarus raised by Jesus in the New Testament or consider the boy raised from death by Elijah in the Old Testament. The bottom line is, they all died from, what we can tell, pretty much on time, and so they were not given the gift of everlasting life. They were instead given a continuation of a life that had ended and that was to show the power of God through the prophet or through his son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Part VI

How Can I Know God’s Plan for My Life and Find Contentment in It Without Fear? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a College Student Listener of The Briefing

But next, a very sweet question from a college student, a Christian young person asking how is she going to know that God has a plan for her life and then be content with it, as she says, when faced with so much uncertainty?

Well, I appreciate the question, and I just want to say as an older Christian friend that the most important thing you could keep in mind is that God’s plan for you is glorious, it is right, it is perfect. It is better than anything you would choose for yourself. It is better than anything your parents might plan for you. It is better than anything your friends might conspire to bring about in your life.

And you have the Apostle Paul referring to the will of God as good and acceptable and even perfect. And, in that case, acceptable doesn’t mean, “Oh yeah, I’ll accept it.” It means that it is perfectly right for acceptance. This particular young Christian writes in about uncertainty and fear about the future, and I just want to say, look, it’s as if there’s a conspiracy to say to young people in this country, “You should be filled with fear. You should be filled with anxiety, you should be filled with all kinds of dread,” when that’s just antithetical to the Christian truth claim. It’s antithetical to the gospel.

Now, the gospel doesn’t tell us that everything ends absolutely happily and that everyone gets what they want in this life and that everyone lives a life free of tribulation and trouble. We are told that we are absolutely safe in the purposes of God and God’s purpose for us infinitely surpasses any plan we might have for our own lives. It is just true that God to His glory doesn’t reveal to us the particulars about our future life. He simply says trust me, and obey, one step at a time. Now, you might say it would be better if we were doing this plan that we would actually tell ourselves the entire plan God has for us in this life.

But I would simply say this, and I say this with kindness to a young person remembering that at one point I was young too. It’s simply true that at any point in life, young or old, we could not handle all that would be revealed to us in terms of what God is doing in and through and for us in our lives. It is one of the mysteries of the Christian life, and I think we can understand this and certainly as we get older we understand it more clearly, that God’s plan for our life and its goodness is so often sweetly seen looking backwards when we have to admit we, at one point, were anxiously looking forward.

Part VII

Is the Use of Artificial Intelligence for School Work Ethical? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, had a mom write in about a question that I think an awful lot of moms and dads and students are going to have to be concerned about, not to mention teachers in school and college professors.

This particular mom writes in, “My son and I recently became aware of websites that can generate entire research papers just by entering in sources. My son’s reaction to this is that it seems wrong but that it also seems like a very complicated issue and we’d like your opinion on it.”

Well, my opinion on it and what to say to this mom is, your son’s right, it’s very complicated and you are right that there’s something wrong about thinking that somehow you’ve accomplished something academically by having a machine or an artificial intelligence write your paper. This is going to be a great challenge to every college, seminary, university. It’s going to be a challenge to every teacher and to every classroom. We’re going to have to figure a way around this but you know what? I think we just might be going back to the future because of artificial intelligence.

I can see a time when the biggest tests and the biggest academic projects are undertaken by a professor looking into the face of a student saying, “Tell me what you know about this.” That means an oral examination and I also think we’re going to get back, at one point, to just having pen and paper, someone sit down at a desk with a blank sheet of paper and the teacher says, “Write out an answer.”

In that case, it’s going to have to be actual human intelligence, not artificial intelligence. There are a lot of things to work out here but I don’t think that any of us wants to live in a world in which our air traffic control persons, well, they got through simply by having an automated intelligence pass the test. I don’t think we want that for a surgeon. I don’t think we want it for a doctor. I don’t think we want it for an architect.

Frankly, I don’t think we want it in terms of the most important issues of life. Certainly, we don’t want a pastor by artificial intelligence so we’re going to have to figure a lot of these things out. But I think it’s really good that, as Christians, both this mom and this son are thinking about these issues aloud and together.

It’s going to take Christians thinking these issues through fast and hard and trying to keep up with the challenges thrown at us by technology, knowing that ultimately our commitment is to truth. It’s good to have questions that make us think and we need to be committed together to think as biblically as we possibly can, by the grace of God.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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