The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, June 9, 2023

It’s Friday, June 9, 2023.

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

Part I

A Big Life on the Screen of the 20th Century: The Life and Legacy of Pat Robertson, Dead at 93

Pat Robertson died yesterday at age 93. There was no announcement about the cause of death, but at 93, he was one of the longest living of the founders of the so-called religious right and also of Christian television as an empire. Pat Robertson established what was known as CBN or the Christian Broadcasting Network in 1960. It didn’t begin as a network, it began as a television program, and of course, the lead program for which he was known was the program known as The 700 Club, and until just about two years ago, he was the host or co-host of that program.

By the time Pat Robertson died, he’d established a television network, and then he had sold it. He had been a major television figure. He became a major political figure, and he was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988. He was a major figure in terms of what was defined as the religious right. He was a fascinating human being. He was theologically a Pentecostal or a Charismatic, and that covered just about everything about him and his worldview. It’s a fascinating story.

For one thing, when you’re talking about Pat Robertson, you’re talking about the religious right, conservative Christianity, and that term “religious right” was one that was basically current at the time that Pat Robertson was establishing after his presidential bid. The organization known as the Christian Coalition, the reawakening of conservative Christians to political involvement, Pat Robertson had a lot to do with that. The main ambition behind the Christian Broadcasting Network or CBN as it was known was evangelism and the encouragement to Christians. It later took on an explicitly political hue as well. Pat Robertson would say that’s because the times demanded it.

What many people did not know is that behind the mild and measured voice of Pat Robertson was Virginia aristocracy, and insofar as you talk about an American aristocracy in terms of the American South, this was the height of that aristocracy. Pat Robertson’s mother was Gladys Churchill Willis, every one of those words important. She was a deeply religious wife and mother. Pat Robertson’s father was Absalom Willis Robertson Jr., known as Willis, and he had a long illustrious career. That career included years in the United States House of Representatives, and then two decades in the United States Senate.

In the background of his mother’s family were two United States Presidents, William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison. So Pat Robertson was born into that elite, that Virginia aristocracy. That explains his unique way of speaking, his measured tone. It reflects a great deal of how he saw himself in the world. As the son of a congressman, and then of the United States Senator, he had rare opportunities. He went through earlier grades near his parents, and then for high school, his parents sent him to the McCallie School, which is a private school for boys in Chattanooga, Tennessee, known in many ways as a finishing school for the boys and young men of the Southern elite.

After graduating from the McCallie School, Pat Robertson went to Washington and Lee University. Again, a part of the Southern aristocracy. After graduating from Washington and Lee, he went on to study at the University of London, and then with the military training he received, he went on and joined the Marines becoming a marine officer. He would serve in Korea. At one point he had said in combat. That was later corrected, and some of those who were in combat at the time said that he was not in combat because of the influence of his father, the United States Senator. It is not now known whether that’s true or not. It is just one of the facts about Pat Robertson’s life, which is that at times, you simply have to follow this aristocratic trajectory, and then at other times, he, in very significant ways, diverged from that trajectory.

After his time in the military, Pat Robertson came back and appeared to be headed for a career much like his father. He went to the Yale Law School and graduated, but never became a practicing attorney. It was thought that he might follow his father into politics, but instead, Pat Robertson had a Christian experience. He would describe this as a conversion experience, and his interest shifted to something in the sphere of Christian ministry. He attended New York Theological Seminary, but after graduating and having married his wife, Adelia Elmer, known as Dede, the Robertsons basically put their entire lives on the line to start what was then a very radical idea of a Christian television station and a Christian television program.

That program did eventually become known as The 700 Club, and that television station eventually became a network. As you look at this in a timeline, just think about the fact that not only was Pat Robertson arriving on the scene just at the time that television was at its prime, but you also had the emergence of cable, and eventually, what was a television station and a television program became a television cable network with vast reach going into millions of American homes.

Pat Robertson thus became a major national figure, and yet, as I said, at the very same time that Pat Robertson was reaching some maximum influence in terms of the media, especially cable television, vast changes had transformed America in political, cultural, and moral terms, and Pat Robertson intended to be a player in forging a Christian response to those challenges.

Just think about Roe v. Wade, 1973. Second wave, feminism, abortion on demand, the sexual revolution, and as Pat Robertson understood, the loss by conservatives of American academia and leading American institutions. Remember, he knew what those institutions were because he had been raised within those institutions, and his father had been such a prominent leader in Congress and in the Senate. The son took a very different trajectory, establishing what became the Christian Broadcasting Network or CBN.

He took a very different trajectory in terms of his understanding of the challenge of politics and how Christians should understand politics. He became one of the architects of what would later be described as the religious right. He eventually established an organization known as the Christian Coalition, which was explicitly intended to mobilize Christians for political, moral, and cultural action. But the one political act for which Pat Robertson is most famous was his candidacy in 1988 for the Republican presidential nomination.

Now, in order to understand what was going on there, just go back to 1988. I realize that many of you can’t go back there in memory, but just go back there in terms of reconstructing what was going on at that stage. That stage in American life meant that the two terms of President Ronald Reagan were coming to a conclusion, and the big question was this, were the Reagan years a recalibration of the Republican Party, or were they an interregnum? Just something of an intermission with the Republican Party getting back to its old habits from the 1950s and 1960s.

The two leading candidates to follow Reagan with the Republican presidential nomination were Reagan’s vice-president, George H. W. Bush who, by the way, had been a boy of a father in the Senate at the very same time as had Pat Robertson. Their fathers were colleagues in the Senate. As teenage boys, they knew each other well as the Sons of Senators. They were the sons of the American aristocracy. George H. W. Bush was one of the candidates, and he was running with much of the background of that aristocracy he represented.

Remember that his father, Prescott Bush, was a very prominent attorney and had built a fortune coming from one of the most illustrious families in social and economic terms in the American Northeast, the old Yankee culture. Barbara Bush even more so in terms of her pedigree representing that Yankee culture. George W. Bush represented the establishment of the establishment. Ronald Reagan had basically reset the establishment. The question is, will George H. W. Bush mean the reassertion of that old aristocracy?

Bob Dole was a Kansas senator, Republican senator from the Midwest, and he represented as did, by the way, George H. W. Bush, someone who had a very heroic record as combatants in World War II, but Bob Dole presented himself as the alternative to George H. W. Bush, and then Pat Roberson entered the picture. For the second time, we have to move pretty quickly here, but George H. W. Bush would win the Republican nomination and would win the presidency. Pat Robertson would actually win a few delegates. He would win three state primaries. The states, by the way, were Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington State, but he would drop out of the race, and that would be the last time Pat Robertson would be a major candidate for political office.

The point is he was a player, and he knew the rules of the political game. He knew them from his father, he knew them from his colleagues, and he wanted Christians to enter into a new era of political engagement on the most crucial issues of the day. He saw a moral and cultural emergency, and he called for a Christian response.

Along the way, Pat Robertson was also an institution-builder. He established what was first known as CBN University, and like so many ministries that started university, the university at that time was not thought of having much permanence. It actually did eventually have permanence, partly because of the financial support of Pat Robertson and his enterprises, and it became eventually Regent University there in Virginia Beach, Virginia. It’s very much now an established school.

Reflecting Pat Robertson’s interest in worldview, the university also has a law school. I’ve had the opportunity to lecture there a few times, but Pat Robertson also has to be remembered as something else. He is one of the individuals responsible for, at least in part, mainstreaming Charismatic or even Pentecostal Christianity in the eyes of the American public.

When it comes to Pat Robertson and even the influence of his mother, his conversion to Christianity was not just a conversion to Christianity, it was very much a conversion to a Charismatic or Pentecostal experience. Pat Robertson was very much committed to traditional Pentecostal practices such as glossolalia or speaking in tongues. He declared that he saw things and he heard things. At times, he would claim that he had divine information on natural occurrences such as hurricanes. At other times, he spoke in ways that brought a great deal of controversy.

In the course of his lifetime, he also built a considerable fortune. He basically had several corporations along with his ministry, and it just points to a sociological rule that those raised within the elite of an aristocracy know how to make the levers of society work. It’s telling that in Pat Robertson’s older years when he was asked about hobbies, he said, “Starting corporations.”

I had the personal experience of knowing Pat Robertson and being in some meetings, even board meetings with him, and I will tell you, he was a titanic figure, and he was very quick to read a room and very quick to read a situation. He had a native intelligence and a very forceful personality, but history will record that he was one of the titanic figures of the 20th century. He lived, as we now know, 23 years into the 21st century.

The world that Pat Robertson built has, in so many ways, now disappeared, replaced by something very different, but the fact remains it’s just a historical reality that he did build quite a world through CBN and the institutions, organizations, and corporations that he established, and the political mobilization and the cultural awareness that he helped to bring into the lives and minds of so many Christians.

It’s just one of the humbling facts of history that many people show some of the influence of the institutions and the movements that Pat Robertson began, but they may not even know his name. The Bible, and specifically, the book of Ecclesiastes helps us to understand that’s exactly what humanity should expect. Pat Robertson died yesterday at age 93.

Part II

Smoke Like the Eruption of a Major Volcano Hangs Over US East Coast: Worldview Arguments Rage in the Midst of the Fallout of Dangerous Wildfires in Canada

But just before we get to questions, big news, especially in the American Northeast headed down to the mid-Atlantic, smoke, smoke from over a hundred wildfires in Canada, particularly in Quebec. We’re talking about a crisis. There’s no doubt about it. It’s a public health crisis. All you have to do is look at the pictures coming from New York, and Washington D.C., and other cities on the American East Coast, and you come to understand this plume of smoke is absolutely massive. The only kinds of comparisons that are offered by some scientists is that it is very much like the eruption of a major volcano.

Just imagine some volcano erupting with a major explosion just over the American border to the north and all that smoke and ash coming south. The particulate matter has reached points of emergency, and at times, flights have been disrupted simply because the visibility has dropped so low. You don’t have to have the particulate count to know that it’s a dangerous situation. All you have to do in many of these cities is look out the window.

This has required a very sudden change of life in New York and another Northeastern and now mid-Atlantic cities, including the nation’s capital, and it’s one of those reminders that we’re in a situation about which human beings can do absolutely nothing in terms of direct control of the situation. Furthermore, scientists are looking at the fires that continue to expand, and looking at the atmospheric patterns, and coming to the conclusion that this smoke may stay for a while. As one scientist said, there is no indication that there is anywhere for it now to go.

Now, in worldview terms, we need to understand that most of these fires are fires that have taken place in natural forests, but there are human responsibility issues, not just in terms of the fact that it is thought that about half of these fires may have been started by human carelessness as in campfires. These are the kind of fires that happen when the weather gets warmer in cooler regions, and people go out into the woods. With people going into the woods, here come risks, and the risk of fire is one of those, but that also means that about half of these fires are attributable to natural occurrences which, in many cases, may be lightning or a similar phenomenon.

The fact is that beyond even the question of causation, there’s a question of human responsibility when it comes to the opportunity for many of these forests to become tinderboxes, and this has to do with a disagreement among people who are responsible for forest management about whether or not there should be clearing of some of these forests to avoid this kind of fire. Some people say, “No, the forest should be able to grow in its natural state.” That natural state, however, puts an enormous fire load at the ready to burst into flame in such a way that is very difficult to put it out once that fire load reaches a critical point.

So, here, again, you have a worldview conflict. Is it best to try to preserve these forests by calling out some of the undergrowth making fire less likely, or is that an unnatural act that should be avoided to enable the forest to be absolutely natural, even if, in some cases, that means absolutely burned? You already know this, that in terms of worldview, there’s a clash over the question of human-affected climate change. Is this the result of climate change? I’m not arguing that it is or it isn’t. I’m just arguing that at this point, that is basically an ideological argument. It is not, at this point, an argument that can be settled with dispassionate data.

It is true that as net temperatures go up, there is also a risk of drought and dryness leading to an increased risk of fire. No one really questions that, but one of the things I think we need to understand is that when there comes a natural occurrence like this, the debate almost always runs ahead of the facts, and that’s just a phenomenon in terms of America’s public culture. Given the immediacy of digital communications, people can make arguments before there is a very clear picture here, no pun intended, about what’s actually taking place.

On one side of the climate debate, you have people saying immediately, “Look, here’s evidence of climate change. This is why we have to make these radical changes: A, B, C, D, and E, and use government and economic forces to coerce that compliance.” Then, there are those on the other side of the argument who say, “Wait just a minute. This is a natural occurrence. For the most part, this is not the burning of fossil fuels. This is a wildfire. It’s much like a volcanic explosion.”

But the fact is that the wildfires in Canada have already expended as much carbon into the atmosphere as the sum total of all civil aviation that will take place this year according to at least some analysis. So, on the one hand, you have people who are saying, “Look, we got to act on this.” On the other hand, you have people who are saying, “Look, all that action just got wiped out by forest fires.”

But I’m going to end this by making reference to the closing words of an editorial in the Wall Street Journal pointing to the apocalypticism of the left. It also points to the underlying influence of the Bible remaining in our culture. The editorial ends with this sentence, “Alas, this doesn’t fit with the climate left’s book of Revelation.”

That’s a key insight. Even on the secular left, there remains a book of Revelation. There remains some warning about apocalypse.

Part III

Is It Acceptable to Worship on Another Day of the Week Besides the Lord’s Day In Order to Make Space for Other Activities Like Sports? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a 15-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

Now, we’re going to turn to questions, my favorite time of the week. I appreciated a question that came from Elizabeth. She identifies herself as “a 15-year-old conservative Christian who lives in California.” I really appreciate that, and I especially appreciate the fact that she listens to The Briefing. She asked this question.

She mentions a friend who with her family goes to church on a day other than the Lord’s Day on Sunday. She asks, “What should we think of sports that occasionally fall on Sunday? Also, I know sometimes people go to church on Saturday night or a different day of the week to rest and do other things,” and she goes on to say, “I know we don’t want to be a Pharisee with legalism, but what should we think about this?”

Well, Elizabeth, very good question, and I said we’re going to come back to two things that are of great importance. One of them is that in the New Testament, we have full evidence that we are not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together as a congregation, and that really is a biblical vision of the congregation. The church gathered together in one place at one time. We’re also told that the early Christians gathered together for worship and for the quantity of the Christian love they experienced together in their fellowship as well as in worship. They did so on the first day of the week in honor of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.

So by the time you come to the end of the New Testament, it is clear that Lord’s day, first day of the week, Sunday worship is central to Christianity and to Christian identity. Elizabeth, I just want to tell you reassuringly, I hope, that it has been that way for almost 2,000 years of Christian experience. That is one thing that almost no one and certainly, no major Christian church or Christian denomination had really questioned.

Now, in more recent centuries, there have been some sectarian movements known as groups like the Seventh Day Adventists, who have basically made the argument that what is still binding upon Christians is the Old Testament Sabbath on the last day of the week. Thus, they’ve named themselves, by the way, Seventh Day Adventists. We can figure that out.

But in mathematical terms, that’s been an extremely small, there’s almost no way to exaggerate how small representation of what Christians have thought, believed, and practiced about the Lord’s Day throughout the centuries. Only more recent years, by the way, have people begun to question that. Not so much on biblical or theological terms, but because, and Elizabeth, you point to this, absolutely, it is because they want to do other things on that day.

You’re absolutely right. We don’t want to be legalists, but I will say I don’t think it’s legalism to say that obedience to the pattern in the New Testament means Lord’s Day worship. It means the congregation gathering together on the Lord’s Day. Again, the New Testament tells us that that is the first day of the week, Sunday, as we call it, in honor of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and so I would think it is not faithful for Christians to forsake or to neglect the Lord’s Day gathering of the church for worship.

Now, you certainly raised the complications that come into many lives. The culture is no longer cooperating with us in terms of protecting Sunday from the intrusions of other activities, and that includes sports. Not just professional sports, but these days, even Little League. Now, decades ago, in New York, the Little Leagues began playing games on Sundays, which they had not done before partly because of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Catholic Archbishop of New York City, a very important figure in American Catholicism, raised his protest about this, and the secular forces just pushed back as if the archbishop had no business saying what Catholics ought to be doing on Sunday. I decided it was important to defend that archbishop publicly in saying that he had every reason to tell Catholics what they ought to be doing on Sunday. He had every reason to point to Little League Baseball as something that was actually going to keep many people from going to church who would otherwise be going to church. I think he was right that once people got into that habit, they were never going to come back.

Again, I made a positive statement of agreement with the archbishop and actually got a friendly phone call thanking me by the archbishop. But that conversation and that headline seems like it must have been a very, very long time ago because these days, that occurrence has just taken as normal, and so many people in the Christian church have simply accommodated to it.

Now, as you say, we don’t want to be Pharisees, so I’m not condemning people who gather together for worship on any other day for any reason. It’s never wrong to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m just saying I believe in biblical terms. There is a clear biblical priority given to the Lord’s Day. That’s the way my own church is very clearly organized, and that remains the rather universal practice of most Christians in most places right now for good reason.

Part IV

Why Was Jesus Baptized By John the Baptist? Did John the Baptist Wear Camel Skin Out of Sadness? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, I love questions that come from serious students of the Bible. Debbie writes in, making reference to the gospel Mark, chapter one, and she asked, “Why did Jesus come to John the Baptist to be baptized when we read clearly that he, meaning John, was baptizing for repentance?” She asked, “Does it have to do with Christ coming as an atonement for our sins?”

Well, Debbie, you raise a good question. Let me just point out that John’s baptism was a call to repentance. Jesus was sinless, and thus, there was no reason nor even the real opportunity for Jesus to repent. He was without sin in every respect. So what was Jesus doing as he went to John to be baptized of him?

for Jesus, the baptism of John was not the baptism of repentance. It was the baptism of obedience and the affirmation of the Father, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” That was a reference to the Father’s pleasure in the Son’s obedience. So you’re asking a very good question. There is no way that Jesus was baptized for his repentance of sin for he knew no sin. He was baptized because it was the will of the Father, and then as in all things, Jesus was in perfect obedience to the will of the Father.

Then, Debbie asked another question. She says she was noticing that John wore camel skin like Mordecai and Esther. “Is he too displaying deep sadness?” The answer is yes. John the Baptist was in every way, the way he dressed, the way he preached, the way he acted, the language he used, he was in every way hearkening back to the role of the prophets in the Old Testament in the fact that they called down God’s judgment on sin and gave warning to God’s people about a judgment to come. John’s message was a bit different in his very clear call for repentance.

But the fact is, yes, the way John dressed was sending a signal that God’s people who knew the Old Testament should know, and it’s good for you to catch it.

Part V

Can A Christ Follower Responsibly Work For a Company That Supports the LGBTQ Revolution? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

David asked a very big question, and I’ve taken it last because I want to see if I can answer it succinctly. He’s pointing to the responsibility of Christians in the public square and in our consumer lives, given the moral activism that is now undertaken by many companies, but he takes it one step further and asks, “What responsibility does a Christ-follower have who’s employed by one of these corporations, and does responsibility vary according to the role? In other words, employee and employer, someone who’s working on the line, someone who’s an executive.”

Well, you’re asking a great set of questions there, David, and this is why I want to come back and say we’re responsible for every dimension of our lives. We’re responsibly faithful in every single dimension and every single arena. Faithfulness is something that’s easy for us to understand, and the way of faithfulness is very clear. At other times, it is not so clear, and in today’s confusing world where, frankly, employment, consumer choices, just operating economically in this kind of society, all these things can get intertwined, and it’s going to be hard to know exactly what a faithful Christian should do.

And so the reason why I, with confidence, took this question, knowing that time was running out, is because I knew where I wanted to go, and that is to say I’m so thankful that you’re concerned about being faithful in every arena, including employment, but this is a situation in which faithfulness is beyond the capacity, I believe, of a single individual Christian to figure out this is where we need the wisdom of the body of Christ.

We need a gospel, Bible, congregation. We need Christians who know us, who know our hearts, know how we operate in society, know who we are as Christians, and can help us to reason through these things together.

So, David, I want to say, again, a pressing question, and it’s going to affect students. It’s going to affect employees. It’s going to affect people in the military. We’ll talk more about that in weeks to come, but it comes back to God’s provision for us of wisdom not just to ourselves individually, but to the church under the authority of God’s word. That’s just really important for us to know.

Thanks for the questions. We’ll turn to more next week.

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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