The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, August 4, 2023

It is Friday, August 4, 2023.

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

Part I

Turns Out Kids Don’t Care If a TV Program is Produced by a Duchess: Harry and Megan Discover the Limits of Celebrity Culture

If you look at the major British newspapers, particularly those published in London, you’ll often find a court circular that is a report on the doings of the royal family and associated aristocrats. As you are looking at the current situation of the British royal family, there are from time to time some dimensions that demand a bit of American attention, indeed demand a bit of Christian attention.

Right now, all that’s basically intersecting in the case of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, that is Harry and Meghan. In this case, Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. They got married, as you might remember, in the year 2018. Prince Harry at that time was known as the younger of two princes born to the then Prince of Wales, Charles, and his then wife, Diana, Princess Diana.

As it turns out, of course now, the father of the prince is now King Charles III. His mother Diana was divorced from his father. She was later killed in a tragic car accident. His father was later remarried to Camilla, who is now ironically enough the Queen, and of course, Prince Harry grew up as the younger brother of Prince William, who is now the Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne.

Now, as is so often the case, even if you’re writing royal fiction, the case is that when you have two princes, one of them tends to play the straight role, the other tends to play the more, say, rakish role. Or one plays the good prince, the other plays the bad prince. In this case, Prince William, the heir to the throne, is very clearly in terms of royal stereotypes playing the good prince. Prince Harry played the bad prince, and in this case, he’s been a very bad prince.

He actually broke with the royal family. He forfeited his royal responsibilities. He claimed all kinds of offenses against the royal family. He moved to the United States ensconced in a multimillion-dollar compound with his wife living among the Hollywood glitterati. Now, the story gets more complicated with the fact that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, are now mom and dad to two children, a boy, Archie, and then a girl, Lilibet, named after the late Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom–the grandmother of Harry and the great-grandmother of the children.

Harry and Meghan very clearly intended to become a brand. They tried at one actually to brand themselves in a way that turned out to violate British law and they had to undo that. They’ve been trying to live in what they created for themselves as a third space which is royal without the responsibilities of being royal, British royalty, while living among the Hollywood celebrity culture. They intended to brand themselves and they sold themselves in multiple, multimillion-dollar packages for entertainment.

As a recent report in The Wall Street Journal stated, “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had been out of the UK for nearly two years and they began work on a project that they believed would transform them from former royals to Hollywood power players.” The story continues, written by Eric Schwartzel and Sarah Krouse, “The subject of endless rumors and gossip, the couple felt qualified to tackle the thorny topic of misinformation. A documentary would cement Harry and Meghan as serious creative types and help shed their reputation as exiles in the House of Windsor, trading family dirt for eyeballs.”

The long and short of it, according to this front page report in The Wall Street Journal, is that most of these projects have turned out to be absolute busts. It turns out that the attention of the U.S. public when it came to Harry and Meghan was intense, but incredibly brief. If you’re going to play by the rules of those in the Hollywood celebrity culture, then you’re going to have to play by those rules, and those rules are that today you’re in, tomorrow you’re out. Today you’re on the front page, well, the next thing you know, you’re on the front page basically for not being on the front page.

The way The Wall Street Journal summarized it is this, “Prince Harry and Meghan’s Hollywood foray is looking like a flop. They arrived in Southern California three years ago with Duke and Duchess titles and plans to capitalize on cash-rich streaming business desperate for star power to lure subscribers.” The article then continues, “The big ticket deals that followed $100 million in Netflix, more than $20 million at Spotify, have lead to more cancellations and rejections than produced shows.” The Wall Street Journal report then goes on to describe what it calls the graveyard of video projects that the two had hoped for.

Later in the article, we read, “The Spotify pact produced a podcast, Archetypes, about the stereotypes that hold women back. A second season was discussed, but eventually nixed. Spotify and the couple recently announced that they have agreed to part ways.”

One of the moral lessons behind all of this is that, well, the celebrity culture is a very dangerous culture to live in, to base your self-esteem upon. For that matter, it’s one thing to be born a royal. It’s another thing to declare yourself an ex-royal thinking that the American people, after all, rebels supposedly going back to the spirit of the Revolution, would find that something to appreciate. The strange and ironic thing is that Americans find royal royals a lot more interesting than non-royal royals. Harry and Meghan are right now, well, more or less very expensive residents of Montecito, with two adorable children and a bunch of canceled media contracts.

There are a couple of other big lessons here. One of them is this. Prince Harry basically built his brand on complaining about publicity, complaining about the intrusion of the media into his life, complaining that very little of his life was private. Yet at the same time, Harry and Meghan together, and remember she was to some degree a TV celebrity at the time, they clearly thought they were a brand, and yet you can’t be a brand if you want to hide behind privacy. They were in the position of making themselves very public in their complaints about losing their privacy. They really wanted to lose their privacy, but on their terms and at their price.

The other amazing thing is that if you look back, streaming sources in the media entertainment complex actually had the money a few years ago to give something like $100 million contracts to Harry and Meghan, who, after all, were hardly tested when it came to producing streamable material. The podcast world on platforms such as Spotify appeared to be exploding a matter of just three to five years ago, and they were awarding multimillion-dollar, in this case, multi-multimillion-dollar contracts for podcasts. You don’t really hear that much about it anymore, not because podcasts have become less popular, but because one of the hallmarks of today’s media environment is that there is so much material and there is still a limited number of eyes and a limited number of ears.

It’s a competition for attention and if you’re not producing quality, it doesn’t turn out to matter if your names are Harry and Meghan. The other big issue, again, is the question: is this really about royalty and celebrity? Or is this really about something beyond that? We need to recognize something, and this is just a matter of fact. We’re only talking about Harry and Meghan because they’re Harry and Meghan. We’re only talking about Harry as Prince Harry, or even as the Duke of Sussex, because he’s the second son of the current reigning king of England.

That’s not an inconsequential matter, and Americans do understand that as you look at the European pattern in particular, the continuity of civilization really depends upon the hereditary monarchy, at least in a few surviving countries. The United Kingdom is the most important of those countries, and the English throne is the most venerable of those thrones. The big moral lesson is this, if you are indeed the royal family, you’d better act like it. Now, as you know, the scandal sheets love scandals related to royalty, but there is no appreciation among, say, the British people for scandals related to their monarch. The closer you get to the monarchy, the more dangerous the situation becomes, the more perilous the wrong kind of celebrity presents itself to be.

As you’re looking at Harry, he leaned into bad behavior and into broken relationships with the House of Windsor at what turns out to be just about exactly the wrong time. The more interesting thing perhaps to consider from an American perspective is why exactly Harry and Meghan thought what didn’t work in England would work spectacularly in the United States. Well, for one thing, you might say the United States is a far more diverse culture and in the United States, after all, we don’t have any American dukes and duchesses, so having a duke and a duchess might turn out to be something of interest to Americans. It turned out that that was, well, very much the case.

Americans were absolutely fascinated with having a duke and a duchess, a prince and his bride more or less exiled here in the United States. Here’s another lesson for us morally. There are worldview implications here as well. Americans were intensely interested, but they got over it pretty quickly.

The big worldview issues is this. When you think about royalty and you think about cultural and social stability, that comes with the necessity of a certain amount of personal credibility. Celebrity is one thing, virtue is something else, and it turns out that Americans and others around the world are very interested in celebrity, but when it comes to long-term interest, that’s going to require some real virtue.

Before leaving this, I just have to add one additional point, and this has to do with how this article ends. It ends with the failure of a proposal for Meghan in particular to work on a product for children–a streaming product for children for which at least one platform was willing to spend millions of dollars, but the project is basically now put on hold or canceled. The articles says, “The children’s show was developed when Meghan was still a working royal. It was created with help from David Furnish who knew the royal family through his husband, Elton John. When the couple left the palace and signed their Netflix deal, Pearl, that was the proposed children’s project, was the first show announced.”

Now, it’s just really important parents hear this. Here are the last words in this article. “Netflix canceled it in May 2022.” Listen to this carefully. “Executives decided that few children would care if the show they were watching had been produced by a duchess.” In other words, when it comes to children’s programming, the children care about the programming, not about who made it, and how many of them even know what a duchess is?

Part II

What is the Relationship Between Human Dignity and Human Rights? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, we’re going to turn to questions, a regular feature of our Friday program. You can send your question just by writing it I’m always impressed with the quality of questions that come, and the very first question for the season is actually presented by Ryan. Ryan wrote in asking the question, “Do you think the abortion debate has changed from arguing about if the fetus is a baby to now just arguing that autonomy trumps human dignity? What is the relationship,” he asks, “between human dignity and humans rights? Should Christians argue for human rights? Or is that more a humanism influence?”

Now, Ryan, that’s a great question, and it’s asked in a very helpful way. I appreciate that. First of all, we do need to recognize that human dignity comes before human rights. We do believe in human rights, but we believe in rights that are grounded in human dignity. It’s the human dignity–the gift of God to us in Creation and making us in His image–that produces the human rights. It’s not that we just put together some declared human rights and we say that constitutes human dignity.

This gets to a major conflict between the Christian Biblical way of looking at these issues and the modern secular way because the modern secular perspective, the modern secular worldview, simply considers rights to be matters of self-assertion. Human beings simply say, “This is my right. This is our right.”

Now, this gets very involved in secular conversations where people argue over whether this is a right or that’s a right. For instance, right now, consider the conflict between, say, religious liberty or the right of religious freedom on the one hand, and on the other hand the LGBTQ revolution. Now, Christians believe that there is no right to LGBTQ behavior, recognition, et cetera. We do believe that there is an inherent right of religious liberty, which is granted to us by the God who made us in His image as spiritual beings able to know Him.

We recognize that the language has been completely confused when you have people who say, “Look, it’s a battle between LGBTQ rights and religious liberty rights.” Well, in a classic sense, there are no LGBTQ rights. So nonetheless, we’re living in a society in which, well, people talk about the category of, say, LGBTQ rights. You could have other rights that could be inserted there, and thus we do have to deal with the fact that that’s a part of the vocabulary. That’s why you see the distinction now between natural rights and, say, synthetic rights or artificial rights. Or you have those that are metaphysically grounded, which means, well, let’s just say it, in reality, and those that are merely legally constructed. When it comes to something like LGBTQ rights, Christians do not believe that they are metaphysically grounded.

We do recognize that some courts have declared them to be legally constructed, and so we do find ourselves in very difficult territory here. The question here is really about abortion. Has the abortion debate been changed? Are we arguing about if the fetus is a baby to now just arguing that autonomy trumps human dignity. Well, yes and no, and I think, Ryan, this points to the strategy of the pro-abortion movement, which has been to try to change the subject away from the baby at all costs and onto, say, a woman’s reproductive freedom as they call it, or a woman’s reproductive health or a woman’s choice. Yes, it’s a woman’s autonomy in this case, but of course, we’re talking about a left that’s now so absolutely in rebellion against metaphysics that they don’t want to talk about pregnant women. They want to talk about pregnant people.

The problem just gets more complex and the issue just grows more and more daunting. But you put your finger on something we talk about here, and that is the fact that we have to keep putting the focus back on the baby. Now, one of the great assists in that, just speaking of technology, was the ultrasound because even though it’s not a surprise now, quite frankly, the images from early ultrasounds were astounding to people who had ever seen them before because of the fact that increasingly the inhabitant of the womb was undeniably a baby. Now, we as Christians understand that this is a human person from the point of fertilization. That’s invisible to most of us. It’s even invisible when it comes to a sonogram or that kind of imaging, but the reality is that it was all of a sudden a focus upon the baby.

It led one pro-abortion activist in the 1990s to say, “The fetus beat us,” meaning that when people see an ultrasound, they really don’t believe when you say that’s not a baby. Now, that’s not to say that people see an ultrasound and they immediately become pro-life. It is to say that there’s a pro-life victory the moment the person sees that image and says, “Oh, I know what that is. That’s a baby.” The pro-abortion movement just has to as a matter of necessity move the issue away from the baby or try to do that and onto what they see as the important moral agent, which isn’t the baby, but the pregnant person. We would say the mother.

When you ask has the abortion issue changed, well, it has in terms of what you see in the media. The media largely play along with this strategy of trying to avoid talking about the baby at all costs. The problem is, the baby refuses to be forgotten. That’s one of the issues that simply comes through whenever there’s an honest discussion about abortion, and it’s one of the great frustrations of the pro-abortion movement. Nonetheless, the society that’s in moral rebellion against the metaphysics, that is to say the reality of God’s creation, of God’s law, of God’s command, of God’s pattern, they’re at war with the very concept of inherent human dignity that would extend to the inhabitant of the womb.

We have to keep returning the argument there, but Ryan, I want to deal honestly with your last part here. “Should Christians argue for human rights? Or is that more of a humanism influence?” Well, the answer is yes. I think you see even in Scripture a very clear reference to what we would call human rights, but they are rights established by the Creator, which by the way, is language that you find even in the Declaration of Independence that tells you how real that Christian worldview and background was. Even when the colonists of the United States were declaring independence from Great Britain, one of the ways they did this was to say, “We’re doing so in the name of these natural rights with which we’ve been endowed by our Creator.” Inalienable rights they were described.

Humanism didn’t produce this language, but humanism has tried to hijack this language, and we need to press back. It’s not that Christians don’t believe in human rights. We just don’t believe in artificially-constructed human rights. We believe in human rights that are revealed in Scripture. We believe in human rights that are revealed in nature and in human dignity–the human dignity grounded in the fact that we are made by a Creator in His image.

Lot to unpack there. Love the way the questions were asked. Ryan, thanks for sending your question.

Part III

Why Do You Find Biographies So Beneficial? Who Is Your Favorite Biographer Still Alive? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, I take a question from Kyle, and he asks, “In regards to reading, why do you find biographies so beneficial?” Then, he says, “Who’s your favorite biographer still alive?” By the way, Kyle goes on to say his current favorite biographer is Ron Chernow. I have to say, by the way, I greatly appreciate Ron Chernow as a biographer. We could trade favorite biographies, but Chernow’s biography of John D. Rockefeller is indeed my favorite. It’s entitled Titan. I’ll just say it’s an incredible read. Helps to explain not only Rockefeller and, well, say that period in American history, it also helps to explain America. It’s just incredibly well-written, as are other of his biographies as well.

You asked a question, why am I so interested in historical biography? It is because I’m really committed to reality. Now, I’m not saying I don’t like fiction. I really appreciate a great deal of fiction, although the fiction I appreciate is more realism than anything else. I love, say, the great Russian novelists who attempt to capture reality even in their fiction. By the way, I’m also a big fan of detective fiction and espionage novels. Again, I want things that deal with reality and that reveal human nature and an important human story. But the most important human stories and the most important revelation in human nature outside of Scripture is in human beings themselves.

You asked the question, who is my favorite biographer still alive? I’ll give you the answer immediately. It is Andrew Roberts, now Lord Roberts. I really enjoy his biographies. The latest was of King George III. You’ll find, by the way, interviews with him that I did in the series Thinking in Public, my other podcast. I’ll also say I enjoyed, say, reading a biography by Andrew Roberts on Napoleon and comparing it to other biographies of the same figure, in this case Napoleon. One of the fun, say, compare and contrast exercises there is to look at Andrew Roberts’ biography of Napoleon and then Adam Zamoyski’s biography of Napoleon.

By the way, they were engaged in a great public debate on this there in Britain, which also helps to underline why historical biography is so important. I’ll just admit if there’s one, say, genre of literature I can read just for fun, it’s going to be historical work and, in particular, historical biographies. Thanks for the question, Kyle, and keep reading.

Part IV

Why Does the Catholic Bible Have More Books In It Than the Protestant Bible? How Did People Know Which Books Were Inspired by God and Which Were Not? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a 13-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

Finally, a question from Margaret. She is 13. She says she sometimes listens with her parents to The Briefing. She asked the question, “I know there are a few extra books in the Catholic Bible and that the books of the Bible were found and translated at different times. How did people know which books were inspired by God and which weren’t?” Margaret says, “Thank you.”

Well, thank you for sending the question, Margaret. I love the way she signs it, “Margaret, as she says, “13-year-old kid who is homeschooled.” Well, God bless you, Margaret, and your family. I do appreciate the question from a 13-year-old kid who is homeschooled, and it’s a good question. A lot of people are perplexed by this. They pick up a Catholic edition of the Scripture and they look at the Bible as we know it, and there are these extra books. These are sometimes referred to the Apocrypha or The Pseudepigrapha. I’ll simply say that simply refers to the fact that there’s an acknowledgement even on the part of the Catholic Church that we’re talking about writings that aren’t included with the Old or New Testaments. They’re generally referred to simply as the Apocrypha.

Generally, they have to do with writings dated to the period between the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Those are not books that are recognized by Protestants as being part of the canon Scripture. Now, we need to understand something here, and that is that I want to be clear that even as Roman Catholics put the Apocrypha there within the, say, the printing of the Bible and even as they claim that they should be there and are a part of the Catholic understanding of the Bible, they don’t put them on exactly the same plane as the Old and New Testaments.

Just to give a little bit of history here, and I’ll have to do this in just very brief summary, Margaret: it was very well-established that we know what the Old Testament is long before the time of Jesus and the coming of the New Testament. There is just about total agreement in terms of the set–it’s called the canon of the Old Testament books. By the time you get to the New Testament, just about everybody knows what the Old Testament is, and that’s really beyond controversy. The question comes with a New Testament, and there were other writings that were a part of the Christian movement in the first and second century; so how in the world did the Church know which ones were to be in what we call the New Testament?

Well, there were three rules, Margaret. There’s no way around big words for this. It was Apostolicity, Catholicity, and orthodoxy. As you look at that, it simply meant they were books that had to agree in terms of the doctrine, and it turns out The Holy Spirit led the Church to recognize which writings those were, the 27 books of the New Testament. Catholicity didn’t mean a part of the Catholic Church. It mean that they were recognized by all of the churches everywhere. That tells you something about The Holy Spirit worked in this. The Holy Spirit led those churches separated by space, sometimes geography, separated by a very great deal into a common understanding of which books were to be in what we call the New Testament. The first rule was Apostolicity, and I think you hear the word apostle there, Margaret.

That is that every one of the writings in the New Testament had to be traced to an apostle of The Lord Jesus Christ, taught by The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, chosen by The Lord Jesus Christ as apostles through whom he would reveal truth to the Church. Now, and this is the reason why I say God’s word. We mean the books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament. The amazing thing is that the early Church came so quickly to understand which books those were to be. We believe that was the work of The Holy Spirit, who was not only the one who inspired the Biblical writers to write those writings, but also led the early Church to understand which of those writings were to be a part of the New Testament.

Margaret, I also want to direct us to some of the closing words of Scripture, the very end of the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation 22. Hear what the Apostle John writes by The Holy Spirit beginning in Verse 18. He writes, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book. If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city,” which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says surely I’m coming soon. Amen, come Lord Jesus. The grace of The Lord Jesus be with us all. Amen.”

If anyone adds to these words or anyone takes away from these words, let that person be anathema. That’s a very strong warning. I’m so thankful The Holy Spirit let the Church so early to understand what indeed is the Bible, the books that are in the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament. Our job now is not to figure out which belong there, but how to read them, study them, understand them, preach them, teach them, and obey them. Margaret, thanks so much for a wonderful question.

Again, send your question to

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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