The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, September 29, 2023

Friday, September 29, 3023

It is Friday, September 29, 2023.

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

Part I

Our Adults Aren’t Adulting: The Big Problems of the Prolonged Adolescence Characterizing Our Society

USA Today is, in many ways, a barometer of moral change in our culture. It’s also a driver of that moral change in a progressivist direction. The paper recently ran an opinion piece by two authors, Phil McGraw, a pretty well-known media celebrity figure offering advice, often presented as a psychologist. He’s identified as, “Dr. Phil McGraw, PhD, one of the most well-known mental health professionals in the world.” The other author is Dr. John Whyte, identified as chief medical officer of the website, WebMD. The two have co-authored this article. It’s presented as an opinion piece in USA Today, the headline, “If adult child won’t move out, it may not be bad.” Now it turns out that the importance of this story is not about an adult child who won’t move out.

It’s rather about a massive change in the society that these two writers are actually celebrating. They go on to say that we are now living in complicated times, and they say, “The complicated reality is not necessarily cause for alarm.” Listen to this, “Demographic comparisons between previous and current generations miss the ways that institutions such as marriage, family and work have evolved.” So the background to this is the fact that they begin with the observation that adults aren’t, this is an actual term used by some in the media these days, they’re not adulting. They’re not marrying at rates or on a schedule that’s anywhere close to previous generations in terms of American history. In many cases, they’re not assuming adult roles in society. They’re not assuming adult rules in the culture. But these two authorities writing in USA Today say no big deal because the basic institutions of society have changed.

There’s no reason to compare generations and look at this generation of young adults with concern. They go on to write this, “Consider family formation. It’s true that more young people are delaying marriage and child-rearing, and even opting not to have kids. In just two generations since the 1950s, the median age at which men and women first get hitched rose seven and eight years to 30 and 28, respectively, and 44% of Americans ages 18 to 49 report not wanting to have children.” Now, I’m not going to accept those numbers at face value, but they pretty much track, at least in a pattern with what we see replicated over and over again. Frankly, it’s something that most listeners to The Briefing could recognize in the lives of some of the young adults in your community, if not even closer. But what’s going on here is the fact that Dr. Phil and in this case, Dr. John, Dr. John Whyte, they’re celebrating the fact that by their own claim, 44% of young adults don’t even expect or want to have children.

Now, a Christian looking at that one sentence would have to be heartbroken. Understand this with deep concern, this is a tragic, and indeed, this is a destructive fact about the future of American civilization. All you have to do is look at cultures such as Korea and Japan, look at the declining birth rate and understand they’re having to bring in robots to take care of elderly people in nursing homes. That’s just a fact. We’re looking at collapse here. But one of the things we point to over and over again on The Briefing is the rise of this worldview that puts personal autonomy at the center of everything. This is really what these two supposed medical authorities are pushing. You put personal autonomy at the center of everything and every institution, every moral tradition, every moral principle, every biblical command simply has to give way. Marriage has to give way. Family has to give way. The expectation that adults will marry and have and raise children that just has to give way.

They go on and write this, “Those who do,” that means having children, “are having them later in life – the median age for a woman giving birth is now 30 up from 27 in 1990. The overall U.S. birth rate has dropped 20% since 2007.” Just remember, they’re citing this as a good thing. Anyone operating from a biblical worldview has to see this as a harbinger of disaster. “Many of the reasons behind these changes are good ones. The biggest contributing factor to the rising median age of first-time motherhood is a decline in teen pregnancy. Similarly, as opportunities for women to work and earn income have grown, they’ve been relieved of some of the financial and social pressure that contributed to marrying younger.” In the next section, these two writers say that America has basically outgrown marriage as a need.

“In 1950, only about 30% of females older than 15 participated in the labor force, whereas by 2005, that figure was 60%. Education levels have risen, too. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first contraceptive pill in the 1960s.” They say it radically reduced unplanned pregnancies, “another source of pressure to marry. Taking advantage of opportunities to study work, make money and control one’s. Fertility is hardly,” they say, “a sign of prolonged adolescence; it’s a rational response to the options available.” Marriage and family at the center, well just listen to this. “Today, marriage is driven less by need and more by love and desire for companionship, but it can result in tangible benefits just the same. Research suggests that married individuals make more money than single people, and that may be because married people can be more selective when job hunting. They don’t have to come and take the first job offer that comes their way, because a working spouse has their back in terms of household income.”

But the big point of this article is that these two writers are basically saying it’s just a fantastic thing that marriage is in decline. It’s a wonderful thing to celebrate that people are exercising their personal autonomy by not having children and not even wanting to. It’s a phenomenal thing that as a society we’re no longer saying to people, “You need to grow up. You need to get married. You need to have children. You need to raise them. You need to contribute to society.” What you see here, just take theology out of the picture for a moment. Just looking at this in terms of bare sociology, this is a recipe for civilizational collapse. But nonetheless, this is what is being celebrated on the editorial page of USA Today. The authors go on to say, “A sense of belonging and purpose can come from many places, including extended family, a religious community, or even a neighborhood softball team or a local bar.” Now, that’s a statement that’s hard to take seriously. It sounds more like an advertisement for their old television program, Cheers.

There is simply no way that hanging out in a local bar is in any way tantamount to marriage. There is simply no way that all of those different social groupings, organizations and opportunities can in any way be parallel to the family. But let me tell you what is represented there. It’s zero demand and 100% affirmation of personal autonomy, and that’s what so many people in our society want. It tells us a lot that so many influencers in our society see this as a good thing. Now, just yesterday, we talked about the fact that liberal Protestant denominations are in an absolute collapse. Here in Great Britain, people are talking about many denominations dying out by the end of the 2030s. That’s less than 20 years from now. You would think that’d be a wake-up call for people to say, “Maybe theological liberalism isn’t such a good idea.” You can look at the same parallel here. You look at the fact that the birth rate is declining. You look at the fact that the marriage rate is declining, people are getting married later.

You look at the fact that the impact on the birth rate and the impact on just to say the future workforce in the United States, the economic impact is going to be disastrous. The sociological impact is also going to be disastrous. The people at the local bar aren’t going to see you all the way to the nursing home struggling in the last period of your life, that takes marriage. You look at this, let’s put theology back in the picture, this is just what happens when there’s a revolt against God’s plan. This is what happens when there’s a revolt against creation order. This is what happens, however, when a newspaper like USA Today that bills itself as America’s newspaper puts this out as if this is a credible argument to be made in the public square. One thing you’re not going to find in the pages of this kind of newspaper is a contrary argument defending marriage, defending any kind of rational sexual morality, not to mention a biblical sexual morality. So two things out of this article. Number one, the argument it’s making, and then number two, the very fact that it has appeared.

You could just add to that a third issue. It’s not going to attract much controversy because this is pretty much the kind of thing that’s being put out into the national conversation and frankly disseminated on college campuses and just openly embraced by the elites of our society. Those who are not going to go with this flow are going to have to do so out of conviction because it’s not going to be possible to withstand this kind of pressure simply by social convention.

Part II

Why Does the Natural Family Matter, and Why Should It Be Prioritized? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from a 17-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

Now we’re going to turn to questions, and the first question is right down the lane of this particular issue we’ve been discussing. The writer in this case is Hannah, who identifies herself as, “a 17-year-old senior in high school.” Now this is what Hannah says, “I am writing because I’d like to ask about your thoughts on something. I go to a classical Christian tutorial and the seniors all have to present a senior thesis at the end of the year as part of the core curriculum. I am not entirely certain about my issue yet, but I think I want my topic to be about the family, the traditional family as God designed it to be. I think it’s called the nuclear family? Anyway, a couple of my potential issues are whether being raised in a nuclear family actually benefits the people involved, particularly the children and how whether government experts should have the authority to say what’s best for families, particularly children or whether parents should.” She summarizes, “I want to discuss why the family structure actually matters and why it should be prioritized.” So Hannah, thank you for your question. I want to come back to the way you even define it. You say you think that the family, meaning classically mother and father and the children that come from their union, you’re suggesting that that’s sometimes called the nuclear family. It is. We have a better term for it.

It’s not that we don’t affirm the nuclear family, but one of the things you’re going to hear from people is that the idea of the nuclear family was something that basically emerged in the United States as a sociological fact at something like the midpoint of the 20th century. You certainly do see something like a nuclear family reflected in the black and white, not that you would be familiar with these Hannah, but your parents and grandparents will be familiar with the black and white family dramas and comedies of the 1950s and ’60s, that was the nuclear family. But it’s Christians who affirm the natural family. So I’m not saying we don’t affirm the nuclear family, but we don’t hold up the nuclear family as the norm. We hold up the natural family as the norm. Now, we would define the natural family the same way. We would say it’s a husband and wife in the lifetime monogamous covenant of marriage and the children who are brought into that union who are raised, and we would say, as Christians in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Now, the natural family is different than the nuclear family in this one sense, Hannah. The nuclear family was presented as if there were no grandparents and there was no future generation. It’s all just a snapshot of mother and father and children in a house. The natural family is different than that because the natural family begins with that unit, the mother and the father and the children in the house. But it’s based in a biblical understanding of the fact that there are generations before and there are generations after. It’s a larger web and network of relationships that are also affirmed. You certainly see this, just go back to the Old Testament and understand when you’re looking at the experience of Israel, how you have grandparents and even in some cases, great-grandparents who are very much a part of the picture. They’re very much a part of the family, and there is always in the biblical worldview an anticipation of future generations should the Lord tarry. There will be future generations.

A part of the reason why we hold fast to the natural family is because we care about our own grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well. By the way, that’s just a very healthy Christian understanding. Our understanding of our own actions, our own place in the world, our own time has to be in reference in a biblical sense to the generations who came before us and the generations who will come after us. By the Christian understanding, both of those directions of generations have righteous demands to make upon us. But you asked the question, “Is there any actual proof or data that children being raised in a natural family have advantages over children who do not?” Fascinating you would ask that question because I discussed one aspect of this on The Briefing just a matter of a few days ago, I think it was last week. But the big issue here is there’s actually a huge argument being made inserted in even into the secular circles by an author who’s recently written a book on the two-parent privilege.

This is making all kinds of waves because this particular author is making the clear case that children who grew up with a mother and a father in the home have a clear advantage when it comes say, to educational advancement, when it comes to a future career, vocation, future engagement, hopefully with the culture, less engagement with the police. It turns out that this particular book on the two-parent privilege or the two-parent advantage, it shows up in a big way. So Hannah, this would be a good footnote or source for you, The Two-Parent Privilege, the author is Melissa Kearney. You can also do a quick search in the media because The New York Times and especially The Wall Street Journal have given some real attention to that book and the argument of that author. Now, we as Christians don’t start out saying, “What’s the statistical sociological affirmation?” We start out by asking, “What’s the biblical teaching that makes the family normative?”

Of course, there you have to start in Genesis 1, and I hope you’ll make that case very clearly also in your senior thesis. By the way, I want to encourage you to write your senior thesis on exactly what you’re talking about here because I think in your generation, there couldn’t be a more important issue, there just couldn’t. For the future of our entire society and for the future of the Christian Church, there couldn’t be a more important issue than getting biblical teachings straight and understanding how the glory of God is demonstrated in how the family flourishes in the context of the natural family set within that biblical context. Hannah, there’s a lot more to be said about this, and I will wish you well in your senior thesis. I am so thankful you’re going to be making this case. I tell you what, when you do write that thesis, I would love to receive a copy of it. God bless you, Hannah.

Part III

I Hold to Reformed Theology, But My Girlfriend Holds to Arminianism. Are We Incompatible for Marriage? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from a 17-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

Now, I love the fact that the next question’s also coming from a 17-year-old, in this case, a 17-year-old young man. His name is David, and he writes with this, “I’m an Irish 17-year-old male in his first year of university. I’ve recently broken up with my girlfriend of two years over a theological issue with regard to the sovereignty of God.” He goes on, “My father is a minister in the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, so I’m well-versed in the teachings of Calvin in reform theology. However, my girlfriend came from a non-denominational church with more charismatic and Arminianist roots.” He goes on, “We had discussed the issues for a time, but ultimately, she felt we were incompatible due to our differences in opinion. I believe that as a brother and sister in Christ, we can move past this, but she feared that we would live in a divided household if we were to marry. The heart of my question is: is it possible for a reformed and an Arminianist,” that’s the term he uses here, “Christian to marry despite their differences?”

Now, David, thank you so much for writing this question and especially writing this question from Ireland. I’m with a group that will hope to be there in just a matter of days, but I especially appreciate the tenor of your question. I appreciate the honesty of you relating the experience you had with this girl who was obviously a great interest in your life, and it came down to a matter of theological conviction. You identify as a Calvinist believing in the sovereignty of God. She identifies as an Arminian in such a way that very clearly she holds to Arminian doctoral beliefs. One of the issues we have here, sometimes a mismatch, David, because in general terms, and I know some people may be offended when I say this, but I’m going to say it anyway, in general terms, Calvinists almost by definition tend to be clear about what Calvinism is than what less Calvinist groups are about what their less Calvinist beliefs are.

But it sounds to me like the girl in question here was a pretty convinced Arminian. Now we could look at your question in one or two ways. Number one, the Scripture says very clearly that we are not to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. From what you’ve told me, I have no reason to believe that this girl was an unbeliever. But when we come to understand the spectrum of Christian churches and Christian denominations, different groups on these issues, the doctrinal differences can be exceedingly high. If this person, if this young woman was an actual consistent Arminian, the biggest issue I would see is that a consistent Arminian denies the perseverance of the saints, denies that once a sinner has believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and has by faith come to the Lord Jesus Christ is Savior, that means that our sins by the power of the gospel are imputed to Christ. His righteousness is then by the power of the gospel, by the decree of the sovereign Father imputed to us.

If someone believes that that can somehow be undone, that’s a huge problem, and it comes down to how one lives the Christian life. A consistent Arminian can actually believe as some consistent Arminian groups and churches do, that one can repeatedly be saved and lose salvation. It’s like a cycle. I think that’s fundamentally incompatible with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I think it’s also fundamentally incompatible with the doctrine of God as presented in both the Old and New Testaments. I want to be very careful, David. I’m not saying that one who holds that doctrine cannot be a believer and a regenerate believer. I’m saying it’s a very dangerous doctrine. I think it’s a fundamentally unbiblical doctrine. I think over time, clearly it’s a doctrine that undermines our confidence in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I think one of the key issues in Arminianism is A, it redefines God in a way that I think is unbiblical. Then secondly, it redefines the Christian in a way that I think is just not going to meet biblical muster.

I want to point out something else. In a Christian home or in a marriage, I think it’s really important that there be a unity of the faith. That does not mean, by the way, that you and a future wife would agree upon everything all the time. But it does mean that you live within a shared universe of conviction that is nearly comprehensive and is very thick and not thin. So let’s just say I appreciate from what you’ve told me, this girl’s candor, this young woman’s candor, I should say, in believing that these theological convictions really were a big issue that she didn’t think would lead to a stable, healthy marriage. I appreciate you asking the question, David. I tell you what, I’m going to pray that the Lord will lead you to the young woman He has sovereignly intended to be your wife in such a way that you’ll be strengthened together in your common faithfulness to Christ and you’ll be able to live out in comprehensiveness the glory of Christian marriage.

So David, don’t settle for anything less than that, and be thankful for the fact that God brought this young woman into your life. That’s another thing I feel the need to say to Christian young people. Sometimes the Lord makes very clear revealing the person we are to marry by bringing in the case with you, a young man, other young women into your life in order to make clear this is not the one. That doesn’t mean it’s a negative judgment, it’s just to say you are looking for the young woman with whom you’ll be maximally faithful to the fullest, faithful to bring out faithfulness in your wife and eventually, in your children as well. So David, thanks so much for writing the question. God bless you there in Ireland, and continue your studies. Press on.

Part IV

How Were Old Testament Believers Saved If Jesus Had Not Yet Died For Their Sins? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

I also found the next question just incredibly encouraging from a grandmother. Ellen writes, “My grandchildren attend a Christian classical collaborative school in which they are taught at home part of each week. I’m privileged to teach them during their days at home, and they often have questions that are difficult for me to answer. My two fifth grade grandchildren are studying the Old Testament and ask me how people in this ancient period could be saved since Jesus had not yet died for their sins. I would love to know how to wisely answer this.”

So that is a fascinating question. It’s an important question. Thankfully, it’s a question that is answered in scripture. Ellen, the scriptural passage that I would point you to in thinking about teaching your two fifth grade grandchildren on this question would be Hebrews 11. In that particular passage, of course, it starts out with the definition of faith, the Holy Spirit through the author of the Book of Hebrews writes, “Now, faith is the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen.” Now listen to this in Verse 2, “For by it the people of old,” that means the Old Testament, the old covenant, “received their commendation.”

“By faith,” Verse 3, “we understand that the universe was created by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are invisible.” Now, the point here in the first three verses is to point out that faith is believing in God and is the assurance of things hoped for is to find as that conviction of things not seen. Then we are told in the very next verse, “For the people of old,” meaning the old covenant, “they receive their commendation also by faith.” This is very similar to what we would find in a passage like Romans 4, where Abraham is held up as the example of what it means to be justified by faith. Abraham believed and it was accounted unto him as righteousness. You could say, “Well, yes, but Abraham didn’t believe in Christ.” No, but what Abraham believed in was that God would be absolutely faithful to his promises. Abraham knew the promises of God. He was absolutely confident that God would be faithful to His promises, and so Abraham’s faith actually is held up as the example of the faith of the church.

In Hebrews 11, gloriously, it goes back to the saints of the Old Testament and says that they were saved by the atonement accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ. Because even as He was not yet born as a baby, He had not yet died on Calvary’s cross, He was not yet raised from the dead, He was not yet ascended into heaven, they believed in the promises because they believed in the promiser even before the promise was fulfilled. It was accounted unto Abraham as righteousness. Now, we have to be careful with that, Ellen, because it doesn’t mean that we just look backwards in time and say, “Well, all those people are simply covered by the work of Christ,” because the people who are held up here in Hebrews 11 meet two conditions. Number one, they were the people of Israel under the covenant of old. Number two, they were found faithful according to that covenant because not that they had just lived out in obedience, that’s the product of their faithfulness, but because they had absolutely trusted God.

They had demonstrated their faith by the fact that they trusted that God would be faithful to his promises. So Ellen, you can look at passages like Romans 4 and Hebrews 11, and I talked about how Hebrews 11 begins. Let me just conclude with how Hebrews 11 ends, Verses 39 and 40, “And all these,” speaking of all those Old Testament saints who are mentioned there, “And all these, though commended through their faith did not receive what was promised: since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us, they should not be made perfect.” Now, that’s just a glorious thing. In other words, they were not the church before there is a church. They are instead included in God’s work of salvation, and it’s all traceable to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, accomplishing the will of the Father, for the salvation of the redeemed the Father had given to Him, of the elect. So it’s a glorious promise, and I believe the scripture speaks very clearly of one redeemed people of God.

The Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 16 says, “Upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” one redeemed people through the atonement accomplished gloriously and obediently by the Son at the will of the Father. What an incredible privilege it is to be trusted with these kinds of questions and to have these questions sent, in the first case by a 17-year-old young woman and then by a 17-year-old young man and then by a grandmother teaching her two fifth grade grandchildren the deep things of God, scripture and the gospel. I hope that this will not only be encouraging to those who sent these questions, I hope the fact that these questions were sent as they were sent will be an encouragement to all of us.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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Today I’m in York, England, and I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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