The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

It’s Tuesday, October 3, 2023.

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

Part I

Intersectionality Gone Wild: Governor Gavin Newsom Chooses Laphonza Butler as Senator of California

Well he did it. He in this case means California Governor Gavin Newsom, and what he did was a point an acting senator to serve the remainder of the term of the late Senator Dianne Feinstein. We discussed the death of Dianne Feinstein and its meaning yesterday, and one of the big open questions is what the governor of California would do?

He had stated, after the last time he made an interim appointment, that this time he would appoint a Black woman. The reason he had to say that is because he came under incredible political pressure for naming Alex Padilla as an acting senator, and in that case it was an Hispanic man, but it was a man. And in today’s context of intersectionality, that’s not enough, even an Hispanic man.

So let’s just look at what we actually have here. We have a new senator who by the way, is not now living in California. The new California senator also has not been voting in California recently, but she is nonetheless a big power in democratic politics. She has been the president of EMILYs List. Her name is Laphonza Butler, and EMILYs List is an organization that has been all about serving candidates and funding candidates, Democratic candidates who are pro-abortion in terms of election cycles.

So Laphonza Butler is very well known and she is Black, and she is a woman and she is pro-abortion avidly so and there’s one other thing, she is now being advertised as the first openly gay or lesbian senator from the state of California. So the big story here is really not Laphonza Butler. She’s actually just a pointer to the big story here.

The big story here is what’s happening on the political and ideological left in the United States. And in order to understand that, we are now able to make some rather abstract issues pretty concrete. One of those abstract issues is critical theory. Critical theory is a form of thought that emerged out of Marxism, particularly in Germany in the period between the two world wars.

It really began to gain steam, however, in the United States in the 1960s, and there’s a long story behind that. You had a group known as the Frankfurt School in Germany developing critical theory, and the key insight that is important for us, is that critical theory held that a Marxist revolution was not going to take place by the proletariat, a labor majority rising up against their capitalist masters.

Instead, if a true revolution was going to come in newly Marxist terms in western cultures, it would come through the elites, it would come through the engines of cultural production. It will be done through the culture, not primarily through the economy. And this has been one of the animating dreams of the ideological and political left in the United States for a long time. Yet at the same time, it also appeared that for decades critical theory in the Frankfurt School were not really gaining much traction at all.

In retrospect, we can see that the big opportunity really came with the death of the older classic liberal ideology in the United States. This is at least to some degree a generational issue. The generation of liberals who had served in World War II and the Korean War, and who had that experience, they weren’t too open to something like critical theory. But the generation of ideological young people who emerged and eventually gained so much influence in the academy from the 1960s, the children as they said in Europe of the year 1968, well, it turns out that they included a good number of critical theorists, and many variants of critical theory have worked their way into American cultural controversies.

Now, if you think about critical studies or critical theory, you need to understand that the first concrete form of critical theory to start gaining a lot of influence in the United States, was in the area of law. Critical legal studies, and that became very, very influential, and yet out of that emerged some other ideas. And if this is sounding abstract to you, well, it’s about to become today’s news in terms of how this works. Because, let me read to you a report from NBC News about the interim appointment of Laphonza Butler as the next Democratic United States senator from the state of California.

So here it is. I’m going to read to you a statement in this NBC report and the statement comes from Kelley Robinson identified as president of the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ rights organization, and Kelley Robinson referred to Laphonza Butler’s appointment as, “A landmark moment in the fight for social, racial and economic justice.” But that’s not the key sentence.

Here’s the key sentence. It’s from the voice of Kelley Robinson, “As the first Black lesbian to represent California and the United States Senate, Laphonza brings a compelling voice for abortion rights, the labor movement, and civil rights in the Congress. Her leadership is a testament to the legacy of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s, strong record of pro-LGBTQ+ support.”

Now, if you listen to that sentence, you heard an entire revolution in American society taking place, and I want to point to a few words in it. Now, intersectionality, what’s in the background to this? What in the world is intersectionality? Well, it’s a variant of critical theory and it really came out of critical legal studies, and the argument is that the big problem in society is oppression, but there are some people who are more oppressed than others. In order to understand how intersectionality works, you have to understand identity politics.

Identity politics is the effort to reduce every single citizen to identities, sometimes multiple identities and some of those identities are oppressor identities, such as white male, in terms of how critical theory works. Some of them are oppressed identities, such as African-American. You go down any list of ethnicities and you put at the top of that list, women and then you put the new list, which is those who are identified as LGBTQ+, et cetera. The idea of intersectionality in critical theory is that the persons who are most oppressed are the persons with the greatest number of intersections in terms of identity politics.

Now here’s an easy way to understand that. You would say according to intersectionality, that a woman just by being a woman is oppressed. Thousands of years, millennia, patriarchy are oppressing women. So every single woman starts out as an oppressed member of a neglected and opposed minority. But then it’s not just women, because not all women are equally oppressed. There are other women who are more oppressed, and that’s where the intersectionality comes in and that’s where the sentence about Laphonza Butler comes in. Let me go back to what Kelley Robinson said, “As the first Black lesbian to represent California in the United States Senate.”

Now, the key issue there is understanding that lesbian, at least to this point, even with all the gender confusion, does imply woman. And so you say Black lesbian, you’re saying a Black woman who is romantically in a same-sex pattern of attraction and relationship. And so you look at that and you got three intersections right there, or at least you could say you have the intersection of three different oppressions. Women and also lesbian and also Black.

And so in this one appointment, governor Gavin Newsom is basically he has hit a double. No, it’s a triple. He has actually hit three different points of the intersectionality grid in critical theory. And so for the California governor, this would appear to be a big win. But then again, this is downright weird because Laphonza Butler doesn’t even live in California. You would think that, it would be a political misfire to appoint someone actually living in Maryland and having voted in recent Maryland statewide elections, you would think that wouldn’t be a smart political move, but it might be. Then again, it might not be.

Because there are already at least three declared candidates for Dianne Feinstein’s posts in the United States Senate, and none of those three candidates for the democratic nomination wanted any other of those candidates to get this interim nomination. That would be an incredible political gift that would serve to political advantage.

But the interesting thing about Laphonza Butler is that the deal with the governor for her interim appointment does not require her not to run, and she has said, that she is not committing not to run. So this could get very interesting, but not only interesting, it could get very bloody in California democratic politics, and it’s going to be interesting for all the rest of us to watch.

But I just want us to understand that this intersectionality parable living out before our eyes, shows us how American politics will die of this particular ideological poison, and the left is trapped in it right now. They are so trapped in intersectionality, identity politics, the dynamic of every political question coming down to the oppressor versus the oppressed. They are in a dynamic of their own responsibility. They have put themselves in their own ideological trap. And here’s the question, once you’re Gavin Newsom, how do you top this? Once you named an Hispanic man and that wasn’t good enough because the Hispanic man was a man and now you have named a Black woman who’s also LGBTQ.

Well, here’s the clue, Governor Gavin Newsom, that won’t be good enough the next time. The way identity politics works and intersectionality is that you’re going to have to have someone next time who fires on, I don’t know, five, six or seven identity politics cylinders. This is the devolution of American politics. We cannot survive this kind of ideological corruption, but nonetheless, this is where we are, thanks to California Governor Gavin Newsom who thinks he’s solved a problem, but in all honesty, he has set himself or his successor up for a trap.

Once you pull what he just did this week with Laphonza Butler, what do you do next time? Because you have to do better next time Governor Newsom. You or your successor because that’s the way identity politics and intersectionality work. So you better be figuring out if you fired on three cylinders this time, how you can fire on say twice that next time. I don’t mean this, but I’ll simply say it as a tautology. Good luck with that.

Part II

A Sober Response of Gospel Importance: Responding to Andy Stanley’s Clarification at North Point on Sunday

But next, with a sense of seriousness but also with a sense of urgency, I need to shift to discuss recent developments related to Andy Stanley in North Point Community Church there in Metro Atlanta. Just a few days ago on The Briefing and in an article I published at WORLD Opinions, I discussed grave concerns about a conference that was going to be hosted there at North Point Community Church.

The conference is known as Unconditional and it was basically focused on LGBTQ+ issues. It was advertised as a conference particularly for the parents of LGBTQ+ children, to understand how to relate to them. But there were grave concerns about this from the beginning, even as there have been concerns about how many of these issues have been addressed by Andy Stanley in years previous, and of course we’re talking about a major pastor of a major church in the United States with vast influence and that’s why it’s drawn our attention.

We also looked at the fact that having years ago called for, “unhitching” the church from the Old Testament and frankly having confused the issue of the sinfulness and normativity of same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ relationships in previous messages, deeper theological issues that are involved there too. This particular conference was to feature not just one but two men who were identified as being in same-sex marriages and some others who were clearly understood as making an argument for the full recognition and normalization of LGBTQ+ behaviors and relationships in the Christian Church.

So I raised that issue and pointed out that a departure on this is a departure from biblical Christianity. That’s the urgency. This is not just a matter of a theological disagreement or a disagreement over an ethical issue. It’s a matter of gospel importance, and that’s not just based upon some kind of theological hunch, that’s actually based upon the text of the New Testament, but of course, there’s a lot going on here and the conference has now been held. And this past Sunday, Andy Stanley took the time in both of the Sunday morning services to respond specifically to me and to the article I wrote, and I’m not making that by inference. He said that explicitly in both services as he introduced his message.

Now, the simple fact that he addressed these issues and the audio is now pretty widely available, if he addressed these issues, I need to pay attention to what he said, and that’s for the very simple but very important reason that if we are concerned about doctrinal error, we should be very thankful for doctrinal clarification and doctrinal correction. In other words, looking at the New Testament pattern of confronting error, your first hope is for the error to be corrected, and then of course, there are subsequent decisions that have to be made if someone doesn’t correct that error.

There’s a pattern that is laid out in the New Testament for how the church is to operate. And so I wanted to take a very close look at what Andy Stanley said, in hopes that there would be a good clarification and that’s not what happened. What we need to understand is that there’s no joy in addressing theological error, but at the same time, passivity in the face of serious error amounts to complicity in it. We bear a stewardship as Christians and that is to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. That stewardship requires humility, but it also requires a careful consideration of theological weight, biblical substance and ethical priority.

That’s to say that there are some issues in which we can have disagreement without splitting the church or getting to the essence or the heart of the gospel, but this is not one of those issues, and I’m not saying that on my own theological authority. I’m saying that because that’s an apostolic declaration by the Apostle Paul in more than one of his Holy Spirit inspired writings in the New Testament.

Now, one of the interesting things is that in addressing what I had written about in the article and talked about on The Briefing, Andy Stanley spoke of my argument and my role in this, as being one who draws lines and he contrasted that with Jesus, who he said drew circles, and I quote him here, he said, “He,” Meaning Jesus, “drew circles so large and included so many people in his circle that it consistently made religious leaders nervous.”

Now, he’s making a good point there. Indeed, Jesus did draw circles and he drew people in, even in telling his parables for example, when he told the parable of the Good Samaritan, he raised a Samaritan who was not even considered worthy of even mentioned on the part of the Jewish community, much less access to the temple. He made the Samaritan the hero of the story, but at the same time, Jesus himself also drew lines. It’s just not true to say that Jesus kept drawing circles and never drew lines.

Jesus drew many lines and he drew lines between belief and unbelief. He drew lines between faithfulness and unfaithfulness. He drew lines between those who believed in him and those who did not. He drew lines between the sheep and the goats with eternal significance. So there’s no way to avoid drawing lines. The question is where we faithfully draw the lines? Simply saying that it’s conservative fundamentalist evangelicals who draw lines, Jesus draws circles. That’s not good enough. That’s just not accurate. It’s not fair.

It’s important for us to recognize that as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he was very clear about this. For example, you talk about making this issue very clear and drawing a line. Paul wrote to the Corinthians asking the question, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkard, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” That’s 1 Corinthians 6.

Now, remember that Paul also continued and this is the gospel truth, “And such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the spirit of our God.” So here Paul’s talking about a past, present and future, and Paul makes very clear that the sin has to be in the past, such were some of you.

But then the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ is addressed by telling us, “You were washed, you were sanctified.” That turns out to be crucial by the way. You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the spirit of our God. Past sin, present faithfulness, future glory. That’s the promise of the gospel, but the sin, that can’t be carried into the present, it certainly can’t be carried into the future.

And by this it doesn’t mean that Christians don’t sin. It does mean that we cannot clinging to the sin, that is killing us according to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that’s exactly what Paul names. It’s not like we have to come up with a list. Paul gives us the illustration here and the specifics in terms of this list.

Now, in his messages this past Sunday, Andy Stanley did address several of the issues of greatest concern. The problem is he didn’t clarify two things. Number one, is personal convictions on LGBTQ+ issues, nor did he really clarify the position or the policy of North Point Community Church. He went so far as to say that the church’s policy and conviction on marriage is that it means a man and a woman, so that’s good. He said that according to North Point Community Church marriage means a man and a woman, and he drilled down on that saying that’s what the church believes, and I guess by that he means, that it doesn’t perform same-sex marriages, and you would say, “Well, just take him at his word.”

Well, the problem is I do take him at his word, and so even as he say condemned sex outside of marriage, he didn’t do so in what I would define as biblical terms. He did it in largely pragmatic terms. He asked the question, “And has sex outside of marriage made your life better or more complicated?” It’s not exactly the way that Scripture addresses these issues to say the least, and here’s where things really get dicey.

Part III

For Some Same-sex People, Celibacy is Just "Not Sustainable?” — A Major Departure From Biblical Christianity

Later in the message, Andy Stanley then turned to offer what I think can only honestly be described as a justification for allowing same-sex couples to be an ongoing part of the church. He spoke of same-sex attracted believers who practice sexual celibacy, but then said, and frankly, this is absolutely remarkable, he said, “But for many, that’s just not sustainable. And so they choose a same-sex marriage, not because they’re convinced as biblical, they read the same Bible we do. They choose or chose to marry for the same reason, many of us do love companionship and family.”

Now, I’ll be honest, I was prepared for a good number of possible responses from Andy Stanley. I wasn’t really prepared for this one. I wasn’t prepared for him to give the example of same-sex couples and say that celibacy and faithfulness to the biblical command is simply in his words, not sustainable. And thus, the church needs to recognize that there are same-sex couples who get married and evidently marriage doesn’t mean a man and a woman.

In this case, it means a man and a man or a woman and a woman, and it’s hard to put all this together in any way, that’s even approaching consistency. But what’s just explicitly clear is that Andy Stanley says that for some same-sex people, it’s just not sustainable to maintain sexual celibacy. Now, that’s where we need to recognize we really are in uncharted waters here, because we are talking about a justification for same-sex marriage, and I want to point, there are huge problems here.

Number one, this won’t fly according to Scripture. It just won’t. It can’t be reconciled with Scripture. Secondly, it won’t fly with any claim that you’re actually upholding marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The moment you turn around just paragraphs later and talk about same-sex marriage and then you offer a justification for it, I’ll just say that’s not just confusion. I’ll go so far as to say that has to be some kind of calculation and it’s not going to work.

First of all, the LGBTQ+ movement is not going to be satisfied with this at all, because it clearly implies that same-sex relationships are in some sense inferior to heterosexual marriage. But here’s what we need to recognize. That’s not the biblical argument. The biblical argument is not the same-sex relationships are inferior to heterosexual marriage. It’s that same-sex relationships and in particular same-sex behaviors are wrong, categorically wrong, and that’s one problem.

The other problem is simply ask yourself the question. If the not sustainable argument is a valid argument, how in the world do you stop with same-sex marriage? There are a lot of people who would say, “I would understand the scripture to forbid what I want to do sexually, but it’s not sustainable for me to forbid myself that sexual behavior.” You can’t stop just the same-sex marriage. That’s going to have to be a logic that will extend further.

I just want us to note that the big question here in many ways for Christians is, what’s missing here? There are at least two big things that are missing here that are essential to our understanding of the gospel and the Christian life. The first of them is repentance. It’s just not here. And repentance is not just an option in the Christian faith. It’s the command of Christ and a call to repentance is actually part of the gospel. It’s not just to believe. It is to believe and repent of sins.

The repentance of sins is one of the proofs of the Holy Spirit working within the heart to convict of sin and to draw us to Christ. It is a double movement by the Holy Spirit, to make us understand that we are convicted of our sins and thus we desperately need a savior and then to pull us to Christ who indeed is mighty to save. So it’s the absence of repentance. That’s the first thing we notice is missing here. And I simply say that a gospel without repentance simply is not the gospel as is revealed by Christ and in the New Testament.

The second thing missing here is the entire category of sanctification. And this is a big problem frankly in a lot of evangelicalism today, in which you do have an easy believism that simply says, “You give intellectual assent to the gospel and you’re a Christian.” There is nothing about the demand to obey the commands of Christ and to live faithfully as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. And needless to say, that is exactly what we find in the New Testament.

In gospel terms, I think this means we need to turn back to 1 Corinthians 6 because we need to remember that Paul did not mention those behaviors that are incompatible with the gospel. So much so, that he said that believers shouldn’t even maintain a fellowship with those who claim to be believers and practice such things, but this was not simply a matter of censure. The Apostle Paul has a gospel purpose here.

In 1 Corinthians 6:11, the Apostle Paul, so sweetly wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “And such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the spirit of our God.” So we return to that past, present, and future.

This is about the fact that we were washed. That’s the precious New Testament teaching about our salvation, and that’s just incompatible with bringing our sin, even our openly declared sin repackaged as an identity. It’s just not possible according to scripture and according to the faith taught by the church for 2000 years, that you can bring your sin into your Christian life as a prerequisite or condition for your response to Christ.

One final thought here. This is not, what’s preached here is not the gospel is preached by the apostles and held fast by the faithful church. This is a departure from the faith once for all delivered to the saints. There is no joy in saying this, but Andy Stanley’s approach as defended in detail this past Sunday is just flatly and publicly contradictory to what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, and thus, the Holy Spirit as revealed to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, everywhere in all places and all times until Jesus comes.

I want us also to reflect upon the fact that Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.” It is impossible to defend a same-sex marriage from scripture. It is impossible to imagine the Apostles conceding that obedience to God’s word might be unsustainable for some believers. In this case, we’re talking about more than just unhitching the church from the Old Testament, as impossible as that is, we’re actually talking about what has to be defined as a departure from the gospel.

As I said in the beginning, there is no joy in that, but there is urgency in that declaration, and this is where the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is going to have to make a decision and take a stand. We’re going to find out pretty quickly where the faithful church stands, and this is where we must recognize that the faithful church has nowhere to stand, but upon the authority of Christ as given to us, revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures, which means we have nowhere to stand, but on the scriptures. And just as one final thought, the scriptures are not unclear, the gospel is at stake, and so we had better be clear.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’m speaking to you from Edinburgh, Scotland. And I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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