The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, October 13, 2023

It’s Friday, October 13, 2023.

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

Part I

Treasonous Behavior from a Senator: Robert Menendez Charged with Conspiring to Act as Foreign Agent of Egypt

So much going on, of course, in the world, and the most important story right now is what’s happening there in Israel. I discussed with several colleagues what this means in a panel discussion at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College that has just been posted. It’s entitled, How Should Christians Think About the Attack Upon Israel? I think you’ll appreciate the deep background that we go into and the discussion explicitly in Christian worldview terms. You can find it simply by going to We’ll be tracking developments thereafter with you.

Meanwhile, coming back to the United States, there’s a really big story and in any other news cycle or news week, it would be a giant story. In proportionality, it’s really big because we have a sitting United States senator who has now been indicted on the charge that he conspired to act as a foreign agent for another country. In this case, the other country is Egypt, and in this case, the senator is Democratic New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez. You may recall that he was charged just last month for bribery, for taking bribes and for doing so in light of political favors. He was charged and indicted along with his wife and the involvement is really tawdry. And on The Briefing we talked about the fact that this has come down to gold bars and cash found in jackets with the senator’s name embroidered upon them found in his closet.

We are talking about a level of venality and graft and corruption that almost defies the imagination, which for Christians is rather chasing because we’re the people who are supposed to have imaginations that are not often this shocked, especially when you talk about power, coming into contact with money, coming into contact with all kinds of bad motivations. But still, I’ll admit to you, I’m shocked that the man who most recently served as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, the United States Senate, has now been indicted on charges of conspiring to act as a foreign agent, which is to say he’s a member of the United States Senate. He’s a duly elected United States Senator, but he’s being charged with using his political office not to the advantage and to the service of the United States of America, but to a foreign country. In this case, the foreign country is Egypt.

Specifically, he and his wife, along with a third defendant, were accused of not registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. As a team of reporters for the New York Times tell us, “The prosecutors have asked a judge to seize the Menendez’s residence in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, as well as a Mercedes-Benz convertible that the government says was given to them as a bribe.” The summary of the indictment comes down to this, and once again, the big story here is this goes far beyond bribery, we’re now talking about what in other contexts would be described as treasonous behavior, “Mr. Menendez, Nadine Menendez, Mr. Hana, that’s the third defendant, and two other businessmen were accused last month in what prosecutors described as a scheme to use the senator’s influence to increase US aid and military sales to Egypt in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars, bars of gold bullion, and the Mercedes-Benz.”

The new accusations actually go to the very heart of the fact that this was a United States senator who, according to the US attorney here in filing this indictment, was actually serving not the people of the United States of America but a foreign government. Just understand how extreme this is. You have one of 100 United States senators, one of two United States senators from the state of New Jersey, and he is now charged with acting on behalf of a foreign government, and by the way, being bribed or paid to do so. But there’s a little bit more than that to this because after all, we’re not just talking about one of a hundred senators, we’re talking about the one who until the first accusation arrest and indictment came, he was actually the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

One of the requirements of being charged for this particular crime of failing to register as a foreign agent, one of the requirements is that one must know that one’s a foreign agent. You have to know that you are serving a foreign government, and in the case of Senator Bob Menendez, the fact is that he is without the slightest excuse of explaining that he didn’t know because we’re not just talking about a citizen of New Jersey, we’re talking not just about a sitting United States senator, we’re talking about the senator who for years has served as the ranking member or the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate. This goes beyond inexcusable. This is right down the road from unimaginable. In political terms, this is a really, really big story. It’s a big story in New Jersey. Mr. Menendez serves as the United States Senator from the state of New Jersey. It’s big in Washington, DC. It’s big everywhere.

Democrats are now gathered because Senator Menendez is a Democrat and thus, you have very loud calls coming from Democratic political officials including many of his colleagues in the United States Senate calling for him to resign because we’re not just talking here about bribery as if it’s even sensical to say we’re not just talking about bribery, we’re also talking about serving a foreign nation while serving as a United States senator and chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. Now, there is a level of corruption, graft, and just basic indecency that sometimes goes into the political equation. And even the mainstream media have acknowledged that when it comes to the state of New Jersey, there’s a long heritage, there’s a long history in terms of this kind of corruption involvement, but still, it is very telling that we’re capable of being shocked.

And in this case, at least many Democrats are shocked in the position of recognizing they had better create distance between themselves and Bob Menendez in a hurry. And Bob Menendez has now become a giant weight on the Democratic Party because after all, headline by headline, the story is deeply embarrassing to the senator’s colleagues. The bottom line on this is that the trial won’t come until next year. Indeed, at the earliest, something like the first week in May, that’s a long time to wait, and the big question is will it be possible for Democrats and the Senate to wait that long or will they try to take some kind of disciplinary action? It’s going to be interesting to see, but let’s just say when it comes to this story, it’s hard to know what could be more interesting than the news that dropped yesterday.

Part II

The Culture War Wants Your Car: Why the Culture War is Bringing the Fight to Your Garage

Now remember that at the center of the bribery charge against the senator and his wife is a Mercedes-Benz, and let me just remind you, that means an automobile, which takes me to the second issue of our consideration today. We have Joseph C. Sternberg, columnist for the Wall Street Journal, writing a piece with the headline, The Culture War is Coming for Your Car. Now, I was just in England, in Britain where this is very much an issue of controversy, and you have Rishi Sunak, the current British Prime Minister, basically saying that he’s going to delay implementation of some regulations against the sale of gasoline-powered automobiles. He’s going to delay that deadline simply, first of all, because there is no clear way that Britain could possibly comply with that deadline anyway, but furthermore, it would create a huge hardship for so many in Britain.

Joseph Sternberg, writing in a similar vein, points to the fact that the automobile has been a symbol of many things in American society, but until lately, it has not been at the center of the culture war, but at the center of the culture war, it now is. In worldview dimension, this is really interesting because as we’re talking about the car, we’re talking about more than just, say, a machine with wheels that offers conveyance, transportation. We’re talking about something that has fundamentally changed the world, but we’re also talking about something that has a disproportionate use ratio. Now, by that, I mean to say that if you live in one of America’s major cities where there is an unusual concentration of political power, economic influence, and the cultural elite, you might be able to get around without a car, or at least you might be able to get around without a car that is your own.

Actually, a little footnote here, there are private parking spaces in Manhattan that, as of recently, have gone for about $100,000 a year. That’s $100,000 a year to park your car. But if you want to park your car near your Wall Street office, guess what? That’s going to cost you. But nonetheless, the big issue here is what the car means and why the car has now been put at the center of the culture war. Sternberg writes, “Forget race, forget sex, forget immigration. The mother of all culture wars is breaking out and the subject is the car.” He goes on and says, “The automobile has long been a policy flashpoint with the paramount issue being where it should be able to roam. This is the heart,” he says, “of the brutal urban planning battles of the mid-20th century, which were fought over the need for and placement of new highways”.

Yet he writes, “It’s hard to describe those earlier policy fights as a culture war, but nonetheless, that’s where we are right now. We are in a culture war,” he argues, “and the car’s at the center of that culture war.” And you certainly see this in so much of the debate over climate change and new policies and electric vehicles and all the rest. Now, here’s one of the things we need to mention. The controversy in Britain has to do with cars ostensibly, most importantly, with how quickly gasoline and diesel-powered cars are phased out, and that means in light of the development of EVs or electrically driven or powered vehicles. But as you look at the deeper dimension here, it’s really a war against cars, period. The argument is increasingly made that cars are just not right for our society, that there’s now a moral value attached to cars and that moral value is negative rather than positive.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pointed out, “Well, it’s fine to make that argument basically if you live in downtown London, it doesn’t make any sense if you live on a farm or if you live in a suburb.” But that gets to something else, and this is where Joseph Sternberg, writing in the Wall Street Journal, is onto something really big, and that is that the culture left in the United States has virtually always hated the suburbs, and it looks down upon the countryside. It looks down upon the countryside because after all, the people who live there are country bumpkins and they’re giving the task of doing things like, oh, I don’t know, growing our food. And of course, the suburbs are, you have the cultural elite saying in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and so in the United States, they begin to bear their teeth and describe the suburbs as the essence of cultural banality.

All the houses look alike, all the families look alike. By the way, that means a husband and a wife in most cases and their children otherwise known as boys and girls, that was the good old days of the 1950s, but the cultural left has always wanted to bring about a revolution in morality and the suburbs have been a resolute limit upon that Cultural Revolution, and the suburbs happen only because of automobiles. Long-term, the development of suburbs as we know them in the United States and also as you would find them around a city like London, they’re only possible because of cars. It is just mathematically impossible to come up with a way to have mass transit that will meet all of those needs. But the cultural left, well, you just think of writers like John Updike in the 20th century, again, just biting, biting, condescension towards suburban life.

Now, he turned it into a soap opera and he sold a lot of books, but the important thing to recognize is that for the cultural elites, the center of the universe is likely to be somewhere in Manhattan. It’s likely to be a high rise, not a suburban house, and it’s likely to have people in it whose primary concern is not having and raising children. It’s going to be a very different context. The car in the United States, by the way, has been a great symbol of liberation because in so many ways it has been that liberation comes when you have human beings able to transport themselves over relatively great amounts of space in a relatively small amount of time. This is an unprecedented liberty in the entire history of humanity. There are historians who say that until the beginning of the 20th century, the average American traveled only something about 20 miles over the course of a lifetime.

That is to say the total distance from the place they were born is something like 20 miles. You turn that into a circle, it becomes, of course, a rather significant place, but it’s a tiny little dot on the map. But now you can get into a car and drive from one of those dots to another of those dots and keep on going, connecting the dots. Sternberg’s really onto something when he says that what they’re after is not just your internal combustion engine, they’re after your car. That’s one of the reasons why, by the way, those who are pushing this agenda, they do really recognize that the battery-powered revolution’s not going to work writ large. It’s not going to work in the sense no one can ramp up the production of those kinds of batteries fast enough. No one has a concrete plan for how to get enough charging capacity fast enough.

It’s really an agenda to bring an end to the age of the car, and that’s a matter of social engineering. Sternberg writes, “The car is becoming a cultural flashpoint because it is where climate apocalypse proselytizing meets anti-elitist pragmatism.” He goes on to say, “Both sides increasingly understand their fundamental values are at stake.” That’s exactly right. It is a worldview collision and at the center of that collision is your car. And there are many in our society who want to bring an end to the age in which you discuss or make reference to your car. But that means largely a repudiation of rural and suburban ways of life because there is simply no way that some form of mass transit is going to be possible in those contexts, and that just points to the futility of this kind of elitist worldview. Where do they think their food comes from? And when it comes to the civilizational imperative to have and raise families, where exactly do they think that is taking place?

They look with condescension to the suburban family driving their children to the Little League game because after all, it’s not very practical in most American communities to take the subway to your Little League game. The reality is the car is a symbol of American freedom. And it’s not just in America, it is worldwide, to some extent, a symbol of freedom because it is an engine of freedom and liberty and personal movement, and that’s exactly why it has become such a touchpoint in today’s culture war. Sternberg really writes sounding something of an alarm saying to Americans, “If you think your car is just a car, you need to wake up pretty fast and recognize your car’s right now at the center of a culture war.”

Part III

Why Do Some Focus on the ‘Red Letters’ of Scripture Over Against the Rest of Scripture? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

But next, we’re going to turn to questions as always, great questions coming in more than we can deal with. So let’s just get started. First of all, a letter from Payne. This listener writes in to say there have been attention given to the conference that was hosted by the church of which Andy Stanley as a pastor painted some research looking at two of the speakers, a married couple speaking at the conference, and then makes the observation, “One thing I found that they say is that they always go back to the red text or what Jesus specifically said. I assume their argument is that it is not documented of Jesus speaking directly against homosexuality and only the apostles like Paul whose words appear in black spoke against it.”

Well, obviously, Payne’s raising a very important issue here. And this is where we seem to come back and say the Scripture principle in the church. The biblical affirmation, the biblical authority, the Christian understanding of the nature, the inspiration, the inerrancy and the authority of God’s word means that there is no distinction between what could be printed in red or in black. When you have a red letter edition Bible, by the way, that’s a problem. I just want to suggest. I’m not saying I’m against them all or you shouldn’t use one. I’m simply going to say it is a problem. And I’ll tell you why it’s a problem. I’ll just give you one example, John chapter three. Where exactly does Jesus stop speaking in that text? Where does John begin summarizing what Jesus said? The fact is we don’t have quotation marks in the New Testament Greek.

And the advent of just publishing things in the red and black print with the red letter being the words of Jesus. I think that’s a dangerous development. I think it implies, by the way, a two-tier understanding of scripture, which is exactly contrary to the scripture’s testimony about itself, where every word proceeds from the Father. The Holy Spirit has inspired every single word of scripture and every word of scripture is equally Holy Spirit inspired. There is a reason some people want to do this, however, and that has everything to do with the fact that they do not like the writings of the Apostle Paul. They do not like other New Testament writings that are just incredibly clear about, say, the issue of homosexuality. You either believe that the Apostle Paul was just as inspired as the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, or you’re just going to decide which parts of scripture you think are more and less inspired, more and less authoritative. That is a road to disaster.

That is a direct violation of what has been known as the scripture principle of the church. That is, I’ll go on to say, an insult to God’s Word. We are not given four gospels in which there are some texts printed in red and then the rest of it of a secondary nature. We are given the entire canon of Scripture, all 66 books, and every single word is the word of God. Holy Spirit inspired. So the very direction of the text, even if you say the words printed in red, they’re not truer, they’re just more important, you have just again, violated the Scripture principle. And Jesus, speaking of the Scripture, said, “These are they that testify of me.” And by the way, he’s speaking of the Old Testament not printed in red. When someone makes a kind of argument referenced by Payne here, the big issue here is not the authority of the text printed in red, it’s what one is saying about the remainder of the Word of God, and thus we have a big problem here and you can publish big problem in red letters.

Part IV

How Can I Best Incorporate My Toddler in Church? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

All right, completely different question next. Heath is writing in about a toddler asking the question, “How can I best incorporate my toddler in church?” And then he makes reference to a one-year-old, a little girl, “Quite noisy and rambunctious.” And by the way, that is the nature of one-year-olds. They are noisy and rambunctious. He says, “This typically leads to my wife having to take our daughter out of the service multiple times to a cry room or us being distracted during the service trying to keep her calm and happy.” Well, he goes on and explains the problem, but I think all of us who have ever parented a toddler or sat next to one understand exactly what’s going on here. Now, I really appreciate this question because I do really encourage parents to have your children in church with you. I am in general, not in favor of removing children from the worship service or certainly at least from most of the worship service.

However, we do understand that infants are quite different than even older preschool children. At some point, the child needs to be able to sit and not be a distraction to everyone else in worship. Now, so long as you have a child, you have the risk of distraction. And by the way, I consider that glorious. When a child being a child all of a sudden has a little eruption, you hear noise, you see movement from a child that’s just normal. But I think one of the bigger issues here is whether or not the child is meaningfully able to understand what is going on. And I think that can come quite early. One of the sweetest things I can just mention is hearing tiny, tiny little children, preschool children, indeed older toddlers singing hymns as they fall asleep at night because they have learned them in big church and those hymns are going right into those little hearts.

The preaching of the Word of God is going right into that little heart. And that is just really, really sweet. I say that as a father, I say that as a grandfather, wouldn’t happen if those little bodies weren’t sitting with mom and dad in church and those little legs wiggling under the pew because they’re not long enough to reach the floor. God’s glory is in that. But there’s a pretty big distinction between a one-year-old and a three-year-old, and parents will have to make some judgments about that. And infancy really is infancy when exactly that comes to an end. And once again, I’m not going to make this decision for parents, but I’ll simply say to Heath and to other parents like Heath of very young children, I think this is one of those issues in which you’re not bound by the conscience.

You just do what is right you believe as a worshiper, a believer in worship, and also as a parent of a precious one-year-old, moving that child to where that child will be able to understand at least something. And again, I think it’s glorious when children sing hymns, the words of which they don’t yet understand, but nonetheless, they’re at least understanding enough to all of a sudden start singing that hymn. God bless you, Heath, you and your wife, and I pray the Lord will bless you and your family. And I hope at least someone among the three of you is getting some sleep every once in a while.

Part V

What Should a Homosexual Couple with Children Do After Coming to Faith in Christ? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

But next, I’m going to turn to a question, a pretty urgent question asked by Katie, another listener. And Katie is writing about the quandary of what happens when you have a same-sex couple and they have adopted children or in some arrangement, they have children in the family, and what happens if they come to faith in Christ? What do they do now? What do we do? And this is a situation, Katie, in which I think the Christian Church is really, really clear. What you do not do is continue in sin, so that’s really clear. What you do not do is continue in sin. There’s going to have to be some change in this arrangement because this arrangement came about in order to facilitate sin, and that’s just a blunt statement about what we believe same-sex relationships like this are about. Holiness will require, obedience to Christ will require an end to that.

How best to take care of these children? This is an excruciating question. There are other big questions, urgent questions. They’re not easy questions like what do you do to someone who’s identified as non-binary or transgender and even has hormone treatments or even surgery and then comes to faith in Christ and wants to be obedient to Christ? What does this look like? And again, I think in that situation it looks like a biological man living out being a biological man to the fullest of one’s ability. If one’s a biological woman, learning how to receive that as God’s gift and live that out as much as is possible, that is as a woman. And there are surgeries, there are treatments, and things that make that very complicated, but in a fallen world, this is just a picture of what it looks like to await the glorification that is to come.

One final thought about Katie’s question, it is our responsibility to make sure those children are taken care of and the damage to these children is minimized, but we also believe they are not in a proper family structure. Now, there are a lot of children whose lives and contexts are something that we believe is not an appropriate family structure. We want to take care of those children, and I think, once again, this is where we need the wisdom of a local church. I don’t believe I can pontificate from here about what that would look like exactly. This is where we need the wisdom of a local congregation under the Lordship of Christ, under the preaching of the Word of God to help one another to grow in holiness and live holy lives and figure out these very difficult questions together. God bless you, Katie, for asking the question.

Part VI

How Can We Be Sure That the Bible is True? Is It Only Because God Says It Is? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from an 8-Year-Old Listeners of The Briefing

Finally, a question that was asked by Ethan. Ethan’s eight and his dad, Jason, sent in the question, and I’m blessed by this, “My eight-year-old son, Ethan, and I listen to The Briefing each morning on the way to school and he had a question. He wants to know, how can we be sure that the Bible is true? Is it only because God says it is?” Okay. Here’s the wonderful thing, Jason and Ethan, here’s the wonderful thing we need to say that all we need to know that the Bible is totally true is that God says it is because the only one who has the authority to tell us that his Word is true is the one who is himself true, and that is the one true and living God. He tells us his Word is true, and yet we don’t actually need anything beyond that because there’s actually no higher authority to which we can go.

We don’t have, say, intellectual powers to figure this out on our own, but Ethan’s asking a good question. I appreciate the question and I really appreciate both of you listening and God bless you, Ethan, for asking this question right out loud. The Bible also proves itself true. It reveals itself to be true, and the Holy Spirit works through the word of God to bring a confirmation of truth in the hearts of believers. I’m so thankful that Ethan’s growing up in a Christian home where he is surrounded, and Ethan, I’m speaking to you here, you are so greatly blessed by having a Christian mom and dad, and they’re surrounding you with the preaching and teaching of the word of God. And I will just pray that the Lord will confirm in your heart the total truthfulness of the word of God. You can trust it.

You can always trust the Scripture because you can always trust God. Ethan, you made me happy with this question. God bless you and please keep listening.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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