Friday, January 19, 2024

It’s Friday, January 19, 2024.

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

Part I

A Parable of an America That No Longer Exists: Joyce Randolph Dies at Age 99

About 4.3 million Americans watch the Emmy presentation, the Emmy Awards on Monday night. Now, the thing that’s significant there is that 4.3 million as an audience is the lowest in the entire history of the televised Emmy Awards. Something’s going on here. Just a matter of say 2022 saw 5.9 million viewers we’re now down to 4.3. And 5.9 was the low before 4.3. And so you even have the New York Times talking not only about a new low in terms of the viewership for the Emmy Awards, but also they suggest that the low viewership and other patterns actually point to the end of what the New York Times called peak TV.

Now, this I think is very important for our culture, and I think Christians ought to pay attention to this, because we understand that entertainment is a massive component of the culture. And we also understand that those who control the entertainment also have a great deal to do with controlling the future of the culture. What we laugh at, what we cry about, the stories that unify us, the material that goes into our brains by means of entertainment media. We know that this has a lot to do with the worldview held by those who are around us. We understand that we are ourselves insofar as we consume these products, not immune.But we also know that there are big shifts in how America consumes entertainment now and the entertainment America consumes as compared to say, just a few decades ago.

To make that point, I want to turn to an obituary that appeared just in recent days in the New York Times. It’s the obituary of Joyce Randolph, who was an actress back in the great day of black and white television in the United States. Most Americans would not recognize the name Joyce Randolph, but they would recognize her as Trixie, Trixie Norton, married to Ed Norton, the sewer worker, and they were a couple of course that were also paired with Jackie Gleason, who was Ralph Kramden and his wife Alice on The Honeymooners.

The heyday of The Honeymooners on television was between the years 1951 and 1957. So we’re going back to black and white television, the Golden Age. There’s a lot that’s really interesting in this. Of course, Jackie Gleason became one of the dominant figures in American television. He was a comedian. And like almost all the comedians of that age, he had honed his skill on something like the Vaudeville circuit before live audiences. He had been a figure in radio. And then when television was developed, well, he just shifted onto television. By the way, Joyce Randolph in her memoir mentions that Jackie Gleason just walked on the set in order to do The Honeymooners. He really didn’t want to rehearse because he didn’t think comedy was carried off well that way.

And Jackie Gleason was the center of that television program. It was a part of his own program, an entertainment empire. He was the dominant figure, but he was one of four in that ensemble cast. And you’ll recall that Ralph Kramden was a bus driver, again, married to Alice, that was the Jackie Gleason character, Ralph Kramden. And you had Ed Norton who was a sewer worker in New York City. So you had these two couples. So Trixie Norton was the wife of Ed Norton, and she was a part of this foursome, and they really did represent American in so many ways. Americans tuned in by the millions to television sets. It had to be warmed up because they were running on tubes. And once the tubes warmed up and the picture came into view and the black and white television began, and at first it was live television, then you saw this ensemble living out the foibles of family and marital life.

Neither of the couples had children on the program, but they did have problems. They did have issues, but they were also, as endemic of the picture Americans had of themselves in the 1950s, they were in everything together. And even if the men, they often got into madcap schemes that came to nothing. And as the wives were often patient with them and all these endeavors, and even as you had them as members of men’s organizations that looked ludicrous and they wore ludicrous uniforms, that was actually all a part of American culture in the 1950s. You look back at it now, and of course America was then enduring also the Cold War. And one of the things that Americans were self-confident about is that our entertainment technologies are vastly superior to those found in the Soviet Union. And the humor and entertainment was unrestrained and wasn’t government controlled in the same way that it was in the Soviet Union.

But Joyce Randolph’s, well her obituary ran because she died just recently at age 99, and that’s a very long life. But it also reminds us that in a sense, Joyce Randolph as Trixie Norton was playing that role on that program in an America that in one sense no longer exists. In terms of entertainment back then, you had either two or three networks, and then you had the development, just a few other alternatives on broadcast television, and that was it. And they didn’t broadcast for 24 hours a day. And even the biggest of the networks had a limited ability to put on new programming, especially in terms of dramas or comedy so they developed all kinds of other programs including interview programs and game shows. And you could look back and say, “Well, entertainment was a lot simpler then.” Well, so was American culture.

And we also note that the range of humor was very restrained then. You couldn’t get away with many of the things that are now just taken for granted in terms of the crudeness, the explicit sexuality and so many other things. But you also had another accountability on television at that time, and it was an accountability to what was understood to be the American way of life, a certain level of patriotism. And there was also an understanding of a certain sexual and family morality that was simply not to be violated. But that world is entirely gone.

Part II

Did We Just Witness a New Age in Entertainment? Recent Chiefs vs. Dolphins Game Marks Largest Online Viewership in Internet History

By the time you get to the Emmy Awards this past Monday night, the lowest viewership ever in the broadcast history of that awards program, you’re looking at a very different America. You’re looking at entertainment, which is drastically different. A couple of interesting things about the program. You had programs such as Succession that won a lot of awards, but at the very same time, you had financial analysts saying even that program is not likely to be replicated. And here’s another thing, Americans didn’t have a lot of choice back in the 1950s. They could watch CBS and NBC or they could watch ABC by the time it developed full programming. And then eventually, there would be the development of local programming and low power broadcasting. Then there was the development of cable television, and that was a radical expansion of the offerings that have been available to Americans before.

And then you had, and many people forget this, it was during the Iran hostage situation, that 24 hour news and the kinds of programs that emerged out of a 24-hour news cycle that really became popular only in the United States during that time in the late 1970s. And then of course you had other developments. And now we’re talking about a digital revolution and we’re talking about almost endless choice.

But here’s where something else has come into place. It turns out that there are simply too many programs, too many platforms, too many alternatives for American eyeballs. It’s just impossible for people to keep up. Now, one of the things we’ve lost there is a unifying narrative. Back in the 1950s, you would be hard-pressed to find an American who did not know who Ralph Kramden was, and it would be probably hard to find one that didn’t try to tune into the program every week. And so you had a unifying narrative, almost nothing like that now. Even the most watched programs are watched by only a fraction of the American population.

And here’s another fact that’s come into view, and that is this, Americans have a limited ability to pay for these streaming platforms. So one of the things that has emerged just in terms of the last several months in financial reports is that almost none of these streaming platforms have made money, yet investors are active in them because they think one day they will make money. But as is in the case right now of the Disney networks, you’re looking at the fact that some of them are basically being put up for sale simply because the companies need cash. There is just too much competition. So almost everyone recognizes there is going to be some reduction somewhere. At the same time, there isn’t an enormous market out there.

Just to make that clear, last Saturday saw the greatest demand on the internet in the history of the internet, and that was because of the streaming of the NFL playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and to the Miami Dolphins. And that was the most watched program of its kind in the history of streaming broadcasting. But that NFL wildcard game is also going to be remembered as a breakpoint in streaming media because that was one of the first major NFL games of its kind that wasn’t available to viewers free. You had to subscribe to the streaming service in order to see it. And evidently, a lot of Americans did just that. And not only Americans, but others around the world as well.

So in some, as you’re looking at big changes in American entertainment habits, Saturday was the single highest day of US internet usage in history. Streaming the game amounted to 30% of internet traffic worldwide during those hours. Something else to note, if the NFL can get away with arranging for people to have to pay to see those games, you can count on the fact it will do it.

Part III

Is Surrogacy Immoral? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Okay, now we’re going to turn to questions. And I appreciate all who send in questions and sometimes they’re questioning something I said. And in this case, Nathaniel wrote in, he asked a question, “Could you please clarify your belief regarding surrogate pregnancies as you referenced on The Briefing the Pope statement.” He says, “It sounded like you said in agreement,” that is with the Pope in this case, “that surrogate pregnancies are immoral and circumvent natural marriage pregnancies.” He then asked some questions about situations that might lead some persons to think about surrogate parenting. And then he says, “I think to a miraculous extent that Christ was born by a surrogate woman and Mary’s egg where God created the sperm. What is your clarification and thoughts on this issue?”

Well, Nathaniel, I’m glad you wrote. And I’ll simply say that you did hear me right. I do believe that the practice of surrogate parenting is something that breaks the moral normal pattern of human reproduction and compromises the conjugal union of the husband and the wife in God’s institution of marriage. And I do not believe that it is moral for a Christian couple to undertake surrogate parenting. Now, I understand that if there are couples that are irregularly established such as same-sex couples, there’s no way they’re going to be able to reproduce. But that’s outside, again, what is biblically mandated.

And you do raise the issue, what about couples that may have difficulty with pregnancy or a woman carrying a pregnancy? Well, we certainly grieve with those couples, but I think it’s important to note that throughout 2,000 years of Christian history, I think there would be a virtually unanimous view until very recently in the more liberal wing of the church that something like surrogate parenting is absolutely not acceptable morally. It violates the conjugal union. And by the way, this is often complicated by the fact that this becomes a pregnancy market where people are paying women to carry babies that are not their own in order to surrender those babies when they are born. There’s something just very, very dangerous about that in moral terms.

But Nathaniel with respect, I also want to say that when you argue that Christ was born by a surrogate woman, I just want to say that’s not the biblical account. The biblical account is not Mary the surrogate mother of Jesus, but rather, Mary the mother of Jesus. She was in every way the mother of Jesus. And I think that’s very important in terms of biblical theology. And we certainly feel for, are moved by the accounts of say, married couples, men and women who are unable to conceive by normal means or carry a pregnancy. But the answer to that, I do believe, and I say this with the authority I think of biblical theology and the long history of the Christian Church, the answer to that is not surrogacy. There are certain things that are possible that are not licit. That’s moral language for they’re just not lawful according to scripture. But again, I want to thank you for listening and listening carefully and for caring enough to write.

Part IV

How Can the Bible Be the Inerrant Word of God If It Was Written by Men? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, a question sent in by Jim, and Jim identifies as a new Christian who is age 73. Well, Jim, what a happy thing that is. I am so happy to speak to you as a new believer in Christ and thus is my brother in Christ. And I love the way you pose the question as a new believer. “My question is this, I’ve been told by my wife a long time Christian in seminary student here in San Diego, that the Bible is the inert word of God. However, the Bible’s written by people. So how can this be the actual word of God?” He then goes on to say he listens to The Briefing.

Well, Jim, again, thanks for listening and thanks so much for writing this question. And this is a very legitimate question. I think there’s some people who would hear this and go, “How could someone question that the Bible is the word of God, the inerrant infallible word of God, but as a new believer, you’re looking at the fact that indeed you had human authors of scripture. And so you’re asking a very obvious question, how can the Bible be the product of these human authors and yet at the same time be the word of God? And not only that, but the inerrant and infallible word of God.

Well, this could require a long answer, Jim, but I’m going to give you the short synopsis, and that is that we know the Bible’s the word of God because God tells us in the Bible that it is his word. And not only that, you have passages such as what we find in 1 Peter 1:21, where we are told that there were men of old who were moved by the Holy Spirit to write what they wrote. So in other words, yes, there are human authors of scripture and those who believe in the inerrancy and the total inspiration of the scripture is the word of God. We don’t deny that there were human authors of scripture. But at the same time, we want to say that they were moved by the Holy Spirit to write exactly what God intended for them to write in such a way that it was no less the product of their own hand, or you might say in terms of a pen, but was absolutely the product of the Holy Spirit who worked within them.

Now, there’s a technical theological term for this, and I didn’t mean to use it, but I’m about to, it’s called concursus. That means moving along at the same time, which means that the Holy Spirit moved in such a way that these human authors of scripture were moved concursively at the same time with the Holy Spirit to write exactly what the Holy Spirit wanted. And so that’s a very reassuring thing to me, Jim. If I were just reading the scripture and I thought, “Well, this is what Paul thinks, so this is what Peter thinks, so that’s what Isaiah said,” I’d be in a lot of trouble. But I know that in the entire canon of scripture, that’s to say the Old Testament and the New Testament, every word of scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and this is indeed the word of God.

And as you study it, and Jim, as you grow in grace and in the nurture of the Lord Jesus Christ, and as you come to know scripture as the word of God, I believe the Holy Spirit will apply that word to your heart to conform you to the image of Christ and to ground you ever more securely in the faith once for all delivered to the saints. And sometimes it’s important to say, in this case, Jim, your wife is absolutely right. The Bible is the inerrant infallible word of God. And it’s on that basis that we know what the gospel is, and thus that you’re a new believer in Christ and all this just makes us very happy. Thanks for writing.

Part V

What Does It Look Like to Be a Good Earthly Citizen? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, a question comes from Elizabeth who’s a sophomore in high school in California, and she says, “I am reading Plato’s dialogue Crito during the semester for school.” I’m just going to pause there and say, Elizabeth, God bless you. That’s an encouraging thing in terms of classical literature. She goes on to say, “We just studied the introduction and learned about Socrates’ death sentence due to his belief that there had to be a higher authority other than their false gods. In addition, he taught others in his society how to become great communicators so that they could one day move crowds to action through their words.” She goes on to raise the question about good citizenship and bad citizenship, and then she says, “I was wondering what you would consider good citizenship to look like as a Christian on this earth, especially as an American desiring to ultimately be a faithful citizen of God’s kingdom while living where he has placed us. Thanks so much,” Elizabeth writes.

Well, thank you, Elizabeth for sending the question. And here’s where we turn to scripture. And the scripture tells us such things as that we are to love our neighbors ourself, that we are to, insofar as possible, live at peace with all men, that we are to seek the welfare of the city. So in other words, politically, culturally, citizenship calls us not to give ultimate allegiance to any human government. That ultimate allegiance can be given only to God. To give ultimate allegiance to any temporal thing is idolatry. But it’s also true that God has us here sovereignly for his purposes, and we are to be good citizens where citizens ultimately of the heavenly kingdom, but we’re also citizens of kingdoms on this earth or nations on this earth. And to them, we owe a, well as the old theologians used to say, a proper patriotism, a proper duty. And so we should be good citizens. I think by the way, that should mean upholding what we know to be true. And that’s not popular these days.

But just to take one issue, we actually know what marriage is. The society around us may be very confused about that, but we don’t have any option but to bear honest truth and a witness to what we believe marriage is. And when it comes to the sanctity of human life, for example, we have no choice but to seek to apply what we know to be a very basic principle, one of the most basic principles of Christian morality even to public policy. But it also means we want our societies to flourish, we want our neighborhoods to flourish, and we want our schools to flourish insofar as this possible. And Christians can’t take responsibility as a whole for these things, but we do have some responsibility for these things.

We are left here on earth in this age for a purpose. And even as we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom, and that’s our ultimate destiny and that’s our ultimate allegiance, we do owe a proper duty to the societies of which we are apart. And Elizabeth, that’s not always easy, but that’s why we need the church. We need congregations where Christians learn together how to be faithful and how to respond to cultural challenges and to say even a political moment in a way that is faithful. And we need to encourage one another to that maximal faithfulness. So Elizabeth, thanks for writing the question, and I’m encouraged by you thinking such deep thoughts. I just hope you continue that in the course of your lifetime, seeking to be faithful in both kingdoms.

Part VI

What is God’s Glory? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Another very good question sent in by listener Dave, and he writes, “I’ve been a Christian after walking away from the faith for some time, and I can’t get my head around the words God’s glory and how it applies. What exactly does that term mean?”, he ask, “And why do Protestants use that word so much instead of a 21st century word?”

Well, you know Dave, you asked a couple of good questions there, and I’m going to answer the second one first. Why do we use that word rather than some 21st century word? It’s because the first word that we need to use is the word that scripture uses, and that’s because that’s God’s revealed, inspired word so we want to use the words he wants us to use. But when you use the word glory, I also want to say I don’t think there’s any kind of 21st century word that comes anywhere near close to meaning what glory means.

And so let me get back to the first part of your question, then what does the Bible mean when it mentions God’s glory? So let me offer you I think a very simple but straightforward explanation. God’s glory is the internal reality and the external manifestation of his greatness, of his being, of His reality. That is to say it’s the internal reality God is so glorious only He knows himself, but it’s also His external manifestation. He shows Himself to us and most ultimately in the person of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He shows His glory. And for instance, a part of the Christmas text in scripture, we beheld His glory. Glory is of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth. There you have in the first chapter of John’s gospel. There’s just not another word that works. Jesus showed us the glory of God, which means He showed us the internal reality and the external manifestation of God’s greatness.

And so God’s glory, by the way, is sometimes referred to in scripture something that’s visible, but it’s to offer perhaps a shorter but more succinct explanation. God’s glory is His godness. It is himself as we see Him and as he exists in himself. So again, Dave, thanks for sending the question.

Part VII

Would It Violate the Bible’s Principles of Male Headship to Vote for a Woman to Be President? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Now I want to turn to a question from Louis. Louis asked, “If I believe the Bible is clear on the male leadership of churches, is it wise to have that translate to politics, clearly stated,” he writes, “is it consistent vote for Nikki Haley as President of the United States?”

Well, let me answer that question by saying Louis, there has to be some kind of parallel here, which is why I think in the main, most political leaders are men. And that’s I don’t think an accident. I think it’s a part of God’s assignment to men to lead in so many of these areas. But I don’t think it’s categorical in society in the way that it is categorical in the home and in the church. In the home and in the church, we have explicit biblical commands about the role of the husband and the father and the family and of the definition of the ministry and the role of the pastor and the elders of the church in the New Testament. In terms of the larger society, we don’t have anything so explicit.

And so I’m not going to talk about Nikki Haley as a candidate here. We’ll save that for another time and opportunity. I’m simply going to say that if you were to visit me in my library, my personal library, then you would find a picture of me with my wife of the two of us sitting with Lady Margaret Thatcher. Then Baroness Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain, Britain’s very famous Iron Lady. And we were very honored to have that opportunity to spend time with Baroness Thatcher. I think she was one of the great political leaders and great examples of statemanship of the 20th century. And so I’ll simply say, I’ll let that speak for itself. If I were in Great Britain during the time that Margaret Thatcher was head of the Conservative Party, I would’ve voted for the Conservative Party. I probably would’ve voted for just about anyone, by the way, who was the head of that party. But without a twinge of conscience, I would’ve supported Margaret Thatcher in that role.

Does that mean that I believe that’s normative? And the answer would be no, but I don’t think the scripture forbids it. And I think that’s where the clarity of the scripture on the family and on the church, we need to be absolutely clear where scripture’s clear. But again, if I had the opportunity to vote for Margaret Thatcher for president of the United States, I would’ve been tempted to do that too.


Why is There So Much Murder in the Bible? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a 6-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

But next I want to turn to a question sent in by a homeschooling mom, Judith, and she says she and her husband homeschool their six children ages four to 14, and they’ve been working through reading the Bible in a yearly plan with them. And the 6-year-old asked to email me a question in her own words, “Why is there so much murdering in the Bible?” And that came up because Eliza was reading the Bible and as a part of reading the Bible with the family.

That’s a very good question, Eliza, and I think the answer to it is very clear in the Bible, and not only just in say a particular verse, but in the entire story that is revealed to us in the Old Testament. It is just how sinful and horrible human beings are once we became sinners. When we became sinners, sin showed up in the most horrifying ways. It shows up right away with Cain and Abel, and it continues to multiply throughout the New Testament.

And here’s something else, Eliza, as the six-year-old here, I just want to tell you, one of the things we should be thankful for is that God tells us the truth about ourselves and the truth about sin, and even the truth about murder in the Old Testament, and in particular, I mean in the entire Scripture. But in the Old Testament, such clarity on this.

And I also want to tell you, Eliza, you’re absolutely right to be troubled by it. We should be very, very troubled by what the old Puritans, those were church leaders who I think were very faithful to God, and they talked about the sinfulness of sin. And that’s exactly what I think is revealed in the Bible. Just as you’re referencing, for example, the honesty of the Bible is God’s word telling us about the murderousness of murder, the sinfulness of sin, and just how sinful human beings are once we disobey God.

And I want to end on this particular question with a remark that was made by this sweet mom in sending this question, because she makes the point that parents sometimes don’t know what the word is doing in the hearts of their own children as they’re studying it, reading the scripture together as a family. And that’s so true. We just don’t know. I think it’s probably fair to say that this mom was surprised by the question from a six-year-old. That’s exactly one of the blessings of parenthood as Christian parents, where we discover our children are really thinking deeper thoughts that we may have thought they were thinking, and they’re asking bigger questions than we might’ve thought they were asking. And all this prompted by exposure to the word of God, that includes the preaching of the word of God. It includes what you’re doing and reading the scripture with your children.

What a sweet thing that this has taken place in the context of a Christian family. And I just want to say to Judith, this mother, you have encouraged us all. Please tell Eliza that she encouraged me and encouraged other listeners to The Briefing as well.

You can send in your questions to We’re glad to hear from you all. If you agree, disagree, want to ask a question, want to ask, “Why did you say that?” Well, this is how you do it. I just respect everyone for listening and for sending in questions. I wish I could get to them all.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter at

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

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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