Friday, January 26, 2024

It’s Friday, January 26, 2024.

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

Part I

An Eschatological Shadow in a Secular Age: Doomsday Clock for 2024 Claims We Are Closer Than Ever to Apocalypse

Sometimes it’s important for us to recognize patterns, and one of those patterns is seeing that for every denial of a religious doctrine in a secular age, some secular doctrine that at least shadows the same purpose or substance tends to show up. So even in a psychotherapeutic age, if you don’t have a doctrine of sin, then you have some idea of some kind of psychotherapeutic diagnosis. Something’s gone wrong. And frankly, you have to have some category for moral behavior that we all, at least all sane people recognize, as morally wrong. And you could actually go through the entire culture and understand that there is a secular shadow of every major Christian doctrine.

But just this past Wednesday in the pages of USA Today, it’s a very clear shadow indeed that appeared. So here’s the headline, Doomsday Clock Stays Near Catastrophe. So this reminds us that going back to the Cold War, there has been something called the Doomsday clock. This Doomsday clock was put together in 1947 by the group that is known as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist. Now, clearly a Bulletin is a publication, but it’s the group that is behind that publication that came up with the idea of this Doomsday clock. The reason for it was the development of atomic weapons, nuclear warfare, and the threat of nuclear annihilation in terms of an exchange of thermonuclear weapons. The idea of this Doomsday clock is that it would serve as a warning to humanity of how close we are to apocalypse. And remember that apocalypse means the dramatic violent end of the world. These scientists decided that they would put the clock and tell the public that the clock was set at 90 seconds before midnight. That is to say 90 seconds before annihilation.

Now, you can understand how alarming that must have been to Americans at that time who were far more enamored by and intimidated by the aura of science than Americans are now. Here you had a group of illustrious scientists, atomic scientists at that saying, “We’re just 90 seconds metaphorically from destroying humanity in all of civilization.’.

But you do have to place another ironic fact into this picture, and that is the truth that World War II, it ended in 1945. And World War II was the most deadly war in all of human history. And if there had been any military conflict that would’ve threatened to have ended human civilization, it would’ve been World War II. But these atomic scientists said the threat of nuclear annihilation, the use of nuclear weapons, is so dramatically multiplied over previous forms of warfare that this kind of alarm was justified.

Now remember that was 1947, so just do a little math. You’re talking about more than 70 years ago. And you can set the clock at 90 seconds till midnight, but 70 years later, where’s the clock now? Well, for one thing, you’ve had the end of the Soviet Union. You’ve had all kinds of arms control treaties. You’ve had incredible success in pushing back on ills such as human famine. You have had the development of modern medical treatments, not only antibiotics and much else, but the atomic scientists behind this bulletin now tell us that the world is closer in 2024 than ever to annihilation and apocalypse.

Now, what do we to do with this? Well, we need to ask the question, what exactly are they pointing to? What do they know that we need to know about the threat of this kind of apocalypse? Well, we are told that the threats could include nuclear war, climate change, and perhaps even artificial intelligence. Given these threats, the scientists decided this year to keep the clock where it was last year “because humanity continues to face an unprecedented level of danger,” that in a statement from the Bulletin of the Atomic scientists who went on to say, “Our decision should not be taken as a sign that the international security situation is eased. Instead, leaders and citizens around the world should take the statement as a stark warning and respond urgently as if today were the most dangerous moment in modern history because it may well be.” Well, it may well be. It’s hard to argue with that. When you put “may well be” in front of anything, it’s hard to argue that that’s impossible when you look at the political situation.

On the other hand, I would question whether it’s possible to believe that at this very moment humanity is facing, civilization is facing threats greater than at any time in the past. That just doesn’t quite make sense. That’s not to minimize the problems we face in the world today. It’s not to minimize the threat of anything from nuclear war to climate change or whatever else. But it is to say more than seven decades after you’ve come up with this metaphor, perhaps you ought to be just a little humble in deciding to preach to the public about apocalypse now.

We’re told about the methodology, “Each year,” reports USA Today, “the board members are asked two questions. Number one, is humanity safer or at greater risk this year than last year? Number two, is humanity safer or at greater risk compared to the 77 years the clock has been set?” I just want to point out, that’s a subjective evaluation. These scientists are human beings and they’re being asked a question that doesn’t come down to some kind of scientific experiment. Now, they’re smart people. I’m not questioning that. But does that smarts get extended to the ability to set a clock that metaphorically is to tell us exactly how close we are to apocalypse? Well, we should be warned by the end of the article, “Though not everyone agrees with the clock setting, it is generally respected for the questions it asks and for the science-based stance.”

Well, wait just a minute. What do you mean science-based stance? What is the supposed science behind this judgment? It’s a political judgment. It’s a judgment being made by people who, yes, are scientists. If they weren’t critical scientists, they wouldn’t be on this board. But on the other hand, they’re scientists. They’re not presidents, they’re not prime ministers. They are not in a position to understand exactly how all these things are developing. They’re talking outside their range of expertise. They’re not just talking about nuclear war now. They’re talking about artificial intelligence. They’re talking about the Ukraine-Russian war. They’re talking about Israel’s military offensive against the terrorist group Hamas. I’ll just say that is outside the intellectual realm of atomic physics.

But I think for Christians, as we think about this in worldview terms, there’s a much, much deeper issue we recognize, and that is the human beings made in the image of God have to know, have to have a sense that, have to have an instinct to look toward some catastrophic end to the world as we know it. There is some kind of judgment coming. And that is something that is so deeply ingrained in the human consciousness that it comes out in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, but of course it comes out authoritatively in the Holy Scriptures where we are warned indeed that there will be an apocalypse. We are warned that there is judgment coming. And by the way, we are also warned that this world will end in a judgment of fire.

Now, where are we on that Doomsday clock? Well, the reality is, the Lord is not given us to know. We follow the signs of the times, but it is not given to us to know how close the hands of the clock are to that hour. But the command of the Lord Jesus Christ is that we be waiting faithfully and watchful and that we be found ready when the Lord comes. As the Scripture says, for those of us who are in Christ, we are to live in the knowledge that this age will one day pass and we are waiting for the accomplishment of God’s purposes, which will surely come to pass regardless of the Doomsday clock.

Part II

Have Democrats Always Been So Liberal? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a 10-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

But now we’re going to turn to questions. You can send yours in. Just send your question. Just write us at mail at We’re going to start with a question which comes via his mother from Reuben who’s a ten-year-old boy. Now, get this, coming from the mom. “My son Reuben wanted to ask, when did the Democrat party go wrong? Has it always leaned liberal?”

Wow, very interesting question. Very politically interested 10-year old. God bless you, Reuben. And I’ll simply tell you that there is a great history for us to consider here. Because as you’re looking at the political parties right now, the Republican Party is far more conservative than the Democratic Party. We’re not just talking about a little difference. There was a time back in 1968 to 1972 when George Wallace was saying that there’s not “a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.” Well, there’s a lot more than a dime’s worth of difference right now. There’s a huge difference, a huge worldview chasm on issue after issue just to take the issue of abortion.

But it hasn’t always been this way and the parties haven’t always lined up this way. So Reuben asked the question, were the Democrats always liberal? And the answer is, well, probably some of them were. But in terms of the mainstream of the party, no, it wasn’t so liberal. And so, Reuben, you asked the question, I’m going to tell you, and I’m thrilled by the way you asked the question. If you were to go back to say the year 1960… Now, Reuben, let me shock you. I was alive then. I was a baby, but I was alive then. If you were to go back to the year 1960, there really wasn’t much difference between the Republican and the Democratic parties. As a matter of fact, sometimes I take the political platforms, that’s the stated ideas of the two parties in 1960 and I just show students you can’t tell the difference. If you just change the cover sheets, it’s really hard to tell.

But all that began to change by the end of the 1960s. That was the decade when so many issues exploded in the United States. You had the anti-war movement, far more powerful in the Democratic Party than in the Republican Party. You had the drug issue. You had a moral liberalization that took place, which Reuben simply means there were people who were saying “Out with the old moral rules, we demand a new set of rules.” You had riots on American college campuses. You had the sexual revolution that took place. Reuben, you had people saying that what the scripture says is immoral should be in a new age considered moral. Obviously that’s a wrong argument, but it moved the Democratic Party way to the left because the involvement of those young people. And the Democratic Party was very keen on keeping those young people.

But 1968 turned out to be a huge part of the story. Especially in 1968, you had riots in the streets, you had riot at the Democratic National Convention that year. And the Democratic Party between 1968 and 1972 really veered off to the left. And by the time you had the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 and you had the other issues that arose in the 1970s, by the time you got to 1980, there were some conservative Democrats even in the United States Senate and in the House for example. But by and large, the Democratic Party was moving left. At the same time, the Republican Party was moving right.

And you know, Reuben? There’s an explanation for why those things happened at the same time. It is because the issues became defined. Sometimes the choice comes down and there really isn’t much of a middle position like on the sanctity of human life, on abortion. You either believe it should be legal and is a woman’s right or you believe it’s absolutely wrong because it is the killing of an unborn human being. You have those two positions. There’s really not much middle ground. So the Republican Party moved further to the right, more consistently to the right. There were some pro-abortion Republicans in 1980. You would be hard-pressed to find them now. The opposite is the case in the Democratic Party.

But look, Reuben, you ask a question, so you’re getting a little more than you bargained for here. The Democratic Party goes all the way back to President Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was, in that sense, a more liberal or progressive person even among the founders than say George Washington or John Adams. So there’s a sense in which if you’re going to predict which one of these parties would’ve gone in which direction, I guess there’s at least some historical reason to understand why the Democrats are now on the left and the Republicans on the right. And the other reason I think the Democrats would say is because the Republicans have been far more linked to the economy and to capitalism and to big corporations and have long been arguing for moral stability rather than instability.

So I guess you pretty much know where I stand, Reuben. But I just want to tell you, I’m really encouraged that a 10-year-old would ask this question. And I’m simply going to end by saying, Reuben, it’s in my own lifetime, I’m 64 years old, that’s very old to a ten-year-old, I know, but in my own lifetime, I’ve seen the Democratic Party make this shift. And as someone who’s been watching as I have been watching, there is simply no denying what has taken place. Reuben, one final word. I think it’s remarkable you asked the question. I think it’s also remarkable that so many adults wouldn’t ask the question. And it just reminds me that when I think of someone like you asking this question, I look forward to the day when, hear me here, you can vote.

Part III

As a Young Professional and Father, How Can I Carve Out More Time to Study? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from Listeners of The Briefing

Now I want to turn to a question from a dad writing from Toronto and Canada. Matthew’s asking the question… And I appreciate the fact, Matthew, you were a listener to The Briefing. Here’s what he says. “My question has to do with productivity and the life of the mind. As a 30 something professional in banking and finance, a husband and a father of two boys, I have a busy demanding schedule.” He goes on to say that about four years ago he experienced a real of revival of faith and he is been delving deeper into theology worldview and apologetics. He goes on to say he craves this study and wants to do more, but then he writes, “Honestly, my busy schedule prevents me from spending as much time on this as I would like. And as a result, I wonder how I might make better use of my time, become more productive.” He goes on to say, “How do evangelical leaders, scholars, and pastors find time to manage? I’ll just simply summarize by saying all of this.

Well, Matt, thanks for asking the question. I really appreciate the fact that you want to be faithful in all the arenas of the spheres of your life, in your profession, in your marriage, in your family, with your two boys and also in your church. And I want to say that I think God calls us to faithfulness in proper proportion, which is to say, I really am glad that you’re so interested in theology, doctrine, apologetics. And I do just want to encourage you to study those things and learn to be a better thinker in all those ways, dive deeper into all those things.

But I want to speak to you as a 64-year old. I said that to Reuben now. I’ll say it to you. I did not do, when I was in my 30s with two small children, many of the things I do now. There are times and seasons. I’m not going to go into exactly how I do what I do. I’ll talk about that another time. I’ll simply say, I want to speak to you heart-to-heart and say I’m so thankful for this hunger that is in you, and I believe you will use whatever time the Lord gives you to be faithful in developing as a Christian thinker in terms of worldview analysis, in terms of apologetics and learning doctrine and studying the scriptures. I think there are times and seasons in life. And right now you’re building a career, you’re building a marriage, you’re building a family. You’ve got two. You’ve got boys in your house. Right now they are your project. There’s more to it than that, but you also know what I’m saying with a smile on my face. So they are the urgency.All the rest of this will fall in proper proportion.

I’m not saying put it aside now. Don’t do that. Because as you know, every one of us, if we think about it, has control over at least part of our time, and thus you can devote part of your time to these things. But you can also be banking on time you’ll have in the future you don’t have no. There will come a time when those two boys won’t be in your house. Or frankly, there’s going to come a time when they don’t need as much of your direct time as they do now. But quite frankly, even then they’ll probably need more than they’ll tell you.

So just looking at this, I’ll say, I want to honor you as a husband and a father, as a Christian and as a churchman and say all these things will fall in proper proportion. God does not expect us to do what would require just say a malformation of our priorities. He gives us the priorities as well. And so I hope all this falls into place. As the scripture says, “I hope the lines fall pleasantly for you on these things.” And I tell you, I think it’s a very healthy thing that a man in his 30s has more things as a Christian he believes he should do and wants to do, more things to learn and wants to learn than is possible at the present moment. I don’t find that a sign of unhealth. I find that very encouraging and a big sign of health.

Part IV

What About an Allegorical Reading of Jonah? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, a writer wrote in to say, “My son said he believes the story of Jonah and the great fish is symbolic or allegorical. Even though Jesus spoke of Jonah as a real person, he thinks that Jesus may have been just referring to a story that was well known.” And he said, “Like many progressive theologians that it doesn’t change the meaning of the message of the book of Jonah anyway.” This parent says, “I think it detracts from the authority of the Bible.”

Well, I want to say, Pat, I think you’re right and he’s wrong, so let’s be clear about that. I also think that the issue of biblical authority and the interpretation of Scripture is actually more pointed than your son wants to make it out to be. I think Jesus is clearly referring to Jonah as an historical person, and I think that’s amplified by the fact that he refers to his own time in the tomb between the crucifixion and the resurrection. That’s space, time, and history he refers to Jonah in that very context.

And so I think if there’s any passage in the Gospels that we could say, “Might I be referring to an historical event?” Whatever that might be, it’s not this. And so I think you’re exactly right. I think this is important, and I hope your son will become convinced of this. I think in trajectory, this is a hermeneutic or a way of interpreting Scripture, he’s implying here, that basically has no end in terms of relativizing specific passages of Scripture.

Part V

Why Do Evangelicals Object to Catholic Crucifixes and Statues? With What Religious Symbols Do Protestants Decorate? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from Listeners of The Briefing

But next, a kind question sent in by a Catholic listener to The Briefing, and thanks so much for listening. And Robert asked the question, “Why do evangelicals object to the Catholic crucifixes and statues? What kind of faithful objects do you decorate your home and office with? Thank you for your show.”

Well, Robert, thank you for listening. It means a lot to me and it means even more that you would write in with a question. And this is a good question. Well, you probably knew when you wrote it that it’s a little more complicated than just say a yes or no answer. But I’ll tell you right off, Robert, I am personally very interested in aesthetics. I’m very interested in art, and I have a lot of art in my library and in our home. And by the way, that includes some statues and some busts of historic figures. But I do come from the Puritan traditional Protestantism, and that means that I have to have the worry that any representational art, whether it’s a painting or for that matter, a drawing, a lithograph, if it’s a woodcut, if it’s a statue, and perhaps especially a statue, there’s always the danger that it will be not only appreciated for it’s aesthetic value, but that it will be venerated. And that’s an official teaching in the Roman Catholic church.

I’m sure I’m telling you, Robert, what you already know, the veneration of the saints and even the objects associated with the saints. And by the way, a lot of what takes place in popular Catholicism is not driven by any kind of Vatican mandate, or for that matter, a clear doctrinal statement. And I’ll simply say it’s also true that in evangelicalism, you’ve got a popular artistic evangelicalism that isn’t necessarily constrained by doctrinal issues either. I don’t appreciate that fact. But as you ask the question, it’s this basic impulse that we do not want to risk? Two things, number one, misrepresentation by artistic depiction.

So it’s one thing to have a painting, say… And I’m just going to use a character. It’s one thing to have a painting of Martin Luther. I actually have more than one painting of Martin Luther the Reformer in my study. But we know what Martin Luther looked like. I didn’t see him, but he was alive with contemporaries who painted him. And furthermore, he’s a reformer. He is not a biblical character. He is not one of the apostles. And he’s certainly not the Lord Jesus Christ. But that’s why there’s just a basic instinct and Protestantism to avoid any kind of risk of veneration or for that matter confusion because scripture alone also plays into this Robert. Solo scriptura means that we want our knowledge of say, the Apostle Paul, not to come from a painting, but from holy Scripture, most particularly from Paul’s writings and from the Book of Acts.

But you ask another question… Oh, let me go back to that for a moment. I can simply say that among Protestants, there is some variation here. So for example, among those owners, the magisterial reformers in the 16th century, let me just say Calvin and Luther. Well, Calvin was much stricter on this issue than was Luther. And thus, if you go to Lutheran churches in Germany, you’re going to find all kinds of artistic representations that you wouldn’t find in the churches associated with John Calvin in Switzerland, or for that matter, in England or here.

But you do ask the question about the crucifix, and that’s even more to the point. This is where we want to avoid as evangelicals a depiction of Christ. We also want to focus what we believe the New Testament tells us to focus on, which is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. There’s no depreciation of the crucifixion, that we believe that Christ is not now being crucified. And you won’t be surprised here, Robert, to understand that at this point, I’ll simply say that this is where Protestant worship is very different also than the Roman Catholic mass as the recapitulation of the sufferings of Christ. That is a major distinction between evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics, and that’s one of the reasons why historically the crucifix in particular has been avoided.

And so Robert, I really appreciate your question. And again, I’d love to have you see my study sometime. And you’re going to see a lot of art there, but you’ll see no depiction of Christ or of deity in that art. I really do appreciate you asking the question, Robert. And I’ll simply tell you, I think there are an awful lot of evangelicals who quite honestly haven’t ever thought about this and wouldn’t know that there really is an historic Protestant answer to this question.

Part VI

Is It Sinful For Christian Couples to Not Desire to Have Children? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from Listeners of The Briefing

I want to end today with a sweet question sent in by a wife who writes to say, “My husband and I just celebrated a year of marriage.” Congratulations to you. She goes on to say, “He’s 30. I’m 27. I wanted to ask a question that we’ve been wrestling with since being married. Is it sinful for Christian couples to not desire to have children?”

There’s more to the question that’s asked here, but I’m just going to stop there because that’s a good summary. And I just want to say to you, I’m not going to mention the name, but I want to say that this is where I think the loss of the Christian worldview among many Christians. It’s one thing for it to be lost in the larger world. It’s another thing for it to be lost in the church among Christians. The comprehensiveness of the biblical worldview reminds us, for example, of what is called the unity of the goods, which is to say, when God gives us something good and he gives it as a thing, we’re not to try to take that thing apart.

And here’s where I want to say that when God gave us the thing, the institution we call marriage, he gave us the conjugal act, which is the marital act. It came with multiple dimensions, the dimension of unity, the dimension of passion, other things that are well known in terms of the goods of marriage, but one of the goods of marriage is procreation. And thus, the Christian worldview is pretty consistently said, and I think if anything, it’s an understatement, pretty consistently said throughout two millennia of Christian history that every Christian marriage should be open to the gift of children.

So I’m not telling you that I know how many children a Christian couple should be obligated to have. I’m not saying that I’m in a position to say either in general or to a specific couple that I know how many children the word would intend you to have. I will say that if you have two people who are Christians and they marry and they’re within the reproductive age span, I think the expectation is that that marriage should be open to the gift of children. And that’s historical language. I’m simply going to rest on that language. I think it really does say what I mean to say, and that is that every marriage should be open to the gift of children.

By the way, I would even say that to a couple of 80 year olds marrying, because I mean, after all, we have read the Book of Genesis and we know about Abraham and Sarah. It’s not expected, but we’re in no position to say it hasn’t happened.

So again, I am just so appreciative of the questions sent in by listeners, and I’ll look forward to more questions, Lord willing, next week.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

I’m speaking to you from Jacksonville, Florida, and I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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