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Friday, February 2, 2024

Friday, February, 2, 2024.

It is Friday, February 2nd, 2024. 

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

Part I

How About This for Encouraging News: Wall Street Journal Offers Front-Page Story on Parents Missing Their Children Now at College

We’re going to turn to questions from listeners in just a moment, but first I want to talk about a rather heartwarming story that appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Sometimes we have to talk about deeply troubling things, deeply controversial things. This one just in the oddest way is sweet, and I think without intending just points to the love between parents and children and some of the complexities that can come out of that.

The headline on the article, and as I said it appeared on the front page of the print edition of the Wall Street Journal on Monday. The headline is this: “Junior Heads to College, but Empty Nesters Need the Tutors.” The subhead on the article: “After Years of Shepherding, Children, Parents Seek Help Learning to Live on Their Own.”

Tara Weiss is the reporter on the story, and it really does begin with something that a lot of parents can identify with very quickly. It’s a big transition when the first child goes off to college, but when the last child goes off to college, boom, it’s like a total change of life. The article begins mentioning one father who “recalled bittersweet feelings when his oldest child left for college, but he didn’t expect the profound sadness when his middle child said goodbye last year.” The 56-year-old dad said, “They all sting, but this one hurt.”

The reporter then tells us, “Helicopter parents get accustomed to tracking their children’s every move, via smartphone, keeping activities tightly scheduled, scrutinizing homework and grades, exchanging miles of texts.” It goes on, “For a certain cohort of hands-on parents, getting their teens into college marks the finish line. Then comes the coup de grace. Bye mom. Bye dad. See you at Thanksgiving.”

The article then tells us, “The kids are fine; it’s parents who need help. The exit of high school seniors leaves many feeling like “they’ve been fired from a job they’ve had for 18 years.” That according to an individual identified as Jason Ramsden. He has “made a name for himself on TikTok as the empty nest coach.” Well, of course, he has, because everyone needs to coach these days to get through just about anything and a child leaving to go to college, leaving an empty nest, evidently, there is business to be made.

Trying to help parents to cope with all of this, we are told that one particular coach charges $250 an hour for private counseling sessions. I just have to wonder about that economy, but let me come back to the reason we’re talking about this article today. It is because there is a really heartwarming affirmation of the love between parents and children in this article. That’s something we shouldn’t miss. In our society, there’s just so much cynicism. But this article really isn’t cynical. The article only works because in kind of a lighthearted manner, it points to the very real experience of grief. I don’t think that’s the wrong word, grief on the part of parents when their children go off to college, and it’s not just because they have been fired from a job they held for 18 years, it’s because they so love their children that quite frankly their lives have been largely defined as parents, during those years, that they have been expecting children and waiting for children, then having children and raising those children only at some point to see their children go off to a campus.

And there is something in what the report states here, “The kids are fine, it’s the parents who need help” But I think it’s also true, and I say this as a college president, I think it’s demonstrably true that these young people miss their parents too, and that’s one of the reasons why a good college, a good Christian college puts those young people, especially freshmen, those first-year students coming in into a very, very healthy context in which they’re not only with each other, but they’re also surrounded by people who care for them and know what’s going on in the great transition in their lives. There is something to saying the kids are fine, and it is because those young people really understand kind of intuitively the rightness of this next stage of life, and for them, it’s a grand adventure.

But I can also tell you that homesickness is a real thing and it’s only really a real thing because home is so important. And so, I can just tell you as a Christian theologian, as a Christian minister, as a Christian leader, as a Christian college president, I love the fact that parents miss their kids and that young people miss their parents. It’s not equal. Again, the article’s right about that. It’s not equal. It’s the parents with the empty house and the kids with a dorm room. It’s a different picture. But I just want to come back to the fact that this is not an accident. This isn’t just a biological process. Raccoons also have their young go out into the world, but you don’t talk about coaching adult raccoons with an empty nest. Same thing for birds. And I every once in a while see one of those videos of say a little lion, a little cub, and with parents and you see the dad roll the little cub along like a ball just having fun and you see the mom nourishing.

But so far as I know, there are no lions charging $250 an hour for empty nest counseling for those parents. But for humans, it’s different because we’re made in the image of God and it is because we not only love our offspring, we know we love them and they know we love them, and in a fallen world, there are so many fractured things that can take place. But isn’t it a great testimony to the glory of God’s creative purpose, and his love for us, that on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, there is this article saying that these parents are really so discombobulated by especially an empty house with all their offspring now off to college and beyond?

There’s something just really, really sweet about this. There’s something sweet about a Christian dad who says, boy, they all hurt, but this one really hurts. I hope you’ll also allow me to be a bit didactic here. That is to say, to take on the role of a teacher. I think I can do that as both a parent and grandparent on the one hand, and as I said, a college and seminary president on the other hand, because I get to see this, I just want to say to the parent, your job is not done. You’ve not been fired after 18 years. You are still very necessary and not just for writing checks for junior to be able to go to college. 

The role of parents in the lives of young adults and older teenagers, it’s far more important than most parents recognize. And parenting doesn’t end. It changes. It changes profoundly, but it doesn’t end. I want to tell you something really sweet. The students at our college, it is really clear they love their parents. It’s also really clear they care what their parents think. They want to know what their parents think, in the big decisions of life, and frankly, for many things that aren’t big at all, they really crave input from their parents. That’s a very sweet thing. It just brings me great satisfaction to see not just parents in the stands of a little league game, watching little age kids play, but parents when they’re with their sons and daughters when they visit the college, and I just get to see how parents, I hope, are exulting in what God’s doing in the lives of their young people. I know they are, and you really see that.

And so I just want to say the Wall Street Journal is onto something big here. Evidently, even business opportunities have arisen here, but I just found this heartwarming in a world in which there is so much trouble in the headlines. It’s fascinating to me, and I thought just kind of affirming to Christians to look at this and say the glory of God shows up in some unexpected places, and that includes below the fold or the print edition of Monday’s Wall Street Journal and an article about how much parents miss their kids when they go to college.

Part II

Should Christians Attend the ‘Wedding’ of a Same-Sex Couple? What About If It is the Ceremony of a Family Member? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from Listeners of The Briefing

Now, I want to turn to questions, and frankly, I received an avalanche of questions from listeners about one issue that has been unexpectedly kind of hot debate among conservative evangelical Christians in recent days. And this has to do with whether or not a Christian should attend a same-sex wedding ceremony or same-sex wedding. And on this issue, frankly, I’ve been writing about this and talking about this very question for well nearly 20 years in one way or another, but focusing on the question becomes all the more urgent, once you had the formalization of same-sex ceremonies and then the covenant services as they were called, and then same-sex marriage in some places, and then after the Obergefell decision in 2015, same-sex marriages as they are called, being declared legal, and same-sex weddings becoming more routinized.

So one of the first reasons I had to bring this up was because of a student who asked me a question urgently because of a question from his own family. Now again, that was 20 years ago when I was asked that question, and the first thought that came to my mind is, “This isn’t hard. This isn’t really hard at all,” and it’s not hard because of what a wedding is. A wedding is a celebration. A wedding is a covenant ceremony of one sort or another. It may be confused, but it’s a covenant ceremony. It’s being declared as the formal public declaration of a thing, and that thing is a marriage or a union. And that’s where Christians understand that it’s not just that we think the same-sex marriages are wrong, it’s that we don’t think same-sex marriages are marriages. We actually don’t think it is. It doesn’t fit the biblical criterion. It doesn’t fit creation order. 

And I had to raise it a second time in response to Houston Pastor, Joel Osteen, and that wasn’t the first time I’ve had to deal with Joel Osteen, who by the way used to make a lot more headlines in the Christian world back when he was more active in Christian circles. He’s kind of retreated or certainly in more of an eclipse in terms of Christian conversation than was the case say back in 2011. And in 2011, he made a couple of public statements and one of them had to do with whether he would attend a same-sex wedding ceremony. And well, I think he failed in the answer. And so because that was a part of public conversation, I had reporters call me and ask me what my position was on it. I’d already written on it, but I said, “I’m going to go further.” And so I published two articles in 2011 on this question. And one of the things I wanted to make as a point is again, that a wedding is not like a meal. A wedding is not like a conversation. A wedding is a ceremony. And historically, those who have participated in the ceremony, and by that I mean, even just those who are in the congregation, they’re described as witnesses and celebrants to the wedding. That is to say they’re there to celebrate.

And affirmation of the union is, historically, and I think biblically crucial to what a wedding is all about. That’s one of the reasons why the most foundational language in terms of marriage and western civilization, the most foundational language in the English-speaking world, is the language of the book of Common Prayer. And even those who by no means use the book of Common Prayer for worship, most Protestants use some version of the language of the Book of Common Prayer in the solemnization and the celebration of marriage. And that’s why almost everyone recognizes the language “If there be anyone here who knows any reason why these two should not be lawfully, wed let him speak now or forever hold his peace.”

Well, that wasn’t unexpected language, that’s not incidental language. And that comes up again and again in weddings. If you’re here, you’re here because you think this is right. If you’re here, you believe this is a marriage. And when it comes to Christians looking at a same-sex ceremony, whatever they’re going to call it, we don’t believe that it’s right, we can’t celebrate it, and we actually don’t believe it’s marriage, so we can’t bear false witness about marriage. Now, in January of 2011, I published an article in which I said, “This was Joel Osteen’s moment. Your own moment will come soon enough.” And my warning to Christians back then in 2011 was you better think this through, because it’s not going to be particularly healthy to think this through when you have an invitation in your hand. You need to think this issue through long before you get an invitation. And you need to think this through in biblical terms, which is not just about whether you should go or not, but why. And then what else is important to this context? Because if you’re invited to a wedding, and here’s something we just need to acknowledge. 

If you’re invited to a wedding, there must be some relationship with at least one of the parties in this ceremony. And so, I think it’s emphatically true that Christians do not want to have no relationship. Or to put it another way, it is not true that Christians should seek to avoid any relationship with someone who’s identified as LGBTQ, or someone who’s in some kind of same-sex relationship. But there’s a category distinction between fostering a relationship, and even say sharing a meal in table fellowship. There is a categorical distinction between that, and being a celebrant at a ceremony. That’s a categorical distinction and I think that’s important, and I’m going to make that argument. I’ve made it consistently now for well over a decade, and I think that’s one that’s deeply rooted in the Christian tradition. I think, and in the nature of a wedding. 

And there are witnesses. In every state I know of, there are witnesses that have to sign that the wedding is legitimate and lawful, and those who are attending are the larger circle of those who are in agreement with that. And so I think that emphatically means that that’s the one place that Christians I think should not be, and I think we need to decide that upfront. And a further complexity comes with the question, well, are there circumstances that may say you would go to this but not go to that? Is this a relationship that is particularly important? And I would simply say, I think this is one of those issues in which we need to recognize this is not context-dependent. That is to say the moral distinction is not between that same-sex ceremony and this same-sex ceremony. The categorical distinction is between marriage and ceremonies that celebrate what is not marriage and can’t be from a Christian biblical perspective.

I appreciate the many listeners who wrote in on this question, and this may well be a developing issue among our evangelical circles, and I’ll be tracking that with you. I also want to say we’ll put a link at the website for today’s program in for a rather lengthy answer I gave to this question back in March of 2022, so I’ll simply reference that also for some further consideration.

Part III

What Media Sources Should We Trust? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, I want to turn to a question from Samuel who is writing from Canada. He says he’s 18. And by the way, thanks for listening to The Briefing. He says, “I live in Canada and under the Trudeau government, we have seen bills pass such as Bill C-11, which gives the government control over media in regards to what’s promoted.” He goes on to say, “Although it hasn’t been put into effect yet. Along with this, we have media outlets such as the CBC, that’s Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, receiving billions of dollars from the government in support, which has made it very partisan.” And he ask this question, “How on earth am I supposed to trust reporting on my government with such issues? How do you determine what is true when journalism is now a little more than state-sponsored activism?”

Well, Samuel, I am thankful for this question. I’m thankful you are very much alert to what’s going on in the media, most importantly there, which you reference directly, in Canada. But frankly, this is a problem for all Christians everywhere. The media consumption, huge question. Which media sources we trust, who can we trust, who should we trust? Huge questions. How do we trust and verify? How do we critically and faithfully analyze the news in terms of the source, the delivery, the context, there’s just a whole lot going on here.

But one of the interesting things your question triggers Samuel, is the fact that we need to recognize that people want to control the news. And that’s certainly true of governments. Governments want to control the news. That’s just a basic fact. And, of course, it’s perhaps no better illustrated in fiction than in George Orwell’s 1984, where there’s an entire government ministry of the control of this kind of information. And I think it’s just fair for us to understand that most governments will seek to do that. And even for example, I’ll say in the United States, which has a pretty radical freedom of the press, that doesn’t mean everyone has access to the printing press or to major media platforms, and it doesn’t mean the government doesn’t have its own story it’s trying to get out for its own purposes.

And the biggest problem here in the United States is the fact that a certain kind of corporate class tends to own the big media, and it comes with a worldview and a commitment, and of course, a professional journalism class that is in many ways just openly hostile to biblical Christianity and to conservative Christians. And so that’s very much a reality. And they’re also these huge legacy media entities that have so much power and influence. Just say the name, New York Times or CNN. I know one’s much older than the other, but you get the point, these are legacy news now. And some people would refer to something like CBS as the Tiffany News Network, and both of those references are dated. But the point, is not everyone can start a television network. Not everyone can own one. That’s a very privileged position, and it tends to be a very rarefied group with a pretty unified worldview. And let’s just say, biblical Christianity is not famously a part of that worldview.

But you know, you mentioned the CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Here we also have the same problem with NPR, National Public Radio funded by the government, and quite frankly, just extremely liberal. Now, I’m not saying that it is always lacking in credibility. It’s not. It does a lot of good reporting. It’s a very professional organization, but it’s under the control of the media class. There’s just no question about it. So I do resent the fact that my taxpayer money is channeled in that direction. And one of the things that frustrates me, by the way in reporting from NPR is that when they report on conservative Christians, they generally go to people critical of conservative Christians, and ask them what conservative Christians think rather than say calling conservative Christians, and asking them what they think.

Now, they’ve called me from time to time, I respect that. I appreciate that. They’ve called others. But on the liberal side, I don’t think they call conservatives in order to say, what do liberals believe about this? And when you look at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the context there in Canada, Samuel, you are talking about a context that is actually in many ways more European in its shape, both in terms of the constitutional arrangements and the cultural history. So I think the opportunity there for government control is a little more direct, and perhaps insidious than the kinds of control problems we have in the United States to your south.

Samuel, I want to give you some good news. And that is the fact that it’s almost impossible these days for anyone to hold a news monopoly. And that’s true for the CBC. Thankfully, it’s true for National Public Radio, or for PBS, Public Broadcasting. So I think one of the things that you need to think about is how you can get alternative news. And there are plenty of websites out there that would offer an angle on the news, but some of them are frankly are not well sourced. Some of them are not well edited, some of them are not very accountable. So discernment is really called for here, and I think that’s one of the reasons why people in a local church, and I would say your church there in Canada, your circle of Christian friends, I think you should think about this, talk about this together, and kind pool your resources and your critical abilities to say, we actually think there’s more to the story. We think this is distorted. We think this represents government control. We think this is evidence of attempted censorship.

And I think one of the ways you kind of check that honestly, Samuel is by, and you can’t do this just individually, I try to actually help people in the briefing by offering some of this in terms of exposure across a wide range of media outlets. So you can say, well, this is kind of checked by that. This source from the left raises a good question, that’s a very distorted way of dealing with it, but they do raise a good question, and over here is credible information where we can check that distortion. So it’s hard work. I don’t want to say anything else that would depreciate just how much hard work it is Samuel. But I want to say one other thing, and that is you are absolutely right not to trust the government to control the media. That’s a basic fundamental point. And so I appreciate the fact that you’re on that. Samuel, again, thanks for your question.

Part IV

Should We Refer to Death as ‘Natural Death’? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from Listeners of The Briefing

And to Jared, I want to say thanks for your question. It challenges me on my use of the term natural death, and I’m asked, “While I certainly understand what you mean, I question if that’s an appropriate term from a Christian worldview where death is an unwelcome intruder, death isn’t really natural, it’s only necessary due to humanity’s disobedience to Adam. It didn’t even exist in the created order to that point, that would seem to make it quite unnatural. What are your thoughts on this?”

Well, my thoughts are Jared, you’re putting a lot of thought into this, which I appreciate, and your direction back to creation order is entirely right and even more emphatically, we’re directed to scripture. And I just want to say that the parallel to natural death is the natural man, and that’s not my term, that’s the apostle Paul’s term in 1 Corinthians 2. We also have references in scripture to being this or that by nature, we are by nature children of wrath.

And that’s not the way it was in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, but that’s the way it is in Genesis 3. That is now the natural state. And that’s why we need supernatural redemption, and that’s why we need a new nature and must be born again. And that’s why actually we need a new heaven and a new earth. And so it’s natural now that it’s the state of all persons that is appointed and man wants to die, and after that, the judgment. Sin is now natural and death is now natural. With sin, came death. And sin is now a part of the natural order. Now, as we look at the natural death issue, of course, that’s to be contrasted with those who try to bring about death in an unnatural way.

The biblical worldview, I believe, is very clear about the gift of life and God’s sovereignty from the moment of fertilization all the way until natural death. But of course, that’s just a subset of God’s sovereign purposes for us from before the foundation of the earth and until the fullness of the kingdom and then for eternity. But I think this is really important for us to recognize that in the flow of biblical history, and I think biblical theology here is very clear, that what would’ve been unnatural in Genesis 1 and in Genesis 2, becomes very natural in Genesis 3 and following such that we are now by nature, sinners, and thus death which entered because of our sin, it is also now a natural death. And that’s to be respected, by the way. This is a hard part of biblical theology, we are to respect the verdict of death, and the reality that we are mortal and that a part of our mortality means that we should expect a natural death.

Part V

Are American Evangelicals More Concerned About Politics and Policies Rather Than Personal Holiness? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from Listeners of The Briefing

I also appreciate questions that I think I can answer pretty quickly. You can tell I’m tempted not to be very quick about certain answers. I think the issues are so big and weighty, and sometimes we have to say a certain amount just to be certain that we’re at least sufficiently clear, and that’s a challenge. But Kobe writes in with a good question, and I appreciate you listening, Kobe. This is the question, “Do you ever fear American evangelicals becoming more concerned about social matters and policies over and against personal holiness?” And he says, “I’d love to hear any thoughts you may have to this.” Well, Kobe, my first thought is, I think you’re exactly right. I think that there is the temptation for many people, and certainly for some individual believers, to be more concerned about social matters and controversies and policies and less concerned about personal holiness. And I think it’s really good that you ask this question, and I’m going to try to answer it as the Puritans would say, answer it clean, and concisely.

And that means, yes, you are emphatically right, and I think we could put it this way. What would it mean to gain the whole world in terms of policies and to lose our own soul in terms of a lack of concern for personal holiness? Good word, good warning. Thanks for sending in your question.

We’ll try to turn to even more questions next week in Friday’s edition. I just can’t tell you much. I appreciate the thoughtful listeners to this program and the thoughtful questions that you send in some of them tend to, I must say, require a more personal approach than I feel that I can take in a public program. And I think you probably understand that. But nonetheless, I appreciate the fact that you trust me with those questions and send them in.

Well, I also want to affirm again, the importance of Christian higher education and the importance of a Christian college for Christian young people. And that’s the reason why I’m very proud to be the president of Boyce College, and I really believe in what we’re doing here. We’re trying to raise up an army of Christian Young people who are going to be able to change the world and serve the church to the glory of God.

So I’d really like to invite Christian parents and Christian young people considering college to come to Boyce College Preview Day, which is March 21 and 22. So it’s coming up here pretty quickly, and you’ll be able to meet with the faculty, I’m looking forward to meeting you personally, and having young people come and just, for one thing, just get to know the college and come to understand what Christian Young people should look for at a Christian college. And they’ll also get to meet not only the faculty, but students have a pretty good idea of what’s really going on here. We’ll talk about the issues that are important, and I think really should be very much on the minds of Christian young people and parents in answering this very, very important question.

By the way, also some good news for listeners of The Briefing, you can register for free. Simply go to boycecollege.com/preview and then put in the code ‘The Briefing.’ I think you can remember that. And so I’ll look forward to seeing you at the Boyce College Preview event, March 21 and 22. Remember boycecollege.com/preview. Code ‘The Briefing,’ and thanks for listening to The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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