Friday, March 8, 2024

The Briefing.

Friday, March 8, 2024.

It’s Friday, March 8, 2024. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview. 

Part I

A Pathetic State of the Union Address: President Biden Delivers the Most Challenging and Concerning Speech of His Political Life

Last night, President Joe Biden delivered the State of the Union address. Now it is known as the State of the Union precisely because the Constitution calls upon the nation’s chief executive to report to Congress on the state of the nation. There is no constitutional stipulation that it has to be a speech, much less that it has to be in-person, but that tradition began fairly early in the American Republic and it continued very much so, especially with the advent of radio and then of course, even more so with television and streaming video. Presidents are not about to give up that opportunity and the constitutional drama is rich. You have people entering the chamber of the U.S House of Representatives. Of course, it is the House and Senate together constituting Congress inviting the President to give the annual State of the Union address.

Formally the invitation comes from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and it comes to virtually every president every year, except for one technicality. Officially, a newly inaugurated president does not give a State of the Union address because the President is brand new in office. But Congress generally invites the new president to speak to a joint session of Congress and frankly, it has the very same feel as a State of the Union address. The formality of it is a part of our constitutional tradition. The grandeur of it is a part of our national history. You have Congress seated and then eventually you have the cabinet. You have prominent defense officials including generals from the military, the Joint Chiefs of staff in particular, and then you have also at least usually, at least some of the Supreme Court of the United States. The justices dressed in their robes and they’re also a part of the formality even if they do not speak.

And then the President’s cabinet is introduced and then the introduction, “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.” At that point, particularly in the age of television, a president enters the chamber, too much applause, and the applause for the office generally from both parties, and then he speaks to some of the people coming down the aisle. It’s a part of the Democratic ritual, it’s a part of political custom. And then he arrives at the Speaker’s rostrum there in the House of Representatives, even as the Speaker of the House and the Vice President respectively, the leaders of the House of Representatives and the United States Senate sit behind him on an even higher level. The president generally then takes a copy of his manuscript and hands one copy to the Vice President and one copy to the Speaker of the House. He then turns to the chamber and begins his address.

There are some other aspects of this and before we get into the most controversial issues related to the speech, and quite frankly, that speech included a great deal of controversy that we are going to have to address. We need to understand the political decorum and we need to understand that this is a part of the rightful operation of our political system, even of our constitutional system. It’s also a public relations event. It is a political event. The President of the United States invites some guests that generally are used as prompts at some point and as symbols or at least subjects of interest in the President’s address, they often sit with the First Lady, as does the spouse of the Vice President of the United States. The Speaker of the House may have his or her own guests, also some selected members of the House and of the Senate, and that’s generally something of a rotating basis given the limited seating in the chamber.

And by the way, this is held in the chamber, the House of Representatives, because of course it is the larger chamber of the two houses. It’s the larger house. The guests of the respected congressional leaders are symbolic. You had the parents of Evan Gurskiewicz, the Wall Street Journal reporter who has been held captive in Russia. His parents were there, as I said, as the guest of the Speaker of the House. When it came to the President of the United States, I guess sitting with the President’s wife, the First Lady. The most interesting thing is not who was there but who was missing because the White House had intended to make a big political statement by having the widow of Russian dissident, Alexei Navalny present there sitting with the First Lady as well as the wife of the President of Ukraine, often referred to as Ukraine’s First Lady.

You can understand the symbolism there. Russia has invaded Ukraine and for a matter now of over a war, Ukraine and Russia have been at war with Russia as the aggressor. It was going to be a very, very poignant geopolitical statement. The intention of the White House was to have the Ukrainian First Lady sitting presumably on one side of the American First Lady, and then to have Navalny’s widow, the most prominent dissident against Vladimir Putin who died under very mysterious circumstances you’ll remember in a remote prison in Alaska, you can understand what the White House thought it was about to pull off, but it didn’t pull off either one. Neither of these women showed up. And so what was supposed to be a big story about them being there turned out to be a fairly big story about the two of them being absent. By the way, the First Lady of Ukraine couldn’t come, she said, because she had previously scheduled an address to children in an orphanage.

Now, I’m not saying that’s not true, I’m just saying turning down, given Ukraine’s position, given its situation, turning down an opportunity to be highly visible in the President’s State of the Union address as he was calling for increased and continuing military aid to Ukraine, it doesn’t make sense that the Ukrainian First Lady wasn’t there simply because she had to give a speech to children in an orphanage. She could have done that another day. That was a way of saying, “I am not coming.” Why did she not come? She didn’t come because of the anticipated presence of the widow of Alexei Navalny. And of course he was a Russian dissident. He was the political foe of Vladimir Putin, the invader of Ukraine. What was wrong? What was wrong is that, well, here’s something. History comes back with various reminders. Alexei Navalny shared with Vladimir Putin the belief and the claim that Ukraine should rightly be a part of Novorossiya, of new Russia, of the new Russian Empire.

And thus from the Ukrainian perspective, Alexei Navalny though the foe of Putin was also very much the foe of Ukraine. You couldn’t have the Ukrainian First Lady sitting there with the American First Lady having the widow of Alexei Navalny on the other side of the First Lady. It just wasn’t going to work. That was rather clumsy on the part of the White House. But now let’s turn to the speech itself. And in just a moment, we’re going to turn to the most serious and concerning part of the President’s speech, and I’m going to speak very directly in criticism of the President, but let’s just look at some of the other things that appeared, first of all in the speech, for example, one of the main things the President was trying to do is to argue for his economic record or for what he wants to present as his economic record.

So you have a war of economic statistics, but the big issue here is that voters vote on their impression of the economy, and all the polling and surveying is demonstrating that on that issue, President Biden has a big problem. It was interesting just to look at one minor issue in his speech. He raised an issue that he’s talked about in another context before and that is complaining about “Shrinkflation.” That is the economic pattern whereby the price may remain the same, but the contents are less, fewer, less weight, less items. The President’s example was evidently fewer Snickers. Okay, so is that a big economic problem in the United States? Well, it’s an economic reality. Shrinkflation is happening when frankly manufacturers and retailers don’t want to raise the price. Instead, they just reduce the size.

And the President presented that as a sinister capitalist plot. However, we just need to point out, regardless of the President’s feigned outrage over shrinkflation, the reality is that’s the market at work. And here’s a very interesting thing, and the Wall Street Journal and others have got a lot of attention to this very interesting Shrinkflation is real, but one of the reasons it’s real is because American consumers are choosing a smaller package while keeping the same price rather than to have the same larger package and to pay a larger price. That’s actually a consumer choice. The President presented that as some kind of corporate conspiracy, but if it’s a corporate conspiracy, I can tell you it can be traced back to the logic of the so-called dollar stores. Because if you’re going to hold everything to a constant price, say a dollar, then given inflation, guess what? You’re going to get less for that dollar. There are going to be fewer batteries in that package. There are going to be fewer Smarties in the bag of candy.

Yeah, if you want everything to be at a constant price, well, here’s a clue, the quantity the contents are going to change. I don’t want to present some kind of corporate defense of the makers of the Snickers bars. I just want to point out that that’s a very strange thing for a president to mention in the midst of a State of the Union address. So far as I know it’s the first appearance of a candy bar in the State of the Union. One other more minor point before we go on, the President broke decorum in the speech by mentioning his predecessor in office who’s also his likely opponent in the general election in the fall and doing so numerous times. That’s just something that has not happened in the State of the Union. Of course, we haven’t been in exactly this political situation, but when it comes to Joe Biden, he’s someone who wants to act as if he maintains precedent, but he doesn’t.

But most importantly, I want to turn to the greater issues at stake in the State of the Union addressed last night. Politically, President Joe Biden knew he was facing the challenge of his political life. The American people are overwhelmingly rightly concerned about his age and mental condition. So in that sense, last night was a mandatory event. He could not show up to deliver the State of the Union address, and there are expectations he had to stand up and he had to do it. On the liberal left, especially in the media, you heard all kinds of explanations of how the President was going to do and how good he was at this. Frankly, given his performance last night in terms of speaking, there was no face plant. It wasn’t an abject disaster. On the other hand, it was very hard to listen to the President. He mangled the English language, he mumbled big lines, he invented new words.

Now, Joe Biden’s been doing all those things for a long time, but quite frankly, he’s doing them now at a level in which that’s the norm, not the exception. There was nothing the President did last night that was likely to reassure any voter, but most voters probably have their minds pretty much made up. The only game changer that can really come right now, to be honest, the only game changer that’s likely really to affect the election is if the President continues his decline, and that’s perceived, and in particular, if there are one or more abject disasters when the President appears in public, and quite frankly even those close to the President live in constant fear that one of those might well happen that day. But at the level of morality and worldview, some issues quite frankly loom larger.

Now, almost all public speakers deviate a bit from prepared remarks, but to speak as kindly and respectfully as possible. Joe Biden has made a career out of doing that and frankly from departing from the truth as well. This is the same Joe Biden who had to withdraw from the Democratic race for the presidential nomination in 1988 because he was caught completely stealing a British politician’s speech as well as his personal story. But the big moral point is this, President Biden wasn’t delivering someone else’s speech last night. He was delivering his own speech. He bears full responsibility for this speech. And the main problem with the President’s speech was not his halting delivery, it was its moral content. Let’s be very clear, the President and his party now aggressively embrace the culture of death, period.

Biden’s speech was an undiluted call for maximum abortion rights and for minimal respect for human life, he grandstanded on issues like IVF and vitro fertilization and thus dismissed human embryos as if they possessed no moral significance whatsoever. It wasn’t that he made an argument, he wasn’t making any serious argument. He never even acknowledged the moral question of the embryo. When it came to the issue of abortion, we need to recognize the President broke several marks of decorum in his speech. Most egregiously, he directly addressed sitting justices of the United States Supreme Court and he chastised calling them out the justices of the Supreme Court for reversing Roe V. Wade in the 2022 Dobbs decision. Speaking to the justices, and in his actual delivery, he made this very clear speaking to them directly, he said, “Clearly those bragging about overturning Roe v. Wade have no clue about the power of women in America.”

He went on to pledge. “If Americans send me a Congress that supports the right to choose, I promise you I will restore Roe V. Wade as the law of the land again.” Now, those words are not just in the transcript of the President’s actual remarks. They are in the White House release of the President’s text. That’s morally significant because this wasn’t something he ad-libbed at the moment. These were premeditated remarks released to the public before he even gave the address. And as I cite those remarks, it’s just as they were printed in the text released by the White House. So considering those words, does the President of the United States believe that voters send him a Congress. What an amazingly self-centered way to put that. Is he an emperor who can now say, I will restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land again?

Justices of the Supreme Court should refuse given the fact that he called them out, that he addressed them and criticized them in this way. They should refuse or they should refrain on constitutional principle from ever attending a speech by President Joe Biden again, they are not members of his staff. They are not political lackeys that must be made clear. Those issues aside, the President’s speech is positive and irrefutable proof that Joe Biden has sold his everlasting soul for the cause of abortion. For decades, Joe Biden ran on the argument, especially running for the United States Senate. He made the argument that he was a faithful Roman Catholic. He was personally opposed to abortion. He made the argument for many years posing as one who wanted at least some restrictions on abortion and had some respect for unborn life. It was the argument that was common to many pro-choices. They styled themselves pro-abortion Democrats at the time. I’m personally opposed to abortion, but I acknowledge the reality of a woman’s abortion rights.

We now know it was all a lie. It was always a lie. It is the devil’s lie. So far as I’m concerned, it is Joe Biden’s defining lie among many, many documented lies. He’s not the only politician who lies, but on the issue of abortion, his lies are particularly deadly. President Joe Biden now openly and unabashedly embraces the culture of death. He grandstands on abortion. He did so last night in the State of the Union, he clearly understands abortion as the main issue that just might keep him in the White House for another four-year term. He now says, as he did in this address, that Roe V. Wade got it right. But his current position and the current position of the Democratic Party is far more radically pro-abortion than even Roe V. Wade. That is not only a false representation, it’s a grotesque false representation.

His party calls for virtually unrestricted abortion right up until the moment of birth, and I’ll go out on a limb here. Don’t count on them holding even that line. President Biden as Senator Biden and Vice President Biden oppose government funding of abortion, but he has now shifted to enthusiastic support and demand for taxpayer support for abortion. He’s made abortion a weapon in American foreign policy as well. He is the doddering but dangerous chief executive serving the culture of death. He threw in, of course, the expected support of a democratic candidate for LGBTQ, advance and transgender claims. At one point, he apparently referred to transgender rights as fundamental rights. That’s loaded language. That’s a very specific constitutional term. Try explaining that to James Madison or John Adams. President Biden made one issue absolutely crystal clear in his speech. There is just no way around it. Abortion is the central sacrament of the culture of death, and he is that sacrament’s loyal servant.

His State of the Union address was pathetic. Worse than that, for the cause of human life and human dignity, it was downright deadly. Honestly, I have worked hard to handle this issue aright. It is just front and center in the Christian conscience, and I think we had to talk about it very frankly. And frankly, I would not have chosen to speak to these issues today on a Friday edition of The Briefing when we’re going to turn to questions. But the President gave the address last night, and so it’s just a matter of historical fact and I did not think I could duck the responsibility. Now to get to the questions.

Part II

What is Catholicism in the Lens of Biblical Christianity and Church History? Was Catholicism Still Christianity Before the Protestant Reformation? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

The questions are really great this week and we start out with one that’s frankly pretty massive. It’s sent in by a college student at Clemson University. His name is Colin, and he writes in because he and his roommates have been discussing Catholicism, Protestantism and he asked a question, he says, concerning this conversation. Now, Colin, to be honest, you didn’t ask one question. You asked a series of questions, but they’re all good questions and they are all related, and I think this is a really important opportunity to discuss some of these things. For instance, he says, well, basically, is it true that we know what Catholicism is? Because there are people who say, we don’t know what it is these days. And I know why you could say that. It’s because if you listen to this Pope speak, he doesn’t even sound like the two popes previous to himself. If you listen to this pope and many liberal Catholics speak, you wouldn’t know any connection frankly to historic Catholic doctrine.

But the Catholic Church makes the claim that it is itself the deposit of the faith. And indeed the Pope is understood to bear the first responsibility of that definition and protection of doctrine. But the doctrine is clearly explicated in what is known as the catechism of the Roman Catholic Church. And in other documents they’re referred to as magisterial documents as in teaching because they come from the teaching office of the Roman Catholic Church primarily with the authority of the papacy itself. Okay, so with all that as background, yeah, whether the Catholics know what Catholicism is, whether this Pope knows what Catholicism is, you can pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, and you can look at other magisterial documents released by the Roman Catholic Church, and you can put together what Catholicism is. So I want to make a pretty strong statement here and just say, if you want to know what Catholicism really is, you might not get the right answer from a Catholic or someone who identifies as Catholic. There are an awful lot of Catholics who quite frankly are only remotely acquainted with official Catholic teaching.

But lest that sound like a bit of say, anti-Catholic animus, let me point out that to our regret, there are an awful lot of those who would identify as Protestants and even as evangelicals, who frankly don’t have a much clearer grasp of our beliefs either. So Colin’s next question along with his friends is whether or not Catholicism is a denomination of Christianity or a separate religion altogether. Well, let’s put it this way. In the Reformation of the 16th century, the Reformers made a very clear statement that the Roman Catholic Church is not a true church, biblically defined as Luther would say by the word and sacraments. But he doesn’t say there wasn’t a church sort of in the Roman Catholic Church, and he’s not arguing for absolute discontinuity. Both Luther and Calvin believed that there were believers in the Roman Catholic Church and they themselves had at one point been in the Roman Catholic Church.

They came to Reformation doctrinal convictions and eventually broke with the church. But Luther’s ambition in the beginning was not to break with the Roman Catholic Church but to reform it. And even though John Calvin did not state it quite the same way, it’s quite clear that he saw himself as a reformer, before he had to become a rejectionist as well. And by the way, just remember the Roman Catholic Church rejected the Reformers as vehemently as the Reformers rejected the Roman Catholic Church. But you ask a question about denomination, and the word denomination comes from naming, to denominate something that is to give it a name. And in that sense, Roman Catholicism is not just a denomination of Christianity. We are looking at rival doctrinal claims and ecclesial claims.

And yet at the same time, there is a category of Christian when you think about say, a global context of world religions and clearly Roman Catholicism fits within that Christian universe. That doesn’t mean that we believe that Roman Catholics by being Roman Catholic are redeemed or saved. But it does mean that you can’t argue that Roman Catholicism has no claim upon Christian history or that it has no claim upon a Christian designation. We do differ just as the Reformers did, not only in terms of say peripheral matters, but central matters. But if someone’s going to count and publish, say an estimate of the number of Christians in the world, they’re going to include Roman Catholics. But we as evangelicals have to have a very clear gospel perspective. So in that sense, we understand the world may use the term and we may use the term and religious say, counters may use the term, or historians may use the term with different meanings.

The next question is if Catholicism misrepresented Christianity until the Reformation of Martin Luther, do you believe there were, or you might say are still genuine Christians under the authoritarian rule of the Roman Catholic Church? Well, let me go back to the Reformers. The Reformers were absolutely certain there were believers in the church, but they believed that the actual believers in the church were believing in ways that were not consistent with the clear doctrinal claims of the Roman Catholic Church, particularly in the definition of the gospel and say the question of salvation by faith alone, by grace alone, those things were made very clear. But again, the Reformers themselves had at some point been believers in the gospel and defenders and affirmers of the gospel when they were still counted on a Roman Catholic faculty, at least in the case of Luther. Colin asked some other questions, and along with the conversation he’s having with his friends there at the university, and he asked the question about the current status of Catholicism, and let me just point out that Catholicism responded to the Reformation with what is known as the Counter-Reformation.

So the doctrinal divide was recognized on both sides of the divide between the Protestants and the Roman Catholics, and both sides adopted statements, creeds, confessions, doctrinal teachings that made that acknowledgment of the divide and incompatibility very, very clear. And at the same time, we come to understand that when you ask this question, you also have to put it in the context of later developments. And those later developments include this. You have the development of what was called modernism and Roman Catholic theology and Protestant liberalism on the Protestant side of the equation. And those were liberal theological developments that represented orchestrated unbelief and a denial of biblical truth on both sides. And so we’re in the odd position now where quite frankly, conservative evangelicals and conservative often designated traditional Roman Catholics actually have a lot more in theological common even across the divide that is still the same as it was with the Reformers and the Counter-Reformation in the Roman Catholic Church. That divide has not been eclipsed. Only liberals claim that it has been eclipsed in a false ecumenism.

No, the divide’s still there, but quite frankly, a Roman Catholic who believes in the historic creeds concerning Jesus Christ. And in the historic teaching of the Christian Church on the doctrine of the Trinity, we share far more in common with them than with someone who claims to be a liberal Protestant or is in one of these liberal churches or for that matter, liberal seminaries. And there’s something else. In the modern age, the moral issues loom so large, and that’s where we have to understand that when Roman Catholics are making many arguments against, say, abortion or against something like same-sex marriage, they’re often employing arguments that are deeply consistent with Christian truth, deeply embedded in Christian thinking, drawn from deep reservoirs of Orthodox Christianity. And so I think we just need to acknowledge that across our theological disagreements, which are no less than they were in the past. There is also an ethical agreement on many issues. 

And if we’re honest, when you had a lot of evangelicals trying to pick up an argument, develop an argument against abortion, we were greatly indebted to Roman Catholics who’ve been developing that argument long before. Also, if you look at the historic Roman Catholic Church and you look at its definition of marriage, yeah, we differ over marriage being a sacrament, but we don’t differ over marriage being the union of a man and a woman. So in that sense, we’re on the same side of a great divide. So there is unprecedented conversation between conservative evangelicals and traditional Roman Catholics that doesn’t mean that the Reformation debates are over. It does mean that in a modern radically secularizing age, we stand on the same side of the divide between a basic commitment to a continuing theism and orthodoxy. And on the other side, absolute doctrinal and moral mayhem.

I also appreciate not only Colin sending the question, but he said, sorry for the long question. I’m looking forward to hearing you on this issue. I’ll just say, Colin, the big problem, quite frankly in something like this is not your long question, but sometimes my long answer, true confession.

Part III

If a Child Dies, Will They Be a Child or Adult in Heaven? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a 5-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

But now we’ll go from a question that comes, say from a college dorm and go to a preschool context. In this case, Judah, ask a question, Judah’s five, here’s this question. And if you say, you never thought about this question, you’re lying to yourself. Here’s the question. “If someone dies when they are still a kid, will they be a kid or a grown up in heaven?” What a fantastic question, and the answer I want to offer to Judah is this. We won’t know what age we are when we are in heaven because heaven lasts for eternity. So age doesn’t matter, but every one of us will be made perfect in Jesus. So whatever perfect is like, that’s what we will be.

And I think all of us, though the Bible says we will grow up into maturity in Christ. That means we grow up in Christ. I don’t know what that means physically, but heaven is the place where everything is absolutely perfect and all of us are made absolutely perfect in Christ. But Judah, I just want to tell you, I’m very thankful. Thankfully you listen to The Briefing and that your parents do. I’m very thankful that they sent this question. I’m thankful for intelligent five-year-olds who ask very good questions based upon biblical truth. And I just want to say I could only wish that all Christians at whatever age were thinking about things as seriously as your questions suggest you are. And Judah, I’ll tell you, as a grandfather who has a five-year-old grandson, it is a fantastic age.

Due to the President’s State of the Union address last night, we’re not going to have time to get to more questions. Lord willing, we’ll do so 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’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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