Friday, March 22, 2024

It’s Friday, March 22nd, 2024.

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

Part I

Social Contagion and the Limits of ‘Happy’: U.S. Drastically Falls on UN Happiness Scale — What Moral Points Should Be Considered Here?

Well, how’s this for a negative headline? “US Slips from Top 20 of Happiest Countries.” That’s the Wall Street Journal. And the Washington Post “U.S. Hits New Low in World Happiness Report Driven Largely by Young People.” Well indeed, there are some interesting patterns here. For one thing, you do have the United States slipping. That’s the word that the Wall Street Journal uses; slipping from the top 20 rankings of the happiest countries. Okay, so how do you determine how happy a country is? Is there a happiness meter? Can you take in some kind of happiness gauge? No, it’s subjective. It’s actually as the citizens of the country are polled and indicate their own sense of happiness or unhappiness, that’s how all of this is tabulated to produce a score ranging from the happiest of countries to the least happy of countries.

Now, I guess one fundamental question here to ask is this, is it absolutely worthless? Are we talking here about something that’s completely invented, of no worth whatsoever, nothing more than just an ephemeral media story? Or is it something that should lead us into national self-searching? Is it something that should lead us into a sense of national crisis? Should we be mobilizing task forces? Should the President of the United States hold a press conference because the US has, according to this particular system, fallen out of the top 20 of the happiest countries in the world? Should we start college classes on this? Should we get a mobilization like that of the Manhattan Project in order to say, “Put together a group of scientists to fix this happiness deficit and they better get to it very fast.” No, of course all those things are going to sound ludicrous, but it is interesting to look at the data.

First of all, we are told, as Claire Ansberry reports, “The U.S. has fallen out of the top 20 happiest countries for the first time since a global ranking began in 2012 due in large part to a drop in happiness among younger adults.” When you look at a lede like that, and by the way, journalistically that is spelled L-E-D-E, that can throw you off, but it does function as the lead, L-E-A-D paragraph as well. When you look at something like that, you see that both the reporter and the editor are going to be very concerned to get all the important stuff up front in the first paragraph. And so the most important stuff they’re telling us in the story is the U.S. has fallen out of this list, the top 20 for the first time. And that is largely due to younger Americans who are reporting that they are less relatively happy.

Alright, As Ansberry goes on to tell us, “Americans fell to 23rd place in happiness down from 15th a year ago according to data collected in the Gallup World Poll for the World Happiness Report 2024.” The people of Costa Rica and Lithuania, we are told, are among those that reported being happier than Americans, according to the annual survey which asked respondents rate their current lives on a scale of zero to 10, with 10 being the best possible life for them. Okay, are you happy?

Well, let me just say as a matter of fact, that you are talking here about what is an impression. And it is a matter of fact that if you look at the economic position of an American say, and you’ll get the political security of an American, and you look at the social context of America, compare it to Costa Rica, it says more about the people in Costa Rica that they say they are happier. And it says more about the people of the United States. They say they’re less happy because as you look at objective reality, the United States and Costa Rica are living in two different worlds.

One of the things this tells us is that in advanced economies, in the so-called Western world, people are so spoiled, they define happiness in such a way that you can have a fall from the 15th place to the 23rd place in a year. My, that’s an explosion of unhappiness in the United States. Or you could put it the other way and say there must be some giant, giant threat that is sucking all the happiness out of the United States, and in a year could reduce the United States from place 15 to place 23. Here’s a very unhappy thought. Where will we be in 2025? Maybe the bottom falls out, maybe we have a complete collapse of happiness.

I’m just going to state that I don’t think anyone really takes this seriously, but as you look at the data, there might be one moral point that’s worth our consideration. And it has to do with the fact that this particular research tells us that as you go younger among Americans and in particular younger among American adults, younger adults report themselves to be less happy than older Americans. Now does that make sense or does it not make sense? Well, we’d have to look at the data, and so I did. And as you look at the data, you see the fact that many of them are less happy for reasons that have nothing really to do with the economy. It could have something to do with the economy. But no, the issue that they’re really talking about is the fact that the impact of social media makes them lonely, often gets them hurt, leads to isolation.

And so once again, this doesn’t make sense just in a shift, say from 2022 to 2023 falling from 15th place to 23rd place, it does tell you that a sense of being happy or unhappy has to be tied somehow to a larger context of what sociologists call a social contagion. I feel like I’m unhappy. I tell you I’m unhappy. I run into you on the campus. How happy are you? I am not happy. The next thing you know, nobody’s happy, everybody’s unhappy. On the other hand, sometimes you can run into someone and they’re happy and their happiness is well, rather contagious. The next thing you know, you’re happier because you’re around a happier person. And frankly, if we’re going to hang around with someone, I’d rather hang around with a happy person than an unhappy person because I would rather the contagion of happy enter into my life than the contagion of unhappy.

All of us have plenty to make us unhappy. We don’t have to invite more. But in concluding these thoughts, I want to raise an even more fundamental issue for Christians, and that is the limited usefulness of the word happy. The world can have a world happiness index, but quite frankly, the Christian gospel doesn’t explain that we’ll be happy. Now, we can use the word by saying, I’m happy in Jesus. Well, yes, but actually your salvation is a lot more glorious than just being happy. In the general use of the word happy or happiness in the English language, it is a state or impression of one’s feeling and situation in the world. The reality is that Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble.” He didn’t say to his own people, “In this world, you will be happy.” In the New Testament, a word famously attached to the apostle Paul is a far deeper theological biblical Christian reflex and reality, and that is joy. It is because joy isn’t context dependent.

Joy is truth dependent. Our joy is based in the reality that while we’re yet sinners, Christ died for us, that God raised him from the dead and salvation has come to us. Joy is not dependent on external circumstances, it is based in truth. It’s not an emotional state, although we should show joy, we should worship in joy, we should share joy among fellow believers. And of course we share joy as we tell people the gospel of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul said to the Philippians, “Count it all joy.” He didn’t say, “Count yourselves all happy.” Those are two very different things and never trade joy for mere happiness. So in other words, don’t let the fact that according to this arbitrary survey and the self-reporting of Americans, America slipped in one year from the 15th happiest country in the world to the 23rd happiest country in the world. Don’t let that make you unhappy and beyond that, certainly don’t let that steal your joy.

It’s Friday, March 22nd, 2024.

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

Part II

What is the Difference Between Sex and Gender? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Now we’re going to turn to questions. And as always just a great number of great questions. The first is from a pastor who says he is trying to think faithfully, and I certainly appreciate that. And he’s talking about his church trying to update policies, governing documents, constitution and bylaws, articulating core beliefs. Wanting to get things right when it comes to sex and gender. And so he asked this question, he says, “I hit a roadblock on the gender topic. Could you speak to the difference between the categories of sex and gender? How are the two related? Is gender a biblical category? Does it flow out of the sex that is male and female, which I think is clearly established in the creation account.”

Well, pastor, you’re trying to think faithfully. I think you’re doing a good job already. I do think you also are right to point to some questions about the language. And so let’s talk about the language for a moment. When I was a boy, I almost never heard about gender. If I did hear about gender, it was because of something like a medical form. Because generally when people refer to being or female, they call that sex, the male sex, the female sex. But something happened in the English language that reflects an even more ominous development in the larger culture. The sexual revolution means that now the culture talks a lot about sex and they don’t mean male in female, they mean sexual activity. And so that has been a massive change in the English language. So if you look back at the usage of the word sex in the English language, if you go back to say the 1950s and ’60s, you’re going to find that it generally refers to male or female, boy or girl, man or woman. Which box do you check?

You fast-forward to the end of the 20th century, well, I think most of us know there’s some confusion over the meaning of the word, and largely in the culture it’s been taken over to refer to sexuality and sexual expression, sexual acts and all the rest. So that’s why you had the development of two different categories, but there’s more to it, you suspect there is. Yep, you’re right, pastor, there’s more to it. You also had the sexual revolutionaries match with postmodern philosophy and especially feminist philosophy that became gender studies. And the argument was that sex is biological. That’s what you are in terms of XX and XY. Remember the good old days when even the liberals thought that, when the progressive left knew the difference between a boy and a girl and thought that it was biologically determined? That wasn’t that long ago.

But they then went on to argue, using categories that came largely from the psychotherapeutic world, but also from the leftist ideological world of Europe and in particular, France. They came back and said, “No, gender is a social construct.” So they couldn’t really argue that XX and XY and the bodies that result are merely social constructs. They are physical realities. But they said well, it’s true of sex. That’s pretty unalterable. And again, those were the good old days when they actually believed that and said that. But gender, they said, is a social construct. And so society is going to construct it in a healthy or an unhealthy way in a liberated or unliberated way, in an oppressive or a non-oppressive way. And you know exactly where that ideology led. It was to the idea that any assigned distinctions between male and female beyond what was physically indicated would be socially constructed and thus oppressive.

So you had ideological feminism and liberationist movements who came along and said, “Look, we are going to reshape gender theory. We’re going to apply these neo-Marxist categories in such a way that we will liberate people.” But as we know that Liberationist project didn’t stop with gender, it went on to sex. But I also want to say pastor, there’s just no easy way even in say a Christian conversation to make an absolute distinction between the word sex and gender. And so as you think of gender, that word is now often used even by many conservatives and by many Christians simply to say, I’m not talking about an act, I’m talking about a biological reality. So all these words are contested.

The English language sometimes shows up with some real deficits, and one of those deficits is with the two words, sex and gender. So I very much appreciate what you’re trying to do in the bylaws of your church and God bless you for biblical fidelity and you might need to use the term biological sex and gender identity. And one of your points is going to be that according to the biblical worldview, they have to absolutely correspond.

Part III

What Happens to Those Who Die Having Never Heard the Gospel? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a 14-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

Next, I’m going to turn to a question from a 14-year-old. It’s just a really great important question. Jonathan sends it in. And by the way, thanks for listening to The Briefing, Jonathan, for your kind word. He’s speaking about studying apologetics in a Christian homeschool speech and debate league. Frankly, Jonathan, that sounds like fun. He raises a question, what happens to those who haven’t heard the gospel? Then Jonathan writes, “I know that God reveals himself to everybody through general revelation and that everyone initially rejects God, but the part I’m having trouble with is does everyone besides believers reject God?” I’ve heard a possible explanation of how God deals in the realm of possibility, and God is omniscient and knows how you would’ve responded to the gospel, even if you haven’t heard it yet.

Is this true? And if not, what exactly is the answer to the question? Jonathan, wow, giant question. What an urgent question, and it’s really relevant. I think you’ll help a lot of people by asking this question and by the fact that we’ll deal with it. So number one, is it possible that someone comes to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ without ever hearing the gospel? And the answer to that is no. In the book of Romans chapter 10, the apostle Paul makes very clear that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. And the Apostle Paul takes that logic in Romans 10 so far as to say, look, if they don’t hear the gospel, they can’t believe if they don’t believe they’re not saved. And so that gospel logic, it’s not as if we have to somehow come up with it. I’m very thankful the Apostle Paul laid that out in unmistakable terms with clarity in Romans chapter 10.

And this means that when you have categories where people will say, well, maybe there’s someone who by general revelation comes to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul says that’s not going to happen. Or someone says, maybe, and you mentioned this here, that God is sovereign and he’s omniscient, so he knows who would have responded as an implied faith, but that’s completely excluded by a passage like Romans chapter 10. It’s also excluded by plenty of other biblical passages as well. But Jonathan, the bottom line in this is that the biblical worldview makes very clear that salvation is all of grace that not one of us deserves in any sense to be saved. And every single one of us deserves nothing less than the eternal condemnation and punishment of God for our sin. One of the interesting things is you make the statement that everyone initially rejects God.

Well, that’s absolutely true, and that is sufficient to end the story, except for the saving work of Christ and the message of the gospel, which if a sinner hears it and respond in faith and in belief, salvation comes to that sinner and it’s based upon the power and promise of the gospel. It is consciously heard and it is responded to with a conscious act of faith. By the way, that’s in the same passage too, that those who are saved are those who profess that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in their heart that God has raised him from the dead. It all fits together in a really tight package. I’m thankful it’s not left up to us to try to figure this out, Jonathan, but I’m also very thankful you asked the question.

Part IV

Would You Elaborate on Your Opinion about FDR’s Presidency and Leadership? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Okay, I really love this. I have a father writing in because of a conversation he had based upon the briefing with a 16-year-old son who’s taking American history. So this is just fantastic. Everything about this makes me very happy. And he says that he had heard my comment about FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the fact that I said I wasn’t a big fan of President Roosevelt and his son, well evidently raised the question as to how we were to look at someone like Roosevelt from a biblical worldview. And he went on and said some other things to say that Roosevelt did a really very good job in terms of seeing the U.S. through the Great Depression, vast reform, the New Deal, FDIC. So there’s some real informed specificity here, and I would add to that, of course, leading throughout most of the period of World War II, the United States, in a very successful military action against fascist powers on both sides of the world. And so I don’t want to take anything away from Roosevelt in that sense, but this is a really good question.

And when I made a comment like I’m not a big fan of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I think it’s because I want to tell you as a Christian and as an historian and as someone who thinks about these issues, I do have favorite presidents and those who are least favorites. But there’s another category for Christians. And by the way, a lot of the things you mentioned, even the New Deal, the FDIC, a lot of what Franklin Roosevelt did in bringing the U.S. or helping the U.S. to come out of the Great Depression, and by the way, it wasn’t very successful at first. It gained traction over time. And if you’re a conservative, your immediate response is going to be that Franklin Roosevelt didn’t bring the U.S. out of the Depression, Hitler did, which is to say the vast mobilization of the military economy is what brought the US out of the Depression.

But let’s not take anything away from Roosevelt there. Let’s just say here is a great lesson, very important to the Christian worldview about history. And that lesson is this, history happens once. You don’t get to rewind. You don’t actually get to play with the what ifs as if to say, “Well, what if one of Roosevelt’s several challengers had been elected president? What if Herbert Hoover had been re-elected president? How would things have been different?” By the way, a lot of historians have come to the conclusion that Roosevelt’s policies and the latter Hoover policies were incredibly similar. All I’m saying is that’s speculation. You get to think these thoughts, but you don’t get to rewind history and find out how things might’ve gone differently. And this is where also I think it’s very important that Christians understand what’s revealed even in the Old Testament and in the New, but particularly in the Old Testament where we are told that God raised up Cyrus as a part of his sovereign purpose, and Cyrus was not a follower of the one true and living God. God’s at work.

And it’s also a reminder of the fact that the Christian Biblical worldview tells us that there are people who are say, writing astride history, to use a Churchillian phrase, and who are called to make momentous decisions and exercise decisive leadership in a unique historical moment of urgency, emergency crisis. And the happiest thing I can say about Franklin Delano Roosevelt is that he kept, throughout his Presidential years, a remarkable ability to inspire and encourage the American people. And he also understood the threat of both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, but most importantly Nazi Germany when many others did not see that threat. So I think I would’ve to come back and say, I think Franklin Delano Roosevelt looks much better in terms of his foreign policy and his understanding of the threat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and what it would take to defeat Hitler and all the rest.

His special relationship with Winston Churchill is one of the great stories of 20th century history. I think much happier thoughts about Roosevelt in terms of his war leadership and his national leadership as a infusing hope to the American people than his domestic policies. On the other hand, we were in an emergency situation, so I do not agree with many of Roosevelt’s economic policies, but I have to also be honest and say I can’t rewind history and tell you how things would’ve turned out otherwise had someone closer to my economic convictions and political policy convictions been serving as President during the time. So I want to say to this kind dad, to DeShaun and to your 16-year-old son, boy, you both really encouraged me, and I am just thankful across the board. I’m thankful for a father and a son thinking about big questions like this together. What a great thing is that.

Part V

Why Are So Many Young People Pro-Palestine? Is It Because of Social Media and Misinformation, or Is There More to It Than That? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a 14-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

But next a question from Anthony, also a 14-year-old. And once again, very much an adult question. And thanks for listening, Anthony, and to your dad for recommending it. His question is, why are so many young people, why are they so pro-Palestine? He says as a young person who is pro-Israel, and only really sees pro-Palestine content on the international social media, my theory is that young people are not getting reliable information from other young people, TikTok, Instagram, etc. Do you agree? Is there more to it? Well, I do agree, Anthony, fundamentally I agree, but I do think there’s more to it. So I think you kind of knew the answer when you asked the question that way. I want to tell you what I think is the more to it. I think that the younger you go in this society, the more you have a generation that is really affected by and molded by the idea that everything in life comes down to a simple equation. One side is the oppressor, the other side is the oppressed.

Now, sometimes it works out that way. I just talked about Nazi Germany, but even in that case, that doesn’t mean that the oppressed were all say morally innocent. You think about Britain, you think about France, you think about Italy. They all had their problems, but there’s no doubt that Hitler was the great evil as he demonstrated in unmistakable terms. So all that to say, sometimes you do have what’s clearly an oppressor and oppressed situation. And as you look at the Palestinians, are they oppressed? Yes, they are. There’s no doubt about it. And yet that oppression is not coming just from the Jewish people. It’s also coming from other Arab nations. It’s coming from history, it’s coming from their own leadership, and it’s coming from multiple moral failures at every single level. So we should feel for the Palestinian people, but that does not mean that the political cause that is identified with them is axiomatically morally right.

So when you have someone who just is going to force everything into an oppressor and oppressed equation, well then you’re going to say, “Well, this side’s the oppressor, this side’s the oppressed. I’m siding with the oppressed.” That’s the way the progressive left in the United States and worldwide has been making many of its advances. If it gets to say you are LGBTQ, therefore you are oppressed, and the other side, if they disagree with you, they are oppressor. Well, you can see how that works out morally and politically. The same thing is true of ideological feminism. If you can tell women the big problem in the world is that you are being oppressed by men, if that’s the worldview you’re going to espouse, well, everything falls into place. And frankly, we need to be very careful ourselves that we don’t fall into this worldview and introduce everything to the same dynamic because quite frankly, it’s very tempting.

And so Anthony, I’m with you. I’m very pro-Israel. And by the way, that doesn’t mean saying that the state of Israel never makes mistakes. It doesn’t mean saying that I never disagree with the prime minister of Israel. It is to say when you look at the situation there and you put it in, let’s just say even a larger context, you are looking at the only stable democratic government in an entire region. You’re looking at a key ally of the United States. And biblically, I’ll just state very clearly, I think there’s a lot more to it. I think the state of Israel is a holding, preserving vessel for the children of Israel. And I believe that every single biblical promise about Israel is going to be fulfilled, most importantly, a vast turning to the gospel at the end of the age. But I have to tell you right up front, I also believe in the territorial promises.

So all that to say, I think you ask a very good question, and I think it’s important that you understand the age issue. I think the oppressor, oppressed worldview that has been pushed by the left for a long time has a disproportionate effect among those who are very young, because quite frankly, I think the teachers have produced those who will teach and produced those who will teach. And Hollywood has been hitting this and more loudly every passing year, so I don’t think there’s any surprise here.

Part VI

How Could Adolf Hitler Glorify God? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from a 9-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing

Now, I don’t just take questions from young people, but you know what? I’m just flooded with them, and I think this is another one that will help a lot of people. A nine-year-old, John, asked, “I know that God made all things to glorify himself. How could Adolf Hitler glorify God?” That’s the end of the question. Wow, what a question.

I mean, what an incredibly thoughtful nine-year-old. And yet it’s a good question. And so I can answer this and should answer it, I can answer it in a pretty short form here, John. So Adolf Hitler did not glorify God in this life. Adolf Hitler lived a life that sought in every way to rob God of his glory and to corrupt the glory of God and to turn himself into an idol, basically. On the final day, on the day of God’s judgment, Adolf Hitler is going to reveal the glory of God. And I believe it is going to be on the outpouring of God’s judgment upon him in such a righteous way that it demonstrates the glory of God in his righteous judgment poured out, that’s the biblical word for it, upon Adolf Hitler.

Every single person, the redeemed who are saved because of the work of Jesus Christ and the lost, by two different judgments that God gives; one to the redeemed safe in Jesus, and one to people like Adolf Hitler. But frankly, to all sinners whose sin is absolutely horrible, God’s glory is going to be demonstrated by his absolutely perfect judgment upon every single human being. So John, when you think about God’s glory, it is not limited to what we get to see in this life. It is promised us in the age to come. God bless you for your question.

And by the way, to all listeners, thank you for your questions. We’ll try to get to more of them good questions about everything from Christian nationalism to how to understand truth and beauty. We’ll try to get to as many as possible. And Lord willing, we’ll do so next week. 

But for now, thanks for listening to The Briefing. 

For more information, go to my website at You can find 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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