Wednesday, April 10, 2024

It’s Wednesday, April 10, 2024.

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

Part I

Back to the Future on Abortion in Arizona: 1864 Law is Back. What Does This Mean?

In terms of priority and urgency, we just have to make hard decisions about what must be talked about today, what’s the most important issue we can face, what has most urgency and greatest value in terms of analysis from a Christian worldview. And we’re looking at the issue of abortion regularly because it is just so urgent, and so central, and so revealing as we think about the great moral crisis of our age. There’s another reason why we have to keep coming back to some of the same issues, and it is because the headlines never end. And yet there are some headlines that are just so important we do have to go back and look at the same issue again, the issue of abortion.

The headline, “Arizona Reinstates 160-year-old Abortion Ban.” It’s an article from yesterday and going back to Monday, but it was yesterday that the highest court in Arizona upheld a law that had been adopted in the year 1864, that bans nearly all abortions in the state. And even as you have the New York Times and others saying, “This is a decision that could have far-reaching consequences for women’s healthcare and election year politics in a critical battleground state,” we as Christians have to understand, yes, it is incredibly important for us to understand this will play into the politics of 2024, and almost immediately that means to the advantage of the Democrats to the incumbent president of the United States, Joe Biden, ardently pro-abortion. Because this court decision is now likely to set the stage for the Democrats to argue to their own base, “You have to turn out and vote simply because abortion rights are at stake.”

And in this case, boy are they at stake. This is a big win for the pro-life movement in terms of the legislation, but it’s also almost assuredly the case that Arizona is going to get weak knees, and come back and do something about this legislation. And this is where the second big issue for us is understanding that our friends on this issue often turn out not to be friends at all.

So the bottom line is this, the highest court in Arizona has put back into effect a law passed in 1864 to prohibit abortion in Arizona. Now I have to be careful, I didn’t say in the state of Arizona, because in 1864 Arizona wasn’t even yet a state, but it was a legal jurisdiction, and this was a duly passed law. And behind that is a fascinating history. So this law dates to 1864, more than a hundred years ago, indeed now more than 150 years ago.

What happened in 1864? Well, Arizona was a U.S. territory, but it did have a territorial legislature. And the Arizona legislature did pass into law this near total ban on abortions. It was 1864. The point is it has never been repealed. Now how recently was this near total ban on abortions in effect? And the answer is until Roe v. Wade in 1973. So the pro-abortion movement would have you think, “Okay, this law goes back to 1864. It must be as one pro-abortion person said, “a zombie law.” But you know what? It does go back to 1973. It was only reversed by Roe v. Wade. It’s on the books right now because when Roe v. Wade was handed down, it was in effect. And when Roe v. Wade was reversed in 2022, this law is now on the books and enforceable. And now Arizona’s highest court has said that it was a duly passed law and it is in effect.

Now a stay on the application was put in place for a few days to figure things out, but the international and national headlines are telling the story, an 1864 ban on abortions is now in effect in the state of Arizona. And that is also very revealing in a second way. This might be the most urgent issue for Christians to think about here. Many who have declared themselves to be the friends of unborn life and the enemies of abortion turn out to be anything but, when push comes to shove and when all of a sudden a law like this goes into effect.

So to give one example here, United States Senatorial candidate Kari Lake, who you may recall very controversially, ran for Arizona governor and ran on a MAGA campaign, but also ran on a pro-life campaign. And for one thing, when the 1864 law came up to public attention after the Dobbs decision, Kari Lake said she thought it was a good thing. But now having lost the governor’s race, she’s running for the U.S. Senate, she’s changing her political identity. And when the law actually goes into effect, by this action yesterday, by the Arizona High Court, her response was that it is “abundantly clear that the pre-statehood law is out of step with Arizonans.”

Well, what does that tell you? It tells you that just as was the case with former President Donald Trump in his statement on abortion that came out Monday, many of the people who had just a few years ago, in the case of Kari Lake, just two years ago, indicated ardent support for the pro-life cause and for the defense of the unborn when something like this actually comes into effect in a different political context. Boy, they run from their pro-life convictions and frankly from some of their pro-life statements as fast as they possibly can.

The New York Times put it this way about Kari Lake, “Ms. Lake has been emblematic of a Republican shift on abortion. She now opposes a federal ban while still backing the 15-week restriction that was in effect in Arizona.” It goes on to say again, “She is emblematic of a Republican shift on abortion.”

Now, is this true in a generalized sense? Is this a Republican shift on abortion? Well, we don’t know that yet, but we do know that former President Trump now running for another term in office has made clear he’s changed his position on abortion. I not only discussed that news on The Briefing yesterday, but I published a major article on it at World Opinions early yesterday morning.

So let’s go back to the history for a moment. Remember that even though you have all the national media saying this is an 1864 law, let’s just go back to the fact that it was fully not only on the books, but in effect in 1973. The game changer there was Roe v. Wade. The second game changer was the reversal of Roe v. Wade, nearly a half century later in 2022, the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court. But that we now know set the stage for an awful lot of Republicans who had declared themselves to be pro-life to do their very best to find out how to stay Republican but not stay exactly consistently, publicly, or courageously pro-life. They’re running scared.

It is a sign of the times that someone who obviously sees this to his political advantage is the president of the United States. The New York Times ran an article late yesterday with a headline, “Biden Condemns Arizona’s Abortion Ban as Cruel and Extreme.” Well look at those two words, “cruel and extreme.” You’ll notice who is absolutely absent, whose absolutely absent from any of these comments, or from any of the moral meaning of the president’s statement. Missing is the unborn child. The unborn child is simply excluded from the equation. All that is left is a woman with not an unborn child, but an unwanted pregnancy. But then again, we’ve stated something that’s woefully out of date for the Democrats because increasingly, they’re not speaking of pregnant women, they’re speaking of pregnant people, but let’s not be diverted as we think about what’s going on here in Arizona, and understand that the president sees this as an opportunity for political advantage in Arizona, which is a crucial swing state for his reelection prospects.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how former President Donald Trump responds to this news story, because in one sense, just given his own modified position on abortion, I referred to it in the article I published yesterday as a major fumble on abortion, the reality is that there is so much at stake, we’re about to find out where everyone stands on this issue. It will be interesting to see who does and does not make a comment related to this news coming out of Arizona. It’s also incredibly important that we watch this news coverage and understand that when people say this is an 1864 law, they’re pressing an agenda. They don’t mention that it was in effect in 1973, until Roe v. Wade. That shows you how fast the abortion moral logic, horrifyingly enough, has taken a hold in the United States. I think the average American would be absolutely shocked to find out that this law was fully in effect in Arizona in 1973.

Part II

The Roman Catholic Church Declares Itself Against Gender Theory: The Vatican Releases Clear and Courageous Statement on Human Dignity

But alright, now let us change the scene from the state of Arizona, let’s go to the Vatican. Let’s go to Rome and think for a moment about major news coming out of Rome with a document that was released on Monday. And in typical Vatican style, it has a complicated title. Here it is, “Dignitas Infinita,” which is to say infinite dignity. Here’s the full title, “Declaration of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dignitas Infinita on Human Dignity.” So how important is this? Why are we talking about it? This is the Roman Catholic Church. I’m speaking as an Evangelical Protestant. Why is this important? Well, it is because, on a moral issue like this, when the Roman Catholic Church steps into an area of moral controversy simply given the size of the Roman Catholic Church, given its history, it’s very important that we understand what’s going on here.

But there’s more to it than that. When you look at this document, which affirms the infinite dignity of human beings because human beings are made in the image of God, it is something that reminds us that this is where Christians have to begin thinking about human nature. This is where we have to begin thinking about human dignity. We turn to the scripture, where we are told in the very first chapter of Scripture that human beings are made in God’s image and that comes with consequences. And here’s where this Vatican statement’s really important.

Now let me just state up front, we don’t look to the Vatican for authoritative moral statements. But when the Vatican issues what for Catholics or authoritative moral statements, as evangelicals, we understand this is important. We need to at least know what’s going on here. This is news. It’s going to be a part of the moral, political and religious context.

The second thing is this. When you look at a statement like this, the Vatican tends to throw everything into it. So indeed, almost everything in it, war, the death, penalty, poverty, hunger, migrants, human trafficking, sexual abuse, violence against women. But virtually, none of those things have attracted international headlines. Why is this Vatican statement attracting so many headlines? It is because of the fact that the dignity of human beings made in the image of God is here tied to issues of surrogacy, the church emphatically against it. Abortion, the church emphatically against it. Euthanasia and assisted suicide, the church emphatically against them. And wait until you hear this. On gender theory identified with a section of this declaration entitled “Gender Theory,” the Roman Catholic Church says that it is decidedly against it. Sex change procedures, operations, et cetera, the Vatican is against them.

Well, for evangelical Christians, all of these are frontline moral issues. And the important thing here, by the way, before anything else, is that we say that evangelical Christians have better speak with the same level of clarity and courage as this document on these issues. So all kinds of other things are in this. I’m ignoring those for the moment. I am looking at the very clear statements, for instance, on abortion. Absolutely unrestricted affirmation of the dignity of unborn human life, very consistent with previous Catholic and for that matter, Christian teaching.

But the church here, in a document that was worked on for five years and comes with full Vatican authority in the Roman Catholic Church, it comprehensively condemns surrogate motherhood or surrogate parenting. It makes clear that surrogacy is not consistent with the Catholic worldview, and I think it’s clearly not consistent with a Christian worldview. And once again, I think there’s clarity here that reflects a level of conviction that, even in this pontificate, even with Pope Francis, who’s not particularly clear on many of these moral issues, one interesting point is that the Vatican is still pretty clear on these issues because it doesn’t have any choice. It is actually speaking to these issues on Catholic teaching with the authority of the Vatican in order that people would know what is and is not considered sin. No small matter.

I should mention also euthanasia and assisted suicide. The Roman Catholic Church here decidedly against euthanasia and assisted suicide. Very clear statements, very helpful, as we understand the conversation about these issues in the public square. Again, consistent with the defense of human dignity and human life. But when it comes to gender theory and sex change procedures, well things get really, really interesting. And this is where evangelicals, through statements such as the Nashville Statement, have made similar declarations. And yet when you’re looking at the international press, it’s just a fact that they’re going to pay attention to what the Vatican says on this simply because of the size of the Roman Catholic Church and its historic influence. But also, at least in part because, when it comes to this kind of issue, the Roman Catholic Church tends to put out rather lengthy and specific written documents.

As I said, evangelicals have a written document on this in the Nashville Statement, but nonetheless, this is the news. And what’s big news here is the inclusion of two sections, number one here on gender theory and number two on sex change procedures. And what is identified as paragraph 58 of this document, amazing clarity. Just listen to these words. “Another prominent aspect of gender theory is that it tends to deny the greatest possible difference that exists between living being’s sexual difference.” That’s a very clear statement. It also makes a very clear point that I make repeatedly on The Briefing. When you look at the Book of Genesis, it’s about making distinctions, making very clear differences. Differences between the creator and the creation, the difference between human beings and other creatures made by God, the difference between male and female, and creation.

This statement continues, “This foundational difference is not only the greatest imaginable difference, but is also the most beautiful and the most powerful of them.” Again, very clear and undeniably true. The distinction among human beings between male and female is basic. And I think this document’s exactly right, it is beautiful. And that means it is wrong, it is against the teaching of the Catholic Church this document makes clear, and I would say at a far more important issue, it is against the principles of biblical Christianity to try to undo what God has done in creation. I think if anything, I would make the statement more strongly. But the point is, this is an incredibly strong statement coming from the Vatican in the year 2024.

The statement says this, “Therefore, all attempts to obscure reference to the ineliminable sexual difference,” that means, by the way, what can’t be eliminated, “sexual difference between man and woman are to be rejected.” In the very next paragraph, in which the church says that sex change procedures are not allowable, not acceptable, the statement goes on to say, “It follows that any sex change intervention, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception.”

Now here is a very important argument. The way evangelical Christians, the way evangelical Protestants would put this, is that God’s intention is revealed in creation. And this means in every single human being as God has made us. As this statement says, affirming human dignity even in the body, “the body participates in that dignity as it is endowed with personal meanings, particularly in its sexed condition. It is in the body that each person recognizes himself or herself as generated by others. And it is through their bodies that men and women can establish a loving relationship capable of generating other persons.”

Now, there is more to the Catholic document than that. And as I say, it ranges across issues that I think evangelical Christians would not tie together essentially on the theme of human dignity, and certainly not in the same way the Catholic Church does. But on the issue of gender theory and sex change, euthanasia, assisted suicide, abortion and surrogacy, it becomes very clear that this is a statement of moral clarity. And frankly, in every one of those respects, it is on the right side of these issues. And thus you’re going to be seeing something very interesting in coming days, and that is the political and cultural Left in the United States coming out because they want to see Pope Francis as a warm fuzzy figure that they can kind of bend. And he plays that game by the way. I’m not a Catholic, I’ll tell you right up front, he plays the game.

But right now they’re saying, “Oh, all of a sudden the Catholic Church actually teaches Catholic doctrine.” And the shocking thing here is kind of like the shocking in the 1864 Arizona bill that was actually in effect in 1973. This, in every respect, is not a departure from what the Roman Catholic Church has been teaching for centuries, it is actually a continuation of it. But regularly, the secular media all of a sudden is surprised as if this makes news. The only news here is the fact that there is clarity in the statement and that the Roman Catholic Church is not backed off of its historic teachings. That’s not insignificant, but frankly it’s not breathtaking groundbreaking news.

Part III

NAIA Takes Bold Stand on Transgender Athletes, Banning Participation in Sports

But as we’re talking about breaking news, the NAIA, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics did break news yesterday with a new position which declares that in NAIA affiliated teams, if there is a woman’s team, a biological male cannot compete on that team as a woman.

Now, there had been a lack of clarity from the NAIA on this issue in the past, partly because of concerns over Title IX, and the application of Title IX by the government. But you know it is interesting that the President’s Council of the NAIA voted 20 to nothing in support of this policy. Why did they do that? Well, for one thing, let’s just say it’s consistent with common sense. It is consistent with biology, it’s consistent with anatomy and physiology. It’s consistent with morality, that you do not have someone in a male body competing as a female against girls and women, when it comes to the sporting and athletic context, and in this case at the intercollegiate level. So that just makes moral sense, but it doesn’t make moral sense in the NCAA where no similar policy is in place. As a matter of fact, the NCAA policy is nothing less than deliberate evasion. Perhaps just buying time until some court may make a decision, or some other external force may require them to state the policy more clearly.

The NAIA is different. Why? Well, it’s made up of smaller schools and you have a greater percentage of the schools in the NAIA that have a religious founding, and identify to one degree or another as Christian schools. Certainly that has something to do with it. That is not a coincidence anymore than it is a coincidence that that statement was released by the Vatican having to do with Catholic teaching. So theology has consequences. Religious beliefs have consequences, convictions have consequences. And that shows right up here in the new policy by the NAIA.

According to the new sexual and gender ideologies, this is a backward step, but of course it is in the name of protecting female athletics, get this, for females. The news source, The Athletic reports on this, and I got to tell you, here’s my favorite sentence from it. You’re going to love it. “The transgender participation policy will apply to all sports except for cheer and dance, which are both coed.” You are wondering how that was going to be settled. Well now you know, go cheer and dance.

As you can imagine, the LGBTQ community is up in arms about this making a lot of noise about this. Shiwali Patel, identified as senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, she expressed outrage, “This is unacceptable and blatant discrimination that not only harms trans, non-binary and intersex individuals, but limits the potential of all athletes.”

Now let’s just stop for a moment and say, let’s assume that words have some kind of meaning. What does this mean when she claims that this limits the potential of all athletes? That is just moral gas. She went on to say, “It’s important to recognize that these discriminatory policies don’t enhance fairness and competition. Instead, they send a message of exclusion and reinforce dangerous stereotypes that harm all women.”

Dangerous stereotypes like there’s a difference between the male and female body? Is that now a dangerous stereotype? Are we that insane? The answer is that when it comes to these groups, yeah, they’re actually way past that insanity. They’ve been there a long time.

Part IV

‘If You Consider Yourself a Woman, You Should Play’: South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley Makes Nonsensical Statement on Transgender Women Competing in NCAA Sports

But we can’t leave this without going to the University of South Carolina and women’s head basketball Coach Dawn Staley, who after all just led her team to an NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship and someone who has been identified as a Christian, she came out with a statement enthusiastically for transgender participation in sports. When she was asked the question in a public context about the transgender issue in sports, she said this, “If you consider yourself a woman and you want to play sports or vice versa, you should be able to play. That’s my opinion.”

Now, I can only assume that someone who is now a national championship women’s head basketball coach in a major university, that this is not the first time she’s thought about this. She is herself a major figure, not only in women’s intercollegiate sports, she’s a major figure in the media, she’s a major figure when it comes to intercollegiate athletics. She knows the score. And what she came out and said here is just manifest nonsense. And I want to go back to her words. She said, “I’m of the opinion,” well, that’s one interesting way to put it, “that if you are a woman, you should play.” And what she means is in women’s sports on a women’s team. But then she goes on to say, “If you consider yourself a woman and you want to play sports or vice versa, you should be able to play. That’s my opinion.” So she starts and ends by saying, “That’s my opinion.” That’s not an out here. It’s actually her opinion that’s the problem. It’s a problem that she holds this opinion.

It’s certainly a problem that she holds this opinion while identifying as a Christian. Let me just take, clearly, this is a refutation of biblical truth. This is an unacceptable position when it comes to the Christian worldview. But when you look at this, you also recognize there’s a huge practical question here. Does she actually, in any sense, mean what she says? Does she say this because she knows it’ll be politically correct and she’s going to be affirmed as, for instance, MSNBC affirmed her with a headline? “Dawn Staley Just Won Another Title and Still Had Time to Stand Up for Trans Athletes.” Is that what she was looking for here? Or is there something else? Is she actually thinking, “Well, they’re an awful lot of male bodies that could consider themselves women who could actually do pretty well when it comes to basketball because there is a physical advantage?” Yes, there still is a physical advantage to the male body when it comes to maximum height, maximum arm reach, maximum throw.

So you look at these issues and you ask the question, you put a male, a male body in a female basketball team member’s uniform, are we soon going to see that on the court with the University of South Carolina? Now, it’s interesting, the press came back and said this was a ridiculous question because there are no men, no biological males in intercollegiate women’s basketball or the NCAA level. Well, the point is, she was asked the question, she answered it. Her answer is devastating.

And when you’re looking at this, whether you’re talking about the NAIA that just chose the right policy, and they’re certainly going to be gone after for it, or you look at the NCAA that at this point doesn’t have much of a policy, and here you have a very stupid statement made by an NCAA head women’s basketball coach, the reality is that words have consequences. If she didn’t mean what she said, she better clarify it real fast. If she did mean what she said, well guess what, head coach? You just articulated the end of women’s sports in America. So enjoy your trophy while it means something.

Alright. Evidently, the parade of nonsense continues on and off the court.

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 tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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