Monday, April 15, 2024

It’s Monday, April 15, 2024. 

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

Part I

Iran Launches Massive Attack at Israel: We are Living in a World That is Increasingly Hostile to Israel and to the U.S.

We have known for a long time that the Middle East is one of the most volatile places on planet earth, if not the most volatile. And frankly, it has been for a matter of decades now. We’re not just talking about a bilateral conflict, we’re talking about a mass of conflicts, a network of conflicts. And some of them go back more than a millennium. And we are talking right now of course, because Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran, attacked Israel over the weekend with a massive barrage of cruise missiles, mostly explosive-laden drones, and also some ballistic missiles. Now the good news is this: at the end of the day, this massive barrage, and that’s the only thing you can say, a massive attack upon Israel, was largely ineffectual.

There was one little girl, tragically, who was seriously injured, and there was at least some injury to a couple of Israeli military bases. The big news was the effectiveness of Israel’s famed Iron Dome system of national defense against cruise missiles and drones and ballistic missiles. But there was another big story, and that is that it took not only Israel’s defensive mechanisms and technology here. It took a massive coordination of other nations, including the United States. At this point, it appears that Jordan was rather directly involved in helping to defend Israel. It also appears at this point that other major Arab nations, especially in the Gulf region, were involved in providing at least logistical support. Now, you try to unpack this, it’s very complicated.

But what’s uncomplicated is the fact that Israel’s survival in this case has virtually everything to do with two things. Number one, its own defensive capabilities, its famed Iron Dome missile defense, along with what’s now very clear to be effective anti-invasion undertakings on the part of the Israeli Defense Forces, and in particular Israel’s Air Force. But the other big factor here is the involvement of the United States. The U.S. moved major naval assets into the area, as soon as, by the way, the American government began to signal that it expected this attack on Israel from Iran, and on something very like what eventuated as the scale. So this is complicated. The United States started speaking about intelligence indicating that Iran was likely to launch this attack in the aftermath of what is believed to have been an Israeli attack in Damascus, Syria, that killed multiple figures involved in Iran’s armed forces, and also some diplomats as well. Now, was that in military, in foreign policy terms, legitimate if Israel did it? And just about everyone believes Israel did undertake the attack.

And the answer is yes it was. And yes, it would be again. Because you’re looking at Hezbollah there in Lebanon, and you’re looking at Syria basically being proxy states representing a clear and present danger to Israel, because they are proxy states of Iran. But what has taken place just over the last few days? What took place over the weekend is something without precedent in terms of modern Middle Eastern history. And that is the fact that this was a direct attack upon Israel by Iran. It was a direct attack, which is to say it was not undertaken by Iran through proxy states, and through shadow armies, and shadow armed forces, and shadow terrorist organizations. This was undoubtedly Iran taking the action itself. And when it comes to the Islamic Republic, it was its own military that undertook this attack. And it was a massive attack. By American estimations, there were about 170 drones that were sent with explosives.

The drones, by the way, flew rather slowly, and they were no match for the Israeli Air Force, and for Israel’s defenses, including the Iron Dome system. When it came to the cruise missiles, and the ballistic missiles, well, that was something else. And it is now clear that the active involvement of the United States military was crucial, especially when it came to the ballistic missiles. But Iran apparently doesn’t have as many ballistic missiles as it does cheaper and inferior drones. The drones took a long time to fly to Israel. We’re not talking about minutes, we’re talking about hours. And so that raises the question, why did Iran do this? And the answer is, because Iran was making a point. But we need to understand that point was not primarily directed at Israel. That point was especially directed at the United States of America. Now, remember going back to the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini and others didn’t describe Israel as the Great Satan, but rather they described the United States of America as the Great Satan.

The conflict between Iran, and speaking now of Iran after 1979, and the Islamic Revolution, it has been one of the major focuses of American foreign policy. And necessarily so. Remember the hostage crisis. But remember also an incredible number of conflicts between Iran and the United States, and even more recently between Iran’s numerous proxy states, and by the way, it’s not just states, it’s also terror groups such as the Houthi rebels in Yemen, we’re really talking about a massive threat to the United States of America. And not by accident. Iran sees the United States as the Great Satan to be defeated. And in order to understand that, you have to put all the names of Iran’s state together. The Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran is a Shiite Islamic Republic. It sees the United States as the great secular devil.

We don’t have to wonder what the Iranians have as the great plan they’ve made very clear. It is the Shiite Islamic domination of the world. That’s not words we put in their mouths. That is basically what they say. Americans tend to think of the Islamic Republic of Iran as something that’s safely far away from us in terms of geography. And yet we are reminded again and again, that is simply not the case. Now, in terms of the conflict between Iran and Israel, well, you can create something of a tripod. Now, Iran does consider the United States to be a horribly depraved and secular culture. Then we as Christians can talk about our own concerns there. But they would root American identity in a Christian identity as well. When it comes to Israel, of course we are talking about Israel, the Jewish state. And so just think of the antipathy between Shiite Islam and Judaism, between Iran and Israel, and you can understand why it is a new and extremely dangerous thing, that Iran would involve itself directly in a massive attack upon Israel.

Now pragmatically, the big question is what will Israel do in response? And the arguments come down to this: If Israel does not respond, it appears weak and invites more attacks. It weakens its position, not only everywhere in the world, but particularly when it comes to the threat of Iran. On the other hand, if Israel responds with an attack that’s too large or a response that is of too great a magnitude, then it risks the support not only of the United States, that’s key too, but remember, it also would put Israel in the position of threatening its allies and friendly nations in the region, and that includes non-Shiite, Islamic states, including at least tacitly, Saudi Arabia, as well as Jordan, and some of the other monarchies there in the Gulf region. Now, when it comes to the United States and how we should think about this particular development, we need to understand it is very ominous.

We need to understand, this is the kind of thing that really could lead to a massive conflict, drawing in any number of nations. It’s the scale of potential conflict that could reshape the entire world picture, politically. We’ll be talking more about that even as we look to another development having to do with the United States and Japan. We’re looking at a fast-changing world, and it is a world that is increasingly threatening to the United States, to freedom, to democracy, to constitutional government, to Israel. That is to say to America and America’s allies, whether they be in Europe or the one major ally in the Middle East, known as Israel. Now sometimes you just have to know there are things well below the headlines. So the Biden administration came out and said that it was solidly in support, the United States would be solidly in support of Israel defending itself against this attack.

Now, this is the same Biden administration that’s been equivocating when it comes to Israel and its war in Gaza. So how do you add that up? Well, you add it up like this. What neither the Americans nor the Israelis want to say out loud, and this involves by the way, some of the other Gulf states, the Arab states in the region as well, they are so interconnected with the United States in terms of military intelligence and joint defense efforts, that to be honest, this is a relationship that is deep, cycle upon cycle, circle upon circle, of involvement. With foreign military alliances, with foreign armies and military services, air forces, navies. Which is to say, there may be some moments when there is certainly tension between the United States and these other governments. Not just Israel, but some of the Arab states as well. But the fact, is we are really tied together in a mutual understanding of what defense requires of us.

There is an intermingling of intelligence information, there is an interconnection when it comes to military command. There’s no doubt that the United States is the big force in the middle of all of this. But there is also no doubt that the United States needs Jordan, Saudi Arabia, several of the Gulf states, and most importantly, Israel, as vital allies there in the region. Which is to say something else that many Americans don’t think about. The United States of America in terms of our economy, our defense, our place in the world, cannot exist as we do now, without these major allies in the Middle East. It would simply be impossible. There are large numbers of Americans, including American Christians, who think Israel really needs us. And Israel really does need us, but we also need to be honest and say, as frankly, too few Americans are willing to say, we really need Israel.

We really need Israel as our ally in that region. The only electoral democracy in the entire Middle East in terms of the actual democratic experiment of Israel. And of course, we also understand Israel in terms of our alliance, in terms of the reality that Israel is the Jewish state. And we understand that that very Jewish identity is a part of what brings on the enmity and the animosity of so many in that region. And frankly, the perplexity of so many around the world. But while we’re talking about that from the American side, let’s speak about it from the Israeli side for a moment. When did Israel come to the conclusion that it could not stand on its own, and that its national survival depended upon a relationship with the United States, in particular? Other nations? Yes, to some extent. But the United States most crucially. When did that happen?

The year would be 1973. And that would be the year that Arab nations surprised Israel in the attack that became known as the Yom Kippur War. Now, Israel was eventually able to defend itself in that war, but only with the help of the United States. It was caught by surprise. And quite frankly, despite Israel’s bravery and courage, and military ability, that was a very strong coordinated attack by Arab nations. And those Arab states came frightfully close to defeating Israel. The United States stepped in with massive military assistance. And both sides know that that assistance was absolutely determinative. Now, that’s not to say that Israel would’ve ceased to exist in 1973. It is to say that Israel had to learn a hard lesson in 1973, but so did the United States of America. And that’s one of the reasons why the military cooperation, and the national relationship between Israel and the United States, has grown so deep and comprehensive since 1973. We’re talking about two nations that desperately need each other.

We are also talking about the fact that we have mutual enemies. And I just want to put a footnote in here, this is where we should also be very concerned about younger Americans, and particular younger Americans on the progressive Left, that are turning anti-Israel. We need to understand that’s not just going to be a threat to Israel. That’s the first and most important thing. It will eventually also be a threat to the national security and the national interest of the United States of America. And many of them appear to have just as little concern about the security of the United States as they do about Israel. Seeing both nations, quite frankly, as being guilty of moral charges they would make against Israel and the United States. And by the way, in a fallen world, we understand that sin will happen, and no state will be perfect. But to look at two electoral democracies accountable to their electorates, and to look at outposts of freedom in a world increasingly hostile to freedom, this can only be described as moral insanity. But we’ll have to take a closer look at that later.

Right now, we just have to understand that this is history developing before our eyes. It isn’t clear yet how Israel will respond. We’ll be looking at that when it happens. But it is really important for us to understand what took place over the last several days, and the fact that we are in a different historical epoch in this sense, when Iran has directly attacked Israel. Because you know what’s left? Iran directly attacking the United States of America? At this point, we’d have to say, you can’t count anything out. And we are talking about an extremist regime holding to an extremist Islamic ideology. And there are many in the secular West who want to think theology doesn’t matter. But just say out loud, that what happened here was the Islamic Republic of Iran, that’s what they call themselves, attacking the Jewish state of Israel. Israel acquitted itself quite well in terms of its self-defense, but we also need to understand that that kind of defensive technology is not without cost. And quite frankly, it cannot be produced fast enough in terms of all the looming threats.

Israel has to take that into account, so does the United States of America. And quite frankly, you look at the watching world, and you see a great deal of paralysis, and you also see a great deal of moral confusion. The United States and Israel simply cannot afford that kind of moral confusion.

Part II

Communist China’s Aggression is Pushing Japan into the Arms of the U.S.: We are Looking at a New Epoch of World History

Now, as is so often the case, it’s Monday, and on The Briefing, we have to give attention to major developments in foreign policy and in the global scene. We’ve just gone to the hottest of hot spots, which is Israel after Iran’s attack. But we need to understand that something else happened just over the last several days, that ought to have our attention. This time, what we’re talking about is not what took place in the Middle East, but what took place in Washington DC. Because our attention is towards a changing world picture. And let me tell you another major way that the world picture is changing. And it has to do with, between, the United States and Japan.

Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida, came to the United States with his wife on a state visit. This is the first official state visit with all the White House protocol, undertaken by a Japanese head of government in about a decade. And the United States and Japan have a very close relationship. But that relationship is getting a lot closer, really, really fast. As a matter of fact, Japan is now looking at changing its defense posture. Because ever since World War II, and its defeat by the Allies in that horrifying conflagration of World War II, given Japanese militarism, a part of what was creating the Japanese future after the Second World War, and its absolute defeat, a part of that picture was a non-military posture or identity to be undertaken by a modern Japan. Now, there couldn’t be absolutely no military force, because as you’re looking at Japan, you understand as a nation, it has to have a certain amount of that kind of defensive ability, even if just to protect its coastlines and its waters.

And so Japan has had a minimal defense force. But Japan has been building it up over the years. And most recently, there was a signed agreement between the United States and Japan, also including the Philippines, potentially being expanded to say, Australia, New Zealand, and other nations, that vastly increases the military coordination between the United States and Japan. And then add in the Philippines and any others who eventually sign this agreement. But the big signal is this. Japan is very quietly really transforming itself from a self-defensive military posture, into something that will be far more formidable there in the Asian theater. And you asked the question, why would Japan do that? Japan, by the way, has been able to get by as a nation and as an economy without the vast defense spending that has been true in other nations. Most importantly, the United States of America. Japan has been under America’s nuclear umbrella ever since the end of World War II.

Japan has been under the general defense sphere commitments of the United States, since World War II. But we are living in a different world. And you have to ask the question, what made the difference? And the difference is: an aggressive communist China. That has made all the difference in the world. It has led to a reconsideration of Japan’s self-identity, when it comes to being a non-militarist nation. And that doesn’t mean that they’re returning to militarism as an ideology. It does mean that Japan realizes it’s not going to be able to survive without two things, and it’s very much like the situation of Israel. Japan’s not going to be able to exist without, number one, having a much stronger defense system, much stronger military, with much more advanced weapons, and a lot more of them. The second thing Japan’s going to have to have, is the ally known as the United States of America. In the closest of relationships, and in the closest of coordination.

Now just consider the economic competition that had existed a matter of just a couple of decades ago, between the United States and Japan. But nonetheless the Japanese Prime Minister, in a landmark address to Congress, called the United States, a “Indispensable nation.” That’s an amazing statement coming from a Japanese prime minister. It’s also an amazing thing to recognize, that just a matter of a few generations after World War II, the Prime Minister of Japan, spoke to what amounts to a joint session of the American Congress. We all expect a much deeper level of coordination and cooperation between Japan and the United States, and this state visit is likely to be just one in a very serious sequence of developments that bring closer coordination between Japan, and the United States, and other allies in the region. And of course, the United States is not an ally in the region in the same sense as the Philippines, or say Australia. But the point is that America, in terms of its global responsibility, can’t escape this. And frankly, the Japanese and the Americans know it. 

One final thought on this, as we’re thinking about this in Christian worldview terms, we recognize that a changing world with changing threats, and here we’re looking at a pattern of sin working its way out across the global picture, we understand that realism as a worldview is just extremely important. We don’t live in an imaginary world. We don’t live in a world in which we can just wish this kind of threat, whether it be Iran or an increasingly aggressive China, away. We don’t live in a world in which sin can be wished away. We do live in a world in which sin can take the form of cruise missiles and drones aimed at Israel, in which sin can take the form of the kind of threats that you see with a newly aggressive China. That’s not to say that there’s any sinless nation. We as Christians know there is not. But we also know that moral relativism is not an option.

Part III

Murder is Always a Morality Tale: The Death of O.J. Simpson and How Moral Judgment Happens Across a Society

Which frankly brings me to the final subject for The Briefing today, which is something I really did not intend to discuss on The Briefing. As a matter of fact, I’ll be honest, I told people I didn’t think I would discuss it at all. But here we are. I’m talking about the death of O.J. Simpson. And I’m pointing back, just about three decades, to the infamous murder trial of O.J. Simpson, when you’re looking at the brutal murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. So let’s just take stock of what we were talking about 30 years ago. We are talking about one of the most famous celebrity figures in American sports, and frankly in American popular culture, O.J. Simpson, being accused of murder, when it came to his ex-wife and her friend.

And the murder was extremely violent, involving multiple stab wounds. It was undertaken with incredible violence and vehemence. And the question was, could this be the same O.J. Simpson? Then the story got just more complicated. You’ll remember the fact that he fled from police, and what was one of the early undertakings by cable television to follow live, a criminal pursuit, the white Bronco, you’ll remember, going through the L.A. area, with all of the law enforcement behind it. And you had O.J. Simpson eventually surrender to authorities. And he went on trial. You may remember that his trial lasted 11 months, before the jury found him not guilty of the two brutal murders. Now, what makes this so interesting, is the fact that the vast majority of Americans were absolutely convinced of O.J. Simpson’s guilt. And you say, “Well, they had no business making any judgment, because they weren’t in the courtroom and they didn’t hear the evidence.”

Oh, but that’s what’s new. They, in one sense, were in the courtroom, and they did hear the evidence. Because this was a live trial, broadcast across the United States for a matter of months. Americans were mesmerized, they were fascinated. This is a morality tale. Murder is always a morality tale. And the fact is, that not only did most Americans believe quite clearly that O.J. Simpson had murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, the reality is that another jury in a civil trial found that O.J. Simpson was responsible, and sent down a multimillion-dollar verdict against him. But the fact is that in the criminal trial, he was found not guilty. And at the time it was argued that this was a form of what became known as jury nullification. The jury refused to find him guilty, not because they didn’t believe he was guilty, but because of either one of two things, or both together.

They believed that the prosecution had made crucial mistakes when it came to the evidence, in particular an infamous pair of gloves. And they also believed that the American system of justice was unfair, particularly to African-Americans, and thus O.J. Simpson became a symbolic representation. Now, I don’t think there’s any way morally to interrogate the members of the jury to figure out what was going on there. But I just want to point to how moral judgment works its way out in a society. So that trial was three decades ago. It was almost 30 years ago when it came to conclusion. So we’re really talking about a long time in the American memory. We’re talking about an incredible number of millions of Americans born after the event. But nonetheless, when O.J. Simpson died of cancer last week, there was virtually no one who was seeking publicly to pick up his cause or to plead his case.

You see, it turns out that God having made human beings in his image, we do make moral judgments. And the vast majority of Americans came to a pretty certain moral judgment, not independent of the evidence, but honestly for the first time in American history, having been presented that kind of evidence. The other very interesting development in this is that millions upon millions of Americans watched the trial. There was a national fascination. With cable television and cable television networks, it became possible for Americans to watch this kind of trial, at least a lot of the time, together. And yet nothing like that is probable now. The diffusion of media sources, streaming video and all the rest, the breakdown of the old media oligarchy, means that there are few things that you can say, honestly, most Americans watch together. But it’s also interesting to note, just in retrospect, just in the aftermath of the fact that the first issue is the reality of moral judgment.

The second thing are the changes in our society. And the death of that media oligarchy is part of it, which is to say there used to be few options, now Americans have almost, well, it’s seemingly unlimited options on their own smartphone. But there is still another major development, and this one hadn’t taken place 30 years ago in the O.J. Simpson trial, when the controversy was such a focus of national attention. There was no social media on social media platforms. There was no Twitter, there was no Facebook, there was no TikTok or any of the rest. And so Americans were not all talking about this in any sense, in public. Talking about it in their offices and homes and classrooms, yes. But they weren’t talking about it in one massive national conversation. But when something like that happens now, Americans can actually speak into the situation by social media.

I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s a real thing. The trial of the century, as it was called then, was a media spectacle. Just brace yourself to imagine what it would be like now, in the social media age. 

Spectacle isn’t a word that would even come close. 

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 

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

I’m speaking to you from Charlottesville, Virginia, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).