Thursday, June 13, 2024

It’s Thursday, June 13, 2024.

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

Part I

The Parable of Hunter Biden’s Trial: Moral Consequences of Reading Audio Edition of Your Own Book Revealing Your Guilt

Well, unexpectedly in terms of speed, the jury in the Hunter Biden trial came back with a guilty verdict on three felony counts after just three hours of deliberation. Those three hours were actually spread over two court days, and so it was earlier than expected on Tuesday in which the verdict was handed down. And when you look at the situation here, there are some huge lessons for us to think about some huge worldview dimensions for our consideration.

First of all, let’s just remember that we’re talking about Hunter Biden, the surviving son of the current president of the United States, Joe Biden. And we are talking about a situation in which there had been a plea agreement with an independent prosecutor that was appointed on behalf of the Department of Justice, and that fell apart under political scrutiny, but it also, we need to remember, fell apart after a federal judge refused to approve it because of its unusual structure. So that meant that the prosecution had to go back to some basic building blocks and quite frankly had to do so with the world watching.

And so Hunter Biden was indicted on charges on both coasts. In Delaware charges related to an illegal gun purchase. And on the West coast, we are looking at an impending trial in a matter of just a few months on income tax evasion. And by the way, in terms of legal consequence, the second trial is far more significant, at least as thought by legal authorities, than the first trial.

But we are talking about three felony convictions, and here we are talking about a most unusual political season. We have talked about the verdict handed down in the Trump trial, and now we’re talking about a verdict handed down in a Biden trial. But this isn’t the president of the United States. It is however the first child, son or daughter, of a sitting president to be found guilty of federal crimes and for this to take place during the term of a president.

The political consequences of this trial are yet unknown, but certainly it is going to factor into the 2024 presidential election. And in this case, the very fact that Hunter Biden is so well-known, even notorious, as the son of the sitting president and the expected Democratic nominee in 2024. Well, we are looking at a big news story and we’re looking at a news story that is a continuing and unfolding tragedy.

So even as you look at the Trump trial in Manhattan and now you’re looking at the Hunter Biden trial in Delaware, and another one yet coming, we really are talking about a newly complicated political context. But I want to step back from the politics for a moment and at least understand what is going on and what is represented in this verdict. Well, the charges in this case, centered in the allegation that Hunter Biden had falsely bought a weapon, in this case, a pistol, and that he had bought it in violation of the law because the law asked the question as to whether or not he was using drugs at the time. And it’s a pretty straightforward question, but as is so often the case in politics, even straightforward questions can become controverted matters of law.

Hunter Biden’s basic defense, we’ll come back to this in a moment, but his basic defense was that he wasn’t using drugs at the very time he bought the gun, and signed the document. So we really are looking at, again, three felony charges. He was found guilty on all three counts with remarkable speed. But we are looking also at an incredible moral argument when you have a man arguing that he wasn’t using drugs at the time. It’s very similar to the Bill Clinton argument going back to the Monica Lewinsky case in which he actually says, as is verified on the transcript, “It really all matters what the word is means.” Well, we are living in a world in which we supposedly have moral complications over what the word is means. Let’s just face it. If you’re saying that is doesn’t have a determinant, meaning you’re probably making a losing argument. That’s one of the reasons that Bill Clinton when he left office, left without a law license.

But it’s also true that if you are really with a straight face trying to make the argument to a jury against this kind of charges that you weren’t using drugs at the time, which in some cases might mean a matter of seconds or minutes, it really turns out that’s not a plausible argument. But here are some other worldview dimensions of all of this. So let’s just say that this is an unusual case. You have the son of a sitting president of the United States. Why did all this come about? Well, it is because he was at the time, and this gets convoluted and this is all a part of the moral mess, he was at the time in a relationship with his brother’s widow.

Beau Biden, his older brother, had died tragically of cancer and you had Hunter Biden developing a relationship with his former sister-in-law. The sister-in-law found the gun at the very time she knew that Hunter Biden had been using crack cocaine and she disposed of the gun very awkwardly, and very inexpertly in a trash receptacle, and thus the story began to unfold. Hunter Biden went to find the gun. Before long, the police are involved. And before long, people are figuring out we have a big problem here.

Now there are questions related to this trial that may never be answered. Why exactly did Hunter Biden buy a gun? And again, there’s no allegation that he used the gun in any illegal or unethical way. The fact is he probably didn’t possess the gun long enough for there to be much of a time to do anything. His sister-in-law out of fear of what he would do with the gun, removed the gun. Hunter Biden, when he found that out, was angry and eventually the police became involved. The whole story here comes down to the fact that Hunter Biden was charged and as you know, just on Tuesday was convicted of having signed a document saying he wasn’t using drugs at the very time he clearly was.

Now, how in the world would the prosecution in this case come up with evidence that he was using drugs at the time? There were no blood tests taken at the time. And so what kind of evidence was so convincing in terms of what was brought forth by the prosecution? Well, I dare say the prosecutors had a form of evidence, which is probably close to unprecedented in federal prosecutorial history. They had an audiobook by the defendant. And so here you have a man whose life is very messed up. And when we say that, we need to say it with human concern, but also with moral clarity. We’re talking about a man who was messed up in so many different ways. He had a commission in the US military, lost it because of a failed drug test, even as special provision was made for him to enter a program, even though he had documented drug use. He claimed that that was all in the past. But then he was mustered out of the program.

We’re talking about someone whose way has been marked by all kinds of difficulty, all kinds of moral complications. And we’re talking about the fact that he wrote a book about it. And when he wrote the book about it, he made money off the book. He made money off the book because he told a morally compelling, personally interesting story and a lot of it had to do with his incredibly heavy use of drugs including crack cocaine. And he talked about it and the book was covering the very time in which he had purchased the gun and had filled out the form in which he signed his name to the fact that he wasn’t using drugs, which meant he committed a federal crime in the process and that’s why he was convicted.

But you go back to the trial and you say, “Okay, so the prosecutors have his own voice.” And understand this is something I think actually comes down to some kind of biblical understanding. It’s one thing for say facts about you to be read. It’s another thing for you to have written those facts about yourself. It’s another thing for you to have spent untold hours in a recording studio recording yourself reading the words that you had written about what amounts to not only the immoral and illegal activity involved in crack cocaine, but making very clear this was at the very same time you filled out the form and illegally bought a gun.

So it’s really interesting that legal experts on the other side of the verdict have been asking the question, how did it come so quickly? And one of the answers that has come so quickly is the fact that it really is difficult to overcome evidence when the evidence is not only, say by the hand in terms of the writing of the defendant, but also in his voice, in a product that he wrote and marketed to the public.

Now, there are some other very tragic aspects to all of this, and we are talking about a family tragedy here. And we can have sympathy for the fact this is a family tragedy even as we fully intend as a society to hold people morally accountable for their crimes. But we’re talking about a situation here in which the defense on behalf of Hunter Biden made many mistakes. I think just about every legal team doing analysis suggests that they made mistakes. They had a very weak hand, but one of the mistakes is that they called Hunter Biden’s adult daughter, Naomi Biden, to testify, and her testimony backfired on the defense.

Without going into detail about her testimony, I think one of the important things to recognize here is that she spoke openly of the fact that during this time her father was basically ignoring and neglecting her. And thus pieces of the puzzle began to fall together. This is another moral issue when it comes to the law. And so let’s just talk about this moral issue for a moment.

When you talk about jurors, you talk about 12 human beings sitting through a process. And let’s just say every single one of them is trying to do his and her best job to follow the law and follow the evidence and listen to the testimony and come to the right conclusion concerning whether the verdict should be guilty or not guilty, or whatever other verdict might be accessible at the time. But as you think about someone serving on a jury like that, you also have to understand their flesh and blood human beings. And so even as someone may be tried in a circumstance for a certain crime, in this case, the falsification of documents and the illegal purchase of a weapon during the time the individual is using drugs, a jury is looking at the flesh and blood daughter of a defendant. And that daughter’s testimony can be absolutely devastating even if she doesn’t mean it to be. And it appears that’s exactly how this operated.

And it just affirms again that we are human beings and these relationships that are so much a part of our lives, they really are moral tests for us. And this jury, I think it’s fair to say legal analysts are also observing, they had to be impacted by this kind of testimony, heartbroken though it was, coming from Hunter Biden’s daughter. And by the way, she was called as a witness not by the prosecution. She was called as a witness by the defense. I think that’s going to turn out to be a major miscalculation. It’s a reminder of the fact that we are looking at a moral situation that is undeniably partly emotional, even as it is largely an argument over facts. There’s just no way around that. It’s a part of the human condition.

Part II

The Parable of Hunter Biden’s Trial: The Tragic and Moral Consequences of the Evidence Which Led to His Conviction

But there’s another aspect of the Hunter Biden trial, and it turned out that this did not apply, but the fact that it was so openly discussed means that it’s something we at least ought to acknowledge as we talk about this trial. By the way, sentencing is likely to come in a matter of months, just about the time that his trial, on the more serious felony charges of tax evasion is likely to begin on the other coast. But as that is still months away, we need to look at a category that was applied by many observers to the Hunter Biden trial, and that is what’s called jury nullification.

And so there were people who said, “You know, there are so many families impacted by drug abuse, drug addiction. There’s so many families impacted by this kind of behavior. And that’s sadly true. There’s so many families where someone has developed the pattern of using these illegal drugs, and then dependencies and quite frankly, an entire chain of catastrophes.” And there were legal analysts who were saying, “The prosecutors better be pretty careful here. Because if they appear to be coming down on Hunter Biden in a way that is just unduly harsh, and if they do so in a way that calls out the protective instincts of a jury, they may undermine their case.” But we’re talking here about a jury that deliberated over two days for just three hours before coming to a unanimous guilty verdict.

We also have some comments made by members of the jury after the verdict was announced. And in this case, the prosecution may have run some risk of jury nullification. That means that at least some members of the jury come to the conclusion that the defendant is guilty of the crime. The prosecution has indeed won the argument that the defendant is guilty, but they refuse to render a guilty verdict. They are nullifying the legal consequences for some reason of their own, often an emotional or sociological reason.

But my point is that didn’t happen. And evidently it didn’t even come close to happening. Some figures, unnamed who were on the jury at the time have made comments to the press saying that the jury was divided something like 6-6 when the deliberations began, but just three hours later, it was a very clear unanimous guilty argument. So again, very interesting, the human dynamic on a jury.

The political consequences, as I said, are still going to be written. They’re still going to be seen. And as is the case on both sides of the partisan equation, there are trials at least potentially yet to come. But so many of these cases, even beyond the political consequences, and there will be many, no doubt about that, this is in the midst of a very, very hot political campaign in a presidential election year. And quite frankly, it deserves to be a part of the political equation. But I think the bottom line on this is that many cases, many court verdicts often turned into something like a parable. And the parable of Hunter Biden is going to have many dimensions, but at least one of them is going to be that if you are going to do illegal things, it is not wise to write a book and advertise it to the public and then record it in your own voice because after all, someone might be listening.

Part III

Southern Baptists are Still Complementarian: But 2024 SBC Annual Meeting Confirms We Have Work to Do

Now, next I want to come back. I have just returned from the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. And so you had thousands of messengers coming from Southern Baptist churches. By the way, we’re going to be looking at other church meetings taking place at the same time, including the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. So we’re going to come to that in coming days.

But as you look at the SBC, a lot of headlines made. A lot of big issues that were on the plate of the convention, so to speak. And I’ll simply say at the end of the entire process, it was clear that Southern Baptists had the determination to work through many of those issues. And one of them had to do with how the denomination would make clear its biblical convictions that the Office of Pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture, something that’s very, very important. One of the points I want to make is that this is never separated from other doctrinal issues.

And by the way, that’s just something that’s true of theology as a Christian responsibility. All these doctrines are interrelated. You make a change here. Well, guess what? They’re going to be ramifications elsewhere. Which is to say that over time, then you look at the argument for denying what I believe are the very clear teachings of Scripture concerning the Office of Pastor and quite frankly, the differences between men and women and the fact that even though both are called for service and ministry and witness, it’s a very different picture when you look at the Office of Pastor, you look at the Office of Elder, you look at the importance of just being faithful to Scripture, obedient to Scripture because these things are clearly addressed, particularly in the New Testament, particularly by the Apostle Paul.

And so you look at that, you understand, “Okay, there’s also a larger picture of biblical theology that goes all the way back to the Book of Genesis, indeed Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.” But as we look at this, I just want to say for now that when you look at the unraveling of say the biblical texts on this, the denial of biblical authority on the question of the Office of Pastor, well, I think it’s really not possible to stop there because you do have impacts on another doctrines. And so I was a theology student, I was a seminary student back in the 1980s when it was very clear that the argument being made for what was then called the ordination of women to the pastor, it was often accompanied by a host of liberal movements in theology and a systematic move that eventually led to confusion not only over the ministry, but over God.

And so I’m not saying that all those who would disagree with me on this issue are revising biblical theism. I’m saying the logic once you set it loose is going to have theological impacts, ramifications elsewhere. And eventually, this is another thing that the Christian worldview helps us to understand. Eventually, logic works its way through towards consistency. And so even if in one generation, say a denomination does not go that far, well just look at mainline liberal Protestantism right now. There were those who said, “This is just about the fairness of women being able to serve as ministers, but it was just a matter of a short number of years before you had the rainbow flag flying out front in the entire category of gender has been thrown away.”

But thanks be to God, Southern Baptists are not there. And I just want to state, I think the complementarian biblical evangelical convictions of Southern Baptists on this issue were extremely evident, by the way, in an unexpected way. In terms of timing, it was unexpected, but it happened. And thus you had a case come up with a specific congregation, in this case, the First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia, which is by the way, one of the oldest of the congregations in the Southern Baptist Convention, one that had been quite financially generous through the years. Indeed with that church, you’re talking about the decades and even well over a century.

But you’re looking at a church that made a public declaration that it was in disagreement with the convention and it was in conflict with the convention’s confession of faith. And thus the convention actually took a vote and ruled that the church is no longer in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention. That’s the very old language of the Southern Baptist Convention’s constitution. The church, being no longer in friendly cooperation means it’s no longer able to send messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s basically removed from the roles of the Southern Baptist Convention.

It was an overwhelming vote, and thus I think the complementarian impulse is very strong, the conviction is very strong, but it’s clear that it’s going to be a challenge to know, in fast developing times, how to be most consistent in applying that. And that’s going to be an ongoing discussion.

Part IV

Southern Baptists Send Clear Message on IVF: Messengers Vote in Support of Resolution Sounding Alarm on IVF

But there’s another big issue that got a lot of national attention, and even just in the last few hours, and indeed in one case in the last few minutes, I’ve been doing interviews and conversations with the press, including NBC News and the very fact that the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution expressing grave moral, biblical theological concern about in vitro fertilization or IVF. That’s enough to get a lot of national press attention. It is really important that the Southern Baptist Convention took this action.

My colleague Andrew Walker and I wrote the resolution, submitted it to the committee. I appreciate the fact the committee brought it forward in its own form. And I’m very, very thankful that the Southern Baptist Convention adopted this resolution. The resolution makes very clear that what you’re looking at now in the modern industry of in vitro fertilization, you’re talking about the commodification of human beings, and you’re talking about two grave moral evils that many Christians really haven’t considered. One of them is the creation of massive numbers of human embryos that are absolutely headed for destruction. And you’re looking at the commodification, the basic IVF industry growing with untold billions of dollars. And there is a process now whereby you have all these human embryos being created. And most of them are not going to be transferred to a womb. Most of them are going to be put into some form of deep freeze for storage until eventually they are destroyed. And so we really are talking about a very dark issue here.

And the second issue is that you have so many of these embryos in the current practice of in vitro fertilization that are being sorted by what is called basically quality. And it may come down to something like viability, but the point is, there are those who are making decisions, “We’re going to choose this embryo over that embryo.” You have genetic testing, all kinds of things that are going on. Not to mention the fact that when you look at the commodification, you look at the industry of in vitro fertilization, you’re talking about untold billions of dollars. And yes, there is a big commercial aspect to this. There is big money to be made in the commodification of human beings.

But this is where Christians have to come back and say, “We’re talking about human beings made in the image of God.” So here’s the issue. I’ve had many people press back and say, “Why is IVF such a grave issue?” Well, the pro-life movement has been making the point. Evangelical Christians have been making the point. We believe that life begins at the fertilization when the egg and the sperm come together, those two cells come together and God says, “Let there be life.” And every human being at every stage of development is made in the image of God, bears the full sanctity and dignity of life, and is to be treated with that respect and is to be defended.

But there are Christians who haven’t thought through that statement. Maybe they have not been listening to themselves say it. And thus, we’re not just talking now about the early technology of IVF that was problematic enough. We’re talking about an industry, a commodification, turning human beings into a commercial product. And we’re also talking about the fact that this technology has become a big industry, which is now, well, let’s just say it’s showing up with a man and a man or a woman and a woman claiming that together “they’re having a baby.”

Of course, when it comes to gay men, at least when it comes to gay men, you’re talking about the necessity of surrogacy when it comes to motherhood as well. And you’re talking about when in Christian theology is the alienation of human reproduction from the conjugal union of marriage between a man and a woman, there are grave moral consequences.

Now, I want to acknowledge, I think far too many Christians have not really thought this through. And of course, we sympathize with so many Christians because many of us know this from personal experience. There is deep grief when it comes to challenges with fertility, and the desire for a child is an unalloyed good thing, according to scripture, an undiluted unmitigated good thing. But that doesn’t mean we can bless every technology for that matter, every sexual act that brings a child into existence. The child himself or herself is fully made in the image of God and is to be celebrated by all of us. That does not mean that the circumstances, the process, even the technologies that may be used to bring the child into existence, that those are therefore also to be approved.

One of the easiest ways for Christians to think about this is to understand that before reproductive technology, when it is just a man and a woman, let’s just say they’re unmarried, the child who may come from that union is an unalloyed, undiluted, unqualified gift of the creator to all of us. Made in God’s image and to be celebrated. The child is not responsible for the circumstances of his or her conception.

But we don’t step back and say, “Well, that means that fornication is a really good idea.” We are looking at the fact that we know better than to say, “Just because a child is the result of this act or this technology, it is to be welcomed and not to be seen in its moral context.”

Christians are going to be thinking about this for a long time. I recognize, along with many others, even as I celebrate the fact the SBC was so clear on this so overwhelmingly, we acknowledge that we have a big job to do in the Christian community, a big job to do in the Christian Church to help Christians to understand what is happening here. We need to walk alongside couples who are struggling to have children and fully understand the realities that they are facing, and yet we need to say, “We can’t do anything, which violates that basic principle that every single human being at every stage of development is made in the image of God and bears the full sacredness of life.”

In the pro-life movement back when Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973, it was a wake-up call. Evangelical Christians had to learn how to make moral arguments and think about the horror of abortion, and it took some decades to figure these things out. I think we may be facing a similar challenge when it comes to the ethical reality of IVF.

But if you do not aim at and work towards moral and theological clarity on these issues, that just brings even greater moral responsibility. We face a big job, no doubt about that. We got a big job to do. But quite frankly, that’s pretty much the job description for Christians in the 21st century. So let’s get to it.

Meanwhile, let me ask, are you driving to Indianapolis for the Southern Baptist Convention? I’d like to invite you, if you are, to visit Southern Seminary and Boyce College here in Louisville Kentucky on your way or as you travel home. Visit our world-class bookstore. You’re going to love it. Meet our faculty, see our newly renovated library, enjoy a drink in our coffee shop, and just come and enjoy being on this beautiful campus and being thankful for what the Lord has done here. We want to thank Southern Baptist for your generous support, for your prayers, and for your faithfulness to this institution.

For details, and we’ll also send you a free drink coupon, visit That’s simply I hope to see you here.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter or X 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.

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).