Typewriter, Book, Letter - Document, Poetry - Literature, Backgrounds

Friday, June 21, 2024

It’s Friday, June 21st, 2024.

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

Part I

A New Kind of Slop? Experiencing Brainrot? New Terms, Old Terms and Changing Terms Tell a Story of Cultural Change

One of the most necessary features of a culture or a civilization is its language. And where you find human beings, you find language. God made us in His image. He also made us capable of language. And thus, the learning of language, the use of language, the acquisition of language, this is a part of what it means to be human. And you see this even as a baby’s born. And one of the first things that thrills parents is at some point when the baby’s mouth begins to move, following the example of parents, and sounds begin to form and then the baby starts to learn language. Now there are many other incredibly happy milestones, but that becomes a very important one.

And as you’re looking at this, you recognize, “Okay, this is one of the ways that civilization works.” It is because we are linguistic creatures. But it also means that our language changes over time. So you can just look at just about any language and you can understand that a dictionary that was published 100 years ago, well it probably needs to be updated. Undoubtedly, it is missing a lot of words. And quite frankly, the meaning of words sometimes changes.

And so if you want just a clearest example of that, I’m just going to use a word which was common in English usage, say 100 years ago, but now means something completely different. That would be the word queer. It’s just a completely different word. And so if you mean it in the first sense, don’t use it anymore because everyone’s going to hear it in the second sense.

Okay. So it’s also true that new words emerge. Now, one of the frustrations by the way of the French right now is that so many of the words that are entering normal French usage are words from the Anglo world, from the English-speaking world, the Anglicized world, and in particular from the United States. But they blame for that, and remember the French are very famous for wanting to protect their language. They think the most beautiful and sophisticated of all languages. I’m not even going to debate that. I’m simply going to say in English that an awful lot of English terms are coming into an awful lot of international conversation. And that’s becoming so true that many bestselling books are being bought increasingly in non-English speaking nations in English language form. So that tells you how English is growing in terms of its usage. People are actually buying books not in their native tongue, but in English.

And yet nothing has forwarded that so much after the big economic in print expansions of centuries past than the digital revolution because as you look at the internet, you look at the digital revolution, the pioneers in so many ways and bringing that about spoke English, most of them spoke it in the United States of America. And you’re also looking at the fact that most of the material that was early on the internet was undoubtedly, unquestionably based in English. And English has become the lingua franca of so much of the digital world. If you want to do commerce, if you want to do politics, you want to do say, even media, well, English is increasingly the way that it is done.

Now, I’m not saying this without moral consequence. If I spoke a different language, if I was a leader in a different civilization, I might be very concerned about the losses. The French are quite chauvinistic about it, and quite frankly they’re proud of their chauvinistic approach about this. And what they see is the inherent superiority of the French language. No one represented that form of what’s called Gaullism in the 20th century more than the famous French president Charles de Gaulle. But it still continues. And yet as you’re looking at the use of this kind of language, it’s also important to recognize that there are influences that change English, and English is constantly changing.

But English also has its own complications precisely because it is the language of England, of course, from which it came, but also of the United States of America here in North America. Winston Churchill once described Britain and the United States as two nations separated by a common language. And I think we can understand what he meant. There’re just differences between the British usage and the American usage. But what I want to talk about is changes right now in the American usage, and some of these terms are now terms that even the mainstream media are beginning to define, sometimes in major articles, because they are entering English usage and it does tell us something. And looking at this is not only interesting, I think it’s also, in many ways, fun.

So for instance, slop. Now you say you know what slop is. Slop is often a food substance messy in a pail that is poured out for animals, and in particular for pigs. You slop the pigs. You just pour it out and the pigs eat it up. But the new usage of slop is nonsense, that is the product of artificial intelligence. Okay, very telling. So there’s all this triumphalistic claim about this new technology of artificial intelligence and how it’s going to be able to supposedly think like human beings and produce this wonderful literature and all the rest. The problem is that artificial intelligence does produce some fairly decent material, but it produces a lot of stuff that’s absolute nonsense based on absolute untruth, and in some cases it’s just, well, slop. And that’s the word that’s being used for it.

So, for example, the New York Times ran a piece in recent days, slop is the new spam, reminding us that at one point spam meant something else, even a commercial product. But now spam means stuff that shows up in your inbox you didn’t want. Now, I don’t know who came up with the word slop, but I have to say it’s not sloppy work. That was pretty good work, because slop seems to be a pretty good descriptor because even the sound of it’s, well, as the English scholar would say, onomatopoeia, it sounds bad, it is bad. And this is what’s happening to us. Artificial intelligence leads at this point is producing a lot of slop.

By the way, what form does this slop take? Well, for example, one major search engine driven by artificial intelligence when asked the question, “How do you get cheese to stick to a pizza?,” suggested adding non-toxic glue. So how do you get cheese to stick to your pizza? Well, at least one artificial intelligence driven source said, “Well, glue the cheese to the pizza.” Let me just suggest to you, don’t try that at home.

So how does a word like slop all of a sudden end up in vocabulary? It begins somewhere, in this case it probably began geographically somewhere like Silicon Valley where people are trying to produce artificial intelligence and sell its products. For example, one source said, “What we always see with any slang is that it starts in a niche community and then spreads from there.” In this case, the man said, “Usually, coolness is a factor that helps it spread, but not necessarily like we’ve had a lot of words spread from a bunch of coding nerds,” right?

Look at the word spam. Usually the word is created because there’s a particular group of shared interest with the shared need to invent words. So spam came out of frustration in saying “unwanted emails that we need to get rid of.” And spam’s just a shorter way of saying it. And before you know it, just a few friends saying spam spread to the entire nation so that when you hear the word spam, you know exactly what we’re talking about. And after today, you’re likely to have a good referent for what it means when someone says, “Hey, that’s just slop.”

All right. But there’s another word that you don’t have to really have explained once you just hear it. This is the new term that’s increasingly used. It is the term brainrot. Now brainrot, you can figure out, it can’t be good. You put the two things together, brain and rot, you got a bad picture. But how is this word being used? It’s being used for the overconsumption of no quality junk on the internet. And so brain rot is what happens when you simply expose yourself to too much low quality content. Well, just to state the matter in moral terms, your brain begins to rot. So brainrot is what happens, now, what’s really interesting is that when you look at brain rot, just about everyone admits there have been moments when, “Yeah, I gave myself to brainrot.”I’m not sure how to explain brainrot, but I’ll simply say this, the first puppy video is probably not brainrot. The 14th puppy video probably is.

Sometimes people with brainrot even make fun of brainrot. For example, the Times also reports “A recent BuzzFeed quiz challenging readers on obscure internet trivia was headlined, ‘If you pass this brainrot quiz, your brain is 1000% cooked.” In other words, if you know what we’re talking about in this quiz, you’ve got brainrot.

But sometimes there’s a term and you think, “Okay, now that it’s been explained, this makes sense to me” and it actually becomes something useful. So what about the term? This isn’t just a word, it’s a term, “Does it pencil?” Now, if you haven’t heard that term before, you’re likely to hear it. “Does it pencil?” In this case, this refers to finance, it refers to investment, it refers to whether or not a business plan pencils out. That is to say, “Can you add up these numbers and come up with a plausible business plan?” And in particular, when it comes to real estate investment, “Can you add up the liabilities and add up the risk and add up the costs and then add up the likely revenue? And does it pencil out? Is it really worth someone investing money in? Does it pencil?”

This article tells us that that short question “Does it pencil?” began in the real estate investing community, but it’s now spread to government, in which case you have governments at various levels asking about a proposal, “Does it pencil?” Now, I just want to point out that if you know what the term means, if you know what you’re being asked, you can answer the question. Otherwise, if you aren’t familiar with this term and someone looks at you and says, “Does it pencil?” You’re likely to think, “No. It doesn’t even compute.”

All this just to say, as we think about these things on a Friday, God made us linguistic creatures able to communicate with one another through language. Our language can represent the very best of what it means to speak as human beings. It can represent the very worst. Sometimes in between, there’s just new stuff and you realize language is changing over time. And yet we also recognize, some of these new uses of language, even some of these new words, actually let’s give them credit, they do make sense.

Part II

Should I Pursue Marriage While Not Yet Able to Provide For a Family? - Dr. Mohler Responds to Listeners of the Briefing

Okay, now we’re going to turn to questions. And wow, I love this first question. It’s a question from a 19-year-old young man and he is not only a student, he’s a student right here at Boyce College. I’m taking the question because I think this would apply to many, many young men, young people. He says, “I have recently started dating a young lady.” He met right here at the college. “As the relationship, Lord willing, continues, how do I as a Christian begin to think about marriage while still in college and accruing debt? In other words, how do I pursue marriage in a godly way while still in a season in my life where I’m unable to provide for a family while in college?”

Okay, great, great question. The Christian worldview, I think the biblical testimony, gives us just a lot of insight in how to answer this question. I want to tell you that I’m very encouraged by a 19-year-old, young Christian man who’s thinking this way. This just makes me very happy. This is exactly the opposite of the lie the world is telling about the purpose of our lives, and marriage, and the goodness of marriage. So I just got to tell you, this makes me very happy.

But I also want to say that I think the biblical worldview helps us to understand that when it says, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and they should become one flesh,” it implies not only marriage, but the beginning of a household, and that the household is naturally to be followed in the natural course of events by children and the development of the couple into a family.

The reason I’m saying that is because I just want to say I think one of the ways we understand marriage in the Bible is understanding that it is the creation of what we hope will very quickly, if not immediately be, an economically self-sustaining unit. That’s a part of what marriage means. It means that a young man, and a young woman come together. They’re creating out of two families, a new family and a new unit. And that unit, by the way, even if you are just looking at this sociologically, that’s a new legal economic unit.

But the point is, we as Christians do look at it biblically. And it seems that in the biblical narrative, and in the flow of biblical theology, it implies that for example, the formula often uses adulthood in marriage are to go together. And what we see right now is the horrible delay of adulthood and the delay of marriage and the subversion of marriage. So I want to say to this young man, God bless you, you’ve really encouraged me with your question.

But I want to say that I think there’s a reason why, graduating from college, and getting married and getting a job or having a very clear vocational future and being able to be economically productive, why those things go together? And I don’t think they go together accidentally. I think it was different in an agrarian society. A young man might be able, a young couple might be able to be more self-sufficient at an even younger age. I’m not saying none can now. That’s not true, but I am saying an agrarian society, there was a more natural way that that just happened.

In our current very modern society, I think it is very common for adulthood, in that sense, and the ability to establish a stable economic unit as the family unit. Again, marriage and family are more than that, but they’re not less than that. I think there’s a reason why that often is more possible, more plausible, after graduation from college or just about timed with graduation from college than before.

Now, I’m not saying to you don’t get married, but it does require having a job and it does require giving yourself to being economically sufficient, and economically responsible. And so I just want to tell you, I really want to honor the interest that you have in being faithful here, and the interest you have in this Christian young woman with whom you are now in a developing relationship. And I just want to say I think it’s a really good thing. I think that it’s a very good thing theologically and biblically, that marriage is already on your horizon. That’s just a very encouraging thing. That’s just counter to the wisdom of the world these days and the lies the world tells.

I also want to say that I think a part of what it means to grow into biblical manhood and womanhood, but speaking to you as a young man, is to understand there are things we just have to deny ourselves until the proper time. And I’m not saying the proper time is when you’re 30. I’m saying the opposite. I’m saying no, I’m thinking of it as very young. But I think it’s not irresponsible to say, and I think it’s actually necessary for me to say, I think you need a level of economic self-sufficiency.

And there are different ways to do that. And in other words, there’s a different mix of work and study and other things that can happen that way. But I just want to say my wife and I had both graduated from college, not before we wanted to get married, but before we did get married also for the very same reason. And that was backed up with support from both sets of parents as well.

Part III

Should Christians Celebrate Jewish Festivals? - Dr. Mohler Responds to Listeners of The Briefing

Now the next question, also a good question. This one may get us in a little hot water here, but this is one that I’m increasingly asked so it tells me something’s going on out there. And so I’m going to take this one as the second question for today.

A listener to The Briefing, another young man writes in and says, “Recently, some of my Christian friends have begun celebrating some of the Jewish festivals including Passover, Yom Kippur, et cetera.” He asked, “Is a Christian required or expected to observe these festivals or are we set free from them by the finished work of Christ?” And he says, he wants to respond to his friends in truth and love. Well, that’s about as good as we could hope for. And so I want to thank you for your conviction. Thank you for the question.

The answer is, the New Testament is just abundantly clear we are not tied to holy days. And in particular, we are not as Christians tied by conscience nor by doctrine to any of the festivals of Judaism. Now, it is interesting that in the early church you had so many converts to Christianity from Judaism and they were not told that they could not participate in these festivals, but they were told they are not Christian festivals. And so it was a continuing Jewish identity in this early period in the Christian Church.

But the Christian Church is not only not commanded to follow these festivals. And I think it’s a fair reading in the New Testament that we as Christians are not to seek to become Jewish in order to become Christian. And I think that’s a deep, deep issue of New Testament theology. I think it’s one of the major affirmations of the Apostle Paul. I think it’s one of the most important parts of what took place in the Jerusalem Conference in the Book of Acts. And so, insofar as Jewish people come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, they are not forbidden to continue in Jewish festivals with their family or otherwise, but it is wrong for the Christian Church to celebrate those festivals. It is not wrong for the Christian Church to take note of those festivals, and even to educate Christians about what they mean and how they show up in Scripture. That’s certainly not wrong.

I’m not even saying that it’s wrong for Christians sometimes just to kind of think through say a Seder service, in which case you’re kind of understanding the Passover in a whole new way. But it’s a very different thing to make it a matter of conscience. It is a very different thing to confuse it with worship. It’s a very different thing to give them any kind of centrality, as in the calendar of the Christian Church.

Now, one of the questions in the early church was how Jewish should the New Testament church be? And here’s where I think the Apostle Paul was just so clear: we are to be Jewish and our sense of appreciation for the fact that Jesus is in the line of David and that it is the messianic promise given through Israel that we trace as we look at the Messiah. But the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, has established His church. And His church is a new people and it’s the new people of Christ who are to be marked by the law of Christ. And that is very separate from the Old Testament law. It’s very separate from the ethnic life of Israel.

So I don’t want to over-answer the question. I’ll simply say it’s categorically wrong for anyone to say that this is a part of Christian worship, that it should be a part of the calendar of the Christian Church. It is also wrong, I think, to make too much of these issues in the first place because I think that’s exactly what the Apostle Paul says that we should avoid.

Insofar as there is any appropriation, I think among Christians, this is going to be more common around Passover. It needs to be very clear that we are not observing the Passover. There’s no priestly Passover. But there can be an identification with Israel and God’s redeeming purposes. It’s just we need to keep very clear we are Christians all the time and just make that clear at home as well as at church.

Part IV

If Social Media Has So Many Dangers, Why Do You Use it? - Dr. Mohler Responds to Listeners of The Briefing

Okay, an older man writes me a very legitimate question. I mention the age only because I’m just fascinated and frankly very thankful that people of so many different ages listen to The Briefing. That’s just very encouraging to me. And this question comes from Ontario, Canada. It’s a very honest, very legitimate question. He points out all the negative things, all the warnings that I seek to communicate about social media, particularly as related to children and young adults, and then says, “I’m wondering why your website uses social media. Are we saying that the benefits outweigh the harms?” He goes on to say, “It is my belief that reform churches at a minimum should abstain from social media use altogether.”

Brother, fair question, and I think a pointed question I need to answer. And I’ll simply say, number one, I am talking about the dangers of social media, but I also have to talk about the dangers of print media. And even before that, in my generation, we were raised talking about the dangers of television. There are some people who answered the dangers of television by not having one, and yet, I think the vast majority of Christians had a television and sought to use it more strategically.

And so, I’m just saying the issue of technology, the issue of entertainment, the issue of media, that’s a very legitimate issue. I want to be consistent, and if I’m inconsistent, I hope my friends and fellow believers help me be more consistent. I think that for adults, and frankly for institutions and organizations, social media is just a part of the, say, interstate highway system of how these things are communicated and conveyed.

Now, I’m not saying I’d be on every platform. I’m not. Certainly not. I’m not saying that I would stay in any platform if a certain boundary is reached. I’m not saying that. I am saying, that I think social media can be used for very different things. And so my engagement with social media is not based upon what I see as so much of the dangers of young adults, teenagers, and children. I basically post the material we do. And by the way, that’s often done, I want to be honest, by staff, which I appreciate.

But in other words, if an article’s been written or The Briefing drops, certain issues like that, certain developments, I also try to do it sometimes just to encourage. I try to put up a picture every once in a while of something I think is encouraging. And frankly, some pretty important information has been conveyed to me by people over social media, and I just want to admit that.

So yeah, I think it’s something like an interstate system in which criminals can use it, and non-criminals can use it. But I think still we do use it, but I’m not going to put a child on roller skates on an interstate highway. I don’t want to put a teenage driver just learning how to drive behind the wheel on an interstate, certainly when you add all the complications and you get into a major metropolitan area. So I just want to say beware and think through these things.

And so I want to be honest, I think there is a point at which we could say we just can’t be on this social media platform. I can also say that I think discernment on this is right now what we’re called to discernment and judgment, and I hope not only to learn that, but to exhibit that. And I want to thank you for the question. I really thought it deserved taking on.

Part V

Do Dogs Sin? - Dr. Mohler Responds to a Young Listener of The Briefing

Okay, just as we come to the end today, I have to tell you, I cannot resist this question from a 2-year-old. The parents sent in a question from Dallas. 2-year-old. “Our family loves listening to The Briefing. Our 2-year-old asked me a question this week, “Do dogs sin?”

Okay, I don’t have much time, but I can answer that question. No, dogs don’t sin. Dogs do wrong things. Dogs disappoint us. Dogs make messes. Dogs chew things up. Dogs go where they’re not supposed to go. They eat what they’re not supposed to eat. Still, to the glory of God, they bring us enormous joy.

So can a dog do the wrong thing? Yes, a dog can disobey you. A dog can do the wrong thing, but you know what? A dog is not made in God’s image, so a dog doesn’t sin. A dog is just being a dog. I think there’s good biblical theology behind that.

And I want to tell you another reason why I think it’s important to recognize that dogs can do bad things, but they don’t sin. Human beings sin. I think the difference is it takes a human being to ask this question. This question is not going to be asked tellingly enough by a dog.

Those were great. I want to thank you all for those questions.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter or X by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.

You send your own question in just by mailing me, writing me at mail@albertmohler.com.

I’ll meet you again on Monday 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.

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