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A Fairy Tale of the Beginning of Everything

Once upon a time, there was nothing. No earth. No sky. No universe. Not even molecules. Nothing.

Over time… wait, there was no time because it was nothing… Okay, but nothing apparently got lonely, or bored or antsy – which nothingness tends to do. And suddenly, out of the blue (not that blue existed because there was no light thus no color)… anyway, for sake of argument, nothing – for no reason whatsoever – blow up!

But immediately after blowing up, what once was nothing suddenly became a whole bunch of something. Nothing we humans would recognize, but something nonetheless.

Suddenly, for no good reason, there were molecules that instantly became the periodic table with interesting stuff like hydrogen and carbon. And, with that came heat and light and even defined space. For if something blew up, it had to blow up from somewhere and keep expanding towards somewhere else, thus creating borders… so to speak.

Anyway, after a while… though “while” didn’t exist since nothing intelligent could say it had been “a while” yet.

Anyways… some of the matter began slowing down and cooling. And some combined with other stuff and became balls of heated stuff that began to cool down in the form of a sphere, for some reason. Because of gravity – which somehow was invented because of the explosion… which happened for no reason.

But one of these orbs had enough interesting stuff to become water and soil and form an atmosphere that eventually would be destroyed by greenhouse gases… but, that’s a long time for now!

And anyway, the ozone should have anticipated that and made its layer more resilient!

Sorry.

This was the beginning of the earth… though, it wasn’t called “Earth” then. And it didn’t even know it was there.

What was interesting, from a human perspective (which, by the way, is the only perspective that utilizes the concept of interesting), was that some of the same accidental, for no good reason stuff made chemicals which took the form of water and soil. They also became, by accident, plants and organism that were autonomous and separate from the rest of the stuff, and was actually what we would call alive.

But, even though it was alive, it didn’t know it. And it didn’t care. For some reason, though, its aliveness was somehow better then non-aliveness – to the point that over time, as long as it was still around, it would accidentally mutate appendages and gills and eyes and all kinds of accidental stuff that accidentally allowed it to survive… even though it didn’t know it wanted to.

So, to make a long, long story short: because the stuff was still around and because it accidentally, without purpose, would for no reason develop stuff that kept it alive, but got even more bored; and so now and again would birth a kid that no longer looked like it, but instead was something completely different… of another species.

Some of these completely different things were monkey-looking-ape-thingamajiggers whose only quality that made it special was figuring out how to use tree branches to hit things with. It also noticed stuff like fire, which when touched, burned and hurt; but if you threw meat into it, it tasted good. And, it was somehow more civilized than simply eating raw meat… which it had done up until this. It, interestingly enough, never needed fire to cook with in the first place… but it decided to suddenly for no reason.

Over time these “alive-nicks” kept accidentally growing things on their bodies and getting a bigger brain… for no reason. And they began to officially think (whatever that means) and take charcoal to draw pictures and communicate with other meaningless things, which eventually led to cell phones and text messaging and destroying the environment.

All of this, by the way, had no meaning or purpose. It just happened. Until, over time, the stuff that came from nothing formed a brain, which began to look at the sky and wonder where it came from. Because, apparently nothingness that explodes becomes curious over time and wants to discover itself.

Star matter made of molecules reaches a point where it says, “Look! I’m star matter and exist for no apparent reason. And have no purpose but to discover that I have no meaning. And I choose to find meaning in that discovery. I will also only believe in my matter and stuff I can observe and experiment on. And anything I can’t hold, or observe, or repeat in an experiment isn’t real. And I don’t believe in it! (except… well, maybe love, or art, or courage, or justice, or joy, or curiosity, or mercy, or philanthropy, or goodness, or truth, or right and wrong, happiness, and purpose.”

Yes, meaninglessness believes in purpose.

“None of those things can I test, repeat, and hold in my hand. But, I am going to believe in it anyway, so I can fool myself into believing that meaninglessness and accidental appearing is true, and real, and worth knowing.”

The End.

… and I believe in God… so I guess that makes me the idiot.

I’m Brad Stine… and I have issues.

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Interview with a Women’s Restroom (Transgenderism)

Since one of our issues today on Brad Stine Has Issues is transgenderism, (and those two phrases are not connected in any way) I thought I would interview a women’s restroom, known from a Christian worldview as a women’s restroom.Interview with a Women’s Restroom (Transgenderism)

THOR RAMSEY: Ladies Restroom, what’s your take on the issue of transgender rights and bathrooms? So, do you think women will take advantage of this just to use the Men’s Room?

LADIES ROOM: What’s the big stink about? There’s a little restroom humor for you. To raise money for our legal defense fund we’re selling Woopie Goldberg cushions. When you sit on them they sound just like her – puurrrfttt.

THOR: How do you think we could improve Ladies Rooms for everyone?

LADIES ROOM: What I’d like to enact is a 10 friends or less line. And another line for selfies only.

THOR: Are you saying that you’d deny people the right to use you?

LADIES ROOM: Look, there are some biological women I don’t want using me. Here’s the thing, I’d rather people be able to identify where their bodily waste goes and make sure it goes there and no where else.

THOR: It has been said: “Neutrality is not an option. The issue will come and find you.” What do you have to say to that?

LADIES ROOM: Here’s something everyone can feel good about. 95% of the time when a man enters a ladies room — he’s here to clean it.

THOR: I’m certain that transgendered people would comply with that rule.

LADIES ROOM: You might be able to take the boy out of the boy, but you’re not gonna be able to take the boy out of the bathroom.

THOR: I have no idea what that means.

LADIES ROOM: Now you’re getting a handle on the issue.

THOR: The sexual revolutionaries would argue that the issues can be framed as beautiful equality vs. ugly discrimination — end of story.

LADIES ROOM: How about beautiful reality vs. you still have boy parts no matter how you dress? The seat stays down!

THOR: So, you’re not neutral on this issue?

LADIES ROOM: I’m a Ladies Room! Not a Neutral Zone!

THOR: What would Jesus do?

LADIES ROOM: He’d used the Men’s Room. He’s the Son of God. Why is this confusing?

THOR: How will this effect you personally?

LADIES ROOM: My sign. Look at this. Most people around the world look at this and get it — man. Man in kilts. Here’s a dressing room for men. Here’s a dressing room for men from Braveheart. How about this for a new sign? If this bothers you — you’re in the wrong restroom.)

THOR: How will transgendered restrooms effect the future?

LADIES ROOM: Have you ever noticed that on the USS Enterprise we’re never shown the restrooms? Maybe in the future there are no restrooms and we find an additional use for that transporter technology. “Colostomy ray on full.” You’ve heard of dark matter?

THOR: What about the rights of transgendered students?

LADIES ROOM: Look at it like this — Woman — w.o. man — Without man. As a ladies room, I don’t think in terms of close to home. You either hit the mark every time or you’re in the wrong bathroom!

THOR: Thanks for being with us today, Ladies Room.

LADIES ROOM: The seat stays down! The only thing that should go both ways is the way I open. We’re going to do our own protest called A Day Without a Restroom.

THOR: We call that Out of Order.

LADIES ROOM: Now you’re getting it.

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Today’s issue is transgenderism and their outrage over Nano.

The sexual revolutionaries of our day have unleashed a kind of thinking that has come back to bite them in whatever their heinies self-identify as.

Prime example, the world is now familiar with the 20-year old woman by the name of Nano who lives in Norway and claims that she was “born in the wrong species” and self-identifies as a cat. Wow. Remember when the hardest thing to believe is that it wasn’t butter?

Many transgender people are highly offended at Nano, because quite frankly, it shows the tenuous nature of their worldview.

The reality is (and I know I’m on shaky ground in a world that denies reality), but if you have boy parts you’re a boy and if you have girl parts you’re a girl. It’s objective reality. And if you’re a boy who cuts off his boy parts that doesn’t make you a girl. It makes you a very sad boy.

Nano confirmed her suspicions of being a cat when she realized how many times a day she was saying, “Sufferin’ succotash.”

When dogs are nearby Nano hisses. Sometimes she even laments out loud, “Who let the dogs out?”

I’m not going to give you the details of her cat box, but I will say this is one girl you don’t wanna go to the beach with!

Despite having excellent predator night vision, she has confessed that she has never actually caught a mouse. Though she has been kicked out of Chuck E. Cheese twice.

Right now there are 63 identifiable gender categories. And only 31 flavors?

The prevailing cultural truth is that gender isn’t between your legs. It’s between your ears. If that’s true then why can’t species be between your ears? Or why can’t your race be between your ears? Oh, I remember… because it doesn’t match reality.

For example, if you’re in a boxing match and someone knocks you out… if the ref comes over to you and says, “Congratulations! You came in second place,” he’s lying. He’s not telling you the truth about reality.

Beware who’s brainwashing who!

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What People Are Googling

If you are a fan of the intersection of culture and Christianity, you don’t want to miss this article “Googling for God” in the NY Times.

In this podcast I look at what Google has revealed about people’s searching habits on topics related to spirituality.What People Are Googling

Google’s most recent statistics revealed people are searching less for directions to church, how to pray or how to find Bible verses are all on the decline in recent years.

However, searches asking questions like, “Why did God make me ugly?” “Why did God make me black?” or “Why does God allow so much suffering and evil?” or “Does God exist?” are on the rise all over North America.

I look at the need for apologetics online and using 1 Peter 3:15 as a guide:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

I also discuss the Biblical mandate for all believers to be able to articulate and defend the hope-claims of Christianity.

Moving forward, we need to be able to help people by answering these six questions:

  1. What is the evidence for God?
  2. How do Christianity and science work together?
  3. Why do Christians believe in miracles (like the resurrection of Jesus)? Do all religions lead to God? Bible (sexuality), why does God allow suffering and evil?
  4. Do all religions lead to God? Bible (sexuality), why does God allow suffering and evil?
  5. How can you believe the Bible (especially on matters of sexuality) hy does God allow suffering and evil?
  6. How could a good God allow so much suffering and evil?

(This podcast is by Jon Morrison. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central

and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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America’s Changing Moral Landscape

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

NEW ILLINOIS POLICIES MANDATE FOSTER PARENTS AND STAFF BE “LGBTQ-AFFIRMING,” “FACILITATE” EXPLORATION

This is not a story that has yet reached much of the attention of the mainstream media, or perhaps putting it differently, the mainstream media doesn’t appear too interested yet in the story. But The Federalist is, and Mary Hasson of The Federalist offers us a story with the headline,

“Illinois Purges Social Workers And Foster Families Who Don’t ‘Facilitate’ Transgenderism.”

“Facilitate” is put in scare quotes. Now the story is really interesting because as Hasson reports, Illinois has now adopted regulations that would in effect make it impossible for anyone to be a foster parent in that state, much less to be employed even as a volunteer in the system, without entirely affirming the entire LGBTQ agenda and most particularly facilitating—that’s the word that’s used in the document—the transition of children and teenagers in terms of their gender identity. Anyone who would hold to any positions that would to any degree not endorse the idea of transgenderism, well, that individual is simply out in terms of foster parenting or volunteering, much less working within the state’s system.

Hasson reports,

“The science-deniers are running the LGBTQ show over at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and dissenters will not be tolerated. The department’s new ‘enhanced,’”—that again is in scare quotes—“policies promoting the “well-being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) children and youth in the Department’s care”—all that’s a quotation—“ratchet in one direction only: encouraging children towards LGBTQ identities. DCFS has drawn a rainbow-colored line in the sand, announcing it “will not tolerate exposing LGBTQ children and youth to staff/providers who are not supportive of children and youths’ right to self-determination of sexual/gender identity.”

It turns out this is all traceable to what the department calls its newly enhanced standards and policies referring to child welfare and in particular to the foster care system. Hasson gets it exactly right when she tells us,

“The new DCFS policies are less about safety and wellbeing and more about using state power to “overrule” basic, empirical (and common sense) truths about human beings and to replace them with ideological assertions that validate adult feelings rather than benefit children.”

I would actually put it a bit more strongly. This is actually a set of policies that rules out all believing, convictional Christians from participation in the foster care system there in the state of Illinois. Now keep in mind also that state-by-state there are recurring patterns in which it is Christian churches and Christian parents who are particularly given to offering these kinds of services to children. This goes well back in terms of the nation’s history where most of the childcare systems and orphanages that existed before the state began taking over these services in the 20th century were explicitly Christian. The new regulations in Illinois will require all adults, whether volunteers or employees, to simply “facilitate exploration of any LGBTQ matters through an affirming approach.”

Notice the phrase “affirming approach” is stipulated required in the policy. It also says that these volunteers must be open, nonjudgmental, and they must express empathy. Looking to the policy myself in terms of what’s available on the website there in Illinois, section 302, appendix K is entitled,

“Support and Well-Being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Children and Youth.”

Again LGBTQ. Reading from the policy the state demands,

“Children and youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning are protected by the Illinois Human Rights Act. Children and youth have many legal rights while in care, including the right to be free from verbal, emotional and physical harassment in their placements, schools, and communities. The adults involved in their care have a legal and ethical obligation to ensure that they are safe and protected. These children and youth also have the right to be treated equally, to express their gender identity, and to have the choice to be open or private about their sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity.”

Now of course, every morally sensitive adult and certainly everyone who’s involved in the adoption or foster care enterprise must be absolutely committed to the well-being of children and youth. But the question is, who defines that well-being? It’s clear that in the state of Illinoi it is the sexual revolutionaries who alone have the power and authority to define the well-being of young people and children. But also note this: there’s the use of the word hurt or harm, which is expressed even to giving something less than full enthusiastic support in terms of the transgender revolution.

Insofar as those who by Christian conviction cannot give such enthusiastic approval of this new sexual ideology, the statement says,

“DCFS will not accept the services of volunteers who fail to abide by Appendix K, and will not contract with private agencies who fail to adopt LGBTQ policies that are at least as extensive as Appendix K (including, without limitation, policies providing for employee discipline, up to and including termination, for conduct in violation of the non-discrimination policy.”

Now that’s something that I didn’t expect to see even in this kind of draconian policy completely given over to the new ideology of the sexual revolutionaries. It’s here demanded that any agency with whom the state of Illinois might partner must have policies that are at least as extreme as the Department of Children and Family Services there, and if they’re not exactly the same, they must actually goe further in terms of compliance with the demands of the sexual revolutionaries. Also made very clear in the detailed Appendix K is the requirement that all the adults who are involved in the system must be willing to use the preferred gender pronoun for the minors who are addressed to their care.

And furthermore, it is also very clear in terms of the details of Appendix case that the sexual revolutionaries are continuing to push the boundaries. For example, there is a new expression that is found here,

Gender Expansive: Having or being perceived to have gender expression and/or behaviors that do not conform to traditional or societal expectations.”

The next sentence,

“Gender-expansive individuals may or may not identify as LGBTQ.”

Taking all of these policies in their details seriously word by word, it becomes apparent that all the adults in the foster care system there in Illinois are basically going to have to treat every single child as somewhere on the LGBTQ continuum, if not actually then potentially, and if not now then perhaps in the future. So let’s take the measure of what we’re facing here. At the very time that we face an unprecedented number of young persons and children who need care, at the very time that states are reaching out saying they need more parents to participate in the system, more adults to volunteer in the foster care system, at the very time they are trying to reach out to the community saying we need help, they’re making very clear that help is not going to be welcomed from anyone who holds to his worldview anything close to biblical Christianity.

We’re not just looking here at the ominous pattern of government using its coercive power in order to further of the moral revolutionaries. We’re looking at the fact that they are quite willing to sacrifice children and the well-being of children to that very revolution. This development in Illinois also serves as a very brutal reminder of the fact that there is no way to escape the impact of this tremendous moral divide in the United States. We’re looking at a divide over the very definition of what it means to be human, what it means to be male and female, and what it means to care for rather than to harm children. This story is a very tragic way to underline the fact that there is nowhere to hide.

IS “DRAG QUEEN STORY HOUR” COMING TO A PUBLIC LIBRARY NEAR YOU?

Next, as I said, that story really isn’t yet headline news. The secular media seemed to be avoiding it entirely, but they’re not avoiding other stories. A recent edition of the New York Times actually came with a headline story. Here’s the headline,

“Story Hour at the Library, Presented in Drag.”

No this is not satire. This is a straightforward news reports in none other than the New York Times. Una LaMarche writes,

“Story hour, long a mommy-and-me staple, had never looked so colorful. She stood well over six feet tall, the reader at the Hudson Park branch of the New York Public Library in Greenwich Village, her height aided by six-inch heels on purple patent leather boots. Her outfit was an oxymoronic neon camouflage bodysuit and a purple tutu. A tuft of fuchsia hair curled from under a spandex headdress with fabric-covered cylinders lined up in a row, like a Keith Haring-inspired Mohawk. As she entered,”

We are told,

“The adults clapped politely, but the preschool- and kindergarten-age children huddled on a rug went wild. With the elation typically reserved for a ‘Frozen’ character, one toddler screamed ‘Yay!’ and clapped furiously, squirming in his mother’s lap. ‘My name,’” said the reader, “‘is Harmonica Sunbeam,’ the reader said, in a voice used to loud rooms. As a warm-up, she had the children sing ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and then march vigorously in place. ‘I’m getting you ready for Zumba’…. She sat down and read aloud from ‘Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress’ by Christine Baldacchino. The book,” we are told, “is about a boy who wore a beloved dress to school every day. At one point, Morris’s friends inform him that he isn’t allowed to play on their imaginary spaceship, because ‘astronauts can’t wear dresses.’ ‘Yes, they can!’ one child cried out. ‘No, they can’t,’ said another. ‘Boys can’t wear dresses,’ a third added.”

We are then told,

“The debate continued as Harmonica Sunbeam listened. Then she leaned down, addressing the children in a conspiratorial stage whisper.”

Now at this point, just remind yourselves that this is a public library in the United States of America. LaMarche then tells us,

“This is Drag Queen Story Hour. The brainchild of the writer Michelle Tea and Radar Productions, it is exactly what it sounds like: drag queens reading stories to children. It began in San Francisco in December 2015 and spread to Brooklyn last summer, thanks to social media attention.”

The New York Times then excitedly reports,

“Later this spring and summer, the Drag Queen Story Hour will expand to Harlem, and inwood to Manhattan and to the Bronx.”

Eva Shapiro, the early literacy coordinator for the New York Public Library, said,

“At first we identified branches that we thought would be excited by it. We didn’t want any surprises. Some neighborhoods are less familiar with the concept. But so far everyone has been thrilled.”

LaMarche then tells us,

“After reading a few more books from the library’s preapproved list”—notice I’ll simply insert here “the library’s preapproved list”—“some, like ‘Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress’ or “It’s Okay to be Different’ by Todd Parr, address themes of diversity and gender expression, while others are simply story time favorites — Ms. Sunbeam distributed scarves and asked the children to shout out their favorite ice cream flavors, an exercise that inspired a more contentious debate than that over the astronaut’s dress. Then they broke for a paper crown decorating session.”

The most telling sentence in the entire article comes at the end where the person identified as Ms. Sunbeam says,

“We all learn every day in life. And there’s a lesson in everything you do. Sometimes we just have to sneak it in.”

Well that’s exactly what’s going on here—sort of. This is sort of sneaking in the message. But if you’re actually sponsoring a program at public libraries on both coasts in several locations and you’re calling it the Drag Queen Story Hour, maybe it’s not so much that you are trying to sneak in a message as you are barging in with the message. Now looking at a headline story like this one from the New York Times, it’s all too easy to say the obvious this is where the moral revolution leads. But there’s more to it or I wouldn’t be talking about it.

The more to it is this: at this point, many Christian parents or informed Christians even looking at this story will say, well, we are talking about Greenwich Village, we’re talking about San Francisco, but you have to go on to notice that they are introducing this program neighborhood by neighborhood. And furthermore, if you’re in a city like Dallas or Houston or Phoenix or Atlanta, maybe Charlotte, North Carolina, it’s easy to say this isn’t New York City. But when it comes to the agenda we’re looking at here and when it comes to the kinds of programs that are being presented as what the public library wherever it is located should do, well, then don’t be surprised if the Drag Queen Story Hour actually does show up in Tampa or Atlanta, or for that matter, Birmingham or Nashville or just about anywhere else. Just as the new norms in terms of childcare and foster care are expanding coast-to-coast—remember that first story was from Illinois—in the same way the agenda that you see in this story coming from New York City certainly isn’t limited to New York City. The ideology that has infected just about every dimension of public life, including the public libraries, it spreads like a virus, and it will not be contained.

OUR CHANGING MORAL LANDSCAPE: WHEN GAMBLING IS WITHIN DRIVING DISTANCE OF VIRTUALLY EVERY AMERICAN

Next in terms of tracing the cultural and moral change in the United States, sometimes it shows up on the business and financial pages of the newspaper, such as recently in the Wall Street Journal. The headline story,

“Caesars Rolls With Changes in Casino Scene.”

This has to do with Caesars International emerging after struggles including bankruptcy trying to find its way in modern America. The business issues behind this story have to do with a lot of things, most importantly, the changed business and financial landscape of organized gambling in America today, an America in which organized gambling remains a very big industry. But this is an industry that is having to face new realities. It’s having to squeeze more profit from things like hotel rooms and from meals and alcoholic beverages and entertainment, but what’s really interesting is what’s simply mentioned in the story as if we should all know this and move on. In the second paragraph of the story by Chris Kirkham we read this,

“Now it,” meaning the gambling industry, “faces a new challenge: How to grow when gambling is within driving distance of virtually every American, and even international opportunities have diminished.”

Let’s go back over that sentence. What we’re told here is that gambling is facing a new challenge because now gambling “is within driving distance of virtually every American.”

We can pass over that pretty quickly without pausing to reflect what a massive change in American life that actually represents. As recently as 20 years ago, that was hardly the case. Going back even to the last decades of the 20th century, organized gambling in the United States, the casino industry in particular, was found only in two major locations outside of Native American reservations. Those were Las Vegas, Nevada and Atlantic City, New Jersey. But over the course of the last half of the 20 century, state-by-state accelerating in the 1980s and 90s began to adopt certain forms of gambling, including one of the forms most pernicious to their own citizens, which is the form of a state-sponsored lottery.

But after that the expansion in terms of gambling income, both for the industry and for the states looking for revenue, it turned increasingly to other forms of gambling that the states had avoided steadfastly. The very idea that most of these states would allow casino gambling would’ve been unthinkable just a matter of a quarter-century ago. Now the big problem is gambling, as the Wall Street Journal tells us, is now accessible within a half day’s drive to virtually every single American. It’s at least worth the observation that that sentence alone in a matter of just a few years ago would not have been buried on the business page as something we’re all supposed know and factor into the business equation. It would have run on the front page because it would’ve been front-page news. It would have been understood then that this would represent an entirely different America, morally speaking, than that which was then known. At the very least, we ought not to let a story like that pass without any attention whatsoever. This might not be big news in any sense to those who are writing the business pages of the Wall Street Journal. But morally speaking, it’s huge news if indeed it really is news.

CHRIST-HAUNTED CULTURE: “REDEMPTION,” “SALVATION,” AND “A FALLEN WORLD” IN THE PAGES OF THE NY TIMES

Next, we live in a world that is increasingly distant from the Christian biblical worldview but is still in an odd way haunted by it. Saturday’s edition of the New York Times included an obituary notice for one of America’s most famous writers and poets, Denis Johnson, who died last Wednesday at age 67. Of great interest to the New York Times in terms of this obituary about Denis Johnson is the fact that this writer had directed so much of his attention to the moral boundaries in the United States, often writing very openly about moral outcasts and all of their moral complexities. As Michiko Kakutani writes in that front-page story for the New York Times, Denis Johnson wrote about “the lost, the dispossessed, the damned — with empathy and unsparing candor.”

Kakutani later in the article writes,

“Mr. Johnson’s America, past or present, is uncannily resonant today. It’s a troubled land, staggering from wretched excess and aching losses, a country where dreams have often slipped into out-and-out delusions, and people hunger for deliverance, if only in the person of a half-baked messiah. Reason is in short supply here, and grifters and con men peddling conspiracy thinking and fake news abound; families are often fragmented or nonexistent; and primal, Darwinian urges have replaced the rule of law. And yet, and yet, amid the bewilderment and despair, there are lightning flashes of wonder and hope — glimpses of the possibility of redemption.”

Now wait just a minute, the word redemption almost cries out from the page here. This is the New York Times, but there’s another word that leaps out at us from even earlier in the story. Kakutani writes of Johnson’s stories that they “depict people living on the edge, addicted to drugs or adrenaline or fantasy, reeling from the idiocies and exigencies of modern life, and longing for salvation.”

Longing for salvation? That’s earlier in the article. Hoping for glimpses of the possibility of redemption, that’s later in the article. But here’s the headline of the article,

“Denis Johnson’s Poetic Visions of a Fallen World.”

Now let’s just think about this for a moment. Here you have the words salvation and redemption following in a headline story that speaks of a fallen world, but what’s so heartbreaking in this is that there’s no theological definition of what it means to live in a fallen world. No one seems to be asking the question, fallen from what or from whom? But why, we have to ask, would an increasingly secularizing society find stories such as these so absolutely compelling, so endlessly fascinating? Why are we drawn even as a secular culture to so many of these themes that all of a sudden show up as if shouting out loud from the text of the New York Times using words like salvation and redemption and tying that to hope?

And what about that front-page headline speaking of Denis Johnson’s stories, his poetic visions of a fallen world? Well it tells us something. It tells us that even in this very confused age there is still an understanding that this is a civilization and that we are a species fallen. A secular society apparently is not ready to ask the question from what state are we fallen, against whom have we sinned, but there is a clear understanding that the world is not right. And this comes with a reminiscence somewhere in terms of a haunting memory that it must have been otherwise in the beginning. This article certainly doesn’t speak of sin. The word is nowhere in the article. But notice how even sin comes through with references to the lost, the dispossessed, and the damned, “people living on the edge, addicted to drugs or adrenaline or fantasy, reeling from the idiocies and exigencies of modern life,”

What binds them all together? Her very next words are: “longing for salvation.”

Some of the most powerful literature of the modern age addresses very directly the fact that we are still in a Christ-haunted culture. Much of that literature goes back to that second half of the 20th century, but here’s an obituary dated in the month of May in the year 2017 with “a fallen world” in the headline and hopes and glimpses of salvation and redemption in the body of the story. Christians looking at this kind of article need to remember that this is why the Bible itself calls the Gospel good news, the evangelium. And in this article tells us that in, yes, this fallen world, people, even people in today’s very complex postmodern, post-Christian America, desperately are hungry to hear the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.

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“RANSOMWARE” CYBER ATTACK AFFECTING OVER 150 COUNTRIES STOPPED BY 22 YEAR OLD SURFER—AT LEAST FOR NOW

It was a very busy weekend, especially for a group of hackers and those trying to stop them. The hacking was actually a massive effort—according to the count as of last night, computers have been hacked in 150 different nations. About 200,000 computers, it was estimated, by Sunday night had been infected with what is known as ransomware, and it’s not an innocent hack. The story is very interesting, but the bottom line in it all is that it can get a great deal worse as of Monday morning. This morning the fear is that as people go into offices around the world and reboot their computers that have been dormant since Friday, it just might be that several hundred thousand additional computers could be infected.LGBT and abortion debates forcing churches to choose

And one of the other big lessons from this is the fact that with the new technological age comes a new set of vulnerabilities. And another thing we need to recognize is that with every one of these technologies and with their combined vulnerabilities, there are persons who with evil intent will try to take advantage. That’s exactly what was going on here and, by the way, that vulnerability was stopped, if it has been stopped, mostly by the effort and the wisdom of just one person, a 22-year-old anti-hacker in Britain who likes to spend most of his time surfing rather than working on computers. But he seemed to have what it takes to at least stop the continued spread of this ransomware, but it’s a warning about similar efforts that are sure to be undertaken shortly.

DAYS AFTER WINNING THE ELECTION, EMMANUEL MACRON INAUGURATED AS PRESIDENT OF FRANCE

Another important event over the weekend was that the French President-Elect Emmanuel Macron is now actually the new President of France, that transition period exceedingly short. The runoff election for the French presidency was just a matter of days ago and already Macron is the new French President.

Now of course there can be all kinds of observations about what the new president will mean for France, but just in terms of worldview it’s important to recognize that differences in the structure of government reflect even deeper differences. The French presidential model is almost monarchial; the French president is often compared to someone like a king, an elected king. This was modeled especially in what’s known as the French Fifth Republic upon the example of Charles de Gaulle, the World War II hero of France who became the model of the French presidency. But we also need to note that in the United States the transition period is considerably longer—shorter than it was at least in the beginning of the 20th century, but still a matter of months. The reason for that is that Americans put an enormous premium on a peaceful transition of power. And a rather seamless transition of presidencies in France, given the more monarchial model, it is a matter of immediacy. The French people having elected a president; expect that new president to show up as president very quickly, and Emmanuel Macron has now moved into the Élysée Palace and is even now the President of France.

MORMONS SEVER LONGSTANDING RELATIONSHIP WITH BOY SCOUTS FOLLOWING PATTERN OF RAPID LIBERALIZATION

Another major development as we went into the weekend was an announcement that came very late in the week that the Mormon Church was going to be severing its historic relationship with the Boy Scouts of America for programs affecting boys and young men aged 14 to 18. This is a really big story, and the timing of the story is also very significant.

In terms of the religious groups that sponsor scouting organizations, well, it turns out that the Mormon Church is, by percentage, by far the leader of the pack. The Mormon Church has historically had a very long relationship with the Boy Scouts of America, and the fact that Mormons are now separating their relationship with the Boy Scouts for boys ages 14 to 18 is extremely significant. This comes after what has taken place in 2013 and 2015 with major changes in the policy of the Boy Scouts of America first accepting openly gay scouts and then also accepting openly gay scout leaders. Something else that has happened in recent times is that the Boy Scouts have done their best to join to some extent the transgender revolution, allowing participation by transgender scouts who identify as boys. This means those who were born as girls but are now identifying as boys. But one of the crucial issues now faced by the Boy Scouts of America as we discussed just a few days ago are now open calls for the Boy Scouts of America to accept girls—that means biological girls who identify as girls—within the scouting organization and especially at the ages of 14 to 18 and, in particular, in the historic and traditional scouting programs that lead eventually to the recognition of an Eagle Scout.

Now the big news was encapsulated in major news media stories on Friday. One of the most interesting of these was found in the New York Times, the reporter Christine Hauser. In her report she indicates that Mormon authorities had said that their decision was not directly attributable to any recent policy change in terms of the Boy Scouts of America. Furthermore, the Mormons said they were going to go ahead and continue to participate with the Boy Scouts of America for younger boys, in particular for the programs identified as Cub Scouts. But nevertheless, the real story is in the headline of the New York Times piece which reads,

“As Scouting Liberalizes, Mormon Church Decides To Reduce Participation.”

That’s really the key issue here. There can be no doubt fundamentally that the reason the Mormon Church has separated from the Boy Scouts of America has everything to do with the change in the Boy Scouts and their moral policies and positions. As Hauser reports,

“In a letter addressed to church authorities, the leaders of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said that the decision to end its sponsorship would affect boys between 14 and 18 years old, starting on Jan. 1, 2018, for units in the Boy Scouts of America and in Scouts Canada.”

The statement that was from Mormon authorities to Mormon congregation said,

“In most congregations in the United States and Canada, young men ages 14–18 are not being served well by the Varsity or Venturing programs, which have historically been difficult to implement within the Church. This change,” said the authorities, “will allow youth and leaders to implement a simplified program that meets local needs while providing activities that balance spiritual, social, physical and intellectual development goals for young men.”

Now in that language is a certain code that we can decode quite easily. It has to do with the fact that even as the Mormon authorities have said this really isn’t a decision that has been prompted by any specific scouting decision, the reality is it’s a pattern of scouting decisions, a liberalizing in terms of morality as this headline indicates. And furthermore, many outside observers familiar with both Mormonism and the Scouts say that even the open speculation about including girls within the Boy Scouts organization was enough to prompt this decision that seemed to be dropped even at the end of last week.

The Boy Scouts can’t say that they were not warned. Back in 2013 and 2015 when the major decisions were made that changed the policy, Mormon authorities indicated that they were “deeply troubled,” and they also announced that they would continue to examine their long association with scouting—and by long we’re talking about a little over 100 years.

Something else to consider here is that there has been a similar exodus from both Catholic and Protestant churches when it comes to the Boy Scouts of America. Some of this has been acknowledged by the national organization, some of it quite under the radar. But it is also true that many of the congregations and religious organizations that said they were going to try to sit out the changes and see what happened, many of these organizations and churches have been told that they would continue to be able to organize their own scout troops according to their own moral convictions. They appear to have seen the handwriting on the wall. And furthermore, other media reports indicate that many of these individual scout troops that have been operating in ways that were at least in terms of policy consistent with their religious organizations, they found that they were unable to cooperate with other troops in terms of state, regional, and national meetings without fully exposing their own programs to the same moral revolution.

Of course, as we have already noticed, when you’re talking about a change in an organization as historic and fundamental as the Boy Scouts of America, when you have to reach the point in a society where it may be no longer tenable—perhaps one day no longer even legal—to have an organization that would put either boy or girl in its title in any kind of restrictive sense, that we are looking not at the beginning or even the middle stages of a revolution in morality, we’re looking at the acceleration of its most radical stage. And all of this, we need to note, in a span of less than four calendar years. Going back to the policy decision of 2013 to this announcement by the Mormon authorities in 2017, you’re talking about less than half a decade. That in itself tells us a great deal about the story.

ABORTION “GOD’S WORK”? SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON EARLY CHRISTIANITY’S CONSISTENT PRO-LIFE WITNESS

Next, looking at another very important dimension in terms of this revolution, Dr. Willie Parker is one of the most infamous abortion doctors in America. Located mostly in terms of his work in Mississippi, he’s now the author of a new book that is getting a great deal of publicity. The title of the book, “Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice.” It’s actually one of the most interesting and revealing arguments to come out in a very long time. Willie Parker not only seeks to justify his practice of abortion, but actually to celebrate it, calling it in the book not only his life’s work, but also claiming that in performing abortions he is doing “God’s work.”

In the book he refers to those who uphold the sanctity of human life as the “anti’s,” as in antiabortion, and in one of the most important paragraphs of the book he writes this:

“If you take antiabortion rhetoric at face value without knowing much about the Bible, you might assume that the anti’s have Scripture on their side.”

He says,

“That’s how dominant and pervasive their righteous rhetoric has become. But they do not,” he writes. “The Bible does not contain the word abortion anywhere in it. As an inspired document,” he says, “the Bible is full of guidance for me about justice and love, but as a historical document the Bible is a ruthless, unsparing record of the historic misogyny of the early Jewish and Christian people.”

So let’s look at what we’re dealing with here. Here you have a man who is claiming to sanctify abortion, claiming that the righteous Christian position is not in opposing abortion, but rather in defending what on the cover of the book he identifies as choice but throughout the book he identifies actually as abortion. And in the book he goes so far in the paragraph I just read as to argue first of all that the Bible doesn’t even use the word abortion, that if you weren’t thinking carefully and didn’t know the Bible you would think that antiabortionists actually have the upper hand in biblical argument. and there we need to pause for just a moment and say, of course the Bible doesn’t use the word abortion, that was not an accessible word when the Bible was written. But the Bible certainly knows what abortion is and it upholds in every way consistently the dignity and sanctity of every single human life. Saying that the Bible doesn’t mention abortion is very similar to the argument we routinely hear that nowhere does the Bible or in particular does Jesus speak against same-sex marriage. But of course, when you look at Matthew 19:3-6, there you have Jesus establishing what he says was God’s intention from the beginning in making human beings as male and female, and uniting a man and a woman in marriage for a lifetime. Thus, he says, was God’s purpose from the beginning. If you just stop there, Jesus has already said, look, the purpose for our creation as human beings as male and female is for marriage, and marriage for a man and a woman for a lifetime. And then it’s Jesus who said, “Whatever God put together, let no man separate.”

But the really interesting thing here is what Willie Parker and others are trying to get away with, and that’s trying simply to say the Bible’s not antiabortion, so move on. But the reason I read the entire paragraph is because you heard what Dr. Willie Parker actually believes about the Bible. Let me get back to that sentence again. He said,

“The Bible does not contain the word abortion anywhere in it. As an inspired document, the Bible is full of guidance for me about justice and love, but as a historical document the Bible is a ruthless, unsparing record of the historic misogyny of the early Jewish and Christian people.”

So in other words, Willie Parker looks to the Scripture in terms of its historic reality and describes it as ruthless and unsparing, holding to ancient sexual prejudices. So what he seems to argue with the one hand, he actually takes back with the other. It really apparently wouldn’t matter to Willie Parker if the Bible did use the word abortion and condemn it, because he similarly throws out what the Bible clearly does say about marriage and sexuality and sexual morality. Furthermore, Scripture really does seem to be a barrier in terms of the endorsement of abortions, as he acknowledges in the end of his book when he writes,

“Many seem to accept without thinking that to be a Christian is to oppose abortion rights. In my view,” he says, “the only Christianity that mandates an antiabortion view is an emotion-based faith, a rigid reading of Scripture that invites no questioning or interpretive consideration.”

Now wait just a minute. If the Bible doesn’t condemn abortion, why would Willie Parker himself at the end of his book say that opposition to abortion is rooted in an approach to Scripture that “invites no questioning or interpretive consideration?”

You can’t have that argument both ways. He continues by saying,

“The Bible is not stuck in time, but rather a living, breathing divinely inspired document and the God that I believe exists within its pages is big enough and flexible enough and loving enough to accommodate a very different perspective.”

So what is revealed in God’s word can be superseded by whatever Willie Parker believes that God actually would have him to believe about anything, even if contrary to his word.

That’s interesting and concerning enough, but the story gets a lot bigger when you consider Nicholas Kristof’s article in last Sunday’s edition of the New York Times. The headline of that article,

“A Christian Abortion Doctor.”

Kristof, writing about Willie Parker and his work and this new book, says this,

“No issue in America is more toxic than abortion, and that’s partly because it is today so closely associated with religion.”

He says,

“While many feminists see abortion as a matter of choice, some Christians see it as murder.”

Then he says,

“There are people like Dr. Willie Parker. Dr. Parker is black, feminist and driven by his Christian faith to provide abortions in the South, where women seeking to terminate a pregnancy have few options.”

He cites approvingly Willie Parker as saying that when he does abortion, he’s doing God’s work. But then Kristof goes on to say this,

“Since 2002, he has been providing abortions, mostly on the front lines in Southern states, walking past picketers who scream that he is a baby killer. He puts up with the danger, he says,” now this is Kristof writing, “because it’s morally right to help desperate women.”

Then Kristof writes this,

“If that seems incongruous, let’s remember that conservative Christianity’s ferocious opposition to abortion is relatively new in historical terms.”

Then Kristof writes,

“The Bible does not explicitly discuss abortion, and there’s no evidence that Christians traditionally believed that life begins at conception.”

Now he goes on throughout his article to suggest that Christians have debated when life begins, whether at conception or some later point. But what he openly argues here is that there is no clear message from the Bible about abortion and there is no clear message from historic Christianity also about the morality of abortion. That’s flatly wrong. But before I get to where Nicholas Kristof is wrong, let me speak about where he’s right.

Nicholas Kristof is a humanitarian, he writes very movingly very often about human rights and human dignity. The great tragedy is that he does not extend human rights or human dignity to the unborn. But what we notice here is that Nicholas Kristof says that conservative Christians in America, evangelical Christians in particular, have been relatively late to get to the abortion issue. And by relatively late he means basically between the period of 1973 when the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down legalizing abortion, and the late 1970s when evangelicals began fully to join the pro-life cause.

Now it’s even a little more complicated than that. For example, and Kristof is on to this, there were leading, very respectable evangelical pastors who were very confused on the issue of abortion during the 1960s and 1970s. Furthermore, there were entire evangelical denominations that took equivocal and now very embarrassing stands. One of them was the Southern Baptist Convention that, during the period of the debate over Roe v. Wade in the early 1970s, actually adopted resolutions that were far less than consistently pro-life. But by the time you get to the late 1970s, evangelicals have become profoundly pro-life. The argument being made by Willie Parker but now even more widespread in influence by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times is that there really is no Christian consensus when it comes to abortion and the morality of the killing of the unborn. And furthermore, he goes, like Dr. Parker, back to the Bible and says the word doesn’t actually explicitly appear, but he evades the big question. And when it comes to the early church, well, there there’s actually no question.

At this point we really need to separate two issues that are very much in play here. The first is the historic Christian understanding of the morality of abortion, the second is the question of when what some theologians have called ensoulment takes place. Now at this point we need to say that Christians have disagreed over the second question, but that shouldn’t have anything to do with the first. The reality is that the only consistent biblical position, regardless of the debate over the soul that was so fascinating to many theologians in late antiquity in the medieval eras, that consistent biblical position requires defending the sanctity and dignity of human life from every point after fertilization and consistently throughout all of natural life.

But when it comes to the first question, the historic Christian understanding about abortion, the evidence is absolutely irrefutable. The early church was decidedly, vocally, and courageously pro-life. It was opposed to abortion. One of the earliest documents of Christianity after the New Testament is what is known as the Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles dated to the late first or early second century. And in it the teaching is this,

“You shall not murder a child by abortion or commit infanticide.”

Now both abortion and infanticide were common in the Roman Empire. This states very clearly that the early Christians were very clear in their own conviction against abortion, courageously so. The same is true of all early church leaders who came anywhere close to discussing abortion, and there were many of them. Historians such as Michael Gorman and ethicists such as Ronald Sider have done very good work in documenting the fact that there was an overwhelming consensus—as a matter of fact there was no violation of this consensus—in the early church identifying abortion as wrong and as evil and as sin.

As a matter of fact, in his work Gorman writes this,

“Writers of the first three Christian centuries laid the theological and literary foundation for all subsequent early Christian writing on abortion.”

He says there were three important themes that emerged in earliest Christianity.

“The fetus is the creation of God; abortion is murder; and the judgment of God falls on those guilty of abortion.”

Those three convictions lie at the heart of the Christian pro-life consensus that came together after the shock of the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. The scandal, we need to note, is not that evangelical Christians now hold to a pro-life position, the scandal is that there was ever any equivocation on such a fundamental question of human life and human dignity.

Arguments like these coming from Dr. Willie Parker and from Nicholas Kristof do not shame us for holding pro-life convictions now, rather we are shamed for the fact that there were ever Christians who held anything other than pro-life convictions anywhere throughout the history of the church. But at least we now know and can document that early Christians were very clear on the question of abortion.

So let there be no confusion on this question. The Bible reveals the sanctity of all human life, the early church affirmed the sanctity of every human life, and anyone who performs an abortion is not doing God’s work, rather he is undoing it. The Didache, echoing the book of Deuteronomy, describes two different ways for humanity: the way of life and the way of death. And like Deuteronomy, the Didache reminds us in every situation, especially the question of abortion, we are to choose life. Always to choose life.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.

(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Same-sex attraction from a Christian perspective

Image: Sam Allberry

What should we think about the issue of same-sex attraction? Is it essentially the same as being gay? How does the issue of sexual preference relate to our identity as Christians, and how are we to talk about our differences with others in a world that is increasingly accepting of homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Michael Horton discusses these issues and more with Sam Allberry, author of Is God Anti-Gay? on this episode of the White Horse Inn.

“What our own culture is saying at this particular point in time is that your sexual desires define you and they are the core of who you are. They are the key to understanding you and we too easily adopt this as Christians but Jesus himself said it’s what comes out of your heart that defiles you. And so, we as Christians should have a very different understanding of who we are. We don’t look within ourselves to find true meaning, true fulfillment, true salvation as what we find when we look inside of ourselves is the problem, not the solution.” – Sam Allberry

Term to Learn:

“Sin as a Condition”

Sin is first of all a condition that is simultaneously judicial and moral, legal and relational. Accordingly, we sin because we are sinners rather than vice versa. Standing before God as transgressors in Adam, we exhibit our guilt and corruption in actual thoughts and actions.

Furthermore, we are both victims and perpetrators. There is no human being since the fall who is only victim; yet it is also true that every sinner is also sinned against. A particular act of sin may be (or include) the fault of someone else, but the sinful condition and the web of sinful actions and relationships that flow from it implicate us as well. It is true that we do not simply choose our vices, but are conditioned by the sinful structures to which our particular socio-cultural or familial contexts tend. Yet it is also true that we yield ourselves to these vices and are responsible for our own actions. (Adapted from Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, pp. 427–28)

(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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

FROM PRO-CHOICE SYMBOL TO PRO-LIFE ACTIVIST: NORMA MCCORVEY, ‘ROE’ OF ROE V. WADE, DIES AT 69

Sometimes just a few words can encapsulate an entire revolution. That’s the case in a front-page story that appeared over the weekend in USA Today. Eliza Collins writes,

“Norma McCorvey, the woman behind the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion, died Saturday. She was 69 years old.”

Just a few words, but consider the importance of those words. We’re talking about a story that went across major media almost instantaneously on Saturday, as soon as the alert came from a journalist who was with McCorvey, then at an assisted living facility in Katy, Texas, a journalist who is writing a book on Roe v. Wade. But we’re also talking about a newsworthy event that deserved that kind of attention, because we’re talking about one of the most famous names, one of the most well-recognized names of the 20th century. And we are talking about a woman who did not go by that name when her case became the lead and most important case that legalized abortion on demand in the United States. Collins writes,

“McCorvey, who went by the pseudonym Jane Roe, challenged the constitutionality of abortion laws in Texas in 1971. At the time, it was illegal for women to have abortions unless their lives were at risk.”

Collins then summarizes it this way,

“The case made it to the Supreme Court where the justices ruled it was legal to have an abortion because of a woman’s right to privacy protected under the 14th Amendment. The ruling came too late for her to have an abortion and she gave the baby up for adoption.”

As I said, Norma McCorvey became one of the most recognized names in America, but her pseudonym in this case for which she served as plaintiff was an even more famous name, Jane Roe. But, of course, in this case, in the midst of this moral revolution, to be famous on the one hand is to be infamous on the other. We’re talking about a woman whose pseudonym led to the deaths in terms of the Supreme Court decision of over 50 million unborn babies since 1973. She was a young woman, according to press reports, addicted to substances when she became pregnant and then when she sought an abortion in the state of Texas. Unable to have that abortion legally in Texas, she took her case to court. But of course it’s more complicated even than that. What we now know in the history of abortion in America is that pro-abortion forces were basically shopping for a plaintiff. They were looking for a case and in this case, Norma McCorvey happened to be the right person at the right time or as we say the wrong person at the wrong time, because Norma McCorvey came into contact with one of the attorneys in the United States, in this case an attorney in Texas who was looking for a plaintiff in order to find just the right case with just the right particulars that would lead to the Supreme Court and eventually they hoped to the legalization of abortion in all 50 states. And what that meant was striking down laws that would limit or prohibit abortion, such as the laws in Texas before Roe v. Wade.

But USA Today also hints at the larger complications of the story of Norma McCorvey. She became what we must describe as a cog in the pro-abortion machine. That’s a lesson to us all. There are so many figures throughout human history who have basically been used by the movements that made them either famous or infamous. That was certainly the case in the pro-abortion movement. They were looking for a plaintiff, Norma McCorvey became that plaintiff. But she was never a plaintiff who seems to be entirely settled with the morality of abortion. But the story is even more interesting than that.

During the 1990s, Norma McCorvey actually became a Christian. She professed Christ and she also shifted her position on abortion in terms of a complete reversal. She came under the influence of an evangelical ministry that had located next to the abortion clinic where she was working. And as the Christians befriended her, she came to be exposed to the gospel of Christ, and she also had her conscience very much pricked in concern over the question of abortion. For the first time in her life, the reality of the unborn baby in the womb was made clear to her as a human life. In very telling words, Norma McCorvey would later say that her conscience was turned largely by her imagination as she imagined the laughter of all of those babies, including the infants who were never born.

Christian worldview regarding Norma McCorvey, Kim Jung Nam, American Girl

Image: AZ Quotes

Her conscience turned she became a very vocal opponent of abortion, and it was most interesting when in the year 2003 she actually made a legal petition in the federal courts to reverse Roe v. Wade, because her own view on the matter had changed. She was making a constitutional argument, but it didn’t get very far in 2003. But of course, she did live long enough to see the pro-life movement in America gain a great deal of ground and traction. Discussing her turn on the question of abortion, USA Today says,

“Later, McCorvey became an anti-abortion activist and filed a motion in Dallas in 2003 to have the case overturned. She alleged that there was new evidence that abortion hurt women. In 2004, judges at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans dismissed the motion.”

Seen over the course of her 69 years, the story of Norma McCorvey is a story of grace; it’s a story of judgment; it’s also a story of the moral revolution in the United States. And as you might expect, it is a complicated story, as would be the case in any human equation with a woman who had played such an important role in the abortion movement in America and later became such a vocal opponent of legal abortion in the same country, in the same lifetime. The USA Today story also included a statement, a rather awkward statement that was made in light of McCorvey’s death on Saturday by NARAL Pro-Choice America. That’s one of the most vocal and activist pro-abortion movements in the country. The statement said,

“Norma McCorvey lent her story to a court case that changed history and aided women in gaining control of their own destinies. We wish her family peace in this moment of sorrow,”

Just consider that statement for a moment. Watch how carefully it is parsed. They describe Norma McCorvey as having “lent her story to a court case that changed history.” In other words, she was simply a woman who lent her story. She lent her name and that was a decision that Norma McCorvey, not just Jane Roe, regretted for the rest of her life.

But the news of Norma McCorvey’s death at age 69 on Saturday should also prompt evangelical Christians to think very carefully about the history of abortion in America, to consider the fundamental question of how it was that the pro-abortion movement came to be so very successful, reaching its ultimate success in the Roe v. Wade decision in the Supreme Court in 1973. Here we have to keep in mind that if Norma McCorvey had not become Jane Roe, there would’ve been some other woman who would’ve taken the role in terms of Jane Roe, or in the words of the NARAL statement, would have “lent her story” to the effort to legalize abortion in America.

There was a using of Norma McCorvey in this, and if not for her, some other woman would have been used. We’re looking at a movement that was led by the cultural elites in this country, aided and abetted by lawyers and others. There was a political movement, especially from the American left, that saw the legalization of abortion as the prize that they simply must win, and they thought they won it in 1973. But now, looking back over time, we can see that 1973 and the Roe v. Wade decision was simply the beginning of the battle for the sanctity and dignity of human life that continues even today. In the latter years of her life, Norma McCorvey converted from evangelicalism to Roman Catholicism, and she largely dropped from public view. All that changed of course on Saturday when the news of her death in Texas spread throughout the major media. Recall that NARAL Pro-Choice America said that Norma McCorvey had merely lent her story to the effort to secure legalized abortion. For those of us who understand what’s at stake, it’s not enough to say that she lent her story. It’s also important for us to take her story seriously from the beginning all the way to the end.

PEW STUDY SHOWS AMERICANS “WARMING” OVERALL TO RELIGIOUS GROUPS, BUT NEUTRAL TOWARD EVANGELICALS

Next, a very interesting story also got a great deal of media attention over the weekend. The Pew Research Center last week released a study, the headline in the release says this,

“Americans Express Increasingly Warm Feelings Toward Religious Groups.”

The subtitle,

“Jews, Catholics continue to receive warmest ratings, atheists and Muslims move from cool to neutral.”

The Pew Center reports,

“Americans generally express more positive feelings toward various religious groups today than they did just a few years ago. Asked to rate a variety of groups on a ‘feeling thermometer’ ranging from 0 to 100, U.S. adults give nearly all groups warmer ratings than they did in a June 2014 Pew Research Center survey.”

Now let’s just state the obvious here. We’re looking at a measure of public sentiment, and public sentiment is extremely fickle, it’s very volatile. It changes from one day to the other, not to mention over a period from 2014 until today. But there really is something interesting here.

Christian worldview regarding Norma McCorvey, Kim Jung Nam, American Girl

Image: Melissa McNamara

Major media basically distilled this huge research report down to two different headlines. The first was exactly what we saw from the Pew release, Americans feel more warmly towards major religious groups in the United States. The second headline was this, that’s true for every major religious group except one, and that is American evangelicals. People seized on either one of those two headlines.

In terms of the first headline, what’s really important is to see that Americans believe they are to report or at least are to say that they feel very positive towards different religious groups. It’s also interesting that this is an increase even over June 2014. We ask ourselves questions such as this: is there any major change in the way Americans understand world religions in terms of their worldview, or perhaps even understand their neighbors in the neighborhood? The answer to that is since 2014, probably not. But what you see in this kind of study is a reflection not only of what people actually believe, but what they’re supposed to say they believe in terms of their expectation.

But there’s something else here, and that’s that if you look at that first headline, the headline about Americans having warm feelings towards people of other religious groups, many religious groups, that’s very good news. Let’s simply ask a question. Would this be true of any other major nation in the world today? It really does tell us something that the vast majority of Americans believe they are supposed to respond positively when asked about their feelings towards different religious groups and the people who are adherents of those different religious groups. I really can’t imagine this kind of warmth reflected in terms of feelings towards persons of different religions in any other major country, certainly not in secular Europe, where believers of any sort are often held at least in some sort of suspicion and certainly not in the Muslim dominated world where there wouldn’t be this kind of warmth to anyone who isn’t a Muslim. There might be neighborliness, but there isn’t going to be this kind of warmth that is described in this report, and it’s probably true, almost assuredly true, in other major countries including Asian countries as well. Remember, we’re not talking here about only a begrudging respect and we’re not talking about only an affirmation of religious liberty. We’re talking about what’s described as emotional warmth.

In terms of the second headline, I don’t think we should be all that surprised. And, by the way, one of the most interesting aspects of this report is how closely all this tracks the political equation as well. And looking at it honestly, that political equation is likely to be a primary driver, not just a correlated issue. What do I mean by that? Simply this: when it comes to the identification of American evangelicals, there’s a distinction here between, for instance, the identification of American Jews or Roman Catholics. The reason for that is quite simple. It is because there’s a clear political identification often associated with American evangelicals. So if you reject that cultural or political stance in the United States, you’re likely also to have the same kind of evaluation of the religious group in general. But, of course, in these days of contentious politics, there’s almost no way for American evangelicals not to be politically identified, especially when you consider how the political landscape is now dominated by moral issues, not merely issues of economics or the usual preoccupations of the political arena.

It will be interesting to see if the Pew Research Center repeats this research in forthcoming years. Remember, this is just a comparison between 2014 and 2017. That’s not exactly a vast expanse of history. But if they do repeat this research in some year in the future, it’s likely to be that the numbers would be different. The response pattern would also be different, and that’s simply because political opinion crystallizes in a particular moment and so does emotional affection. And when we see this kind of public question, we need to recognize that that’s true not only from year-to-year, but also from week to week. When it comes to measuring public opinion in America, it might come down to having to measure by the hour, not just by the year.

NORTH KOREA’S CULT OF PERSONALITY AND THE MYSTERIOUS ASSASSINATION OF KIM JONG-UN’S HALF BROTHER

But next, a story that seems more out of science fiction than anything else. What novelist could come up with the headlines that came out of Malaysia last week, where it was reported that on Monday, a figure was assassinated, murdered in the airport there in Malaysia. And within hours, it was determined that the victim of this murder was none other than the half-brother of the totalitarian dictator of North Korea. And almost immediately, anyone familiar with this political pattern recognized what that pattern meant. Just about everyone who might pose any kind of threat to that dictator in Pyongyang has disappeared, and generally is known to have died. A team of reporters from the Wall Street Journal put it this way,

“It was over in about 15 seconds. Two women approached Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s dictator, on Monday at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and one touched his face with a wet cloth.”

There also, we inject here, are reports that some kind of poison needle was inserted within him. The Journal then says,

Christian worldview regarding Norma McCorvey, Kim Jung Nam, American Girl

Image: Arthur Lim

“Airport surveillance video showed one of the alleged killers wearing a shirt that said ‘LOL.’”

Malaysia’s investigation into the murder continued over the weekend with no evidence to implicate the dictator in North Korea, but plenty of signs that there’s a very familiar pattern at work here. What do I mean in terms of that pattern? Well, as the New York Times said,

“Political experts on North Korea’s politics immediately speculated that Kim Jong-un [that’s the dictator] had ordered the assassination of his older half sibling, who at one time had been the heir apparent and had been favored by China, the country’s ally and principal benefactor.”

The Times continued later in the article,

“Since taking power, Mr. Kim has executed more than 140 senior party and military officials deemed a threat to his authority, often ordering them killed by machine guns and even flamethrowers, according to the Institute for National Security Strategy, a research group affiliated with the South’s National Intelligence Service.”

Kim Jong-nam, the man who was killed in the attack in the Malaysian airport last week, was indeed the older of the two half-brothers and at one point he had been expected to be the heir-apparent from his father who, after all, was the son of the original dictator who led the communist revolution in that country and installed one of the most brutal regimes in the history of humanity. But after an embarrassment that came to the elder half-brother, it was the younger half-brother who was appointed to be the successor. Kim Yong Nam went into a form of exile, eventually settling into something of a playboy lifestyle in the Chinese province of Macau. He was nonetheless very worried, and this was evident in terms of statements he had made that he would be assassinated by his half-brother. And that’s one of the reasons why he was probably the least surprised of anyone when the assassination attempt was launched there in the Malaysian airport.

But here we need to understand that behind every system of government, behind every structure in terms of political order, behind every regime, we might say, there is a worldview. And it doesn’t take much investigation to understand the worldview behind North Korea’s totalitarian communist form of government. It is the hero worship of one family that has been effectively deified in terms of the official claims of the North Korean government. And by deified, I mean exactly that. The Kim family is believed to have a divine origin, to fulfill a divine function and to have a divine appointment, including such claims as spectacular births with supernatural attributes.

In North Korea, it’s almost as if you took every bad, tragic, horrifying element of other communist regimes and distilled it down into one, very poor, very oppressed country. Just consider again that report that came in the New York Times that more than 140 senior party and military officials who had been deemed some kind of threat to his authority were executed, some by machine guns, some by flamethrowers, others by anti-aircraft attack weapons. One of those who was executed was charged with a criminal offense of having fallen asleep in one of the interminable speeches of the communist dictator. In this officially atheistic regime there is only one power, only one divine figure, and that is the Kim family and its appointed successor. It’s clear that every other life in that country, including the lives of those who did their very best to flee as far as they could get, mean absolutely nothing.

WHEN A TOY IS MORE THAN A TOY: AMERICAN GIRL’S NEW BOY DOLL AND CAYLA THE SPYING DOLL

But finally we need to be reminded that a toy is sometimes not just a toy. Caity Weaver writing in the New York Times on Sunday tells us,

“On Tuesday, the Mattel subsidiary American Girl unveiled the newest member of its iconic sorority: a blank-eyed boy named Logan.”

Christian worldview regarding Norma McCorvey, Kim Jung Nam, American Girl

Image: Mattel

So you got it right. The American Girl doll line now includes a boy. He’s identified as having gray eyes that open and close and unique hand positioning, whatever that means. One of the questions that is raised by Caity Weaver is why in the world the American Girl series of dolls needs a boy. Now she’s not writing from the perspective of conservative evangelical Christianity. She’s writing from a feminist perspective, and as she sees it this is an invasion. In her words,

“To longtime fans, it feels more like girls are losing something that used to be theirs alone.”

The author also raises some interesting points. It turns out that a boy in the American Girl doll line doesn’t have that interesting of a story. He is basically back up as a musician to a girl doll and the American Girl dolls has gone out of its way as a project to try and create stories, often politically correct stories, for the female dolls. As Weaver writes,

“What could Logan possibly have to talk about with Samantha, an Edwardian orphan who spoke out boldly against child labor practices and had a beautiful cranberry Christmas dress with a lace collar?”

Weaver also points out that this boy doll has a very uninteresting wardrobe. He has a T-shirt, jeans, underwear, and shoes; that’s it. Some immediate consumer response to the release of this boy doll in the American Girls line has been negative, some of it coming from those who somehow believe that this is going to be directed towards boys, that boys will now be consumers of the American Girl dolls because there is a boy doll. But that’s not really so likely. What’s likely is that this doll is actually intended for girls to add to their set.

Once again, you have a consumerist society looking for any opportunity to make the sale. But in the end, there doesn’t appear to be too much excitement about the American Girl dolls coming out with a boy doll. There isn’t that much of a market for Logan.

But while we’re talking about the moral significance of dolls, how about this article that appeared in the New York Times over the weekend?

“Cayla is a blond, bright-eyed doll that chatters about horses and hobbies. She plays games and accurately answers questions about the world at large. She could also be eavesdropping on your child.”

That according to the Times is the stark warning parents in Germany received last Friday from the country’s telecommunications watchdog known as the Federal Network Agency. The agency told German parents that hackers could use the doll to steal personal data by recording private conversations over an insecure Bluetooth connection. Furthermore, the federal agency there in Germany said it was pulling the doll off of store shelves and banning the doll in Germany.

Now this basically is a computer that is disguised as a doll, and it turns out that the doll is storing the voice patterns of the children who play with the doll. And it’s being stored in terms of the company’s interests, not the child’s. As the Times reports,

“The announcement reflects the growing concerns over ‘smart’ products in the home that can get, well, too smart. A string of reports in recent years about hackers targeting and remotely controlling items like baby monitors have sounded the alarm.

“Meanwhile,” says the Times, “numerous experiments by researchers have shown how easy it is to hack into cars, medical devices and even dolls.”

Yes, that’s right, even dolls. Thus, the headline in the New York Times,

“The Bright-Eyed Talking Doll That Just Might Be a Spy.”

A spy who just might be in a bedroom very near to you. But for Christians who understand that worldview is always barely beneath the surface, we shouldn’t be surprised to know that a toy is often not just a toy.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.

(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Kicking off our show this week is my Canadian buddy, Wil Twynstra! Besides being incredibly funny, Wil is an amazing dad… so amazing that he just keeps having kids! As he puts it, “It’s like joining a club… FedEx rings the doorbell every so often and just drops off another kid at our house… they just keep showing up!”Clean Comedy from Wil Twynstra and Ray Comfort's Atheist Delusion

As an involved parent, one of Wil’s favorite book series is the Berenstain Bears. He loves how the stories gently walk children through life’s potentially tough moments with tender familial care. Kids hear stories of Brother Bear’s first day of school or Sister Bear’s first trip to the dentist. By reading these great stories, Wil’s kids aren’t afraid of these moments when they encounter them in real life.

If only the Berenstains had continued writing these books for adults!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be encouraged with titles like, “Mama and Papa Bear are Visited by the Taxman” or “Papa Bear Goes in for a Coloscopy”?

There’s a huge market there!

Wil says that he’d order a subscription to that… even if it came with another kid!

Clean Comedy from Wil Twynstra and Ray Comfort's Atheist Delusion

Image: Lauren Leigh Noske

Next, my dear friend and mentor calls in from California – author, speaker, and film maker Ray Comfort. Ray has been so instrumental in my life across the years, challenging me to grow, making me laugh, and helping others to laugh at me!

His latest film, The Atheist Delusion, is absolutely incredible! Judging by the title, I thought he was coming out guns a-blazing, but the film and its message is actually quite gentle, especially in his argument for Intelligent Design and Creationism.

The funny thing is that the project’s roots are something of a mistake!

A while back, Ray was creating some promo material for his book, Made In Heaven. He saw a guy looking at it, turned on his video camera and started asking the shopper a few questions. Almost immediately, Ray learned that the guy was a devout Atheist, so Ray gave him a copy of the book. But first, Ray asked:

“Do you think that this book could have happened by accident? Could ink have fallen from the sky and made itself into words and page numbers? Could the book have made itself a spine and spontaneously formed its own cover? In other words, could this book make itself out of nothing?

“Absolutely not”, was the man’s reply.

“Well, switching topics a bit, do you know what DNA is?”

“Yes, Deoxyribonucleic Acid, of course.”

“Right. It’s basically our book of life. It’s our programming. It’s information on how our body makes our eyes, ears, skin, as well as everything about us – our personalities… everything! From the moment we are created, our programming is there in our DNA! Now, if anyone were to believe that my book could create itself out of nothing, we’d think they were an idiot… but what about someone who believes that DNA, at some point, had created itself?”

After thinking this concept through, he was transformed from an Atheist to a believer in God’s existence.

Ray found this amazing, so he went to the local universities and colleges in search for another “humble Atheist”… which is hard to find! But, over the course of a few days, he was able to interview a dozen or so hardened Atheists whose minds were changed when they realized that DNA couldn’t make itself. After realizing that something, or someone, intelligent must have designed us – and that someone is God, they were open to hearing the Gospel… God’s plan for humankind.

Think about this… every day, about 150,000 people around the world die.

That means that 54 million people each year pass into this great black hole, called “death”. But, that’s not the end. God has given us the answer to our fears of death within the Gospel.

That’s Ray’s message. He doesn’t tell people they need to join a church or ask for any of their money. He simply, gently, asks people to listen and open their hearts to God’s plan for us. Because where you will spend eternity is the most important thing that you ever will establish. It’s what gives you hope, even in life’s worst circumstances.

But, as Ray says:

“Hope is probably the most misunderstood word in the English language. ‘Hope’ is weak in the eyes of the world, like when someone is rooting for their favorite team and says, ‘I hope we win. I really do hope so.’ But, really, hope is what happens when you are standing on the edge of a plane 10,000 feet up without a parachute, but about to jump out of the plane. You are horrified beyond words, when someone suddenly hands you a parachute! Hope, now… give you life! It gives you joy and peace because you’ve got the parachute. The second you put your trust in that parachute, you are no longer terrified by what you face. You have hope that you are going to live because your trust and faith is in that parachute. And, when we face death, we have a parachute, we have a Savior. We have a hope that is an anchor to our souls (Hebrews 6:19). And, the second that we put our trust in Jesus Christ, the fear of death leaves us. The power of death goes because Jesus has ‘abolished death’ (2 Timothy 1:10).

“This is the greatest news that the world could ever hope to hear!”

That’s why Ray produced The Atheist Delusion, which has had 800,000 views on YouTube! This brings the total amount of views for Ray’s films up to over 42 million!

You can see them for yourself at FullyFreeFilms.com.

But, why would an Atheist watch Ray’s film, knowing that he wants to change their worldview? Maybe for no other reason than that they hate Ray?! Or, maybe they think he’s like a train wreck and they can’t keep their eyes off of him? He’s good either way, so long as they watch.

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WWUTT Slider FINAL

Take heart Christian, you are elect!

According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood. (1 Peter 1:2)

In love, God predestined you for His glory!

In love, He predestined us for adoption to Himself as Sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will to the praise of His glorious grace! (Ephesians 1:4-5)

Your name was written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain! (See Revelation 13:8, 17:8)

Got elected you!

The elect, whom He chose! (Mark 13:20)

That’s the Doctrine of Election.

You might say, “But, wait… didn’t I choose to believe in God? I repented of my sins and I have decided to follow Jesus, right?”

As far as your experience is concerned, yes. You chose to become a Christian. But, when you read the Bible and understand the theology, you find out you didn’t choose Christ, but He chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit.

You did not choose me, but I chose you, and I appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide… (John 15:16)

Romans three says:

No one is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. (Romans 3:10-11)

For there is no distinction: for all have send and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

We are born into sin, living in the passions of our flesh carrying out the desires of the body, and the mind and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind.

And you were once dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, the spirit now at work in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

But God says,

I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

He has caused us to be born again, to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Blessed be the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith… (1 Peter 1:3-5)

Someone might say, “But how can I know if I am elect?”

And the answer is this:

Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31)

Take up your cross daily and follow after Him…

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

THAT’S how you know you are elect… When we understand the text.

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