I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Today we’ll see the persistence of truth in an age of untruth, we’ll ask is the truth really more important than ever before, we’ll see the cultural rift between California and Washington D.C., we’ll look at the battle for our eyeballs in modern television programming, and we’ll ask what we can learn from those constant drug ads.
The most noteworthy aspect of yesterday’s edition of the New York Timeswasn’t a news story, it was an advertisement. An ad placed by the New York Times about the New York Times about truth. Yesterday’s edition included a full page with these few words,
“The truth has power. The truth will not be threatened. The truth has a voice.”
At the bottom of the page, the simple iconic masthead the New York Times.But just the day before in Sunday’s edition of the paper, timed for that evening’s Golden Globes Awards program, the New York Times on the first of these pages had the words,
“He said. She said.
He said. She said.
He said. She said.”
And then 144 more times, an unbroken,
Very clearly was the New York Times signaling its own virtue associating with the #metoo campaign and the political messaging sent at the Golden Globes concerning the issues of sexual harassment. It was a pretty unnuanced message. Again,
“He said. She said.
He said. She said.
He said. She said.”
And then 144 times,
The second full page in the New York Times about the New York Timessimply had the words,
“The truth has a voice.”
At the bottom of the page, again, the iconic masthead of the New York Times.Now it’s really clear what’s going on here, the New York Times is signaling by means of these ads that it is the authoritative voice for truth in the culture, that it cares deeply about truth, that it — perhaps alone — is committed to finding the truth and giving the truth a voice. This follows last year’s first effort in this series by the New York Times, that time it was scheduled to coincide with the Academy Awards presentation. The messaging back then in 2017, I quote,
“The truth is hard. The truth is hard to know. The truth is more important than ever.”
That last line is the most important of the claims made by the New York Times, and in accordance with this particular advertising campaign it actually draped those words around its building.
“The truth is more important than ever,”
claims the Times.
Well, before looking further and more deeply at the issue of truth in our contemporary moment, it is really important for us to recognize that from a biblical perspective it simply is not true that the truth has never been more important. It is true to say that it’s never been more important and it’s never been less important. For Christians, according to a biblical worldview, truth is always the paramount question. It has never been less important. It’s actually a fairly ludicrous claim on the part of the New York Times, are they really suggesting that going back to that paper’s own history, if you look at the last decades of the 19th century, the truth wasn’t so important? When you look at two cataclysmic world wars during the 20th century, the truth wasn’t so important. When you look at the depression, the Cold War, and everything that followed, the truth was less important then than it is now. Of course, that’s not a serious claim that they would make. It is, however, the background impulse to their current advertising campaign. We know what’s going on here, it’s very similar to the kind of campaign and posturing undertaken by the major newspaper in the nation’s capital, the Washington Post. Just several months ago that paper began printing under its own masthead the words,
“Democracy dies in darkness.”
In both cases you have two major newspapers, two of the most influential newspapers in the world, claiming their priority in terms of the business of truth telling, and in the words of the Washington Post implicitly, saving democracy. Saving democracy from what or from whom? Defending truth against what? Well of course the most immediate challenge that is reflected in these campaigns is what is referred to as fake news, it’s the destabilization of the entire truth and information and media universe. But this is where Christians really do need to think a bit more deeply about this than the New York Times and the Washington Post. Is it because we are less invested in truth? No, to the contrary; it is because we are far more invested in truth. It’s also because we understand that the New York Times really does pride itself, along with the Washington Post and other major media, in being very concerned about the truth; they have entire journalistic teams of reporters and writers and editors and levels of editors and then publishers and all the rest, all supposedly working together in order to reveal and to report the truth. And of course when it comes to a story, let’s just take a routine story like a break-in in a neighborhood, if we’re looking for report on that break-in, we want to know the factual answers to who, what, when, and where, of course, why would help also. But as we’re looking at that we recognize that the very secular reporters and editors and publishers of the news media, they really do believe in the facts, they want to get to those facts when it comes to a break-in in a home. But when it comes to bigger and more complex questions, well at that point, the editors and the reporters and others tend to mix up their own categories. The New York Times when they’re claiming to be the voice of truth, they’re not just speaking about what they take pride in in terms of their rather objective reporting about major events. No, they’re implying that also about their analysis; they’re claiming truth for their own worldview. This is where Christians also have to understand that one of the hallmarks of the modern age as we know it is the denial of certain forms of truth, the existence of objective truth when it comes to morality, and, furthermore, when it came to the movement known as postmodernism, the denial of objective truth at all.
Now as we’re looking at this, we understand that no society can actually operate in any same way while denying all objective truth. So what you have in the contemporary world are two rival visions of truth, sometimes in the very same mind. You have a level of objective truth, and that’s understood to be, well to go back to our story about a break-in in a home or the robbery of a store, there are facts and those facts are merely be taken as facts, they’re facts because they are true because they correspond with reality. But when it comes to a question of morality, well, there’s a second dimension of truth, and that’s often hand-in-hand with the rejection of the fact that there can be any moral facts there are only moral opinions. The Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer pointed to this in his most important book, that book was written in 1968, the title, Escape from Reason. Schaefer famously argued that in the modern secular mind there was actually a two-story picture of truth; a lower story that consisted of facts and an upper story that merely contained opinions. The lower story was cognitive, the upper story was noncognitive. As Schaefer indicated, the denial of objective truth in matters of morality was the modern age’s way of putting all those questions, that it wanted to answer in a very different way, beyond the cognitive level of facts into the noncognitive level of mere opinion.
So we have to recognize that the modern age has been trying to argue that there are some facts, those facts are understood to be true, true in the sense that they correspond with reality. In the modern cultural moment you see this especially affirmed amongst persons who reduce all matters of fact to what’s often limited to science, fact-based research they say. But when it comes to questions of morality such as whether or not an unborn human life is actually human, whether or not abortion is right or wrong, whether we can know that abortion is either right or wrong as moral facts, well at that stage everything’s simply kicked up into the second story into a matter of opinion, then it’s just a matter of which opinion gains majority status and support. We need to understand that that is the essence of modern politics and cultural conversation. We need to understand that that is the worldview that drives those identified as the cultural creatives, those who are the producers and the directors and the storytellers in Hollywood and beyond. We need to understand what Francis Schaeffer warned about as this two-story picture of truth, it is being drilled through every level of the culture, it is being drilled especially through every level of education, particularly higher education, but there’s plenty of evidence these days that it is also being drilled down even into kindergarten and grade school in terms of much of the official curriculum.
It is encouraging, in one sense, that the New York Times is so interested in truth, even if it comes in the form of a self advertisement, but when it states that the truth has never been more important, Christians agree with every single word so long as it’s followed by the fact that the truth has never been less important either. For Christians, the truth is not just important, it is ultimate.
Next, I turn to looking at that deep cultural divide we see an America, we’re not the only ones who see it, the New York Times and others see it as well, sometimes referring to not just one America but two Americas speaking of that very deep moral and cultural divide. Recently, the New York Times ran a front-page article by Tim Arango, the headline,
“One America Fights Another As Rift Widens.”
The subhead is interesting,
“California pushes back against White House.”
Now it’s not just California and the White House, but that particular dynamic is the initiating catalyst of the story. It’s really about that great worldview divide that separates Americans, and when it comes the state of California there is no doubt where the majority of the political leaders in that state stand, almost all of them are California Democrats. But when it comes to the rest of America, is California now foreign country? Arango writes,
“In many ways it feels like that these days, as the growing divide between California and the Trump administration erupted this past week over a dizzying range of flash points, from immigration to taxes to recreational marijuana use.”
I think in many ways it’s that last issue that has the front place attention here. Last week Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal government would be reversing a few Obama era executive orders that it indicated that the Department of Justice would not pursue investigations and prosecutions of federal marijuana laws. There are now about eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana, and the Obama administration had announced that where the states had done so, the feds would not prosecute even though in all 50 states and in all American territories the use, the possession, the distribution, and the sale of marijuana remains a federal crime. So you now have a dynamic between those states that have legalized marijuana and the federal government, but what’s really interesting is what this shows us about how, in a moral Civil War, people or states for that matter can change sides and change arguments pretty quickly. Back during the 1950s and 1960s it was largely southern states using a state’s rights argument who sought to defend segregation laws and the larger nation, especially led by those who were ardently anti-segregation, argued that the states had no right to violate federal laws or federal decrees. That was a major dynamic, on the one hand you had an argument about states rights, on the other hand you had a prevailing argument about federal supremacy on such questions, but when it comes to marijuana all of a sudden California is singing a very different tune. California has learned to sing the anthem of state’s rights over the issue particularly of legalized marijuana.
We have often observed that the closer you get to one of the oceanic coasts the more liberal the society becomes on many moral and cultural issues. That’s true on the East Coast, but particularly in the Northeast, but it is true on the entirety of the West Coast, the United States Pacific Coast. Just consider this political profile,
“In California, every state leader is a Democrat, including the governor and the leaders of the State Senate and Assembly. Of the state’s 53 members in Congress, only 14 are Republicans, and,”
the article in the Times goes on to say,
“analysts believe several of them are in [serious political] jeopardy [in the 2018 midterm elections].”
One of the interesting dimensions of this article in the Times is that it identifies a certain impulse in this liberal direction in the state of California and traces it back to the Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He had begun to use the language of California being
“an almost nation-state. And,”
Then, as the paper goes on to say,
“many Californians feel that way.”
The most important issue for us is to understand that the worldview distinction is real and that eventually it becomes tangible in politics, in laws, legislation, and policies. California knows that; frankly, we all know that, but what you’re looking at in this article is the recognition of a very deep divide that seems only to be getting wider and deeper at the cultural moment. Interestingly, with many other issues also on the table, marijuana has emerged as one of the key issues of contention leading even a state like California all of a sudden to begin talking about state’s rights reversing the very kind of arguments it had made decades ago. But that really goes both ways when you consider the fact that the current US Attorney General Jeff Sessions was making many of the same arguments in terms of very different issues also a matter of decades ago. What makes the story even more interesting to Christians is our understanding, just as we were discussing on the previous story, that that divide is actually deeper than the secular mind can understand.
Meanwhile, as we’re the thinking about the media programming and advertising, a story in yesterday’s edition of the Times indicated that more TV shows are now vying for our eyeballs than in any previous time in history. Last year, John Koblin tells us, there were 487 original scripted programs, that’s a record breaker that follows last year’s record breaker of 455. Koblin explains,
“The staggering growth largely comes from the seemingly endless budget lines that help produce new shows for streaming services.”
Now one of the things we need to note is that we are looking here at streaming services primarily. The big three producers of scripted programs on television now are FX, HBO, and Netflix. Now just remember that that’s contrasted with what we would’ve understood even a matter of just a decade ago. Where are CBS and NBC and ABC, not to mention the major cable networks of yore. But from a Christian perspective, one of the most interesting aspects here is what this underlines in terms of the continued influence of television programming, it’s not going away, it’s not going away in terms of influence in the culture, it’s also not going away in terms of the competition for our eyeballs because this is where we always need to remind ourselves that programming is not really to entertain us, it is to entertain us in order to send advertising to us. That’s what pays the bills. Make the mistake, Hollywood does want to send moral messages in its entertainment but it can only do so successfully if it gets advertisers to foot the bill, and it’s a big bill. We are told in this news article that Netflix is going to spend over $8 billion in terms of production for this programming in just the next 12 months; $8 billion. I also found it interesting to find embedded in this article that just about every one of these individual programs cost on average $3 million. Somebody’s got to pay for a lot of advertising to make that commercially worthwhile.
Meanwhile our advertising does reveal a great deal about ourselves, that’s why I was drawn to another article this time in the advertising column of theNew York Times. Joanne Kaufman writes that if you think you’re seeing more drug ads on television, you actually are. Koplin tells us that
“According to Kantar Media, a firm that tracks multimedia advertising, 771,368 [drug] ads were shown in [the last year documented, which is] 2016.”
There is every reason to believe there were more in 2017 and will be more in 2018. That number again over, 770,000 drug ads. She goes on to report by means of citing John Swallen,
“TV ad spending by pharmaceutical companies has more than doubled in the past four years, making it the second-fastest-growing category on television during that time.”
Now one of the interesting things is what’s documented in this article about this shift in these drug ads. It’s no longer primarily driven by pharmaceuticals for what would be called minor health problems, it’s now for major and massive health problems. Why? Well the article the Times argues it is because the television audience is trending older and because we are living longer, and as we do so more serious health problems represent themselves and the drug companies are battling amongst themselves in the war for our health and more urgently for our health dollars.
It’s also perhaps interesting to note that these health advertisements, drug ads, are directed primarily at television viewers for dramas and news shows. Speaking of the newly more serious drugs addressed in these ads, we are told by Thomas Lom, a consultant,
“In the old days, it was allergies and acid reflux and whatnot. … Now, it’s cardiology issues. It’s cancer.”
Now if you’ve been looking at these ads you’re probably thinking what I’m thinking, how would anyone want to take these drugs once they have to tell us what the FDA requires, which is about the potential side effects, some of them truly horrifying, some potentially clarifying, others, admittedly, mystifying. But one of the interesting dimensions of what’s reported in this story is that all of those dreaded side effects the FDA requires to be cited don’t seem to have much of an effect upon the impact of the advertising. Part of this is because, authorities say in the article, that drugs that are to have a dramatic effect, well, are understood to sometimes come with dramatic other effects. But there’s something else in the article about the confusion that comes with white noise. That is to say we find ourselves tuning out what we’re not really interested to hear, and it tells us something about human nature, that we are more interested to hear the benefits of the drug than what might be the unavoidable side effects. But authorities in the article also say that the advertising might actually appear to be more credible and more truthful if the side effects are listed along with the primary benefit, but that takes us back to where we started on the issue of truth. It turns out that even a society in a modern age that wants to escape the question of truth simply can’t.
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.)
Is smoking marijuana a sin?
Well, it used to be that you could say, “Yes, because it’s illegal.” And that would be that.
But now that marijuana is legal medicinally and recreationally, is it still sin?
All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
Often, marijuana is compared to drinking alcohol or caffeine, but they are not the same. You can drink a glass of wine and not get drunk; or have a cup of coffee and still operate heavy machinery. But, if you take one puff on a joint or a bite of “Aunt Mary Jane’s Special Brownies”, you get high. The whole point of marijuana is to alter the consciousness, which diminishes your thinking and functioning.
While God does not put an absolute prohibition on drinking alcohol, it is always sin to be intoxicated. Drunkenness, whether by the vine or the weed, is not of the spirit but of the flesh. Those who do it will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-20)
But marijuana is a plant, and it was made by God, so that makes it good for us!
Yeah… there are plenty of poisonous plants you don’t apply that logic to.
Adam and Eve ate of a forbidden plant. How did that turn out for them?
1 Peter 4 says:
Live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they’re surprised when you don’t join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:2-5)
The Bible says, Be sober minded. (1 Peter 5:8); and Have the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5); Set your mind on the things of God. (Matthew 16:23). You mind should not be mastered by anything else…
…when we understand the text.
I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
At the forefront of biomedical ethics is controversy over the experimentation that is now being conducted and might in the future be conducted with human embryos. A really interesting report came out last week on National Public Radio’s morning edition program by science editor Rob Stein. He writes,
“Ali Brivanlou slides open a glass door at the Rockefeller University in New York to show off his latest experiments probing the mysteries of the human embryo.
“‘As you can see, all my lab is glass — just to make sure there is nothing that happens in some dark rooms that gives people some weird ideas.’”
At this point Rob Stein said that Brivanlou was “perhaps only half joking.”
But this is where we need to understand that this kind of joke is pointing to a very deep moral reality that actually represents an urgent moral crisis, and that is the fact that those weird ideas that this researcher talks about is actually not just science fiction, something that might happen in the future, it’s about what is happening right in his laboratory as reported in this NPR story right now. Brivanlou, according to Stein, knows that some of his research makes people uncomfortable. Stein says that’s one reason he’s agreed to give the science editor at NPR a look at what’s going on. The summary of the research is very clear. In this particular lab and others they’ve now discovered how to keep human embryos alive in lab conditions longer than ever before, at least 14 days. That’s the claim being made about Brivanlou’s lab and at least one other.
The big story here is the keeping the embryos longer than 14 days. And actually, the big story is the ability to keep those embryos available and alive for experimentation for over 14 days. Now why is that such a big story? Well, it’s a huge story as this NPR report makes clear precisely because 14 days had been established for two reasons. First of all, it was the point at which a moral boundary was thought to be crossed with what scientists at least had defined as “individuation.” But there was also a second issue, and that’s merely technological. It was not believed that laboratories would have the ability to keep those embryos alive past 14 days. To state the merely obvious, this is a human embryo that is in a laboratory situation and is not as embryos were intended to be implanted in a mother’s womb. But Rob Stein now reports Brivanlou in his lab and at least one other,
“Discovered how to keep human embryos alive in lab dishes longer than ever before — at least 14 days. That has triggered an international debate about a long-standing convention (one that’s legally binding in some countries, though not in the U.S.) that prohibits studying human embryos that have developed beyond the two-week stage.”
Now if you could see the story you would understand that there was a parenthetical statement there. Inside the parenthesis, speaking of this convention that embryo research could not continue beyond 14 days, we were told that this is one—a convention that is—that’s legally binding in some countries, though not in the U.S. Now that’s a very soon clarification, because not only is this kind of moral law not binding in the United States on medical researchers, but there are almost no legal restraints whatsoever in terms of human experimentation on embryos in the United States. Let’s be clear, at this point there is no law in the United States preventing experimentation on human embryos even to the point of attempting to clone a human being. That effort might be beyond our technological ability, but at this point it’s not actually against the law.
When Stein reports what’s going on in this laboratory and the pressing against current moral barriers, we are told that Brivanlou is using human stem cells to “create entities that resemble certain aspects of primitive embryos.”
According to the NPR report,
“Brivanlou doesn’t believe that these ‘embryoids,’” as he calls them in contrast to human embryos, “would be capable of developing into fully formed embryos, their creation has stirred debate about whether embryoids should be subject to the 14-day rule.”
So to cut to the chase, the key question at first is this, what would actually be the distinction between a human embryo, acknowledged by all persons to be a human embryo, and what this researcher wants to call merely an embryoid? Well, it becomes clear that origin is at least part of the explanation, because human embryos as they have been defined, are products of human cells, that is the male and the female reproductive cell. This particular entity he’s calling an embryoid would actually be the product of stimulating human stem cells to create something very much like an embryo. Of course, the question is, how much like an embryo? And the answer is that this particular researcher doesn’t think that these embryoids will be capable of developing into a fully human embryo, but there’s actually nothing biological that explains why they would not. This could well end up being a distinction without a difference.
Right here in this story broadcast last week on National Public Radio we see how researchers keep pushing past not only previously unreachable technological barriers, but moral barriers as well. We are told at one time this will be the absolute moral barrier that will protect human dignity, and the next thing you know, once the technological barrier is crossed or at least it looks like the technological barrier might be crossed, you see scientists arguing that now we have to loosen the moral concerns as well. For example, Brivanlou says that he welcomes debates about human embryo research,
“But he hopes society can reach a consensus to permit his work to continue, so he can answer some of humanity’s most fundamental questions.”
Now that’s exactly the kind of devil’s bargain that we see again and again. If you just allow us to cross this moral barrier, we will cure cancer. If you just allow us to cross the next moral barrier, we will eventually defeat mortality and death. And here we are told that if you just allow this researcher to cross this moral boundary,
“He can answer some of humanity’s most fundamental questions.”
What are those questions? Brivanlou said,
“If I can provide a glimpse of, ‘Where did we come from? What happened to us, for us to get here?’ I think that, to me, is a strong enough rationale to continue pushing this.”
There you have a very straightforward claim being made by this scientist. It’s a moral imperative in his view that we simply have to allow him to keep expanding this research in order to answer fundamental questions, questions so basic as, where did we come from? He claims he can answer those questions if we will just allow him to expand the moral boundaries to create embryoids, as he calls them, and to allow them to pass that 14 day limit.
But even as Stein tells us, for decades scientists thought the longest an embryo could survive outside the womb was only about a week, but this has now enabled scientists to continue research pressing beyond that to study “living human embryos at a crucial point in their development, a time when they’re usually hidden in a woman’s womb.”
Now there’s an amazing concession. The embryo, in other words, would be exactly where it belongs, in a woman’s womb. The researcher said,
“Women don’t even know they are pregnant at that stage. So it has always been a big black box.”
There is an absolutely amazing testimony in this article to the wonder of God’s creation, not only of the entire cosmos and even of human beings in particular as the only creature made in his image, but every single human being and that includes, of course, every single human embryo. One of the most amazing things in this article is that the researchers explain that,
“Those willowy structures are what embryos would normally extend at this stage to search for a place to implant inside the uterus. Scientists used to think embryos could do that only if they were receiving instructions from the mother’s body.”
“The amazing thing is that it’s doing its thing without any information from mom. It just has all the information already in it. That was mind-blowing to me.”
Well to Christians, it should simply be an affirmation of the fact that God has implanted within this embryo the entire plan for its implantation in its mother’s womb, and of course God’s plan beyond that for the entire life of a single individual human being.
Scientism is actually one of the major rival worldviews to biblical Christianity in our age. Scientism holds that the experimental method of science, modern secular science, actually holds the key to discovering the basic knowledge of the universe outside of ourselves and inside of ourselves. Scientism holds that science is the authoritative form of knowledge, everything else has to conform to the norms of modern science, and furthermore, this creates a cast of specialists who are scientists who hold the upper hand in any kind of public debate. That’s exactly what we see in this article. The argument that we hear from so many scientists that if something can be done, it must be done and in the promise that if they are just allowed to do this they will bring about modern miracles. As Stein says,
“The two scientists think studying embryos at this and later stages could lead to discoveries that might point to new ways to stop miscarriages, treat infertility and prevent birth defects.”
Now just remember that Brivanlou a few paragraphs previous had promised to unleash and unlock the entire secret to the universe if only he would be allowed to proceed with this experimentation. Stein summarizes the report as telling us that Brivanlou and his colleagues now believe that they can encourage human embryos to live beyond 14 days, and thus to be subjects of human experimentation. They argue that this can be done so it must be done. It is acknowledged that the 14 day rule is actually in place for moral reasons. As Stein says,
“The 14-day rule was developed decades ago to avoid raising too many ethical questions about experimenting on human embryos.”
But Brivanlou now says it is time to rethink the 14 day rule. This is the moment, he says, and we are told that this debate is now taking place outside the United States.
Here we find another argument we will encounter over and over again, it comes down to this. If we do not conduct this research, then someone else will. Better we do it, comes the argument, given our superior morality than allowing others to do it, for perhaps nationalistic or even racial reasons. Another dimension is revealed when a bioethicist is cited from Case Western Reserve University, he also advocates revisiting the rule as it’s said here,
“It would allow more research to be done on embryos that are destined to be destroyed anyway, he says — embryos donated by couples who have finished infertility treatment.”
Well, what’s not acknowledged here is that we’re talking about a market in and experimentation on human embryos that are “destined to be destroyed anyway.”
At this point, the Christian worldview simply has to interject and say, here’s a huge problem when you’re talking about experimentation on human embryos, that’s one problem, and then destroying those embryos. Those who are committed to a biblical Christian understanding of human dignity and human personhood have to understand that what that means is the willful destruction of a human being, a human being at a very early stage of development.
I’m thankful that NPR at least quoted a bioethicist at Georgetown University who has very serious moral concerns. He said,
“Pushing it beyond 14 days only aggravates what is the primary problem, which is using human life in its earliest stages solely for experimental purposes.”
That researcher, Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, gets the issue absolutely right. Later in the article when Dr. Brivanlou tries to assure us that his embryoids that might become a human embryo would not actually become a human being. He offers us this comfort,
“They will not get up start walking around. I can assure you that.”
That is cold comfort, indeed, what we’re looking at here is the devaluation of human life, not only in the laboratory when we’re talking about a human embryo, but every single human life at every single point of development, every stage of life. It’s important for us to understand the major worldviews of the day, the rival worldviews to Christianity. Scientism is, as I said, one of the most important and powerful of those rival worldviews. And in this article we see exactly how the worldview of Scientism works. If it can be done, it must be done. If it might be done, we should be the doers. Technological barriers are meant to be crossed and if that means tearing down moral barriers, then so be it. The scariest aspect of this article is where the researchers talk openly about the need for another clear stopping point. What’s abundantly clear is that when it comes to the worldview of Scientism, there is no stopping point.
Next in recent days, a major research report on Muslims and Islam was released by the Pew Research Center, one of the most authoritative research institutions in the world, especially when it comes to understanding religion and religious worldviews across the globe. As the Pew Research Center tells us, in terms of the key findings of this research, perhaps the biggest is that Muslims are now the fastest-growing religious group in the world. Muslims are actually the only religious group in the world growing faster than the world’s own population. Every other major world religion, Christianity included, is actually falling behind the rise of the population. So the population rate is growing faster than Christianity is expanding, and that’s true of every other major worldview with the exception of Islam.
There are a couple of reasons given for that. In terms of the Pew data, one of the most important of these comes down to reproduction. In the Muslim world reproduction rates are extremely high, as is the average age of the population. Those two issues, by the way, go together. The younger the population, the more likely there’s going to be a high rate of reproduction. In terms of basic numbers, we’re told that Islam is expected to grow by 73% between the years 2010 and 2050, even as the world’s population is going to grow by 37% over the same period. When it comes to Christians, the expectation is that those who identify as Christians, in terms of the global population will increase by about 35% over the same period. So to get this straight, Christian growth about 35%, growth in the population at large 37%, growth in Islam, 73%. That’s a massive fact.
In terms of projections, in 2010 there were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, 2.17 billion Christians. But by 2050, there will be 2.76 billion Muslims and 2.92 billion Christians, again, more Christians than Muslims projected by the year 2050. But if the projections continue, all that switches by at least 2070 when Islam will have a larger number of followers than those who identify as Christians.
There are many interesting dimensions in this research. For one thing, even though there are many Middle Eastern nations that are overwhelmingly Muslim, only a small fraction of the world’s Muslim population actually lives in the Middle East, only about 20%; 80% live elsewhere. The vast majority of the world’s Muslims live in Asia and in Africa. At present, the largest population of Muslims in the world is in the nation of Indonesia, but this research indicates that that country is likely to be eclipsed by India, which will remain overwhelmingly Hindu but still have the largest Muslim population of any nation on earth.
A final look at this research also tells us something really interesting. As The Telegraph reports,
“Atheists, agnostics and non-religious people will decline from 16.4 per cent of the world’s population to 13.2 per cent by 2050, the report added, despite growing in Europe and North America.”
So let’s just ask the question, if we’ve been talking about a resurgence of agnosticism and atheism, the rise of the so-called nones or those with no religious affiliation, how in the world can they actually be a declining portion of the world’s population? The reason for that is quite simple. The exception to that will be in Europe and in North America which are continuing a secular trajectory, but the other factors that will limit the growth of the total population of unbelievers is the fact that, well you’ve guessed it, they actually are the least likely of all of these religious groups to reproduce.
Atheists have lots of ideas and no shortage of theories, but it turns out they don’t have many children. One of the reasons we should also note that Christianity is at a falling birthrate is because so many Christians, especially in secularized nations, have made some peace with the secular worldview, and we also need to note that liberal theology is similarly tied to a fall in the birth rate among Christians. The research released last week is really important. It’s expected that it will be of great interest to political and economic leaders around the world. But to Christians it should serve as a wake-up call, a wake-up call about a vast change taking place not only in the global picture, but even more importantly in our mission field.
Finally, the issue of marijuana was back on the front page of several newspapers, two of them from California, yesterday’s editions of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Fresno Bee. First, we look to San Francisco, where it’s reported that,
“Former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and her physician husband, Dr. Floyd Huen, are turning their talents from politics to pot — and not with the greatest of results.”
The Chronicle tells us that the former Mayor and her husband “are partners in a medical marijuana dispensary looking to be licensed in San Francisco’s heavily Asian American Outer Sunset [neighborhood].”
But it’s really interesting here that the neighborhood evidently doesn’t want this medical marijuana dispensary. It’s a sign of the times that one of the arguments being made in favor of this marijuana dispensary in this neighborhood in the San Francisco area is that it will be necessary in order to demonstrate the increased diversity of the cannabis corporate community. You can see that coming. The doctor husband of the former Mayor said,
“It’s important that Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities take positions of leadership within the cannabis business community to bring greater diversity to the industry.”
But here we simply have to note that the entire story is about a predominately Asian neighborhood that doesn’t want this medical marijuana dispensary down the street from their children.
The story in yesterday’s edition of the Fresno Bee is interesting as much for its headline as anything else. The article by Rory Appleton has the headline,
“Fresno Councilman’s column on pot misstates use by children.”
This is a fact check column in the Fresno Bee and Appleton writes,
“Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld announced his opposition Monday to recreational marijuana and said he will ask the City Council to impose a dispensary ban.”
We are told he’s the first councilmember in Fresno to call for such a prohibition. And then we are told that in a post he had written in order to explain his position, he made some claims, including this one,
“Since the legalization of marijuana in numerous states, the National Institute of Drug Abuse has found that marijuana use has climbed among 10th and 12th graders across the nation.”
Fact checker says that’s false. He cites research from the very same organization, that’s the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which on its website says,
“Marijuana use declined among 8th and 10th graders and remains unchanged.”
Now, which is true? Well, it probably has something to do with the actual subject category and whether it’s talking about a local or a national issue. But in any event, the headline was telling us that this Councilman’s column on marijuana misstates the use of marijuana by children. But what’s really interesting is that the article continues citing several other citations from the Councilman’s article, including the citation that,
“Proposition 64, also known as the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, not surprisingly passed statewide in November 2016 but wisely failed in Fresno County with 54% of the people voting against legalization.”
The fact checker has to say, well, that’s true.
“53 percent of Fresno voters were against Proposition 64. But what [the councilman] did not note: In the city of Fresno, 51.4 percent voted in favor of it.”
What exactly does that have to do with anything? Well, it tells us what we should already know and that is that those in urban areas are more liberal, more libertarian, more apt to vote for something like this. But you’ll simply note, it’s still only 51.4%. As the article concludes the fact checker looks at several other sections from the Councilman’s speech and basically in every case says true, true, true—true that these dispensaries can open for business if allowed on January 1, 2018; true that Proposition 64 now allows individuals 21 years or older to legally smoke marijuana; and to grow up to six plants in their home even if they are next elementary schools, it turns out that’s true; and true, additionally, Proposition 64 allows these dispensaries to advertise and promote marijuana on television, though commercials promoting smoking have been banned for decades. It turns out again that’s true. There might be some question as to whether the media will allow such advertising, especially since the use and possession of marijuana remains a federal crime, but there is no prohibition per se on such advertisements. And then finally what’s really important,
“The AAA Foundation for Highway Safety reports that deaths in marijuana-related car crashes have doubled since the State of Washington approved legalization.”
The fact checker says,
“True. The foundation’s website notes that the deaths [from smoking marijuana and driving] doubled from 2013 to 2014.”
All that’s really interesting and sufficiently concerning, but what’s really most interesting to me is the headline in the article. It’s about where the Councilman was wrong or its claim was wrong talking about rates of childhood and teenage marijuana smoking. But when you get to the article, and there is the affirmation that indeed traffic deaths from marijuana use have increased by 100% in just one year, and when it’s found to be true, the big question is, why in the world wasn’t that the headline? And when you think about it, I think we actually know the answer. There’s no question where the major media on this issue really stand.
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 e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
In this first segment from our “Effectively Engaging Our Culture” webcast, we investigate how Christians can effectively engage our ever-changing culture in the 21st century. John Stonestreet of the Colson Center and Summit Ministries shares his views on Christian worldview, as well as current events and issues.
Hello and welcome to Parent Like You Mean It – the podcast where we examine healthy ways to stretch yourself beyond what is comfortable or convenient and into what is intentional and purposeful in regards to raising your kids. I’m Jefferson Drexler, and just like you, I want my kids to be accepted and viewed as “normal”, without compromising an inch of their integrity and values.
Which brings me right to this week’s topic: should good Christian parents allow their kids to participate in yoga?
I have seen one article after another basically saying, “Absolutely not! It’s the ‘gateway drug’ to all things ungodly. Spiritually speaking, you may as well dance with the devil, himself (or at least Ganesha).”
On the flipside, I have spoken with several others who say, “I know the origins of yoga, but we don’t ‘go there’. We ignore every utterance of “aligning your chakra” or “centering your chi”. We don’t truly ‘empty ourselves’, because there’s simply too much on my todo list to ignore it all.”
So, what’s the right answer? Both? Neither?
I tend to view things like this from a much broader lens. Lately, my wife and I have been much less concerned about the specificities of what we are allowing into our kids’ live, and more concerned about what is being “normalized” in their lives.
In other words, we look at the things what were once outside of their day-to-day lives, or even considered “taboo”, by their understandings of our rules and family culture, that are now being questioned whether or not they should be moved into the “normal” category of life.
We easily see this in American entertainment.
Once upon a time, any “bad words” at all were kept from all television programming airing before the 11:00 news.
Then came Hill Street Blues.
Hill Street broke ground by showing an intense gunfight where an officer was caught saying “Son of a Bitch” by New York news cameras.
Suddenly, it was normal for “bad words” to be aired in the 10:00 time slot.
It didn’t take long at all before you started hearing more and more previously banned swearing in the 9:00 slot, and even earlier. Now, with hundreds more channels available 24 hours a day, you never know what words you’ll hear as you flip from the Disney channel, through Nickelodeon, past Cartoon Network and into Esquire or AMC.
And no one cares.
It’s become normal.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that all channels should be censored. I’m merely pointing out that what was once taboo in American broadcasting has been redefined as normal.
The same thing applies in movies in regards to language, violence, and partial nudity. I mean, when I was a boy, there wasn’t even a separation of full nudity and partial nudity. If clothing were removed from where they once were, the movie got an R rating. If they kept their underwear on, it got a PG rating. Now, with the advent of PG-13, the lines are blurring and different standards for what is considered “normal” is ever changing.
Combining these two situations, where it was once racy to see married couple Frank Furillo and Joyce Davenport merely talking about their day while in bed (again, Hill Street Blues, after 10:00) – now the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is primetime and promoted like it’s the Super Bowl.
All this to say, there has been a shift in what broadcasting companies and television viewers determine as “normal”.
So, what does this have to do with yoga?
Well, firstly, let’s look at what yoga is “normally” defined as: It’s exercise and core muscle toning through a variety of stretches and poses. Under that normal definition, I see it as totally harmless. Good for you and your kids.
But, wait! There’s more!
It’s really no secret that yoga is derived from an ancient spiritual discipline deeply rooted in Hinduism. It’s traditional poses and origins all point to Hindu gods, rituals, and ideology. One technique that often accompanies the stretching and poses is mentally emptying oneself in order to center and balance oneself.
So, as Bible-believing Christians, do you want that to be a part of your weekly fitness diet? Or, if you would forgive yet another metaphor, can your diet consist of fast food, so long as you don’t partake of the fries, shakes and soda? In other words, can your fitness diet consist of yoga, without the “focusing your id”, “cleansing your aura”, or “bowing before Ganesha”?
Most people would answer yes!
However, then there are those who point to yoga’s origins and protest, insisting that its very foundation is steeped in Hinduism, so therefore has no part in a Christian household.
That’s a tough argument, assuming consistency is a priority in your life. Especially since so many of our Christmas and Easter traditions are steeped in paganism and other non-Christian practices.
You’re wondering why I’m on the fence.
Here’s the deal: I believe that the Bible is very clear on having no other gods but the Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the God Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, hallowed be Thy name” to. That’s the only God – no exception.
Therefore, if the yoga you are working out to hints to any acceptance (or normalization) of another god – run!
Don’t make even the acceptance that there are other gods “normal” in your workout routines, much less in your household.
Likewise, the Bible tells us that we should fill our lives with the Holy Spirit. How does this look? I believe “being filled with the Holy Spirit” is evidenced by your life showing examples of what the Bible calls the “fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Therefore, anything that instructs us to “empty ourselves”, or “empty your mind” runs against this Biblical teaching. We’re not created to be empty. We are meant to be filled!
So, my bottom line on yoga is this – if you work out at home, at a studio, at the beach, at a park… wherever, and you do it in such a matter that doesn’t “normalize” what the Bible clearly defines as out of bounds – stretch away!
However, if your instructor, or studio, or video, or app brings anything into the mix that God wants us to avoid, not in a harmful way, but in a neutral or even helpful way… run!
And my main point is this – I’ve been using television, movies and yoga as simple illustrations of a larger issue facing parents today.
The major question is: What are you “normalizing” in your house? What are the areas that you know were once considered taboo, but because of a shifting culture outside your home’s walls, are now considered “normal”? These things may or may not be harmful to you and your kids, but I guarantee that once they are accepted as normal, they take residence in your home and change the direction of your home’s moral compass.
Am I saying that all television is bad and only hell-bound families subscribe to HBO? Absolutely not!! I am saying that if you allow your kids to watch certain programming because everyone else is, the next level of “questionable shows” will be queued up much sooner than you think. Therefore, maybe you should even reconsider what you and your spouse view as “normal” things to be watching.
Am I saying that Godly homes never have any alcohol except rubbing alcohol and Nyquil?
Absolutely not!! I am saying that the Bible is very clear on not getting drunk. If you want a beer or two at a backyard barbecue, knock one back! If you enjoy a fine glass of Georges Latour or even two-buck-chuck with your steak, swirl and sip away! But if you’re drinking for the purpose of getting buzzed, much less loaded… run!
(You know, now that I think about it, there seems to be a common thread here… maybe we should all just take up running!)
Anyway, the same thing can be said about medicinal marijuana, recreational pot, trashy entertainment, horror flicks, fifty-shades of whatever books… the list goes on and on. Ask yourself what you consider “normal”, what you consider “out of bounds” and how do these boundaries measure up against what Scripture says?
I’m not saying we should all be monks. I am saying that we need to be perpetually on guard to what is being defined as “normal” in the lives of our family and continually discuss with our kids what the Bible says about filling our minds and our bodies with such things.
That is how my wife and I Parent Like We Mean It!
In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the first few verses of Romans, chapter 12. Specifically, we compare how today’s culture might influence our decisions and contrasts them to what the Bible says we should say and do with our lives.
This week’s topics include: what we should wear, what we should drive, who should we have as our friends, should we live with our significant others before getting married, is it ok to smoke pot… and much, much more.
Romans 12:1-3 (TLB)
12 And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you.
3 As God’s messenger I give each of you God’s warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you.
1 Peter 4:1-5 (TLB)
4 Since Christ suffered and underwent pain, you must have the same attitude he did; you must be ready to suffer, too. For remember, when your body suffers, sin loses its power, 2 and you won’t be spending the rest of your life chasing after evil desires but will be anxious to do the will of God. 3 You have had enough in the past of the evil things the godless enjoy—sex sin, lust, getting drunk, wild parties, drinking bouts, and the worship of idols, and other terrible sins.
4 Of course, your former friends will be very surprised when you don’t eagerly join them anymore in the wicked things they do, and they will laugh at you in contempt and scorn. 5 But just remember that they must face the Judge of all, living and dead; they will be punished for the way they have lived.