March 2006


Social conservatives have long said the fight for same-sex marriage will logically extend to other non-traditional forms of marriage such as polygamy. The homosexual community and same-sex marriage apologists balk at the idea, claiming this is nothing more than a slippery slope argument intended to undermine same-sex marriage by scaring people into believing that legalizing same-sex marriage will open the flood-gate for the legalization of other relationships society disapproves of for moral or social reasons. Recent events appear to vindicate the merits of the conservatives’ argument. A pro-polygamy message is emerging out of Hollywood.

 

Hollywood has been instrumental in shaping society’s view of homosexuals. The portrayal of homosexuals and homosexual relationships has been pushed mainstream. Popular TV shows such as Will & Grace, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and Ellen have changed cultural perceptions of homosexuality by portraying homosexuals in a humorous light. It’s hard to disapprove of those who make us laugh. Other popular TV shows have featured episodes in which prominent characters experiment with bisexuality, often involving on-screen kisses between members of the same gender. There is an endless list of movies that include gay characters who are portrayed in a positive light as well: My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Mexican, and Brokeback Mountain to name a few.

 

Having sufficiently penetrated the small and big screens with homosexuality to reshape public conception of homosexuality from bad to good, Hollywood is turning its attention to another social agenda: polygamy. On March 12th HBO began a new series entitled “Big Love,” produced by none other than Tom Hanks. It is about a Salt Lake City businessman named Bill Henrickson, played by Bill Paxton of “Titanic” fame. Bill has three wives and seven children. While the show portrays the peculiar struggles of polygamous relationships, overall it portrays polygamy in a positive light. The message appears to be: “They are a loving family who has occasional family issues just like every other family. They are like the rest of us, so we should be accepting of them.”

 

On Tuesday March 28th, ABC’s left-leaning legal drama, Boston Legal, also aired an episode casting polygamy in a positive light. The show features an all-star cast including William Shatner (Captain Kirk of Star Trek), Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown), and James Spader (The Practice), and reaches a viewing audience of approximately 7.5 million households. In this particular episode Denise Bauer defended a polygamist, arguing that polygamy ought not be illegal because (1) today’s social climate is much different than in years gone by, (2) polygamist relationships “work” for those who are involved in them, (3) and because we are already practicing non-institutionalized “successive” polygamy in our high rates of divorce and remarriage, and non-institutionalized “concomitant” polygamy in our high rates of extramarital affairs.

 

Whatever you might make of these arguments, the fact that they are being made on a national TV show is significant. On the face of it the arguments sound pretty convincing, and I have little doubt that the show impacted the beliefs of many who watched it. I doubt that this will be the last bout of polygamy-friendly displays Hollywood will turn out. With each exposure the moral fabric of this nation will be trimmed down.

 

In days gone we got our philosophy from philosophy books and lectures; today we get our philosophy through the media. TV and movies shape the worldview of many people. They pushed the envelope in promoting homosexuality, and now they are beginning to push the envelope on polygamy. If Hollywood continues with this trend, I would not be surprised if public opinion begins to shift on this issue. And since the principles used to justify same-sex marriage apply equally to polygamy, I would not be surprised if a cultural and legal victory for same-sex marriage will also spell an “around-the-corner” victory for polygamy as well.

 

Quote of the day:

 

“What I didn’t care for about modernism was its tendency toward dogmatism; what I don’t care for about postmodernism is its tendency toward skepticism. I think we’ve jumped out of the frying pan of modernist certainty and into the fire of postmodern uncertainty.”—Dan Wallace

 

Quote of the day:

 

“The concept of God is general and benign–no real threat. But if you talk about Jesus, sparks fly. Jesus is God with a face, not the fill-in-the-blank variety we conform to our own tastes. He can’t be twisted and distorted and stuffed in our back pocket. And that bothers people. If God is silent, it’s anyone’s game. We can speculate all we want and think what we like. But if God speaks, then our opinions don’t matter. He’s the authority on what He’s like and what He wants. We have to take Him as He is, shy brunette or fiery redhead, on His terms not ours.”–Greg Koukl

People tend to have a hard time receiving compliments and correction. When complimenting someone it’s not uncommon for them to deny the compliment, saying something like “No, no, I’m really not X.” The form this takes among pious Christians cautious to avoid the appearance of enjoying the compliment is, “It’s not me. It’s God.” There is some merit to this response, but often it is little more than a false humility we are putting forth. Why can’t we acknowledge our part, and thank the person for their compliment, all the while giving the glory to God? Other people receive compliments so well that they go to their head. Why do we have such a hard time receiving compliments in a balanced and godly manner?

 

 

For most people correction is much more difficult to receive than a compliment. Why? Because no one likes to be wrong, yet alone be told they are wrong. While part of our response to correction may depend on how the correction was delivered, the other part is dependent on our personality and human nature. How do we hear and receive correction with a Christ-like attitude? How can we overcome our natural tendency to become defensive and/or angry with those who correct us?

 

 

What I want you to chime in on, then, is the following questions: What advice do you have on how to receive a compliment, and how to receive correction? What are some basic principles we might follow? What are some basic “responses” that will allow us to comfortably receive compliments and correction without being vain or contentious? Any thoughts?

Should we tolerate hatred and racism? Should we tolerate rape and pedophilia? No. Not even postmodernists would be willing to say yes to this. Clearly, then, tolerance has its limits. John Locke argued that while there is much we should tolerate, there remain some things that are simply intolerable. Our job is to figure out which is which. One thing is clear: tolerance is not a blank check to allow any sort of behavior that man may choose to engage in.

Mark Allen of Life Training Institute had an interesting blog entry today about a case being dubbed “Roe vs. Wade for Men.” Mark wrote:

Here is an interesting article about a lawsuit filed earlier this month by a group called National Center for
Men.
The director of NCM, Mel Freit filed the suit on behalf of 25 year old Matt Dubay in Federal District Court in Michigan. The gist of the lawsuit is that Dubay should not pay to support a child he neither intended to conceive nor wanted to have. At first the argument seems patently absurd, why should men have a right to
insist on a woman having an abortion? 

As the article points out, there is logic in the position being taken by NCM, a logic driven, by of all things, feminism. After all, if the choice of having a child should be the woman’s and the woman’s alone. Shouldn’t the woman, and the woman alone bear the responsibility of that choice? As a feminist attorney put it:

Feminist attorney Karen DeCrow, a former president of the National Organization for Women, has written that “autonomous women making independent decisions about their lives should not expect men to finance their choice.”

 


Interesting argument.

The Barna Research Group’s latest study is concerns the unchurched adult population in America. They found that one third of adult Americans have not attended church in the last six months. Of the nonchurched population, 62% consider themselves Christians, and 24% atheist. Three out of ten non-churched are Catholics, 1 out of five are Baptist. The area of the country with the greatest amount of unchurced adults is the West (43%) and the Northeast (40%). Click here to read the article, to read more about the beliefs and practices of those we are trying to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

Pro-life leader, Scott Klusendorf of the Life Training Institute, was tackling the charge that evangelicals are too involved with politics. He argued that you can’t say Christians are too political unless you can demonstrate the following:

1. that Evangelicals as a whole are spending more money on political campaigns than they are on world missions and evangelism

2. that Evangelicals as a whole are spending more time lobbying their Congressmen than sharing Christ with friends at work

3. that Evangelicals as a whole are talking with their friends more about George W. Bush than they are Jesus Christ

4. that a majority of Evangelicals are politically savvy enough to know how a bill gets introduced in Congress and how to either defeat it or affirm it with coordinated lobbying efforts

5. that a majority of Evangelicals could tell you the current political state of affairs on key issues like abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and cloning (for example, what does Roe v. Wade and it’s companion case Doe v. Bolton really say? What are the two competing cloning bills before Congress for the last three years and how do they differ?)

6. that a majority of Evangelicals could convey the moral logic of the pro-life position to friends and neighbors

7. that a majority of Evangelicals could name their Congressman, two federal Senators, State Senator, and State Representative.

8. that a majority of Evangelicals actually vote in most elections

9. that even 1 percent of Evangelical churches with 500 members or more are equipping their people to persuasively defend a pro-life worldview in the secular marketplace of ideas

Based on this test I would say only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of conservative Christians are too politically involved. Indeed, most need to become more politically involved, living out their faith in the public square where they can make a real moral difference.

Father Thomas Williams had much to say regarding the recent statement issued by 55 Catholic Democrats from the House of Representatives, trying to reconcile their pro-choice views with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Some excerpts:

To justify their position, the authors of the statement appeal to the so-called “primacy of conscience.” Yet conscience is not a pass to excuse wrongdoing. Would it make any difference if a serial killer claimed he was following his conscience when he murdered his victims? Even if the politicians are following their conscience, Catholic morality makes an important distinction between good conscience and bad conscience, and a conscience that sees nothing wrong with killing the innocent falls decidedly in the second category….

 

And as regards its “undesirability,” this poorly chosen term will likely provoke only indignation. Hangnails are undesirable; under-seasoned salads are undesirable; lines at the cash register are undesirable. Abortion is repugnant and evil.
http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/williams200603140813.asp

Paul Hill was convicted for killing an abortion doctor and his security guard. Hill’s rationale for his actions was as follows: “Whatever force is legitimate in defending a born child is legitimate in defending an unborn child.” First Things (journal of religion, culture, and public life) asked several pro-life apologists to respond to Hill’s rationale (back in 1994).

Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, wrote with both wit and hint of sarcasm:

I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in a sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view. Of course, I am entirely in favor of policies aimed at removing the root causes of violence against abortionists. Indeed, I would go so far as to support mandatory one-week waiting periods, and even nonjudgmental counseling, for people who are contemplating the choice of killing an abortionist. I believe in policies that reduce the urgent need some people feel to kill abortionists while, at the same time, respecting the rights of conscience of my fellow citizens who believe that the killing of abortionists is sometimes a tragic necessity-not a good, but a lesser evil. In short, I am moderately pro-choice.

http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9412/articles/killing.html#George

If you substitute the word “abortionists” with “fetus” you will have the typical abortion-choice argument offered by those who claim to be pro-life “personally,” but don’t want to impose their personal beliefs on others who may disagree. George capitalized on their rhetoric and used it against them in his satirical reply. Most people reading his comments would be horrified if they thought he was being serious, and that is what George wants. Why? Because if the unborn are just as human as the born, then the outrage they feel at such reasoning should be applied equally to the issue of abortion.

If we would not give people the choice to kill of abortion doctors on the grounds that (1) it is a matter of conscience and religion, and (2) we cannot impose our personal opposition to the practice on others, then we should not allow the choice to kill the unborn using those same justifications.

HT to Scott Klusendorf for bringing this back-issue of First Things to my attention.

 

Opinion Dynamics Corp conducted a poll for Fox News to get a feel for the nation’s reaction to South Dakota’s abortion ban (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,187083,00.html). ODC found that only 35% of Americans would support the same legislation in their own state, whereas 59% would oppose it. Why? Three out of four people (74%) oppose it because it does not make an exception for abortion in cases of rape and incest (political breakdown: 82%=independents, 79%=democrats, 67%=republicans), and 62% oppose it because it does not make an exception for the mother’s health (not to be confused with an exception to save the mother’s life, which the law does have).

I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss the issue of abortion as it pertains to rape and incest. It has been my experience—and these polls show—that many who generally consider themselves pro-life and oppose abortion on demand, allow for abortion in cases of rape and incest.

While I understand the emotional appeal of this position, it is not a rational position for pro-lifers to take because it is inconsistent with the pro-life logic. If it is wrong to take the life of the unborn because they are human beings, and the unborn “thing” produced by the rape or incest is a human being, then it is wrong to purposely take its life. A human being is what it is regardless of the circumstances surrounding its conception.

When someone says they are opposed to abortion except in cases of rape and incest, ask them why they believe abortion is morally wrong in all other cases. They will probably say something to the effect that they are opposed to abortion in those cases because it unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. At that point ask them, “Does abortion do something different to those children conceived through rape or incest?” The circumstances under which the child was conceived is morally irrelevant to the question of their worth as members of the human race.

There is no question that rape is a violent assault against an innocent women, and entirely unjust, but abortion is a violent assault against an innocent child. Why decry the one injustice, but allow the other? Would we allow a woman to kill her three month old because he was conceived by rape? If it is not morally acceptable to kill the child once it is outside of the womb because of the circumstances surrounding his/her conception, why is it permissible for her to kill her child so long as it is still in the womb for the same reason? Certainly the 8” travel down the birth canal does nothing to change what the unborn is.

Most pro-lifers who allow for abortion in cases of rape and incest do so for emotional reasons. They say, “It’s not fair to require a woman to carry a baby that was conceived through incest or rape to term because of the emotional pain it will cause the mother.” There is no question that it can be an extremely difficult emotional issue, but it is not a difficult moral issue. The most important question is not, Will this cause me emotional pain?, but, “What is the unborn?” Clearly it is a human being, and human beings are the kinds of things that are worthy of our respect and protection.

Furthermore, aborting the baby will do nothing to “unrape” the mother. It will do nothing to make her forget the horror of being raped, and will do nothing to take away her emotional pain. If anything, it will compound her pain, because she will have to deal with both the pain of rape and the pain of aborting her child.

To help someone to see the lunacy of their logic ask them if it’s morally acceptable to kill the rapist/pedophile who committed the crime against the woman. If it is not morally proper to take the life of the human being guilty of committing the moral evil against the girl, why would it be morally proper to take the life of the innocent human being in the womb?” Since when do we force another human being to give up their life so someone else can feel better? Hardship and emotional pain never justifies homicide.


 

For additional reading see my article entitled Pro-Life with a Footnote.

Al Mohler has a great post today by the above title. He examines the issue of “wrongful life” claims that are growing in popularity. While the entire article is worth reading, the last two paragraphs are worth repeating here:


When any life is deemed to be unworthy of living, every single human life is cheapened, discounted, and threatened. We are living in an age increasingly without moral rules–an age in which choices about life and death are now commonly made with specific reference to what kind of child we would welcome, and what quality of life we will accept and protect. The Christian affirmation must be that every single life is worthy of living–every life is worthy of our protection, our care, and our welcome. No one should ever discount the difficulties of dealing with children who are born with severe genetic abnormalities or serious diseases. Most of us, within our extended families or circle of friends, are intimately familiar with just how excruciating many of these situations can be. Nevertheless, these are the very same issues we will all face in terms of issues at the end of life, and at many points between birth and death.

The eugenic temptation is, in this modern age of advanced medical technologies, always too close at hand. If we do not learn to resist it, human dignity will soon rest in the dustbin.

 


I’m sure some of you have already heard that the state of South Dakota passed legislation banning all abortions except in cases where the mother’s life is at stake (Mississippi and Tennessee are considering similar abortion-banning laws). They know such a law is unconstitutional. They passed it as a direct challenge to Roe. They know it will be challenged by pro-abortion groups, and overturned by the lower courts. Their desire is to have it reviewed by the Supreme Court, and their hope is that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe.

While I am pro-life to the core, heartily support the content of this legislation, and want to see Roe challenged, I am strongly opposed to South Dakota’s actions…on a tactical level. As Scott Klusendorf has said, it is the right bill but the wrong time. The strategy seems doomed to fail, and its failure could set the pro-life movement back for years to come, resulting in the unintended effect of more dead babies.

The problem with SD’s strategy is that they forgot how to count. While conservatives have been excited over the recent appointments of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, the fact remains that there are still only four judicial conservatives on the Court. We need five votes to overturn Roe. It’s almost certain that Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Kennedy will uphold Roe. Only Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, and Alito are likely to vote for its demise. Some even doubt that Roberts and Alito would vote against Roe because new justices are less likely to overturn such a precedent.

SD may be betting on the death or retirement of one of the Roe supporters (maybe Stevens) prior to the case reaching the Supreme Court (which I think would take 1-2 years—correct me if I’m wrong Andy or Seni). That could happen but it’s not likely, and is a risky gamble. As Steve Chapman wrote, “But that’s not counting chickens before they’re hatched — it’s counting them before the eggs are even laid.” Besides, if a vacancy did open up on the Court it would make the next nomination battle extremely intense, with the Democrats filibustering any nominee that even hints s/he does not support Roe. If the seat remains vacant when the case is heard, it would be a 4-4 vote and Roe would remain the law of the land. Of course the Supreme Court doesn’t even have to hear the case, in which case it is dead on arrival.

SD may also be betting that Kennedy will decide to vote against Roe. I think this is a false hope. Counting on Kennedy to vote to overturn Roe is quite a gamble, and if the gamble doesn’t go in our favor we’ll be in worse legal position than we are now because Roe will have been directly reaffirmed twice, setting a “super” precedent. A legal defeat now could set us back years in the legal landscape.

I don’t think Kennedy would vote to overturn Roe for two obvious reasons. First, he is fairly liberal in his constitutional philosophy, and Roe rests on that sort of an approach to constitutional interpretation. Secondly, and most importantly, he has already voted to uphold Roe in the past, even if the decision was at the last minute (It’s been said that he was going to vote against Roe in Casey, but was persuaded by O’Connor to change his opinion at the last moment. I don’t know if that is true or not.). So even if he wants to overturn Roe now he is fighting against two precedents: Roe, and his own vote in Casey. Not only does he have the negative pressure of casting a vote to overturn a well-established precedent that millions of women have come to rely on, but he also has the pressure of admitting that his past ruling was mistaken. I think those two hurdles combined are too much for him to overcome, even if he thinks Roe should be overturned (and that is only speculation).

Hopefully SD will have enough sense not to appeal the case once the law is ruled unconstitutional. If we want to see Roe overturned it is best to do so in a piecemeal fashion as we have been (parental notification laws, waiting periods, partial-birth abortion bans, etc.) until we have enough judicially conservative justices on the bench who will overturn Roe for the bad law it is. Then we can challenge Roe. We must be mindful of both the legal and political landscape in which we are working. I don’t think SD considered either. Their legislation makes a wonderful statement, but I don’t think it will be effective for furthering the pro-life cause…at this time.

What do you think?

For further reading on the strategical problems of South Dakota’s approach I would recommend the following:

Costly Gestures

South Dakota’s Impatience on Abortion

A Pro-Life Mistake

Lawyer and bioethicist, Wesley J. Smith, wrote a short piece in The Kansas City Star regarding the true defininition of cloning. If you will remember, it is in Missouri where they are proposing a state constitutional ban on cloning that would actually create a constitution right to clone. According to Smith The KS Star has been parroting the same lies as are found in the proposed amendment, but they were gracious enough to allow him to post an opinion piece presenting the other side. It’s a good read.

The author of the article, Kenneth Chang, was interviewed by the Discovery Institute. Chang came clean on some things and “admitted” that the story was skewed. You can read about it over at the Discovery Institute’s news section here.

Why should we pray for the lost to be saved? Why should we pray for revival? We’ve been told we should, and it is a strongly rooted practice among us, but is the idea of praying for the lost to find salvation a Biblical concept? Is it a reasonable concept? I am persuaded that the answer to both of these questions is no.

The Bible repeatedly tells us to pray for the laborers who are harvesting the field of souls, but I am not aware of any passage that tells us to pray for the lost souls themselves. Consider the following passages:

Luke 10:2—Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest. (see also Mt 9:38)
Eph 6:18-19—Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.

Col 4:3—Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:

II Thes 3:1—Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:

If the Bible does not instruct us to pray for the lost, why has the practice become so deeply rooted among us? My personal theory is that we want to believe our prayers for the lost are efficacious for their salvation because it gives us a sense of control. Prayer is something tangible. When we pray it gives us the sense that we have contributed something to the situation so as to possibly affect the outcome we desire. We want to think that our prayers will be instrumentally responsible in someone’s salvation. The more we pray the better chance they have of being saved, we reason. It’s often described as “intercessory prayer” in which we stand before God in their stead. But does the Bible ever describe such “intercessory prayer?” There are 11 passages in Scripture that speak of intercession, none of which ever involve interceding for the salvation of the lost:

Is 53:12—Jesus intercedes for us in His sinless sacrifice

Is 59:6—The intercessor God was looking for was someone to administer justice in an unjust society. Since He could not find one He took it upon Himself to judge

Jer 7:16—God says not to make intercession for Ephraim because He wants to destroy them.

Jer 27:18—Make intercession to God so that temple vessels do not go to Babylon

Jer 36:25—Intercession from one human to another

Rom 8:26—Spirit makes intercession for us through us, not through us for someone else

Rom 8:34—Christ makes intercession for us

Rom 11:2—Elijah interceded for judgment against Israel

I Tim 2:1—Make intercessions for all men, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in godliness

Heb 7:25—Jesus is our high priest who makes intercession for us

In these passages Jesus is interceding for us, or people are interceding on behalf of others requesting that they be judged! Not once do we find someone praying for the lost and such a prayer called “intercession.”

While it is a common belief and practice among us to pray for years for our friends and loved ones who have rejected the Gospel message that they might be saved, we never find the early church praying for people for years on end that they might change their mind about Jesus. They simply preached the Gospel, collected the fruit, and moved on. Some accepted the message while others rejected it. Those who accepted it were welcomed into the believing community. Those who rejected it were left to themselves. The apostles moved on to other places and other people. In Acts 18:6 Luke said that when the Jews rejected Paul’s message he shook his clothes and said, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” According to Paul he did his duty in preaching the message of Christ. How his audience chose to respond was up to them. They were responsible for their choice, not Paul. So when they chose to reject the message Paul moved on to other people and locations. He did not stick around and continue pleading with them to change their hearts and minds toward Christ. He followed Jesus’ advice not to cast pearls before pigs, and Jesus’ instructions to the Twelve and seventy to brush the dust off their shoes and move on to the next city if their message was rejected (Mt 10; Mk 6; Lk 9, 10). Our job is to preach the Gospel, not to ensure the results. If those who hear the Gospel accept it, we are delighted. If they don’t accept it, we mourn their fate but we move on. I am afraid that we waste too much precious time preaching to and praying for those whose hearts are hard toward God, having freely chosen to reject Him.

On the logical end of things, what do we think praying for people to be saved accomplishes? If we say enough prayers for someone, is God going to overrule their free will and force them to be saved? Of course not! If God was in the business of making people serve Him evangelism would not be necessary, and free will would be a farce. So what’s the point of praying for the lost, then? Do we think it will motivate God to work “overtime” in their lives? Do we honestly think God is just sitting around twiddling His thumbs until we say our prayer, and then He kicks it into high gear? Of course not! God is already actively doing all He can do to bring the lost to saving faith, whether we pray for them or not. He loves them more than we ever could. That’s why He paid the ultimate sacrifice for them: He gave His life in exchange for theirs. When did He determine to do this? After we prayed? No, before we ever even existed! So if our prayers for the lost cannot make God work any harder on their hearts, and our prayers cannot change the will of the sinner, what is the purpose in praying for them?

How does this tie into revival? We always hear “Pray for revival to come,” but revival is not the kind of thing that comes through prayer. Souls are saved through the preaching of the Gospel, not by a well-meaning saint praying in the prayer room. Our prayer lives may help us be the kind of Christians we need to be to engage the unbelieving public with the Gospel (boldness, character), but prayers for the lost are not efficacious in themselves. Strangely enough, spending lots of time praying for revival may actually hinder revival because it keeps us from doing the one thing that brings revival: evangelism.

This may sound cold-hearted to some, but I do not mean it that way. I’m just trying to be Biblical in the content of my prayers and my approach toward evangelism. I am trying to think through the things we do, weighing them against Scripture and reason. I am still open to being persuaded back toward the traditional understanding/practices if anyone can supply me with some solid Biblical references and a reasonable explanation as to how prayers for the lost can alter their eternal destiny. Would anybody like to give it a shot?

Back on August 9, 2005 I sent an e-blog regarding the proposed and so-called “Human Cloning Ban Act of 2005” of the U.S. Senate. I pointed out how the proposed law did anything but ban cloning. Through an obfuscation and redefinition of basic biological and scientific terms it will do the exact opposite of its title: it will make human cloning legal throughout the United States. The only thing it will ban is a particular use of clones. While researchers are able to kill them for their stem cells, they are not allowed to insert them into a woman’s womb and allow them to be born nine months later. There’s nothing more outrageous than requiring the death of a tiny human being, all the while making it punishable by law to allow it to live! The moral monstrosity of this state-sanctioned creation and murder of human beings is outdone only by the deception through which it is being presented to the American people.

Well, the U.S. Congress is not alone in this move. The state of Missouri has proposed a bill of its own. It is called the “Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative.” (I guess they figured a nearly identical title worked for CA, so they might as well try it too) It also proposes to ban cloning, stating that “no person may clone or attempt to clone a human being.” But like the federal legislation, it does anything but prevent cloning. The obfuscation and deception involved in this bill far surpasses that of the federal proposal. I will quote several portions of the proposed legislation, followed by my comments in blue which detail the nature of the obfuscation.

Statement 1—“No human blastocyst may be produced by fertilization solely for the purpose of stem cell research.”

I wonder why it is that they use “blastocyst” rather than “embryo”? Is it because people will know what an embryo is, but not a blastocyst?

Furthermore, why is it that an embryo cannot be produced by fertilization for the purpose of stem-cell research, but an embryo can be produced by cloning for stem-cell research? The product is the same. The means by which the product was created does not change what it is, and does not change the moral issues surrounding embryo research.

Statement 2—“Human blastocysts and eggs obtained for stem cell research or stem cell therapies and cures must have been donated with voluntary and informed consent….”

To “donate” a blastocyst requires that it be produced by natural fertilization. So it’s alright to kill an embryo produced by fertilization so long as it was not created solely for that purpose, and it was not the research scientists who created it? This is a rather meaningless moral distinction.

In the definitions section we find the following obfuscation of terms:

Definition 1—“ ‘Blastocyst’ means a small mass of cells that results from cell division, caused either by fertilization or somatic cell nuclear transfer, that has not been implanted in a uterus.”

That may be the way they are using it in this section, but a blastocyst is what it is whether it is implanted into a uterus or not.

Definition 2—“ ‘Clone or attempt to clone a human being’ means to implant in a uterus or attempt to implant in a uterus anything other than the product of fertilization of an egg of a human female by a sperm of a human male for the purpose of initiating a pregnancy that could result in the creation of a human fetus, or the birth of a human being.”

The wording here is a little confusing. What they are trying to communicate is that cloning refers to implanting into the uterus anything other than an embryo (the “product”) that was produced through natural fertilization (wherein an egg is penetrated by a sperm, producing a new human organism), and which may result in the birth of a human being. Since the real process of cloning does not involve male sperm, and since the researchers have no intent of allowing the clone to be implanted into a womb and gestated to full-term (because they want to kill it for its parts), according to this definition of cloning they don’t have to call it cloning. How convenient that they define cloning in such a way that it has nothing to do with cloning, ban the pseudo-form of cloning, and then go on about their cloning business all the while saying they are not cloning! Can you imagine if we defined stealing like that?: Stealing is when I take something from your house that belongs to you. Since I am taking something from your car that belongs to you I am not stealing. Ridiculous!

The fact of the matter is that their definition of cloning is an out-and-out lie, and they know it. Cloning does not refer to where we put the so-called “product of fertilization,” or any other product for that matter. Cloning refers to the process of creating a new human being who is genetically identical to another human being. That new human being is called a clone. A clone is a clone regardless of where it is, or what we do with it. Where a (cloned) human being is does not change what it is.

The way this paragraph is worded it leaves room for researchers to implant a cloned embryo into a uterus and gestate it for up to 9 months, so long as it is not allowed to be born (just like in New Jersey). How? Because it only states that a “product of fertilization” cannot be implanted into a uterus and be birthed. “Anything other” than a “product of fertilization” does not apply. A clone is not the product of fertilization, and thus it could be implanted into a womb and gestated to near birth, only to be killed prior to that event.

One final thing to point out in this paragraph was the statement that implanting the “product of fertilization…could result in the creation of a human fetus,” as though the fetus is something that is created at a later stage in the pregnancy. “Fetus” is a term biologists and embryologists assign to a human being in utero who is between the age of 8 weeks and birth. It describes a particular stage of development of a human being, in the same manner as “newborn, infant, toddler, adolescent, teenager,” and “adult” describe stages of development in ex utero human beings. In the same way we would not say of a newborn that he/she could result in the “creation of an adult,” neither should we say an implanted embryo could result in the creation of a human fetus. Nothing new is being created. The tiny human being is simply maturing according to its kind.

Definition 5—“ ‘Human embryonic stem cell research,’ also referred to as ‘early stem cell research,’ means any scientific or medical research involving human stem cells derived from in vitro fertilization blastocysts or from somatic cell nuclear transfer.”

“Early stem cell research” is a term I have just begun to hear in this debate. The reason it is becoming the euphemism of choice is because it lacks the word “human” and “embryo,” both of which humanize the object of medical experimentation, and both of which stir up people’s moral sensibilities. That is why they want to avoid them.

Proponents of the bill have also created a website fact-sheet to supposedly set the record straight regarding what the initiative does and does not do. This also contains several bits of intentional misinformation.

They write:

“FACT #3: The Initiative clearly and strictly bans human cloning.

Opponents of stem cell research claim that making stem cells in a lab dish is the same thing as ‘human cloning.’ Scientists and most other people disagree with that view and understand that ‘human cloning’ means creating a duplicate human being – not making stem cells in a lab dish.”

First, embryonic stem cell researchers do not make stem cells; embryos make stem cells. The researchers simply harvest them, which requires that they kill the embryo.

Secondly, the location of the embryos has nothing to do with human cloning. Human cloning is a process of creating a genetic copy of another human. Whether the “product” of the cloning process is in a lab dish or in a womb, it is still a human, and the means by which it was created was that of cloning.

Thirdly, to say “scientists and most other people” think making stem cells in a lab dish is not cloning means nothing. For one, by not qualifying “scientists” they give the false impression that all scientists agree with this statement. Not true. For another, what “most other people” believe is irrelevant, even if it were true that most people believe what they say they believe. It is the science of biology and embryology, not the general populace, that determines whether or not making stem cells (by making an embryo) asexually is the same as human cloning.

“FACT #4: Early stem cell research does not involve abortion.

Early stem cell research does not involve or harm an embryo or fetus in a pregnant woman’s uterus – and it does not involve abortion. And, nothing in the Initiative changes or conflicts with Missouri’s abortion laws. The two basic sources of ES cells are: (1) leftover fertility clinic embryos that will not be implanted in a woman’s uterus and would otherwise be discarded and destroyed; and (2) the Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) process, which uses stem cells made in a lab dish with a patient’s own cells and an unfertilized, donated human egg.”

True, it does not involve or harm an embryo or fetus in a “uterus,” but it does involve and harm an embryo. Why is its location morally relevant? How does where it is change what it is? Furthermore, how can we use its location to redefine the meaning of the process that brought it into existence? Saying an embryo created by SCNT that is implanted in a womb is a human being, while an embryo created by SCNT that is in a lab dish is not is like saying an embryo created by fertilization that is implanted in the womb is a human being, while an embryo created by fertilization that is in a lab dish is not. Oh wait…they said that as well!

Saying that SCNT uses “stem cells made in a lab dish with a patient’s own cells and an unfertilized…egg” is false. The process of SCNT does not involve stem cells. It only involves a somatic cell and an enucleated egg. The embryo that is produced through SCNT produces stem cells, but stem cells are not used for the process.

I’m so glad the proponents of this constitutional amendment cleared up the misinformation out there! Hardly! The have added to it.

To demonstrate the bias and sloppy thinking involved in reporting these days consider a recent NY Times article, “Few Biologists but Many Evangelicals Sign Anti-Evolution Petition”, written by Kenneth Chang. Chang’s article is an examination of the Discovery Institute’s (an intelligent design think-tank) running list of 514 Ph.D-level scientists who have signed onto a statement indicating that they are skeptical of Darwinian evolution.

 

Chang writes:

The petition, they say, is proof that scientific doubt over evolution persists. But random interviews with 20 people who signed the petition and a review of the public statements of more than a dozen others suggest that many are evangelical Christians, whose doubts about evolution grew out of their religious beliefs. And even the petition’s sponsor, the Discovery Institute in Seattle, says that only a quarter of the signers are biologists, whose field is most directly concerned with evolution. The other signers include 76 chemists, 75 engineers, 63 physicists and 24 professors of medicine.

Just because many of the signers have religious beliefs does not mean that their skepticism toward Darwinian evolution grew out of their religious beliefs. That is a judgment call that is quite specious. Michael Behe, for example, says he was quite content in both his faith and Darwinism. It was what he saw under the microscope that caused him to be skeptical of Darwinian claims. The author does go on to admit that “of the signers who are evangelical Christians, most defend their doubts on scientific grounds but also say that evolution runs against their religious beliefs,” but this appears much later in the article.


And what’s wrong with “only” 25% of the signers being biologists? That would make them the majority! Twenty-five percent of 514 is 129 people. That is some 50 more than the next nearest category he names (actually the number is 154, which is 30% of the signers, and 78 more than the next nearest category named)! Wouldn’t it have been more accurate to those who dissent the most are biologists? Instead, the author chose to downplay the most significant portion of signers as though somehow it was less than satisfactory. Furthermore, aren’t the opinions of chemists, engineers, and physicists important to the debate? Of course they are, because all of these fields are used by Darwinists to muster evidence for their theory. The diversity of fields shows that dissent over Darwinism is not limited to one group of people, but pervades through several scientific disciplines.

He goes on to say, “The petition was started in 2001 by the institute, which champions intelligent design as an alternative theory to evolution and supports a “teach the controversy” approach, like the one scuttled by the state Board of Education in Ohio last week.”

Here he simply gets his facts wrong like so many others reporting on intelligent design in the media. The Discovery Institute does not champion ID as an alternative to evolution. Many ID folks believe in evolution. What ID is an alternative to is the purely naturalistic, neo-Darwinian form of evolution.

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