August 2006


One of my favorite verses in Scripture is II Timothy 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (KJV) While reading Daniel Wallace’s presentation on the history of the English Bible I was astonished to discover that this verse–oft quoted in Bible colleges and seminaries throughout the nation–does not mean what it appears to. Wallace pointed out that the Greek work translated “study” in the KJV, spoudazo, means “be eager, do one’s best to….”<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–> While we may be tempted to think the KJV translators mistranslated this word, the reality is that their translation was accurate…in 1611. You see, in 1611 “study” meant “be eager, be diligent.” Only by extension and continued association with learning did the word come to denote what it does today. The connection between the historic and modern meaning is clear. One who is eager to learn (studious) spends a lot of effort doing so, hence studying.

 

While “study” was an appropriate translation in 1611, it is no longer appropriate today. Unfortunately the KJV still retains this archaic language, causing people to misunderstand some of what God intended to convey in this passage. All is not lost, however, because while “study” is an improper translation of spoudazo, the sense of the passage remains essentially the same, because an eagerness to rightly divide the word of truth will necessarily manifest itself in what we mean by “study” today.


<!–[endif]–>

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–>Daniel Wallace, “The History of the English Bible: From the KJV to the RV”; available from http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=1824; Internet; accessed 21 June 2006.

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The mainstream media is on a roll. First CNN Money reported on the fact that adult stem cell research is more advanced and useful than embryonic stem cell research, and that this is not about to change anytime soon. Now the New York Times has does the same.

 

In the August 14th edition Nicholas Wade wrote an article entitled “Some Scientists See Shift in Stem Cell Hopes.” The most significant excerpts as follows:

 

Many researchers now see human embryonic stem cells as part of a long-term research program, with any sort of cell therapy being at least 5 or 10 years off.

That projection shows a gap between scientists’ views and those of the public and of people for whom the overriding purpose of research with human embryonic stem cells is to generate cells that can restore damaged tissues.

Thomas M. Jessell, a neurobiologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said that he hoped to see the research generate new drugs for neurodegenerative diseases within the next five years but that it could be a long time before rational cell-based therapies are effective.

“Many of us feel that for the next few years the most rational way forward is not to try to push cell therapies,” Dr. Jessell said.

Stem cell scientists interviewed for the article are saying that the only short-term benefit embryonic stem cell research might yield is a better understanding of what causes certain diseases.

 

Many researchers have come to see the primary benefit of human embryonic stem cells as models for human disease. The idea is to take a cell from a patient, convert it to embryonic form, and then make the embryonic cell mature into the type that goes awry in the patient’s disease, whether it be a dopamine-producing cell for Parkinson’s disease or an insulin-making cell for diabetes.

Somewhere down this developmental path, the basic cause of the disease may emerge, and be available for study in a dish of cells. The diseased cells should also provide an excellent means of screening thousands of chemicals for new drugs.

“Stem cell biology is just a rubric that applies to many things going on in biology,” said John D. Gearhart, a Johns Hopkins University stem cell expert. “I personally feel that the beauty of these cells is that we’ll learn a lot about human biology and disease processes, and that that information will be more important than the cells themselves.”

Oh how stem cell researchers are singing a different tune after they have received all sorts of federal and state money to perform such research. Prior to the money being given they promised the world. After receiving the money they are trying to manage people’s misinformed expectations.

Scott Klusendorf of Life Training Institute has written a succinct and powerful polemic on why the public—both conservative and liberal—ought to oppose embryonic stem cell research. I think it is a valuable read. Here it is:

Let me be clear: I fully support ethical stem cell research. But I’m opposed to one type of stem cell research that involves destroying human embryos for medical research.

Supporters of Destructive embryo research want to force the taxpayers of America to pay billions of dollars funding highly speculative research that the government, already in financial ruin, cannot afford. Senior citizens are having their services cut; schools are closing; roads are left in disrepair; children’s health care needs are not met—and we’re supposed to go deeper into debt by passing legislation that would force us to pay for speculative embryo research for years to come? To date, treatments using embryo cells have yet to cure one person of any illness. Not one! Meanwhile, ethical alternatives using adult stem cells are currently treating over 70 known diseases.

Sadly, those supporting destructive embryo research believe that human beings that are in the wrong location or have the wrong level of development do not deserve the protection of law. They assert, without justification, the belief that strong and independent humans deserve basic human rights while small and dependent ones do not. This view is elitist and exclusive. It violates the principle that once made political liberalism great: our basic commitment to protect the most vulnerable members of the human community. We can do better than that. In the past, we used to discriminate on the basis of skin color and gender, but now, with elective abortion, we discriminate on the basis of size, level of development, location, and degree of dependency. We’ve simply swapped one form of bigotry for another. In sharp contrast, the position I defend is that no human being regardless of size, level of development, race, gender, or place of residence, should be excluded from the human family. In other words, my view of humanity is inclusive, indeed wide open, to all, especially those that are small, vulnerable, and defenseless.

As at least one columnist has said, “Given a choice between a therapy that happens to be lethal for human subjects and one that is not, wouldn’t we be inclined to favor the therapy that is not lethal? Wouldn’t that be even more the case if that non-lethal therapy turns out to be vastly more promising, and far less speculative, than the lethal therapy?” Stem cells drawn from adults have already yielded some striking achievements, and they do not require the killing of the human being from whom they are drawn. The extraction of stem cells from human embryos does, however, result in the destruction of defenseless human beings.

Therefore, I cannot support embryo research without violating the very principle that made the Democratic Party great in the first place–namely, our party’s concern for the weak and vulnerable. At the same time, people with illnesses deserve real cures, not false promises from politicians. You have my word: I pledge to campaign for maximum government support to find those cures, ethically.

http://lti-blog.blogspot.com/2006/08/progressive-case-agaisnt-escr-sk.html

Opponents of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) have long pointed out that adult stem cell research (ASCR) is far more advanced than embryonic stem cell research. Adult stem cells are being used in hundreds of human clinical trials, and are currently responsible for 72 treatments. How does ESCR measure up? Currently there are no human ESCR clinical trials, and no ESC treatments. Generally speaking the mainstream media is mum on the existence of ASCR, yet alone the advances of ASCR. Once in a while, however, you will get a mainstream news organization to do some honest reporting on the status of the research. On August 9, 2006 CNN Money did just that.

 

As the financial wing of CNN, the online article focused on investments. If one wants to invest in stem cell research, where should they put their money? In no uncertain terms CNN staff writer, Aaron Smith, suggests betting on ASCR. Here are some important excerpts of the article:

 

Embryonic stem cells might hold the secrets to curing paralysis and brain damage, but they’ve also garnered plenty of controversy with the anti-abortion lobby because they’re harvested from embryos. However, work using adult stem cells – which are donated by grown men and women – is not only free of such controversy, it’s actually much closer to getting effective products on the market.

The adult stem cell research at several biotech outfits in particular – Osiris, Cytori, Aastrom – is worth keeping an eye on according to analysts. “From a Wall Street perspective, adult stem cells are a much better investment,” said Stephen Dunn of Dawson James Securities. “These are the guys who are going to be in the news in 2007 and 2008.”

“Embryonic stem cell research hasn’t kept up pace with adult stem cell research,” said Dunn. “Adult stem cell research is advancing so far you might not need embryonic stem cells. If the federal government is reluctant to put their money into it, then Wall Street is as well.”

So while embryonic stem cell researchers are experimenting with rats, adult stem cell researchers have moved on to more advanced tests with humans. The embryonic-based stem cell treatments are probably a decade away, but the U.S. market could see its first adult-based stem cell treatments within the next couple of years.

Did you hear that? Treatments using ESCs are a decade away (and this is a conservative number), but not so with ASCs. ESCR is being left in the dust. Remind me again why it is that biotech industries, state governments, our federal government, and the media are pushing for a form of research that is morally problematic, likely unnecessary, and not fruitful when we have a form of research that is morally acceptable and fruitful?

Japanese researchers have been able to revert adult mouse stem cells into an embryonic-like state according to the online article from the journal, Cell. If this same technology can be used on adult stem cells we will be able to obtain all the benefits of embryonic stem cell research without the moral problems associated with it. Of course, should we be able to do so I can guarantee you biotech industries will still be pushing for cloning and the destruction of human embryos. See this article that explains why.

On the lighter side of things check out this hilarious Christian video Baby Got Book. It is a play on Sir-Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” It will have you rolling!

Check out this video showcasing a televised debate between Wafa Sultan (Arab-American psychologist and secularist) and a couple of Muslims on Al-Jazeera TV, broadcast back on February 21st 2006. Sultan was obviously speaking from somewhere in America based on how bad she let her opponents have it when it came to the Muslim religion. She made some very good points that are worth hearing. It’s a 5 ½ minute video.

 

HT to Mark Meeker

The Pew Research Center has released its newest polling data concerning the American public’s view on a variety of moral issues such as abortion, stem cell research, same-sex marriage, and Plan B. Check it out here. Pew is always a reliable source for gauging Americans’ views on hot-topic moral issues.

Sue O’Shea, the director of Michigan Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research, spoke at a luncheon hosted by U.S. Congressman Sander Levin (D) and Michigan state Congressman Andy Meisner (D) on August 1, 2006. According to Martha Wood’s report in The Observer, “O’Shea said researchers only want to be able to clone organs to replace malfunctioning ones, which would reduce or abolish the need for transplants.” Assuming Wood’s has accurately reported what O’Shea said, this is nothing short of organ farming! To date stem cells cannot be used to form organs. Certain types of stem cells can only be used to repair existing organs. To do what O’Shea is suggesting we would have to create embryos, gestate them for at least 8-12 weeks, and then remove their organs killing them in the process.

 

I have blogged on this before. Fetal farming is where biotech is headed. We can stop it now by battling the issue in the market place of ideas before we find ourselves battling it in labs, legislatures, and courthouses.


The UK’s Daily Mail reports on a new beauty trend hitting the world stage: injecting the stem cells of aborted fetuses to reverse the effects of aging. My trying to describe the contents of this article would not do it justice. It is sickening. Read it for yourself.

Robert P. George (law professor at Princeton and member of the President’s Council on Bioethics) and Eric Cohen wrote a terrific piece in National Review about the politicization of the stem cell controversy. They discuss a couple of important votes that took place in the U.S. Legislature in late July regarding bills that would fund stem cell research. A bill supporting the federal funding of destructive embryonic stem cell research was passed by both houses of Congress, but vetoed by President Bush. As important as that is, George and Cohen focused on another bill that did not pass both houses of Congress. This second bill would have funded alternative forms of creating embryonic-like stem cells. While the Senate approved it unanimously, and the House approved it with a majority, key supporters of the destructive embryonic stem cell research bill pulled some shenanigans to kill the bill in the House.

 

This is important because one of the mantras the pro-embryonic stem cell research crowd repeats over and over again is that Bush is anti-science, and not interested in finding cures. And yet here is an example where embryonic stem cell research supporters had a chance to federally fund stem cell research that is currently more fruitful and more promising than embryonic stem cell research, but refused to do so. As George and Cohen wrote:

 

 

Some opponents of the Bush stem-cell policy have argued that we should support any and all stem-cell research, and not limit any particular type, so that science can advance on all fronts at once. The president has argued that we should support all ethical stem-cell research, so we may advance medical science while always respecting human dignity and protecting human life.

 

But those members of the House who voted against the Specter-Santorum bill did not choose all effective avenues of science or all ethical avenues of science. Instead, they would support only ethically controversial stem-cell research. They would support the research only if it involves the destruction of embryos. Otherwise, they are not interested.

 

That is not a position for the advancement of science on all fronts, but for keeping a political issue alive even as science advances and leaves it behind. It is hard to imagine a more blatant example of political cynicism overpowering a constructive solution. As the president put it: “It makes no sense to say that you’re in favor of finding cures for terrible diseases as quickly as possible, and then block a bill that would authorize funding for promising and ethical stem cell research.”

 


It is not Bush who is anti-science, or holding up potential cures. It is a group of Congressman and the lobbyists who support them. It is they, not Bush, who is putting ideology ahead of cures.

Debra Saunders, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, reported on a groundbreaking form of reproductive assistance in the August 8, 2006 edition of the Chronicle. The article is entitled “Embryos Made to Order.” No more need to adopt an existing child, or a frozen embryo. Texas resident, Jennalee Ryan, is offering infertile couples a chance to design their own babies from scratch. Ms. Ryan works with various doctors and clinics that provide her with sperm and eggs from highly educated individuals. Prospective parents choose their sperm and eggs based on the donor’s description and photos. Ms. Ryan does the rest. Welcome to the world of designer babies! I’m sure it will only get worse. The next step is genetic modification. You can bet your bottom dollar on that!

In a purely material world there can be no progress, no “better.” Physical things cannot experience progress; only change. Progress implies a trajectory toward a purposeful end, with that end being better than all previous states. Only a transcendent source such as God could invest the world with teleological purpose. If there is no God there can be no end, and thus no progress, and no way to measure “better.”

 

Indeed, the concept of “better” is an arbitrary fiction without God. In a purely material world change cannot be better; only different. One form/state of matter is no better than another form/state of matter. Everything just is. How is it, then, that we are able to identify certain changes as good and better (non-physical judgments)? Such identification requires an objective, transcendent standard by which such progress can be measured. Such a standard cannot be found in, or reduced to physical parts. Only God is sufficient to ground that sort of a standard.

 

Technically speaking we can’t even determine what is practical if God does not exist, because to determine what is practical requires that we know what is better than other things.

 

For many years now I have harbored concerns about the way we practice the Lord’s Supper. My concerns are as follows: 

  • We practice it too infrequently
  • Our “supper” differs in appearance from that of the early church
  • We make it a time of sadness and fear rather than joy and hope

Let me briefly address each point in turn.

Too Infrequent

Biblically and historically the Lord’s Supper has been a regular part of the Christian gathering. Only after the Reformation did the sermon replace it as the most significant part of a service.

It seems the early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper on a regular, if not weekly basis (I owe much of the substance to the following Biblical arguments for a frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper to an unpublished article by my friend, Nathan Hollenbeck). In Acts 2:42 we read, “They [the Christian converts] were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (NET Bible) While this could be a reference to general communal eating, the context suggests otherwise. First, eating is not a Christian practice to which converts must devote themselves. Eating is a practice common to everyone regardless of their religious affiliation. Secondly, the surrounding activities are religious in nature: doctrinal teaching, fellowship, and prayer.

In Acts 20:7 we read, “On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul began to speak to the people…until midnight.” A few things should be noted. First, the purpose of the meeting was to break bread. It would seem strange that regular eating would be the purpose for which they assembled. It makes more sense to understand this meal as having religious significance, such as the Lord’s Supper. Secondly, it is explicitly noted that this was the first day of the week (Sunday). This was the day when the body of Christ assembled for worship. Thirdly, another religious activity is spoken of in tandem with this eating: apostolic teaching. These last two points solidify the conclusion that this meal was religious in nature. We have here, then, what appears to be a normative statement regarding the purpose of gathering on the Lord’s Day: to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This implies that it was a regular, weekly practice of the church.

Finally, in I Corinthians 11:20 we read, “Therefore when you come together at the same place it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.” Again, this sarcastic remark shows that the purpose of gathering together involved the eating of the Lord’s Supper, and that it was a regular practice.

How do Pentecostal churches match up? How often do they fulfill the Lord’s command? Most churches only celebrate the Lord’s Supper once or twice a year. Why? While it is true that the Lord did not specify how often it must be done (“as often as you do this…”), looking at the example of the early church I would argue that we are not celebrating it enough. While it was of maximal importance to the gatherings of the early church, it is absent from most of our own.

Too Different

In I Corinthians 11:20-22 Paul wrote, “Therefore when you come together at the same place it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For when it is time to eat, everyone proceeds with his own supper. One is hungry and another becomes drunk. Do you not have houses so that you can eat and drink? Or are you trying to show contempt for the church of God by shaming those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I praise you? I will not praise you for this!” In the apostolic church the Lord’s Supper was actually a supper. Eating the Lord’s Supper involved so much food that people were able to overeat, and involved so much drink that they were getting drunk (on grape juice of course!). I don’t know about you, but I think we would have a hard time getting full on our 1/16 of a saltine cracker, and drunk on our 1/4 of a swig of grape juice! While I don’t think we have to have a full meal to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, clearly this is the way Jesus celebrated His last supper with the apostles, and it is the way the church celebrate the Last Supper as well.

Too Moody

I have long been bothered by the mood created for the partaking of the Lord’s Supper. It’s always the same thing. We read the following passage:

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (I Cor 11:27-31, KJV)

followed by an appeal to repent lest God judge you (kill?) for your unconfessed sin. Then comes the sad music about the blood of Christ being shed for us, followed by weeping and wailing by a minority, and guilt by a majority for not being able to cry when they think they should. Why do we do this? While there are several reasons, the most important is a misunderstanding of the text when it speaks of partaking “unworthily.” We think it refers to our own spiritual state: if we are unworthy of the Lord’s body and blood due to unrepentant sin in our lives Jesus might kill us. This is hardly a festive thought! The grammar and context argues against such an interpretation.

Grammatically speaking the Greek word translated “unworthily,” anaxios, is an adverb describing the manner in which we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, not an adjective describing the quality of our own spiritual state. Contextually speaking, the problem Paul was addressing was the manner in which the Corinthians were partaking of the Lord’s Supper, not personal sin in the lives of the Corinthian believers. Those who brought a lot of food were not sharing with those who had little or none; those who arrived earlier did not wait for those who had yet to show up. As a result there were some who were turning this celebration into a gluttonous and selfish affair, precisely the opposite attitude intended by the celebration. Paul warned against celebrating the Lord’s Supper in this unworthy manner.

Not only is the “repent first, eat later” interpretation of this passage grammatically and contextually flawed, but it is theologically flawed as well. While I agree that one should repent prior to taking the Lord’s Supper, it is only because repentance should be a regular part of our lives. But to think one must make themselves worthy before they partake of the Lord’s Supper is another matter. None of us can make ourselves worthy before the Lord. Jesus is is the only one who can make us worthy, and He did so by shedding His blood at Calvary. That is why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper: to commemorate what He did to make us worthy before God when we could not do so ourselves. How ironic it is, then, that we would use the occasion of the Lord’s Supper to tell people they must make themselves worthy lest God bring judgment on them. In the words of Hollenbeck’s unpublished article, “Truly, if we had to make ourselves worthy before we were able to partake of the Lord’s Supper, we would never be able to approach the table. The most basic meaning of the Lord’s Supper itself is that we cannot become worthy. Hence, Christ came to spill his blood and break his body on our behalf so that he may clothe us with his own worthiness instead. The idea that we should not celebrate his memory often because then we would be more likely to partake unworthily destroys the very meaning of the act itself. The Lord’s Supper emphasizes precisely the fact that while we could never become worthy, his mercy covered our unworthiness.”

Getting back to the mood…. While I find it acceptable to weep during the Lord’s Supper, it should be for reasons of joy and not of sorrow. Indeed, the Lord’s Supper ought to be a joyous occasion. How about some upbeat music for once? How about some dancing and shouting? How about some smiles on our faces? Let us celebrate and be glad for what the Lord did for us!

In conclusion, I hope to see the modern apostolic church move more in the direction of the early apostolic church in their practice of the Lord’s Supper. Let us celebrate the Lord’s Supper more often (at least once a month). Let us celebrate the Lord’s Supper with more food and drink (at least once in a while). Finally, let us celebrate the Lord’s Supper with joy and thanksgiving rather than sorrow.

This is just for fun. Guinness beer has a commercial explaining what drives evolution. For those with Quick Time go here: http://www.framestore-cfc.com/commercials/guinness_noitulove/amv_gune339_050_qt.mov
For those who don’t have Quick Time go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv0HN2DCdCI&search=guinness

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