August 2007


An Iowa judge has ruled that Polk County’s marriage laws are unconstitutional because they forbid same-sex couples from the institution of marriage. Judges forcing same-sex marriage on the citizens is becoming so common. Hopefully the judges decision will be overturned on appeal.

The Gallup Poll released its 2007 polling data back in June regarding Americans’ views on 16 different moral issues: homosexual relations, the death penalty, premarital sex, unwed motherhood, abortion, divorce, doctor-assistance suicide, suicide, embryonic stem cell research, cloning humans, cloning animals, gambling, polygamy, extra-marital affairs, wearing fur, and medical testing using animals.


The poll is interesting on several counts. What do Americans see as morally wrong? In order of most wrong to least wrong:


  1. Extra-marital affairs (91% disapprove)
  2. Polygamy (90%)
  3. Cloning humans (86%)
  4. Suicide (78%)
  5. Cloning animals (59%)
  6. Abortion (51%)
  7. Homosexual relations (49%)
  8. Doctor assisted suicide (44%)
  9. Unwed motherhood (42%)
  10. Premarital sex (38%)
  11. Wearing fur (38%)
  12. Medical testing using animals (37%)
  13. Gambling (32%)
  14. Embryonic stem cell research (30%)
  15. Death penalty (27%)
  16. Divorce (26%)


What is morally acceptable? In order of most accepted to least accepted:


  1. Death penalty (66% accept)
  2. Divorce (65%)
  3. Embryonic stem cell research (64%)
  4. Gambling (63%)
  5. Medical testing using animals (59%)
  6. Premarital sex (59%)
  7. Wearing fur (58%)
  8. Unwed motherhood (54%)
  9. Doctor assisted suicide (49%)
  10. Homosexual relations (47%)
  11. Abortion (40%)
  12. Cloning animals (36%)
  13. Suicide (16%)
  14. Cloning humans (11%)
  15. Polygamy (8%)
  16. Extra-marital affairs (6%)


What surprised me

I was surprised to discover that while 78% of people oppose suicide, only 44% oppose doctor-assisted suicide. The only difference between the two is that in the former instance the person kills themselves without the aid of another person, whereas in the latter instance they seek a doctor’s help. But in both instances you have a person who chooses to end their life. So why the big gap in moral condemnation?


I was surprised that 6 in 10 people oppose cloning animals. I’m not sure what they find objectionable about that. I wasn’t at all surprised to see that 86% oppose human cloning, but the fact that there was only a gap of 27% between animal and human cloning tells me that American’s have an inflated view of animal value. This is especially the case given the fact that more Americans oppose animal cloning than they do abortion, homosexuality, and doctor assisted suicide!


Significant changes in opinion


The most significant change in opinion has been Americans’ increasing acceptance of homosexual relations and embryonic stem cell research. The former increased from 40% acceptance in 2001 to 47% acceptance today. The latter increased from 52% in 2002 to 67% today. We’ve got our work cut out for us in persuading the American public on these two issues. The tide of public opinion is working against us.


Where are we divided?


The data reveals that Americans are most polarized on homosexual relations, abortion, doctor assisted suicide, and unwed motherhood. The relatively even split of opinion means if we can make a persuasive case in the public square, we stand a chance of our views quickly gaining a majority status, thus effecting the realm of both morality and politics.


Abortion and embryonic stem cell research moral disconnect


The fact that there is a 21% difference between those who see abortion as morally wrong and embryonic stem cell research as morally wrong tells me that the public does not understand the logic of the pro-life position. If they did, they would see that the issue of abortion and the issue of embryonic stem cell research are morally tied at the hip. The fact that 1 in 5 do not see this tells me that we have to do a better job of explaining the pro-life logic, and specifically applying it to other areas of bioethics such as embryonic stem cell research.

William Lane Craig has a really good response to those who ask how a just and loving God could command the Israelites to kill every Canaanite (including children). In the same article he makes some poignant distinctions between the Jewish conquest of Canaan and Islamic jihad.

“The classic Christian worldview affirms that a supremely powerful and personal God created the world ex nihilo (from nothing) and maintains it; humans may attain knowledge of God through Scripture, sensory perception and introspection; human beings are moral agents subject to God-given immutable moral laws that are as fixed and universal as are physical ones; and human beings are sinful, fallen and in rebellion against God, but they reflect a distorted image of God and are divine right-bearers.


“In contrast, the secular worldview (also called naturalism) denies the existence of God or his personal character; considers creation the result of random events and a battle of the fitters persevering out of biologic selfishness; believes knowledge is limited to sensory perception; believes human beings create their moral order for convenience and enforce it solely through public coercion; and consider human beings different from, but not necessarily more important than, creation except to the extent that our sentience or affinity for the arts distinguishes us.”[1]



[1]Nathan Adams IV, Ph.D, J.D., “An Unnatural Assault on Natural Law” in Human Dignity in the Biotech Century, Charles Colson and Nigel Cameron, eds. (InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 2004), 165-6.

I have never really discussed my website on this blog before, so for those of you who are not aware of it, I am co-founder and contributing author to The Institute for Biblical Studies. We recently passed the 1/4 million visitors mark! If you haven’t checked out the site before, I invite you to do so. Tell your friends about it too.

The Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform has a way of bringing the abortion issue home: put pictures of aborted babies on the side of trucks accompanied with the word “choice,” and drive them throughout the town of Calgary.

Not everyone is happy with the display of these graphic, but truthful images. Celia Posyniak, executive director of a local abortion clinic said, “I just think in Canadian society, it’s really a rude, crude display. It shows a lack of manners.” If the display of abortion photos is crude, then how much cruder is the abortion itself? If it is a lack of manners to show pictures of what an abortion does, then how much less manners does one have who obtains and performs an abortion? I always find it interesting how pro-abortion advocates find pictures of what an abortion does so offensive, but do not find abortions offensive themselves. They object to showing pictures of what abortion does, but do not object to abortions themselves. Why? Most object to showing the pictures because they don’t want the public to see what abortion really looks like. They don’t want the public to see how developmentally advanced aborted babies really are. They know that when people see the horror of abortion, public support for abortion will fade. I agree. That’s why the public needs to see these graphic images.

A Dutch Catholic priest, Tiny Muskens, argues that Christians should begin calling God, “Allah.” Why? To ease Christian-Muslim tensions. What might God think about this? According to Muskens God is above such bickering over what He is called.

 

Muskens was a missionary in Indonesia for 30 years, and points out how Christians in Indonesia call God “Allah.” In their language, that is the generic reference for God, equivalent to the English “God.” If they can do it, and no one has a problem with it, why can’t we do the same as well?

 

I think Muskens’s suggestion is misguided for three reasons. First, I don’t think one can make a Biblical case that God is unconcerned with what we call Him. He has chosen to reveal Himself to us with certain names and titles. We cannot just ignore those, or interchange them with some other name if it suits our fancy to do so. For example, we can’t call Him “Xenon” because we think that’s a cool name. That is disrespectful to the God who has revealed Himself, and His name, to man.

 

Having said that, I understand that the English word “God” is just an English translation of the Hebrew elohim. There is nothing special about the English word “God.” We could just as well use the French word Dieu, or the Italian Dio, or the German Gott…and would do so if we spoke French, Italian, or German, because that is the equivalent word for elohim in those languages. But we do not speak those languages. Likewise, we do not speak Arabic, or live in countries where Muslim influence has made it so that the only term that exists for God in the native language is “Allah.” So there is no reason for us to use “Allah” to refer to God.

 

Second, I think Muskens’s suggestion would have the opposite effect He envisions. It is one thing for Christians to call God “Allah” in a nation whose language has no other name for God, but it a whole other matter for those who have an alternative name to begin using “Allah” to identify their God. In the former case the usage is necessary; in the latter it is not. Most Christians are Trinitarian. The triune God of Christianity is repugnant to Muslims. To call that God by the same name as the Muslim God when it is not necessary to do so, is likely to be seen as blasphemous, for it would associate Allah with a false God. That will hardly help Muslim-Christian relations!

 

Thirdly, even if Muslims would not be offended by our change from “God” to “Allah”, what makes us think this change would ease Muslims-Christian tensions? Does Muskens think Muslims won’t be privy to the fact that the change in terminology has nothing to do with a change in our beliefs? Their problem with Christians is not that we do not call God “Allah”, but that we do not follow Islam. Calling the Christian God “Allah” will do nothing to change that fact, and thus it can do nothing to ease Muslim-Christian tensions.

 

One final thing to consider…. Why is it that Christians need to change the word we use to refer to the Supreme Deity? Why isn’t Muskens calling on Muslims to start calling Allah, “God”? I would venture to say it is because he knows they would never do so. They would likely see it as an affront to Islam, and may resort to violence and killing like they did in the case of the Danish cartoons. It’s much easier and safer to tell Christians to change their language. Muskens knows Christians are tolerant, even of those who disrespect their religion.

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