June 2009


Every once in a while I get a nice piece of hate mail from someone who disagrees with me.  This one, in response to an article I wrote on the topic of celebrating Christmas, however, takes the cake:

You are a candy fanny, gutless coward attempting to rationalize your stupidity. God have mercy on fools like you who call yourselves men of God but have lace on your drawers and probably squat to pee. You are a liar and a fraud and a curse to Christianity.

I have to give it to this guy, he is original in his insults!

Jon_MeachamThe Founders created a “context in which religion and politics mixed but church and state did not.  The Founders’ insight was that one might as well try to build a wall between economics and politics as between religion and politics, since both are about what people feel and how they see the world.  Let the religious take their stand in the arena of politics and ideas on their own, and fight for their views on equal footing with all other interests.  American public life is neither wholly secular nor wholly religious but an ever-fluid mix of the two.  History suggest that trouble tends to come when one of these forces grows too powerful in proportion to the other.” [1]—Jon Meacham


[1]Jon Meacham, “The End of Christian America,” Newsweek, April 13, 2009 edition, p. 37 (pp. 34-38).

worldviewNancy Pearcey described a worldview as a mental map that helps us effectively navigate our world.  The better our worldview, the more effectively we ought to be able to navigate reality with it.  Faulty worldviews are easy to spot because they always run contrary to our pre-theoretical experience of reality at one point or another.  For example, scientific naturalists claim the material world—working according to natural processes—is all there is to reality.  There is no God, there are no angels, and there are no souls.  All that exists is what we can put in a test-tube.  This creates a problem for the concept of free-will, which in turn creates a problem for the concept of moral responsibility.

If there is no God everything is purely material, including ourselves.  Material things do not make decisions, but respond in determined ways to prior physical events.  They don’t act, but simply react to prior physical factors.  For any particular event there exists a series of prior physical causes that not only results in the event, but necessitates it.  Life, according to scientific naturalism, is like a series of falling dominoes.  When you ask “Why did domino 121 fall?” it will be answered, “Because domino 120 fell.”  Domino 121 could not decide to not fall when acted upon by domino 120.  It must fall.  If man is just physical stuff, then our “choices” and “knowledge” are like falling dominos: nothing but necessary reactions to prior physical processes.  There is no free will.  Scientific naturalists admit as much.  Naturalistic philosopher, John Searle, wrote, “Our conception of physical reality simply does not allow for radical freedom.”[1] He admitted that there is no hope of reconciling libertarian freedom with naturalism when he wrote:

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man in praiseSome have argued that a God whose essence is good is not worthy of our praise for doing good, since He cannot do otherwise.  Being praiseworthy entails merit, but there is no merit in doing what one must do of necessity; therefore, God, is not deserving of praise for doing good.

William Lane Craig offers three points in response (Question #114) to this argument:

(1)   While a good act must be free for it to be praiseworthy, this argument falsely assumes that since God cannot do evil, He is not free.  Freedom, however, does not require the ability to do otherwise (in this case, to commit evil).  It only requires that one’s choices are not causally determined by external factors.  In that sense, God’s freedom to do good is a free choice.  While God cannot do evil, He freely chooses to do good.

(2)   Strictly speaking, “moral praise” is inapplicable to God.  According to Craig, “Moral praise and blame have to do with duty fulfillment. Someone who fulfills his moral obligations is morally praiseworthy. But…I don’t think that God has any moral duties. For moral duties are constituted by God’s commands, and presumably God doesn’t issue commands to Himself. Therefore, He has no obligations to live up to. Borrowing a distinction from Kant, we can say that God acts in accordance with a duty but not from a duty. Because God is essentially loving, kind, impartial, fair, etc., He acts in ways that would for us be the fulfillment of our duties.”

(3)   God is to be praised, not for choosing to do good, but for being good.  As Craig writes, “I think that our praise of God for His goodness is…to be properly understood in terms of adoration. God is the paradigm and source of infinite goodness, and therefore we adore Him for who He is. We don’t offer Him moral praise in the sense of commending Him for living up to His moral obligations; rather we love Him because He is goodness itself.”

British churches may be forced to hire gay and lesbian staff beginning next year if the Equity Bill passes.  This makes sense.  Given the logic of gay rights advocacy, and its comparison of gay rights to civil rights, if a church cannot decline to hire someone on the basis of their race, then neither can they decline to hire someone on the basis of their sexual orientation.  This may be coming to a U.S. church near you!  Remember New Hampshire?  Their House of Representatives initially voted down a same-sex marriage bill because they didn’t want to allow religious organizations to opt-out of participating in same-sex ceremonies.  The trend is moving toward decreased religious liberty.

oocyteDoes anyone remember the promises from the legislators, scientists, and bioethicists that they would not pay women for their eggs for use in cloning research?  As with most bioethical promises, they are handed out like candy in order to obtain the desired political result, only to be taken back once that result has been realized.  Apparently, New York has decided it will pay as much as $10,000 for women to donate their eggs for cloning research.  What’s the problem with that, you say?  The problem is that the hyper-ovulation drugs used for the procedure can have adverse effects including sterilization, and even death.

empty-pulpitIt’s common in Christian circles to limit our preaching and teaching to Christ’s ability to take care of our sin problem and fix our broken lives.  That is the Gospel message, but that’s not all Christianity has to say about the world in which we live.  Christianity is total truth.  It’s not just truth about salvation, it’s also truth about science, morality, and insofar as morality should affect society, politics as well.  The Christian worldview affects every area of life, both private and public.

Unfortunately the church has typically limited its preaching and teaching to issues surrounding the private life.  We have ignored socio-moral issues such as abortion, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, cloning, etc.  If they are addressed at all, it will be with a passing condemnation that lacks both intellectual substance and explanation.  I think our lack of dialogue on these issues explains why our socio-political influence is disproportionate to our numbers.

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saletanWilliam Saletan of Slate once proposed some new rhetoric for abortion-choice politicians to use when they are debating pro-lifers.  His proposal was as follows: “My opponent and I both want to avoid as many abortions as possible. The difference is, I trust women to work with me toward that objective, and he doesn’t.” 

Pretty good!  It makes the abortion-choice candidate look sympathetic to the pro-life and abortion-choice positions, all the while making the pro-life candidate look like someone who doesn’t trust women to make their own choices.  But there are some serious logical problems with this approach. 

First, if you truly want to avoid as many abortions as possible then the ultimate goal should be to eliminate all abortions.  Why?  Because abortion is unnecessary, making it possible to eliminate the procedure altogether.  One might argue that some abortions are necessary, particularly when the mother’s life is at stake.  I can accept that qualification, but since that situation accounts for less than a fraction of 1% of all abortions we’re still talking about the real possibility of eliminating more than 99.9% of all abortions.  Does the abortion-choice candidate truly want to eliminate 99.9% of all abortions?  I highly doubt it.  I would advise a pro-life candidate to call his opponent on this.  Make him say he wishes to eliminate all elective abortions.  I’ll guarantee he won’t do it. 

Secondly, if you want to avoid as many abortions as possible, and you know there are women out there who are opposed to your desire, why would you trust them to work toward your objective?  If you desired to save more Jews during the Holocaust, would you say the difference between you and the Allies is that you trusted the Nazis to work with you toward that objective while they did not?  Of course not!  How about murder?  Would anyone say the difference between them and their opponent is that they trust murderers to work with them to eliminate murder while their opponent does not?  Of course not!  Then how can we trust women who want to murder their babies to work with us to avoid abortion?  We can’t.  We must legislate morality on them just as we do in every other area of the law.

steve wagner“Why do the people of the church continue to affirm things like, ‘I’m against abortion, but I think it should be legal’ and ‘I think everyone should decide for themselves’? Because no teaching on abortion is teaching on abortion: it communicates the implicit message that abortion is not the sort of serious wrong about which we can have knowledge. In other words, we learn from a pastor’s silence that abortion is not a sin. When a practice as pervasive as abortion is not treated as a serious matter of faith and practice from the platform of a church, church members never reconsider the pro-choice beliefs they’ve assimilated from their culture. In short, when the leadership of the church acts pro-choice by not speaking on abortion, the church follows suit and adopts the pro-choice view, both in word and deed.” – Steve Wagner

eiffel-tower-picture-2Les Français sont fous! 

Western societies seem to be calling everything a “right” these days.  Now, France’s highest court has declared that free access to the Internet is a basic human right guaranteed by France’s constitution.  Basic human right?  C’mon!  Life and liberty are basic human rights, not access to the Internet (for free, nonetheless).

People are pulling rights out of thin air these days, and in the process, they are demeaning the value of true human rights.  Basic human rights only come from God.  Governments do not grant them, they recognize them.  The last time I checked, free access to the internet is not on God’s list.

pinocchioGenerally speaking, lying is when we present something as being true that is not actually true.  And generally speaking, lying is a sin.  But not every lie is a sin.  Sometimes lying can be our moral obligation.  Consider the scenario in which your moral obligation to protect life is pitted against your moral obligation to tell the truth.  Protecting life is the weightier moral imperative of the two, and thus lying to protect that life would be the right thing to do.  This happened frequently in Nazi Germany when those who harbored Jews lied to Nazi officers to protect the Jews’ lives. 

While most people recognize the above as a morally acceptable lie (if not morally obligatory), are there other instances in which lying is morally acceptable, particularly when telling the truth is not superseded by a higher moral law?  Consider the following:

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It appears the NH House finally agreed to at least some of the religious protections Governor John Lynch demanded.  The governor signed the bill into law last Wednesday.  It will not take effect until January 1, 2010. 

If anyone knows the precise differences between the bill that was just passed by the House, and the bill that was rejected by them a couple of weeks ago, please note them in the comments section.  I am interested to see what they gave and what they took.

You may have heard that Oklahoma recently banned sex-selection abortions.  Interestingly, they are only the third state to do so (Illinois and Pennsylvania are the other two).  Considering the fact that the only major news source to pick up the story was the Washington Times, however, you probably have not heard that The National Board of Health and Welfare of Sweden has ruled that sex-selection abortions are legal in that country (since there is no law forbidding them).  Apparently, quite a few “tourists” come to Sweden to abort their children because they do not like their gender.

The vast majority of Americans – even pro-choice Americans – disapprove of sex-selection abortions.  Polls show that about 85% of Americans believe aborting a child because of its gender is a morally insufficient reason (and many countries ban the practice).  But why?  After all, if abortion is not a moral evil, what does it matter why a woman chooses to abort her baby?

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Dr. Russell Moore of Southern Baptist Seminary posed the following ethical question to his students for their final exam, and then asked them how they would respond as a pastor:

Joan is a fifty year-old woman who has been visiting your church for a little over a year. She sits on the third row from the back, and usually exits during the closing hymn, often with tears in her eyes. Joan approaches you after the service on Sunday to tell you that she wants to follow Jesus as her Lord.

You ask Joan a series of diagnostic questions about her faith, and it is clear she understands the gospel. She still seems distressed though. When you ask if she’s repented of her sin, she starts to cry and grit her teeth.

“I don’t know,” she says. “I don’t know how…I don’t know where to start…Can I meet with you privately?”

You, Joan, and a godly Titus 2-type women’s ministry leader in your church meet in your office right away, and Joan tells you her story.

She wasn’t born Joan. She was born John. From early on in John’s life, though, he felt as though he was “a woman trapped in a man’s body.” Joan says, “I don’t mean to repeat that old shopworn cliché, but it really is what I felt like.”

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Abortion--My body my choiceAbortion-choice advocates often argue that they have a right to an abortion because it is their body, and thus their choice.  Their mantra is “I can do what I want with my own body.”  This is what is properly called the bodily-autonomy argument.  The argument is flawed because it rests on the faulty assumption that the unborn “thing” in the womb is the woman’s body.  It is not.  It is separate living being, and we know so because it has its own unique genetic fingerprint.

While that fact alone should put all debate to rest, some may persist in their claim.  A good way to help them see that the thing growing in them is not their body is by asking them: “If I can show you that the unborn is not your body it would undermine your argument, right?” [Yes] Then ask, “Do you have a penis?” [No] “Could your unborn fetus have a penis?” [Yes] “Then the unborn is not your body, is it?” [Uh…no]

If you encounter someone with a very strong will, they might counter that the unborn “thing” is living inside the mother’s body against her will, and since she has control over her own body she gets to decide if she will share it with this “foreign invader.”  But the fact that it is living inside the woman’s body is irrelevant.  As D. Rutherford remarked, it no more gives her the right to kill the unborn than my owning a house gives me the right to kill the tenants!  The bodily-autonomy argument won’t work as a justification for abortion, so long as the unborn are full members of the human species.

TillerIf you haven’t heard by now, the famous late-term abortionist from Wichita, Kansas, George Tiller, was murdered on Sunday while attending a religious service at his local Lutheran church.  It is very likely that he was murdered because of his profession.  Indeed, this was no accidental murder.  He was sought out specifically.  Given how infamous he is for killing late-term babies, it is almost certain that his killer was motivated by his own pro-life ideology.  Given the fact that I am pro-life, and regularly discuss abortion on this blog, I feel it necessary to weigh in on this issue.

First, let me say that I condemn the murder of Mr. Tiller by his assailant.  While I think Mr. Tiller was deserving of death for the thousands upon thousands of babies he murdered over the years, his death should have been administered at the hands of the proper, governing authorities—not a citizen vigilante.  Of course, at this time in our history, what Mr. Tiller did is considered legal, and thus the governing authorities do not consider what he did to be murder, and thus would not execute him for any crime.  While this is a travesty of justice, it is no justification for citizens to take the law into their own hands, setting themselves up as judge and executioner.  We need to work within our unjust legal system to outlaw abortion just as the abolitionists worked within an unjust legal system to ultimately outlaw slavery.  We are not to take the law—or the lack thereof—into our own hands.

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Frank Beckwith wrote a concise argument against abortion, and for the intrinsic value of all human beings regardless of size, location, level of development, or degree of dependency that I wanted to share with you:

The unborn—from zygote to blastocyst to embryo to fetus—is the same being, the same substance, that develops into an adult.  The actualization of a human being’s potential, e.g. her “human” appearance and the exercise of her rational and moral powers as an adult (which abortion-choice advocates argue determine the unborn’s intrinsic value), is merely the public presentation of functions latent in every human substance from the moment it is brought into being.  A human may lose and regain those functions throughout her life, but the substance remains the same being.

Moreover, if one’s value is conditioned on certain accidental properties then the human equality presupposed by our legal institutions and our form of government…is a fiction.  In that case, there is no principled basis for rejecting the notion that human rights ought to be distributed to individuals on the basis of native intellectual abilities or other value-giving properties, such as rationality and self-awareness.  One can only reject this notion by affirming that human beings are intrinsically valuable because they possess a particular nature from the moment they come into existence.  That is to say, what a human being is, and not what she does, makes her a subject of rights.[1]


[1]Francis Beckwith, “Gimme That Ol’ Time Separation: A Review Essay, Philip Hamburger Separation of Church and StateChapman Law Review, vol. 8:309, p. 324.

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