Saturday, February 28, 2009

LTI Podcast Episode 4 [Serge]

In this episode Scott, Jay and I take down this video from RH Reality Check's Amanda Marcotte:

I also find support for the pro-life view from this secular book.

You can download the podcast directly at or subscribe using Itunes at

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

LTI Podcast Episode 3 [Serge]

Episode three is now ready for download. You can listen to it via the player in the right margin, or go directly to the download page here. You can also subscribe via Itunes at the address

Serge reports on some exciting news, and Scott, Jay, and Serge have a roundtable discussion regarding the bodily autonomy argument for abortion rights. Additional information can be found in my post here and my article in CRJ here. You'll have to wait a few months, but Scott's forthcoming book has a a great chapter on this argument (preorder here).

I also take on the outrageous claim from the Guttmacher institute that the abortion rate in Mexico is significantly higher than that of the United States. Wait until you see where they came up with their "estimate".

We would love feedback either here in the comments or email us at

Monday, February 9, 2009

She's Got the Job! [SK]

This girl can work for my organization anytime.

Question for youth pastors: Do you have a 12th grader in your group who can come even remotely close to matching this 12-year old's grasp of the abortion issue?

If not, start here.

HT: Melinda Penner

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

LTI Podcast Episode 2 [Serge]

In this episode of the podcast, Serge shows his technical ineptitude by completely blowing off his blog and podcast partners. Scott and Jay joined me for a great round table discussion about the bodily autonomy argument for abortion rights and I somehow did not record it correctly. Sorry again guys. We will be rerecording the segment for (hopefully) next week's podcast.

However, I did manage to record Josh Brahm, host of the Life Report podcast, and had a good discussion regarding various pro-life issues and how to get reach our youth regarding the pro-life message. You can listen to the Life Report Podcast here.

What do pro-abortion think about the effectiveness of contraceptive education and access? You may be surprised, as I take a look at an editorial from the journal Contraception.

Lastly, I respond to an email discussing the likelihood that we will find a definitive answer to whether or not oral contraceptives have a deleterious effect on an implanting embryo. My previous posts on this topic can be found here.

All episodes on the podcast can be listened to by the player in the right margin, or you can subscribe via ITunes using this link:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Pro-Life Video with the Wrong Message? [SK]

Brett Kunkle over at Stand to Reason is concerned about a popular commercial. It's the one which features President Obama. If you haven't seen it, watch it now, then continue reading below.

Here is what Brett says about the clip:

The video mistakenly communicates that human life is valuable merely in virtue of its instrumental value.

"What's instrumental value? [Citing Greg Koukl] Something that has instrumental value is only valuable in that it leads to something else that has intrinsic value. A classic example of something that has instrumental value is money. Money itself is not valuable, but it's valuable in that it can get something that has intrinsic value. Money might get you happiness. Money might get you pleasure. Money might get you friendship. Money might buy you mercy. In other words, the money has value in that it leads to something else that is valuable in itself. This is very important because something that has instrumental value is valuable in a very tenuous way."

But what if President Obama never reached the presidency? Indeed, what if his life was filled with hardships that he had trouble overcoming? What if he never went to college? What if he never found success in politics? What if he struggled with homelessness? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Would he not still be a valuable human being, with the fundamental right to life and worthy of protection? Yes, because the pro-life argument is that human beings have intrinsic value.

"Intrinsic value [again citing Koukl] is something that has value in itself. The value or worth that it has is inherent in its very existence. For example, love is something that most people would consider has intrinsic value. Love is something that is valuable in itself. Health is something that is valuable in itself. Happiness is something that has intrinsic value. Mercy or virtues or dozens of things are ends in themselves and have value. That's intrinsic value."

You see, it's not the potential in a human being that makes him valuable. He's valuable in virtue of the kind of thing he is. Human beings are valuable precisely because they are humans beings, created in God's image.
I must confess to thinking similar thoughts the first time I saw the clip. If that's the extent of our message--or even our primary one--we're not doing our job as communicators.

However, given the morally untutored culture we live in, the imagery and message of the clip may still prove helpful. It's hard to change how people think on abortion if you don't first change how they feel about it. On that level, the ad provides a valuable assist. For example, I've met many pro-lifers who initially joined our ranks because of a slogan I think suffers from the same problem Brett identifies above. The slogan reads: "Abortion Stops a Beating Heart." I dislike it, because elective abortion is wrong even if performed prior to the detection of fetal heart activity. Thankfully, many of those same pro-lifers have moved on to more sophisticated and intellectually credible arguments.

In the end, I'm more inclined to see it Brett's way than not. Instead of choosing between emotionally powerful messages and intellectual credibility, why not do both?

Koukl's "Tactics"-- Simply Stellar [SK]

Gregory Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009,) 207 pp.

Have you ever been in the hot seat? Next time you hit a roadblock in a conversation with a critic of the Christian worldview, ask a good question. The results might just transform the discussion and put you back in the driver’s seat—where you belong.

That's the thesis of Koukl's newest offering, a literal training manual for engaging the toughest critics with meaningful discourse.

In part one of the book, Koukl focuses on three simple questions, which, if graciously asked, can make a world of difference in you next conversation. He calls them “Columbo Questions,” named after the famous TV detective played by actor Peter Falk.

At first glance, Columbo doesn’t impress. His wardrobe needs a definite upgrade and eloquence isn’t his strong suit. He comes across bumbling, inept, and completely harmless. The crooks are sure he’s too dumb to figure things out. They don’t realize he is dumb like a fox. He just keeps asking questions and building a case—until he nails them! Vintage Columbo soundbites include:

“I got a problem. Something about this t’ing bothers me. Maybe you can clear dis up for me.”

“I was talkin’ to da wife the other day…. Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“Just one more thing.”

“Hey, I’m sorry. I’m making a pest of myself. Yes, yes, I am. I know it’s because I keep asking these questions. But I’ll tell ya, I can’t help myself. It’s a habit.”

Koukl says it’s a habit you should get into. He describes the key to the Columbo tactic as follows: “The Christian goes on the offensive in a disarming way with carefully selected questions to productively advance the conversation.” The tactic can be used to:

1. gain information and keep you out of the hot seat
2. reverse the burden of proof
3. indirectly exploit a weakness or a flaw in someone’s views

There’s nothing dirty or tricky about it. The goal is clarity, not domination. So the next time you’re in a tight spot, ask a good Columbo question. Here are the three that are most useful:

1. What do you mean by that? This is a clarification inquiry that tells you what your opponent thinks so you don’t misrepresent his view. At the same time, it forces him to think more clearly about his own statements. Your tone should be mild and inquisitive. Consider the following objections and note the Columbo response that’s in parenthesis:

“The Bible’s been changed many times.” (Oh? How so?)

“Pro-lifers force their views on others.” (In what ways?)

“Science and faith exclude each other.” (What do you mean by science and what do you mean by faith?)

2. How did you come to that conclusion? This is the most important Columbo question and it can be asked a number of different ways. Why do you believe that? How do you know that? What are your reasons for thinking you’re right? In each case, you’re reversing the burden of proof and putting it back on the person making the claim—where it belongs:

“The Bible is full of fairy tales.” (Why would you believe a thing like that?)

“Thousands of women died from illegal abortions.” (How do you know that?)

“No one can say which beliefs are right or wrong.” (Then why should we believe you?)

“No single religion or person can see the whole truth. Each sees only a part.” (How could you possibly know that each sees only a part unless you can see the whole, something you just claimed was impossible?)

3. “Have you considered…? then finish the sentence in a way relevant to the issue at hand. Here you are offering an alternative view that gently dismantles your opponent’s case or, at the very least, exposes a serious flaw in his reasoning. It’s critically important that your tone remain gracious. Otherwise, your opponent will become defensive.

“Everything is just an illusion.” (Have you considered that if that’s true, we could never know it?”)

“Fetuses have no right to life because they are not self-aware.” (Have you considered that newborns aren’t self-aware either?)

“You shouldn’t judge people!” (Have you considered that you just did?”)

In part two, Koukl shifts to detective mode. How can Christians recognize flaws in a critic's reasoning? The good news is that you don't need a graduate degree in philosophy to get started. Koukl lists a number of common mistakes, including arguments that self-destruct, arguments that contradict one another, and assertions that disguise themselves as arguments, but have nothing supporting them.

All of this is great stuff, but what sets Tactics above other apologetics offerings is Koukl's insistence that Christians function as ambassadors--that is, gracious communicators of biblical truth. We must be winsome and attractive, not merely right, if we are to make an impact on culture.

If you buy only one apologetics book this year (and shame on you if it's only one), get this one. It will transform your thinking and your manners.


Human-Animal Clones On Hold? [SK]

New research suggests that combining human DNA with animal (cow and rabbit) eggs will not work for human cloning. It seems the animal eggs lack sufficient power to reprogram human DNA.

Due to a shortage of human eggs, researchers were hoping to use animal eggs which are more readily available and do not carry the risks associated with obtaining human ones.

Nevertheless, the attempt to alter the biological nature of human beings is pressing forward with remarkable speed. Given the moral opposition to such research is dismissed without argument, only scientific hurdles stand in the way between us and a brave new world.

That's sad, but at least for now, the actual science is not cooperating with runaway scientism.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Context Matters [SK]

(Note: Please read until the end of this post for an important update from Frank Turk.)

Frank Turk (not to be confused with Frank Turek, the fine Christian apologist) has a post taking on J.P. Moreland (and Hugh Hewitt) for allegedly putting politics above all else in church life, or, if you will, using the church to promote a (conservative) political agenda.

I generally like Turk's stuff, but in this case, he's not read carefully. Simply put, he's taken Moreland completely out of context as anyone who actually reads the Moreland/Hewitt interview can see. I’m going to quote Turk at length to show what I mean.

Turk says:

This is why Hugh Hewitt gets my goat: he sees the church as a means to a political end. I find his views in that respect reprehensible.

Which is why it surprised me a little to see that J. P. Moreland was on Hewitt's show recently advocating for the same clap-trap Hewitt is selling. I mean: J. P. Moreland. He's a respected apologist -- same class as William Lane Craig and Francis Beckwith, right?

I'll leave that part to the meta.

But on Hewitt, we can see Dr. Moreland saying stuff like this:

"Being involved in politics is not unchristian. In fact, it’s a part of our calling as Christians. Why? Because we are supposed to do good to all people including the household of faith. And to do good to all people means establishing just laws and a just and a stable social order. And that’s the job of the state. It’s political. So the first thing a pastor should do and the Church should do is to enlist people like the dickens to be involved in the political process and vote. It is unconscionable that we have these rights, and that we have an obligation as disciples of Jesus to try to bring goodness and truth to society, that we don’t use all means available to promote just laws and a just and stable social order through the political process. And so voting is absolutely critical."

Get that? The first thing we should be concerned about as Christians is inhabiting the political process.

The first thing. Seriously: that's the first thing the pulpits of our churches should be used for? (Emp. in the original.)
There’s only one problem. Moreland never said the first thing a pastor (church) should do is use the church to get involved politically (as opposed to preach the gospel). He did not say politics was the first thing the pulpits of our churches should be used for. Rather, he was responding to a specific question from Hewitt, a question Turk managed to omit in his remarks. And that single question sets the entire context for Moreland’s remarks. Here’s the question, in context, that Hewitt asked Moreland:

And in a very practical sense, I think there are a lot of pastors and a lot of lay leadership wondering what should we do. In a very practical way, what’s your recommendation to a pastor who thinks that okay, the country’s gone very far to the left, or to his lay board that thinks he needs to step up and get involved without endorsing people from the pulpit which is verboten under the tax code...Which practical steps do you advise?
To which Moreland replied:

First practical step is that we simply have got to realize that we must mobilize our people to vote. Being involved in politics is not unchristian. In fact, it’s a part of our calling as Christians. Why? Because we are supposed to do good to all people including the household of faith. And to do good to all people means establishing just laws and a just and a stable social order. And that’s the job of the state. It’s political. So the first thing a pastor should do and the Church should do is to enlist people like the dickens to be involved in the political process and vote. It is unconscionable that we have these rights, and that we have an obligation as disciples of Jesus to try to bring goodness and truth to society, that we don’t use all means available to promote just laws and a just and stable social order through the political process. And so voting is absolutely critical. That’s step one.
See the problem with Turk’s take? In short, the “first thing” Moreland refers to answers a specific question from Hewitt: What practical steps can a church take to get involved politically without endorsing candidates? Moreland’s answer in no way suggests that the first thing we should be concerned about as Christians, generally, is inhabiting the political process.

As I’ve said before, I’m glad guys like Frank and Phil Johnson are part of the conversation on the relationship between evangelicals and the political process. But taking quotes out of context and spinning them in the most uncharitable light possible is not helpful to the overall discussion.

Important Update: Frank has graciously responed to Justin Taylor's concern that Dr. Moreland's comments were taken out of context. (I was unaware that Justin, Frank, and Dr. Moreland had interacted on this point when I posted my own remarks above.) Frank, to his credit, now says that he did not pay careful enough to the context of Moreland's remarks and regrets the error. My hat is off to Frank for correcting the error.