Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How Bad Do We Want To Win? [Bob]

Though I haven't posted here for quite some time, I enjoy observing the way the Scott, Serge, and Jay respond to the issues that they address both here and in the new LTI Podcast format. For anyone who pays attention, it soon becomes obvious that there are no better advocates for the pro-life position than these three. Maybe the reason I don't post here too often is because I'm afraid I'll make some dunderheaded comment that will in some way detract from their message. Or maybe it's just intimidation -- I know that whatever meager addition I hope to make to the conversation will be underwhelming in comparison to the nuanced thought they each offer every day. I am humbled that they even allow me the option to share their forum.

But sometimes, being a "regular" guy pays off. Sometimes it is beneficial to all the other "regular" folks out there to hear the message that gives them reason to think they can make a difference too. I think this past month solidified that notion for me. I just finished teaching a 5-week course at my local church titled, Defending Life. We covered abortion, stem cell research, death criteria, euthanasia and even talked about the Bodies Exhibit that recently passed through our city. It was an encouraging reminder to me about just how powerful the pro-life message is to those who have lived in blissful ignorance about what is going on in this world and about how we regular folks can prepare ourselves to engage it.

Don't get me wrong -- I didn't come up with a single original idea. I stole stuff from Frank Beckwith and Robert George right and left (always giving credit, of course). I taught them the S-L-E-D Test. I "trotted out the toddler." I analyzed the RH Reality Check video that Scott and Serge ripped in Podcast # 4. I replayed Scott's talk at Gordon College about his encounter with the lady at the swingset. I let them see Bill Clinton yammer on about the moral imperative that we only use "embryos that have not been fertilized" (huh?) when we do ESCR. I opened up the casket on abortion.

In short, I was not too proud or too shy to use anything I could get my hands on from the heavy-hitters ... and I was equally uninhibited about what subjects might be "off limits." The response was astounding.

There were people who admitted never knowing the distinctions between stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research. There were people who had never seen the clear evidence we find in embryology textbooks that life begins at conception; never seen the developmental stages of a human embryo; never heard the morally vacuous and arbitrary attempts to distinguish between human beings and human persons. There were people who left the room in tears. After five short hours, people were able to recognize and counter many of the common, but ludicrous, statements we hear from the abortion-choice crowd and their political apologists. It was one of the most rewarding classes I have ever taught.

Please hear me. The last thing I mean to do is toot my own horn. Far from it. I have no horn to toot (remember, I am admitting to open plagiarism here!). My only hope in daring to post here again is to remind every one of us of two vitally important things:
  1. There would be no hope of promoting the pro-life view without the clear, careful thinking of those who do the heavy intellectual work like what you find here at LTI.

  2. At its core, our message is simple and powerful because it is true -- but too many of our brothers and sisters are unaware of it and untrained to defend it.
On the last day of class, a gentleman stopped me and thanked me for tackling this subject. But along with his compliment came this: "I have never heard most of these arguments anywhere before. And I have never been in a church that would allow this kind of material to be taught." It is sad but true. And I am embarrassed to admit that this was the first time I have ever attempted to broach this subject. But it won't be the last.

Scott and Serge and Jay can't be in all of our little spheres of influence -- but their material can be -- and so can we.

How bad do we want to win this?

Friday, March 20, 2009

No Teleprompter for the Brain [Serge]

With a HT to Hotair, I'm sure glad that we elected the phenomenal thinker, scholar, and public speaker extraordinaire Obama:

and not the ticket with the silly, countrified, gun-totin governor of Alaska:

I'm beginning to agree with Frank J here: forget about the state of the economy or the ability to understand the slight bit of moral reasoning. I'm beginning to wonder whether we can survive the next 4 years without Obama burning down the White House. He won't have his teleprompter when he makes a late night snack, after all.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

LTI Podcast Episode 7 [Serge]

Episode 7 is up! In this podcast Scott and Rich discuss Scott's new book "The Case for Life". Rich also answers feedback regarding evidence from animal studies on the mechanism of oral contraception. As always, you can download the podcast directly at http://www.switchpod.com/p23079.html or subscribe using Itunes at http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=30370997.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Journalistic Malpractice Part Zillion [Serge]

Evil or Ignorant? How about both. The journalists that cover the embryonic stem cell research debate have been guilty of disregarding the truth as well as pushing their own agenda. This article by Josh Brahm is absolutely awesome in documenting the various ways news media have distorted or outright lied about the Obama stem cell story. Great job Josh, and this is absolutely must reading. Right after you go order Scott's book.

Ignorant or Evil? What a choice! [Jay]

I am becoming increasingly concerned about the inability of those who support embryo destructive research to be either honest or coherent. We are left with hoping that the current president and a former president are embarrassingly ignorant, because the alternative is that they are willingly evil.

How else do explain former President Bill Clinton talking to Sanjay Gupta about the embryos that can reasonably be destroyed being those that have no hope of being fertilized? Huh?!!! I would like to think that he is just misspeaking as we are all prone to do from time to time, but he keeps saying it. And Gupta never corrects him. This is supposed to be Mr. Clinton helping President Obama morally justify the decision to reverse former President Bush’s Executive Orders concerning federal funding of embryo destructive research. Mr. Clinton even calls it a pro-life move!

It is comforting to know that the people making the decisions about destroying countless nascent human lives in the name of progress have such a firm grasp on the issue. Obama hates all cloning that produces people as it is wickedly immoral. He only supports cloning that guarantees a dead clone through research. Clinton is convinced that as long as we are only exploiting “unfertilized” embryos as a resource everything is hunky dory and even pro-life.

Wow. Evil or ignorant, ignorant or evil. I honestly don’t know which one to choose.

HT: Stand to Reason Blog

*I am adding this event timeline to help the former leader of the free world out: Sperm and egg meet, fertilization occurs, a zygote is present (new distinct human life has begun), cells multiply and our new human life moves into the embryonic stage of development. So you see Mr. Clinton, there is no such thing as an unfertilized embryo.*

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Case for Life is Now Available! [SK]

I'm pleased to announce that my new book, The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture has been released for public consumption by Crossway.

Get your copy here.

Here's the thesis of the book: The pro-life message can compete in the marketplace of ideas provided Christians properly understand and articulate that message.

My primary purpose is to provide the intellectual grounding for the pro-life convictions that many evangelicals hold, but can't articulate. Christians in particular find it difficult to discuss issues like abortion, cloning, and embryo research without a clear understanding of the essential truths of the pro-life position. This book helps readers articulate a biblical worldview on these issues in the face of an increasingly secularized culture.

While the book is primarily for evangelical Christians, it will benefit any pro-life supporter looking to communicate pro-life principles. One of its chief aims is to simplify issues like abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Despite claims to the contrary, these issues are not morally complex. They come down to just one question: Is the embryo a member of the human family? If so, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong. It treats the distinct human being, with his or her own inherent moral worth, as nothing more than a disposable instrument. Conversely, if the embryos and fetuses in question are not human beings, killing them to extract stem cells or advance your career requires no more justification than pulling your tooth.

Here's the table of contents for The Case for Life:

Part One: Pro-Life Christians Clarify the Debate

1. What's the Issue?
2. What Is the Unborn?
3. What Makes Humans valuable?
4. Is Embryonic Stem Cell Research Morally Complex?

Part Two: Pro-Life Christians Establish a Foundation for the Debate

5. The Ground Rules: Can You Name My Claim?
6. The Ground Rules Part 2: Is Moral Neutrality Possible?
7. Foundations: Does God Matter or am I just Matter?
8. Dead Silence: Does the Bible Justify Abortion?

Part Three: Pro-Life Christians Answer Objections Persuasively

9. From Debate to Dialogue: Asking the Right Questions
10. The Coathanger Objection: "Women will Die from Illegal Abortions"
11. The Tolerance Objection: "You shouldn't force your views on others."
12. The Single Issue Objection: "Pro-lifers should broaden their focus"
13. The Hard Cases Objection: "Rape justifies abortion"
14. The "I Don't Like You" Objection: "Men can't get pregnant" and other attacks
15. The Bodily Autonomy Objection: "It's my body, I'll decide"

Part Four: Pro-Life Christians Teach and Equip

16. Equip to Engage: The Pro-Life Pastor in the 21st Century
17. Healed and Equipped: Hope for Post-Abortion Men and Women
18. Here We Stand: Co-Belligerence without Theological Compromise
19. Can We Win? How Pro-Life Christians are Making and Extraordinary Impact

Taken from the introduction to the book:

"My own thesis is that a biblically informed pro-life view explains human equality, human rights, and moral obligations better than its secular rivals and that pro-life Christians can make an immediate impact provided they’re equipped to engage the culture with a robust but graciously communicated case for life.

Making that case is what this book is about.

Part one helps pro-life Christians simplify debates over abortion and embryonic stem cell research. These issues are not morally complex, though they are often presented that way. Can we kill the unborn? Yes, I think we can. If. If what? If the unborn are not human beings.

Part two explains why moral neutrality is impossible. In a typical abortion debate, the pro-life advocate will be grilled incessantly on every one of his starting points. His critics will demand to know how a right to life can stand apart from fundamental religious underpinnings, why those underpinnings should be allowed to inform public policy, and why anyone should suppose that just because I exist as a human, I have a right to life others are obliged to respect. The truth is, both sides bring prior metaphysical commitments to the debate and are asking the same exact question: What makes humans valuable in the first place?

For Christians fearful they’ll get caught with nothing to say on abortion, part three provides answers to the most common objections including appeals to the hard cases, assertions of bodily autonomy, and personal attacks that ignore the real issue. Pro-lifers who stay focused on the one question that truly matters, the status of the unborn, won’t be sidetracked.

Part four addresses questions related to the pastoral side of pro-life advocacy. First, what is the role of the pro-life pastor? To make an impact on culture, pro-life pastors must not only understand the times, but pursue four vital tasks which I outline in some detail. Second, are evangelicals who work with Catholics, Jews, and others to reform culture compromising the gospel? Some evangelicals say yes. I say no, provided we draw careful lines between co-belligerence and co-confession. Third, how can post-abortion women and men find hope? Many precious pro-life advocates I meet are trying to atone for past abortions with tireless activity. There’s a better way. It’s called grace. Finally, I conclude with three goals designed to lay a foundation for victory.

I do not pretend to have written an exhaustive defense of the pro-life view. That’s been done already by selected authors I cite throughout the text. My purpose is different. This book will take those sophisticated pro-life defenses and put them in a form that hopefully equips and inspires lay Christians (with or without academic sophistication) to engage the debate with friends, coworkers, and fellow believers.

Admittedly, a book about pro-life apologetics may not appeal to some lay Christians. It seems many believers would rather focus on end times rather than these times. That’s a mistake. Humans who ignore questions about truth and human value may soon learn what it really means to be left behind."

Endorsements for The Case for Life:

“Scott Klusendorf has produced a marvelous resource that will equip pro-lifers to communicate more creatively and effectively as they engage our culture. The Case for Life is well-researched, well-written, logical, and clear, containing many pithy and memorable statements. Those already pro-life will be equipped; those on the fence will likely be persuaded. Readers looking to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves will find much here to say. I highly recommend this book.”
Randy Alcorn, best-selling author

“Scott Klusendorf takes the insights and methods for defending the right to life he so effectively communicates in his teaching presentations into a book that provides a clear and cogent biblical rationale for the sanctity and dignity of life, born or unborn. This is a great tool for the layman who knows he or she is pro-life, but doesn't understand the presuppositions on which his or her beliefs are based or who doesn’t feel equipped to defend or discuss the issue with others.”
Chuck Colson, founder, Prison Fellowship

“The Case for Life is a veritable feast of helpful information about pro-life issues, the finest resource about these matters I have seen. It is accessible to the layperson, and it lays out a strategy for impacting the world for a culture of life.”
J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University; author of Kingdom Triangle

“The Case for Life has set a new standard for pro-life apologetics. Accessible for the layperson, Scott has articulated and refuted every major and minor pro-choice objection to the pro-life position.”
Barbara Shackelford, Executive Director, A Women’s Pregnancy Center, Tallahassee, Florida

“Scott Klusendorf’s accessible, winsomely-written book presents a well-reasoned, comprehensive case for intrinsic human dignity and worth. Klusendorf not only equips the reader with incisive, insightful responses to pro-abortion arguments, he also presents a full defense of the biblical worldview.”
Paul Copan, Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University, West Palm Beach, Florida

“This book will equip the reader to articulate both a philosophical case and a biblical case for life and to answer intelligently and persuasively the main objections to the pro-life position. It is easy to follow and hard to put down.”
Patrick Lee, McAleer Professor of Bioethics, Director, Institute of Bioethics, Franciscan University of Steubenville

“The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage Culture by Scott Klusendorf is prophetic and practical. It is prophetic in the sense that it makes a clear and undeniable argument based on truth about human value. It gives a biblically informed pro-life view. It is practical because it provides pro-life advocates a toolbox for offering understandable defenses for the unborn. It shows how to logically answer objections and move a debate to a dialogue. As a pastor, I was challenged, informed, and inspired to confidently and graciously make a difference in my generation for the cause of life.”
Jimmy Dale Patterson, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Newman, Georgia


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama's Ideology [SK]

Jonah Goldberg get's it exactly right: Obama's "ideology-free" position on stem cells is itself an ideology. Goldberg begins by quoting Yuval Levin's excellent point:

In a prior iteration of that debate, while he was serving in the Senate, Obama told reporters that "the promise that stem cells hold does not come from any particular ideology; it is the judgment of science, and we deserve a president who will put that judgment first." This is a concise articulation of the technocratic temptation in science policy, reaffirmed by the president's remarks yesterday. It argues not for an ethical judgment regarding the moral worth of human embryos but, rather, that no ethical judgment is called for: that it is all a matter of science.

This is a dangerous misunderstanding. Science policy questions do often require a grasp of complex details, which scientists can help to clarify. But at their core they are questions of priorities and worldviews, just like other difficult policy judgments.

Modern science offers tremendously powerful means of knowing and doing. It is the role of elected policymakers to consider the knowledge that science offers and the power it gives us, and to balance these with other priorities — be they economic as in the case of environmental policy, strategic as in the case of nonproliferation or moral as in the case of embryonic stem cells. In all these areas, politics ought to govern, with science merely its handmaiden. Science is a glorious thing, but it is no substitute for wisdom, prudence or democracy.
Goldberg then asks us to imagine a president who said, "the military will be free of ideological or political interference. Henceforth, neither the Congress nor the executive branch can meddle in military decisions or impose their political or ideological agendas on how it operates."

Most people, writes Goldberg,

would surely recognize how stupid and dangerous this would be (including the founding fathers who wisely made sure the constitution barred anything of the sort). But then again, what's the difference? After all, he military is full of experts who understand the complexities of war far better than most civilian leaders. Why should non-experts from the political branches impose their "ideological" preferences and agendas on the military? Let's not even bring up the word "ethics" — it has no place in such affairs. Let's just leave it up to the military to determine what rules it should follow, what practices it can adopt. They're the experts.
Goldberg then nails it: Obama's "ideology-free" position on stem cells, is itself an ideological position.
I'm no fan of the philosopher Carl Schmitt, but he was right that even the decision to decide what things are "immune" from politics is a political decision. If a right-wing president declared that he would give the military a completely free hand to set its own ethical and procedural constraints, most of us on the left and right would see that as a crazily "ideological" position.

Or we can bring it down to earth more. Most liberals believe that those who want to leave the question of gun ownership up to the individual, without meddling by government, are profoundly ideological. Most conservatives think the opposite, that the liberal position on guns is ideological. And they're right, on both sides. You can make the same point with everything from gay marriage to abortion to drug legalization. Supporting crack prohibition is an ideological position. The pro-legalized crack stance is just as ideological.

Readers of my book (and the Corner) know that I think the cult of pragmatism is really a Trojan Horse for the preferred ideological positions of people who don't want to have ideological arguments. It often requires an undemocratic form of argumentation in which differing points of view are dismissed as illegitimate. In his pre-inaugural speech in Philadelphia, Obama proclaimed “What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives — from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry — an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.”

Now, I don't think most reasonable people can look at what Obama has done in the last seven weeks and claim with a straight face that he's not ideological. But Obama clearly doesn't think he's a small-thinker or a bigot. That's what he thinks of those "ideologues" who disagree with his ideology. He did the same thing yesterday in his remarks about stem cells, though with marginally less name-calling. He is trying to shut down principled disagreement by saying that all reasonable people already agree with him and therefore anyone who disagrees is ipso facto unreasonable, i.e. "ideological."

A more honest approach would be to simply declare "we're all ideologues now" and then have a serious argument about the substance. Obama's not interested in that. He prefers debates with strawmen.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

LTI Podcast Special Episode 6 - Obama and Stem Cells [Serge]

Its all Obama this week. Serge, Scott, and Jay respond to President Obama's speech yesterday regarding destructive embryo research and the position of science in public discourse. Should scientific inquiry always trump ethical and moral concerns?

Links from the podcast:
Transcript of Obama's speech (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-of-the-President-As-Prepared-for-Delivery-Signing-of-Stem-Cell-Executive-Order-and-Scientific-Integrity-Presidential-Memorandum/)
Ryan Anderson's piece in the Weekly Standard (http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/016/258hdaij.asp)

You can download the podcast directly at http://www.switchpod.com/p23079.html or subscribe using Itunes at http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=303709975

Friday, March 6, 2009

LTI Podcast Episode 5 [Serge]

Episode 5 is up. Scott and I continue to respond to Amanda's video, and I analyze a paper from the Guttmacher Institute that seems to support the idea that there are positive benefits to kids having sex as early as 13 years of age.

You can download the podcast directly at http://www.switchpod.com/p23079.html or subscribe using Itunes at http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=303709975

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

God, Morals, Abortion, and Atheism [SK]

Jim Etchison and I debate the foundations for human rights, human value, and law. Jim opens the exchange by taking issue with a few points from a recent talk I gave on genetic engineering and embryonic stem cell research.

Some background--Jim and I were both student leaders in the college class at The Church on the Way back in the early 1980s. Jim rejected Christianity in the mid 1990s and is now an atheist. But he's also more or less pro-life.