Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Three Minutes to Reach 35,000 [Scott]

In 2010, LTI reached 35,000 high school and college students with pro-life presentations. Would you give up a latte, a scone, and three minutes of your time to help us reach more in 2011?

Please make a year-end gift. Thank you!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Singer is Speciest [Scott]

I could be wrong, but I think I owe the following observation to J.P. Moreland.

In short, it appears Peter Singer himself can’t escape the charge of specieism. That is, not only is his criterion for persohnood ad-hoc and arbitrary (he never tells us why certain value-giving properties are value-giving in the first place), it distinctly favors his own species. For example, why are self-awareness and rationality—distinctly human traits—the standards by which we evaluate all living things, including non-human animals? Why are those things value-giving rather than, say, having traits that favor alligators, such as powerful jaws and tough skin? It seems that Singer’s own standard is no less specieist than the pro-lifer's.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Re: What Would Jesus Do? [Scott]

It seems Ron did not like my earlier reply about the true peace of Christmas. Here are the main points of his post:

How can we celebrate Peace when we are killing Muslims and occupying their homes?…

You are a follower of Jesus, yet you won't tell me whether Jesus would vote for war as the politicians whom you support do. You don't see the conflict? This is all I want to know. WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?…Let me make something clear Scott. I have no need for a "theological peace" that is not evidenced by a real-world Peace represented by people who stand up and loudly to oppose the warmongers….You have already missed one opportunity this morning to speak out against the horror being done this very moment by Americans. You also missed the opportunity to tell me WWJD or for whom he votes. Would Jesus fly a drone into a blind target? Would he kick down the doors of peaceful people and demean them in their own homes? Would Jesus drop 10,000 bombs on a city?…

MY POINT IN ALL THIS Scott, is that while you are quoting from the Bible about Peace, you should be looking at pictures of the families that our War machine is literally blowing apart, and seeking Peace by creating CHANGE…The thing is, if you are a follower of Jesus, then you have to do and say and think like Jesus. I believe that the reason why you won't answer the question: WWJD is because that the moment you do, you will become responsible to it.

What would Jesus do?

The question is, which Jesus is Ron referencing--the one of Scripture or the one of his own making?

Ron tries to pull off a common liberal trick. That is, he asks, "What would Jesus do?" but limits the debate only to his take on the Jesus of the four gospels.

Well, that won't work. Ron fails to recognize (or, admit) that the whole Bible was given to us by God, thus we have no right to limit our views only to those parts of Scripture we like best. Briefly, the same God that walked the earth in the gospels also created the world and set governments up to defend the innocent against evil. That same God inspired the New Testament writers to say that government was to wield the sword and be a terror against evil doers. (Romans 13:3-4). That same God said government was to punish those who do evil. (1 Peter 2: 14).

So, what would Jesus do? Before you answer, check out all of what He says in Scripture, not just the parts you want to quote out of context.

Of course, Ron could reply that Jesus said turn the other cheek in Matthew 5:39. Yes, He said that. But what did he mean? Seen in context, Jesus is not talking to governments whose job it is to restrain evil. Rather, he's talking to individuals, telling them not to take revenge for personal insults. This is not the command God gives to governments who are to "bear the sword" against evil doers.

One more thing. At first, I tried to take Ron seriously, despite his caustic prose, in hopes we could have a reasonable discussion. I do my best (imperfectly) to be gracious to critics. But Ron went way too far almost from the beginning. For him to say—without a shred of evidence—that the U.S. military is deliberately targeting innocent civilians for destruction is a shameful slap in the face to every grieving parent who just lost a son defending freedom. How sad.

New Book on Christians and Politics [Scott]

I’m thoroughly enjoying Wayne Grudem’s Politics According to the Bible. Finally, here’s a Christian theologian who connects the dots: Christian belief is not just about John 3: 16, but transformed living which includeds the transformation of government. True, political success can’t save souls eternally (only the gospel does that), but it can promote a more just society for the weak and oppressed. To that end, Christians should exert significant influence on government.

Grudem begins by challenging five wrong views regarding Christians and government: 1) Government should compel religion. 2) Government should exclude religion. 3) All government is evil and demonic. 4) Do evangelism, not politics. 5) Do politics, not evangelism.

Most helpful to the pro-life cause is Grudem’s refutation of #4—namely, the faulty view that Christians should do evangelism not politics. Sadly, well-intentioned leaders like John MacArthur and Cal Thomas have discouraged pro-life Christians from engaging the culture through politics. They essentially claim that we should just preach the gospel because that is the only way we can change people’s hearts and change our society. As they see it, the church is only called to preach the gospel, not preach about politics. True, each of these authors allows for limited political involvement (what that looks like is never quite spelled out), but the general message to pro-life Christians is clear: Only preaching the gospel will reform culture. Everything else is largely a waste of time.

Unborn humans are at risk because of this faulty view and I’ve challenged it myself elsewhere. Meanwhile, Joe Carter has debunked the idea that Christians spend too much time on politics. Grudem, however, nails the core problem with MacArthur, et al: They wrongly take one of the ways that God restrains evil in the world (changing hearts through the gospel) and assert that it is the only way that God restrains evil (thus rejecting the role of civil government). Truth is, God gave both the church and the government a role to play:
I agree that one significant way that God restrains evil in the world is through changing people’s hearts when they trust in Christ as their Savior (see 2 Cor. 5:17). But we should not turn this one way into the only way that God restrains evil in this age. God also uses civil government to restrain evil, and there is much evil that can only be restrained by the power of civil government, for there will always be many who do not trust in Christ as their Savior and many who do not fully obey him.
Exactly. As I’ve said before, pro-life Christians don’t have to choose between preaching the gospel and reforming culture. They can do both.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The True "Peace" of Christmas [Scott]

Here's a Facebook posting from Ron, who is angry at my Christian friend Rick for writing about Christmas peace. Ron writes:

How can we celebrate Peace when we are killing Muslims and occupying their homes? How can we openly support Republicans and Democrats that make unjust war and then quote... scripture about Peace? These wars based on lies must be challenged loudly.

You described yourself as a Conservative first,yet others that describe themselves this way do not speak or act as Peace-mongers.

Words have meaning. If you are going to be my friend,and speak of Peace, then you must -be- a man of Peace.

I challenge you to prove your words, and the words of your God, and speak as loudly about ending these wars against brown people, as you do about these Christmas Values of Peace and Joy.

WWJD? ...and what would he say.

Ron, Your reply to Rick is question-begging in that it assumes the very thing it is trying to prove, namely, that the theological peace spoken of in the biblical documents is identical to the political peace you speak of. Only if they are identical in nature is there a contradiction in Rick's claim.

They are not. Setting aside your claim that the current war against terror is unjust (a claim I'll assume you've presented evidence for elsewhere), the theological peace Rick speaks of can be summarized in the gospel. Whether you believe that gospel is not my point here, only that you understand its basic storyline and thus understand what Rick means by "peace." Briefly, the gospel is the story of a good God who created a good world with people who were to worship and enjoy Him forever. But our first parents rebelled against their maker and set themselves up as Kings. God, who had every right to destroy the rebel race instead did something remarkable. He sent Jesus, the sinless one, to bear in full His wrath against sin. As the prophet Isaiah writes, "He was crushed for our transgressions...the punishment that brought us peace was placed on Him."

In short, the theological peace Rick speaks of is vertical while the political peace you reference is horizontal. The former is vertical because God, through the death of his son Jesus, reconciled Himself to a rebel world He had every right to destroy. As a result, those who trust in His Son's righteousness (rather than their own) are completely forgiven of their sins and adopted into God's family. That's the gospel of peace Rick speaks of.

Again, whether you believe that gospel is another matter. I simply wanted you to understand the peace Rick speaks of.

Blessings, Friend.

Note: correction on prophet name made @ 10:56.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What the "Walking Dead" can Teach Pro-Lifers [Scott]

The AMC series The Walking Dead is gory, brutal, and not for the faint of heart. Yet I'm fascinated by it and think Christian apologists may want to give it a second look. But only if you can stand lots and lots of gore.

I can live without the blood, thank you, and episode #2 has an implied sex scene I chose not to watch. What grips me is the drama of a tiny group of humans fighting to survive against overwhelming odds. This is not your daddy's 1970s zombie film. Indeed, unlike those earlier offerings, this one has believable characters in a realistic location (Atlanta, GA). Its realness is gripping.

The basic plotline tells the story of what happens after a zombie apocalypse. Briefly, a small group of human survivors moves about in search of protection from shuffling hordes of the walking dead. If bitten by one of the walking zombies, the victim dies a violent death only to resurrect a short time later as a deadly walker. The survivors are led by Rick Grimes, a sheriff's deputy from a small Georgia county. As their odds for survival shrink, desperation pushes them to the very edge of sanity. They witness unspeakable horrors as the walkers can only be stopped with a gunshot through the head or a pick-axe through the skull.

It's gruesome stuff. And it’s loaded with ideas worth discussing within the context of a Christian worldview.

Episode 6 (the season finale) is a case in point. Rick and his tiny band of survivors arrive at the CDC in Atlanta hoping to find answers for the Zombie outbreak. To their horror, the facility is locked up tighter than Fort Knox. Just before walkers overwhelm the humans, a door opens and the survivors escape inside. That's where they meet Dr. Edward Jenner, the sole CDC staffer who remained behind after the zombie attack. In the clip below, he explains to the group how the zombie infection kills a victim. Listen carefully to his description of human nature:

In short, Dr. Jenner says that we are nothing but our physical brains. All of our thoughts, feelings, and convictions are determined by synapse firings. When the frontal lobes cease, you cease.

However, If everything about the human being can be reduced to a predetermined pattern of synapse firings in the brain, why is he trying to persuade group members to think any different than they do? After all, their thoughts are also predetermined by their individual synapses, meaning they are not free to think any differently than they already do. Thus, in the very act of trying to persuade, Dr. Jenner undermines his own case for determinism. His predetermined thoughts can be no more rational than theirs. At the same time, if we are nothing more than physical beings, how can we account for personal identity through time and change? In the last seven years--indeed, in the last five minutes--my body has undergone numerous changes. In what sense, then, am I the same person I was seven years ago or even five minutes ago?

As Paul Copan points out, Orthodox Christianity has a different take on human nature known as substance dualism. In this view, "humans are comprised of both physical body and nonphysical soul, and the soul gives humans their continued identity even though the body may perish (e.g., during the intermediate state). Body and soul are distinct but deeply interactive, organically integrated substances—physical and nonphysical."

So what is a substance? J.P Moreland, Scott Rae, and Frank Beckwith (among others) write that substances are living organisms that maintain their identities through time and change while property things, like my car, do not. What moves a puppy to maturity or a human fetus to adulthood is not a mere collection of parts, but an underlying immaterial nature or essence that orders its properties and capacities. As a substance grows, it does not become more of its kind; it matures according to its kind. It remains the same kind of thing from the moment it begins to exist. Thus, a substance retains its identity even if its ultimate capacities are never fully realized. A dog that never learns to bark is still a dog by nature. (That is, it the dog’s particular nature, not the realization of some capacity he may or may not develop, determines what kind of thing he is.)

Property things like cars are just sum totals of their total parts. Change a motor or replace a tire, and technically have a different vehicle from the one that rolled off the assembly line. There is no essential essence or nature that defines it and orders its basic capacities. Property things like my car or a plane come into existence part by part. But living things are different. They come into existence all at once then gradually unfold themselves according to their inner natures. Herein lies Dr. Jenner's error: He reduces human beings to the sum total of their physical parts, making it difficult to explain how anyone retains his/her identity when those physical parts change.

So why does this matter to pro-life advocacy? The substance view tells us that you are identical to your former fetal self. You are the same being now as you were then, though not because of something physical that will change over time. Rather, from the moment you began to exist (conception), you possessed a non-material human nature that grounded your identity through all the stages of your development. That is, there’s been no substantial change to your essential being even though your physical body has changed dramatically. Thus, if you are intrinsically valuable now, you were intrinsically valuable then as well.

In short, what makes us equal is that we all have the same human nature, and we have it from the moment we begin to exist.

If I'm wrong about this and Dr. Jenner is right, human equality is a myth. Those with more brain function are more valuable than those with less--born or unborn.

Monday, November 29, 2010

How to Teach a Basic Pro-Life Apologetics Seminar [Scott]

I've been asked many times how to structure a basic pro-life training seminar for Christians. I suggest a time frame of two to three hours, with breaks. The goal is to equip Christians to engage friends with a winsome and persuasive defense of the pro-life view. I'll be teaching this same material to staff members at For Faith and Family tomorrow in Nashville. I've included links to better explain each point.

Title: Pro-Life 101--Making a Case for Life

Suggested Text: The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (Crossway, 2009)

Thesis: To be an effective pro-life apologist, you must meet 3 key objectives:

1) You must simplify the issue
2) You must make a persuasive case using science and philosophy
3) You must handle objections graciously and incisively

I. Effective pro-life apologists simplify the issue by focusing the debate on one question, What is the unobrn?

A. Example: Daddy can I kill this? (Koukl) That depends: What is it?
B. Debate w/ Nadine Strossen: “I agree, IF. If What?
C. Trot out a toddler for objections based on privacy, trusting women, poverty, etc.
D. Visuals: Use them to awaken moral intuitions, but use them wisely.

II. Effective pro-life apologists make a persuasive case for the lives of the unborn w/ science and philosophy.

A. Science: From the beginning, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings.

1. Objections and replies:
a. Twining
b. Miscarriages
c. Women don’t grieve
d. Burning Research lab
e. Sperm and egg are alive.
2. More examples that demonstrate scientific support for the pro-life view:
a. Richard Stith: Construct versus develop
b. Maureen Condic: Corpses versus embryos
B. Philosophy: There is no essential difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today that would justify killing you at that earlier stage of development

1. SLED test
2. Objection: “The embryo is not self-aware”
3. Replies to objection:
a. Why is some development needed?
b. Newborns aren’t self-aware until several weeks after birth—may we kill them?
c. Can’t account for human equality
4. Natural rights versus positive (legal) ones
5. Human exceptionalism: Is it evil? (Michael Vick)
6. The “Religion” objection--Why it fails:
a. Non-believers can recognize humanity of unborn
b. What do you mean by “religious?”
c. The pro-life view is inherently religious, but no more so than alternative explanations
d. Just because a view is grounded in religion doesn’t mean it can only be defended that way
e. Why should anyone suppose religious views don’t count as real knowledge? The Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail, and Lincoln’s 2nd Inugural Address all have their roots in the Biblical concept of Imago Dei.

III. Effective pro-life apologists answer objections persuasively.

A. Columbo Tactic (Koukl)
B. The 3 Columbo questions:

1. What do you mean by that?
2. How did you come to that conclusion?
3. Have you considered the implications of your view?

C. Eight bad ways people argue about abortion:

1. They assume the unborn are not human:
a. Appeals to the dangers of back-alley abortions
b. Appeals to privacy, choice, and trusting women
c. Appeals to not forcing morality
2. They assert rather than argue:
a. Women have a right to choose
b. The unborn are not self-aware (hidden premise: Self-awareness is value-giving.)
3. They attack the person rather than the argument:
a. You have no right to oppose abortion unless you adopt.
b. You men can’t get pregnant, so shut up about abortion!

(Bottom line: Even if these assertions are true, they do nothing to refute the evidence that the unborn are fully human. Can the fetus be human even if I’m a man?)
4. They confuse moral claims with preference ones--relativism’s 3 fatal flaws:
a. Relativism self-destructs
b. Relativism can’t say why anything is right or wrong, including intolerance
c. Relativism can’t live with it’s own rule
5. They advance a radical bodily rights theory:
a. The alleged parallels are not parallel: Are we to assume that a mother has no more duty to her own child than she does a total stranger who is unnaturally hooked up to her?
b. The bodily rights view justifies killing newborns through neglect or abandonment
6. They twist Scripture:
a. Faulty argument from silence: Ask, "Are you saying that whatever the Bible doesn't condemn it condones?
b. There's a reason for the Bible's silence on abortion: The Hebrews of the OT and the Christians of the NT were not tempted to kill their unborn offspring.
7. They confuse contingent evils with absolute evils. To be worse than abortion, how bad would an unjust war have to be?

8. They hide behind the hard cases

A short tribute... [Megan]

To the man who summed up the cohesiveness and beauty of the Christian worldview with: "I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
To the man who stressed the importance of reason-tempered passions, and who challenged educators lest they create "Men Without Chests" and lead to the abolition of the very thing that sets human beings apart.
To the man who cut through the excess to so wonderfully discuss "Mere Christianity."
And someone who understood and beautifully expressed to the best of human ability "The Weight of Glory."
Thank you for sharing with us your God-given talent and wisdom.
Happy Birthday to C.S. Lewis, on whose shoulders I stand as I make a case for the truth of Christianity and human value in this world.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What We Read at Our Thanksgiving Table [Scott]

Note: Italics read by all present. The rest is read by me. The wording is not my own. Source is unknown.

Holy and righteous God, we confess that like Isaiah, we are a people of unclean lips. But it is not only unclean lips we possess. We are people with unclean hands and unclean hearts. We have broken your law times without number, and are guilty of pride, unbelief, self-centeredness and idolatry. Affect our hearts with the severity of our sin and the glory of your righteousness as we now acknowledge our sins in your holy presence.

We have had other gods before you.

We have worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator. We have sought satisfaction in this world’s pleasures rather than in You. We have loved to praise our own glory more than yours.

We have taken your name in vain.

We have prayed religious prayers to impress others. We have uttered your name countless times without reverence or love. We have listened to others use your name in vain without grieving.

We have murdered in our hearts.

We have often destroyed our neighbor with our tongues. We have been quick to uncharitably judge others. We have considered revenge when we were sinned against.

We have committed adultery with our eyes.

We have loved temptation rather than fighting it. We have lusted after unlawful and immoral pleasures. We have justified our lusts by using the world as our standard.

We have stolen what is not ours and coveted what belongs to others.

Our lives overflow with discontent, ungratefulness, and envy. We have complained in the midst of Your abundant provision. We have sought to exalt ourselves through owning more.

We have lied to you and to others.

We have told distorted truths, half-truths, and untruths. We have despised the truth to make ourselves look better. Even in our confession, we look for ways to hide our guilt. O God, we have sinned against your mercy times without number. We are ashamed to lift up our faces before you, for our iniquities have gone over our heads.

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?

How shall we answer you? We lay our hands on our mouths. We have no answer to your righteous wrath and just judgment.

We have no answer. But God Himself has mercifully provided one for us. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.(Is. 53:6)

“”God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (I Cor. 5:21)

Therefore, having been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a good man, but God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! (Romans 5: 1, 6-9 parapharased)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mildred Jefferson [Bob]

From National Review's The Week:
When Mildred Jefferson graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1951 -- the first black woman to do so -- she took the Hippocratic Oath. Jefferson believed in it, and believed it prohibited the taking of life, so two decades later, when the AMA declared that physicians could ethically perform abortions, she became one of the founders of the National Right to Life Committee. She remained active in NRLC and other pro-life groups until her death on October 15, 2010.
A surgeon, she was renowned for her energy, her stirring oratory, and her tireless dedication to the cause. Perhaps her most concise explanation of why she felt so strongly came in a 2003 article:
"I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged and the planned have a right to live."
When she testified before Congress in 1981 about a pro-life bill sponsored by Jesse Helms and Henry Hyde, Jefferson was no less blunt:
"With the obstetrician and mother becoming the worst enemy of the child and the pediatrician becoming the assassin for the family, the state must be enabled to protect the life of the child, born and unborn."
RIP ...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Late-term Abortion [Elizabeth]

Check out this article in The Washington Post about the new late-term abortion clinics planned in D.C. and Iowa.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Important Pro-Life Training Links [Scott]

My advanced pro-life apologetics course for M.A. students (at Biola University) is now on YouTube. The 8 sessions are featured there. Take your pick. The extended notes for the seminar are here.

Bob Perry of the LTI speaking team will be featured on the nationally syndicated "Bible Answer Man" program tomorrow. Listen here.

Rich Poupard of the LTI speaking team was featured on the "Bible Answer Man" program last Thursday discussing Self-Esteem from a Scalpel. Powerful stuff. (Rich is interviewed begining at the 21 minute mark.)

Meanwhile, LTI staffers Jay Watts and Megan Almon continue providing worldview training to students in the Atlanta area.

If you haven't considered supporting our efforts to equip pro-lifers, please do! You can make a real difference by going here.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Real tests aren't taken in classrooms [Megan]

The tests were passed into trembling hands on Monday (Nov. 1) as the Christian worldview students Jay and I teach on a weekly basis took their first look at one of two exams they take in the course of the semester. This exam was drawn from the first four chapters of Kenneth Samples' book, A World of Difference, which lay out the components that make up this thing we call a "worldview."
The students needn't have trembled. Though they have found the material challenging, they were more than adequately familiar with what we expected from them. We wanted them familiar with the terms, terms like "fallacy," "law of non-contradiction," "epistemology and ontology," "ad hominem," and others. In no way did we expect them to be able to explain these in full, but as we move forward in laying out the Christian worldview, then comparing it to others, we wanted the students to have a framework in place to work with. When I or Jay say(s), "theology," we expect them to automatically think, "study of God." For now, that's enough.
Their intimidation is suitable in a way, however. Though they don't need to feel it to such a degree as far as our expectations go for the class, anyone who begins to study our infinite Sovereign should feel a certain amount of reverent intimidation. Let's face it — given our limited capacities and finite natures, a little mystery is to be expected. On those grounds, I for one am encouraged that our students seem to recognize that.
Furthermore, the kind of thinking the students are doing in this class is new to many of them, and therefore challenging. To make decisions in the course of a given day is one matter; to understand the logical processes by which those decisions are made is something else entirely. In some ways, it is a backwards type of learning, but a type of learning more of us need to undertake.
As toddlers begin communicating in sentences, they take for granted the structure and components of the sentences they're using, which is probably why school-age language arts classes are frustrating to some. But there is something enriching about learning subjects and predicates, nouns and adjectives, verbs and adverbs that makes young students who grasp those concepts better communicators. The best writers out there use the rules of sentence-making to their advantages, and we the readers enjoy the fruits of their mastery.
Likewise, as our students have learned, everyone has a worldview — everyone sees reality in a certain way. Most people take their respective worldview for granted. They continue navigating life with no knowledge of the components of their worldview, and unable to ascertain reasonably whether their worldview corresponds with reality (aside from the occasional experience that forces a shift in ideas, as when someone who believes humans can sprout wings and fly jumps from a wall only to meet gravity face to face). But as our students have begun to understand the components, the working categories by which they can actually think about their worldview and its reasonableness, they — like writers who masterfully use sentences to express ideas — become able to use their worldview as a tool by which they navigate life. An intact Christian worldview makes sense of the world. As C.S. Lewis said of the Christian worldview, "I believe in Christianity as I believe the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else."
As far as the test goes, the grades were overall a success. Several students received "A"s, with others trailing closely. In the remaining months we have with these students, it is our hope that they are able to pass the tests that matter. Living life as a thinking believer. Not shaken to the core when their ideas are challenged, but meeting that challenge face-to-face with reasoning skills and pointed questions. Not afraid to speak truth when lies are raised against the knowledge of God. Courageous — and firmly grounded — enough to stand for victims in the face of injustice, especially when it comes to their unborn neighbors. Turning toward God, whose Holy Spirit, our Comforter, comes "with power" in the midst of suffering. Raising up strong leaders to come after them until Christ returns.
As they receive their graded tests next week, I hope they give their grades a passing glance, and chalk up their success as one small victory in the bigger picture.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pro-Life Christians and the Mid-Term Elections [Scott]

The views which follow are my own. Life Training Institute does not endorse candidates or parties.

When asked last week if Jesus is a Republican or Democrat, I replied: "Of course not, any more than He's a Presbyterian, Baptist, or charismatic. But it doesn't follow from this that one political party isn't more in line with biblical truth than another, or that believers can justify empowering a party that sanctions the wholesale killing of unborn human beings."

Below are five questions I think Christian leaders should consider heading into the 2010 Mid-term Elections. Remember, at the legislative level, political parties matter more than individuals. That is, the majority party, not the individual member of Congress, sets the legislative agenda and determines which bills get a hearing.

True, no political party is perfect, but that does not relieve Christians of their duty to limit evil and promote the good insofar as possible given current political realities. Put simply, that means voting (at the legislative level) for the party that, though imperfect, will best uphold the fundamental truth that all humans regardless of size, development, location, and dependency have an equal right to life in virtue of the kind of thing they are.

With that background in mind, here are my five questions:

Question #1: Should pastors lovingly challenge church members who actively support a political party that supports elective abortion?

Pastors should challenge believers and non-believers with the truth that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being. And that truth should impact how we vote.

Should pastors be okay with church members supporting a party committed to elective abortion? That depends. Are we talking about new Christians or longstanding church members? For newcomers, their greatest need—and ours, for that matter—is continual immersion in the gospel. Greg Koukl puts it well: Jesus first catches his fish then he cleans them. In other words, we shouldn’t expect perfection in new converts (any more than we expect it in ourselves), but as they grow in grace, we should expect they’ll begin the process of getting in line with a biblical worldview. That worldview affirms that all humans have value because they bear the image of their maker—thus, the shedding of innocent blood is strictly forbidden. Longstanding church members should live out that biblical view in every area of their lives, including in their political affiliations. If they don’t, something is wrong with their alleged biblical worldview.

Suppose, for example, that it’s 1860 and fifty percent of professing Christians in your church are members of a political party dedicated to the proposition that an entire class of human beings can be enslaved or killed to meet the needs of the White race. If you were a pastor during that time, would this be okay? It might be excusable for new converts just coming to grips with a Christian worldview, but mature Christians?

Something is desperately wrong with my preaching if established church members are comfortable empowering a political party which asserts as one of its foundational principles the right to kill unborn humans. Again, no party is perfect, but on the question of fundamental human value, some parties are more in line with biblical truth than others. What’s wrong with Christian leaders saying that?

Question #2: What role does the gospel play in my political affiliations?

It’s hard for me to see how anyone who truly understands the biblical doctrines of justification and adoption could support a party that insists on the legal right to elective abortion. The gospel is the good news that while we were in total rebellion against God, he sent Jesus Christ to atone for our sins. As a result, we are declared justified in virtue of Christ’s righteousness not our own. But the news gets even better. Not only are we justified, we are also adopted into God’s family. That’s right—instead of destroying us for our rebellion, the Father adopts us in Christ! How can anyone who understands that truth say it’s okay to support a political party committed to destroying human beings simply because they are in the way of something we want? Being “in the way” pales in comparison to being in open rebellion against my creator, which is exactly where I was before God justified and adopted me. For the believer, that truth alone should rule out enabling a political party that promotes elective abortion wholesale.

Question #3: Liberal Christians insist that conservatives are focusing too narrowly on abortion to the exclusion of other important issues. Are pro-life Christians guilty of single issue voting?

Of course abortion isn’t the only issue—anymore than the treatment of slaves wasn’t the only issue in the 1850’s or the treatment of Jews the only issue in the 1940s. But both were the dominant issues of their day. Thoughtful Christians attribute different importance to different issues, and give greater weight to fundamental moral questions. For example, if a man running for president told us that men had a right to beat their wives, most people would see that as reason enough to reject him, despite his expertise on foreign policy or economic reforms. The foundational principle of our republic is that all humans are equal in their fundamental dignity. What issue could be more important than that?

Question #4: Some Christians say that while they don’t think abortion is a good idea, legislation is not the best way to prevent it. They contend that pro-lifers would be far more effective spending their energies “elsewhere.”

Oh? Where might that be? But there are bigger problems with this argument. For starters, our critics almost never say why abortion is not a good idea. I mean, if abortion doesn’t take the life of a defenseless human, why be opposed at all? But if it does take the life of a human without justification, why is legislating against it a bad idea? Again, we’re almost never given an answer. Moreover, pro-lifers are not out to merely “prevent” elective abortion. We want to make it unthinkable the way that killing toddlers is unthinkable to anyone with a functioning conscience. In other words, merely reducing abortion isn't necessarily pro-life. As Frank Beckwith points out, a society that has fewer abortions, but protects the legal killing of unborn humans, would still be deeply immoral. Imagine a nineteenth-century lawmaker who said that slavery was a bad idea, but owning slaves should remain legal. If those in power adopted his thinking, would this be a good society? Again, it seems critics who argue that abortion is not a good idea, but that legislating against it is mistaken, assume the unborn are not human, like slaves are. But that’s the question that must be resolved before anything else.

Question #5: In 2008, some “pro-life” advocates voted for a presidential candidate who supports elective abortion as a fundamental right. Many insisted their vote was a true pro-life vote. How do you explain this?

These well-intentioned pro-lifers wrongly assume moral equivalency by lumping abortion, war, poverty, and other issues into a single stew. They say things like “ending war is a pro-life issue just like ending abortion.” Really? To be worse than abortion, how bad would an unjust war have to be? I’m really surprised how many Catholic voters get this wrong. Catholic church teaching clearly distinguishes between moral absolutes and prudential judgments. In other words, the decision to wage war is not intrinsically evil, though it must be morally justified and prudently considered. But the deliberate killing of unborn human beings is an absolute evil and laws permitting it are scandalous. Just prior to the 2008 election, I asked one Catholic nun the following question: “Sister, with all due respect, am I right to conclude that you are willing to overlook a presidential candidate's pledge to uphold an absolute evil because he might help us avoid a contingent one?” Her reply: “I just know war is worse right now.” To which I said: “To be worse than abortion, wouldn’t an unjust war have to kill more innocent people than elective abortion does each year? The war in Iraq has resulted in 100,000 deaths total (all sides) while abortion kills 1.2 million each year! In short, the evil of abortion is far worse.

Note: This post was edited from the original version at 11:00 a.m.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Do Desires Determine Rights? [Scott]

A student at Concord Christian Academy (Concrod, NH) made that claim during the Q&A after the assembly this morning. Given time constraints, I could only give him a brief reply, namely, that newborns lack self-awareness and a conscious desire to go in living, yet it's still wrong to kill them. If time permitted, I would have included the problem of the indoctrinated slave.

Briefly, as Patrick Lee and Frank Beckwith point out, slaves can be conditioned to believe they have no interests and no desire for freedom or life, but they still have a right to these things even if they don't presently desire them. “Even if the slave is never killed,” writes Beckwith, “we would still think that he has been harmed precisely because his desires and interest have been obstructed from coming into fruition.” Why can’t the same be said for the human fetus?

True, abortion-choice philosopher David Boonin could reply that the slave’s ideal desire is for life and freedom, but as Beckwith point out, that judgment “seems to assume that the slave is a being of a certain sort" that ought to desire a right to life and freedom even when he does not actually desire them. However, if that is true, it is not desire that grounds the right to life, but the nature of the slave who would have this correct desire if he had not been indoctrinated. In short, the substance view of human persons can explain why the indoctrinated slave has rights even when he doesn’t desire them. Boonin’s own view can’t.

To make sure the point is not lost, Beckwith provides a final example. Suppose one of these indoctrinated slaves is pregnant. Because you agree with Boonin that having desires grounds a right to life, you hire a physician to alter the brain development of the slave’s fetus so that it never develops organized cortical activity and thus never desires life or freedom. Can Boonin reasonably say this is wrong? If rights presuppose desires and desires presuppose organized cortical brain activity, then Boonin’s criterion cannot account for the wrong done to the fetus in this case. Nor would it be wrong for that same scientist to purposefully create human clones who never develop organized cortical brain activity (and thus never experience desires) so that their body parts can be harvested for medical research.

Given the above examples, it’s clear rights cannot rest on desires but instead are grounded in our common human nature. As Lee points out, “it seems more reasonable to hold that the violation of someone’s rights is more closely connected with what truly harms the individual rather than with what he or she desires.” That is, what truly harms the slave is not that he consciously “desires” liberty but is deprived of it, but that rights he has by nature (in virtue of the kind of thing he is) are denied him whether he desires those rights or not.

For more, see my advanced pro-life apologetics notes here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Apologetics & Gospel [Jay]

“Where is the gospel in all of this?” That question comes up as I speak to people about the mission of LTI. While teaching and equipping others to defend their pro-life positions with rational arguments and to better understand their Christian worldview, is there room left to declare the saving grace of Jesus Christ? Are we focusing on social issues while failing to lead sinners to salvation? After all, if we convince people to be pro-life or help them to understand how to evaluate competing worldviews but do not give them the gospel we are likely to have smarter people with correct social views that are still headed for eternal separation from God. We have fed their minds to the detriment of their eternal souls.

I ask a question in return. Why can't apologetics serve the gospel? The desire to see it as “do one or the other” seems flawed to begin with and demonstrates a radical misunderstanding of the motivations of many of the finest Christians I have ever met. These men and women tirelessly study, write, teach, and speak to deliver the gospel to people who are otherwise closed to the message of Jesus Christ. Some people will neither hear nor consider the gospel because they believe that they must choose between being religious and being intelligent, to believe things either on blind faith or through trusting science and history. They MUST either abandon reason to embrace Christianity or abandon Christianity to salvage a place at the table of moderns. I know because I used to be one of them.

Studies by Barna (see here) and Lifeway Research (see here) indicate that between 60% to 70% of all young adults entering college as Christians move away from their faith. Though many begin to gravitate back as they mature there is a large enough group still absent from our churches and disconnected from their former beliefs to demand our urgent attention. They are not being transformed by their faith in any lasting and enduring way in their youth and appear to struggle when doubt and a new environment calls into question previously accepted beliefs. (See also here and here)

My friend's brother declared his independence from the faith of his family shortly after leaving home for college. Though he is unusually bright, his objections weren't rooted in profound questions of philosophical or theological nuance. He simply did not like the idea that his beliefs meant that his college friends would go to hell if they did not accept Christ. They were good people and he felt that if Christianity demanded that they be more than that to be alright then he didn't like it. He has since dabbled in an eclectic mash of religious and agnostic beliefs trying out ideas as if they were varieties of chocolates. He seems to proceed from the position that none of them are really “true” so whichever makes you feel good go with it. In his view, religions are not true or false in the same way that saying water freezes at 0 degrees celsius is true or saying Stalin was a brutal dictator is true. Religious claims have a different standard of evaluation more akin to preference than truth.

How could such a gifted young mind with good Christian parents be derailed by this nonsense? This is not some deep existential crisis where he needed to dive into the most profound thinkers in philosophical history to help him sort out his convictions. This is a case of an otherwise intelligent young man falling prey to sloppy thinking. His faith was never more than a series of abstract beliefs and when those abstractions interfered with his life or brought unwanted consequences he jumped ship for an easier abstraction. He is not alone. How do we address this?

While talking to a group of high schoolers about the Christian worldview using Kenneth Sample's book A World of Difference, one of the students raised her hand and asked me how Christianity answers the verification test. I asked her, “What is the central claim of our faith that all other claims are built upon?” She sat silently. I opened the question up to the rest of the class. “Everyone, what was the central claim that the early church preached as evidence that all of the Christian claims can be trusted? What event is so central to our faith that the apostle Paul tells us if it did not happen we are all of us fools to be pitied?”

After a few awkward guesses we opened the bible to 1 Corinthians Chapter 15 and read one of the earliest written expressions of the Christian faith. I asked them again and all of them said, “The resurrection of Jesus.” How does the resurrection fare on the verification test? Does Paul ask us to blindly trust him and what he is saying about Jesus rising from the grave and defeating death? No.

In fact the students all saw that Paul encouraged readers to seek out any of the more than 500 witnesses that could testify to the truth of the resurrection of Jesus through eyewitness accounts of seeing a living Jesus after he was crucified and buried. There is powerful historical evidence in support of the resurrection of Jesus being the best explanation for the series of widely accepted events that happened at the birth of Christianity including multiple independent eyewitness accounts of Jesus being alive. This evidence tells us that our belief in the risen Lord is rational and stands up very well to the verification test. I then asked them how this compares to Buddha's enlightenment or Mohammed's visions. How easily can we verify the independent spiritual experiences of individuals? How does evidence of the resurrection answer lazy so-called intellectuals that challenge whether or not Jesus was a real man or the dismissive academic that sees the resurrection as a myth or a lie?

This apologetics class led a group of high school students to a better understanding of the central teaching of the Christian message, a risen Lord. They saw that belief in the good news of the Gospel is not a leap of blind faith that requires them to abandon reason and heard that the claim,“Jesus Christ is risen” is rooted in history. They are learning that these beliefs are grounded in sound philosophy as well. Through this, they understand that life is valuable because we are created in the image of God and that the value of human life is also philosophically sound and defensible. They learn that saying “we should not kill other human beings” is not merely a religious statement but a moral truth that applies to us all.

If my friend's brother understood these basic concepts before encountering people he liked that needed a relationship with Christ would it have properly served as motivation to share the hope that was within him? He abandoned his beliefs for no good reason. He did not discover flaws in his views that could not hold in the light of some extraordinary new evidence. He decided that the application of his beliefs created certain realities that made him uncomfortable. His inherited ideas of truth excluded others and his response was not to examine those ideas but to look for an easier truth. Too many of our young people are following this same path. The college freshmen from last year's worldview class could tell him what they learned early in our studies. Truth excludes by nature. The proper test is not whether a belief excludes others with particular claims but whether that belief and those claims are rational and a better fit with what we know than other options.

At LTI, we explicitly share the forgiveness of Christ everywhere we go in order to reach out to both men and women that are suffering from the pain of a past abortion or past abortion experiences. But that does not mean that the gospel is otherwise hidden or neglected. We teach what we teach so that we may bring the gospel to people who are not open to hearing it. The arguments lead to questions and conclusions that will ultimately point our students and our audience back to the source of all reason, morals, and value. And that is good news.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Some Good Links [Scott]

Stephanie Gray of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform makes a great case for life in this video. She's a perfect example of the young talent bursting onto the scene for the pro-life cause.

Douglas Groothuis presents a non-sectarian defense for the pro-life view.

Given the upcoming elections, I thought it wise to revisit my 2008 exchange with Phil Johnson. Key questions in the exchange: 1) Are Christians too involved in politics? 2) Can pro-life evangelicals effectively engage the culture and share the gospel? On #1, Phil Johnson says yes; I say prove it. On #2, Johnson says it's doubtful; I say it's doable.

Great example of a thoughtful exchange: Patrick Lee debates David Boonin on the Ethics of abortion. Lee does a fantastic job getting to the real issues.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Debate with State Senator Daylin Leach [Scott]

Three factors determine whether a debate results in an intelligent exchange of ideas or is reduced to a joint press conference. The first is the debate structure. The second is whether content is censored. The third is the tactical approach of each speaker. As I suspected going into the exchange, my debate Friday with Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach at Philadelphia’s Episcopal Academy (530 students present) was disappointing on points one and two and amusing on the third. It made me long to get back to tangling with Nadine Strossen.

Nevertheless, I’ll say up front that I’m convinced I won the exchange if victory is defined by strength of ideas, clarity in communicating them, and a gracious manner. My use of humor at selected points also played well. For his part, Senator Leach scored points for being quite funny throughout the exchange and for a few one-liners that were clever, though in my view not persuasive. He lost cosmetic points for twice trying to override the debate moderator, exceeding his time limits, and for attempting to dodge questions put to both of us by a student panel.

But none of those infractions speak to the true weakness of his presentation. His primary flaw was simply this: He presented no formal case of his own. He didn’t even pretend to have one. And at no point did he seriously attempt to refute mine. As one 9th grade girl remarked, “ I couldn’t believe how he had nothing to say against you.” A 12th grader headed to Amherst said the content difference between the two presentations was stark and remarkable. Thus, while humor made Senator Leach entertaining, an actual argument for his case was nowhere to be found. At the end of the day, I think objective members of the audience sensed that and it’s why I’m confident the pro-life side ultimately prevailed. I’m tempted to say it was an ugly win, but it was a win nonetheless.

That’s my take on the big picture. If you want details, read on.

1) The debate structure was weak. Each speaker got a 12-minute opening, a five-minute rebuttal, then 15-minutes of questions from the student panel, followed by a 5-minute closing. I had to fight to get that. At first, the debate organizers wanted short (five-minute) openings with no formal rebuttals. They wanted to go right to questions from a student panel. When I refused to participate unless the openings were lengthened to at least 12-minutes followed by at least a 5-minute rebuttals (so I could address the Senator’s claims), the school thankfully relented and agreed to those minimal terms. Even so, the structure did not allow for complete rebuttals and left many claims unchallenged.

2) The content was censored. The Episcopal Academy did not allow me to show the students images of abortion, despite my best efforts to argue otherwise. Up till this point in my career, that alone was reason enough to refuse participation (and in the future, it will be again). But after consultation with my staff, we decided to test the waters and see what happens when the pictures are not shown. This was a mistake. It leaves pro-abortion students thinking that abortion is a preference issue, like choosing chocolate ice cream over vanilla. It also leaves them unaware of the true nature of abortion. Although the staff at the academy was professional, well-intentioned, and gracious (and gets high marks for making the debate a requirement for students), we will not make that mistake again. If you censor our debate content, we will politely decline to participate.

3) The tactical approach of Senator Leach substituted ad-hominem attacks and raw assertions for rational argument. Leach spoke first. Here is my summary of his major points, which he randomly strung together with no common thread between them. You can decide if there is an actual argument here: 1) People disagree over abortion, so it should remain legal. 2) The unborn, like brain-dead people, are not self-aware. 3) The law doesn’t require you to use your own kidney to support another person, so how can it demand that you use your own body to do so?, 4) Who decides? Women or the state? 5) If Scott is right, women who are raped can’t get abortions, 6) Government should stay out of the abortion decision and trust women to make their own choices, especially since even the Court didn’t say when life begins, 7) If abortion is restricted, women will die from dangerous illegal abortions, 8) Embryos are smaller than a pinhead, thus have no rights that trump those of fully-grown women.

As I see it, there is no real argument here, just a series of unconnected assertions that the senator made no attempt to defend. In a moment, I’ll explain what’s wrong with these assertions. But unlike the Senator, I actually presented a case.

When it was my trun, I began by saying that I agreed with everything the Senator just said. I agreed there should be no laws against abortion. I agreed that we should trust women to make their own decisions without state interference. I agreed government should stay out of the decision to abort. I agreed that pro-lifers like me should butt out of this debate. In short, I agreed completely—IF. If what? If the unborn are not human. And if Senator Leach could present scientific evidence to show that the unborn are not members of the human family and philosophic evidence to show that even if they are, we have no duty to value them, I would concede. In short, I was willing to buy his argument for self-determination and liberty, but only after he demonstrated the unborn are not human. I then asked the audience to consider this question: Would any of his assertions work as a justification for killing toddlers? If not, what was he assuming about the unborn? That’s right, he was assuming that they are not human, like toddlers are. But he needed to argue for this, not merely assume it.

I then made my own case. First, I argued scientifically that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. Unlike bodily cells which are merely part of another human being, the unborn are themselves whole living members of the human family—even though they have yet to mature. At the same time, they differ from constructed things (that are put together part by part) in that embryos do something no constructed thing like a car ever did: they develop themselves from within, and this entails continuity of being from the begining. Second, I argued philosophically that there was no essential difference between the embryos they once were and the young adults they were today that would justify killing them at the early stage of development. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency were not good reasons for saying they had no right to life then but not now. I used Stephen Schwarz’s acronym SLED as a helpful reminder of these non-essential differences. At no point did the Senator refute either my scientific argument or my philosophical one. He just kept asserting the points I mentioned above. I made sure the audience noticed that.

True, when your opponent makes no formal argument but simply strings together assertions, rebuttals are tougher. There is no easy way to get to everything that is asserted in the brief period allotted for replies. Nevertheless, I made several points in what little time I had.

First, as Hadley Arkes points out, why should anyone suppose that the absence of consensus means an absence of truth? Just because people disagree does not mean there are no right answers. People once disagreed on slavery and on women having a right to vote. Did that mean nobody was right?

Second, the unborn are not like brain-dead people. A brain-dead individual has suffered an irreversible cessation of the body’s ability to function as a coordinated organism. He or she is properly dead. Embryos, meanwhile, don’t need a brain to function as coordinated organisms. Something else coordinates their bodily systems so that they function as living organisms. Thus, the alleged parallel between the brain-dead individual and the living human embryo utterly breaks down. Meanwhile, if self-awareness gives us value, those with more of it are more human and valuable than those with less. Human equality is impossible.

Third, it is one thing to withhold support. It is quite another to slit your victim’s throat in the name of bodily autonomy. Put simply, abortion is much more than merely withholding a kidney from your child who needs it. It’s actively killing another human being through dismemberment or poisoning. Moreover, if women have an absolute right to bodily autonomy that trumps any rights of their unborn offspring, what’s wrong with a mother taking thalidomide to relieve morning sickness even though the drug results in deformed offspring with no arms or no legs? And if a mother’s right to bodily autonomy trumps everything else, what’s wrong with Melissa Ann Rowland refusing to undergo an emergency C-section to save the lives of her crack-addicted twins? When hospital staff begged her to do so, she replied that she’d rather lose a baby than leave a scar on her body. She then went outside for a smoke. Two hours later, she finally agreed to the C-section, but by then it was two late. One of the babies died before delivery. Does the Senator have a problem with that? He shouldn’t. After all, it’s her body, her choice.

Fourth, I agree women should be trusted to make their own personal decisions on abortion, but only if their unborn offspring are not human. Should we trust women to make their own personal decisions on killing toddlers? Never in a million years. Again, only by assuming the unborn are not human does the appeal to trust work. But the senator needs to argue for this, not merely assume it.

Fifth, the Senator was intellectually dishonest to play the rape card. His position is not that abortion should only be legal in cases of rape. His view is that abortion should be legal for any reason or no reason through all nine months of pregnancy, no questions asked. Why, then, is he hiding behind the hard case of rape when his real position is far more extreme? As Frank Beckwith points out, to say that we should legalize all abortions due to a hard case like rape is similar to arguing that we should eliminate all traffic laws because you might have to run a red light rushing a loved one to the hospital. When the student panel asked me about the rape issue and how giving birth to a child might cause the mother psychological pain, I replied as follows: “You are absolutely right. Giving birth to the child may indeed cause her painful memories. I agree. I also agree that women who are victims of violent crimes deserve the best care we can offer. Given we both agree the mother may experience pain whenever she looks at the child, the question becomes this: How should a civil society treat innocent human beings that remind us of a painful event (pause)? Is it okay to kill them so we can feel better? In other words, does hardship justify homicide? Suppose, for example, a two year old reminds his mother of a violent act committed by his father. Is it okay to kill the toddler so his mother can feel better? If not, why is that? Isn’t it because the toddler is a human being whose right to life should not depend on how others feel about him? If the unborn are human, they should not be killed to make us feel better any more than we’d kill a toddler for that reason. It all comes back to the question, what is the unborn?

Sixth, the Senator is just plain wrong to say that the government, thanks to Roe v. Wade, is no longer involved in the abortion issue. Sure it is. In fact, one branch of the federal government, the federal courts, has co-opted the issue from the other two branches of government—the legislative and the executive—leaving them no say on the matter. In fact, Roe v. Wade and its companion case Doe v. Bolton instituted through raw judicial power a regime of abortion-on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy. True, justice Harry Blackmun claimed to limit abortion after six months, but the devil is in the details. What he really said, and what Senator Leach failed to say, is that the state may, if it chooses, pass laws protecting unborn humans after 6 months, but if and only if those laws do not interfere with the mother’s “health.” The Court in Doe v. Bolton went on to define “health” so broadly you can drive a Mack Truck through it. In short, “health” does not mean only that the mother’s physical life is in trouble, but anything you want it to mean as related to her “well-being.” That includes her social health, economic health, family health--you name it! That’s why a 1983 U.S. Senate subcommittee concluded that thanks to Roe and Doe, there are no practical restrictions on abortion up until the time of birth! As for the Court not saying when life begins, true, justice Blackmun did say those words, but he didn’t mean them. Notice what he said. He said no one knows when life begins, but that abortion should remain legal through all nine months of pregnancy. Thus, he really did claim to know when life begins in that he gave unborn humans no protection until birth!

Seventh, Leach played the back-alley abortion card, claiming that if abortion is restricted, women will die in droves from dangerous illegal medical procedures. I've dealt at length with this assertion elsewhere, but notice Leach once again assumes the unborn are not human, a point he had yet to argue for. Otherwise, his claim amounts to this: Because some humans will die attempting to kill others, the state should make it safe and legal for them to do so. But why should the law be faulted for making it more risky for one human to take the life of another completely innocent one? At the same time, it’s simply untrue that thousands of women a year died from illegal abortions prior to Roe. As Mary Calderone, former medical director for Planned Parenthood pointed out in a 1960 article in the American Journal of Public Health, deaths from illegal abortion were extremely low because of two factors—the widespread introduction of antibiotics and the fact the reputable physicians were performing most abortions, even illegal ones.

Eighth, Senator Leach never once gave an argument for why body size determines one’s value. He repeatedly asserted that embryos were smaller than the size of a pinhead, but never gave a reason for why that mattered in deciding who lives and who dies.

I’ll conclude with two final points. First, Leach was stung badly when a student panelist asked him to answer this question (paraphrase): “Senator Leach, does it trouble you that in most states you can be prosecuted for harming or killing a fetus, unless, of course, you do it through abortion?” The Senator’s reply amounted to saying that wanted fetuses are valued by their mothers and thus should not be killed but unwanted ones are different. Wow. Your right to life depends on how wanted you are. As I pointed out to the students, the homeless are unwanted, but that doesn’t mean we can kill them.

Second, I made a tactical error in my closing statement that didn’t sink my case but did give Senator Leach a final laugh line. I began my closing statement by addressing the Senator directly: “You’ve mentioned rape repeatedly in this debate but you and I both know that you don’t think abortion should only be legal in cases of rape. To the contrary, you believe it should be legal for any reason for all nine months of pregnancy. So, suppose for the sake of argument I grant that abortion should be allowed in the case of rape. Would you join me in passing laws to protect all other unborn children who are not conceived that way?” When Senator Leach jumped in to say, “Can I answer that question?” the moderator immediately said no, partly due to his frustration with the Senator for breaking other rules during the debate. For some reason, I immediately echoed the moderator’s answer when I shouldn’t have. Truth is, if I asked the Senator a question, he had a right to answer it. (I should have just posed the question to the audience.) When he was told he could not answer, he replied, “ Can I at least make hand signals?” I have to admit, that was a funny line and helped him close out the debate with a laugh. However, I quickly recovered and used my remaining four minutes to remind the students that I presented an argument—namely, that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn were distinct, living, and whole human beings and that none of the four differences between the embryos they once were and the young adults they are today justified killing them at that earlier stage of development. I reminded them further that nothing the Senator said that morning refuted even one of those points.

My concluding soundbite went something like this: “Look around the room. Go ahead, stare at those around you for a moment. Okay, consider this question: What makes us equal? What is it? If our value is determined by self-awareness or some other property that may come or go, human equality is impossible. After all, some of us are more self-aware than others. Truth is, there is only one thing we all share equally. We all have the same human nature and we had it from the moment we each began to exist. In short, this really is a debate about human equality: Does each and every human being have an equal right to life? In the past, we discriminated on the basis of skin color and gender. Now, with elective abortion, we discriminate on the basis of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. We’ve simply swapped one form of bigotry for another. We can do better. Let’s follow the example put forth in our Declaration of Independence and agree that all humans are created equally and that none should be killed simply because the look different from us.”

I won’t say it was my best debate—I made a few tactical errors (agreeing to debate w/out pics, my concluding question to Senator Leach) which come easy when you are dealing with a flamethrower--but it was a win on hostile turf. Sometimes you win ugly. I’ll take it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Youth Pastor: "The Case for Life" Equips Students [Scott]

Anyone who has been around pro-life work for even a month knows that many church leaders see pro-life presentations as 1) a distraction, 2) irrelevant, 3)too risky, or 4) too political. Thankfully, this youth pastor read The Case for Life and gets exactly what I hoped to achieve in writing the book:

It is by far the best book for articulating a pro-life apologetic that I have found. As a youth pastor I am constantly looking for books, articles and websites to point parents and students towards as they struggle with contemporary issues. I have found this book to be a valuable resource for parents and students that struggle with articulating the philosophy and worldview that lies behind the pro-life message. Parts 1 and 2 are so very helpful in developing the framework for the debate and parts 3 and 4 are invaluable to the student who is writing a position paper or to the youth pastor preparing to discuss the issues with students seeking answers. I cannot give a higher recommendation for this book. It should be a must-read for students as they prepare to graduate and for to anyone wanting know more about why they should be pro-life.
Get you copy here. Contribute to the work of LTI here.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Nora Ephron on Feminism [Jay]

"You can't call yourself a feminist if you don't believe in the right to abortion." Nora Ephron

That was what Nora Ephron offered on The Slate in response to a 500 word assignment to define feminism. I didn't need this silliness from Ephron to know that I am not now nor ever have been a feminist. That said, this seems aimed at women like Sarah Palin who claim to be pro-life feminists.

What strikes me about this is how it adds nothing to the conversation of feminism, but it demonstrates one of two things about Nora Ephron. She is either ignorant, not realizing she was asked to contribute a serious definition in an effort to understand a term that has seriously lost clarity, or she is lazy. She cannot seriously believe that the single criteria to be called a feminist is that you are pro-choice, can she? Or is she seriously saying that whatever a feminist is, that they must be first and foremost pro-choice?

Either way, Nora Ephron's feminism is weak because it is not feminism at all. As Dr. Francis Beckwith points out in Defending Life, stating that abortion is necessary for the equality of women is to say that women in their natural state are unequal to men and need legal access to a surgical procedure in order to have a competitive chance. That is a very inspiring view of women you have to offer there, Nora.

Now let's ask the question, "What is the unborn?" If they are fully human worthy of moral consideration and obligation then this definition of feminism says that unless women are legally free to kill their unborn human children then they are not equal to men.

Nora doesn't think much of women if this is her view. As grossly incomplete as her definition is, it even more intellectually inadequate as it fails to project women as naturally equal in any meaningful way.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

LTI In Korea [Bob]

With Mr. Young Kil Lee at KyungMin University in Uijeongbu
What an incredible week for me personally, and for the mission of LTI! No description of this trip to Korea would be complete without acknowledging the work of Mr. Young Kil Lee, our guide, interpreter and my newest friend. Mr. Lee worked tirelessly for months planning the trip. He led us by subway, bus, car and taxi all over Seoul, Daejon (his hometown) and Cheongju. There wasn't a day that did not include at least 4 hours of travel time, but none of it was wasted.

Mr. Lee would tell fellow train riders that I was an American -- as if they couldn't tell :-) -- who was there to talk about "knock-tae" (abortion). He had handouts he would give them that explained the mission of LTI in Korean. One lady became so excited she asked to pray for us right there on the subway.

I was without access to the internet for the week, so I could not update from Korea. The schedule ended up changing quite a bit (mostly with additions) since I left home, but here is a summary of the impact LTI made into a country with one of the highest abortion rates in the world:

Myung Sung Presbyterian Church English Service (400)
Uijeongbu Community Christian Church (25)

International Christian High School - Uijeongbu (100)
:: Seoul sightseeing in the afternoon ::

EUCON Christian High School (35 + several parents!)
KyungMin University Students (800 in two sessions)

Young Shin Girls High School (500)
KyungMin University Faculty (400)

Daesung Boys High School for 3 back-to-back sessions (1500 total)
Sam Nam Church Pastor's meeting in Cheongju (40 pastors and many of their wives)

Kwang Sung Boys High School 2 sessions (1000 total)

Several of the presentations included Q&A time where I was asked some pretty tough questions -- the usual kinds that we are challenged with. Though it was difficult to work through the language barrier at times, I believe the questioners were satisfied -- even when they disagreed. One lady who was pretty emphatic in her disagreement with me actually bought a group of ten of us dinner afterward and thanked us repeatedly for being there.

While this list shows us speaking to just under 5000 students, pastors and university faculty members, it does not do justice to the impact LTI had -- largely due to Mr. Lee's strategic planning. For instance, the Myung Sung Church we visited on Sunday is the largest Presbyterian church in the world (at just over 100,000 members). Though I only spoke to about 400 at the English Service, those included faculty members from several local universities and about six of Myung Sung's pastors. Each of them approached me afterward and thanked me for "delivering this message to Korea." One of them told Mr. Lee he wished I could have spoken to the main congregation.

On Thursday, the small pastor's meeting at Sam Nam Christian Church was planned because Cheongju is a modern and fast-growing city southeast of Seoul -- an "up and coming" place. Those 40 pastors represented an estimated 8,000 congregants who will soon have the LTI message delivered to them. It also included several more college faculty members who were drinking the message in and want to offer a "Pro-Life Seminar" on the LTI material at a local university.

Mr. Lee thinks strategically.

The list goes on. I cannot tell you the number of people who sat in stunned disbelief when they heard and saw the truth about abortion -- or how many left in tears. It is a subject that Koreans simply have not talked about -- until now.

I think the Korea trip was a huge success but I'll leave it to Mr. Lee (in his second language, please remember) to sum it up:
Thank you Bob and Mary for your sweet testimony of Jesus that you showed to me and thousands Korean people everywhere your presence were. Many Koreans were blessed and trained by your sacrificial and loving ministry of your message with clear answer to the question WHAT IS THE UNBORN? I pray God will continue to work His will in many thousands lives that heard this message from you so that they will be lead by the Holy Spirit to protect many lives of the unborn. I expect to keep communicating with you and will hear of your next coming to Korea for the ministry in Korea for Korean people.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Standing Firm [Megan}

Sept. 17, I showed up at Bishop Alemany High School in California’s San Fernando Valley prepared to give the Case for Life presentation to six classes — approximately 20 students in each class — throughout the course of the school day.

As the teacher led me into the school’s chapel, and students began filing in, he explained that he had sent an email to his fellow teachers and they, too, were interested in their students being trained to defend their pro-life views. Nodding in understanding, I mentally registered that the 120 students I had planned to reach that day had just jumped to 1,200. Internally, I was pumping both fists in the air and dancing with excitement.

For the next six hours, I did what we at Life Training Institute do — teaching students the nature of moral claims; how to simplify the issue by asking, “What is the unborn?” (the question at the center of the issue); answering that question by appealing to science; and making a philosophical case for human value and defending it with SLED.

I found myself more than adequately able to answer even the student’s toughest questions, and they didn’t hold back:

What about the rape issue?

What about birth defects?

How is abortion any different from innocent lives lost during war?

The laundry list goes on. (Answers to these questions and more can be found in our training material.)

A couple of students were particularly relentless, but even their heated appeals could not stand against the logic of the truth we at LTI proclaim — that the unborn are human beings, and human beings are inherently valuable because they bear the image of their maker. My responses, while gracious, left students with opposing views little to no wiggle room, and their fellow classmates got that. I watched as many of them looked from me to the questioners, drew their brows in thought, and nodded at my replies. I am certain that many walked out convinced, while dissenters hobbled out with stones in their shoes, as Greg Koukl would say.

One young man approached me afterward and thanked me for my presentation. He pointedly ended with: “I think you’re wrong. And the state tells me that I’m right.”

In parting, I was able to leave him with one final question about the origin of the laws to which he was appealing (again, more on this in our training material).

Countless of his classmates approached me with genuine excitement. I cannot recall the number of times I heard, “Thank you! That was awesome!” And “I wish I had known this information when I was talking to someone about abortion the other day…”

I left exhausted, but greatly encouraged. We at LTI are students of our craft; therefore, we know our field. We are able to keep on shedding light on this issue because our feet are firmly planted in the truth. Knowing what is reasonably true, and being able to think carefully about it greatly lessen any fear of ideas that might be raised up against it.

It stands, and we stand on it.

I hope that our work enables others, by God’s grace, to plant their feet just as firmly.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Debate w/ PA State Senator on 9/22 [Scott]

Just learned that I will debate PA State Senator Daylin Leach Friday the 22nd in front of 500+ high school students in Philly.

These events don't happen on accident. October is LTI's Fall fundraising campaign to help us reach more students. Please give!

As for the angle Sen. Leach will take, my early guess is that he's a gradualist--meaning he will confuse construction with development. I say more about this confusion elsewhere, but the big picture goes like this: Gradualists tell us that embryos are no more human beings in the early stages of their construction than metal plates are cars in the early stages of automobile assembly. But as Richard Stith points out, embryos are not constructed piece by piece from the outside. Rather, they do something that no constructed thing like a car has ever done; they develop themselves from within. That is, they direct their own internal growth and maturation, and this entails continuity of being. Unlike cars, developing embryos have no outside builder. They’re all there just as soon as growth begins. They define and form themselves.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bob Perry & LTI in South Korea

Abortion is illegal in Korea -- yet the country has one of the highest abortion rates in the world. For that reason, friends of LTI have been working to provide some pro-life training to the good people of Korea for quite some time.

This Friday, my wife and I will be leaving for Seoul for a week of speaking engagements at churches, high schools and to the students and faculty at a university campus. All will be centered on the pro-life issues of abortion and/or stem cell research.

This is a huge undertaking for me -- "daunting" is the word that keeps coming to mind -- so I greatly appreciate the words of encouragement and support I have already received from many friends and family. And, for all those who have made it, I also appreciate the commitment to pray for a safe and effective trip -- that those who hear the information would be receptive to it, and that they would be the catalyst for change in their country.

Though it seems to be changing by the hour, this is the latest version of the schedule that has been planned for me. I don't know what kind of internet access I will have, but I will try to report as best I can as the week goes on.

Saturday, October 2
3:45 pm Arrive at Incheon International Airport
5:30 pm Arrive at KyungMin University

Sunday, October 3

1:10 pm Speaking at M S Church (English Service)

Monday, October 4

9:20 - 10:10 am: Uijongbu - International Christian High School
         :: Seoul City Tour in afternoon ::

Tuesday, October 5
2:30 - 3:30 pm: KyungMin University (Students)
3:30 - 4:30 pm: KyungMin University (Students)

Wednesday, October 6
11:00 am - 12:00 pm: Young Shin Girls High School
4:00 - 6:00 pm: KyungMin University (Faculty - Abortion and SCR)

Thursday, October 7
9:00 am - 12:00 pm: Daesung Boys High School (3 sessions)
7:00 - 9:00 pm: Speaking at Sam Nam Church

Friday, October 8

7:00 pm: Speaking at Docsuri Church for Army Soldiers

Saturday, October 9
10:40 am: Depart Incheon International Airport
Enhanced by Zemanta

Great Tool for Simplifying Objections to the Pro-Life View [Scott]

My friend Alan Schlemon at Stand to Reason has developed a fanatastic flow chart for quickly categorizing objections from critics. I was so impressed I asked him to share it in my advanced pro-life apologetics class at Biola University last week.

See the video of Alan explaining the chart here.

The lecture notes for the class are here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Morally Untutored President [Scott]

At a recent town hall event, President Obama fielded a question on abortion. The President replied that the procedure should be "safe, legal, and rare" and that families, not the government, should be the ones making the decision. He also said that restrictions on late-term abortion are currently in place.

So much is wrong here. First, if abortion does not unjustly take the life of a defenseless human being, why should it be rare? Do we care how many teeth are pulled each year?

Second, the federal government IS involved in abortion! Indeed, When people tell me the federal government should stay out of the abortion issue, I ask what they mean by that. Truth is, Roe and Doe did not get the federal government out of abortion. Instead, one branch of the federal government, the judiciary, co-opted the issue from the other two branches of government, leaving them no say on the issue. Put simply, the Court in both cases struck down the abortion laws of all 50 states and concluded that a woman may obtain an abortion for any reason she deems fit through all nine months of pregnancy if needed for "health." As you might imagine, the Court then defined "health" so broadly that you can drive a Mack Truck through it! In short, the Court mandated a policy of abortion-on-demand that no state anticipated prior to the ruling. Thus, the federal government is totally involved in abortion such that families and voters have no legal say in the matter. And given the President would likely support the elimination of parental consent laws, his appeal to "families" making abortion decisions is a joke.

Third, the President wants to have his cake and eat it too. That is, if abortion is a private matter for families to decide, then laws against late-term abortion are every bit as unjust as those limiting early abortion. He can't have it both ways. Truth is, he does not support any laws which limit abortion. Remember: Three times as an Illinois State Senator he refused to protect babies AFTER they survive abortion. But that aside, if abortion is indeed a private family matter, no laws restricting it can be justified.

HT: Jivin J

Friday, September 24, 2010

Richard Land Interviews Scott Klusendorf on The Case for Life

The link for the syndicated broadcast is here.

Topics include pro-life apologetics, embryonic stem cell research, training youth, and responding to moral relativism.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Biola Class Clip [Scott]

Here's a brief clip from the advanced pro-life apologetics course I taught at Biola University last week. The clip is a brief review of a standard pro-life case before launching into more advanced stuff. (Thanks to Alan from STR for the clip.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Advanced Pro-Life Apologetics at Biola University [Scott]

I'm at Biola co-teaching with Dr. Scott Rae a graduate course for M.A. students on Bioethics. Dr. Rae is covering reproductive technologies and end of life issues. I'm teaching advanced pro-life apologetics.

The content of my lectures can be seen in the outline below.

The extended notes for my portion of the course can be found here.

Course Description: Successful pro-life apologists pursue four essential tasks. First, they clarify the debate by focusing public attention on one key question: What is the unborn? Second, they establish a foundation for the debate, demonstrating to critics that metaphysical neutrality is impossible. Third, they answer objections persuasively. Fourth, they teach and equip. These tasks are necessary because while the street-level debate over abortion rages on, a serious intellectual discussion about the foundation for human rights continues almost unnoticed. What makes humans valuable? Can secularism provide an adequate grounding for basic human rights? How do natural rights differ from merely positive (legal) ones? How do war, social justice, and theology impact debates over abortion? In this course, we will review the basic pro-life case and examine the underlying worldview assumptions that both academic and lay people bring to debates over abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and cloning. We will also discuss why the Christian worldview in particular does a better job accounting for intrinsically valuable human beings, fundamental human rights, and objective moral rules.

Session #1: What is the Issue?
Session #2: What is the Unborn?
Session #3: What Makes Humans Valuable Part 1: Substance View of Human Persons
Session #4: What Makes Humans Valuable Part 2: The Religion Objection
Session #5: Abortion: Law, Metaphysics, and Moral Neutrality
Session #6: Bodily Autonomy Appeals: Analysis of Thomson, McDonagh, and Boonin
Session #7: Assumed Moral Equivalence, and other Common Objections
Session #8: Equipping Your Local Church to Engage