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.