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.