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.