Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Our Response: Biola University Apologizes to Pro-Life Student & Affirms Need for Abortion Pictures

Biola university has corrected a wrong and re-affirmed its pro-life commitment. 

Dear Pro-Life Friends and Colleagues –

In early summer, a video was posted on YouTube showing Biola University security confronting student Diana Jimenez over her display of graphic abortion images. The You Tube footage was intercut with a speech on Christian cultural engagement delivered by Biola President Barry Corey. The result was an edited video which made Biola appear hypocritical regarding its stated pro-life commitment. The video caused a tremendous stir in the pro-life community. Some people rallied to Biola’s side. Others called into question whether Biola was actually pro-life (and some, hysterically, whether Biola was Christian). As heads of pro-life organizations who train and consult, we were very troubled by what we saw. Many people, particularly those who knew that two of us are Biola alumi, wanted to know our reaction. They were troubled by our refusal to publicly comment.

What they did not know was that over the past seven weeks, we had been working with Biola leadership as they acknowledged mistakes and expressed their desire to help craft a better policy. With the release of a letter from President Corey – apologizing to Diana Jimenez publicly and to the pro-life community generally –we are now in a position to publicly comment.

Like most pro-life advocates, upon reviewing the video, we were stunned to see the way in which Ms. Jimenez was treated. We were deeply dismayed by the decision of Susan Elliot, the director of the nursing program, to refuse Ms. Jimenez letters of recommendation from any of the nursing faculty – despite the fact that she was not only a student in good standing, but so much so that her picture was used on the nursing program’s web page (though it was scrubbed right after the incident). Near the end of the video, seen, as of this writing, nearly 17,500 times, an update frame occurs to alert viewers to Elliot’s actions regarding the witholding of letters of recommendation. It concerns us that, even though Elliot’s retributory action was overturned by the administration many weeks ago, there has been to date no additional editing of the video to reflect this change.

Ultimately, the problem at Biola was not about the university’s statement of faith regarding the sanctity of human life. The real problem at Biola was that a fourth-year nursing student could complete that program, yet remain totally unaware of the grisly reality of abortion or the persuasive arguments that support a pro-life perspective. It took exposure to those images, displayed at a student-sponsored pro-life event which drew only a handful of participants, to awaken her to the need to rouse her fellow students to action. And if Diana’s ignorance of abortion was typical in Nursing, what about students in Music, Communication, English, or Biblical Studies?

As a Christian university, Biola understands confession, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. President Corey has confessed Biola’s wrongdoing in a humble, frank, and commendable way. And his letter demonstrates the fruit of repentance. Specifically, he firmly states that Biola University will make sure that no student graduates without fully understanding the rationale behind the sanctity of human life, which is one of Biola’s theological distinctives. Their commitment will begin this fall, by training student and faculty leaders in the reasoning behind the use of graphic images. In September, The Chimes – Biola’s student newspaper – and other communication venues will publish President Corey’s position. This academic year Biola will hold a pro-life chapel during which graphic abortion photos will be used as such images have historically been used: to turn an abstract idea into an unmistakable reality, and to motivate advocacy and change. By the end of the fall, Biola will be posting an updated policy in support of the ethical and effective use of graphic images on campus. And until this policy is drafted, President Corey has committed the university to find effective and appropriate locations for students to display such images.

But the commitment does not stop there. President Corey is charging the university to make changes in curriculum and measurable outcomes to ensure that Biola meets its stated goals regarding the education and training of students to uphold, in word and deed, the sanctity of human life.

We would like to see Biola, and other like-minded universities, take a further step to integrate an inter-disciplinary minor in Applied Bioethics to further equip and professionalize the next generation of pro-life advocates and ministry partners. Such a move takes time, but we are willing to work with Biola – or any interested Christian university – to create and implement such a minor. In fact, we already have a curriculum outlined.

Because of these extraordinary and unprecedented steps, we believe Biola deserves the whole-hearted support of the pro-life community. Few Christian universities take their Biblical convictions concerning life as seriously as does Biola. It is our fervent hope that these collective actions of confession and repentance will prove to anyone with doubts that Biola is a champion for Life. We ask for prayer and for reconciliation between Biola and the wider pro-life community. Our prayer is that God would empower us with a spirit of grace as we seek to work together toward our true task: to save the lives of unborn children created in the image of the God we serve.

Together with you in Christ,

John Ensor, M.Div., President, PassionLife Ministries

Scott Klusendorf, M.A., President, Life Training Institute

Marc T. Newman, Ph.D., President, Speaker for Life

Media requests can be made by contacting any of us at our respective organizations.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Westley Defense (Part 1): Nice Guys with Mad Sword Skills Get Listened To [Jay Watts]

Originally posted at my personal blog Vassal of Grace

My family recently watched The Princess Bride as my daughter's welcome home movie after a week a way at Camp Kudzu, a camp for kids with Type 1 diabetes. Her choice thrilled my wife and I, as I suspect it would most parents our age. My kids repeated the lines over and over before, during, and after, and repeatedly hearing the lines I was struck with an aspect of the movie I hadn't previously appreciated. Westley, Buttercup's true love and the hero of the film, is the very model of how we should engage people with whom we have serious disagreements.

Greg Koukl wrote the book on how to have a productive conversation. Literally, it is called Tactics and if you don't own it, you should. Greg gives a tactical approach to arguments through a series of questions while highlighting common mistakes in how we frame our positions. With the wealth of information in this book, one line impacted me more than any other. Early in the second chapter Greg gives a rule of his: "If anyone in the discussion gets angry, you lose." (Underlining added)

He goes on to write:

"When you get angry, you look belligerent. You raise your voice, you scowl. You may even begin to break into the conversation before the person is finished. Not only is this bad manners, but it begins to look like your ideas are not as good as you thought they were... You begin to replace persuasion with power...

What if you are able to keep your cool, but the person you're trying to persuade isn't? You lose in that case, too. People who are angry get defensive, and defensive people are not in a very good position to think about whether or not your ideas are good ones."

Let me reiterate what Greg says in the book; a knowledge base is essential to arguing well. That said, the longer I do this work the more convinced I become of the importance of respectful dialogue. As I present, I emphasize that what most led to my change in views on both God and abortion was good arguments from good arguers. Both components were vital and neither took precedence over the other.

That rubs some people the wrong way. A philosophy major at one university I was visiting told me, “That is all well and good, but I like to mix it up. I enjoy the heat of battle.”

I gently responded, “If your goal is to enjoy the heat of the exchange and bludgeon others with arguments in order to score rhetorical points then your approach is fine. If you hope to convince someone that they are wrong it is almost guaranteed to fail. By allowing the emotion and challenge of the argument to move front and center, you make the discussion about you and not the ideas in play. Now the person isn't even hearing your ideas because they don't like you, and there is no way that they are going to listen.”

A representative of a school I will soon be visiting called me to ask about my style. He apologized for the necessity of the conversation but as he explained, “the last pro-life speaker we allowed into our school was mean, didn't interact with the students but merely dismissed them as obviously wrong, and did a lot of damage to the pro-life views of our students.”

It looks like I am going to get the chance to work with that school to help them get past the last guy, but listen to what he said. The man's attitude toward the students and the discussion did damage. The speaker didn't offer bad arguments as near as I can tell, he just argued poorly.

I don't like bad arguers. Michael Ruse participated in a debate with a Christian apologist that shall remain unnamed. An atheist friend of mine attended the event with me. Ruse was warm and engaging. He did not shy away from his disagreements with Christianity or the apologist he shared the stage with, but he cloaked his disagreement with cordiality and respect. I watched him interact with the lay audience. Even when some well intentioned soul talked to Ruse like he was stupid or engaged him a little too enthusiastically, he politely excused himself and moved on without incident. All I know about that man as a person is what I saw that day. He may be a scoundrel every other day of his life, but I remember him as a charming guy and I enjoy reading his works more as a result.

The Christian apologist, on the other hand, was rude during Q & A, made repeated references to his credentials, and bizarrely threatened to “come after” one of the panelists. We all have bad days, but this behavior was so off putting that, whatever the strengths of his arguments may have been, my atheist friend completely dismissed him. Thank God for the charming and articulate panelists that genuinely impressed my friend. I extend that man grace in recognition that I have no idea what was going on with him, but I must admit that I have had little interest in his work since then in spite of his obvious intelligence. I say that knowing full well that there are people out there who feel the same about me after I mishandled conflicts in the past.

There is little to add to the brilliance of Greg Koukl's Tactics, but in light of how crucial I believe this aspect is to our successful engagement, I am going to do a series of posts on arguing well. I want to take Greg's rule from Chapter 2 and tease it out with illustrations in what I will call the Westley Defense.

I'm writing this for me as much as anyone else. In Romans 12:17-18 Paul tells us, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” In my life I have been quarrelsome, aggressive, and hateful. Being respectful and courteous is a discipline I adopted because it both makes me more the man I ought to be and because it aids in accomplishing the goal of winning people rather than arguments. It does not come natural to me. I work on it.

In The Princess Bride, Westley is confronted with sword fights, hand to hand combat with a giant, a battle of wits to the death with a rude Sicilian, and the efforts of an evil prince to separate him from his true love. Though not lacking in strength or will, almost every engagement is peppered with wit and warmth. Even in his more terse and threatening exchanges with Prince Humperdink, his aggression is constrained by the necessity of the situation. It offers a good picture to evaluate our own exchanges in the impossibly charming light of Westley the stable boy turned Dread Pirate Roberts.

Part 2 will be focused on coming out of the starting gates well or in Westley talk, “Look I don't mean to be rude, but this isn't as easy as it looks, so I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't distract me.”

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Pro-Life Presentation for Men Based on the Movie '42'

Outline--Men and Abortion: From Backbencher to Game Changer

I. Intro: Branch Rickey—A courageous game changer who didn’t sit out the moral issue of his day.

II. Theme: Being a game-changer when everyone else sits out

III. Topic is significant, because many guys sit out the key moral issue of our day--abortion--instead of courageously stepping up like Branch Rickey did.
Example: Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (paraphrase)—“We need a truce on the moral issues. Focus on economy instead.” Well, we can’t make peace with evil! Surrender is not an option. Men must engage! Indeed, it’s in our nature to protect, defend, and fight. But when it comes to the greatest moral issue of our day, many guys don’t engage. They sit the game out. Why?

IV. Thesis: Men aren’t game-changers on abortion for three key reasons:

A. Reason #1: They play by the wrong rules--namely, those dictated by a culture steeped in relativism that confuses preference claims with moral ones.  
1. Objection: “It’s okay to be personally opposed to abortion, but you shouldn’t force your views on others who disagree.” Try this: “I’m personally opposed to slavery, but if you want to own a slave, I won’t force my views on you.” Indeed, why be opposed to abortion at all if it doesn’t unjustly take the life of an innocent human being? Christian men, as leaders, have a duty to clarify moral truths. When they don't lives are lost. 
2. Use this 55-second clip to restore meaning to word abortion for those who think it’s a preference issue. Briefly preview the gospel as solution for those struggling with post-abortion guilt—a topic you will cover in more detail w/ reason #3 below. You can download the video clip here.

B. Reason #2: They lack confidence because they lack training 
1. The abortion controversy, like that of racial equality, comes down to this: Does each and every human being have equal value or do only some have it in virtue of some accidental characteristic like skin color or level of development? 
2. The Biblical case is clear: All humans have value because they bear the image of their Maker (Genesis. 1, James 3). Because humans bear God’s image, the shedding of innocent blood is strictly forbidden (Ex. 23:7, Prov. 6:16-19, Mt. 5:21). How do we confidently communicate a case for human equality that includes the unborn to those who reject Biblical authority? 
3. We do it with science and philosophy: According the science of embryology, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. You didn't come from an embryo; you once were an embryo. Philosophically, there is no essential difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today that justifies killing you at that earlier stage of development. Difference of size, level of development, location, and dependency are not good reasons for saying you could be killed then but not now.
4. Why should we learn this apologetics stuff instead of just preaching the gospel?  Because Scripture commands us to be prepared to give an answer for the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15).

C. Reason #3: They have ghosts in their lockers (that is, they’ve participated in aborting an unborn human being). 
1. Men who’ve participated in abortion don’t need an excuse. They need forgiveness—and Jesus offers it
2. Branch Rickey had a ghost—He regretted not speaking up in the past when he witnessed the unfair treatment of Blacks. But he didn’t let that ghost stop him from doing the right thing with Jackie Robinson.   
3. Key question: When you meet God and He asks if you showed up to play, will your answer be sufficient?
Close by challenging them to take home the 5-Minute Pro-lifer article. Tell them the 55-second abortion clip that you showed can be found at

(Update: Special thanks to LTI speaker James Jenkins, who helped me brainstorm the idea for this talk and who delivered it to the men at his church earlier today.)