Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Battle for the Emergent Church

Defining the Emergent Church in the next decade or so will become an important component to the life of the evangelical church. Many of the leaders in the movement will tell you-accurately so-that there is no good way to define to Emergent Church right now. So far it is an effort of deconstruction and not yet ready for construction (although some in the Emergent world are calling for construction and definition).

This is why this moment is poised to be so important. I see disturbing trends in some of the leaders and voices of the Emergent Church, and I hope they can be changed before they become the vanguard for the latest incarnation of evangelicalism. I wish the best for the Emergent Church movement, but I sincerely hope it does not drink the kool-aid and bow its knee to postmodernism.

There are a lot of interesting discussions taking place in the blogosphere concerning the Emergent Church and the nature of Christian theology and philosophy. I recently ran across Nathan’s blog, Fighting the Little Fights, where he details some of his correspondence with emergent bloggers. Additionally, Adrian has been writing extensively about what he labels “neo-liberalism” and the Emergent Church (here, here, here, here). I think “neo-liberal” is a good label for many of the leading ideas in the movement.

In my opinion, one of the jobs of contemporary Christian philosophers and theologians is to reaffirm and defend the concept of objective truth. We have reached a stage in our culture where the notion of truth is up for grabs, and, unfortunately, an unhealthy form of skepticism has reached its way into the church. If the Church does not stand for the truth, who will?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Where can I go to donate for tsunami relief?

For those who do not want to send their money to the U.N., here is a short list of organizations you can donate to in order to help with the tsunami relief in Asia. Besides, you are guaranteed to get more bang for your buck if you donate to a non-governmental organization.

Assemblies of God Relief

PCA relief organization

Hugh Hewitt recommends World Vision

Compassion International

Modern Culture: Evangelism and Pastoring

I received a support letter in the mail from Mars Hill Audio Journal recently penned by Ken Myers. I found it to be a deeply insightful and thought provoking letter concerning the contemporary church and modern culture. I thought a couple of quotes would be worth a little discussion.

If someone who was a stranger to Christian belief asked you to explain what is meant by the “Great Commission,” what would your short answer be? If I were a gambling man, I would bet that the answer of most American Christians would focus on the necessity of evangelism: Christians have a mandate from their Lord to make converts.

Of Course, Jesus said no such thing. He said to make disciples, to baptize them, and to teach them to obey everything he ever taught. Obviously the first step to making disciples is to encourage conversion, but the Church has not honored the Great Commissions if it has failed to nurture obedient and baptized disciples.

I have actually discussed this from time to time with friends. Where is the injunction to just evangelize? Probably the closest we can get is the example of the disciple’s lives, but even then we are faced with their strenuous efforts to reorient new converts. I see the early disciples has having a two-pronged approach to conversion-What makes me a Christian, and what does being a Christian make me?

For one reason or another, we have been lulled into thinking numbers of converts are all that count. Success is measured by the number of cards filled out or the number of people in the pews. I think it is clear that if the Church fails to make disciples, then it has failed to accomplish the Great Commission. And of course, it is much harder, if not impossible to “count” discipleship.

Here is another quote that I think needs to be shouted from the rooftops of denominational headquarters:

Many pastors see themselves as service providers of techniques of attitude adjustment, seeking the eager enthusiasm of fans and the safe contentment of satisfied consumers, instead of being shepherds committed to the deep and often painful reorientation of souls.

It is my contention that if you surveyed people on the streets about the job descriptions of psychologists and clergy, the results would be almost indistinguishable. I am afraid that not only do most people view pastors as “spiritual counselors,” but that most pastors do as well. There is certainly nothing wrong with pastoral counseling, don’t read into my comments here. But there is something wrong when pastors have lost the high calling of shepherding souls and replaced it with the latest pop-psychology technique. Quite frankly, as a pastor I am neither trained nor suited to do the things counselors do. As a pastor I must find my role in the calling of the shepherd.

The recent glut of “church growth” techniques has reduced pastors to mere administrators and cheerleaders. When pastoring a church is about “eager enthusiasm” and “satisfied consumers,” the role of biblical shepherd has been lost.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Training for Eternity - Blog from a Chaplain in Mosul

Training for Eternity

This blog is written by a chaplain who was in Mosul a couple of days ago when the explosive hit the chow hall tent.

People like this chaplain are incredible to me-may God richly bless them. The story is deeply touching.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Bertuzzi in Court for Hit on Moore

Moore off Ice
Originally uploaded by Phil Steiger.
I watched this game unfold and the literal bloodbath that ensued. The NHL did well when it suspended Bertuzzi in a way that tied his return to hockey to Moore's return. Moore suffered several injuries including a fractured neck, amnesia, and a concussion as a result of a sucker-punch from behind thrown by Bertuzzi.

What is more interesting for violence on the court/field/rink and the future of sports is that Bertuzzi has been brought before a civil judge on assault charges. He plead guilty and received community service.

X-mas Censorship-The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Just so I can join fray of news stories and blogs dealing with the spate of Christmas fright, this item showed up on our local news recently. A student’s editorial column was removed from the high school paper allegedly because it was not well written. The topic of the editorial was the commercialization of Christmas and was entitled, “The True Story of Christmas.” The students are fighting back claiming censorship. Without dealing with the whole, “does the religious notion of Christmas belong in the public square” debate, I want to bring up one issue raised in the article. When asked for reasons why the editorial was banned, one of the answers was:

"The principal would have hoped it was a little more inclusive of other perspectives, but that would not have stopped it," said District 60 spokesman Greg Sinn.

Did I miss something, or was this an editorial? By definition it is an opinion written by an individual in order to express their opinion! This excuse, along with the 'poorly-written' reason, makes me very suspicious that the school was scared to death to publish an editorial with this title.

How have we gotten to the point where this level of sloppy thinking is tolerated in the public square? The excuse quoted above is so paper thin you can see the vacuum of mental space behind it.

You can be the judge as to whether the editorial was well written.

Monday, December 20, 2004

An Ultimate Irony: Can the Emergent Church Reform Evangelicalism?

I continue to be thrilled with the critical work done in the book, Reclaiming the Center. I have made one set of comments in the near past, and I would like to raise another issued inspired by another of the contributors.

The chapter entitled, “Postconservatism, Biblical Authority, and Recent Proposals for Re-Doing Evangelical Theology: A Critical Analysis” by Stephen J. Wellum proposes that the discussion between postconservatism (the theology proposed by Grenz, Olson, Franke, and McLaren among others, and embraced by much of the Emergent Church movement) and traditional evangelicalism is essentially a worldview discussion. That struck me as a valuable and accurate way to frame the theological discussion between the camps.

Postconservatism wants to revision evangelical theology in such a way as to embody the insights of postmodern language theory and epistemology. Those insights lead us to the proposals that we cannot get outside our language and that we cannot be certain about the things we know about God. The only certainty that we can have as Christians is that within our faith community God has spoken to us in a meaningful fashion. Ultimately that is all we need from God, and any attempt to speak of “truth” beyond our faith community is either simply useless or just wrong-headed.

Standing in stark opposition to this set of proposals is traditional evangelical theology in which speech about God can be objectively and universally true or false. According to this view we are able to get at reality through our language, even if a healthy dosage of humility is in order. Additionally, the things we know about God can be known with universal certainty (we can know them to be true at all times for all people) even if we will never have universal knowledge about God and reality.

To put the two views side-by-side in a kind of worldview comparison, we might summarize the debate this way:


Is it possible to get outside our language to the “real” world?
P-con: NO
Evangel: YES

Did God speak to all people at all times through His revealed Word no matter their faith community?
P-con: NO
Evangel: YES


Can we know something about God to be true no matter the faith community?
P-con: NO
Evangel: YES

Does the concept of “epistemic humility” demand that we avoid asserting objective truth about God?
P-con: YES
Evangel: NO

The consequences of coming down on one side or the other in this worldview debate are multitudinous!

The Reformer’s Dilemma

In order to further highlight the deep differences between the two points of view, I want to employ a thought experiment. In the Reformer’s Dilemma we are asked to consider whether our worldview allows us to accept the reality of any kind of intellectual or social reformation. In other words, if I believe in worldview X, can my worldview be reformed?

Intuitively, we all accept worldview reformation. We all believe, for example, that what Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. did was right, and if we believe that, then we are committed to the notion that the state of society was wrong before their labors took effect. But if we come across a worldview that does not have the logical structure to allow for reformation and we extend that worldview to its logical conclusions, then we are forced to disagree with the preceding intuition. If we discover that reformation is not possible, we are forced into a position where we believe that totalitarianism was neither right nor wrong in India and the institutions of slavery and racism were neither right nor wrong. When the “reformers” came along, all they really did was change the way society functions; they did not reform a wrong into a right!

So what kind of worldview does not allow for reformation? In short, any worldview which cannot get outside of itself to make judgments about the world cannot support a reformation from a wrong state of affairs to a right/better state of affairs. For example, if I believe that either the nature of language or the nature of epistemology does not allow me to judge the moral state of another culture or faith community’s state of affairs, then I cannot make a moral judgment about what is morally better or worse about another culture. Let us then say that my culture is a slave owning culture. By definition I think slave owning is just fine morally (I have no other ethical resource than what my culture has taught me, so I believe slave owning is OK because I have been taught that by my culture). But along comes someone on the fringes of my culture, or from a completely different culture altogether who tells me that slave owning is wrong. The only response I am even able to have is, “that’s great for you, but we are a slave owning culture.” I can’t even make a moral statement about either culture! I have absolutely no impetus to change my culture, because I have no resources available to me to judge whether my culture ought to be reformed-it simply is.

The Reformer’s Dilemma is a dilemma because this strikes us as completely wrong!

Unfortunately, the philosophy that the postconservative movement is beginning to embody is just the kind of worldview that fails the Reformer’s Dilemma thought experiment. If we cannot get outside our language games and we cannot either know or assert anything objective about God and His plan for humanity, then there is no reason or way to reform another individual’s heart.

In the ultimate twist of irony, those who wish to “revision” evangelical theology are embracing a philosophy which makes it literally impossible to do so.

Friday, December 17, 2004

CRUX MAGAZINE - Looks like an exciting new resource


I don't know exactly how new this project is, but I am glad I ran across it. It has an impressive list of editors. Here is a snippit from the Editor's Letter describing CRUX:

Enter CRUX, a new quarterly resource for the systematic exposure of all the double talk, circular reasoning, shoddy scholarship, and logical sleights of hand that have transformed reality into a hall of funhouse mirrors. At CRUX you will find revealing conversations with some of the leading cultural figures of our day, unconventional insights gleaned from popular movies, music, and literature, eye-opening features on everything from Paris Hilton to postmodernism, and regular inquiries into the latest trends impacting contemporary philosophy, science, and theology--all with the nuance and precision that such subject areas demand.

I found the link on Mere Comments.

Great Christmas Music Listening

VG-Charlie Brown Christmas
Originally uploaded by Phil Steiger.
We have a tradition at the Steiger house in which we purchase at least one new Christmas CD each year. Last year I bought this one, and it has prooved to be a great CD.

There is the nostalgic factor: I feel like a kid watching the classic Charlie Brown Christmas Special all over again. (The likes of which will never be repeated in today's culture.)

Then there is the quality of the music. Guaraldi is a lesser known jazz pianist, and this is not a particularly technical recording, but it is high quality musicianship nonetheless. On top of that, if you want the original recording of "Linus and Lucy", then this is your CD. Purchase and enjoy!

"Amber Alert for the missing fetus."

Apart from the obvious horror of this situation, the story is a fascinating read. A pregnant mother was killed and her unborn child appears to have been cut from her womb. Police believe the child could still be alive, so they have issued an “Amber Alert”-the alert system reserved for kidnapped and missing children. You don’t read a pair of sentences like this every day, “The sheriff issued an Amber Alert for the missing fetus. Police are searching for an 8-month-old white, female fetus.”

I have blogged on this from time to time in large part because I am fascinated by the cognitive dissonance in our culture. If the mother had been in an abortion clinic the day before, no one would be referring to this human infant as a child. What if this murder/abduction scene happened on the abortionist’s chair? Is it a human worthy of our time and effort, or isn’t it?

Here are a couple of my earlier thoughts on conferred verses innate personhood, and some of the possible consequences:

To the contrary, human personhood is not conferred, it is innate. The argument for conferred personhood rests on a very postmodern and, might I add, Darwinistic metaphysic. If human dignity, value and morality are constructed by culture, then there are no innate values that come with being a particular kind of organism. Instead, a culture can determine among themselves what is and what is not worthy of their attention as special and protected creatures. This is not that different from extreme forms of xenophobia and slavery. In those cases one ethnic culture has decided that another ethnic culture is less human than they are and are not endued with the same value. In some of the more radical cases like that (think Rwanda, Sudan, etc.), human value is conferred based on the shapes of noses. In our case, value is conferred on the basis of things like matriarchal emotion, physical visibility, or economic viability.

As Christians, we see personhood as something much more inviolable and divine than this. Although personhood is still in many respects a mystery (and it will remain that way until the Beatification), it remains rooted in the work and will of ourCreator. It is a property we have qua humans. There is nothing in this world which can either confer or remove our humanity or the humanity of an unborn child, especially something as protean and unreliable as the emotion of desire. We are humans by divine decree.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Should You Know? Just Say No!

One of the drives behind postmodern language theory is the sense that any sort of epistemic certainty is equivalent to being an arrogant knower-to be able to know anything with certainty is to arrogantly assert some kind of omniscience. We see this kind of reasoning all the time in our world, especially when it comes to moral judgments. Any moral judgment is totalitarian, and any sense of moral right and wrong is seen as oppressive.

And this view of the world is not just limited to weirdoes on Jerry Springer who have salmon taped to their bodies. One of the motivations behind some of the leaders in the Emergent church movement is this very sense of epistemic humility. It is their contention that any flavor of epistemic foundationalism is tantamount to pride. Part of their corrective is to become more humble about what we know and to be very careful in asserting truths about God and the proclamations of Scripture.

Humility is clearly a biblical virtue, but it is a tricky virtue. About what should we be humble? If we are truly humble, will be know it and be tempted to be proud of it? How should we handle absolute and universal truth if we are limited knowers who need to exercise humility? For instance, what is true of “2+2”? If you know the sum, you probably believe it is the correct sum for everyone at all times. Is it arrogant for you to assert to an 18th century French existentialist that the answer is “4”? Of course not! It would be silly to believe that you should allow the Frenchman to come up with his own answer, whatever that may be. It is not arrogant to claim that something, whose truth value has nothing to do with you, to be true (or false).

I ran across this quote from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy (chapter title, “The Suicide of Thought”) recently, and I thought I would let him have the last word in this post:

But what we suffer from to-day is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt—the Divine Reason. Huxley preached a humility content to learn from Nature. But the new sceptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Reclaiming the Center-The Emergent Church and Postmodern Language Games

Originally uploaded by Phil Steiger.
I picked up this book just last week and I am already engrossed. I am deeply interested in how the Emergent Church movement is going to develop in the near future, and this book addresses many of what I think are major concerns. It is written on a pretty academic level, so if you decide to flip through it, be prepared to stop and think along the way.

I hope to blog from time to time about the arguments and concerns in the book, and if you have read it (or want to read it) and want to chime in, please do.

First of all, I must admit my personal bias-I don't like postmodern or pragmatist philosophy at all, and I am weary of Christian writers who speak of it too highly. It is one thing to describe our culture as postmodern, and it is another thing altogether to prescribe some form of postmodernism for the church. To be fair, the Emergent movement is not yet a wholesale postmodern movement, but I have seen a lot of leanings in that direction.

Language Games

My first reflection from the book derives from a few of the critiques raised in Groothuis', Moreland's and DeWeese's chapters, and the topic of Smith's chapter. I was surprised to learn how enamored many of the leading Emergent thinkers have become with postmodern language theory. In a nutshell, variants of postmodern language theory attribute the meaning and value of language to a culture and their immediate purposes. We live in a language-constructed reality as a result of our social surroundings, and any meaning or reference language has is a result of what that culture imbeds within it. Language, then, has no real referent to extra-cultural, or metaphysical, reality (at least none that we can get at).

How then is a theology which claims to make assertions about metaphysical, universal reality possible? That is the rub, isn't it? I think is it accurate to say that a postmodern theory of language, as apparently accepted by thinkers like Grenz, Franke, and Nancey Murphy, is incapable of asserting "God exists" in a universal, transcultural way. If these writers are accurate about how language constructs our reality, then we are left in a postmodern haze when it comes to ultimate truth or reality. If you remove the metaphysical referential nature of language, you remove your ability to claim that something is true for all people everywhere and actually mean something. (Notice how subtle a theory of language like this can be-it is not necessarily a denial of metaphysical reality, just our ability to get to it/talk about it.)

I would send the reader to Smith's chapter on language for a much deeper treatment of the issue, but the basic biblical assumption is that theological language is intended to convey metaphysical truths. Scripture intends to convey something like "God exists" in a way that makes it true for all cultures at all times. If we are completely imprisoned by our language, then such an assertion simply cannot apply across the board to all people. That is a serious problem with the growing theological reflection in the Emergent movement.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Anthony Flew the Coop?

The news about noted atheist Anthony Flew’s recent change of view is beginning to hit the surface. For a long time now, he has been one of the standard bearers for philosophical atheism, so this change comes as somewhat of a monumental move. As he makes clear in the article, though, he is a long way away from the God of Christianity, or any other notion of a personal god.

"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."

So his view of the personal nature of God remains less than charitable.

Here is his explanation for what lead him to be a kind of deist:

Yet biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved," Flew says in the new video, "Has Science Discovered God?"
Very interesting. First of all, the philosophical and scientific background behind the Intelligent Design movement is what seems to have lead him to this point.

Secondly, I find his kind of conversion (to deism and not Christian theism) telling. Critics of the standard arguments for God’s existence have always said that the arguments never lead to the God of the Bible, and are therefore useless. The best they can do is some kind of Prime Mover of deistic entity. In Flew’s case, that seems to be exactly what has happened.

I have always agreed that the standard arguments don’t argue for the full-fledged God of the Bible, but I am not sure that that is their burden. I have been of the opinion that if you have brought someone closer to belief, then you have brought down at least some of their barriers, and that is a good thing. In evangelical terms, is Flew closer to the God of Christianity now than before? Is his move to deism a good move for his eternal soul?

For those interested in more information, I think the next edition of Philosophia Christi will contain an interview with Flew about his new view on God.


The interview with Flew conducted by Habermas is already up on the Philosophia Christi website. Thanks to Mere Comments for the link.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Science as Savior: Just Because We Can Does Not Mean We Should

Phillip Johnson has written a fascinating article for Touchstone concerning prescription medications and their side effects. I highly recommend the article for the information it contains and the observations Johnson makes. The issue of psychological and physical problems and the drugs that treat them leads to a whole slew of implications and issues.

What do Antidepressants Accomplish?

I firmly believe that many people are in a kind of life situation or have a kind of chemical imbalance in their brain which requires the use of antidepressants. I am not anti-antidepressant. But in the story related by Johnson’s article (which is doubtless repeated thousands of times a year), a young girl’s relationship problem was treated with a brain altering drug. What strikes me is that the drug (there was no mention of accompanying therapy) didn’t address the real issue. All the drug could do was change the way the girl felt about the problem she was having, and in her particular case, it failed miserably.

If a drug alters your brain chemistry, you may feel differently about your circumstances, but those circumstances have not gone away. The reason the girl was still struggling with depression and suicidal tendencies is because the drug didn’t address the issue.

If you take a drug to treat depression resulting from a life situation, are you actually doing harm by tricking yourself out of being able to address the actual issues involved? If your view of reality has become prosaic, how can you accurately address it? In order to accurately and effectively address a bad situation, doesn’t a person need an accurate and honest assessment?

(As a side note, there is a
fascinating field of research out there concerning memory altering drugs and people’s ability to handle life.)

Again, I believe antidepressants have their place in our world, but I think this thought from Johnson needs to be heeded and understood in this context:

The financial corruption is real, and its consequences are incalculable, but there is a spiritual corruption that goes deeper than that, and this may have been the true culprit in Kaitlyn’s suicide. I refer to the philosophical materialism that is a sacred dogma in Darwinian biology. This philosophy decrees that the mind is merely an artifact of the physical brain, there being nothing else that it conceivably could be.

It follows that all ailments of the mind and spirit are reflections of some flaw or imbalance in brain chemistry, and that the logical remedy is to prescribe a drug and then, if that does not seem to help, to increase the dose until it does. Undoubtedly there are psychiatric problems that can be helped greatly by drugs, but once a dominant philosophy has decreed that all phenomena are the direct or indirect result of chemical conditions, over-reliance on chemical remedies is virtually certain to follow.

In other words, a physicalist/materialist worldview will naturally lead to an over-dependence upon pharmaceutical solutions to life’s problems.

What Is With All The Drug Commercials?

I continue to be amazed at how many commercials there are aimed at the general populace for prescription drugs. I can understand a TV or radio commercial that begins by addressing health care professionals, but they don’t. I am amazed that pharmaceutical companies can appeal to the common man; the common man gets sick, demands a certain drug from their doctor, and they get it! Shouldn’t we be relying on the heavily trained expertise of our medical profession instead of a paid-for sixty second commercial?

Again, Johnson addressed this issue by quoting a New York Time article:

On the same day that the Globe reported Kaitlyn’s suicide, the New York Times published an article headlined “As Doctors Write Prescriptions, Drug Company Writes a Check.” It began with this disclosure:

“The check for $10,000 arrived in the mail unsolicited. The doctor who received it from the drug maker Schering-Plough said it was made out to him personally in exchange for an attached “consulting” agreement that required nothing other than his commitment to prescribe the company’s medicines. Two other physicians said in separate interviews that they, too, received checks unbidden from Schering-Plough, one of the world’s biggest drug companies.”

This leads us to our next implication.

What Are The Motivations Behind Prescribing Drugs?

As much as I would like to believe that doctors are objectively diagnosing and prescribing, I worry about the kinds of pressures indicated by drug companies advertising to the general populace and private pharmaceutical firms pressuring doctors to prescribe their drugs. These and other pressures invariably lead to potentially ugly incentives and drugs that are prescribed unnecessarily.

friend of mine sent me some notes of his regarding a talk he went to on the Notre Dame campus. The talk was based on the lecturer’s book entitled, “Science in the Private Interest : Has the Lure of Profits Corrupted Biomedical Research?” The basic point of the lecture is obvious from the title of the book. The incentives for private companies to produce drugs boils down to profit whereas it is more likely that a governmental organization will be driven by more noble and humanitarian goals. There may be other competing incentives in a private company such as the public good, but over time they are overwhelmed with the need for the company to increase their market share and net profit.

More and more we are becoming a culture which believes science, and specifically pharmaceuticals, will lead us to a better life. A good corrective might be to meditate on these words from James 1:2-4:

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Christian Persecution in China-Pastors forced to assemble Christmas Lights

Lights of Christmas

From time to time we all need to be reminded of the horrific levels of Christian persecution in the rest of the world.

Maybe you can come up with a unique way of remembering these pastors in prison this Christmas season.

Stem Cell Conspiracy?

The news about adult stem cells doing actual work in the real world is beginning to hit the surface. This author’s take on the lag between the breakthrough and the media coverage is just short of conspiracy. If a group-in the media or in politics-has invested so much time, money, and celebrity face time on fetal stem cell research, there is a heavy incentive to ignore the competing claim.

It is incredibly unfortunate that this is the case. I believe that not only does the science give credence to adult stem cell research, but the ethical considerations completely obliterate the option of fetal stem cell research.

Look at it this way:

1. There are two possible avenues of stem cell research-embryonic and adult.
2. In order to retrieve fetal or embryonic stem cells, the embryo or fetus needs to be destroyed.
3. In order to retrieve adult stem cells, no adults (or any human for that matter) are harmed in the process.
4. The benefits of fetal and adult stem cells are basically equivalent (I believe the benefits are tilting in the direction of adult stem cells, but assume for now that they are at least similar).
5. Both fetuses and embryos are humans.

Given this set of propositions, the choice for adult stem cell research is clear. As far as I am concerned, if all the real life applications were favoring fetal stem cells at this point, I would come to the same conclusion based on the weight of the ethical considerations. To argue, as many are doing today, that we should kill several people in order to possibly save some is a little too Naziesque for my taste.

Here are a couple of quotes for the Chicago Tribune column. After wondering if the oversight is due to the stupidity of newspaper editors, the author writes:

Not likely. More likely it's because the stem cells used in Hwang's therapy were from umbilical cord blood instead of embryos. Why should that make a difference? Because if you favor embryonic stem cells, you are a smart, loving person. But if you favor cord cells, you are a Luddite. If you want to avoid the ethical, moral or religious difficulties posed by killing embryonic human life or by creating it solely for the purpose of prospecting, you are a cruel person who would let people suffer and die from horrible, painful diseases or injuries. Same goes for advocates of "adult" stem cells extracted harmlessly and without any ethical problems from living tissues of adults and children. In short: Good guys equal embryonic stem cells; bad guys equal adult and cord stem cells.

Unfortunately for Bush-haters, conservative bashers and others who have canonized embryonic stem-cell therapy, Hwang's miracle was pulled off with cord therapy--news that a biased media would prefer to ignore. I find it hard to believe that media bias explains such a news brownout, but what else could? Media ignorance on a stunningly massive scale about the significance of Hwang's cure? Or near-universal journalistic skepticism about the validity of the claims?

In fact, adult and cord stem cells hold as much, if not more, promise as the embryonic types. For years, it has been used to treat leukemia. The good newsabout adult and cord stem cell advances flows so steadily, it's hard to imagine how a journalist with any news judgment could ignore it.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Scientists Make Phone That Turns Into a Sunflower

Yahoo! News - Scientists Make Phone That Turns Into a Sunflower

I love the Sunflower touch. I want the one that will turn into a Venus Fly Trap.

Is Global Warming a Religious Belief?

This article in the Toronto Free Press is fascinating on several different levels. It tells the story of an MIT professor, Richard Lindzen, who claimed in a speech to the National Press Club in D.C. that fears of global warming are akin to religious beliefs. The way in which he related fears of global warming to religion is telling. Here are a few of what I think were the more telling quotes:

"Do you believe in global warming? That is a religious question. So is the second part: Are you a skeptic or a believer?"

Once a person becomes a believer of global warming, "you never have to defend this belief except to claim that you are supported by all scientists--except for a handful of corrupted heretics," Lindzen added.

"With respect to science, the assumption behind the [alarmist] consensus is science is the source of authority and that authority increases with the number of scientists [who agree.] But science is not primarily a source of authority. It is a particularly effective approach of inquiry and analysis. Skepticism is essential to science--consensus is foreign," Lindzen said.

So, if I am reading the tea leaves correctly, the argument Lindzen is making is that global warming fears and religion are the same in two, related ways: their assertions should not be questions if you are a true believer, and their assertions rely wholly upon authority and consensus.

This is, obviously, a bit of a back-handed comment about both religion and the science of global warming. Lindzen does not believe the global warming claims are true, and in order to express his frustration with his ostracized skepticism he relates his interlocutors to religious types. I find his opinion about global warming and the state of the science interesting (there is a bit of that in the article), but I am more concerned with the idea that religion does not tolerate skepticism.

To put my view one way, I believe that God would want every honest question answered. Plenty of people want to “question” Christianity out of spite and pure disagreement, but that is argumentation and not honest skepticism. And to answer the next question, I believe firmly that Christianity can stand the test of academic argumentation. If it is true, it will stand the test of honest scrutiny.

Although there are plenty of examples of the church not tolerating skepticism, belief in this world is a tightrope walk of faith and reason and clearly from time to time the church has erred on the side of fideism. A healthy church, though, thrives on those among its ranks who press on thoughtfully and sincerely in their faith.

Can knowledge concerning God and the Christian faith rightly be called knowledge if it is some kind of mixture of faith and knowledge? There is one way of knowing things, sometimes called fiduciary knowledge in which we honestly know things as a result of experience or personal history. I know chairs work because I have sat on a few-I trust most chairs. I know God exists, in part at least, because I have experienced him and know Him to be real. For some more info on types of knowledge, try this link at prosthesis.

Friday, December 03, 2004

True Love vs. Happiness

I have written from time to time that the notion of “love” in our present day culture is a poor shadow of its former self. We are loosing a robust notion of love, along with what love does and does not do, and we are replacing it with a shallow and egotistical sense of personal happiness and individual rights.

I ran across a couple of good articles which deal with this issue through
this note on Mere Comments. The articles, in Boundless, are here and here.

For the more adventurous, I would recommend this
Interview with Satan. If you have not experienced The Door, be prepared for a heavy dosage of satire.

Could the NHL be back on track?

Yahoo! Sports - NHL brass, locked-out players agree to resume talks

Hope springs eternal!

Maybe it won't be long before the Avs are out there doing their thing once again...

Thursday, December 02, 2004

ALLELON Ministries - Article on Christian Spiritual Formation

ALLELON Ministries - Articles: Spiritual Formation

This is a good synopsis of what "Christian spritual formation" means. Here is one quote from the article I found insightful:

Christian spiritual formation is the redemptive process of forming the inner human world so that it takes on the character of the inner being of Christ himself. In the degree to which it is successful, the outer life of the individual becomes a natural expression or outflow of the character and teachings of Jesus. But the external manifestation of "Christlikeness" is not the focus of the process; and when it is made the main emphasis the process will be defeated, falling into crushing legalisms and parochialisms. "That Christ be formed in you" (Gla. 4:19) is the eternal watchword of Christian spiritual formation, fortified by the assurance that, while "the letter of the law kills, the spirit gives life." (II Cor. 3:6)

Dallas Willard has reflected the same concept when he refrences the image of a tree and its fruit. He has said that to try to change the fruit is pointless-but if you change the tree, the fruit will naturally change as well.

Note: You will need to register on the web page to view the article. The registration is free.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Stem Cells: Adult Stem Cells Doing Real Work

I have blogged from time to time on the issue of adult stem cells, and I share a concern with many that their viability is being deliberately overlooked. The recent headlines about stem cells being used to actually treat conditions, however, relate to adult stem cell, not fetal stem cell, research. bLogicus has a nice set of links.

Thanks to Dory at Wittenberg Gate for the link.

One quote from the AFP article:

Additionally, umbilical cord blood stem cells trigger little immune response in the recipient as embryonic stem cells have a tendency to form tumors when injected into animals or human beings.