Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Abortion and Public Funding

There is a great deal of debate right now, as a subset of the health care debate, about whether abortion is or ought to be covered by a taxpayer funded program. Over and over, reports and studies show us that the current plans do cover abortion, but the moral debate obviously is not over. Salon’s Broadsheet posted the “10 Reasons Abortion Must Be Covered.” It begins:

Abortion should be covered by health insurance. We say this, we sense this, we assume this. We insist that abortion is simply a medical procedure -- and that it, therefore, merits coverage.

Calling abortion “simply a medical procedure” is like saying murder is “just another way to use a knife.” Medical procedure or not, it is the ethics of the issue which matter in this case, and outside of some polling concerns and worries about a “slippery slope,” the post is not that interested in raising the central ethical question. Among the 10 reasons, Lynn Harris lists these.

1. Abortion is legal medical care.

2. Abortion is common, mainstream medical care.

Both of these considerations only beg the question. It is true that in most cases in most states, abortion is legal, but again, that side-steps the fundamental ethical issues. By this reasoning we might be able to say that because euthanasia is legal in Switzerland (it is, and it is a growing business), the government has a duty to financially provide for doctor assisted suicide. The legality or illegality of any act does not settle the moral question.

5. Covering abortion makes abortion safer.

This is a standard chestnut pulled out at every opportunity. As more real statistical work is done, the more the claims of the tens of thousands of deaths by back-alley abortions becomes an urban legend. It just has not been proven (it has been asserted abundantly!) that legality makes for safety where there was none before.

7. Excluding abortion from coverage sends us down a slippery "moral" slope.

Here the author is worried that if we begin to look at these provisions through the eyes of a particular moral view, then we will be down a path of removing all kinds of other legal protections as a result of that view. That may or may not be the case, but if there is at least one immoral act we can exclude from taxpayer funding, I don’t think this is a compelling reason not to try.

Monday, October 26, 2009

ID Conference, Free and Open Debate

A handful of us are on our way to an ID conference this weekend hosted by The Shepherd Project in Castle Rock, CO. I am looking forward to hearing some of the “heavy hitters” and listening to the interaction that will undoubtedly be there. One of the presenters, Dr. Groothuis, lets us in on some of the latest hubbub:

The organizers of the October 30-31, Castle Rock ID conference (The Shepherd Project) have had their web site hacked and atheist groups are threatening to protest the event. What basis could there be for protesting a voluntary event that raises scientific challenges to Darwinism? I would never consider protesting a pro-Darwinist event.

In any event, we may be in for a wild ride.

On one level, I am looking forward to being at an even that might be protested by the establishment. I feel so rebellious! One of my email taglines comes from G.K. Chesterton about 100 years ago, “Today, defending any one of the cardinal virtues has all the exhilaration of a vice.” And so it is now with defending open and free scientific debate.

In know for a fact there will be thoughtful philosophers of science at the event ready to listen and engage like adult human beings.

Apparently, the lower evolved classes have another way of engaging ideas different from their own.

I have a theory, expounded on this blog from time to time, about a current, broad cultural reality. In the last few decades, evangelical Christians have been honing their academic skills, acquiring legitimate Ph.D.s, reading and analyzing atheists and other religions, and all in all becoming serious thinkers motivated by a rational worldview. On the other hand, atheists in the public square (and some in the academy) have become so elitist, myopic and settled in their perceived cultural power, they are no longer pressing themselves intellectually. They don’t read serious Christians, most of their attacks are straw men, and they look down on views different than their own rather than engage and critique them. Their cultural elitism has made them mentally slow. (Keep in mind, this is a generalization…there are plenty of exceptions.)

It appears both ways of reacting to ID will be present this weekend: thoughtful critique, intellectual myopia.

If this happened in a clinic...

Man arrested in death of his unborn child.

My only question is, Why?

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Biblical Anthropology

An anthropological view is, I am more and more convinced, a worldview changer. It is one of those assumed (or developed) points of view that ends up guiding just about everything else, even one's theology. The world is different if humans are basically good, basically bad, or some kind of hybrid of the two.

This video is a great little introduction by Dr. Groothuis from Denver Seminary to Pascal's, and I think a biblical, anthropology.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Preachng as a Spiritual Discipline

There is growing blow-back against "traditional" church meetings and the act of preaching as proclomation. For a whole slew of reasons, usually related to emergent-friendly concerns, many evangelicals are rethinking the act of gathering as a church, and the actual impact of preaching as typically understood.

Craig Brian Larson has a wonderful article in that answers some of these issues, and rightfully places "listening to preaching" as a necessary discipline in the life of every believer.

A handfull of thoughs from the article:

Preaching brings us before God's Word in the presence of the Holy Spirit, who indwells the gathered church.

Good preaching rescues us from our self-deceptions and blind spots, for left to ourselves, we tend to ignore the very things in God's Word that we most need to see. Preaching is done in community, covering texts and topics outside of our control.

Good preaching contributes to spiritual humility by disciplining us to sit under the teaching, correction, and exhortation of another person. This strikes right to the heart of individualism, which is such a plague on the church.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Screwtape Letters - The Audio Book

The more I reflect on and reread The Screwtape Letters, the more I am struck by its insight and power. Now it has been made into an audio drama, which should help make it a bit more accessible to more people.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Idols and their Moral Consequences

At least two sex scandals have reached the surface of the mainstream press and the entertainment world lately – Roman Polanski’s drugging and rape of a 13-year old and David Letterman’s multiple affairs with staffers. What is most telling about these scandals is not necessarily that they happened, but that those who come from inside the media and entertainment swamps are nonplussed. Not only that, but many of them are finding ways to excuse the adulterous, manipulative, and vile behavior represented in these two cases. Whoopi Goldberg defended Polanski’s pedophilic sodomy as not being “rape-rape.”

How is it people can stare blatantly immoral behavior in the face and shrug their shoulders? At least in part, it happens when people have replaced their natural moral core with the idolatry of image. Certain people who represent certain ideologies become more important than moral truth. So as a result, moral outrage is reserved for people “on the outside” of a political and cultural system while genuine immorality is dismissed because the person, the image, or the ideology is more important.

Our idols form and shape our characters, moral sensibilities and personalities. If then our idol is image as presented in our current media-saturated world, our moral sensibilities will be changed to fit the demigod of fame. Famous people get away with murder (literally and figuratively) because the supporting media structure idolizes fame at the cost of all other concerns. In addition, scores of your average Joes and Janes suffer the same psychologically debilitating consequences. The image presented by Letterman’s fame is more important than marital fidelity to his wife and his fatherly example to his child. What is worse, the fact that Polanski made a few films loved by the film industry excuses him of drugging and raping a child. By what they excuse, these people tell us what they love.

So what is the cure? In the end it is simple – replace all our idols with the Only Wise God. In light of these realities, I was struck by Ephesians 4:17-20 this week:

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!

Monday, October 05, 2009

A New Jesus Manifesto

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola are a pair of interesting, if not provocative, Christian authors. Apparently they run the blog, A Jesus Manifesto. The Manifesto itself, has a lot to say about Jesus, belief and the life of the church, and not all of it makes sense. Here are a few quotes and thoughts.

Seek a truth, a value, a virtue, or a spiritual gift, and you have obtained something dead.

This strange and self-defeating sentiment is quite popular among young evangelicals and their theological leaders. You mean if I seek a truth like the one you just presented, I have found something dead? This is bumper-sticker kind of thinking that doesn’t help the discourse about Jesus at all. Everything listed in that little sentence finds their life and light in Jesus Christ, and he had no problem asking us to seek these things in their right contexts.

What is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology. Christianity is not a philosophy. Christianity is the “good news” that Beauty, Truth and Goodness are found in a person. Biblical community is founded and found on the connection to that person.

This is another nice-sounding slogan that doesn’t hold water for the Christian. Thought it is true that we do not equate the substance of Christianity with “ideology” or “philosophy,” both find their fullness as they become alive in Christ and Scripture. And again, right after saying it is not an ideology, they provide an ideological view of Christianity. I have no problems with that, except they don’t want to be associated with an ideology while, at the same time, propounding an ideology.

The person of Jesus is increasingly politically incorrect, and is being replaced by the language of “justice,” “the kingdom of God,” “values,” and “leadership principles.”...Justice apart from Christ is a dead thing.

This thought I like. Too much of evangelicalism is slipping out of orthodoxy into orthopraxy, as if the two are incompatible. I have never understood the drive among so many to dismiss the creeds while they insist on doing good deeds. Sweet and Viola are absolutely right: deeds without creeds becomes in quick fashion dead works.

What God the Father was to Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is to you and to me. He’s our indwelling Presence, and we share in the life of Jesus’ own relationship with the Father.

This statement seems to me to be pressing up against an actual heretical view. If we take it extremely metaphorically and charitably, then maybe we can let them slip past. But in every significant sense of that sentiment, it just isn’t true. Jesus wasn’t God because the Father indwelt him – he just was God. And we do not have the indwelling of Jesus, but of the Holy Spirit (if we are going to think carefully about it). And in addition, that indwelling is nothing like the deity of Jesus Christ.

Maybe you have a few more thoughts on something I think, on the whole, is not a very useful manifesto.

Let The Luddites Howl!

A prep school in the North East, Cushing Academy, has decided that books are a quaint and outdated technology from the past. Therefore, they have just unburdened themselves of their library, replacing it with flatscreens, laptop stations and a $12,000 espresso machine. Seriously.