Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Nye vs Ham: Post Debate Review

On the evening of February 4th, 2014 and the following day, an estimated 5 million people from over 100 different countries watched a debate concerning faith and science.

Bill Nye “The Science Guy” vs Ken Ham, of Answers In Genesis, squared off to discuss the agreed topic for the debate: "Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” The following couple of days showed this debate, and its two debaters, as the lead topics trending on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Yahoo Science. Why? Why would a debate that has been ongoing for centuries grab so much attention today? As we learn more through science, Creationism (as it has been coined) continues to gain popularity and more attention. Because of this the opposition has pushed back in an attempt to suppress the obvious. In August of 2012, Bill Nye posted a YouTube video making claims against Creationism. In this video he inferred that a non-belief in evolution (as in “molecules to man”) would hurt science, children, and the United States as a whole. He also stated that this belief would be non-existent in the future. Ken Ham responded in his own YouTube video which duplicated the atmosphere of Bill Nye’s video, but with rebuttal. With attention to the topic growing, Ken Ham publicly offered Bill Nye to debate him. Nye, eventually agreed.

During the debate Ken Ham shared the Gospel, in-short, on several occasions. He also established two important points; there is a major difference in what can be shown through observable science and that which can be extrapolated through philosophical or historical sciences, and that scientists with a belief in Creation can (and do) play an equally effective role in their respective field.

Bill Nye argued against Christianity by attacking the logic behind some of the stories in the Bible. He also made numerous references inferring that the translations of the Bible over time have lead to errors, thus causing the writings within to lack credibility. It’s interesting to note that not only is misrepresenting and twisting God’s Word, the most popular way to argue against God, it was also the first tactic ever used when Satan deceived Eve in the Garden.

The atmosphere of the Legacy Hall, located in the Creation Museum, appeared to be pleasant. The room was crowded with people from across the country, including a notable representation from the mainstream media. The debate was carried out with almost no technical problems and was live streamed to millions with no known problems. After the debate, numerous articles were posted giving praise and disdain to both sides.  Of course many organizations representing Creation Science posted articles giving rebuttals to claims made by Nye that were left open during the debate. Answers In Genesis has even put together an interesting option to compare their answers to Nye’s arguments by selecting the argument and choosing past articles as the debate jumps to that section.  You can do this here: debatelive.com.

What I liked about the debate:
  1.  I liked the fact that the debate received copious amounts of attention. Debates of this type have been declining as those affirming the Creation side find it difficult to receive commitments from those opposing. This should not be the case. Both sides should always be open to discussion in open forum and I believe the more aware the average person is concerning this topic, the more likely the evidence will be properly followed.
  2.  The debate was professional. It was well organized, the broadcast had great quality, was moderated impartially, and had a live audience that was very respectful.
  3. There was a portion of time given for Q&A from the audience. I have watched many debates and this section, if allowed, always grabs my attention in a different way. Often, these questions present more of a challenge for the debaters than they do for each other.
  4. The opening arguments were given a decent amount of time. The longer the opening arguments are the more information can be given for the audience to learn from. I am not sure why there was a 5 minute and 30 minute session for each person, but the total of 35 minutes gave them ample time to instruct while laying the foundations of their arguments.
What I wished was different about the debate:
  1.  The debaters were given numerous 5 minute rebuttals. While this was nice at times it put too much constraint on them concerning their initial rebuttals. 5 minutes is not long enough to properly challenge a 35 minute argument.
  2. I wish there was more science in the debate. As expected, Ken Ham spoke a lot in referencing the Bible. While a Christian can appreciate and understand this, the opposition is more likely to drown out or ignore the point being made. Science shows a lot of evidence that supports design and contradicts evolution but there was not an abundance of information given to reinforce this. In the same manner, Bill Nye left his stance on science to mock the Bible on numerous occasions.
  3. There were no closing arguments to conclude the event. The closing arguments can be just as informative as the opening statements. Not only can the participants have rehearsed topics to mention or reiterate, but they also can add last minute rebuttals that no time was given for during the debate.
  4. Though not common, I like to see some sort of pre and post survey done with the attending spectators. It is interesting to see which side, if any, was able to change minds.
There is hardly a “winner” in these debates and this was no exception. Just as scientists from both worldviews have the same evidence but come to different conclusions, those who watched saw the same debate but will have different opinions based on their bias.  I wonder what conclusion or opinion a neutral person watching this debate would have come to. Better yet, what would one find if they could truly look into the evidence through the scientific method without bias? My prayer concerning this event is that those who do not know Jesus have had their eyes opened enough to search more. I also pray that those who do know Jesus have a better understanding of the great evidence that supports their faith.

“Yes, one can be a Christian and an evolutionist, but such a position is both scientifically and biblically untenable. The Lord Jesus took a literal view of Genesis. The theory of evolution is dishonouring to God as Creator, and its teaching leads to a disastrous secularizing of society.” 
- Dr. Duane Gish

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Salvation; is it easier than you think?

Do you believe in God?  Are you destined to spend eternity in heaven? If so, how will you respond if you stand before the Throne and are asked, “Why should you be allowed to enter Heaven?”

A while back I began to concentrate on evangelizing in public areas by talking with random strangers. This effort, which I call “cold contacting”, taught me about an issue I was surprised to learn was so common. The majority of people I talk with profess to believe in God but when asked about Heaven, they gave a disturbing answer. The dialogue will generally go something like this:

Me: So, you believe that God exists?
Respondent: Yes.
Me: Are you going to Heaven when you pass from this life?
Respondent: I think so. (which usually follows a short pause)
Me: How do you know?
Respondent: Well, I’m a good person.  I try to live a good life; I don’t cheat or steal or anything like that...(these answers are given with some tension -- it's clearly not a welcome topic).

To further my surprise, I perceived aggravation when attempting to explain the good news that one doesn't get to Heaven by trying to “live a good life” or working hard to “be a good person.” No, it's actually much easier and has nothing to do with our own merit. Anyone I know who has received the gift of salvation in Christ will usually respond to questions about their salvation with joy and none of the aforementioned tension. All this lead me to the frightening reality that there are a whole lot of people who call themselves “Christian” but are unwittingly heading straight for Hell.

I recently had the honor of walking with a friend of mine as he put his relationship with Jesus in motion. He was raised in church, attended services throughout his life, and is married to a wife with a strong understanding of the faith, but he missed the main thing. For the first couple of weeks following his transformation he struggled with the truth of God’s grace being given to us and not earned by us. Why is this?

We have been raised up in a society that is predominately built on a system of getting out what you put in. “Eat your meat; get your pudding.” “Clean your room; spend the night at your friend’s house.” “Work your hours; get your pay check.”  This becomes the backbone of our life in certain ways. Then, we examine the most important topic of life and what do we see? The complete opposite. It seems strange and perhaps a bit confusing that salvation and spending eternity in the presence of God in heaven is not something we can earn, but is imputed to those who receive Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on our behalf.

We want to make it out to be a lot more complicated but it's really quite simple:  God is perfect and holy and must therefore be distanced from imperfection. His creation was originally pure. Sin entered the world by the choices of man and things changed. In order to live with God in Heaven we must be pure and sinless. We can not do this (Romans 3:23.) God then made a way that man could be reconciled and the curse of separation defeated.  God humbled Himself and became a man -- God incarnate.  Jesus then lived a pure and sinless life.  We killed Him in the same way the Levitical Priest sacrificed the spotless lamb for the forgiveness of sins and thus, He is called the Lamb of God.

When He was sacrificed on the cross He became the last sacrifice for sin, as only He could, taking our place in judgement (Hebrews 10:12-18, Romans 5:8.) When the believer receives this substitution, its as if Jesus stands in that person's place and it is His sinless life that is judged. He paid for our salvation with His own blood and then offers it to us as a free gift of grace. All you need to do is believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior (Romans 10:13, John 5:24.)  So when you stand in judgment before God and He ask why you should be allowed into Heaven, you can simply say, “Not because of anything I have done, but because Christ was sacrificed for me and I believe.”

"God saves believers by imputing to them the merit of Christ's perfect righteousness - not in any sense because of their own righteousness. God accepts believers in Christ. He declares them perfectly righteous because of Christ. Their sins have been imputed to Christ, who has paid the full penalty. 
His righteousness is now imputed to them, and they receive the full merit for it."  ~ John MacArthur 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bill Nye and Ken Ham Debate -- February 4th, 2014

On January 2nd, Answers in Genesis announced they will be hosting a debate on February 4th, 2014 at 7PM between Bill Nye "The Science Guy," the former host of a popular children's science program on PBS and Ken Ham, founder of answersingenesis.org and the Creation Museum located in Petersburg, KY.  The agreed topic of the debate will be:

"Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” 

Bill will be advocating the position of evolution as a scientific and authoritative explanation of human origins, while Ken will be defending the Biblical creation account of origins found in the book of Genesis.  Quoting Ken, "I hope to show Mr. Nye and our debate audience that observational science confirms the scientific accuracy of the Genesis account of origins, not evolution."  To be clear, Ken is not referring to micro evolution and variation within species, which is observable science, but the theory of macro evolution as the only explanation of human origins.

Here at Reason for the Faith, we believe it is highly disingenuous to call this a debate between science and religion: this is clearly a debate between two differing worldviews on the topic of origins.  One claims that "In the beginning God..." while the other claims in the beginning matter + chance + time.  There are only three basic options when it comes to origins: either everything came from nothing, an Intelligent Designer created, or physical matter is eternal.  The first defies logic and is not scientific -- even if there was an "energy" that is not nothing, the second is logical but is not scientific, the last also defies logic and is philosophically self-defeating (infinite regress lacking a "first cause").  So, you tell us which makes the most logical sense. 

The bottom line is both views make claims which cannot be scientifically tested or verified.  In short, both views require significant elements of faith.  Pseudo-scientists are those who attempt to call theories and consensus of the alleged majority evidence and fact, but in elementary school, we learn that theories which cannot be verified by observable scientific evidence cannot be categorized as a scientific fact.  So why is macro-evolution exempted?  Not all of reality is scientifically verifiable, so when that is the case, don't call it science.  If everyone were being honest, they would acknowledge that much of how a person chooses to interpret observational, verifiable scientific data (that which can be tested, verified, and repeated in a predictable way) is shaped by that person's worldview.  If you don't want to believe in God, you're unlikely to see any evidence for Him.

It is highly improbable that this debate will move the position of either debater, but it may challenge those who view the debate, to reconsider the reliability, evidence, and legitimacy of both worldviews.  Tickets to the live debate hosted at the Creation Museum went on sale on January 6th and sold out within ~2 minutes for the 900 seat lecture hall.  Based on recent social media posts, AiG is apparently looking into other venue options based on the overwhelming interest in attendance; a live streaming option looks like it will also be available.  Reason for the Faith will watch the debate with interest and post our opinion of the dialog, which we hope proves to be highly respectful and well represented by both the debaters.

Are you planning to watch the debate?  Is this type of event helpful?  We hope to hear your thoughts as this event unfolds in the upcoming weeks.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Science within the Bible

Did you know the Bible makes several scientific claims which went against the grain of contemporary understanding? Even more impressive is the fact that, over the years, the scientific community has validated that those claims were accurate. How could this be? The Bible was written by some 40 different authors over a span of around 1,600 years (for more on why we can trust the accuracy of the Biblical accounts, see our post on Why only 66 books?). It seems clear that there must have been some sort of divine revelation given to the authors. To make it even more obvious, there are no scientific claims made in the Bible which have proven to be false. Even under the heavy scrutiny of scoffers over the centuries, the text of the canonical books of the Bible continues to show evidence that God not only exists, but has given us a peek into His omniscient realities.

Let’s first look at just 10 examples of science in the Bible that would have been impossible for the authors to have correctly understood during their lives. Then we will look at how God’s creation perfectly coincides with certain laws of science.
1)      Job 26:7 describes Earth as free floating. How could this have been known without revelation? The majority of those concerned with this issue during “Biblical” times believed Earth was carried on the back of an animal of some sort.
2)      Isaiah 40:22 and Proverbs 8:27 describe the Earth as round. The accepted thought during the time these were written was that the earth was flat. It was these verses that convinced Christopher Columbus that he could sail around the world.
3)      Job 38:16 and Jonah 2:6 explain that the oceans have mountains and valleys as well as springs. These facts were not discovered until the 20th century. Psalm 8:8 also explains that there are paths in the ocean. This convinced Matthew Maury, an officer in the Navy, to study if there were paths in the ocean. He discovered many of them and wrote the first book on oceanography which is still referenced today.
4)      In Genesis 17:12 God commands Abraham to circumcise male babies on the 8th day. In Genesis 21:4 we see that Abraham circumcised Isaac on the 8th day and that God commanded him to do so there as well. Why? The Bible does not give reason and no one knew until recently. Vitamin K, when in the liver produces an element called prothrombin.  Prothrombin and vitamin K, are the 2 most needed elements for blood to properly coagulate. On the 8th day they are at their highest levels. In fact day 8 is the only day that prothrombin reaches over 100% the normal level under normal conditions.
5)      Job 40:15-24 perfectly describes a sauropod dinosaur. God called it “Behemoth” and said it was the largest of all creatures (which referred to land animals) He made. He said it ate plants, had strength in its hips, had a tail like a cedar tree, strong bones, and explained that even when a river gushes into its mouth it is not bothered. The “fossil record” has shown sauropods as being the largest land animal that has ever lived.
6)      Hebrews 11:3 explains that the things we can see are made out of things not visible. We now know that everything is made from cells, molecules, and or atoms. Also, Genesis 2:7 and 3:19 state that we are made from the ground or “dust of the earth.” Scientist have discovered that our body is comprised of some 28 base and trace elements, all of which are found in the earth.
7)      Until the 1600s there was no understanding of the hydrologic cycle of the Earth, however, the Bible spells it out with these verses; Vapors rising in Psalm 135:7 and Job 36:27, water in the clouds in Job 26:8 and Job 37:11, falling rain in Job 36:28, Isaiah 55:10, and Ecclesiastes 1:7 even speaks of how the water returns to the seas thus completing the cycle.
8)      Leviticus 17:11; 14 explains that the source of health and life in our body is blood. Up until 150 years ago medical protocol was to bleed someone out when they were sick in order to try and rid the body of their illness. This lead to premature deaths in countless incidents, including George Washington. We now know to save the blood, even to the point of giving donated blood to keep one alive.
9)      Isaac Newton discovered that light is made of seven colors, which can be “parted” and then recombined. We know this as a rainbow (ROYGBIV). Job 38:24 claims that light can be divided. Newton’s discovery was obviously made centuries after the Bible was written.
10)   The Bible explains that all humans are descendants of one woman, Eve, who lived somewhere in or near the Middle East. In 1987 a team at the University of California at Berkeley published a study comparing mitochondrial DNA of 147 people from 5 different world locations. They concluded that all 147 had the same female ancestor. Further studies have shown that everyone apparently has the same female ancestor and that she probably originated in the area of where Europe, Asia, and Africa meet. The name given to this one woman is “Mitochondrial Eve.”

Let's take a deeper look into how the account of God’s creation coincides with key “Laws of Science.” Here, we will give a very brief explanation of these “laws” and how they support the accounts found in the Bible. It is important to understand these laws are widely affirmed throughout the scientific community:

The Law of Biogenesis says that life can only come from life and cannot come from non-life through spontaneous generation. It is interesting to note that most evolutionist will not claim to know how the first living organism came to be. Their theories mostly begin with life in existence. The Law of Biogenesis creates a huge problem for them but coincides with life being created from God, who has always been alive. While on the topic of life it should also be recognized that the Bible explains each kind of animal can only bring forth the same kind. Even though there are multiple theories concerning macro-evolution the only observable conclusion science can give matches this claim. The Bible also claims that humans were made to be different from other animals, which of course, can be observed as we live with conscience and a higher level of intelligence.

The Laws of Thermodynamics, or life of heat energy and how said energy operates. The 1st Law of Thermodynamics explains that the total amount of energy and matter is constant, always has been constant, and always will be constant. In laymen’s terms, energy cannot be created or destroyed, but has always and will always only transfer from one kind to the other. In the creation account we read that after God created humans His creation was complete and finished. (Genesis 2:2) All space, time, and matter were made and would only be used and transferred from that point on. 

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics explains that in a closed system (which the Universe is) once useful energy is used it transfers to a non-usable form, and thus leads from order to disorder, or organization to disorganization. This is known as entropy. The universe, and the earth, are both captive to the laws of entropy. Nothing will get better on its own but will instead, break down to less complexity. This law is understood so universally that the scientific community has concluded the universe will experience “heat death” once all usable energy has been used. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics creates another, entirely different challenge for evolutionist as their theory claims that things have gone from disorder to order and from simple to complex. On the other hand, it coincides with the Bible which claims that the heavens and the earth are withering away and decaying. (Hebrews 1:10-11, Isaiah 51:6, and Psalm 102:25-26.)

While science outside of the Bible supports design, and thus supports the conclusion that the world was created by God, it is also clear that science inside the Bible shows divinity and evidence for our Creator.

What is your response to these realities?

“I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, 
written by those who were inspired. 
I study the Bible daily.”  ~Sir Isaac Newton 

Friday, November 22, 2013

A God-shaped Hole?

If there is a transcendent God that created the Universe and wanted a relationship with us, would we have to learn about that God’s existence, or would we know it instinctively?  Ask yourself, if you could actually create something and wanted to have a relationship with it, would you give that something a desire for that same relationship? Not that I am God, but I would and you probably would too, and I believe God did. Does it seem far-fetched to think that this is a part of our design? Mathematician and Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal clearly had this in mind when he penned these words: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”

From outside looking in, how can we know that God wants a relationship with us? He gave us a book. If we were created by a god that did not seek relationship then why bother giving us a book containing any information at all about that god's existence let alone historical accounts, prophecies, revelations, and guidelines to live by? As a skeptic you may ask how we can know this book is divine? This topic, of course calls for a blog of it's own but as a teaser I would like to point out three truths that can not be ignored. 1) The Bible makes hundreds of prophetic proclamations that came true after being written. No other book, secular or religious, can make this claim. 2) The Bible makes several scientific claims that went completely against the grain of knowledge during the times they were written. Some of these bold claims were not even understood by the scientific community until recently. 3) The Dead Sea Scrolls confirm that there was more than man involved in writing the Bible. Many skeptics claimed that some of  the Bible's fulfilled prophecies were written after the fulfillment took place. This was an argument that stood strong because the oldest scrolls known at the time were dated after the fulfillment of the prophecies spoken about. However, in the 1940s and 50s several scrolls were found in caves near the Dead Sea that contained scrolls from the Bible. They were dated well before the prophecies in question were fulfilled and the text was nearly unchanged in comparison with the text from thousands of years later. This should challenge every skeptic to consider truth within the Bible, and therefor God.

We do not know what it was like before God spoke creation into existence. We, as believers, know that there was God, as He is eternal.  As for the skeptic, with causal arguments, fundamental laws of logic, and a beginning singularity which are in harmony with secular science, it is rational and plausible to see evidence of God existing before the Universe. By way of sense, we know God wanted to create for a reason. Not that creation was necessary but many believe God wanted to be in relationship with us and this is inferred throughout the Biblical narrative. I also believe God gave us an intrinsic need to be in relationship with Him; a yearning that can only be satisfied by Him. In Acts 17 Paul is speaking to some officials in Athens (Mars Hill) about their yearning for something and how they were seeking in the wrong direction by ignoring the obvious. He pointed out that they had built things to include an altar labeled “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.”  He pointed out their ignorance and explained that the God who created everything causes everyone to seek God and that He is near each person.

In today’s society, we try to fill this yearning with things that can not satisfy the void. In place of God, we chase material gain, position and power, mental fantasies, relationships with other people, popularity and status, and the like. While these temporal things can quench our thirsting temporarily, they will never fill the spiritual void. This is why, as recorded in John 4, Jesus spoke at the well to the woman coming to know Him and never thirsting again. John 7:37-38 tells of Jesus claiming that if anyone is thirsty they can come to Him to drink. It then says, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” The Greek word for “innermost being” is koilia which describes a “hollowness” within the body, stomach, or womb. Queen Elizabeth the First was recorded as saying for her last words, “All my possessions, for a moment in time.” Here we have someone who had everything that could be had, including her own kingdom, yet she would trade it all in for some more time. Why? I can only assume that she was not satisfied? Maybe she was still thirsty.

All this brings up an interesting question: If we have a spiritual void that can only be satisfied by a relationship with God, how can a non-believer respond to it? When I was agnostic, I craved discussion about spiritual topics. I tried to fill the void I felt within me with numerous things, but still searched for different answers about the existence of a god. A hard-agnostic, or an atheist, will try to fill the void with numerous things but many respond in a hostile manner toward those who believe in God. They can be militant in their approach to marginalize evidence and intuitions of a higher power. It is easy to see this from the books they write, billboards they use to mock God, and in a twist of irony -- churches of their own. Dinesh D'Souza spoke about this and said, “I don't believe in unicorns, so I just go about my life as if there are no unicorns. You'll notice I haven't written any books called The End of the Unicorn, Unicorns Are Not Great, or The Unicorn Delusion, and I don't spend my time obsessing about unicorns. What I'm getting at is that you have these people out there who don't believe that God exists, but who are actively attempting to eliminate religion from society, setting up atheist video shows, and having atheist conferences. There has to be more going on here than mere unbelief.” It is as if they try to fill the void by fighting the obvious in an attempt to make themselves feel better about their gamble.

So how can one satisfy his or her own thirst? How can you fill the void? Unfortunately, if you are asking this question to yourself then my answer may not make much sense. It did not for me when I first heard it. The only way to fill it is a relationship with the God of the Bible. Not just “a god,” but the one true God. The Bible explains that a “natural” person, not having a relationship with God, will not understand the things of God. It further says that a person who is "in the Spirit," meaning God has entered into his life in a personal way, will comprehend the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-14).  I would argue that it is the same for your understanding of the God-shaped hole this blog speaks of. Want to fill the void? We encourage you to seek God and ask that He make the truth known to you.  Dare to place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and let the one who shaped your soul fulfill it. Then, and only then, will you thirst no more.

“There's a god-shaped hole in all of us
And the restless soul is searching
There's a god-shaped hole in all of us
And it's a void only He can fill.”   ~Plumb

Saturday, November 16, 2013

When does the life of a human being start?

An anxious couple walks into a room with several LCD monitors, sophisticated equipment, and a medical chair. The couple is greeted by a technician who has the nervous mother have a seat. The tech squirts a blue colored lubricant and begins to probe about. Assuming all is as it should be, a steady staccato rhythm of “squish-squish-squish-squish” is heard and begins to register on the heart monitor. Next, what seems like an indiscernible image appears on the screen, moving about. The nervous father begins squinting at the screen trying to make sense of the image. The technician begins pointing out anatomy to help the onlooking parents pick out the tiny features of their 16 week old baby. There is a leg, the other leg, a foot, fingers, there is the baby's  abdomen, the head, the heart, etc. It is a miraculous sight and one the technicians will be quick to tell you they never cease to be amazed by. For these expecting parents, this is a joyous time and the last thing on their mind is the possibility of an abortion.

But what if the situation were different?  What if the occasion where not such a joyous one? What if, for example, we were talking about a single teenaged mother who hasn’t told her parents about her promiscuity which resulted in pregnancy.  She is not ready or perhaps able to provide for her baby. What if the baby were to test positive for a physical or mental handicap like Down Syndrome? What about women who are now pregnant because they were the victim of rape or how about the mother whose life could be jeopardized if she decides to continue with the pregnancy? What if it was your own wife or relative?  Is there a situation in which the termination of a pregnancy is justifiable?

For perfectly good reasons, this is an emotionally charged topic. It is a weighty issue, so at the risk of being controversial, we are going to present a few thoughts to consider regarding the subject of abortion. In presenting these thoughts, we hope to challenge readers, regardless of their persuasion on the topic, to set hostilities aside and consider carefully the scientific and logical outworking of their position on this important issue.

We are familiar with the scientific terms that reference the stages of development for the unborn: first as a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, then fetus that grows until ultimately ready to exit the womb.  While these are perfectly good and legitimate terms to describe the development of an infant, many advocates of pro-choice insist on referring to an unborn baby in these ways.  If we call it like it is, the rational is simple to understand:  calling a developing baby a "fetus" when considering an abortion helps soften the psychological and visceral reaction that would be invoked by simply calling this life a "baby."  But the question at hand is:  When does the life of a human being start?   Is there a point when termination of life is not synonymous with the destruction of a human being?  We feel that while there are clearly philosophical, ethical, and theological implications, this is largely a  scientific question.

Those who advocate the right of abortion also play word games by choosing the term "pro-choice" instead of pro-abortion for the same reasons as referring to the unborn as a fetus.  The cause is based on a position of women’s rights; the claim being that it is the woman's body and therefore the woman's right to choose.  The difference, however, is the premise that this is a choice about the body of the mother or that of a scientifically distinct human entity, regardless of the fact that it inhabits the womb.  Because the human characteristics of a developing fetus become increasingly difficult to deny, the majority of those supporting abortion only support it during the early terms of pregnancy.  But does that make a difference scientifically? A common basis is that since the fetus is attached to the mother's body and cannot survive apart from the mother’s body, as such, it is an inseparable part of her body and therefore the mother has a right to choose. To further appease the conscience, the question has been raised around whether the fetus can feel pain or not. Further, there are those who believe that during the embryonic stage, the human baby develops with features likened to that of animals and, as such, are something less than human. This latter point was a popular position about 10+ years ago but has been almost entirely abandoned as our understanding of fetal development has improved and this has been debunked. Pro-choice advocates also appeal to the circumstantial difficulties and messy issues like those mentioned above (rape, incest, etc) in which the mother has an extenuating situation and should have the right to terminate the pregnancy. So with a few of these questions in mind, let’s consider the following points:

First of all,  the issue is not when does human life begin, but rather when does the life of every human being begin.  It is important to be clear that there is a huge difference, scientifically, between parts of a human being that only possess "life" and a human zygote, embryo, or fetus that is an actual human being. Abortion is the destruction of the latter. Destroying a human sperm or a human oocyte would not constitute abortion, since neither are human beings. A human kidney or liver, a human skin cell, a sperm or an oocyte all possess human life, but they are not human beings.  They are only parts of a human being. If a single sperm or a single oocyte were implanted into a woman's uterus, they would not grow; they would simply disintegrate.  They do not possess the necessary genetic makeup to form a human being.  However, the human embryonic organism that is formed at fertilization has all of the necessary genetic material to be a human being -- calling it just a "blob" or a "bunch of cells" is not only disingenuous but scientifically inaccurate.   There is absolutely no question whatsoever that the immediate product of fertilization is a newly existing human being that begins to grow immediately. A human zygote is a human being. It is not a "potential" or a "possible" human being. It's an actual human being with the potential to grow bigger and develop all it's capacities.

A few questions for the pro-abortion advocate:

1) Is a developing embryo or fetus alive?  If it is alive, what happens once the living embryo is aborted?  If something living is destroyed, it is usually called death.  If the claim is the fetus is not yet alive in the same way as say a newborn, then can we give an example of something non-living that grows and develops in complexity into the form of anything, much less a human being?  I know of no such example.

2) Is the fetus a human being?  If not, in what way is it inhuman and at what point does it become a human being?  18 days following conception, the human fetus develops a heartbeat. By day 22, the head and abdomen have formed and after only 5 weeks the human brain, backbone, spinal cord, and digestive system. By the end of the second month, the baby has eyes, lips, nose, mouth, tongue, ears, and is moving about.

These are just two fundamental questions because, if the fetus is alive and a human being, then no matter how you slice it, an abortion is the destruction of a living human being.  Why is destroying a human being once it exits the birth canal called infanticide, but if it is destroyed as a fetus, it is merely a medical procedure likened to the removal of a tumor.

In many ways, we are dealing with  willing denial of scientific reality. It is simply a matter of convenience, in many cases, so people invent ways of describing the unborn as less than human to mitigate the reality of the destruction of a human being. If the justification is a fetus can be terminated because it can’t survive outside of the womb, explain why that is different from a new born baby that cannot feed or care for itself either. How would the hypothetical lack of pain felt by the fetus during an abortion procedure make it any more justifiable.  The same reality would apply I you were to shoot a person in the back of the head.  That person would also feel no pain...but the lack of pain doesn't justify murder.

Beyond this, who among the unborn can defend their case?  They clearly cannot voice their will to live or their right to choose life . Unlike a soldier sent to battle and armed to fight for his freedom, the baby has no defense. It is amazing to me that so many who will argue for the choice of mothers to abort their baby fail to consider the hypocrisy of their failure to recognize the right to life of the unborn.  These are the same people who advocate for the rights and humane treatment of animals, yet argue passionately against the use of capital punishment for criminals convicted of heinous acts, but with equal passion, will defend the right to murder an unborn human being. Is the life of a baby no more valuable than the life of an animal or a criminal?

Mass murder is nothing new: the Chinese under Moa Ze-Dong murdered 49-78 million people, the USSR under Stalin killed 23 million, the WWII Holocaust saw 6-12 million Jews and others systematically exterminated, the Cambodian killing fields were the grave of 2 million, and the list goes on and on - and all in the last century. But in the USA alone, approximately 3,000 babies are aborted each day (about the same number as died in the 9/11 attack) or 1.3 million aborted annually. If we take into account the years since Rowe Vs. Wade, there have been more than 50 million abortions, not counting chemical and non-disclosed abortions.

What about cases where a mother’s life is in jeopardy if the pregnancy is not terminated? While this argument may have had merit at one time on an exception basis, since medical professionals and institutions are required by law to protect the life of their patients, modern medicine has made this argument almost entirely moot. Most doctors now agree that in few, if any, cases is abortion medically necessary to save a mother’s life. Generally, if the mother is endangered to this extent, aborting the baby is will make no difference in the outcome. It is estimated that fewer than 2% of all abortions are medically necessary, and even that number is debatable. In cases of incest and rape, I can only say that if a baby is conceived in this way, what is to be gained by adding to the tragedy the act of murder of an innocent human being? I recognize this is an extremely difficult and emotionally damaging situation for all of the victims. I am not indifferent to this reality nor am I suggesting they be further victimized. It is simply my belief that two wrongs do not make a right. Keep in mind, the baby had no control over the circumstances of its conception. I believe only Christ can give a person the strength to endure such a challenging ordeal.

I believe the most compelling example, from the Christian vantage point, on abortion is made clear to us in the gospel narrative when we are told of the birth of Jesus – the Christ child incarnate. We often think of the miracle of Christ and his birth as having it’s beginning at the scene of a lowly manger in Bethlehem, but we forget that 9 months earlier, Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary. The miracle of God taking on the form of a man, the incarnation, took place at the moment of conception. The baby was given the name Jesus long before his birth. The Psalms proclaim that God has knit each of us together in our mother’s womb and on that note, I pray we might consider every unborn baby as a life precious in the site of God.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On Tolerance, Political Correctness, and Relativism

It’s no secret that it’s a politically correct world we live in.  And among the highest of modern virtues is something people flippantly refer to as “tolerance.”  I’m referring of course to the revised definition of the word, which says one should not only respect and uphold the rights of others to have differing beliefs (the traditional definition of tolerance) but that we must also accept all beliefs and truth claims and acknowledge them all as equally valid.

This type of approach to belief demonstrates logical naïveté in the least and is the very antithesis of sound logic and reason.  Two contradictory truth claims cannot both be true at the same time and in the same way.  More than a little ironic, I think, since this a view often esteemed by none other than the self-proclaimed “intellectual elite” of our day.  And this popular definition of “tolerance” is ingrained and reinforced in our everyday lives more and more: at work, at school, and everywhere we turn in the public arena.  I think the wise old saying is apropos: tolerance will be the last virtue of a scoundrel.

It seems we can't take a stand, make a truth claim, or express an idea or belief plainly for fear we might offend someone.  It makes us a shallow and superficial people.  Political correctness has changed the very the fabric of how we define reality, with no clear consequence for believing one way or the other about much of anything.  It is the ol’ wolf in sheep’s clothing we could plainly call pluralism, which today expresses itself in the forms of relativism and post-modernistic thinking.  On that note, at the risk of overgeneralizing, it also seems to be an unwritten normative rule these days that the only people entitled to express their beliefs and be critical toward anyone, without being derided for it, are legal minorities and Democrats. The only people who can be spoken ill of without fear of reproach are Christians and Republicans. This double standard is brazen and deplorable.

To be clear, I uphold the view of tolerance under its classical and original definition.  All truth claims have an equal right to expression, but not all truth claims are equally valid.   Believe what you like, but at the end of the day, you’ll find it’s a bit like pregnant or non-pregnant – it can’t be both at the same time.  In addition, I think it makes sense to note that we can still demonstrate the important virtue of prudence while still taking a stand for unadulterated truth.  Being brash and unaware in how we convey the truth is not only unwise but wholly ineffective.
In Christian circles I’ve often heard it said “love the sinner but hate the sin.”  And while there is an undeniable element of truth there, it’s not actually found anywhere in the Bible - at least not in this way.  God's Word does clearly say we should hate sin and evil (Psalm 97:10, Romans 12:9); it also clearly says God loves all people (John 3:16).   So we should despise sin – starting with our own.  But the Bible makes it clear that we’ve all fallen short (Romans 3:23) and we’re all like filthy rags before a perfect and holy God.  So when we say things like “love the sinner; hate the sin,” to whom exactly are we referring?  Chances are the “sinner” won't see the line of demarcation so clearly as we think.  Their logical interpretation will likely flow something like this:

Premises 1: You say God hates ___ sin but that He loves me.
Premises 2: You say You hate___ sin but that you love me.
Premises 3: I believe____sin is a part of who I am.
Conclusion:  You and your God hate ME.  I want nothing to do with either.

Now, I’m not suggesting the interpretation on the part of said "sinner" is accurate, but I am saying it’s not hard to see a fundamental flaw in the approach here.  The outcome of how it will often be interpretted is not exactly desired.  Am I suggesting that we should move toward being politically correct, then??  Heavens no!  I am saying that if we take time to examine the Bible, we’ll note that most of Jesus’ hot scorching words were for the hypocritical religious elite of His day, not for those broken sinners who responded to His truth and love and acknowledged they were in need of a Savior.  Now some will refuse the truth, and that is also a possible outcome regardless.  My point is that while Jesus hates sin, He loved first.  He dealt with sin on the cross and left it there.  I believe we too can love first, without coming across as hateful, bigoted, or hypocritical.  We should refuse to call any sin, as so defined in the Bible and not culture, acceptable.  We can speak the truth without compromising or relativizing it.  It's sometimes a balancing act, but that doesn't mean we have to become pluralistic, relative, or politically correct to uphold truth.