Apologetics

Snowflake #94: Truth and Life Personified

I want to read a letter. I am going to have a hard time getting through this letter, but hopefully it is as meaningful to you as it is to me. It is written by Eric and Kris and their daughter Alysse.

The letter says,

Hank, I am deeply troubled by the backlash you and the Christian Research Institute are experiencing right now. Please know that we continue to stand with you prayerfully and financially, and are not at all personally wavering in our knowledge that you are a man of God and a man after God’s own heart. We will continue to lift you, Paul, your family, and your ministry up in our daily prayers. We are also praying for your health because I know from the broadcast you are dealing with something there, too. Please let this be an encouragement to you. I continue to praise God for the blessing you are in my life and walk. I would not be a Christian, or the Christian I am today, without your insights and modeling and mentoring. You are beloved by many, and I am proud to be among those ranks. Press on, dear brother, and may we both rejoice in how God will use even this.

I want to tell you a little about the backstory here, but before I do, the grief unspoken for me is that after thirty years, there were several broadcast networks that did not afford our ministry the courtesy of saying goodbye to thousands and thousands of dear friends. Whatever that might mean financially to the ministry of the Christian Research Institute is significant, but in the end, it is all about ministry in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The backstory with respect to Eric, Kris, and Alysse is pretty cool. I met them approximately seven years ago. I reckon Kris had adopted what was known as Snowflake #94. Snowflake #94 had been a frozen embryo for two years, but when I met her, she was a bright and beautiful little girl. I believe at the time she was around four-and-a-half years old. When I held her in my arms, in some real, tangible way, I held the realization, or the very real personification, of life and truth. While I cannot at the moment recall all the details, what I remember is that our broadcast was the impetus in part or in whole for Eric and Kris to adopt Snowflake #94. Why? Because of believing the truth that a fertilized human egg is truly a person made in the imago-Dei, made in the image and the likeness of God. Well, today Alysse in real life is tangible both physically and metaphysically. When she was frozen, she did not have a fully developed personality, but she did have, as her parent’s recognized, full personhood from the moment of conception. She is today a wonderful personality in her own right.

I met these dear people as a direct result of the ministry of the Bible Answer Man broadcast, and perhaps our program was used in a way to bring Alysse to where she is now, eleven years of age. I can tell you, I still carry her picture all these years later. It is a reminder to me that life and truth really do matter.

No matter what you hear, listen to what I am saying myself: I will never compromise the essentials of the historic Christian faith. I recognize wonderful Christians in all kinds of different places. I have seen them in the house churches in China, the progeny of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. I have seen them in the Orthodox faith. I have seen them in evangelical churches. Today, as our whole staff gathered around, at least a good number of our staff, I was looking at each one of the faces, recognizing that they all represented a different branch of the Christian tree. It was a beautiful thing to behold because many of the people that work with me (and I would think maybe the majority) have been with me ten, twenty years, and some far longer than that. Together we are making a difference for time and eternity. I am deeply grateful for those who are standing with us prayerfully and financially in the battle for life and truth.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following:

Compassionate Adoption for the Most Helpless (Richard Poupard)

Should Christians Support a Ban of Embryonic Stem Cell Research? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Stem Cell Obfuscation (Robert Perry)

This blog is adapted from the April 21, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Eggs, Embryos, and Third Party Contributions to Having Children

cri-blog-hanegraaff-hank-in-vitro-fertilizationWhat is your opinion of embryo and egg donations as an option for infertile couples?

Good question. I think that the introduction of third parties through sperm or egg donation, or through surrogate motherhood is inconsistent with the biblical pattern of continuity between procreation and parenthood. Here is the point: if in vitro fertilization is actually used, the sperm and the egg should come from the husband and the wife that are committed to raising the child.

If you look at the Bible you see the potentially disastrous consequence of third party involvement. (For example, the account of Sarai having Abram sire a child through the maidservant Hagar in Genesis 16.) That is a very significant point.

I think another significant point would be that if in vitro fertilization is used no more eggs should be fertilized than the couple is willing to give a reasonable chance at full term life. The reason is that from a Christian perspective when a woman conceives, she’s not conceiving merely a body, she’s conceiving a body-soul unity, that’s what it means to be human. Therefore, if you extinguish the life of a fertilized human egg, then you are extinguishing the life of a human being. That is the equivalent of an abortion. I think that is a major moral concern.

One other thing that comes to mind is the fertilization of an egg in a glass dish can in some cases lead to viewing children as products rather than gifts from God. You have heard about the whole issue of designer babies being in the offing’s so that people can get exactly what kind of product they want. I think all of that leads to significant moral concerns.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following equip.org resources:

Should Christians use in vitro Fertilization? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Brave New Families? The Ethics of the New Reproductive Technologies (Scott B. Rae)

Compassionate Adoption for the Most Helpless (Richard Poupard)

Snowflake #94 (Hank Hanegraaff)

An Introduction to Biblical Ethics: Walking in the Way of Wisdom (IVP) by Robertson McQuilkin and Paul Copan

How to be a Christian in a Brave New World (Zondervan) by Joni Eareckson Tada and Nigel Cameron

Blog adapted from “What does the Bible say about In vitro fertilization?

Apologetics

God’s Providence in Life, Death and Organ Donation

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-Organ Donation

See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand (Deuteronomy 32:39, NIV).

What does the Bible say about organ donation?

The Bible does not specifically talk about organ donation but there certainly is a principle. This is the principle: The province of life is the province of God and it is not the province of human beings. Therefore, we are not to take life, we are not to hasten the advent of death, and what we are to do is to leave that prerogative to God.

Organ donation is a very relevant question. According to Dr. Richard Poupard,

Although organ transplantation has saved many lives, there remain ethical issues especially regarding determining when a patient dies. Brain death has been widely accepted and changed the basis for determining death from biology to philosophy. Donation after cardiac death has evolved as an alternative method where a patient is allowed to die in a controlled manner in an attempt to save organs for donation. Both methods of determining death have the potential to decrease our human value at the end of life.1

I think therein lies the question. If you are trying to control the dying process so that you can harvest organs, there is an ethical problem with that in very much the same was as there is an ethical problem with harvesting baby parts by killing preborn children.

There is nothing wrong with organ donation it is just that you do not want to be involved in trying to play God with respect to the dying process so that you can harvest organs. It is a wonderful thing to donate organs. It would be something that is very, very valuable for another person. It is a demonstration of love. Given the right ethical considerations, it is a wonderful thing to do.

If we donate our organs will we still have fully intact bodies in the future resurrection?

When we talk about the resurrected body, what we’re talking about is continuity. There’s no necessity to believe that every single atom will be resuscitated in the resurrection. But, there’s continuity between the body that is and the body that will be.

The way you can look at that is by the analogy of DNA. You have a DNA that distinctly defines you, as I do as well. That DNA will flourish to complete perfection in a new heaven and a new earth where indwells righteousness. So, you’ll be the perfect you and I will be the perfect me. We do not have a body that is altogether different from the one that we now have, but the body that will be will be glorified. It will be immortal, and incorruptible. We will be like His resurrected body in the sense that our bodies will be restored to what they would have been had the fall not occurred.

—Hank Hanegraaff


1. Richard J. Poupard, “Postmodern Death: Organ Transplantation and Human Value,” Christian Research Journal, 36, 4 [2015]: 13.

Blog adapted from the Bible Answer Man broadcast September 23, 2015 and “If we donate our organs, how does that affect our resurrection?

Apologetics, Journal Topics

Why Science Can’t Explain Morality

Copan, Paul-Naturalism Ground Genine Moral

Review: JAS275 | By Paul Copan

This review first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 29, number 6 (2006). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, is a best‐selling author whose books include Why People Believe Weird Things and How We Believe. The Science of Good and Evil (Henry Holt and Company, 2004) is yet another engagingly written book by this former “born‐again Christian” and “born‐again atheist” who currently holds the view of “agnostic nontheist” (p. 3). He believes that, “by the criteria of science and reason,” God is an “unknowable concept” (4). After all, we cannot “prove or disprove God’s existence,” says Shermer, although he is open to some proof of the divine materializing in the future (p. 5).

Shermer distinguishes between morality, which “involves issues of right and wrong thought and behavior,” and ethics, which “involves the study of right and wrong thought and behavior” (7). The first half of his book covers “The Origin of Morality,” and the second half covers “A Science of Provisional Ethics.” Shermer believes that religion evolved as a social structure to reinforce rules regarding altruism and cooperation. Instead of accepting supernaturalism, Shermer opts for an evolutionary basis for connecting God, religion, and morality. He thus approaches evolutionary ethics (a subdivision of evolutionary psychology) in a “scientific” manner, drawing on anthropology, sociology, social psychology, and evolutionary biology.

Taking the position of a “transcendent empiricist” (19), Shermer claims that he can (a) “leave God out of the ethical discussion altogether” and, in order to avoid pure relativism or culturally determined ethics, (b) “adopt the methodological naturalism of science” (17). Morality, he claims, exists “outside of us”; it is a universal human trait (18). The impersonal force of evolution created our moral sentiments and behaviors, even though we may fine‐tune and tweak them according to our cultural preferences and historical circumstances (18–19). The existence of morality, according to Shermer, is not the result of religious influence, although religion creates social institutions that canonize and reinforce moral principles. Evolution generates moral sentiments, and culture (including religion) helps codify these principles into societal rules.

Shermer argues that moral rules are not absolute (i.e., they do not apply to all people in all cultures under all circumstances all of the time), but that they are not relative either. They are provisionally true (i.e., they apply to “most people in most cultures in most circumstances most of the time” (20–21) and operate according to various provisional moral principles (which I will discuss below).

Shermer preserves a place for human freedom and moral responsibility despite evolution (19–22), and appeals to scientific evidence to bolster his claims. He explores such issues as the myth of the noble savage in light of warfare and hostility as well as ecocide among primitive civilizations (ch. 3).

The following will summarize some of Shermer’s key points. More important, it will address some of the most philosophically and apologetically significant problems in his work.

The Problem of Moving from Is to Ought. Shermer holds that somehow we are morally obligated to act according to drives that have been genetically passed down to us, which create certain moral feelings within us and are reinforced by group pressure (56–57). To ask “Why should we be moral?” is like asking “Why should we be hungry or horny?” Shermer insists that “the answer is that it is as much a part of human nature to be moral as it is to be hungry, horny, jealous, and in love” (57). If so, then all Shermer can do is describe how human beings actually function, but he can’t prescribe how humans ought to behave. There’s no difference between whether I ought to be moral and whether I ought to be hungry since both are functions of evolutionary hard‐wiring. These states just are. Naturalism ultimately can give us a description of human behavior and psychology, but it can’t ground genuine moral obligation. Moral obligations in a world of naturalistic scientific descriptions are odd indeed. They fit quite nicely into a theistic world, however.

Furthermore, Shermer’s belief that human persons are self‐aware, reasoning, morally responsible agents who possess free will and human rights actually is better explained against the backdrop of a supremely self‐aware, rational, good, free, personal Being (who made us in His image) than that of a nonconscious, nonrational, valueless, deterministic series of material causes and effects.

The Problem of Knowing vs. Being. Shermer asserts throughout his book that “morality need not be the exclusive domain of religion” (64). Shermer approvingly cites biographer Jared Diamond, who says, in light of three decades of research in New Guinea, that he has “never heard any invocation of a god or spirit to justify how people should behave toward others” (36). Shermer devotes chapter 5 to the question, “Can We Be Good without God?” He claims that most believers think people cannot lead moral lives “without recourse to a transcendent being” or construct ethical systems “without religion” (149), but that, regardless of a person’s religious views (or lack thereof), “certain moral principles hold” (156).

One section reveals Shermer’s confusion here. He asks, “What would you do if there were no God?” (154); would you rape or murder or rob? Without God, however, this is a meaningless question, for there would be no rights‐bearing, intrinsically valuable, morally responsible humans. How could blind, valueless processes produce such beings? Shermer wrongly thinks he can rest content in knowing moral truths concerning human rights and obligations (i.e., in the realm of epistemology) and yet ignore the basis for those truths (i.e., the realm of metaphysics). Theism, on the other hand, acknowledges that metaphysical basis, which gracefully transfers from a supremely valuable Creator to His valuable human creatures who have dignity and rights. Thoughtful theists agree that people can know and live by objective moral values even if they do not believe in God or have the Bible. This is so because theists and nontheists alike are made in God’s image.

The Problem of Freedom and Responsibility vs. Determinism. In chapter 4, Shermer points out that there are varying degrees of guilt; morality is not black‐and‐white. He devotes a good deal of space to John Hinckley, who, in order to get the attention of film star Jodie Foster (his obsession) tried to assassinate former president Ronald Reagan. Hinckley’s actions involved a combination of free will alongside factors that were beyond his control—namely, severe mental disorders.

If we are the products of evolutionary forces, then, how did moral freedom and responsibility emerge? Shermer claims that sometime during the Paleolithic period, humans shifted from being under “mostly biological control to mostly cultural control” (47). He observes that “it is obvious that there are necessitating forces at work in history,” and “it is equally obvious that contingencies push and direct historical sequences” (136). Shermer matter‐of‐factly asserts, “We can make a difference. Our actions matter” (137). He believes that the contingencies and necessities of atoms moving about in space suggest a “helpful analogy” (136) for deterministic evolutionary forces and free human actions as they shape the course of morality.

The more pressing matter, however, given the radically different natures of mindless atoms and human agents (which make for a very unhelpful analogy) and given our supposed materialistic, deterministic origins, is how free will or moral freedom emerged. How did thinking, conscious beings emerge from mindless, nonconscious processes?

Naturalists such as Jaegwon Kim, Colin McGinn, and Ned Block admit that they are baffled that consciousness exists at all. Beyond this, many naturalists simply deny free will precisely because science has no place for personal agency. New York University philosopher Thomas Nagel believes there is “no room for agency in a world of neural impulses, chemical reactions, and bone and muscle movements”; naturalism strongly suggests that we are “helpless” and “not responsible” for our actions.1 Atheist John Searle admits that we have intuitions of free will, but says free will itself does not exist, since it interferes with the “scientific” idea of “the causal order of nature.”2

Shermer, therefore, cannot simply assert that free will is possible because of contingency and necessity in nature, because the metaphysical context of his view suggests otherwise. Theism, on the other hand, which posits that we have been created by a free, personal Being, offers an excellent context for affirming free will and moral responsibility.

The Problem of Absolute vs. Provisional Morality. Shermer defines “absolute” morality as an inflexible set of rules for right and wrong thought and behavior derived from a social group’s canon of ethics (158), which he believes leads to people establishing themselves as the final arbiters of truth and morality. (Shermer offers many negative examples of popular religious extremism, but he ignores the more nuanced, thoughtful, and reflective voices within the Christian community.) “Relative” morality is a set of moral rules that is defined by a social group and is dependent on situation and culture (161). Shermer advocates a “provisional” morality or ethic (which he believes is analogous to scientific facts), to which we can offer “provisional assent” and aim to do the best we can (167), since “absolute morality” cannot be lived out in the real world. There are, nonetheless, “absolute” morals: it always is wrong to torture babies for fun, to abuse children, and to rape. I doubt that Shermer really thinks that these are provisional.

In chapter 7, Shermer elaborates on four principles or higher moral values of provisional morality: (1) The ask‐first principle: to find out if an action is right or wrong, ask first (e.g., asking your spouse if it is okay to commit adultery likely will elicit a firm negative response). (2) The happiness principle: seek happiness with others in mind, never pursuing happiness for yourself when it leads to unhappiness for another. (3) The liberty principle: seek liberty with others in mind, never pursuing liberty for yourself when it leads to loss of liberty for another. (4) The moderation principle: avoid extremism and promote moderation.

The Problem of Misunderstanding Theistic Ethics. Shermer points out the difficulties in biblical ethics, particularly in the Old Testament (e.g., 36–40, 182–85), but he does not appear to appreciate the nuances and historical/ theological contexts that bear on reasonable solutions to these difficulties (see the writings of Christopher Wright, Gordon Wenham, and Walter Kaiser for such solutions). Shermer believes, for example, that not all killing (murder, manslaughter, slaying in self‐defense) is the same, but fails to realize that believers can agree with him in this.

He also considers it morally permissible to deceive Nazi soldiers in order to protect innocent Jews, but does not seem to understand that Christians find this permissible as well. Scripture permits deception under certain conditions; for example, in warfare (e.g., 2 Chron. 20:22, where God Himself sets ambushes) and when there is criminal activity or innocent life is endangered, such as when the God‐fearing Hebrew midwives deceived Pharaoh (Exod. 1) or when Rahab hid the spies and deceived the authorities (Josh. 2) or when God Himself gave Samuel a deceptive excuse against the capricious Saul (1 Sam. 16:1–2). Most Christians, as well, have no problem turning on houselights at night when they go out for dinner!

Theistic ethicists, moreover, often allude to the existence of prima facie duties; that is, they believe that certain moral obligations self‐evidently supersede other moral obligations, and that one should fulfill lesser moral duties (e.g., never to deceive) as long as they do not conflict with greater moral duties (e.g., to save innocent life). In instances where one must choose, say, between deception and saving a life, then deception is permissible. Another area Shermer discusses is abortion. Here, again, he dislikes the either/or, binary thinking of the absolutists. He says the matter of “when a fetus becomes a human” is “difficult to resolve” (203). Science is very straightforward on this matter, however; the fetus is always human. Shermer makes the mistake of assuming that human functions (e.g., brain activity, thinking, and self‐awareness) are more fundamental than human nature. Humans, however, do not lose their value when they are asleep or unconscious. Our functions do not make us what we are; our nature does.

Shermer further supports the preferences of women over those of the unborn, because women can voice their preferences; the unborn cannot (207). He ironically points out that when it comes to rights of animals, even though chimps cannot speak, we can observe their nonverbal communication when they are placed in cages —“they are none too pleased about such arrangements” (221). Ultrasounds of unborn infants being aborted, however, reveal their fierce resistance to invading lethal instruments; these voiceless humans—I write this with deep sadness—“are none too pleased” about their pain. Finally, why should Shermer pit mother against unborn and support only the former? If the unborn are human, he should support them as well. Is it not a mark of virtue to care for all those who cannot care for themselves?

Shermer goes on to fault Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., for their “morally ineffective, even dangerous” turn‐the‐other‐cheek ethic because they paid for their beliefs with their lives (the “sucker’s payoff”): “Turning the other cheek only works if the opposition is inherently benevolent or has chosen a purely cooperative game strategy” (59). Of course, a slap on the cheek in Matthew 5:38‐42 is more of an insult than an act of violence, as Lamentations 3:30 suggests. Some Christians may interpret this passage differently, but one can make a good case that self‐defense or stopping an evil aggressor in a just war situation (e.g., against Hitler) isn’t in view here. Indeed, the passage “do not resist the evil one” in Matthew 5 is better translated “do not resist by evil means,” which is precisely the point of other biblical passages harking back to the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Rom. 12:17–21; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Pet. 2:21–24). Christian peacemakers are to return good for evil; we aren’t vengefully to use evil means, but good means to overcome evil. We are to resist the devil (James 4:7), and Jesus himself everywhere resists evil— even when He, though innocent, is physically struck in a law court (John 18:22‐23)!

Shermer’s dismissive comments reveal a naturalistic ethic that cannot truly “rise above” (the title of chapter 8) to reach the level Christ modeled of loving and doing good to one’s enemies, of going beyond the call of duty, or of laying down one’s life for another. These are out of step with self‐preservation and self‐interest (or group‐interest).

The Problem of Inadequacy. Other problems and oversights pepper Shermer’s book. For example, he presents the logical problem of evil (i.e., the alleged contradiction between the existence of evil and the existence of an all‐powerful and all‐good God) as if he is unaware of existing philosophical discussion (66). Though evil is a challenge for any worldview, the logical problem of evil is passé in philosophical circles (especially if God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil). Atheist William Rowe observes: “Some philosophers have contended that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of the theistic God. No one, I think, has succeeded in establishing such an extravagant claim.”3

Shermer correctly points out (in ch. 3) the error in considering certain persons “pure evil” and others “good,”4 because people with no history of deep evils, in certain circumstances, can end up committing horrendous acts. Shermer recognizes the potential depths of human depravity that Scripture affirms. On the other hand, Shermer’s explanation for evil falls short. Philosopher Gordon Graham observes that naturalistic concepts (i.e., those of “statistical abnormalities” or “deviations”) cannot describe profound, horrendous evils adequately.5

Despite Shermer’s sometimes helpful insights and perspectives, his naturalism leaves us looking for something more. That something is the Christian theism that he once embraced, but that he also, it seems, misunderstood.

Paul Copan (PhD) is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He is author and editor of various books, including (with William Lane Craig) Creation Out of Nothing (Baker/Apollos, 2004), The Rationality of Theism (Routledge, 2003), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of religion (Routledge, forthcoming), and Philosophy of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Issues (Blackwell, forthcoming).


NOTES

  1. Thomas Nagel, The View from Nowhere (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 111, 113.
  2. John R. Searle, Minds, Brains, and Science (1984; repr., Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), 87–88, 92.
  3. William L. Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” American Philosophical Quarterly 16 (October 1979): 41n.
  4. Augustine pointed out that evil is not a substance, but the absence or corruption of goodness in God’s creation.
  5. Gordon Graham, Evil and Christian Ethics (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
Apologetics, In the News

About Barack Obama’s Bathroom Edict

Hanegraaff, Hank-Barack Obama’s Bathroom Edict

May 17, 2016

I was thinking today of President Barack Obama’s bathroom edict. Do you remember John F. Kennedy envisioned a man on the moon? Obama envisions a man in a woman’s bathroom.

Think about the paradoxes, in our crumbling post-Christian culture, we’re steeped in a naturalistic worldview; therefore, on one hand, children are told that human beings are mere molecules in motion. In other words, there is no room for a subjective first person point of view. Yet, in an ironic twist, children are now to walk lockstep in the belief that they are not determined gender wise by objective biology but by an individual first person subjective conscious feeling regarding gender. Think about it? It is a mind warp.

Today I was reading an article by David French titled “President Obama’s Transgender Proclamation is Far Broader and More Dangerous than You Think.” He’s absolutely right. French points out that on May 9th Vanita Gupta , head of the Civil Rights Division of Justice, said,

Here are the Facts. Transgender men are men—they live, work, and study as men. Transgender women are women—they live, work and study as women.

In other words, according to the Department of Justice, it is a simple fact that a man can have a menstrual cycle, and a woman can have a penis, and that men can get pregnant.

Then 3 days ago, May 13 the administration threatened

Every single public school in America with the loss of federal funds unless it adopts the administration’s point of view that gender is defined not by biology but instead by personal preference.

French makes a number of points. First of which is that

Teaching biology and human physiology will be hate speech unless it’s modified to conform to the new transgender “facts.” Teachers will have to take great pains to note that chromosomes, reproductive organs, hormonal systems, and any other physical marker of sex is irrelevant to this thing called “gender,” which, “factually,” is a mere state of mind.

At least according to this narrative! Secondly,

Any statements of dissent — from teachers or students — will be treated as both “anti-science” and “discriminatory.”

In other words, it’s against science and it’s discrimination.

The argument that a “girl” with a penis remains a boy will be treated exactly the same as an argument that blacks are inferior to whites or Arabs inferior to Jews.

Third point is,

Public schools will now be even further opposed, doctrinally and legally, to orthodox Christianity.

Children are going to be taught, not only that their churches are factually wrong in their assessment and gender but they’re actually bigoted and hateful, kind of like White Supremacist.

Because the Administration’s edict is tied to funding not even civil disobedience can block the enforcement.

Unless schools can declare their full and complete independence from federal funding, they will continue to face escalating pressure from the federal government to use their classrooms to transform American culture and values.

Think about a remark on May 9th of Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She

Very deliberately compared the DOJ’s aggressive actions to guarantee male access to women’s restrooms (and vice versa) to the fight against Jim Crow. These words were an unmistakable declaration of political war against people of orthodox faith.

When she uttered those words she didn’t just grotesquely exaggerate the plight of the transgender, she minimized the reality the memory of past discrimination.

No one understands this subject in my view as well as Joe Dallas, who has an incredible article, “The Transsexual Dilemma” He points out

Traditionally, if a man felt like a woman yet inhabited a male body, his feelings, not his body, were viewed as the problem. They were considered something to be resisted, modified if possible, and contrary to what was. Currently, what one is is being determined by what one feels—an ominous trend when one considers its implications. It is, in essence, an attempt to define reality by desire, knowledge by intuition.

Then Joe talks about a counseling session with a person named Kim.

“I know I’m a man because I feel like one!” Kim screamed at me as our session continued, leaving me stunned that an intelligent, educated woman subordinated a verifiable truth—her born, inalterable state—to subjective (though strongly held) perceptions.

The only way in which we ultimately change culture is by changing the hearts of people. So many people look at the Presidential race that we have going on right now and I heard one key evangelical voice say that now we have a choice of the lesser of evils and therefore we shouldn’t vote in this election. We should abstain from voting. The truth of the matter is the Presidential candidates reflect our culture. That’s the reality. They always will. We should still be involved in voting because our vote is going to have enormous implications for the years that lie before us as yet.

We have to ultimately recognize our responsibility as Christians to be able to give cogent, clear, concise, and compelling answers to the questions that the culture is asking. We need to learn how to reach rather than repel.

When Christians do not understand how to think clearly about these issues they lose by default. The bathroom edict narrative, as I pointed out, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The minute you start thinking about it you see the ironic twist. You see the self-stultifying statements. The problem is the narrative is repeated over and over with such dogmatism that unless you can respond with gentleness and with respect but clearly the thought is that there is no cogent response on the other side of the ledger.

So we as Christians must learn discernment skills and must take seriously our responsibility to train our children in such a way that they themselves can think. They need to learn discernment skills.

—Hank Hanegraaff

(Adapted from the 5/17/2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast)

Apologetics

Applying Biblical Principles to Social Issues

Anderson, Kerby-Social Issues

This article first appeared in the Viewpoint column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 30, number 1 (2007). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org

Turn on the television or open a newspaper or tune in to talk radio. Within a few moments you will be confronted with ethical issues and topics. Daily we face ethical choices that are enshrouded in controversial moral complexity, including abortion, euthanasia, cloning, genetic engineering, race relations, drug abuse, homosexuality, gambling, pornography, and capital punishment. The rise of technology and the fall of ethical consensus have plunged our twenty‐first century society into a cauldron of moral debates and dilemmas.

Never has our society found itself in greater need of a biblical perspective with which to evaluate moral issues, and never have Christians been less equipped to address these topics. Two years ago, the Barna Research Group found that only nine percent of born‐again Christians base their life decisions on the biblical principles of a Christian worldview.

How do we begin to evaluate the complex social and political issues of our day from a biblical perspective? How do we keep from being carried away by the latest cultural trend that is blowing in the wind? Here are some key biblical principles to apply and faulty logic to avoid.

Biblical Principles. A key biblical principle that applies to the area of bioethics is the sanctity of human life. Such verses as Psalm 139:13–16 show that God’s care and concern extend to the womb. Other verses such as Jeremiah 1:5, Judges 13:7–8, Psalm 51:5, and Exodus 21:22–25, give framework and additional perspective to this principle. This can apply to issues ranging from abortion to stem cell research to infanticide.

A related biblical principle involves the equality of human beings. The Bible teaches that God has made “of one blood all nations of men” (Acts 17:26 KJV). The Bible also teaches that it is wrong for a Christian to have feelings of superiority (Phil. 2). Believers are told not to make class distinctions between various people (James 2). Paul teaches the spiritual equality of all people in Christ (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). These teachings can apply to our views of racial relations and of government.

The third principle concerns the biblical perspective on marriage. Marriage is God’s plan and provides intimate companionship for life (Gen. 2:18). Marriage provides a context for the procreation and nurture of children (Eph. 6:1–2) and a godly outlet for sexual desire (1 Cor. 7:2). This principle can apply to such diverse issues as artificial reproduction (which often introduces a third party into the pregnancy) and cohabitation (unmarried couples living together).

The fourth biblical principle entails the boundaries of sexual behavior. The Bible teaches that sex is to be within the bounds of marriage, as a man and a woman become one flesh (Eph. 5:31). Paul admonishes us to “flee” (1 Cor. 6:18) and “avoid” (1 Thess. 4:3) sexual immorality and to control our own bodies in a way that is “holy and honorable” (1 Thess. 4:5 NIV). These values can apply to such issues as premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.

The fifth principle commands obedience to the authority of government and civic bodies. Government is ordained by God (Rom.13:1–7). We are to render service and obedience to the government (Matt. 22:21) and submit to civil authority (1 Pet. 2:13–17). There may be certain issues, however, that force us to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). This can apply to war, civil disobedience, politics, and government.

Biblical Discernment. Often it is difficult to determine what is true and what is false in a world that offers a puzzling array of solutions across a broad spectrum of belief systems, most of which contradict each other and, as such, underscore the crucial need for Christians to develop godly discernment. Discernment is a word that appears fairly often in the Bible (1 Sam. 25:32–33; 1 Kings 3:10–11; 4:29; Psalm 119:66; Prov. 2:3; Dan. 2:14; Phil. 1:9). Colossians 2:8, similarly, reads, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Because so many facts, claims, and opinions are being tossed about, Christians need to develop discernment to avoid being taken captive by false ideas. These often appear in the form of fallacies. A fallacy, by definition, is a mistaken idea, an error, or a flaw in reasoning. Here are a few of the more popular fallacies often encountered in the heat of debate:

The Fallacy of Equivocation: the use of vague terms. Someone can start off using language we think we understand and then veer off into a new meaning. Readers of the Christian Research Journal are well aware of the fact that religious cults are often guilty of this. A cult member might say that he believes in salvation by grace, but what he really means by that is that you have to join his cult and work your way toward salvation according to the dictates already established by the cult. It is helpful to ask a person to define whatever vague terms he or she is using so that you can avoid being caught by the fallacy of equivocation.

Equivocation is used frequently in bioethics issues. Proponents of stem cell research often will not acknowledge the distinction between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells, and those trying to legalize cloning will refer to it as somatic cell nuclear transfer. Unless you have scientific background, you may not understand the difference in stem cells and the fact that cloning advocates are using complex terms to confuse you.

The Fallacy of Card Stacking: the selective use of evidence. Many advocates are guilty of listing all the points in favor of their position while ignoring the serious points against it. Don’t embrace or jump on the latest intellectual fad without checking the evidence.

The most common biology textbooks in high school and college never provide students with evidence against evolution. Jonathan Wells, in his book Icons of Evolution, shows that the examples used in most textbooks are either wrong or misleading. Some of the examples are known frauds (such as the Haeckel embryos) and continue to appear in textbooks decades after they were found fraudulent.

The Fallacy of the Appeal to Authority: reliance on authority to the exclusion of logic and evidence. Just because an expert says it, doesn’t necessarily make it true. We live in a culture that worships experts, but not all experts are right. Hiram’s Law says: “If you consult enough experts, you can confirm any opinion.”

People who argue that global warming is caused by human activity often say that “the debate in the scientific community is over,” but an Internet search of critics of the theories behind global warming will show that there are many scientists with credentials in climatology or meteorology who question aspects of the global warming scenario. It is not accurate to say that the debate is over when the debate is still taking place.

The Fallacy of Ad Hominem (Latin, “against the man”): an attack against a person rather than the person’s argument. People who use this fallacy attack the person instead of dealing with the validity of the person’s argument simply because the argument is a threat to them. Often, the more sound the argument, the more vitriolic the ad hominem rhetoric. If there is evidence for the validity of the position, proponents usually argue the merits of the position; when evidence is lacking, they attack the critics.

Examples of this fallacy abound. Citizens who want to define marriage as occurring between one man and one woman are called bigots. Scientists who criticize evolution are subjected to withering attacks on their character and scientific credentials. Scientists who question global warming are compared to holocaust deniers.

The Fallacy of the Straw Man: the mischaracterization of an opponent’s argument in such a way that it is easy to attack and knock down. Liberal commentators say that evangelical Christians want to implement a religious theocracy in America; even though this is rarely the case, the hyperbole works to marginalize Christian activists who believe they have a responsibility to speak to social and political issues.

The Fallacy of Sidestepping: the evasion or dodging of an issue by changing the subject. Politicians do this in press conferences when they do not answer the question a reporter actually asks, but instead answer a question they wish someone had asked. Professors sometimes do that when a student points out an inconsistency or a leap in logic.

Ask a proponent of abortion whether the fetus is human and you are likely to see this technique in action. He or she might start talking about a woman’s right to choose or the right of women to control their own bodies. Perhaps you will hear a discourse on the need to tolerate various viewpoints in a pluralistic society. You probably won’t get a straight answer to an important question, however.

The Fallacy of the Red Herring: the use of a tangent to distract an opponent from the issue in question (from the practice of luring hunting dogs off the trail with the scent of a herring fish). Proponents of embryonic stem cell research rarely discuss the morality of destroying human embryos; instead they will go off on a tangent (employing another oft‐used fallacy, that of the Emotional Appeal) and talk about the various diseases that could be treated and the thousands of people who could be helped with the research.

People may change the subject in debates because they want to argue their points on more familiar ground or they know they cannot win their argument on the specific issue at hand. Be on the alert when this happens.

A person with discernment will recognize these tactics and beware. We are called to develop discernment as we tear down the false arguments that people raise against the knowledge of God. By doing this we will learn to take every thought captive to the obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 10:4–5).

— Kerby Anderson

Kerby Anderson is National Director of Probe Ministries and host of the radio talk show Point of View. He holds a master’s degree in science from Yale University and a master’s degree in government from Georgetown University.

Apologetics

The Euthyphro Dilemma

Osteenification


This article first appeared in Christian Research Journal, volume 36, number 01 (2013). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org/christian-research-journal/


In an article published in USA Today titled, “As Atheists Know, You Can Be Good without God,”1 Jerry Coyne, a biologist and outspoken atheist, is disturbed that many Americans, including some prominent scientists, believe that our instinctive sense of right and wrong is “strong evidence for [God’s] existence.” Though Coyne appears to have no formal training in moral philosophy and theology, he ventures into moral philosophy to explain why this is clearly mistaken. His article is useful in that it highlights some common mistakes contemporary atheist writers make in their attempts to ground a secular ethic.

DIVINE COMMAND THEORIES OF ETHICS

It is necessary to understand accurately the position Coyne is criticizing before we consider the merits of his critique. The argument that our instinctive sense of right and wrong “is strong evidence for [God’s] existence” found its most important formulation in a 1979 article by Robert Adams. In it, Adams noted that we instinctively grasp that certain actions, like torturing children for fun, are wrong; hence, he reasoned, we are intuitively aware of the existence of moral obligations. According to Adams, the best account of the nature of such obligations is that they are commands issued by a loving and just God. Identifying obligations with God’s commands can explain all the features of moral obligation better than any secular alternative. Consequently, the existence of moral obligations provides evidence for God’s existence.2

It is important to note what Adams did not claim. Central to Adams’s argument is the distinction between the idea that moral obligations are, in fact, divine commands and the claim that one cannot recognize what our moral obligations are unless one believes in divine commands or some form of divine revelation. Adams illustrates this distinction with the now standard example of H20 and water.

Contemporary chemistry tells us that the best account of the nature of water is that water is, in fact, H20 molecules. This means that water cannot exist unless H20 does. However, it does not mean that people who do not know about or believe in the existence of H20 cannot recognize water when they see it. For centuries people recognized, swam in, sailed on, and drank water before they knew anything about modern chemistry.

This distinction has important implications. The claim that moral obligations are, in fact, commands issued by God does not entail that people must believe that God exists in order to be able to recognize right and wrong. These are separate and logically distinct claims. Affirming one does not commit one logically to affirming the other.

Second, Adams offers an account of the nature of moral obligations, not an account of what it is generally good to do. Actions such as giving a kidney to save a needy stranger can be good without being obligatory. For an action to be obligatory, it must be more than praiseworthy or commendable. Obligatory actions are things we are required to do, or things another person can legitimately demand us to do. Not doing so without an adequate excuse renders us blameworthy, and others can justifiably censure us, rebuke us, and even punish us. Failure to comply makes us guilty and in need of forgiveness.

Failure to grasp these distinctions leads many critics of divine command theories astray, and although I will not argue it here, many lines of argument Coyne makes are unsound due to a failure to make these distinctions. Here, however, I will focus on one argument Coyne gives that does not depend on this confusion: the Euthyphro dilemma.

To read the rest of this article, please visit: http://www.equip.org/articles/euthyphro-dilemma/

Apologetics, In the News

The Dalai Lama, Martin Sheen, and Beyond Religion

In a recent Reuters “Book Talk,” Bernard Vaughan interviewed actor Martin Sheen on his recent project as narrator for the audio book Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World by the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) is the spiritual leader of Tibet and the purported fourteenth reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and patron saint of Tibet, within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He is also the author of The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus. The Dalai Lama undoubtedly has also a great influence upon many outside Buddhism.

Sheen, a professing Roman Catholic, shared that it took three days to record Beyond Religion, and “each day that I went back I was more nourished by what I was learning.” With respect to the general philosophy of the book, Sheen says, “It doesn’t say drop your religion; you can’t go this path and remain a Catholic or a Protestant or a Muslim or a Jew. On the contrary, it’s about your humanity. That’s where we’re all united. I think what he is trying to do is enlarge the circle. He’s trying to ensure people that they don’t have to give up anything that they believe in order to enlarge their possibilities.” In Beyond Religion, the Dalai Lama argues that “religion is not a necessity for pursuing a spiritual life. Rather he proposes a system of secular ethics grounded in a deep appreciation of our common humanity.”

The Dalai Lama, in a Huffington Post blog, explains, “In today’s secular world religion alone is no longer adequate as a basis for ethics. One reason for this is that many people in the world no longer follow any particular religion. Another reason is that, as the peoples of the world become ever more closely interconnected in an age of globalization and in multicultural societies, ethics based in any one religion would only appeal to some of us; it would not be meaningful for all.” The solution, in his opinion, is “secular ethics,” or “an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without.”

The idea of secular ethics is certainly consistent with Buddhism for its philosophy for the most part is agnostic. As for the Dalai Lama, he dismisses the existence of a divine creator. When LifePositive inquired about why Buddha said nothing about God, the Dalai Lama replied, “Because he talked about the law of causality. Once you accept the law of cause and effect, the implication is that there is no ‘creator,’ ” and “Talking of God, who created God? There is no point arguing. Dharmakeerti and Shantideva [Buddhist scholars] debate the existence of God and reach the conclusion that if we believe in a benevolent creator, how do we explain suffering?”

A Christian can agree that in a world filled with diverse people with disparate beliefs there still exist common ground ethics for dialog in resolving conflicts. There are indeed moral absolutes that are true for all. Paul writes, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or defending them on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:14–16). There is then a natural law written upon the heart’s of people, which allows for dialogue on ethics.

Christians can also agree to stand up against injustice, and rightly condemn evil done in the name of Christ. Moreover, Christianity, alone among the possible worldviews, has a satisfying explanation for why suffering and evil exist in the world (see, for example, “Addressing the Problem of Evil” by Douglas Groothuis,” and “How Should Christians Approach the Problem of Evil?” by E. Calvin Beisner and Chad Meister).

The idea of segregating faith from the public forum still poses a problem for the Christian. It is true that we possesses moral sensibilities; yet, we are much like blind men inside a room with an elephant, groping around, and trying to describe the creature, but only sensing bits and pieces of the whole. We are in need of someone who can see, and say, “You there, you are feeling only its leg, if you keep moving to your left, you will feel the belly, another leg, an ear, and its head, then you will have a better idea of what this animal is like.” Christianity holds that God revealed Himself to mankind through Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament then through Jesus Christ, the very incarnation of God, and the apostles in the New Testament. It is then through divine revelation that people get a better understanding of moral truths.

Is living in a diverse world of people with disparate beliefs reason for leaving faith out of conversations on ethics? No! Christ’s followers emerged out of Judaism but they also took their message to the ends of the earth. They went out to share Christ with a world influenced by Caesar cults, Greek philosophies, mystery religions, and magic. The reason is that Christians had a message that could transform people. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Moreover, as the apostles also taught, “Salvation is found in no one else [than Jesus Christ], for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

It can also be pointed out that Christianity provides the world with spiritual resources for social transformation. People through deep reflection upon God’s Word came to understand their own dignity as persons created in the image of God both male and female (Gen. 1:26–27), and this was underscored in the reality of the gospel message of how God loved humanity such that He sent the Son to be incarnated—Jesus Christ—to die upon the cross on behalf of sinners so that those whosoever believes can have everlasting life (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8). The Scriptures would also form the basis for values such as the sanctity of life, charity, women’s equality, and slave emancipation. They would also influence development and innovations in art, science, jurisprudence, and economics (for further study, please see The Book that Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi and How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt).

— Warren Nozaki

Apologetics, In the News

Can We Consider the Physician-Assisted Suicide of “Doctor Death” Jack Kevorkian a “Good Death”?

Jack KevorkianJack Kevorkian, who had been dubbed the moniker “Doctor Death” for his pro-euthanasia views and activism, died without assistance on June 3, 2011, at the age of 83. During the 1980s and 1990s, Kevorkian published articles on physician-assisted deaths; invented devices for suicide, such as the DIY Thanatron “death machine” and the Mercitron “mercy machine”; and even assisted 130 people to end their own lives. In 1998 he was tried and convicted for the “second-degree” murder of Thomas Youk, and imprisoned until his parole in 2007. In an article for Slate entitled, “Life after Kevorkian: He Fought for the Right to Assisted Suicide. Now What Should We do?” William Saletan praises Kevorkian as a person who “fought for the right to assisted suicide.” Yet not everyone would agree. Pointing out the dark side of Kervorkian’s career, in a blog for The Telegraph entitled, “Jack Kevorkian’s Horrible Career Offers a Warning Against Legalising Euthanasia,” Tim Stanley points to the facts that “some patients died in the back of Kevorkian’s van. The gassing procedure didn’t always go smoothly, leading to unnecessary suffering and panic. Dead bodies were left behind in motels, sometimes two at a time” and that “Kevorkian was not trained as a psychiatrist and made judgment calls about people’s mental state that were subjective.”

The issue of physician-assisted suicide is not dead. For example, euthanasia is explored in the popular television series House in an episode entitled “The Dig.” Dr. Remy Hadley “Thirteen” (Olivia Wilde), who suffers from Huntington’s chorea, shares about her own dark secret of euthanizing her own brother who had suffered from the same nerve-degenerating disease at a more advanced stage. Her greatest fear, however, is over the fact that when her time comes, there will be no one for her. After uncovering Thirteen’s secret, the brash nihilistic diagnostician Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) says that he would kill her when the time comes.

Is the idea of a “quality of life” a good way of determining whether or not a person can commit suicide? How does idea of “quality of life” square with the biblical teaching on the image of God in man, which implies humans have intrinsic worth and value in spite of their circumstances? How is the Christian to think about euthanasia?

Is euthanasia ever permissible?

Kevorkian: A Glimpse Into The Future Of Euthanasia?

The Euthanasia Debate (Part 1): Understanding the Issues

The Euthanasia Debate (Part 2): Assessing the Options

Did Early Christians “Lust After Death”? A New Wrinkle in the Doctor-Assisted Suicide Debate

— Warren Nozaki, Research