Monthly Archives: March 2012

Does Everything Happen For a Reason?

A few days ago I was listening to “The Briefing”, which is a M-F podcast from Albert Mohler on news and events worldwide from a Christian perspective. You should all listen to it as it’s fairly short and he’s one of the smartest people alive, particularly when it comes to cultural analysis. One of the articles he discussed was one from Dr. Gregory A. Boyd, a professor at Bethel. Dr. Boyd’s article essentially tries to answer the age old question of whether or not things happen for a reason.

I’ll try and give my comments/critique point by point, but first I’ll give you a basic overview of what he’s trying to do. He is attempting to address what he calls the “Blueprint Worldview” position, which is basically both Calvinism and Arminianism. He asserts that they’re more or less different sides of the same coin when it comes to this issue, with Calvinists asserting that everything happens because God decreed it to happen, whereas Arminians assert that everything happens because God allowed it to happen. He gives a criticism of the weak version of the blueprint worldview (Arminianism) and claims that what he says will apply to the strong version (Calvinism) with even more strength. Finally, he presents his position, which is an attempt to say that we can have assurance in God, even though He isn’t exactly in control.

He starts out by referencing an article from John Piper, in which he and his daughter are talking about the bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007 and why God might’ve allowed it. I suggest reading Piper’s article, as it actually explains his position far more than Boyd does. I think the first thing that caught me attention was that Boyd essentially sums things up by boiling the “blueprint woldview” down to two things: “everything happens for a reason” and an old hymn “judge not the Lord by feeble sense, / but trust Him for His grace,” for “behind a frowning providence, / He hides a smiling face.” This will be significant because it taps into our emotions almost immediately, and he will use that to his advantage later.

He starts to get into his argument by writing that, talking about Calvinism and Arminianism, “Although there are obviously significant differences between these two versions of the blueprint worldview, both are grounded in the same, apparently straightforward, line of reasoning.” This should pretty much automatically a red flag. If we were discussing the Trinity or the deity of Christ or something along those lines, I might be ok with that statement about the two positions, but we’re not talking about that. We’re essentially talking about God’s sovereignty, and that is pretty much the whole debate that’s been going on between those two camps for a long time. So basically what has been said is, “they’re really different sometimes, but at base they’re both similar enough that I can deal with them together and with the same argument.” Clever, but misguided as we will see.

He goes on to lay out the argument that is apparently the bottom line of the blueprint worldview, that is that God is all powerful and all good, so He could change anything that He wanted to at any time. So, everything that happens is either in His plan, or allowed by Him to happen, depending on if you take the strong or weak versions. Apparently decreeing something to happen and allowing something to happen are basically the same, at least close enough to argue against collectively. I’m sure Dr. Boyd is a smart guy, but at this point it was really starting to sound like he didn’t understand the issues. For example, after telling us about the closeness and similarity of the strong and weak versions of the blueprint worldview, he then makes this bizarre statement: “In this essay, however, I will focus only on the weak version. I do this because I believe that whatever valid objections I raise against the weak version will apply a fortiori to the strong version, whereas the converse is not true.”

A fortiori is philosophy talk meaning “with stronger reason” or basically “even more so.” He doesn’t explain this, but how is it that his critique against Arminianism applies in a stronger fashion to Calvinism, but if he were to start in the opposite order, it wouldn’t work? If they are as close as he claims they are, then I don’t see why it would be that way. He then goes on to grant that there is at least some truth to the blueprint worldview from Scripture, before going into his critique.

“While there is little difficulty accepting that God may sometimes have a specific reason for allowing a particular evil event to take place, it is challenging to accept that this is the case for each and every evil event. Some events manifest a depth of evil for which it seems almost obscene to suppose they happened for a divine reason.” That’s a very interesting statement. I agree that certain things can be challenging to understand, but it seems that Dr. Boyd’s God is only capable of having reasons for things that are easy to understand. He goes on to tell a tragic story of a young girl and a couple Nazi soldiers, and says that the only people who intended that act for a reason were the soldiers, not God. This was an event that, to use his words, seems almost obscene to happen for a divine reason. He then goes on to ask whether or not this sort of evil is the sort that is brought by a “frowning providence” that hides God’s “smiling face.” See what he did there? He quoted that old hymn in such a way that it makes it seem that proponents of what he calls the blueprint worldview look at such horrible acts as a frowning providence that hides God’s smiling face. To me at least, that makes it sound like God is actually happy with what happened. I think this is the connection he is trying to make, so that emotions will carry people to his conclusion.

I have to wonder though, if such an event is enough for Dr. Boyd to reject the “traditional” understanding of God’s sovereignty, what does he do when he reads Job? There we have things happening that are at least on par with the horrible story of the abovementioned young girl. We also have the very clear understanding of why God allows things to happen. I know how I would understand these things, coming from a reformed perspective, but it seems that Dr. Boyd must either reject that book altogether, or find it “almost obscene to suppose they happened for a divine reason.” Keep that comparison in mind as we continue.

He then goes on to suggest that if the blueprint worldview is correct, then we must accept that “God deemed it better to allow this nightmare than to prevent it, we must also believe that it would have been bad had Zosia’s torture been prevented.” Zosia is the young girl referenced earlier. He then goes on to say that we must also accept every bad thing that has happened, including Hitler and all the dictators. If all this wouldn’t have happened, then it would have been somehow less wise and less good etc. My question is this; in comparison to what? Or perhaps a better and more simple question would be why we have to accept that.

I think the hidden assumption/position here is molinism. It might be a bit early to bring this out, but that’s what it’s starting to seem like. I’ve wrote a couple blogs on molinism before but one of its main tenants is that there are tons of possible worlds out there that God could create, an infinite number I would assume, and God chooses to “actualize” the “best” one, based on some sort of salvation calculus I suppose, which in turn is ultimately based on the actions of free creatures. Why does it seem like he’s taking a molinist position? Because I think the reason he assumes that we would have to accept that God found it better, more wise etc. to allow/decree all the evil things that have happened is because everything is so focused on the creature. Dr. Boyd assumes that the blueprint worldview takes the “whatever is, is good” philosophy and just blows it up on a cosmic scale. The line of argumentation is that we have to believe that God essentially wanted, that is, is happy with, everything that happens. If He wasn’t, then clearly He would’ve done something else, because He is powerful enough to do so.

I wonder what divine reason would be acceptable for Dr. Boyd? Is there one? For someone in the camp of the blueprint worldview, they might say “God has a reason for these things happening” but Dr. Boyd doesn’t accept this because, while it might be ok to accept the “lesser” evils, the sheer number of evils and the various types of evils that are just too much, make it impossible to believe. I wonder what scale Dr. Boyd uses to determine what is a lesser evil and therefore falls under the realm of it being ok for God to have a reason for it, and what are beyond? It certainly doesn’t seem to be a Biblical one, whatever it is. I think in Dr. Boyd’s mind, God should have prevented those soldiers, perhaps with death, I mean they were Nazi’s after all. But then, shouldn’t God also have killed the girl too? Or have we forgotten that the wages of sin are death and that everyone sins?

The whole scene is almost eerily similar to Job in my mind actually. Here we have Dr. Boyd saying “Hey, there are innocent people down here! Good people! Why didn’t You stop all these terrible things from happening? Does this please You somehow? Aren’t You all powerful and all good? If so, then why didn’t You do things differently?” What if the answer was the same as the answer that Job got? “Where were you when I created the universe?” Do you think what God tells Job would be acceptable to Dr. Boyd? To whom would he appeal if it were not?

It is so easy to miss the fact that the cross is actually much worse than we think it was. In reality, it was much worse than what we know to have happened in human history. Perhaps we think in terms of numbers, one cross versus countless atrocities. I’m sure Dr. Boyd will never see this, but if he does, I would suggest instead of thinking in terms of numbers and drawing the problem of evil sword, we should think in terms of the cross as One God and start our inquiry there. Before we move on to why would God allow/decree ___ , we need to think long and hard about why God would allow/decree that.

Next, Dr. Boyd moves on to problems he finds in Scripture. “Although Scripture contains many examples of God allowing evil for specific reasons, it also contains a many examples in which God must engage in conflict with rebellious opposing spiritual forces.” Really? Is this something God must do? Or is it something that God chose to do? I think the difference between those two is huge. On one side, God is free to do as He pleases and does not do things randomly, while on the other, God is constrained to do things a certain way because of rebellious forces, both cosmic and human. The emphasis is placed strongly on the demonic, and I think that is for a reason. I think this shifts focus away from humans, so that free will can be marshaled in later.

He claims that our understanding of God’s conflict with those opposing forces should be based primarily on the ministry of Jesus. “Jesus spent his entire ministry among people who in one way or another were suffering. Yet he never once suggested that their suffering was “for a reason.” Never do we find any suggestion that people’s afflictions somehow fit into a grand divine plan. To the contrary, Jesus and the Gospel authors uniformly diagnosed people’s afflictions as being due to the work of Satan and/or demons (e.g., Mark 9:25 and Luke 11:14 and 13:11–16).” This is an astounding assertion. Are we truly to divorce the rest of Scripture from the gospels? I’m willing to bet Dr. Boyd’s knowledge of Scripture exceeds my own, but there don’t seem to be many paths of understanding based on what he’s giving us in his essay at this point. For some reason, we’re to only look to the gospel accounts, and only where it deals specifically with the demonic/satanic, to understand why evil occurs. What exactly did Christ come to do? To save sinners. Not to save good people helplessly under the power/influence of Satan and the demons. However, that’s exactly what Dr. Boyd claims when he writes “And far from suggesting that people’s afflictions had anything to do with God’s will, Jesus manifested the will of God by freeing people from their demonically influenced infirmities.” I’m not denying the reality of these things, but to assert that they are sole reason for everything? Interestingly, Dr. Boyd claims that Jesus never once suggested that their suffering was for a reason. However, under his view, there actually was a reason, and that reason was demonic in some way.

He claims that we never find any suggestion that people’s afflictions somehow fit into a grand divine plan. I wonder if he would include the suffering that His disciples went through when He was crucified? Why would angels appear to explain things that happened (I’m thinking resurrection/ascension here) if it wasn’t to essentially say that there was a divine plan in action? I suppose that since Dr. Boyd finds it ok to say that God has a plan for some of the evil action, that these might fall under such a category, but if so, then perhaps he should use weaker terms when describing the suffering that happens in the gospels. In terms of natural evil, he claims that since Jesus rebukes storms, just like He does demons, that we should assume that natural things are caused by demons. I wonder, if “nature” was in a neutral state so that bad things are caused by demons, then why would it be that the ground is cursed in Genesis?

“Indeed, the very fact that God must engage in genuine conflict with opposing forces and rely on his wisdom to overcome them suggests to me that he can’t simply use his omnipotent power to prevent their evil activity.” “Finally, just as there is no suggestion in Scripture that there is a divine purpose behind God’s conflict with spiritual opponents, so too we find no hint of a divine purpose behind God’s conflict with rebellious humans.” I think these are two astounding statements. There is no purpose, or even a hint of purpose, behind God’s conflict with spiritual opponents or rebellious humans. Further, he suggests, God can’t use his omnipotent power to prevent their evil activity. I wonder if there was a reason for God hardening Pharaoh’s heart? Scripture says there was, but according to Dr. Boyd’s system, there wasn’t even a hint of purpose behind it. What about Balaam? Why did he end up blessing when he went to curse? Is that not an example of God using His omnipotent power to prevent his evil activity? What was it that happened to Paul that made him not go through with his mission of persecuting the church? I wonder, if there is no purpose behind God’s conflict with rebellious humans, then is there a purpose for humans at all? It seems like there couldn’t be on Dr. Boyd’s system. If there is no purpose behind things, then it seems like the entire Bible is a giant waste of ink.

He then brings in free will to bolster his argument. He rightly explains certain things that God cannot do because they are not things, but rather, contradictions. Things like a married bachelor or a rock so big that God can’t lift it. There are a number of these little puzzles that are sometimes thrown out as “gotcha” attacks against the existence of God, but Boyd well explains that these are simply not things at all. They have no weight against the existence of God, but that’s another discussion. The point is that Dr. Boyd suggests that we need to apply this same logic to free will. His preferred definition is that “agents are free if and only if they have the capacity to resolve, by their own power, two or more possible courses of action into one actual course of action.”

Notice how he doesn’t turn to Scripture for a definition of free will, or to find a place where God grants us his definition of free will. Interesting. The most obvious question is to ask why that nuanced definition of free will is the case? Would this mean that creatures are free if and only if they can act solely out of spontaneous impulse? Because it seems to me that if they are influenced by anything outside of themselves at the exact moment a decision comes up, then it would then fall out of his definition of free will. Certainly we know from experience that life happens to us as much as we happen to life. Therefore I think it renders his notion of free will simply impossible, because every decision we make is going to be based on something outside ourselves, such as our past experiences “I liked the flavor of steak before, I’ll order a steak this time” or the culture etc.

I’ve talked about some of his contentions of free will here, but he concludes that the sovereignty of God is more praiseworthy if what we mean by sovereignty is wisdom and not micro-controlling. Basically, we should praise God because he is a really good chess player, or like a really fast response team. He concludes that even though God doesn’t control or decree or allow everything that comes to pass, nevertheless we can still have assurance in Him.

Ultimately, he attributes the evil that happens to randomness, though it’s a randomness that is at least strongly influenced by demons and Satan. For Dr. Boyd, there is peace to be had in knowing that God is “all knowing and infinitely wise.” “he foresaw from all eternity the possibility that every one of the innumerable free decisions that factored into Zosia’s torture might occur just as they did. Not only this, he must have foreseen every other possible way these free decisions might have gone. Indeed, he must have foreseen from eternity each and every possible decision that each and every possible free agent could ever make and how all these possible decisions could possibly interact with each other. And because his intelligence has no limits, God must have anticipated each and every one of these innumerable possibilities as though it was the only possibility he had to consider.” “we can rest assured that God has an eternally prepared plan on how to bring good out of evil for each and every possible tragedy that could ever possibly come to pass. And we can be confident that this plan is as perfect as it would have been had the tragedy been specifically allowed by him for the very purpose of the good he plans to bring out of it, in case it occurs.” “That is, specific tragedies don’t happen because they fit into an eternal divine plan, but God nevertheless has an eternally prepared plan for every specific tragedy that might ever possibly come to pass.” “Yet I also believe that God, from before the creation of the world, had been preparing a contingency plan to redeem good out of this atrocity, just in case it tragically came to pass.”

Whoa whoa whoa, what?!? So in eternity past, God knew everything that might possibly ever happen in every situation in the future (this is molinism’s possible worlds talk) and then prepared a contingency plan that included ways to work with the bad stuff in such a way that He could ultimately get His desired end result? And then what? Threw the cosmic dice and shot some power into whichever universe the dice landed on? I suppose our assurance in Dr. Boyd’s system is that God will still get His way in the end because He had a really really good emergency back up plan. All the bad things that happen have absolutely no purpose, and happen at random (one has to wonder why there are moral responsibilities/consequences then) and there was nothing God could do about it even if He wanted to. But don’t worry! God has a great plan just in case. In case what? In case things go wrong? Oops, can’t use that word, because that implies purpose.

I’m not sure how this could provide assurance to anyone. When the best answer God has is “eh, stuff happens.” This is a god completely devoid of power and sovereignty, and actually of knowledge and wisdom, despite what Dr. Boyd would like to believe. How did God gain knowledge of all these possible scenarios? If He did not already possess it because He decreed it to happen, then He was lacking in wisdom. If He is not in control and has no purpose, then He is not sovereign. If He simply adapts to the situation and reacts, then He is not changeless. If there is no purpose in God, then Christ died for nothing. If there is no purpose in God, then our hope is in vein, and there was no reason for God to reveal Himself in Scripture. This does not alleviate the problem of evil, it exacerbates it. We have already taken God down so many levels that I have to wonder what confidence we are supposed to have in this so called contingency plan that Dr. Boyd is so assured by. How can we be sure that this plan won’t fail or be thwarted by rebellious humans, demons, and Satan? How can we be sure it already hasn’t failed?

I find absolutely no assurance in such a system. I prefer the system that the Bible portrays. One in which God is completely sovereign, and does have a plan for everything that happens because He decreed it to. Yes, this forces me to think long and hard when evils arise, but that has only lead me to a further confidence in God, not an abandoning of Him. I believe in the God Who has the power to do everything the Bible says He can and does do. The God Who from eternity past had a purpose in creating the universe and sending Christ to die for those whom He loves, and will preserve them to the end. I suppose that is why that call it being able to sleep like a Calvinist.

SDG

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The Problem of Abortion

It’s one of the classic moral issues that simply won’t go away, even with a supreme court ruling. In fact, I would say that this is an issue that won’t go away during our lifetime, because it cuts to the heart of several different areas. Namely, how does one define morality, and on what grounds? Where does human life start? What is the moral worth of a human? Is there one? Is there a hierarchy of rights? Etc.

It has been my experience that, generally speaking, conservatives are “pro life” and liberals are “pro choice”. Even the terms show a fundamental disconnect from one another when talking about the issue of abortion. Thankfully, it does tell you exactly where the argument lies; one side is arguing for the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, while the other is arguing for the right of choice, more specifically the right to choose to have an abortion or not. Things get tricky because the whole idea behind the right to choose is that a woman should have a right to choose what happens to her body. Personally, I agree with that statement.

However, this starts to touch on one of the layers of this moral onion that needs to be discussed. Is the fetus (to use their terms) part of the woman’s body or not? It is certainly inside the woman’s body, but how do you determine what is and isn’t part of the woman’s body? I would say that the easiest way to determine this is on a genetic level. We see this all the time in the legal realm (or at least on CSI) where the father of a child or the criminal in a case is determined by their DNA. I would say that if something is to be considered part of one’s body, then it must by definition contain identical DNA. The issue is that from the moment of conception, the fetus does not contain identical DNA to the mother, but rather, has it’s own set of unique DNA.

Interestingly, there is another path that could be taken, I suppose, that isn’t for good reason. We recognize that we get sick because something foreign (bacteria/virus) is in our bodies. The “pro choice” camp I suppose could try and classify things under these categories, but that seems on the face of it, immoral and ridiculous. However, it is interesting that is essentially (though never spoken of as such) how “it” is treated until a certain point. Something that shouldn’t be there, and needs to be gotten rid of.

It is said that all this talk of morality and when life begins really misses the issue. What really needs to happen, the liberal will say, is that we need more education on the matter. If only we had sex education that was widely available, and perhaps better parenting on the topic, then we really wouldn’t have to deal with this whole thing because people wouldn’t be having abortions because they would know about the consequences. Also, if we just had cheap, affordable birth control, then we wouldn’t have to worry about the chance of getting pregnant when the educated, free people realize the possibility of pregnancy and choose to have sex anyway. Just make sure that when you say birth control, you don’t just mean the prevention of fertilization (condoms) but rather things that also could prevent the implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterine wall (morning after pill etc.). That, by the way, is the current controversy surrounding the Obama health care mandate, but that’s another blog.

I think this brings up an important issue within this debate, because if you follow the argument, the bottom line is not knowledge, but autonomy of choice. The reason I say this, is because if the solution to the problem were purely educational, then there would be no need for abortifacient birth control being provided. The more level headed liberal will say that of course education will not stop abortions, but at least they will be lessened. That seems like a reasonable thing to say, but I’m not sure if it’s anything more than wishful thinking. I think most people would say that the further back you go into history, the less educated people become. Chronological snobbery aside, this is the reasoning that will be in play with this line of thinking, since history is a straight line for most liberals (hence, progressive). So, what we should see, is that the number of abortions should decrease as education increases. However, that is not what we see. If you look here, the reported number of legal abortions in 1972 was 586,760 while in 1995 the number was 1,210,883. Ah, but it could be said that the technology has also increased so that the technology we have now makes performing abortions much safer. While this may be true, I think it points out that the issue is not one of education, at least not solely. Before leaving the education point, I think it’s interesting to note that when the suggestion of abstinence education is brought up, most liberals will say that is stifling choice and produces sexual repression. Here again, the issue is made more clear: autonomous choice is always the bottom line.

I think there is a very large issue of arbitrariness that needs to be discussed also. It has been traditionally thought that conservatives view life as starting at conception, while liberals view life starting somewhere in the mid to late 2nd trimester. However, this is not the case across the board. Fairly recently in Mississippi, a personhood amendment was voted down in a state that was largely thought to be pro life. There are also some liberals, the less radical you could say, that would say that life starts in the late 1st trimester. Here’s a handy chart on trimesters. It seems that a good number of people, conservative and liberal alike, want to draw the line somewhere, but just can’t seem to decide on where.

The landmark legal case for this is, of course, Rove v. Wade, wherein the official ruling essentially threw open the doors on the “right” of abortion. This is where the trimester argument gets its roots. In the first trimester, it is argued, there is no moral or legal consequence to the fetus. The second trimester recognizes the potential for “fetal viability”, and the third trimester has a more built in “safety” although with very clear exceptions made for the health of the mother, with health extending beyond the physical and into mental (or financial, if you want modern reasoning). I find it interesting that Harry Blackmun, the justice who wrote the court’s opinion on the case said “You will observe that I have concluded that the end of the first trimester is critical. This is arbitrary, but perhaps any other selected point, such as quickening or viability, is equally arbitrary.” This is absolutely true, unless you argue from the point of conception.

The question is, at what point can the fetus be considered human? One side could be summarized with the quip “if it’s not a baby, then you’re not pregnant.” There is a reason that many bring up the charge of arbitrariness to anyone who wants to place that line at any point after conception. Let’s say a conservative says that life starts at the end of week 4, and a liberal says that life starts at the beginning of week 5. What is the difference in that one day? Perhaps ____ has developed in that day, but in what sense does that make it a human? How does this sort of reasoning not lead to a slippery slope? To quote Al Mohler, “we’re all Harry Blackmun now.”

As much as these discussions can get heated and emotional, they can also get esoteric and intellectual. I recall taking a class in college where this issue was discussed and all sorts of complicated ethical/philosophical things were being thrown about, mixed with emotions riding high. Certainly makes for a less than great forum for discussion. At the time, (2009?) most of the people didn’t put much stock in some of the things being said. People would argue that something can’t be considered human until it could take care of itself or contribute to society, but no serious person would actually argue something like that, right? I mean, nobody would actually go that far, would they?

Unfortunately, yes. Fast forward a couple years and the general public (the ideas have been around previously) is now aware of what is known as the idea of an after-birth abortion. You read that correctly, after-birth abortion. This article is quite helpful in understanding this issue. These are educated men at prestigious universities writing in a peer reviewed journal of medical ethics arguing for the morality and legality of infanticide. Of course, they prefer the term “after-birth abortion” instead of “infanticide” just like one side of this debate prefers the term “pro-choice” instead of “pro-death.” The people who wrote the article later issued an “apology” which basically was simply apologizing for offending people.

When we decided to write this article about after-birth abortion we had no idea that our paper would raise such a heated debate. “Why not? You should have known!” people keep on repeating everywhere on the web. The answer is very simple: the article was supposed to be read by other fellow bioethicists who were already familiar with this topic and our arguments [as] … this debate has been going on for 40 years.”

Did you catch that? They didn’t take back what they wrote, nor did they clarify their position in such a way that remedies some sort of misunderstanding. I’ll let this short article address them specifically and their non-apology apology. My main interest is how someone could argue against this, and if it is the logical conclusion of the pro choice argument.

If those on the pro life side wish to be consistent (and moral, for that matter) they need to argue that life begins at conception. Any other point they wish to draw the line will be ultimately arbitrary. This is where it becomes difficult for the pro choice camp. They have spent much time and money and argument telling us that choice is the ultimate determinative factor, and that the starting point for human life is not as cut and dry as it may seem. How do they argue, morally, against infanticide in a way that is even remotely convincing? It seems like there are very few differences between a baby outside the womb and a fetus inside the womb, again, what is the difference between that one day? The baby would not be able to survive on its own, nor would it be able to perform higher brain functions or solve problems or contribute to society. I suppose you could argue that the baby is breathing from the air outside or has excrement outside of its body or something, but that doesn’t make something human.

One of the most famous ethicists today is Dr. Peter Singer. He is about as liberal as you can get, and has argued that full grown animals have more moral status or a right to live than newborn human babies. You begin to see how intertwined seemingly different areas of thought are now, don’t you? We’re told we’re quite close to our animal “relatives” and that they should have the same rights we do. We’re told that the starting point of life isn’t as cut and dry as we think it is. We take a sociology/psychology/philosophy class and listen as discussions take hours and go everywhere on what it means to be human. Is it really any wonder that the professional academics have been debating the issue of infanticide for 40 years?

How is this not all intertwined? How does the liberal argue against something like infanticide? It seems like the best thing put forward is “Well, that’s not my position. I mean, that’s something I personally would never do.” Sound familiar? That’s a very common response when dealing with abortion in general. That’s not an argument. If they cannot argue against infanticide, then what would people with mental handicaps? What about those who are physically handicapped? Remember that class I was in? The issue of a physically handicapped person due to war was put forward to those who argued for infanticide and the response was that those people should be allowed to live due to their past. Really? Is that the best this side has to offer? “You used to be useful, so I guess we won’t kill you.” Oh, but wait, isn’t that whole issue of “assisted suicide” a problem?

I’m all for moral discussions, but it seems rather clear that on many of these moral issues, the liberal side is attempting to saw off the branch they’re sitting on. A strong argument seems to be lacking against even the most “minor” of these issues, and if one cannot be established there, then the mind can easily see how one could not be formed on more “major” issues. The solution to the problem is this, that life, full, human life, must begin at conception and must continue until natural death. That means that we must protect those that are the most vulnerable, those who cannot protect themselves. This includes the elderly, the handicapped, and children in the womb and out of it. Human life is sacred and is distinct from the animal world.

Here, mere conservatism does not go far enough. As we have seen, the conservative position has the potential for being just as arbitrary as the liberal one. Ultimately, you must ground the right of life and the sanctity of humanity in the transcendental. The reason we have meaning and purpose and and the right to life and the special status we do have is because we were made in the image of God.

“Then God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:26-27

SDG

Of Leaves and People

I was sitting in the park reading earlier today and a particularly strong gust of wind came by and blew all the leaves across the grass of the park. I was reminded of Ephesians 4:14 “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

I thought about how some of the leaves were blowing about regardless of how strong the wind was, whereas others were caught on blades of grass and it took a slightly stronger gust of wind to pick them up. However, the big gust I mentioned picked up all of them and flew them into the air and a good 10-15 feet from where they were before. The only ones that didn’t blow away were those that were stuck under rocks or sticks or that were attached somehow to the trees or poles etc.

I thought about how this is pretty similar to how a lot of people are today. The world will tell you that the only way to remain centered in our often crazy lives is to look deeper into ourselves and become in tune with our true selves. Essentially, if we look deep enough and true enough, we will be able to anchor to ourselves and we will find stability in life. If we can go back to the leaves, we can see how silly this way of thinking is. Of course trees are not the same as people, but that misses the point. The issue is that the wind was outside the leaves and picking up and moving them, regardless of how much they were in tune with their leafiness. To put it more in perspective, think of a tornado. No amount of delving further into yourself will keep you grounded when a tornado comes your way.

I think we have such a high view of ourselves that we refuse to believe that we can be “had” or “moved” or “blown about” unless we allow it to be so. It’s not too surprising then, that people do get blown about all the time and in their confusion they go to people/books that tell them they need to re-anchor in themselves and everything will be ok. One has to wonder, if that were true, why are there so many books on it? Why should you need the book?

Unfortunately, the church hasn’t done a great job as a whole when it comes to anchoring people. Christians too, have become somewhat obsessed with autonomy and our high view of ourselves. This is why you will hear things like identifying that spark of divinity within you, or tapping into the ___ power of Christ, or taking hold of the covenant promises for yourself etc. This is exactly what the world is saying, only with Christian words. We feel better when we use those terms because it seems to be pointing away from us, but in reality it is not so subtly making us gods. What happens when that doesn’t work? Then we turn around and say God has failed us. Because, of course, it couldn’t be us that failed us.

It is this attitude that makes us so susceptible to being blown about by winds. These winds can be philosophical challenges, they can be moral tragedies like the loss of a loved one or an illness, or they can be circumstances that are completely out of our control. When they hit, they hit hard, and we’re thrown every which way, wishing it all would stay still and calm down. This is because we have no foundation, even if we try to make ourselves that foundation. In doing so, we become like the foolish man who built his house on the sand in Matthew 7:26.

The only way we can truly remain unmoved when strong winds come, is to build our foundation on something solid. This doesn’t mean that the winds will not hurt, as anyone who has been in strong wind realizes. But it does mean that you will not be moved. We cannot be that foundation, for we are also creatures, and not the Creator. The only foundation we can have that will remain strong in times of intense wind is God.

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” – Psalm 18:2