Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"After-birth Abortion": Political Correct Infanticide

A recent Journal of Medical Ethics article takes up the task of defending infanticide.  The article is entitled "After-birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?" and is written by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.  Infanticide--the killing of newborn babies--is usually not spoken of in such a cavalier and detached manner but our authors simply reason that whatever reasons justify the taking of the life of the fetus will also serve as appropriate reasons to take the life of even healthy newborn babies.  Here are their words from the conclusion of the article:
If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.  (p. 3)
Our authors don't desire to speak of "infanticide" but, instead, coin the phrase "after-birth abortion"--a phrase they freely grant is an oxymoron.
In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice "after-birth abortion", rather than "infanticide", to emphasize that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which "abortions" in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child.  Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be.  (p. 2)
Of utmost importance and what makes the whole argument work for Guibilini and Minerva is the crucial distinction they make between being a "human being" and "personhood."  They freely grant that both the fetus and the newborn child are "human beings" but this does not, in and of itself, grant a right to life.  The right to life is only granted to "persons."  Here is how they state their case:
The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.
Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, neither is a "person" in the sense of "subject of a moral right to life".  We take "person" to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.  This means that many non-human animals and mentally retarded human individuals are persons, but that all the individuals who are not in the condition of attributing any value to their own existence are not persons.  Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.  (p. 2)
Notice that according to this reasoning "many non-human animals" are "persons" but a healthy newborn child is not a "person."  Thus the "personified" animal has a "right to life" but the healthy newborn does not.  All of this is pushed forward under the banner of a functionalist criteria of "personhood."  Personhood is a function of being able to "form an aim" that the individual wishes to accomplish.  There must be capability "of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her."  Because the newborn child cannot do this they are not "persons" in any moral sense.  They are only "potential persons."

In light of this when the rights of real persons (mother, fathers, families) are compromised or impinged upon in any manner then the "potential person" is allowed to be dispensed with since they have no moral value.  Notice the value placed upon the "potential person" newborn in this sentence:
Indeed, however weak the interests of actual people can be, they will always trump the alleged interest of potential people to become actual ones, because this latter interest amounts to zero.  (p. 3)
As I read that line I was reminded of the haunting title and cover of the book edited by James Hensley The Zero People (Servant, 1983):

Some slopes are slippery; especially those greased with philosophical distortion.  This is not the first time that infanticide has been brought up as a realistic and defendable option.  What is disturbing is that this is how the change comes--more and more voices are put forward in a "defense" of what is morally indefensible.  Soon the moral intuitions of our time are dulled and changed.  Francis Schaeffer and C. Evert Koop in their work Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (Revell, 1979) state:
There is a "thinkable" and an "unthinkable" in every era.  One era is quite certain intellectually and emotionally about what is acceptable.  Yet another era decides that these "certainties" are unacceptable and puts another set of values into practice.  On a humanistic base, people drift along from generation to generation, and the morally unthinkable becomes the thinkable as the years move on.  (p. 16)
Later they write:
Times of monstrous inhumanity do not come about all at once; they are slipped into gradually.  Often those who use certain emotional phrases or high-sounding moral tones about "freedom of the individual" and appeal to "rights" do not even know what they are starting.  The see only some isolated condition they want to accomplish, but have not considered soberly the overall direction in which things are moving.  At some later point they want to go backwards.  But then it is too late.  Mankind's selfishness and greed can be counted on to widen every breach, exploiting each to the fullest for selfish purposes.  (p. 110) 
May God have mercy upon us.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Today Outside a Planned Parenthood Clinic

This morning I went to the local Planned Parenthood clinic to stand and pray for 30 minutes as part of the local 40 Days for Life campaign.  I went with my wife and one of my sons.  There were a few others there as well.  Here are a few reflections:
1.  The morning was amazingly beautiful--gorgeous blue sky with just a few hints of white, wispy clouds.  The temperature was cool and comfortable.  As I stood there thinking of this the words of Jesus came into focus--"for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good" (Matthew 5.45).  Even in the midst of the evil that we commit our Creator God is kind even to his enemies.  My first thought was about those "inside" the building but I knew from personal experience the evil is in my heart too.  God is kind and compassionate.  If he were not we would all be consumed.  The sun, clouds, and beauty of the moment gave me cause to rejoice in God's kindness and also keep petitioning for those ensnared by the lies of the evil one.
2.  Yesterday was Sunday and I was able to be part of God's people in the gathered service. I led in prayer, preaching and the sacrament of the Lord's Table.  It was good.  Being outside on the street praying brought other thoughts.  It is good to take the faith to the streets.  I can grow comfortable with a certain kind of mental scenery in which the language of the faith becomes associated with certain times and places.  Standing on a street and praying for actual women going into the front door of Planned Parenthood awakes me to the  realities of God's presence here on the sidewalk and enveloping the building I stand before.  My faith is stretched in helpful ways as I actively pray for the interaction of the spiritual (God's presence and activity) to interface and change the very palpable physical in front of me (the existence of this Planned Parenthood, the abortion center workers, and the people walking in the front doors).
3.  40 Days for Life is a distinctively Christian response to the evil of abortion.  It focuses on prayer.  There a few women who stand outside on the edge of the property speaking last words of grace and hope to those women about to enter in the doors.  This morning I saw a young hispanic woman get out of her car near the front door.  One of the women began to beckon to her so she should share with her some information.  I closed my eyes and began to very specifically pray that she would stop and listen--that she would heed the words.  I prayed for just a couple of concentrated minutes in this way.  When I opened my eyes the young woman had crossed the parking lot and was engaged in a conversation with a few ladies from 40 Days for Life.  She spent a good 5-10 minutes talking with them.  I was encouraged to keep praying!  I've stopped trying to "figure out" the mechanisms of prayer.  I know my tendency is to "explain away" answers to prayer or get hung up trying to assess in some sort of quantifiable manner "how much" my prayers contributed.  Here I just thanked God for answered prayer and was encouraged to keep praying for others.  I think that is good enough--at least it was this morning.
4.  At one point I randomly opened my Bible and turned to John 16.1-3.
These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling.  They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.  These things they will do because they have not known the Father or me.
 Repeatedly throughout this section of John (chapters 14-16) Jesus stops and says "why" he is saying the things he says.  I have usually focused on such passages as John 15.11: "These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full" or John 16.33: "These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace."  Joy and peace--Jesus' words are spoken to bring about these good qualities.  As I looked again at John 16.1 I saw something more today.  Jesus is preparing us for opposition.  He tells us about it and speaks specific words about it so that when it comes we will not surprised "as though some strange thing were happening" (1 Peter 4.12).  Jesus gives us these words so we won't stumble.  I realized (again? more?) that this battle for life and against deception will come, at times, with a cost.  We experienced very little opposition today.  My son tells me he was given the one figured salute a few times and a few choice words were thrown his way--but that's about it in terms of "persecution."  Even so, I was glad to have my son there and experience this.  In this small way he too takes his place with those who stand for God's truth in the face of opposition.  I pray that he and I will both continue to stand for Jesus even if the cost to do so becomes more pronounced.
I am hopefully of spending more time in prayer on the street in front of this Planned Parenthood facility.  What God is doing (both in me and in the world) is exciting and I want to see more of his glory manifest in the magnification of the name of his Son, Jesus.  That our God would allow us, invite us to be part of his kingdom and kingdom activity is truly gracious.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Canadian Law--Homeschoolers Can't Teach Homosexuality is Wrong

Recent developments in Canada continue to push the legitimazation of homosexuality and the suppression of those who dissent.  Over at Life Site News they report on a new law effecting homeschool families.  Here are a few pieces of their article:
EDMONTON, Alberta, February 23, 2012 ( – Under Alberta’s new Education Act, homeschoolers and faith-based schools will not be permitted to teach that homosexual acts are sinful as part of their academic program, says the spokesperson for Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk. 
“Whatever the nature of schooling – homeschool, private school, Catholic school – we do not tolerate disrespect for differences,” Donna McColl, Lukaszuk’s assistant director of communications, told LifeSiteNews on Wednesday evening. 
“You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life, you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction,” she added. 
Reacting to the remarks, Paul Faris of the Home School Legal Defence Association said the Ministry of Education is “clearly signaling that they are in fact planning to violate the private conversations families have in their own homes.” ...
 Section 16 of the new legislation restates the current School Act’s requirement that schools “reflect the diverse nature” of Alberta in their curriculum, but it adds that they must also “honour and respect” the controversial Alberta Human Rights Act that has been used to target Christians with traditional beliefs on homosexuality. ‘School’ is defined to include homeschoolers and private schools in addition to publicly funded school boards. ...
According to McColl, Christian homeschooling families can continue to impart Biblical teachings on homosexuality in their homes, “as long as it’s not part of their academic program of studies and instructional materials.”
“What they want to do about their ideology elsewhere, that’s their family business. But a fundamental nature of our society is to respect diversity,” she added.
Pressed about what the precise distinction is between homeschoolers’ instruction and their family life, McColl said the question involved “real nuances” and she would have to get back with specifics.
But in a second interview Wednesday evening, McColl said the government “won’t speculate” about particular examples, and explained that she had not yet gotten a “straight answer” on what exactly constitutes “disrespect.” She did say that families “can’t be hatemongering, if you will.” 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Francis Schaeffer on Comprehensive Salvation

Ephesians begins in such a majestic manner with 1.3-14.  We are given rich and glorious things in Christ.  All the blessings of the heavenly realms (1.3) are mediated through Christ Jesus (1.3-14). All of human history is moving toward God's great goal of "the summing up of all things in Christ" (1.10). It's important to keep this in mind for it keeps us from pushing small versions of the gospel. God's global gospel designs encompass the renewal of all things in the created order. In particular, forces arrayed against God and his kingdom either are brought into renewed relationship with him or brought under Christ's kingly subjection (see 1.20 for Christ's ruling over the "powers"). In Christ or under Christ--but it will be Christ at the center reigning forever!

So Christ's salvation has cosmic implications and applications, but what does that have to do with us now? Our living in Christ, both individually and corporately, is to be a manifestation of Christ's kingly reality put on display before the world (and the heavenlies! see 3.10). Francis Schaeffer in his book True Spirituality has an appendix entitled 'The Dust of Life." In this short piece Schaeffer outlines the depth of the fall and the majesty of God's redemption. In speaking of the fall into sin he speaks of the various kinds of separation that have been wrought by the fall.

1. Man's separation from God; his alienation from his Creator due to sin.

2. Man's separation from himself. Think of sickness and ultimately death (the separation of the body from our spiritual portion of being). But also think of mental illness. Schaeffer says it this way:
But also in the present we are each one separated from ourselves psychologically. Each of us is to some extent "schizophrenic." There are degrees, but this present psychological separation is true of each of us.
3. Man's separation from others. Think of Adam and Eve hiding themselves from each other. Think, also, of institutionalized racism and the horrors of genocide.

4. Man's separation from nature. The created realm groans under the weight of the fall of man (Romans 8.19-22) and feels the effects of the curse (Genesis 3.17-19).

Schaeffer's point is that every one of these separations will be overturned by Christ's comprehensive gospel of the kingdom. Listen to Schaeffer's wonderful words from "The Dust of Life."
[W]ith this biblical understanding of an enlarged comprehension of salvation, our calling is enlarged. It is our calling now (looking to the living, resurrected Christ moment by moment, for our strength and understanding) to as far as possible help to heal all the abnormalities at the present time. At the present time (as far as possible), we are to bring life instead of death into people's relationship with God through their acceptance of Christ as Savior, and then they and we increasingly to practice this relationship at each present moment. To (as far as possible) bring life instead of death in this abnormal world into the ongoing physical dying that each person is caught in from the day of his or her birth. To (as far as possible) help each person to be less separated from himself or herself, psychologically. To do all we can to heal the separation of Man from nature and nature from nature. Our calling now is to be as wide (though now partial) as the restoration of that day when the last enemy, death, will be totally destroyed, and all the other abnormalities will be totally healed.
As Christ's people we work, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for these kingdom objectives. The final victory comes at the consumation but this does not negate our role or efforts now to manifest the reality of Christ's kingdom across the full range of human affairs.

Our God is majestic and his gospel is big! Let us pray big prayers for the extension of the reign of Christ in our time!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"An Open Letter to Praise Bands" by James K. A. Smith

There are some good comments directed to those who help lead worship in praise bands over at fors clavigera.  James K. A. Smith is a philosophy professor at Calvin College.  He is not seeking to be overly critical but to help--see the full post for details.  Here is a sampling:
1. If we, the congregation, can't hear ourselves, it's not worship. Christian worship is not a concert. In a concert (a particular "form of performance"), we often expect to be overwhelmed by sound, particularly in certain styles of music. In a concert, we come to expect that weird sort of sensory deprivation that happens from sensory overload, when the pounding of the bass on our chest and the wash of music over the crowd leaves us with the rush of a certain aural vertigo. And there's nothing wrong with concerts! It's just that Christian worship is not a concert. Christian worship is a collective, communal, congregational practice--and the gathered sound and harmony of a congregation singing as one is integral to the practice of worship. It is a way of "performing" the reality that, in Christ, we are one body. But that requires that we actually be able to hear ourselves, and hear our sisters and brothers singing alongside us. When the amped sound of the praise band overwhelms congregational voices, we can't hear ourselves sing--so we lose that communal aspect of the congregation and are encouraged to effectively become "private," passive worshipers.

2. If we, the congregation, can't sing along, it's not worship. In other forms of musical performance, musicians and bands will want to improvise and "be creative," offering new renditions and exhibiting their virtuosity with all sorts of different trills and pauses and improvisations on the received tune. Again, that can be a delightful aspect of a concert, but in Christian worship it just means that we, the congregation, can't sing along. And so your virtuosity gives rise to our passivity; your creativity simply encourages our silence. And whileyou may be worshiping with your creativity, the same creativity actually shuts down congregational song.

3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it's not worship. I know it's generally not your fault that we've put you at the front of the church. And I know you want to modelworship for us to imitate. But because we've encouraged you to basically import forms of performance from the concert venue into the sanctuary, we might not realize that we've also unwittingly encouraged a sense that you are the center of attention. And when your performance becomes a display of your virtuosity--even with the best of intentions--it's difficult to counter the temptation to make the praise band the focus of our attention. When the praise band goes into long riffs that you might intend as "offerings to God," we the congregation become utterly passive, and because we've adopted habits of relating to music from the Grammys and the concert venue, we unwittingly make you the center of attention. I wonder if there might be some intentional reflection on placement (to the side? leading from behind?) and performance that might help us counter these habits we bring with us to worship.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Word of Faith vs Cessationism--Who's Closer to Jesus?

There is a thought provoking article over at Scot McKnight's blog.  It's by a guest writer named "T" and he is using McKnight's book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (Zondervan, 2011) to engage in a thought experiment.  Here is a portion of what "T" wrote:
It was in the context of having read Scot’s book and letting these ideas ruminate, tearing down structures in my mind and building new ones, that I read a post by Roger Olson asking if the word-faith movement within extreme Pentecostalism presented ‘another gospel.’ Let me add right now that I disagree with word-faith (and ‘prosperity gospel’) teaching wholeheartedly. In the interests of space, my naked disavowal will have to suffice. But as I read the post that was rightfully denouncing extreme word-faith and prosperity gospel teachings, I couldn’t help but wonder, If the gospels are the gospel, does extreme cessationism present a “gospel” that is farther from “the gospels” than word-faith Pentecostalism? 
As I thought about this, I thought of several things. Initially (as a born and raised Biblicist evangelical!) I thought in terms of express scriptural support for word-faith on one extreme and for extreme cessationism on the other. On that score, word-faith has a clear advantage over cessationism. Even if it has to be selective in its NT areas of focus, it can at least point to clear, express NT teachings, not only to support the general idea that God does miracles through his people, but also the extreme word-faith teachings (Mark 9:23, James 5:15, Matthew 17:19-21). Again, while I think other portions of the NT make it clear that these verses must be nuanced to avoid taking them without any qualification, they are more expressly supportive of word-faith teachings than most of us would like. But my next line of thought wasn’t rooted in my Biblicist leanings and prima-scriptura goals, but in Scot’s thesis. Namely, if the gospels are the gospels, they proclaim a Jesus that not only heals as the bread and butter of his work, but also 
- Authorizes/commands others who represent him to heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, 
- Commends the faith of those who believe in his authority and/or willingness to heal (Centurian, Canaanite woman), 
- Challenges and/or criticizes the faith of his disciples when they don’t have the faith to believe that THEY can cast out demons in his name, 
- Predicts that anyone who believes will also do what he has been doing (John 14:12; Mark 16:17), 
- Sends out apostles after his resurrection who found churches who then, in fact, also do miracles and signs and wonders in Christ’s name (Galatians 3:5, I Cor. 12-14, James 5:13-18). 
Considering all this and more with “the gospels are the gospel” ringing in my head, I began to lose articulable reasons to answer this question in the negative: “Do word-faith Pentecostals proclaim a Jesus, a gospel, more like the Jesus presented in the gospels than cessationists do?”

Monday, February 13, 2012

David Wells on God's Holiness

That God is dangerous in his holiness should not be dismissed as if it were a primitive idea, beyond which we have now evolved.  It is, in fact, a reality toward which we are all moving, for in the end God's holiness will prove to be the final line of resistance to all that is wrong, all that is evil in the world.  The day is coming when truth will be placed forever on the throne, and error forever on the scaffold.  (p. 142)

So it is when we succeed in cloaking the holiness of God, in focusing on his love to the exclusion of his wrath, we unsettle the whole moral universe.  We create a God who may be patient, kindly, and compassionate but who is without the will to resist what is wrong, without the will to judge it, and without the power to destroy it.  Such a God lacks the moral earnestness to attract our attention, let alone inspire our belief or warrant our worship.  Such a God is not the God of the Bible, is the not the God of Jesus Christ....When holiness slips from sight, so, too, does the centrality of Christ.  (p. 143)

Without the holiness of God, sin has no meaning and grace has no point, for it is God's holiness that gives to the one its definition and to the other its greatness.  (p. 144)

God is holy and we place ourselves in great peril if we seek to render him a plaything of our piety, an ornamental decoration on the religious life, a product to answer our inward dissatisfactions.  God offers himself on his own terms or not at all.  (p. 145)

From: David Wells God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (Eerdmans, 1994)

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Are Souls Gendered?" by Steve Hays

Steve Hays over at Triablogue has an interesting article on whether souls are gendered.  Here is his brief discussion.  It is speculative but within the bounds of Scriptural constraints.


Are souls gendered?

This is a question that a commenter over at Randal Rauser’s blog asked. (“Does Christian theology hold that the soul has gender?”). Of course, the answer is somewhat speculative.

i) Some folks might think the question is inherently nonsensical. Surely gender is a property of embodied agents. Only bodies can have primary and secondary sexual characteristics.

But we need to distinguish between gender as an abstract property and its concrete exemplifications. For instance, every man is male, but every male isn’t a man. Maleness is more general than manhood, while masculinity is more general than maleness. Same thing with femininity.

ii) There are different ways to model the mind/body problem. Different versions of monism and dualism. For discussion purposes, I’ll take interactionist dualism as my operating model.

iii) The question of whether souls have gender raises the nature/nurture debate. It’s really two questions with two possible answers:

a) Does the soul have innate gender?

b) Does the soul have acquired gender?

Apropos (a), I don’t know that we’re in a position to tell one way or the other.

Assuming that (a) is true, there’s not much more to be said. But if (b) is true, then that generates other permutations:

iv) Take a comparison. I’m psychologically American. That’s acquired rather than innate. I could have been born to the same parents, but in a different country (if they were living abroad).

I’m psychologically American because I was raised by American parents, and I grew up in America, around American relatives, neighbors, and classmates. Because I’ve been immersed in American culture (both media and society) from as early as I can remember. So I’ve been conditioned to be psychologically American.

Moreover, that conditioning is irreversible at this stage. It’s part of my formative years. To a great extent, personal identity is bound up with memory. Remembered experience.

v) In principle, gender could be conditioned by physical experience. Say a soul is united to the body of a human male from conception to death from old age.  His experience of the world is filtered through a physical medium. Specifically, male embodiment. That’s how he perceives the world, interacts with the world, remembers the world. That informs and thereby forms his psychological makeup to some degree.

vi) When he dies, he leaves his body behind, but not the lasting effect of his physical conditioning.

vii) But suppose he dies in the womb and goes straight to heaven? Then what? There are two possibilities:

viii) The soul of the baby remains in a state of psychological stasis until the resurrection of the just, at which time it’s united with the body of a baby, and naturally matures. Perhaps the discarnate baby has little sense of time’s passage during the intermediate state. It’s happy, but there’s no character development. No acquisition of knowledge.

ix) That’s one possibility. Here’s another: the discarnate baby enjoys a simulated physical existence. Like dreams or virtual reality. The discarnate baby undergoes a simulated lifecycle–infancy, boyhood (or girlhood), adolescence, adulthood (manhood or womanhood, as the case may be).

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Intelligent Design: 50 Peer-Reviewed Articles

There is an article over at the Center for Science and Culture listing 50 peer-reviewed journal articles in defense of some aspect of Intelligent Design theory.  One that I was especially interested in is the following:
  • A.C. McIntosh, “Evidence of design in bird feathers and avian respiration,”International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics, Vol. 4(2):154–169 (2009).
    In this peer-reviewed paper, Leeds University professor Andy McIntosh argues that two systems vital to bird flight -- feathers and the avian respiratory system -- exhibit “irreducible complexity.” The paper describes these systems using the exact sort of definitions that Michael Behe uses to describe irreducible complexity:
    [F]unctional systems, in order to operate as working machines, must have all the required parts in place in order to be effective. If one part is missing, then the whole system is useless. The inference of design is the most natural step when presented with evidence such as in this paper, that is evidence concerning avian feathers and respiration.
    Regarding the structure of feathers, he argues that they require many features to be present in order to properly function and allow flight:
    [I]t is not sufficient to simply have barbules to appear from the barbs but that opposing barbules must have opposite characteristics -- that is, hooks on one side of the barb and ridges on the other so that adjacent barbs become attached by hooked barbules from one barb attaching themselves to ridged barbules from the next barb (Fig. 4). It may well be that as Yu et al. [18] suggested, a critical protein is indeed present in such living systems (birds) which have feathers in order to form feather branching, but that does not solve the arrangement issue concerning left-handed and right-handed barbules. It is that vital network of barbules which is necessarily a function of the encoded information (software) in the genes. Functional information is vital to such systems.
    He further notes that many evolutionary authors “look for evidence that true feathers developed first in small non-flying dinosaurs before the advent of flight, possibly as a means of increasing insulation for the warm-blooded species that were emerging.” However, he finds that when it comes to fossil evidence for the evolution of feathers, “None of the fossil evidence shows any evidence of such transitions.” 
    Regarding the avian respiratory system, McIntosh contends that a functional transition from a purported reptilian respiratory system to the avian design would lead to non-functional intermediate stages. He quotes John Ruben stating, “The earliest stages in the derivation of the avian abdominal air sac system from a diaphragm-ventilating ancestor would have necessitated selection for a diaphragmatic hernia in taxa transitional between theropods and birds. Such a debilitating condition would have immedi­ately compromised the entire pulmonary ventilatory apparatus and seems unlikely to have been of any selective advantage.” With such unique constraints in mind, McIntosh argues that “even if one does take the fossil evidence as the record of development, the evidence is in fact much more consistent with an ab initio design position -- that the breathing mechanism of birds is in fact the product of intelligent design.” 
    McIntosh’s paper argues that science must remain at least open to the possibility of detecting design in nature, since “to deny the possibility of the involvement of external intelligence is effectively an assumption in the religious category.” Since feathers and the avian respiratory system exhibit irreducible complexity, he expressly argues that science must consider the design hypothesis:
    As examples of irreducible complexity, they show that natural systems have intricate machinery which does not arise in a “bottom up” approach, whereby some natural selective method of gaining small-scale changes could give the intermediary creature some advantage. This will not work since, first, there is no advantage unless all the parts of the new machine are available together and, second, in the case of the avian lung the intermediary creature would not be able to breathe, and there is little selective advantage if the creature is no longer alive. As stated in the introduction, the possibility of an intelligent cause is both a valid scientific assump­tion, and borne out by the evidence itself.
The design aspects of bird feathers and the lung design were first brought to my attention years ago in Michael Denton's book  Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Adler & Adler, 1985).  In discussing the bird lung design in relation to all other vertebrate lungs Denton writes:
"Just how such an utterly different respiratory system could have evolved gradually from the standard vertebrate design is fantastically difficult to envisage, especially bearing in mind that the maintenance of respiratory function is absolutely vital to the life of an organism to the extent that the slightest malfunction leads to death within minutes."  (pp. 211-212)
Denton went on to conclude:
"The avian lung and the feather bring us very close to answering Darwin's challenge:
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.
"In addition to the feather and the avian lung there are many other unique features in the biology of birds, in the design of the heart and cardiovascular system, in the gastrointestinal system and in the possession of a variety of other relatively minor adaptations, such as, for example, the unique sound producing organ, the syrinx, which similarly defy plausible explanations in gradualistic terms.  Altogether it adds up to an enormous conceptual difficulty in envisaging how a reptile could have been gradually converted into a bird."     (p. 213) 
The "watchmaker" is not "blind!"  Those scientists committed to wearing the googles of naturalism are the ones with the questionable vision.  Jesus told us to look at the birds of the air (Matthew 6.26) to see something of the Father's goodness.  It appears that we can also look inside the birds of the air and see His intelligent design.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus" and Responses

A family member sent me this video which I now know has gone "virial"--over 17 million views.  He asked what I thought.  I've put my comments that I sent to him below the video.  The original video has spawned a number of responses.  The two listed below are interesting.  The first response is from a Muslim.  Then there follows a Christian apologetic response to the Muslim video.  For those interested...

A few thoughts I wrote to my family member:
1.  First, I liked his focus on Jesus and grace.  This is central. 
2.  He seems to be speaking out of his past hurt with legalism ("religion") and this seems to color everything he says.  We all speak out of our past in the sense of being influenced by it but here the guy seems to go lopsided--see below. 
3.  He sets up the dichotomy between Jesus and Religion.  The way he defines religion is a problem.  Hey, who wouldn't hate what he says is "religion."  He uses the old definition: religion is man's attempt to get to God.  If that's his definition then I'm against that too.  But why think that is THE definition of religion?  What happens is that people put Jesus on one side and "religion" on the other.  And then under religion they put things like "church".  He seemed to do that at a few points even though he had his "clarifications" mid-way through.  Jesus established the church, its rituals (baptism and communion) and its leadership.  If you love Jesus you have to love the church--even though Jesus is perfect and his wife (the church) isn't.   
4.  I get nervous about the the dichotomy of "doing" vs "done" (the way he ends the video).  If we're talking about justification--how a person is declared righteous before a holy God-then he is correct.  The work of Christ alone received by faith alone is the key here.  But the Christian life also includes the life of faith (sanctification) which should be one of faithfulness and Jesus very clearly speaks to this (see Matthew 5-7) with lots of things to "do."
Here is the Muslim response:

And here is the Christian apologetic response which was sponsored by Alpha and Omega Ministries:

Also, Alpha and Omega had an article responding to the false claims in the Muslim video.  That can be found HERE.