RSS

Category Archives: Science

Video – Reading Genesis 1-3 with the Church – My Presentation – Understanding Genesis 1-3: A dialogue with Dr John Walton and Joe Fleener

The video is now online (09 Nov. 2013):

UNDERSTANDING GENESIS

Vimeo Link to Presentations

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/75344886″>Understanding Genesis 1-3 – John Walton and Joe Fleener</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/laidlawcollege”>Laidlaw College</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Vimeo Link to Q&A

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/75344887″>Understanding Genesis 1-3 – John Walton and Joe Fleener – Questions and Responses</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/laidlawcollege”>Laidlaw College</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

Reading Genesis 1-3 with the Church – My Presentation – Understanding Genesis 1-3: A dialogue with Dr John Walton and Joe Fleener

Here is a link to a PDF of the full notes to my presentation at last night’s event hosted by Laidlaw College: UNDERSTANDING GENESIS 1-3: EXPLORING TWO CONTRASTING EVANGELICAL VIEWS WITH DR JOHN WALTON AND JOE FLEENER

Reading Genesis 1-3 with the Church by Joe Fleeener

The video is now online (09 Nov. 2013):

UNDERSTANDING GENESIS

Vimeo Link to Presentations

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/75344886″>Understanding Genesis 1-3 – John Walton and Joe Fleener</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/laidlawcollege”>Laidlaw College</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Vimeo Link to Q&A

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/75344887″>Understanding Genesis 1-3 – John Walton and Joe Fleener – Questions and Responses</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/laidlawcollege”>Laidlaw College</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

I’m a Christian & I Live in the Real World, Thinking Through Ethics – Abortion

This was part #4 to a series on ethics given during the Sunday PM services at Howick Baptist Church. A full PDF along with related links and an MP3 download of the talk can be found here.

Abortion

Defining Terms:

conception

 

Father’s sperm penetrates mother’s egg cell. Genetic instructions from both parents interact to begin a new and unique individual who is no bigger than a grain of sugar. (Zygote/preembryo/proembryo)
day 1

 

The first cell divides into two, the two into four, and so on.
days 5–9

 

The new individual implants in the mother’s womb. The baby’s sex can already be determined.

 

Day 14

 

Mother’s normal menstrual period is suppressed by a hormone produced by her child.
Day 18

 

The heart is forming. Soon the eyes start to develop.
Day 20

 

The beginnings of the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system are laid.
Day 24

 

The heart begins to beat.
Day 28

 

Muscles are developing along the future spine.
Day 30

 

The child in utero has grown 10,000 times to 6–7 mm (1/4 inch) long. The brain has human proportions. Blood flows in the veins and is separate from the mother’s blood supply.
Day 35

 

The pituitary gland in the brain is forming. Mouth, ears and nose are taking shape.
Day 40

 

The heart’s energy output is 20 percent of the adult output.
Day 42

 

The skeleton is formed. The brain coordinates movement of the muscles and organs. Reflex responses have begun. The penis has begun to form in male infants. The mother misses her second period.
Day 43

(1 1/2 months)

 

Brain waves can be recorded.
Day 45

 

Spontaneous movements have begun, and the teeth are developing.
7 Weeks

 

Lips are sensitive to touch, and the ears may already be taking on the family shape.
8 Weeks

 

The child is well-proportioned, a small-scale baby: 3 cm (1 1/8 inches) sitting up, and a gram (1/30 oz) in weight. Every organ is present. The heart beats sturdily; the stomach produces digestive juices; the liver makes blood cells; the kidneys begin to function; the taste buds are forming. (Referred to as an Embryo up to this stage.)
8 1/2 Weeks

 

Fingerprints are being engraved. They will grow larger, but they are unique and will never change. The eyelids and palms of the hands are sensitive to touch. (Referred to as a Fetus from this point until birth.)
9 Weeks

 

The child will bend fingers around an object placed in the palm. Thumb-sucking begins. Fingernails are forming.
10 Weeks

 

The body is sensitive to touch. The child squints, swallows, furrows his or her brow, and frowns.
11 Weeks

 

The baby urinates and makes complex facial expressions, even smiling.
12 Weeks

 

The baby is capable of vigorous activity. He or she can kick, turn feet, curl and fan toes, make a fist, move thumbs, bend wrists, turn the head, open the mouth, and press the lips tightly together. Breathing has begun.
13 Weeks

(End of the First Trimester)

 

The baby is prettier, and the facial expression resembles the parents’. Movements are graceful, reflexes vigorous. The vocal cords are formed, although without air the baby cannot cry. The sex organs are apparent.
4 Months

 

The baby can grasp with his or her hands, swim, and turn somersaults.
4–5 Months

 

The mother first feels the baby move.
5 Months

 

Sleeping habits are noticeable. A slammed door will result in activity. The child responds to sounds in frequencies too high or low for adults to hear.
6 Months

(End of the Second Trimester)

 

Fine hair grows on the eyebrows and head.

Eyelash fringe appears. The baby’s weight is about 640 g (1 lb, 6 oz), and height is 23 cm (9 inches). Babies born at this age have survived.

7 Months

 

Eyeteeth are present. Eyelids open and close. Eyes look around. Hands grip strongly. The mother’s voice is heard and recognized.
8 Months

 

Weight increases by 1 kg (over 2 lbs), and the baby’s quarters get very cramped.
9 Months

 

The child triggers labor, and birth occurs, usually 255–275 days after conception. Of the 45 generations of cell divisions before adulthood, 41 have taken place. Four more will come during the rest of childhood and adolescence.[1]

 

Spontaneous Abortion:          Technical term for miscarriage, premature labour, and/or early termination of pregnancy.

Abortion:                                The intentional killing of a human embryo or foetus.[2]


 

Cultural/Historical Trends:

Since the 1960’s there has been an aggressive International movement to lower the fertility rates so as to control a perceived population expansion problem.[3]

Since the 1960’s the dominant cultural, sociological, political, & economic philosophy has been “personal autonomy & freedom of choice.” People ought to be freed and empowered to exercise their autonomy. (Hence, on the abortion front the pro-abortion lobby is known as “pro-choice.”)

New Zealand Fertility Rates:[4]

1894                                                       2.69

1931                                                       3.61

1947                                                       2.63

1978                                                       2.06

2002                                                       1.77[5]

New Zealand Abortion Statistics:[6]

1964 (first year reported)                                 76

1970                                                                                       313

1980                                                                                       5945

1990                                                                                       11,173

2000                                                                                       16,103

2011                                                                                       15,863[7]

“Contraception, Sterilisation, & Abortion Act” was passed in 1977 lifting all legal restrictions on abortion.[8]

New Zealand has no parental notification restrictions on under-sixteen access for abortion.[9]

New Zealand ranks #4 in the world for the number of abortions per 1000 women at 17.3.[10]

What Does the Medical Literature Say?:

Human Life occurs not at conception, but after syngamy:

“the paternal chromosomes decondense within a new envelope to form the male pronucleus, while a membrane also develops around the remaining twenty-three female chromosomes to form the female pronucleus. During the next six to ten hours, the two pronuclei move towards each other. Approximately twenty-two hours after insemination in a case of in vitro fertilization, syngamy occurs when membranes of the two pronuclei break down, allowing male and female chromosomes to mingle. The union of male and female chromosomes at syngamy gives rise to a single cell with a set of twenty-three pairs of maternal and paternal homologous chromosomes, in all forty-six chromosomes. This cell is called a zygote because it yokes or brings together the maternal and paternal chromosomes into one genetically new individual cell.” 33

“On the one hand, one might agree that there is not actually a human life until syngamy, but claim that the fertilized egg before that has all the potential for human life. Though some might say that is true of sperm and eggs that are completely separated from one another, it is not true in the same sense that it is true of sperm that has already penetrated the egg. Sperm and egg that have not united might never unite to begin the process of fertilization. However, the fertilized egg, though not human life until syngamy, has already begun the process of forming human life. That process should not be interrupted. Hence, abortion even during the first twenty-four hours is wrong.”[11]

“Personhood” is separate from “human life” and is the measurement to use:

Paul Ramsey, formerly a moral theologian at Princeton, concurs. He has argued that the debate has taken a new turn. Previously, while there might be disagreement as to the beginning of human life, it was agreed that whenever it did begin, there was a person with rights. Now there is an attempt to divorce human life and personhood. No longer is personhood grounded in the possession of biological human life.38

“Pro-life advocates argue that personhood begins at conception, because at that point the DNA strands are species-specific. That is, if the newly fertilized egg is examined under a microscope, one can determine that the DNA strands are those of human beings. Moreover, it is argued that though the fetus is dependent upon the mother, he or she is an independent individual.39 This view can be called the biological, genetic view of personhood.”[12]

Personhood: Whoever has the basic DNA of human nature qualifies as a human person. This is opposed to the sociological (“quality of life”) or developmental (physiological capacities) definition.

We must protect the personal autonomy of the woman at all costs:

“That word “autonomy” gets us to the heart of the matter. It locates precisely the contradiction between pro-choice ideology and the Christian message. The Bible teaches that we are not autonomous, that we belong body and soul to another, and that we are at his disposal. A human being demanding autonomy is like a fish demanding freedom from water, freedom to live on land. Such freedom is destructive to his nature, and the autonomy of modern, secular thought is equally destructive to human nature. It is not the way to self-fulfillment; it is the way of death. The way to self-fulfillment is, paradoxically, the way of death to self, death with Christ, and eternal life through faith in him. The way to abundant life is the way of the servant of God. This is God’s Word to the pro-choice movement today. This is the message we must bring in our ministry of mercy.”[13]

What Does the Bible Say?:

Exodus 21:22-25

When the baby is born prematurely but unharmed, a fine is assessed. When there is harm to either mother or baby, the law of retaliation is required. And both stipulations apply in a case where what happens is accidental! In fact, this is the only place in Scripture where the death penalty is required for accidental homicide! The obvious condition of the woman should have been a signal for caution on the part of the men, and when they were negligent, the most severe penalty was required. This passage is a special case, but not one that downgrades or devalues developing babies or pregnant women. On the contrary, it shows the extreme importance God places on both.[14]

Psalm 51:5

As an unborn person and since conception, David claims to be a sinner. Sin in Scripture is a personal quality, never an impersonal one. It is never a property of things, only persons.

Psalm 139:13-16

This text represents a general biblical usage of personal pronouns to refer to the unborn. There are no Biblical texts that speak of the unborn as anything by human persons. (Job 31:15-18; Hos. 12:3; Gen. 25:23-36; 38:27-30)

Judges 13:3-5

Sampson’s mother, during her pregnancy, has to keep the Nazarite restrictions (v. 4), because her son is a Nazarite even before his is born and must not be defiled.

Luke 1:35

It was at his conception that the Spirit acted supernaturally to being the Son of God into the world. Jesus, then, was the incarnate Son of God, the second person of the trinity, from the moment of his conception by the Holy Spirit. From conception onward, he was the divine-human person.

Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:5-7

Human life is to be valued as having inherent dignity and worth as all people are created in the image of God.

Our Obligation to Defend the Weak and Helpless

Arguably the unborn are the weakest, poorest, most helpless people that there are. Both the Old and New Testaments are profoundly clear, God’s people are morally obligated to defend such people.

Lev. 19:16; Psalm 41:1; 72:12-14; 82:3-4; Prov. 24:11; Isa. 1:17; 58:5-7, 9-10; Amos 4:1; Luke 10:30-37; Acts 4:34-37; 2 Cor. 8:1-15; 9:1-15; Gal. 2:10

Pregnancy as the Result of Sin:

Rape/Incest:

The taking of life cannot be justified due to the sins of another (in this case the father) or to alleviate pain (physical & emotional) in another (in this case the mother).

Unmarried Pregnancy (consensual sex):

The taking of life cannot be justified due to the sins of another (in this case both the father & mother) or to alleviate difficulties (current and/or future).

Marriage is not necessitated under these circumstances.

One must preserve life, even if that life has come about due to sinful choices by both the father & mother.

The couple may marry, but it ought not to be motivated by “I guess we have to now) but by a considered desire to enter into the marriage covenant.

When the Life of the Mother is in Jeopardy:

Ectopic Pregnancy:

An egg has been successfully fertilized, but has become trapped in the mother’s fallopian tube.

  1. The fertilized egg is a human person made in the image of God.
  2. There is no known medical procedure where it is possible to move the baby from the tube and implant it into the womb for further development.
  3. If the baby (and tube) are not removed both the baby and the mother will die.
  4. We must save the life that can be saved.
  5. The tube and baby should be removed, therefore terminating the life of the baby, but preserving the life of the mother.
  6. The couple should be cared for with the understanding that they have just lost the life of their child, though they are not morally responsible for the baby’s death.

Mother with Cancer (uterine)

A woman who is pregnant is diagnoses with uterine cancer. The treatment options are:

  1. A full hysterectomy followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation.
  2. In some cases, if detected early enough, chemotherapy and/or radiation.

Both treatment options will kill the baby. Neither is certain to guarantee the mother’s full recovery.

We should save the life that can be saved.

The baby can be brought to term and delivered safe and healthy. There is no certainly that any treatment will result in the mother’s full recovery from cancer.

Though profoundly difficult, the mother may be called upon to sacrifice her life for the life of her child.[15]

Evangelistic & Pastoral Care:

  1. Be willing to offer long-term hospitality to the mother and/or baby.
  • To care for the mother up to delivery
  • To care for the mother and/or baby after birth
  • To foster, or even, adopt the baby
  1. Provide an expectant mother considering abortion helpful medical data on pregnancy, delivery, and abortion. Truthful & accurate abortion data is widely available online. Much of it is graphic and unpleasant. Yet, be willing to be uncomfortable when fighting for the life of an unborn child!
  2. Share with the expectant mother the life-giving hope of the Gospel of Christ!
  3. For someone who has had an abortion:
  • Love them as a fellow-sinner in need of forgiveness and grace.
  • Point them to the all-powerful, full forgiveness that is only possible in Christ.


[1] John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 53-55.

[5] Replacement fertility rate is estimated to be between 2.5 & 3.3 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_fertility_rate#Replacement_rates)

[8] 1973 in the US with the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

[9] Yet a child under 16 will need parental permission or attend a school field trip or to receive Panadol from the school nurse.

33 Norman Ford, “When Does Human Life Begin?” Pacif 1 (1988): 304.

[11] John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 58.

38 Paul Ramsey, “Abortion: A Review Article,” Thomist 37 (1973): 184–185. See also Paul B. Fowler, Abortion: Toward an Evangelical Consensus (Portland: Multnomah, 1987), Chapter 2. Fowler’s treatment of this issue is excellent and shows that this is indeed what has happened.

39 Paul D. Feinberg, “The Morality of Abortion,” in Richard L. Ganz, ed., Thou Shalt Not Kill (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House Publishers, 1978), pp. 129–130.

[12] John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 59.

[13] Frame, John M. The Doctrine of the Christian Life. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub, 2008, pg. 731.

[14] John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 65.

[15] Though Rachel did not die from uterine cancer, her testimony can be very helpful: http://deathisnotdying.com/

 

I’m a Christian & I Live in the Real World, Thinking Through Ethics – Euthanasia

This was part #3 to a series on ethics given during the Sunday PM services at Howick Baptist Church. A full PDF along with related links and an MP3 download of the talk can be found here.

Defining Terms:

Euthanasia: From the Greek, euthanatos which means, literally: easy death, or “to die well.”

Voluntary/Non-voluntary/Involuntary

Voluntary: A case where a patient requests death or gives permission to be put to death. (Generally considered equivalent to suicide.)

Non-voluntary: The intentional killing of a person who can neither confirm nor deny a request to be killed.

Involuntary: Someone is intentionally put to death who expressly withheld consent.

Active/Passive

Active: Taking a purposeful action to end a life.

Passive: Withholding or refusing treatment to sustain life.

Direct/Indirect

Direct: The individual themselves carries out the decision to die.

Indirect: A situation where someone else carries out the decision. (i.e. doctor assisted suicide, DAS)

Death with Dignity: Allowing a patient to die a truly human death.

Mercy Killing: The intent to release someone who is suffering excruciating pain and has no other way of escape but death.

Death Selection: The deliberate removal of persons whose lives are no longer considered socially useful.

Cultural/Historical Trends:

“A United Nations study on population notes that since the start of recorded history young children have outnumbered older people, but that will change very soon.”[1]

Advances in medical technology have brought about end of life decisions never conceived of in previous generations.

Advances in palliative care have provided facility where family can be disconnected from those who are suffering.

1935 – The Euthanasia Society of England (1938 for the US)

1969 – British Medical Association passed a resolution that the medical community has a duty to preserve life and relieve pain, euthanasia was condemned.

The Netherlands:

Since 1993, though technically illegal, doctors could perform DAS without much concern for prosecution.

In 1995 about 3,600 people (2.7% of all deaths) were euthanized.

2002 Netherlands, the first country to legalise euthanasia.

Nearly 4,000 people/year continue to be euthanized.

22 July 2012 (yet to be drawn), “End of Life Choice Bill”, Hon Maryan Street. Has the support of John Key and many others.[2]

What Does the Bible Say?:

Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:5-7 – Human life is to be valued as having inherent dignity and worth as all people are created in the image of God.

Exodus 20:13 – God’s people are not to indiscriminately take the life of others.

Job 14:5; Eccl. 3:2; Psalm 139:16; James 4:13-15 – It is God who determines the length of our days.

Job; Romans 5:3-5; 8:18-32; 1 Peter 1:6-9; 2 Corinthians 4:17, 12:10 – Suffering is not to be pursued, but it is a regular and even expected tool used by our Heavenly Father to conform us to the image of His Son and prepare us for eternity with Him.

Luke 16:19ff; Romans 8:18ff; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Revelation 20:4-5, 11-15 – For the Christian our ultimate hope for escaping suffering and pain is not physical death, but the final resurrection of the body.

Personhood: Whoever has the basic DNA of human nature qualifies as a human person. This is opposed to the sociological (“quality of life”) or developmental (physiological capacities) definition.

Rules out “active euthanasia” in favour of sanctity of human life.

Allows for “passive euthanasia” only when a person would die soon anyway with ordinary care.

Medical Involvement:

The NZMA[3] is opposed to both the concept and practice of euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide.

Euthanasia, that is the act of deliberately ending the life of a patient, even at the patient’s request or at the request of close relatives, is unethical. (World Medical Association Declaration on Euthanasia, October 1987.)

Doctor-assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is unethical. (World Medical Association Statement on Physician Assisted Suicide, September 1992.)

The NZMA however encourages the concept of death with dignity and comfort, and strongly supports the right of patients to decline treatment, or to request pain relief, and supports the right of access to appropriate palliative care.

In supporting patients’ right to request pain relief, the NZMA accepts that the proper provision of such relief, even when it may hasten the death of the patient, is not unethical.

This NZMA position is not dependent on euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide remaining unlawful. Even if they were to become legal, or decriminalised, the NZMA would continue to regard them as unethical.

Hippocratic Oath[4]: When a doctor takes this oath he promises to use medicine to help the sick and never to injure them. In addition he promises never to give poison to anyone, even if asked to.

What is Death?

“In our opinion[5], at present the best one can do is invoke criteria set forth by an Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School. The committee defined brain death—irreversible coma—by four criteria. They are 1) unreceptivity and unresponsivity (no stimuli of any sort evoke any kind of response); 2) no movements or spontaneous breathing for at least an hour; 3) no reflexes, and fixed dilated pupils; 4) flat brain wave (flat EEG) for at least ten minutes, preferably twenty. All four must apply, and they must still be true of the patient twenty-four hours after first tested.”108

When and How to intervene:

“Do whatever is possible to relieve pain, and do not force the patient to undergo procedures or take medicines already proven ineffective or that have no foreseeable benefit. However, because of the commandment not to take life, do not kill or aid the patient in committing suicide. If painkillers hasten death, but the intent is to relieve pain, giving pain medicine is morally acceptable.”[6]

What About Dying Well?

Everyone, including myself and my own family, barring the return of Christ is going to die. I want them to live well, to live lives glorifying to God. Yet, more than this, I want them to be prepared to die well.

In order for death to lose its sting (Hosea 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:55) people need to be prepared to die well.

Euthanasia is not helping people to die well. This is one of the greatest missuses of language I can imagine.

Preparing people to die well, is done by calling all men, women, and children everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who conquered death; and Who lives, so that though they may die, they may live again.

John Newton once said, “It is the duty of a minister of the gospel to prepare his people to die well.”

Let us stand against this culture of death, by pointing people to a living Saviour, Who can save them from their sins and remove the sting of death!

C.H. Spurgeon: “O child of God, death hath lost its sting, because the devil’s power over it is destroyed. Then cease to fear dying. Ask grace from God the Holy Ghost, that by an intimate knowledge and a firm belief of thy Redeemer’s death, thou mayst be strengthened for that dread hour. Living near the cross of Calvary thou mayst think of death with pleasure, and welcome it when it comes with intense delight. It is sweet to die in the Lord: it is a covenant-blessing to sleep in Jesus. Death is no longer banishment, it is a return from exile, a going home to the many mansions where the loved ones already dwell. The distance between glorified spirits in heaven and militant saints on earth seems great; but it is not so. We are not far from home–a moment will bring us there. The sail is spread; the soul is launched up on the deep. How long will be its voyage? How many wearying winds must beat upon the sail ere it shall be reefed in the port of peace? How long shall that soul be tossed upon the waves before it comes to that sea which knows no storm? Listen to the answer, “absent from the body, present with the Lord.” Yon ship has just departed, but it is already at its have. It did but spread its sail and it was there. Like that ship of old, upon the Lake of Galilee, a storm had tossed it, but Jesus said, “Peace, be still,” and immediately it came to land. Think not that a long period intervenes between the instant of death and the eternity of glory. When the eyes close on earth they open in heaven. The horses of fire are not an instant on the road. Then, O child of God, what is there for thee to fear in death, seeing that through the death of thy Lord its curse and sting are destroyed? and now it is but a Jacob’s ladder whose foot is in the dark grave, but its top reaches to glory everlasting.”

From Euthanasia to the Gospel[7]

By Tony Payne

You’ve invited the neighbours over for dinner. Dessert has been successfully concluded, and the kids have retired to their bedroom where they are conducting experiments in paint durability under various impact scenarios. The coffee orders are being taken. As it so often does, the conversation is meandering down loosely connected paths and byways, and your dreams of perhaps talking about the gospel (or even something vaguely Christian) seem to be fading faster than the paint in the kids’ bedroom.

Then all of a sudden your neighbour passes from a heated discussion of Paul Keating’s pig farm to the euthanasia debate. You are struck with inspiration. Euthanasia! Here’s your chance to talk about life and death issues. Surely you could score a few points for the gospel here.

But how? With the advice of I’d like an argument, please ringing in your ears, you want to tread carefully.

You don’t want to wade straight in with the utilitarian argument, for example, partly because you can’t quite remember what ‘utilitarian’ means. (Reminder: a utilitarian argument focuses on the consequences of a particular action; it is about whether it will produce, in the end, good effects or bad effects.) The utilitarian argument on euthanasia is a telling one, but even if you succeeded in establishing the point you wouldn’t be very much closer to the gospel. The best you could expect is a grudging admission that your proposal might cause less overall harm to society than his proposal. No, perhaps you ought to avoid the utilitarian argument on utilitarian grounds.

Nor do you want to appeal to intuition (“Surely it is wrong to take someone else’s life”). Your neighbours, who support euthanasia, may well reply with an equally strong intuitive argument (“Surely it is indefensible to allow a fellow human being to suffer like that; how can you simply stand there in the face of that senseless human agony, staring into those eyes pleading with you to do something to end the pain, and not act?”). No, maybe the intuitive approach might not be a good move.

That leaves the theological arguments (“God is the giver and taker of life, not us” etc.), but since your neighbours are born-again agnostics, that’s not going to cut much ice either. You can already hear them responding: “There you go, bringing God into it again. What gives you the right to impose your God on someone else’s choice to die with dignity?” That sounds tricky.

To make matters worse, while you have been silently weighing up these conversational options, your neighbours have finished their second cups of coffee, coughed several times, looked at their watches, and gone home.

“It’s all right, dear”, says your wife. “I told them you were contemplating euthanasia.”

One thing was certain: your evangelistic efforts had died a death, and without dignity.

How might this lamentable situation have been retrieved?

As we suggested in the ‘From the Archives’ article, the key is to question your opponent’s moral assumptions. What underlying moral claims does the pro-euthanasia lobby make? What basis do they have for making these?

There are many moral avenues down which your argument might travel. An obvious one is the issue of ‘rights’, since the pro-euthanasia argument is largely based on an ethic of rights. It is argued that human beings have the ‘right’ to determine the time and manner of their own death, as a matter of natural justice. This is a positive moral claim—that it is right and just for a person to be allowed to control their own death, and that it is wrong and unjust for that autonomy to be denied them. That is what a ‘right’ is—something that is mine by just claim; something that ought to be inalienably mine, as established by some principle of justice or law.

The obvious question to ask is: Says who? Who says that it is right and just for a human to determine the time and manner of his death? Where is the principle of justice established that gives humans this right of self-determination?

Ask the question and see what your neighbours say. They will try to put their foot down on something firm and find that the ground they never stopped to think about isn’t there. They have a limited number of alternatives:

They can argue on the basis of intuition (“surely this is self-evident”), but if I disagree, then it comes down to a matter of personal preference. Their moral claim in the end has all the vigour and substance of KFC (“I like it like that”).

If total moral anarchy doesn’t appeal to them, they can take refuge in the decision of the majority (“most right-thinking people would agree”), but on this basis the world was once flat, and it was once right in one country to exterminate 6 million Jews.

They can try to argue from some sort of utilitarian position (what will produce the most good), but will not get very far. For one thing, it is hard to argue that, individual self-determination, as a moral principle, would produce goodness and happiness in society. You could make a stronger case for self-determination being the ruin of society. Moreover, in order to say that something will produce the most good, your neighbours need to be able to define what is ‘good’, and the problem of the unsupported moral claim recurs.

In the end, your friends are left with an appeal to some sort of higher moral standard or principle—something which transcends personal preference or intuition. But where is this standard to be found? Why can we not agree about it?

You must gently point out that once God is left out, there is no higher objective standard to which we can appeal, unless you count the United Nations, and not even your neighbours are that naive. Their moral claim is completely without rational foundation, as is their argument in favour of euthanasia. Without God, there are no ‘rights’, for in a purely materialist world what happens is simply what happens. Pain and suffering are just words we give to certain kinds of activity in our nerve endings.

On this depressing note, you might leave your neighbours to stew for a while. Or you might take the opportunity which hopefully arises (then or later) to explain how God is the basis of all moral claims, for he made the world, and us in it, to live under his authority. He establishes what is ‘right’ and ‘just’, and only under his rule and with his values does the world make sense.

From there, you can proceed to how you know this to be the case—because of Jesus, who came to reveal the Father and to reconcile us to him.


[1] John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World: 2nd Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2010), 160.

[5] John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 123.

108 “A Definition of Irreversible Coma: Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School to Examine the Definition of Brain Death,” The Journal of the American Medical Association 205 (August 5, 1968): 337–340.

[6] John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 124.

 

Upcoming Event: Understanding Genesis 1-3: A dialogue with Dr John Walton and Joe Fleener

UNDERSTANDING GENESIS 1-3: EXPLORING TWO CONTRASTING EVANGELICAL VIEWS
WITH DR JOHN WALTON AND JOE FLEENER

Laidlaw College invites you to an evening of dialogue between Old Testament scholar Dr John Walton, of Wheaton College and Associate Pastor Joe Fleener, of Howick Baptist Church, on how to understand Genesis 1-3. Both speakers will have 60 minutes to present their reading of the creation accounts in Genesis 1-3 and will then take questions from the audience. A light supper will be served at the end of the evening.

If you wish to better understand this foundational part of the Old Testament please join us as we tackle this challenging topic together.

We look forward to seeing you!

DATE, TIME AND PLACE

Date: Wednesday, 17 July 2013
Time: 7:15 – 10:00 pm
Place: Laidlaw College Auckland campus, 80 Central Park Drive, Henderson
Cost: Attendance is free
RSVP: Please register by Monday 15 July to events@laidlaw.ac.nz or 09 836 7815.

 

I’m a Christian & I Live in the Real World: Thinking Through Ethics – A New Series at Howick Baptist Church

Thinking Through Ethics Image

 

This will be a topical series and will generally follow a facilitated discussion format.

We will endeavour to consider together what the Scriptures teach regarding Sexuality/Homosexuality, Abortion, & Euthanasia with other topics to follow.

We plan to meet in the Upper Lounge, still at 6pm, for this series so as to better facilitate discussion. We will continue to have a time of prayer together as part of this service.

Please join us and even bring a friend as we learn together from the all sufficient and authoritative Word of God.

You will find the handouts for this series for download here.

 

Theology has nothing to fear from thorough, multifaceted research

Bavinck, H., John Bolt, and John Vriend. Reformed Dogmatics 2, God and Creation / Herman Bavinck ; John Bolt, General Ed. ; John Vriend, Transl. [from the Dutch]. Reformed Dogmatics. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2004.

So as Christians and as theologians we await with some confidence the certain results of the natural sciences. Theology has nothing to fear from thorough, multifaceted research. It only needs to be on its guard against attaching too much value to a study that is still completely new, imprecise, and incomplete; it therefore is constantly being augmented with conjectures and suspicions. It needs to be on its guard against making premature concessions to, and to seek agreement with, the so-called scientific results that can at any time be knocked down and exposed in their untenability by more thorough research. As the science of divine and eternal things, theology must be patient until the science that contradicts it has made a deeper and broader study of its field and, as happens in most cases, corrects itself. In that manner theology upholds its dignity and honor more effectively than by constantly yielding and adapting itself to the opinions of the day. (pg. 507)

 

Christianity is a Reasonable Faith, Making Science Possible – Outline

Last night I had the opportunity to give a short talk (10 – 15 minutes) as part of Tyndale Park Christian School’s Science Fair. Here is a kind of detailed outline of the talk.

Christianity is a Reasonable Faith, Making Science Possible

Robert Reymond has stated in Faith’s Reasons for Believing:

“In its best moments Christianity has made its way in the world by proclaiming and teaching the world’s only rational faith. Christianity is an apologetical religion, feeling deeply and passionately the burden to both tell humankind what they must believe in order to be saved from the guilt and power of sin and to give humankind the reasons, when sought, why they should believe.”

The assumption is that Christianity is a reasonable faith. It makes sense and it makes sense of the world in which we live.

1 Peter 3:15-16

15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

  1. Christ must be Lord and honoured as such in your hearts. Christianity isn’t a set of rules, or a system of theology. It is relationship with Jesus Christ resulting from one’s repentance from sin and faith in Him as your Lord and Saviour. If you know all the right rules/doctrines, but you don’t have a relationship with Him, you will not be characterised as one with hope.
  2. As a result of honouring Christ as Lord you will have true hope in this life and for the life to come.
  3. In response to this hope, you will be asked to explain yourself to the watching world.
  4. Peter assumes our faith in Christ is a reasonable faith and one which can be defended. All through the NT we find examples of Jesus and the Apostles explaining not only what to believe, but why they believe.
  5. This reasoning, this defence of the validity of Christianity ought to be done with gentleness, and respect. We are not to take the questions of our faith personally, we are to calmly, gently, respectfully, reasonably give an answer/reason/defence.

What does this have to do with Science?

Edgar Andrews has stated in God, Science, and Evolution:

“Some Christian leaders, while clinging to biblical authority, have erred by withdrawing from the real world of practical experience into subjectivism. By confining the gospel of Jesus Christ to the purely personal realm, they have inadvertently underwritten the very dichotomy between the natural and spiritual worlds upon which materialism thrives. Admittedly, Christianity is a personal issue, involving the reconciliation of the individual sinner to God through the death and resurrection of Christ. But it is more than a personal matter since it involves a unified worldview in which man, nature, society and God are set in their proper relationships to one another.”

Andrews states in his 2010 book Who Made God? (probably the single best book on Christianity & Science you could read):

“Far from explaining everything, science actually “explains” nothing. What science does is describe the world… When we say ‘science explains’ something we usually mean that there exists a scientific description of the phenomenon in question… [Take the scientific/mathematical formula for gravity,] it doesn’t explain why there is such a force, why it follows an inverse square law, and why the ‘gravitational constant’ has the value that it does. The equation is a description of gravity rather than an explanation.”

You see in order to do science you have to make a number of assumptions. All scientists do, even if they are unstated:

  1. I assume there is order to the Universe
  2. I assume there is a repeatability to certain cause & effect relationships
  3. I assume the data my experiments reveal are rational and intelligible

Upon what basis do I have to believe any of those assumptions are true?

If I am a materialist – one who believes there is nothing that exists outside of the material world. Then I have no reason to believe anything is rational or intelligible, because my brain is nothing more than grey matter. There is no such thing as a rational mind.

If I am a Darwinian Evolutionist – one who believes the Universe is simply the result of blind, random natural selection. Then, it actually contradicts my system of belief to expect to find, let alone actually find an orderly Universe where experiments can be repeated, etc.

If I am a Christian – one who believes God created the Universe and everything in it and that God is the God of the Bible, a rational and intelligible Being. Well, then all of these assumptions make perfect sense.

You see, everyone has the same assumptions; they have to in order to do science. However, it is only the Bible believing Christian who has a logical and consistent reason why these assumptions are true, why they make sense. Without God nothing will make sense, so you are forced to live inconsistent with your belief system.

Most the great scientists have understood this: Copernicus, Bacon, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, Faraday, Maxwell, Edgar Andrews, John Lennox, etc.

Their belief in the rational and intelligible God of the Bible as the Creator, and sustainer of the Universe motivated them to study God’s creation and discover how it worked. They believed it was possible to understand the Universe as it found its origin in an intelligible God. They believed this exercise, doing science, was one of the ways in which man fulfils his responsibility as God’s image bearers, therefore glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever!

What does this mean for you?

  1. Trust Christ. If you have never seen yourself as a sinner and Jesus as the One who died for your sins, confess this today and turn to Christ for forgiveness and restoration.
  2. Learn everything you possibly can, to the maximum of your ability, about God and His Word. Don’t settle for knowing “the basics.” Just a list of rules, or a set of doctrines. Dig into the book! The Creator of the Universe has revealed Himself to you. Study it, get to know Him.
  3. Learn everything you can, to the maximum of your ability, about this world God has created. Apply yourself to your work, your studies. This is in fulfilment of your role as being created in the image of God and in your calling to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

I will close with Francis Bacon”

“Let no one think or maintain that a person can search too far or be too well studied in either the book of God’s word or the book of God’s works.”

 

God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design is it Anyway? by John Lennox

This past Sunday morning I had the privilege of meeting John Lennox for the first time, hearing him speak, sitting in on a Q&A with him, and getting to know him a bit. We were very blessed to have him here in Auckland and even Howick Baptist Church.

An extra bonus to his visit is that he brought copies of his latest book, God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design is it Anyway? with him. This book isn’t even available for purchase yet and will only initially be available in the UK.

God and Stephen Hawking

God and Stephen Hawking

I sat down and read the book Sunday evening.

I read Hawking and Mlodinow’s, The Grad Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life book last year.

The Grand Design

Lennox’s book is a clear and accessible response to Hawking. In many ways this is Lennox at his best when it comes to writing.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone involved in science, who enjoys science, or who has friends/relatives who have been/are being influenced by the “new atheism” which masquerades as science.

 

John Lennox in New Zealand Feb/March 2011

** Updated Audio/Video Links **

Professor Lennox will be addressing this subject this Sunday (27 February 2011) during our AM service at Howick Baptist Church.

A Good God? from CPX on Vimeo.

John Lennox is Professor of Mathematics in the University of Oxford, Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science, and Pastoral Advisor at Green Templeton College, Oxford. He is also an adjunct Lecturer at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University and at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and is a Senior Fellow of the Trinity Forum. In addition, he teaches for the Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme at the Executive Education Centre, Said Business School, Oxford University.

He studied at the Royal School Armagh, Northern Ireland and was Exhibitioner and Senior Scholar at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University from which he took his MA and PhD. He worked for many years in the Mathematics Institute at the University of Wales in Cardiff which awarded him a DSc for his research. He also holds a DPhil from Oxford University and an MA in Bioethics from the University of Surrey. He was a Senior Alexander Von Humboldt Fellow at the Universities of Wuerzburg and Freiburg in Germany. In addition to over seventy published mathematical papers he is the co-author of two research level texts in algebra in the Oxford Mathematical Monographs series.

His book, on the interface between science, philosophy and theology, is God’s Undertaker – Has Science Buried God?, Oxford, Lion-Hudson 2009. He has lectured extensively in North America, Eastern and Western Europe on mathematics, the philosophy of science and the intellectual defence of Christianity.

His most recent book, God and Stephen Hawking, Oxford, Lion-Hudson 2011 is a swift and forthright reply to Stephen Hawking’s latest blockbuster, ‘The Grand Design’. In it John Lennox exposes the flaws in Hawking’s logic and demonstrates that far from disproving a Creator God, Hawking’s arguments make his existence seem all the more probable.

He debated Richard Dawkins on “The God Delusion” in the University of Alabama (2007) and on “Has Science buried God?” in the Oxford Museum of Natural History (2008). He has also debated Christopher Hitchens on the New Atheism (Edinburgh Festival 2008) and in Samford University, Alabama on the question: Is God Great?

His hobbies are languages, amateur astronomy, amateur bird-watching and some walking. John is married to Sally, they have three grown up children and four grandchildren and live near Oxford.

Learn more by listening to some of John Lennox’s lectures, teaching, & debates:

A lecture tour that includes the following events:

AUCKLAND, New Zealand

Sunday 27 February:

9:30 – 11:00am PUBLIC ®Preaching at Howick Baptist Church

1:00 – 3:00pm PUBLIC ® Q&A with John Lennox, at Salvation Army (East City Corps) 37-45 Wellington Street, Howick Auckland (hosted by Howick Baptist Church)

7pm PUBLIC ®Speaking at Greenlane Christian Centre

Monday 28 February:

AM – Various radio interviews in AM

1:00 – 2:00pm Discussion with Maxim Interns, “Why I believe”

2:30 – 4:00pm Discussion with Maxim/ Compass NZ staff, “Christianity in the Public Sphere”

7:00 – 9:00pm PUBLIC ® Lecture: “Christianity and the Philosophers An evening with John Lennox” at St. Paul’s.

Tuesday 1 March:

AM – Free, possible radio interviews

12:00 – 1:00pm PUBLIC ®Student Lecture at Auckland University (Cap and Gown Lounge, Level 3, Student Union.), “Has Science Buried God?” (organised by TSCF)

1:00-2:00pm PUBLIC ®Student Lecture at Auckland University (Cap and Gown Lounge, Level 3, Student Union.), “Has Science Buried God?” (organised by TSCF)

3:00pm Meeting for Christian Academic Staff, “Faithfully Engaging with the Academy”

4:30-6:30 Meeting with TSCF staff team

7:30-9:30pm PUBLIC ® Student Meeting organised by TSCF for Christian students/Young Adults & their non-Christian friends, “So you want to change the world?” (441 Queen Street, TSCF Offices)

Wednesday 2 March:

8:30 Speaking at World Vision chapel

Afternoon: Lecturing for the Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme

WELLINGTON, New Zealand

7pm PUBLIC ® Lecture: “Why God Loves Richard Dawkins?” or “God and Stephen Hawking) at St Michael’s, Kelburn

Thursday 3 March:

Lecturing for the Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme

Friday 4 March:

Lecturing for the Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand

Sunday 6 March:

PUBLIC ®Speaking at Spreydon Baptist Church (9am, 11am and 7pm)

 
 
%d bloggers like this: