Roe v. Wade & Imago Dei

26 01 2010

It has been 37 years since the ruling of the Roe v. Wade case by the U.S. Supreme Court.  To date over 51,000,000 babies have “legally” lost their lives as a result of this ruling.  That is the equivalent of roughly 17% of the current U.S. population.  We can honestly say that a generation has been lost.  The city of Jackson, MS decided to create a display to represent what this looks like in pennies – that is a half-million dollars worth of pennies.

However, how does one put a value on a human life?  Well, there are a few ways to do this.  First, from a purely naturalistic point of view, we can sum up the cost of the ingredients.  Here is a list of what makes up the human body: 65% Oxygen, 18% Carbon, 10% Hydrogen, 3% Nitrogen, 1.5% Calcium, 1% Phosphorous, 0.35% Potassium, 0.25% Sulfur, 0.15% Sodium, 0.15% Chlorine, 0.05% Magnesium, 0.0004% Iron, 0.00004% Iodine; the actual weight of these ingredients will vary by body.  Yet, the rough estimates of the cost of these elements would run between $5-$90.

Still, we look at the body and we know that it is not just the materials that make it up, it is made up of complex parts, so what would they cost?  It must first be understood that it is illegal to traffic in human body parts.  However, the website Accuracy in Media recently ran a story of a human kidney that was being auctioned off on eBay.  The bidding hit $5.7 million before eBay put a stop to the auction.  I mentioned that it is illegal to traffic in human parts; however, that does not apply to the parts of aborted babies.  In that case, a spinal cord can bring in $325 and a brain $999.

As far back as Plato and Aristotle, it has been understood that man has a soul, so even if we added up the “sum of the parts,” we would still have an aspect to us that could never be sold on eBay; and, despite what you see in books and movies, the soul cannot be sold.  In fact, there is an aspect to the soul that gives it this immeasurable value, which is that it is made in the image of God (Imago Dei).  When God created man he said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26)  David describes, “For you formed my inward parts;you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139: 13, 14a, 16)

It is for this reason that every time we abort one of these precious little ones we killing one made in the image of God and knitted together by him.  It is true that we cannot destroy that soul as that is eternal; however, we are taking the life of God’s creation, an innocent life.  When my wife and I saw the movie Amazing Grace a few years ago, we both walked out weeping and wishing that God would raise up a Wilberforce for our times to help bring an end to this blight on our society.  May we pray for an end to this scourge and do what we can to support life.

The Real Thing and the Really Real

16 01 2010

Years ago, in fact when I was a kid, Coca Cola had a tagline, It’s the Real Thing. I’m not sure
why they believed that this was the right message for the time (1969), but for some reason that is the message that their marketing team thought was most important to convey. People always feel more secure dealing with the real thing in these days of fakery and fraud. We want to know when we buy something online that we are going to get the genuine item and are dealing with a legitimate merchant.

It has been often said that when a federal agent wants to learn to spot counterfeit currency, they must first know the genuine currency inside and out, so much so that it is easy to spot the fake. We live in an age of technology in which it is much easier to make realistic looking fakes. It has made many of us cautious and skeptical when reading marketing pitches, buying items online or in stores, and even when listening to the media.

There is another level of skepticism that is rising in our time and culture related to the nature of reality. This new skepticism would have us believe that reality consists only of that which one can see, feel, hear, taste and smell. In reality, this type of skepticism is not new, but merely a repackaging of an old skepticism that dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries A.D., which itself was a repackaging of skepticism that dated back to the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., which was a repackaging of skepticism that dates back to the Garden of Eden. Wasn’t it the first skeptic who started his question with the words, “Did God actually say…?” Skepticism is not new, however, it is being renewed in our time in the guise of the new atheists.

C.S. Lewis set  this type of battle of the mind against skepticism in his book, Til We Have Faces, his retelling of the ancient myth of Psyche and Cupid. It is Orual in Lewis’ book who is in the battle with skepticism as she is raised on Greek philosophy by a materialist known as The Fox. Even when she has an encounter with the gods and the immaterial world into which her sister, Psyche, has entered she simply dismisses it once the vision has gone away. Throughout the book she is in a battle to suppress that immaterial reality and to hold on to her belief that reality consists of the material world.

I often encounter this same attitude these days in people with whom I have discussions. Their attitudes are much like the Kangaroo in the movie Horton Hears a Who who said, “If you can’t feel it, see it or hear it, it does not exist!” The question is whether this is true? Is the physical stuff all there is, or is there a reality beyond the physical stuff?

Plato certainly seemed to understand that the physical stuff was not all there was to reality. He understood, in fact, that it is the immaterial forms (the perfect idea of what is represented in the material world) that were the highest and most fundamental nature of reality, and not this world of material world. This was one of the ways that Plato overcame the problem of universals or ideals (i.e. how does one account for perfection or ideals if everything is in flux). I think that in many ways Plato was moving in the right direction with his thoughts, although, I think where he missed the mark was to have abstract ideas without a mind from which they originated. It seems to me that it is more logical and reasonable to think that these ideals were the thoughts of a perfect being – God.

The author of Hebrews echoes these types of ideas in the ninth chapter when he compares the earthly tabernacle (the tent that served as Israel’s meeting place with God as they traveled through the wilderness) with the new tabernacle that God has prepared for us. The author writes,

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Friedrich Nietzsche, in his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, wrote of Jesus, “If only he had remained in the desert and far away from the good and the just! Perhaps he would have learned to live and to love the earth – and even to laugh! Believe me, my brothers! He died too early; he himself would have recanted his teaching if he had reached my age! He was noble enough for recanting! But he had not yet matured.” (from On Free Death, p. 55) Nietzsche’s mistake was to think that this world was all there was to reality, when in fact, Jesus knew of a better reality – he knew the difference between the real and the really real.

If this physical world is all there is to reality, maybe Nietzsche was right and we should learn to love this world and eat, drink and be merry (even though Nietzsche himself never epitomized this in his life). On the other hand, if Jesus and the authors of the New Testament were right, then we are called to a different mindset, one completely opposite of what Nietzsche advocated. The Apostle John writes,

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Jesus, through his resurrection demolished the idea that this physical world is all there is to reality. Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them and that he would come back and take them with him, he said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6,7) In Jesus we have seen God.

Jesus himself is the bridge between what we see as real and that which is really real. He left heaven to enter into space and time. He left the immaterial world to take on flesh and blood. He is evidence to all who will see and hear that there is a reality that we cannot now see or hear, but which is more real that which we do now see, hear, feel, taste and smell. Like Orual, we can convince ourselves that it doesn’t exist, or we can embrace what we truly know deep down, that this world is only a pointer, an indicator, a sense of longing for the truer reality that lies beyond it. Let me return to C.S. Lewis to tie these ideas together. He wrote in Mere Christianity, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” And so we are…

PZ Myers’ Morality

2 01 2010

You may not be familiar with PZ Myers; however, he is one of the vocal new atheists out there ranting against the existence of God, and Christianity in particular. Myers is an associate professor of biology at University of Minnesota, Morris and publishes a blog by the name of Pharyngula.

I recently came across a post by Myers entitled I’m so sorry for you, Indiana in which he comments about an interview given by Mitch Daniels, governor of Indiana where Daniels addresses the topic of morality and Christianity that Myers says was “embarrassingly bad.” Daniels makes the point:

To me, the core of the Christian faith is humility, which starts with recognizing that you’re as fallen as anyone else. And we’re all constantly trying to get better, but… so I’m sure I come up short on way too many occasions.

Myers responds that he believes the “core of Christianity has never been humility , but arrogance.” Why does he draw this assessment? Simply because Christianity claims that we can know and have a personal relationship with God. In fact, he believes that all this Christian talk about being fallen sinners is false modesty. What Myers is claiming is to know the minds of every single Christian living such that he knows that any claim of being a fallen sinner is really just the false modesty of an arrogant person! It seems that Myers, who denies the existence of an omniscient being, is somehow claiming to be one. I’ve often heard that those who deny the existence of God will find a replacement, oftentimes in their own mirror.

Yet, the point of this post is to discuss Myers claim that morality doesn’t need to be grounded in God, but can simply be grounded in man. In fact, Myers makes the audacious claim that there “is no eternal standard of right and wrong.” His claim is that standards change with time. Really what he is claiming is that there is no objective standard of right and wrong.

Myers has already, in his post, castigated the Bible for justifying slavery and God for ordering the slaughter of women and children. Even more, he claims that equality was an ideal of the Enlightenment rather than Christianity. He claims that a 1st century B.C. Judean priest would be calling for the wrath of Jehovah on the likes of Pat Robertson and James Dobson “who lead millions into a life antithetical to ancient Jewish custom.”

Myers, however, has a different answer from Daniels and other Christians when it comes to morality. He says,

I’d answer differently. In the absence of a god-given absolute morality, all that matters is how we treat one another in this one life we have. What flows naturally to me is not brutality, which requires an absence of awareness of the suffering of others, but recognition of the fact that my fellow human beings really are my equals: we’re all going to die, we only have these few brief decades of life, and who am I to deny someone else the same opportunities I’ve been given?

My question to Myers is if morality is not grounded in anything objective or eternal, then why is his answer any better than Daniels’ or Hitler’s for that matter (he also refers to Hitler in his post – for what would a discussion of morality be without invoking Hitler?) Who says that it matters how we treat one another? On what basis does he consider suffering to be bad? We would all agree that not all suffering is bad as many of us willingly expose ourselves to suffering when we go to the dentist or college or even to a football game in temperatures that are below zero (I grew up in Green Bay, WI and did this on a number of occasions). So, obviously suffering is not a universal wrong, on what basis does Myers determine some suffering to be wrong?

Now, I am not saying that these behaviors are right, simply saying that when Myers rejects objective standards, he must then defend why I should consider his standards to be binding on me or anyone else. If morality is not grounded objectively, then he is merely expressing his opinion, or maybe the opinions of a group with whom he happens to agree, but he is not expressing objective morality.

Myers is holds to what is known as hard atheism, in other words, he holds a belief that God does not exist. He says, “There are no gods, no objective enforcement of a benign morality on us.” Since there is no God (or as he says, gods), then that means that we need to figure out our own morality. Myers says that we “should build our morality on reason.” But how is this done? How do we figure out what is right or wrong based upon observation and reason alone without an objective basis against which to test our reason. It is like measuring without an objective standard by which to measure or reasoning without an objective truth by which to check our reason. Whose reason reigns supreme?

C.S. Lewis spoke about this in his book Abolition of Man when he speaks of the Innovator in values, the one who tries to arrive at moral values through reason alone. He explains that reason can be broken out into two categories. First is practical reason which “confess that judgements such as society ought to be preserved…are not mere sentiments but are rationality itself; or else we must give up at once, and for ever, the attempt to find a core of ‘rational’ value behind all the sentiments we have debunked.” He says that the Innovator will not take this alternative as it seems too much like objective morality. So, it seems that Myers must explain what he means by reason. Maybe he takes Lewis’ second alternative, which fits better with an evolutionary framework, that of instinct.

This seems to be the only alternative left for the naturalist as reason would require some sort of plumb line against which to assess our reason. There has to be an objective standard or reason will be left to the individual’s own judgment. However, instinct leaves us no better off, for we would ask, whose instinct should we trust? How do we know who is more highly evolved and therefore whose instincts are more trustworthy if we have no objective standard against which to measure?

You see, Lewis had it right 65 years ago when he wrote this Abolition of Man, yet, somehow the new atheists still haven’t figured out that reason alone cannot get one to objective morality. Unless we are all using the same external standard to measure weight, length, height or depth; unless we are using the same mathematics and rules of logic (which themselves are not arrived at by logic, but simply known to be true); unless we trust an objective external ground of logic which itself is eternal and to which we are bound, then morality is simply a matter of one’s tastes and preferences and nothing more.

One can deny the existence of God, as does Myers; yet at the same time, one also is denying the existence of objective morality, along with a host of other ideas and concepts which I don’t believe we can live without. Myers wants to give up God, but still retain all of the benefits of what God brings to us. It is time that he faces the reality that if he gives up God, he also gives up objective morality and has no right to say that anyone is wrong; at best, he can say that he simply doesn’t prefer their behavior and ideas. I will take his displeasure into consideration and go on trusting God and living with the reality of real objective morality.