Saturday, August 02, 2008


Comic Art


Aaron Lopresti

Alex Ross

Technorati Tags:, , , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator

Friday, August 01, 2008


Are We At War With Science?

In a recent WaPo column Michael Gerson looks at the press (and liberals in general) declared "war on science." As Gerson points out, there is much more at play than simply scientific inquiry:
For the most part, these accusations are a political ploy -- actually an attempt to shut down political debate. Any practical concern about the content of government sex-education curricula is labeled "anti-science." Any ethical question about the destruction of human embryos to harvest their cells is dismissed as "theological" and thus illegitimate.

Liberal views are "objective" while traditional moral convictions are "biased." Public scrutiny of scientific practices is "politicizing" important decisions.

These arguments are seriously made, but they are not to be taken seriously. Does anyone really believe in a science without moral and legal limits? In harvesting organs from prisoners? In systematically getting rid of the disabled?

This last question, alas, does not answer itself. In America, the lives of about nine of 10 children with Down syndrome are ended before birth. In Europe, about 40 percent of unborn children with major congenital disorders are aborted.

All of which highlights a real conflict, a war within liberalism between the idea of unrestricted science in the cause of health and the principle that all men are created equal -- between humanitarianism and egalitarianism.


But the oracle of science is silent on certain essential topics. "Science, simply put," says Levin, "cannot account for human equality, and does not offer reasons to believe we are all equal. Science measures our material and animal qualities, and it finds them to be patently unequal."

Without a firm, morally grounded belief in equality, liberalism has been led down some dark paths. The old, progressive eugenics of the late 19th and early 20th centuries involved widespread sterilization of the mentally disabled as a form of social hygiene. "Drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon society," argued Margaret Sanger in 1922, "if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupidly cruel sentimentalism."


The point here is not to catch liberalism in an inconsistency. At its best, the liberal tradition has combined its belief in science with a firm commitment to the equal value of all -- including the disabled and imperfect.

But science can easily become the power of some over the lives of others. And in their talk of a Republican war on science, liberals may be blinding themselves to a very different kind of modern war in which their own ideals are deeply implicated: a war on equality.
For many, science, or rationality, is viewed as a religious alternative and it is "followed" with religious fervor. And such following generally includes all the irrational and dogmatic kinds of thinking that generally turned such individuals off to genuine religion to begin with - something Gerson essentially points out in the piece by demonstrating an inconsistency.

It strikes me that life is full of mysteries - there are many unanswerable questions. Religion cannot answer them all, nor can science. Thus, at some point, for our own comfort, we must exercise faith. The question is "Where?"

As Gerson points out, science, untempered by ethics, grounded in religion can lead down ugly paths. Likewise, religion, untempered by reason, and particularly when driven by political power demands, can lead equally ugly places. Simply put - this is not an either/or question - and to cast it as such is precisely the dogmatic approach that gets us in trouble either way.

One of the beauties of Christianity is that it embraces the need for reason. That separates it from all other major world religions.

Why do we so often forget that?

Technorati Tags:, ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator


Friday Humor

Church Cartoon Edition

Technorati Tags:, , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator

Thursday, July 31, 2008



Jonah Goldberg on The Corner links to a Reason Magazine piece:
"Nature News" is reporting that the Swiss government's ethics committee on non-human biotechnology has issued guidelines instructing researchers how to avoid offending the dignity of plants. If their projects are ruled as affronts to plants, their funding will be pulled.
And no, this is not parody. What you see in this amazing bit of utter silliness is an incredible combination of godlessness and bureaucracy run amok.

Morality requires some sort of foundation that is other than apparently arbitrary mutual agreement or chaos and silliness come into play. This is an example of that. If one has no creation story that somehow creates a "pecking order" amongst life forms, what are you going to do? This nonsense is actually logical in a purely secular society. And yet, the fairly liberal and secular Reason Magazine ridicules the decision. What truly happens in a secular society is not reason, but taste - and that is oppressive - think about it.

But also at the heart of this is a governmental body that ran out of things to do - so they kept working at nothing to justify their existence.

I remember exercises in school where we were supposed to sit around and decide ethical rules for new science. Heck - even figuring out how to frame the discussion, especially in a fully secular manner, can be an extraordinary exercise in pure silliness.

There is one more observation form this - it is reflective of a desire to have only the personal as a perspective. Note how this is based on trying to assume the perspective of the plant - as if a plant could have a perspective. My point is this - we as people tend to want to approach things as defending our perspective, and what we perceive as our best interest.

Aside from the logical fallacies I have pointed out here, perhaps the greatest value to religion is that it asks us to take the perspective of the other and it gives us a more objective perspective. So in this instance, they ask what is best for the plant instead of what is best for the nation, the ecosystem, the whatever of which the plant is an individual part.

Not that anyone is, but if someone were to ask me what was the greatest problem facing our culture today it would be our inability and our unwillingness to approach things with an objective perspective and a heart and eye for the other. In some ways this is testament to our success. We have so conquered the fundamentals of existence that we are rarely confronted with situations which force us into an objective viewpoint.

Which raises the truly interesting point that the more we progress, the more we need God, not the less. It may be the greatest evidence of sin to date that increased success has created increased selfishness.

Technorati Tags:, , , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator


Illuminated Hymns

Technorati Tags:
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


How Diverse?

Classical Presbyterian is asking questions about diversity in the PC(USA). At one point in this very interesting post he said,
But there is nagging problem that I have yet to really wrap my head around or make sense of, that our level of diversity in the beliefs and practices of our churches are so wide that I don't even know what a basic PCUSA Presbyterian is anymore.
That encapsulates something I have been thinking about for quite a while - particularly in light of my work at Article 6 Blog and all the issues associated with a Mormon running for president. The question is "What makes a church?" or "What defines a church?" or "What is the unifying factor?"

For example, as I read the CP post I would think he would say that which defines a PC(USA) member is our constitutional documents and that which unites us is commitment to same. Certainly, watching the Republican primary campaign, one could say that the majority of church goers in this country define "Christian" on a theological basis. There really is little but theology that separates us from Mormons any more. But the ferocity with which people protect and guard "territory" indicates that there is much more at play here than a mere intellectual understanding of something. We discuss this stuff at near survival instinct levels. What's the hook?

There is the psychology of identity involved, surely. That is hooked into tribalism. Of course, one cannot discount supernatural intervention. It is truly astonishing. Most people think of the Reformation as largely an intellectual event. Printing and translation lead to knowledge and understanding which lead to reform. But much more happened - A single tribe broke into many tribes which continue to fracture into many more tribes, even today. There is far more at work here than simple new theological understandings.

Of course, much depends on what you think a church is - something that has changed significantly throughout history. It has been state, it has been debating society, it has been religious institution. It has had governmental forms all along the political scale from monarchy to democracy to socialistic. What is this thing? Do we just throw up are hands and say "It is what YOU think it is?" Relativism?

Well, if you think about it - that is where we are today. Freedom permits many different definitions to co-exist. Hence also the fractures and fractures of fractures. This has proven to be the only reliable way to manage ourselves. But it also means we should be able to, from time-to-time, and as necessity demands it, be able to make common cause with those that have a different definition. And yet that seems so difficult. We see today movement that will seemingly inevitably lead to a church of one - each of us to our own understanding. Is that truly what God desires? That I know is not true, we are commanded to unite in some ways. Why don't we start there?

Technorati Tags:, , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The Pursuit of Humility

Justin Taylor links to some John Piper material on humility. Taylor titles his post "How To Pursue Humility." Says Piper:
How do you remain humble?

I don't. What makes you think I'm humble? A lot of people don't think I'm humble.

I'll take the question to mean, "How do you work at it?" And that's a good question. I do try to work at it.

For one, I ask others to pray for me. And I pray to the Lord, "Before I give way to any kind of proud misuse of this influence for my ego, kill me. Take me before I ruin this church, this ministry, and these books. If I have to end on a note that would cast a pall over an entire life of effort, please take me before that happens."


Secondly, God always uses means, and the means are both providences and truth. The truth is that I'm a sinner. I wasn't only a sinner. I am a sinner. "He who says he has no sin is deceived" (1 John 1:8). So I am a sinner. This does not take any major argument, and it doesn't take much of a mirror. I just see it over and over again.


A third thing is ask people around you to be honest and tell you when you're blowing it, whether you're blowing it in little ways or big ways.


Finally, you recognize that everything you do, you do in the strength that God supplies. That can be an empty phrase if you're not really believing it. But Paul said, "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. But I worked harder than any of them." Now he could stop right here and boast in his work, but he goes on: "Nevertheless, it was not I but the grace of God that was with me."
Interesting thoughts - dangerous game. One does not become humble, one is MADE humble - I think that is what Piper is driving at with that "means" stuff. And being made humble hurts - hurts in ways we simply cannot imagine until we have experienced it.

The pursuit of humility is also fraught with pride. Progress against a metric, even if that metric is to measure self-sacrifice, results in a natural giddiness at that progress; a giddiness that quickly becomes pride.

Humility is, in the end, about powerlessness. Piper's guidance, excellent though the individual points are, implies that we have some power in the situation. We don't - we have only the realization of our powerlessness. The very self-examination involved in "the pursuit" of humility, belies genuine humility.

I once made humility a "spiritual goal" for a season. Spent the season in fervent prayer and deep contemplation of my "progress." At the end of what I thought had been a season of "running the good race." God chose to tell me, without reservation, what an unmitigated, prideful jerk I was. He did so in a way that I became a public failure, not just at humility, but at pretty much everything I had endeavored to do that season. In the end, my prayer was answered, but in a way that I never contemplated.

The lesson I learned? Pray for humility, but never pursue it - It finds you.

Technorati Tags:, , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator


Kitty Kartoons

Related Tags: , , ,

Monday, July 28, 2008


As It Should Be?

Personal note: We are home safe and sound after a wonderful trip!

MMI points to a Chicago Tribune article on a college professor at Wheaton that has been forced to resign due to divorce. I decried here before the ease with which divorce is accepted in Christian circles these days, so I thought this one was a no brainer. But in this case the University had procedures for him to keep his job that he refused to participate in. Key graphs:
Though the college has sometimes hired or retained staff employees whose marriages have ended, officials say those employees must talk with a staff member to determine whether the divorce meets Biblical standards. Gramm told administrators about his divorce but declined to discuss the details.

"I think it's wrong to have to discuss your personal life with your employer," he said, "and I also don't want to be in a position of accusing my spouse, so I declined to appeal or discuss the matter in any way with my employer."
Given this circumstance, this really breaks down into two questions/issues: Can we consider a university or other, non-church, institution to have the oversight authority of the church? Can a church ever be considered a mere employer?

First of all, any institution has the right an capability to set standards for itself and its employees. An institution that sets itself up as A Christian institution most certainly should. And yes, I think a non-church, yet decidedly Christian institution retains much of the church's authority. My reasoning is straightforward, such an institution is indeed a ministry of the holy catholic church, to borrow some creedal language, if not a specific denomination. Such an institution is charged, in its area to be the people of Christ in that area. That is a church function and so church authority remains.

As to the second question - the way the gentleman phrased his objections, he has placed secular authority over church authority - something to be done in extraordinary circumstances and only with careful thought and consideration. And in this case I see no justification for his decision save as cover. If the church cannot hold us accountable to personal behavioral standards then no one can. Worse, it defeats the purpose of the church.

Now certainly in this circumstance the church has an obligation to confidentiality, prudence and to act justly, something the church often fails at - but to refuse to participate int he process because of the failures of the church, is simply to stop trying.

The church is no mere employer, it never can be. One does not make a contractual obligation ot ministry - one makes a life commitment.

I applaud Wheaton in this case and I hope it stands firm. It is nice to see the church act like the church.

Technorati Tags:, , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Feed


eXTReMe Tracker

Blogarama - The Blog Directory