Ten Outstanding Pro-Life Articles

Today is the 40th anniversary of the tragic Roe v. Wade decision – as good a day as any to pass along some pro-life resources that I’ve found particularly insightful:

  1. Bad Pro-Choice Arguments (Neil Shenvi): Dr. Shenvi debunks a number of popular, yet seriously flawed, pro-choice arguments. Examples include “The unborn is not a human being, it is just a mass of cells” and “We should combat abortion by reducing poverty, not by making it illegal.” 
  2. Questions for Pro-Choice People (Michael Pakaluk): Dr. Pakaluk poses some tough questions to those who support legalized abortion. This is a must-read for anyone who considers himself “pro-choice”, but nonetheless has a few inner qualms about the actual practice of abortion.
  3. A Future Like Ours (Clinton Wilcox): This summary of Don Marquis’s “Future Like Ours” argument appeared recently on the Secular Pro-Life Perspectives blog. The argument states that murder is wrong, in part, because it deprives the victim of future experiences. This “future value” of a living entity constitutes a sufficient reason to presume that killing is wrong. Abortion is thus tantamount to murder…even though the embryo or fetus is at an early developmental stage, and may lack some of the physical qualities that we otherwise associate with “humanness”.
  4. The Pro-Life Position and the Bible (J.W. Wartick): My friend J.W. demonstrates how Scripture compellingly supports a pro-life stance. He’s written extensively on the issue of abortion, and you can check out an index of his pro-life posts HERE.
  5. Why I Lost Faith in the Pro-Choice Movement (Jennifer Fulwiler): In this powerful narrative, Ms. Fulwiler explains how she came to abandon her support of “abortion rights”. In particular, she discusses the widespread fear of information within the pro-choice movement, as well as the startling lack of interest among many pro-choicers in defining when, exactly, we should start protecting life.
  6. Unstringing the Violinist (Gregory Koukl): The well-known “violinist argument” for abortion rights (sometimes formulated as the “parasite argument”) is widely regarded as one of the most persuasive pro-choice arguments. Mr. Koukl uncovers some serious flaws with this argument, however, and explains why its strength is only illusory. In addition to Mr. Koukl’s criticisms, I would also emphasize the issue of implicit consent to the possibility of pregnancy that comes with the act of sex – at least in the vast majority of abortion cases that don’t involve rape.
  7. Why Your Friends are ‘Pro-Choice’ (Scott Klusendorf): This article analyzes the common claim, “I don’t like abortion, but I don’t think the government should be involved in taking away a woman’s choice” (or, “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.”). Abortion is wrong not because pro-lifers find it distasteful, but because it violates rational moral principles.
  8. Responding to Pro-Choice Bumper Sticker Speak (Jennie Stone): This is a great response to some of the more common pro-choice ‘one-liners’. I also recommend checking out the articles she cites near the beginning (by Kristen Walker and Kristi Brown, respectively).
  9. Pro-Life or “Anti-Abortion”? Who Decides? (Richard Evans): Richard reflects on how terminology (“pro-life” vs. “anti-abortion”) is used to re-frame the debate. He also raises some important questions about what “choice” really means…and when it should take place.
  10. Guest Post on BadCatholic (Michael Frances): In the “pro-choice” vs. “pro-life” debate, which viewpoint is the scientific default, and which viewpoint must rely on philosophical or religious assumptions? The answer might surprise you.

As a bonus, I’ve listed below a few of my own previous articles on the issue of abortion:

  1. The Roots of the Abortion Debate: I explain why pro-life and pro-choice advocates both seem to genuinely believe they are acting ethically. The answer, I believe, often boils down to one’s philosophical views on the value of life.
  2. Abortion Methods: An Overview: I describe the various surgical and non-surgical methods used to terminate a pregnancy. I intentionally avoided using gory photographs, but the content is nonetheless quite disturbing. As it should be.
  3. Possibly the Worst New York Times Op-Ed in the History of New York Times Op-Eds: This was my response to a NY Times opinion piece by Thomas Friedman. I point out the hypocrisy of those who support a “woman’s right to choose” when it comes to killing her unborn child, but not when it comes to consuming “giant sugary drinks”.
  4. In Defense of the Pro-Life Movement: A Response to Greg Rubottom: In this post, I respond to attacks on the pro-life movement from a member of the “progressive Christian” community. In the comment section, you’ll see that this also involved some interaction with Frank Schaeffer (the son of Francis Schaeffer).

If you have any good pro-life resources that I’ve overlooked, please feel free to share them in the comments below.

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On Raising Children Without God

I read something on CNN today that I found really unfortunate (crazy, right?). It was written by a blogger, TXBlue08, who is the mother of two teenagers. The essay is entitled, “Why I Raise My Children Without God”, and you can read it HERE.

The author begins,

“When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. Where is it? How do people walk without a body? How will I find you? You know the questions that kids ask. For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven…One day he would know this, and he would not trust my judgment. He would know that I built an elaborate tale—not unlike the one we tell children about Santa—to explain the inconsistent and illogical legend of God.”

The parental tactic of “making up stories” is probably pretty common – even among parents who DO believe in heaven, but who take artistic liberties with the details. So I support the author’s (eventual) realization that it isn’t wise to lie about spiritual matters to our children. (Quick aside: the mention of Santa Claus raises another interesting question for Christian parents.)

Once we get past the issue of being honest with our children, the author begins listing reasons for why she now raises her children without God.

“God is a bad parent and role model. If God is our father, then he is not a good parent. Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. Good people don’t stand by and watch horrible acts committed against innocent men, women and children. They don’t condone violence and abuse. “He has given us free will,” you say? Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them.”

The problem of evil is one of the oldest and most common objections to the existence of God. I wrote a brief post on the issue over a year ago, but there are plenty of other great resources out there.

The author correctly provides the most common Christian response. Christians believe the existence of evil is compatible with an all-powerful, all-loving God…IF God has sufficient reason to create creatures with free will (and thus, the ability to rebel against Him by committing evil acts).

The author’s response to the “free will defense” is perplexing, however. It’s true that our children have free will, and it’s true that we still step in and guide them. But that isn’t the same as depriving them of free will! As C.S. Lewis points out, “free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata – of creatures that worked like machines – would hardly be worth creating.”

“God is not logical…”

“…If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?”

Not really, no. Check out what Jesus says in Mattew 24:6-9 (NIV): “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”

Christ tells us – rather bluntly – that life will involve suffering.

He tells us to persevere despite these trials and tribulations. He promises that good will ultimately prevail over evil. But He doesn’t say anything about intervening, in the meantime, to actively prevent all evil by overriding man’s free will.

Continuing on:

“God is not fair…If God is fair, then why are some babies born with heart defects, autism, missing limbs or conjoined to another baby? Clearly, all men are not created equally. Why is a good man beaten senseless on the street while an evil man finds great wealth taking advantage of others? This is not fair. A game maker who allows luck to rule mankind’s existence has not created a fair game.”

The author again appeals to the problem of evil – this time citing a couple examples of natural evil (i.e. birth defects). For a quick overview of how Christians handle the question of natural evil, I recommend THIS POST from Clay Jones.

The author’s view of “fairness” completely fails to account for the existence of sin. Evil (including natural evil) exists as a product of man’s rebellion against God. If it seems “unfair” that we suffer the consequences of our sin, perhaps the problem might be that we’re failing to confront the seriousness of our own, personal rebellion against God.

“God is not present. He is not here. Telling our children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch or hear does not make sense. It means that we teach children to love an image, an image that lives only in their imaginations. What we teach them, in effect, is to love an idea that we have created, one that is based in our fears and our hopes.”

This paragraph only makes sense if one begins with the assumption that God doesn’t exist. If He does exist, then using His physical absence as a reason for not telling our children about Him is simply preposterous. Consider the young children of soldiers serving overseas (or detained as prisoners of war). Should these children not be taught to love the missing parent, merely because they cannot “see, smell, touch or hear” him?

“God does not teach children to be good. A child should make moral choices for the right reasons. Telling him that he must behave because God is watching means that his morality will be externally focused rather than internally structured. It’s like telling a child to behave or Santa won’t bring presents.”

Here the author reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the Christian’s motivation for doing good. The idea that Christians act morally simply to avoid God’s wrath is woefully incomplete. If it’s true that Christ – the second person of the Trinity – actually entered into the world to destroy sin by sacrificing Himself on our behalf, then we have a multitude of reasons (aside from eternal punishment) to live morally.

1. Christ, being sinless, stands as our model of moral perfection. We’re specifically called to “live as Jesus did”. (I John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21)

2. Aside from just making us “feel good”, following God’s moral commands becomes an act of love and gratitude. (John 14:15)

3. Also…yes. Acting morally comes with perks. (Psalm 55:22; Proverbs 11:8)

Furthermore, I think it’s fair to question how one can derive a meaningful system of morality in the first place if one rejects the existence of God. In the absence of an ultimate Moral Lawgiver, doesn’t “right” and “wrong” simply become a matter of social convention and/or personal preference? While attempts have been made by the likes of Sam Harris and Michael Shermer to ground moral values in “science”, they’ve failed pretty badly.

The author continues:

“God teaches narcissism…”

skeptical baby

“…Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic; it makes them think the world is at their disposal and that, no matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter because God is in control.”

That’s…no. Not what the Bible teaches.

The author closes by arguing that belief in God is illogical, and that religion should be “kept at home or in church where it belongs.” Obviously I disagree with her sharply regarding religion’s place in the public square…but that issue probably deserves its own post. Instead, I’ll close with an insightful quote from a friend of mine:

“A mind capable of forming an argument against God is itself compelling evidence of Him.”

Francis Chan Quotes

“Can you worship a God who isn’t obligated to explain His actions to you? Could it be your arrogance that makes you think God owes you an explanation?” 

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

“It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity.”

“What if I told you to stop talking at God for a while, but instead to take a long, hard look at Him before you speak another word? Solomon warned us not to rush into God’s presence with words. That’s what fools do.”

Francis Chan

Francis Chan

“But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”

“Not being able to fully understand God is frustrating but it is ridiculous for us to think we have the right to limit God to something we are capable of comprehending. What a stunted, insignificant god that would be! If my mind is the size of a soda can and God is the size of all the oceans, it would be stupid for me to say He is only the small amount of water I can scoop into my little can. God is so much bigger, so far beyond our time-encased, air/food/sleep-dependent lives.”

“Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin.”

“Why is it that we believe God’s promises of blessing but not his promises of punishment?”

“If a guy were dating my daughter but didn’t want to spend the gas money to come pick her up or refused to buy her dinner because it cost too much, I would question whether he were really in love with her. In the same way, I question whether many American churchgoers are really in love with God because they are so hesitant to do anything for Him.”

Bonus: Check out THIS EXCELLENT SHORT VIDEO, where Francis Chan responds to the popular idea that we can somehow have “a private, personal kind of faith” – without needing the Church.

Christianity and High Beauty (With Pictures!)

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

– JRR Tolkien, “The Return of the King”

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I rarely re-watch movies, and I practically never re-watch documentaries. But I’ve watched Roger Scruton’s “Why Beauty Matters” twice now, and I’ll probably watch it again. You really ought to set aside an hour to enjoy it. At the very least, watch the first 3 minutes.

This post will draw somewhat heavily from Scruton’s documentary, but will also include my own thoughts – from more of a “hey-watch-as-I-attempt-to-relate-this-to-Christianity” perspective. Starting with:

1. Beauty in Nature

As alluded to in the Tolkien quote, I find it comforting that the beauty of the natural world is ultimately beyond the reach of man’s corruption. We might do our utmost to despoil the beauty of our immediate environment, but the sprawling majesty of the universe stands by unfazed.

I sometimes talk to atheists & agnostics who point to the sheer size of the universe, and claim that our smallness and apparent insignificance is evidence against the existence of God. I’ve always thought to myself, in response, “what better way for an infinite, all-powerful Being to express Himself to us, than to surround us with mind-numbing vastness and beauty?”

aquinas_unimpressed

When we look upon the night sky…a mountain landscape…a blazing sunset…a wind-whipped prairie…we stop to appreciate these things for their mere existence. They stir something within us, drawing our attention to a craving, within ourselves, for a Higher Beauty that nothing in this universe can quite satisfy.

Glacier Ridgeline

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20, NIV)

2. Beauty in Things

If mountains are beautiful because they are created by God, then sculptures and poems are beautiful because they are created by people. Robert Frost creates beauty by describing a forest, even if the poem is, perhaps, eclipsed by the natural beauty of the forest itself.

Man is unique among creatures not only in his ability to appreciate beauty, but in his ability to willfully create beauty for beauty’s sake. In concurrence with Dr. Scruton, I would argue that for a thing to be beautiful, it cannot be created primarily for utility, or for mere self-expression. Beautiful things often possess these qualities, but they must be secondary.

“All art is absolutely useless. Put usefulness first, and you lose it. Put beauty first, and what you do will be useful forever.” – Oscar Wilde

sistine chapel mona lisa

Also: simply calling something beautiful doesn’t make it so! That kind of absurd relativism might be permitted in modern art museums, but not on this blog.

3. Beauty in People

At the risk of sounding repetitive, a person possesses beauty for the simple fact that they exist. This is best illustrated by the perplexing phenomenon of Otherwise Articulate Adults Making Interesting Noises in the Presence of Babies.

Infants are useless in the truest sense of the word. They’re essentially poop machines, incapable of providing us with any tangible service or benefit. Yet babies evoke an emotional response precisely because of their uselessness. When utility is stripped away, we find ourselves reveling in the mere fact of existence of another human person.

newborn infant

This also comes into play when contrasting feelings of romantic love with feelings of lust. The man overcome with romantic love desires nothing more than the flourishing and well-being of his beloved…even if it comes at his own cost…and even if he will never be able to personally take part in her life. He would gladly throw himself in front of a train, rather than see his beloved suffer pain, shame, or disgrace. He will daydream about performing acts of heroic sacrifice on her behalf (rushing into a burning building, diving in front of a bullet, etc.).

The man overcome with lust is primarily interested in how the other person can be of use to him. The object of his lust is an instrument to be used and discarded.

“Pornographic images reduce the person being lusted over to body parts only. There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows too little.” – Pope John Paul II

I believe that the human experience of beauty provides strong inductive evidence for the central claims of Christianity (namely: the existence of High Beauty, original sin, and our subsequent inability to grasp this Beauty unaided). Three observations, in closing:

Firstly: We recognize beauty and know that it’s good…even if we have difficulty defining it.
Secondly: We perceive that our desire for beauty can be tantalized, but never truly fulfilled.
Thirdly: We yearn for Something, unseen, that can fulfill our unfulfilled desire for “more beauty”.