Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Age of the Earth (Part I)

[This is the second in a 3-part series, "First Do No Harm," that began here. Part III will follow tomorrow]

I have dealt with this before and am seriously considering making it a personal policy to never do so again. I know all the arguments for the young earth (YE). I used to hold to them myself. It is a subject that causes more diversion of apologetic resources than it deserves because the fact is that, no matter who is right on this one, the consequences are trivial and irrelevant. So, instead of arguing the same old OE/YE argument, I simply aim to show that the OE view has legitimate Scriptural support while the YE alternatives are utterly unconvincing.

As I have pointed out before, one of the primary reasons offered by those who demand adherence to the YE view is that accepting of the old earth (OE) view somehow means one also accepts 'Evolution.' In the printed material my reader sent me, one of his papers began, "Creationist, Those who believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old. We know that the evolutionist cannot use the rocks of the earth to prove how old the fossils are ..."

It goes on from there but the point is that he equates Evolution with OE -- even though these are completely different issues! One is a scientific theory meant to explain the diversity of species of life on the Earth, while the other is a simple question about how old the universe, solar system, and planet Earth are. The former is a biological question. The latter is a cosmological, astronomical and geological question. Why does the reader (and almost every YE proponent I have ever heard) insist on equating the two?

The problems with Evolution include (but are not limited to):
1. Inability to explain abiogenesis
2. Inability to explain diversity of species
3. Inability to explain consciousness
4. Inability to explain ethics
5. Inability to explain the Cambrian Explosion
6. Non-falsifiability
7. Used to explain everything we observe and therefore capable of explaining nothing
8. Inability to make predictions
None of these issues go away if you just give Evolution more time to work. In fact, none of these issues go away if you give Evolution an infinite amount of time to work. The dogmatic connection between OE and Evolution is therefore not only invalid, it is irrelevant.
As for Scriptural support for the OE view, I offer the following:

First, the Hebrew word for “day” used in Genesis 1 is yôm. This word can mean:
  1. sunrise to sunset (the daylight hours)
  2. sunset to sunset
  3. an unspecified length of time with a definite beginning and a definite end
Second, the word is used in each of these ways throughout Scripture so it is not correct to say that it always refers to a 24-hour period of time. For example:
  1. Genesis 2:4 (RSV, KJV, ESV, NASB) uses yôm to refer to the entire creation week (this is especially interesting, considering my critic demands that we only use the KJV)
  2. Psalm 90:4 uses yôm in comparison to both a 4-hour watch period, and a period of 1000 years ... in the same verse!
  3. Both Job and Zechariah (especially Zechariah 14:6) yôm is used to refer indefinitely long periods of time.
Each of these is admittedly unique, but then again so is the entire creation account. Within it we also find that the use of the phrase "there was evening and there was morning, the ___ day," is not standard in the Hebrew. This suggests a unique usage meant to describe a unique kind of day. Additionally, this phrase does not occur on the seventh day, suggesting that the seventh day may be ongoing.

Professor Dan Dyke of Cincinnati Christian University has also pointed out that the words for "evening" and "morning" have their roots in the Hebrew for "chaos" and "order," respectfully. This may reasonably suggest that the days are meant to describe God’s ordering of His creation in stages from the chaotic "formless and void" (tohu wabohu) state described in Genesis 1:2.

I bring these up to point out that YE proponents routinely insist that they are correct because they invoke the plain, literal meaning of the Scriptural text.

Well, so do I.

Every one of the definitions of yôm above is a literal translation that is perfectly legitimate in the context of the passages in question. Saying otherwise is just plain false. It is therefore perfectly reasonable to accept a different, but also "literal," version of the creation account that equally honors an inerrant view of Scripture.

The scientific issues surrounding the age of the earth will follow tomorrow ...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

First Do No Harm [Intro]

In response to the article I recently had published in The Lookout (you can read it in my last post here), I received a small package in the mail from a reader who took exception with a couple of points I made in the piece. I will not identify the reader but I will address the points he makes because I think they are vitally important to our approach to apologetics and a commitment to being effective ambassadors for the Truth.

Before I begin to respond, I want to point out that the tone of the cover letter he sent with the material was polite -- he even said he enjoyed my article -- so I don't want to make too much of the attitude behind his disagreement. Though it is impossible to tell if his "enjoyment" was sincere, my previous encounters with those who hold similar views have been anything but polite. For that reason, I want to commend the reader for not being "nasty." He ended his note by saying "comments are welcome" -- so I will offer some.

The fact is that we hold completely different views on the topics I will address but I hope that he (and others) will take my comments with the same spirit of charity with which I accepted his.

The reader sent me a small booklet, a pamphlet, and some individual essays/comments that related to each. There was quite a bit of information in the packet but I can boil it down to three main points he wanted me to consider :
  1. That the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.
  2. That the King James Version (KJV) is the only "authorized" translation of the Bible. The accompanying pamphlet urging me to order a book, In Awe of Thy Word, was meant to convince me of this fact and is available at: A.V. Publications Corp.
  3. That the commonly accepted view of heliocentrism is false -- the Sun is not at the center of the universe. The Earth is actually the center of everything and the entire universe rotates around the Earth.
I want to point out that each of these three views is closely intertwined. They stand in mutual support of one another. As such, showing that any one of them is obviously false should compel those who accept any one of them to seriously question all three. That is, if they are pursuing the truth and not just demanding a dogmatic acceptance of some self-defined test of orthodoxy, a thinking person should at least consider the fact that they may be wrong in adhering to any one of these claims.

Tackling all of this at once would take too much space so I will devote a separate post to each. My aim is modest: Though I think each of these is demonstrably and obviously false, I only hope to show that disagreeing about any one of them does not disqualify one as a legitimate Christian.

There is an important reason why I say this. Many who hold to these views believe that those of us who do not hold to them could only disagree because we ...
  1. Believe in Evolution (where 'Evolution' is never precisely defined)
  2. Do not hold a high view of Scriptural Authority
  3. Do not believe in Biblical Inerrancy
  4. Accept the claims of scientists above the claims of the Bible and, therefore, God Himself
As you can see, the stakes are high. Many times, those who hold to these types of views actually believe that those of us who don't are not "real believers." We are headed to hell. Some are quite belligerent about it and some are nice about it, but the fact is that many of them believe it. Because it is so important to those who hold these views, I think we owe it to them to show that we are serious too.

Case in point: A few weeks ago, a friend told me that he met a guy who was also interested and involved in Christian Apologetics. He asked if he could have him contact me because, living in the same area, he thought we might be able to work together on some teaching/speaking projects. A few days later, I received an email introducing the fellow apologist. I responded with a list of my affiliations -- one of which was Reasons To Believe, an organization that makes a strong case for the Old Earth view. I said that I would be glad to work with him and hoped we could do so while concentrating on the primary issues that every Christian apologist should hold in common. Here is a portion of his response:
While Reasons to Believe does have many things in common biblically with what I believe there are some key differences that deal with the authority of Scripture such as, death before sin, the extend (sic) of the Genesis Flood, the order of created events and logic, … These I could not compromise on since they affect the foundation for the Gospel and the character of God (emphases mine).
You see the not-so-hidden implication: because I work with an organization that promotes the old earth view of creation I have "compromised" on the authority of Scripture, the foundation of the Gospel, and the character of God.

I never heard from him again ... apparently because, in his mind, we are not on the same team.

I understand the concerns of these kinds of people -- and I share them. They are important questions that must be addressed. But our disagreement about interpretations is an internal debate that should never be thrown down like some kind of gauntlet that demands one view as an uncompromising test of orthodoxy.

Believing in full-blown Darwinian 'Evolution' (a materialistic path from non-life, to life, to conscious human thinkers) denies the obvious work of the Creator as it is clearly outlined in the Bible -- which is why I reject full-blown Darwinian Evolution.

I too hold to a high view of Scripture and a classical view of Biblical inerrancy.

I deny that any scientist speaks with greater authority than Scripture. But the fact is that there are some scientific things Scripture simply does not talk about at all! In those cases, or in cases where Scripture's voice is ambiguous (it never talks about nuclear physics or the process of cellular reproduction for instance), the legitimate study and discoveries of science are perfectly reasonable to accept with proper discernment. Science is simply the human attempt to understand the world God has created. So, when we engage in science we are seeking to understand the truth about God's natural revelation. That is not my opinion. That is Biblical:
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their [the heavens] voice is not heard. Their [the heavens] voice goes out into all the earth, their [the heavens] words to the end of the world." ~ Psalm 19:1-4
"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 men are without excuse. ~ Romans 1:20
Before I begin to critique the three points my reader wants me to consider, I want to make this crystal clear. I respect and trust the Bible just as highly as those who hold these views. I do not elevate science above Scripture. I believe that, properly approached, science and Scripture complement one another perfectly. So let's do away with all the pious claims to spiritual superiority. We agree on those points. Instead, let's look at the facts in question and see if they are reasonable to accept.

Let's seek the truth and use it to compel others to do the same.

The fact is that the dogmatic promotion of the three points my reader wants me to consider (above) does violence to the Scripture ... which diverts us from the truth ... which serves to turn people away from the Gospel altogether.

That is a compromise I am unwilling to make.

The next three posts I will address each of my reader's points ...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Creation's Common Ground

The following article appeared in the October 10, 2010 issue of The Lookout, a weekly magazine put out by Standard Publishing. It is my attempt to put first things first as a Christian community and unite to defend the idea that the Biblical view of creation is not only compatible with modern science, but superior to any naturalistic alternative. Though it is difficult to make the entire case in the 1600 words I was allotted, my hope is that we can avoid the internal debate about when God created, and unify around the parallel notions that He did, and why He did.

______________________

Christian theism offers answers to life’s most profound questions, standing in stark contrast to the anti-theistic alternatives presented by competing worldviews. Unfortunately, we in the Christian community spend a lot of time challenging one another about internal issues, and not enough time talking about the simple fact that the evidence for God’s existence and involvement in the world is overwhelming. We can unify around a shared purpose to defend Christianity by understanding that Scripture and science complement one another in amazing ways regarding creation.

Beginnings Need Beginners

General revelation (nature) and special revelation (Scripture) reinforce one another regarding the pre-existence and transcendence of the Creator.

Our approach to this issue improves if we begin not with Genesis 1, but with John’s Gospel. There, the apostle makes the claim that the divine logos existed "in the beginning" with God and as God, which then became incarnate in Jesus Christ. The logos concept encompasses rationality, intellect, and the attempt to comprehend God’s mind. This is consistent with the wisdom that "was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began" (Proverbs 8:23), and offers us a new way to consider God’s being "before all things" (Colossians 1:17).

Because these Scriptural references place God before creation, it is theologically correct to say God pre-existed time and space and must therefore be separate from the creation. This is the definition of transcendence.

Science confirms the concept of a transcendent cause for the universe by acknowledging a simple implication of the laws of thermodynamics. The First Law holds that there is only a fixed amount of energy available in the universe. The Second Law states that the universe is constantly using that energy. Like the gas tank in your car, a fixed amount of energy being continuously used means there must have been a point when the tank was filled. In other words, these two laws of nature point to an astounding conclusion—that the universe cannot have been going on forever. It must have had a beginning.

If the universe must have had a beginning, simple logic tells the scientist that it must also have had a Beginner. Things that begin to exist cannot cause themselves to come into existence. Science is the attempt to identify and understand causes and effects. The specific case of the beginning of the universe is no different. Both scientific and theological orthodoxy imply that the cause of the universe must have been in place prior to, and separate from, the universe itself.

From Nothing, Everything

Genesis 1 offers the clearest statement of the Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo—that God brought the universe into existence out of nothing. This doctrine stems from the first verse of Scripture, "In the beginning God created (bara) the heavens and the earth (shamayim erets)." Though other Hebrew words can be used to describe God’s making things, Moses’ use of the Hebrew bara, the first creative act, means that God created something brand new. The phrase shamayim erets, which has been translated "the heavens and the earth," was the Hebrew way to describe all that exists. Taken in tandem, this entails God creating the entire universe out of nothing.

This concept is not unique to the Genesis creation account. In Job 38:4, Isaiah 45:7, 12, Colossians 1:16, and several other places, Scripture talks about a universe "formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible" (Hebrews 11:3).

Science also offers evidence that the universe we see today came into existence at a point that defies conventional understanding. Several cosmological theories, including General Relativity Theory, along with the laws of physics, have been verified back to an infinitesimally tiny moment after the creation event—a point when all matter, energy, time, and space shared a common origin.

Because the scientific evidence for this beginning point is so strong, naturalistic scientists since Einstein have done their best to avoid it. The length to which some will go to deny the implications of their own evidence is astounding, but the theistic implications of this are perfectly consistent with Scripture’s creation ex nihilo. Christians have no reason to avoid these scientific theories. Indeed, we should embrace them as further proof of the correlation between both forms of God’s revelation to us.

In His Image

Closely tied to God’s transcendent creation ex nihilo is the more specific issue of the creation of life in general and of humanity in particular. Here again, the first chapter of Genesis provides the foundation of the doctrine of the creation of man in God’s image—the imago dei. The Bible wastes no time establishing the fact that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him."

Prior to this, Genesis 1:24, 25 uses the Hebrew term "soulish" (nephesh) to describe the advanced animals—those that display traits like mind, will, and emotion. But in the creation of man, God grants a faculty that exceeds the "soulishness" of the animals—the ability to understand, seek, and relate to the Creator himself. This is the imago dei.

Philosopher Ken Samples contends this rich concept encompasses the uniquely human capacities of moral awareness, creativity, thirst for knowledge, and appreciation of beauty. These aspects of our common humanity set us apart from all of nature by our ability to approach God in spirit and in truth.

It would be overreaching to say that science offers direct confirmation of the imago dei, but there is scientific support for the existence of the human soul and mind. Mathematicians and physicists have shown that the physical nature of the human brain cannot account for the functions we associate with the human mind. In other words, contrary to what atheistic science claims, your mind cannot just be a "computer made of meat." Intellect has the capability to create computers, but the opposite is not true. Computers cannot create intellect.

Our ability to engage in abstract thought and judge the truthfulness of propositions sets human intellect apart from some purely mechanical ability to process information. This is perfectly consistent with the concept of the imago dei.

Keeping the Big Picture

A detailed analysis of Genesis 1:1, 2 has led theologians to make the case that the entire universe originated in a "formless and empty" (tohu wabohu) state of chaos that was in place prior to the beginning of the Genesis narrative. The initial presence of darkness and sea, both of which are signs of imperfection in the Hebrew, stand in sharp contrast to the much anticipated "new heaven and new earth" of Revelation 21, which contains neither sea nor night. According to this view, Genesis 1 is an account of God’s preparing the universe for the saving work he began at the creation and will complete with the abolishment of evil in the new Heaven and earth.

The pinnacle of God’s creative work comes on day six with the introduction of man, through whom he initiates the establishment of his kingdom on earth. Thereafter, the Bible records the history of God’s actions that lead to the future defeat of evil. God’s choice to create man to be a part of his own glorification in this cause makes humanity the primary participant in the creation’s purpose and the central reason for the existence of the entire universe. But is there any scientific evidence to support such an idea?

More than you can imagine.

Even atheistic cosmologists recognize what has been called the Anthropic Principle—the idea that the universe seems to be designed specifically to support conscious human life. Nature displays hundreds of distinct laws, forces, and unique relationships between them that are each specifically fine-tuned to allow life to exist. If any one of these was not exactly as it is, no life—let alone human life—could be possible.

The level of design that has prompted scientists to formulate these anthropic explanations fully supports the Scriptural idea that the makeup of the creation reflects the remarkable level of care the Creator infused into it to serve his eternal purposes.

At times we seem to get overwhelmed in an internal debate about when God created the universe instead of focusing on the fact that he did and why. These are the issues that shape our worldview and bring it into sharp contrast with the naturalistic alternative that is having so much impact in our culture—and so much success at capturing our young people. The remarkable coherence of the biblical creation model with modern science makes Christianity a clearly superior alternative and the most viable explanation for the world as we find it.

That is ground we can all stand on together.

_______________

Bob Perry is a freelance writer living in Cincinnati, OH


--- sidebar ---

Evidence For the Soul and Mind

Neuroscience has shown that simply thinking contrary thoughts can reduce the physical size of the neurological connections in the brains of patients who are afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This implies that there is something non-physical about the mind that differentiates it from the brain. Researchers could hook electrodes up to your head to monitor and map every electrical impulse firing in the neurons of your brain, but they could never know what you are thinking—unless you told them.
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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pursuing An Accurate Sense of Our "Esteem"

Providing our children with self-esteem does not seem to be a problem in contemporary America. They seem to have plenty of it. I would argue that they have more of it than they deserve.

I remember a study that was done during the 1990s by a research group that was studying the state of American education. The group released a report comparing the math scores of U.S. and Japanese high school students. The results were not surprising. The Japanese students scored significantly higher than their American counterparts on an equivalent test.

What was notable was the response to a question asked of both groups of students right after they had finished taking the test but before they had seen the results. The Japanese students overwhelmingly expressed dejection and embarrassment for what they considered to be a poor performance on the test. The American students were confident they had aced it.

On hearing the reports of this study, one well-known critic of the public school system in America (I believe it was William Bennett) remarked, "I think its safe to say we’ve done a good job of addressing any worries we might have had about our children’s self esteem."

Don't misunderstand -- I get it about the self-esteem thing. There are children who live in a state of continual psychological torment by parents who don't care for them, school-mates who verbally and/or physically abuse them, and a culture who tells them their sense of worth lies in all the wrong things. This is cruel and should be resisted.

It is also true that the abusers of our childrens' self-esteem engage in their negativity largely because they suffer from low self-esteem themselves. It is a common human flaw that propels some of us to make ourselves feel better about ourselves by cutting down someone else.

So how does this relate to the topic of Christian Apologetics?

This past week Dr. Alex Mcfarland, the President of Southern Evangelical Seminary, weighed in on this topic in a way that surprised me a little. In his article, "Deriving Worth from the Right Sources," Dr. McFarland addressed the improper values that plague teens (especially girls) who are engulfed in a "photo-shopped world." While I agree with his main points, his corrective "Christian Response" was to ensure that our kids "understand that their worth should be grounded in the following realities" ...
  1. They are made in God's image
  2. Jesus personally cares about them
  3. The unconditional love present in their homes
  4. The accepting haven provided by their church
  5. Their status as a resident (and heir) of heaven
  6. Confidence that God truly has a plan for them
Now, it's tough to dispute any of these and I wouldn't try. I might simplify them in the following ways, however.
  • If this should be the Christian "response," it seems that listing numbers 2 through 5 is a bit redundant in that the are each entailed by number 1. This is not a criticism -- Dr. McFarland is simply clarifying and emphasizing what follows from the recognition of being made in God's image.
  • Number 6 is true as far as it goes but for me it evokes the flawed view shared by too many Christians that it is their job to discover what this "plan" is by breaking some secret coded message that God has hidden from plain view. Greg Koukl addresses this topic forcefully and repeatedly and I completely agree with this take on it. I won't go into it here but I believe we see God's plan by looking backward, not forward. Beyond that, Dr. McFarland's inclusion of the idea here is not negative, just superfluous.
So, as one who likes to keep things simple, I believe that all of the above are included in the first statement -- we are made in God's image. That is the aspect of our being that should give us a positive view of who we are and serve to remind us that the cultural standards we too often accept in a negative way are hollow, deceptive, and contrary to the image of God that should define our human value.

What bothers me about the list is the conspicuous absence of another concept that serves to balance the artificially high self-esteem that is being promoted in contemporary culture. It is this -- we are all sinners who live in a state of rebellion against God. Knowing and accepting this second truth will prevent forming the warped sense of ourselves that our culture promotes in the other direction.

My contention is that a well-grounded Christian should resist accepting the negative view of his or her self-esteem because they recognize that they are made in God's image. But they should also temper that positive view of themselves by recognizing their own natural bent toward rebellion.

In other words, a Christian should not focus on either the positive or negative pole of their self-worth. Instead, the Christian worldview demands adherence to an accurate picture of human nature that honors both -- that seeks the golden mean of a virtuous life. By doing so, we avoid accepting a culturally-defined standard and instead see an accurate, healthy picture of who we really are when we look in the bathroom mirror. And that's the way it should be.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stem Cell Obfuscation

[This is the text of my article that appeared in the Christian Research Journal, Issue 33-03, available here: "Stem Cell Obfuscation" ]

If you pay attention to the news at all, you are probably convinced that stem cell research will eventually solve every medical challenge our society faces. The blind will see. The paralyzed will walk. Cancer will be cured. All this will be possible if the anti-science zealots in the pro-life wing of conservative politics would just get out of the way. And so, on March 9, 2009, our long walk in the scientific wilderness ostensibly came to an end when President Obama issued his Executive Order (EO) removing barriers to responsible scientific research involving human stem cells. The president’s announcement on lifting the ban said, in part:
With the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research…in recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values…Many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research. I understand their concerns, and we must respect their point of view. But after much discussion, debate and reflection, the proper course has become clear. The majority of Americans—from across the political spectrum, and of all backgrounds and beliefs—have come to a consensus that we should pursue this research. That the potential it offers is great, and with proper guidelines and strict oversight, the perils can be avoided.
No more false choices. No more political interference in our scientific research. The ban is lifted. Change has come!

It should be noted that the ethical concerns some claimed to have had about the issue were assuaged by an appeal to the consensus of the majority of unidentified Americans from across the political spectrum. While it may or may not be true that a majority of Americans believe this research should be pursued, it is unclear when it was determined that ethical considerations should be affirmed by a show of hands. In any case, the president clearly implied that it was George W. Bush in particular who thwarted all advancement in scientific research because he placed his anti-scientific, Neanderthal faith ahead of the more reasonable desires of those who wanted to find cures. The new administration ended that long national nightmare with a wistful gaze at a teleprompter and the swipe of a pen. There is just one minor problem with this narrative.

It is complete nonsense.

The legal and political meanderings surrounding this issue have become so muddled it is instructive to distill them into recognizable form. Though most of us would be vaguely aware of at least some of these events, seeing how the stem cell issue has actually played out is stunning to behold. Consider the following timeline:

1978: In the wake of the controversial July 25th birth of the first “test tube baby,” Louise Brown, Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano appoints an Ethics Advisory Board (EAB), which concludes that “research on very early embryos within the first 15 days of development [is] acceptable to develop techniques for in vitro fertilization (IVF).”
  • This EAB was appointed because of an earlier decision by the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects to prohibit experimentation on IVF embryos unless approved by an EAB.
  • The controversy surrounding this policy led President Carter to allow the EAB’s tenure to expire. Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush chose not to reestablish it—effectively blocking embryo research.
1994: The Human Embryo Research Panel appointed by the head of the National Institute of Health’s Harold Varmus, recommends allowing the development of IVF techniques and the study of embryonic stem cells.
  • Such research would only be allowed with “spare” IVF embryos obtained through informed parental consent.
  • The panel recommended further consideration of the creation of embryos for research purposes and argued for federal funding of the same. The contentious nature of that stance led to further political maneuvers during the Clinton administration.
1996: Congress passes, and President Clinton signs, a rider to an appropriations bill, titled the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which makes it illegal for the federal government to fund research that destroys human embryos. This rider has been reapproved by Congress and signed by the president in office every year since then.

1998: President Clinton signs an Executive Order enforcing the ban on federal funding for ESCR that destroys human embryos. He bases his decision to do so on the restrictions created by the Dickey-Wicker Amendment.

2000: After six years of taking a position against taxpayer funding of the destructive research, and on his way out of office, President Clinton flip-flops and announces his support for new federal guidelines that would allow taxpayer funding of embryo-destructive research. This apparent set-up for the incoming Gore administration backfires when Gore loses the election.

2001—August 9th: President Bush signs an EO meant to compromise on the restrictions that had previously been placed on ESCR. This order continues the restrictions put in place by the Dickey-Wicker Amendment but allows an exception for more than $200 million in federal funding for twenty-one existing stem cell “lines” that had previously been created (through IVF). Thus, President Bush becomes the first president to allow federal funding of ESCR. At this point, federal funding for ESCR is restricted to these twenty-one lines. It is not “banned.” There is not, and there has never been, a ban on privately funded research.

2007—June 20th: President Bush issues Executive Order #13435, which requires the government to fund research into alternative methods of obtaining pluripotent stem cells—methods such as Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IPSC)—that do not require the destruction of embryos but instead “induce” regular adult skin cells to act like pluripotent cells.

2008:
“Scientific researchers hail the development of IPSCs as the biggest scientific breakthrough of the year.”

2009—March 9th: President Obama rescinds Bush’s August 9, 2001, EO with his own EO entitled, Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells. The revocation of Bush’s EO is heralded as “lifting the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).” This EO simultaneously revokes Bush EO #13435, which has provided federal funding of successful IPSC research. This aspect of the order is not mentioned at the press conference.

2009—March 11th: President Obama signs and renews the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which continues the ban on federal funding for ESCR that Obama claims to have lifted two days earlier. No announcement is made and no press conference is called.

Whatever one’s politics, it is hard to deny the purposeful deceit and tactical shenanigans that have gone on with respect to ESCR. Obama claims to want to honor both the scientific promises of stem cell research and the ethical reservations of those who hold them. But the practical outcomes of his policies have done nothing of the sort. Though he refuses to ever acknowledge a difference between stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research, his policies have led us to the point where creating cloned embryos with the purpose of letting the created human being live is illegal, while creating cloned embryos for the purpose of tearing them apart for research purposes is encouraged and federal funding for it has been increased.
Though he claims to have “lifted the ban of the last eight years,” two days after he did so he knowingly and quietly re-signed the amendment that overrode his own Executive Order. Though he claims to approve of “promising research,” President Obama touts the very kind of research—embryonic stem cell research—that has led to exactly zero cures. At the same time, his revocation of President Bush’s Executive Order #13435 directly eliminated federal funding for adult stem cell research such as IPSC that has already led to more than seventy-three successful therapies.

Most disingenuously, and most importantly, Obama believes that his opponents on this issue are offering us “a false choice between sound science and moral values.” Further, in his speech at Notre Dame University, he claimed to seek “common ground” with those who do have ethical reservations about ESCR. One must wonder why, if the conflict some seem to see between sound science and moral values is a false one, there would be any need for compromise at all?

Even if we disregard the inconsistency in those two lines of thought, it is clear that research like that being done on IPSC gives us the best of both worlds. Beyond its proven technical success, it holds the principal advantage of avoiding the very aspect of ESCR that some find ethically troubling—the destruction of human embryos.

This represents the ultimate political winner. By promoting IPSC, Obama could not only take credit for its scientific success, but also simultaneously allay the ethical concerns that many hold. It is a political dream solution, yet Obama deliberately and quietly defunded it. This can only mean that Obama’s motivations on stem cell research are not political.
And if they are not political, one has to wonder just what his motivations are.

Robert Perry, M.A. (Christian Apologetics) Biola University, is a speaker with the Life Training Institute and an instructor with CrossExamined.org. He blogs about Christian worldview issues at http://true-horizon.blogspot.com.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Our Korean Connection

With Mr. Young Kil Lee at KyungMin University in Uijeongbu
Thanks to all who left comments and offered their support in other ways about this latest adventure Mary and I took to Korea. I'm sorry I couldn't provide updates but we had no access to the internet while we were there (beyond checking email on a public computer once). What an incredible week for me personally, and for the mission of the Life Training Institute (LTI)!

No description of this trip to Korea would be complete without acknowledging the work of Mr. Young Kil Lee, our guide, interpreter and my newest friend. Mr. Lee worked tirelessly for months planning the trip. He led us by subway, bus, car and taxi all over Seoul, Daejon (his hometown) and Cheongju. There wasn't a day that did not include at least 4 hours of travel time, but none of it was wasted.

Mr. Lee would tell fellow train riders that I was an American -- as if they couldn't tell :-) -- who was there to talk about "knock-tae" (abortion). He had handouts he would give them that explained the mission of LTI in Korean. One lady became so excited she asked to pray for us right there on the subway.

I was without access to the internet for the week, so I could not update from Korea. The schedule ended up changing quite a bit (mostly with additions) since I left home, but here is a summary of the impact LTI made into a country with one of the highest abortion rates in the world:

Sunday
Myung Sung Presbyterian Church English Service (400)
Uijeongbu Community Christian Church (25)

Monday
International Christian High School - Uijeongbu (100)
:: Seoul sightseeing in the afternoon ::

Tuesday
EUCON Christian High School (35 + several parents!)
KyungMin University Students (800 in two sessions)

Wednesday
Young Shin Girls High School (500)
KyungMin University Faculty (400)

Thursday
Daesung Boys High School for 3 back-to-back sessions (1500 total)
Sam Nam Church Pastor's meeting in Cheongju (40 pastors and many of their wives)

Friday
Kwang Sung Boys High School 2 sessions (1000 total)

Several of the presentations included Q&A time where I was asked some pretty tough questions -- the usual kinds that we are challenged with. Though it was difficult to work through the language barrier at times, I believe the questioners were satisfied -- even when they disagreed. One lady who was pretty emphatic in her disagreement with me actually bought a group of ten of us dinner afterward and thanked us repeatedly for being there.

While this list shows us speaking to just under 5000 students, pastors and university faculty members, it does not do justice to the impact LTI had -- largely due to Mr. Lee's strategic planning. For instance, the Myung Sung Church we visited on Sunday is the largest Presbyterian church in the world (at just over 100,000 members). Though I only spoke to about 400 at the English Service, those included faculty members from several local universities and about six of Myung Sung's pastors. Each of them approached me afterward and thanked me for "delivering this message to Korea." One of them told Mr. Lee he wished I could have spoken to the main congregation.

On Thursday, the small pastor's meeting at Sam Nam Christian Church was planned because Cheongju is a modern and fast-growing city southeast of Seoul -- an "up and coming" place. Those 40 pastors represented an estimated 8,000 congregants who will soon have the LTI message delivered to them. It also included several more college faculty members who were drinking the message in and want to offer a "Pro-Life Seminar" on the LTI material at a local university.

Mr. Lee thinks strategically.

The list goes on. I cannot tell you the number of people who sat in stunned disbelief when they heard and saw the truth about abortion -- or how many left in tears. It is a subject that Koreans simply have not talked about -- until now.

I think the Korea trip was a huge success but I'll leave it to Mr. Lee (in his second language, please remember) to sum it up:
Thank you Bob and Mary for your sweet testimony of Jesus that you showed to me and thousands Korean people everywhere your presence were. Many Koreans were blessed and trained by your sacrificial and loving ministry of your message with clear answer to the question WHAT IS THE UNBORN? I pray God will continue to work His will in many thousands lives that heard this message from you so that they will be lead by the Holy Spirit to protect many lives of the unborn. I expect to keep communicating with you and will hear of your next coming to Korea for the ministry in Korea for Korean people.