After-Birth Abortions and Infanticide

Philosopher Peter Singer is famous for advocating infanticide, acknowledging that if it is okay to kill a baby in the womb, nothing magical happens in the journey down the birth canal.  Recently, two ethicists, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, in Australia have argued in a the Journal of Medical Ethics for the same sort of thing.  You can read about their article here.  I would like to respond by making a few observations.

First, I must be honest by saying that I have two autistic children and so I am far from impartial on this issue.

Secondly, this is a dangerous game they are playing.  They are advocating the death of someone and defending it by redefining the victim.  Find the killing of a baby as offensive?  Then all we have to do is redefine them as being outside the category of ‘person.’  Now it is no big deal.  This is the same sort of defence that the Nazis used in the holocaust.  I understand that comparing an opponent to the Nazis is unpopular but in this case, there is a parallel.  How would the authors of this article feel if the state redefined what they are and used that as support in taking away their rights?

The argument by these authors reveals a deep problem within society.  They acknowledge that some special needs children live good and fulfilling lives.  At the same time, they suggest that the personal comfort and ease of the parents outweighs the potential good life of the child.  As a parent of five children, I am not sure when personal comfort or ease of the parents ever became a priority.  Frankly, even the parent of a healthy child would probably have an easier life in terms of money and leisure time if the baby was killed shortly after birth.  Is this really acceptable?  Work needs to be done on what society considers virtue and where personal comfort fits on that scale.

This article focuses on the wish of the parents.  If the parents think it would be easier if the child is killed, their wish should be honoured.  If this was ever put into practice, how long before society in general gets the say?  The benefit for society is hinted at in this article.  How much money is spent on health issues for people born with disorders or at least having the genetic marking that would identify issues later on?  How much could society save if these people were killed at birth?  If this door is ever opened, how could society stay uninvolved?  Why should others pay for the choice some parents make not to kill their baby?

Finally, I want to acknowledge that these authors and others are at least being consistent.  If babies inside the womb are allowed to be killed, then there is no reason that babies outside the womb should be protected.  If people are repelled by what these ethicists are saying, they should also rethink what they think about abortion, especially late term abortions.

I want to say that as a parent of two autistic children, I am thankful they were not aborted and they were not a victim of infanticide.  It is hard being the parents of special needs children but it is also hard being parents of typical children.  These children are not a drain on us or our society.  They bring great joy and emotional maturity to all that they encounter.  No redefinition will ever change that.


Online Apologetics Conference

Athanatos Christian Ministries is presenting their annual Online Apologetics Conference on April 19-21, 2012.  The focus is on literary apologetics, but they will have talks on general apologetics as well.  I will be speaking at the conference on April 19 on the theme “Reading the New Testament in Context.”  Check it out.  It is a great opportunity to attend an apologetics conference without the expense of travelling.

Doctrines and Covenants

What are the Doctrines and Covenants?  The D&C is a book that is considered scripture by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Community of Christ.  A large portion of this book are writings that Joseph Smith, Jr. claimed that he received by prophecy. If you are looking for theological insight into these movements, you may be disappointed.  While there is some of this, much of it is about where a certain missionary would go or who would take a certain position in the organization.  Without trying to be offensive, it is one of the most boring books I have read.  At least the Book of Mormon is a narrative.  It is important to note that the LDS and the C of C use a different version of this book.  They overlap with the Joseph Smith, Jr. material but diverge after that.  The C of C version has sections given even within the last few years.  If you are interested in Mormonism or the Community of Christ, it is worth looking at.  Not so much for the details that are written but for how they understand revelation and of the spiritual authority of their organizations.  You can find the LDS version here.  You can find some recent sections of the C of C version here.

Mere Apologetics

Strangely, I was not particularly looking forward to reading Alister McGrath’s Mere Apologetics.  I was not dreading it, but I was not excited either.  That is strange because I really like the work of Alister McGrath and I really am interested in apologetics.  My ambivalence was more about multitude of general apologetics books that have come on the market lately.  How many times do we have to be told how to give evidence for the existence of God?

However, once I picked up Mere Apologetics, I was hooked.  McGrath does not just rehash old arguments under a new title and author.  Mere Apologetics is more than a collection of arguments, it is a guide on how to do apologetics in a practical way.  Apologetics is so much more than throwing a standard argument at a generic skeptic and expecting them to convert.  Apologetics is both a science and an art.  McGrath draws on his experience with the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics to reflect on what apologetics looks like in the real world as opposed to a simply theoretical model.

McGrath really wrestles with the definition of apologetics.  As apologetics has taken a more prominent role in the church, it has taken on such a wide meaning that it now means almost nothing.  McGrath differentiates apologetics from evangelism, although they have an important relationship.  Neither is apologetics a set of arguments, but rather is reflection on Christian truth and respectful conversation with others to clarify what the Gospel is and responding to misrepresentations.  McGrath explains the science and art of apologetics in this way: “Just as the science of apologetics is partly concerned with theological analysis of the Christian proclamation, so the art of apologetics is concerned with the imaginative and creative application of its respective components to its audiences.” (p. 57.)

While McGrath does present the classic arguments for the existence of God, he provides much more.  McGrath takes the would-be apologist to the next step by demonstrating how these are used in the real world.  McGrath provides helpful advice on how to make the most of a conversation and gives warnings against some of the common mistakes.  I appreciate that McGrath stresses the practice of apologetics.  Apologetics is not something just be learned, collecting books and trips to conferences.  Apologetics is something that should actually be done with real people.  Even if you are seasoned apologist who knows the standard arguments inside out, I would recommend that you read Mere Apologetics as a reminder of why we do what we do.  If you are a beginner, this book will give you the encouragement and some of the tools you need to get started.  This is an excellent book and on an important topic written in an engaging manner.  Highly recommended.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Viewpoint on Mormonism

I have been enjoying a podcast called Viewpoint on Mormonism.  You can also get it on iTunes here.  It is put on by Mormon Research Ministries.  What I enjoy about this podcast is that they focus on primary sources from Mormon writers and even more that they go out of their way to be respectful toward Mormons.  They also have a blog with an awesome name, Mormon Coffee: It’s Forbidden, But It’s Good!

A Revised Jesus and Attitudes Toward the Poor

I have been very much shocked by what I am seeing concerning attitudes of the poor by some conservative Christians.  This comes up particularly when it comes to healthcare for the poor.  I have no problem with people having issues with a particular plan for health care, nor do I think it is bad that people are hesitant to pay higher taxes.  What I find surprising is that some Christians see healthcare provided for the poor as anti-Christian.  The issue seems to be that taxes equal socialism and are a redistribution of wealth, just a shade away from communism. Let me make things clear, I am a capitalist and not a communist.  I am all for private property and I am not interested in all income being collected and then redistributed according to the government’s whims.  At the same time, I do not begrudge the fact that some of my tax money goes to help provide cancer care for my fellow Canadians.  While I have been reflecting on this, I thought I would revise one of Jesus’ teachings according to what I am hearing from some circles.

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”  Jesus replied, “It depends on what the taxes are used for.”  Jesus explained, “I have no problem paying taxes to build roads and for funding military expeditions, but I cannot condone tax money being used to help the poor.  Capitalism is the premier virtue in the kingdom of God and I am sickened by the idea of the rich having to sacrifice their comfort to help the poor.  The poor are welcome to their blessings in heaven, but helping the poor through government involvement is unacceptable.  I would rather the poor suffer than the government get involved.”

I hear two main objections to Christians being open to the government’s care of the poor.  One is that it is too high a price to pay knowing that taxes are also being used for purposes that we find immoral.  In Matthew 17:24-27, we see Jesus paid taxes.  Should we assume that those taxes were used only for righteous purposes?  Surely Jesus understood how they would be used and yet paid them anyway.  We should put pressure on the government to be selective in what they provide in health care, but that is a separate conversation from whether or not poor people should have affordable healthcare.

The second objection is that Christians are already very generous in giving to charities and that is how care for the poor should take place.  I agree that Christians are big givers and I am thankful for that.  But where do most Christians give their money to?  They would give to their local church, to missionaries and to relief organizations working overseas.  How much of our charity dollars go to that poor family with a child struggling with cancer?  If the Canadian government stopped providing healthcare, I would not even know how to begin  supporting the poor burdened by huge medical bills.  If the church stepped up to the plate, funding hospitals, doctors and healthcare, then the government should not do it.  But I don’t see the church doing that any time soon.

I understand that people feel very strongly about this subject.  I hesitate to talk about it because I feel like a minority among evangelicals with my position.  My frustration is when conservatives talk as if the clear and important message of the Bible is that of capitalism and that if care for the poor appears all, it is a minor issue for the real spiritual to give if they feel led to.  I truly believe that if we understood what the Bible says about the poor and had a glimpse of God’s heart for the poor, we would do whatever we needed to make a difference, even if that meant paying higher taxes.  How shall we respond when we stand before God with what we did with our lives?  Shall we boldly proclaim that we made sure those poor people did not get any of their desperate hands on the rich’s money?  I pray not.