Monday, 27 October 2014

Thoughts on the recent Abortion and Disability Debate - Ann Furedi & James Mumford

The abortion of those with a disability has been the subject of much media debate in recent months. You can listen to a debate on the topic between the head of  BPAS Ann Furedi and Ethicist James Mumford, the debate is based on recent tweet's from Richard Dawkin's.

I just had a few observations related to the debate and the philosophical basis for Dawkin's comments to "abort it and try again".

1. If the abortion of disabled fetuses is an affront to the dignity of those born with a disability then the abortion of a fetus without a disability ought to be an affront to the dignity of those without a disability.

2. Dawkin's comment about replacing a disabled fetus with a healthy one is not something he came up with himself, his views are based on Peter Singer's controversial replaceability principle in his book 'Practical Ethics'. What this entails is applying utilitarian ethical principles to the problem of fetal disability. Utilitarianism intends to minimize suffering and maximizing happiness, therefore, in the event of fetal disability the mother using utilitarian reasoning ought to kill the disabled fetus and replace them with a healthy one. This is because the death of the disabled fetus results in no future suffering for them and it maximizes happiness/pleasure through bringing a healthy infant into the world.

3. A few problems with the replaceability principle are that it assumes the total suffering of the disabled life will be greater than the healthy one. However, this cannot be definitively known, what if the 'healthy' fetus grows up to be a murderer/rapist/robber etc, or grows up to be a manic depressive who hates living but cannot bring about ending their life. There are numerous cases where the life of someone without a disability does not guarantee producing greater happiness on the utilitarian calculus. The replacement principle simply begs the question by assuming that the life of someone without a disability will de facto be a happier life than someone with a disability when this simply cannot always be the case. In fact numerous studies have observed that those living with a disability are as happy or happier than their counterparts with no disability.

How can the person intending to replace the disabled fetus know that their next attempt at conceiving will actually bring about a healthy fetus and not another disabled fetus? If this were the case the the suffering from a utilitarian perspective is immediately doubled, the parents must go through another abortion, knowing they are responsible for another death. Why must the disabled fetus be replaced with another one, why not a dog? Providing they were well looked after and not disabled? As long as the act brings about happier consequences then all is good and well.

4. The replaceability principle is eugenic, it supports and helps propagate the idea that humans must meet arbitrary standards of normalcy before they can be welcomed into the world. If you cannot see how this is eugenic, you don't understand eugenics.

5. The eugenic basis of the replaceability principle helps to subvert the maternal-child relationship into one which is conditional and tentative. Rather than accepting ones offspring for who they are, they may only be permitted to live should they meet certain requirements and not use more than their fair share of societies resources.

Originally posted at Mind the Evangelical.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Does 1 Corinthians 2:4 mean Christians are wrong to use apologetics in their evangelism?

I can imagine a number of Christians have encountered this criticism or something similar. 'Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:4 that we should focus on God's power not wise and persuasive word's of human wisdom to share the gospel, so apologetics isn't biblical'.

So what does Paul actually say in 1 Corinthians 2:4 ...and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,...

Some problems with this argument

So on first appearances this does seem like a problem for using apologetics in our evangelism, however, you would have to do a few things to conclude that apologetics should not be used in our evangelism. One, ignore all the places in the New Testament where Paul, who wrote 1 Corinthians seems to ignore his own alleged advice, such as Acts 17:1-4,16-34, 18:4, 20:7, 26:24-29 and 2 Cor 10:3-5. Secondly, you would have to ignore the cultural context of which Paul is writing, in Greek culture trained orators were a spectacle, the equivalent to the popularity of our modern comedians in the West. Thirdly, that Paul was encouraging Christian's to use bad arguments, poor reasoning and logic when they share the gospel. It's generally a good idea never to take one verse out of its surrounding literary and cultural context and build a doctrine upon it, this is a common ploy of the cults who use a number of proof-texts to create false doctrine.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Avoiding the Siren Temptation Trap: A Lesson From Homer

The Sirens were mythical creatures spoken of in many ancient Greek stories, notably in the writings of the poet Homer (such as the Odyssey). The Sirens were beautiful creatures portrayed as seductively attractive women who lured and ensnared unsuspecting sailors with their enchanting music and hypnotizing voices. Sirens may have been beautiful, but they were also extremely dangerous. The clip above is excerpted from Pirates of the Caribbean 4, in which these mythical creatures are encountered.

In the Odyssey, when Odysseus leaves the home of the goddess Circe, Circe warns Odysseus about the Sirens, saying of them,
The_SirenNext, where the Sirens dwells, you plough the seas; Their song is death, and makes destruction please. Unblest the man, whom music wins to stay nigh the cursed shore and listen to the lay. No more that wretch shall view the joys of life His blooming offspring, or his beauteous wife! In verdant meads they sport; and wide around lie human bones that whiten all the ground: The ground polluted floats with human gore, And human carnage taints the dreadful shore. Fly swift the dangerous coast: let every ear be stopp'd against the song! 'tis death to hear! Firm to the mast with chains thyself be bound, Nor trust thy virtue to the enchanting sound. If, mad with transport, freedom thou demand, Be every fetter strain'd, and added band to band.
The Sirens were cannibals. They would lure unsuspecting mariners, oblivious to the danger they were in, to their island, to be shipwrecked on the rocky coast. What a metaphor for the temptation we face as Christians! And just like temptation, the Sirens would offer a promise of delight, with a false assurance that the victim would be able to leave when he pleased.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Principles of Godly Contentment

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” These were the words of the Apostle Paul as he wrote from his lonely prison cell to the Christians in Philippi. Those are challenging words, and far easier to say than to live out. Paul knew what he was talking about, however, when it came to suffering and tribulation. Few people have had it worse than him. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-29, Paul describes some of his suffering:
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
Paul must have been a real man of character. To the flesh, the temptation to despair and wallow in self-pity must have been great, but by God’s grace Paul was strengthened that he might be content in any and all circumstances. Having come through all of these difficult life-challenges, Paul could really say that he had “learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” He doesn’t say that he had merely heard that he ought to be content. Paul’s beliefs about godly contentment were not merely a doctrinal or propositional type of knowledge. Rather, through experience, he had learned to be a practitioner of contentment. It is often only through practically experiencing turbulence that we learn contentment at a level deeper than propositional knowledge. That is something to bear in mind as we go through these difficult times in our lives — Hebrews 12:5-11 tells us that God disciplines those who are his children so that we may grow more Christlike. Often, spiritual truth only begins to trickle from the intellect into the heart after we have been trained and disciplined by practical experience.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Art of Biblical Integrity for the Christian Intellectual

Do you really believe what you say and think you believe, and how can you know? The answer may at first brush appear obvious — “of course I believe what I say and think I do,” you might say. If you didn’t, after all, why would you be spending so much time engaged in the intellectual defense of it? This raises an interesting question: Can you believe that you believe something which you do not in fact believe in your heart? Is it possible that we deceive ourselves about what our own beliefs are?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Introducing “Treesearch”: A Novel Web-Based Interactive Debate Map

Imagine equipping everyone in the world with something like a pocket-apologist, an Artificial Intelligence available to present for you customized evidences supporting a Christian worldview and to offer instant scholarly answers to complex questions. Well, it looks like a website is in development to do something like this. It is called “Treesearch” ( and seems like it will be a pretty novel apologetics debate encyclopedia. The content branches out debate points and counter-points (green vs. red) in a way that simulates dialogue, which makes navigation surprisingly intuitive, fast, and even fun.

I will also say this: you can tell that it is being designed with smart phone users in mind, which could be really effective for experienced and lay apologists in the field (e.g. here is a section of the website addressing whether God exists so you can see how it opens up). It seems full of potential, and I look forward to seeing how it will grow.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Afterlife tourism? Legitimate apologetics?

The increase of stories of afterlife  tourism to hell and heaven demands that  we address the issues raised by them and determine whether using them is a legitimate apologetics  strategy. Here is a brief blog article on the subject.

Its almost a rash, or even a flurry, it certainly is a's afterlife tourism. You know what I mean ,trips to heaven and hell. they are two a penny at the moment and I think it is a tragedy that the best selling boks in the evangelical world  over the last ten years are this one and similar type stories. the nook I'm thinking of is 'heaven is for real' by Todd burpo and his son Colton's trip to heaven.

There are plenty more both to heaven and hell? Mary K Baxter has a book, film, and a number of TV programmes.

So what do we learn about heaven or hell..

Demons torment people there, surrounding the lake , pushing people back in. There are different levels of hell and it is in the centre of the earth. we learn about the size of the place, and of the demon tormentors and it's entrances.

Jesus has blue eyes,  everybody has wings, God has wings! the Holy Spirit is sort of blue? Jesus  has brown eyes (accounts differ). Jesus is the only one in heaven wearing purple. There is a lot of Italian music playing in heaven (in fact an Italian band according to Baxter ).
The gates to heaven are pearl like and shiny.

Look, I could write page after page of descriptions of both  places taken from these tourism stories. Many of the facts are contradictory amongst themselves. Others (in fact all accounts) in some ways contradict the clear teaching of the bible.
My biggest concern is the amount of time, profile and airspace. Given to these things. There is a whole set of believers that are totally enamoured with this stuff.
I'm  concerned that so many people are gasping, sharing stories, reading the books, telling everybody else, having their faith and facts rearranged by these accounts of visits to heaven and hell.

Here are some things that have been said which clearly contradict the bible

1. Demons are in hell tormenting people. ( no they are not, hell was created to punish them)
2. People are in hell now.  (No one is in hell until death and hades are cast there).
3. heaven is like the new Jerusalem. ( the New Jerusalem is a symbolic description it is described as a Bride the wife of the lamb, the NJ is a symbolic picture of the perfected people of God).
4. People have actually seen God  the father. ( no they haven't).

In the burpo story there are bits of information revealed about his miscarried sister and other facts while he is heaven. do these supernatural facts show the story is true? They might, or they may be satanic deception or they may not be true.... We cannot verify these things. So what is the truth?

These things are not negotiable. Either the stories are incorrect or the bible is. So how should we respond where say Colton Burpos story is that he saw God the father who has wings and this contradicts the bible where it says 'he dwells in unapproachable light who no man has seen or can see' 1 Tim 6v16.

The link below comes with a truth and health warning that what is contained is a massive mixture of tall tales, exaggeration a, lies and a little bit of truth...

How on earth do we respond to these stories.

A good degree of scepticism!  When extreme financial pressure preceded some of these accounts (Burpo) we can't help but be aware of the need to generate funds. When the stories grow with the telling, getting ever more fanciful (Baxter is an example). When the facts are not independently verifiable or when little facts like the person did not actually die and their heart didn't stop beating (Burpo) become public knowledge we simply have to realise we are not getting courtroom testimony here.
Do not rely on them for information.   I mean it. If we start relying on this stuff to inform us of the details of the afterworld we are in serious trouble.
Do not rely on them for evidence.
These accounts are subjective, often contradictory, the facts unverifiable and  sometimes fanciful. Apart from the fact that some may have some kind of kernel of truth, they still must not be put forward as evidence the faith is true.
Trust Jesus not these accounts.
If we promote, publicise and give prominence to these things we will point people to the wrong place , give them wrong priorities and mislead them.

Monday, 5 May 2014

A Critique Of Seventh Day Adventist Teaching On The Sabbath

The seventh day adventist (SDA) movement, which bases its distinguishing doctrine around the teachings of Ellen G. White  (1827 – 1915) asserts that the proper day on which Christians should assemble to worship is Saturday, not Sunday as evangelicals commonly maintain. SDAs will even often go so far as to say that assembling on Sunday instead of Saturday only became a practice adopted by the church in the fourth century A.D. when the emperor Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Roman empire. Is the SDA movement correct on this point? It is this question that will be the focus of this article.

How To Witness to Mormon Missionaries at Your Door

Mormon Missionaries

By far the most common way people come into contact with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, is through speaking with two young well dressed men, wearing a little badge with Elder….. on it. These guys spend two years of their lives usually when they are 18-19 in an allocated area by the LDS Church, working 6 and a half days a week, either seeking to make new contacts or following up with contacts already made, with a view to sharing the LDS gospel and baptizing people into their church. Its a genuine joy for them but sometimes not without its pressures and strains.
Often times Christians see them as annoyances, or lost causes, far too steeped in Mormonism to be worth the time to share the gospel with. Others see them as the perfect witnessing opportunity, enjoying the opportunity to throw everything they know that’s wrong with Mormonism right at them.
This article over the course of 10 points is seeking to show that these guys are so worth the time and effort that it takes to share the gospel with them, and also that it’s not necessarily helpful to see them as targets to which you should throw everything false you have ever heard about Mormonism. I hope this is helpful and I look forward to comments from Mormons and Evangelicals alike.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Stauros- cross or stake

This blogpost is meant to be very specific and will not have wide distribution. For those who are Jehovahs Witnesses or those who work reaching out to them, this will be of great interest.  The Pop Star Prince talks about 'stauros' in an attempt to communicate his JW background beliefs, so there may be a wider audience than perhaps I think.  Most of the material below is not mine, I make no apologies for that, sometimes rather than writing ones own material promoting another persons work is the best way forward. I may condense this into a shorter pamphlet soon.   Enjoy.........!

As is widely known, the Watchtower Society insists that Jesus did not die on a two-beamed cross but on a single-timber "torture stake". I agree with most people that this issue is pretty pointless and amounts only to a historical curiosity. As most Christians of faith would say, "It doesn't matter what he died on; it matters that he died for us". The purpose of this discussion is not to detract from that theological issue but instead to show that this subject is yet another instance of the Society's intellectual dishonesty and failure to represent the sources they quote. It will also provide a fairly interesting survey of what is historically known about the most heinous form of capital punishment in the Roman world.
The principal argument the Society furnishes is a linguistic one: that the Greek terms stauros and xulon and the Latin term crux (which translates stauros in the Latin Vulgate) did not mean "cross" in the first century. If the words used by the Bible writers referred only to a simple single-timber stake, then Jesus would not have died on a stake that had a crossbeam. So where Christendom get the idea that Jesus was put to death on a cross? The Society claims that the early Catholic church imported the cross symbol from neighboring pagan religions as part of its apostasy from original apostolic Christianity and their use of the cross in worship led them to claim that Jesus had in fact died on one. Of course, if Jesus did die on a cross (or was believed to have done so by the earliest Christians), then the use of the cross symbol by later Christians is certainly intelligible. The following quotation from the Society's literature is quite typical:
***w92 11/15 p. 7 The Cross-Symbol of Christianity? ***

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