Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Christ's Substitutionary Atonement for Our Sins

At the link is an excellent article by J. I. Packer on the importance of what he calls "penal substitution." This is the idea that Jesus died in our place on the cross so that God could justly say the sentence against us had been carried out against Jesus as our representative substitute and sacrifice, and could then attribute to us the righteous obedience of Jesus. To paraphrase Sproul, "we have been saved from God, by God, for God, through God." The idea that Christ bore our sins so we could be forgiven is clearly evidenced in the prophecy of Isaiah52:13 through 53:12 as well as in the New Testament. It is at the heart of what makes faith in Christ different from other religions. It remains unpopular due to mankind's desire to earn salvation, or to believe that forgiveness has no cost in blood - but it is the truth.

Gonzales v. Carhart; a review

On April 18, 2007, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion in the highly disputed partial-birth abortion case, Gonzales v. Carhart. The case dealt with the constitutionality of Congress’ latest statute restricting the use of partial birth abortion. In an incremental move away from its prior opinions, the Supreme Court upheld the statute banning partial-birth abortion in all circumstances except those necessary to save the life of the mother.

This case was based upon a so-called “facial” challenge to the statute. The plaintiffs argued that the statute was too vague and would ban other types of abortions in such a manner as to seriously limit women’s access to abortion. They also claimed that the statute directly imposed an undue burden on the so-called women’s right to abortion. In addition, they argued that the statute was over broad and fatally in contradiction of prior Supreme Court precedent in that it lacked an exception for the “health of the mother.”

Cases involving abortion have involved some of the greatest distortion of American law since the odd gymnastics undertaken to justify slavery two centuries ago. American law is still suffering today from both the theoretical and practical changes in the law made in order to accommodate the attempt to justify first slavery, and later racism. But embracing evil does that. When we want something that is actually bad but we refuse to admit it is bad, and instead try to rationalize it and create reasons why it is still acceptable, it distorts everything else. Unwillingness to eliminate slavery was a major cause of the United States’ rejection of traditional Protestant Christian understanding of natural law theory and its embrace instead of positivism and pragmatism. The unwillingness of the United States to deal with racism also created and maintained similar philosophical and practical problems with law. Today abortion poses the same threat to our legal system. It causes people to create inconsistencies in substantive and procedural aspects of the law, to distort reality, and to avoid arguing about the real issues.

While the outcome in Carhart is a positive outcome, it nevertheless does not really go far enough and does not escape the gravitational pull of the distortion that abortion causes to the time/space continuum of justice and law. It seems that escaping Roe v. Wade is almost like trying to escape a black hole. It remains to be seen if the Court can develop enough velocity to get away from its prior errors prior to the makeup of the Court being changed back to a more pro-abortion bent.

Justice Kennedy delivered the majority opinion for the Court. It was a 5-4 decision with Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia voting to uphold the law, and Ginsburg, Stevens, Souter and Breyer dissenting in an opinion written by Justice Ginsburg. There was also an extremely short concurrence written by Justice Thomas with Justice Scalia joining in it, essentially saying that they believe that the Court’s abortion jurisprudence including Casey and Roe has “no basis in the Constitution.” While the case is a victory of sorts for those who are opposed to abortion, it is somewhat disturbing that Justices Roberts and Alito as well as Kennedy are unwilling to come to the same conclusion offered by Scalia and Thomas. What I would like to see from the Court is a simple opinion stating that the offspring of human beings are human beings and entitled to the respect due human beings at all stages of development. As a result, unborn human beings like those further along in development have a right not to be killed with malice of forethought and without justification or excuse. As a result, any reasonable regulation on abortion would be constitutional and the states’ practices in not limiting abortion would effectively be unconstitutional and on an equal protection basis since there is no reason for allowing the intentional termination of human beings at an early stage of development other than to save the life of another human being. In that way, Roe and Casey would be overturned and the absence of a right to abortion in the Constitution would not only be clear, but the presence of a fundamental right to life in all of jurisprudence would finally obtain the recognition it has so long wanted. But just as with slavery, jurisprudence is always distorted when one wants to pick and choose which human beings are entitled to treatment as human beings. It is much simpler and safer to treat them all essentially the same way.

Justice Kennedy’s opinion engaged in a fairly extensive review of the various types of abortion and the comments about them in the record. He noted that the Gonzales case was distinguishable from the prior Stenberg case in which Nebraska’s prior attempt to ban partial-birth abortion was overruled because it contained no protection for the life of the mother. After explaining the trial and Court of Appeal opinions in Carhart, Kennedy sets out to explain why the statute in question is not invalid. He notes that “the act punishes ‘knowingly performing’ a partial-birth abortion.” And then, contrary to the tradition of almost all courts discussing statutes limiting abortion, he actually parses the statute fairly, explaining what it actually means and concluding that the statute is not fatally vague or over broad. Kennedy notes, “The act does not restrict an abortion procedure involving the delivery of an expired fetus. The act, furthermore, is inapplicable to abortions that do not involve vaginal delivery.” He also notes that the act contains specific descriptions of anatomical landmarks so that it is simple to distinguish banned partial-birth abortion from every other type of abortion technique. There is no legitimate argument, according to Kennedy, that anyone should be confused about what this act really bans and what it does not. The act also requires an overt act to kill the baby. This is another safeguard for doctors that prevents them from being wrongly charged with a partial-birth abortion when that wasn’t really what they were undertaking. What Kennedy does not discuss is the elephant in the room. The elephant in the room in the partial-birth abortion case is the simple fact that the way a partial-birth abortion technique works, it is just as simple for a viable fetus to be delivered alive. In fact, it really is simpler. That is the reason why a partial-birth abortion is never necessary for the health of the mother. If the baby is too small to be viable, it can be removed through other techniques without any serious additional risk to the mother. If the baby is viable, it can be delivered alive and attempting to kill it during delivery does not make the procedure safer, but rather less so. This is completely ignored by the dissent that goes into all of the reasons why other types of abortion are less safe. And the dissent completely ignores the reality that delivering the baby alive is safer than any of the abortion methods or partial-birth abortion. The Supreme Court happily has never said that the so-called right to abortion involves the right to a dead baby. There is no reason why a baby that can be delivered alive can or should be killed by a physician. The woman may not want to raise the baby or be able to, but in that instance there are plenty of parents in the United States willing to adopt babies. If a baby can be partial-birth aborted, there is no reason why it cannot be born alive. But as I say, the Court fails to discuss this fact. Even now the Court is unwilling to directly address the simple realities of the case perhaps because of political correctness or the danger of looking politicized or foolish.

Another evidence of the Court’s reticence to face up to all of the realities of abortion is that Justice Kennedy’s opinion still does not clearly explain that the unborn baby human being is, in fact, a human being. He does say, “The act does apply both pre-viability and post-viability because, by common understanding and scientific terminology, a fetus is a living organism while within the womb, whether or not it is viable outside the womb.” It still puzzles me that everyone wants to use the Latin word for baby—fetus—to discuss unborn babies. It also seems strange to me that we want to refer to human beings in the womb as “life” rather than referring to them as human beings. I suppose part of this is to be delicate with the feelings of one’s opponents. But those opponents are in no way delicate or careful with those who have differing sentiments. It is true that arguments on political topics can be overly inflammatory. For example, the writings of William Lloyd Garrison in favor of abolishing slavery probably made the abolition of slavery more difficult because of the inflammatory nature. Nevertheless, one must face the reality of the thing in order to make good decisions about it. Referring to living unborn human beings as “potential life” or even “life” is still ignoring the real nature of the child. Doing so will distort our understanding of what we’re really talking about and is likely to continue to distort the making of public policy or the providing of justice.

Justice Kennedy also happily re-establishes contact with the Court’s normal jurisprudence about challenges to statutes. He correctly identifies the doctrine behind void for vagueness challenges: as generally stated, “the void for vagueness doctrine requires that a penal statute define the criminal offense with sufficient definiteness that ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited and in a manner that does not encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.” Kennedy asserts that the statute in the Gonzales case is intelligible to reasonable people. In his opinion, Kennedy properly notes that when vagueness does not clearly appear in the statute, the statute is normally entitled to the benefit of the doubt. The Court will be willing to consider an “as applied” challenge to a statute that shows why the statute is being unconstitutionally applied or interpreted in specific cases, but generally the Court does not speculate about how the statute might be misapplied or might be misunderstood in remote hypothetical situations. This is a happy change from other cases involving abortion in which the courts have bent over backwards to claim that there could be remote possibilities that someone might possibly misunderstand a statute regulating abortion rather than waiting for an actual misunderstanding to occur. Kennedy restores a happy balance by looking at the fact that the statute is meaningful and saying that if some abortionist really is prosecuted for doing another kind of abortion because the statute actually proves to be vague, he can then bring an “as applied” challenge. Until that time, the statute should be upheld. Obviously it is highly unlikely that such an “as applied” case will ever occur. Every prosecutor and every abortionist knows precisely what is banned by the Gonzales case. All of the attempts to void it for vagueness are simply argumentative techniques used by lawyers to try to maintain an absolute carte blanche where abortion is concerned.

It would have been nice if Kennedy had been able to overrule the prior Stenberg decision and say that the prior Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortion should have been upheld. But instead, he carefully distinguishes Carhart from Stenberg noting the major differences in the statute that make this statute much more clear and easy to understand. Kennedy even applies the actual canons of constitutional interpretation. He mentions the “canon of constitutional avoidance.” Kennedy says, “The canon of constitutional avoidance, finally, extinguishes any lingering doubt as to whether the act covers the prototypical D&E procedure (another type of abortion). The elementary rule is that every reasonable construction must be resorted to in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality… It is true this longstanding maxim of statutory interpretation has, in the past, fallen by the wayside when the Court confronted a statute regulating abortion. The Court at times employed an antagonistic ‘canon of construction under which in cases involving abortion, a permissible reading of the statute was to be avoided at all cost.’…by contrast (to Stenberg), interpreting the act so that it does not prohibit standard D and E as the most reasonable reading and understanding of its terms.” Three cheers for Justice Kennedy in applying the normal rule of canon of constitutional avoidance evenly. Abortion cases should not be entitled to the extraordinary treatment they have received.

Kennedy also discusses the findings by the Congress. He notes that there is evidence supporting their findings and allows them to be given the deference normally given to congressional findings and congressional intent. “Congress stated as follows, ‘implicitly approving such a brutal and inhumane procedure by choosing not to prohibit it will further coarsen society to the humanity of not only newborns, but all vulnerable and innocent human life, making it increasingly difficult to protect such life.’ The act expresses respect for the dignity of human life. Congress was concerned, furthermore, with the effects on the medical community and on its reputation caused by the practice of partial-birth abortion. The findings in the act explain: ‘partial-birth abortion…confuses the medical, legal, and ethical duties of physicians to preserve and promote life, as the physician acts directly against the physical life of the child, whom he or she had just delivered, all but the head, out of the womb, in order to end that life.’ …There can be no doubt the government has an interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession. …Congress determined that the abortion methods it prescribed had a ‘disturbing similarity to the killing of a newborn infant,’ …and thus it was concerned with ‘drawing a bright line that clearly distinguishes abortion and infanticide.’” Kennedy believes that protecting the medical profession by drawing a bright line against infanticide and the congressional interest in protecting the life of the “fetus” are legitimate reasons behind the statute.

Not everything Kennedy says in the opinion is good. Not only are there problems with his omissions, but he does refer to the unborn baby as “the fetus that may become a child.” He also says “the state has an interest in insuring so grave a choice is well informed. It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns only after the event, what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast-developing brain of her unborn child, a child assuming the human form.” Again, this begs the question in the wrong way by implying that a human being at an appropriate form for its stage of development is somehow not in a “human form.” Quite to the contrary, unborn babies simply look like unborn babies are supposed to look at their appropriate stage of development. They are in the human form. It’s just a human form we’re not as familiar with seeing because it is usually hidden within the womb rather than easily available to our sight. But now with ultrasound and other imaging techniques, there is simply no excuse for maintaining the cloak of mystery over the unborn child that was present in pre-scientific eras.

Kennedy does have some insightful moments in his opinion. In other court opinions in which partial-birth abortion statutes have been found to be both overly broad and vague, the courts have failed to note that such findings are by implication inconsistent. Kennedy does not miss this though. He says, “There would be a flaw in this Court’s logic, and an irony in its jurisprudence, were we first to conclude a ban on both D&E and intact D&E was overbroad, and then to say it is irrational to ban only intact D&E because that does not prescribe both procedures. In some, we reject the contention that the congressional purpose of the act was to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion.” Next in the opinion, Kennedy deals with the health exception question. He allows for the Congress’ findings as credible.

Again, Kennedy wisely follows the Court’s own jurisprudence in non-abortion cases. “The Court’s precedence instructs that the act can survive this facial attack. The Court has given state and federal legislatures wide discretion to pass legislation in areas where there is medical and scientific uncertainty…this tradition rule is consistent with Casey, which confirms the state’s interest in promoting respect for human life in all stages in the pregnancy. Physicians are not entitled to ignore regulations that direct them to use reasonable alternative procedures. The law need not give abortion doctors unfettered choice in the course of their medical practice. Nor should it elevate their status above other physicians in the medical community.” Three cheers for this uniform application of the law instead of giving abortion providers special privileges. Kennedy continues, “A zero tolerance policy would strike down legitimate abortion regulations, like the present one, if some part of the medical community were disinclined to follow the prescription. This is too exacting a standard to impose on the legislative power, exercised in this instance under the commerce clause, to regulate the medical profession. Considerations of marginal safety, including the balance of risks, are within the legislative competence when the regulation is rational and in pursuit of legitimate ends. When standard medical options are available, mere convenience does not suffice to displace them; and if some procedures have different risks than others, it does not follow that the state is altogether barred from imposing reasonable regulations. The act is not invalid on its face where there is uncertainty over whether the barred procedure is ever necessary to preserve a woman’s health, given the availability of other abortion procedures that are considered to be safe alternatives.” In other words, Kennedy takes a very sensible practical approach to the problem. Without being insulting to abortion providers by saying that they are willing to be disingenuous in order to keep performing any kind of abortion they wish, he indicates that even when there is some dissent in the medical community, the Congress is entitled to make findings about what they think is really necessary for health or safety or not. In a way, it would have been better if he had addressed the elephant in the room and noted that partial-birth abortions are never necessary because a living baby that is too large to be removed by other means can be more easily born alive than killed in mid birth. But I suppose that would not be fitting the decorum of a Supreme Court justice. Nevertheless, Kennedy’s opinion is still attacked by the dissent. The dissent, as we noted earlier, goes through all of the reasons why they believe partial-birth abortions might be safer than other abortion techniques. In doing so, the dissent also ignores the elephant in the room—the fact that a live birth is yet safer.

In abortion cases, the whole issue of “health” has been a misnomer. When people think of the health of the mother, they normally think that the mother is going to have some kind of injury or disease or syndrome as the result of giving birth to this baby. While all of that would be within the possible meaning of the term health, the way pro-abortion judges have used “health” is to describe a feeling of psychological well-being. In other words, if a woman thinks she will have apprehension or anxiety or stress because her baby is alive and living with adoptive parents, that is all of the “health risk” needed for the abortionist to make sure she has a dead child rather than a happy living one. That sort of a definition of health is extremely problematic. Yet the abortion industry and pro-abortion judges insist on this strange health idea.

In the last portion of the opinion, Kennedy focuses, as we noted before, on the fact that if there really are problems, the proper means of attacking the statute is an “as applied” challenge. He finally winds up the opinion by saying, “Respondents have not demonstrated that the act, as a facial matter, is void for vagueness, or that it imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion based on its over breadth or lack of a health exception. For these reasons the judgments of the Court of Appeals for the eighth and ninth circuits are reversed.” The abortion problem is still not solved but at least the Gonzales case is one more incremental step in the right direction. Lately there has been some dissention among organizations opposed to abortion as to whether or not incrementalism is appropriate. But it should be noted that incrementalism is being successful in some ways and has been successful historically. Slavery was eliminated in the United Kingdom incrementally. It was impossible to end the slave trade until the slave trade was first limited by making it easier for privateers and naval vessels to seize slavers. It was then possible to eliminate slavery when the slave trade had been eliminated for some period of time. Economic interest in favor of slavery had to be cut back and trimmed until they no longer held leverage over the legislature. In America, we were able to limit slavery quickly through the Civil War but at a terrible price in blood. It took us far longer to eliminate the horrible problem of racial discrimination and in fact, we are still suffering in some ways from that terrible blight on the human soul. We have made incremental progress toward the elimination of discrimination. I would like to see abortion ended completely by a Supreme Court opinion finding a right to life, or by an amendment to the Constitution clarifying a right to life for all human beings. If that is not politically possible, we need to continue to limit abortions, pressure abortion providers, and educate people so that abortion loses its economic, political, and demographic support enough to make a constitutional amendment possible. We also need to have bloggers, law schools, and other forms of education that affect lawyers, judges, and decision makers discuss this matter and educate people on how abortion really should be viewed and how it can be eliminated. Unless the proper canons of constitutional and statutory interpretation are taught, and unless people are willing to apply a proper natural law jurisprudence, it is unlikely that any set of judges or lawyers produced by the majority of law schools will argue or write the opinion necessary to end abortion in the United States. This is part of the importance of schools like Trinity.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Immunity from flying Immams?

Some months ago I wrote about the well known case of the “flying Imams” who engaged in outrageous behavior before and during a domestic airline flight. It is alleged that the Imams prayed loudly with praise for Osama Bin Laden, inveighed against the United States, spaced themselves throughout the aircraft at the same strategic spots chosen by the 9-11 hijackers, and demanded seatbelt extensions (a potential weapon) even though they did not need them. The Imams have waited, apparently for the statute of limitations on any counter-claim, and have sued those who complained about their terrorist-like behavior.

H. R. 1, the Homeland security bill, is currently being developed in the US House of Representatives. In response to the so called “flying imams” incident Congressman Peter King of New York has sponsored a bill that would amend HR 1 to give immunity from lawsuits to people who report apparent terrorist activities. The Democrats are opposing this immunity, and want to preserve the right of pro-Islamist organizations to chill the speech of would be reporters of suspicious activities. Some Democrats have tried to water down King’s language to make it useless. Others have sought to delete in altogether.

Defamation law suits are almost never financially worth while for the plaintiff, even if they win (which they rarely do). The law suits are expensive to defend however. Many ordinary people have no insurance or resources to cover the cost of a defamation law suit. If people believe they can be sued, there will be a tremendous chilling effect against speech to the authorities on possible terrorist actions. Defamation suits allow even real terrorists to exact a high price from those who truthfully expose them because a lawsuit for defamation could cost $100,000 in legal fees even though the defendant prevails in the end.

In the current situation it is important that citizens feel free to share what they see with law enforcement agencies without fear or hesitation. If malicious reporting occurs there are ways to deal with that apart from civil lawsuits. But the rare chance of malicious reporting is insignificant compared to the serious risk to life and limb from unreported terrorist actions.

(Hat tip to Dennis Pragger and Congressman Lundgren’s office)

Update: It looks like King's amendment will pass! http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Foundational Law Quotes of History: John Calvin, set two

“To prevent anyone falling into error, let us therefore consider, in the first place, that man is under two kinds of government – one spiritual, by which the conscience is formed to piety and service of God; the other political, by which a man is instructed in the duties of humanity and civility, which are to be observed in an intercourse with mankind. They are generally, and not improperly, denominated the spiritual and temporal jurisdiction, indicating that the former species of government pertains to the life of the soul, and that the latter relates to the concerns of the present state, not only to the provision of food and clothing, but to the enactment of laws to regulate a man’s life among his neighbors by the rules of holiness, integrity, and sobriety. For the former has its seat in the interior of the mind, whilst the latter only directs the external conduct: one may be termed a spiritual kingdom, and the other a political one. But these two, as we have distinguished them, always require to be considered separately.

. . .

Nor let anyone think it strange that I now refer to human polity the charge of the due maintenance of religion, which I may appear to have placed beyond the jurisdiction of men. For I do not allow men to make laws respecting religion and the worship of God now any more than I did before, though I approve of civil government which provides that the true religion contained in the law of God be not violated and polluted by public blasphemies with impunity.

. . .

In short, if they remember that they [government office holders and officials] are the vice-regents of God, it behooves them to watch with all care, earnestness, and diligence, that in their administration they may exhibit to men an image, as it were, of the providence, care, goodness, benevolence, and justice of God.

. . .

The vice or imperfection of men therefore renders it safer and more tolerable for the government to be in the hands of the many, that they may afford each other mutual assistance and admonition, and that if any one arrogate to himself more than is right, the many may act as censors and masters to restrain his ambition.

. . .

[N]o kind of government is more happy than this where liberty is regulated with becoming moderation and properly established on a durable basis, so also I consider those as the most happy people who are permitted to enjoy such a condition.

. . .

[T]he magistrates likewise ought to apply their greatest diligence, that they suffer not the liberty, of which they are constituted guardians, to be in any respect diminished, much less violated.

. . .

[A]ll laws are preposterous which neglect the claims of God and merely provide for the interests of men.

. . .

These things evince the folly of those who would wish magistrates to neglect all thoughts of God, and to confine themselves entirely to the administration of justice among men, as though God appointed governors in his name to decide secular controversies, and disregarded that which is of far greater importance-the pure worship of himself according to the rule of law.

. . .

[I]n the infliction of punishments the magistrate does not act at all from himself, but merely executes the judgments of God . . . to avenge the afflictions of the righteous at the command of God is neither to hurt nor to destroy.”

Monday, July 16, 2007

Darwinism's Skeletons in the Closet

The Weekly Standard's web site has a great article at the link above on the text book involved in the famous Scopes evolution trial.

As the article points out, the dark legacy of early Darwinist literature was racism. If different groups of people evolved separately some might be more evolved than others or "fitter" than others. That notion fit in well with paternalistic, segregationist, imperialist, and eugenic ideas that were wrong and all too common in the pre-war (WW II) west. Evolution has not been the font of human rights. Instead, it is belief in the idea that all humans were literally "created equal" - as the same kind of thing, with equality before God and the law - that has been the basis for historic recognition of human rights.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Harold O. J. Brown with the Lord

Saddly, one of the last remaining great Christina leaders of my youth has gone to be with the Lord. Harold O.J. Brown has passsed over. No doubt the trumpets will sound mightily for him on the other side.

Trinity International University official Gary Cantwell summarized a part of Brown's ministry:

"Brown served as professor emeritus of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School from 1971 to 1983, and after four years as a pastor in Switzerland, he returned to the Trinity faculty from 1987 to 1998. Brown also served as a founding Fellow of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity (CBHD) and more recently brought distinction to the CBHD as a Senior Fellow. . . . Brown served on the editorial staff of Human Life Review and Christianity Today, as contributing editor for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and as editor of The Religion & Society Report. His more recent books include Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present and Sensate Culture."

He will be missed on earth. May God raise up many more men and women, who like Brown, were determined to engage culture on the tough issues from a Biblical perspective.

Monday, July 09, 2007

What is the Augustinian Natural Law Perspective?

Trinity Law School emphasizes an Augustinian Natural Law perspective on human law. But what does that mean? I sent someone most of this off the cuff response to that question today.

An Augustinian Natural Law perspective is theory of the foundational elements of law adhered to by Augustine of Hippo and most of the Protestant Reformers: Luther, Calvin, and others. The theory has a number major elements, including the following:

1. God has ordained that humans should have governments in order to encourage good and discourage evil. Governments require courts and laws that at least specify punishments for specific crimes, but which can also coordinate the community in various ways for the common good.

2. The laws of government derive their just authority not just from the consent of the governed, but from participation in God's order for human kind. In order to maintain that authority, human laws must not command what God forbids, and must be generally in accord with God's purposes for human government. Human laws that are not for the common good or that transgress God's law have no real legitimacy, but should still be obeyed if one can due so without disobeying God, in order to avoid the chaos that can come from disobedience to human law. If they cannot be obeyed without disobeying God then we must obey God rather than men.

3. Humans can make laws within the guidelines God has set because God has revealed his own basic nature and his moral law, which is in accord with his nature, to all of human kind in several ways as described in the first two chapters of the book of Romans, and as assumed by the whole Bible. This revelation is why all humans are morally accountable to God. Because this moral knowledge is not the work of the art or science of human kind, because it is part of the kind of thing humans are to have this moral knowledge, and because the moral law flows from and is in accord with God's nature, God's moral law is called "Natural Law." Natural Law is the same as the moral law more specifically described in the Bible, but even people who do not know the bible have the Natural Law in their deep conscience and minds because God has revealed it to them.

4. The Natural Law is not the only thing God reveals to us. Human laws would also be impossible if we did not understand concepts like justice and mercy. Part of God's "general revelation" to human beings is not only the Natural Law, but the ability to learn language and to know and understand concepts like justice etc.

5. In practice human moral knowledge and our knowledge of language are good enough for practical purposes, but the way we apply that knowledge is affected by sin. Because humans are sinful we repress what we know about God and morality and even words or concepts. Our human language is also imperfect because of sin. But as I say it is good enough for most practical purposes, including human law and human government. That does not mean that human governments will be great. Sin is so pervasive that all human governments are somewhat corrupt and negligent. But they are better than no government. Because of human sin one cannot expect government to solve all human problems or unravel the evils caused by sin. At best government limits human evil and does some coordination for good. Many human activities are better undertaken at a family or church or collegial level rather than by government.

6. In determining all of the above, and everything else, the Bible is the central authority. Even though general revelation is necessary, and even though people run governments based on Natural Law when they do not know of the Bible, the Bible is the expression of God's communication to man and is our guide for truth and theory.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Council of Europe Report Attacks Intelligent Design and Creationism

On June 8, 2007, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe released a report by its Committee on Culture, Science and Education entitled “The Dangers of Creationism in Education.” The report is nothing less than shocking in its propagandistic approach to creationism. In the first numbered paragraph it says, “The Parliamentary Assembly is worried about the possible ill effects of the spread of creationist theories…creationism could become a threat to human rights…” This is absurd. Belief that human beings are created by God and that God has endowed them with unalienable rights is the basis of human rights themselves. If human beings are on a continuum with animals and inanimate objects, there is no reason for assuming that human beings have or should have any special rights or privileges. If the materialist view of humanity were correct, then human rights would all be the positive creations of government made by force and cooperation rather than having any link to an inherent dignity of human beings, let alone the idea that human beings have inherent dignity because they are made in the image of God. Far from creationism being a threat to human rights, it is a belief in radical materialism that is a threat to human rights. There is no rational way to say no to human rights violations from a purely materialist point of view. As Dostoyevsky said long ago, if there is no God, everything is permissible. Nietzsche argued if we no longer accept the existence of the authority of God, then those who try to make claims for objective moralities are merely delaying the inevitable—the realization that only the individual will to power accounts for anything. The Council of Europe is apparently not aware of the realities of the past 200 years or more of political philosophy and seeks to wed a scientific materialist understanding of the universe to a theory of human rights that is incompatible with such a point of view. Then such an approach gives you the ability to eliminate the rights you don’t like and to create new so-called rights freely and without limitation.

In the fourth paragraph the report says, “Creationists question the scientific character of certain items of knowledge and argue that the theory of evolution is only one interpretation among others.” This again is a biased statement by claiming that the theoretical aspects of evolutionary theory and the alleged data of evolutionary theory are “items of knowledge” rather than theoretical constructs or points of data. The whole problem with evolution is that it has become the modern equivalent of the earth-centered view of the solar system. In the Renaissance, astronomers who had more faith in Aristotle than in their observations continued to insist that the earth was at the center of the solar system. In order to explain observations, they had to have the planets and other heavenly bodies move in epicycles—little circles within the scope of their orbits. Of course today we realize that such movements would clearly violate all of the laws of physics and are a ridiculous explanation. But the epicycles as charted fit the movement of the planets and “explain” their movement from a scientific point of view. The difficulty is that true explanations and data are two different things.

Based on a similar faith in the materialist principle, the idea that everything must exist without any volitional or divine intervention—scientists continue to insist that the world and everything in it must have evolved. They insist that the similarity in structure, design and purpose must mean common ancestry and genetic origin. But this assumption is in no way necessarily true. While we have data confirming microevolution within species, there is no clear data demonstrating evolution on trans-species lines. The Cambrian Explosion clearly defies evolution. There was not enough time for the chance development of the species we see appear at that point in the fossil record. Of course there is also the bigger problem of life coming from non-life and the still bigger problem of why something should exist rather than nothing, or a cold, empty universe of exhausted dust rather than the active energy-filled universe we have today. If material were all that existed and if it had existed for an infinite period of time, it would have already wound down pursuant to the action of the laws of thermodynamics. Having a start to time only begs the question of the origin of the time/space continuum or the “cosmic egg” that leads to its existence. By contrast, God as described by orthodox Christian theology, is the kind of thing that can exist forever since He has no temporal limitations. From what we know of physics today, material universes are not the sort of thing that can exist on their own over infinite stretches of time. The experiments performed today to try to confirm evolution merely show that there is not adequate time for development through chance and natural selection as hypothesized. Looking at all of this data, it is the evolutionist and materialist who are living by faith rather than those who admit that the theory is open to question.

Why is evolution so important to people? Because if there was a God we would have to respond to His existence. The materialist view of science is convenient because it tries to give us a way to deal with reality that ignores the entire God question and thereby leaves man to be his own god. If this is the real motivation behind scientific materialism and the faith perspective on evolution, then it should not be privileged above other theories, philosophical or theological. It is really just another kind of faith or theology.

In addition, the whole approach taken by the European report seeks to compartmentalize fields of knowledge. This is often what is done by those who make evolution an item of faith. They preserve it by compartmentalizing science as a field of human endeavor that does not seek for truth with carte blanche but rather seeks only for materialist explanations of materialist data. But such a structuring of fields of knowledge begs the question. This would be like a crime investigator who insists that all murders are suicides or an investigator of animal behavior that insists that all behaviors be explained by nurture rather than nature or visa versa. Structuring a discipline so as to exclude parts of the truth you don’t want to deal with is a sure way to end up in error rather than a sure way to develop truth.

In paragraph eight, the Assembly says “The Assembly has constantly insisted that science is of fundamental importance. Science has made possible considerable improvements in living and working conditions and is a significant factor in economic, technological, and social development. The theory of evolution has nothing to do with divine revelation but is built on facts.” This paragraph again begs the question. It assumes that evolution is “built on facts” and that divine revelation is not. As I have discussed above and as many people in the intelligent design movement have pointed out, evolution is not built on facts but rather upon a large amount of wishful thinking and faith applied to a small amount of data. Science itself, as we know it today, was really made possible by the rise of Christianity. In the pagan world, the universe was seen as unpredictable. It is only because Christians believe that God was rational, organized, ordered and predictable that it was hypothesized that the universe was likewise organized and predictable, acting in accord with divine laws. Science began in the search for discovering divine laws that governed the behavior of matter and the world around us. The whole process of science involves the hypothesis that there are governing principles behind the universe and that these governing principles are elegant in nature, predictable, and discoverable. In contrast, materialism holds no such promise. If we have no souls but our brains are merely the interaction of chemical stimuli, there is no reason to suppose that our suppositions about the principles governing the universe would in any way be rational or accurate. Instead, they are merely the result of the jumbled chemical reactions in our randomly constructed brains. There is no reason to suppose that we could make order out of the universe or that our perceptions could be regarded as reliable. Materialists have happily borrowed from the Christian theistic world though in assuming many truths of Christianity to be true for the purpose of continuing scientific “advancement.” Of course the whole notion of advancement or improvement requires an external standard—one that was not created by materialism alone. The notion of “evolutionary progress” requires some objective standard by which the progress can be judged. Mere change is not inherently “progressive.” Who is to say that a land mass full of dinosaurs is more valuable than an ocean full of trilobites? Making evolution “normative” is imposing human will on it and making a “spiritual” judgment, not a mere application of conclusions to data. Even the judgments made by the European Parliamentary Assembly that some things are bad and other things are dangerous is nonsensical if a radically materialist view of the universe is true. Rather than the objective rational people the European Parliamentary Assembly makes themselves out to be, they are very much like the Aristotelian “experts” who became angry with Galileo and Copernicus. It’s about time for them to recognize that Occam’s razor cuts both ways and there is no reason to have faith in Occam unless there is a reason to have faith in a creator of universal principles and truths.

In paragraph nine of the report, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly engages in an ad homonym argument about the quality of reasoning by individual creationists or groups. Of course whether or not individual Creationists methods are good or whether they present them in an honest way does not reflect on whether or not they are correct.

In paragraph 11, the European Assembly indicates that advances in medical research will be retarded if there is not belief in evolution because such advances are “impossible if every principle of evolution is denied. One cannot be fully aware of the risks involved in the significant decline in biodiversity and climate change if the mechanisms of evolution are not understood.” To begin with, the council is distorting its opponents here as well as making another unwarranted assumption. No one questions microevolution. Creationists and those in favor of intelligent design do not question that bacteria or viruses change over time. No one questions the microevolution that is studied in combating infectious diseases. As for the value of biodiversity or the dangers of climate change, this again can only be true if one believes in something beyond materialism. There is no inherent value in biodiversity or preserving the human species from a radically materialist point of view.

In paragraph 11, the report also indicates that the questioning of the “scientific approach,” by which they must mean their own materialist approach, is “liable to encourage the development of all manner of fundamentalism and extremism, synonymous with attacks of utmost virulence on human rights. The total rejection of science is definitely one of the most serious threats to human rights and civic rights.” This is simply absurd. Science in its materialistic and raw form was certainly not known to the Stalinists or to the Nazis. Over 80 million people were killed in the last century due to the machinations of regimes that believed in scientific materialism and a “scientific approach.” For some reason, science did not cause either the Communists or the fascists to value humanity or human rights. C.S. Lewis has written extensively on the dangers to human rights from a purely scientific approach to such matters as criminal punishment and education.

While there are risks in false belief systems such as radical Islam, in paragraph 12 the report claims that the opponents of evolutionary theory are “extreme right wing” and that they intend to eliminate democracy. Again, both of these charges are comical. The extreme right wing—represented by philosophers like Nietzsche and Heidegger, has never been friendly to God or to Christianity. The far right merely sought to use Christianity as their tool but not to allow its orthodox teachings to spread since those teachings questioned the morality of the will to power. Far from seeking to replace democracy, it is Christianity that advocated democracy and made it possible in the West. Aside from the aberrant problems of the papacy and nation-states influenced by strong central rulers like Henry VIII of England and Louie XIV of France, the actual history of the influence of Christianity is a constant insistence on greater democracy and republican principles of government. It is Christianity that believes that because all human beings are sinful, you cannot trust any single human being to be a “philosopher king.” Evolution would tend to teach exactly the opposite. Rather than letting everyone vote, we should find the most highly evolved mind among us and put him or her in charge. Democracy is supported by the principles of Christianity. Reformed Christianity, in particular, is akin to democratic principles. The idea of the priesthood of all believers is intrinsically democratic in its implications.

The report also mischaracterizes the opinions of mainstream religious leaders. Paragraph 13 reads: “All leading representatives of the main monotheistic religions have adopted a more moderate attitude.” It cites the pope as an example. While many Christians are willing to consider evolution and do not insist on banning the teaching of evolution, it cannot be said that “all” major Christian leaders are pro-evolution. Certainly it cannot be said of major Islamic leaders (but I can understand why the Europeans would be afraid of them). The real issue in the question of strict evolutionary theory vs. intelligent design is not the question of whether God uses evolutionary means, which is what I think the pope would accept—but rather the question of whether or not things evolved without any divine intervention at all. Also at stake here is the philosophical approach of radical political liberalism insisting on a purely materialistic approach to certain disciplines while allowing people religious views only in their private lives.

In paragraph 14, the report concludes that “teaching of all phenomena concerning evolution as fundamental scientific theory is ‘therefore crucial’ to the future of our societies and our democracies.” But it gives no valid reasons for why this is true other than the begging the question type of statements made earlier. It again cites examples of microevolution as proof rather than dealing in any way with the bigger philosophical issues of macroevolution.

In paragraph 18, the Parliamentary Assembly therefore encourages the member states of the Council of Europe to take sides in this argument against creationism in all its forms including intelligent design, and to promote “the teaching of evolution by natural selection as a fundamental scientific theory in the school curriculum.” I think that this actually is a form of established religion and is a recipe for the minor persecution of Christians who do not accept the materialist agenda. The balance of the report attempts to make arguments in favor of evolution, but leaves out any of the problematic areas of inquiry. It then presents a cartoonish understanding of other theories and neglects a genuine presentation of the intelligent design position. While I can understand the Europeans’ concern about radical Islam and how they may be seeking to take over Europe, rejecting truth in the area of origins is not a recipe for stopping the Islamists, but rather a recipe for the radical materialism that has made the growth of Islam and the weakness of Europe possible.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Government and Happiness

Chuck Colson has a great column discussing Tony Blair’s unpopularity. I agree with Colson that while Blair was wrong on many issues, he has done a better job than most Britains think. Why is Blair so unpopular? Not because he is not pro-life enough or because he weakened the House of Lords – no. Colson believes it is because people expect government to make them happy and Blair failed to produce happiness. Colson said:
“While there are many reasons why unhappiness is on the rise, people on both sides of the Atlantic expect government to do something about it. The same poll that measured Brits' unhappiness found that 80 percent of them believed that the ’government's prime objective should be the 'greatest happiness.' "
The purpose of government is to restrain evil and encourage good. But governments cannot make people happy. The harder governments try to make people happy the more misery they create.
The foundation for deep and lasting happiness is in knowing the source of happiness – God. Really knowing God is only possible through Jesus, the second person of the Trinity. We know Jesus first and foremost through God’s revelation in the Bible. The Bible also reveals God’s ways to us. The more we live in tune with God’s ways for life, the happier we will be as well. The more we are thankful and giving, the happier we will be. The more we seek to bless others, the happier we will be. The more we practice virtue, the happier we will be. The more we seek justice for others and have mercy on those who have hurt us, the happier we will be. The more we love, the happier we will be. The government cannot do any of those things for you - nor can it make you do them - nor can it make doing them easier.

Hope from History

Do not be discouraged.

In the fight to reform America and her laws, it could be easy to become discouraged. More and more people seem to be rejecting the very idea that moral truth exists, can be known, and should be the spirit behind all human laws.

But things have been as bad or worse at other times I history. In the late 1830’s and early 1840’s the congress of the United States was so set against even hearing about the immorality of slavery that they instituted a gag rule preventing the discussion of slavery. They even attempted to restrict the right to petition the congress about abolition. The struggle was long and hard, but slavery was abolished, and the civil rights movement moved us toward the end of the lasting legacy of slavery.

Part of the struggle against slavery was the Civil War. Today is the anniversary of the second day of the battle of Gettysburg. On the second day, the Southern army was still winning despite valiant efforts at Little Round Top and across the field of that grim, battle. If the Northern Army had been broken at Gettysburg, the South might have won the war and civil rights might never have been won. But the third day, at great cost, the North succeeded in turning the tide.

Today, even though we have great material prosperity, we are at war with many bad ideas and ideologies for the future and the souls of men and women. But one day human life will be respected, the islamofascists will be defeated, real freedom will survive, and the gospel will have been preached to all the nations of the earth. This will happen through the work of God in one way or another. We should all count it an honor to be part of the struggle.

Stand fast. Hold on to what is true. Fight on.