Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Millennials and Civil Society

A recent report by the Pew Research Center on millennials gives some worrying news:

The portrait painted of Millennial Americans by the Pew Research Center in its new report Millennials in Adulthood is not rosy. Sure, compared with earlier generations, Millennials (now aged 18 to 33) are exceptionally tolerant, optimistic about their economic future, and connected to friends, family, and colleagues on the “new platforms of the digital era” — from Facebook to Twitter. But this report makes clear that Millennial ties to the core human institutions that have sustained the American experiment — work, marriage, and civil society — are worryingly weak. …

If today’s events in Europe, not to mention of the last century, tell us anything, it is that a generation of young adults “unmoored” from the institutions of work, family, and civil society, and distrustful of their fellow citizens, can end up succumbing to the siren song of demagogues, especially if the economy dips into a depression.

The State Of Marriage Debates In The Public Discourse

This is from Australia and I think sometimes it’s worth seeing how this debate is playing out around the industrialized English-speaking world, as it removes it a tiny bit from the personalities and battle lines right here in North America:

I don’t know if it’s just the camera angle, but the questioner’s angry death-stare does him absolutely no favours here. Now I know that some of those who might oppose same-sex civil marriage might have legitimate beefs with Rudd’s interpretations about what exactly is said about slavery in the New Testament, but what’s significant here is that this is a very similar form to what Dan Savage did in another debate video we posted here a while ago. Claiming that the Bible refers to outdated socio-economic relationships in the area of slavery opens the door to the possibility that the same is true for the Bible and same-sex couples. This argument may be constructed quickly and easily and strikes the audience as plausible. It’s enough that the questioner only has his impotent angry stare and no other answer. Even if Rudd loses the election (as he well might), he is winning this argument in the eyes of many.

Where the most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage have harmed themselves (and other Christians as well perhaps) is that the argument for equal marriage now moves the front line to the Bible itself. By insisting initially that the Bible and the Bible alone – as interpreted by conservative evangelicals and/or Roman Catholics – be the template for all human relationships in Western societies, even for those of other religious or philosophical views, they have made the Bible itself debatable. Savage or Rudd can now say, in effect, “You conservative evangelicals and/or Roman Catholics claim this book is what governs how all people ought to interact? Okay, let’s look at all of it here and see what it really says.” This is not confined to problems around unclear wording used in the New Testament or that much of the Levitical law has otherwise been abandoned by Christians, this is now the whole Bible up for debate. I do not know if the opponents of same-sex civil marriage are going to like where this leads.

Savage Vs. Brown On Gay Marriage

I had read this dining room debate was going to happen, but then I didn’t hear anything about it for a long time, and then this footage of the whole thing came up on some random YouTube feed and I thought it might be worth posting (since we did discuss the Hitchens v. Wilson debate on here as well).

Would be interested to hear our readership’s thoughts. I think that Brian Brown gropes for some kind of natural law argument but it comes off as a dictionary definition sort of tautology – marriage is one man and one woman because that’s what marriage is. Savage’s exegesis is sloppy, particularly around slavery. I don’t think Brown makes the case that Savage’s (re)definition of marriage to include himself and his partner threatens Brown’s own marriage other than that Brown will feel somehow cheapened.

One Man’s “Free Market” Is Another’s “Consumerism”

The possibility that the US may soon, at a federal level, do what several states, Canada, and a number other countries have already done vis-a-vis legalizing same sex marriage has caused any number of folks to restate comprehensive arguments both for and against same-sex marriage. The contra side often includes appeals to some kind of natural law, warnings about churches being persecuted but also arguments of the sort that Alastair makes here about the decline of a sort of marriage culture:

“[T]he re-imagining of marriage taking place in many quarters does not merely rest with the issue of whether two men or two women can marry each other just like a man and a woman. Rather, the very sort of thing that marriage itself is is in the process of being re-imagined. As I have argued elsewhere, marriage is ceasing to be about institutional norms and public values and is gradually moving towards a more privatized lifestyle consumer model.”

One has to pause here and ask what, in all of North American and wider Western culture, is not being remade in a “privatized lifestyle consumer model?” Indeed, by wanting to enter into the institution of marriage, it may be argued that at least some LGBT people are specifically wanting to make a public, lasting commitment to their spouse (while I’m sure not all do, just as not all heterosexual people really *get* marriage). But back to my question: in what spaces are any of us, especially Christians trying to resist a sort of consumerist mentality that privileges individual choice and makes little effort to stand in the way of those sorts of choices? Now I suspect that the standard refrain here might be something about abortion, yet the arguments that I most commonly see against abortion are very libertarian-friendly, that abortion, limits the future choices of another autonomous individual, not so much that it is damaging to society as a whole (though that argument is also advanced sometimes).

Why should the idea of marriage as a public good and a lifelong commitment survive in a society where we no longer expect to work for the same company for our whole adult lives, where business-friendly commentators mock anyone who wants stable, long-term employment as thinking themselves “entitled” to a “job-for-life” and scoff at any retiree naive enough to believe that their pension would be there for them, where workers are told they need to be “flexible” and “competitive” (i.e.: work for cheap with no long-term guarantees)? If we’re told over and over that we need to be flexible and competitive in our work life, how do we not allow that to bleed into our family life? Few conservative pastors or speakers seem to express much interest in opposing the privatized consumer lifestyle model when it comes to most other areas of life. Churches themselves seem to actively employ consumerist models as growth strategies, so it seems that a consumer lifestyle is acceptable, so long as you’re straight.

Andrew Sullivan Vs. Douglas Wilson

Here’s a little debate they had with Peter Hitchens as moderator:

As for me, I think that the what carried the day for Sullivan was what I have seen here in Canada, there has been widespread access to civil marriage for gay couples for a decade in Ontario and the whole country for eight years and I cannot see some sort of marked disaster for our society as a whole. The polygamists were here before gay marriage, and they have not grown more numerous or more powerful since the early-mid 2000s. Given this state of affairs, I do not see why evangelical Christians should continue to push more resources into telling people who should be allowed to marry whom. I’m reading a bit of Aquinas these days (it’s really easy to get anything in the public domain onto your phone now) and perhaps something about this cosmic order bit will impress to me why I need to barge into other people’s homes and tell them who they can and cannot marry, but so far I have my doubts.

Sed Contra

Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind. ~ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto

What I most fear is the reply that I am ‘only one more’ obscurantist, that this barrier, like all previous barriers set up against the advance of science, can be safely passed. Such a reply springs from the fatal serialism of the modern imagination–the image of infinite unilinear progression which so haunts our minds. Because we have to use numbers so much we tend to think of every process as if it must be like the numeral series, where every step, to all eternity, is the same kind of step as the one before. I implore you to remember the Irishman and his two stoves. There are progressions in which the last step is sui generis–incommensurable with the others–and in which to go the whole way is to undo all the labour of your previous journey. To reduce the Tao to a mere natural product is a step of that kind. Up to that point, the kind of explanation which explains things away may give us something, though at a heavy cost. But you cannot go on ‘explaining away’ for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same thing as not to see. ~ CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man [80-81]

From The Vault

I was reading Brooks’ recent post on sexuality and the biblical rules around it and it reminded me of this post I did way back in 2008 on the matter of monogamy in the Bible. A sampling:

[I]s [polygamy] unbiblical? Consider:

  • Genesis 2:24 says that a man will leave his parents to be united with his wife as “one flesh” but it doesn’t explicitly prohibit further unions.
  • David, said to be a man after God’s own heart, was definitely a polygamist, as was his son, Solomon who built the temple. The same was true for other kings of Israel and Judah.
  • Deuteronomy includes rules for handling succession in the case of multiple wives. Clearly this was a common enough occurrence that a ruling needed to be made on the matter.
  • The pastoral epistles in the NT say that elders or deacons should be husbands of “but one wife” which makes monogamy a requirement for church leaders, but, more pointedly seems to implicitly admit that there were polygamists in the early church.
  • Deuteronomy 17:17says not to take too many wives, but doesn’t give us a number.
  • Leviticus 18:18 says not to take two sisters as wives, but thats about it.
  • Mark 10 may look like a ban, but seems to focus on divorce more than marriage.

Here again it is worth reposting, even in the added context of a reply Andrew made that argues that it was sort of acceptable in the Old Testament but definitely bad form in the New Testament. It seems clear though that this may have had much to do with other cultural forces, the Egyptians and the Assyrians were the dominant cultures that influenced the OT Israelites while the Romans and the Greeks were ascendant by the time of Jesus and the Apostolic age. Those passages which tolerated or even presumed polygamy were minimized while those that implied monogamy were amplified in the commentaries of the first couple centuries of Christianity. I have trouble believing that polygamy was well and truly opposed in the OT for the simple reason that, even if Proverbs 5 is taken to presume monogamy, there are sections of the law that are so detailed and so unafraid of even squeamish topics that I have to conclude that it would have simply said “no polygamy” and then most likely also included a punishment.

Marriage in Baptist Thought

Southern Seminary’s The Journal of Discipleship & Family Ministry‘s new issue, dedicated to the theme of marriage, will be out soon. In it they have kindly printed an article co-written by Michael Haykin and me on marriage in the history of Baptist thought. Of course, it is selective; I wrote the sections on the Second London Confession of Faith (1689) and John Gill. Dr. Haykin did the rest.

We wrote it this past summer; I am thankful for the opportunity to write this with Dr. Haykin, and am also thankful to Timothy Paul Jones and the others involved with the journal of publishing it.

Enjoy!

Baptist Marriage in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Interlude

If you have a cognitive surplus and you want to be rid of it, let me commend parenting to you as a solution. At least that’s my story as to why I can’t find my way to posting on here as often as I’d like to do so. That said, there is that famous directive for the writer to “write what you know” so here’s an update on being a dad: I recently told a father-to-be that there is simply no analogue to parenting, that I can’t compare it to anything else I’ve ever done. If I had something else I could say about it, it’s that I feel like I’m living in the Rush song “Time Stand Still” – a track where the character isn’t necessarily nostalgic for his past life, but he wants to see everything around him and enjoy it a bit longer as it’s happening. That feels a lot like fatherhood to me.

Quotes Against Abortion

Canada does not have a law on the books regulating abortion, we are utterly unlike any other country in the Western world in this regard. And this to our shame. This week has seen a debate in the Canadian Parliament over Motion 312 put forth by a Conservative backbencher, Stephen Woodworth MP, to debate when human life begins (for more info see Pass 312 and Brian Lilley’s video from Sun News who also interviews the grandmother who has spent time in jail for abortion protests). Canada’s antiquated definition that a human life begins after birth needs to be reconsidered in light of recent scientific research. But members of Parliament on the pro-choice side do not want this question even to be debated, because they know that when the facts come about that a human life begins at conception, Canadians will want to redress their legal position on abortion. What is most horrifying to me in all this is that our supposedly pro-life Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stated that he will oppose M312, even though it was brought forward by one of his own MPs. This is categorically appalling, and to think that I voted for Harper in every election he ran in.

Below is a collection of quotes relating to when human life begins primarily, and other pro-life issues. Please note, I did not research all of these quotes myself, but culled them from various pro-life sites to post on my Twitter feed as M312 was debated last week. As I was searching various sites, I noticed that they were not comprehensive enough, and thought that there needed to be a better place where all of these quotes are collected. I cannot verify that all of these are accurate or in the right context. Please feel free to contact me about a quote, whether you think one needs to be added or removed.

Before we get to the quotes, here is a link to Woodworth’s speech before Parliament during last week’s debate, it needs to be read: “Plea to MPs.” I also want to direct readers to my friend Mark Nenadov’s concise and helpful piece, “A Libertarian Argument Against Abortion.”

Quotes:

” There is no more appropriate moment to begin calling a human ‘human’ than the moment of fertilization.” Dr. Fritz Baumgartner, UCLA.

“Human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood.” Dr. A. M. Bongiovanni, Professor of Pediatrics and the University of Pennsylvania.

“The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple…matter—the beginning is conception.” Dr. Watson A. Bowes, University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

“From the moment of sperm-egg fusion, a human zygote acts as a complete whole with all the parts of the zygote interacting in an orchestrated fashion to generate the structures and relationships required for the zygote to continue developing towards its mature state… The zygote acts immediately and decisively to initiate a program of development that will, if uninterrupted by accident, disease, or external intervention, proceed seamlessly through formation of the definitive body, birth, childhood adolescence, maturity, and aging, ending with death. This coordinated behavior is the very hallmark of an organism. Mere human cells, in contrast, are composed of human DNA and other human molecules, but they show no global organization beyond that intrinsic to cells in isolation. A human skin cell removed from a mature body and maintained in the laboratory will continue to live and will divide many times to produce a large mass of cells, but it will not re-establish the whole organism from which it was removed; it will not regenerate an entire human body in culture. Although embryogenesis begins with a single-cell zygote, the complex, integrated process of embryogenesis is the activity of an organism, not the activity of a cell.” Dr. Maureen Condic, Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at University of Utah.

“I wish everybody would witness a second-trimester abortion before developing an opinion about it.” Dr. George Flesh, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Harvard-Vanguard.

“By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.” Prof. H. Gordon, Mayo Clinic.

“In order to terminate a pregnancy, you have to still a heartbeat, switch off a developing brain.” Christopher Hitchens, journalist and author.

“When fertilization is complete, a unique genetic human entity exists.” Dr. Christopher Hook, M.D., Mayo Clinic.

“Having worked as a labor and delivery nurse…I’ve seen ultrasounds…you know that those babies are real.” Naomi Judd, country singer.

“The baby’s life is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger.” C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General.

“If the unborn is a human person, no justification for abortion is adequate.” Greg Koukl, apologist and philosopher.

“Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.” Dr. Jerome LeJeune, University of Descartes.

“[It] is no longer a matter of taste or opinion…it is plain experimental evidence.” Dr. Jerome LeJeune, University of Descartes.

“After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being.” Jerome LeJeune, University of Descartes.

“It is not a loss of inert, amorphous tissue, but of a growing being unique in history.” Frederica Mathewes-Green, religion writer.

“It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive. It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.” Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard Medical School.

“Instead of helping women in Roe v. Wade, I brought destruction to me & millions of women.” Norma McCorvey, aka Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade.

“The basic fact is simple: life begins not at birth, but conception.” Ashley Montague, Harvard and Rutgers.

“A zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm … unites with a female gamete or oocyte … to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” Keith L. Moore and T. V. N. Persaud in their book on embryology, The Developing Human (W. B. Saunders, 1998).

“We fed the public a line of deceit, dishonesty, a fabrication of statistics and figures.” Dr. B. Nathanson, co-founder of NARAL.

“There is no longer serious doubt in my mind that human life exists from the very onset of pregnancy.” Dr. B. Nathanson, co-founder of NARAL.

“The evidence I see tells me the unborn is a human being.” Dolores O’Riordan, singer of The Cranberries.

“As an O.B. doctor of thirty years, and having delivered 4,000 babies, I can assure you life begins at conception.” Dr. Ron Paul, Pediatrician and U.S. Congressman.

“Scientifically, there’s no debate over whether the fetus is alive and human.” Dr. Ron Paul, Pediatrician and U.S. Congressman.

“So the time line of when we consider a fetus ‘human’ is arbitrary after conception.” Dr. Ron Paul, Pediatrician and U.S. Congressman.

“Human life commences at the time of conception.” Dr. Landrum Shettles, pioneer in sperm biology and fertilization.

“You don’t have the right to be left alone with that abortion decision. The child is present…you are not alone.” Douglas Wilson, pastor and theologian.

“Every woman knows that if she were free, she would never bear an unwished-for child nor think of murdering one before its birth.” Victoria Woodhull, leader in women’s suffrage movement.

“Recognizing the reality that children are human beings before complete birth will affirm the hallowed principle that human rights are universal, not a gift of the State which may be cancelled.” Stephen Woodworth, Canadian Member of Parliament.

Stay tuned to this post, as I find other quotes, I’ll add them.