Living, Unique, Valuable, Unborn Human Beings
Human beings aren’t valuable because of a function they perform, how conscious they are, whether they feel pain, or any other extrinsic quality. These things come in degrees. Humanity doesn’t come in degrees.
I shocked a faculty member at the University of California while conversing with him in the middle of campus. He was defending abortion using the reasons popularly offered to justify it. He said, “It’s a decision between a woman, her doctor, and her God.” He brought up the idea that if abortion were made illegal, women would be forced into dangerous, back-alley abortions. He emphatically said, “Woman should have the right to choose.” Then I shocked him.
I agreed. I said, “Of course we shouldn’t interfere with a woman, her doctor, and her God. We shouldn’t force any woman into a dangerous, back-alley abortion.” I said, “A woman should have the right to choose…if….” “If what?” he asked. I knew this was where the conversation really started.
Often, we lose sight of the main issue in the abortion debate. The fundamental question we must ask is, “What is the unborn?” Abortion involves the killing and discarding of something that’s alive. We all know it’s alive because it’s growing. That’s the “problem” abortion seeks to address. And whether it’s right or not to intentionally take the life of this living being depends entirely upon the answer to one question: “What kind of being is it?”
Most defenses of abortion assume the unborn is not a human being. Think about it. Privacy and choice are not valid reasons to kill born human beings. This means that if the unborn is a human being just like you and me, you can’t kill her for the same reasons you can’t kill a born human being. If the unborn is not a human being, there’s no issue to debate. If the unborn is not a human being, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human being, no justification for abortion is adequate. That’s why we have to first answer the question “What is the unborn?” To answer this, we’ll turn to embryology.
We know from embryology—the study of the earliest stages of life—that human life comes into existence when two gametes (sperm and egg) fuse to form a living zygote. The science of embryology tells us the unborn is a living, unique, human being.
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Overture 15 Has Failed. It’s Time to Reconsider the Nature of the DebateBy Tom Hervey — 1 month ago
Under both the old and new covenants God has denied people office (and sometimes more) on account of things that are outside of their conscious control. Why? Because the offices in question belong to God and he may give them or forbid them to whomever he pleases for whatever reasons he pleases. That is inherent in his sovereignty…No one has any right or claim to any office or its honors, power, or remuneration in and of himself. Only if God has called him to it does he begin to have a claim, and he has it not for his own glory or temporal advantage but so that he might serve the church and benefit its other members.
Overture 15 (O15) has not received enough support from the presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) to approve its intended change to the denomination’s Book of Church Order (BCO). With its failure the time is ripe to reconsider our conception of the nature of fitness for office, along with what terms have been used in the discussion and what internal constitutional arrangements should be pursued to prevent unfit men from holding office.
Prudence ought to govern all of our affairs, and Scripture testifies that prudence means that certain men are not candidates for the office of elder because they are new converts and are as such more likely to succumb to pride and fall away because of the office’s difficulties (1 Tim. 3:6). The temptation to pride is simply too likely and too destructive if it overcomes them to allow such men the office. Now sexual sin is conspicuous for its tendencies to wage war upon the soul (1 Pet. 2:11) and to undermine one’s sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3). It is an especially destructive sin (Prov. 5:1-13), and often in cases of apostasy it has a prominent part (Num. 25:1-2). Of sexual sins, that one with which O15 had to do (albeit in the stage of temptation, not active commission) is especially heinous in the sight of God (Lev. 18:22; 20:13), and destructive even of all civil decency and morality (Gen. 19:1-29; Jdgs. 19:22-30).
So far this accords with what O15 said in its ‘whereas’ statements. Where it went wrong was in its suggestion that self-description was the basis on which to disqualify men from office. The above facts about temptation and sexual sin being the case, prudence would seem to commend that men who experience the temptation to commit the sin in question ought to be deemed unfit for office so long as the temptation endures. At the least, such a thing ought to be deemed an open question. For if being a new convert (which is neither a sin nor a temptation) nonetheless unfits one for office because its circumstances will possibly lead to heavy temptation, then it is eminently conceivable that experiencing especially dangerous lusts – which unlike mere adverse circumstances is actually on the ‘temptations lead to actual transgressions lead to death’ sequence of Jas. 1:14-15 – ought to be similarly disqualifying, not least since it suggests the presence of very strong and well-developed original sin in one’s person, and tends to be accompanied by other grievous transgressions and internal desires.
If it be objected that this is unfair to the men who experience the temptation in question because it would permanently bar them from office, and this in spite of otherwise showing personal gifts and godliness, then consider the following. It is not a sin to be devoid of a call to the ministry or to be providentially called to some other vocation (comp. 1 Cor. 7:17-24). It is not a sin to be a woman; indeed, it is a remarkably glorious thing. It was not a sin to accidentally acquire leprosy (Lev. 13:46) or have one’s private organs crushed (Deut. 23:1), or to be a Gentile or a member of one of the Israelite tribes that was not entrusted with the priestly office (Num. 16-17).
And yet under both the old and new covenants God has denied people office (and sometimes more) on account of things that are outside of their conscious control. Why? Because the offices in question belong to God and he may give them or forbid them to whomever he pleases for whatever reasons he pleases. That is inherent in his sovereignty (1 Sam. 2:7-8; Ps. 75:7; 115:3; 135:6; Dan. 2:21; 4:35). No one has any right or claim to any office or its honors, power, or remuneration in and of himself. Only if God has called him to it does he begin to have a claim (Heb. 5:4), and he has it not for his own glory or temporal advantage but so that he might serve the church and benefit its other members (Mk. 10:43-44; Eph. 4:11-13). And as God has seen fit, in his mysterious wisdom, to deny office to whole classes of people for things outside of their own doing (sex, familial descent, tribe, ethnicity, personal tragedy or physical ailments), it ought not to be thought a priori incredible that his church, acting under the guidance of his Spirit and in light of his word, may see fit to do likewise.
If it be rejoined that this is granted, but that the men in question show their fitness for office by being otherwise conspicuous for their piety, godliness, and spiritual gifts (what David Cassidy likes to call the “Sam Allberry Test”), then let it be rejoined that the church does not regard personal godliness, piety, or talent to be sufficient grounds for extending office to someone. All believers have spiritual gifts from God (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; 1 Pet. 4:10-11), as they are a household of priests (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). If it be said that nonetheless not all have the teaching gift, then let it be remembered that false teachers also have that ability and are often skillful in exercising it (Matt. 24:11); i.e., that possession of the aptness to teach is not a certain mark of fitness for office.
In addition, all believers without exception are to be characterized by personal piety and godliness and moral excellence (Rom. 12:9-21; Gal. 5:22-23; 2 Pet. 1:5-10). Such things are necessary in officeholders, but they are not sufficient, even when combined with a subjective, personal sense of call to office and with an external sense of call on the part of other believers – for experience shows that the internal and external calls are often mistaken. And let it not be forgotten that the PCA routinely denies office to men who are godly and gifted, and does so for a variety of reasons, from differing from our standards to not having the formal education that the PCA believes is necessary to discharge the office of teaching elder. All of which is to say that the suggestion that the church would be engaged in some sort of senseless cruelty if she were to deny or remove from office men who experience certain temptations is not well-founded either in Scripture or Presbyterian polity.
You will notice that I do not directly mention the sin and temptation in view by name. This is because the clear testimony of Scripture commends us not naming it except sparingly and in absolute need. “Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place” (Eph 5:3-4, emphases mine). “To others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 23). “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire” (Col. 3:5). “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). “It is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret” (Eph. 5:12). “God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (1 Thess. 4:7). It needs but little comment that the sin in view is something that Scripture regards as filthy, impure, unholy, earthly, immoral, shameful, and prone to corrupt all that it touches, such that it is dangerous to our souls and displeasing to God to even talk or think about it. Rather, we are to flee from such things and instead set our minds on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” (Phil. 4:8).
One will notice further that my position here puts me to the right of many of the prominent opponents of the temptation in view. That is intentional. In many cases even the opponents of this thing have erred by allowing the debate to occur along the wrong lines and by too much using the concepts and terms of its proponents and normalizers. It should be deemed sheer lunacy to give office to people who are so grievously tempted by a desire to do what is heinous. Instead, even many of the opponents have gone out of their way to say that it is only the self-description to which they object, not the temptation.
Lastly, if it be doubted that my position that such temptations disqualify one for office is correct, answer this question: if temptations do not qualify in such a case, when would they do so? Never? But if one says that then it would follow that it would be reasonable and safe to ordain youth pastors who are tempted to pedophilia. And if one says on the other hand that temptations are indeed sometimes disqualifying one admits my position is correct (in principle) and raises some rather difficult follow-up questions. Who decides what temptations are disqualifying, and on what grounds? I have an answer to that: temptations to do what is contrary to nature and to do what is so displeasing to God that he names the sin in question by euphemisms (Lev. 20:13), uses it as a temporal judgment (Rom. 1:24, 26), and only lists historical examples of it while also describing how he punished those that committed it (Gen. 19:5-13, 24; Jdgs. 19-20; 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7), ought to be deemed disqualifying. But I am interested to see if anyone will dare attempt to make the case that a) some temptations disqualify; but b) the temptation to break Lev. 18:22 is not one of them – for I do not think that such a thing can be done absent violating the scriptural witness as to the utter depravity of the thing in view.
Tom Hervey is a member, Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church, Simpsonville, SC. The statements made in this article are the personal opinions of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of his church or its leadership or other members.
 The sin in question does not occur in isolation, and is frequently mentioned in combination with other sins (Rom. 1:29-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-10).
 Even granting that some of the particular gifts listed in such passages (e.g. gifts of healing, 1 Cor. 12:9) have ceased, the point remains that God’s empowering grace is not limited to only a few, but is diffused throughout the church body.
As was intimated by a ruling elder, Kyle Keating, in a speech at the 2021 General Assembly: https://byfaithonline.com/against-overtures-23-and-37/
The Success of “Avatar” Is Nothing to CelebrateBy Titus Techera — 1 month ago
Intellectually, the Avatar stories seem worthless, beneath contempt, indeed, beneath argument. This leads people to underestimate them but also to feel themselves somehow disarmed. One looks ridiculous if one complains that the stories are anti-American. It takes a certain courage to deal with that problem, and courage is in very short supply in our times.
The biggest box office success in cinema history, strictly in dollars taken in, is Avatar, the 2009 movie that made 3D a technology audiences would finally flock to. The movie made some $785 million in America, more than another $2 billion in the rest of the world, adding up to about $2.9 billion. Since then, it’s sold an additional $430 million in DVDs (including 3D Blu-ray editions). We have to use our imaginations when it comes to how much the movie was watched online in pirated copies. One is tempted to say that everyone has seen it. If there’s globalization, Avatar is it.
In 2022 we finally got a sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, which is also an incredible success, having grossed more than $620 million in America in its first month, with another $1.5 billion in the rest of the world. I’m confident it will make more than $700 million in America. Very few movies attain this kind of success, fewer still since the COVID panics have crippled the movie theater business. Three more of these movies are slated to appear and perhaps rather quicker than the 13 years between the first two, given the astonishing success and the technological achievements involved in the production so far.
James Cameron is the man who made this franchise, which married his interest in science fiction, going back to Terminator (1984), and his interest in blockbuster success—that is, strong appeals to American passions—for example, Titanic, the movie he made before Avatar, which also became the most popular movie of its time (1997). One thing that has changed is that Cameron started out trying to appeal to men, then changed to appealing to women, but found astonishing success with a sentimentality missing from his early works, and now wants to appeal to families, to children especially. Some of the more perceptive critics pointed out how simpleminded the original was, even how it functioned as a kind of faux religion all its own. The sequel has also been panned by others as stunningly unoriginal and “full of itself.” This suggests to me they think the Avatar movies themselves to be childish.
The arrival of Avatar: The Way of Water at least makes clear what it is Cameron wants America’s children and, by extension, the world’s children to see and to believe. The first movie was an obvious retelling of Euro-American conflicts with Native Americans in the 19th century. The story summarizes, of course, but it also focuses on a simple teaching: Americans are evil and possibly monstrous. The Natives were innocent and, though proud warriors, peaceful. One may say this is nonsense and historically dubious; one may add that it is unpatriotic. But it may nevertheless be rather persuasive, especially because Cameron makes no arguments and starts no fights—he merely uses images that speak to things most kids are ready to believe.
Salted HoneyBy T. M. Suffield — 1 year ago
Written by T. M. Suffield |
Sunday, December 5, 2021
When life is grossly awful, scream to the heavens about it. Read the Psalms and pray them. Read Habakkuk. It is good to think that our tears help us taste Christ, and to acknowledge that right now those with heavier burdens than yours may taste Christ more sweetly than you can. It is hellish to lionise suffering. All our tears are passing away (Revelation 21), and Christ makes bitter water sweet (2 Kings 4).
In Psalm 81 we are confronted with a strange phrase:
But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.
Honey from the rock? Honey doesn’t come from rocks, I think we’d all be happy to confirm. There’s a moment of surprise here, of confusion, that we shouldn’t gloss over quickly.
It seems to be a reference to the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32) where we have honey ‘out of’ the rock. Which appears to be an oblique reference to manna, the desert flakes that were like honey and found laid upon rocks and sand.
It doesn’t take that much work to find out that honey can be found in rocks, and that the wild honey that John the Baptist (Mark 1) fed himself on would the kind made by bees that swarm around cracks in rocks in the wilderness rather than made in the hives as we would be more familiar with.
But our initial surprise at the phrase is the right reaction, because finding wild honey in a rock is an act of delight—not simply a food of survival but a food of delight. To say that God gifts us honey from the rock is say that he gifts sweetness in surprising places and not simply in a land of abundance.
We might also draw a connection to Christ, as the sweet one whose very sweetness come to us from the cross—which we should probably do via Samson’s find of honey in a Lion’s carcass (Judges 14) and the language of the Song of Songs.
All of this got me thinking about salted caramel.
Because, well, it tastes good. But there’s this thing which has been well known in higher end dessert kitchens for some time—a little salt draws out the sweetness, a lot of salt suppresses it.
It is the same in our lives, is it not? A little suffering, the saltwater of your tears painted on your cheeks, increases the sweetness of what God offers us. I think this a general truth, you cannot know the sweetness of knowing Jesus in any real way if your life has been characterised by ease.
You can make your own judgements about yourself, there is no judgement here from me.