Gosnell and the Dilemma of Abortion


DrKermitGosnellIn Peter Kreeft’s book The Unaborted Socrates, Kreeft imagines what it would be like for Socrates to come into the modern day and speak to a defender of abortion. What questions would Socrates ask? Would he approve or disapprove of the answers given? But one exchange in there is quite potent:

Herrod: “Well, there is no way a philosopher is dangerous in our time.”

Socrates: “That is indeed a tragic commentary on your time.”

The reality is that those who discuss the big ideas and pass these ideas onto untrained and flabby young minds in college have quite an impact on this world. The Gosnell abortion case in Philadelphia is proof that what we think and say can and does have dangerous consequences.

Though the USA Today and Wall Street Journal (as well as a few other media outlets) have given limited coverage to the Gosnell case, for the most part it has been ignored. The Boston Bombing, which killed three people and injured numerous others, has received non-stop coverage as did the Dover shooting last December. Yet, here we have a man who is responsible for killing hundreds of infants as well as a few women and the media has little to nothing to say. Why is this?

Philosophical Justification

Before looking at the motives of the media in doing little to cover this horrific event, we must first recognize that Gosnell’s actions are actually consistent with most pro-choice arguments, on both the popular and academic level.

Even in 1972, the ethicist Michael Tooley argued in a peer-reviewed paper that abortion and infanticide were both justified because the human fetus or infant did not meet the conditions for a “right to life”. As recently as 2012, philosophers were publishing papers defending infanticide because infants lacked the proper qualities to claim a right to life. The most famous proponent of infanticide, Peter Singer, even acted like the 2012 article was “nothing new” and pointed out that philosophers have for a long time failed to see any moral differences between fetuses and infants.

These are not fringe academics writing for fringe journals. Rather, these are well-respected academics at well-respected institutions writing for well-respected medical and ethical journals. These aren’t the guys who sit on the outliers of the pro-choice movement, but rather are the brains behind the arguments. And they see nothing wrong with killing a newborn infant.

The argument behind such thinking is that humans, as a species, are not endowed with the right to life. Hardly anyone argues that a fetus is not human; after all, such an argument is scientifically ignorant. A fetus has a unique genetic code, not to mention that two of the same species cannot mate and produce another species. If two cats mate, they necessarily produce another cat. If two humans mate, they necessarily produce another human (if conception occurs). From the moment of conception, a fetus is a human being, just in the early stage of human biological development. The philosophical argument does not focus on the humanity of the individual, but instead on the personhood of the individual.

Thus, our rights are not located in our biology, but in our psychology. Simply being human does not grant one the right to life; one must also be a person. It is hard to argue that infants are persons; after all, the earliest infants cannot even recognize themselves in a mirror. If they cannot do what other higher primates can do, how can we justify their right to life? Many pro-life advocates attempt to argue that an infant and even a fetus are persons, just in different stages of personhood, but this seems like a difficult argument to make. After all, the opponents like Singer and others argue that personhood is something you do, not something you are, that is, being a person is not a state of being, but an act of being.

The Dilemma of Personhood

What pro-infanticide advocates run into with their line of argumentation is that they’ve created a dilemma for themselves, and either horn of the dilemma they take they end up on unstable ground. Essentially, if personhood is an act of being as opposed to a state of being, if one must obtain personhood and meet certain criteria for being a person, what non-arbitrary standard exist to determine what is and is not a person?

Singer and others typically point to self-consciousness, that when a being is self-conscious that being has a type of personhood. This also explains why Singer and others demand rights for some animals because some animals have shown signs of being self-conscious, albeit at a lower rational level than adult humans. So long as I am aware of myself, I am a person and therefore entitled to rights, highest of which is my right to life. After all, if I am aware of my existence then I conceivably have some fear about non-existence, and I have the right to avoid that fear.

The problem with this line of argumentation, however, is that it’s arbitrary. Why should it matter that I am aware of myself? Why do we place moral weight on that point, that is, what’s the justification for placing moral weight on self-awareness? For one, we’re not even sure what it is to be self-aware. This is the existential crisis of humanity; we’re not even sure what it means to be a person. Thus, the cause of our existential angst – that we exist and we are aware of this existence – is to somehow be used as a measuring stick for personhood is quite arbitrary.

But even if we grant this arbitrary standard, the problem with the line of thinking still exists; if personhood is an act of being rather than a state of being, then what if I temporarily stop acting as a person?

Let’s say that a mad philosophy takes me hostage against my will and drugs me up. This drug reduces me to an infantile state wherein I lack proper self-awareness. If I look at a mirror, I am unaware that the reflection is a reflection; I’m not sure what I see. All I know is I don’t know who I’m looking at in the mirror. I simply lack self-awareness. This mad philosopher then captures another person and tells the person that she is to take care of me until the drug wears off. As this drug is extremely potent, we know that it will take about a year for it to full exit my system.

This woman is poor and can barely afford to take care of me. She cannot just give me up as this would cause people to judge her. The question, then, is can this woman have me terminated since now I am not acting like a person? If personhood is an act of being and I am not acting like a person – I lack self-awareness – does this justify my termination?

The point of the hypothetical is to show that if personhood is an act of existence then what happens when I stop the act? What happens to someone in a coma, or someone in a very deep sleep? They are not acting as a person in that moment, so does that mean the person loses rights in that moment? If the person in a long-term coma loses rights, but not the person asleep, we must ask why duration between acts of being somehow matters. Thus, if one fails to act as a person for eight hours one still has the right to life, but if one fails to act as a person for eight months then one no longer has the right to life? If we make the argument that the person asleep and the person in a coma will/could eventually wake up and be able to act as a person, then where is the distinction between the unconscious person and the infant? The infant will eventually gain his self-awareness, just as the unconscious person will, so where is the moral bright light?

The dilemma occurs when a proponent of infanticide attempts to say that personhood is a state of being as opposed to an act of being. If personhood is a state of being then it is something we come into. Thus, at a certain age, or certain event, we simply develop personhood. Personhood, in this sense, is much like puberty. Going through puberty is simply part of the process of growing up, or being human. Some go through it earlier than others, others go through it later than some. It is, however, a state of being, something that inevitably occurs within humans.

An infanticide proponent, in my opinion, has more ground if they argue that personhood is a state of being rather than an act of being. They can go further if they argue that becoming a person is very much a part of being human and that all humans have the capacity for personhood, but that the capacity is not always actualized. After all, all humans have the capacity for sexual relations, but we do not want them to actualize this capacity until they are biologically and psychologically ready. All humans have the capacity for thinking and motor skills that would allow them to drive, but we would not let a two-year-old drive a car simply because he has the capacity to drive the car.

Likewise, an infant has the capacity for personhood, but that does not necessitate we should treat him as a human. Having the capacity for personhood and actualizing that capacity are two different things under this viewpoint. Thus, an infant will eventually have the right to life, but does not currently have the right to life and therefore it is not wrong to kill infants.

The problem with this argument is that it lacks a proper criterion for personhood. If we say that personhood is a state of being, then we must state how this state of being comes about. After all, with puberty there is a chemical change within the body that causes change. This change is irreversible. In other words, I cannot revert to the child I once was, I cannot reverse the aging process. But every external factor that shows personhood exists is also a reversible trait, most notably self-consciousness. If I’m put in a coma, or suffer a brain injury, or am merely sleeping, there is no promise that I am self-conscious. Thus, self-consciousness doesn’t work as a standard for showing that personhood has been achieved.

What, then, shall we use as a standard for personhood as a state of being? The reality is we don’t know because we don’t know what “personhood” really is. If personhood is a state of being, external of being human, then we have no way of knowing when that personhood is achieved. Continue reading

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The Irrational Nature of Our Society or: An Irrational Society is not a Society


IMG_0031Today is the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the landmark decision that permitted at-will abortions around the United States. As such, the debates I have seen amongst many of my friends – as I have friends on all sides of this issue – have been quite ferocious concerning this anniversary. Here at the Christian Watershed we are very much against abortion and are pro-life in all senses of the term. At the same time, we support logical arguments and thinking when approaching any issue, which is why I have found the debates concerning Roe v Wade, as well as many other debates on different issues, very disconcerting. These debates have typically been emotionally charged and full of irrational arguments. While every society at its lower levels tends to be a bit irrational (and all humans tend to be a bit irrational), ours stands out as unique in that from the lowest levels of society to our highest levels we lack any semblance of rational thinking.

Let us look at the abortion issue. I’ve seen many anti-abortion advocates shoot down arguments by Peter Singer and others because Singer is an atheist. “Oh, he’s an atheist, well then why should I care what his arguments are?” This should be expected at some level, but I’ve seen Christian philosophers write off Singer’s arguments by saying, “Oh, well, he’s a Utilitarian, so why bother?” While I am no fan of utilitarianism, if Singer’s arguments on abortion are tied to his Utilitarianism, then disprove his overall ethic. If they aren’t tied to it, then disprove his arguments. Either way, actually deal with what he’s saying. Alternatively, I’ve had many people ignore my arguments against abortion because I’m a Christian. They state, “Well you’re just saying this because you’re religious” even though I never once invoke religion in the discussion on abortion. Rather than dealing with my arguments, they just cast them aside as “religious.” And even if my comments were religious, they still have failed because they haven’t shown how religious arguments are wrong.

In both examples we see what is called the genetic fallacy, or attacking the root source of the argument rather than the argument. Often times when we hear, “Well of course the liberal media wouldn’t report that” or “of course Fox News wouldn’t report that” we’re hearing the genetic fallacy. The argument is not dealt with, no facts are actually presented, the argument is just cast aside because we don’t like the origin of the argument. “Of course you support pro-life arguments, you’re Catholic.” Perhaps that is so, but how does that disprove the argument? “Of course you think Obamacare is great, you’re a Democrat.” That may be the reason, but how does that negate the reasons for Obamacare?

If you look to our public discourse, from politics to the talking heads on television to everyday Facebook discussions, you’ll recognize that most of the arguments stem from logical fallacies. That doesn’t mean the initial beliefs are wrong, just that how they got to those beliefs have no rational basis. For instance, I may say, “I can’t see the wind, but I feel the effects of the wind, but I know the wind is real. Likewise, I can’t see God, but I can feel the effects of God, but I know God is real.” While as a Christian I would argue that God is real, I would also argue that such an argument is poor and even illogical. How we come to a conclusion does not affect the truth of a statement, but it does affect its validity, how convincing it is to others, and how we will defend it.

When we lack a proper rational basis for our beliefs, we get ourselves into a state where every argument we make must ultimately rely on our emotional support and biases. Thus, nothing said to us will get us to change our minds and nothing we say will get others to change their mind. This is why we see a lack of proper compromise in our Congress when it comes to issues where compromise should be easy to obtain, issues such as raising the debt ceiling, healthcare reform, taxation and spending, and so on. Because neither side has a rational justification for their beliefs they are left to act like children instead of adults, arguing over who gets what toys rather than reaching a compromise.

Welcome to the new America, the anti-society. A society tends to be any group of people who share the same customs and live in an ordered community. This cannot be said of the United States, mostly because there is nothing ordered about our community. A man shoots up an elementary school and rather than coming together, we immediately begin with the emotional outburst that we need to outlaw guns or allow more guns. All the while we ignore common sense approaches, not to mention statistics. Our emotional feelings on an issue inform us on what statistics we will believe, writing off any that seemingly disagree with us as part of the “pro-gun lobby, who is no more than big tobacco” or as “part of the anti-gun lobby, who is no better than Hitler or Stalin.” Both arguments are fallacious on many levels, but this doesn’t seem to deter anyone from the debate.

When a nation’s “top thinkers,” or at least most vocal leaders engage in obvious irrational justifications, it means the nation is beyond repair. Congress cannot agree on anything because there is no rational justification behind each side’s beliefs. When there is an obvious rational justification behind both sides and both sides articulate it, we tend to end up helpful legislation. Yet, this close-mindedness trickles down to the populace where simple disagreements cannot be overcome because no one is capable of rational thought. We disregard anything that challenges our position by attacking the person or the organization. Most of all, when our justification is primarily emotional, we take any criticism of our beliefs personally, which only perpetuates the problem.

For instance, if you say, “Well that argument just doesn’t make sense” or even imply that an argument is stupid (and arguments can be stupid and there’s nothing wrong in calling an argument stupid), then people immediately take it personally. In fact, if you go so far as to strongly argue that the person’s beliefs are wrong, then you’re considered rude in our modern society. Yet, there are some who are above the fray. One can look to Robert P. George and Cornel West as an example of two men who disagree on quite a bit, yet are willing to act rationally and like adults with their disagreements. Both of them have actually been able to come to a quite a few compromises and even changed their positions slightly via their dialogues. While there will never be complete unity between the two, both can at least respect the opinions of the other as rational even if false (something can be rational and still be false).

And that is the entire point – it’s okay to “agree to disagree” so long as there is a reasoned argument behind the disagreement. If there is not and both of us are attempting to affect public policy then one of us must win out. Sadly, it seems the one who can create the more emotional argument is the one who will win out, which is what leads to bad legislation that is ineffective. What’s more, on a personal level, holding beliefs without rational justification leaves us empty when reality is too much and ultimately crushes those beliefs. There have been many times when, emotionally, I wanted to give up my faith, but rationally could not. Rational justification for beliefs roots them in the ground where they’re allowed to grow and change, but not fall over at the slightest wind.

The fix to this is mostly on a personal level. We need to learn how to think. This begins at a young age, but anyone at any age can learn this. I think the best book for this is Peter Kreeft’s Socratic Logic, which anyone can pick up and begin working through. When we learn how to think and not what to think, we begin to shape beliefs that have a rational justification, beliefs we can truly invest ourselves in emotionally because we know that, at its center, there is a solid core. Ultimately, we are made in the image of God and God is a rational being. Thus, we are happiest when we are rational in our beliefs. But on a more practical application, if we want our society to function properly and grow then we must move away from our emotionalism and towards beliefs with solid foundations.

Why the Republican Platform isn’t Pro-Life


Understand that when I write this, I am not writing this as an endorsement for Obama or encouraging anyone to vote for either candidate. I am simply pointing out the realities of the situation; that the Republican platform is no more pro-life than the Democratic platform. While the Democrats explicitly support abortion on demand and lately have almost celebrated it, Republicans have an implicit support for abortion. I am not talking about their perpetual backing down when faced with the opportunity to limit abortion, nor am I speaking of how passive they really are when it comes to the issue in practice. Instead, I’m referring to their political policies that undermine the poor and disadvantaged, the stigma they create for anyone who has to go on government assistance.

When Mitt Romney mentioned that 47% of the nation is simply taking from everyone else, he was speaking to a Republican crowd who didn’t even bat an eye at what was said. The reason they saw nothing wrong with his statement is within the conservative mindset the only reason you should ever take aid from the government is if you were too lazy to conjure up your own money; and even then your aid should be limited. While there is no doubt in my mind that social programs geared to help the poor are in a serious need for restructuring (Democrats want to increase money to them, Republicans want to take the money away, neither wants to fix the problem), the Republican solution of just cutting the funding doesn’t fix it. The idea is that the majority of people on welfare, food stamps, or other forms of government aid are simply leeching off the rest of society so they don’t have to work. Such a view is ignorant of the fact that in order to qualify for many of these things, people actually have to hold down jobs (which, of course, tend to be low-paying and offer little room for advancement, creating a lack of hope and thus perpetuating poverty).

Because of this stigma, many women who have an unintentional pregnancy fear that by being pregnant, they’re not going to have any support throughout the pregnancy and the child’s life. Consider that nearly 42% of abortions come from women below the poverty line, it’s easy to see that the personal well-being of the mother comes into play. And who can blame her really? She’s facing a pregnancy and most often already has other children to care for. Food stamps only cover so much (and by “so much” I mean not nearly enough) and if she’s like most women at the poverty line, she’s working in a job where she can’t really afford to take time off work to have a baby. In short, there’s little to no social structure available for her to use. Even if she takes the brave step of having the child she still has 18 years of providing for the child, sending her to school, and so on. At best, by having the child she’s perpetuating a life of poverty, at worst she feels she has no choice but to kill her own child.

From a moral standpoint obviously we should never intentionally kill the innocent. At the same time, how is it moral to claim to be pro-life, but then undercut any social programs that would help to actually promote life? How is it moral to slap the pro-life idea onto a political platform alongside other items that stigmatize anyone who has to use government aid? The Republican Party platform, which teaches across-the-board cutting rather than reforming, is no more pro-life than the Democratic platform; neither emphasize the value of human life. The Democrats lower the value of life in the womb and even at birth while the Republicans lower the value of life post-birth. They want to protect a child inside a woman, but God forbid tax payers pay for that child once he’s born.

Certainly we should support charities that help these women throughout their pregnancies and well into the development of the child. But charities are not enough, we need the government to get involved as well. Those of us who are pro-life have no problem stating that we’re supporting a moral issue and trying to get the government to decide on a moral issue. All major legislation comes down to being moral and not political – segregation was legislated out of existence, as was slavery, but no one would dare say this was purely political and not moral. The moral issue gave rise to the necessity of political intervention; any moral issue of grave importance will necessarily rely on the government to involve itself. Abortion is no exception to this as it involves the taking of an innocent human life.

But if we’re willing to concede that abortion is a moral issue first and a political issue second, wouldn’t this mean that many issues that impact innocent humans are moral issues first and political issues second? If I have an obligation to protect the innocent within the womb, what about the innocent outside the womb? That is, if I’m truly pro-life, won’t I want my government to help pay for pre-natal care, for doctor’s visits, for the education of the child, and so on? Or, on a better note, would it be so bad to suppor the government paying for daycare and even paying for a woman’s education (or partially paying) should she choose to advance her life? After all, if we have to shell out 4-5 years worth of aid so she can find herself in a well-paying job, one that pays so well she doesn’t need government assistance, doesn’t that make sense? And if we’re truly pro-life, aren’t we going to want to help to advance both the woman who kept the child and the child himself?

In short, to be pro-life means you support the whole of life.  You support not only the right to exist, but also support any program that helps advance a child out of poverty. If we’re going to force women to carry their children to term, the least we could do is provide them with an infrastructure that helps them both during the pregnancy and after. If we seek to undercut such an infrastructure, or are simply anti-abortion and not actually pro-life, then we might as well be pro-choice.

A is For…Abortion


Apparently, there is a new movement called “A is For…” where celebrities and others speak up about “women’s health.” The reality is they’re concerned over the anti-abortion legislation and attitudes that have arisen within our government and the general populace. Masking this as a women’s health issue, they’re attempting to remove the stigma of an abortion and almost make it a virtue. While I do believe and have stated previously that supporters of the pro-life movement, especially Christians, must be careful how they approach those who have had abortions, to make it into a virtue goes beyond the pale.

To create a movement that celebrates abortion, however, is morally vapid. It isn’t about women’s reproduction rights or about controlling women. After all, there aren’t any major movements attempting to displace women from leadership roles in America, have them wear dresses, or forbidding bikinis. The entire debate over women’s rights ends up on the one issue where two human lives are concerned; that of the mother and that of the unborn human.

So what is A really for?

A is for Asinine…the belief that the abortion debate solely concerns women’s rights is asinine. If anything, the debate concerning abortion from a pro-life perspective has literally nothing to do with women’s rights; not because we devalue women, but because we value life so much. To say that people who want to eradicate abortions simply because they hate women or are against women’s rights is akin to saying those against the radical honor killings in Islam are somehow anti-Islam; in the case of abortion there are women who are against abortion, just as there are Muslims against honor killings. From a pro-life perspective we can value a woman’s rights so long as her rights don’t infringe upon another person’s rights. Those who are pro-choice simply leave aside the idea that the fetus is a human person qualified for the minimum right to life; the pro-life side is simply attempting to push them back to this point. We believe that no one has the right to take an innocent human person’s life. The arguments used for abortion are weak, but they’re used because they make it more palatable. Abortion is completely asinine.

A is for Atrocity…an atrocity is any act that is wicked and cruel, involving a lot of physical pain and suffering. Thus, a warlord sending his minions through a village to murder the innocent via machete is an atrocity; it goes beyond an act of war and causes great suffering to the person involved. Abortion is an atrocity, due to the suffering it causes the fetus and the potential emotional suffering it can cause to the woman (not to mention physical side effects). The abortion terminates a human life, typically by ripping the body apart. While not all women suffer from emotional side-effects, quite a few do suffer emotional damage and hold on to regret. This can and does lead to bigger problems later in life.

A is for Abhorrent…abortion is abhorrent because we’re eradicating future generations. 1973 is when abortion was erroneously protected as a right by a flawed Supreme Court. Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of this horrible decision. 40 years of eradicating doctors, scientists, historians, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. 40 years of murdering our own children. Let us assume we came across a hidden culture where if a child got in the way of a parent, no matter the age, the parent could simply have the child killed. Certainly this would cause moral disgust within us; that is what it means when something is abhorrent.

A is for Anthropophagic…this is simply a big word for “cannibalistic.” Abortion is a type of cannibalism in that we’re eating away at our future. We’re sacrificing our children for our own selfish desires. On the “A is for” website, men are told that they should fight for abortion because they may not be ready to be fathers. Women are told to fight for it because they may not be ready to be mothers. Essentially, what we’re being told is that in order to sate our own selfish hunger for autonomy, we must feed on the flesh of our unborn children. While we don’t literally eat them, we eat their lives away in order to sustain our own. What would have happened if your grandparents were killed in the cradle because the parents were afraid they couldn’t feed them? Your parents, your aunts and uncles, your cousins, your brothers and sisters, potentially your children and you’re grandchildren would all be dead. The act of abortion doesn’t just devour the life of the fetus, but kills all future lives that would result from that child. In one act of abortion we cannibalize millions so we can protect ourselves.

A is for Apostasy…the more pagan and secular a society becomes, the more its children are left by the wayside. For both the Greeks and the Romans, under their pagan stages it was fairly common for children to be molested and used as sexual objects. Even as Rome became more secular via Stoicism (prior to Christianity), unwanted children were often left for dead. For the Ancient Near East children were often offerred up as sacrifices to the god Moloch. In the Eastern Bloc, under secular Communism, children were often abandoned by parents in orphanages where they were left to fend for themselves.  When modernity hit the West we began to see children forced into factories; it wasn’t until Christians stood up against this that we began to see reform. Apostasy is the denial of God, but the consequences of apostasy is that we end up denying ourselves. In our attempt to kill God we inevitably end up killing ourselves because we are made in his image. Abortion is a symptom of a greater disease, but it is a symptom we must treat.

A is for Awful…abortion brings to mind nothing good. No one does (or at least no one should) celebrate abortions. The reason is the context that begets an abortion is never a good one. Sadly, the majority of abortions that occur today are with women who have the financial means to sustain a child, but just don’t want the responsibility. 57% of the women who have abortions are between the ages of 20-29, meaning they’re starting their professional careers, so typically a child is “in the way.” However, for the 16% who are under the age of 18, or the .3% under the age of 15, or those in poverty, or those who were raped, it’s an awful situation. Our society is structured in such a way as to tell these women that the only way for them to continue on with life is to kill their own child. We have few support systems for single mothers (who account for about 85%) and sadly many pro-life advocates are ardent fiscal conservatives, meaning they’d like to see abortion banned, but will also withhold tax dollars to help the women impacted by this. Abortion is an awful situation because while it takes a human life, it also exposes our society as empty and uncaring.

A is for Abortion…which is everything I have described it to be. That’s all this movement is supporting; not women’s rights, not anything noble; it’s supporting the intentional killing of an innocent human being.

Is there a ‘Culture War?’


It seems that – at least among evangelicals – the concept of a culture war is a popular discussion topic these days. There are books imploring Christians to move beyond the culture wars, while there are other writers saying that the essence of being an evangelical is being at war with the culture. Of course, all of this begs the question of whether or not there really is a culture war to begin with. With all the debates over abortion, homosexual rights, sex/cursing on television (violence is apparently okay), national healthcare, and the like, it would appear we have two different cultures that are at war with each other. However, I think the answer is more of a “no” than a “yes.”

In the strictest sense of the word “culture,” there isn’t a culture war mostly because Christianity isn’t a culture. There is no Christian language, no Christian food, no Christian style of dressing up, no Christian nation or borders; there is nothing distinct about Christians that would make them a culture. Even one of the most unified groups within Christianity, the Eastern Orthodox, still hold cultural differences; it’s found in their liturgy, the language of the liturgy, and even some of the practices. Thus, one can’t even say there is a culture within a very unified Christianity, because ultimately Christianity reflects the culture.

If Christianity isn’t a culture, then it’s impossible to have a culture war involving Christian beliefs against secular beliefs. Christianity simply isn’t a culture, this is why there are distinctions between Christians who grew up in Southeast Asia and Christians who grew up in the Southeastern United States. These differences, or distinctions, aren’t wrong or bad, they simply reflect different cultures.

At the same time, something does seem to be going on. But something has always been going on. One of the most famous writings in all of Christian literature is St. Augustine’s City of God. In the book he defends Christianity and explains how Christians are not the cause of Rome’s demise; in other words, just a few centuries after Christ’s death, Christians are engaged in a “culture war.” We can go back even further to the Epistle to Diognetus in which the anonymous author (probably Justin Martyr) defends Christians within the Roman cultural context, arguing that they’re not out to subvert the culture, but to redeem it. Even in Christianity’s foundation, we see Paul saying that we are citizens of Heaven and even Jesus saying that we are in the world, but not of the world. We can go back even further and see that the Israelites developed their own culture contrary to the cultures surrounding them (or at least they were supposed to; what brought on the judgment of God was that they adopted the cultural mores of the surrounding cultures). Even Noah was a “culture warrior” of sorts in that he went against the grain of his time.

So does the above prove that we are, in fact, involved in a “culture war?” Not really, instead what we’re involved in is what early Christians called “The way of life” and “the way of death,” or the way of light and the way of darkness, or the City of God and the City of Man. There isn’t a cultural war, but there is a human war. There is a war against God, one in which humans have rebelled and thusly reap the consequences. Therefore, all cultures are fallen and have negative aspects to them; even the supposed mythic “Christian America” is full of flaws. Even if we follow the idealized version of this supposed Christian America, we see that the poor are not taken care of, it’s primarily composed of white, English-speaking people, and people who are not Christians are often looked down upon as inferior. Such elements to a culture run contrary to the central message of the Gospel.

Christians are not involved in a culture war, but they are called to sanctify the culture they find themselves in. What has sparked the controversy for Christians is they’ve chosen to go about this act of sanctification through a secular tool, which of course will always result in disaster. By attempting to legislate the culture into perfection, we’ve only alienated the culture more. This is not to say that some things shouldn’t be pursued through legislation; on issues of natural law, we should attempt to get the government to enact laws that reflect what is naturally right (e.g. abolition of slavery, working to end human trafficking, abolition of abortion, working to curb pollution, etc). Yet, as Christians we are called to change the world from the ground up, not from the top down. Thus, even when we are justified in pursuing legislation to change a government action, we are still best served by working with the populace on a grassroots level to help change their minds; even William Wilberforce saw this, and for all the effort he put into legislation he put three times the effort into public awareness campaigns.

In attempting to sanctify the culture, Christians then find themselves in a war, but it is not a “culture war.” To call it a culture war would indicate an “us vs. them” mentality, that it’s the Christians vs. the secularists. But as Paul stated, we don’t war against flesh and blood, but against the principalities of darkness. We therefore enter into a war, but not against our fellow humans – though they may be ensnared and enslaved by these principalities – instead we enter into a war against darkness itself. While most Christians would give this lip service, their actions speak otherwise and we do not truly live out this concept. We say we don’t war against the flesh, but then we condemn, marginalize, and mock all those who disagree with our positions.

Ultimately, Christianity is not a culture, but a way of life that can adapt itself to any culture. Thus, there is no culture war. But Christians are called to sanctify a culture – not through legislation (though it can act as a minor tool on natural law issues), but through bringing people to Christ by being Christ to people.

The Logical Conclusion of Abortion (Part 1)


Recently, two ‘ethicists’ (I use this term very liberally, as in they talk about ethics, not that they’ve come to any substantial conclusion) have published the idea that it’s okay to kill infants as they are not really persons. The standard they offer for being a person with a right to life is, “…individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.” Of course, such a standard is asinine to anyone who has taken a basic course in logic and knows anything about humans, or animals in general.

The irony is that everything in existence with some sense of rationality, even at a bare minimum, views losing one’s life as a loss. This is why gazelle run away from lions, why spiders run away from a falling shoe, and why babies cry when they get hungry; no creature in life accepts death, all creatures struggle against it. Thus, by this standard we should conclude that (1) no one meets this standard, thus we can kill whoever we want or (2) everything meets this standard, so we shouldn’t kill anything (including any plants that have natural defense mechanisms built in).

Of course, such an absurdly stupid standard can be turned on the philosophers who wrote this tripe. For instance, they were quite upset at the death threats they received over the publication of their article. Aside from the fact that being pro-life, yet threatening the life of another is a tad bit hypocritical, these two individuals are in no better position as they are being hypocritical. The fact is, I cannot know anyone’s mind, thus I cannot know if these two individuals have attributed some basic value to being deprived of their existence. They may say so and act so, but infants do this as well, as do all other animals (all animals act as though losing their life would constitute the loss of something of value). So I can’t trust their actions or what they say. Now, the key word is “capable,” but even this doesn’t mean much – again, all animals fight to survive, indicating that all animals are capable of attributing value to their lives.

With the above in mind, using the standard of these philosophers, what’s wrong with killing them? By their standard, when applied properly, how would anyone be wrong for terminating their lives? Not in a legal sense, but in a moral sense, they are now left attempting to defend why it would be wrong to kill them. Perhaps these ethicists should thank us pro-life philosophers and thank the Judeo-Christian tradition of the West, lest the mentality of “kill everyone who disagrees” were to take hold.

Yet, in all the arguments for the pro-choice position, every single one of them attempts to (1) create an arbitrary standard for what it means to be a “person” and (2) accepts Cartesian dualism without batting an eye, not realizing that there’s good reason that personhood is tied into our very nature; that is, personhood is not something we acquire or develop, rather it is something that we hone. With such standards, is it any surprise that we can apply them to any situation in life? Those people living in extreme poverty are not really “persons” because they’ve lacked the proper education to really develop personhood; so it’d just be better if we killed them. While some might argue, “Yes, but they can learn!” I would quickly point out that so can an infant, given time. “But an infant has to grow up and develop the capacity for learning!” And how does an infant do this but by learning? Thus, the capacity for learning already exists, just in a smaller degree to the person living in extreme poverty. Therefore, if it’s right to kill the infant, it’s right to kill the person in poverty, but if it’s wrong to kill the person in poverty, then it’s wrong to kill the infant.

The full post that I want to make to this will take a bit longer as I want to put more effort into it and write an actual reply to the article. This one is simply my initial thoughts; suffice it to say, I’m a bit dismayed at the article because (1) it’s morally abhorrent and (2) if this is the level of what it takes to get into Oxford or Cambridge, then it would seem that education is suffering everywhere, not just in America.