Ethical Free Fall: How Far? Come & Find Out March 14
Thursday, March 6, 2014, 2:37 PM

How far down does this hole go?

Bloomberg reports that the FDA is considering approving a new technology that would combine the DNA of two mothers with one male “donor” in order to create a better baby. Can anyone say “Frankenstein,” please?

I wish Robert P. George was still on the President’s Council on Bioethics to  discuss the morality, er, ethics, of this latest “improvement”–but that Council was disbanded before its term ran out by President Obama, but it was replaced in 2010 with the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, which has held 16 meetings since 2010. At its most recent one in Feb. 2014 this was discussed in session 2:

Now, so shall we be thinking about the possibility of giving medications or drugs to people as a way of causing them to be less aggressive and thereby to better fit in with society, be more functional in families, more functional in school, more functional in their work?

So some of the ethical issues raised by this kind of possibility and raised in our discussion were concerns about justice, the justice of such drugs, the dignity, the human dignity involved in using pharmaceuticals to enhance ourselves morally; how such drugs or other resources might affect the notion of free will and autonomy.  Is it really me freely deciding to be a moral person if I’ve taken a pill?

These questions are out there. In the view of utopian science, one way to perfect man may be through drugs, but maybe you can do it through genetic manipulation. If you care about whether or not Frankenstein is given a free pass and you live in Chicago, I URGE you to attend this luncheon lecture by William Hurlbut of Stanford University next Friday March 14. We are being warned, but who will take heed? Can a society endure that murders 55 million of its unborn while spending billions on Frankenstein’s new laboratory?

A Review of “Son of God”
Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 10:19 AM

By Timothy R. Furnish, PhD
In his 1925 book The Everlasting Man, Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton notes (pp. 190ff) that no church has ever erected a “statue of Christ in wrath:” whipping moneylenders out of the Temple courtyard, or cursing an unproductive fig tree—much less the warrior-judge of Revelation.  On the contrary, Christians throughout history have gone out of their way to present Jesus as “almost entirely mild and merciful.”  Following in this understandable, if one-sided, vein the new “Son of God” movie vastly overemphasizes Jesus’ kindness,  to the detriment of his divine determination—thus undermining the true Christ of the New Testament.

“Son of God” was created by the husband-wife team of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey as a follow-on to their wildly-successful 2013 TV miniseries “The Bible.”  Their stated intent was to produce a “love story for an ‘under-served’ audience”—non-Christians, presumably—so that viewers would “fall in love with Jesus.”  The movie finished number two in its opening weekend (at least as gauged by take, not the rather tenuous  love-of-Jesus metric).

Trying adequately to tell the life-story of the founder of the world’s largest religion in 138 minutes would, of course, require miraculous film-making.  “Son of God” attempts such by both leaving out important parts of Jesus’ life and compressing and conflating others.  For example, according to the four Gospels Jesus performed 35 miracles: 23 healings, nine exhibiting power over nature, and three resurrections.  “Son of God” shows only six: Peter’s miraculous catch of fish at Jesus’ behest, as well as Christ healing a paralytic, feeding the multitude, walking on water, raising Lazarus from the dead and healing Malchus’ ear after Peter strikes it with a sword.   Admittedly, demonstrating all his miracles would have turned this into a thamaturgical saga.  But almost a quarter of Jesus’ recorded healings were in fact exorcisms, making problematic Burnett and Downey’s insistence on cinematically “casting the devil out.”  Exorcising Obama look-alike Satan will probably help the movie appeal to the unchurched legions among Millennials and Hipsters, but leaving out all of Jesus’ dealings with devils reduces his enemies—notably the Romans personified by Pontius Pilate, and the Pharisees led by the High Priest Caiaphas—to merely human ones.  While this approach might help with the “political thriller” aspect about which Downey gushes, it also severely undermines the cosmic import of Christ’s Incarnation, as well as his power over the forces of darkness—what Chesterton (again), calls Jesus’ “lion-tamer” aspect.

Compression of events, while cinematically understandable, is still rather jarring in “Son of God.”  Jesus’ birth (and the ahistorical, albeit traditional, presence of the Magi shortly after) is followed immediately by him commencing his public ministry by calling Peter then, in short order, all the apostles are following Jesus to Jerusalem.  Satan having fallen out of this film, Christ’s temptation in the desert by the evil archangel is nowhere to be seen.  Jesus’ growing popularity is counterposed with scenes in which Caiaphas worries about this “simple-minded” preacher and Nicodemus’ growing fascination with, and defense of, the new “prophet” and his movement.  Pilate is Machiavellian and merciless (quite in contrast to the more nuanced and almost-sympathetic Roman procurator of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ  and Ethiopian Christianity).   This approach reinforces the idea of purely political opposition to Jesus leading to his crucifixion, while also contrasting his lovable nature with that of  both the ruthless Roman governor and the inflexible, rules-obsessed Jewish High Priest.

Overall, “Son of God” tells a rather straightforward, albeit truncated and anodyne, version of the gospel truth.  And  there are good moments herein:  Jesus  delivering the famous “render to Caesar” line, then tossing the coin to a Roman soldier; the contraposition between Jesus praying to his Father, Caiaphas to the Hebrews’ God and Pilate and Claudia to their ancestors; Jesus on the way to Golgotha while a lamb is being sacrificed at the Temple for Passover.   But its Jesus, while easy to love, commands little respect—from his interlocutors or from viewers.  Closer to the Gospels are the otherworldly steel of Robert Powell’s “Jesus of Nazareth,” or even the heroic anguish of Jim Cavizel’s Christ’s passion.  One might well ask:  what does it profit the church to gain adherents via a milquetoast Jesus, only to lose its Gospel soul?

–Timothy R. Furnish

Respect for Traditional View or Write Off as Bankrupt & Bigoted?
Monday, March 3, 2014, 12:38 PM

Oh, to be out of fashion with the rising “gay marriage” tide!
Hunter Baker poses some thoughtful questions and counterpoints at The Federalist. How do children respond?

Multiculturalism Stalls in Canada….?
Monday, March 3, 2014, 12:20 PM

Or at least pauses, as a “lesbian” who wanted a man’s haircut from a Muslim barber who is isn’t supposed to even touch women other than his wife heads toward Canada’s Human Rights Tribunal. Isn’t there a “gay” barber around who can do the job? Story here at Toronto Sun. The new regulations that will need to be written for the 58 genders of Facebook and discrimination policies will rival the IRS tax code in complexity. “You have to have your lawyer present” won’t be a joke.

Trinity International University Names New President: David S. Dockery
Friday, February 28, 2014, 12:21 PM

Just up the road from us lies Trinity International University (Deerfield, IL), which has just named today outgoing President of Union University David S. Dockery as its new President, effective June 1. We congratulate Dr. Dockery and look forward to his ministry at TIU, wishing him and his family the Lord’s blessing and guidance in the days ahead. Here is the PRESS RELEASE from TIU.

Photos of Courageous Priests in Kiev
Thursday, January 30, 2014, 10:03 AM

 Photos of Courageous Priests in Kiev(HT Frank and Patricia Johnson) Here are dramatic photos of Ukrainian priests standing between protesters and government forces in Kiev, trying to keep peace.

Marked for Destruction: The Plight of Syria’s Christians
Friday, January 24, 2014, 4:01 PM

Meet a Syrian Christian Delegation, Jan. 27, DC.
As readers know, Christian in the Middle East are under fire, and perhaps in no place more than Syria at this time. Syrian Christians will be on hand to speak at the Heritage Foundation this coming Monday, Jan. 27, in Washington, DC.  I wish I could be there.

Courage of the White Rose: Sister of Sophie Scholl, 93
Tuesday, January 21, 2014, 12:41 PM

If you need to be inspired and reminded that it is important to bear witness against lies despite the cost, here at the Daily Mail is a recent article about Hans and Sophie Scholl, who were both executed by the Nazis for distributing leaflets critical of Hitler’s regime. It quotes their sister, Elisabeth, who is 93. (HT: Alex Schadenberg.)


The New Intolerance
Wednesday, January 15, 2014, 11:54 AM

The mindset of tyranny should not be beyond us. If we say, “It can’t happen here,” we forget the power of sin and desire to deceive the human heart, which is desperately wicked above all things. How could Dachau, Rwanda, Jim Crow, Anti-Semitism, witch-hunts ever occur? Here is the creeping spirit of it in the flesh. Just a small example.  The New Intolerance.

Duck, Duck … Deuce
Wednesday, January 15, 2014, 11:11 AM

I know, I know, lots of commentary on Duck Dynasty, but something worth reading here at Patheos, part One of Two. Part Two will be posted there tomorrow.

And for good measure, and quite complementary to the above, I am posting this second piece on the underlying issue.

‘I Stand With Phil’: Religions Old and New
Stephen Richard Turley, Ph.D.

 Fans of the A&E television show, Duck Dynasty, were dealt a blow. After making rather disparaging remarks toward homosexual behavior, the patriarch of the show, Phil Robertson, was suspended by the network, which affirmed their support for the ‘LGBT community.’ In response to the suspension, cyberspace lit up with a firestorm of online petitions inviting supporters to ‘stand with Phil Robertson.’

The current debate, however, betrays the complexity surrounding the emergence of gender communities and so-called ‘same-sex marriage,’ precisely because such an emergence draws into itself several points of reference, such as theology, cosmology, gender, sexuality, love, society, history, politics, and law. It would thus seem that a mature and insightful conversation would seek to disambiguate the historical and cultural contingencies in which this controversy is situated.

I am, however, under no illusions that such a conversation will or even can take place. This is because the issue surrounding the fallout over the Robertson interview is not ultimately one of free speech, intolerance, or bigotry; rather, it involves the clash between two fundamentally different embodiments of religious fidelity.

If a century of cultural anthropological research has taught us anything, it is that ‘religion’ is not merely a private or personal set of values or beliefs in gods or spirit beings. Rather, anthropologists see religion as constituting the rules, understandings, and goals that govern any social order. All social orders operate according to communally shared presuppositions that are considered absolutely true and unquestionable and thereby provide the foundation for a collective sense of the common good. If I get pulled over by a police officer for speeding and I voice my displeasure at that law, he may say, “That’s all fine and dandy, but you still broke it.” In this case, the law is absolute, it is unquestionable; I don’t define it, it defines me. I may want to have the law changed, but if I do, then there is a procedure to do so that is itself absolute and unquestionable. There is no social order that can operate without basic rules, understandings, and goals that define the common good for society in ways that are considered absolute and unquestionable.

What this means then is that there is simply no such thing as a social order that is organized and governed apart from religion. All social orders are by definition religious; all social orders are organized and governed according to some vision of the sacred: rules, understandings, and goals considered absolute and unquestionable. It is therefore not a question of whether our society is going to be organized by a religion, but rather which religion is going to organize our society. (more…)

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