Ethics for Assembly 2002.
If the Senate passes the legislation to allow stem cell research on embryos, who will come with me on a march into the city carrying huge placards that read “SHAME!”?
Anyone? No, well that’s a relief…
Well, I guess it would compromise my work… what would my patients think? What about the Medical Board? Would I get charged by the police and then lose my licence to practice? Quite possibly. No, for the sake of respectability and because of my public Christian stand I must not compromise what I have tried to achieve all these years in educating on matters of grief and death & dying and depression and sexual abuse and infidelity and persuading people to become Christians – think of the disrespect I could cause to the message of God – so I will shrink back into my ‘sanctuary of private virtuousness’ that Bonhoeffer talks about* and keep my mouth shut and not wave my placard that Australia most desperately needs to see.
Well, it would almost be like walking into town with no clothes on. How embarrassing!
There! Having made that decision I feel more comfortable and no doubt you do too
But, how and when will we know that that is what we have to do?
What will it finally be that drives us to that conclusion?
And will it be too late?
What will it be?
So, what will it finally be that drives us to walk into Perth carrying our placards?
How will we know that that is what we have to do?
And will we still be able to?
Maybe the placard should read:
*Letters and Papers From Prison.
Why Shame? Charles Colson in one of his Breakpoint articles, talking about pornography, says we have forgotten what shame is. We should identify things that are shameful and label them as such.
Many of you would be aware of the George Barna poll that indicated that the percentage of Americans affirming that they believe in “moral truths or principles” that are eternal and unchanging actually declined after Sept 11 from 38% to 22%. More significantly, only 32% of US evangelicals, even after Sept 11, still believed in absolute moral truth – down from 48% in 1991 and 38% in 1994. Would we poll better here? I hope we would and I think we would.
Will what happened in Bali make any difference? Time and again we hear that people have prayed; prayed for someone’s safety; prayed that they would find someone; prayed to get out alive. They may not have prayed to our God, but some of them will have. But just the fact that they utter a prayer is an indication within them of a consciousness of a presence or force outside of themselves. Let us grab the opportunity and say, as Paul did to the people of Athens “we can show you who your unknown God is”. Let us say that in our conversations and our pulpits.
Ravi Zacharias in Deliver us From Evil – Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture (1996) says that no world-view suffers more from the loss of truth than the Christian one and that for the Christian this is where the battle must be fought.
CSLewis in The Abolition of Man – that incredibly prophetic series of lectures in 1943 –talked about ‘men without chests’ or adults who lack moral formation and moral character; without enduring values; who divorce their head from their hearts; who use their ‘head’ but lose their ‘chest.’ ‘Men without chests.’ What a wonderfully penetrating and insulting term! We should make more of it. Not only to mean that people should be more moral in their science and to re-integrate values in education, but also to have the courage and moral fortitude to stand up and fight for the future of our society.
J I Packer, in his brilliant article Surprised by Lewis in Christianity Today Sept 1998, writes:
‘The Abolition of Man was the waving of a red flag at an oncoming juggernaut that would reduce education to the learning of techniques and so dehumanize and destroy it, tearing out of it that which is its true heart.’
Packer further writes:
‘The attempt was ignored, and today we reap the bitter fruits... The inner desolation and desperation that young people experience as subjectivist relativism and nihilism are wished upon them in schools and universities is a tragedy. (If you do not know what I am referring to, listen to the pop singers; they will tell you.)’
Along the same line M.Scott Peck (of The Road Less Travelled fame) in The Denial of the Soul (1997) writes:
‘...advocates of euthanasia on demand... fail to realize.. that the achievement of their ends would quite possibly create a society even more soulless and mechanistic than the one we have now... a society where there is no potential glory in dying, an utterly rational society where people are simply put to sleep upon request without any reference to the irrational mystery of their souls or to God who is their source and that of all true glory.’ (p228.)
And as Christians, when we talk about the value and meaning of life, we are told to keep out of the stem-cell argument, that as ‘religious’ people we have no right to speak – as Richard Neuhaus warned in the 80’s we are being told to keep out ‘of the public square.’
It really is a pathetic argument isn’t it? We have as much a right to speak as others. What these critics are really saying is ‘leave God out of the picture – we don’t want to listen to what your God tells us in setting boundaries and anyway we are doing this for the good of mankind’.
In the six decades of my life I have seen our society change from one with basic Christian values to one that seems to want to destroy every value that we once held high. But Natural Law is written on our hearts as Paul says in Romans and we are without excuse. Natural Law of course originates from God but is present in many cultures and religions and we can appeal to the community that these eternal and immutable principles can only be ignored and rejected at out peril and that history is full of illustrations of calamity consequent upon this rejection.
I want to put to you that the focus (as to the real battle) has been sharpened. The embryo stem-cell issue itself is not the battle. It is only one bridge – an important one, yes, but only one bridge. If you like, it’s a symptom of an underlying deeper malady that is pervading our society. Well of course you know that, but I’m a slow learner. It is only as a result of the stem cell debate that the real battle – for me – has been focussed. It has highlighted for me the deeper and fundamental issues of the definition of life, deteriorating values in our culture and – as above – that Christians are being told they must not be heard.
The issue of using embryos for research will not go away. Likewise considerations of the meaning of life with respect to euthanasia will not go away – it will be with us until the forces for evil have won or until God calls Time. The definition of life – whether at its beginning or its end – is of critical importance and is not to be found in consideration of personhood or worth or other abstracts.
Illusions, lies and euphemisms abound to shroud the real issues.
These issues – the beginning of life, the quality of life, and the ‘worth’ of life are critical to our thinking with respect to abortion, embryo research, eugenics and euthanasia. There is good reason to believe that what we are facing in the attempted manipulation of life and death is more sinister than any other evil we have encountered; that this evil eclipses in its potential and significance wars and genocide and immorality and corruption and – dare I say it – terrorism.
This is our new rebellion against eternal truth and part of our quest to be our own gods – the new Tower of Babel.
What must we do? We must not be fearful; say that we believe in higher values; there is something more; there is a God who rules the universe and who does care what happens; there are moral absolutes; truth is important. We may be ridiculed but at a time of need the person to whom you have talked might pray to the God they have tried to pretend is not there. Talk to your friends and neighbours: if you were there, would you have prayed? Who would you have prayed to?
What can we do? Is it ‘enough’ to preach the gospel?
Yes, our main ‘mission’ focus must always be to glorify God by preaching the gospel in season and out of season and bringing people to Christ, but we also need to speak to issues involving our culture, to be a prophetic voice and say what needs to be said as God’s people and watchmen (Ezek 33:7-9). We need to appeal to lasting values of virtue and honour, justice and mercy that are a part of universal and natural law. We need to proclaim the Word of God – as Jeremiah had to – to the rulers and people of this land.
This is what the LORD says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne--you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.’” Jeremiah 22:1-3.
What can we do? How can we change our culture?
o Build ‘values’ (and outreach) bridges into the community with topical seminars, panel discussions and specific teaching sessions on depression, death and dying, euthanasia, the role of family on our society (e.g. Growing Kids God’s Way), suicide (saying that there is something more than the subculture view that life is only about pleasure and that, if life is too hard, I’ll just kill myself) etc etc
o Pop group Men with Chests
· Issues Education:
o ‘Ground’ our own people in these matters and mobilise an army who understand the times; who know what to do; people of passion like the men of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32); making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Eph 5:15).
o Public education through seminars, teaching programs on specific issues as above
Do Not Shame Australia – Protect Innocent Embryos
Do Not Sell Australia’s Soul – Choose Life
And so we might see that a sharpened focus for the 21st Century is Restoring the Soul to our Culture. We can summarise it succinctly in defining a problem, a solution, and a mission.
A Sharpened Focus for the 21st Century
Our culture’s denial of the soul, soul values and Natural Law.
Evil, sinister in its potential, masked as compassion and progress.
Definition of life, particularly its beginning and end, being blurred to suit ‘humanistic’ biotechnology and ideals. This is symptomatic of our society’s rebellion against God and determination to do our own thing.
Christians are being marginalised and told they must not be heard.
As always, preach the Word.
But we need to be heard as a prophetic voice (the ‘whole’ Word) to our society’s needs and ills.
Restoring the soul to our culture.
Prof Brian Stone indicated that it could be helpful for presidents to have something actually passed by Assembly and asked three of us to prepare something which could then perhaps be voted on at next Assembly. One of us due to severe time pressures was unable to contribute at all. Jill and Steve McAlpine were able to put together a possible preamble only so it has been left to me to give you an idea of possible motions for Council and then Assembly to consider.
They are in fact very similar to the statement was sent to all WA MPs that you might have seen on the screen as you were coming in. 15 Christian leaders including Brian Stone signed that statement. The resolutions have been put in the same we affirm/we deny format that we used for the statement on homosexuality a few years ago.
Suggested resolutions for Assembly concerning definitions of life with particular reference to protection of embryonic human life.
We affirm that human life begins when a cell containing human chromosomes has the ability to replicate and differentiate into individual tissues (i.e. with fertilisation but also by cloning). The genetic pattern of such a cell is uniquely human and determines its adult characteristics.
We deny that any other definition of the beginning of human life is acceptable. Concepts of personhood and self-awareness are arbitrary and capable of varying definition and are not acceptable.
We affirm that the human embryo is human life in the truest sense and must be protected against experimentation or exploitation along with life at any stage.
We deny that cloning technology is acceptable whether for so-called therapeutic or reproductive purposes. We also deny that fertilisation attempted between human and non-human cells (to create a ‘chimera’) is acceptable.
We affirm that many scientists consider that stem-cell research on adult tissues and other non-embryonic tissues (e.g. umbilical cord) has proven benefits and safety as well as great medical promise for the future and that embryo research is not as necessary as other scientists make out.
We deny that as ‘spare’ embryos are going to die anyway, then it is reasonable to use them for stem cell research or experiment on them in other ways. We submit this would be like asking whether it might be acceptable to do research or experiment on a person who is comatose or lacks self-awareness for other reasons and who is either near death or will not recover.
We affirm (in answer to those who say that ‘religious’ people should keep out of the debate) our right – and indeed obligation – to speak for the future of our society. We assert that ‘natural’ Law is present in the heart of mankind, that this law exhorts us to protect the innocent and helpless, to uphold the sanctity and preciousness of life and that these are eternal and immutable principles.
Mr Chairman, I move these resolutions be passed to Council for consideration.
carry each other's burdens;
keep no record of wrongs;
work for harmony and peace;
work for justice and righteousness, hating evil;
protect the weak and helpless;
are not weary in doing good;
are not wanting to make a good impression;
know: the real situation – locally, globally and eternally;
the fragility of life;
the preciousness of freedom;
the lies and deceits and illusions all around;
that they reap what they sow;
they are free because they are responsible;
that increased privileges give increased responsibility;
are self-aware and ‘real’
vigilant and watchmen;
prepared to sacrifice
pleased to accomplish and experience, but still humble and contrite in spirit;
display spontaneity; can have fun; have the ability to laugh at themselves;
can live simply, enjoy nature and simple pleasures;
positively think of those things which are “true, noble, right, pure, admirable”;
have learned from the lessons of history;
delay gratification for the sake of something better;
appreciate being taught something new;
Gal 5&6; 1 Cor 13; Jer 22:1-3; Amos 5:15; James 1:27; Ezekiel 33:7-9;
2 Tim 4:2; Luke 12:48; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Isaiah 66:2; Philippians 4:8
BreakPoint with Charles Colson
January 3, 2003
In a scene in The Two Towers, the second in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, the traitor Saruman is torturing the noble wizard Gandalf. "What," the evil wizard asks Gandalf, "is the greatest power?"
"Life," Gandalf replies.
"You fool," says Saruman. "Life can be destroyed. Did I teach you nothing?"
Trying again, Gandalf says, "Creation."
"Yes," answers Saruman, "the power to create life."
This passage comes to mind when we consider that this month marks the thirtieth anniversary of the start of the modern holocaust: the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Some 50 million babies have died since that ruling was handed down.
Terrible as Roe was, we are now facing an even worse horror. In Roe, we took life—which was bad enough—but at least we were not pretending to be God. But now, with cloning, humans will play God, the Author of life: We will create life for our own purposes. In fact, if reports are true, we already have.
The Raelians, a religious group that believes humans are the clones of extraterrestrials, claim that a cloned child, a baby girl named Eve, was born on December 26. This is not some science-fiction story—it’s an immediate concern.
Sadly, just as most Christians were asleep when Roe was decided, we are in danger of sleeping through the alarm of this latest moral catastrophe.
Nearly the only people who opposed abortion-on-demand in 1973 were our Catholic brethren. Many said, "It’s just a Catholic issue." Hard as it is to believe today, Southern Baptists—my own denomination—were in favor of abortion.
And now, on an issue of even greater moment, we may do the same thing. We’re not talking about taking the lives of 50 million kids, as horrible as that is. We’re talking about creating the lives of 50 million kids—and then killing them, ostensibly for the good of humanity.
Where will all this lead us? C. S. Lewis offered a prophetic warning half a century before human cloning became a potential reality. "If any one age," he wrote, "really attains, by eugenics and scientific education, the power to make its descendents what it pleases, all men who live after are the patients of that power," slaves to the "dead hand of the great planners and conditioners."
Just as Lewis foresaw, the biotech revolution is moving like a steamroller, crushing everything in its path—including ethical questions. The reason is that secular ethics have been drained of moral content. In the political debate, the utilitarians—those who demand the "greatest good for the greatest number"—have seized the high ground, offering dazzling promises of cures to come.
As Christians, it’s our duty to raise even bigger moral questions. The worst atrocities are performed in the name of humanitarian causes. And sacrificing one to benefit all soon makes all vulnerable.
This month I’ll be devoting quite a bit of time to life issues and the social forces that have driven the demand for legal abortion and how they lead to the demand for euthanasia and assisted suicide. I’ll also describe the challenges for Christians in this "brave new world." You’ll learn what specific things you can do to wake up your neighbors—before the abolition of man triumphs over the human race.