November 12, 2010

Women's Christian Worldview Conference

The Center for Women of Faith in Culture is hosting the first annual God, Faith & Culture Evangelical Women’s Conference on April 30th, 2011 in Arlington Heights, Illinois. But this is not just another women’s conference where women come together to base new and developing friendships on shared emotional experiences. In fact, we expect that the intellectual rigor of this event will prepare you to need a nice quiet evening to process the content presented by all the speakers. Our focus is a deliberate emphasis on the life of the mind in your relationship with God–but of course, we expect you will fully enjoy your time as you hear Christian women leaders speak on different aspects of the Christian worldview.

Speakers for this conference include Dr. Halee Gray Scott, PhD, Azusa Pacific University, Jennifer Lahl, The Center for Bioethics & Culture, Pam Gillaspie, Deep & Wide, Kathy Barnette, Judson University, Caryn Rivadeneira, Christianity Today, and many others. Be sure to register online at and find us on Facebook.

November 3, 2010

Swaddling Cloths Project

I don't write too frequently on specific ministry activities, but I wanted to share this idea for a community ministry opportunity in time for the Christmas season. Over the weekend, our church women's ministry team met to fine tune plans for our Christmas brunch. As a result of our meeting, we opted to do away with the formalities of a Christmas brunch and, instead, have a Christmas continental breakfast. Here's why:

A story recently ran in the local newspaper about a crisis pregnancy center in my very small town, a center I didn't know even existed.  So given the isolation of things in our rural community, I felt compelled to assist. We discussed it at our meeting and decided to use the Christmas brunch -- which evolved into the  Christmas continental breakfast --  as an opportunity for the women at church to serve the needs in the community by gathering the necessities associated with bringing a new life into the world.  Essentially its a diaper drive, but we hope for a variety of supplies for infant care. It's will be informal, lacking the panache often associated with women's holiday events.  We call it The Swaddling Cloths Project (Luke 2:12).

The narrative of Jesus birth has been imprinted in our minds with the Wisemen following the star and culminating in the joy of finding of Jesus lying in a manger. And I'm quite sure it was a joyous sight! But reading the text again in Luke, I was struck by the circumstances of the manger scene. There was no room at the Inn, that's the reason for the manger scene. Hardly ideal circumstances for caring for a young child, though I'm sure they were thankful for shelter. But I wonder, does this  passage still remind us of Jesus' very humble condescension or has it simply become a reason for holiday festivities? This must have also been a very humbling experience for Mary and Joseph. Ok, I concede that Mary gave birth to the Son of God and they had a pretty awesome birth announcement with the Star the Wisemen followed. And we can't forget about the angels who spoke to them. It is fair to say that both the natural circumstances and the supernatural encounters comprised a very humbling experience.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  (Luke 2:11-12 ESV)
The Swaddling Cloths Project is an opportunity to reflect on our Saviors humility and to share his love by giving towards the practical needs of others. While Mary and Joseph were hardly in a crisis pregnancy situation, from their human perspective they probably waivered between trust and doubt throughout the pregnancy and after the birth of Jesus. This Christmas, consider reaching out to the crisis pregnancy centers and honor the choice of life by fulfilling some of the practical needs of a young mother or family. If you are able, share with these young people that God is looking out for them and has sent his church to care for those in  need.

October 15, 2010

"Extremist" is a Theological Category

American culture seems to be most interested in who God isn’t. Many hold that claims made about God put him in a box and because we really can’t know anything about him (so they say) we should avoid claiming any knowledge of or about him. Of course, that argument works for less than 10 seconds because to say we can’t know anything about God requires some knowledge of God—and that is where such claims reduce to silliness.

On The View yesterday, America’s love affair with religious pluralism took the conversation in a direction that deserves further reflection. During the show, Joy Behar and Whoopie Goldberg took issue with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, stomping off the stage in protest after he explained that 70% of Americans are against the building of the Mosque near Ground Zero because it was Muslims who attacked America on 9/11/2001. In all the clamor, O’Reilly defended his statement with a follow-up rhetorical question, “were they not Muslim?” On his own show last evening, however, he capitulated and said that he assumed the ladies on The View would get that he was referring to the Muslim terrorists who are also extremists, but Muslim nonetheless.

If you ever watch The O’Reilly Factor and have a basic knowledge of Christianity, you probably know that Bill O’Reilly is not a theologian. He proved this recently as he defended Christians in an interview with Bill Maher. O’Reilly explained to Maher that Christians don’t really believe that the story of Noah and the flood is to be taken literally but that Christians still deserve to be heard. This is just one of many uncomfortable moments in the interview that reduced it to the status of train wreck. Certainly the world of politics can not avoid the world of religious ideas, but I would highly recommend that O’Reilly remove himself from theological dialogue at this point…or get a tutor.

October 1, 2010

Choosing Christianity

“That's just how you were raised!”—a common argument used to dismiss Christianity’s claim to absolute truth. A variation of this argument goes something like this: "If you had been born in another country, you could just as easily have become a Muslim or a Hindu. What you believe is determined by how you were raised—your environment—not by any over-arching truths." And who can argue with such sophisticated argumentation? After all, that is exactly how many of us were raised. We regularly attended Sunday services, the Wednesday evening Bible study, and summer vacations were always scheduled around Vacation Bible School. We were taught that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, that Jesus was born of a virgin and that he died at Calvary as a sacrifice for our sins. Heavens to Betsy, we also view the account of Noah and the Ark as a literal, historical event.

Sadly, however, many Christians have surrendered to this argument, concluding that it is only by chance—as opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit—that they are followers of Christ. Their views of truth and ethics have been reduced to personal preference, leaving them paralyzed to say anything objective about the world in which they live. When confronted with the absolute truth claims of Christianity, they are willing to embrace them, but only for themselves.

September 23, 2010

Neighbor Love and the Doctrine of God

It's confusing yet strangely gratifying all at the same time. We live in a culture that is moving further and further from the exclusive claims of Christianity yet almost equally—and inconsistently—holds select passages in the Bible in high regard. They hold forth as though they cling tighter to the red letter words of Jesus than those who claim to be Christians. Of course, it’s true that many who call themselves believers fail to live in a way that reflects how we are suppose to live, but these failures are not indicative of a bankrupt theology but rather our need for a perfect Savior. Perhaps this is why Scripture, in various ways, implores us to guard our testimony as unbelievers struggle to separate the message from the messenger. In contrast, while the work of many social justice advocates may encompass a zealous neighbor-love approach, it often neglects a gospel-centered focus lacks any risk.
In the book of Matthew, we read the account of Jesus being asked by a lawyer which of the commandments was the greatest. Jesus’ response included not one, but two. The first, he said, was to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind and the second was like the first, that we ought to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 22:37-40).

September 19, 2010

Who Defines Feminism?

I think the bigger question is—should we really care? Frankly, I am perplexed by the recent trend of conservative and evangelical-oriented women who are adding their voice to America’s political landscape, and even those who are standing on the sidelines in admiration. I’m not taking issue with their involvement or the content of their positions—I’m so pleased to see basic conservative values take center stage at this time in history. But it does strike me as odd the need of this fresh new culture of prolife conservative women to invoke the category of feminism, as if doing so provides credibility to their mission. It appears to be an attempt to appeal to common ground.

Former Saturday Night Life star Victoria Jackson recently wrote how the feminist value of career first ultimately had a negative impact on her life. She bought into the false dichotomy of career and family instead of pursuing both to whatever degree possible. She suggests that Sarah Palin is the ‘perfect feminist’ and tries unpacks what she means by this.
That is Feminism. A feminine woman achieving goals with the blessing of her man, while she simultaneously supports his career endeavors and celebrates his masculinity.
Victoria goes on in her piece by identifying other problems associated with secular feminism including the willing hyper-sexualization of women in our culture that even Christian women are not immune to. And she approaches the topic of single-parenting, a likely reference to Jennifer Anniston, that women who think they can have children without a man in their life just simply look “stupid and desperate.” She concludes her piece with a thought-provoking statement about how she understands the expectations of secular feminists.
Feminism. Such a strange word. When I hear it I first think of the most masculine and angry women, women with not a shred of femininity. Funny how words are. Then, I think of the meaning they want it to hold. And that word is Sarah Palin.
For Victoria Jackson, the demands of secular feminism have been fulfilled by the person and work of Sarah Palin. I want to suggest that while there is irony in this fact, our fancy with feminism really should end there. We need to think about this a bit more deeply. Do we really want to assert that the conservative values, many of which are distinctively Christian, are better off framed in the context of feminism? This is a dangerous compromise as it obscures the source of these values and blurs the lines between God’s authority and the self-ascribed authority tied not just to feminism, but to fallen human nature in general. It only helps to perpetuate the self-centeredness of our society instead of the God-centeredness we as evangelical women (and men) ought to be promoting and encouraging in the lives of other believers.

In this strange new culture of evangelical feminism, even traditionally left-leaning religious feminists have discovered how they can profit from the movement. New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views is a new book of old ideas based in the foundational elements of feminism including a more pluralistic outlook on religion and ethics. And it goes even further as Jeanette Stokes, a Presbyterian ministry and one writer in this anthology states,
…I choose to be a heretic, to remain within the bounds of the Christian faith, to create new forms, and explore new practices…Some of my feminist colleagues have turned in their ordinations. I have no instinct to do that. I still love the religion of my childhood; it is just that when I step into it these days I tend to freeze. I do not want to say some of the words anymore.
One reviewer of this book indicates that some of the Christian practices Stokes is “no longer comfortable with include baptism, communion, forbidding of certain types of art and forms of love-making, and ‘the focus on Jesus’ suffering and dying.’”

Needless to say, by the title alone the new wave of conservative “Christian feminists” will be attracted to it. I only hope they will not be motivated by the appeal to power in its many pages. Other writers in the book include well-known feminists Rosemary Ruether and Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza.

Who defines feminism does not really matter because the evangelical Christian woman should be more concerned with her definition of Christianity. It matters that culture is listening, but how we get their attention is an ethical dilemma for those who call themselves Christian conservatives. Do the ends (conservative values) justify the means of compromise? By stealing the term feminism for our own pragmatic purposes empowers secular feminism. What ultimately matters is whether we are pleasing God in how we speak and act. While invoking feminism might provide a small amount of credibility to the message of conservatism as delivered by women in our society today, it is a proposal that will ultimately have short-lived results.

September 7, 2010

The Problem of Moral Revival

As a Christian and a conservative, I believe we have reached a crossroads where we need to seriously reconsider our approach to cultural engagement. The swift undercurrent of moral decay continues to take most Christians by surprise while our pragmatic approach to morality rooted in tradition and dependent on consensus forces us down the slippery slope of relativism. As much as we want to protect our freedom of speech, have we really had all that much to say? As much as we want to protect the right to life, have we been focused more on the right than the life created in the image of God? And in all of our efforts to defend traditional marriage, have we capitulated to non-biblical perspectives in our appeal to the safety of tradition instead of a risky appeal to Scripture? An explicitly Christian worldview has not been welcome in the marketplace of ideas for some time. As a result, believers have caved to society’s demands for a secularized message under the guise of “public language,” an attempt to give the appearance that morality can be dislodged from its worldview foundations. This enterprise has been anything but successful. Yet Christian conservatives continue to clamor for moral revival in pluralistic setting that might, for only a short time, reflect certain values consistent with Scripture. The problem with this conception of moral revival is that it is about as effective as yo-yo dieting.

August 31, 2010

Why the Church Needs More Christian Women Scholars

Studying theology helps us to participate in our relationship with God. It isn’t about gathering a ton of unnecessary knowledge that will never make a difference in your life, but about committing to knowing God in the deepest way possible.

But even the process of doing theology has intrinsic value as it trains the mind to welcome ideas that are reasonable and glorify God, and to reject ideas and ways of thinking that hurt us and contradict truth. Doing theology helps us to become critical thinkers in every area of life.

As women, it is especially important for us to do theology, not because there is something about us that makes us intellectually deficient or different from men, but because attempts to encourage non-theological thinking have become so widespread in the culture of women’s ministry. We often think and meditate on a single verse or short passage at a time, a practice which can be detrimental not only to understanding the bigger picture, but can equally undermine our ability to practice what we believe in every area of our lives. We do not want to be fragmented in our approach to living, but that is a real risk if we study the Bible in that same way. 

August 30, 2010

More on Beth Moore

This is a cross-posted at First Things
A few months ago, I began writing a piece on the teachings of Beth Moore. The fine writers at CT were working on a similar project which became a recent cover story and companion article. There is much to be said about Beth’s influence in the Church that I believe male and female leaders need to take a second look at. Well, when my article is published, I will provide a link to the full text, in the meantime, take a look at how Beth handles Paul. Keep in mind what she is ultimately saying about the insertion of sinful attitudes as part of the biblical writers’ instructional material.

August 18, 2010

Is the Department of Justice Investigating Conservative Bloggers?

I'm just a small-town girl with a love for God, a passion for truth, and a desire for a safe world for my kids to live in. Writing about matters of faith, ethics, and a smattering of politics fulfills my lofty desires to be a factor in our culture wars, to make an impact in the way people integrate their worldview into every day life. So today, I am caught slightly off guard when I find that someone from the Department of Justice is reading on my primary website, The Center for Women of Faith in Culture. Okay, so perhaps it was a government employee covertly looking for a speaker for her next women's ministry event, or a covert conservative needing an early morning dose of reality before embarking on his/her day's work. If that's what it was, welcome!

More than likely, it was an accidental visit and whoever it was intended to locate the Women of Faith site and mistakenly ended up on my gorgeous Wordpress creation. After all, they only hung around for a few minutes and looked at 4 pages. Then again, Nancy Pelosi is trying to discover who the funding source is for the NY City Mosque naysayers, maybe she thinks its me. I didn't do it. But I also didn't know it took any sum of money to say that's a bad idea. But I digress...

Are you a conservative blogger with questionable government visits to your site? I'd like to hear from you. Oh, and here's the evidence:

August 13, 2010

Glenn Beck & the Faith Factor

If you're a conservative and an avid listener of Glenn Beck, likely you appreciate his connecting of dots between Obama administration players, 60's radicals, and the philosophical writings advocating socialism and socialistic policy. Recently, in fact, he showed how the NEA recommends the writings of Saul Alinsky. I find that sort of information interesting and helpful.

Joe Carter at First Things recently challenged Beck's view that issues like abortion and same-sex marriage shouldn't guide our public discussion as much as they do. Yet, Beck regularly insists we need to be moral in our day to day dealings: don't lie, cheat or steal. Have a strong work ethic, dont be lazy. Oh, and get back to your church, temple, synagogue or mosque. "Find God"  so society can return to it's previous version of normal.

August 9, 2010

Life Without the Opposite Sex: Why Not?

Women should never "settle" with a man in order to have a child. Granted, women are created by God to have longings for procreating and nurturing, and I believe this is evidenced in the fact that women will go to all kinds of technological extremes to have their own biological children. But this desire should never supersede the proper context ordained for raising children. While there are purportedly many different family models that work in our world today, the family model that is the true cornerstone of civilization, that honors God and respects life at all stages, is one that begins with a God-centered relationship between one man and one woman. A woman who "settles" so that the alarm on her biological clock does not sound before the childbearing milestone slips through her fingers is the personification of self-centeredness. Actress Jennifer Aniston argues that women should not settle, not because of any reason I just offered, but because so many other options (assisted reproductive technologies - ARTs) are available to women today. 
“Women are realizing it more and more knowing that they don’t have to settle with a  man just to have that child...Times have changed and that is also what is amazing is that we do have so many options these days, as opposed to our parents’ days when you can’t have children because you waited too long.” 
Aniston made this statement at a press conference discussing her new movie, The Switch, another story about a woman who decides to get pregnant with the help of a sperm donor.This movie is certainly not the first to discuss the options women have in this biotech century, The Switch comes after two other recent movies about sperm donors including The Back-Up Plan and The Kids Are All Right. Going mainstream with these options is not just about promoting scientific progress in reproductive technologies, but about removing so-called prejudice against alternative families. But we shouldn't be surprised that Hollywood would be the purveyor of secular-feminist propaganda.

Christianity Today recently asked some evangelical leaders about their response to the defeat of Prop 8 in California. Matthew Anderson's comments speak well for what I believe should be the church's focus in areas of bioethics and women's issues in general.
Practically, I think we have relied too heavily on the will of the majority as our foundation for our legal actions. While political orders must on some level be representative of the people to be legitimate, our founding fathers set up a representative democracy for a reason. Without rejecting efforts like Proposition 8, politically conservative evangelicals should shift their focus toward equipping the next generation of leaders with the philosophical and theological training they need to affect society and government from the "top-down." Majorities are unstable, and while traditional marriage has the upper hand now, it may not in 20 years.
Christians definitely need to stay engaged in the public square on all issues that continue to impact our culture, but in agreement with Matthew Anderson, we need to be intentional and focused about equipping the next generation to think through these issues theologically, and prepare our future Christian citizens and leaders to be unabashedly Christian as they argue these issues in the market place. But this isn't just about the future of culture, but the future of the church and the role that Scripture plays in the lives of believers. New traditions will be in place in a few short years, and terms like "traditional marriage" and "traditional family" will have been shed of all meaning. But terms like "biblical marriage" and "biblical family" will always have meaning because they always point to a source.

But back to Aniston's comments, she is correct, women today don't have to "settle" in order to have children--from a technological perspective, anyway. But without a Christian worldview framework to consider the purpose and role of family and childbearing, what more can we expect? No matter what the law or science may permit, the people can willingly reject it when they have the ability to think theologically.

August 5, 2010

The High Calling of the Christian Woman

Surrogacy, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), egg “donation”, and even certain forms of contraception are considered by many women–including Christian women–valid options for addressing their reproductive dilemmas despite the embryo-destructive nature often associated with these advancements in technology.

Over the years, I have known many women in churches who have traveled down these paths only to suffer the pain of knowing their very prolife intentions have led to some not-so-prolife results. For some, they have come to understand that the embryos they placed in frozen storage for future “use” are their children whether or not they are eventually born or do not survive the process of implantation. Others are still learning that pre-implantation genetic diagnosis is not actually a therapeutic treatment of their very tiny children, but a means of discarding imperfect offspring, a technological “achievement” grounded in a philosophy that says only certain lives are worth living. PGD has come to be a routine practice as IVF has come to be more about quality control.

We continue to love and minister to the women and families who have found themselves in these unfortunate circumstances without being fully informed; ridicule and rebuke have no place as there is so much misinformation about these issues. But as a matter of proactive, educational ministry, women in the church must learn more about these decisions they are contemplating.

Continue reading

July 18, 2010

On Being a Neighbor

We see this happen in media interviews all the time. They have come to be known as “gotchya” questions where the interviewer takes joy in setting up a scenario that the responder must either refuse to answer, or he is forced to stumble through the answer to the satisfaction of the interviewer and/or the audience. This is similar to the attempt to trip-up Jesus when asked which commandment is the greatest of them all. A Pharisee, and interestingly a lawyer, posed the question perhaps counting on Jesus to make a misstep and pit one precept against another. How then could Jesus claim to be any sort of authority? The Pharisees could take gratification in his lack of understanding and enjoy his public humiliation. But ultimate truth cannot be destroyed, even by a lawyer driven by an agenda of deception.

Continue Reading...

July 16, 2010

CBHD Beyond Therapy Bioethics Conference

The 17th Annual Conference on Bioethics opened with Dr. William Hurlbut speaking on Embodiment, Biotechnology and Human Dignity. In it, he reminded the crowd that "bioethics is not a profession, it is a conversation for the whole human family"and the physician is really only "nature's assistant." For Dr. Hurlbut, human dignity is most evident in the face of Christ. Not in keeping with a proper view of human mortality, he quoted the mission of those for an unfettered biotech future. William Haseltine, head of Human Genome Sciences, stated: “The real goal is to keep people alive forever.”

Dr Brent Waters of Garrett Theological Seminary spoke on Late Modern Medicine and Bioethics, drawing our attention to the Creator-creation distinction and reminding us that it is good to be a creature, but being a creature comes with limitations that should be embraced, not overcome.
It is good to be a creature. To be a creature requires that we have a beginning and an end. A creature depends on its creator and fellow creatures. Our creaturely status reminds us that we are not God. When we tend to ignore our status as creatures, we tend to view ourselves as self-made beings.
In Being Human in a World of Digitized Reality and Artificial Life, Dr. Mike Sleasman, Managing Director of CBHD, walked us through the technological forecasts of Sir Robert Boyle and Sir Arthur C. Clarke, contemplating those things yet to be achieved. Sleasman well-articulated the problem of the "consumer doctrine of planned obsolescence."

To conclude the day, Dr. Dorothy Roberts of Northwestern University discussed Race and the New Biocitizen. In this very interesting talk, she  drew attention to a particular problem of unnecessary correlations between race and genetics, highlighting the FDA statements and marketing of certain phamaceutical to the african-american population.

To obtain recordings of these and other paper presentations, visit The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity for more info. More highlights from the rest of the conference tomorrow!

July 5, 2010

Is IVF a Sin?

On an internet discussion board, several (Christian and non-Christian) have been interacting on the question of whether IVF is, according to Christianity, a sin. Without going into tremendous detail here, IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) is an artificial reproductive technology (ART) used to fertilize a woman's egg outside of her body and implant it into her uterus later. The process may move as quickly as having one egg fertilized and immediately implanted, or the process may be longer where several eggs are fertilized and 2-3 are implanted and several embryos stored for use another time. And then there are variations in between as well as some extreme circumstances like the so-called Octomom story of 1009. Some couples choose to have the embryos screened for genetic defects or gender, never implanting the "bad" ones. Others will freeze and store dozens of eggs, not knowing exactly what will become of them in the future. Some of the debate over embryonic stem cell research stems from the existence of hundreds of thousands of embryos that are currently in storage, many of which will never be claimed by their parents. Yes, I said parents.

So below is the discussion which caught my attention:
I don't know that IVF is a sin. I have issues with it, but they are only my opinion, and I have no Biblical reference for it or any other reference. Some of my issues include fertilization of numerous embryos: what do they do with the ones they don't implant? If they implant several embryos, what happens if they all implant? I know several people who were offered selective abortion, which I believe is wrong. And when it comes to choosing gender, I just think that is way wrong.
However, I would not presume to judge you for undergoing IVF. It is ultimately your choice. If you have prayed about it and strongly feel it is the right thing to do, then go for it. 

It's a good thing we don't make all of our decisions according to the few final words in this emotional recommendation. She believes there is something wrong with the use of IVF if it involves the creation of unused embryos, the destruction of embryos, or sex-selection. Her concern is rooted in the concept of human dignity, that life is precious and worthy of respect at every stage. Sadly, she does not explain that the embryo is a human at its earliest stage and destroying a tiny human person is to kill that person. If we think something is wrong, we ought to be able to say why, but perhaps she was driven by the higher moral principle to not judge. That one she claims without hesitation and it appears to be at the top of her moral hierarchy. Is this the kind of advice we should be giving for any questionable situation? "Pray about it and if it feels right...." ? Perhaps "continue to seek wisdom and knowledge from others AND continue to pray" is the better course.

So the question is, is IVF a sin? Let's rephrase it. Is killing another person a sin? If the technology involves the destruction of human embryos, we are in safe, though sad, territory identifying the act with an act of sin.

June 29, 2010

Will Socialism Save Evangelicalism?

As everyone becomes increasingly uncomfortable with global economic woes, many of which have been brought on by big-government economic policies, I have to wonder if this could actually be good for the church. America's history of prosperity can be understood to be the result of divine blessing, solid economic policy, or a providential combination. Yet maybe since this is all Americans today are familiar with--the comfort of prosperity--we are being forced to draw closer to God and consider the deeper meaning of trusting God in every single area of life. I am no friend of socialist policies that bring higher taxes and income redistribution, but I am all about seeing God at work, and maybe...just maybe we are edging closer to another great awakening.

June 20, 2010

What Are We Waiting For? Bioethics & the Progressive Agenda

For whatever reason, the six-year venture of the Women's Bioethics Project has come to an end with a recent announcement that they are closing their doors. But their work is not really finished, it is evolving.  Kathryn Hinsch writes on the organization's website: 
We need ways to reach people outside of the academic and policy realms. Leveraging the power of popular culture is a compelling strategy that engages the public in a visceral and dramatic way. Many emerging technologies and ideas were unimaginable until recently. Genetic testing, designer babies, radical life extension, and neural imaging, to name just a few, are still in their infancy. And there is a great opportunity for determining how these issues are framed in the public mind. Policy will follow public opinion, so we must ensure progressive values are part of the national conversation. 
Christian bioethics similarly needs a strategy to educate and equip those in the pew. Academic materials are not easily translated and filtered down to families who I personally know are engaging in embryo screening and pursing IVF without the ability to acknowledge some of the theological considerations or tragic outcomes. A new project I am embarking in with The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity is a church bioethics council which seeks to develop lay-level materials for the church. Christians will (hopefully) not only be better equipped to engage these ethical dilemmas in their own circumstances, but also equipped to impact culture with a theological view of bioethics that recognizes the dignity of all humans, no matter their age or stage, above a progressive bioethics agenda that seeks whatever science will permit. Kathryn Hinsch has a great insight, that in order to inform public policy, people outside of the academy and political realms need to be reached. What Christian bioethics has that secular bioethics does not have is a gathering place for a concerted educational impact to occur.

June 9, 2010

Conjoined Twins and Christian bioethics

Abortion was never an option, nor is a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR). Her conjoined twins, which have survived long past the time doctors deemed possible, are become less stable each day. It’s hard for the Chicago Tribune article to give us all the facts, but what do you understand about life saving options vs. those which unnecessarily prolong death? What is your church teaching you about these bioethical questions? continue reading...

May 26, 2010

Living in the Shadow of Truth

You can’t say that Christianity is true for everyone because that’s just how you were raised.
How prepared are you to respond to this statement without pitting faith against reason? What I mean is, do you respond by saying that Christianity does not meet the demands of logic and reason, you just have to believe, and that’s the end of the discussion? Or do you unpack the assertion by challenging its fundamental assumptions? The assertion that Christian belief is merely cultural, a set of values passed down from parents to children and therefore not something that can be considered true or false, can be destructive and discouraging to the mind of the believer because of a misapplied truth...

continue reading...

March 25, 2010

Christian Ed. and the Risks of On-the-Job Training

Just about every evangelical church has lay people positioned as elders and teachers, rarely with formal theological training. Obviously, formal training doesn’t necessarily make one a good teacher, but it gives warrant to the belief that the person has a certain degree of knowledge of what they are trying to teach. But as a teacher, how much more does he or she need to know beyond that of the students? Is it appropriate, as the adult in the room, to be learning along side the students? (This may be an overstatement.) That’s something of a rhetorical question, because my current position on this is that, while teachers don’t need to know everything to the degree of having seminary education, they must have basic familiarity with the concepts whereby they can refresh themselves in further study and can actually lead the students without hampering their learning with on-the-job training. I’m curious what kind of training your churches offer in order to equip each teacher for their particular context.

I recently brought this up to a friend who suggested  leadership development whereby teachers can learn to relate with their students and learn about the role of character in their leadership, becoming better teachers as a result. But that escapes the nature of my concern because even if a teacher is equipped at the most basic level, I’m not sure we are doing enough to take them to them further. Has the church made so much out of leadership development that we have neglected the equipping our teachers with the content they need to be truly effective? Not every teacher is a leader, yet the church is inundated with leadership conferences, books, and other materials. Everyone wants to lead and learn how to lead. But who wants to study? With anti-intellectualism rampant in the church, I say few really care to study.

Currently, I have one of the best teaching pastors I have ever known, I am blessed.  But I’m unconvinced that Sunday morning is sufficient for equipping teachers for their own work. Whether Sunday school or youth ministry or adult studies, the gambit of information runs from basic Bible knowledge to apologetics and theological understanding. Pastors can’t do it all, and they definitely can’t do it all on Sunday morning, but maybe they could do more in the church if more direct training is required for all engaged in teaching ministry. Unfortunately, so much of teaching has been reduced to nonteaching. What I mean is that women are often not teaching Bible studies, they are facilitating, plopping in a video and asking “how does that verse make you feel?” The same may be said of Sunday school teachers who use prepackaged curriculum and are simply guiding 3rd graders in self-study. Can’t we do better?

The picture I have drawn here may be overly pessimistic. I know many good lay teachers are out there. But I also know a lot of theological incompetence exists, but the training available for non-pastors is limited, especially when the teacher doesn’t quite know what he needs. This is a local church issue and we need to do more than hope lay teachers find iTunesU or read a few interesting blogposts.

March 22, 2010

What Would Jesus Do? Compassion in Conflict

From a Christian point of view, the virtue of compassion is rooted in the character of God and exemplified by the saving work of Christ. His was an example (though not merely an example) of ultimate compassion, giving completely of himself not out of compulsion but out of pure sacrificial love and devoid of political motivations. It is a model of compassion that we can only live out analogously because we fail to meet the standard of pure selflessness. For Jesus, he willingly chose to lose when he had already won. He is God! We strive, and with God’s power we achieve, but due to the fallen state of things, someone inevitably encounters our weaknesses. But we still seek to be compassionate.

Caring for society’s most vulnerable is part of our mission as the church and one that Christians take very seriously and act upon on a daily basis. The poor, the widows, the children—these are a few segments of society to which scripture explicitly challenges us to give of ourselves. And God’s church understands that the gospel without a cup of cold water isn’t very good news. Could we do better? Obviously.

As it pertains to the recent passage of health care reform, some left-leaning Americans suggest that conservative, especially Christian conservatives, lack compassion because some—ok most—have been opposed to the health care reform bill in question. They abide by the bold assumption that the health care reform bill sits above other acts of compassion. It is better than creating jobs, it is better than smaller piecemeal options like opening of the state borders to more health insurance competition. It is better than simply working at the elimination of fraud and wasteful spending.

What would Jesus do? What would he think?

Some liberals think he would do what they did on Sunday night, the Lord’s Day as one representative reminded us. That was disorienting. He said it was time for the representatives to “walk by faith” and pass the bill. Would Jesus do health care reform as they have penned this legislation? Probably not. Jesus would turn over the tables in congress and tell them to stop making deals that squander funds that could help those in need…..if Jesus were invited to comment on the dealings, that is. The bottom line is left-leaning Americans seem to be saying that godly compassion necessarily includes health care insurance. Furthermore, they seem to think that health care is a need that overrides other acts of compassion and ought to be raised to the level of rights. Maybe Jesus would ask us to be better stewards of our financial resources or maybe he would ask us to view the economy as a fishes and loaves opportunity. None of us can know for sure what Jesus would say, he’d probably call us all out as fools. But what we can know is that we are often faced with moral conflicts and the methods of compassion can also conflict.

I know of no Christian conservative who takes joy in anyone lacking health care resources. But economic utopia is not possible on this side of eternity. Safety nets are in place like Medicaid to help families in need, and I know because I benefited from prenatal care through Medicaid in 1992-93. And by the way, it was top-notch. Yes, we can probably do more.

Like jobs and education, healthy families and hunger-relief, access to health care is something we would love for everyone to have. Which one takes priority?  To suggest that health care is a natural right is to reduce rights to consumer goods. Rights cannot be sold or traded or granted, they can only be recognized in that they are inherent to being human. But a non-evolutionary view of humanity is required to agree with that statement. Or maybe it is true that Darwinian theory impacts absolutely everything, including health care policy. Public funds can only go so far and private industry will pass on additional expenses and tax hikes on to consumers because business doesn’t exist primarily for benevolence, and it shouldn’t because then it ceases to be a for-profit entity.

Compassion comes in a variety of forms, some better implemented than others. We might also ask who has the most to gain when compassion is implemented. The dignity of an individual is infringed upon when, in the name of compassion, someone profits from exploiting what others lack. But at this point, compassion is no more.

February 22, 2010

What Not to Wear: Conforming to the Image of God

You aren't suppose to wear horizontal stripes or high-waisted pants with certain body shapes. And you definitely need to get rid of those 1980's shoulder pads. Agree or not, this is some of the wisdom imparted by cable-tv fashionistas Clinton and Stacy whose aim is to help everyday women look their best according to their own body type and life context. In order to be on the show, one has to be willing to let Clinton and Stacy go through their closet, allowing them to critically assess and even dispose of those items that do anything other than truly flatter the person. The bottom line is that there just some things one ought not to wear. How true this is for our lives as followers of Jesus. Some traits we possess or actions we pursue simply do not correspond to a Christian wardrobe.

Colossians 3 (ESV) states:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is yourlife appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

We are called, as God's chosen ones, to not only avoid the ways of our former life, but to be deliberate about putting on those truths that conform to what it means to be Christlike. The example in Jesus shows us compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience in its ultimate form, all grounded in His perfect love. As we seek to understand the purity of those characteristics as practiced by Christ, we know that our spiritual wardrobe is growing more beautiful - as we grow closer to Christ and become more conformed to his image.

To take this illustration a step further, do you find yourself in an accountability relationship such that you are willing to let someone enter your spiritual closet and tell you what not to wear? Though redeemed, we still struggle with the old nature that prevents us from always being honest with ourselves. We are so willing to be self-deceived. This is my challenge to you today - as  you are committed to growing in your relationship with God, grow in your relationship with another woman of faith and be for each what we generally prefer not to be for ourselves. But above all, put on love.

January 28, 2010

Women Telling the Story

 Without dispute, women’s voices in the local church have incredible significance, as these voices give way to a greater understanding of how women think and experience God and the Christian life. Any dispute generally has to do with the realm where these voices are heard, but for certain both men and women have much to learn about each other and how God is at work through these stories and experiences.

In her recent post, Tracey Bianchi wrote about the significance of women’s voices as teachers in the local church.
"…a woman proclaiming God’s Word with hands that smell like marinated artichokes can hit the heart of another woman in a way men cannot…women have stories to tell about life and God, just as our male partners on the journey do. The chance to preach from their perspectives is honoring God’s call to the community of Christ."
Though I am not committed to Tracey’s ultimate conclusions in terms of how this plays out in the pulpit, her position is clearly grounded in an authentic love for the community of believers and for God. And I embrace her core argument that there is tremendous value for men learning more about how women experience the Christian life. In further agreement, we as women teachers can reach women in ways men simply cannot—because of our shared experiences.

To what degree are women in your church equipped, encouraged, and positioned to proclaim God’s Word to one another? Local churches need mature, believing women to mentor one on one—that’s a given—but also to teach in corporate settings. And yes, I mean the women in the local church and not the special speakers who, by default, do a bulk of this kind of teaching. It is necessary to add that these teaching gifts must be modeled to women by women in the local church so that recognition of these gifts in future leaders is not overshadowed by the notion of unattainable celebrity status.

But this is where we need to be very clear about the nature of corporate educational opportunities in women’s ministry. It’s not so much that Christ will be proclaimed from a woman’s perspective or point of view, because the Word of God contains objective and unchanging truths as well as timeless stories that ultimately bring us to the foot of the Cross—regardless of gender. We can think of this as a redeemed human point of view, not so much a gender-influenced perspective. Yet there is still something about the notion of a “woman’s perspective” that deserves consideration.

Dorothy Sayers, theologian and female-extraordinaire, deals with the question of the “woman’s point of view” in her book Are Women Human? While she recognizes that women often share a great deal common experience that she calls “special knowledge,” she poignantly asks …what in thunder is the women’s perspective on the devaluation of the franc or the abolition of the Danzig Corridor? You may be wondering what the Danzig Corridor is, something that a basic Google search can resolve, but I think you get the point, and we must be clear about this.

When Christ is proclaimed, we aren’t really proclaiming Christ from a woman’s perspective any more than we can explain America’s economic crisis from a woman’s perspective, though we can explain its effect in the experience and perspective of being a woman. What we are really doing is teaching how to apply the theological truths we gather from Scripture to our lives as women. We are reflecting on how we live out our faith, even giving consideration to how we once lived as children of wrath…as women.

How we actually understand the meaning of Scripture is not going to differ from how men understand it, and in fact many of our experiences—because we are human—will correlate. Of course, we bring life experience and a worldview framework to our interpretation of Scripture. But if we are doing what we are suppose to be doing, we are utilizing a historical-grammatical biblical hermeneutic that helps us to avoid interpreting through the lens of our own experiences and discover as much is possible the intended meaning of the writers. Great care needs to be taken so as to avoid a feminist hermeneutic that begins with the authority of the feminine experience instead of the authority of Scripture.

When women invite other women to the person of Christ through the message of Scripture, our experience as women permits us to communicate what it means to lead a God-centered life through the joys, trials, and tribulations that are associated with being a woman. We ought not underestimate the value of this as we consider whether or not women’s ministry plays an important role in the local church.

Cross-posted at Gifted for Leadership

January 14, 2010

Radical Christianity and the Public Square

As Christians called to be agents of good news in a fallen world, we find our method and our message within the text of scripture. By method, I don’t refer to the exact way we accomplish ministry in various contexts, but who we are and what we portray of Christianity in the process—our character. It is virtually impossible to separate the message of the Gospel from the messenger, so we are called to love God, our neighbors, avoid immorality and speak in a way that doesn’t revile God among unbelievers. That doesn’t mean, of course, that every person who calls him or herself a Christian doesn’t depart from the life of spiritual integrity—as we know, sadly, it sometimes happens. As well, scripture provides no place for a deceitful, manipulative gospel that drags people to the altar. These have nothing to do with the content of Christianity but are reflective of Christ-less living. It is the deliberate acts of love and communication of the Gospel as truth that reveal to man his own fallenness and make attractive the Christian faith.

But as I said, we screw up. We shouldn’t embrace our screw ups, but we do screw up. And because our worldview is one of exclusive claims and has a the moral bar set far above the bar established by the world we live in, unbelievers are often eager to profit from our failings. For them, our failings represent either evidence of an inept system—somehow proof that Christianity is not the truth it claims to be, or at least that the message is tainted and the truth denied. Be that as it may, Christianity is a perfect system in that it best accounts for life’s ultimate questions and brings to the world real hope and change through redemption found in the blood of Christ. These facts are true despite the despicable behavior of some who profess Christianity. Radical.

Speaking of radical, Saul Alinsky is one who sought to profit from the moral failures of Christians (or any other opposition group) so his system could actually justify deceitful and manipulative tactics. The tone of “Rules for Radicals” is essentially this: that if Christians can be shown to be hypocrites, we can lower the bar of morality and function with what appears to be a higher level of integrity within a system that requires much less. This can be seen explicitly in Alinsky’s fourth rule in his section on Tactics where he writes “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christians can live up to Christianity.” (p. 128) This is followed by the fifth rule which claims that “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also, it infuriates the opposition who then react to your advantage.”

Attacking Christianity is always easier when you point out and attribute to it that which plagues all humanity—our sinfulness—and argue in such a way that incites a response that appears at least to compromise the system being defended. And when you claim to be a relativist, political and otherwise, you—as an organizer—can position yourself as an authoritative, objective onlooker simply analyzing the bias and hypocrisy before you. This isn’t radical, this is cowardly and intellectually dishonest.

Christianity in the public square needs to drive home the fact that everyone has a worldview and an agenda. In the process, Christianity in the public square must also work diligently to remain truly Christian and not compromise itself in the eyes of the self-proclaimed opposition. We should welcome being held to the standards of our own “rule book” and not veer away from the dogma that defines us, because it is the dogma that sustains us. If we pretend to have this same worldview-less position, we open ourselves up to the failure that the unbelieving world is awaiting, because even if Christians in the public square aren’t quoting chapter and verse, the opposition is sophisticated enough to know that it is from there that we derive our principles for life. I think we should be more honest with ourselves, about how Christian we really want to be among non-Christians in culture today. Or is that too radical?

January 11, 2010

Out of Focus: Still Obsessed with Self-Image

Dove did it first with their ads a few years ago. Now Vogue is featuring plus size models, attempting to prove that there is room in the fashion industry for women who don't disappear when they turn sideways. As encouraging as it is to see a new perspective on beauty, one can't help to wonder if there is an element of exploitation involved, as if the plus size model could ever become a norm in the industry. The novelty will soon wear off because, as we know, this is an industry motivated by externals and, ultimately, by dollars.

Size 1 or size 14, we are obviously still a society focused on self-image and sexuality, and the message young women are receiving is still the same--you have no option but to focus on and communicate your sexuality to be of any value in our culture today. Suggesting that this is a "healthier" take on body size and shape is to impugn our intellect, a set-back for women everywhere.

As believers, we need to tackle the obsession of self-image with teaching and reflection on the image of God. Having been created in this image, how we are to live our lives ought to reflect the desire to be holy, committed followers of Jesus. That means, whether a size 1 or a size 14, we communicate with our mouths and our bodies a message that glorifies God. What young women struggle with in terms of identity and purpose is not properly addressed with an out-of-focus view on our sexuality. As most of us get older, our externals tend to be of little interest to anyone and the despair associated with rejection may be overwhelming to the woman of tomorrow. Of course, our externals are often a reflection of the condition of the heart, so they do matter to that degree. But unless we are equipping women to live their whole lives in a way that pleases the Lord, they will constantly revert back to a self-esteem sought through a compromised personal ethic. The question of who we are and what we think should take priority over how we feel, and as refreshing as it is to see models who look more like the real women in today's world, nothing has really changed.

January 3, 2010

Brit Hume's Worldview Critique

Even for Fox News, this is surprising, yet this is how every believer ought to be prepared to respond--telling the truth with meekness and gentleness. Likely, Brit Hume's statement will be regarded as arrogant and closed-minded, but Buddhism doesn't provide for the needs of forgiveness and redemption and it will be interesting to hear the responses to his critique of Buddhism.