Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"A Steward's Prayer"

As we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century, it is clear that some monumental challenges will follow us into 2010. A central question facing American politics is “What is the responsibility of ‘the have’s’ toward ‘the have not’s?’” This question is inherent in the debates involving diverse issues including “bank lending to homebuyers,” “fertility for childless couples,” “universal health care,” and “global climate policy.” Consider the common element among these four issues which are often discussed in the context of “social justice.”

First, the current economic crunch was precipitated in part by a crash in the housing market brought on by the unhealthy dynamic that arose when clients with limited financial resources were awarded low-interest loans. Many of these loans were offered through banking policies encouraged in part by well meaning government bureaucrats who believed that “the have’s” should help “the have not’s” to “have it now.”

Second, the current debate over embryonic stem cell research and its potential threat to the sanctity of human life has resulted in part from the population of frozen human embryos that exist as a result of couples (and individuals) claiming their right to be biological parents through use of fertility drugs and in vitro fertilization. What or who should take precedence, the rights of the unborn or newly conceived, or the rights of adults who seek to gain from human enbryos.

Third, those who favor universal health care claim that the millions of American citizens who “have not” been covered by health insurance should be able to join “the haves.” Finally, the “climate change” debate centers on whether “the haves” among nations –i.e. those with the industrial and economic capacity to limit their emissions of greenhouse gases-- should take on the responsibility and cost of limiting emissions out of concern for the planet as a whole and the “have not” nations in particular.

In each of the four issues, policies are being drafted by our elected officials that will give the federal government greater authority to redistribute monetary wealth and (supposedly) opportunity to those who have less. Many, including this writer, believe these policies will bring major changes to American society and culture. At the same time, the growing secularization of American culture is leaving us more and more divided over what is “right” and “wrong.”

The rightness or wrongness of public policy depends ultimately upon a belief in objective truths which individuals accept and are willing to implement through their decisions and actions. For example, our founding fathers believed that the “human rights” of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are endowed from a sovereign Creator. It follows, that freedom is secure as long as the citizens recognize their responsibility to steward their time, talents, wealth, and power in cooperation with God’s divine purposes. The apostle Paul asks, “what do you have that you did not receive (I Corinthians 4:7)?”

Personally, I believe the most fundamental concept of a “free society” is the concept of stewardship. Stewards recognize that what they “have” is ultimately “on loan” from God. Such stewardship is guided and motivated by “love”—love which itself comes ultimately from the overflow of the God of the Bible Who is love. The citizen-steward who is motivated by love can do “what is required of him” as stated through the Old Testament prophet Micah; namely, “do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)."

Political leaders and citizens who exercise biblical stewardship marked by a passion for justice, mercy, and humility will seek godly wisdom in matters like affordable housing, human fertility, health care provisions, and climate change. Such wisdom from above will help us correctly discern the respective roles of social institutions – family, church, and government—and how each can do its part in promoting “social justice” whose ultimate goal is “righteous living.” The best “stimulus packages” are those containing just what is needed for each individual and community of America, filled and provided through godly wisdom by members most closely acquainted with the needs at hand, motivated by the great commandment—“to love the Lord your God... and your neighbor as thyself (Matthew 22:37,39).”

And so, as the first decade of millennium 2000 comes to an end, leaving us with huge challenges, please be encouraged by a God Who calls us to be His children (John 1:12). As His children, we are to be stewards of the riches of His wisdom and of the time, abilities, and resources entrusted to us. God gives us the responsibility to use what we “have” in ways that promote “biblical justice and mercy” toward our neighbor and toward the creation around us.

Perhaps “A Steward’s Prayer” recently published in Flourish Magazine online will convey a stewardship perspective to you as you read and pray through it, and plan to make a difference in 2010.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Climate Change Debate Demands “Good Science”

In today’s world, science and technology influence our lives at every turn. Science has not only shaped our worldview; it literally shapes our view of the world. Digital technology awakens us in the morning, provides our coffee, delivers the news from anywhere in the world, helps us to plan our day, and converse around the world by wireless communication. The clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the vehicles we drive all shape our lives as fruits of science.

But science is not value-free. Science is a human endeavor and the fruits it yields to society depend upon the values of the culture. For a culture to prosper, it must value education and the pursuit of knowledge, freedom of expression, respect for ones neighbor, and reverence for all creatures and the physical order. Each of these values must be undergirded by an ethic that seeks after scientific truthi.e. ‘What is true?’ or, “What best conforms to physical reality?”– and wisdom i.e. ‘What is right?’, or ‘right application of knowledge in a world that recognizes the human capacity to do evil.’

Right application of scientific knowledge demands freedom of expression so that all who wish to participate may do so by offering rigorous critique and additional experimentation. The so-called “scientific method” has demonstrated itself to be very effective in identifying correct judgements about the natural world when scientists function as a community in a professional, ethical, and objective manner. It is particularly important that these elements be present where scientific authority is being used to influence public policy. Where one or more of these elements are missing, science risks being hijacked by a relative few who seek to use its fruits for political and economic gain.

For example, many global climate scientists utilize climate models that point to global warming to advocate both national and international policy changes aimed at reducing production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Such policies are designed to reduce human consumption of fossil fuels and discourage other practices that are believed to cause global warming. However, some are concerned that such policy changes will provide little relief to either planet Earth or to the poor while at the same time shifting the balance of power to central governing bodies at the national and international level.

Given the immense impact of climate change-driven public policy decisions, it is particularly disturbing that the above ingredients necessary for a “healthy science community” may be lacking. It is not my purpose here to debate whether global warming is occurring or the magnitude of the contribution of human activities to climate change. However, I am concerned about the growing evidence that scientific openness and objectivity are being suppressed by political agendas both within government and within the scientific community.

For example, the recent hacking of e-mails and documents from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University, Norwich, England, suggests efforts to intimidate or discredit opposing scientists (or see Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2006), suppress exchange of climate data, and suppress publications that question the assumptions of climate change models. Dr. Tim Ball, Canadian climatologist, expresses his concern in a recent YouTube interview. Remarkably, little attention is being given to the implication of the e-mail exposures.

Wouldn’t a healthy scientific community be well served if it were to openly take stock of the revealing e-mails and to own up to any private doubts or attempts to suppress conflicting or controversial data? Isn’t this an opportunity to test the expertise, professional ethics and motivations of climate scientists on both sides of the issue? Certainly, the lessons of the “Lysenko Affair” in the Soviet Union under Stalin testify of how science, hijacked by political interests, both stifled scientific progress and caused starvation and death of millions . Good science may not only provide answers to the “climate debate” but contribute to a more certain and sustained rationale for establishing lifestyles that foster human stewardship of the Earth.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Individual vs. Corporate Creation Care

In her August 18, 2009 blog entry in Flourish online, Kendra Juskus, Flourish’s Managing Editor comments on an article by Derrick Jensen, entitled “Forget Shorter Showers”, published in Orion Magazine. Juskus summarizes Jensen’s thesis as follows:

“lifestyle changes adopted on an individual level are powerless to change creation’s trajectory toward destruction, and that more organized forms of resistance to that destruction are crucial for any change to happen.”

Jensen cites four major problems that result from relying on personal changes alone as a means of changing Earth’s trajectory toward destruction: First, emphasis on individual lifestyle assumes “that humans inevitably harm their landbase.” Second, it places blame for environmental degradation on the individual. Third, according to Jensen, emphasis on the individual narrowly views humans by portraying us only as consumers. Finally, its logic leads to the conclusion that the most stewardly act of the individual toward the Earth is to take one’s life.

Thankfully, the biblical basis for human concern for the Earth is grounded in a balance between stewardship of individual freedom and opportunity, on the one hand, and an accountability of the individual toward God-ordained institutions of family, church, and government on the other hand. With freedom to utilize the resources of the planet to support our lives, livelihoods, and recreational enjoyment, there is also the responsibility to limit our own consumption and enterprises so as not to jeopardize the well being of our neighbor, our local communities, and the global community.

It would seem that the institutions of family and church provide an excellent context within which we as individuals can grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and grow in the character qualities and virtues that encourage right living, love for God and for our neighbor, and frugal consumption. As the body of Christ seeks by the power of the Holy Spirit to be a “community” that mutually reinforces such a lifestyle, Christians can be empowered not only to give the Gospel but to be the salt and light that makes for a powerful witness both individually and through institutions in ways that adorn the Gospel and steward the creation.

All well and good. But are churches, particularly in North America, nurturing a passion both for the pursuit of Godliness among believers both individually and corporately as the body of Christ. Does the church stir a passion within us to seek reconciliation of God and humankind as well as between humankind and creation? Is this not what is meant when we pray, "Thy kingdom come on Earth as it is in heaven?" How would you assess your current "spiritual health" and the "health of the church?"

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Encouraging Creation Care: From ‘Top Down’ or ‘Inside Out?’

Earlier this year, NASA scientist James Hansen, wrote an urgent appeal to newly elected President Obama in regard to the impending danger from climate change. He wrote:

We cannot afford to put off change any longer. We have to get on a new path within this new administration. We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world. America must take the lead.

He went on to recommend three actions – increased research on the polar ice caps, an imposed carbon tax, and a moratorium on coal burning power plants.

I am not opposed to taking wise action in response to concerns about the state of the Earth. However, there is a danger in being overconfident in our scientific understanding of the planet. Furthermore, there is an increasing politicization of global climate change. For example, policies such as “cap and trade” have the potential to influence large sectors of the global economy and bring potentially disproportionate negative effects on those who can least afford to pay; namely, the urban poor and many in developing nations.

Few would argue that it is the rampant materialism of both the West and the East that are driving us toward resource demands that are disrupting both the world economy and making our generation economically indebted to our children and “ecologically indebted” to the Earth. But can a combination of science and public policy cure us of this behavior? Science can point out the potential effects of climate change, and public policy can create incentives or penalties for behavior that is deemed destructive. But can a policy of energy and carbon restraint actually control human behavior while humans are in strong pursuit of a better life both in developed nations and in developing nations? How can a policy of restraint against the use of energy and carbon be effective without an unhealthy concentration of power over the lives of people?

The biblical texts call Christians and Jews to take individual responsibility for our actions. We must ultimately ground our behavior and lifestyle in the objective values revealed in Scripture-- values that relate not only to stewardship of the natural world, but also toward the sanctity of all of life and creation which belongs to God. It is God Who calls us to Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:10).

As we listen to the many voices that propose scientific, political, and economic solutions to the challenges of our world, we should also “cease striving” each day and come before our awesome Creator Whose purposes will not be thwarted. So, why not “cease striving” and spend time in meditation upon God’s Word, and upon the awesomeness of His creation. Then, consider how God would have you redirect your lifestyle away from excessive material consumption and toward conservation and consecration of your life according to His purposes for you. Spend time in a quiet place in God’s creation, reexamining your life and purposes. Or, allow God’s revelation to lift you to worship and praise through media such as Stephen C. Weber’s video Creation Calls available on You-Tube. A sustained life of "Creation Care" must begin with a realization of Who deserves to be 'exalted in the Earth' and our privilege of glorifying this God and enjoying Him forever.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Greatness of God as Seen in the Kosmos

Have you ever experienced the reality of the greatness and awesomeness of the God of Heaven? Last Sunday, our worship opened with a lively choir number and a powerful instrumental accompaniment that lifted us as if to heaven but also brought us to our knees in humility before Him. As I considered God’s power, position, and personal nature, several words came to mind to describe Him – Almighty, Everlasting, All Wise, Infinite, and Omnipresent.

Then, I thought of His works. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth (Genesis 1:1). Genesis 1:31 records that God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. God Almighty judged the created order and all that was in it as “good” because it was a perfect representation of His wisdom and plan.

The Apostle John declares in John 1:3 that All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. John uses the Greek word, kosmos, to denote the created order which God through Jesus Christ brought into being out of nothing. It is the kosmos that God delighted in revealing to Adam when He invited Adam to study its order beginning with the task of naming the creatures and to learn his place in this great cosmic order (Genesis 2: 19-25). The psalmist declares O LORD, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions (Psalm 104:24).

From the farthest star at untold millions of light years away to the smallest subatomic particle, there is an unmistakable order that our science has begun to discern and unify into theories. Yet God is above and beyond even the greatness and immensity of the kosmos. In fact, John declares that God so loved the kosmos that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). He goes on to write that God did not send the Son into the kosmos to judge the kosmos, but that the kosmos might be saved through Him (3:17).

What has been your understanding of God’s regard for His created order, or kosmos? How have you viewed the scope of God’s redemptive plan? Did Jesus die on the cross to redeem mankind alone? How do you reconcile the concept that Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18) with John’s claim that God so loved the kosmos that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16)? Careful contemplation and meditation on the answer to this question returns us to our worship of the Great and Awesome God Whose plan of redemption is much bigger than we often realize or consider in our daily lives. Feel free to reply with your thoughts in response to these questions.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name;
Bring an offering and come into His courts.

Worship the LORD in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.

Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity."

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;

Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy

Before the LORD, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness

And the peoples in His faithfulness. (Psalm 96: 8-13)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why Not Swat That Fly?

It seems that very few actions of President Obama escape the notice of the media these days. The cameras were even on hand when the president slapped a fly that had made the bad choice to interrupt a presidential interview. See the U-Tube video. The president’s heavy hand produced a SWAT heard ‘round the world. The reaction of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was immediate and predictable.

According to Fox News, a PETA spokesperson, Bruce Friedrich, stated: "We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals. We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals."

Although PETA is often maligned or ridiculed for its defense of animal rights, there is reason for pausing before looking at the swatted fly on the carpet with scorn and then disregarding PETA’s plea for the rights of flies and other invertebrates. In today’s world of instant access to information and commentary on current issues, there is no lack of opinions. However, there is great need for the discipline of hearing, reflecting, and understanding. So, let’s not be too hasty in condemning PETA for speaking for the flies.

To their credit, members of the “animal liberation movement” have drawn our attention to the possibility that animals have a right to be treated respectfully and humanely. In the 1950's and 1960's, the civil rights movement successfully challenged us to recognize that ethnic minorities have the right to share in the circle of moral standing as human beings. Where moral obligation toward them had been denied by many fellow humans, human rights were now widely recognized and implemented through institutional changes. (That work is still in progress even though the US has elected a member of an ethnic minority to the presidency.)

Then, in the 1970's, Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and others called for an extension of moral responsibility from humankind to non-human species. Singer called for an extension of moral standing to sentient animals– animals that can suffer or experience enjoyment; whereas, Regan called us to consider that animals also have interests and inherent value by virtue of their being alive. Both Singer and Regan emphasized moral standing to the individual animal but not the animal species.

Although the animal rights movement challenged us to consider the rights and inherent value of animals, to this day, it has not provided a robust ethic as a foundation for practical arbitration of the rights of animals in relation to humans. Thus, when PETA calls for humans to exercise “compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals” what exactly does that mean? Does this mean no fly-swatting anywhere; and instead, trapping and release of flies to the out-of-doors? How about flies at picnics? Or ants, roaches, and other less popular species? Is it wrong to develop water-gardens or wetlands that encourage dragonflies and frogs which actually eat flies?

Clearly, both “human rights” and “animal rights” are moral issues that require an objective basis for deciding proper behavior. So far as we can tell, only humankind has the rational capacity to develop and live by a moral standard. It is unfortunate that so much of history is the record of our species denying the clear moral teaching of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. The Bible teaches that the Creator God has given to mankind the responsibility of dominion over the rest of creation. Instead of exercising this dominion as selfish, unfeeling tyrants, we are called to be submissive stewards according to the example of the Creator Himself Who took on the very form of a man, Jesus Christ, through His virgin birth and lived among mankind as a servant. Jesus showed us how to love ethic minorities, how to respect women who had no rights in His day, how to care for the poor and the rejected, and how to regard with compassion an ox in a ditch or a sparrow that falls. And now, Jesus calls us to find our satisfaction in serving Him and not through ill-gotten gain which destroys other human beings and His creation.

Should you swat that fly or squash that bug? Think about it first before swatting next time. What part do you play in the grand economy of creation; and what responsibility do you have as a steward of your home and as a citizen of the community of humankind as well as the biotic community of animals and plants upon which we depend. To deny that we have dominion over the Earth and to deny that we are capable of exercising it seems to deny reality. To relinquish dominion and blend into the natural world as just one more species, even if it were possible, would usher in unimaginable outcomes. Can you imagine? See “Not Dominion But Rebellion – and Restoration.” Comments are welcome as always.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Media and Religion in the Public Square

Our age of instant communication affords us daily access to thousands of visual and auditory bytes of information. It is increasingly rare to find individuals and households that do not have access to abundant information and news sources. Instead, we are increasingly faced with three other challenges.

First, are the media presenting news accurately and with proper distinction between news and commentary? It is easy for news sources today to allow political agendas to dictate their decisions as to what makes the evening news or the front page. For example, many on both sides of the political spectrum agree that Barak Obama was preferentially favored both in quantity and quality of coverage during the 2008 campaign. Nothing wrong with biased reporting as long as we have the freedom and discipline to seek out alternative sources of information. This point brings us to the second challenge.

With such abundant access to information, and the tendency toward biased reporting, we must be disciplined to use our ability and time to analyze and reflect on what we hear or read in order to develop a reasoned response. Critical analysis of information takes time, discipline, and a wisdom that is committed to the pursuit of truth. According to Proverbs 1:8, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1: 6-9
For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,

Guarding the paths of justice,
And He preserves the way of His godly ones.

Then you will discern righteousness and justice
And equity and every good course

The third challenge is to profess our opinions in a manner that is clear, logical, and wise out of a respect for our friends, colleagues, and neighbors. To profess, is to express truth that is consistent with our profession of faith. This faith recognizes that we are God’s subjects and He has entrusted to us the stewardship of our time, abilities, relationships, and material resources from the Earth. All these are to be used in a manner that expresses our love to the Creator God and to our neighbor as the two “great commandments” require (Matthew 22:35-40).

Today, Christians are asked to be tolerant in a society that is increasingly intolerant of biblical views, even when professed in a polite and “engaging” manner. The accusations of bigotry and harassment toward Christians are becoming more frequent. However, wisdom teaches us that we are created to be worshipers. All of us are religious. By nature, we will worship God or an idol–-another god, material wealth, or human reason itself. Therefore, the question is not, “Should religion (a system of beliefs and practices that justifies our life and behavior to a supreme authority) be allowed in the ‘public square’?” The question is, “Will there be freedom to express and practice one’s religion of choice in the ‘public square’?

To view a partly humorous rendition of a workplace situation in which two religions are both impolitely expressed, click HERE. The clip is provided by ZoNation on PajamasTV. In keeping with the challenges outlined in this article, take time to identify the two religions featured, consider the source of authority behind each profession, the accuracy with which they are presented, and how each might have professed their belief more respectfully. What is the difference between “environmentalism” and Judeo-Christian environmental stewardship? What motivations are there to care about "climate change" or the Earth in general? See
"Creation Care and Christian Character", and article in Creation Care, Summer, 2007.

Monday, May 18, 2009

“Fair-Minded Words” for Human Life?

Kudos to President Obama for delivering a forceful commencement address at the University of Notre Dame on May 17 with our whole nation, still embroiled in heated controversy over the moral rights of the unborn, seemingly in the audience. It is also commendable that the White House included in the official speech transcript the words of a heckler, “Abortion is murder! Stop killing children!” and the President’s response, “We're fine, everybody...We're not going to shy away from things that are uncomfortable sometimes.”

In keeping with this challenge, the president called the nation to "work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term."

Our president went on to challenge Notre Dame graduates and our nation reach to a higher level of dialog about controversial issues, using “fair-minded words” and to “open our hearts and our minds to those who may not think like we do or believe what we do [in order to] “discover at least the possibility of common ground.”

Then, the President elaborated (italics mine): In this world of competing claims about what is right and what is true, have confidence in the values with which you've been raised and educated. Be unafraid to speak your mind when those values are at stake. Hold firm to your faith and allow it to guide you on your journey. Stand as a lighthouse. But remember too that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It is the belief in things not seen. It is beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us, and those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.

On this note, we can certainly hope for a new era of “fair-minded words”– one in which we would listen carefully to the words of another president who spoke at a Notre Dame commencement on another May 17. In 1981, it was President Reagan at the podium. Referring to our founding fathers, he said:

“They gave us more than a nation. They brought to all mankind for the first time the concept that man was born free, that each of us has inalienable rights, ours by the grace of God....”

Then, six years later, President Reagan proclaimed January 18, 1987 as National Sanctity of Human Life Day with these words:

“Our Founding Fathers pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor in the Declaration of Independence. They announced their unbreakable bonds with its immutable truths that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'' Americans of every succeeding generation have cherished our heritage of God-given human rights and have been willing to sacrifice for those rights, just as our Founders did. Those rights are given by God to all alike. Medical evidence leaves no room for doubt that the distinct being developing in a mother's womb is both alive and human. This merely confirms what common sense has always told us. Abortion kills unborn babies and denies them forever their rights to ``Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'' Our Declaration of Independence holds that governments are instituted among men to secure these rights, and our Constitution -- founded on these principles -- should not be read to sanction the taking of innocent human life.”

Now, President Obama has proclaimed that “those of us who believe must trust that His (God’s) wisdom is greater than our own.” But where do we find God’s wisdom? God reveals His wisdom both in nature and in His written Word, the Bible. In His natural revelation, we can see, courtesy of YouTube, the awesome development of the human being in the mother’s womb. Thanks to the work of many women’s centers across our nation, many women contemplating abortion respond to this “natural revelation” by carrying their baby to full term.

In His written revelation, the Bible, God makes it clear that it is not “beyond our capacity to know with certainty...what God asks of us.” For example, God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah, saying “ "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5);" Or, the God, of whom King David said, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them (Psalm 139:16).

So, we conclude with thanks to President Obama for his challenge to “trust that His (God’s) wisdom is greater than our own.” We can be certain that the Creator God values the life of the unborn. We can also be certain of the statistics from the U.S. Census Report of 2006 (See Table 77). The report reveals that Black Americans are no longer replacing themselves because there are more deaths than live births. According to Protecting Black Life, “35% of the abortions in the United States are performed on African American women, while they represent only 13% of the female population of the country. African Americans are the only minority in America that is on the decline in population.” Let us pray that President Obama will not “shy away from things that are uncomfortable.” May his speech at Notre Dame be remembered as a turning point– a time at which he turns toward becoming a protector of the moral and civil rights of both the African American minority and of the unborn of all humanity.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pro-Environment But Pro-Choice: Contradiction and Categories

This entry in Oikonomia features a link to the CedarEthics podcast in which Dr. Dennis Sullivan, Director of the Center for Bioethics at Cedarville University invited me to discuss a rather puzzling pattern in our culture. First, let me frame the issue using many of Dr. Sullivan’s opening remarks. Then you can go to the podcast link below and listen.

Dr. Sullivan notes that former President George Bush was notably pro-life in his outlook. This means that he was opposed to abortion, embryo-destructive research, and euthanasia, among other things. In contrast, Mr. Bush was not recognized for a strong stand on environmental protection. He opposed U.S. ratification of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, and he favored opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling, positions that angered environmental activists.

However, the inauguration of Barack Obama as our new president has led to sweeping political changes, and his views on certain key ethical concerns are dramatically different than his predecessor. For example, he has stated that he would sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would eliminate many legal limitations on abortions, including parental notification laws and waiting periods, and would even overturn our present ban on partial birth abortion. By the time you read this, the president may already have signed an executive order to permit government funding of embryonic stem cell research, something the Bush Administration would not permit. One the other hand, Dr. Sullivan points out that our new president is considered by many to be a friend to the environment and in favor of more controls on pollution and greater protection for natural resources. The two presidents appear to be quite representative of the views of their respective supporters.

So, it seems that being pro-life means also being anti-environment, if our national discourse is any indication. My discussion with Dr. Sullivan on the CedarEthics Podcast addressed the question, “Why do both of these ethical concerns live at opposite sides of the political spectrum?” Please click on the link below, listen, reflect on the points being made, and reply if you would like to comment or raise a question.

CedarEthics Podcast - Pro-Life or Pro-Environment: Poles Apart? (16)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

On Being a Thankful Steward

We greet the New Year with a contribution from a guest blogger, Jessicah Zehring, Assistant to the Director, Center for Bioethics at Cedarville University:

A new year is upon us, and as we celebrate the occasion with loved ones, we often reflect on the material, physical, and spiritual blessings of the past year with a sense of thankfulness. It is easy to feel thankful for various events and opportunities we've had in the past. But what role does an attitude of thankfulness play in our stewardship of the environment?

Being thankful for an object implies an awareness and appreciation of that object. Both Christian and secular environmentalists share an awareness of and appreciation for the natural world. Awareness that an object exists is a prerequisite to appreciating or valuing that object. In turn, our appreciation for an object deepens as we come to a greater understanding of its' role and function. Christians and non-Christians alike can appreciate the beauty and complexity of the natural world, and value the organisms that interact in our earthly environment.

But there is another component to being thankful, one not shared by many secular environmentalists. That component is an attitude of grateful esteem to the Creator of the universe. The secular environmentalist who does not acknowledge God as Creator and Sustainer of the universe and Who has a purpose for both His creation and our part in it can only view the natural world as a product of chance events. In this naturalistic view, there is no object for his or her praise and thankfulness. Although he or she can be aware of and value natural processes, he or she doesn't share a feeling of gratefulness to a creative being Who set the world in place and Who has invited mankind to exercise stewardship of it.

Christians recognize that God is the creator of the natural world. We acknowledge that the goldfinch outside our window, or the lowly Draba verna plant growing in our yard is no more a product of random chance than we ourselves. Instead, they are creatures of great value and purpose because God choose to create them for His glory and pleasure. He crafted the Earth and all the organisms in it, and appointed human beings stewards over his handiwork. David writes in Psalm 136:3-6:

Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
His love endures forever.
To Him alone who does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
Who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
Who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever. (New International Version).

Here, God’s written Word and His creation together give testimony to the power and wisdom of the Designer. It is to this God that we can be thankful because He has revealed our unique role as stewards of creation. His revelation also enables us to place correct value on ourselves and on our fellow creatures. As we enter a new year, let us strive to execute our stewardship role with thankfulness, both toward the Creator and His creation.