Monday, June 30, 2008

Knowledge and Values

There was a recent article which I find informative on the current "debate" on the ethics of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).

They start with:
"But will that [more] knowledge necessarily help build support for the science?"
That's an interesting statement. It's reflective of an underlying attitude: that science, any science, is good; and that anyone who is intelligent will support more science. That only the ignorant (religious folk) would question science.

Then there is:
"It is not about providing religious audiences with more scientific information. In fact, many of them are already highly informed about stem cell research, so more information makes little difference in terms of influencing public support. And that's not good or bad. That's just what the data show."
Well, how kind to acknowledge that some ignorant, religious folk are actually highly informed. And then to follow it up with the non-statement that this is neither"good or bad".

If ESCR is ethical (i.e. killing human beings in their earliest stage of development will be permitted by society), then opposing it is contrary to society's value (which is the only definition of "bad" the atheist has).

If ESCR is unethical, then opposing it is good.

I'm just surprised that we needed a study to determine that more knowledge will not make one lose one's values...

It did provide a final thought:
"The attitudes of individuals who are deferential to science - who tend to trust scientists and their work - are influenced by their level of scientific understanding."
Those who reject trust in God (who trust in men) are supportive of their rebel gods! Again, shouldn't need a study for that.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Book Review

"Introduction to Christianity" (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) - This book was written in 1968, in German. I think something was lost in translation of the title. A better title would be, "The Epistemological Foundations of Christianity". Because, I don't think an "Introduction" should use big words and arguments based on philosophical first principles :)

That said, this book was solid, if a bit heavy and a little slow. The first section is on presuppositionalism, and was fairly well done. It was while reading this that I came to a better appreciation of how understanding is a gift, to be received.

Some oddities, page 245:
"For the salvation of the mere individual there would be no need of either a Church or a history of salvation, an Incarnation or Passion of God in this world."
I think this point reveals a difference of opinion in soteriology and the meaning of "church"... As well as judgment, page 324:
"judgment of all men 'according to their works'... Perhaps in the last analysis it is impossible to escape a paradox whose logic is completely disclosed only to an experience of a life based on faith."
Protestant soteriology breaks this paradox. We are saved from judgment as a gift of grace, in faith - turning (repenting) from sin, and trusting in Jesus. This enables truly good works, which will be judged for the awarding of "crowns" (heavenly rewards). Of course, the ability to do these works are, in themselves, gifts from God, and we return these crowns to God (Rev 4:10) - to glorify Him.

Although there is a good presentation on the state of human (works) righteousness, page 258:
"all human righteousness is dismissed as inadequate."
As well as proper exegesis of the Sermon on the Mount as a provoking of the conscience.

I think the most striking aspect of this book was how it seemed to speak to the current mindset of people, despite having been written forty years ago! Truly, an accurate analysis of where thinking at that time would lead us.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Book Review

"Surprised by Hope" (N. T. Wright) - I found this book rather frustrating to read. Wright is targeting a group of Christians I am not too familiar with. These are dispensationalists who focus more on the intermediate heavenly state, than on the final united new heaven and earth.

I'm not certain how important this distinction is. The Bible makes it clear that the heavens and earth will be destroyed, and God will reside with us in the new earth (no separate heaven). Beyond this, the peculiars of timing are non-essential.

I had assumed Wright's eschatology was post-mil. He seems to be backing off of this (if he ever fully was). But, his motivation is still post-mil. That is, the Church must act to make the world a better place.

This leads to his oddest statement in the book. He is almost obsessed with third world debt. He says (page 216):
"As far as I can see, the major task that faces us in our generation, corresponding to the issue of slavery two centuries ago, is that of the massive economic imbalance of the world"
On the face of it, this is boldly absurd. The exploitation of the poor by the rich is a constant factor in history since the invention of money (and is not going away until the abolition of personal wealth). Pastor Wilson has an excellent in-depth analysis of Wright's "solution".

But, I'm curious how Wright can overlook abortion. I will be generous, and assume he means "the major task, after the abomination that is abortion and the assault on the right to life"...