The Value of Life

There is an exciting possibility at church this year. We’ve been talking about starting a school, and the best ways to do that from scratch. Now, there is a likelihood that we will be able to start with students and families who have been attending another Christian elementary school, as it transitions into our new classical Christian day school. That could be rolling as soon as September! Please pray for the congregation, students, and their families as we work toward that end.

In the midst of this flurry of activity, here is something worth posting, and hopefully worth reading. When I was in (public) Jr. High school, a group of students were involved in the “Great Books” program. I suppose it was a precursor to the current federal Common Core program, which seems to be pretty much the opposite of classical education. One of the discussions we had involved four people in a lifeboat at sea, with only enough supplies for three to survive. We were supposed to wrestle with the value of human life, and perhaps defend a distinction between the four different people in the boat.

A conversation in our kids’ school this morning (a classical school at home) centered upon the question, “What gives a person’s life objective value?” People seek to find value in their lives through things like health and appearance, in diet and exercise; through their education and jobs; through popularity; or in the simple fact that they are alive or that they are human; or that they were created by God. The former options are self-evidently shallow. The latter options sound better, but still fall short of the answer. There are many living things, and a reasonable person can see the difference in value between a tree or a fish and a human being. Moreover, all of those living things were created by God.

The answer is this. A person’s value is determined not by something in themselves, but by the most external thing possible: by the love of God, which is expressed emphatically in the incarnation and death of His only-begotten Son. When we say that Jesus Christ died for all people, to reconcile us to God, that sets the value of every human life as high as it could possibly be set, because God was willing to pay the greatest price for it. John 3:16 tells us the objective value of every single human life.

Scientific Jury Still Out on Hypothesis

The title of this post is something like a tautology in that no scientific hypothesis is considered the final word. Unless, that is, you are listening to certain people about the “theory” of evolution. It’s not a theory in the sense that it can be disproven (the classic sense), but in the sense that people use it as a model for trying to understand new evidence. So it’s more like a hypothesis, which means a claim (or “thesis”) that’s somewhat less (“hypo”) than fully developed. To hear some people, evolution is settled science. In reality, it’s just the best alternative they have found to biblical creation.

Along those lines, an article linked today on Drudge caught my eye. Though written from an evolutionary point of view, it’s rich for pointing out the weaknesses of that “theory.” If you read it, just keep in mind that the ages mentioned there don’t disprove the biblical timeline, because they are based on a number of assumptions, several of which may easily be wrong.

But one thing above all seems noteworthy in that article. It discusses several different species identified in this research, which are “theoretically” related to human beings (homo sapiens). It says,

Meanwhile, using improved methods, Dr. Paabo, Dr. Meyer and their colleagues assembled a rough draft of the entire Neanderthal genome in 2010.

That discovery shed light on how Neanderthals and humans’ ancestors split from a common ancestor hundreds of thousands of years ago. It also revealed that Neanderthals and humans interbred about 50,000 years ago.

My point is this. If Neanderthals and humans interbred at some point, then they are really the same “kind” of creature, as described in Genesis chapter 1. So not only are the ages applied to these discoveries wrong, but even the classification of creatures like Neanderthals as “non-human evolutionary relatives” must also be wrong. Rather than evolutionary relatives and ancestors of mankind, this research is identifying something more like a variety of races within the human family tree. That sounds biblical.

A Provocative and True Quote

Yes, it’s been a while. Those who know me well can verify that I
usually talk when I have something to say. The same goes for blogging.
What’s been going on? Well, a visit to the doctor this summer resulted
in the very good advice that I should have a drink immediately before
the first service Sunday morning. No, not that kind of drink.
Something like Gatorade, preferably. Worked like a charm. No, charms
don’t really work. It worked better than a charm.

We also had a family vacation in September, and I was happy to take
another course at Front Sight. Looking
forward to taking it again. They are challenging, and the best way to
learn how to prepare for one is to take it first. You should be able to
find prior posts here about Front Sight, if you’re interested.

Anyway, here’s the timeless quote. It’s worth a ponder. It’s
attributed to Winston Churchill.

“If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without
bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and
not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to
fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of
survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when
there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to
live as slaves.”

So then, what is the “right” today? What’s worth fighting for, with or
without bloodshed?

Infographic on the History and Effects of Homeschooling

I’m usually the last to hear about things like this, so if you’ve already seen it, feel free to disregard this post. But it’s just so interesting, and anyone who hasn’t seen it yet really should.

Keep in mind as you read this that not everyone is able to provide a homeschool education for their children, even if they would like to. I bet that similar positive statistics would support Lutheran parochial schools, especially the kind we’re interested in starting at Bethany in The Dalles. It’s certain that on balance, parochial schools do far better for each student, with less money, than public schools do. I say that as a Head Start through 12th-grade product of the public school system, and as a home-schooling dad. The effort required to homeschool or to send your children to a good-quality parochial school is most certainly worthwhile.

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up
Source: TopMastersInEducation.com

Brief Review of “Hey Mom, What About Dinosaurs?”

I received this book from a source that I have since forgotten, and must
apologize if someone passed it to me. The good news is that I finally read it.
The author is Russell Husted, described on the cover as a university researcher
and former teacher of evolutionary science. “He decided to test the original
Hebrew Scriptures, treating the creation account as if [it] was a scientific
theory. What he discovered revolutionized his faith (and his scientific
thinking).”

Husted certainly learned some Hebrew, and translated from the original text of
Genesis. He also used linguistic tools available for correlating the usage of
Hebrew words in Genesis to their usage elsewhere in the Old Testament. His
endeavor was intriguing from the start.

I had hoped that Husted would examine existing scientific evidence in light of
the biblical text, allowing the natural meaning of Scripture to guide him, but
was disappointed to find that this was not his method. Instead, he has
strategically chosen from the possible meanings for the Hebrew words of the
creation account, and has made certain hypotheses about the implications of
those meanings, so that the account would mirror the hypothetical sequence of
events posited by naturalistic science that has supposedly brought about the
universe and the world we know today. In other words, the accepted sequence
hypothesized by naturalistic science takes a somewhat higher priority for
Husted than the natural meaning of the biblical creation account.

To be fair, Husted makes some interesting points about the meaning of certain
vocabulary in the creation account, especially in view of the prevalent
understanding of that vocabulary among English speakers. For example, where
the NKJV in Genesis 1:11 uses the word “grass,” following the Authorized
Version (KJV), Husted points out that a more precise rendering might refer
instead to the microscopic flora much more prevalent across the face of the
earth than what we usually call “grass.” In similar ways, he reconsiders what
the most precise rendering would be for each item created, given the
present-day conceptual model of the world around us. Some of his suggestions
seem to have merit.

However, Husted’s agenda is to demonstrate to evolutionists that the biblical
account of creation is not as far as they thought from their own beliefs.
Coming from the other side of that conversation, I think that the Bible ought
to be the starting point for Christians, rather than naturalistic theory.

While Husted’s work is appreciated, he also demonstrates that he is not an
expert linguist, at least in biblical Hebrew. For example, much of his later
reasoning depends heavily upon a distinction between the Hebrew word Adam
(meaning the ground, and later the name of Adam) and the Hebrew word ha-adam.
He supposes that this shows a distinction on God’s part between a sub-human
creature like the Neanderthals, and the humanity of Adam and Eve. But really,
the only difference between them is that the latter word has the Hebrew
definite article attached to it, as in “man” vs.\ “the man.” I am not an
expert Hebrew linguist either, but I know a definite article when I see one,
even in transliteration (latin characters).

The reasoning of Husted’s presentation becomes quite forced toward the end,
when he suggests that the description of Eve’s creation really means something
quite different from the natural meaning of the text. Perhaps the meanings he
attributes to the Hebrew words can be justified from Hebrew dictionaries, which
simply list words without context, but multiple layers of context here point
the reader toward the traditional understanding of Eve’s creation. Besides the
context in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, we also must consider that readers of
Hebrew much closer to the time it was written have agreed with the traditional
understanding. The Hebrew words date to about 1450 BC, and may have been
translated by Moses (with divine guidance) from an earlier language. For the
Bible to have the authority it does, we must maintain that it was inspired and
preserved by God so as to present clearly what He wishes us to know.

While I don’t question Husted’s sincerity as a Christian, it seems that his
desire to make the biblical creation account palatable to his evolutionist
colleagues has introduced a naturalistic presupposition that undermines the
authority of divine revelation. If we can accept that God created all things,
including Eve, with a power we would consider to be miraculous, then the only
reason to conceive of such a convoluted alternative explanation for her
creation is to align the Bible with naturalistic science, which denies the
possibility of miracles as a basic premise. It may be an entertaining
exercise, but the Bible is divine revelation about our origin, identity, and
salvation. It’s dangerous to entertain the possibility of a higher authority,
and much more dangerous to accept one.

As a result, I can’t recommend Husted’s book for Christians who are drawn to
the question in the title: “Hey Mom, What about Dinosaurs?” It may be
appropriate for exegetical and scientific discussion, but not for general
consumption.

A Christian Living under Authority

My how time flies! We have projects at church, projects at home, and
the continuing cycle of obligations like Synod Convention, which meets
next week. As I wrap up preparations to fly out later today, I was
musing a bit about the nature of law and the country we know as the
United States of America.

For quite a while, I’ve been learning about the distinction between
common law (or natural law) and the kind of law enacted by the fiat of
a legislature or ruler. This distinction has come into sharper focus
thanks to Richard Maybury’s books, like Whatever Happened to Penny
Candy?
and Whatever Happened to Justice?. I was provided with a
collection of these books by members at one of my congregations, and
have found them fascinatingly informative.

What I realized today is a corollary of the special uniqueness of the
United States. It was founded upon the principles of individual liberty
and limited government that proceed from common law as discovered over
time in English history. (Not only English history, but that’s what
affected the American colonies.) Every other nation was under a
different kind of law, even if the particular laws were somehow voted
into existence. Maybury calls the other kind “Roman” law, which is what
practically everyone knows today. Common law is all but forgotten.

It was this basis in common law that produced the peculiar character of
the Declaration of Independence, which was further enfleshed in the
Constitution with its Bill of Rights. If someone were to ask, “What’s a
Lutheran?” the best answer would be based upon the basic principles of
Lutheranism, found in the 1580 Book of Concord. If someone were to ask,
“What’s American?” the best answer would be based upon the basic
principles of the United States of America, found in the Declaration and
the Constitution. That’s common law.

Now, the corollary I mentioned comes from the peculiar identification of
the American people as that which is sovereign in the United States. In
other political systems, the monarch may be sovereign, or the
legislature, or the judiciary, or some combination of them. In the
United States, by definition, it is the people which are sovereign, so
that the government (i.e. the executive, legslative, judiciary, or even
the new bureaucratic arm) is not to be identified with the nation, and those
who are in positions of government must always answer to the people.

The question often arises in the minds of Christians, “What if my
government tries to force me to contradict my faith?” The answer is
obvious when the contradiction is clear. But sometimes it is not. The
corollary recognizes that the answer is different in a country
constituted upon common law, in which the people are sovereign, than it
would be in a country constituted upon fiat, “Roman” law.

If we consider the Constitution to be binding still, and that it still
presents the principles of the Declaration, then an American Christian’s
earthly obedience is not ultimately due to any part of the Federal or
State government, nor even the government as a whole. Our Christian
obedience is due to the people, according to the common law principles
of the Constitution. Yes, we must still honor the executive,
legislative, and judicial branches, but only insofar as they carry out
the will of the true sovereignty in the United States, which is in the
people.

But here’s the rub. The duty of an American to the people of the United
States is actually weightier than the duty of the subject of a monarch.
Yes, we are free people, but as the saying goes, “freedom is not free.”
It’s encumbent upon every American, and owed to the sovereign power of
the country (the people) to maintain the liberty in which the country
was founded. Inasmuch as we have allowed encroachment to take place
upon our liberty under the Constitution, we have been derelict in our
duty as Americans, and have failed to perform the sacred duty that God
has given to Christians toward our sovereign ruler.

Chew on that for a while. I intend to.

A Good Little Story

On Sunday afternoons we have a group that studies the Lutheran Confessions. We are Lutherans, and the Confessions define what that means. This Sunday I took a tangent in our conversation to express my deep appreciation for good stories, works of fiction. A good one makes you think and maybe even teaches you something in a way that’s memorable. I suppose that’s why some preachers tell lots of stories in the pulpit, but I think preaching the gospel is a different kind of thing from communicating with a story. The ambiance, scope and aim are different, though Jesus demonstrates a masterful use of stories to serve the purpose of preaching.

Anyway, here’s a very brief example of what I mean. This little story could be expanded and adjusted in many ways. As short as it is here, it borders on an allegory, but really most good stories also serve as allegories in some way, so I don’t mind.

There’s something everyone can learn here. I hope you enjoy it.

Commentary on Doctrine and Life