A Cold-blooded View of Human Development

On 23 July 2015, The Federalist and Politico announced that the Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the legality of the two videos released by the Center for Medical Progress. The Washington Post reported that two states and one Congressional committee have started their own. I mentioned in an earlier post that this back and forth by the pro-choice and pro-life camps comes as no surprise. There is plenty at stake for all concerned, especially with next year being an election year. Of course, that is a slightly cynical view of things, but it does have warrant. It is also true that the ethical and moral grounds for PP and its affiliates are the shakiest in their history.

Some of PP’s defenders have advanced views that illustrate a mind-numbing inconsistency. The most recent example of this is Dr. Jen Gunter, who is a practicing OB/GYN. She operates her own blog while being a frequent writer for The New Republic, which published one of her pieces on 23 July 2015. The gist of Dr. Gunter’s article is that the videos released by the Center for Medical Progress are medically misleading or false. Here is the good doctor in her own words:

These are not “baby parts.” Whether a woman has a miscarriage or an abortion, the tissue specimen is called “products of conception.” In utero, i.e. during pregnancy, we use the term “embryo” from fertilization to ten weeks gestation and “fetus” from ten weeks to birth. The term baby is medically incorrect as it doesn’t apply until birth. Calling the tissue “baby parts” is a calculated attempt to anthropomorphize an embryo or fetus. It is a false image—a ten to twelve week fetus looks nothing like a term baby—and is medically incorrect.

I want to call our attention to the general tone of this quotation, which is representative of Dr. Gunter’s entire piece. She refers to the developing embryo and fetus as a “tissue specimen” or “product of conception.” To Dr. Gunter’s credit, the latter word phrase is a medical term; however, her carefully chosen words come off cold and dehumanizing toward the embryo and fetus. The impact of Dr. Gunter’s words create the idea that what develops in a woman’s womb for nine months is an inanimate object. Of course, this is all very ironic given the fact that the medical term fetus is a Latin word, which literally means offspring. Another way to say offspring is baby or child. I find this to be a major oversight by Dr. Gunter and The New Republic editor, who approved her piece.

If the previous paragraph illustrates Dr. Gunter’s rational inconsistency, then what I’m about to get into magnifies it to the nth degree. Again, the point behind my current is to demonstrate the importance of word choice in writing. I honestly believe that Dr. Gunter chose her words carefully, but she wields them like a toddler holding a gun. Now, let us examine her use of the word anthropomorphize. According to the English dictionary, anthropomorphize means to ascribe human form or attributes to (an animal, plant, material object, etc.) anything that is not human in nature or character. In the above quote, Dr. Gunter claims that these videos released by the Center for Medical Progress falsely attribute human form to a developing embryo and fetus. Once again, this is a major oversight on her part, but it is an egregious one committed by the editor.

It seems pretty clear to me that Dr. Gunter objects to describing the developing entity in a woman’s womb in human terms. I get the fact that the terms embryo and fetus are medical ones. What she fails to realize is that these prove too much, which defeats her argument. Because of Dr. Gunter’s extensive medical training, she knows that every mammalian species starts out as an embryo of its kind. For example, chickens start out as chicken embyros, and lions begin as lion embryos, and so on and so forth. According to genetics (something Dr. Gunter knows very well), the union of a woman’s egg with a man’s sperm is called a zygote. This “product of conception” or zygote comes into existence because of human DNA uniting as one. In fact, from the point of fertilization (zygote) and onward, this “product of conception” has its own discreet DNA, which exhibits differences from the mother and the father regardless of its gender.

I find it hard to believe that Dr. Gunter fails to realize these facts; although, it is true that her medical credentials have nothing to do whatsoever with being an etymologist. Neither does Dr. Gunter’s medical training equip her to make metaphysical and/or philosophical claims about the unborn. In her zeal to defend PP and its practices, she has revealed herself to be no defender of the defenseless. Dr. Gunter resorts to a cold-blooded view of human development in order to maintain the legal right to end it. I may step on toes with what I am about to say; however, the view expressed by Dr. Gunter is cold and downright evil. May the Lord have mercy on us for the shedding of innocent blood:

“…because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind–therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter” (Jeremiah 19:4d-6, ESV).

 

 

Go Away…Play With Your Toys.

By now, everyone knows about the undercover video exposing the donation, exchange, or sale of aborted baby hearts, livers, and heads by Planned Parenthood (PP) facilities and their affiliates. It was released by an organization called the Center for Medical Progress, which has a history of critiquing PP and its practices. Dr. Deborah Nucatola is the “star” of the video, who serves as PP’s senior director for medical services. Her explanation of the best way to extract an unborn child in order to preserve the vital organs has drawn the most ire from anyone who has watched the video. Dr. Nucatola expresses these things while sipping red wine and munching on salad.

I have not watched the edited version because I chose to view the longer, unedited one after discovering its existence on You Tube. My reason is strictly a matter of principle. If any video, article, book, poem, or movie exists in two versions, then my default practice is to get my hands on the complete or unabridged one. I want the whole enchilada so to speak. This helps me to come to my own conclusions. The responses from those who support PP and those against it have been predictable. This is my initial observation from 10,000 feet up.

No matter how anyone slices it, abortion says that the unborn child does not deserve to live. Instead the rights of the adult mother supersede those of the unborn. Throughout the video, I kept marveling at the depravity of the human heart. There are sectors of the medical, research community that see more value in the aborted baby parts than bringing that child to full term. It seems to me that abortion devalues human life at its most basic level while arbitrarily assigning it value at some later point yet to be determined.

After watching the video, it seems like Dr. Nucatola, PP and their affiliates have come up with a solution for finding value with the unborn: the field of advanced, Biomedical research*. After all, PP and its affiliates must deal with a nasty, practical consequence of abortion: the disposal of aborted fetuses/babies. Around the one hour mark, Dr. Nucatola responds to a question about estimating how many remains are leftover in one day. She guesstimates about 18 liters, which failed to hit home for me until I divided the number by two, i.e. nine, two liter bottles worth of aborted babies. It goes without saying that neither PP nor its affiliates would bury these aborted babies because that affords them dignity and worth as persons. Cremation is not an option for the same reason. The solution seems to be donation for medical research purposes.

A whole host of questions bubble up to the surface at this point: Is the unborn child alive only at birth? How far along the pregnancy is the baby a viable human being? The core question at the center of the abortion debate is very simple. When does life begin for a human being? If the answer is at conception, then that settles it. If the answer is no, then choosing a point after conception is quite arbitrary. Who decides the criteria for determining the viability of the unborn? Our nations’ medical community? The US Supreme Court? The latter seems to be the preferred option over the last forty-two years.

In 1973, the US Supreme Court made abortion legal in the landmark case Roe v. Wade. Last month, the highest court in America imposed its redefinition of marriage upon all fifty states based upon its 5-4 decision in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. In effect, these two Supreme Court rulings have etched into stone that the rights of adults take precedence over the rights of children. This does not mean that I am for children’s rights. What I mean is that Roe v. Wade codified the view that unborn, developing babies have no right to live. The Obergefell v. Hodges decision advocates that the rights of two adults trump their responsibility to provide a child with a mother and a father.

Basically, our nation seems to be telling our kids that they really do not matter until they reach eighteen. I imagine that the conversation between a child and one of our social elites would sound something like this: “We do not believe that you are worth living for nine months in the womb. When you are born, it does not matter who parents you. We have not figured out how to correct the public education system; however, we blame private schools, charters, and vouchers for funneling money away from you in order to give you a decent education.  One more thing, we think it is unhelpful for you to use the words boy or girl, male or female. Those are vague abstractions without any meaning.” The child may say, “So what am I?” “You’re a person. Isn’t that enough? Now go away. Play with your toys.”

* Note: According to Dr. Nucatola, two of the most prominent companies that procure aborted, baby, body parts from PP and its affiliates are Novagenix and StemExpress.

 

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ.  Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

 

(Martin Luther: 1483-1546)

Standing Where the Battle Rages

“That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the king of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

(Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Bonhoeffer on Cheap Grace

Ruling in the Morning

In a previous post, I expressed my anguish over learning the health condition of a six year old girl, who’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her story reminded me of another case of a boy battling leukemia. I am very close friends his father. Again, both of these young lives have so much ahead of them. I want to see them touched in a mighty way by our Lord and Savior, the Great Physician. The parents of both children have heartfelt hopes and dreams for them. Both sets of families follow the Lord with everything that they have at their disposal. No stone is left unturned as the saying goes. Surely, their prayers for the Lord’s miraculous, healing touch will be answered speedily, without delay.

These two, real-life situations remind me that other families throughout the United States and the world are experiencing or have experienced similar circumstances with their children. I guess one could say that such a thing is worldwide in scope. Illness and death are no respecter of persons. It does not matter where one lives, or what one does…in this life, illness and death are painful realities. Something inside of all human beings informs us that our lives were meant to last. King Solomon said it best, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, ESV).

What this scripture verse teaches me is that all human beings long for immortality. It resides in our heart, the very core of our being, according to the Spirit-inspired pen of King Solomon. Every man, woman, and child longs for a way to defeat death, to overcome it, rather than end up swallowed by it. If the Lord has placed eternity into the hearts of all human beings who have, are, and will ever live, then what is the reason for death? From a Christian worldview, the answer is quite simple and ancient. Those whom the Lord created, the first man and woman, rebelled against him and the covenant of life that he held out before them in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-7, ESV). Our ancestors joined with the enemy of our souls into plunging themselves and creation into darkness.

When the Lord handed out his punishments upon the man, the woman, and the serpent, he included a gospel promise of a coming seed who would defeat the enemy and his works (Gen. 3:15; see Hebrews 2:14-15 & 1 John 3:8b, ESV). Down through the corridors of human history, the promised seed has unfolded progressively with the line of Seth, then Noah and his son Shem, God’s call of Abram and his only son Isaac, the Lord’s sovereign choice of Jacob over Esau, and then culminating with the birth of the Messiah in a manger (Gen. 4:25-26; 5:28, 32; 6:9-10;  12:1-3; 15:4-6; 17:19; 21:1-4; 25:23-26; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Malachi  1:2-3; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:31; Romans 9:11-13, ESV). It is a marvelous plan of redemption, which the Father, Son, and the Spirit set forth as a plan before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-10, ESV).

How does all of this connect with children contracting terminal illnesses and dying before their time? When the Apostle Paul looks back to the Fall of Adam and Eve through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, he states these crucial words, which I quote in part: “…sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” (Rom. 5:12, ESV).  If the Lord had withheld the gospel promise of a coming seed right at humanity’s darkest hour, there would be no present and future hope for human beings in overcoming death. The hope is a real one as the apostle Paul declares that those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of Christ’s righteousness will reign in life through him (Rom. 5:17, ESV).

For those who reject Christ, there is no hope of overcoming death.  This is not true for those who receive him by grace through faith.  Once again, the Apostle Paul helps us immeasurably here by proclaiming to the Corinthian churches that “…as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22, ESV). In this passage, the apostle speaks of the bodily resurrection at the second coming of Christ (1 Cor. 15:21-23, ESV). According to the prophet Isaiah, there is a future age coming where the Lord’s people “…shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamityfor they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lordand their descendants with them” (Isaiah 65:23, ESV). 

From my point-of-view, this verse means that children will live out their days.  Their lives will not be cut short because of inoperable brain cancer, leukemia, a drunk driver, a plane crash, a tsunami, an earthquake, and I could go on and on to the break of dawn. Fathers and mothers will live to see their children fulfill their goals and dreams. When these parents pray for their children, the Lord will answer them right away: no delays and no negative answers. I will stretch this out even further by saying that miscarriages and infant deaths will be ancient history. The Spirit-inspired words of the prophet declare that “no more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days…” (Isaiah 65:20a, ESV). The age to come will be glorious and joy-filled.

When does this age occur in human history, you ask? I will be brief in my response. Bible scholars and pastors debate the interpretation of Isaiah’s sixty-fifth chapter. Some think it pictures the eternal state, the New Heavens and New Earth of Revelation chapters twenty-one and twenty-two. Another group asserts that this describes a time, still in the future, during this present age that we have yet to experience. I respectfully disagree with those two positions, which many biblically, sound theologians embrace.  It is my contention that Isaiah sixty-five depicts an age after Christ’s second advent, but before the eternal state.  Some describe this as the millennial reign of Christ. I prefer the Psalmist’s poetic description, who characterizes that age as one where “…the upright shall rule over them in the morning…” (Psalm 49:15b, ESV).     

 

 

Crushed in Spirit

Earlier this week, my wife shared with me a very sad story. One of her friends has a daughter who’s been diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. It is inoperable in addition to having a 100% mortality rate. The little girl is six years old.  She has two older siblings and one younger one. This is the sort of real life story, which seems so unjust. How is it that I have been granted thirty-eight years of life, but this little girl might be lucky to live to either eight or nine even with successful radiation treatment?

There is grief and then there is grief. I cannot fathom what is going on in the hearts and souls of this girl’s parents. They are staring down the prospect of burying their daughter either in two months or two years. Right now, I feel the weight of this as I write this entry in my in-laws’ place. Like I said earlier, the heaviness that I feel pales in comparison to what this mother and father shoulder at the moment. Their pain only increases as they prepare to explain to their two oldest children the reality of their youngest sister’s health. How do they do this?

I do not have any answers. In fact, I’m not even going to speculate. When I think of the friends and relatives of this family, I wonder what supporting them looks like in this season. The most reasonable thing to do seems to be to grieve alongside of them. I am not suggesting to engage in a pity party, or to wallow in the mire. It is important to see the hard circumstances of life as hard. The Lord does not teach me to bury my head in the sand about life’s difficulties. Neither does he call me to pour syrup over them.

What does the Lord say to his people who face intense grief? Here is a verse from the Psalms that provides a genuine promise fom the Lord: “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves those crushed in spirit” (Psalms 34:18, ESV). The last part of the verse is my favorite. I do not think that the Psalmist could have used a better metaphor than crushed in spirit. This is exactly what I feel for the parents of their little girl. I join them in praying and seeking our Heavenly Father to heal this little girl. He is their God of comfort and mine, too (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, ESV).

“So yes, the logic of gay-marriage rights could lead to a reexamination of conservative churches’ tax exemptions (although, as long as the IRS is afraid of challenging Scientology’s exemption, everyone else is probably safe). But when that day comes, it will be long overdue. I can see keeping some exemptions; hospitals, in particular, are an indispensable, and noncontroversial, public good. And localities could always carve out sensible property-tax exceptions for nonprofits their communities need. But it’s time for most nonprofits, like those of us who faithfully cut checks to them, to pay their fair share.”

(Mark Oppenheimer, “Now’s the Time to End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions,” 28, June 2015)

Skating on Thin Ice – Nonprofits and Tax Exemptions