Russell and Duenes

Archive for March 2011

Court-Sanctioned Killing

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Let’s see if I understand this.

The Supreme Court ruled, in the 1992 case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that, “in some critical respects abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception . . . .  for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”

The Court’s ruling in Casey reaffirmed their 1973 rulings in Roe and Doe, namely, that abortion is constitutionally legal through all nine months of pregnancy. The Casey Court would not overturn Roe because, as they said above, for several decades, “people have organized intimate relationships and made choices…in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.” I am told that this constitutes the legal doctrine of “reliance,” which according to one of my commentors, means, “It’s not fair for the law to change all the time. If I’ve oriented my entire life around x law as elaborated by a court, it’s not fair if that court just changes its judgment in the next second. That’s the same basis for why we have the concept of Stare Decisis (i.e., precedent).” So far so good.

But if Roe shouldn’t be overturned due to this doctrine of “reliance,” then let’s look at one aspect of Roe more carefully. In Roe, the Court said, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.” But the Court was wrong on this point. It’s not a difficult question: scientifically or theologically. It begins at conception. Thus, the Court erred in their supposed agnosticism regarding when life begins. Abortion does not take a “potential life,” as the Court phrased it, but an actual, full human life, just as valuable as my life. This is not a legal point I’m making here, but a scientific, logical, rational, and metaphysical one. And the Court got it wrong. So now, armed with this truth, let’s return to the Court’s statement in Casey, only this time, let’s substitute for the word “abortion” the proper phrase, “killing one’s own child,” which is what is really happening with abortion, the Court’s opinion not withstanding.

“In some critical respects killing one’s own child is of the same character as the decision to use contraception . . . .  for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of killing their own child in the event that contraception should fail.”

Now, in this case, does that sound like “sound legal doctrine” to you? The Court simply redefines human life as non-human life, then builds a doctrine of reliance upon that redefinition, and then says that it can’t be overturned because people have organized their life around it, and thus it must be upheld due to “precedent” (Stare Decisis). But if their redefinition of human life doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, and if, in fact, the unborn are full human beings; then this means that people have been organizing their lives around the killing of their own children. Indeed, this is what they have been doing. But no Court is bound to respect the fact that murdering one’s children has 30-plus years of legal precedent.

“Reliance” in this case is not sound legal doctrine. It is not just. It is Court-sanctioned killing. And Lord willing, it will end, sooner rather than later.



Written by Michael Duenes

March 31, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Babies Are A Nuisance

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The birth control commercial I put up in my previous post tells us much about the way we view the little humans among us. Here are a few.

1) “It’s good to have choices.” Without qualification, such a statement is badly off the mark. We have exalted “choice” to idolatrous levels. As such, we no longer listen to what God says in the Scriptures and through natural revelation. Rather, we supplicate ourselves at the altar of radical, autonomous individualism. We don’t want our consciences and our hearts bound fast to the word of God. Rather, we want to stand as autonomous decision-makers, always having the option to choose this or that. And we tell ourselves that this is freedom. And this talk of choice, when it comes to the birth control mindset, leads inexorably to abortion. Think I’m taking it too far on this point? Then don’t take my word for it; take the Supreme Court’s. In the 1992 case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court said, “in some critical respects abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception . . . .  for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.” When once you exalt self-actualization to idolatrous levels, as this commercial does, then nothing should stand in your way of achieving it, including children.

2) The ad teaches that children are a roadblock on the way to having fun in life. There’s too many fun things to do while you’re young, and having babies would just be a nuisance. After all, you simply cannot have a picnic by the waterfall once you’ve got little ones running around, right?

3) The ad teaches that trips to Paris, grad school degrees, and owning homes are clearly preferable to having children. These experiences and possessions must be secured before any sane person would want to embark on the fun-killing, career-stopping task of raising children.

4) The ad teaches that having children is something you might want to do after you are “set.” And what does “being set” mean? We often talk about being able to “provide” before we start having children. And of course we should be able to provide. But it’s all too easy to think of “providing” in terms of kids having their own rooms, with their own computer in their room, with their own iphones, wearing all the latest fashions, doing all the extra-curricular activities, and so forth. We can always trot out the irresponsible parents who neglect their children, but this is not some kind of justification for saying that we “can’t afford children” unless or until we’ve got a six-figure salary. The American Dream is not a prerequisite to having children, but this commercial reinforces the widely held belief that it is.

We used to consider marriage and the raising of children to be a great adventure and a pathway to maturity. But this is almost laughable among the young today. We are now told, in a thousand different ways, that we need to get out there and “experience life”, see the world, accomplish our personal goals, and only then, think about having children (although, not too many of them, lest our personal goals be compromised).That’s the message of this commercial, if we have eyes to see it. It greatly saddens me, and I think, grieves our Lord as well.


Written by Michael Duenes

March 29, 2011 at 9:57 pm

The Message of Birth Control

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Judge for yourself. So much could be said in response, but you draw your own conclusions at this point.


Written by Michael Duenes

March 27, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Dallas Willard: Tell Us How To Be Good

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Having taught Christian apologetics now for some time, I’m well familiar with most attempts to debunk Christianity, particular those coming from the “New Atheists” such as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the like. Yet these men are only the most public manifestation of the godless naturalism that pervades our entire culture, particularly our educational institutions. Having done away with the alleged “superstition” of religion in favor of scientific materialism (i.e., naturalism), we materialists would nevertheless like to retain some sense of right and wrong. Hitchens et al thunder away with moral pronouncements against the wickedness and hypocrisy of Christians, and our universities have become veritable re-education camps against racism, sexism, genocide, and a whole host of other wrongs. But we should like to know from whence these moral standards come, if not from God. As Dallas Willard has pointed out, in his difficult yet critical lecture, Naturalism’s Incapacity to Capture Good Will, naturalism must give us more than just promises to explain everything in the universe, including morality. What naturalism must provide is twofold.

First, it must give us a basis for morality. As Willard says,

Naturalism as a world view lives today on promises. “We are going to show how all personal phenomena, including the moral, emerges from the chemistry (brain, DNA) of the human body.” And, of course, the actual sciences (specific investigative practices) have made many wonderful discoveries and inventions. But after 300 years or so of promises to “explain everything,” the grand promises become a little tiresome, and the strain begins to show. And anyway, nothing in actual practice by scientists going about their work depends upon the grand promises–which can and do force sensible people to say things that have nothing to do with sense or science. A justifiably well regarded worker in the field of cosmology was heard to say at this conference: “It all begins in a state of absolute nothing, which makes a quantum transition to something very small, and then ‘inflation’ sets in….” What which?

Second, and more importantly, naturalism will have to give us guidance as to how one might become a “good” person. In other words, what are the laws, precepts, commands, traditions by which we may become good and not evil? How, given naturalism, does the human will become formed such that the will of the individual inclines toward the good in any given circumstance? Willard argues that naturalism cannot produce this, but should he be wrong, and naturalism can, in fact, produce this, where is it? He writes,

The challenge to Naturalism is, therefore, not just to come up with a convincing theory of the moral life (an analysis of moral concepts, utterances and so forth). If what I have said is true, Naturalism will not be able to do that. But suppose it could. Its work would not be done, but would hardly have begun. It would still have to create a moral culture by which people could live. It would still have the task of providing a body of moral understanding by which ordinary as well as extra-ordinary human beings could direct their own lives. Naturalism has always promised to do this through its leading spokespersons, and continues to do so today–through individuals such as Professor Larry Arnhart (Darwinian Natural Right, etc.) We wish them well. Theirs is a tremendously important undertaking. But they have much to do. Let them do it. (emphasis mine)

This “body of moral understanding” is the very thing that naturalism has not produced, and it is why our educational and cultural institutions are in tatters. And when we look to the naturalist atheists for moral understanding, we get ideas that are clearly not up to the task. For example, Sam Harris recommends that we become moral people by knowing “better and worse ways to seek happiness in this world” (Letter to a Christian Nation, 23) or by “invoking the power of ritual” and “marking those transitions in every human life that demand profundity – birth, marriage, death” (ibid., 88). Can naturalism explain why anything, anything at all, “demands profundity?” Surely this must be a fiction in a universe where all that exists is “stuff” which is here for a nanosecond and then decomposes into more and different stuff. From Hitchens we get assertions about “human solidarity” and the brotherhood of mankind, and from P.Z. Myers, we’re told that “greater science literacy” and “more and more science” (see Expelled: The Movie) will lead to the good society, where Christianity has been relegated to the same status as knitting: something fun to do on the weekends and nothing more. To this, Willard responds,

Naturalism has managed to occupy the intellectual high ground, and in the minds of many the moral high ground, in contemporary society–especially within the academy. It has put the Inquisition as well as the Moral Majority in its place. It is now the authority…So, let it lead. Not-being-superstitious-any-more will hardly serve as an adequate positive basis of moral understanding and moral development…From Spinoza to Voltaire to Condorcet to Buchner and Hackel, to Dewey and Hook, and into the present, the promise of Naturalism has been one of genuine moral enlightenment. But we cannot any longer live on promises. If Naturalism is to be taken seriously in the capacities it wishes to be taken seriously, the promissory notes have come due. Naturalism must now turn them into cash. The need now is to stand and deliver. Let concrete and abstract, individual and social, moral understanding and guidance come forth from the views of Darwin, Dawkins, Dennett, Searle, Wilson and Arnhart. Let them tell us, corporately and individually, how to become persons of good will, reliably guided by moral obligation to do what is right and honorable. This is especially relevant because the ultimate human issue back of Naturalism as a movement, and one seldom out of sight in discussions involving it, is: Who shall determine policy. But if I am anywhere close to right in my main argument, the Naturalists do not stand a chance at developing a body of knowledge to serve in concrete moral guidance. Certainly “survival” or “natural selection” will never suffice, though it has a point to make…When they do what they have promised (or anything close) we will know they can do it. (emphasis mine)

This is not just a problem for the academy. It starts much farther back, and as I’ve said numerous times on this page, this failure of naturalism is the crux of the problem with public schools. Based, as their curricula are, on materialistic naturalism, they simply have no positive moral content by which they may instruct children in the ways and means of becoming “good” people. Our public school curricula stand impotent to form students’ thoughts and wills toward virtuous living, if they can even get around to discussing virtue and vice. Of course, they do instruct in these matters, since nothing can be morally neutral in this universe of ours. But this “disappearance of moral knowledge,” as Willard calls it, has hamstrung the public schools, and so now we have to resort to the likes of anti-bullying curriculum to keep kids in line. This is nothing more than the naturalist chickens coming home to roost. And I just wonder what standards of right and wrong naturalism has for us when it comes to such bullying. My assumption is that schools will borrow standards from God, without giving him credit of course.

Willard, in his usual grace, has not shouted down the naturalists. He has, as you have read, wished them well in their endeavor. And he of all people has seen what becomes of the university once the public teaching of moral knowledge disappears. The need of the hour now is for Christians to cease allowing themselves to be ghetto-ized, banished from the public square, from the realm of knowledge, willingly herded into their “faith-based” (read, superstitious and irrational) churches and Bible study groups. What’s needed is ten-thousand Dallas Willards, thoughtful Christians, calling the naturalists’ bet, in their homes, churches, schools, universities, law schools, newspapers, and the like. As Willard says, we need to see the cash back of their promissory notes.


Written by Michael Duenes

March 24, 2011 at 6:12 am

Posted in Duenes, Philosophy, Science

When God Goes, Wicked People Become “Crazy”

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While listening to some of the talking heads on Libya today, my wife made a very keen observation. She noticed that Qaddafi was being discussed as if he were “crazy.” The U.S. bombing campaign might thus be ill-advised since a “crazy” man, who is “not a rational actor,” is liable to do anything to his people. But why is Qaddafi “crazy” and “irrational?” My wife said, “Couldn’t he be, say, evil? Couldn’t he simply be a wicked man, doing what wicked men do”

This may seem like a small point, but I think it betrays a significant shift in our culture. We’ve largely discarded the notion of “good and evil,” and have therapeutized and psychologized everything. So people are no longer wicked and evil, but are simply “insane” or “irrational.” Hitler wasn’t truly wicked, he was just “insane.” Same for any other mass murderer or the like. When notions of sin, judgment, and a righteous, holy God go out the window, so do notions of righteousness and wickedness among human beings. We can no longer muster the moral and spiritual courage to say that people are evil. We cannot get ourselves to render judgment against anyone (except against those who think that we should talk about evil and sin).

We do well to ponder the consequences of this shift. I think they are momentous.


Written by Michael Duenes

March 20, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections