Opinions on faith and life

Shock and Awe(ful)

2012-05-16

Theologically, it’s been a day that began and ended shockingly. The first was over modern-day Christians arguing in a blog that the Bible does indeed condone slavery. And on that basis, atrocities committed by professing believers can be excused as “products of their time” since today we know slavery is wrong but Paul thought it was okay, because he hadn’t “progressed” to our modern sensibilities. It was even argued that Paul might have condoned the hatred and murder of “heretics” since that’s just how things were done by “Christians” in the middle ages. The number of levels at which these ideas are so very wrong must exceed the number of pages in the US tax code; I don’t think I need to spell it out here as I did there. How anyone can read the NT and think that such blatant violations of passages like 1 Cor. 13 can be excused by culture is beyond me.

But then there’s the shock of reading just a while ago an inconceivable (pardon the pun) attempt by a popular blogger to justify abortion. Given other jaw-dropping teachings from there that I’ve discussed in earlier posts, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. But I think this one went to a whole new level.

The thrust of the argument seems to be (one never knows, given the history of that blogger’s propensity for ambiguity) that since nobody considers donated organs or tumor cells to be human beings, then we can leap from there to the conclusion that abortion isn’t the taking of human life!

So let’s break this down.

First a few verses are cited, then the obligatory Calvinist theologian, to establish that the soul is created by God--- no argument there from any Christian. But then comes the non-sequitur: that since God creates the soul but the body is formed through ordinary reproductive processes, then somehow the soul is nowhere to be found in the zygote (in spite of Psalm 139:13). And finally, from this lofty peak is the flight to “abortion isn’t the taking of human life, anymore than removing a tumor is the taking of a human life”.

And this is being taught by a Baptist pastor in 2012.

I realize he’s quoting somebody by the name of Moses (!), but I have to hope that he simply grossly misunderstood the guy. Just looking at the last sentence of the quote, I think this is likely: “I am fairly certain the soul remains with the whole instead of being scattered every place that we leave our cells.” How in heaven’s name does that sentence become “the soul has no attachment whatsoever to the cells until the baby is born”? Though he characteristically doesn’t actually spell out this conclusion (implications, heavy though they may be, can always be denied later), it is where the reader is being led; an excuse is being crafted to give up the unpopular position of defending the unborn. And I am appalled. (But who cares?)

I believe that the human soul is “interfaced” to the body via the brain; a person can lose a lot of their body and still be clearly a human being with a soul. But the “elephant in the living room” here is that the blogger never even tries to answer the question, If the soul is not in every cell, then when exactly is it attached to the body? If not at conception, then when? After birth? There is a push now to start allowing infanticide; if it becomes culturally acceptable, will bloggers like this start arguing in favor of it as something more enlightened and informed? The whole thing does nothing but open up an entire bait shop full of cans of worms. It conveniently allows an arbitrary and changeable cut-off point that will suit whatever society deems appropriate.

These two “shocks” together paint a most horrible scenario. So maybe soon society or “science” makes it clear that one must be a backward fundy to believe babies have souls; since we can hide behind “product of his time”, it’s all good with God! And we make so many new friends because they won’t be embarrassed by our backward, redneck beliefs! Rainbows and lollipops all around.

This is seriously evil excrement being passed (pun intended) as Christian theology. The foxes are truly running the whole poultry farm. May Jesus return today and put a stop to the ravaging of His Bride.

14 Comments

SaberTruth

It seems that I gave the quoted blogger, Moses, too much credit: "The argument against stem cell research seems to imply that a human soul inhabits a blastocyst…"

What? No pro-life advocate today believes this, and there is no such implication in any pro-life argument. Our objection to stem cell research is NOT because of an alleged belief that every cell is a human being (!!), but because at first it required stem cells from aborted babies. It’s the killing of the babies we oppose, not the use of cells for medical research! This is nothing but a straw man to make us look like morons. (Now science has discovered that stem cells can be obtained without killing babies, so we have no objection to it under that condition.)

SaberTruth

I should point this out as well: that the statement "Life actually exists prior to conception, both in the male sperm and the female egg. Life continues when a sperm and an egg unite. Human life, however, only begins when God creates the human soul" is another straw man. What pro-lifer DOESN’T mean "human life" when we say "life begins at conception"? What pro-lifer actually believes that gametes are not "life"? We’re being painted as idiots by both these bloggers, who once again are trying to undermine the sanctity of HUMAN life and justify abortion. Since neither blogger tries to say when the soul is attached to the body, they have failed to refute the pro-life saying "life begins at conception". Both bloggers clearly set out to do exactly that; both are trying to dismiss this saying as ignorant of scientific fact. But neither actually explains how the soul is NOT with the body at conception. Epic logic and theological fail.

SaberTruth

Found a similar straw man from an article of his back in 2007:

Many Southern Baptists and evangelical Christians err, in my opinion, on the subject of the origin of the soul. Most have the opinion that the souls of men are ex traduce, or generated by and derived from their parents with their bodies. This concept of the natural generation of the soul has led to the often used statement by evangelicals ’life begins at conception.’ However, biological life existed in the egg, as well as the sperm, prior to conception, so when most evangelicals say, "life begins at conception," they mean "human life (i.e. the soul) exists at conception because it is traduced from the parents when the sperm and the egg unite."

Five years ago, and I wonder if anybody called him out. Nobody (let alone "most") believes that the soul is derived from the parents; he made that up. He at least admitted here that "life begins at conception" means human life (how he forgets that now, I don’t know), but to think that by this we mean it was created by biology and not God is ludicrous. With leaps like that, he should be in the Olympics.

Jrleyvas

Thank you for shedding light on this topic. I am glad someone spoke up.

SaberTruth

You’re very welcom, Jrleyvas.

Kathleen Felmey

Okay, I have to say something. I appreciate Wade trying to sort through issues, but this went too far. I agree with everything you said here.

And yet, there is this intangible feeling of just right and wrong deep in my soul, that even I can’t really put into words why this is so wrong. The slippery slope? The pandora’s box? The area where even God’s angels fear to tread?

I guess raw intellectualism is nice to exercise your brain now and again, but I think Wade, as a pastor and paid employee of the church, should focus his attention on more pressing matters, like giving the hope of salvation to the lost and dying.

(sorry for my rant; I haven’t finished my morning coffee yet) ;)

SaberTruth

Good point to bring up, Kathleen, about the heart. There are gray areas, per Rom. 14 for example, but life and freedom are surely not among them. This, and the one about slavery that I didn’t name, have almost a sinister feeling about them, a wish to violate conscience. Can the Holy Spirit not be grieved?

SaberTruth

An excellent point in the comments at that older post: If the soul is not created at conception, and the conception is purely from the parents and not God, then when does the soul inherit the sin nature? If one believes in sin nature, and asserts that the soul is not there at conception, there is no logical response. This is illustrated in the blogger’s lame attempt: "because original sin somehow taints the soul when the Lord creates that soul within the Adamic body." SOMEHOW? God deliberately ties "with a silver cord" a perfectly good soul in his image to sinful flesh to be corrupted and worthy only of eternal hell unless he is one of the lucky ‘elect’? And why can’t God attach a soul to a zygote in a petri dish? The more he tries to make sense of it, the worse it gets.

And he has lots of devoted followers.

This is seriously the most bizarre and convoluted excuse for theology I’ve ever seen, and that’s really saying something. Had I known this back when I used to try to comment there, I’d never have bothered. But eventually the dross rises to the surface. (Read the comments there, especially the one by Brother Hank Balch.)

SaberTruth

That comment deserves to be repeated:

1) The importance of such a discussion is clear. Many have commented, both here and elsewhere, about the perceived unimportance of such conversations as this, but I am afraid that they have mistaken doctrinal difficulty with doctrinal irrelevancy. It seems that we have lost the courage of the early church fathers to be willing to vigorously discuss such doctrines, while realizing, as Martin Luther said, that our aim should be "Peace if possible; truth at any rate." The discussion of the ’ensoulment’ of man is not "vain babble" or an exercise in philosophical rhetoric - but it is of paramount importance to how we view an entire spectrum of issues from humanity, sin, and death, to abortion and the sanctity of human life in general.

2) The effects of Wade Burleson’s ensoulment argument MUST be examined in light of Scripture; and not just taken at face value. Wade, what you are saying here is not just that you don’t believe that the soul is given to us at conception. The theological implications (as is evident in a few of the previous comments)of your stance are vast, and undeniable. Anecdotes of unknown children in heaven, and percentages of pregnancy loss are unhelpful, and don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what it means that there is a point after conception and before (your idea of) ensoulment, that we are not ’what we are to become’. Scripture speaks often and at length of the doctrine of man - and at NO time does it speak of a point that man is not all that man will become (in terms of body and soul).

3) One immediate implication of your argument - What are we concieving, if not a child? Coming from the pro-life movement myself, I’ve come to the firm biblical understanding that children are to be "begotten, not made". Unfortunately today, there are many scientists that do fertilize ’in vitro’ (or "under glass"). But, as your assertion of the mode of ensoulment compels you to, you must assert that what is "made" by scientists in fertility laboratories is not "real human life", rather it is a human shell at best, or a clump of cells at worst. For you to deny this understanding would be to deny your very own assertions. And in following your own logic and theological flow, Jim (in commenting) brought this ideology to its dispicable end, in stating:"But if the fetus does not have a soul, then abortion is morally equivalent to killing a cow so that we can have some nice roast beef."You may not agree with the statement, but it is where your argument logically arrives. Now, I’m certain you are not intending to convince us that these pre-"real humans" in your doctrine are no more significant than a slaughtered cow, but if we are not conceiving "real humans" - what on earth are we conceiving? a soul-less human?

4) This idea of "creationism" as pertaining to the soul, effectively and deceivingly devalues human life. Again Wade, I don’t believe you have some hidden motives in saying these things - but you must understand that you are the one here that is approaching this issue from "emotion" rather than a biblical worldview. You say that you are trying to be biblical, but no biblical ethic will bring us where your argument has and will. You are attempting to overlay the belief of the Sovereignty of God (which I absolutely agree with) onto a faulty framework of non-conception ensoulment. Because you can not fathom that a high percentage of abortions occur naturally in pregnancy, you then assert that those embryos cannot be human. Because fertility specialists are "making babies" in their labs, you claim that they cannot be "real humans" or God would lose his sovereignty. In trying to defend a right view of God, you have unwittingly devalued the very life which God himself creates. God does create us. He knits everyone of us in the womb, from the very first ’stitch’. But we must also understand that...What scientists make in the lab are indeed "real humans" -- That is why it is such a wretched practice. What the morning after pill destroys is indeed a "real human" -- That is why it is so morally reprehensible. And what a man and woman produce from their sexual union is indeed made in the "image of God", and is ensouled at the very moment of creation/conception; and that is why AND WHEN it is worthy of protection. Denying God ensouled humanity to any person begotten of man, at ANY TIME in their life is not a right or privilege that mankind has been given - it is one that has been presumptiously usurped. ---W. Hank Balch

SaberTruth

The blogger’s response was predictably emotional and defensive, and no attempt was made to continue responding after Mr. Balch’s second comment, wherein he called the blogger out for this. Narcissism? Pride? Fear? Who knows. All I can do is warn people about false teachers and hope the damage is minimized.

SaberTruth

From the comments at Wade’s blog (I better take another screenshot, quick!):

"Rex Ray said, "Shannon, You might guess after many days, Wade’s not excited about answering questions. I think he might believe you got your soul before your parents were born, but explaining that to mortals such as us is so hard he wishes he hadn’t brought the subject up."

SaberTruth

The expected indirect response from a safe distance came in a new post there:

For those of us who have experienced people privately and/or publicly reviling us, wrongly judging our motives, and falsely accusing us, Dr. Mudd provides us a moral lesson. Character is revealed in the crucible of conflict, not created. Who you are is seen when you are squeezed. It would behoove us to not worry so much about what people think of us as much as what people receive from us. No man is an island unto himself. You are not alone in the false accusations and the loss of reputation. Next time you experience such things, consider giving up your defense and rededicating yourself to doing right in the midst of the wrongs perpetrated against you.

(posted by Wade Burleson at 10:32 PM on May 20, 2012)

A door that swings both ways, to be sure. Yet being "reviled" for spreading falsehoods and dangerously sloppy teachings isn’t exactly a case of "wrong judging", especially when the one claiming victim status judges motives freely and often. But this double standard is nothing new, and it is God who will judge between him and me. Clearly, I don’t do what I do to be popular or liked (it should be obvious that this isn’t making me friends and followers). And though some will call me a liar (yet not be accused of judging motives!), I do NOT enjoy calling people out. I do what I do because it would be a sin of omission to stay silent. And for saying that, I will (and have been in the past) be labeled a thousand evil things.

So Wade was "squeezed" and found to be unwilling to face the implications of his teachings, even in his own blog in two separate posts on this topic. And if he were not in fact "worrying so much about what people think" of him, he would not have commented here or written a "poor me" post there. But if he follows his own advice in "rededicating himself to doing right", I hope this means that someday there will be a public apology from him for all of his and his followers terrible, hypocritical, and hateful attacks against any and all who have dared to challenge his teachings.

Wade Burleson

You write: "There’s the shock of reading just a while ago an inconceivable (pardon the pun) attempt by a popular blogger to justify abortion."

???

I have been the Chairman of the pro-life BGCO Christian Life Commission, the head of the annual Rose Day celebration at our state capital designed to support anti-abortion laws, and a life-long opposer of all abortions. I don’t mind disagreement among Christians, but I do take exception to misrepresentations. Though you may not believe the Scripture teaches God alone creates the soul and no scientist has the ability to do so, please do not write that I am attempting to justify abortion. If your objection to abortion hinges on man’s ability to create the soul and an argument from Scripture (that man CANNOT create the soul) threatens your opposition to abortion, then that it your problem, not mine. I remain pro-life and opposed to abortion in all cases.

SaberTruth

Misrepresentations? Like what you did to pro-lifers and their "quaint" slogans? And you blatantly misrepresent me right now with "though you may not believe the Scripture teaches God alone creates the soul"!!

WHAT?

I said no such thing, Wade, and I made it quite clear. I DO believe only God creates the soul; are you calling me a liar now? Or just misrepresenting me? Either way, you are WRONG. Scientists do NOT create life in any way, shape, or form; they can only manipulate what God has already created. And it is GOD, not people, who designed human beings to reproduce by uniting sperm with egg, and moving this event outside the womb DOES NOT CHANGE A THING. That which is in the petri dish is A HUMAN BEING, fully and completely, with the DNA to prove it. And since you cannot or will not say when the soul is united to the body, there is no way for you to allow that life to be called anything but human unless you want to play God by decreeing otherwise. The fact is that where there is a genetically complete human being (at conception), we dare not gamble with murder by hoping or guessing that the soul is not there. I cannot explain this any more clearly.

When it comes to misrepresentations, you have surely done more than your share over the years. Fundies, conservatives, non-Calvinists... you’ve misrepresented them all. Of course you deny this charge, just as I do now. And when it comes to answering questions, you have been most evasive or silent about them, though they came from many different people. So while I am certainly under no obligation to respond to you personally, I do so anyway because I’m not like you.

Read carefully what I said about implications. You have argued in two separate articles that the soul is not joined to the body immediately, and in the earlier article you guess it’s at "quickening". Thus you argue that before this time, there is no human being there.  This opens wide the door to abortions up to whatever vaguely-defined line you draw, and allows you to call it something other than what it is: the taking of human life. So when you say you’re against abortion, what you mean is that you’re against anything after whatever time it is you think the soul enters the body.

You know very well that I’m not the only one who took your articles as condoning abortion at least in the early stages of development, when it’s apparently just a blob of cells and not a human being. I suppose all of us misrepresent your views then, eh? I should respond with your signature "laughing".

ADDED FOR EMPHASIS, QUOTED FROM MY ARTICLE: "First ... THE SOUL IS CREATED BY GOD--- NO ARGUMENT THERE...."