News of the Day

I’m bombarded daily by news. It starts in the morning with husband’s look at the weather, today’s and the week. Then world/national news and local shootings and traffic accidents with a house fire or two through the night.

There isn’t any good economic news. The nation is set to collapse. The world is set to collapse too. Governments seek to ‘fix’ everything. Though, it’s the people who can make a difference, not rulers, presidents, representatives.

But we’re drowning in laws, regulations. We’re working hard to keep our heads above water and care for our families. But prices on everything are going up and our retirement savings have been taken away by stock market drops. There’s no place to put anything saved. We lose our principle in every place we used to sock a little money.

I’m looking for a person to run for president who will tell me there is hope. Real hope. Hope for my country. Hope for my family. Hope for the world. After Mr. Cain suspended his campaign, I see no one that fits that bill.

So I’ll just lean on Jesus. And do what I can to take his Gospel to those in need. I don’t know what others do without Him. He’s the only sanity in my world. He’s the only one with Good News. ♡♡♡

Is. 40:9 You who tell good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain; you who tell good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength; lift it up, don’t be afraid; say to the cities of Judah, Behold, your God!

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Why It Is Reasonable Not To Send Your Children To Public School

Why It Is Reasonable Not To Send Your Children To Public School

The world has changed quite a bit since I entered Dundee Elementary in 1965–66. No-fault divorce did not yet exist. Two-parent families were the norm. Abortion had not yet been legalized. The late-modern drug culture had not yet exploded. WWII had been over for more than 20 years and the baby boom had just ended. The suburbs were burgeoning. Top 40 radio was in its heyday and Roger W. Morgan was playing the hits on the Mighty 1290 KOIL. The hippie movement was still a sub-culture. The Vietnam War was intensifying but mostly we got just a moment or two of it on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. The civil rights movement was on the news as Dr King and others led peaceful demonstrations calling Americans to honor the promises enshrined in the constitution. Too often, however, those marches were met by fire hoses and police dogs. The Watts Riots, which were a reaction to decades of unjust treatment of minorities by the LAPD, convulsed Los Angeles in 1965 leaving scars that would last for decades. In those years, however, my school and neighborhood were all white. So, naturally, I did not see any oppression even if it was not far from my quiet (still remarkably well-preserved) neighborhood near the old money neighborhood in Omaha. Economically, things were stable. The median family income in the USA was about $6,900 (= approx. $53,000 in 2017) and most families lived on a single income. Credit cards were just coming into use. The inflation rate was higher then (about 4%). Perhaps everyone was miserable and repressed but it did not seem so but then what did I know? I turned five years old in 1966.

Public school was among the dominant realities of my life until 1979. When I began school, teachers were not only allowed to use corporal punishment, they were expected to administer it as needed. I certainly gave my teachers plenty of reason to spank me. Schools were expected to act in place of the parents (in loco parentis). Nearly all of my teachers were female and they were expected, during most of my education, to respect the authority of the parents. The emphasis in school was, until the mid-70s, on the objective. This is what parents meant in the 80s when they complained that they wanted teachers to focus on “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” They could sense that something was shifting but most Americans did not know the history of public schools and were not aware that prospective teachers were being taught in “teachers college” and in universities that education was not “rote memorization,” that it was about “enrichment” and “experience” more grammar, logic, and rhetoric. During my entire primary and secondary education whenever anyone mentioned memorization it was inevitably accompanied with the adjective “rote” and we were given to think that was a bad thing. No teacher explained to me not only the utility of memorizing or the mechanics of it until my logic professor did so in passing, in 1981.

By the late 60s and early 70s the culture and economy were changing and so was education. In 1968 Dr King was assassinated and riots erupted in major cities across the USA. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles. The Tet Offensive changed the American perception of the Vietnam War. Anti-war protests increased as more Baby Boomers were drafted. The hippie and drug cultures were more visible, even in middle America. Movies were becoming more sexually graphic and violent. Abortion on demand became legal in 1973. To date more than 60 million Americans have died under Roe v Wade (and Doe v Bolton). The Beatles were no more and disco ruled in the last days of top-40 radio. The effects of the 1964 Civil Rights Act were beginning to be felt but to speed up progress school districts began to try to integrate schools by busing children one part of town to another. In economics, a long-running, large-scale war combined with spending on “Great Society” social programs and attempts to stimulate prosperity through taxing, borrowing, and spending led to “The Great Inflation” for about a decade. That meant that products cost more but salaries and wages could not keep up. Each dollar earned was worth less than it had been. The economy stagnated and what was then called “Women’s Lib” (second wave feminism) saw wives going work outside the home (as they had during WWII). That meant a growing number of “latch-key” kids (of which I was one) and less parental supervision of children. Though the divorce rate had been climbing through the 20th century, fueled by a large-scale demographic shift from the country to the city (urbanization) and two world wars, 1 the advent of no-fault divorce resulted in a sharp jump in the divorce rate and the number of single-parent families.2 By the 70s the television showed us all in “glorious living color” what “the good life” could be. Families, like the government, increasingly began to pay for things on credit in a frantic attempt to obtain it. In the schools, the emphasis on the subjective was beginning to become more manifest. By the mid to late 1970s, teachers were openly challenging the authority of parents, and advocating to their students a more radical social and economic philosophy.

The video below, published recently on the web, illustrates what is taking place in some public school classrooms. In it a Los Angeles area high school teacher is recorded demeaning members of the U. S. Military in a five-minute, expletive-filled rant. Warning: this high school teacher uses vulgar language.

Click here for the video:  click

Is this teacher an exception? Probably. We hope so but I heard more restrained rants about the evils of America when I was in high school. As of this writing, the district is “investigating” the matter. In a sane system, this teacher would be looking for work as a car salesman.

What was the state of American religion during these shifts and during the decline of the public school experiment? In 2005, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton described the dominant religion of evangelical young people as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. That is an apt description. Traditional Christian belief and practice has not fared well in Modern, urbanized America. Under the Second Great Awakening America could have been called predominantly Christian, even though that theology, piety, and practice had more in common with the sixteenth-century Anabaptists than it did with the Protestant Reformers. By the 1920s, however, “Christian America” was falling apart. The Roaring 20s were more socially and religiously radical than one might think. The rise and dominance of theological liberalism shattered the faith of many Americans such that the dominant American theology between the 1920s and 70s should be described as “moralistic deism.” As one of my university professors said, “In the 18th century God went to the corner for a beer and never returned.” The dominant Deism of the American founders and other elites percolated through the culture and emerged victorious in the early 20th century. It formed the dominant cultural assumptions of the white working and middle classes. African-American families were probably more traditional in their theology and piety during this same period.

The self-esteem revolution, part of a larger turn to the self, which coincided with the advent of no-fault divorce and abortion on demand, added the third element to what has become the dominant strain of American evangelical religion: the therapeutic. Today, the dominant American religion is an ad hoc mix of economic/social aspiration and self-esteem. The lines between the liberal mainline and the evangelical suburbs have blurred to the point of being indistinct. Mainline churches look like the evangelicals and the evangelicals look like the mainline.

Why this brief socio-economic historical survey? Because our public schools are not merely (ostensible) educational institutions. Since their beginnings they have been social laboratories where social theories were tested. In their nature, every neighborhood school is a pool of the beliefs, values, and practices of the families whose children attend and of the administrators who set policy and the teachers who conduct classes. Critics such as Jacques Barzun (1907–2012) predicted the decline of the modern educational project long before it manifested itself in the way that we see now.

Arguably, judging by the academic outcomes that university professors are reporting and that graduate school professors are seeing, the American public school system has largely given up on anything like a traditional educational mission. The defenders of the public school system do not point to academic accomplishment but to social outcomes. Schools are said to be succeeding at producing “better human beings.” The decline in educational standards is obvious. Marc Tucker notes that high school textbooks that were once written at a 12th-grade level for high school seniors are (as of 2015) written at a 7th-grade level. There was a natural tension between economic aspiration, which might have driven schools to remain more focused on educational standards, and the new self-esteem religion and the subjective-therapeutic has won.

Were schools focused on objective tasks, e.g., learning to read well, to write well, to think well, to compute, to learn world history, to learn basic science and methods, families in search of a traditional education be able to navigate the late-modern educational waters but few of the administrators, teachers, parents, or students involved in public school seem to be there for a traditional educational purpose. Further, the necessary conditions for education have eroded dramatically. Ask a public high school teacher what it is like to try to maintain order in a classroom in 2018. If you have not been in a public school classroom you are in for a surprise. My high school world history teacher, Miss Wihelmina Johnson, was a stout old lady. She maintained control of hormonal teens through force of will but no one ever really challenged her in 1978–79. Today, even teachers in affluent suburban schools testify to the difficulty of crowd control. Students look at their smart phones and text one another in class. Any attempt to remove a phone would result in a riot. One substitute teacher, with whom I recently spoke, who worked in affluent schools, quit the business altogether out of fear for her safety in the classroom.  Under Modernism, “I” was the subject and either my intellect or my sense experience was the measure of all things. In a late-Modern therapeutic culture, “I” remain the subject but my feelings are now the measure of all things. The authority of teachers has been supplanted by the authority of the emoting self.

To illustrate the confluence of the social changes sketched above, the sexual revolution, and the collapse of traditional education consider the crisis of sexual predation in our schools. Contemplate this 2015 Washington Post headline: “More Teachers Are Having Sex With Their Students. Here’s How Schools Can Stop Them.” I had several first-grade teachers. It was not because we were a particularly rowdy group (although changing teachers regularly did not help things) but because the district hired young women who became pregnant and had to leave. It was considered poor form to have a pregnant teacher before a group of curious 1st graders. Before the sexual revolution of the late 1960s and early 70s, teachers were to be sexless, at least as far as the students were concerned. Never once did I ever hear any rumor of any sexual entanglement between a student and a teacher in Junior High or High School. That is not scientific evidence, I understand, but attitudes and behaviors have shifted observably. According to Terry Abott (in the  article linked above), in 2014, “there were 781 reported cases of teachers and other school employees accused or convicted of sexual relationships with students.” In the year that his firm had been tracking this problem (to that point), each “week has brought news of 15 young people, on average, who were sexually victimized by the educators entrusted with protecting them.” A 2004 report published by the Department of Education concluded “Because of its carefully drawn sample and survey methodology, the AAUW (American Association of University Women) report that nearly 9.6 percent of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career presents the most accurate data available at this time.”3

The news headlines suggest that the problem has not improved. Google News generates far too many headlines like these: “Former Teacher Sentenced in Student Sex Case” (Des Moines, January 2018). “Student Teacher, 47, Pleads Guilty In Soliciting Sex From 13-Year Old Student” (January, 2018). “Ex-Teacher’s Aide Convicted Of Having Sex With Student Violates Probation” (January, 2018). “Former Dos Palos Teacher Sentence To Probation After Accused Of Having Sex With A Student” (January, 2018). The list could continue. These are headlines from this month alone. We are no longer shocked to see the local news covering such stories. Like school shootings, they have become “the new normal.”

We have not even mentioned the rapid and radical social changes associated with the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision. In 2008, Democratic presidential candidate averred to evangelical pastor Rick Warren that he opposed homosexual marriage on the ground of his religious convictions. By 2012, he had had putatively reconsidered those convictions. In 2018, anyone who spoke up, e.g., in a workplace lunch room, against gay marriage would find himself answering to the Human Resources Office. The same seems to be true in school. California has a mandated transgender policy.  The complete rout of the traditional definition of marriage (as a legal union between two members of the opposite sex) happened in less than a decade. Google “School District Gender Identification Policy” and see what turns up. Here is the Albuquerque Public School policy. The NEA website directs readers to the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) site which comes complete with corporate funding (Johnson & Johnson) and corporate endorsements (e.g., NBA franchises). The debate about whether there really is such a thing as a “trans-child” seems to have been largely silenced and the debate whether “trans-children” can use the restroom assigned to their sex of their self-identification seems to have ended in the affirmative.

A parent or parents who still believe that sex is a biological category and gender is a grammatical category, that marriage is naturally between two persons of the opposite sex and that children should use the bathrooms/locker rooms corresponding to their biological sex, that they should play on athletic teams according to biological sex, would seem to have virtually no voice or even a place in many public schools today.

It is beyond doubt that most American public school teachers are dedicated, hard-working professionals but they are so in a fundamentally flawed system. To a significant degree, the public schools are the product of an increasingly Narcissistic-therapeutic culture. Teachers can only teach the students that parents send them. The theorists behind the public education system long ago gave up on what was classicallyregarded as education in favor of an affective, subjectivist model of education. To make matters worse, the hands of those parents who would dissent are tied. Common sense disciplinary measures (e.g., moderate spanking) are now widely and foolishly regarded as “child abuse.” In some school districts even reasonable reforms such as Charter Schools are opposed with as much effort as possible. Parents work to pay property taxes to fund schools which, in turn, undermine the virtues they seek to instill in their children. Recently, the Los Angeles Times editorial board took the opportunity to smear alternatives such as homeschooling as a hotbed of child abuse while ignoring the collapse of the current system. Why should parents cooperate with such a system? Parents who want their children to learn to think clearly, to read and write well, to compute, to learn something of world history, in short, to get an education, should abandon this collapsing system with all deliberate speed.

NOTES

1. The divorce rate jumped sharply by 24% in 1946. The divorce rate in 1965 was up 6% but only 2.8% in 1966.

2. According to the Census Bureau, the divorce rate leveled off in the mid-70s. What has changed since the mid-90s is the age at which people get married and the rate of marriage. From the mid-90s onward people delayed getting married or they simply did not get married at all.

3. “Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature,” United States Department of Education, Office of the Under Secretary, Document #2004–09. (HT: Walter Schute).

 

You may need to go to the site to view the video.

This is worth the read. If I had children in public school today, I would remove them fast.

Public school is not safe for children, nor adults.

~tannngl

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Science and the Soul

Science and the Soul

I watched the CAT scan images appear on the screen, one by one. The baby’s head was mostly empty. There were only thin slivers of brain – a bit of brain tissue at the base of the skull, and a thin rim around the edges. The rest was water.

Her parents had feared this. We had seen it on the prenatal ultrasound; the CAT scan, hours after birth, was much more accurate. Katie looked like a normal newborn, but she had little chance at a normal life. She had a fraternal-twin sister in the incubator next to her. But Katie only had a third of the brain that her sister had. I explained all of this to her family, trying to keep alive a flicker of hope for their daughter.

I cared for Katie as she grew up. At every stage of Katie’s life so far, she has excelled. She sat and talked and walked earlier than her sister. She’s made the honor roll. She will soon graduate high school.

I’ve had other patients whose brains fell far short of their minds. Maria had only two-thirds of a brain. She needed a couple of operations to drain fluid, but she thrives. She just finished her master’s degree in English literature, and is a published musician. Jesse was born with a head shaped like a football and half-full of water – doctors told his mother to let him die at birth. She disobeyed. He is a normal happy middle-schooler, loves sports, and wears his hair long.

Some people with deficient brains are profoundly handicapped. But not all are. I’ve treated and cared for scores of kids who grow up with brains that are deficient but minds that thrive. How is this possible? Neuroscience, and Thomas Aquinas, point to the answer.

A twelve-year-old participates in brain research at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Photograph by Scott Goldsmith.A twelve-year-old participates in brain research at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Photograph by Scott Goldsmith, reproduced by permission of the artist

Is the Mind Mechanical?

As a medical student, I fell in love with the brain. It’s a daunting organ: an ensemble of cells and axons and nuclei and lobes tucked and folded in exotic shapes. I had to learn what it looks like when it’s sliced through by CAT scans, and then what it looks like when I slice through it. My fascination with neuroanatomy was metaphysical: this was where our thoughts and decisions came from, this was a roadmap of the human self, and I was learning to read it as I read a book. It was the truth about us, I thought.

But I was wrong. Katie made me face my misunderstanding. She was a whole person. The child in my office was not mapped in any meaningful way to the scan of her brain or the diagram in my neuroanatomy textbook. The roadmap got it wrong.

How does the mind relate to the brain? This question is central to my professional life. I thought I had it answered. Yet a century of research and thirty years of my own neurosurgical practice have challenged everything I thought I knew.

The view assumed by those who taught me is that the mind is wholly a product of the brain, which is itself understood as something like a machine. Francis Crick, a neuroscientist and the Nobel laureate who was the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, wrote that “a person’s mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cells, glial cells, and the atoms, ions, and molecules that make them up and influence them.”

This mechanical philosophy is the result of two steps. It began with Rene Descartes, who argued that the mind and the brain were separate substances, immaterial and material. Somehow (how, neither Descartes nor anyone else can say) the mind is linked to the brain – it’s the ghost in the machine.

But as Francis Bacon’s approach to understanding the world gained ascendency during the scientific Enlightenment, it became fashionable to limit inquiry about the world to physical substances: to study the machine and ignore the ghost. Matter was tractable, and we studied it to obsession. The ghost was ignored, and then denied. This was what the logic of materialism demanded.

The materialist insists that we are slaves of our neurons, without genuine free will. Materialism comes in different flavors, each having passed into and then out of favor over the past century, as their insufficiency became apparent. Behaviorists asserted that the mind, if it exists at all, is irrelevant. All that matters is what is observable – input and output. Yet behaviorism is in eclipse, because it’s difficult to deny the relevance of the mind to neuroscience.

Identity theory, replacing behaviorism, held that the mind just is the brain. Thoughts and sensations are exactly the same thing as brain tissue and neurotransmitters, understood differently. The pain you feel in your finger is identical to the nerve impulses in your arm and in your brain. But, of course, that’s not really true. Pain hurts and nerve impulses are electrical and chemical. They’re not even similar. Identity theorists struggled with uncooperative reality for a generation, then gave up.

Computer functionalism came next: the brain is hardware and mind is software. But this too has problems. Nineteenth-century German philosopher Franz Brentano pointed out that the one thing that absolutely distinguishes thoughts from matter is that thoughts are always about something, and matter is never about anything. This aboutness is the hallmark of the mind. Every thought has a meaning. No material thing has meaning.

Computation is the mapping of an input to an output according to an algorithm, irrespective of meaning. Computation has no aboutness; it is the antithesis of thought.

Neuroscience and Metaphysics

Remarkably, neuroscience tells us three things about the mind: the mind is metaphysically simple, the intellect and will are immaterial, and free will is real.

In the middle of the twentieth century, neurosurgeons discovered that they could treat a certain kind of epilepsy by severing a large bundle of brain fibers, called the corpus callosum, which connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Following these operations, each hemisphere worked independently. But what happened to the mind of a person with his or her brain split in half?

The neuroscientist Roger Sperry studied scores of split-brain patients. He found, surprisingly, that in ordinary life the patients showed little effect. Each patient was still one person. The intellect and will – the capacity to have abstract thought and to choose – remained unified. Only by meticulous testing could Sperry find any differences: their perceptions were altered by the surgery. Sensations – elicited by touch or vision – could be presented to one hemisphere of the brain, and not be experienced in the other hemisphere. Speech production is associated with the left hemisphere of the brain; patients could not name an object presented to the right hemisphere (via the left visual field). Yet they could point to the object with their left hand (which is controlled by the right hemisphere). The most remarkable result of Sperry’s Nobel Prize­–winning work was that the person’s intellect and will – what we might call the soul – remained undivided.

The brain can be cut in half, but the intellect and will cannot. The intellect and will are metaphysically simple.

One of the neurosurgeons who pioneered the corpus callosotomy for epilepsy patients was Wilder Penfield, who worked in Montreal in the middle of the twentieth century. Penfield studied the brains and minds of epileptic patients in a remarkably direct way, in the course of treating them. He operated on people who were awake. The brain itself feels no pain, and local anesthetics numb the scalp and skull enough to permit painless brain surgery. Penfield asked them to do and think things while he was observing and temporarily stimulating or impairing regions of their brains. Two things astonished him.

First, he noticed something about seizures. He could cause seizures by stimulating the brain. A patient would jerk his arm, or feel tingling, or see flashes of light, or even have memories. But what he could never do was cause an intellectual seizure: the patient would never reason when his brain was stimulated. The patient never contemplated mercy or bemoaned injustice or calculated second derivatives in response to brain stimulation. If the brain wholly gives rise to the mind, why are there no intellectual seizures?

Second, Penfield noted that patients always knew that the movement or sensation elicited by brain stimulation was done to them, but not bythem. When Penfield stimulated the arm area of the brain, patients always said, “You made my arm move” and never said, “I moved my arm.” Patients always retained a correct awareness of agency. There was a part of the patient – the will – that Penfield could not reach with his electrode.

Penfield began his career as a materialist. He finished his career as an emphatic dualist. He insisted that there is an aspect of the self – the intellect and the will – that is not the brain, and that cannot be elicited by stimulation of the brain.

Some of the most fascinating research on consciousness was done by Penfield’s contemporary Benjamin Libet at the University of California, San Francisco. Libet asked: What happens in the brain when we think? How are electrical signals in the brain related to our thoughts? He was particularly interested in the timing of brain waves and thoughts. Did a brain wave happen at the same moment as the thought, or before, or after?

It was a difficult question to answer. It wasn’t hard to measure electrical changes in the brain: that could be done routinely by electrodes on the scalp, and Libet enlisted neurosurgeons to allow him to record signals deep in the brain while patients were awake. The challenge Libet faced was to accurately measure the time interval between the signals and the thoughts. But the signals last only a few milliseconds, and how can you time a thought with that kind of accuracy?

Libet began by choosing a very simple thought: the decision to press a button. He modified an oscilloscope so that a dot circled the screen once each second, and when the subject decided to push the button, he or she noted the location of the dot at the time of the decision. Libet measured the timing of the decision and the timing of the brain waves of many volunteers with accuracy in the tens of milliseconds. Consistently he found that the conscious decision to push the button was preceded by about half a second by a brain wave, which he called the readiness potential. Then a half-second later the subject became aware of his decision. It appeared at first that the subjects were not free; their brains made the decision to move and they followed it.

But Libet looked deeper. He asked his subjects to veto their decision immediately after they made it – to not push the button. Again, the readiness potential appeared a half-second before conscious awareness of the decision to push the button, but Libet found that the veto – he called it “free won’t” – had no brain wave corresponding to it.

The brain, then, has activity that corresponds to a pre-conscious urge to do something. But we are free to veto or accept this urge. The motives are material. The veto, and implicitly the acceptance, is an immaterial act of the will.

Libet noted the correspondence between his experiments and the traditional religious understanding of human beings. We are, he said, beset by a sea of inclinations, corresponding to material activity in our brains, which we have the free choice to reject or accept. It is hard not to read this in more familiar terms: we are tempted by sin, yet we are free to choose.

The approach to understanding the world and ourselves that was replaced by materialism was that of classical metaphysics. This tradition’s most notable investigator and teacher was Saint Thomas Aquinas. Following Aristotle, Aquinas wrote that the human soul has distinct kinds of abilities. Vegetative powers, shared by plants and animals, serve growth, nourishment, and metabolism. Sensitive powers, shared with animals, include perception, passions, and locomotion. The vegetative and sensitive powers are material abilities of the brain.

Yet human beings have two powers of the soul that are not material – intellect and will. These transcend matter. They are the means by which we reason, and by which we choose based on reason. We are composites of matter and spirit. We have spiritual souls.

Aquinas would not be surprised by the results of these researchers’ investigations.

What’s at Stake

Philosopher Roger Scruton has written that contemporary neuroscience is “a vast collection of answers with no memory of the questions.”

Materialism has limited the kinds of questions that we’re allowed to ask, but neuroscience, pursued without a materialist bias, points towards the reality that we are chimeras: material beings with immaterial souls.

How would our lives or our society be different if we found that our mind was merely the product of our material brain – and that our every decision was determined, with no free will?

The cornerstone of totalitarianism, according to Hannah Arendt, is the denial of free will. Under the visions of Communism and Nazism, we are mere instruments of historical forces, not individual free agents who can choose good or evil.

Without free will, we cannot be guilty in an individual sense. But we also cannot be innocent. Neither the Jews under Hitler nor Kulak farmers under Stalin were killed because they were individually at fault. Their guilt was assigned to them according to their type, and accordingly they were exterminated to hasten a natural process, whether the purification of the race or the dictatorship of the proletariat.

By contrast, the classical understanding of human nature is that we are free beings not subject to determinism. This understanding is the indispensable basis for human liberty and dignity. It is indispensable, too, for simply making sense of the world around us: among other things, for making sense of Katie.

I see her in my office each year. She is thriving: headstrong and bright. Her mother is exasperated, and, after seventeen years, still surprised. So am I.

There is much about the brain and the mind that I don’t understand. But neuroscience tells a consistent story. There is a part of Katie’s mind that is not her brain. She is more than that. She can reason and she can choose. There is a part of her that is immaterial – the part that Sperry couldn’t split, that Penfield couldn’t reach, and that Libet couldn’t find with his electrodes. There is a part of Katie that didn’t show up on those CAT scans when she was born.

Katie, like you and me, has a soul.

Michael Egnor

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Our Culture

Romans 1 New Living Translation (NLT)

Greetings from Paul

This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be[a] the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.[b] He is Jesus Christ our Lord.Through Christ, God has given us the privilege[c] and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.

And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

God’s Good News

Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world. God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart[d] by spreading the Good News about his Son.

10 One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. 11 For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. 12 When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.

13 I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters,[e] that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit, just as I have seen among other Gentiles. 14 For I have a great sense of obligation to people in both the civilized world and the rest of the world,[f] to the educated and uneducated alike. 15 So I am eager to come to you in Rome, too, to preach the Good News.

16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.[g] 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”[h]

God’s Anger at Sin

18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.[i] 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.

Footnotes:

  1. 1:4a Or and was designated.
  2. 1:4b Or by the Spirit of holiness; or in the new realm of the Spirit.
  3. 1:5 Or the grace.
  4. 1:9 Or in my spirit.
  5. 1:13 Greek brothers.
  6. 1:14 Greek to Greeks and barbarians.
  7. 1:16 Greek also the Greek.
  8. 1:17 Or “The righteous will live by faith.” Hab 2:4.
  9. 1:18 Or who, by their wickedness, prevent the truth from being known.
New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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What Christians Should Know About Physician Assisted Suicide

Always to care; never to kill.

Dr. Erik Clary: Post-Doctoral Research Fellow for the CFC

For many here at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Erik Clary is no stranger. A former faculty researcher in the Department of Surgery at Duke University Medical Center, Erik left the medical academy in 2005 to pursue MDiv studies at Southeastern. Honing in on a call to academic ministry in the field of Christian ethics, he pursued additional studies leading to an MA degree in Bioethics from Trinity International University in Chicago and, most recently, a PhD in Theological Ethics from Southeastern. For the PhD work, Erik’s dissertation addressed the ethics of withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration from people diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state.
God made man in the image of God. That is the reason we are not to murder other men. Physician assisted suicide is worthy of consideration based on the Biblical laws Christians are to obey. 
~tannngl
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Emergency! What do I do?!

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End of Prayer Shaming

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Winning!

7 Victories and More to Come!

~Ted Cruz at Faith and Freedom Coalition

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Satan thought he had won…

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What Does the Evidence in the Universe Tell Us About the Nature of God?

Cold case Christianity. (3 minute video).

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How to Share the Gospel

This is excellent! READ!

~tannngl

…Without Being A Jerk

Nobody likes a jerk, but so often this is the impression many Christians give when sharing the faith. There are many people who claim to follow Christ but share their faith in a way that completely contradicts Jesus’ message and manner. This happens even with well-meaning, kind-hearted, Christians. They want their friends and family to know Jesus Christ, but they fall into unhealthy patterns of sharing the faith, patterns that push people away from God rather than draw people near. I want to begin by saying that I understand. Sharing the Christian faith is hard.

Rico Tice, in his book, Honest Evangelism: How to Talk about Jesus even When It’s Tough, says, “I find evangelism hard. The problem with being an evangelist is that people assume that you find evangelism effortless; but I don’t find it easy, and never have. For me, telling people about Jesus has often been nerve wracking” (11)”

Through the years, I have had the privilege of having friends who seemed to be naturally gifted in sharing their faith. They made it look easy, but when I spoke to them, I discovered they had the same difficulties that I experienced. They had the same fears and worries. They stumbled over their words. Here are eight helpful points I learned from them.

1. Kindness goes a long way.

This may seem obvious, but too often when Christians share the faith, it turns into a heated argument. The cross is offensive enough. When I share the faith, I need to make sure that I am respectful and kind. I know plenty of people who have turned away from Christianity even though they think it’s true, because church people were jerks. As you seek to share your faith in a kind way, you may be surprised that people are more willing to listen.

2. Honesty shows and gains respect.

Some people who share their faith put on a character. They become “spiritual.” This “spiritual” person never doubts, worries, or sins. This “spiritual” person always loves Jesus more than life. This “spiritual” person doesn’t respect people enough to say, “I don’t know the answer to that question.” This “spiritual” person is afraid to admit that he or she may need to learn something about what others think.

Too many Christians are afraid to be honest. They fear that honesty will lose people’s respect. It doesn’t. The truth is that honesty often gains respect. When Christians treat people as people and not as numbers or “sinners,” they often gain respect. When Christians admit their sin, when they ask for forgiveness after failing to show kindness, they often gain respect. Don’t be afraid to be honest.

3. Ordinary conversations matter most.

You don’t need a formula, a method, or a program to share the faith. You need to have ordinary, honest, kind, and respectful conversations about the faith. Try this: ask people if they would like to talk about Christianity. Sometimes just asking, “Can I talk with you about Jesus?” opens people up.

If people don’t want to talk, you probably won’t persuade them by raising your voice or trying to force them. Respect their decision. Remember that these conversations are hard for people. To have serious conversations with some people, you need to gain a certain level of trust. Frustration, anger, or force will only push those people away. Be patient. Make yourself available. Don’t worry.

4. You can only share what you know.

I have found that a big reason most people fail to share their faith is because they know very little about the faith. Think of it like a language. It is much easier to read a foreign language than to speak it. It is much easier to hear and understand the gospel than to teach it and talk about it. To talk about the gospel—to share it—requires a certain amount of gospel fluency. It takes regular Scripture reading and prayer to attain gospel fluency. Too many Christians haven’t given enough time to learn the faith. When you take the time to read Scripture, pray, and study the Christian faith, you will discover that you, too, will have much to say about God and the gospel.

5. Share the gospel.

The message we share with people is not about hell, morality, or the church. Hell, morality, and church are important. But the message of the gospel—that which is of first importance—is that Jesus came to save sinners. You don’t really need to convince people that they are sinners. You don’t need to ask them if they keep the Ten Commandments. Tell them about what Jesus did on the cross. The fact that Jesus suffered and died on the cross is evidence enough that there is something wrong with the world. Most people have a sense that there is something wrong with their life. Talk about what Jesus came to do and why he came to do it. Start with Jesus, and you might be surprised how many people will grant that they are sinners who need a savior.

6. Don’t talk too much. Listen.

Whenever I share my faith, there is a lot I want to say. I want to tell people about Jesus’ perfect life. I want to talk about his crucifixion. I want to speak about the glorious resurrection, but I have to remember that a conversation is not a speech. I am not giving a sermon. I’m supposed to have a conversation. Throw out the agenda, and give up on trying to get in all you want to say. Trust God. Enjoy the conversation.

7. Becoming a Christian can take a long time.

Sometimes when people hear the gospel, they immediately believe it and become Christians. The Holy Spirit’s regenerating work of creating faith happens in an instant, but only God can see that. You and I see people questioning, learning, doubting, and believing. No one believes everything all at once, because no one can learn it all at once. There is a lot to learn in Christianity.

We should expect people to take time to ask questions and to express doubts. Learning takes time. This is why sharing the faith is not something Christians do once. Whenever a pastor preaches, he should be reminding the congregation of the mercy and love of God in sending Jesus Christ to die and rise for sinners. As Christians, you and I will be learning the gospel for the rest of our lives. As you share your faith, trust God to save your friends and family in his timing.

Conclusion

In sharing the faith, like me, you will often fail. It happens. Don’t worry about it. When you fail to show kindness, to speak honestly, to be authentic, to share the gospel message, to listen, or to display patience, admit your fault and ask for forgiveness. Remember, God draws straight lines with a crooked stick.

Photo of Silverio Gonzalez

Silverio Gonzalez

Silverio Gonzalez is a husband, father, and staff writer at Core Christianity. He earned his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his Master of Divinity from Westminster Seminary California. Connect with Silverio on Twitter @GonzSilverio7.

 

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