Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Moral Controversies and Persuasion

-->     There are numerous ethical issues that divide American citizens today ranging from abortion, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, gender, homosexuality, religion in the public square and so forth. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any consensus among theologically conservative Christians on how to engage with secular friends in the public square on these issues as well as with fellow believers who affirm these practices and beliefs as permissible.

-->     By theologically conservative believers, I mean those that affirm the following: (1) Abortion is unjust killing of innocent human life (2) Marriage is exclusively a male-female bond (3) It is wrong to destroy human embryos for research purposes (4) Homosexual activity is immoral (5) Holy Scripture is authoritative for believers in guiding their lives, and so forth.

-->     I want to make two suggestions for conservative believers based on two important theological tenets of the faith: (1) All humans bear the image of God and (2) All Truth is God’s truth. I want to suggest that believers ought to be more creative in their efforts to persuade their secular friends and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ particularly using arguments that do not depend on Scripture. I will consider an objection and then make some closing remarks.

All Humans Bear God's Image
-->     There is a fact about humanity that can provide common ground amidst our deepest disagreements: our ability to reason. By “reason” I mean that component of human nature that can grasp truth, make distinctions, understand certain relationships between ideas, and so on. It is one of the most powerful tools to persuade someone. I bring this up because I believe it is a highly neglected area. To illustrate how this relates to the imago Dei, consider this fact. God is supremely or essentially rational.

-->     To say that we bear God’s image is to say – at least minimally – that we bear certain earmarks of the divine nature in our own natures. God is rational, so we are rational to an extent. Second, since God has designed this for all human beings, this is something all humans share regardless of their religious beliefs. Thus, I am convinced that should enable many believers to embrace the fact that we can achieve some level of common ground even when we have deep disagreements.

All Truth is God's truth
-->     In my experience in interacting with different believers on the divisive issues I mentioned earlier, I have gotten the impression from many of these believers that the phrase “God’s Truth” can be reduced to “What Scripture teaches”. This is the idea that all of God’s Truth can be either found in Scripture or that one need not look any further beyond the pages of Scripture for whatever important topic of consideration. This is an important topic because it affects one's ability to interact with his secular friends including fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who do not hold conservative views on these issues.

-->     The reason it has that effect is because some Christians - who embrace homosexuality, same-sex marriage and abortion as permissible - are convinced that their religious beliefs are strictly tied to whatever Scripture teaches on the matter. And if what Scripture teaches is either inconclusive or false (for those who reject biblical inerrancy), some end up embracing the dominant secular ideology because that is what “reason” supposedly requires. This is all too tragic.

-->     I am convinced that using Reason along with non-scriptural arguments are the best hope in persuading non-conservative Christians on these matters as opposed to trying to adhere to biblical teaching. Biblical teaching holds very little sway over their secular friends and peers who tell them that only a fairy-tale book is what they have for retaining their religious convictions.

An Objection
-->     Some may object to everything I have said in saying that using reason is an unreliable tool of persuasion because sin has darkened the minds of unbelievers to the point of Reason being nonexistent. This is a complicated issue that I cannot do full justice to in this piece. Nevertheless, this seems unbiblical for two reasons. First, it is unbiblical because Scripture nowhere teaches that the effects of the Fall has eliminated unregenerate man’s ability to reason. Being affected and being eliminated are not identical. Second, it is also unbiblical because Scripture directly provides examples of reason being used to persuade unbelievers (Acts 17).

-->     Christians have every reason to use arguments that are independent of Scripture – but which point to the world as God made it –

--> for abortion (https://www.amazon.com/Case-Life-Equipping-Christians-Culture/dp/1433503204/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506365853&sr=8-1&keywords=the+case+for+life; https://www.amazon.com/Defending-Life-Against-Abortion-Choice/dp/0521691354/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506365873&sr=8-1&keywords=defending+life+beckwith)

--> marriage (https://www.amazon.com/What-Marriage-Man-Woman-Defense/dp/1594036225/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506365899&sr=8-1&keywords=what+is+marriage+man+and+woman+a+defense; https://www.amazon.com/Truth-Overruled-Marriage-Religious-Freedom-ebook/dp/B00XTB2LCC/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8) and so forth.

-->     Yes, reason has its limits. It cannot coerce someone to believe. But it can still be useful because we all bear God’s image and all truth about the world is God’s truth. --> --> --> -->