Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Professor NT Wright on whether the Nativity stories can be trusted

 

There are no accounts of Jesus Christ’s birth beyond Luke and Matthew’s Gospels. So, how can we trust that the Christmas story happened the way they describe? English New Testament scholar NT Wright shares his thoughts. You can hear more on the Ask NT Wright Anything podcast.

Christmas broadcast

About 20 years ago I was phoned up shortly before Christmas by a television station saying they were putting together a program that was going to talk about the birth narratives. They wanted a New Testament specialist to come on and say: “Actually, that stuff probably never happened.”

I said to the researcher on the phone: “Supposing I was to come on and say, ‘actually, there’s quite a reasonable chance that it all might have happened’?” There was a pause, and then she said: “I don’t think that’s what my producer was looking for.”

So, I said: “Thank you, goodbye.”

Cultural Skeptics

That’s how our culture is slanted right now. Our cultural gatekeepers don’t want to hear an ancient historian telling them that, in most of the texts we have from the ancient world, most of the incidents that we know about are described once and once only, whether it be Tacitus or Suetonius or Josephus – or Matthew or Luke.

That doesn’t mean the events didn’t happen. All historians have to say: “Well, there’s a bit of evidence; how do we weigh it, what’s the probability, what’s the likelihood?” When it comes to claims about historical accuracy, I have often read scholars who think that the New Testament writers got certain things wrong and say “maybe Luke was having an off day”.

But time again, later research often shows that we had missed something.

Dodgy chronology?

For instance, there’s the census in Luke 2.2, which is often translated to say:

“This was the first census, at the time when Quirinius was Governor of Syria.”

The problem here is that Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us the dates that Quirinius was Governor of Syria, and it doesn’t seem to square with Luke’s chronology of Jesus being born in the reign of Herod the Great. Many people have fastened on that as part of their case that the birth stories were made up later. (Of course, it’s possible that Josephus got his dates wrong, but that’s another question.)

In my own New Testament translation, Luke 2 verse 2 says:

“This was the first census before the one when Quirinius was governor of Syria.”

Several scholars have made this point but it often gets overlooked. The Greek word, ‘protos’, with a genitive, as in this case, can mean ‘before’ rather than ‘the first’. In other words, there may have been a census before the ‘Quirinius’ one – which would then fit comfortably with Jesus being born in the reign of Herod the Great.

A very different Christmas broadcast

In contrast to my experience with the television producer who phoned me, some years ago the BBC broadcast a four-part series called The Nativity. They commissioned Tony Jordan, the scriptwriter for a popular British soap called EastEnders, gave him the Christmas stories and said: “Do it.”

It was spectacular. And it was thoroughly believable. All the elements were there. It made sense as a narrative. And I thought “people need to see that”. Making sense, after all, is what history is supposed to do.

Hear more from professor NT Wright on the Ask NT Wright Anything podcast.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Theologian R.C. Sproul on Christmas

"I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating His birthday every year. Keep in mind that the whole principle of annual festival and celebration is deeply rooted in ancient Jewish tradition. In the Old Testament, for example, there were times when God emphatically commanded the people to remember certain events with annual celebrations. While the New Testament doesn’t require that we celebrate Christmas every year, I certainly see nothing wrong with the church’s entering into this joyous time of celebrating the Incarnation, which is the dividing point of all human history. Originally, it was intended to honor, not Mithras or any of the other mystery religion cults, but the birth of our King."1

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnote:
1. R.C. Sproul, "Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?", Dec. 23th, 2016.

Related Posts

Christmas Resources from GotQuestions.org

A Christmas Testimony by Chad Vaughn 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Christmas- Pagan or Not?

Does Christmas have pagan origins or not?  Today's post features 3 short and concise articles by apologist and speaker Lenny Esposito that consider this question historically and with up-to-date scholarship.

Esposito writes:

"The claim that the roots of Christmas are pagan is one I hear over and over again, especially in December. The idea isn't even new. The New England Puritans, who valued work more than celebration, taught such.  Puritan preacher Increase Mather preached that "the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that 'Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian.'

When one digs into the actual history however, a much different picture arises. There are two ways to approach the question: one is to see how December 25 became associated with the Nativity, which is how the early church would have referred to the day of Christ's birth. The other one is to look at the celebrations of Saturnalia and Sol Invictus. Either approach shows the dubious nature of the claim that Christmas has pagan roots."

The articles are as follows:

Pt. 1- No, Christmas Is Not Based on a Pagan Holiday

Pt. 2- The Date of Saturnalia Doesn't Line Up with Christmas

Pt. 3- Christmas, the Solstice, and December 25th

For more on the date of Christmas, see this article by Andrew McGowan, originally published in Bible Review, December 2002.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Thursday, December 10, 2020

BreakPoint: Are We Morally Better Than Our Ancestors?

 



You’re in a conversation and someone says, “It’s the 2020s! Your beliefs are outdated and belong in the past. You’re on the wrong side of history.”

What would you say?

History is not a moral judge, ensuring that justice progresses from one generation to the next. In fact, anyone who thinks they are morally superior to their ancestors probably suffers from some serious moral blind spots of their own.

So, the next time someone says “You’re on the wrong side of history,” here are three things to remember:

First, moral progress is not inevitable.

Second, believing that modern people are on “the right side of history” is chronological snobbery.

Third, modern people have moral blind spots too.

 

Click on the video to hear the entire conversation, or go to What Would You Say to see more like it. 


God Bless,


Thursday, December 03, 2020

Why was it all right for the Magi to follow the stars when the Bible condemns astrology (Matt. 2:2)?

 

In their helpful book Bringing Your Faith to Work, Randy Douglass and the late Norman L. Geisler, address the above question:

"The Bible condemns astrology (Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:10; Isa. 8:19), yet God blessed the wise men (Magi) and seemed to even guide them with the stars to show the birthplace of Christ.

First, astrology is a belief that the study of the arrangement and movement of the stars can foretell events whether they be good or bad.  Second, the star (singular) in the biblical story was to announce the birth of Christ, not to foretell it.  God gave the star to the Magi to let them know that the Christ child had already been born (Matt. 2:16).  Third, there are other instances in the Bible in which the stars and planets are used by God to reveal his desires.  The stars declare God's glory (Ps. 19:1-6); creation reveals his existence (Rom. 1:18-20) and will be affected at the return of Christ (Matt. 24:29-30).  So the star guiding the Magi was not used to predict, but to proclaim the birth of Christ."1

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnote:
1. Norman L. Geisler and Randy Douglass, Bringing Your Faith to Work, p. 169.

Related Posts

Five Reasons You Can Trust the Story of Christmas is True by J. Warner Wallace

Christmas- Pagan or Not?

Theologian R.C. Sproul on Christmas

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Book Preview - Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism by Tim Stratton

 

About the Author

Timothy A. Stratton (PhD, North-West University) is a professor at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. As a former youth pastor, he is devoted to answering questions he first encountered from inquisitive teens in his church. Stratton is the founder of FreeThinkingMinistries.com, a web-based apologetics ministry providing supplementary materials to this edition of Mere Molinism. Stratton speaks on church and college campuses around the country and offers regular videos on FreeThinking Ministries’ YouTube channel.

About the Book

Does humanity possess the freedom to think and act, or are we always caused and determined to think and act—exactly how we think and act—by things outside of our control? If we are always causally determined to think and act by things outside of our control, then how can humans be genuinely responsible for any of our thoughts or following actions? However, if humanity is genuinely free and responsible for at least some of our thoughts and actions, then how can the Christian rationally affirm the doctrine that God is totally sovereign and predestines all things?

In Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism, Timothy A. Stratton surveys the history of theological thought from Augustine to Edwards and reaches surprising historical conclusions supporting what he refers to as “limited libertarian freedom.” Stratton goes further to offer multiple arguments appealing to Scripture, theology, and philosophy that each conclude humanity does, in fact, possess libertarian freedom. He then appeals to the work of Luis de Molina and offers unique arguments concluding that God possesses middle knowledge. If this is the case, then God can be completely sovereign and predestine all things without violating human freedom and responsibility.

Endorsements

“For years I’ve hoped to see someone take my work, expand upon it, make it their own, and run with it. This is exactly what Dr. Stratton has done in Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism. Stratton makes a systematic case for ‘mere Molinism’ by examining Scripture and history while appealing to metaphysics and perfect being theology. The final chapter connecting Molinism to the cumulative case of apologetic arguments and addressing the problem of evil is worth the price of admission alone.”

—William Lane Craig, author of The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge & Human Freedom

“For more than five hundred years, questions related to the extent God has predetermined one’s salvation and life events have been vigorously debated. Dr. Stratton’s book builds a needed bridge between Calvinists and Molinists, showing quite convincingly that, although a divide remains pertaining to the role of God in one’s coming to faith in Christ, there are important points where Calvinists and Molinists can cross the theological chasm and agree. Thus, Dr. Stratton is a most welcome player in this age-old discussion!”

—Michael R. Licona, Associate Professor of Theology, Houston Baptist University

“Dr. Tim Stratton has the rare and precious gift of taking highly complex issues in philosophical theology and making them easily understandable to laypeople at the same time as he shows their tremendous importance for scholars in the disciplines of philosophy and religion. This book will be profitably and enjoyably read by laypeople and scholars interested in various themes, including biblical exegesis, the history of Christian thought, metaphysics, epistemology, systematic theology, and practical Christian living.”

—Kirk R. MacGregor, from the foreword

You can purchase your copy of Stratton's new book here.

To learn more about Tim and his ministry, go here

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad


Related Posts

Apologist Interview: "The Free Thinking Theist" Tim Stratton

Article: If You Think Racism is Wrong, You Should be a Christian by Tim Stratton

Video: The Big Bang Theory? by Tim Stratton

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Is Abortion Right When Pregnancy Presents Risks to the Mother's Life?

 

In his helpful book Why Pro-Life? - Caring for the Unborn and their Mothers thoughtfully addresses this challenging question.  Due to the gravity of the question, I wanted to share his full response here:

Is abortion justified when a woman's life or health is threatened by pregnancy or childbirth?  And how often is that actually the case?

While he was US surgeon general, Dr. C. Everett Koop stated that in thirty-six years as a pediatric surgeon, he was never aware of a single situation in which a preborn child's life had to be taken in order to save the mother's life.  He said the use of this argument to justify abortion was "a smoke screen."

Dr. Landrum Shettles, pioneer in infertility treatment and called "the father of in vitro fertilization," claimed that less than 1 percent of all abortions were performed to save the mother's life. (With medical science continually improving, surely the likelihood today is no greater than it was nineteen years ago.)

Save The Life That Can Be Saved

A woman with toxemia will have adverse health reactions and considerable inconvenience, including probably needing to lie down for much of her pregnancy.  This is difficult, but normally not life-threatening.  In such cases, abortion for the sake of "health" would not be lifesaving but life-taking.

At times it is pregnancy itself-because of routine medical appointments and tests-which may serve as a catalyst for discovering an otherwise undetected illness.  But serious illnesses that may rarely occur during a pregnancy can still be treated to protect the mother and her baby.  Breast cancer is identified in about one out of every three thousand pregnancies and is usually entirely treatable.

Cancer [of any type] during pregnancy is rare, occurring in approximately one out of every 1,000 pregnancies...However, a pregnant woman with cancer is capable of giving birth to a healthy baby, and some cancer treatments are safe during pregnancy.  Cancer rarely affects the fetus directly.  Although some cancers may spread to the placenta (a temporary organ that connects the mother and fetus), most cancers cannot spread to the fetus itself.

Dr. John Crown, an oncologist, who has treated women who are pregnant and discover they have cancer, told his Twitter followers he has never had a case where abortion was necessary to save the mother's life.  He writes,

What I say to most patients is, "I know this sounds like the worst thing that could happen but there is a high chance you are going to get two happy outcomes here: you will be cured and the baby will be born normal.  That is the most likely outcome..."

Though more prevalent in postmenopausal women, if the mother has a fast-spreading uterine cancer, treatment to save the mother can place the baby's life at risk.  Certainly, surgery to remove the cancer may result in the unintended loss of the child's life.

Friends of ours were faced with a situation where removing the mother's life-threatening and rapidly spreading cancer would, unintentionally yet inevitably, result in their unborn child's death.  The pregnancy was so early that there wasn't time for the child to develop sufficiently to live outside the womb before both mother and child would die.  The surgery was performed to remove the cancer.

But this was in no sense an abortion.  The surgery's purpose wasn't to kill the child but to save the mother.  The death of the child was a tragic side-effect of lifesaving efforts.  This was a consistently pro-life act, since to be pro-life does not mean being pro-life only about babies.  It also means being pro-life about women.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancies, when gestation takes place outside the uterus, account for an estimated 2 percent of all pregnancies.  Most commonly, implantation begins in a fallopian tube but occasionally on an ovary or against or against the abdominal wall.  Usually the pregnancy miscarries without a woman knowing she was pregnant.  

According to pro-choice advocates, "Without a doubt, the most frequently presented example of a case in which the mother's life may be in danger if an abortion is not performed is the case of an ectopic pregnancy."

But because of the nature of an ectopic pregnancy, the child would normally have no hope of survival.  And surgery may be necessary to save his mother.  These are tragic situations, but once again they are not the intentional killing of an innocent person who could otherwise survive.  In those instances in which both lives are at risk, and when the death of the unborn child occurs in the effort to keep the mother alive, one life saved is clearly better than two lives lost.

Abortion's Role in Ectopic Pregnancies

The US Department of Health and Human Services conducted a twenty-year study on ectopic pregnancy rates which indicated an increase of more than 500 percent since abortion was legalized.

Pro-choice advocates rightly point out that "the most frequently presented example of a case in which the mother's life may be in danger if an abortion is not performed is the case of an ectopic pregnancy.

I object to the term abortion in this context, but there is another issue.  According to a 2011 report in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, pregnancies identified as "ectopic" or "tubal" are incorrectly diagnosed an estimated 40 percent of the time.

Some have assumed that the increase of chemical abortions should substantially decrease the rate of ectopic pregnancy.  But a 2009 study concluded there may be "a trend toward increasing ectopic pregnancy rates over a recent 15-year period.

Past studies show that the risk of an ectopic pregnancy is twice as high for women who have had one abortion, and up to four times as high for women with two or more previous abortions.

While abortion is advocated to protect the health of women, studies show consistently that abortion has placed women at greater risk of ectopic pregnancy, by far the greatest pregnancy-related threat to their lives.

If you are interesting in receiving a free copy of Pro-Life by Randy Alcorn, please email us at truthbombapologetics@gmail.com.  This offer stands while supplies last.1

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnote:
1. Randy Alcorn, Why Pro-Life? - Caring for the Unborn and their Mothers, p. 79-81; sources used by Alcorn are available upon request.

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Sunday, October 18, 2020

Tips for Memorizing and Using John 1 to Share the Truth- Cold Case Christianity Broadcast

 How can we better memorize this iconic chapter from John’s gospel? How can we use this important chapter to help make a case for the deity of Jesus? J. Warner offers tips to help you memorize and use scripture to share the Gospel with others in this episode of the NRBtv Cold-Case Christianity Broadcast.




God Bless

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Question of Excellence

"The question of excellence inevitably involves a consideration of the standards required to evaluate what is good, and this leads to profound questions about the essential nature and purpose of human life. It is precisely at this point that modern society reveals its moral confusion. Because we have abandoned the concept of absolute divine standards, moral statements have been reduced to mere preferences.  The result is moral statements which lack any real content.  Obviously, a society which lacks any supreme values other than those of pluralism and moral relativism will find it almost impossible to rouse itself to the pursuit of excellence.  What cannot be defined cannot be readily pursued!"


Gary Inrig: A Call to Excellence- Understanding Excellence God's Way

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Video- On Behalf of a Molinist Perspective by William Lane Craig



A great talk here by Dr. William Lane Craig on Molinism.  The Q and A is quite fun as well!

Enjoy!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Related Post

Video: What is Molinism?

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Why Philosophical Proofs for God Are Better Than “Scientific” Proofs by Brian Huffling

Here is a great article by philosopher Brian Huffling.  One of the most interesting parts are his comments about whether or not the question of God's existence is a scientific one. 

He writes:

The question of God’s existence is inherently philosophical. But is it a “scientific” question as well? Yes, in a way. I have used the word ‘scientific’ in quotes for a reason. Historically, following Aristotle, a discipline was considered scientific if it could demonstrate its conclusions through a rational process (logical argumentation) and from first principles (such as the law of non-contradiction). If such a demonstration could take place, that is, if there was a rational move from premises to a conclusion and the body of knowledge could be arranged systematically along with this demonstration, the body of knowledge was said to be scientific. Since philosophy can demonstrate its conclusions from rational demonstration, historically it has been thought to be scientific (as was theology . . . the queen of the sciences). However, the notion of something being scientific nowadays usually means that it is identical with natural science. Further, many think that science is the only domain that provides knowledge. This view is called ‘scientism’. Notice that the claim that “only science conveys knowledge” is a philosophical claim, not a claim demonstrated by natural science. It is a claim about the nature of science (philosophy of science) and the nature of knowledge (epistemology). In short, since philosophy is a science in this broader sense, the issue of God’s existence is a scientific one, just not in the sense of the natural sciences.

Checkout the entire article here.

You can find more of Huffling's work here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Related Posts

Book Preview: Scientism and Secularism by J.P. Moreland

Article: What is Thomism? by gotQuestions.org

What is Philosophy?

Should Christians Not Study Philosophy?

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Review of J.L. Schellenberg, "Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason," by Daniel Howard-Snyder

Philosopher Daniel Howard-Snyder reviews J.L. Schellenberg's Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason here.

Philosopher Randal Rauser also has a thoughtful review of Schellenberg's work, The Hiddenness Argumenthere.  Schellenberg responds to Rauser here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

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Video: Why Does God Seem So Hidden? by Sean McDowell

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Why Does God Hide?

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Video: Christianity and the Challenge of Hinduism


A great talk on Hinduism!  

Enjoy!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Gary Habermas and Mike Licona Answer the Claim that, "There is a Huge Mountain of Probability Against an Event Ever Being an Act of God."

In their helpful book The Case for the Resurrection (pictured), Gary Habermas and Mike Licona address the above claim.  While they address it in the context of Jesus' resurrection from the dead, their answer is helpful in addressing any claim that deals with the miraculous being the least probable explanation.

Their response is as follows:

"The critic says, 'Even before investigating a claimed miracle, we know that there is a huge mountain of probability against it ever being an act of God.'  To say that corpses stay dead much more often then they come back to life is a wild understatement.  In short, the world we inhabit does not make room for the miraculous.  It is simply not that kind of universe.  So even if we cannot explain what happened to Jesus after his crucifixion, this reasoning would insist that there could not have been a resurrection.  The technical name for the issue that is being raised by this sort of objection is antecedent probability.  Even before an investigation, miracles are so improbable because of the evidence against miracles from past experience, that they are considered highly unlikely, if not practically impossible.

This mindset seems to make sense and is a thoughtful approach, but it has serious problems.

First, if the sort of God described in the Christian Scriptures exists, there is no reason to reject the possibility of miracles as the explanation of well-attested events for which no plausible natural explanations exist.

Second, to say that we should deny Jesus' resurrection, no matter how strong the evidence, is to be biased against the possibility that this could be the very case for which we have been looking.1

Third, the entire foundation on which this objection is based is fatally flawed.  We learn about the nature of this world by our experience of reality.  Our knowledge of the world around us is gained by gathering information.  When we cast our net into the sea of experience, certain data turn up.  If we cast our net into a small lake, we won't be sampling much of the ocean's richness.  If we make a worldwide cast, we have a more accurate basis for what exists.

Here is the crunch.  If we cast into our own little lakes, it is not surprising if we do not obtain an accurate sampling of experience.  However, a worldwide cast will reveal many reports of unusual occurrences that might be investigated and determined to be miracles.  Surely most of the supernatural claims would be found to be untrustworthy.  But before making the absolute observation that no miracles have ever happened, someone would have to investigate each report.

It only takes a single justified example to show that there is more to reality than a physical world.  We must examine an impossibly large mountain of data to justify the naturalistic conclusion assumed in this objection.  When data relating to the supernatural are examined, unwanted evidence is cast aside.  This point does not claim that we actually have such evidence.  Rather it is simply a straightforward challenge to naturalistic methods.

Evidence exists that there have been (and perhaps still are) supernatural phenomena.  Although not as well-attested as Jesus' resurrection, to the extend that they can be confirmed, they should significantly change our ideas concerning the natural world.  Consequently, not only would the backdrop for the entire naturalistic objection disappear, but also it would actually turn the subject in the opposite direction.  If other miracles do occur, then the Resurrection is far more plausible."

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnotes:
1. Their case for the resurrection is included in the aforementioned book.  Dr. Habermas summarizes their case here.
2. Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case for the Resurrection, p. 143-146.

Related Posts

Common Objection #32- "The hypothesis 'God rose Jesus from the dead' is miraculous. Therefore, it is the least probable."

Common Objection #5- "Belief in God is Unreasonable or Delusional."

Craig Keener on Miracles

On Miracles and Historiography: Can The Supernatural Ever Be The Best Explanation? by Jonathan McLatchie

Monday, July 27, 2020

Stand to Reason: Street Tactics- Part 3



The post below was taken from Stand to Reason.  Parts One and Two can be found here and here.

On September 11, 2001—a day Time magazine called the bloodiest day on American soil since the Civil War—two jumbo jets slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, another crashed into the western section of the Pentagon, and a third was forced down in a field in Pennsylvania when the terrorist pilots were overwhelmed by courageous passengers.
To put the toll in perspective, in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, 168 people died. In New York City on 9/11, twice as many firefighters and policemen alone were crushed under 500,000 tons of cement and steel. On that other “day of infamy,” December 7, 1941, 2,335 servicemen lost their lives at Pearl Harbor. More victims than that—2,977—were buried beneath the rubble of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and that field in Pennsylvania.
Of course, this is old news. Here’s something you may not have known. Time magazine was wrong. September 11, 2001 was not the bloodiest day on American soil since the Civil War. In truth, the number of human lives crushed out on 9/11 is less, on average, than the number of children who have died every single day, day after day, for over 47 years through abortion right here on American soil.
The fact is, roughly half of pregnancies in this country are unplanned, and roughly half of those end in abortion. Consequently, the most dangerous place for a baby to be in America is resting in her mother’s womb.
In this Solid Ground, I want to show you how to make that location a safer place by teaching you how to use precisely placed questions to challenge the moral legitimacy of the pro-choice view in conversations you have with others.[i] It’s a general approach I call “Street Tactics.”[ii]
My basic strategy when making the pro-life case is to focus on the single, decisive, defining issue in the debate, an approach I call “Only One Question.” Here is how I initiate my plan in conversation.

“Daddy, Can I Kill This?”
The very first set of questions I use in conversation on this issue sets the stage for my larger strategy. It should be your first move, too.
“Consider this analogy,” I offer. “Your child comes up behind you while you’re working at some task and asks, ‘Daddy/Mommy, can I kill this?’ What is the one question you must ask before you can answer their question?”
“I need to ask them, ‘What is it?’”[iii]
“Exactly. The reason is obvious. First we have to know what we’re killing before we know if it’s okay to kill it. If it’s a spider, smash it. If it’s their little brother, time for a talk. Does that make sense?”
“Sure, so far.”
“So let’s apply that reasoning to the abortion question using our vital question ‘What is it?’ If the unborn is not a human being, then no justification for abortion is necessary.[iv] Do as you wish. Remove the offending tissue. Have the abortion. Do you agree with that?”
“Of course I do. I’m pro-choice.”
“Good. Next step. However, if the unborn is a human being, then no justification for abortion is adequate.”[v]
“Well, I’m not sure about that one. What are you getting at?”
“Fair enough. Let me clarify with another question. Though the answer may seem obvious, and I don’t mean to patronize you, here it is. Do you think it’s okay to kill a defenseless human being for the reasons most people give to justify abortions: because they have a right to privacy or choice, because the human being is too expensive, because they just don’t want to take care of him, because he interferes with their career, etc.?”
“Of course not. But a fetus isn’t a human.”
“We’ll get to that in a minute. So in principle, then, you agree with those two general statements I asked you about?”
“Well, I guess—so far.”

Pushback
This is progress, of course, but conversations like this do not always go smoothly. Often, there’s resistance, so I’ve included an extended conversation below as a tutorial for two reasons.
First, it provides a general model for how you might navigate objections on this point. Second, it reinforces our conviction that answering only one question is the key to resolving the abortion issue. The dialogue starts with a pro-abortion challenge:[vi]
“Abortion is a private choice between a woman and her doctor.”
“Do you mind if I ask you a question? Do we allow parents to abuse their children if done in privacy or with the consent of their doctor?”
“Of course not, but that’s not fair. Those children are human beings.”
“I agree. But that shows that the issue isn’t really privacy at all but rather whether or not the unborn is a human being, right?’”
“But many poor women can’t afford to raise another child.”
“Yes, I understand. But when kids get too expensive, can we kill them?”
“Of course not, but aborting a fetus is not the same as killing a kid.”
“So once again, the real question is, ‘What is the unborn? Is a fetus a human just like a youngster?’”
“Why do you insist on being so simplistic? Killing defenseless human beings is one thing. Aborting a fetus is another.”
“So we’re agreed: If abortion actually killed a defenseless human being, then the issue wouldn’t be complex at all. The question is, ‘What is the unborn?’”
“Do you really think a woman should be forced to bring an unwanted child into the world?”
“Many homeless people are unwanted. Can we kill them?”
“But it’s not the same.”
“That’s the issue, then, isn’t it? Are they the same? If the unborn are truly human like the homeless, then we can’t just kill them to get them out of the way. We’re back to my first question, ‘What is the unborn?’”
“But you still shouldn’t force your morality on women.”
“I get your point, but would you ‘force your morality’ on a mother who was physically abusing her two-year-old?”
“Sure, but that’s not the same.”
“Why not?”
“Because you’re assuming the unborn is human like a two-year-old.”
“And you’re assuming she’s not. You see, this is not really about privacy, or economic hardship, or complexity, or not being wanted, or forcing morality. The real question is, ‘What is the unborn?’ Answer that question, and you’ve automatically answered the others.”
You might think of other concerns I haven’t mentioned. Each can be dispatched with a simple test question. Ask, “What would be the relevance of this objection if we were talking about a clear-case example of a human being?”
Note, I have not made the case yet that the unborn is a human being. That will come shortly. I’m merely pointing out there’s just one issue to resolve, not many. Answering the one question “What is the unborn?” answers almost all the others.
Hopefully, you’ve been somewhat successful at this point in helping the pro-abortion person understand your point about the single, decisive, defining issue in this controversy. It’s time for our next step. We started with the strategic foundation of our argument. Next I want you to see the moral foundation.

Moral Logic
I want you to be crystal clear on the simple moral logic of the pro-life position.[vii] It is the ethical bedrock of the view. Here it is:
Premise 1: It’s wrong to intentionally take the life of an innocent human being.
Premise 2: Abortion intentionally takes the life of an innocent human being.
Therefore: Abortion is wrong.
Notice a couple of things immediately. First, the form of the argument is right. The conclusion follows naturally and logically from the first two statements. That’s easy to see. This, then, is a valid argument. So far, so good. If the premises turn out to be true, then it is also a sound argument—that is, completely reliable based on the simple force of logic. But are the premises true? That’s where controversy comes in.
The first premise seems obviously correct. Few would dispute this commonsense moral notion as a general rule. If you want to be more precise to cover possible exceptions, you could add the phrase “…for the reasons most people give to justify abortion.” We clearly do not consider killing justified because our victim stood in the way of our career, was a financial burden, had a physical defect, interfered with our personal freedoms, etc.
Your initial pushback, then, is going to be about the accuracy of premise two. As we saw above, you’re going to encounter resistance to the claim that the unborn are bona fide human beings. Our questions, then, are designed to help your friend see that the unborn are 1) alive and growing, 2) distinct from their mothers (i.e., not the mother’s body, strictly speaking), and 3) individual human beings.
Here’s how that conversation might look, with the pro-abortion person initiating the challenge:
“The government shouldn’t tell me what I can do with my own body.”
“Can the government say what you can do with your body concerning your two-year-old?”
“That’s different. He’s outside my body. We’re talking about my uterus. They can’t dictate what I do with my uterus any more than they can force me to donate my kidney.”
“I agree with you,[viii] but that has nothing to do with the pro-life view. Pro-lifers are not asking you to give up your uterus. Pro-lifers are saying the government should be able to protect a growing human being inside your body just like it does a growing human being outside your body.”
“But we’re talking about my uterus, not a human being like an infant.”
“I thought we were talking about what was in your uterus.”
“Okay, but that’s not a human being.”
“It isn’t? Then what is it?”
“It’s just tissue, I guess. Nobody knows.”
“Well, let me ask you a few questions about this mysterious thing inside the uterus of a pregnant woman. Is this thing alive?”
“No one really knows when life begins.”
“That wasn’t quite the question. I asked if it was alive, not when life begins. So let me ask another way. Is this unidentified thing inside a pregnant woman’s uterus growing?”
“Yes, it’s growing.”
“How can it be growing if it’s not alive?”
“Hmm… Okay, you’ve made your point. It’s alive. It’s living tissue, part of my own body, and the government has no say over my tissue growing in my body.”
“I’m sympathetic with that point in principle, but I don’t think this tissue that’s in your body is actually part of your body, strictly speaking.”
“Of course it is.”
“Did you ever watch CSI?”
“Sure.”
“When the forensic pathologist finds remains of a human body, how do they know which person the remains belong to?”
“They do a matching DNA test.”
“Right. If the DNA from the tissue matches the DNA sample from a known individual, then they know the tissue was part of their body.”
“Right.”
“So if you were pregnant, and someone took a DNA test of the piece of tissue growing in your uterus, would its DNA match your DNA?”
“Well…no.”
“Right. Then whatever is growing inside a pregnant woman’s body is not part of her body, is it? It’s tissue from a different body with different DNA.”
“I guess so.”
“So here’s the next question: What kind of foreign thing would be growing inside your uterus if you were pregnant.”
“I can’t say for sure.”
“Well, let’s go back to CSI again. If forensic pathologists found a piece of tissue at a crime scene, how would they know if that tissue came from a human being or from some other creature?”
“I guess they’d do another DNA test.”
“Right, but this test isn’t looking to identify a certain individual, but rather a certain kind of individual—maybe a human or maybe some other organism, right?”
“Okay.”
“So if we took a piece of tissue from that living thing growing in your uterus that is not you but something else, what kind of DNA do you think it would have?”
“I don’t know. I’m not a scientist.”
“You don’t need to be a scientist to know the answer to my question. Let me ask it another way. What kinds of things naturally and predictably grow inside a pregnant woman’s uterus?”
“Well, offspring.”
“Good. So we agree on that. Now, if there’s an ‘offspring’ growing in a woman’s uterus, what kind of offspring do you think it is?”
“I guess it would be a human offspring. But that doesn’t mean it’s a human being. An acorn is not an oak.”
“What is it, then?”
“It’s a seed.”
“Right. What kind of seed?”
“An oak seed.”
“Right. An acorn is an oak in the seed stage, and a full-grown tree is an oak in a mature stage. But they’re both oaks, right?”
“But the unborn is just a zygote, or a fetus, or whatever.”
“Right, but what kind of zygote, or fetus, or whatever?”
“Human?”
“Exactly. So it looks like we know a lot about what’s growing inside a pregnant woman’s uterus, don’t we? It’s not merely her tissue, but her human offspring. Someone else—an unborn human being—is in there at varying stages of development. So now that we’ve solved that mystery, let me take this a step further. Do you think the government should be allowed to protect your offspring when the child is outside of your body but not when he’s inside your body?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Tell me, why should the government be allowed to protect your offspring on the outside of your body?”
“Because children are valuable.”
“Right, I agree. But that creates a problem for you now, doesn’t it?”
“How so?”
“Well if your children are valuable outside your body—say, right after they’re born—why aren’t those same children valuable just a couple of inches away, hidden inside your body? Why does the location of your child make any difference to the value of your child?”
You see how this works. Of course, those who have strong pro-abortion convictions are not likely to change their minds immediately, but your tactical questions have forced them to think about the facts that really matter instead of parrying with rhetoric that simply obscures the real issue.
At this point, you’re going to encounter another dodge. Since you’ve clearly established that abortion kills an actual human being (the second premise of our argument), the only recourse the pro-choice person has is to modify his commitment to the first premise of our moral logic: It’s wrong to intentionally take the life of an innocent human being.
Here’s the common counter: It’s not really wrong to kill a human being. It’s only wrong to kill a human person, and the unborn are not real persons, only potential persons.

The “Personhood” Shell Game
At this point, you must, without exception, ask this question: “What’s the difference?” Ask what the precise differences are between a disposable human being and a valuable human person. Point out that it’s absolutely essential they answer your question and clarify the distinction they’ve imposed. Here’s why.
Those who offer this personhood qualifier have divided the human race into two distinct categories—human persons and human non-persons. Those in the first group have full protection of the law. Those in the second group, on the other hand, can be killed with impunity for virtually any reason, oftentimes at government expense. Considering the grave consequences of this divide, those who split humanity in this way must be absolutely clear on which human beings are on which side of that line.
Some may answer by offering a list of attributes they think are necessary to qualify a human being as valuable—certain characteristics or capabilities that distinguish him from an expendable human non-person. These lists vary in content, of course, with different people championing different criteria.
At this point, other questions are necessary: Where did you get the list? Who gets to decide which humans qualify and which do not? Does everyone get to make up his own list of qualities needed to transform a mere human into a valuable person? What about lists that exclude Blacks, or Jews, or Muslim Serbs, or gypsies, or the mentally defective, or gays—all examples of “human non-persons” of the past? What makes one person’s list “better” than any other?
You see my point. The “personhood” disqualifier has a dark past. It is nothing more than a crafty shell game, legal legerdemain meant to disqualify some bona fide members of the human family from being protected members of the human community. It’s a convenient scheme for some to stigmatize others when it’s in their interest to disenfranchise them.
This ruse has been tried before, and history is strewn with the wreckage—from the Dred Scott decision of 1857 declaring black slaves chattel property to the “Final Solution,” when the Third Reich decreed that millions of humans had no inherent right to live and were eliminated as lebensunwertes leben—“life unworthy of life.”

S.L.E.D.
The characteristics disqualifying the personhood of the unborn usually fall in one of four categories: size or physical appearance (the unborn doesn’t look like a person), level of development (the unborn lacks the abilities real persons have), environment (the unborn isn’t located in the same place as real persons),[ix] or degree of dependency (the unborn is not “viable,” i.e., it’s too physically dependent on others to be a person).
This list of distinctions, commonly known as the “S.L.E.D.” test,[x] is riddled with difficulties since each qualifier ends up disqualifying clear-case examples of valuable human beings.
It turns out there is no meaningful moral difference between a human being and a human person. All attempts to make this distinction end in disaster. Your probing questions press that point.

One Final Question
Here is your parting salvo. Ask, “Were you ever an unborn child?” It doesn’t seem to make sense to say anyone was once a sperm or an egg because neither by itself is a human being. Does it make sense, though, to talk about the way we were before we were born?
“Did you turn in your mother’s womb, or kick when you were startled by a loud noise? Did you suck your thumb? Were those your experiences or someone else’s? If you were once the unborn child your mother carried, then you must accept an undeniable truth: Killing that child through abortion would have killed you. Not a potential you. Not a possible you. Not a future you. Abortion would have killed you.”
And so the logic stands. You have shown:
  • The unborn is a living being, separate from her mother.
  • The kind of being she happens to be is human.
  • Humans are valuable in themselves and not for what they can do, for what they can be, or for what they can give to others.
  • Abortion takes the life of a valuable, innocent, human being without proper justification. Therefore, abortion is terribly wrong.
And you did it all with questions.



[i] By the way, the points offered in this piece have been used effectively by pro-lifers in school debates, Facebook and blog posts, articles, etc. Get more resources by searching for “abortion” at str.org.
[ii] In the last two editions of Solid Ground I applied this approach to the problem of evil and to atheism. See “Street Tactics – Part 1” and “Street Tactics – Part 2.”
[iii] Some might say the next question is “Why?” If they do, remind them their back is turned, then ask, “Isn’t there a more important question to ask first?”
[iv] I suggest that you memorize this statement.
[v] Memorize this one, too.
[vi] This dialogue is adapted from Gregory Koukl, Precious Unborn Human Persons, available at str.org.
[vii] I use the phrase “moral logic” because this is a logically valid syllogism with moral terms in both a premise and the conclusion.
[viii] Notice how, as a tactical concern, I try to agree as often as I can with legitimate points.
[ix] This qualifier is implicit in abortion laws that distinguish between humans in the womb and those outside the womb.
[x] The S.L.E.D. Test was first introduced by Stephen Schwarz in the book The Moral Question of Abortion.