No wine for communion? – Swine flu

The Catholic church is being particularly careful about Swine Flu.

Specifically, the bishops have requested that receiving Communion on the tongue, Communion wine from the chalice and shaking hands at the sign of peace at Masses in New Zealand cease.

Now that sounds reasonable. However the television news has been giving the impression that the communion wine is being withdrawn completely (it is generally served from a single cup in Catholic churches).

Holy Communion is the only ritual the Christian Church has. It is how Christ himself commanded we were to remember His death, and is not something anyone has a right to remove either element from. It is celebrated by all denominations, with some variations in style, but the essential elements (the body and the blood) are always there.

I don’t trust the news to report such issues accurately, so could a Catholic reader please confirm whether the wine is actually being withdrawn, or being offered in individual cups (as many Protestant churches already do)?

Offering in individual cups would be a sensible precaution. But no church has the right to entirely remove what Christ has established.I hope no church will put convenience and fear before remembering Christ.

UPDATE: According to ZenTiger and Lucyna Maria (see the comments here), the wine is being withdrawn, at least in their churches. Utterly disgraceful.

You may be interested in:
Swine Flu Myths (by MacDoctor – keep an eye on MacDoctor for good info on swine flu from a medical perspective).
Swine flu – false alarm? (New Zealand Conservative)

Is an embryo a person 2 – Twinning

One argument commonly put forward for why the embryo is not a human in the first 14 days or so of life, before implantation, is that it may yet divide into twins. If it can become two individuals, the logic goes, how can we say it is now a person? It must be in a pre-person state until it becomes two separate people.

Twinning is basically a cloning process, or a form of asexual reproduction. The one embryo splits into two pieces, which each grow into identical twins.

If we consider this from a purely atheistic perspective, the argument rapidly falls apart. Just because something may later become two individuals doesn’t mean it is not an individual before then.

If a bacterium divides to produce two identical clones, does that mean it was not an individual bacterium before the cloning? Of course not.

If the technology ever becomes available to clone a human adult (some claim it has already been done), a human adult could later become two humans. Does this mean the adult was not a human before the cloning?

The embryo is one human. If at some later point it can become two humans, that does not detract at all from the fact that it is already human. It only means that by killing it you have cut off the potential for two lives rather than only one – which is twice as bad.

Now if we add the Christian perspective, that humans are not only physical but also have a soul, you may be able to say the embryo is not human before it divided because the individual twins were not given souls until they separated.

But how do you know? This is pure speculation. God may do that, or He may give one soul at conception and a second one when twinning occurs, or (knowing twinning will occur) he may give both souls from the start… The Bible never says. We can speculate for ever but will never reach an answer. It is best to forget this line of reasoning and focus on the physical.

So whether you are atheist or Christian, the twinning argument holds no water. And anyway, most embryos don’t twin – how many identical twins do you know?

For a far more detailed refutation of the twinning argument, check out this excellent article by Alexander Pruss of Baylor University (hat tip MandM). Matt’s response is here, but he does not appear to really counter what Pruss says, just disputes some minor points.

I have discussed other issues around abortion in these posts.

Is an embryo a person?

This question is at the heart of the abortion debate. A pro-choicer may admit that genetically and scientifically an embryo is a human, but they will then argue that they do not yet have “personhood” so it is ok to kill them.

Before addressing the question of whether or not a human embryo is a person, let’s look at the question itself.

Where on earth did the idea come from that you can be “human” but not a “person”? What is the difference?

For an atheist, who believes only in the physical, an embryo is genetically human, and it is clearly alive. Therefore it is a living human. A living human is a person, because only the physical is real and they are a physical person.

However the Christian, who believes that a person is both a physical body and a soul, may believe that personhood is not physical. They may be able to believe that an embryo, although scientifically human, is not a person because they do not have a soul. In my opinion this is a poor argument, as we have no idea when the soul is imparted into the body, can never prove any view on this, so must stick with the science that says life starts from conception. But it is an argument that sounds plausible.

The atheist must accept the embryo is a person. The Christian may choose to believe otherwise (although this is illogical in my opinion).

So why are so many pro-lifers Christian, and so many pro-choicers atheists? Why are people expressing a pro-life position so often accused of being religious fanatics?

It’s really quite crazy when you think about it.

The pro-choice position is not based on atheistic logic. It is more often based on emotion – people have had an abortion or know someone who had an abortion, want to believe that that was ok, and come up with philosophical or religious reasons to justify their position. This process may be subconscious.

If you look into it hard enough, you may quickly conclude that abortion is wrong. Check out the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League, Libertarians for Life, and this excellent article on “Why should Atheists be Pro-Life”. But many people are unwilling to look at the issue with cold, hard logic, and become blinded by emotion.

So, in your opinion, can a human ever not be a “person”? If so, when does the embryo become a “person”? And WHY do you believe this? Logically, not emotionally.

Family First calling for more bureaucracy

DB has agreed to take down a billboard that, according to Family First, “glorified pornography”. Great, there is some stuff your kids just don’t need to read.

But Family First is going further than that, from their email:

Family First has called for a committee to be established to pre-approve billboards. Mr McCroskie said the committee should include specialists to advocate for the protection of children and families from offensive billboards. “Families are sick to death of being confronted with offensive material as they drive along motorways and through city streets.”

Do we really need another bit of bureaucracy to go through before you can advertise? It would be just a nuisance for the vast majority of advertisers who were not intending to have anything offensive on their billboards anyway.

And it would do no good (and possibly even do harm), because in the long run it could end up being stacked by government-appointed left-liberals, who would have a completely different idea to Family First about what is “offensive”. We could see stuff currently considered obscene approved due to it “becoming accepted in popular culture”, but Christian content repressed to not offend Muslims or some such nonsense. Who knows? Why risk it?

If the “Advertising Standards Authority is a ‘toothless wonder'” as Mr McCoskrie says, wouldn’t any government appointed authority just end up the same?

The billboard is being taken down. The current law therefore seems to be working. Let’s be happy about that, not make up more laws.

Or have I missed something?

Vatican hosting conference on Evolution

Ok, I’m not officially here, but I couldn’t let this one pass! I had gained the impression that Pope Benedict was more conservative than his predecessor (who stated evolution was “more than just a theory”), but this throws that idea out the window.

I would have no problem with the Vatican hosting a conference that was genuinely “A critical appraisal” of Darwinism, looking at it from both perspectives and discussing the science behind it and how it relates to Christianity. But that is not how they are approaching the issue. From the Vatican News Service:

Saverio Forastiero:

“…biological evolution – which is assumed and discussed as a fact beyond all reasonable doubt…”

Fr. Tanzella-Nitti:

“…from the perspective of Christian theology, biological evolution and creation are by no means mutually exclusive.”

Now the idea that evolution and creation are not mutually exclusive is a valid opinion to hold. But when such views are being stated by people organising the conference, who should be approaching the issue from an unbiased perspective and allowing both sides of the story to be debated, it shows the tone of the conference.

The topic of the conference:

Fr. Leclerc explained that the congress will be divided into nine sessions, focusing on “the essential facts upon which the theory of evolution rests, facts associated with palaeontology and molecular biology; … the scientific study of the mechanisms of evolution, … and what science has to say about the origin of human beings”. Attention will also be given to “the great anthropological questions concerning evolution, … and the rational implications of the theory for the epistemological and metaphysical fields and for the philosophy of nature”. Finally, he said, “there will be two theological sessions to study evolution from the point of view of Christian faith, on the basis of a correct exegesis of the biblical texts that mention the creation, and of the reception of the theory of evolution by the Church”.

In other words, they will be considering evolution to be an established fact, learning all about those “essential facts” underpinning it, then finally looking at how this can be fitted into Christianity through “correctly” understanding the scriptures.

There is only one way that discussion is designed to go…

Evolution is not an established fact – there are many dissenters, including atheists who disagree on purely scientific grounds. But just like global warming, if you speak up you will generally be ignored by the media (or ridiculed if you are lucky to be noticed), and could lose your job. Furthermore in the opinion of many Christians it IS mutually exclusive with Christianity – Evolution requires death before the Fall (undermining the Cross). It also requires God to use millions of years of death and suffering to create a world he then pronounces to be “very good”, and requires passages clearly written as literal (even in the Ten Commandments) to be interpreted as figurative to squeeze the theory into the text somehow.

By accepting evolution as undeniable fact before the conference even starts, discussion is stifled, and the results are predetermined – just like in a Green Party discussion on climate change…

Anti-Christian discrimination in Britain

“Foster mother struck off for letting Muslim girl convert to Christianity”

If you thought religious discrimination was getting bad in Britain, it’s just got a whole lot worse:

A foster mother has been struck off the register for allowing a Muslim girl in her care to convert to Christianity…. Although she is a practising Anglican, she said she had put no pressure on the girl who was baptised last year at the age of 16. She said social workers had also raised no objections to her own attendance at church.

But officials insist she failed in her duty to preserve the girl’s religion and should have tried to stop the baptism.

Last April, they ruled that the girl, now 17, should stay away from church for six months. …

Mike Judge, a spokesman for [the Christian Institute], said: ‘All people should be free to change or modify their religious beliefs. ‘That surely must be a core human right in any free society.

‘I cannot imagine that an atheist foster carer would be struck off if a Christian child in her care stopped believing in God. This is the sort of double standard which Christians are facing in modern Britain.

So the local government officials have:
– Forbidden a Christian from attending church.
– Punished a woman for allowing someone to change their religion (how on earth do you stop a 16 year old from changing their religion anyway?).

That is government suppression of freedom of religion, as practiced under communism and Islamic law. It has no place in either a Christian or a secular country.

Prepare for an influx of (still more) British migrants, fleeing Islam. Hopefully we can resist the same sick policies here.

You could be dead tonight

On Tuesday night a car crashed outside our house. I was the first on the scene.

The driver had crashed a virtually brand new BMW convertible, doing at least 100kmh, into a concrete powerpole, snapping the powerpole and putting the lines into the hedge (cutting power to a very wide area). The car was a completely crumpled mess, even the wheels were shattered.

But when I arrived the driver was standing by the roadside flagging me down. She had only suffered a nasty cut to the head. The fact that she walked away is a miracle, the last two crashes on this stretch have been fatalities.

The car went sideways into the pole, hitting it just behind the drivers door. One foot further and the driver would have been dead instantly. Incidentally, despite it being such a snazzy car the airbags didn’t even go off – you can’t rely on safety mechanisms.

Remember, this earthly life is fleeting. One little slip (not necessarily by you), and you’re dead. The fact that you can even read this today is a blessing – don’t take it lightly.

If you were to die tonight, where would you go? Are you prepared to find out?

All you ever wanted to know about Christianity
Seven reasons you should not become a Christian (and one reason you should)

Should Christians consider legalising drugs?

There has been some discussion on drug laws over at New Zealand Conservative, with Lucyna referring to an article called “Don’t legalize drugs” by Theodore Dalrymple, which I shall refer to below.

This is a very polarising issue, with most people either saying “Drugs are bad – ban them” or “You have no right to legislate what people put in their own bodies – legalise them all”. Those in favour of legalising them argue that this will reduce the price, reducing crimes committed by people trying to fund their drug habits, and increase the quality (less people dying from dodgy concoctions). They generally assume that if drugs were legal usage would not increase much, as most people are sensible and won’t take them. I highly doubt this, it is logical to expect that usage would increase somewhat, people are more likely to use something if they can do it on a whim (pop into a shop and buy it) than if it is more difficult and expensive to obtain.

We don’t know what exactly would happen if all drugs were legalised – we haven’t done it yet. As Theodore Dalrymple states:

“But a certain modesty in the face of an inherently unknowable future is surely advisable. That is why prudence is a political virtue: what stands to reason should happen does not necessarily happen in practice. As Goethe said, all theory (even of the monetarist or free-market variety) is gray, but green springs the golden tree of life. If drugs were legalized, I suspect that the golden tree of life might spring some unpleasant surprises.”

I am certainly no fan of the legalisation of all drugs. It is a stupid idea to take drugs, I don’t even drink. However, many Christians rightly see drugs are bad and as a result go completely in the opposite direction – “ban them all”. Many seem to believe for some reason that Christianity requires drugs be illegal, and won’t entertain any discussion about adjusting the drug laws. But nowhere in the Bible is there ANY example of a drug being illegal.

Currently alcohol and tobacco are legal in NZ, most other stuff is illegal. The decision which drugs should be legal and which ones restricted is not based on Christianity at all. Rather, it is a purely pragmatic decision based on the costs and benefits to society of having a substance legal or illegal. Therefore it is perfectly reasonable for us, whether Christian or not, to entertain discussion on the costs and benefits of whether possession of certain substances (such as BZP, or cannabis) should be legal, illegal but not criminal (e.g. you get fined but don’t end up in court, just like a driving offence), or a criminal offence.

Dalyrmple also states:

“Analogies with the Prohibition era, often drawn by those who would legalize drugs, are false and inexact: it is one thing to attempt to ban a substance that has been in customary use for centuries by at least nine-tenths of the adult population, and quite another to retain a ban on substances that are still not in customary use, in an attempt to ensure that they never do become customary.”

Which is also an excellent point. The social acceptability of a drug makes a big difference in whether it is practical to restrict it or not. If enough people find something socially acceptable, it will be impossible to police. You can never control a substance without public support.

But where does this leave socially acceptable illegal drugs like cannabis? Whatever its status in the past, and despite research showing how harmful it is, cannabis is now socially acceptable in many circles. If you doubt that, just think – do you know someone who you strongly suspect uses cannabis? Most people know users, it is so widespread. Have you reported them to the cops yet? If not, why not? Why don’t you respect the law? Do you too find cannabis socially acceptable?

If even you find cannabis socially acceptable and won’t report it, how do you expect the police to control it?

What our drug laws should be is something I am as yet undecided on. And I am strongly aware that changing one small thing can be the start down a “slippery slope” towards more stuff that would be undesirable. However we must be willing to entertain pragmatic discussion on these issues. Christianity has a lot to say about the rights and wrongs of many different things – we can conclusively say abortion is wrong for example. But it has little to say about drugs, so we must be careful not to jump on one end of the dispute (either “ban it all” or “complete freedom”) and hold this as the “Christian” position, rejecting all practical considerations to the contrary.

Capital punishment

Following the shocking Nia Glassie case, and a similar case in the UK, there has been some discussion on the blogs about whether we should bring back capital punishment. Few people have dared suggest this controversial idea in their posts (except for MK at Crusader Rabbit), but plenty of commenters have suggested it.

Back in the early ’90s, the Christian Heritage party (whose policy was to bring back capital punishment for murder) put out an excellent brochure on it, analysing the issue from a Christian perspective, which I will reproduce in part here (skipping only those bits that directly relate to CHP policy). The issue was analysed in detail in this brochure and I think it would be a good contribution to the debate today.

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CAPITAL PUNISHMENT – IS IT BIBLICAL?

There is no doubt that Capital Punishment is an emotive, controversial subject. Many Christians are confused on this issue. Love, grace and mercy are often emphasised without due recognition of justice and the task of the State to uphold all that is good. …

Is Capital Punishment Biblical?

In Genesis 9:6 the Bible says:

“Whoever sheds man’s blood By man his blood shall be shed For in the image of God He made man.”

It is not without significance that this verse should come after the flood. According to Genesis 6:13 the main cause of God deciding to judge the world by sending the flood was because “the earth was filled with violence”. This verse, then, is God’s remedy for violence.

Essentially it is teaching that capital punishment is the just and right punishment for murder. The verse gives a reason why such a heavy sentence should be given, namely, that murder is an attack on the image of God in which we are made. For this reason it is set apart from all other crimes in its seriousness.

We should also note that this verse is not restricted to Israel; it falls outside the Mosaic law and its supporting rationale is of abiding significance: each new life continues to be made in the image of God.

In the New Testament, Jesus says in Matthew 5:17,18:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfil. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law…”

Jesus essentially reaffirms the law. He does not pit the law against the grace He was ushering in. Rather He shows the full significance and extent of the law. Thus we should not be surprised to find in Romans 13 a reference to capital punishment where Paul explains the task and function of the State.

He essentially argues that the State is to act on God’s behalf in promoting good and suppressing evil. He says of the State:

“But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.”
(Romans 13:4)

In this context the Bible everywhere uses ‘the sword’ as a symbol of death and judgement. Thus, it is teaching that the State is to avenge all evil, on God’s behalf, even to the point of using the sword.

The Evidence Required

It is important to also observe scripture’s teaching on the standards of evidence required before conviction. Both in the Old and New Testaments, such a sentence could not be carried out unless it be on the testimony of two or more eye witnesses. This is to ensure that no innocent person is executed. …

In practical terms this means that Arthur Allan Thomas and Lindy Chamberlain could not have received death sentences as they were convicted on circumstantial and forensic evidence. However David Gray, in Aramoana, who killed many of his victims in front of many witnesses, would have been liable to the death penalty. Most people see the justice in that.

Important Distinctions:

Many Christians get confused on two issues.

  1. Grace versus Law
    Some people pit the wrathful God of the Old Testament against the love and grace of Jesus in the New Testament.

    This is, in fact, an ancient heresy. The Bible is clear that God is the same “yesterday, today and forever”. Thus when God judged nations in the Old Testament for shedding innocent blood (e.g. abortion), sexual promiscuity and violence, He is just as likely to do so in our times! The fact that He has not, only proves He is merciful.

    The coming of Christ does not mean that law is totally done away with. Neither does the existence of grace and mercy mean that a Government is wrong to insist upon certain standards in society. In fact the very opposite is true. The Government must restrain evil, if the gospel is to spread and be heard (1 Timothy 2:1-7)! If God cannot ignore evil, neither must we. He even sacrificed His own Son in order to satisfy His own holy and just requirements and allow us to live.

    When the thief, who was under the sentence of death with Christ, repented and believed, Jesus said that he would be in paradise with Him that very day. But the thief, while eternally forgiven, still had to pay for his crime. It would make mockery of the civil law if belief in Christ allowed one to be pardoned. The same is true for convicted murderers. They may be sentenced to death, but be eternally saved. They certainly have more opportunity to repent and be saved than they gave their victim.

  2. Personal responsibility versus State responsibility
    Some Christians are against the death penalty as violating the spirit of Christianity and the example of Christ.

    However, this is often based on a misunderstanding between personal responsibility and the God-given task of the State. As Christians we must not murder, but ‘love our enemies’ and ‘turn the other cheek’. But the State is given the task of suppressing evil and promoting good; to act as a minister of wrath on God’s behalf (Romans 13:1-4). God has ordained it to do what we as individuals cannot do. This is the only way to understand the Bible which sometimes commands us not to kill, but in other passages gives mankind the right to execute evil doers. Such state executions lift them out of the sphere of personal revenge and hatred, and places them in the realm of justice and the preservation of the lives of others. When Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery in John 8, He did not let the woman go free. He told them to stone her, if they were without sin! Clearly, Jesus was dealing with their hypocrisy. But He never said that the law was now null and void. He upheld it! When finally his prosecutors withdrew, He dealt with her on a personal level and forgave her sin, something that only Christ as Saviour could do. This is not to suggest that capital punishment should apply to adultery. We reserve this punishment for murder as the only crime sanctional outside the Mosaic law.

——————————–

What do you think of this? Is capital punishment biblical? Is it applicable today? Would it help reduce our violent crime rate? I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts.

Christian Vote 2008

Andy Moore has put together an excellent website analysing which party is best for Christians to vote for this election. He backs up everything he says with facts. His overall conclusion is:

  • Best choice: The Family Party
  • Close second: Act
  • Not recommended, but better than nothing: National
  • Not worth considering: United Future and Kiwi

Putting Kiwi and UF so low may surprise some readers, but as I said he backs up what he says with facts so I would encourage you to read the entire page.

I would add to his electorate recommendations however so it stated:

  • Mangere – Jerry Filipaina
  • East Coast Bays – Paul Adams
  • Manukau East – Papali’i Poutoa Papali’i
  • Epsom – Rodney Hide

Remember that these electorate votes are vital in MMP, both Family and Act need to take one electorate each to be represented after the election. Andy recommends National in other electorates, but I would disagree as electorate votes make little difference to the outcome for either National or Labour. Vote for whoever would do the best job in your opinion in other electorates. But Mangere, East Coast Bays, Manukau East and Epsom are vital to vote as recommended above to ensure we have a decent government after the election.

Check out his other websites too: Don’t Vote Labour and Don’t Vote Greens.

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