Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Two Bioethics Book Recommendations

@ Alex, you won't have an answer that will sufficiently quench your thirst in the pursiut of truth especially in the issues of LIFE (where the Author of Life is God Himself), WHY? well, because these folks here without admitting (self-denial) - that they lack any organic Apostolic authority to pass, declare and promulgate and make a binding teaching. (viz. artificial contraceptio, gay-marriage, abortion etc)

For Pete's sake they don't even agree with their "founding fathers" so why do we take their word seriously?
(Jae, Contra Liccione on the Canon Question, 4:14 PM, August 18, 2010)

As Jae's criticisms remind us, it's a popular strategy for Catholics to assert that Protestants have neither an authoritative nor unified stance on controversial bioethical issues. Whatever problems are to be identified in Jae's approach (and there are several), modern bioethical issues are challenging to navigate. However, this is far from saying that Scripture doesn't provide clear direction on these matters. For lay Protestants interested in working through these issues, I'd like to recommend two books:

Bioethics and the Christian Life: A Guide to Making Difficult Decisions (VanDrunen)

Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (Meilaender)

I think VanDrunen's is the superior of the two (and probably the best book I've read this year), although I still recommend Meilaender's because, among other things, VanDrunen himself draws on the work approvingly.

21 comments:

Alexander Greco said...

However, this is far from saying that Scripture doesn't provide clear direction on these matters.

What are they? How would you answer the questions posed in the comments at the other post?

Alexander Greco said...

Also, by stating that Scripture provides clear direction on these matters, is this akin to stating that Scripture isn't conclusive, but does provide the parameters within which we can reason towards a proximate answer, but this answer cannot ultimately define the issue thereby burdening the consciences of others?

Or do you belive that we can definitively determine the morality of these actions?

Matthew Bellisario said...

Why do they need to read bioethics books anyways? I thought Scripture is clear on all of these issues?

John Bugay said...

Why do they need to read bioethics books anyways? I thought Scripture is clear on all of these issues?

Oops, there goes the neighborhood.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Yep, there it goes. Scripture is clear. You shouldn't need all of these books to explain Scripture should you? Why spend money reading someone's opinion on Scripture when you can read it for yourself?

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Matthew Bellisario writes:

Why spend money reading someone's opinion on Scripture when you can read it for yourself?

That would depend on what you think the doctrine of perspicuity entails. For example, your critique does not follow from WCF 1.7:

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

To simply assert that Scripture is "clear" without specifically defining that term, and then leveling a critique based on the definition you have in mind, is not helpful, especially since the Reformed faith thinks Scripture is "clear" in a specific and qualified sense. (WCF 1.1 and 1.6 also have bearing on this issue.) It seems what you have offered here is an equivocation.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Nice, Matthew Schultz refers to an un-Biblical authority, "For example, your critique does not follow from WCF 1.7..."

Well, as far as I am concerned, the Scriptures do not say, "See the WCF" do they? Where does Scripture tell me to measure my critique against the manmade WCF? Since the Scriptures do not refer to the WCF, or even mention such a monstrosity, then what you are doing is un-Biblical, and is therefore un-Christian.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Matthew Bellisario writes:

Where does Scripture tell me to measure my critique against the manmade WCF? Since the Scriptures do not refer to the WCF, or even mention such a monstrosity, then what you are doing is un-Biblical, and is therefore un-Christian.

This is confusing. I was using the WCF to help define how us Protestants at Beggars All use the term "clear." Why would Scripture need to refer to the WCF in order for me to use it to define a term? Does Scripture have to refer to a dictionary for me to use it in other contexts?

The issue on the table is whether your definition of "clear" properly represents our position. As it stands, it does not. Therefore, your critique does not succeed either, since it is based on a different definition of "clear."

Matthew Bellisario said...

Again, I do not need manmade confessions to define theological terms for me like you do. Scripture is clear, too bad you need to refer to other authorities outside of it to determine for you how to read Scripture. Also, to my knowledge, all Protestants do not refer to the WCF, only a small sliver of the Prots do so.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Again, I do not need manmade confessions to define theological terms for me like you do.

You're free to use divinely inspired confessions if that will help you properly represent our position on the matter.

Scripture is clear, too bad you need to refer to other authorities outside of it to determine for you how to read Scripture.

1. "too bad" isn't an argument.

2. Scripture is "clear" in a specific and qualified sense you aren't willing or able to acknowledge (let alone level an argument against).

3. I don't refer to VanDrunen and Meilaender (or similar works in similar contexts) in order to let them determine how I should read Scripture. Indeed, this would be somewhat obvious if you took a few minutes to investigate the purpose and scope of VanDrunen's work.

Also, to my knowledge, all Protestants do not refer to the WCF, only a small sliver of the Prots do so.

It's not clear what you mean to drive at in this comment. You addressed me in the combox of my post on book recommendations. So I assumed you were trying to address my position on "clear." As such, I use the WCF to define the perspicuity of Scripture. And so do many at Beggars All. So if you're going to try and argue there's a contradiction between my suggesting books for Protestants to read on bioethics and my holding to the perspicuity of Scripture, you need to, at the very least, properly represent my definition of "clear."

If you meant to level some critique of some other position or definition of "clear," then you're welcome to do so, but don't, at the same time, hold me accountable to whatever other definition you have in mind.

Alexander Greco said...

Thanks Matthew S for the book recommendations.

The VanDrunen book looks interesting. I'm curious to see what he says about the usefulness of Natural Law in moral evaluation. I also find it interesting that he refers to Aquinas as a Christian. Would you agree?

Would you say, to the best of your ability at this time, that this book accurately presents the Reformed position?

I think I will purchase it.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Would you say, to the best of your ability at this time, that this book accurately presents the Reformed position?

Yes, I suppose I would say that.

As for Aquinas, I haven't studied him enough to know.

And as for your earlier questions, I think VanDrunen does a good job navigating them in his work (although he doesn't address all the specific topics you mentioned in the list to which you allude).

Alexander Greco said...

Thanks M. Schultz. I have ordered VanDrunen's book and hope to read it soon.

What I meant by Aquinas being referred to as a Christian seems to me to be somewhat surprising given his beliefs on several doctrines which those of the Reformed perspective find to be in opposition to the Gospel. In other words, how radically different was Aquinas' beliefs from what was taught at Trent which would allow for him to be considered a Christian from the Reformed perspective? I don't know of any off hand.

Jae said...

@ Matthew B...your reasoning is right on the MARK! I think you are the only one who makes SENSE here. If we really scrutinize the discussion here like this one for example:

From Mr. Matthew Schultz: "You're free to use DIVINELY INSPIRED confessions if that will help you properly represent our position on the matter."

Wow, if you are a believer of Sola Scriptura then this is a blasphemy! which I think James White also wouldn't agree (except perhaps only his).

Besides the fact of showing Mr. John Bugay his utter failure by using double standard in choosing his "catholic scholar of the day" to appeal support for his cause is just mind boggling!

Alexander Greco said...

Jae, I'm not sure that the case is made. Now Matt is a really good friend of mine, so he can correct me if I'm just not getting it.

It seems to me that other sources besides Scripture can serve the Reformed believer quite well due to its utility in consolidating the Biblical information into a more conducive format which addresses the issue(s) at hand. They certainly wouldn't view the handbook of ethics as being equivalent to Scripture; and having a handbook of ethics doesn't equate into saying that Scripture itself lacks the necessary clarity needed to address the ethical dilemma. I think the critique would be better if one could show that the handbook had moved beyond Scripture by burdening the consciences of it's readers by asserting the sinfulness of something which is beyond what Scripture itself condemns. But this would work on a case by case basis depending upon the handbook under review.

It is my understanding that the perspicuity of Scripture is more of an objective reflection of what Scripture is, not one's subjective approach. Clearly the Reformed believer would not assert that Scripture is clear to everyone who reads it. That would seem to be at odds with an example of someone readoing Scripture who is suffering from a mental pathology. I don't think that Scripture is perspicuous to them. Maybe I'm wrong and this can be clarified for me.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Looks like a reasonable summary, Alexander.

Jae said...

@Alex, thanks for the reply, your notes are duly taken... oh, by the way I have exactly the same situation as yours, ad-hominem attacks, name callings without provocation (and the failure on my part to do the same) just get use to them.

Well, my point is exactly that not all christian ethical matters pertaining to LIFE is found in the Scripture (besides the fact of the total failure of Sola Scrip principle again) or to clearly address the daunting issues presented by the secular world.

Let's give just one example, aside form the fact that in the Holy Scrip it mentioned about that 2 becoming 1 (in marriage) but it also didn't mention anything about 1 becoming 2 or 3 or 4 (cloning).

To add the unfeasibility of Bible Alone principle, some protestant churches (well-meaning christians)I had encountered believed that abortion in the first 3-weeks is not considered killing, why? because the "fertilized embryo" contains NO BLOOD (gives life) which by definition NO life taken on the first place.

Add another one...artificial contraception and another gay-marriage and so on and so forth. (same King James Bible and same Holy Spirit).

Their total lack of distinction (or denial) between the ability to make a BINDING doctrine AS TRUE, regardless of the disobedience of whatever percentage of catholics or priests doesn't make the doctrine false, void or invalid - AS - compared to protestants as adherents of Sola Scrip couldn't able to make a binding doctrine to all protestants and thus which falls on every individual's head or pastor.

So sad, when our Master prayed for His Church to be ONE - as Paul also clearly said:

I Corinthians 1:10 to ". . . be PERFECTLY JOINED together in the SAME mind and in the SAME judgment."

Peace and Grace to you Alex.

natamllc said...

MB

the argument goes something like this:

Php 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.



And it's a pretty safe argument when using it in its simplistic form.

Go ahead and read books, listen to Bishops, attend Mass and believe the Magisterium then. At the end of the day, what the Apostle said here is all that counts!

Whatever you have learned and received and heard and seen, do, and if the God of Peace is not with you then you have just entered into the sin zone, again!

This is the same Apostle who exhorted and commended the followers of Christ in the "new" and "living" Way to God and the Word of His Grace:

Act 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.


And then he gave specific instructions to his spiritual son to do this:

2Ti 4:13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.
2Ti 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.
2Ti 4:15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.


So your argument, at least from how I walk with Him, falls apart with the reasonable nature of it!

Why?

To be brutish then and not to be insulting, "it's the message stupid", that is what counts!

Another more poetic way of expressing the folly of it comes from this Ancient Word of Wisdom:

Pro 25:13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the soul of his masters.
Pro 25:14 Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.


Now fast forwarding back to Paul's relevance, he made a couple more exhortations that every mature man of God experiences on their own and realizes when in the company of those who have too:

Php 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Php 3:15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
Php 3:16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.


1Ti 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

and

1Ti 6:20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called "knowledge,"
1Ti 6:21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.

John Bugay said...

Jae said: From Mr. Matthew Schultz: "You're free to use DIVINELY INSPIRED confessions if that will help you properly represent our position on the matter."

Wow, if you are a believer of Sola Scriptura then this is a blasphemy!


This only demonstrates that you're working with your own imagined doctrine of Sola Scriptura, instead of what genuine Protestant confessions say about it.

Jae said...

@ John Bugay,

Is this good enough for you:
Sola scriptura means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian. The Bible is complete, authoritative, and true. It is the doctrine that the ONLY THE Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness.

So, from your VERY OWN DEFINITION above since you are also holding WFC as AUTHORITATIVE and inspired then you are therefore found guilty of heresy to your kind.

Or you want to rethink your position again as with other protestant denominations are doing since the Reformation began....make your own church.

"At the heart of heresy a contradiction."

John Bugay said...

Jae: Is this good enough for you: Sola scriptura means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian.

No, do you want to try again?