Be Rational

    When confronted by moral choices, Christians are quick to make dogmatic assertions. On cloning a prominent evangelical said simply, "We are not the Creator, and the responsibility to assume control of the universe is not ours." Well, true, but that means very little to those who don't believe in a Creator and think that assuming control of the universe is their responsibility. So when we do that, it's an ineffective way of arguing. In his important new book, THE CLASH OF ORTHODOXIES, Princeton philosopher Robert George writes that moral conflicts in contemporary America manifest themselves above all in conflicts over life issues -- matters like abortion, euthanasia, and cloning. This clash of worldviews, he observes, typically pits orthodox Jews, Christians, and other believers against secular liberals and religious believers who have adopted liberal ideas about morality. Given the way the battle lines are drawn, it's easy to conclude that public policy fights are between the forces of "faith" and the forces of "reason." Secular warriors frequently depict the struggle in these terms and, all too often, Christians acquiesce in this depiction. But, George says, Christians should reject the secularist caricature of faith as irrational. There is no fundamental opposition of faith and reason. On the contrary, faith and reason are mutually supportive. In fact, conservative Christian views on moral issues can be shown to be rationally superior to the alternatives proposed by secular liberalism. "My criticism of secular liberal views is not that they are contrary to faith," George writes, "it is that they fail the test of reason." Take the controversy over cloning and embryonic stem cell research. Secular liberals support the creation and killing of embryonic human beings to obtain their stem cells; but George shows that their position does not hold up under rational scrutiny. For instance, when does the life of a new human being begin? It's not faith, but science that places the matter beyond any doubt: A new human life begins at conception. Are embryonic human beings living members of the species homo sapiens? Again, the plain scientific fact is that they are. Were you, and I, and other adult human beings once embryos? It is scientifically and philosophically undeniable that we were. Can arbitrary factors like size, location, stage of development, and state of dependency provide rational grounds for denying human rights? No decent philosophy will say that they can. Are some human beings, like embryos, the retarded, or victims of Alzheimer's disease, "human non-persons"? The idea is not only morally monstrous, but philosophically incoherent. Secularists say they want to resolve disputes about morality and public policy on the level of reason. Okay, says George, do so. When we engage in honest, rational debate on issue after issue, the Christian position is vindicated, and secularist ideology fails. THE CLASH OF ORTHODOXIES is an indispensable tool for serious Christians to defend Christian truth with rational arguments. It makes sense to argue theology in the church. But when we enter the public square to wage worldview wars, we have to translate biblical truth into arguments skeptics can understand. And when we do, we win. For more information: Robert George, THE CLASH OF ORTHODOXIES (Intercollegiate Studies Inst., 2001). Learn about the Council for Biotechnology Policy. Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics.


Chuck Colson


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