Culture Friday: Life on ice

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday the 3rd of August, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

It’s Culture Friday and time now to welcome John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

John, good morning.


EICHER: Really interesting story out of Arizona, John, where a new law took effect this summer on the issue of frozen embryos.

Before looking into this law, I didn’t know about the numerous rulings in divorce cases in which judges agreed with husbands to destroy any frozen embryos the divorcing couple had produced during the mariage.

The idea was, the marriage is broken and the departing husband didn’t want the wife to have a child after the divorce.

But here’s the position Arizona is now taking. In that state, the courts are now required to side with whichever spouse — and this is what the law says — whichever spouse “intends to allow the embryos to develop to birth.”

Talk about the implications of this, John.

STONESTREET: Well, it’s a good bill in the sense that it’s fixing an immediate problem. On the other hand, I think the most accurate way to describe it is a band-aid on a gaping wound.

Artificial reproductive technologies have gotten so far ahead of our ethics and our laws that we really have a human-rights crisis on our hands. What this law is attempting to deal with is the reality that there are nearly one million little babies, frozen embryos leftover from these reproductive technologies in freezers. People who create these embryos, the doctors and the couples, have the best intent that this is a way to bring life into the world. The problem is it bring excess life into the world. And even just think of that phrase “excess life.”

So, in a typical round of in-vitro fertilization, unless it has been ethically bound to create no more than one at a time, which is expensive and painful and so on, so typically multiple embryos are created at a time — 14, 15,  or something in that neighborhood — and then are implanted in rounds. And if the first handful that get implanted in the womb catch, then now you have leftover embryos that are in freezers and what happens then if the marriage falls apart?

That’s what the Arizona law is trying to address.

Now, what I like about the Arizona law is it errs on the side of life, which is something I think the law should always do. The embryos now are going into the custody of the parent most likely to bring those embryos and implant them and give them a chance at extended life. But right now, that doesn’t address, again, the nearly million leftover embryos that are in freezers, many of which will be discarded, will be destroyed, or will be donated to science to be experimented on.

Essentially, these were embryos created to be orphans. And if we assume that life begins at conception, which both science, philosophy, and I would argue theology all lead us to believe.

And to give a kind of quick here overview, God created sex, marriage, and babies to be a package deal. The sexual revolution divorces sex, marriage, and babies from each other. And, of course, we’ve talked a long time as Christians about what happens when marriage and babies are separated through divorce or through bringing intentionally single-parent homes or things like that. Well, this is the third chapter of that, which is what happens when you divorce babies from sex. This is where the long theological understanding that these two things belong together needs to come into play.

EICHER: This summer, the research group Barna released its annual “State of the Bible” report. Surveys like these always grab my attention, and I guess it’s just the skeptic in me, because I seem always to be looking for contradictions.

So I liked what you had to say this week on your Breakpoint in connection with this year’s survey. Essentially you contrasted the Barna finding that half of all Americans fall into the category of Bible users, yet a Gallup survey found that more Americans than ever have adopted views on issues of morality that are clearly at odds with Biblical teaching.

Talk a little bit about that, John, particularly your advice about how NOT to read the Bible.

STONESTREET: Well, I think there is a connection here. I mean, if we are — if the level of Bible engagement is high, why isn’t it shaping how we think about life and the world? I think that’s a valid question when you see kind of the growing acceptance among Americans and specifically American Christians for things that aren’t theologically up in the air when it comes to things like same-sex marriage or sexual behavior or how we spend our time and money and things like this. And you look at these surveys and I remember Chuck Colson once saying, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is there are more Christians than ever before. The bad news is it doesn’t seem to be making any difference.” And that’s kind of like, “I’ve got good news and bad news.” In other words, most Christians engage with the Bible. The bad news, it’s not shaping their thinking.

The standard for engagement’s pretty low. It’s basically engaging with the Bible outside the church three or four times a year. That’s a pretty low bar of what we mean by Bible engagement. And years ago I was stunned and convicted and struck by a line from a friend of mine, a theologian in New Zealand who said you will never have a biblical worldview unless you’re immersed in the scriptures. So, you have this idea of Christianity which is a revealed worldview, it’s not a discovered worldview as, say, secularism would be or even if you think of Buddhism and Hinduism as kind of an internal discovery of oneself. Christianity, like Islam and Judaism, are revealed worldviews. They’re given to us from authoritative sources. Or, what people consider to be authoritative sources. We would say there’s a good reason to believe Christian revelation as opposed to the Quran.

But, if revelation is so central to our worldview, the question is is it shaping our hearts and our minds? And the commentary I did this week on Breakpoint was that if the Bible’s going to shape our minds, it can’t be just because we read it. It’s gotta be because we read it on its own terms. And what happens is a lot of Christians have gotten into the habit and Christian publishers are putting out books like this all the time and they have devotional books and so on where basically the Bible is treated as a disconnected set of what Philip Yancey once called moral McNuggets where you take a verse out of context from this letter of Paul or you take a story out of context because it makes me — it inspires me, it encourages me, and — from the Old Testament and then we treat it like Aesop’s Fables where there’s a story and here’s the moral nugget that comes out of it to apply to your life.

What that means is we’re not reading the whole counsel of God, we’re not reading the Bible on its own terms and we’re not recognizing the Bible for what it is. One of the things I think is really important to realize is that if the Bible is inspired, it’s not just inspired in what it says, it’s inspired in how it chooses to say it to us. In other words, the Bible was given to us as a grand sweeping narrative. And like a grand sweeping story, if you can think of the Lord of the Rings, it’s not something you want to take apart. It’s something that you want to live into. And I think that’s really how the people of God need to re-approach the scriptures is realizing that consistently on a day-to-day basis, the culture is telling us this is true about the world and this is the story of your life and this is your best life now. And, really, what the scripture wants to do fundamentally is not just answer the moral and therapeutic questions that we have, but it wants to sweep us up into its reality because it is the reality. And that’s a different way of handling the scripture, I think.

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday, John, thanks so much, and we’ll talk again next week.

STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick.

(Photo/AP) Embryologist Rick Slifkin demonstrates fertilization techniques on a nonviable embryo at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York, in New York.

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