It is Thanksgiving and there is indeed much to be thankful for, but there is also much to be concerned about. That said, here is this Thanksgiving’s Cultural Thermometer:
1. Stem Cell Break Through Diffuses Debate: Scientists have created the equivalent of embryonic stem cells from ordinary skin cells. This means that scientists could conceivably reach all the potential benefits of stem cell research without extracting cells from cloned embryos–thus allowing scientists to pursue medical advances without killing human embryos. They call this new advance “direct reprogramming” and through this process, scientists can reprogram cells to function much like embryonic stem cells such that they can morph into all kinds of tissue–including heart, nerve and brain tissue!
Stem cell pioneer James Thompson said he was surprised it didn’t take longer to discover how to reprogram ordinary cells. The technique, he said, is so simple that “thousands of labs in the United States can do this, basically tomorrow.”
In contrast, the cloning approach is so complex and expensive that many scientists say it couldn’t be used routinely to supply stem cells for therapy.
It is Thanksgiving and it just wouldn’t be right if the Cultural Thermometer didn’t include a story that we can be thankful for! I don’t claim to be an expert on stem cell research but I think this is a story that we can be thankful for, especially if it truly means that fewer human embryos are going to be killed!
To read more, here is another article from the Washington Post.
2. Are Scientists Playing God? It Depends on Your Religion: In light of the above link, I thought it would be interesting to note that the divide on stem cell research and cloning is much larger when one crosses the Pacific. What I mean is that several Asian countries are much more liberal in their pursuit of human cloning and stem cell research. Here is an excerpt from the NY Times article:
“Asian religions worry less than Western religions that biotechnology is about ‘playing God,’” says Cynthia Fox, the author of “Cell of Cells,” a book about the global race among stem-cell researchers. “Therapeutic cloning in particular jibes well with the Buddhist and Hindu ideas of reincarnation.”
There is certainly a huge cultural divide and its much bigger than just liberal vs. conservative. This article ought to challenge us to teach the biblical worldview clearly–from creation to redemption and to take the gospel to the ends of the earth–especially those places where people have a profoundly different understanding of the value of human life.
Immediate past president of the Royal Society, Professor Lord Robert May said that, given the threat of climate change, a declining global population was “a prerequisite” if humanity was to achieve a sustainable ecological footprint in the future. Addressing the Lowy Institute in Sydney last night, Lord May said a priority was educating and empowering women, “particularly in those cultures where this is not currently the case.”
This isn’t a new arguement, in fact its becoming more and more common, but its a dangerous one and it goes like this:
Global warming is the biggest problem facing us today and larger population means more consumption of natural resources such as fossil fuels that are causing increases in global warming. Thus the most direct way to fight global warming is curb population growth. Thus global warming can best be combated with a good dose of contraception.
Our good friend Brother Hank has been written several posts recently about contraception–read these posts and you will see why I find arguments such as those of Lord May to be highly disconcerting! Further, these arguements are often set forth with a view to promote less conventional forms of contraceptoin such as abortion. Lord May would have us believe that the most direct way to make the world a better place is simply to promote women’s equality (which I am all for) and, as Andrew Leonard from Salon suggests, “hand out more condoms!”
First, I don’t think global warming is our world’s greatest enemy and secondly the world’s greatest problems cannot be solved by simply allowing for more birth control! Futher, as this arguement is used in favor of abortion, we must boldly contend that fighting global warming is no grounds to justify the killing of the unborn.
4. Presbytery is Pushing to Redefine Marriage: Members of the largest denomination of Presbyterian churches in Baltimore are calling on their national body to change the definition of marriage to permit same-sex couples. Under the proposal, marriage in the Presbyterian Book of Order would go from a lifelong commitment made by a “man and a woman” to a “lifelong commitment . . . between two people.”
What bothers me about this article is not so much the proposal (the proposal does bother me, but if you have been following the PC USA you would not be surprized at this development), but the way that ecumenicism is being pushed over the truth. Rev. Steven Carter of Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church in Columbia, says, “when it comes to the role of marriage, in the biblical picture of the world, that is intended to be between a man and a woman.” I would sympathize with Rev. Carter if the article had not gone on to report that Rev. Carter says he will not continue to oppose the proposal because church members are actively working on housing and social justice issues. Rev. Carter said, “I don’t want to get us involved in a fight over something that in the long run is just going to make somebody very unhappy.”
Unfortunately for Rev. Carter, that somebody is God because this proposal clearly runs in direct opposition to the biblical definition of marriage. Rev. Carter is taking a very ecumenical position on this issue and in so doing, trying to keep other churches from leaving the denomination. But in the process I am afraid he has elevated the preservation of his denomination over the truth of Scripture. This is a bigger issue than our definition on marriage, its an issue of the authority of Scripture over what we believe and what we do in our churches. Things are a mess in the P.C. USA in Baltimore, pray for guys like Rev. Carter, that the Lord would make him bold in his stand for the truth in the midst of a congregation that is progressively separating itself from the God-breathed teaching of the Bible.
Well its thanksgiving and I am thankful that our God is sovereign over all things and that His Son has promised to return and bring in the new heavens and the new earth–come Lord Jesus, come.