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What Happens Month-by-Month within the Womb?

Jul 31, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Francis Beckwith, Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, and Co-Director of the Program in Philosophical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion, at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, is the author of Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007), the most sophisticated and compelling book on the subject.

In an article he once summarized what happens in the womb throughout a pregnancy:

First Month

Beckwith begins at the beginning:

Pregnancy begins at conception, the time at which the male sperm and the female ovum unite.

What results is called a zygote, a one-celled biological entity, a stage in human development through which each of us has passed (just as we have passed through infancy, childhood, and adolescence).

It is a misnomer to refer to this entity as a “fertilized ovum.” For both ovum and sperm, which are genetically each a part of its owner (mother and father, respectively), cease to exist at the moment of conception.

There is no doubt, he says, that the zygote is biologically alive:

It fulfills the four criteria needed to establish biological life:

  1. metabolism
  2. growth
  3. reaction to stimuli
  4. reproduction.

Beckwith gives two reasons we know that this life is fully human:

First, the human conceptus — that which results from conception and begins as a zygote — is the sexual product of human parents. Hence, insofar as having human causes, the conceptus is human.

Second, not only is the conceptus human insofar as being caused by humans, it is a unique human individual, just as each of us is.

Resulting from the union of the female ovum (which contains 23 chromosomes) and the male sperm (which contains 23 chromosomes), the conceptus is a new — although tiny — individual. It has its own unique genetic code (with forty-six chromosomes), which is neither the mother’s nor the father’s. From this point until death, no new genetic information is needed to make the unborn entity a unique individual human. Her (or his) genetic make-up is established at conception, determining her unique individual physical characteristics — gender, eye color, bone structure, hair color, skin color, susceptibility to certain diseases, etc. That is to say, at conception, the “genotype” — the inherited characteristics of a unique human being — is established and will remain in force for the entire life of this individual.

Although sharing the same nature with all human beings, the unborn individual, like each one of us, is unlike any that has been conceived before and unlike any that will ever be conceived again. The only thing necessary for the growth and development of this human organism (as with the rest of us) is oxygen, food, and water, since this organism — like the newborn, the infant, and the adolescent — needs only to develop in accordance with her already-designed nature that is present at conception.

This is why French geneticist Jermoe L. LeJeune, while testifying before a Senate Subcommittee, asserted: “To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence.”

Beckwith applies this to each of us:

There is hence no doubt that the development of a unique individual human life begins at conception. It is vital that you — the reader — understand that

  • you did not come from a zygote, you once were a zygote;
  • you did not come from an embryo, you once were an embryo;
  • you did not come from a fetus, you once were a fetus;
  • you did not come from an adolescent, you once were an adolescent.

Consequently, each one of us has experienced these various developmental stages of life. None of these stages, however, imparted to us our humanity.

Beckwith describes the process from implantation through the first 30 days in the womb:

Within one week after conception, implantation occurs — the time at which the conceptus “nests” or implants in her mother’s uterus.

During this time, and possibly up to fourteen days after conception, a splitting of the conceptus may occur resulting in the creation of identical twins. In some instances the two concepti may recombine and become one conceptus. . . .

At about three weeks, a primitive heart muscle begins to pulsate.

Other organs begin to develop during the first month, such as a liver, primitive kidneys, a digestive tract, and a simple umbilical cord.

This developing body has a head and a developing face with primitive ears, mouth, and eyes, despite the fact that it is no larger than half the size of a pea. Toward the end of the first month (between 26 and 28 days) the arms and legs begin to appear as tiny buds.

A whole embryo is formed by the end of the first month.

From the eighteenth day after conception, substantial development of the brain and nervous system occurs. This is necessary because the nervous system integrates the action of all the other systems.

By the end of the twentieth day the foundation of the child’s brain, spinal cord, and entire nervous system will have been established.

By the sixth week, this system will have developed so well that it is controlling movements of the baby’s muscles, even though the woman may not be aware she is pregnant.

At thirty days the primary brain is seen.

By the thirty-third day the cerebral cortex, the part of the central nervous system which governs motor activity as well as intellect, may be seen.

Second Month

Despite its small size, the unborn child by the beginning of the second month looks distinctly “human” (although — as this article maintains — it is human from conception). At this point it is highly likely that the mother does not even know she is pregnant.

Brain waves can be detected in the unborn at about forty to forty-three days after conception.

During the second month, the eyes, ears, nose, toes, and fingers make their appearance; the skeleton develops; the heart beats; and the blood — with its own type — flows.

The unborn at this time has reflexes and her lips become sensitive to touch.

By the eighth week her own unique fingerprints start to form, along with the lines in her hands.

A vast majority of abortions are performed during this time, despite the scientific facts which clearly show that an individual human life is developing, as it would after birth, from infant to child to adolescent to adult.

Can the fetus feel pain at this stage? Beckwith answers:

In an important article, Professor John T. Noonan argues that it is reasonable to infer that toward the end of the second month of pregnancy the unborn has the ability to feel pain. It is crucial to remember that the end of the second month (7 to 8 1/2 weeks) is in the first trimester, a time at which a great majority of abortions are performed and at which the Supreme Court said a state may not prohibit abortions performed by a licensed practitioner. From the facts of brain and nerve development, the pained expressions on the faces of aborted fetuses, the known ability to experience other sensations at this time, and the current methods by which abortions are performed, Noonan concludes from his research that as soon as a pain mechanism is present in the fetus — possibly as early as day 56 — the methods used will cause pain. The pain is more substantial and lasts longer the later the abortion is. It is most severe and lasts the longest when the method is saline poisoning.

“Whatever the method used, the unborn are experiencing the greatest of bodily evils, the ending of their lives. They are undergoing the death agony. However inarticulate, however slight their cognitive powers, however rudimentary their sensations, they are sentient creatures undergoing the disintegration of their being and the termination of their vital capabilities. That experience is painful in itself.”

Third Month

Movement is what characterizes the third month of pregnancy.

Although she weighs only one ounce and is comparable in size to a goose egg, the unborn begins to swallow, squint, and swim, grasp with her hands, and move her tongue.

She also sucks her thumb.

Her organs undergo further development. The salivary glands, taste buds, and stomach digestive glands develop — as evidenced by her swallowing and utilization of the amniotic fluid.

She also begins to urinate.

Depending on the unborn’s sex, primitive sperm or eggs form.

Parental resemblance may already be seen in the unborn’s facial expressions.

Fourth Month

Growth is characteristic of the fourth month.

The weight of the unborn increases six times — to about one-half her birth weight.

Her height is between eight and ten inches long and she can hear her mother’s voice.

Fifth Month

In the fifth month of pregnancy the unborn becomes viable. That is, she now has the ability, under our current technological knowledge, to live outside her mother’s womb. Some babies have survived as early as twenty weeks.

The fifth month is also the time at which the mother begins to feel the unborn’s movements, although mothers have been known to feel stirrings earlier. This first movement was traditionally called quickening, the time at which some ancient, medieval, and common-law scholars thought the soul entered the body. Not having access to the biological facts we currently possess, they reasoned that prior to quickening it could not be proven that the unborn was “alive.” Current biology, by conclusively demonstrating that a biologically living human individual is present from conception, has decisively refuted this notion of “quickening,” just as current astronomy has refuted the geocentric solar system.

During the fifth month, the unborn’s hair, skin, and nails develop.

She can dream (rapid eye movement [REM] sleep) and cry (if air is present).

It is, however, perfectly legal under Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton to kill this unborn human being by abortion for any reason her mother so chooses.

Sixth through Ninth Months

In the remaining four months of pregnancy the unborn continues to develop.

The child’s chances of survival outside the womb increase as she draws closer to her expected birthday.

During this time she responds to sounds, her mother’s voice, pain, and the taste of substances placed in the amniotic fluid.

Some studies have shown that the child can actually learn before it is born.

The child is born approximately 40 weeks after conception.

Summary

Beckwith summarizes:

In summary, the pro-life advocate believes that full humanness begins at conception for at least four reasons, which were evident in the above presentation of fetal development:

  1. At the moment of conception a separate unique human individual, with its own genetic code, comes into existence — needing only food, water, shelter, and oxygen in order to grow and develop.

  2. Like the infant, the child, and the adolescent, the conceptus is a being who is in the process of becoming. She is not a becoming who is striving toward being. She is not a potential human life but a human life with great potential.

  3. The conceptus is the sexual product of human parents, and whatever is the sexual product of members of a particular mammalian species, is itself a unique individual member of that species.

  4. And the same being that begins as a zygote continues to birth and adulthood. There is no decisive break in the continuous development of the human entity from conception until death that would make this entity a different individual before birth. This is why it makes perfect sense for any one of us to say, “When I was conceived…”

You can read the whole piece, “Answering Arguments for Abortion Rights,” in four parts:

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10 Updates on Planned Parenthood; A New Video; and How to Contact Congress

Jul 30, 2015 | Justin Taylor

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Mollie Hemingway, writing at The Federalist, provides ten updates on Planned Parenthood:

  1. Injunction On Release Of Potential Upcoming Video
  2. Crisis Communications Firm Helping Planned Parenthood
  3. Planned Parenthood Claims Web Site Attacked, But Was It?
  4. Media Very Interested In Cecil The Lion, But Not Cecile The President Of Planned Parenthood
  5. Hillary Clinton Says Videos Are ‘Disturbing’
  6. Planned Parenthood Poll Mocked
  7. Planned Parenthood Fails To Show Up To Texas Hearing
  8. Trouble for Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood
  9. #UnplannedParenthood
  10. Planned Parenthood Mammogram Falsehood Resurrected

You can read the whole thing here.


Here is the latest video released today (Thursday, July 30, 2015):

DENVER, July 30–New undercover footage shows Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ Vice President and Medical Director, Dr. Savita Ginde, negotiating a fetal body parts deal, agreeing multiple times to illicit pricing per body part harvested, and suggesting ways to avoid legal consequences.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) is a wealthy, multi-state Planned Parenthood affiliate that does over 10,000 abortions per year. PPRM has a contract to supply aborted fetal tissue to Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

In the video, actors posing as representatives from a human biologics company meet with Ginde at the abortion-clinic headquarters of PPRM in Denver to discuss a potential partnership to harvest fetal organs. When the actors request intact fetal specimens, Ginde reveals that in PPRM’s abortion practice, “Sometimes, if we get, if someone delivers before we get to see them for a procedure, then we are intact.”

Since PPRM does not use digoxin or other feticide in its 2nd trimester procedures, any intact deliveries before an abortion are potentially born-alive infants under federal law (1 USC 8).

“We’d have to do a little bit of training with the providers or something to make sure that they don’t crush” fetal organs during 2nd trimester abortions, says Ginde, brainstorming ways to ensure the abortion doctors at PPRM provide usable fetal organs.

When the buyers ask Ginde if “compensation could be specific to the specimen?” Ginde agrees, “Okay.” Later on in the abortion clinic’s pathological laboratory, standing over an aborted fetus, Ginde responds to the buyer’s suggestion of paying per body part harvested, rather than a standard flat fee for the entire case: “I think a per-item thing works a little better, just because we can see how much we can get out of it.”

The sale or purchase of human fetal tissue is a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $500,000 (42 U.S.C. 289g-2). Federal law also requires that no alteration in the timing or method of abortion be done for the purposes of fetal tissue collection (42 U.S.C. 289g-1).

Ginde also suggests ways for Planned Parenthood to cover-up its criminal and public relations liability for the sale of aborted body parts. “Putting it under ‘research’ gives us a little bit of an overhang over the whole thing,” Ginde remarks. “If you have someone in a really anti state who’s going to be doing this for you, they’re probably going to get caught.”

Ginde implies that PPRM’s lawyer, Kevin Paul, is helping the affiliate skirt the fetal tissue law: “He’s got it figured out that he knows that even if, because we talked to him in the beginning, you know, we were like, ‘We don’t want to get called on,’ you know, ‘selling fetal parts across states.'” The buyers ask, “And you feel confident that they’re building those layers?” to which Ginde replies, “I’m confident that our Legal will make sure we’re not put in that situation.”

As the buyers and Planned Parenthood workers identify body parts from last fetus in the path lab, a Planned Parenthood medical assistant announces: “Another boy!”

The video is the latest by The Center for Medical Progress documenting Planned Parenthood’s sale of aborted fetal parts. Project Lead David Daleiden notes: “Elected officials need to listen to the public outcry for an immediate moratorium on Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding while the 10 state investigations and 3 Congressional committees determine the full extent of Planned Parenthood’s sale of baby parts.” Daleiden continues, “Planned Parenthood’s recent call for the NIH to convene an expert panel to ‘study’ fetal experimentation is absurd after suggestions from Planned Parenthood’s Dr. Ginde that ‘research’ can be used as a catch-all to cover-up baby parts sales. The biggest problem is bad actors like Planned Parenthood who hold themselves above the law in order to harvest and make money off of aborted fetal brains, hearts, and livers.”


Are you looking for a way to contact your representatives to let them know how you feel about this and to urge legislative action?

Susan B. Anthony List provides a way to Tell your Senators to Co-Sponsor the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (which would ban abortions after 20 weeks when babies have been scientifically proven to feel pain).

The March for Life Education and Defense Fund provides some guidelines on contacting elected officials.

Writing a Letter

  • Clearly identify what your letter is concerning, and address only one subject or piece of legislation per letter.
  • Clearly state what you want the Member of Congress to do (sponsor, oppose, vote for, investigate, etc.)
  • Be brief, but give good reasons for your letter or request. Keep your letter to no more than one page.
  • Send a thank you letter if appropriate.

Follow these guidelines when addressing your letter:

To a Senator:

The Honorable (full name)
__(Rm.#)__(name of)Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator LAST NAME:

To a Representative:

The Honorable (full name)
__(Rm.#)__(name of)House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative LAST NAME:

Sending an E-mail

  • The same guidelines apply to e-mails as letters.
  • E-mails will reach the recipient more quickly. When writing on time sensitive matters, e-mail may be the best option. Webmail forms can be found on Members of Congress’s individual websites.

Social Media

Find your Senator on Twitter HERE. [Also, House reps on Twitter.]

Call on the Phone

  • Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Senator’s or Representative’s office.
  • Ask to speak to the aide who handles the issue about which you are calling.
  • Identify yourself, and leave a brief message clearly stating what you would like the legislator to do.
  • Be brief, but give some reasons to back up your position on the issue.

To find contact information for Senators, visit:

http://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_contact_senators.htm

For House members, visit:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

As Matthew Hawkins of the ERLC points out, local/district offices (like this) can be more sensitive and responsive than the DC offices, particularly during or near the Congressional recess.
Johnathon Bowers provides a sample email you can adapt and send:
Dear Senator ____,By now, you may have watched the videos released by the Center for Medical Progress exposing Planned Parenthood’s profiting off of the sale of aborted fetal tissue. The content of the videos is disturbing and highlights the destructive nature of the abortion industry. I would urge you to please support S.1881: Bill to Defund Planned Parenthood. I am grieved that our federal tax dollars are being funneled to support an organization that, according to its 2013-2014 annual report, performed 327,653 abortions in one year.

I realize that Planned Parenthood does not only perform abortions. They offer STD testing and contraception resources, for example. However, other organizations offer these kinds of resources, too, without involving themselves in the destruction of life in the womb. As the Bill S.1881 calls for, let’s direct federal funds to these organizations, not to Planned Parenthood.

Thank you for your service to our state and country and for taking the time to consider this very important issue.

Sincerely,

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What the Original Really Means: An Exegetical Parody

Jul 29, 2015 | Justin Taylor

A classic illustration from New Testament scholar Moisés Silva:


It is approximately the year 2790. The most powerful nation on earth occupies a large territory in Central Africa, and its citizens speak Swahili. The United States and other English-speaking countries have long ceased to exist, and much of the literature prior to 2012 (the year of the Great Conflagration) is not extant. Some archaeologists digging in the western regions of North America discover a short but well-preserved text that can confidently be dated to the last quarter of the twentieth century. It reads thus:

Marilyn, tired of her glamorous image, embarked on a new project. She would now cultivate her mind, sharpen her verbal skills, pay attention to standards of etiquette. Most important of all, she would devote herself to charitable causes. Accordingly, she offered her services at the local hospital, which needed volunteers to cheer up terminal patients, many of whom had been in considerable pain for a long time. The weeks flew by. One day she was sitting at the cafeteria when her supervisor approached her and said, “I didn’t see you yesterday. What were you doing?” “I painted my apartment; it was my day off,” she responded.

The archaeologists know just enough English to realize that this fragment is a major literary find that deserves closer inspection, so they rush the piece to one of the finest philologists in their home country. This scholar dedicates his next sabbatical to a thorough study of the text and decides to publish an exegetical commentary on it, as follows:

We are unable to determine whether this text is an excerpt from a novel or from a historical biography. Almost surely, however, it was produced in a religious context, as is evident from the use of such words as devoted, offered, charitable. In any case, this passage illustrates the literary power of twentieth-century English, a language full of metaphors. The verb embarked calls to mind an ocean liner leaving for an adventuresome cruise, while cultivate possibly alerts the reader to Marilyn’s botanical interests. In those days North Americans compared time to a bird—probably the eagle—that flies.

The author of this piece, moreover, makes clever use of word associations. For example, the term glamorous is etymologically related to grammar, a concept no doubt reflected in the comment about Marilyn’s “verbal skills.” Consider also the subtleties implied by the statement that “her supervisor approached her.” The verb approach has a rich usage. It my indicate similar appearance or condition (this painting approaches the quality of a Picasso); it may have a sexual innuendo (the rapist approached his victim); it may reflect subservience (he approached his boss for a raise). The cognate noun can be used in contexts of engineering (e.g. access to a bridge), sports (of a golf stroke following the drive from the tee), and even war (a trench that protects troops besieging a fortress).

Society in the twentieth century is greatly illuminated by this text. The word patient (from patience, meaning “endurance”) indicates that sick people then underwent a great deal of suffering: they endured not only the affliction of their physical illness, but also the mediocre skills of their medical doctors, and even (to judge from other contemporary documents) the burden of increasing financial costs.

A few syntactical notes may be of interest to language students. The preposition of had different uses: casual (tired of), superlative (most important of all), and partitive (many of whom). The simple past tense had several aoristic functions: embarked clearly implies determination, while offered suggests Marilyn’s once-for-all, definitive intention. Quite noticeable is the tense variation at the end of the text. The supervisor in his question uses the imperfect tense, “were doing,” perhaps suggesting monotony, slowness, or even laziness. Offended, Marilyn retorts with a punctiliar and emphatic aorist, “I painted.”

Readers of Bible commentaries, as well as listeners of sermons, will recognize that my caricature is only mildly outrageous. . . .


Silva goes on to point out the obvious: not only does is the exegesis “overinterpretation,” but “it contributes virtually nothing to the reader’s understanding of what the passage actually says!”

He continues:

Preachers who make appeals to “the original” may in some cases help their readers obtain a better insight into Scripture. More often than not, however such appeals serve one of two functions: (1) they merely furnish illustrations to heighten interest to that hearers think they have a better understanding of the passage (cf. the comment on embark above); (2) they provide the occasion to make a point that has little do to with the passage (cf. the comment on patient).

The parody is found in Silva’s excellent book, God, Language, and Scripture: Reading the Bible in the Light of General Linguistics, reprinted in the volume Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation (Zondervan, 1990), pp. 199-201.

This book is profitably read in conjunction with D. A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies (2d ed., Baker Academic, 1996).

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6 Predictions about Evangelicalism over the Next 5 Years

Jul 29, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Greg Forster—author of the excellent book Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It (foreword by Tim Keller)—offers his predictions about evangelicalism over the next five years:

  1. Evangelicals will lose little ground as a percentage of the American population.
  2. Evangelicals will hold steady on core beliefs, but will often sound like we aren’t.
  3. Evangelical cultural influence will decline in the short term as we are persecuted and excluded.
  4. A new Religious Right and a Benedict Option movement will both rise and flame out quickly.
  5. Evangelicals will cultivate local, holistic responses to economic and sexual destruction.
  6. Evangelicals will embrace a “hopeful realism” about America, and end up in a position of strength.

You can read his explanation of each point here.

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The Planned Parenthood Exposé Takes You into a Lab that Procures Baby Parts

Jul 28, 2015 | Justin Taylor

The third video from The Center for Medical Progress released this morning, shot in more of a documentary style with interviews to go alongside the secret recordings:

Human Capital – Episode 1: Planned Parenthood’s Black Market in Baby Parts

Proverbs 24:11-12:

Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.

If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”

Does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it?
And will he not repay man according to his work?

Image from http://adam4d.com/silence/

Image from http://adam4d.com/silence/

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The Single Most Practical Advice for Christians? Never Read a Bible Verse

Jul 27, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 8.39.28 AMGreg Koukl shares his advice: ”Never Read a Bible Verse.”

If there was one bit of wisdom, one rule of thumb, one single skill I could impart, one useful tip I could leave that would serve you well the rest of your life, what would it be? What is the single most important practical skill I’ve ever learned as a Christian?

Here it is: Never read a Bible verse. That’s right, never read a Bible verse. Instead, always read a paragraph at least.

Koukl explains that on his radio program, when people call in with Bible question, this is the technique he uses to answer questions, even when he’s totally unfamiliar with the verse:

I read the paragraph, not just the verse. I take stock of the relevant material above and below. Since the context frames the verse and gives it specific meaning, I let it tell me what’s going on.

This works because of a basic rule of all communication: Meaning always flows from the top down, from the larger units to the smaller units, not the other way around. The key to the meaning of any verse comes from the paragraph, not just from the individual words.

You can read the whole thing, where he goes into more detail and gives a number of examples. Here’s his summary conclusion:

Never read a Bible verse. Instead, read a paragraph, at least. Always check the context. Observe the flow of thought. Then focus on the verse.

Remember, meaning always flows from the top down, from the larger units to the smaller units. A reflection on a Bible passage from a sermon or a devotional may be edifying, encouraging, and uplifting. If it is not the message of the text, though, it lacks biblical authority even when the quote comes right out of the Word of God.

If you will do this one thing if you will read carefully in the context applying the paraphrase principle you will begin to understand the Bible as God intended. Without the bigger picture you’ll be lost.

Only when you are properly informed by God’s Word the way it is written in its context can you be transformed by it. Every piece becomes powerful when it’s working together with the whole.

It’s the most important practical lesson I’ve ever learned . . . and thing single most important thing I could ever teach you.

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Just How Sovereign Is God?

Jul 22, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Charles Spurgeon:

I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes—

that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens—

that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses.

The creeping of an aphid over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence—

the fall of sere leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.

Does Scripture really teach this? I believe the answer is yes. Here is just a tiny sampling:

God Is Sovereign Over . . .

Seemingly random things:

The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the LORD.
(Proverbs 16:33)

The heart of the most powerful person in the land:

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;
he turns it wherever he will.
(Proverbs 21:1)

Our daily lives and plans:

A man’s steps are from the LORD;
how then can man understand his way?
(Proverbs 20:24)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
(Proverbs 19:21)

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. . . .  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15)

Salvation:

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
(Romans 9:15-16)

As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
(Acts 13:48)

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
(Romans 8:29-30)

Life and death:

See now that I, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
(Deuteronomy 32:39)

The LORD kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
(1 Samuel 12:6)

Disabilities:

Then the LORD said to [Moses], “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”
(Exodus 4:11)

The death of God’s Son:

Jesus, [who was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
(Acts 2:23)

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
(Acts 4:27-28)

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief. . . .
(Isaiah 53:10)

Evil things:

Is a trumpet blown in a city,
and the people are not afraid?
Does disaster come to a city,
unless the LORD has done it?
(Amos 3:6)

I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.
(Isaiah 45:7)

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. . . . “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
(Job 1:21-22; 2:10)

[God] sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. . . . As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
(Psalm 105:17; Genesis 50:21)

All things:

[God] works all things according to the counsel of his will.
(Ephesians 1:11)

Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
(Psalm 115:3)

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
(Job 42:2)

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
(Daniel 4:35)

And since compatiblism is true, none of this contradicts the equally biblical teaching that Satan is “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) and that human choices are genuine and significant.

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With a New Undercover Planned Parenthood Video Due Out on Tuesday, Watch This Emotional Speech from a Courageous Politician

Jul 20, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Senator_James_Lankford

Senator James Lankford (R-OK): “It doesn’t bring me comfort to know that one child is torn apart so maybe they can do research on the child’s organs so at some future moment [they can] help a different child.”

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5 Days to Learn a Simple, Practical, Biblical Approach to Prayer

Jul 20, 2015 | Justin Taylor

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When it comes to prayer, do you ever feel like you’re saying the same old things about the same old things?

Sign up to join Don Whitney—author of the new, short book, Praying the Bible—on a 5-day journey to learn a simple, practical, and biblical approach to prayer that will turn duty into delight! In just a few minutes a day, you’ll learn a time-tested method that could transform your prayer life: praying the words of the Bible.

Prayingthebible

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How to Make a Pro-Life Argument in 2 Minutes or Less

Jul 19, 2015 | Justin Taylor

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The Urban Legend that Thomas Jefferson Believed in a Wall Separating Church and State

Jul 16, 2015 | Justin Taylor

It may be surprising for some people to learn that President Thomas Jefferson—who allegedly held to a “wall of separation between church and state”—endorsed the use of federal funds to build churches and also endorsed the use of federal funds to support Christian missionary work among Native Americans.

Daniel Dreisbach—professor of Justice, Law, and Society at American University and the author of Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State (New York University Press, 2003), has a helpful summary article entitled ”The Mythical ‘Wall of Separation': How a Misused Metaphor Changed Church-State Law, Policy, and Discourse.”

He explains:

Jefferson’s wall, as a matter of federalism, was erected between the national and state governments on matters pertaining to religion and not, more generally, between the church and all civil government.

In other words, Jefferson placed the federal government on one side of his wall and state governments and churches on the other.

The wall’s primary function was to delineate the constitutional jurisdictions of the national and state governments, respectively, on religious concerns, such as setting aside days in the public calendar for prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving.

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This jurisdictional or structural understanding of the wall can be seen in Jefferson’s correspondence with the Danbury Baptist Association, where he uses the “wall metaphor.”

President Jefferson had been under Federalist attack for refusing to issue executive proclamations setting aside days for national fasting and thanksgiving, and he said he wanted to explain his policy on this delicate matter. He told Attorney General Levi Lincoln that his response to the Danbury Baptists “furnishes an occasion too, which I have long wished to find, of saying why I do not proclaim fastings & thanksgivings, as my predecessors [Presidents Washington and Adams] did.” The President was eager to address this topic because his Federalist foes had demanded religious proclamations and then smeared him as an enemy of religion when he declined to issue them.

Jefferson’s refusal, as President, to set aside days in the public calendar for religious observances contrasted with his actions in Virginia where, in the late 1770s, he framed “A Bill for Appointing Days of Public Fasting and Thanksgiving” and, as governor in 1779, designated a day for “publick and solemn thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God.”

How, Dreisbach asks, can Jefferson’s public record on religious proclamations in Virginia be reconciled with the stance he took as President of the United States?

The answer, I believe, is found in the principle of federalism. Jefferson firmly believed that the First Amendment, with its metaphoric “wall of separation,” prohibited religious establishments by the federal government only. Addressing the same topic of religious proclamations, Jefferson elsewhere relied on the Tenth Amendment, arguing that because “no power to prescribe any religious exercise . . . has been delegated to the General [i.e., federal] Government[,] it must then rest with the States, as far as it can be in any human authority.”

Dreisbach also quotes from Jefferson’s Second Inaugural Address (March 1805) for further evidence:

In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the constitution independent of the powers of the general [i.e., federal] government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it; but have left them, as the constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of State or Church authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies.

So in essence, Jefferson’s federalism led him to judge it inappropriate for the President to proclaim days of religious observance, but he recognized the authority of state officials to issue such proclamations. So the “wall,” for him, was between the federal government and the state governments when it came to religion.

You can read Dreisbach’s whole piece for further information, including how this metaphor was misused by Justice Black to create a modern urban legend.

For a brief comment on the meaning of the “wall” and its proper application, here is Princeton’s Robert P. George:

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What C. S. Lewis Would Say about Planned Parenthood

Jul 15, 2015 | Justin Taylor

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C. S. Lewis:

I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps.

In those we see its final result.

But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.

—Preface to The Screwtape Letters.

HT: Doug Wilson

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This Kind Cannot Be Driven Out by Worldview Training and Legislation: The Place of Prayer and Fasting for the Pro-Life Movement

Jul 14, 2015 | Justin Taylor

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And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”

And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Mark 9:28-29

John Piper, in his book on fasting, Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer, looks at Francis Schaeffer’s legacy of worldview engagement, and then writes:

But I wonder if many of the young scholars and activists (now in their forties and fifties!) whom he inspired need to hear a balancing word about the power of prayer and fasting, not as an alternative to thinking and acting, but as a radical foundation that says, “The victory belongs to the Lord, even if the horse (of scholarship and politics) is made ready for the day of battle” (see Proverbs 21:31).

Listen to the books crying out for

  • evangelical renewal and reformation in the life of the mind,
  • the restoration of Truth in the place of technique,
  • the recovery of church social compassion from government powerlessness,
  • the taking of moral high ground in the environmental cause,
  • and many other causes.

Is there a sense in each of these that the root issues are so intractable to human suasion that the call for fasting and prayer would not only be fitting but desperately needed?

I am commending such a call.

“Fasting,” Piper writes, “comes in alongside prayer with all its hunger for God and says,

We are not able in ourselves to win this battle.

We are not able to change hearts or minds.

We are not able to change worldviews and transform culture and save 1.6 million children.

We are not able to reform the judiciary or embolden the legislature or mobilize the slumbering population.

We are not able to heal the endless wounds of godless ideologies and their bloody deeds.

But, O God, you are able!

And we turn from reliance on ourselves to you.

And we cry out to you and plead that for the sake of your name, and for the sake of your glory, and for the advancement of your saving purpose in the world, and for the demonstration of your wisdom and your power and your authority over all things, and for the sway of your Truth and the relief of the poor and the helpless, act, O God.

This much we hunger for the revelation of your power.

With all our thinking and all our writing and all our doing, we pray and we fast.

Come. Manifest your glory.

Piper continues:

I appeal to you to seek the Lord with me concerning the place of fasting and prayer in breaking through the darkened mind that engulfs the modern world, in regard to abortion and a hundred other ills.

This is not a call for a collective tantrum that screams at the bad people, “Give me back my country.”

It is a call to aliens and exiles in the earth, whose citizenship is in heaven and who await the appearance of their King, to “do business” until he comes (Luke 19:13).

And the great business of the Christian is to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), and to pray that God’s name be hallowed and his kingdom come and his will be done in the earth (Matthew 6:9-10). And to yearn and work and pray and fast not only for the final revelation of the Son of Man, but in the meantime, for the demonstration of his Spirit and power in the reaching of every people, and the rescuing of the perishing, and the purifying of the church, and the putting right of as many wrongs as God will grant.

I join Piper in commending this practice to you. What looks foolish to the world (forgoing food to pray for the protection of the unborn) may look utterly foolish to the world, but it will be pleasing to the God who sees and rewards in secret.

Update: John Piper suggests we consider fasting over lunch on Wednesday, July 15, to pray for the rescue of the most defenseless members of our society. Will you join us?

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