Monday, April 25, 2005

Christians and Sex

Joe Carter is a very smart man. And he writes about a lot of things. But his best posts, in my humble opinion, are about sex. He gives us one more in this series about the Christian view of sex here. I will say, as no criticism of Joe, that my responses to his posts are probably both a commentary on the quality of his posts, and the dearth or really good evangelical Christian writing on this topic, outside of the Catholic church. But I'd be happy to be shown that my response is just reflective of my ignorance of all the good evangelical writing on this topic.

As further evidence for my thesis, see Joe's post on sex and the imagination, maybe my favorite post ever by him.

Euthanasia and "Quality of Life"

In my introductory ethics class we're discussing euthanasia. Much in this debate turns on the conception one has of the significance of the quality of someone's life, measured by certain factors, on whether that life is worth living. I came across this story at Stones Cry Out, and had to share it somewhere. It's not an argument, just a story, but it points at an argument often unappreciated in this debate...

Monday, April 11, 2005

Students and Relativism

I'm assisting with an introductory ethics course right now, and I've run, once again, into the bald relativism held by many undergraduate students. This isn't philosophically sophisticated, Gilbert Harman relativism (though that's still wrong), its "I'm OK, you're OK", all viewpoints are equal, whatever you say is fine relativism. It's apathy or confusion as relativism, in many case, those sometime it is also a commitment to tolerance that they mistakenly think is best founded on relativism.

So I'm in a bit of a quandry, because I believe in and am committed to the idea that I ought not indocrinate my students with my viewpoint, but I find this kind of relativism morally corrosive and wholly objectionable. In addition, I'm not running the class, so I can't set the agenda for my discussions. But I've had several professors who have themselves spent a significant amount of time in class debunking this kind of relativism for students, because they see it as utterly destructive to moral discourse, and a fount of counterintuitive and/or contradictory consequences.

The interesting question is what levels we have to go to to avoid indoctrination and allow the students to work things through for themselves. Philosophy in particular has a commitment to this kind of reasoning process and an aim to create these skills in their students. But its not obvious how exposing students to the problems of moral relativism would undermine this process. And even in a course where this topic is not on the official agenda, it seems to me an important topic to address. Not only for the sake of the students and the culture that they're going to be unleashed on with such views, but also for the course itself and the its pedagogical goals. This type of relativism silences discourse, it makes the discussion of applied ethical issues (which is what this course is all about) pointless, because there's no possibility of moral improvement, or real growth in ethical knowledge. If I'm a student who holds this kind of view, what's the point in listening to the professor (other than the need to reproduce things on the exam)? This, it seems to me, undermines the whole point of having a course in ethical theory and applied ethics. And for these reasons it seems to me appropriate to expose students to the implications of bald moral relativism whenever it rears its ugly head.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Fatherhood has been so amazing. I am continually astonished at what my kids can do, how much they are developing, and the joy that they bring to my heart. I'm also amazed at what parenting is. This is nothing earthshattering, I'm sure many people have recognized this long before I did, but it amazes me nevertheless. We most often have children because we want to have a certain experience, have a certain joy, live through certain things. Even the impulse to create life, or to have a legacy, is somewhat self-oriented. I'm not suggesting that this is a bad thing, in most cases it isn't. It's actually quite wonderful that God has made parenting and children so beautiful and fun, otherwise we wouldn't be nearly as good at populating and extending our species. I'm sure the pleasure of sex has much of this orientation as well, as the church has long recognized. But I'm digressing.

Anyways, I'm amazed that, just like marriage, God uses this wonderful institution of parenting in so many ways. We enter into it for the joy, and discover that God's purposes for it are manifold. We receive this joy in abundance, along with a fair helping of sorrow and frustration. We also participate in the shaping of a life, just as we do in marriage, though even more so here. But if we pay attention, we see that God is using parenting to radically transform us. This is what has amazed me lately. You get married, and realize what a complete selfish, controlling bastard you are. You start to work through these things, and see the wonderful fruit in your relationship. Then you have kids, and you are tested and exposed in ways you've never even imagined before. But, again, this is how you grow. You rail against the responsibility and demands, at least inwardly, and then you find yourself coming to acceptance, and even love of these offices, and wondering what life could have possibly been like before them. I'm still just early in the process, but I'm so thankful that God has built these processes into our lives, and doesn't just leave us where we're at, but gives us opporunities to build growth and maturation into our daily lives. I know that parenting is not all or even primarily about me, but I'm thankful nevertheless for God's provision for me in it.

Of course, I'm even more thankful for those times where my son looks up at me, reaches up his arms, and says, "Up!" :-)