Our new book on family vocations is out!

I have a new book that I wrote with my daughter, Deaconness Mary Moerbe, with the support of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN, that has just been released from Crossway Books. It’s entitled Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood.

Today when we hear “vocation” we mainly think of “job,” but for Luther and the early Reformers “vocation” referred above all to the estate of the family.  (Work as a calling was itself seen as part of the larger estate of the household; that is, the family and what you do to support your family.)  So Mary and I applied the doctrine of vocation to the specific offices of the family:  Husband and wife; father and mother; child.  We also have some things to say about brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, and ancestors.

And I have to say that vocation provides a way of thinking about all of our family relationships that makes them more precious than ever.   And it’s all so practical, giving us down-to-earth guidance that can help us through our everyday lives, including the problems that come up in marriage, parenting, and being a child.   Our book turned into a comprehensive study of the what the Bible says about all of these offices.  We show how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are literally present and at work in marriage (which images Christ and the Church), parenthood (the Fatherhood of God), and childhood (the Son of God).  We deal with bearing the Cross in these vocations, frankly discussing the problems that people wrestle with in these different callings and what difference the Cross of Jesus can make with these problems.   I even think our book illuminates things like sex and other topics that have been hard for Christians to talk about.

We do all of this without just laying down laws and rules, like most Christian books on the family.  We don’t get bogged down in “who has to obey whom,” though I think we completely resolve the issues in those debates, which take on a completely different light when seen in terms of vocation.  Throughout our focus is on the Gospel.   It’s the Gospel that looms in God’s design behind marriage and parenting and even being a child.

I am not bragging about our book, since we did not invent the teachings that it puts forward, but I am just saying that I myself was greatly benefited by putting this book together.  Mary, with her Deaconness training, brought to bear a depth of Scriptural application that I never thought of before.  I have been studying vocation for a long time, since my book God at Work to which this is something of a sequel, but I really think we have broken new ground in apprehending God’s callings and how we can live out our faith in ordinary life.

When we made our proposal to Crossway, the editors said that they had thought they had seen every approach to family issues that was possible, and yet they had never seen anything like this.  Which is sad, since the doctrine of vocation is the theology of the Christian life and the Biblical teaching on the family.  If Christians can bring back from long disuse the doctrine of vocation, we can stop the breakdown of the family–at least in our own divorce rates, dysfunctional relationships, and counterproductive parenting–and become culturally influential again, like we used to be.

The Amazon site has a “Look Inside” feature, which will let you get a taste of it.  And, yes, it’s also available on Kindle.  So please forgive me for urging you to buy our book.  And let other people know about it, including those having problems in their marriages, with their children, and with their parents.   It would also be helpful to couples contemplating marriage or having just entered that estate.  And for new parents.  And for those who currently belong to a family, which includes everyone.

I would be embarrassed to be so crassly commercial if I didn’t think that you would be blessed by reading  it, as Mary and I were blessed in writing it.

And now calls for “After-Birth Abortions”

If there is no difference between a fetus in the womb and a new born baby, it should follow that neither should be killed.  But, granting the scientific evidence demonstrating the continuity of life, some “ethicists” and pro-abortion fanatics are coming to a different conclusions:  Since we can abort fetuses, we should also be able to “abort” new-born infants.  So says an article in one of the most influential journals in medical ethics:

Two ethicists working with Australian universities argue in the latest online edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics that if abortion of a fetus is allowable, so to should be the termination of a newborn.

(Update: ‘Journal of Medical Ethics’ stands by publication of ‘after-birth abortions’ article.  [Follow the links to read the editors' defense of these ideas.])

Alberto Giubilini with Monash University in Melbourne and Francesca Minerva at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne write that in “circumstances occur[ing] after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.”

The two are quick to note that they prefer the term “after-birth abortion“ as opposed to ”infanticide.” Why? Because it “[emphasizes] that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child.” The authors also do not agree with the term euthanasia for this practice as the best interest of the person who would be killed is not necessarily the primary reason his or her life is being terminated. In other words, it may be in the parents’ best interest to terminate the life, not the newborns.

The circumstances, the authors state, where after-birth abortion should be considered acceptable include instances where the newborn would be putting the well-being of the family at risk, even if it had the potential for an “acceptable” life. The authors cite Downs Syndrome as an example, stating that while the quality of life of individuals with Downs is often reported as happy, “such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”

This means a newborn whose family (or society) that could be socially, economically or psychologically burdened or damaged by the newborn should have the ability to seek out an after-birth abortion. They state that after-birth abortions are not preferable over early-term abortions of fetuses but should circumstances change with the family or the fetus in the womb, then they advocate that this option should be made available.

The authors go on to state that the moral status of a newborn is equivalent to a fetus in that it cannot be considered a person in the “morally relevant sense.” On this point, the authors write:

Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.

[...]

Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life. Indeed, many humans are not considered subjects of a right to life: spare embryos where research on embryo stem cells is permitted, fetuses where abortion is permitted, criminals where capital punishment is legal.

Giubilini and Minerva believe that being able to understand the value of a different situation, which often depends on mental development, determines personhood. For example, being able to tell the difference between an undesirable situation and a desirable one. They note that fetuses and newborns are “potential persons.” The authors do acknowledge that a mother, who they cite as an example of a true person, can attribute “subjective” moral rights to the fetus or newborn, but they state this is only a projected moral status.

The authors counter the argument that these “potential persons” have the right to reach that potential by stating it is “over-ridden by the interests of actual people (parents, family, society) to pursue their own well-being because, as we have just argued, merely potential people cannot be harmed by not being brought into existence.”

via Ethicists Argue for Acceptance of After-Birth Abortions | TheBlaze.com.

The journal article is available here.

Monsters walk among us.

The weaknesses of the arguments are flabbergasting.  They don’t think infants can tell the difference between an undesirable situation and a desirable one?  They don’t think infants know when they are being deprived of something?  Have these ethicists ever tried taking a bottle away from a baby?  And this is their definition of personhood?

This should also weaken the public’s confidence in the hospital  “ethics panels” that we are supposed to trust when Obamacare kicks in.  Presumably the expert ethicists on those panels will be readers of the Journal of Medical Ethics .

Will this be the next pro-life  battle, trying to stop the murder of infants?

HT:  Joanna

Denying Communion to a lesbian

This story marshalled so much outrage that it made the front page of the Washington Post:

Deep in grief, Barbara Johnson stood first in the line for Communion at her mother’s funeral Saturday morning. But the priest in front of her immediately made it clear that she would not receive the sacramental bread and wine.

Johnson, an art-studio owner from the District, had come to St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg with her lesbian partner. The Rev. Marcel Guarnizo had learned of their relationship just before the service.

“He put his hand over the body of Christ and looked at me and said, ‘I can’t give you Communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin,’ ” she recalled Tuesday.

She reacted with stunned silence. Her anger and outrage have now led her and members of her family to demand that Guarnizo be removed from his ministry.

Family members said the priest left the altar while Johnson, 51, was delivering a eulogy and did not attend the burial or find another priest to be there.

“You brought your politics, not your God into that Church yesterday, and you will pay dearly on the day of judgment for judging me,” she wrote in a letter to Guarnizo. “I will pray for your soul, but first I will do everything in my power to see that you are removed from parish life so that you will not be permitted to harm any more families.”

Late Tuesday, Johnson received a letter of apology from the Rev. Barry Knestout, one of the archdiocese’s highest-ranking administrators, who said the lack of “kindness” she and her family received “is a cause of great concern and personal regret to me.” . . .

Johnson called the letter “comforting” and said she greatly appreciates the apology. But, she added, “I will not be satisfied” until Guarnizo is removed.

via D.C. archdiocese: Denying Communion to lesbian at funeral was against ‘policy’ – The Washington Post.

So church discipline is now the business of the news media, the public, and people who do not belong to the church.   I wonder if the person who was denied communion could sue for having her rights violated.

Having said that, the incident seems to bring up some differences between the Roman Catholic use of the Sacrament and that of, for instance, Lutherans.  (I’d like to hear from Reformed, Baptist, Orthodox, and other traditions about how they would handle this.)

For Catholics, one should be free from sin–confessed, absolved, penance performed–before receiving the Sacrament.  Lutherans, in contrast, see the Sacrament as being specifically for sinners.  To receive the Sacrament unworthily is to receive it without faith (Small Catechism vi).

And yet, I’m not sure how this is handled pastorally.  Perhaps someone living in open and unrepentant sin is likely not in a state of faith.  On the other hand, perhaps she has repented.  If she confessed her sin in the rite of confession and she was absolved, hasn’t she, in fact, been objectively forgiven?  Lutheran pastors, how would you have dealt with this woman?  Again, I’d like to hear from pastors of other traditions also.  (For those of you who think communion is only symbolic, would this not be an issue at all since it doesn’t really matter?)

For this discussion, please do me a favor:  Please leave out complaints about Lutheran churches that practice closed communion!  (“You’d commune that lesbian, but not me because I’m a Methodist!”)  We have had that discussion.  Your complaint is registered.  Let’s stick to the issues raised in this story.

HT:  Aaron Lewis

Bonus day

Today is the added day for Leap Year, February 29. Once every four years we get an extra day in the year. Consider it a bonus. Treat it like a gift!

Chrislam?

Rick Warren, megachurch pastor and author of the Purpose Driven Life, is working to reconcile evangelicals and Muslims:

The Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and one of America’s most influential Christian leaders, has embarked on an effort to heal divisions between evangelical Christians and Muslims by partnering with Southern California mosques and proposing a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

The effort, informally dubbed King’s Way, caps years of outreach between Warren and Muslims. Warren has broken Ramadan fasts at a Mission Viejo mosque, met Muslim leaders abroad and addressed 8,000 Muslims at a national convention in Washington D.C.

Saddleback worshippers have invited Muslims to Christmas dinner and played interfaith soccer at a picnic in Irvine attended by more than 300 people. (The game pitted pastors and imams against teens from both faiths. The teens won.)

The effort by a prominent Christian leader to bridge what polls show is a deep rift between Muslims and evangelical Christians culminated in December at a dinner at Saddleback attended by 300 Muslims and members of Saddleback’s congregation.

At the dinner, Abraham Meulenberg, a Saddleback pastor in charge of interfaith outreach, and Jihad Turk, director of religious affairs at a mosque in Los Angeles, introduced King’s Way as “a path to end the 1,400 years of misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians.”

The men presented a document they co-authored outlining points of agreement between Islam and Christianity. The document affirms that Christians and Muslims believe in “one God” and share two central commandments: “love of God” and “love of neighbor.” The document also commits both faiths to three goals: Making friends with one another, building peace and working on shared social service projects. The document quotes side-by-side verses from the Bible and the Koran to illustrate its claims.

“We agreed we wouldn’t try to evangelize each other,” said Turk. “We’d witness to each other but it would be out of ‘Love Thy Neighbor,’ not focused on conversion.” . . .

Warren has faced criticism from some evangelicals for his outreach to Muslims. Late last year, he issued a statement flatly denying rumors that he promulgates what critics term “Chrislam,” a merging of Islam and Christianity.

The “rumor is 100 percent false,” Warren wrote at Pastors.com, a website he founded that provides practical advice to church leaders. “My life and ministry are built on the truth that Jesus is the only way, and our inerrant Bible is our only true authority.”

via Rick Warren builds bridge to Muslims | muslims, warren, saddleback – Life – The Orange County Register.

Getting along, being kind to one another, making friends–that’s fine.  But why come up with a joint theological statement like that?  If Muslims and Christians have the same God, isn’t that “Chrislam”?

Nationalizing the curriculum despite the law

The federal government is forbidden, by law, to establish a national curriculum for the public schools.  So, instead, the Department of Education is orchestrating a “voluntary” movement by dangling federal money to the states that go along.  So far, 45 states are on board, creating a de facto national curriculum.  Peter Wood of the Chronicle of Higher Education, no less, calls foul:

Before 1965, the federal government more or less left the matter entirely to the states, but that year President Johnson championed legislation, the Elementary and Secondary School Act (ESEA) that put the federal government in the business of funding portions of school districts’ budgets. The framers of the bill, aware that one thing leads to another, put in stiff statutory limitations that prohibited federal involvement with the K-12 curriculum.

Lots of federal legislation affecting the schools has followed over the years but all of it has stuck to the principle that the curriculum is a no-go area for federal authorities. The General Education Provisions Act (GEPA), the Department of Education Organization Act, and the No Child Left Behind Act were solidly aligned on this point. As GEPA put it:

No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system…

There are no acts of Congress that create significant loopholes in these prohibitions, and none that offer up a contrary principle inviting the federal government to step into curricular matters.

These laws have been a source of frustration for would-be education reformers, left and right, who often have often been drawn to the idea that with the benefit of a little federal government muscle they could, at last, cut through the seaweed that has so far choked every effort to reform the nation’s public schools.

The Obama administration, facing the same legal obstacles as all its predecessors, chose a novel tactic. It orchestrated a program under the auspices of National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) which proposed standards that the states would be free to adopt. But “free” came with some sweeteners. The Race to the Top dangled hundreds of millions of dollars among those states that chose to adopt the Common Core. As for those states that chose not to…they face some interesting consequences too. I wrote about this last year in “The Core Between the States.”

Eitel and Talbert’s nineteen-page analysis of the legal standing of the Common Core State Standards mounts a powerful case that the Obama administration has overstepped itself. The Road to a National Curriculum does its most devastating work by quoting from Department of Education documents that lay out in plain language the effort to use federal resources to achieve results prohibited by statute. One such document, for example, explains, “The goal of common K-12 standard is to replace the existing patchwork of State standards that results in unequal expectations based on geography.”

Whether you think that is a worthy goal is beside the point. Over the last fifty years Congress has repeatedly told the executive branch of the U.S. government “keep out” of the school curriculum.

via The Core Conundrum – Innovations – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Wood points out that whether one favors a national curriculum or not, this is surely a violation of the law.

What would be the advantages of a national curriculum?  (Would it be likely to lift academic standards and improve learning for the entire country?)  What would be the disadvantages?  (Wood thinks it would squelch what bright spots there are and drag all schools down into mediocrity.)   What other issues do we need to be concerned about?

HT:  Jackie


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