We're trying something different today! A new bonus series where we'll discuss a few current cultural issues that are in the news — and also answer some Q&A sent in by listeners.
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- Welcome to the first Think Biblically Cultural Update.
I'm your host, Sean McDowell.
- I'm your co-host, Scott Rae.
- And we're trying something new here.
We're gonna look at a few cultural issues through a biblical lens, give you some thoughts on 'em, and then also take questions that you send into us from previous episodes.
Scott, our hope is to start doing this weekly, and this is kind of a sample.
So we want your feedback, we want your thoughts.
This is gonna be fun.
We've been talking about doing this for a long time.
Scott, what do you say we just jump right into three fascinating stories, really in your lane, kind of bioethics, so to speak?
- Yeah, first one is actually very, very timely because it has to do with the war in Israel against Hamas.
- It's the story of a healthcare center, a hospital in Israel in the town of Haifa, which is in the northern part on the coast, that two years ago, this medical center launched a mission to bridge the gap between Israeli and Palestinian communities and offer medical services, particularly to pediatric patients and to cancer patients, to Palestinian patients from both Gaza and the West Bank.
And they established a whole coordination unit to facilitate the management of these cases and to work out all the logistics.
And what they did, they were able to provide treatment in those two years for 34 pediatric patients and 84 adults coming from both Gaza and the West Bank.
The war that started on October the 7th changed everything.
But what they discovered is that their mission was still intact and still necessary.
Even in the midst of the war that was raging throughout Gaza and to a lesser extent in the West Bank, this particular hospital, it's called the Rambam Healthcare Campus, it's a research hospital, tertiary care, high care research hospital, was still treating patients coming from Gaza and the West Bank who had been injured but were unable to return home.
Here's how they put it.
Despite the crimes committed by Hamas, we believe in the strength of humanity and are doing the best to render medical and support care to those in need at our doorstep and within our facility, irrespective of the patient's religion or nationality.
The human spirit will prevail, good will will triumph over evil, which will enable us to resume the mission of professional and human cooperation for the sake of our patients.
So they're continuing to treat patients who end up on their doorstep, we're not exactly sure how they did, who are coming from the different Palestinian regions.
So this was Israeli started, Israeli funded.
Was it private or was this through a government funded?
This is a government, this is a government hospital, it's a government research, academic government medical center.
Specifically helping out all people, including Palestinians.
Yeah, regardless of nationality or religion.
That's incredible that they started this two years ago.
And if there was any excuse to stop this, on October 7th, you'd think, we're fed up with this, we're not helping your people, but that is not what they've done.
They've continued to help.
They've continued to treat patients who end up on their doorstep, regardless of religion or nationality.
Wow, I'm curious what your takeaway is from this.
Partly my takeaway is I've been Israel at least four times and I visit along the wall.
I've talked with generals that are there.
The lengths that Israel tries to go to and goes to, to minimize harm against Palestinians and others.
And in this case, not only limit harm, but help positively is remarkable.
And is not given its due credit.
Stories like this just fall under the radar and are not getting the credit from the major publications 'cause they don't really fit the narrative of how we want to paint Israel from many power positions.
Yeah, it doesn't fit the narrative of Israel as a colonizer, as an oppressor.
It's just, I mean, I find it a very hopeful sign in the midst of a terrible situation.
That there are still folks where their human instincts are coming to the surface and they're still continuing to do the right thing, regardless of what's going on around them, regardless of the policies of either government, they're still committed to doing the right thing by their patients.
And they are practicing basically a colorblind medical practice.
That's pretty powerful.
At some point, it'd be fascinating to hear the stories of some of the very physicians and the people working there and what that's like knowing that their very own people, the way they had been treated by Hamas, when they turn around and show this kindness and show their medical aid and training to help some of the people that they would at least from a human perspective, have, I'm not talking to say good reason, but understandable human reason to feel hatred towards and they're not expressing that.
That's really powerful.
I would love to hear the stories of some of those doctors, some point if they came forth.
My suspicion is, is that they're not eager to stand up and say, "Hey, look at what I've done.
" They're just doing the kind of work that so many people in Israel do to care for their neighbor press aside.
Yeah, I think they're quietly been building bridges over the last two, two and a half years to try to do something to help bring Israelis and Palestinians together.
That's in their wheelhouse that they can do.
I don't think they want a lot of credit for it, but it's just, I think it just stands out as a nice little bit of hope that maybe there is some tread of humanity left as this terrible thing continues.
And it's a good encouragement that when we look around us, sometimes it feels like we can't control these wars and these battles and these cultural shifts.
There's nothing we can do, but here's a group of people saying, "Well, there's something I can do.
" Might not change the war, but it's gonna be a sign of hope.
It's a positive act that's showing love for my neighbor.
Those are the kinds of things we can do.
We can't be discouraged because we can't change things in a 30,000 foot view from doing acts of kindness and charity and sacrifice on a smaller scale.
And this is a great reminder of that.
Well, let's go to the second story.
Here's a second one.
And this has been sort of, I wouldn't say raging, but it's been a movement kind of below the surface in the West for some time.
This has to do with the way sperm and egg donors, sperm donors primarily, are being protected with anonymity.
Okay, here's, under the law, if a person agrees to donate sperm to an infertile couple or to a same sex couple or a single mother by choice, who wants to be inseminated and raise a child on her own, those donors are not entitled to any parental rights.
And they're also guaranteed anonymity.
They sign away any parental rights right at the time that they donate.
And they're also guaranteed anonymity so that 20 years later after the child's grown up, they can't, the child can't come seeking out the bio parent wanting a relationship.
'Cause the chances are that the person who donated likely as a college student or graduate student, 20 years later has their own family, their own life, and is not, it just wants, doesn't want anything to do with a child that they had a part in conceiving, when they were much, much younger.
So that's the reason that the law is the way it is.
Now donor conceived children are the, who become adults are the ones who are pushing to have this legislation changed.
Okay, got it.
It's really interesting.
Because they have this hole in their heart that wants to connect with their bio, even though they may never have known the person, never had a relationship with them, there's something that makes them want to connect with their bio parent.
And so they want to be able to make contact with them, at least to try to establish a relationship with the person.
And of course, whether it's mutual or not, that's later to be determined.
And if you want, I think for our listeners, if you want to know the scope of this, just Google an organization called the Donor Sibling Registry.
It's a group has tens of thousands of people in the registry and they are basically kids who are born of sperm or egg donation arrangements who are trying to locate their bio parent.
And it's a registry of kids who hoping by getting connected, they can help track down their bio parent.
They estimate that roughly two thirds of the kids in the registry have not connected with their bio parent and probably never will.
But what it shows is this deep seated desire to connect with the person who conceived you.
Now, interestingly, the people who are pushing back on this are primarily the LGBTQ community because same sex couples today are the primary users of assisted reproductive technology.
It's not in fertile couples.
It's not heterosexual couples, it's same sex couples.
That are the primary people who are using egg donation, surrogacy and the case of lesbians, of course, sperm donation.
So they're the ones pushing back and they wanna keep it anonymous.
And the reason is because once anonymity is removed, the number of available sperm and egg donors is gonna fall off a cliff.
It's gonna dramatically reduce.
Oh my goodness.
So this is pending but is not become law or accept.
What's the legal status and likelihood of this?
They are lobbying the federal government at the moment to change the law, the regulation on this.
It's actually not a congressional law.
It's a regulation on the assisted reproductive industry.
So it's something that could be changed.
So first you said the West, this is distinctly in the US.
This is in the US, yeah.
But it has ramifications beyond all throughout the West where anywhere where sperm and egg donation are, are flourishing.
Now some countries in Europe, for example, have restrictions against it.
Germany, for example, has lots of restrictions on assisted reproductive technology because of their experience with some of the, you know, the Nazi experiments in this area and the eugenics experiments.
And England, you know, regulates this differently.
Australia regulates it differently than we do.
We've sort of been, we've been a bit of the wild, wild West out there.
To say the least.
To say the least, yeah.
You know, years ago, when the University of California, Irvine, its assisted reproductive clinic had an egg swapping scheme that literally hundreds of egg donors and recipients had their eggs swapped because some egg donor recipients were not produced, or some egg donor recipients were not producing any eggs themselves.
And some donors were producing way more than the couple could actually use.
And so they actually, the physician swapped some eggs from one donor to a different recipient, but without telling anyone.
Oh my goodness.
And there were close to 200 children born of these arrangements.
And thankfully the adults acted like adults, left well enough alone, nobody pressed their rights for my biological child.
It was one of the few instances where the interest of children outweighed the rights of adults in this area.
But none of that at the time was illegal.
It was shocking to discover laws were soon passed after that to make sure it never happened again.
But that just shows how this whole area tends to be, in my view, a bit under regulated in some of these areas.
Do you have any sense of the likelihood that this regulation would change?
They're lobbying it?
I mean, is this just a shot in the dark?
Do we not really know?
'Cause it's so new.
Are there such powers that be, you said, the LGBTQ community behind it?
That's a very powerful institution that is behind this.
And their claim is that this will basically undermine the legitimacy of LGBTQ families.
Now that's, I don't know.
I don't know.
I mean, what you said about people having this desire to know their biological roots.
My sister was adopted.
I think she was just a few weeks old.
I remember I was 10 years old, first time that she came home.
I remember it well.
And when she was a student here at Biola, wanted to track down her biological mother and did.
And even the moment I met her biological mother, I was like, oh, that explains certain things and her characteristics, just personality things, obviously shaped by her family.
But there was also a partner that's like, I wanna know my roots where I'm from.
That is a human desire.
That's a piece of who we are in our life.
We all wanna know our origin, where we came from.
And that wasn't to dishonor our family.
We all were rooting for her.
And so I think that's a good natural desire that the government should not prevent people from finding out.
That's a part of who they are.
I think that's- And it's in their medical interest to know they're part of their medical history too.
That's fair enough, not only your identity, but your medical interest.
And I think the government is harming by these kinds of rules that's preventing people from knowing.
Yeah, I think that the reason that the LGBTQ community fears that it's undermining their ability to form families is that with the identification of some of these donors as the bio parents, that they might further press for parental rights to the children that they now have a relationship with.
So this in a sense is opening up the door for further, like could somebody say- For further erosion.
Somebody who's 10 years old finds their biological, do you have to give further payments to that person?
Are there any other legal rights?
Like this is opening up the door for so many different- That's right.
Dynamics, that's what the concern is.
Well, and biology has been the trump card for assigning parental rights, except in these cases.
So it wouldn't be unusual to see that be reassigned once that door is opened, if it does get opened.
My heart goes out, you said tens of thousands in this sibling registry.
These are people who are just yearning to know, what's my biological mother or father like?
What's my lineage?
Who am I?
I mean, these are deep human questions that I think all those people in that registry in some fashion or another have been harmed and denied a knowledge and relationship that God has designed them to have.
It's obvious that they want one.
The report that was done on this several years ago was entitled, ironically, "My daddy's name is donor.
And that's how they're known.
Like I feel for so many of these people, many probably aren't even kids anymore, and now they're adults.
Most of them are not, yeah.
Our colleague, Jennifer Law, in her organization, the Center for Bioethics and Culture has produced a documentary on this called "Anonymous Father's Day.
It's a very heartfelt, but very revealing look at the industry.
And the laws that protect the anonymity of the donors are what is, that's probably the main thing that causes the industry to flourish like it does.
You know, I think the biblical principles here is just that God has designed the family.
He's designed the creation process for a reason.
And it's good.
And He's built in with us to want to know our moms, to want to know our dads, to be loved and to be known and to celebrate Father's Day.
And these kind of government laws and cultural shifts come in and separate that further and further, and the hurt and the pain and the harm results in the lives of individuals.
Yeah, and I think the Bible, the Bible I think is fairly clear that third parties coming into the matrix of marriage is problematic.
And the single mothers by choice that deliberately is excluding the role of fathers, we would say it's not only problematic morally, but it's also harmful to children.
So I think there's some reasons to think that, well, if this was discouraging to the sperm donation industry, that might not be a bad thing altogether.
Let's look at one more story here, and then we'll take some questions.
We have some questions on a range of interesting topics.
This one, I found this last one fascinating because this is the only court I'm aware of in the world that has ruled like it has.
This has to do with what's called voluntary assisted dying, which is the newest euphemism for assisted suicide.
That's all it is, the new phrase for it.
That's right, yeah.
Or something, yeah, medically assisted dying, something like that.
One of the stigmas around assisted dying is the notion that it constitutes something akin to suicide.
Okay, that's right.
Every jurisdiction that I'm aware of that has passed laws legalizing voluntary assisted death has a clause in it that says explicitly, this does not constitute suicide.
Now, on what basis they say that is not always, or is rarely stated.
But the main reason is so that the beneficiaries are not denied life insurance or any other benefits in the death of their loved one.
For legal reasons, yeah.
This is just recently in a part of Australia where one of the courts, it's a federal court in the state of Victoria in Australia was asked to rule that voluntary assisted dying is not suicide.
The judge refused.
Wow, in Australia.
He said after a long examination of the relevant legislation and parsing the word suicide, she concluded that insofar as the act that legalized and purports to authorized medical practitioners to provide information about particular methods of committing suicide, it purports to authorize them to engage in conduct that the criminal code has criminalized.
That's the only court in the world that I'm aware of that has said that the position, the aid in dying actually constitutes suicide.
I was shocked when I read this because that is so counter to the way it has been treated throughout the West in every place that it's been legalized.
Okay, so this is clearly an outlier at this stage.
You have a sense of how high this court is in Australia.
Is it gonna have precedent for further areas in the land?
Is it going to be challenged?
I'm sure it will be challenged.
I don't think this is the, I don't think we've heard the last word on this.
So my guess is it will probably go to the Supreme Court of the state of Victoria eventually.
Whether or not I go beyond that, I don't know.
Because most, in Australia, these things are typically ruled by the various states themselves.
So the chances are I think it would stop there.
Now, I mean, I don't know anything about the legal system in Australia, but it's obviously a more Western secular country.
It's a British system basically.
But I would be surprised given the worldview if this held and became kind of a precedent in the land.
Is that your instincts and intuition?
That's hard to say.
It is unusual.
And in Australia, when there is a clash between state and federal law, federal law usually prevails.
And this was taken up in a federal court, which you would expect.
So what this does, what it actually prevents is not only the administration of assisted suicide, but also the giving of advice about various means and methods of assisted suicide, because that can be seen as inciting suicide, which is clearly against the law.
I mean, that's very common.
So philosophically, do you agree with this?
Do you have any reservations in the way that was passed?
Or are you like, this would be awesome if this was Diamonos and other-- I think this would be a huge win for the elderly, for the people who are victims of non-voluntary euthanasia, for people who really can't make these decisions themselves and have those decisions, force it upon them by well-meaning relatives.
I think it gives them protection.
And I think it's recognizing the obvious that this is committing suicide.
What we're saying by passing the law is that it's a morally justifiable committing of suicide.
But we ought to say it for what it is and not use different euphemisms to disguise what it actually is.
That is a fascinating story.
And we will definitely be following that.
Definitely worth keeping your eye on.
That is really interesting.
Well, let's turn to some questions that we received.
And if you have questions for us or comments, send them to thinkbiblically@biola.
We've got philosophical questions, psychological questions, and a practical question, Scott.
So we'll do our best to dive in.
This first question comes to us from a lady who says she appreciates the work we do in Christian apologetics, struggling with a spouse, a fiance, I'm sorry, who has a experience in a faith crisis.
They're about to get married.
And he recently shared that he's becoming more agnostic or atheist, struggles with his faith, goes on and on.
Well, I stay in this relationship and pursue marriage to them even though I know he's already unsure of his faith and being skeptical about Christian beliefs and doctrines.
How do I navigate this?
If you were already married, you would stay married.
I think Paul is clear with this in 1 Corinthians chapter seven.
It would have an unbelieving spouse, is not biblically justified divorce, but you are not married yet.
If you are my daughter and you asked me this question, I would look you right in the eyes and I would say minimally, put a huge pause on this until you are confident that your spouse has worked through his questions about faith and you see eye to eye on this.
Otherwise, there are so many practical and spiritual and other, I think difficulties coming up that you can't even anticipate at this stage.
So I would strongly say, walk away from this engagement minimally.
I say, yeah, from the engagement.
I'm not sure about walking away from the relationship and not necessarily, but some of the things you're describing may not come to roost until they have children.
And then they have to make decisions on how they're gonna raise their children and in what sort of religious tradition, if at all, they're going to raise them.
That can cause irreconcilable differences, especially if he's become a bit more hardened in his agnosticism or atheism.
That could be a major problem down the road.
I think that's great.
The only piece I would add, I think Christians should marry other Christians.
I think scripture lays this out, but sometimes I've seen Christians marry people of other faiths, but they're at a point where they're already settled and they count the cost going in.
Again, I still would take big issue with that, but even here, we don't even know where this fella's going.
His journey is wide open.
That adds even further layers of complexity and I think potential difficulty down the road.
Well, and I suspect we would say, if this were a vocational ambiguity, we'd probably tell her, put this on pause until he's resolved where he's headed vocationally.
How much more would we do that if the question is how he's headed spiritually?
Scott, all this time we've done the show together, did not know we could do a little counseling together as well.
I think, I don't know.
Let's not hang out our shingle quite yet though.
All right, first one, that's our thoughts.
All right, here's another question that says, I enjoyed listening to the podcast episode, "What is a Woman?
" with Kate McCoy.
And she carried an excellent conversation on what has happened in society regarding transgenderism.
A question came to mind when she referred to transgenderism as a malady such as depression or anxiety.
Here's the question, should homosexuality fall under the classification also of being a malady?
Why or why not?
Do we do for both?
Only for one.
What are your thoughts?
I say we do for both.
And I would put it, it's a malady because it's a result of the general entrance of sin into the world.
And not the way God created things to be.
So the same sex attraction, I think to be fair, what the Bible has difficulty with is not so much the attraction, but the behavior that follows from the attraction.
So lust would be sort of creating your own sexual fantasy with you as the main character.
And then further acting out on that would be, I think would be, that's the part I think that the scripture is most troubled with.
The reason I would say that the attraction itself is morally neutral in terms of culpability is because in most cases it's not chosen.
And I don't think the Bible holds us accountable for the most part for things that we don't choose to do.
So I would say we have to be a little bit more careful about this.
It's the homosexual behavior that I think is problematic.
Although I would say both the attraction and the behavior are the result of the general entrance of sin into the world.
So here's what I would say.
I would think, since she said a malady in terms of depression or anxiety, that's like a disability.
That's not so much a moral issue necessary, though there could be a moral component to that.
It's a disability.
And I would say same sex attraction and transgenderism can also be a kind of unasked for disability.
But I think there's also a moral component here that I know you agree with as well we don't want to miss out on.
Now we might've hit an issue where you and I disagree on this.
I don't know that I'm willing to say certain attractions in themselves are not sinful.
Like if I took the example of say, say somebody said, I'm attracted to a child, sexually attracted to a child, is that morally culpable?
I think I would say you didn't ask for that, but there's something profoundly disordered and broken that's there.
- I'm admitting both of those things.
- And you agree with that.
- I would.
- So I think we need to even, there's a lot of things I think we need to repent for that we didn't necessarily choose or ask for that bubble up so to speak from our brokenness and from our sinfulness that came through Adam passed on from generation to generation.
And so when I look at something like transgenderism and homosexuality, I think there is a malady.
There's a sense where it can be a kind of disability somebody didn't ask for, and they need care and counseling and that kind of, but there's also a deep moral component that we can't miss as well.
- I say we might disagree a bit on the degree of culpability that there is for it.
I would view it more in terms of a parallel to something like alcoholism, where even when somebody comes to faith, they don't necessarily give up the desire to drink, but it's in the desire to drink itself, I wouldn't see as something they need to repent of, but it's how they act out on it.
So I wouldn't say that desire to drink is necessarily something they're necessarily culpable for.
- Now they could be because there are ways to nurture that desire too.
- So if your person is attracted to children is looking at child pornography, obviously that's a behavior for one, but they're culpable for that 'cause they're nurturing that attraction as opposed to fighting against it.
- So in principle, there's nothing wrong with a desire to drink, right?
What's wrong is when it's the desire to abuse alcohol.
So alcohol in itself was a part of God's good creation scripture, I would argue has a role for it in the right time and in the right way, don't abuse it.
So somebody's formerly an alcoholic, a desire to drink in itself is not bad.
That's very different than the desire for same sex sexual behavior or transgenderism that by its very nature is a disordered desire that doesn't match up with God's design.
I feel like you and I could flush this out a lot, but that's how I would come at it.
So fair enough, you're getting a glimpse into the way Scott and I think and what our lunches are like between recording podcasts on these topics.
Let's take one more and then we'll wrap it up.
This one, I think this is really, especially in your sweet spot with your train and philosophy, Scott.
Since I was listening to your recent podcast episode with JP Morland on his book, "The Substance of Consciousness" and basically says he's looking at, how much should we use Greek philosophical categories on to scripture?
How much should we map them onto it?
It says, can you please address whether we should be using a Greek or Hebrew framework when reading the Bible?
Well, I think the short answer is that the only framework we should be viewing the scripture from is the framework of the original audience.
Because what the original author intended for the original audience is the meaning of a particular text.
And so I don't really care, for example, I don't really care what the Bible means to you until you've already discovered what the passage meant to its original audience from its original author.
Now, I think what he's getting at is that there are some parts of the Greek framework that were just part of the landscape in the Greco-Armond world that are metaphysically just flat wrong.
I mean, Plato and Aristotle were wrong about a lot of things metaphysically.
Now, they were right about a lot of things too, which is why we still read them and benefit from them.
And so I guess I'm not exactly sure what he means by a Greek or Hebrew framework.
But I would say that the framework we need to look at it from is that of the original author.
I think the only thing I would throw on here is when it says a Greek or a Hebrew framework, I don't know that it has to be one or the other necessarily.
Like you're right, there's certain moral things and metaphysical things amongst the Greeks who you'd completely disagree with.
But you know, in Aristotle, when he's formulating logic, there's no logic text within the scriptures.
He didn't come up with this.
It's not uniquely Greek.
It's just that time and that thinking originated in clear logic.
So should Christians use logic?
Well, yeah, Greeks came up with it, but it's not uniquely a Greek way of thinking, even though we don't see it spelled out in that fashion within the scriptures.
So I think the bottom line is we gotta be faithful to scripture.
And if there are tools and ideas, metaphysically or morally that line up with scripture from the Greek way of thinking, great, that's an awesome tool.
Now, the debate is gonna come into exactly which tools apply and which don't, but I don't think we should stop that debate before we look at it and compare it to scripture.
There's some great things that have come out of the Greco-Roman world that can help us as believers, even unlocking scripture more clearly, things like the Trinity.
Well, this was a lot of fun, Scott.
This was great.
I hope our listeners think so too.
That's what I'm eager to find out and know.
We wanna hear from you.
Please email us if this is helpful, this is interesting.
We are planning on making this a weekly Friday cultural update where we will take your questions, at least as many as we can.
We didn't get to all the questions that we've received, but we took three of the top ones.
And we're gonna look at three or four stories of the week, bioethics, apologetics, culture, and try to help you think biblically about them.
So we'd love to hear from you if you have ideas for what this can look like, your thoughts on this, if it would be helpful and line up with the podcast.
- It would be greatly appreciated.
- Let us know, that email is email@example.com.
This is brought to you by Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and remember, think biblically about everything.