This week, Scott & Sean discuss:

  • Artificial Intelligence and Truth: Discussion on how AI, through deep fakes and misinformation, challenges our ability to discern truth, potentially leading to an era of distrust.
  • Study on Gender Dysphoria: A Finnish study finding that gender dysphoria does not increase suicide risk and that gender-affirming care does not decrease it, challenging current narratives around transgender care.
  • Gen X and Diversity: An analysis of generational perspectives on diversity, noting that Gen X's experiences could offer a balanced view on racial and ideological diversity.
  • Alabama's Embryo Case Update: Reflections on the legal and ethical implications of an Alabama Supreme Court decision regarding embryos as persons, and its impact on IVF and embryo adoption.
  • Listener Question: Women in church leadership
  • Listener Question: Navigating feelings of guilt over past actions with embryos
  • Listener Question: Followup on "Social Justice Fallacies" episode

Episode Transcript

Scott: This week, artificial intelligence and its impact on the concept of truth. A study from Finland on gender dysphoria, gender affirming care, and the risk of suicide. Gen X and the meaning of diversity, and an update on Alabama's embryo case. These are the stories we'll discuss today on the Think Biblically weekly cultural update. We'll also address some of your questions. I'm your host Scott Rae.

Sean: And I'm your co-host Sean McDowell.

Scott: Coming to you from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. So story number one is artificial intelligence and the concept of truth published Tuesday. Microsoft's chief scientific officer predicted, was quoted as predicting that AI will have an impact on our notion of truth. Sean, what's the connection and what's this story about?

Sean: Well, this really grabbed my attention because Eric Horvitz, who's Microsoft's chief scientific officer, wrote that AI is moving us closer to a quote, "Post-epistemic world." Now, what does he mean by this? In short, where fact cannot be distinguished from fiction. And I think he's onto this with artificial intelligence. So he gives a couple of examples, what's called deep fakes, which use AI to create synthetic videos that can impersonate people. So he gives an example, researchers at the University of Washington posted a deep fake video of President Obama, making him say whatever they wanted to and people could not distinguish by the naked eye, so to speak, what was truth and what wasn't. There's also some audio video that was sent out about Biden that completely invented things he didn't say and who sent out politically about a campaign—and by the way, I'm sure both sides will do this. And the listener could not tell what was true and what wasn't. Gives the example of hallucinations that when people search through artificial intelligence, they generate misinformation and according to this article, between three and 27% of the time, which is pretty vast, generates false information. A couple of other things they said, I mean, some of this stuff is just amazing. They're talking about how a lot of AI tools are built with a worldview embedded within them. It's impossible for them to be worldview neutral. We saw this last week with a Google Gemini. When people were using artificial intelligence, it was just loaded with certain assumptions that some would argue about diversity, et cetera.

Then he gives another example here, what's called astroturfing, where now AI is used to generate a fake campaign. So not just one article, but an entire fake campaign that gives the illusion of a grassroots movement. And these are chatbots that can be harnessed to post massive amounts of tailored content to capture and manipulate people's attentions. Now we've been talking about for a while, since the last political campaign, kind of fact from fiction and people using chatbots to manipulate. But I think we're now truly at the point where technology is emerging that we really cannot tell fact from fiction. I'll give you one more example that wasn't in this article, but the technology is emerging. We can actually take text and it will translate into video using all the video available online and create a beautiful kind of piece of technology in a short period of time. A video that one of the past would have taken tons of money, tons of time, and looking at it, it's almost indiscernible. So, we're moving into a period where a lot of people have described it as the age of distrust, where we just lose the ability to separate fact from fiction and can literally not trust what we see with our own eyes. Now, I have some thoughts about how to kind of manage this, but I'm curious, what was your takeaway from this article?

Scott: Well, I do have a couple of thoughts on this. For one, I think the acronym AI doesn't just mean artificial intelligence from the statistics that you cited, that 27% could be that AI could mean actually allegedly inaccurate. And so I think we need to be aware that it's not foolproof, it's not inerrant, it's not infallible. The other thing that comes to mind, I was watching last night, one of the shows that I watched periodically in full disclosure is an FBI series, and the FBI most wanted last night had as part of the plot, it was an AI chatbot run amok. And one of the things that the deep fake was used to do was to frame a suspect for a crime that he didn't commit.

Sean: Wow.

Scott: It was really interesting to watch. Granted it's television, it's fiction, but some of the reason that fiction can be as compelling as it is, is it does have a bit of grain of truth. And so I don't think, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see it moving in that direction as well. So I think the old adage that seeing is believing, we can throw that out the window. (Sean laughs) Seeing is not always believing. And we need to be really careful, I think about what we take in and what we accept as true. And given, I think given the tendency of people to take what they read and see on social media a bit less critically than we would hope for, that doesn't bode well at us having the critical faculties that we need to get behind some of these things. The other thing that really struck me was this astroturfing point that you mentioned, where you can create the illusion of a grassroots movement. This I think is a major threat to democracy.

Sean: Wow.

Scott: That strikes me as—because if you can manufacture out of nothing a grassroots movement to persuade people of a position or an argument that you have actually no support for, then the mechanisms of democracy, I think, have been compromised. This is the part that I found the most troubling in terms of the big picture.

Sean: Well, part of the question is what do we do in light of this? And by the way, what did you say A.I. stood for?

Scott: Allegedly inaccurate.

Sean: You're quite the poet, man. Good, keep it coming.

Scott: Well, I wish I could claim that as original, but not.

Sean: You probably searched A.I. and that's what they told you didn't.

Scott; No, I didn't do that actually.

Sean: All right, so here's part of my takeaway is we have been living in a post-truth culture for a while. I think the word of the year in 2006 maybe was truthiness. We saw in the last political campaign, there's talk about if Russia and Ukraine and China are manipulating our elections. Well, I think that's just the beginning of some of the fall stuff. We are just seeing the power of artificial intelligence to deceive and manipulate and confuse. So, fortunately, Christianity has the resources to help us navigate this. So a couple things jump out. Proverbs 1820 says the first to speak in court sounds right until the cross-examination begins. We need to now have a filter of things we see and things we hear more than ever. It says, okay, this is one side. Okay, this is maybe concerning, but let me pause and get more information before I react to this. I think that's also why Proverbs 18:13 talks about kind of the full answers before he hears. Well, now hearing means taking a look at both sides. I think we also be wise to follow what Psalms 139 says, searching our hearts. We are far more likely to believe false information that aligns up with our worldview and political ideas. We just have to be more careful than ever. And I'm really preaching to myself, not anybody else, just how we process information.

Scott: I had a couple of things to this, what we can do personally. Because I think this is a time where I think we need to develop more than ever, what I would call virtuous habits of the mind, where a virtuous epistemology, to put it in philosophical terms. And I would say things like taking a periodic screen Sabbath, because I think our minds work differently when we see screens than when we read books. And I would encourage us to go back to reading books that force us to follow an extended argument in a way that screens most of the time don't do. Now that's not always true. But for the most part, when I look at my newsfeed on my screen, I look at headlines quickly, and I don't really engage in many stories. But when I read a book, I'm forced to sit with it and to engage the author's argument and over two or three chapters, not to mention an entire book. And it forces a discipline of the mind that I think we're on the road to losing. And I would think this goes—especially for the classics—those sort of time tested, time worn works that have endured the test of time, not to mention the scriptures.

Sean: Well said, good word.

Scott: Here's story number two. This is a recent study from Finland that was published in the British Medical Journal of Mental Health. It came to two incredibly counter cultural conclusions. For one, the study concluded that gender dysphoria does not place youth at a higher risk of suicide. And that gender affirming care does not alleviate the risk of suicide. Study concludes that I quote, "Medical gender reassignment does not have an impact on suicide risk." Now analyze data from 1996 to 2019 in Finland, with 2000 individuals who experienced gender dysphoria, who were followed through their treatment period, which averaged a six year period. So, it was not just a one off, but it followed them all the way through. And the key point here that the study discovered was that those suicide mortality and mortality from other causes was higher among gender distressed youth. But once psychiatric treatment history was taken into account, that higher rate of suicide disappeared. Now in my view, what this supports is what critics of gender affirming treatment have maintained for some time. That these treatments typically don't address the underlying psychiatric conditions that have given rise to gender dysphoria. In other words, gender dysphoria is one of the effects of deeper issues, not the cause of them. In other European countries, particularly in the UK, have followed suit here and stepped back from uncritical support for gender affirming treatments, particularly for pre-pubescent adolescents. Now here, the big takeaway on this and comes from the title of the piece, it exposes, I think, a widely reported mode of persuasion that practitioners use in persuading parents to go along with the wishes of their minor child. And they put the question often like this, assuming that the parents bringing in a daughter who's considering undergoing gender affirming care, they said, "Do you want a dead daughter or a living son?" Suggesting that if they don't go along, they put their child at risk for suicide. Okay, Sean, what do you make of this story? This has super interesting ramifications in my view.

Sean: I have a lot of thoughts on this. Number one, all the stories that we discuss, I do Google searches and I look around to see what news stories are covering them. And on this one, it was almost none. I don't even know how you first found this story. It was not on my radar, but none of the major news publications, at least that I could find, were talking about it. It tend to be a few conservative Christian publications and a handful of others drawing it to attention. And that's in part because it doesn't fit the narrative that many people have been pushing for a while. Now, the piece that you sent me starts off by saying this. It says, "On the surface, would you rather a dead daughter or a living son sounds like a plea for compassion and understanding." I've never interpreted it that way. I've always thought that's a very manipulative way of taking advantage of somebody who is profoundly hurting, feeling vulnerable, and your greatest fear as a parent is losing a child. And so I can't tell you how many people, emails I get from people who are just struggling, and "Russell, what do I do? What do I not do?" And people with a certain ideology come in at this moment and say, "If you don't affirm their gender-affirming care, "which it is called, you are going to lead to the death of your child." Well, part of this, behind this has been the narrative that the cause of suffering for transgender individuals, the fact that there's higher level of psychological distress is from the non-affirmation of society and people around them. It's something external in the culture. Now, we've been able to study this in the past because we look at affirming cultures and less affirming cultures, places like Sweden, and there's really no difference in the psychological distress of those to identify as transgender, which tells us something else is going on here. What this study does is take it a step further and say, "Yeah, there's a higher level of psychological distress within the trans community, but to say it's the result of the culture, as opposed to underlying kinds of psychological distress is to misdiagnose what's going on." So this is really powerful. It doesn't surprise me because I've always thought this is where the data points, but now I think they said there was about 16,000 students, people that were involved in this between 1996 and 2019. The fact that it comes out of Finland, which obviously is probably much more progressive than the United States, and some of the research on this are speaking up, saying this gender affirming care is not helping young people. I think this is another sign, like the article we talked about in the New York Times recently, that some of this assumption is getting pushed back on, rightly so.

Scott: Yeah, I think there's too many anecdotal experiences of people who have undergone gender affirming care in the past, likely before they finished puberty, and then have come to regret it, and have recognized that the treatments that they underwent didn't resolve the underlying problems. And that shouldn't be a big surprise because the reports on this have been that the psychological issues are rarely addressed when gender affirming care is being considered. And so it seemed to me that that would be a really important part of good care for the person too, not to assume that the gender dysphoria is the cause of the distress as opposed to seeing it vice versa. And we also know that a lot of identity issues, a lot of gender identity issues resolve themselves after puberty is finished. And so I think the danger in so uncritically suggesting many of these gender affirming treatments before puberty is finished, I think is somewhat irresponsible.

Sean: Well said.

Scott: All right, story number three. Sean, this is about Gen X and diversity. A very interesting story from the Christian Scholars Review blog site, this was published on Wednesday, citing a generational divide on the meaning of diversity. Sean, what's the story about?

Sean: Yeah, this grabbed my attention because I'm a Gen Xer, and usually Gen Xers are kind of left out of the conversation. And it's in "Quillette," which is a Canadian publication, not Christian, many atheists and others contribute to it, but it's a publication frequently pushing back on certain social justice ideas and what's often dubbed wokeness. I realize that's a loaded term, but it is what it is. It's written by Monica Harris, an African-American woman this week, and she's a part of Gen X. And she says, "Because of our unique historical vantage point, we could help the US bridge its generational differences and come to what she deems a more just view of race." So here's what she argues. Gen Xers are in their 40s and their 50s, and the state of race relations today seems mystifying to many. She says, "We were taught that everyone should be judged as unique individuals irrespective of their immutable characteristics. Now we're told that this attitude is a kind of racism," she argues. And part of it is a shift in what's meant by diversity. So she makes an interesting point. She says, "Boomers, many who spent their formative lives in segregated societies, had modest expectations for diversity." And you're raising your hand, agreeing with that?

Scott: That would be me.

Sean: Okay, now I want you to unpack this in a minute, but my mom grew up in the South, in part, in Georgia, and she has directly told me stories of things that she saw that just blow me away, but she saw that. Now, this author says, "Gen X, by contrast, came of age in an integrated society, at least for legal purposes, embraced a more expansive view of what a diverse society should look like." Then she says, "They weren't so chronologically removed from the pre-civil rights era that its members lacked a sense of historical context. We could trace the arc of progress, and we're optimistic that more progress was on the way. That kind of fits my experience." She says, "This is different from millennials and members of Gen Z, whose understanding of history may be more limited. Rather than putting their faith in an arc of progress, they tend to immerse themselves in social media that encourages a totalizing fixation on the injustices of the moment. As a result, they tend to embrace radicalized social justice ideas that present the status quo as a dystopian dead end." Now, here's where she makes the argument, and this is where I think it's interesting. She talks about being in Princeton University in 1984. And she says, "Then, elite universities were competing for diverse candidates, some who excelled academically, but also well-rounded, and some other underrepresented backgrounds. Diversity could mean musical talent, a great athlete speaking multiple languages, esoteric hobbies, being a young entrepreneur, political diversity, all sorts of diversity," she says. So when applying to an Ivy League school, it could even mean growing up in the Bible Belt, and it would include intellectual diversity. She says, "Now, we have something very, very different." So even back when she went, she said there was a kind of political diversity that people valued. Now, what we said, she said the definition of diversity shifted, and she traces this through how people approach affirmative action. And she says, "Now, instead of affirmative action, remaining a tool used to level the playing field, it became a weapon to hobble those with superior credentials and power, even if they weren't white or male." So she gives examples of the case against Harvard, against Asian-American applicants. She talks about how Jewish students have also been negatively affected and lumped in with the privileged oppressor class.

And so here's what she argues, basically, I'll wrap it up. She says, "Most Americans, and especially members of Gen X, wholeheartedly believe that schools and workplaces should reflect our increasingly heterogeneous society, but they view diversity holistically, not through a rigid intersectional prism that assigns someone's oppressor or oppressed status, basis on their skin, color, sex, or pronouns." And I think she's right about that. And so in her conclusion, she says, "In some ways, today's Ivy League students are far less diverse than they were in the past, regardless of skin, sex, color, sexual orientation, or gender identity, students at elite schools increasingly tend to come from high-income families." And she basically walks through, in the name of diversity, we now have less political diversity, we now have less ideological diversity, and it's even affected the way we approach race. So, the big debate here is over what do we mean by diversity? How do we get there? And as a Gen Xer, I agree with so much of what she said about there's something unique about our generation with hope from the past, not tainted by certain ideologies today, that I think is possibly a way forward. Now as a boomer, what do you think?

Scott: Well, I’m sort of like your mom, although I'm not as old as your mom. [both laughing] I grew up in Texas in the '50s and '60s, and went to college in the early '70s. And I lived in a very segregated society. My high school basketball team was all white guys, which is almost unheard of today. And I did not have any African-American friends, acquaintances, there was really nobody in my life who was African-American. And people use language. that we cancel people for it today. And so I saw similar things to your mom, but I've seen a lot of progress. It makes me appreciate the level of progress that we've obtained today. But I think that's a really important part of where we were situated in terms of where we grew up. I think the big difference that our authors pointed out, and I think she's absolutely right about this, is that in the new sense of diversity, there is a neo-Marxist worldview that undergirds it, that wasn't there in the Boomer and the Gen X generations. And that's what you cited as the seeing the world through the lenses of the oppressor or oppressed, those two classes, you were part of one class or the other. And I think that is clearly a neo-Marxist worldview that goes back to Marx originally, where he saw it in terms of socio economics. Today it's being seen in terms of ethnicity, sexuality, and other quote, protected classes. Now, I think my take on this comes out of my role at Biola, because I was a big part of our unity amid diversity, theological statement. Basically myself and an African American theologian, who's no longer at Biola, brought that to the finish line together. It was a really wonderful project that we worked on together. And we majored on unity first and diversity second, that our unity was the primary thing. And we highlighted, I think, what the scripture highlights. And that is, we have much more emphasis in the scripture on the things we have in common over the things that divide us. And I think our statement reflects that, that what we have in common in Christ, by being made, by being made in the image of God, are the theological things that contribute to our identity. Those are the things that ought to be our points of emphasis. Now, the things that divide us, we gotta take those seriously, too.

Sean: Agreed.

Scott: But the things that divide us shouldn't overwhelm the things that unite us. The second thing that came out of this is, I think it's really important, I think that we get the notion of our identity correct. Our fundamental identity as followers of Jesus is two things. We are redeemed in Christ, and we are incredibly valued men and women by virtue of being made in the image of God. But although that’s the foundational part of our identity, that's not the whole story. And sometimes our theologically oriented folks want to presume that just because we have that foundational part of our identity set in the scripture, that that's the only part of our identity that matters. And that's not true. You know, our skin color, our ethnicity, our socioeconomic background, our family background, all of those things shape our identity. Now, do they trump these other theological components? No, but even in Old Testament Israel and in the New Testament era, the first Christians who were all Jewish, when they came to faith, did not cease to be Jewish. They held onto their Jewish identity theologically. And the thing that united Jews and Gentiles was what they had in common in Christ. But in our way of understanding our eschatology, you know, Old Testament Israel and Jews today still have a, they have a purpose, they have a place in God's future plans for his people. So, just because someone comes to Christ, it doesn't erase all of those things that were a part of that formative part of their identity.

And then one last thing, your author points out, and this is, I think, the big takeaway from this, is that viewpoint diversity, intellectual diversity, is so important. That's the diversity that really matters if we wanna be exposed to different perspectives and different ideas. And I would challenge folks who are promoting diversity in state universities, secular private universities, to show us the proof that you have real viewpoint diversity. So, show me a feminist professor whose pro-life. Show me an African-American professor who thinks affirmative action, as it's being practiced today, does not help minorities. They think things like that, I think would show real commitment to viewpoint diversity. This is where I think when Dennis Prager was on our campus years ago, he said there's more academic freedom at a place like Biola than there was at his alma mater, Stanford. And I think the reason for that is because we actually have conservatives on our campus. We have actually quite a number of them on our campus. And we have a wide variety of political views, many of which would be unwelcome at many state universities.

Sean: What's interesting is during this shift she's talking about from boomers to today, we've seen a slow increase at Ivy League schools in terms of those with intellectual diversity. I think at Harvard now, it was in four or five different disciplines. It was like 88 to one. Either it was Democrats, Republicans, or liberals to conservatives. And it's not as high at other non-Christian schools, but we've seen less and less intellectual diversity over time in most universities, which is problematic. Last couple of things in this article reminds us where we're situated, where we grew up, what generation we're a part of, is gonna shape our expectations and our understanding about race. That's a powerful takeaway from this. And so, having a conversation with my mom is powerful. I wish I had had more conversations with my grandparents. I just wasn't curious enough. But if you're listening to this and you're younger, ask your parents, ask your grandparents. And that will help open up your eyes and at least maybe see things differently. So, for parents and grandparents, talk to your kids, talk to your grandkids, don't lecture at them, but just share your experience. I will never forget Scott, my mom sharing a story of growing up in Georgia. And this must have been in the '50s at some point. She had a friend who was black and she would walk her home through a neighborhood just to make sure her friend was safe. This is my mom describing it in a lecture school. I was like, "Holy cow, I can't imagine you had to do that." And it opened up my eyes and stuck with me. So good stuff. Let's keep going.

Scott: Okay, story number four, not really a story, but an update on the Alabama Supreme Court embryo decision that we talked about last week. A number of things have taken place in the last week in response to this. And remember, the decision, all the decision said was that embryos that are outside the womb in the lab are considered persons for the sake of wrongful death. This was an accident in the clinic. Then the couple who owned the embryos or who were the parents of the embryos was suing the clinic for the wrongful death of their embryos. And the court ruled that the embryos could be the subject of wrongful death. Now, as we talked about last week, the whole sort of reproductive technology industry sort of went crazy last week. And politicians scrambled in order to find ways to affirm IVF while at the same time affirm that life begins at conception. It was really interesting dance that a number of politicians were trying to do on that score. A number of states have put into the legislature bills that would protect IVF. There's actually a bill in Congress at the moment that would nationally protect IVF and keep it legal. So, there's a lot of stuff that is on the legislative front, but it raised other questions. I think this actually strengthens the case for embryo adoption, that embryos are persons and can be subject for adoption proceedings. The pro-choice movement has resisted using the term adoption to describe this process for understandable reasons. The big question that comes up is, where does this leave couples who have frozen embryos in storage in Alabama and other states that will pass similar bills to this? And then the Alabama Attorney General went public to say he has no intention of prosecuting families or providers who undergo IVF. And so there's no intention from, and this is where I think the media I think ran, I think in an erroneous and misleading way, because they concluded that from this notion that embryos are persons, that this basically shuts down the IVF industry. And the court did not intend that. All it was saying, it really was very narrow for wrongful death purposes. Embryos were persons. Also, and it also affects, I think, women who say are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatments, which wipes out their fertility. And often they will harvest a harvest of eggs and freeze the eggs so that they can be fertilized in vitro. There's nothing about the ruling that says you can't retrieve, you can't retrieve and freeze your eggs, but it requires in vitro fertilization in order to bring about conception.

Now, one of the really interesting parts of this is that the judge, one of the judges in the Alabama Supreme Court has come under criticism for invoking theological perspectives that inform his ruling. And yet that is the historical norm. We have always, almost always, until very recently, invoked theological perspectives. Civil rights are the prime example of this. The civil rights movement was born and bred in black churches across America. And Martin Luther King, in his letter from a Birmingham jail, explicitly invoked biblical metaphors, biblical references and theological principles. No one complained in the '60s and '70s that a new theocracy was coming. And the idea, I think, that our basic rights are endowed by our creator, as I seem to have read somewhere in our founding documents, is not a new idea. And so I don't think we're headed for a theocracy. This is, I think, maybe some of the most extreme responses to this. And just because we invoke theological perspectives, they still have to be persuasive in a democratic society. For us to be a theocracy would mean that the law of God is automatically and without deliberation, without critique, without needing to be applied very much, is the law of the land. And that's not the case in Alabama or any other state in the United States. The only place where theocracies exist today are in the Islamic world, not in the English-speaking world.

Sean: The interesting piece to me is that the couple who brought this case was not anti-IVF, they were pro-IVF.

Scott: Yes.

Sean: And a patient went into the lab and somehow got ahold of where their embryos were being stored, dropped it, and this led to the death of their embryos. And of course, so they brought this suit for mishandling their human being, their human child, since life begins at conception. And so the fact that some IVF clinics have slowed down and paused is actually, to me, somewhat a testimony that maybe they're not being as careful as they need to be. And they're concerned that they might get sued and they might have a case raised against them. So I think that's a piece of this that's really come out of it. But some of the scare tactic language is referring to Christian nationalism and theocracy. It's political, it's overstated, and it's a way of just kind of disparaging the heart of the pro-life movement.

Scott: Yeah, it's the glorified ad hominem argument because you're attacking the person as opposed to attacking the argument that's being made.

Sean: I think that's right.

Scott: Now, one thing to watch, I think another thing that could possibly be a scare tactic here that actually goes back to the Dobbs decision, and that is if embryos are persons, then fetuses must be as well, which now raises questions about what happens to women whose unborn children are in distress. Would we legalize then forced C-sections for women who have fetuses who definitely need the C-section in order to survive, but the women for some reason refuse those? That's another issue that's sort of downstream just a bit. All right, should we answer some questions?

Scott: Let's try.

Sean: All right, we've got some really good questions this week. So, here's the first one. It says, "I currently attend a church with four pastors, two of whom are female. While applying to schools for our kindergarten-age son, one school said that we would be a great fit except for the fact that we attend a church that has female leaders. This has opened up a lot of conversation, reflection between my wife and me. Can you please give us the elevator pitch for your stance on female leadership in churches?" First Timothy is referenced by those who believe it's wrong, but it seems strange that God wouldn't want half his people leading and serving. We're at the start of our learning journey in this area, and we'd love your insight. Sean, I'll let you go first on this, and then I'll weigh in too.

Sean: Well, there's two issues at play here. I'm not sure why somebody who holds a view that is egalitarian should not be allowed to have their kids and not be a fit of a school that is potentially or complementarian. Why is that an issue that a kindergartner is not allowed to go to this Christian school if I'm understanding correctly? This is an important issue, but this is a secondary issue. In fact, if I'm that school and I'm complementarian, I'm thinking, "Great, I have a chance to educate this kid in what I think is biblical. Why keep them away if that's the issue?” Second, I am complementarian. She wants the elevator pitch. I think scripture teaches that men and women are equal image bearers, different roles in the church, different roles in the family. This has been an issue of just discussion and debate within the church for a while. I've enjoyed listening to the YouTube series by my friend Mike Winger, who has done extensive teaching on this. He lands complementarian, but given that this person is coming from an egalitarian background, if I understand correctly, that extensive teaching might be helpful to understand where the other side is coming from.

Scott: Yeah, just a couple of things to add to this. For one, I think I agree with you. The school is not the church. And so it's not quite clear to me why that's relevant for whether a kindergarten age son would be admitted to the school. Again, if we're understanding the question correctly.

Sean: Right.

Scott: Second, I think, just to be a little more specific, I think on the elevator pitch, what the Bible teaches is that, yes, men and women equal in status, equal in value before God, but different functions in the church and in the home. In the church, I think what the scripture does is that the role of elder, or sort of, I say, ruling leadership in the church is reserved for men. I don't think having female pastors is a problem. I don't think female women preaching in the regular meeting of the church is a problem because anyone who preaches in any church does so under the authority of the elders. In the home, I think the distinction is that the man is held ultimately responsible by God for the spiritual well being of his family. How that plays out in the home for the spiritual nurture of children, it can be all over the map. I don't think this means that men have any specific role or responsibility that is uniquely theirs, as opposed to the moms, but that God holds the men, I think, responsible as the one whose primary responsibility, primarily accountable for the spiritual well being of the family. Well, anything else to add on that?

Scott: No, that's great.

Sean: Okay, all right. Here's the second one. This is, I gotta say, we gotta put on our pastoral hats here, Sean, because this is a tough one. This is from a listener just a couple of days ago. It says, "I was discussing the Alabama IVF ruling with a coworker, a new believer, and she is really struggling. When she and her husband were younger, they had trouble conceiving. They opted for IVF and had their first daughter. Later, they retrieved the remaining embryos, held a funeral, and buried them on their family property, recognizing the value of the embryos, but not truly understanding their action. Now that they're committed Christians, the thought of being responsible for her children like that, if the unborn embryos are persons, is crushing to her. She knows that every sin is covered by Jesus, but she still feels so broken. What would you say to someone who is wrestling with something like this?"

Sean: Well, my goodness, my heart completely goes out to this woman. And I don't know that there's any words that I could speak through a microphone that could even begin to bring the healing that she wants and deserves and needs. I would just emphasize a couple of things. Number one, they're absolutely right, that God's grace applies without any qualification. The scripture talks about separating God's sins from us as far as the East from the West. Rather than the North and South, if you go North for a while, eventually you're going South. If you go East, you're eternally going East. So, this sin you look back on God has and will forgive. The question is just owning it and claiming it and experiencing the freedom that comes from having that truth in your life. So, one small piece of encouragement is maybe just to memorize some scriptures, like 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and all means all." I found in my life when I'm struggling, I just meditate on scripture and I kind of work it into my life and it helps get me there over time. I also encourage if necessary to find a support group. I know there's other people who have had similar kinds of experiences like this, praying for each other, encouraging each other, kind of journeying through this together. The Bible has a lot to say about bearing one another's burdens, confessing our sins to one another and doing this corporately. So my heart goes out to you. I'm so honored you asked us this question. I hope we're encouraging you in at least some fashion, but God loves you and he forgives you no question about that.

Scott: That's really good insight. I don't have a lot to say on top of that. I think just one bit of encouragement for her. I think it's really important that as a part of the healing process that we come to an acknowledgement of the truth. And she has done that. And she's, in my view, I think she's done the hardest part on this. And I think there's a really difficult truth that has to be accepted here. But I think God's grace is above and beyond all of our actions, all of our attitudes. This is covered by the cross. And I think I would encourage her to accept that and to move forward as best she can, sort of step by step and day by day. And the idea of a support group for this, I think is super helpful to know that she's not alone in this.

Sean: Amen.

Scott: All right, final question is, it's actually a conglomeration of two where both these listeners identify themselves. He said, "I'm a black man, an elder of a mixed race church with a white pastor." Second listener, "And I'm the son of a Caribbean immigrant, married to an African-American. We'd like to address the social justice fallacies episode. Thomas Sowell is very familiar with the black community. Sowell is African-American himself. But we find that he has blind spots regarding the challenges that African-Americans have faced for the past 300 years. We think it misses the mark to introduce other ethnic groups when comparing median incomes because of the complexities of each group's history, time in the nation, how they arrived, access to benefits, degree of discrimination, et cetera. Don't these diverse realities call for a more nuanced approach when dealing with social justice issues?” Not really, that's a rhetorical question they're asking. But I think what they're asking is that they're making a point and asking, how do we see that? What do you say?

Sean: So first off, I really appreciate this thoughtful, pointed question. Their willingness to listen, share their experience and push back. Another point I would make is when we were done with that interview, I remember thinking, I wish you had asked me or I had prompted you to ask me areas where I differ with soul because there are some issues I would differ. We didn't go into that. So, that's really fair. The heart of Sowell’s argument is that when we see disparities, whether it's in income, whether it's somebody who's in prison, whatever it is, there are a whole lot of different factors that can contribute to this. And we can't just assume because there is a disparity that it's the result of discrimination and in particular, racial discrimination. So, he goes into, for example, like the first born and how significant the first born is in success. And that is within a unique family. He wouldn't say, as far as I'm aware, that race can't be a factor in certain areas of discrimination. Let's not just assume it's the primary factor or necessarily a factor when other pieces are at play. Now, the other thing he does, and he's written a book called, "Discrimination and Disparities" in which he compares different ethnic groups, but he also compares within ethnic groups. So, he compares instead of just Asian, he'll say, well, what about those from India? What about those from Southeast Asia, say China, Japan, South Korea, et cetera? He'll look at black communities and say from the North, from the South, immigrant, non-immigrant, and actually bring in that we can't just say white, black, Asian, it requires a more nuanced response because of so many other factors. So, I hope I'm understanding the question. I really appreciate you pushing back on this, but I think that his point actually is very well nuanced. Now you might think he's wrong in his point, but I don't think it's for a lack of nuance. ‘

Sean: Yeah, I think the point that I wanna make sure that all of our listeners understand here is that Sowell’s big idea in this, and he does have a later book that does lay this out more fully, is that just because there is a disparity, don't automatically assume that it's because of discrimination. There are a lot of factors involved and it is nuanced. Although, I think, my guess is that I think our listeners are onto something here that some of these diverse realities do call for a more nuanced approach when dealing with social justice issues. And I think that's true, but I think Sowell would actually agree with that. But I think he would also suggest that there are some disparities that are cross race and cross ethnicity that really have nothing to do with the particular racial or ethnicity that the person is coming from.

Sean: Well said.

Scott: Anything else on that?

Sean: No, you got it, man.

Scott: All right. Hey, thanks so much for being with us today. I hope you've enjoyed this version of the ThinkBiblical Weekly Cultural Update. If you have questions that you want us to try and answer or suggestions for issues or news stories that we ought to cover, or in the regular podcast, guests that we ought to consider, or topics you want to hear us talk about more, please feel free to email us at That's Thanks for joining us. Remember, think biblically about everything.