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Entries in Vandrunen (3)


Wisdom: it's in the details

In David Vandrunen's book Bioethics and the Christian Life, he discusses the virtures needed to properly evaluate and make decisions with regard to bioethical matters. Whether it is a question of practicing particular forms of birth control or whether or not we will allow extreme measures to sustain life for a dying parent, these are issues that are not too high above us. They are intensely practical for us.

The virtues Vandrunen discusses are faith, love, hope, courage, contentment, and wisdom.

In the context of wisdom, he points out that wisdom is crucial for all aspects of life, but especially for bioethical decisions, specifically because it demands we look at details:

Wisdom is relevant for every part of our lives, but it has a special relevance in bioethical decision making. In few areas of contemporary life is it more obvious than in bioethics that Scripture does not provide a specific answer to every moral problem... about in vitro fertilization, cloning, stem cells, ventilators, and feeding tubes, Scripture says not a word. The doctrines, rules, and virtues commended in Scripture must be applied to circumstances unknown to the biblical writers, and without a great measure of wisdom bioethics will remain a murky endeavor. In addition, bioethical decisions require a great deal of attention to particular circumstances. Biblical wisdom trains us to observe details, recognizing that a small change in circumstance may require a significant change in response.

Sifting through details take work, and sometimes evaluating them means a great deal of thought must be given. Have you ever noticed that some of the wisest people you know say the least and think the most? Have you ever noticed that the wisest people you know ask more questions than give answers? My husband often asks more questions of me than he provides answers. Wisdom isn't something that just falls out of the sky; it has to be cultivated through careful thought and prayer.

Wisdom is required for all of life, but as we continue to face challenging bioethical issues, in the public square as well as in our own personal lives, we need it even more.


The mind matters

In the book Bioethics and the Christian Life, by David Vandrunen, I've been reading about the significance of being created in God's image. That princple also came up repeatedly in another book I read, Sex, Dating, and Relationships. I said to my husband last night that I think it's one of the most profound truths I've pondered this year.

Vandrunen comments that by virtue of being created in God's image, we are "rational and intelligent creatures" (p. 46). He goes on:

The living God is omniscient (that is, all-knowing) and supremely wise, and he created his image bearers, alone among his creatures, to live lives of intelligence and wisdom.

I have been reading Romans in the past few days, and as I was going though chapter one, I was reminded of the importance of the mind in 1:28:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (ESV)

As God's image bearers, we are supposed to reflect intelligence and wisdom, but sin will taint our minds, and affect our conduct. Later, in Romans 12, Paul exhorts the Romans to not be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

As Christians, we understand our reliance on the Holy Spirit. We realize that when we are born again, we are new creatures in Christ, and that we are one with him, nurtured and fed by the Holy Spirit. We are not simply physical creatures. That's another effect of being made in God's image: we are created for life in this world and in the next.

The mind does matter, and being more inclined to be analytical as opposed to emotional does not mean that we're "unspiritual." The things I learn about God in my studies do generate thanksgiving and praise in my heart. I can sit in my little workspace and learn something about God that blows my mind to the point where I can only say, "Wow, Lord." Just because I'm not weeping all over my book doesn't mean I'm not spiritual, or that the spirit is not addressing me through what I'm reading or studying. 

Early in my Christian life, I erroneously believed that academia and the faith were mutually exclusive. Because I had been given this new spirit, in my immaturity and ignorance, I dismissed Christians who were engaged in higher learning as unspiritual. They were liberal.  I certainly didn't want any of my children someday majoring in science and becoming evolutionists. Of course, that reflects my lack of maturity. As a side note, much of the first two years of my life in Christ, I had very little in the way of discipleship. It's crucial that new believers be taught well in those first few years. I was the only Christian in my family, and being isolated in my ignorance was not really very helpful.

I grew up, thankfully. God created me as someone who loves to read and study. I could not suppress that. I began to see that my mind does matter, and that that taking every thought captive to Christ does not exclude study. Men and women who are far more gifted than I intellectually do me a service by studying and producing works for me to learn from. Pastors who study and learn also provide teaching for me.

God did not make me a mindless creature, even if I do frequently fail to use my head well. I'm still learning. But worship and devotion to God is not confined strictly to what we may consider more "spiritual" pursuits. If God created us with minds, any division between mind and spirit might very well be a false division. Loving the Lord our God does not mean we must check our minds at the door.


It won't usher in righteousness

I've had a book on my shelf for a while that has remained unread for no particular reason other than I forgot I had it. Who am I kidding? I have more than one of those.

Anyway, I was looking for something a little different. David Vandrunen's book Bioethics and the Christian Life is something a little different. I have never read much about ethics as a discipline.

In the opening chapter, Vandrunen discusses the various approaches to bioethics, ranging from completely secular to a recognition that a Christian view and a secular view are each distinct and legitimate. Vandrunen proposes that Christians participate in mainstream health care (as opposed to setting up their own hospitals, utilizing only Christian health care professionals, etc.) and understand that bioethics is something that Christians and non-Christians can discuss reasonably. He refers to the public square as "common space." 

Thought-provoking are his comments with regard to what our attitude as Christians ought to be as we discuss bioethical issues:

Christians must surely be modest in their expectations about what can be accomplished in their paticipation in secular biotethics. They can be confident in God's promises to preserve this created world and its evil society until the end of history (Gen. 8:22) and thus that their participation in its life will not be in vain. But they should be sober-minded in light of biblical assurance that the world will remain desperately sinful, full of suffering and persecution for Christains, until the end of history (eg. 2 Thess. 1:5-10; 2 Tim 3:1-5). Christian participation in secular bioethics, primarily through creative appeals to natural revelation, should never be tainted through with utopian dreams. Secular bioethics will not usher in the righteousness of Christ's heavenly kingdom.

And yes, I realize that his comments run counter to those of different eschatological views. And yes, it is implicit that it means that the church as an institution won't be the vehicle for change that some may want. And yes, it implies that we shouldn't be surprised when the rest of the world doesn't immediately change its tune when Christians point out the moral dilemmas with mainstream bioethical views.

It certainly got me thinking.