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Morality

Azusa Pacific University and LGBTQ+ Relationships

If you know much about the cultural debate on LGBTQ relationships in California then you will know that it has been a busy week in the news. This week’s podcast covers three of these big stories.

Listen as I discuss these three impactful decisions.

What are your thoughs on these three events? Comment below!

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. If you don’t have iTunes, find the podcast and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player. Finally, if you’d rather stick to the radio, you can listen to the show on 100.1 KGBA every Saturday night from 9-9:30 PT.

Like the Facebook page or follow on Instagram to interact with Ryan and his guests on future shows. Your questions and comments help to make the show more interactive. So, send in those questions at contact@coffeehousequestions.com, FacebookTwitterInstagram, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number for texts only).

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The March For Our Lives: Cultural Beliefs and Worldview Conversations

Today, the March For Our Lives drew hundreds of thousands around the United States. People were marching for human value and against gun violence.

Image result for march for our lives

However, many don’t realize the worldview assumptions behind this any many other cultural beliefs. We are fighting for human value, which is good. But what makes a person valuable? Do all people have value? In the podcast below, I identify what I believe to be four contradictions in our culture and how we can use those cultural beliefs to have positive worldview conversations.

  1. Should we protect innocent lives or a woman’s right to choose?
  2. Should we celebrate women or is gender a social construct?
  3. Should we have gender reveal parties or is gender not connected to biological sex?
  4. Should I fight to end sexual abuse (#Metoo) or the Hollywood movies promoting such behavior (50 Shades)?

Links mentioned in the show

  1. How do we understand religious freedom vs. discrimination?
  2. Responding To Pro-Choice Arguments – Interview with Megan Almon (Podcast)
  3. Defending the Pro-Life Position – Interview with Megan Almon (Podcast)

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. You  can also find it and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player.

Like the Facebook page and interact with Ryan by asking questions and commenting. You can also see who will be future podcast guests on the Facebook page and send in your questions to be asked on the show! Send in your questions at contact@coffeehousequestions.com, FacebookTwitter, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number for texts only).

Desperate Hope

In celebration of my 2nd anniversary podcasting, I am giving away 50 copies of Desperate Hope! This opportunity ends in April, so don’t miss out. Simply subscribe to this blog and share it with your friends on social media in order to get your own personalized copy. Once finished, send an email to contact@coffeehousequesions.com with your address and I’ll ship a copy to you completely free!

How do we understand religious freedom vs. discrimination?

I just finished a two-week section on religious freedom and persecution with my students. In fact, I stopped writing their test in order to record the podcast and write this blog. I feel bad saying this, but I think it is true. The church has not done a great job at helping young people think about important cultural issues. We spend years with students preparing them to go off to the university, but we often are not equipping them to think clearly on important issues. We also don’t do a great job and helping them know their rights in culture and on the college campus.

This is why my chapter on religious freedom and persecution became so important the last two weeks. I wanted the students to think about controversial issues and debate religious freedom and persecution. I wanted them to see how freedoms are being taken away in the United States, how universities are making “free speech” zones, and how Christians are being persecuted around the world. We have a lot to be thankful for, but we also need to stand up, think clearly, and engage our culture with confidence.

Check out this week’s podcast as I  help you discuss religious freedom with clarity.

Video mentioned in the show:

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. You  can also find it and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player.

Like the Facebook page and interact with Ryan by asking questions and commenting. You can also see who will be future podcast guests on the Facebook page and send in your questions to be asked on the show! Send in your questions at contact@coffeehousequestions.com, FacebookTwitter, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number for texts only).

Desperate Hope

In celebration of my 2nd anniversary podcasting, I am giving away 50 copies of Desperate Hope! This opportunity ends in April, so don’t miss out. Simply subscribe to this blog and share it with your friends on social media in order to get your own personalized copy. Once finished, send an email to contact@coffeehousequesions.com with your address and I’ll ship a copy to you completely free!

What does the Bible say about homosexuality?

I find that our culture has a difficult time discussing controversial issues like homosexuality. We are quick to jump to conclusions and start calling people names. It is possible that we quickly jump to name calling because we don’t really know what to say. We may have not thought through our position, so we simply assume that the other side is ignorant or hateful for not seeing it our way. I could be wrong about this, but I have met people who admit to being much more calm in discussions after truly understanding what they believe.

But before I get onto another point, it is refreshing to see this issue be discussed with clarity and compassion by two people on completely different sides of the debate. Sean McDowell, author and professor at Biola University, defended the position that biblical marriage is the exclusive union of one man and one woman for life. Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian and founder of the Reformation Project, defended the position that biblical marriage also includes monogamous same-sex relationships.

You know it is going to be a good conversation with two leaders discussing their positions. I hope that you watch the discussion below with an open mind and learn how to have a positive conversation on this issue. I learned so much from this and I hope you do too.

Comment below with your thoughts!

How can we understand the sexual confusion of our culture?

The topic filling the airwaves more than anything else right now is the issue of sexual harassment. There have been allegations against both politicians and Hollywood elite. However, how can we understand the morality of this in a secular culture? What makes sexual harassment wrong?

A few weeks back I did an activity with my students. I gave them this list of sexual acts and asked them to classify each one as being either morally permissible and morally wrong.

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 9.55.25 PM

Listen to see what my students did and how this activity can help us understand the sexual confusion of our culture.

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 11.03.25 PMWhere would you draw the line? Why is it drawn there? Is there even an objective line? Comment below!

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. You  can also find it and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player.

Like the Facebook page and interact with Ryan by asking questions and commenting. You can also see who will be future podcast guests on the Facebook page and send in your questions to be asked on the show! Send in your questions at contact@coffeehousequestions.com, FacebookTwitter, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number for texts only).

Kim Kardashian and the Moral Questions of Surrogate Motherhood

1200px-Kim_Kardashian_West_2014

You might not know much about Kim Kardashian. You also might not know much about surrogacy. The average young adult knows much more about the former than the latter. I often quiz students on their knowledge of the culture, and most students are able to tell me about Kim Kardashian, who she married, and even the names and ages of her two children. And if you haven’t heard, Kim is going to be having her third child. Unlike her first two children, her child will be born to a surrogate mother due to medical reasons.

Since many students are probably aware of this situation, and since it might come up in a conversation at school, it would be a good time to discuss the moral questions surrounding surrogate motherhood. We want our students to see how the biblical worldview addresses important issues instead of being influenced only by culture. My goal is not to determine if surrogacy is right or wrong. Instead, I want look at some important questions on this issue to help get the conversation started.

What is surrogate motherhood?

Merrian-Webster defines surrogate motherhood as “a woman who becomes pregnant usually by artificial insemination or surgical implantation of a fertilized egg for the purpose of carrying the fetus to term for another woman.”

There are different types of surrogate motherhood. Genetic surrogacy is when the surrogate is inseminated with sperm from the male. The surrogate will carry the child and has a genetic relationship to the child since she supplies both the egg and the womb. Gestational surrogacy is when the surrogate doesn’t have a genetic relationship. The infertile couple will remove eggs and sperm, and will have in vitro fertilization (IVF) performed. The embryo will then be implanted into the surrogate.

There are also two possible arrangements with surrogate motherhood. Commercial surrogacy is when either of these types of surrogacy are done for a fee. The surrogate mother will be reimbursed beyond medical expenditures. Altruistic surrogacy is the term used to describe a surrogate arrangement in which a fee is not paid.

What does the Bible say?

Even though the Bible never mentions IVF or any other reproductive technologies, it does give a few guidelines that can help us in this discussion. One that I will mention here is that the Bible establishes a clear definition for marriage and also says that procreation should happen inside of that relationship (Gen. 1-2). This definition would mean that any premarital or extramarital sexual relations are against God’s design. Even though the Bible does describe many relationships that went against God’s design for marriage and procreation, the Bible often describes historical events that are not prescriptive for us. Things in Scripture like surrogacy are often allowed but are never accepted as the best option.

This doesn’t mean that surrogacy is strictly forbidden in Scripture, because it’s not. All I’m saying is that we do see a difference between the biblical design for procreation and surrogacy with the addiction of the third-party contributor. This should cause us to spend more time thinking through the issue before jumping to a conclusion. However, this is also a public policy issue and doesn’t only raise theological questions.

Who is the mother?

The definition of “mother” has been blurred with the advancements in reproductive technologies, and this is a critically important definition in this debate. Is the mother the woman who gave birth to the child or the woman who donated her egg? If we define “mother” as the woman who gave birth, then the surrogate would be the mother in both types of surrogacy. If a genetic relationship is required to be a mother, then the surrogate is only a mother when genetic surrogacy is performed.

Either way we define mother, genetic surrogacy would then entail taking the child away from its mother. Is it ethical to intentionally enter into a surrogate relationship knowing the mother will hand the baby over the moment it’s born?

Gestational surrogacy would have different issues since the surrogate doesn’t have a genetic relationship to the child. This is exactly why it is critically important to get our definitions straight. Is the child being taken from its mother or not? What if we sign a contract establishing that the surrogate isn’t the mother?

Does signing a contract solve the issues?

There is an important principle that I constantly remind my high school ethics students: Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should do it. It is clear that something isn’t moral simply because it is possible. The same is true for surrogacy and signing a contract. Just because we can sign a contract stating that the surrogate will hand over the baby at birth doesn’t mean that she should do it. What do we do when the surrogate forms a connection with the child eight months into the pregnancy? In this situation, the surrogate would be forced to give up the child should she have second thoughts.

Should we see genetic surrogacy as an adoption process since the surrogate is the mother? Doesn’t a mother have the right to raise her child given that she wants the child and is a good mother? Does the idea of “renting a womb” turn procreation into a business deal? Simply creating a contract doesn’t make the moral issues disappear.

Is there a potential for exploitation?

Even though it is not common, commercial surrogacy does have a potential for exploitation. Some people may choose to be surrogates because they want to help an infertile couple while others may become surrogates to make money. Surrogates in the United States cost roughly $40,000 to $50,000. This is a big difference compared to surrogates in other countries that cost around $6,000 to $10,000. Should we be going to other countries in order to find poor women willing to be surrogates for a fraction of the price? How will this affect the lives of those women?

If allowed, should certain conditions be met?

Kim Kardashian has mentioned that she desired to be pregnant with her third child but was physically unable due to medical complications. Should surrogacy be seen as a last resort and reserved only for women who are physically unable to carry a child? What about a woman who is physically able to carry a child but is too busy to be pregnant?

Another condition that should be considered is the payment. Does the morality change between commercial and altruistic surrogacy when a payment is introduced? Will this change how we see children and pregnancy as a blessing and turn it into a business contract? Should a surrogate being paid to have a child she isn’t going to keep receive maternity leave?

Conclusion

There are other issues that could be discussed, but hopefully this is a good start to the discussion. The most important detail to remember is that a child’s worth is not based on how they were created. IVF, surrogacy, and other reproductive technologies don’t make a child any less valuable, and we cannot treat people differently based on how they were conceived. All human beings are created in the image of God and are intrinsically valuable. This is why we have to consider what the Bible says, the definition of a mother, contract issues, possible exploitation, and what conditions should be met if allowed. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it is good. It is for this reason that we need to think through issues from a biblical worldview instead of being influenced only by culture.

What do you think about this issue? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

What does the Bible really say about homosexuality?

At one of my recent speaking events I had a great discussion with a student on the Biblical texts dealing with homosexuality. He had read that the verses condemning homosexuality were actually only condemning it in certain situations. His readings suggested that the Bible was not condemning monogamous, loving, same-sex relationships. This position would be one way of interpreting Scripture called the revisionist view. On the other hand, the traditional view states that Scripture condemns all forms of homosexual behavior. So, is what he read true? Have Christians traditionally misunderstood the verses surrounding homosexuality? Should we hold to the revisionist view?

Watch this video to see Christopher Yuan carefully examine the common verses dealing with homosexuality, and then explain the two different ways of interpretation.

Why Christianity Isn’t Just a List of Don’ts

One of the interesting aspects of Christianity is that it focuses on pursuing health rather than avoiding illness. This was the topic of a short discussion I had with my class today. Many times we think of Christianity only as a list of rules that help us avoid wrong behavior or keep us from having fun. This is what I hear frequently from students. However, this isn’t the goal. It isn’t focused on not doing wrong by creating a long list of don’ts. Instead, it is about living rightly and creating a lifestyle that is healthy. This is what I mean about pursuing health rather than avoiding illness.

The problem that many in our culture have with this message is that in order to create a healthy lifestyle and right living, we need things that are right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy. “Secularists, Marxists, and Postmodernists consider right and wrong to be burdensome because they hamper personal freedom.”¹ The reason for this is because most Secularists, Marxists, and Postmodernists consider themselves the highest authority. Their worldview says there is no religion or God they have to follow. This makes right and wrong relative to the individual, and no one can impose morality on another. This is what we are seeing in our culture today. “Who are you to judge?” A culture of relativism means a culture of no right and wrong, and this would allow people to have personal autonomy and choose whatever makes them happy. Is this really what is best?

I don’t think it is and here’s why.

We live in a culture with many rules that create right and wrong. And when we think about them, we see that most are in place to help us rather than hurt us. I have rules in my classroom not to limit my students’ freedom, but to create an environment of learning so that they benefit and grow. We have traffic laws not so the government can control us, but to protect us and create peace on the roads. Accidents and deaths generally happen when people are breaking the law. Take sports for example! Every sport has a long list of rules in order to make sure the payers are safe. Football has changed so much the last few years in because of their knowledge about concussions and health problems. We don’t see these rules as limiting the freedom of players but protecting them. Rules are there to pursue health rather than avoiding illness.

We also see this with a parent and a child. I don’t know any parent that allows their child to eat candy all day long and nothing else. Parents don’t force kids to each their vegetables to limit their freedom or to be burdensome. They also don’t do it just to avoid illness. Parents should do it because they want their child to be healthy. We also recognize that the child’s opinion on that matter really isn’t important because their knowledge is limited. The child says, “It tastes good. I like it. It makes me happy. So it must be good!” This shows that they don’t fully understand how things work. Parents, with their greater knowledge, create rules to pursue health for their children even when the child doesn’t understand.

The same is true for Christianity. We often look at our decisions and think, “It tastes good. I like it. It makes me happy. So it must be good!” However, we don’t fully understand the consequence of our decisions just like the child. Not everything that feels good is good, and not everything that feels bad is bad (Injections for example). Instead of a child and a parent, the true example is God and us. God has given us a list of right and wrong. It isn’t just a list of don’ts to limit our freedom and take away our fun, but they are guidelines that allow for a good, healthy lifestyle were we pursue doing right rather than merely avoiding wrong behavior.

It’s amazing what a slight change in perspective will do for a person when looking at rules.

¹ Jeff Myers, Understanding the Times, Summit Ministries

Why Post-Election America Points to the Existence of God

In order to be very clear, I want to make a few points from the beginning. I am not saying that God exists because the Republicans won. I’m not saying that God exists because Clinton lost or because Trump won. I’m not saying that God exists because the U.S. is being judged. I’m also not saying that God exists because of any voting demographic. This post has nothing to do with who voted or who won, but instead has to do with the culture of the U.S. post-election.

We live in a culture that wants to live according to moral relativism.

What I mean is that many people don’t want there to be an objective moral standard. Our society is being heavily influenced by relativism which means that we can determine our own truth or morality. We see this in statements like “That’s true for you but not for me,” “We can’t know the truth!” and “How you identify is more important than your biology.” Our feelings have become more important that the truth, and we don’t want to tell anyone how to live.

Then we run into a problem.

If relativism is true, then hate, lying, racism, and sexism aren’t wrong. 

Relativism sounds nice until someone does something or acts in a way that we think is wrong. Many of the same people who claim that we can’t tell other how to live, or that morality is relative, will be the first one to call someone out for immoral behavior. But what does “immoral” mean if we all create our own morality? Here’s the problem, if we create our own morality, then those “wrong” behaviors aren’t objectively wrong. It is just your opinion that you may not like them.

We can’t go around claiming that we can identify however we like and that truth is found within the person while at the same time claiming that hate, racism, sexism, and other things are objectively wrong. Before anyone gets upset let me be clear. I do agree that hate,  lying, racism, sexism and assault are wrong. That is why I am not a relativist!

The problem is that we want to hold others to a standard outside ourselves while claiming that a standard outside ourselves doesn’t exist.

Now some may respond by saying that the standard is created by the majority or what is legal. If that is true, then things like slavery were morally good in the 1800’s since it was decided by the majority and made legal. However, that is hard for most to admit because we inherently know slavery is wrong. We know that slavery is wrong even when it is legal.

Without a standard of good that transcends humanity, then there is no evil! In a relativistic society, all we have is opinions and preferences. However, what we are seeing in our culture is not merely an opinion. People are claiming that things like hate, racism, are sexism are objectively wrong, and they are! So we have to ask the questions, what standard of good exists in order to call things things wrong?

It takes something special in order to ground objective morality. The grounding has to be a personal being in order to be able to create a moral law. Laws are created by personal beings. This being also has to be changeless and transcend time, space, and matter in order for the moral law to be objective and not change. The being also has to be good in its very nature in order for the moral law to be good. It is for this reason that I say that the post-election America points to the existence of God. How else could you judge someone or something as immoral?

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