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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Pro-Life Answers: #1 What About Rape?

Objection #1: Abortion should be permissible in the case of rape. 

This is perhaps the most emotionally compelling argument used by pro-choice advocates in defense of the right to an abortion.

Rape is an absolutely evil act, meaning no possible situation exists morally justifying it. 

The pain a raped person endures is deep and long-lasting. 

Understanding this, how can the anti-abortion crowd hold it morally impermissible for a woman to obtain an abortion even if she conceived in the violent act of rape?

Let me offer 5 reasons why I believe abortion is morally impermissible even in the case of rape.

Reason #1: As mentioned above, rape is an absolute moral evil, but no necessary logical connection exists between the statement "rape is immoral" and the statement "abortion is moral". 

Rape, the violent act of sexual violation, and abortion, the violent act of killing, can both be immoral at the same time and in the same way. 

Thus, whether abortion is justified or not, it cannot be justified simply because rape is legitimately awful.

Reason #2: Nothing about being conceived in rape invalidates the right to life of the unborn child. 

Human rights are the property of members of human community by virtue of their humanity. 

One of those rights, which happens to be enshrined in the Constitution of the United States of America, is the right to life, a normal right to live and continue to live. 

Thus, if the unborn can be shown to be a full member of the human community, it too would be the rightful property bearer of the right to life and thus not a morally viable candidate for an act like abortion, even if conceived in rape.

Reason #3:  A fetus, even one conceived in rape, has some moral claim on her mother's body (despite the invocation of bodily autonomy). 

Imagine I am out on my sailboat and an unnamed seafarer passes by me and drops a bassinet with a baby inside of it on the starboard deck. 

"It's your responsibility now", he shouts before sailing away.

 This unnamed seaman has violated my time and property, by saddling me with something I do not want. 

Few would suggest I am now morally obligated to raise this child as my own. 

But even fewer would suggest I could justifably throw the baby overboard. 

This child, unwanted as it is, has a relative right to not be killed by me, even if not an absolute right to every part of me (the next 18 years of my life spent raising it, etc.). 

In the same way, abortion in the case of rape due to bodily autonomy ignores the relative right of the child to not be killed by the woman carrying it, even if she did not consent to taking care of it initially. 

Reason #4: While pro-choice advocates often rely on our assumptions about what victims of rape who conceive in rape want, the data suggests we should not assume women who are raped de facto want an abortion or that abortion is necessary to treat the trauma of rape.

For a little background, rape-related pregnancies account for no more than 5% of pregnancies among U.S. women of child-bearing age (1) and 2% of U.S. abortions (2).

It is the case that no study has been able to show that more than 50% of women who conceive in rape elect to abort (3). 

This is significant given pro-choice advocates often talk as if the choice to abort her baby conceived in rape is a forgone conclusion for a raped woman. 

Furthermore, if someone wants to say factors outside the woman's control may inhibit her ability choose abortion (a true statement), such as late-detection and exorbitant costs, similarly, outside factors may inhibit her ability choose life, like partner abuse or family pressure. 

Suffice to say, abortion does not automatically appeal to women conceived in rape.

Reason #5: When a women conceives a child in rape, she and the unborn child are victims. 

Yet to make abortion morally allowable because of rape is to treat the fetus worse than the rapist.

In the West, rapists do not generally receive the death penalty for their crimes, so why should an unborn child's life be held in a lower regard? 

Indeed, even if we did execute rapists, a practice in some countries, it would not follow that the child, which has committed no crime, should have her right to life abrogated.  


Have any more reasons why you believe abortion, even in cases of rape, is wrong? Comment below!

Sources Cited:

1. "A Natural History of Rape" [1987]; "Rape-related Pregnancy" [1996]; and "Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation" [2008].

2. "Reasons Why Women Have Induced Abortions: Evidence from 27 Countries" [1998 study looking back to 1987 to 1988]; "Induced Abortion Facts in Brief" [2000]; "Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions" [2004]; Understanding why women seek abortions in the US [2013].

3. “Sexual Assault and Pregnancy” in Thomas Hulgers, Dennis Horan and David Mall, “New Perspectives on Human Abortion” [1981];  "Victims and Victors" [2000]; "A Natural History of Rape" [2001]. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Tree Uprooted: Why I am Leaving the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.

When I entered college at a Cincinnati Christian University, I expected to spend my life ministering in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.

I enrolled in a university associated with this fellowship of churches (we avoid the word denomination) to prepare me for that future.

I was baptized in this brotherhood, as were my parents, my mother's grandparents, and virtually all the family on my mother's side.

I grew up in an independent Christian Church and deeply identified with our history, the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement.

Indeed, I read our histories, studied our leaders, attended our conferences, played Bible Bowl, am attending one of our institutions of higher learning, and attempted to understand our doctrinal trends.

This was my home.

But no longer.

And that hurts deeper than words can express.

In the past two years, I discovered the teachings of the Anabaptists, a 16th century restoration movement born in reaction to the Magisterial Protestant Reformers and the Roman Catholics.

As a general rule, they stressed non-violence, the separation of Church and State, cultural non-conformity, and the church as a covenanted community.

This manifested itself in refusing to serve in the military, shying away from political offices, plain dress and head-coverings for women (though the latter was common for all churches at the time), a serious cautiousness to worldly entertainment, and the exercise of shunning and disfellowshipping as a means of church discipline.

This tradition is alive today in the Amish, Hutterites, Mennonites, some Brethren groups, the Bruderhof, many independent churches, and more.

Similar groups include the Schwarzenau Brethren and their descendants, and the Quakers.

As I studied this history, the more I saw the similarities between it and my own.

Reading folks like David Lipscomb, Alexander Campbell, Tolbert Fanning on war and politics had convinced me that I could be a pacifist and politically neutral and remain in the Christian Churches.

There was a place for me despite these radical shifts in doctrine.

Yet there were still issues.

I loved how the Anabaptists had a distinctively Christian way of viewing the world, a robust Kingdom framework that didn't simply terminate in one's own personal salvation, invaluable as that is, and helped generate a consistent Christian way of life.

In contrast, the Christian Churches have fully adopted a Constantinian approach to the acceptability of war and the goodness of political involvement just like the rest of evangelicalism.

In addition, the issue of divorce and re-marriage had begun to haunt me, as well.

As I studied the issue, listening to the voice of the early church along the way, I came to believe that when Jesus said "whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery", he meant just that, precluding any remarriage after divorce as licit in God's eyes.

Sadly, I watched the elders of a Christian Church sit on their hands when a couple in their congregation, who had ministered in that congregation, divorced, only to have the brother involved promptly begin dating another sister in the congregation before the legal divorce was even final.

This spectacle unfolded as mature Christians who I had respected and thought better of fawned over this relationship as though nothing was wrong.

 "We didn't even mourn for that marriage", one sister said to me.

Not all Christian Churches are like this, but how many of our churches on the landscape would be willing to exercise church discipline if a couple was un-biblically divorced and refused to submit to some kind of counseling?

How many would want them to?

Furthermore, I realized after going off to college that I was one of a few young people who cared about the Restoration Movement and thought it important and relevant.

But it wasn't just that, I became jaded to churches and ministry programs that seemed to encourage young men to use preaching as a way to advance their fame, with our largest conferences being a who's who of the largest churches in our Movement.

The view of ministry held by the young men was totally centered on getting internships at the biggest and best churches, making connections and networking, and advancing personal ministry careers.

The concern for the universal church, the brotherhood, the evangelization of the world, and how our little lives fit into that big picture was few and far between.

And it is not that there weren't exceptions, but for those who did seem self-motivated, their M.O. seemed less like an aberration of the general approach to preaching and the pastorate taken in Christian Churches, but a logical consequence of it.

The approach is that the preacher serves as the face of the church and the great burden of the ministerial tasks, rather than being spread evenly, are put squarely on his shoulders.

We've seen this unfortunate trend borne out as pastors/senior ministers simply burn out and quit left and right.

The thriving mega-churches are the fittest who have survived where others have not and, even then, at what cost?

There were other issues like head-coverings, modesty, and women teaching Christian doctrine to Christian men, but up to the present, I had hoped I could plant a church with like-minded individuals from the Christian Churches where we could have and champion these distinctives while remaining a part of the larger Christian Church family.

I had zero intention of leaving. It wasn't even on the radar (I had been encouraged to join the Mennonites two years ago and wonder what would have happened if I had).

 What changed everything was the election.

We had a choice to be a different voice from above the fray of the most contentious election in our nation's history and we blew it.

When arguably the most influential and well-known preacher in our movement, as well as an even more well-known theologian all but baptized a vote for Donald Trump, the question was no longer "is there a place for me here?", but "could I stay here if there was?"

I finally answered the question no.

 In conversations with Catholics, Mormons, Witnesses of Jehovah, and secularists, I found myself able to dialogue as to why I disagreed with their community of choice, but unable to offer them an alternative community in good faith.

That stuck with me and was hard to shake.

 I wanted to be a part of a community that stood for something.

It was Rick Atchley of the church of Christ (a cappella) who cautioned the Christian Churches against becoming some watered down form of  non-distinct evangelicalism.

When I read that caution at the North American Christian Convention several years ago, I took it to heart, and now I fear we are far too late.

One Anabaptist author encouraged converts to Anabaptist thought to live out their convictions in their own faith communities.

I love that advice, but at some point I had to be honest with myself: I didn't want to.

 As I look at the (independent) Christian Churches, I cannot see myself here at age 50.

I cannot see the changes I so desperately want to see that would give me an excuse, any excuse, to stay.

 Attending the International Conference of Missions last month reminded me of all the reasons I loved the Christian Churches and it melted away much of my cynicism.

 I still believe that what that conference represents is the best hope for our Movement.

 However, I cannot wait.

If I was stronger, more hopeful, I'd fight it out and do what I could to point us back to our roots and suggest a place for people like me.

But my faith has suffered so much. I have felt alone and disconnected from what used to feel like home.

 I prayed and prayed for God to show me the way forward.
A Group of German Brethren at their Annual Conference

 And, as of now, I believe that way is the German Brethren (New Conference).

This decision has been one of the most difficult I have ever made and will change the course of my life majorly, from my career (there are no paid ministers in this movement), to whom I marry, where I live, and so much more.

 I will always be a child of the Restoration Movement and will always draw wisdom from its leaders, leading lights, and voluminous writings.

Yet, I am ready to move on, carrying with me all that it has taught me.

 Pray for me as I do so.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Should You Believe in the Trinity: Is Jesus Christ Almighty God? (Chapter One)

For the past several weeks, I have studied with Jehovah's Witnesses, members of one of the many millenarian, restorationist Christian traditions to spring forth from the American continent in the early 19th century.

Walking away from these meetings, I better appreciated where we agree and where we disagree.

This post is about where we disagree.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the publishing arm and one of the legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses, publishes a brochure I am going to spend the next several blog posts reviewing.

It is titled, "Should You Believe the Trinity: Is Jesus Christ the Almighty God?"

I have not been able to find this specific publication online, but if I do, I will include link to it in subsequent posts.

Chapter One: "Should You Believe it?"

The brochure begins by asking, "Do you believe in the Trinity? Most people in Christendom do. After all, it has been the central doctrine of the churches for centuries. In view of this, you would think that there could be no question about it. But there is, and lately even some of its supporters have added fuel to the controversy" (3).

Here begins a pattern of inconsistency wherein if the logic employed in this brochure against the Trinity was used against positions held by Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs), those positions would be refuted, too.

For example, the brochure implies that because the Trinity "has been the central doctrine of the churches for centuries" one would think "there could be no question about it."

However, this is obviously false, as belief in Jesus's virgin birth, his anointing by the Holy Spirit, his ministry of healings and exorcism, his ascension into heaven, and his revelation to John his apostle concerning the the Last Days, all teachings JWs would consider "central", have also been called into questions by supposed "supporters."

Yet, the JWs do not argue that these beliefs are false or use the existence people who doubt these doctrines to undercut their thereof.

And, indeed, when we look at the individual "supporters" whom "Should You Believe the Trinity" (SYBTT) references, many of them hold rationalistic worldviews and use reasoning JWs would reject if such worldviews and reasoning were applied to their doctrines.

In proof of this, page three of SYBT quotes "one history source" a book titled "The Paganism in Our Christianity" as saying, "the origin of the [Trinity] is entirely pagan."

Here it is important to add, in addition to using inconsistent reasoning, SYBT also engages in extensive quote mining, where various quotes are selected and featured for no reason other than that they agree with the position of JWs, while quotes from scholars who disagree are noticeably absent.

The author of "The Paganism in Our Christianity", Arthur Weigall, (1880-1934) has no apparent credentials to speak of that would make him in expert in Christian history, Christian origins, or Christian doctrine.

Indeed, his educational background was in Egyptology 1.

Furthermore, in his book "Paganism", which gets more playing time than the work of any other single author in SYBT, he not only asserts the Trinity is pagan, but that the virgin birth 2, the calling of twelve disciples 3, the atoning work of Christ on the cross 4, worshiping on Sunday 5, and the miracles of Jesus are all pagan in origin 6.

Unsurprisingly, he also rejects the belief that the New Testament is a reliable historical account 7.

However, the Watchtower skips past his lack of qualifications, his disbelief in these many Bible doctrines, and his rejection of the reliability of the New Testament, and simply focuses on Weingall's rejection of the Trinity because that supports their position on the Trinity.

Furthermore, calling Weingall's book a "historical source", is as transparent as me quoting a biased Evangelical work on the history of Jehovah's Witnesses and calling it a "historical source".

This first chapter is only half a page long. In the next post we will examine chapter two of the brochure.


1. See his biography, A Passion for Egypt, written by his granddaughter, Julie Hankey.

2. The Paganism in Our Christianity, Arthur Weigall, 1928; 44, 60:   It seems, in fact, that we have to deal with a contradiction due to the later insertion of the story of the Virgin Birth beside the earlier story of the descent of Jesus from David through Joseph; and, in this case, we may place its inception somewhere in the Second Century. The growth of such a story may well be understood, for tales of the births of pagan gods and heroes from the union of a deity with a maiden were common."  

"The story of the Virgin Birth, as I have pointed out in Chapter IV, is derived from pagan sources."

3. The Paganism in Our Christianity, Arthur Weigall, 1928, 25: "There is evidence, it is suggested, of the cult of a sun-god called Joshua or Jesus in primitive times, whose, twelve disciples were the twelve signs of the Zodiac and just as Jesus Christ with His twelve apostles came to Jerusalem to eat the Paschal lamb, so Joshua crossed the Jordan with his twelve helpers and offered that jamb on the other side, and so the Greek Jason -an identical name- with his twelve retainers went in search of the golden fleece of the lamb. It is pointed out that there are no contemporary or nearly contemporary references to Jesus in history, with the exception of those in the genuine Epistles of Paul and Peter, where, however, His life on earth is hardly mentioned at all, nor anything which really establishes Him as a historic personage." 

4.  The Paganism in Our Christianity, Arthur Weigall, 1928, 10: "The worship of suffering gods was to be found on all sides, and the belief in the torture of the victims in the rites of human sacrifice for the redemption from sin was very general. The gods Osiris, Attis, Adonis, Dionysos, Herakles, Prometheus, and others, had all suffered for mankind; and thus the Servant of Yahweh was also conceived as having to be wounded for' men's transgressions. But as I say, this conception had passed into the background in the days of Jesus." 

5. The Paganism in Our Christianity, Arthur Weigall, 1928, 136:  The Hebrew Sabbath having been abolished by Christians, the Church made a sacred clay of Sunday, partly because it was the day of the resurrection, but largely because it was the weekly festival of the sun; for it was a definite Christian policy to take over the pagan festivals endeared to the people by tradition, and to give them a Christian significance. But, as a solar festival, Sunday was the sacred day of Mithra; and it is interesting to notice that since Mithra was addressed, as Dominus, ‘Lord,” Sunday must have been ‘the Lord’s Day’ long before Christian times.” 

6. The Paganism in Our Christianity, Arthur Weigall, 1928, p58: "The marvel is not that there are so many, but that there are so few, improbable stories told about Him, since He was acknowledged to be divine, and therefore was presumed to have performed miracles and to have been the cause of miraculous occurrences..These, and hundreds of similar stories in connection with other persons, were the talk of the world at the time of the composition of the Gospels. Everybody believed in miraculous events, in signs and wonders; and it was always assumed that saintly or divine personages showed their. power by performing miracles. Plotinus, the philosopher, is said, to have performed them; Apollonius of Tyana is credited with many miracles; and those told of the early Christian saints are far more numerous and far more extraordinary than are those of the Founder of the Faith."

7. The Paganism in Our Christianity, Arthur Weigall, 1928, p58: "The earliest of the Gospels, that of St. Mark, did not assume its present form until between forty and seventy years after the death of our Lord, and the other Gospels are still later in date; and it is absolutely incredible that the stories about Him should have remained unexaggerated and unaugmented during that period. Tales about a popular hero invariably expand; and in the case of those relating to Jesus, who was accepted by His early followers at first as the God sent Messiah and then as the Son of God incarnate on earth, it is impossible to believe that they would not gradually have been embellished, or that some of them would not have been developed around an insignificant nucleus, or unconsciously borrowed from other sources, or even invented."

I am indebted to the folks at for the quotes from Weigall's book. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Life in Review: My (Fake) Obituary


On June 30th 1995, Eric James Miller was born. And on November 22nd 2061, at the age of 66, he passed from death unto life into an eternity with God. 

At three years old, Eric was adopted by his parents John and Debra Miller and was raised in the sprawling college town of Champaign-Urbana with his five older siblings. 

He received his MDiv from Cincinnati Christian University and his PhD in New Testament from the University of Chicago. 

From 2015-2025, Eric served at Western Hills Iglesia de Cristo, a small Spanish-speaking congregation in the Price Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati, during which time he finished his Undergraduate work, completed trade school to become a licensed electrician, and received a Master of Religion degree from Cincinnati Bible Seminary. 

While in Chicago, he started a church in the tradition of the OGBB, New Conference (it's a real denomination), the tradition he joined after leaving the CC/CO, citing a cascade of theological differences. 

After obtaining his degree, he returned to Cincinnati at age 36, working at an electrical supply company and planting an German Brethren congregation.

 His life-long dream was to start a new Christian religion, but apparently God had done a good enough job the first time around. 

Some of Eric's passions included ministry at the local abortion clinic, the homeless in downtown Cincinnati, English tutoring for the many Guatemalan and other immigrants in the Price Hill area , small Bible study fellowships, and community transformation as the Body of Christ took seriously Christ's call to be his hands and his feet. 

Eric was known as a quiet, un-opinionated guy, who hated debate and controversy--yes he would have laughed, too. 

Though Eric was known for wanting more than a dozen children, 19 to be exact, he could not shake the call of God on his life to devote himself to the work of the gospel as a single man and thus remained unmarried.

In 2035, at the age of 40, Eric began to be overwhelmed with a need to go and bring the Gospel to the poorest of the poor. At this time, he began to learn Portuguese and 2 years later, dispossessed himself of his small house on Wells Street in Price Hill, gave his books to the church, and moved to the largest ghetto in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as a missionary. 

He lived and worked among the poor with modest fruit, for 12 years, convinced God has put him there for such a time as this. 

However, after serving in the favela for those years, Eric became seriously ill with Lyme Disease. 

His family used the money he had saved from years of secular work as an electrician to fly him home to Illinois to receive treatment. 

It was a long haul, and while Eric survived, the debilitating side-effects of his disease made a return to Brazil impossible. 

Eric recounted that this was one of the darkest times in his life and that he struggled to see God's plan in it all.

But then something unexpected happened. 

At the age of 55, three years after returning to the U.S. and re-settling in his hometown of Champaign, IL, Eric married. 

His wife-to-be, a widow whose husband of 20 years had died some five years previous, had been a chaplain at the hospital where Eric had stayed. 

And a year and half after their marriage, they adopted three siblings, aged 14, 16, and 17. 

Eric worked full-time at Tepper Electric Supply Company, where his father had worked for over 35 years, and ministered as an elder at a local German Brethren congregation. 

He traveled nationally engaging in debates and lectures on the existence of God, the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, the reliability of the New Testament, and Anabaptist Christianity.

On November 22nd 2061, while biking home from work at 7 in the evening, Eric was struck by a drunk driver going the wrong way on a one way street. 

He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but did not survive the ambulance trip.

He leaves behind his wife and three children, as well as three sisters and one brother. 

He is preceded in death by his parents and oldest brother.

With everything he had, Eric tried to live a life of distinction. 

He was fond of saying, "If I am not filled with Christ", I have nothing to offer anyone else." 

Also, make sure you pick up one of his many best-belling books in the back.