Sujet: How to win it back!
De: tothesource
Date: 23 Jun 2005 06:06:03 -0700

June 23, 2005  

Dear Concerned Citizen,

by Dr. Nigel Cameron

Remember the anguished hand-wringing in the 50s over Who lost China? Well, the biggest question facing Americans today is: Who lost bioethics?

Because lost it we have. "Bioethics," a made-up word from the early 70s, covers everything from abortion to euthanasia to stem cells and cloning. It's the debate about medicine and ethics and biology and public policy.

It's also a pseudo-profession, culled from the ranks of philosophers and docs and biology profs that gives them their 15 minutes of fame on network TV. Guru-in-chief is Art Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania and his wannabe successor Glenn McGee, whose six-figure book deal shows his star quality. Caplan is a charming man, smart, suave, and when I have debated him, sometimes given to surprising candor. One time an anchor translated my more measured terms and asked him if an egregious pro-cloning statement by Michael West (who claimed to have cloned the first US human embryos) was b*** s***. He had the decency to agree.

And he is influential. When the United Nations started its 3-year debate on human cloning I was invited to serve as bioethics adviser on the US delegation. Guess which American the UN itself invited to be the cloning "expert" who lectured representatives of every nation in the world as part of a five-member panel? Caplan.

Arthur Caplan is the quintessential face of contemporary bioethics. Yet he does not in any way represent the American people. How did bioethics get so out of whack with the people? How did it switch from a Hippocratic focus on the sanctity of life to a public relations department for whatever the biotech industry wants to do next?

In the wide-ranging book on The Secular Revolution (edited by Christian Smith, 2003), one chapter lets John H. Evans explain the bioethics story - how something so close to the hearts of religious Americans on such vital issues ended up almost entirely in the hands of the secular elite.

One central problem, of course, is that we walked out. There is no question that a chief agent of secularization in American culture has been "conservative" Christians. They have withdrawn from the fray faster than anyone has pushed them out. And there is no better example than in the field of bioethics. If here, where human life is most immediately at stake - and where we have deployed such energetic political and caring resources to the question of abortion - we have failed to develop expertise and leadership, is it a surprise that in other areas of the culture we keep sensing that we are losing it?

Let's give two examples to make the point.

America is blessed with more than one hundred serious-minded, accredited, four-year Christian (basically evangelical) colleges - as well as many Catholic institutions. Back in the early 90s, I shared a luncheon presentation to the presidents of these evangelical schools with my friend, former Surgeon-General, C. Everett Koop. At that time not one evangelical school offered even a minor in bioethics - though almost all of them have pre-med students; and not one evangelical school had developed a grad program in the field. We pleaded with the presidents to prepare their students for the extraordinary opportunities of leadership in this emerging discussion of human life - especially those who were planning to go to med school. Now, more than a decade later, things have changed - but not much. One school has a minor. One school has a grad program. It just happens to be the school ( Trinity International University) where I taught back in the 90s and was able to press for these programs. In the world of evangelical higher education, no-one else has taken up the challenge.

Of course, this was really the challenge of the 70s. That's when "bioethics" got off the ground, and the secularists were wide awake to their opportunities. Yet, three decades later, the evangelical community is still so focused on the symptom (abortion) that it can hardly spare a thought for the disease process (a secular bioethics, pushing secular assumptions about what it means to be human) that has led our culture to think in terms of human life in post-Christian terms. That may not sound so bad - but only if you are unconcerned about euthanasia, have never heard of stem cell research that destroys embryos, and have not been following the new technologies - which some people plan to use to remake human nature itself!

The second example is equally telling. In Washington, DC, where so much is decided, there are many think-tanks that devise policy and prepare people to shape the future of government in our land. There are liberal groups and conservative groups, and they and their staffs have far more influence on the future of this nation than most Americans know. Guess what! Among them all, there is not one whose chief concern is to focus Christian thinking on bioethics and the future of human nature. Not one. We have groups that share these concerns (like Wilberforce Forum and Family Research Council), and we have pro-life advocacy groups (chiefly the National Right to Life Committee). But a think tank? A center looking at the huge range of biopolicy issues? Not a sign.

There are plenty of other discouraging examples. Back in 1983 I started the first serious Christian bioethics journal (Ethics and Medicine), and more than two decades later it is still the only bioethics journal that takes a clear Christian view. A few years later, in my book The New Medicine: Life and Death after Hippocrates, I offered a model to Christians - to use the originally pagan Hippocratic Oath, which is still held in high esteem in medicine, as the basis for a public translation of Christian bioethics distinctives. Despite high praise from C. Everett Koop, Chuck Colson, Harold O.J. Brown, and Richard John Neuhaus, and a review in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, it has hardly been a best seller!

In truth, we have abandoned the battlefield. Way back in the early 70s, Paul Ramsey, Princeton professor and profound Christian thinker, sought to set the tone for the emerging bioethics agenda. Very few Christians have followed. The field of serious intellectual inquiry and policy making has been abandoned to the likes of Art Caplan. So we should hardly be surprised when we hear television "bioethicists" prating their contempt for the sanctity of life, when every effort the President makes to raise serious moral concerns on stem cells and cloning is dismissed as the work of the "religious right," and when we are comprehensively out-maneuvered by the secular elite in every biopolicy issue.

These issues will define our future, and that of the race. They will dominate the moral agenda of the 21st century. Who lost bioethics? Well, we did. Time to go get it back!

And the way to begin is with the churches. This is where we have vast reservoirs of untapped resources; MDs, nurses, researchers, teachers - and pastors whose leadership will be the key to turning around a generation of neglect.

Just a few days ago I was invited to spend the day at Rick Warren's "purpose-driven" Saddleback Community Church, in southern California. In the morning, the Center for Bioethics and Culture had arranged their latest "pastors' briefing" to update church leaders on this vast agenda. In the evening, Saddleback pulled in hundreds of their people for one of the most stimulating meetings I can remember. Once I finished speaking, the questions had to be cut off after an hour and a half - incisive, engaged, on everything from embryos to living wills and nanotechnology. My message had been clear: God has called us to be 21st century Christians. We don't need to politicize the church, just to teach people that as patients or relatives or citizens we will all engage these issues - and that this follows from our discipleship as night follows day.

Responses to: Misquoting Our Founding Fathers

Great article, but why did you not include Thomas Jefferson and so of his quotes in your list of founding fathers? - J. D.

Did I miss anyone saying why our Constitution and its Preamble are both godless and that the Constitution says there should be no religious test for office? Personal views about religion or ideas about God on the part of the Founding Fathers do not change the secular nature of the Constitution. Religious views certainly belong in the marketplace of ideas but they are not found in the US Constitution or in its Preamble. - B. Y.

It is of interest that the terminology of the quotes in the article does not include the word “Christian.” All of the references quoted include the words “religion” and “morals,” or morality. Those terms are broader and more inclusive than the word “Christian.” The problem is not the influence of “religion” in our heritage. The problem lies in extremists who are determined to make our country a “Christian nation.” We forget that one of the passionate reactions of the Revolution was aimed at the concept of a governmental form of religion, a revolt from a system of “state church” or “church state.” And now we hear voices that call for a revolution that would lead to the reestablishment of a form of governmental identity as a “Christian nation?” The Revolution was fueled by an undying passion for “liberation” from the arbitrary control by government, and the drive for liberation resulted in a version of “freedom of” that has been honored throughou t our history. It would be a contradiction to move from “freedom of religion” to the establishment of an identity as a “Christian nation.” There is no doubt that the “Founding Fathers” would rise up with aggressive protest. - E. T.

I am a Christian. I love my country. I hate what people often do in the name of 'religion.' We are at war in this nation. I'm not talking about the war on terrorism or in the Middle East. I'm talking about a civil war of intolerance and self-righteousness and false piety that drives a wedge between good people in this great nation. A nation divided cannot stand against itself -- and America has never been more divided. Why not let people of faith find unity on their own, without forcing the issue of religion in our courts and in our legislative branch of government? The way to save souls is not by force. Love justice, show mercy, walk humbly. Keep the facist right wing American Bible thumpers out of our government. - K. K.

I am completely outraged by some of the comments to you from certain individuals in this latest article, "Misqouting Our Founding Fathers". Several of them compared the "moral outrage" of tax supported stem cell research to the war in Iraq where children and innocent people are getting killed. If you don't correct this distorted thinking I would like to by saying that 1. I suppose these people would have also been morally outraged by the Revolutionary War and the war against Hitler. 2. President Bush and the Coalition are not the ones killing innocent people, it is the terrorists that are doing this. The war in Iraq are against the terrorists, not the children. Children do get caught in the crossfire. But if we don't fight the terrorists there we will surely fight them here at home and then our children will get caught in the crossfire. These people who have made these comments don't seem to have clarily in their understanding of these issues a nd seem to have had their morals adjusted by the liberal media. I believe many americans have had their morals distorted and these comments are evidence of this. - J. S.

Please re-read the quotations you list to back your assertion that most of the founding fathers were not deists: each one mentions "religion," but not one mentions Christianity or Jesus Christ. They all liked the idea of religion, and many liked the Bible, but only in a non-descript, non-doctrinal sort of way. That's the very definition of deism. As for the clandestine meetings at which they swore allegiance to some deist creed, a large number of the founding fathers were Freemasons, and that's exactly what they did at their clandestine meetings. Were they anti-Christian? Only a handful. Most smiled paternally at Christians and their "quaint" beliefs; the founding fathers, by and large, thought themselves too intellectual to believe all those "myths and legends." Just read Jefferson's de-mythologized version of the Bible. But the vast majority of these men did not profess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, so I don't see how we can claim them as our brethren. - D. D.

The quotations provided from America's founding fathers do not prove that they envisioned orthodox Christianity as the foundation of our national laws and public policies. Some of them may have. But the quotes provided are, for the most part, consistent with a vaguely Christianized deism (e.g., early Unitarianism) which would be considered anathema by most contemporary evangelical Christians. When people say the founding fathers were not Christians they mean that many of the most influential founding fathers such as Jefferson and Franklin did not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, the Trinity, salvation through Christ by grace alone, or the Bible as supernaturally inspired and the sole authority for all faith and practice. Were those founding fathers alive today they would join Unitarian churches or liberal, mainline churches rather than evangelical ones (unless the Spirit of God changed their hearts and minds!). Nobody contests that many of the founding fathers considered themselves Christians. The question is whether they really were Christians by conservative, orthodox, evangelical standards. Most of them were not; some were. Nevertheless, what is beyond dispute is that none of them were secular humanists or atheists with the possible exception of Thomas Paine who was probably an agnostic or free thinker. If he believed in God, the "God" he believed in was identical with a spiritual impulse in nature. If the founding fathers were alive today they would have little sympathy for or in common with the secular humanists who also want to claim them. They believed that belief in God is important to public life, but they failed to define that God in Christian terms most of the time. And especially Jefferson insisted on separating government from organized religion. Separation of church and state is not anti-God or anti-Christian; it is the best protection for both. Christianity thrives where government does not inte rfere or favor it. Government works best where it is not dominated by any religious or quasi-religious organization. That is not to say that religious people cannot influence government as citizens, but attempts to force government to do the bidding of powerful pastors or churches are steps toward theocracy and will ultimately undermine the vitality and independence of Christianity as well as of government. - R. O.

I find the letters to editor, or “Responses” section, too lengthy and often objectionable. At times I regret I can’t forward one of your emails to friends, all because of a letter or two in the Responses. The responses to “Contrary to Popular Opinion is a good example. And the responses don’t have anything to do with the current article. I suggest you drop them all together. If not, choose shorter ones, or edit them down. Otherwise I appreciate and benefit from your articles. - J. K.

Hmm. Deists can be moral and can reference God. Jefferson refused to believe in the resurrection or deity of Christ! That disqualifies him as bearing the label, Christian! (see Romans 10!). - D. S.

Crazy. Ben Fanklin did not believe Christ was God. Besides that they rebelled against the authority instead of paying their taxes. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. They were not Christians. - A. S.

The article, "Misquoting Our Founding Fathers," was first-rate and very enlightening. Many more people need the message. - D. T.

Where are the pictures of our godly President Bush? - P. J.

Excellent article. I wish our children had more access to these truths. It is important to continue to educate and make aware the truth of the Founder's words. I beleive that most people have fallen for the misquotes because of their own laziness in hungering for the truth. - B. R.

Finally! Thanks for explaining it simply and plainly. Freedom is the key! I want to be FREE to live out my faith in my country. I don't want a national or state religion, whether it be Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, or Atheism. Our leaders should be working for freedom FOR religion, not freedom FROM religion. - S. B.

Great stuff! Some Christians have told me again and again that if the Founders were true Christians, they would not have rebelled, as in accordance with Romans 13. The example they site is that Jesus or Paul never encouraged rebellion against the Emporer and then will ask me for New Testament Scriptures that justify the American Revolution. What is your take on that? - A. R.

I generally enjoy your articles, but must say I do not concur with your latest regarding our founding fathers. First of all I am an evangelical pastor that believes in the inerrancy of the word, and preach it regularly. I also have read extensively in this area, and have taught the subject on many occasions, but I do not believe that our nation is founded on biblical values; Christian or religious values most likely, but I believe that this erroneous belief has led to a false adherence to country first and God second. I do not disagree that there was a religious element in our country’s inchoate beginning, and that religion was certainly Christian based (Not Hindu, Muslim, etc.), but even some of the quotes that you provide to prove our father’s loyalty to the faith do nothing more than contribute to a state religion for moral reasons, which is more deistic than it is biblical. And putting Benjamin Franklin (A known deist) in to prove anything is spurious at best. I believe that many of these founding fathers held to a Kantian “Moral ought” for ordering a society, but were not interested in the promulgation of the miraculous life of Jesus Christ, the gospel He died for or the ethics that He lived. Jefferson was very instrumental in the shaping of our constitution and the direction of our country, and he reduced the bible to a few pithy common sense proverbs on the way to his vehement humanism. Furthermore many of these men (George Washington Included) failed to uphold certain biblical truths by advocating and owning slaves, revolting against the acting government of the land for reasons that had nothing to do with biblical justification, and justifying great atrocities against Native Americans in the name of God. It is this type of glorification of our founders that has contributed to much of the arrogance of this country, as well as, some of the disdain the non-believer has for the true God, who is neither America n or Republican. - M. G.

Hey friends, before you call us "non factual, lacking in integrity, ridiculous, overstating, deceptive, one-sided, absurd, etc......." wouldn't it be more fair to carefully read the article you are excoriating? We never asserted that all the founders were Christians. Some were diests, some were Christians and some were atheists. They did not want an established national religion. They were opposed to both government suppression and government establishment of religion in order to allow for free religious expression.

Your article was interesting, but I believe not factual. There are very few of our Founding Fathers that believed in Christ,only God (Diests). Religion and the Bible do not equal Jesus Christ necessarily. Listen to Jefferson in this quote: Benjamin Franklin, delegate to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, said: "As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion...has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble." He died a month later, and historians consider him, like so many great Americans of his time, to be a Deist, not a Christ ian. John Adams, the country's second president, was drawn to the study of law but faced pressure from his father to become a clergyman. He wrote that he found among the lawyers 'noble and gallant achievments" but among the clergy, the "pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces". Late in life he wrote: "Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!" It was during Adam's administration that the Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which states in Article XI that "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." - B. S.

Your lack of integrity is astounding! A "Deist" is not one who participates in "clandestine gatherings in Philadelphia's Independence Hall", nor is it one who "swear(s) allegiance to some obscure deist creed," and it certainly is not one who takes a "pledge to set America on the course of eradicating Biblical belief from all corners of the land." To try to dismiss the truth that the founding fathers were Deist by mis-stating who a Deist is is false propaganda of the worst sort. A Diest is as the name implys, one who believes in the Deity with a capital. Deists believe in God. A Deist may not be an evangelical. He/she may not believe Jesus is God. But a Deist does acknowlege and believe in God. I am sick of people calling themselves Christian spreading lies, deception, and propaganda in the name of Christ. - J. H. Y.

While your quotations of various early American leaders and their faith perspective is accurate, you fail to consider the the overaching whole of their and other early American leaders' work. The wholeness to their work was a desire to create a climate in early America that all persons of all the varieties of faith that America had and would someday contain could live together with respect. Yes, they did not retreat nor water down their own faith perspectives, and neither should we; but they did reserve a certain level of civility and decorum in order to live with one another that we have lost as a people. So, I rate your article fair at best because it fails, exceedly so, for looking at a few trees and missing the importance of the forest. I say this because I share with you an awesome responsibility in regards to leadership in this present and future generations. The climate, the respect (and lack thereof ) is directly related to what we, tog ether, may say and do. Quoting the Aposlte Paul -- all things might be lawful for you and I to do, but all things are not beneficial. It is time for you and I to step the quality and caring of our leadership. I hold us both responsible for that and will accept nothing less. - H. G.

With one or two exceptions all of the quotes you listed could have been made by Deists, so I don't think they supported your point! . - D. W.

I find your opening paragraph ridiculous at its face. It does not advance the business of intellectual discourse and presents a view of Deists that targets our basest emotions about this subject. We should, rather, try to get at the truth, rather than “conjure up images” of things that clearly never happened. The truth is that some of the Founding Fathers were Deists. Thomas Jefferson was the most notable, and he had re-written a version of the New Testament that simply erases any reference to spiritual miracles performed in Jesus’ name. He was not, as you have written, fostering “clandestine gatherings in Philadelphia's Independence Hall where one by one (the Founding Fathers would) swear allegiance to some obscure deist creed and pledge to set America on the course of eradicating Biblical belief from all corners of the land.” Deism doesn’t conjure up that image to me; that it conjures up that image to you s ays more about your fears and suspicions than it does about your pursuit of the truth. What you have written is simply baiting, and you know it. That language smacks of the worst of the McCarthy Era and should have been relegated to the trash heap decades ago. On the positive side of your article, not all of the Founding Fathers were Deists. Many were, as you note Christians, and felt a strong need to include morality in the government. The point is that the founding of our country was a complex process filled with personalities of many different beliefs. It was not all Christian nor was it all Deist. To present our Constitution as solely the triumph of one view or another does a great disservice to the document that they created. Particularly to the notion that this country was designed, from the beginning, to be a land where all views are to be respected. That’s the larger context in which this all exists. Let’s try to keep to the facts. They stand on their own without the need for us to “conjure up” images about them. And we certainly don’t need you to “conjure up” images for us. - D. M.

I was disappointed by your article on the founding fathers. As comforting as it might be to believe that all of these were Christians, many were in fact deists who denied central doctrines of historic Christianity such as the Trinity and God's involvement in the affairs of this world. (I am an evangelical pastor and former seminary professor.) I have read enough of their writings myself over the years to know that this is true. Jefferson, for example, denied miracles in the New Testament and produced his own edited version that reduced its teaching to ethical principles (not unlike early 20th century liberalism). I do not doubt that many of their writings are quoted out of context, but your quotations likewise give a misimpression. There is little in the quotations you cited to indicate that the authors held anything more than a respect for some sort of "religion." Of course, other founding fathers were evangelical Christians. But it does your cause no good to overstate your case. - J. M.

All the quotes menioned in the article speak in very broad terms of the Bible, morality and religion. There is no mention of the Christian religion or Jesus Christ. Deists contrary to the weird definition you gave was the belief in a God and that dependence on God was key. Louisa May alcott, and many of the Founding Fathers were indeed Deists, members of what is now known as the Unitarian Universalist Church. They did not believe in a Trinity but in one God. Maybe you should do more history and philosophy study before ranting. - C. B.

As a whole the early founders very much acknowledged religion as part of the moral fiber of the country. It is absolutely clear that Thomas Jefferson was a deist. He did not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. George Washington was basically neutral on the matter of faith. Ben Franklin had a disdain for it. While most of the early signees were religous men, we do an injustice to portray people like Jefferson, Washington, Franklin as Christians in the modern sense. That, they were not and there is much historical data to substaniate it. I think your article does an injustice to this perspective. - T. B.

Who in the world wrote that article? The author was just as deceptive as the side he was arguing against. The fact of the matter is, John Adams was a Christian, and most of our founding fathers were Christians, but George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were definitely not. Making a one sided argument about our founding fathers is like saying that all republicans are Christians. Our Founding Fathers were individuals, and hence, they each had different beliefs. On the one side, I understand making a point against the secularists who misquote Adams, but we should be careful not to misquote Washington and Franklin. The knowledgeable historian will just shake his head. - J. K.

This article is absurd. The writer claims that the founding fathers were not deists and then goes on to quote them all expounding deist beliefs. Remember deists believed deeply in moraliry and civic religion that undergirded and aided the pursuit of democracy. They were not atheists. At the same time, they were not strong expounders of the God revealed in the Christian scriptures and tradition. - M. M.

I am a pastor, and I share most of the views that are upheld in "To the Source." However, I was not impressed with this one on the founding fathers for this reason. The claim is made that they were not actually deists, but Christians. When I read this, I was expecting to see quotations in which these men expressed their faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Yet, not one of those quotations that was used mentions anything of Jesus, His death and resurrection, faith in Jesus, or anything else that makes one a Christian. Instead, I read a lot about "morals," and "religion," being the basis and foundation of our society. Talk about morals and religion does not mark one as a Christian. My question is this: did the founding fathers who were quoted actually confess faith in God the FAther, Son, and Holy Spirit? If not, then they were not Christians. Did they believe that Jesus Christ was true God, begotten of His FAther from eternity, and also true M an, born of the Virgin Mary? Did they believe in the regenerative powers of holy Baptism (with water and the Word)? Did they confess Christ's bodily presence in the Lord's Supper? Did they trust in God's mercy in Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins? Or did they just believe in a "God." Faith in "God" means nothing unless one confesses Jesus Christ as the incarnate Son of God, who died on the cross and rose again from the dead for our sins. Didn't Thomas Jefferson tear out all of the supernatural parts of the four Gospels? - P. L. B.

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The Ethics of Bioethics
Paul Ramsey
FAQ Snowflake Embryo Adoption
We live complex lives. We strive to sort out priorities that sometimes conflict or seem incompatible. A moral framework is needed to help us understand the reality around us. Our Judeo-Christian heritage provides a framework to help us comprehend the choices we make and the conflicts that arise over them. It is not only the main source of our spiritual values, but also many of the secular values we depend on.

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  Dr. Nigel Cameron
Nigel M. de S. Cameron, former provost and distinguished professor of theology and culture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, former dean of the Wilberforce Forum ( and director of Colson's Council for Biotechnology Policy. He also serves as chairman of The Center for Bioethics and Culture ( He is a consultant in ethics and public policy, and in his specialist field of bioethics he has given congressional testimony and represented the United States at the United Nations.
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