How Teaching Answers Fails Christian Students

by Lenny Esposito

This morning, I talked with a friend of mine who teaches at a local Christian college. The students he instructs come from traditional evangelical homes, and the parents pay high tuition to send their kids to a school that will provide a solid, biblical framework during their higher education. But something still bothered him.

He had given his students the assignment of presenting an argument for some cultural topic or issue of the students’ choice, and one of his brightest students chose to discuss the morality of embryonic stem-cell research. She read her paper in front of the class, arguing that the embryo is a human being; thus destroying an embryo for research is destroying a human being and is wrong. She provided reasons for her position and did well in supporting her view.

All of this sounds great, but what happened afterward has me deeply concerned. Because the students presented their papers orally, each student was to leave five minutes for questions and answers at the end of their presentations. When asked to clarify what she means when she said it was wrong, she responded, “Well, I mean it is wrong for me. I wouldn’t fund any type of research like this but I couldn’t impose my moral views on another person who may want to do so.”

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I’ve commented many times on why moral relativism fails as a true way to measure the rightness or wrongness of an action, but my bigger concern is this strange contradiction between the paper this student presented and her about-face during the Q&A. I mean, think about it: if moral claims are subjective and personal, then they don’t need to be argued for or against. No one has to provide three reasons why they choose soup over salad for their dinner. We understand that these are subjective choices that cater to the taste of the individual, therefore supplying reasons to make such a choice is superfluous.

So, after all the effort this student put forth in defending her moral objection to the practice of embryonic stem cell research, she simply undercut her whole argument by saying that the case is only applicable to herself. Why would she do such a thing?

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