Adult Stem Cells Provide First Ever HIV Cure

As long as the cure holds, that headline is big news. Very big news for anyone who lived through the HIV fears of the 1980s, and who has seen this disease as “incurable” ever since.

That the cure seems to have happened as a side effect of a painful leukemia treatment should not make the cure for HIV any less significant. Yet it strikes me that in this article, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, seems to downplay the importance of this first-ever cure for HIV. Why could that be? Other than heading off unrealistic hopes for those currently suffering with HIV, I have no idea.

On the other hand, I think it’s also significant that this treatment, which has apparently cured both the leukemia and the HIV infection, involved the use of adult stem cells. Those are the type of stem cells that do not require the death of a human being for their use. I have no moral objection to this kind of medicine, which is apparently capable of amazingly effective treatments. However, I do object on moral grounds to the use of embryonic stem cells, because in order for them to be “harvested,” the living human embryo to whom they belong must be put to death.

Since the value of human life has sadly become a political issue in the United States, I would expect advocates of the so-called “culture of death” (proponents of legal abortion, embryonic stem cell research, physician-assisted suicide, etc.) to be somewhat conflicted by this news. I’m sure everyone’s glad to hear about a cure for HIV, but the fact that the first cure has come through adult stem cells tends to vindicate the moral objection to embryonic stem cell research. Not only does it intentionally destroy innocent human life, treating it with far less regard than the U.S. military treats collateral damage, but embryonic stem cell medicine may be no more effective than adult stem cell medicine. Now that pluripotent adult stem cells can be produced, there is no longer even a weak justification for the destruction of innocent human life necessary to obtain embryonic stem cells.

The Truth About Self Protection

Book Cover Just finished a book from 1983 by Massad Ayoob, called The Truth about Self Protection. Mr. Ayoob, besides being a writer, is a well-respected expert in the field of combat and self protection. Already in 1983, he was a well-known instructor in several martial disciplines and weapons. He has been an expert witness in this area, which is one of the first things I heard about him in detail. Having served as a police officer for 14 years (and now part-time for 36 years), he is well respected by many in both law enforcement and the legal system. He was the director of Lethal Force Institute for 28 years, and now heads the Massad Ayoob Group. Both organizations provide expert training in the legal use of force.

Though there are several areas where the book is dated, there is a lot of good advice too. From a confessional Lutheran point of view, Mr. Ayoob (in 1983) has an unscriptural perspective on the spiritual side of the decision to defend oneself. That’s not unsurprising, since only a small minority of Americans really understands what the Bible says about salvation. However, Mr. Ayoob’s perspective only affects a particular course of reasoning behind a Christian’s decision to use deadly force. There are better reasons to reach the conclusion that a Christian may defend himself and others from the immediate threat of death or grave injury by using deadly force. Since Mr. Ayoob does not claim to be an expert in theology (Christian or otherwise), I think we can still appreciate his expertise in the area of self-protection.

There is an essential spiritual element left out of any approach to self protection, because of its limitation to the self. Naturally, it falls outside the scope of Mr. Ayoob’s book. This essential spiritual element is faith in the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, I could see why non-Christians might scoff at a reliance upon God’s protection. But since God’s only-begotten Son became a man for the express purpose of redeeming us and granting us eternal life, we can be sure that God always has our best interest at heart, and will influence the world accordingly. But notice that this does not mean we know our best interest. Sometimes it is in our best interest to suffer, at least until we reach our true home in heaven. Furthermore, our Creator and Savior has also provided us with hands, feet, and a mind capable of defending ourselves and our loved ones from unlawful violence. (Unfortunately, there is also lawful violence and injustice exercised by every earthly government, and we are only allowed to resist it when it would force us to disobey God’s law.) Especially in the United States, where the law-abiding citizens’ right to own and carry arms is constitutionally protected, the Christian citizen in the face of immediate threat to life and limb becomes part of God’s temporal plan to curb that violence, in a way comparable to Melanchthon’s case of necessity in the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, paragraph 67.

So I don’t recommend that Christians rely only upon temporal resources for their self-protection, but I also don’t recommend that we neglect them. Perhaps you have heard the old joke about the Christian caught in a flood who remained praying in his house despite several visits from helpful neighbors in cars, boats, and finally helicopters. After he died, he angrily asked God why He didn’t answer his fervent prayer to save his life. God’s reply: “I sent you cars, boats, and helicopters. What more do you want?” So God’s protection may be closer than we thought, even in our own mind and limbs. But whatever may happen to us, a Christian need not be anxious, because we have a reliable promise stronger than any temporal threat or power.

I’m sure that Mr. Ayoob would add many other things to his presentation today, now that technology has given us cell phones, and the legal system has been adjusting to the age of terrorism. Judging from this book, it is probably well worth the cost to receive his classroom and range training, where the student would receive all of the latest he has to offer.