Saturday, March 08, 2008

Debating Abortion with Emerging Christians

Over at Reclaiming the Mind Ministries blog a post titled Emergers on Abortion: Where Do You Stand? has generated lively conversation/debate. Some contributing to the discussion would likely describe themselves as Emergers and others, like myself, as Reformed or Calvinistic.

It has been an interesting, if somewhat troubling, discussion. One person said that although they think abortion to be a terrible thing-- and would rejoice if Roe vs. Wade were overturned-- nevertheless they will vote for Obama or Hillary come November. The track record of these two presidential candidates on abortion is consistent-- (see this recent article, Obama's Constitution or this article showing Hillary's record on abortion)-- their support for abortion rights/woman's choice is both staunch and unwavering. Nevertheless a vote for Obama or Hillary is defended with the argument that abortion hasn't been eliminated under Republicans anyway, and that the social conditions that lead to abortion will improve more under an Obama or Hillary administration. So better to support a candidate who'll improve social conditions and thus really impact the abortion problem.

The Emergers prescription seems to be then that Christians contribute to the healing of society by expressing a gentler, kinder, more "tolerant" kind of Christianity that isn't so "narrow" and "judgmental" about issues like abortion and gay marriage. In addition, the Christian societal agenda should be broadened to confront the problems of poverty, AIDS, the disenfranchised, etc, and demonstrate to the world we're really loving Christians.

I have contributed a number of comments to the ongoing discussion. A main theme has been my saying that while there is truth in the "Emergers" saying that Christians have a responsibility, not only to issue biblical proclamations about right and wrong, but also to show forth their Christian love to neighbor through action, a social response cannot stand alone, particularly with regard to the abortion issue. Some think the New Testament rules out all political or legal stratagems as legitimate means of changing society. They say focus more on implementing positive social change rather than fighting to reverse decisions like the 1973 Roe vs Wade Supreme Court case. But this is a grave mistake, one which I don't think is justified by Scripture.

Another commenter argues that abortion is not addressed in the Bible, that it is hypocritical to fight abortion when so many use birth control methods that are abortofacients (in other words, forms of abortion), so it really is a non-issue.

I think it's sad that the evil of abortion actually needs to be defended in a discussion among people who identify themselves as Christians. If the statements I've encountered during the discussion are reflective of the effect of emerging church thought, I'll have no part of it, thank you very much.

Below I'm pasting excerpts from some of the comments I've made over there (I figure that as long as I'm taking the time to present arguments and quote Scripture I might as well create a post here). For full context, please visit the link I provided above.

Yes, I think that as we preach and apply the gospel, first to ourselves and then in our relationship to the world, Christians can effect real change in society (the “salt” and “light” principles). Yet if abortion is a wrong because God is the Creator of life and we are not to play God by taking to ourselves the power of deciding who lives and dies, then this is the self-evident argument we must present. As we present it, we must also work towards getting the law changed since it is this evil law that permits and sanctions the evil of abortion. So while we ought to do all the educational and service and loving actions that show we are truly Christians on this issue, let us not neglect the critical point that we must overturn the very law that ushered in this great national tragedy.

In several of my responses I have agreed with the point that it seems the Emergent church types are making– that the fight to change minds and practices on abortion must be broad-based, dealing also with the many social problems that contribute to it. Agreed. At the same time, the fight against abortion must not neglect the point that abortion is a moral/spiritual/sin issue– a wrong chosen by sinful people in a society so twisted that it doesn’t even recognize the wrong of it anymore. Christians who recognize God as the Author of life however, ought to recognize the wrongness of abortion and this must include continued effort to overturn the law that makes abortion so easy today. An approach to abortion that thinks that Roe vs Wade will be outlawed without a continued fight, or despite putting actively pro-abortion candidates into office, is naive and gravely mistaken.

And from today:

I think that the personhood of the child in the womb is well-established by the Scriptures, which point throughout to God’s formation of that which is in the womb. The fact that David in Psalm 139 was inspired to use poetic language in describing this doesn’t mean that the fact behind the description– that God Himself fashions the human being that grows within the womb–is any less a fact. In addition to Psalm 139:13-16 and Jeremiah 1:5 which have been mentioned, we also find Luke 1:44, Gen 25:23, 29:31, I Samuel 1:5-6, Job 31:15, Psalm 17:14, Psalm 127:3, Eccl 11:5, Isaiah 44:2, 24; 46:3, 49:1, 5; 66:9, Hosea 9:14, Luke 1:15, 31, Luke 2:21 as the testimony of Scripture that God is fully in charge of what takes place in the womb. He is in charge of it opening or not opening. Also He knows the persons He forms in the womb, even before they are born, who they are, and what they will be and do.

If then persons in the womb are considered by God as persons and can be known by Him in a personal way, as these Scriptures show, then to kill what is growing in the womb is to murder a human life that God has created for His own purpose.

3. In what way does humanity show itself to be made in the image of God? Are you saying that the image of our physical body represents God, so that, as statues represent human beings, so human beings represent what God looks like? This isn’t consistent with the teaching of Scripture that God is spirit (John 4:24) and is invisible (Luke 24:39). It is true that when Christ incarnated, He took on a visible, bodily form, but the Scriptures show that taking on this form was a humbling experience for an almighty, eternally existent God, something He did in order to complete His mission of saving man from their sins “…though he was in the form of God, [He] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 4:5-8). Jesus allowed us to “see” God in the sense that by coming to earth and taking on a human body, he became the “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15) and “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:18)”.

So when Gen 1:27 speaks of man and woman being created in the image of God, I think it means that we reflect God in our inner nature, not in our physical image. Like God, we have the capacity to think, to reason, to feel, to will, to act on our will, to have relationship. This ability to engage in relationship with God seems to be a key reason that God created man. God was complete in Himself and did not need us. But He made us that we might have fellowship with Him and with each other. And here is where I believe being made in the image of God touches on the abortion issue– for if even in the womb God is already have a relationship with us, as the Scriptures show, that murdering the life in the womb is to thwart the relational purpose of God.

4. I don’t think one is forced to conclude from Jer 1:5 that Jeremiah must have been eternally pre-existent. Obviously this would be impossible because only God is eternally pre-existent. Could not the passage be describing that God created both the soul and the body of Jeremiah, but first began with conceiving of Jeremiah in His own mind, so to speak? “I will create a being named Jeremiah, and he will have this personality and these gifts and talents, and I will also fashion his body in the womb to look and be a certain way, in keeping with the purposes I have for his life.” None of this would demand that Jeremiah be an eternally pre-existent being, it would just show that God, as the verse says, “knew” Jeremiah before He formed him in the womb.

Further Resources:
This article by leading feminists and pro-choice advocates says candidate Hillary is the best hope for preservation of "a woman's right to choose":

Why Hillary Is The Right Choice For Women

Christian articles that show why abortion is wrong and what we should do about it:
Exposing the Dark Work of Abortion
Ten Reasons Why it is Wrong to Take the Life of Unborn Children
Is There A Clear Biblical Mandate Against Abortion
Arguments Against Abortion
Abortion and the Ancient Practice of Child Sacrifice

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