Saturday, July 18, 2015

Regardless of what Planned Parenthood (may have) Done

                There are many ways to skin a cat, and to best approach the question of abortion in general, and specifically(perhaps) Planned Parenthood, it is important to define and explain the two general approaches to addressing it. 

                One, there is the Christian/Biblical viewpoint that must be explained and defended.

                Two, the pluralistic/agnostic/scientific/sociological viewpoint that must also be explained and defended. 

                I would contend that these positions can, and do, point to the same conclusion.  And I hope to make a compelling case to that end. 


The General Christian Argument Opposing Abortion:

  1. Murder is ALWAYS wrong. 

  2. Life is defined by God

  3. God is the one who breathes life into us and knows us in the womb

  4. Therefore, willfully taking of an innocent persons life is murder and a sin against God


It may be difficult to “scientifically” define when a child in the womb moves from non-life to life, the very fact that we are currently unable to truly “know” at what point that threshold is crossed, our responsibility would be to err on the side of life.  If murder is a sin, and at SOME point there is a life that bears the image of God inside the womb, it is of great and unnecessary risk to accidentally, perhaps, murder a life because your “guess” on the timing of when this threshold has been crossed was incorrect. 

If you were to indiscriminately shoot at a building where people were inside, regardless of your claims to not intending to actual kill someone, you would still be culpable for murder if you did “accidentally” hit someone.  In the same way, it is the height of irresponsibility to play Russian Roulette with children in the womb hoping that it might not actually be a life at the time you destroy it. 


Therefore, the risk of murder is so great, and the knowledge, scientifically, is so limited, faithful Christians should indeed advocate for the elimination of abortion.


The General “Secularist” Argument Opposing Abortion:

  1. Murder is always wrong

  2. Life is defined by a few narrow parameters, generally speaking, heartbeats and brainwaves

  3. Brain waves are an indication of life and an individual who is known and can be known

  4. Therefore, willfully taking of an individuals life(those who can think and feel) is always wrong


With the general concept that brain waves are indication of life the secularist argument rests in the “threshold” of the time at which these are observable.  Brain waves are first detected at 6 weeks.  While a secularist argument has a more defined “threshold” moment, there is still one. 

Therefore, abortion past the time of brainwaves is the willful taking of a life. 



Possible Disagreements and My Response: (Christian views)

  1. Rape

  2. Incest

  3. Life Endangerment

  4. Well Being of the future life(poor mothers, bad home environment, etc)

  5. We are a pluralist society we can’t advocate for our religious beliefs.

For each of my responses there is one foundational premise that I will state here, and not restate.  If we believe that God breathes life into us and knows us in the womb and He alone is the Author of life, regardless of the tragic circumstances surrounding any specific pregnancy, the life that DOES exist is an image bearer of God and the willful murder of that life is not justified by any degree of tragedy associated with its creation.   The argument against abortion are not reliant, or, related to, the reasons for the abortion.  


The Christian response to a victim needs to be “weeping with those who weep”.  And admittedly there are too many stories of victims who were not lovingly cared for in the aftermath of their situation.  Studies have shown that women who choose abortion after a rape are nearly 80% likely to regret the decision.  70% of women actually choose not to have an abortion, and not 1% of those have stated that they regret the decision. 

The sad reality is that many rape victims are not given the opportunity to know that there is  light on the other side.  While most who are led to believe that abortion will mitigate their suffering find that it increased it. 

While there are obviously those who had an abortion and are “glad” of it, it still doesn’t address the fundamental premise.  Is the value of an individuals life defined by the circumstances related to their creation define their value? 

I hope it is clear that creating an ethic that accepts that some lives are less valued than others by no fault of their own is a dangerous and completely unbiblical position to have.



Much of this is similar to my response to the rape exception.   The additional point is related to WHY we would contend for abortion in the case of incest.  This is generally presented as a protection against severe defect due to close relatives. 

By accepting this premise we are allowing for differentiation of objective value being ascribed(by our own opinions—not Gods) upon lives who are “not” defective and those who “are”.  I hope that we would weep if we became a nation that began to advocate for the abortions of every child in the womb whose tests have shown defective genes.  The child who is deformed due to incest is no less valuable than the child who is deformed due to other reasons. 


Life Endangerment: 

This is obviously a much more difficult question to deal with.  I will say that historically, pre Roe, women who came into the hospital and were literally dying due to their pregnancy DID receive medical help to save their lives.  Doctors did not just sit there and watch them die because they were opposed to abortion.  Extreme, and TRAGIC, medical procedures have generally always been accepted as a necessity. 

A choice of who to let live is thankfully EXTREMELY rare.  To advocate for abortion in general when this accounts for an almost too small to account for percentage of total abortions is disingenuous.  I think a Christian can support the heartbreaking realities of these extreme events without it also including other forms of abortion.


Well Being of Future Life---Generally Related to Financial/Life Situation of the Mother

Luckily, for all of us, what is true today, is not guaranteed to be true tomorrow.  The tragedy of this position is that it is advocating for murder for the sake of financial benefit(in reductionist terms).  While it may feel too “hard” today, what if two days later they get a raise.  What weeping should there be?

This position also fails to take into account the literally millions of Christians and millions of dollars that ARE poured into private charities to support these young women and families.  My wife and I personally support and work with our local Pregnancy Crisis center.  They provide clothes, education, formula, parenting classes, babysitting, home placement, etc.  We have even personally offered our home to young women who had no where else to go. 

I am not exaggerating when I say that, due to my communities and connections, that we could find a place and resources for virtually any young woman you could send our way.  If someone’s argument is that they don’t know what to do, I would say, “Who have you talked to???”  In the dozen cities and towns I have worked in EVERY single one has places that provide everything I just mentioned. 


We Are a Pluralist Society:

It is true we cannot force our views on anyone, nor should we, this does not change the fundamental reality that a life is a life is a life.  Therefore, should a good society NOT defend and speak up for the most vulnerable lives?  When a culture begins to devalue ANY of its citizens lives for ANY reason, it will begin to rot from the inside.


Possible Disagreements and My Response: (Secular)

  1. Life isn’t a brainwave

  2. Murder isn’t always wrong

  3. It’s better for society

  4. “Viability” is a more appropriate barometer for life


Life isn’t a brainwave:

This would be in direct contradiction to nearly every other medical standard we hold to.  We know that in the womb children; dream, feel pain, laugh, think, learn, etc.  While the degree to which they can do that is not clearly defined by the “amount” of brainwaves, we do know that these are true neuro realities of the unborn.  And even if they can’t “learn” as much as a Three year old, or, a 33 year old, we obviously do not place value on an individuals life by their degree of relative intelligence. 

And if we do not use brainwaves to define life in the womb, by what scientific method shall we then use?


Murder isn’t always wrong

Obviously this is a rare argument.  But historically there have been individuals, and whole societies, who contend for the value of eliminating those with “less” value.  Every healthy secularist society rejects this notion.  Though we should always be on guard for the voices that try to slip in from time to time to advocate for such.


It’s Better for Society

This is in relation to generally 2 broad thoughts; 1- Better life for the mother/family therefore, better communities, 2- We don’t need more poor uneducated people. 

Communities where abortion is more frequent are NOT better off.  Not that I am saying they are doing poorly BECAUSE of abortion, but, it reveals that abortion is not a catalyst for healthier families and communities. 

This ultimately boils down to a value being placed on someone’s life by the value you perceive them providing for you, directly and indirectly.  To repeat an earlier point let us pray that this type of cultural ethic never gains prominence. 


Viability is a better barometer of life

The problem here for a secularist, and especially a Christian, is that this is a moving goal post.  What was viable 50 years ago is radically different to what is viable today.  As medical science continues to progress that “threshold” continues to move ever farther back.  To use the term, “extreme” measures, when evaluating legitimate life sustaining procedures is itself very unhelpful.  A child at 38 weeks could have complications in the womb that means extreme steps post birth are necessary.  Extreme steps that are similar to the steps for an extreme premature birth.  If the degree of effort necessary to sustain life becomes a defining characteristic, does that mean a 38 week child is no more a “life” than an 18 week old one? 

Once we accept that extreme steps to provide viability is not a satisfying standard to define life, we will conclude that is practically a completely unusable one.  And, as technology advances does that therefore change moral standards.  For example, it wasn’t murder to abort a baby at 30 weeks 50 years ago, but it is today….?  A moral standard is not dependent upon technology.  If technology defines morality, than morality means nothing at all.
So, those are my thoughts.  Where am I wrong?  Where am I right?  Let me know!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Prosperity Gospel, Shifting Cultures and a Theology of Suffering

My son thinks I am a bully.  I know this because he told me so.  After punching him a few times and taking his lunch money I was shocked to hear him express this sentiment......Well, that isn't exactly what I did.  What happened was, and you can help me judge this decision, he had not eaten his vegetables at dinner so he couldn't have a sugary snack.  Therefore...BULLY. 

There is a tendency in all of us to desire things that aren't good for us.  At its heart this is simply a way of saying "sin".  We are image bearers of God, and that indicates that we are therefore designed as a reflection of the character and nature of God Himself.  When He gave His law to us it wasn't just a random list of do's and don't's, but instead a reliable witness and testimony to His very character and the outflow being our design parameters. 

The nature of sin is such that we are in constant conflict with our divine design.  Scripture tells us that our "flesh" is at constant war with God.  Our very deepest felt and innate desires too often betray this truth; We are broken.  And this brokenness, by its very definition and character, separates us from God. 

So what do we do when confronted with the reality of our brokenness?  We do two things that seem radically different, yet are different sides of the same self-centered destructiveness.

1-  We become legalists who take the Law as a personal challenge.  The promise and the goal of being a legalist is that we will; 1- Make ourselves right before God, and, 2- Be greatly blessed by temporal rewards because we are doing everything right.  This second part is most easily associated with what is called the prosperity gospel(notice the purposeful lower case g). 

Both practices of legalism are just different versions of prosperity teaching.  You do this, you get that.  If you DIDN'T get that, you are just not trying hard enough.....God finds your lack of faith....disturbing.....

2- We become Grace Abusers who reject the conviction of God's truth and place personal satisfaction and fulfillment of felt desires as the highest achievable standard because if, "God is all about love and Grace, he obviously wants me to be happy...."

Grace Abusers are just prosperity gospellers without any effort. 

It is of no small coincidence that as the 20th Century saw the growth of the prosperity gospel we also saw a rapid change in the moral compass of western civilization, and particularly America.  As we elevated personal satisfaction and happiness to a sacred place it is no wonder that the greatest modern heresy and bigotry is apparently practiced by those who say, "No!"

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been co-opted as the get rich scheme of eternal self-pleasure.  If something makes you uncomfortable, calls you to reject something you enjoy, deny yourself and pick up a cross, it must be, by definition, wrong.  Mean.  Sinful. 

A gospel that promises temporal pleasure, whether materially, emotionally, relationally, or otherwise, is a gospel that will not sustain or survive. 

The truth of the Gospel is not found in the measurable and quantifiable "blessings" experienced by those who have put their faith in Christ, but it is instead found in the place where suffering and pain are met with joy and peace.  In John 16 Jesus makes a clear promise to his disciples, and to us as well. 

"I have told you these things, so that you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart.  I have overcome the world!"-- John 16:33

The context of John's 16th chapter is that those who are following Jesus can expect there lives to be more clearly marked by suffering than by personally experiencing victory.  Phrasing is everything.  Jesus does not end this warning with, "Do not worry, you shall totally overcome".  Instead he points to Himself and the ultimate hope and victory that is ours beyond this life because HE HAS already overcome.  He does not give ANY indication that this secured victory will translate into temporal successes. 

The modern Church has lost an essential theological bulwark.  A robust Theology of Suffering.  By this I do not mean some sort of wallowing and depressing resignation to be miserable.  The theology of Suffering is a recognition that life is broken and the World is in opposition to God, and those who follow Christ will not only still experience the temporal struggles that affect all people, but they can also expect spiritual challenges. 

But what did Jesus says in John 16:33??  He has overcome.  Our hope, the Gospel, is that even in the midst of great suffering, whether emotional, physical, relational and otherwise, God has come down, Jesus has carried that pain and the Holy Spirit dwells within us as a deposit of our faith and the source of our strength to face all things with Joy.  To, as Paul put it, count all our losses as gains for the sake of Christ! 

When we elevate personal comfort than all manner of things will not only become accepted, but, even advocated for as being "good".  That which was once evil is now contended for as good....When you or I believe that Christ's purpose was to make me comfortable today I have laid the groundwork for exactly that. 

Christ told us to count the cost.  And many walked away, because it cost them too much they thought.  But let us remember, "But to who else would we go, YOU have the words of eternal life"-- John 6:68.


From a good read on a Theology of Suffering