Why I Am Not An Abortion Abolitionist. Part One - Theology
There is a new movement within the pro-life movement that is becoming more and more prevalent. It is called the Abolitionist Movement, and it is calling for the end of abortion. But calling for the end of abortion is not what is new; every pro-life person wants to see the end of abortion. What is new is how the Abolitionist Movement seeks to bring about the end of abortion. The key words of the movement are “totally” and “immediately.” Abolitionists will have nothing to do with any approach or method that is incremental. They call for all or nothing, right now. Anything that allows for a step-by-step approach over a period of time is considered an unfaithful compromise that sacrifices the lives of unborn babies on the altar of political convenience and/or political self-protection.
I feel compelled to address this because the charge of being an unfaithful compromiser is serious. That kind of charge is the last thing I want on my account. When it comes to defending the defenseless and being a voice for the voiceless, I don’t want to be a sucker for a compromised pragmatism. I don’t want to be in the ranks of those who do what is easy instead of what is right.
So what do I want? First, let’s talk about the goal of any truly pro-life agenda. The goal is important, and the goal must be the abolition of abortion. But this is the where terminology becomes problematic. Abolition is a great word. That is what the pro-life movement has been aiming for since the beginning. Because humans at every level of development, from fertilized egg to natural death, is a person made in the image of God we must fight for the end of every form of murder of humans. Any avowed pro-life person who doesn’t want the abolition of abortion is not truly pro-life. He may be a political opportunist who is grabbing more Republican votes, but he is not a person of conviction working to save lives. So abolition is what I want as the goal. In this regard, I stand united with the abolitionist. Our end point is the same.
So then, what do I want as the method of reaching that goal? How can we get to full abolition? This is where the paths diverge. As stated above, the abolitionist says all or nothing. The abolitionist says if you are not calling for the total end of abortion right now in every place then you are simply giving them a pass to kill more babies. There is certainly a logic to that. In their view, what possible support could someone have for an incremental approach? How could a little less murder ever be ok?
Regarding these questions, the biggest issue in my mind has to do with who we are dealing with. Where is the call being heralded out to? And the answer is: the world of unbelievers. We are not primarily dealing with a church issue or the people of God. We are speaking to and dealing with spiritually lost, spiritually blind people. That is huge; that changes everything.
If we were talking about the church and the born-again people of God, then our call would be different. Why? Because Jesus is Lord over the church, whom he has redeemed and transformed. He is the head and we are to obey in everything because we have the indwelling Spirit of God. Because his indwelling presence brings his empowering grace, there is no place for partial obedience. Yes, there is a slow growth toward maturity, but there is no place for tolerating rebellion. We do not encourage people to do a little less drugs, a little less pornography or a little less gossip. Where there is serious sin, we confront it all totally and immediately. The word confession literally means saying the same thing that God says about sin. This means calling sin “sin” and turning from it. Of course this doesn’t mean every Christian immediately stops their sin, but immediately stopping is still the call placed upon them. When they do not meet that goal, we confront that as sin and call them afresh to fight against that sin with all their might. When they do not have total victory, we come along side and bear them up for a full fight to put sin to death. But if they refuse to confess, repent and fight against their sin, if they want to delay or compromise, that is what unbelievers do and unbelievers cannot remain in the covenant community of Christ. This is when church discipline is begun. Church discipline is for people in the church who are living in significant sin outwardly and unrepentantly. And this includes abortion. If a church member had an abortion, supported an abortion, or defended abortion, and did so without then repenting of it, that would be grounds for church discipline. There is no incrementalism in the church regarding serious sin.
But we are not talking about the church. We are talking about the world of spiritually dead sinners who are living in conscious and continual rebellion against God. As such, what do we want them to do? The Bible says that they cannot obey God’s law (Romans 8:7) and they cannot understand or accept the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). If we want them to do righteous and holy things like preserve life, something must happen first. What must happen first is they must be born again. That is the only hope for true change. This is our call to the world. We hold out to them the good news that they can be forgiven and made right with God. They can be changed from within and made new. The great commission is our grand effort. We speak the truth and as the Spirit brings conviction and grants saving faith, then we baptize and disciple.
But what do we do until that happens with a community of unbelievers? The answer to that rides upon a theological category called common grace. Common grace is the grace that God bestows on the world of unbelievers, giving them what they don’t deserve. He gives life and breath and all things (Acts 17:25), He gives rain and sunshine (Matthew 5:45), he gives fruitful seasons, food and gladness (Acts 14:17), and he restrains people from committing more and more sin (2 Thessalonians 2:7; Romans 1:4; Genesis 20:6). God is keeping people and civilizations from quick and total destruction through a variety of things the Spirit uses such as laws written upon people hearts, governmental enforcement, cultural morality, family traditions, the preserving influence of local churches and the natural proclivities that everyone has because we all are made in the image of God. Common grace is what allows morality to remain in a people to some degree to give life and blessing upon rebels bent on their own destruction.
Christians should take every advance in morality that is made possible by common grace. This is capitalizing on what God is doing to restrain a nation’s plunge into destruction. Because common grace is partial and incremental, our moral gains for life will be partial and incremental. Sometimes things happen in a culture that cause a large step to be taken toward morality. In 2015, multiple videos were released showing how Planned Parenthood was selling the body parts of aborted babies. The shock of this stirred things up for a while, but few lasting changes came of it. Perhaps another act of common grace will create another shock that will move our culture towards life. If that happens, we should take that step common grace has afforded. If we refuse to take that step and instead demand only a total abolition of abortion, it is not only theologically foolish and morally disastrous but it will be physically deadly for many babies. Refusing to take that incremental step is essentially saying “if all babies can’t be saved, then let none of them be saved.” This is a rejection of what common grace is doing and it is only going to speed a nation toward destruction. Common grace means we take what we can get and save all that we can save because God is restraining some sin yet not all sin.
However, when there is saving grace at work in a person, then our moral gains in that person will be total. This is what I spoke about above regarding the church addressing serious sin. But saving grace is not happening on a national scale. If perhaps we have a national revival, and saving grace spreads far and wide, then voting for total bans would work. To not vote for a total ban at that moment would be an act of satanic compromise. But as long as partial, incremental, common grace is the only thing at work in a culture, we do what we can, take what we can get, and pray for more and more common grace to preserve lives and the fate of a nation.
This is what we are working with when it comes to moving cultures. Common grace is something, but it is not everything. Common grace gives us some traction for moral advancement, but not much. In some places it will be more and in some places it will be far less. Regardless, we keep preaching the gospel. That is the only source of true changing power. As we continue in great commission work, we need to capitalize on whatever footholds we have in the culture. Democratic voting is a wonderful blessing. But if churches ease up in their gospel work and less and less people are truly saved, then our nation’s voting will simply become ungodly people voting for ungodly practices. Let us preach the gospel that brings total change in people, and as more and more people are changed, then our nation will be more and more changed.
More in Pastor Jay's Blog
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