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A Thermonuclear Trumpet

Knocking Down the Jericho Wall of Abortion Apathy



jericho2The apostle Paul noted that “if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, no one will prepare himself to the battle.” His point: If what we're hearing doesn't sound to us like a clear call from God, even when it is, we're unlikely to mobilize.

History bears this out. It is precisely what happened with the transatlantic slave trade. One of the reasons it took so long to end that horrific business is that too few Christians believed that God wanted them to actively oppose it. The biblical message they heard on the issue was confused and indistinct, like a trumpet giving an uncertain sound. As a result there was no consensus, no united front, and slavery continued.

It wasn't that the message was not loud enough: Everyone heard the noise that was being made over slavery. It was that the message was not clear enough: The people of God were getting mixed signals and thus weren't sure what their responsibility was.

From abolitionists they heard biblical arguments against slavery. From some clergy, willing for different reasons to justify slavery, they heard other supposedly “biblical” arguments that either sanctioned slavery, or at the very least downplayed how important it was to God that it be abolished.

The result? The church did not rally to the battle, at least not in sufficient numbers. What the church ought to have done, and arguably could have done, peacefully, the state had to do by bloody civil war.

History Repeating Itself

What happened years ago with slavery is happening again today with abortion. Churchgoers are hearing conflicting messages, all supposedly “biblical,” and the result is distressingly the same: Indifference, inaction, and staggering loss of innocent human life as the horrid practice continues virtually unopposed.

Today's abolitionists are waging the war against abortion apathy with largely the same apologetic weapons employed in the fight against slavery. To be sure, we are using the latest and best scientific and sociological data available, which is good. And we are using Scripture to persuade our fellow Christians, which is also good—in fact necessary, because as someone has said, abortion will end when the church wants it to end.”

The problem is we are attempting to do it using Scripture in the same way our forebears used it, mostly through isolated proof-texts whose impact is relatively easy to blunt or deflect. If we want to expedite the end of the church's passive acceptance of a culture of death we must do more.

Relying on Proof-Texts

There are a number of reasons the church is not clear on how breathtakingly important the abortion issue is to God. One is that the word “abortion” doesn't appear in the Bible. Many sincere believers conclude from this that pro-life activism must be of marginal importance to God, else He would have spelled it out explicitly.

Seeking to be “biblical,” these believers define Christian duty in proportion to the number of proof-texts that can be amassed. Activities that are clearly “proof-textable,” such as evangelism and Bible teaching, come to be viewed as practically the sole mission of the church, while pro-life activism and other such “unproof-textable” causes are relegated to the bottom of the list as mere adjuncts to the church's mission.

Such reasoning is seriously flawed. Think about it: There are some things, even some of the most atrocious evils imaginable, against which no clear verse of Scripture may be mustered. Pedophilia and child abuse are among dozens of examples we could cite. Does that mean God doesn’t have the strongest conceivable abhorrence of such evils and that Christians should be passive on them? Hardly!

The fact is, there is much more to being biblical than having watertight proof-texts.

What it Means to be ‘Biblical’

As I noted in a previous BreakPoint piece, being “biblical” means being true to the spirit, not just the letter, of Scripture. Sometimes proof-texts convey readily only the letter. The Pharisees were infamous for keeping the letter but neglecting the “weightier things”—i.e., the spirit—of the law. To discern the spirit we must identify underlying principles: not just what the Scripture says, but what it means.

So just what is a principle? And how does it differ from a proof-text?

A principle is a fundamental truth that is valid at all times and in all places. It differs from a proof-text in that, whereas a proof-text is an explicit statement one can quote “chapter and verse,” a principle may or may not be quite so plainly stated. It may have to be inferred by sound deductive reasoning—a process the formulators of the Westminster Confession of Faith called “good and necessary consequence.”

Does that diminish its force? Not in the least. Echoing the Westminster Confession, Matthew Henry notes in his “Commentary” that “whatever is by just and necessary consequence deduced from Scripture may be depended upon with as much certainty as if it were contained in express words of Scripture.” Principles so derived from Scripture are every bit as “biblical” as proof-texts.

Principles also have this advantage over proof-texts: Whereas stand-alone proof-texts can be weakened by conflicting counter “proof-texts,” principles are so clearly demonstrable and sweeping that the occasional “contradictory” verse, no matter how seemingly plain, has little power to shake conviction in the bedrock truth enshrined in a principle.

Principles thus are sophisticated spiritual weaponry, “divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” Like the arrow that miraculously found the chink in Ahab's armor, these heaven-guided missiles are able to penetrate the enemy's most impregnable defenses to “destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.”

Proof-texts, the warfare equivalent of catapults and cross-bows, have enabled us to breach many of Hell's gates over the ages. But for this particular enemy stronghold—church passivity on abortion—we need an atomic bomb. And we have it, right in our hands.

A Thermonuclear Trumpet

We have in our Bibles the most powerful pro-life apologetic imaginable, an anti-abortion principle whose intercontinental ballistic punch beggars the accumulated force of every proof-text that has ever been mustered. It is this:

God values each human life more than His own.

How do we know this? Because it is the elemental principle, the fundamental message, the unequivocal import of the cross of Jesus: God loves us more than life. It is literally what God did in Christ: He literally loved us more than His own life. He showed us with His life's blood what the “so” in John 3:16's “God 'so' loved the world” means: We are more precious to Him than life.

The cross of Christ is the pro-life apologetic, par excellence. Because the cross is the centerpiece of Christianity, pro-life activism is not an adjunct to the church's mission; it is profoundly emblematic of the very essence of the church's mission.

Proof-texts will always give an uncertain sound because nowhere is there a verse that says, “people, from conception to natural death, are infinitely precious to God.” But the cross of Jesus thunders it—unmistakably, emphatically, deafeningly—like a nuclear blast.

If we sound this trumpet, the troops will rally and the gates of Hell will fall.

Rolley Haggard is a feature writer for BreakPoint.


Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BreakPoint. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.

Comments:

Roadmap for Action
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Kevin, thanks sincerely for your remarks and especially for your “next steps” invitation. I wholly agree that conviction, if not linked to action, becomes so much academic exercise.

The challenge is this: consonant with the warfare / military motif is the reality that effective Christian action initiatives are generally a top-down affair. That is to say, for them to work there must be buy-in by the brass at the top.

Switching metaphors, sheep tend to follow a shepherd, but if the shepherds are not leading the sheep to the pastures of pro-life activism, relatively few are likely to wind up there on their own.

So job one is to get the leaders to lead – in the right direction. They have decidedly NOT been doing that. In order to turn things around we have first to deconstruct the bad theology that has blinded leaders to the profound responsibility we've been neglecting, and then articulate a clear Pro-Life Theology that can be taught from every pulpit in the land. Not to oversimplify, but if this is done, the hard part of the work is over.

Pursuant to this first step is an action plan I outlined in an earlier BreakPoint article titled “We Could End Abortion 'Overnight' – If We Really Wanted To”. I commend that to you as a springboard for further dialogue along these excellent lines.

http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/articles/entry/12/19080
Action Plan?
Rolley - an excellent assessment. But the next step is equally important, if not more so. In my view, the best use of understanding the issues you have mapped out here is "so now what do we do?" Using this as a baseline, what roadmap for action do you think is appropriate for Christians on this matter. Your eloquence needs to be linked to action. Will you follow up with another article outlining this?
Today's Trumpet
I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis of the Trumpet. But meaning cannot be revealed without application. The Lord's meaning was clear because He was given to be crucified. Many who followed Him did likewise for surrender to evil was never an option given the Lord's meaning. Since the days Christians banded together in numbers sufficient to resist evil with arms, it has sometimes been expedient to give ourselves in War. That was what happened to provide meaning in the matter of legalized chattel slavery in the USA. http://www.aogusa.org is what comes next to provide meaning in legalized abortion.
Excellent. Christ preached His greatest sermon on the Cross. Few were listening. He has been preaching that same sermon for 2,000 years. God is Love.

The confusion over abortion started in 1930 A.D., when the Anglican Church at the Lambeth Conference sounded the uncertain note about contraception, which led to people thinking of children as "unwanted." Which led to abortion.

"My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Psalms 22:1; Matt 27:46)
Mr. Bill Samuel said, "I would note that before the Church's unholy alliance with the empire, every leading figure in the Christian community maintained that Christians could not participate in any form of violence against other humans."

I wonder how Mr. Samuel would back up such an audacious claim? EVERY leading figure in the Christian community? Come on, be serious.

Does he have documentary evidence that EVERY leader in the Church, prior to what he calls the "unholy alliance" (by which I guess he means some event in the fourth of fifth century) was opposed to capital punishment or Christians serving in the military?

If so, I would suggest that he bring it forward, because there are a lot of scholars who would pay money to see it.

However, this is not the case. For instance, why would not the FIRST leader in the Church, Peter, have required Cornelius [a Roman Centurion] to quit his job before being baptized? Or even after? There is not evidence that I know of to support such craziness.

In addition, Mr. Samuel's negative comments about Mr. Colson, whose words and deeds brought countless souls into the Kingdom and improved the lives of thousands, were totally unnecessary and uncalled for.
Biblical worldview
"God values each human life more than His own." This principle needs to be applied across the board. It is unfortunately a principle historically opposed on BreakPoint with regard to war. Colson famously rushed to endorse the Iraq War, a clear war of agression which met none of the classical Just War criteria.

The problem seems to be that Colson just retained most of his non-believing ideology when he converted to Christianity. Only a few issues did his views change. Although he repeatedly talked about a Biblical worldview, he never adopted one.

I would note that before the Church's unholy alliance with the empire, every leading figure in the Christian community maintained that Christians could not participate in any form of violence against other humans.