Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas, the Gospel, and Life

The Scriptures command a reverence for life. Embedded in every book and interwoven into every doctrine is the unwavering standard of justice and mercy for all: the weak and the strong, the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the lame and the whole, the young and the old, and the born and the unborn. This truth is at the very heart of the Gospel.

The Bible declares the sanctity of life in its account of God's creation:

Woe to him who strives with his Maker. Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him who forms it, "What are you making?" Or, shall your handiwork say, "He has no hands?" Woe to him who says to his father, "What are you begetting?" (Isaiah 45:9-12).

The Bible declares the sanctity of life in its description of God's sovereignty:

For You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your Book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:13-16).

The Bible declares the sanctity of life in its discussion of the incarnation:

The thief does not come except to kill, and to steal, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

The Bible declares the sanctity of life in its explanation of Christ's redemption:

But has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:10).

The Bible declares the sanctity of life in its exposition of ethical justice:

I call heaven and earth today as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live (Deuteronomy 30:19).

The Bible declares the sanctity of life in its exhortation to covenantal mercy:

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Deliver those who are drawn toward death, hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, "Surely we did not know this," does not He who weighs the heart consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? (Proverbs 24:10-11).

From Genesis to Revelation (Genesis 2:7; Revelation 22:17), in the Books of the Law (Exodus 4:12; Leviticus 19:16), in the Books of History (Judges 13:2-24; 1 Samuel 16:7), in the Books of Wisdom (Psalm 68:5-6; Proverbs 29:7), in the Prophetic Books (Amos 1:13; Jeremiah 1:5), in the Gospels (Matthew 10:31; Luke 1:15; 41-44), and in the Epistles (Galatians 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:22), the pro-life message of the Bible is absolutely inescapable.

It is this "Word of Life" (Philippians 2:16) that we have believed--and it is this Word that we must act upon faithfully.

This is why the early church was so adamant about the connection between the Gospel and the sanctity of life.

The Didache was a compilation of Apostolic moral teachings that appeared at the end of the first century. Among its many admonitions, it asserted an unwavering reverence for the sanctity of life, "There are two ways: the way of life and the way of death, and the difference between these two ways is great. Therefore, do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant."

The Epistle of Barnabas was an early second century theological tract that was highly regarded by the first Christian communities, Like the Didache, it laid down absolute strictures against abortion and infanticide, "You shall love your neighbor more than your own life. You shall not slay a child by abortion. You shall not kill that which has been given life by God."

In the third century, the brilliant and prolific Tertullian composed his Apology. There he connected the sanctity of life with the very integrity of the Gospel, "Our faith declares life out of death. Therefore, murder is forbidden once and for all. We may not destroy even the fetus in the womb. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man killing. Thus it does not matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth."

Ambrose, the renowned and revered bishop of Milan, was forthright in his condemnation of those engaged in child-killing procedures, "They deny in their very womb their own progeny. By use of parricidal mixtures they snuff out the fruit of their wombs. In this way life is taken before it is given. Who except man himself has taught us ways of repudiating our own children."

Athenagorus and Augustine, Athanasius and Basil, Cyril and Jerome: the fact is, every father of the early church was unanimous in their defense of the sanctity of life.

As we celebrate Christmas, let us remember that at the heart of the message of Bethlehem is the fulfillment of the promise of God to destroy the final enemy: death.

Calvin on the Sanctity of Life

John Calvin, the leader of the Swiss Reformation said:

“The unborn child...though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being...and should not be robbed of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man's house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy an unborn child in the womb before it has come to light.”

Defense of the innocents, he argued was so integral and indistinguishable from a defense of the Gospel that believers ought to be just as willing to risk severe persecution for the one as for the other:

“Now to suffer persecution for righteousness' sake is a singular comfort. For it ought to occur to us how much honor God bestows upon us in thus furnishing us with the special badge of His soldiery. I say that not only they that labor for the defense of the Gospel, but they that in any way maintain the cause of righteousness suffer persecution for righteousness. Therefore, whether declaring God's truth against Satan's falsehoods or in taking up the protection of the good and innocent against the wrongs of the wicked, we must undergo the offenses and hatred of the world, which may imperil either our life, our fortunes, or our honor.”

Saturday, December 11, 2010

TR: Pro-Life Stalwart

“Never will I sit motionless while directly or indirectly apology is made for the murder of the helpless.”

Theodore Roosevelt was convinced that the family was the fundamental cornerstone of society. Anything that eroded the family’s strength or vitality, anything that sought to undermine its authority or integrity, and anything that subverted its holy purpose or virtue was a dastardly threat to everything that he held to be good and right and true.

In his State of the Union message in 1905, he highlighted his grave concern for America’s deteriorating moral climate in general and the family’s diminished cultural relevance saying: “The transformation of the family is one of the greatest sociological phenomena of our time; it is a social question of the first importance, of far greater importance than any merely political or economic question can be.”

He went on to describe a rather simple agenda for protecting the family against the encroachment of those men and women he called “the foes of our own household.” He said: “There are those who believe that a new modernity demands a new morality. What they fail to consider is the harsh reality that there is no such thing as a new morality. There is only one morality. All else is immorality. There is only true Christian ethics over against which stands the whole of paganism. If we are to fulfill our great destiny as a people, then we must return to the old morality, the sole morality.”

His analysis was utterly scathing: “All these blatant sham reformers, in the name of a new morality, preach the old, old vice and self-indulgence which rotted out first the moral fiber and then even the external greatness of Greece and Rome.”

In a very real sense, Roosevelt was the original family values social conservative.

It is not surprising then, that when a new wave of Eugenic Racists and Child-Killing Abortionists made their way onto the American scene and into the public arena, Roosevelt was one of their chief opponents—in fact, apart from the hierarchy of the Catholic church, he was one of their only opponents.

He railed against their “frightful and fundamental immorality,” calling their cause a submission “to coldness, to selfishness, to love of ease, to shrinking from risk, and to an utter and pitiful failure in sense of perspective.” As he argued: “Artificially keeping families small inevitably involves prenatal infanticide and abortion--with all its pandering to self-indulgence, its shirking of duties, and its enervation of character.”

But he did not simply hurl invectives their way--he acted. He was instrumental in mobilizing Republicans, Democrats, and Progressives against the awful specter of Eugenic Child-Killing—building a solid coalition that was to resist the siren’s call of abortion for another three-quarters of a century. As he said: “The foes of our own household are our worst enemies; and we can oppose them, not only by exposing them and denouncing them, but by constructive work in planning and building reforms which shall take into account both the economic and the moral factors in human advance. We in America can attain our great destiny only by service; not by rhetoric, and above all not by insincere rhetoric, and that dreadful mental double-dealing and verbal juggling which makes promises and repudiates them, and says one thing at one time, and the directly opposite thing at another time. Our service must be the service of deeds.”

He went on to assert: “The most dangerous form of sentimental debauch is to give expression to good wishes on behalf of virtue while you do nothing about it. Justice is not merely words. It is to be translated into living acts.”

The infamous Eugenic Racist, Margaret Sanger, who founded the vast Planned Parenthood abortion network, rightly saw Roosevelt as “a holdover from the old Christian religion,” and thus a serious obstacle to her revolutionary program which called for “no Gods and no masters.” She railed against him as “a disgraceful blight upon any modern scientific nation’s intent to advance.”

For a leader who had staked his reputation and risked his career for the sake of traditional family values, that was high praise indeed. For, no commendation can be greater than the condemnation of one’s fiercest sworn enemies.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Crafting a Winning Plan

Samuel Taylor was a proto-typical mild mannered small town pharmacist in the mid-nineteenth century. A family man, community leader, and life-long Methodist, he had a natural Midwestern aversion to controversy.

But when the daughter of one of his customers was nearly poisoned by a dose of mail-order abortifacient pills, he sprang into action. He discovered that the abortifacient business was booming all over the United States--and that it was an entirely unrestricted, unregulated, and unmonitored industry.

Without the benefits of a government agency, an institutional largess, or a corporate sponsor, he began a one-man educational campaign--first with his fellow pharmacists, later expanding to physicians, and finally with state legislators--to alert the public to the physical dangers and the moral liabilities of the child-killing trade. Taylor testified before the Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana legislatures--winning their support for a ban on the sale of all chemical parricides and abortifacients--and he drafted model legislation that was approved by fourteen other states.