The only thing that will actually help our culture is the gospel, and the only thing that will bring about the abolition of human abortion is the providence of God. Now that that’s on the table, let’s address how Christians and non-Christians can both work to bring an end to this slaughter.
You may have heard the saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” While I think that’s garbage, I do think there is something to two parties who have a common foe working together with each other. I advocate what Francis Schaeffer called co-belligerency. Because the gospel and theology is involved, I cannot simply join with parties opposed to Christianity or teaching another gospel. But I can work with them to fight a common enemy so long as clear and strong distinctions are made so that the gospel is clearly articulated and not compromised.
So how does that work itself out?
First and foremost, it means that we clearly articulate the gospel and the theological motivations and reasons for abolishing human abortion. At the forefront of this is the idea that we are created in the image of God. That might sound ambiguous at first; what does that even mean? Doesn’t the Bible simply state that a couple of times without explaining what it entails?
Actually, the whole Bible is about the image of God. For Christ is the “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and all of the Scriptures are about Jesus (Luke 24:27). You may think that I am cheating – after all, does it mean the same thing to say that Christ is the image of God as it does to say that we were made in the image of God? Paul tells us that Christians were “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29) and that just as we have borne the ”image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49).
Man was made in the image of God, but he fell. The image isn’t gone, but it is distorted. In fact, the reason we are not to murder (Genesis 9:5-6) or curse one another (James 3:9-10) is because we are made in God’s image. The image is marred from sin; we don’t accurately represent God. Instead of glorifying God as we ought, we produce a horrifying lie. So it is that when we sin and “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), we sin against God alone (Psalm 51:4) when we ought to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
This is where the gospel comes into play. We are by nature children of wrath, enemies of God (Ephesians 2:1-4) and are the objects of God’s wrath (Romans 2:6-11). But we cannot please God (Romans 8:7; 14:23) or be in right standing before God by our own doing, for ”by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:17). So how can anyone be saved? “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:16-30). God showed his love for us by giving his son (Romans 5:8), who bore our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) and took the Father’s wrath so that we would be redeemed (Isaiah 53:10; Romans 3:21-26; 5:9). The gospel and our redemption is not limited to our being declared righteous in the courtroom of God, but also to make us holy (Titus 2:11-14) - restoring the fallen image!
And so it is that through the gospel, when men are given new hearts they have a concern for the glory of God, which is the purpose of their redemption (Ezekiel 36:22-32). Entailed in their new affections for Christ is the pursuit of the knowledge of God (Titus 1:1-3); that is, knowing the content of the image, revealed chiefly through Christ (Hebrews 1:1-4). There is also a concern for the image bearers (Matthew 5:43-48; James 1:27), especially for those who are afflicted and receiving injustice (Psalm 82:3-4). And, on top of all of this, God has adopted us (Romans 8:14-17) and so it is that as imitators of God, we are ardent supporters of adoption.
Secondly, after the gospel and theology is articulated, there needs to be a consistency maintained among those who profess to be redeemed by Christ. This means that doctrine is not compromised, but it also means that the motivation, methodology, and the standard to which we hold ourselves must be maintained.
Our motivation is the glory of God. Secondary motivations that are derived from our primary one includes the concern for the welfare of the father, mother, and child. Don’t be fooled into thinking that because I called them secondary or derivative motivations that they are somehow not real or unimportant. Nor is there reason to think of it as a cold and calculated duty. Revisiting the gospel for a moment, God gives the redeemed more than just commands; he gives them a new heart, his Spirit (Joel 2:28-29; John 14:15-17; Romans 8:1-17; Ephesians 1:11-14), and “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). So it is God who commands us, and God who is in us, providing us with the desires and abilities to carry out his commands (Philippians 2:12-13). So it is not merely out of a distanced sense of duty, but actually out of desire and concern that we set about this work.
We care for all of the people involved. The baby is the most at risk physically, but that does not mean that he/she is the only one affected. We believe that it is better to suffer evil than to commit evil and are concerned about the parents as well as the child. And in the unfortunate situation where a mother must raise a child alone, we know there are difficulties and challenges with that and want to help in those situations. The abolitionist view is not a reductionist view, nor is it just the condemnation of evil without the promotion of good.
Our methodology is based on Scripture. In our efforts of seeking to abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good (Romans 12:9), we must recognize what evil is and what good is.
We know that God is good, that there is no evil in him, and that all good things come from him (James 1:17). In Christ is life, and all there is nothing that exists apart from his that does not exists because of him (John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:8-12). God depends on nothing outside of himself and he is the source of life (Acts 17:22-31). He exists as the triune God, independent, self-sufficient, subject to nothing outside of himself – the very fountains of goodness and life, the person of the Godhead have communion with each other independent of creation.
It is this God who chose to create and to give life, goodness, and even meaning itself to us. He is the one who designed and governs creation. His creation is dependent on him, even for meaning (Ecclesiastes). And so when we talk about what is good, we must not imagine that we can find some other source of goodness besides God. If we place our standard of goodness somewhere other than God, we will be exchanging the creator with creation, wrongly placing the source of goodness in the finite and derivative good and no longer have an absolute standard. In short, we can’t make this compromise, but must make God and his word the final reference authority of what is right and good.
And if people object, or propose an alternative? Then we interact with those arguments the way that Scripture tells us to – according to Christ (Colossians 2:1-10). We interact wisely, which begins with the fear of the lord (Psalm 111:10) and learn and rely on Scripture, which is sufficient to train us for our task (2 Timothy 3:10-16). When someone objects, we remain faithful to God’s word rather than joining their foolishness (Proverbs 26:4), and we show them the folly of what they have proposed (Proverbs 26:5).
We recognize that there is a difference between the wisdom of God and the so-called wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 2). And so, we make both the content of the answer and the way we answer follow what we are instructed from Scripture. We don’t resort to the practice of, nor do we argue for secular ethics. But it also means that we do not rely on “natural law.” It isn’t that we don’t think there is such a thing, per se. But we recognize that it is not a product of nature itself, but the general revelation of God, and we know that the natural man will suppress this truth (Romans 1:18-32) and will cast it into a non-Christian context that results in his favor. Special revelation (the Bible) and general revelation (the knowledge of God given to all) should be used in unison, not separately.
We act according to righteousness, repenting when we sin (Matthew 3:8,10). We know that God is sovereign and so we pray and rely on his providence (1 Peter 3:12). If we truly believe that God is sovereign and that prayer isn’t some therapeutic exercise – that is, if we believe the Bible – then we will pray and rely on God to work. But you ought not swim in an ocean of sin and be deluded into thinking that God will rush to the aid of your cause. For your prayers can be hindered (1 Peter 3:7), but God will attend to the prayers of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29).
We do not advocate a gradual, incremental approach. We believe the methods by which sin and righteousness work are fundamentally different. While sin may ensnare and eat away at righteousness gradually, the call to repentance and righteousness is sharp and immediate. Just as a sickness does not need to affect all parts of the body in order to cause illness, or destroy all organs to cause death, so sin is content with entering in gradually. And yet health requires sickness to be removed or cured in all areas at once. We do not see the Prophets or Christ calling for incremental change, but for immediate repentance, turning from sin to God. So we too will call for immediate and complete change, knowing that a compromise between righteousness and wickedness is not in favor of righteousness, and also knowing that God judges not only individuals but nations as well.
Finally, what do we say of the non-Christian who seeks to end abortion? It is a fine and good thing for him or her to oppose this evil. We will welcome the help. However, do not be surprised if our arguments part ways at certain points. We have an entirely different ethical framework.
Do we say that you cannot oppose abortion unless you are a Christian? No. Non-Christian can and do know right from wrong. This isn’t to say that non-Christians have a perfect or exhaustive knowledge of right and wrong or that they will always acknowledge what is right and wrong. They may know right from wrong and they may argue vehemently on the correct side of things. What we would maintain, however, is that they cannot give an account of right and wrong. That is, when asked why a thing is right or wrong, they will come up short, giving an arbitrary or self-defeating answer.
We welcome their help, but with an understanding that we have separate and distinct worldviews. We aren’t going to compromise our beliefs in order to develop a common set of beliefs among us; our commonality is primarily in our opposition to abortion. And if you have not understood the previous paragraphs, let me state it plainly: we have different motivations and reasons for opposing abortion than non-Christians.
Can non-Christians and Christians both oppose abortion? Yes. Can both hold signs opposing abortion? Yes. Can they both distribute fliers? Yes. Can they both do creative things to influence the culture? Yes. Can they both convince others to oppose abortion? Yes. Can they both vote? Yes. Can they both honor God and confront people with the person of Christ? No. Can they both give an account for why abortion is evil? No.
If you aren’t Christian, but oppose abortion, then by all means oppose abortion! We too will oppose it! We can both do things to oppose it. Just don’t be surprised if we don’t share the same presuppositions or if we present the gospel to you.