The Right to Choose?

We’re all aware of the pro-choice rhetoric about the “right to choose.”  Those who defend abortion say a woman has the right to choose whether to have the baby or terminate it in the womb.  However, this “right to choose” rhetoric is not at all airtight.  McQuilkin and Copan explain:

[The ‘right to choose’ language] is laden with questionable assumptions.  For one thing, right to choose what?  ‘Choice’ is a relative term – like saying ‘to the left of.’  A right to choose in relation to what?  We gain moral clarity when we ask: What is the object of one’s choice?  Is one free to rape or murder? Obviously not.

Second, the ‘right to choose’ assumes an individualistic outlook that undermines community; it fails to welcome ‘the least of these’ unborn children into the world, where they can be cared for and loved.

Third, this mindset fails to see life as a gift from God and thus a charge to keep.  We are not sovereign over our own lives or the lives of others God has entrusted to us.

Fourth, we do not choose our earthly family (or spiritual family for that matter), yet we are called to committed love – to seek the well-being of others, even if doing so is inconvenient and even challenging.  Abortion undermines the spirit of these loving commitments that make life meaningful.

McQuilkin and Copan, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics, p. 370.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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Abolishing Abortion: A Review

Last week I gave a few quotes from this book by Frank Pavone, Abolishing Abortion (here).  Today I want to give a brief review of the book for those interested in pro-life resources.

First, as I mentioned last week, it is clearly written from a Roman Catholic position.  So from the get-go, I knew I would disagree with the Romish theology in it (including the papacy, doctrine of the church, the nature of sin, etc.).  After reading it, I found out it has big sections of Roman Catholic teaching/emphasis in it; because of that I hesitate to recommend the book (I must note that Pavone wasn’t trying to “covert” anyone to Rome, thankfully).

Second, concerning the main topic of the book – abortion – Pavone does make some excellent points and arguments.  He notes that abortion is like a “bone” stuck in the throat of American people: we can’t swallow it down, nor can we get rid of it.  It has to be dealt with.  He also talks about freedom, human rights, and some aspects of what it means to be truly pro-life.  Pavone knows enough American law and legislation to even discuss non-profit tax exempt laws and how the constitution is pro-life.  Again, you can see some of the quotes I posted here.

Here are the chapters of the book: 1) In the public square, 2) the Roe v. Wade debate, 3) repenting, 4) the spiritual imperative, 5) freedom of speech, 6) freedom of the pulpit, 7) on being [wrongly] passive, 8) being actively pro-life, 9) abortion and pain, 10) mother and child, 11) love.  Though the chapters didn’t seem to have a certain order, there is quite a bit of helpful information in almost every chapter.

In a word, this is a good book on abortion but it’s usefulness is hindered by a strong Roman Catholic bent.  If you want to get it, I’d recommend skipping over the doctrinal parts and reading the other parts.  Abortion is a reality that Christians have to deal with, pray about, and work towards abolishing it.  This book is one that will help take a step in the direction of saving human lives.

Frank Pavone, Abolishing Abortion (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015).

NOTE: I received this book from BookLook bloggers, and was not compelled to write a positive review.

shane lems
hammond, wi

Pro-Life, Pro-Human, Pro-Children, Pro-Women

I’ll come back here next week and give a more extensive review of this book: Abolishing Abortion.  For now, I do have to note that I disagree with its heavily Roman Catholic orientation, from its focus on the pope to its Romish doctrine of the church.  I’ve written on Rome here before more than once (including reasons why I will never go to Rome), so I won’t revisit these issues here.  However, I do want to point out a few parts of this book that I found helpful – specifically the following quotes:

“We don’t have the right to life because somebody else says that we have it.  We don’t have the right to life because some court, congress, governor, or king grants it to us.  Rather, we have our rights from God.”

“When a government says that some people don’t have to be protected, that is the stuff of which genocides are made.”

“…Human rights are not granted by political systems.  They are ‘pre-political.’  They exist before government and, in fact, must be honored, served, and secured by government, not because the leaders of government say so, but because to fail to do so undermines the very purpose of government.”

“The legalization of abortion changes our government from one that protects unalienable rights to one that dispatches them as it sees fit.”

“To tolerate abortion not only flies in the face of Christian teaching.  It is un-American.”

“To be pro-life is to be pro-human – pro-child and pro-woman.  Pro-woman is not a marketing slogan but our fundamental message.  The challenge the pro-life movement gives to society is, ‘Why can’t we love them both?’ …One cannot love the woman without loving the child.”

“The nature of post-abortion grief is that the individual involved in the abortion has begun to realize precisely what a big deal it was.  …A great disservice was done both to her and her child when someone convinced her that the abortion would be ‘no big deal.’

“Abortion is the exact opposite of love.  Love says, ‘I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person.’  Abortion says, ‘I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself.”

These quotes were taken from Frank Pavone, Abolishing Abortion (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015).

shane lems

Gladiator Games, Abortion, and the Early Church (Athenagoras)

The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols.   -              Edited By: Alexander Roberts      Just over a week ago I highlighted a section from Athenagoras (an early Christian apologist from the end of the 2nd century AD) in which he defended Christian morality since many were accusing Christians of immorality.  Specifically, Athenagoras said Christian sexual ethics were much better than those of non-Christians, since Christians upheld purity in marriage and avoided homosexuality.  You can read the article here.

In the same context, Athenagoras also explained how Christians detested all sorts of cruelty, abuse, and bloodshed.   Apparently some had accused Christians of being murderers and cannibals because of the Lord’s Supper (eating/drinking the body/blood of Jesus), so Athenagoras refuted the accusation as completely untrue.  The truth is, he said, that Christians are against brutality and murder:

“[Which Roman citizen] does not reckon among the things of greatest interest the contests of gladiators and wild beasts, especially those which are given by you?  But we [Christians], deeming that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him, have abjured such spectacles.  How, then, when we do not even look on, lest we should contract guilt and pollution, can we put people to death?

In other words, since Christians renounced things like the brutal gladiator games, how can someone accuse them of being murderers?  [As a convicting side note, although Christians aren’t murders today, we typically no longer “abjure” watching the spectacles of brutality and death like our Christian forefathers did.]  Athenagoras goes on:

“And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder?  For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very foetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it.”

Athenagoras is arguing that since Christians were against abortion and exposing a child (letting it die soon after birth), how can one accuse them of murder?  Christians in the early church believed a fetus in the womb and newborn children were created by God and under his care, so they would never kill them.  The were against murder, not for it (think of the 6th commandment)!

In a brilliant way, Athenagoras turns the tables on the accusers: Christians are not the ones who are murderers, since they detest gladiator games, brutality, abortion, and the exposing of children.  The non-Christians do those things, but not Christians – therefore no one can accuse Christians of being immoral murderers.

The entire apology by Athenagoras is worth reading: A Plea for the Christians.  The above quotes were taken from paragraph/chapter 35.

shane lems
hammond, wi

Abortion, Disability, and Eugenics

How to Be a Christian in a Brave New World I really like this book: How To Be A Christian In A Brave New World by Joni Eareckson Tada and Nigel De S. Cameron.  I’ve mentioned it on this blog before (here and here), so I won’t review all the details.  Instead, I’d like to quote a helpful paragraph by Tada that has to do with designer babies, eugenics, disability, and abortion.  Right before the following quote, Tada told the story of how a mother learned through screening that there was a high chance that her unborn baby had Down syndrome.  Sadly, the woman (“Kate”) ended up having an abortion.

“I wonder what made Kate decide to abort her unborn child with Down syndrome?  Did she think he would find no happiness in life?  Or did she worry about the burden this young life would place on her family?  Was it motivated by a fear of financial strain? Even some doctors who perform abortions feel uncomfortable as some women choose to quietly abort fetuses with relatively minor defects.”

“As a person with a serious disability, this [topic of eugenics and designer babies] makes me very nervous.  I see a grass-routs eugenics movement beginning to evolve that ultimately will lead to a greater intolerance of disabilities.  Our society has a fundamental fear of disability, and we are letting that fear drive everything from laws and policies to the quiet hints in ob-gyn offices that an unborn child is ‘better off dead than disabled.’”

“I wish people would see that a disability can provide the passport into a richer life and a deeper happiness than Kate would ever dream for her child (see James 1:2-5).  True, disability is hard – but it can also powerfully unite a family.  It can refine a family’s character and set of values.  It can force one to see the joy in simple achievements and pleasures.  A disability can foster faith, a deeper prayer life, and a respect for God and his Word.  Most of all, it can force us into the arms of the Lord of grace (see 2 Cor. 1:9).  And that’s a good thing.  A very good thing.”

I’m thankful for the work that Tada and Cameron are doing in the area where ethics and the Christian faith meet. And I’m even more thankful that in and through Christ’s resurrection, whoever believes in him will one day be completely renewed – soul and body (Phil. 3:21).

Tada and Cameron, How To Be A Christian In A Brave New World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 133-134).

shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi

Abortion, Murder, and the Early Church

The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols.   -              Edited By: Alexander Roberts      In the ancient Roman Empire human life was generally not highly valued.  Some Greco-Roman religions involved child sacrifice, shedding of blood, and other inhumane acts.  Roman citizens typically didn’t speak out against the brutal killing methods displayed in the arenas – in fact, people flocked to see humans mercilessly slay each other or be torn apart and eaten by ferocious animals.  Some people even practiced different forms of abortion; for example “exposing” was aborting an infant by letting him die in some “off-the-beaten path” place.

Tertullian (d. 22o AD) discussed this inhumanity as he defended the Christian faith in his treatise called Apology.  One thing he mentioned was the fact that there were rumors of Christians acting inhumanely (i.e. killing and eating children).   If this was true, he argued, why does the Roman Empire punish Christians for doing things that are acceptable in broader society?  However, it was not true, and Tertullian noted that it was terribly unjust, unfair, and even contrary to Roman law to punish Christians with no concrete evidence of these rumored crimes.

The truth, Tertullian said, is that Christians value human life far more than others in society.   All murder is forbidden in the Christian religion:

“In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance.  To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth.  That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed” (ch. IX).

Later, Tertullian explained how Christians love one another, their neighbors, and even their enemies.  (And as we saw a few days ago, Christians even pray for and honor Caesar.)  The rumors are false, he said; Christians are good for society in that they value human life far more than others around them.  Rather than do harm, Christians do good.  Therefore, Tertullian asserted, the Roman Empire should neither punish Christians or outlaw Christianity.

Tertullian, Apology, found in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3.

rev shane lems
hammond, WI
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)

Christian Bioethics

This is an outstanding book: Bioethics and the Christian Life by David VanDrunen (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009).  While I’ve only read a few books on this subject (including stuff by Stanley Hauerwas and Gilbert Meilaender), I’m glad that this one found its way to my shelves.  I’ll no doubt pass it around to elders, pastors, and church teachers/leaders who counsel people going through tough medical issues.  One major premise of the book which is outstanding is VanDrunen’s emphasis on “virtues we should cultivate in order to be prepared to make such choices well.  Becoming a morally responsible bioethics decision-maker is the task of a lifetime and cannot be reduced to figuring out the right answer at a particular moment of crisis” (p. 15). 

Exactly!  We make tough decisions based on biblical views of sin, salvation, and service – and we make those tough choices as part of a community who may be affected by the choices we make.  VanDrunen well calls us away from selfishness and isolation in bioethical decisions.  “Not only must we think of others in the  midst of our own suffering, but we must also take account of how the decisions we make while we suffer often deeply affect others” (p. 83).  This is something to remember now before we suffer deeply: love your neighbor as yourself!

VanDrunen talks about virtues (faith, hope, love, courage, contentment, and wisdom) from a biblical perspective, with faith as the God-given fount of the other virtues.  This section on virtues comes after he sets the theological table by reminding the readers of the main truths of the faith (God’s sovereignty and providence, man as image bearing social creatures, sin, death, salvation, resurrection, and eternal life just to name a few).  One part of the virtues section I thought was outstanding was his section on contentment.  Our first responsibility as we face a tough choice is to learn contentment in whatever condition we experience, accepting the fact that God in his will and providence may not relieve us from the pain or struggle. 

“Then, from this perspective of contentment, the Christian should consider morally permissible ways to remedy her condition.  I would argue, moreover, that true contentment may significantly alter our perspective on the dilemmas we face and it may even persuade us, at times, that remaining in our undesired condition is the most ethically satisfying decision” (p. 90).

I’ll post more from the last part (where VanDrunen digs into some bioethical situations) some other time.  In summary, for now, I highly recommend this book for a variety of Christians from different backgrounds and traditions.  The book doesn’t attack all the health care woes and conundrums we face in the U.S., but it does focus on Christians and how our faith should influence our tough decisions in a God-honoring, neighbor-loving way.  Because we do live in a time and country where there are thousands of health care conundrums, we need this book all the more!

shane lems

sunnyside wa