I’ve mostly watched the recent abortion debate on my social media feeds with interest, hope, excitement, compassion, and anxiety. My excitement comes from my hope that our society may move closer toward the theological and philosophical position that human life at every stage is valuable. My compassion shows up when I think about people I have who have made the choice to end a pregnancy. My anxiety comes from how some of those who share my convictions speak about their opponents.
I see words like “Evil” and “Disgusting” thrown around and it hurts me deeply.
There are people I love, very close friends of mine, who have made this choice in the past. Some are thankful for it, they contend that raising a child at that time simply was not in their interest. They would argue that their own life and the life of the unborn child would have been so hard that it was the right thing for everyone.
There are other people I love who deeply regret the decision they made. As time has gone by they have come to harbor guilt and shame over their decision. There is nothing they can do about it now, and I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ offers complete forgiveness, but sometimes they have trouble remembering that. It doesn’t help when they hear that they are “evil.”
Let me be clear, abortion is not the problem. The problem is a question of worldview. For years parents have chosen to terminate pregnancy because of likely birth defects or other syndromes. Their reason has not often been “this life isn’t valuable” but rather, “that would be too difficult a life to live.” Normally this is a sympathetic attitude, an effort to decrease pain and suffering.
This is an important point. As some of us use the word “evil” to describe those who disagree with us, we fail to recognize that they are not seeking to murder, kill and maim, they are merely acting on a worldview that is very different from our own.
Some important places where this late modern worldview are deviates from the Christian worldview are:
Individualism – The Christian worldview would argue that the individual is not as great as the whole. Love for neighbor stems from this viewpoint. We should happily sacrifice ourselves for others. But the late modern worldview believes the highest good is the freedom of the individual. The church should recognize that it has been complicit in this. For years, we have argued that the primary thing Jesus died for is the individual Christian. We have said things like “Jesus would have died for you if you were the only one.” But a study of Biblical theology will reveal that Jesus didn’t die for individual sinners, he died for His CHURCH which is composed of individual sinners. It’s a subtle but important distinction.
Humanity – The Christian worldview believes that every single human life is made in the image of God. We get this first from the creation account, and then from places where God has repeated this throughout the Scriptures. Because of this we should seek to find value in every human life. For us that means those representatives in congress who vote to support Planned Parenthood, the directors of Planned Parenthood clinics, and abortion doctors are no less valuable than the babies they have killed. If we want to be consistent we MUST communicate in a way that reflects this belief. In recent history and in our period other views have taken center stage. First, secular humanism began to separate human life from the Creator. The highest value was humanity, but there was no philosophical or theological basis for this, since we were not “made in the image” of a creator. Then, having made that important separation, the philosophical shift was able to move to “contribution.” A human life is now valued on the basis of what it contributes to society. A recent article titled “After-Birth Abortion: why should the baby live?” by Alberto Giubilini and Francesco Minerva argued that personhood was based on the value a human being contributes to society. Many abortion supporters do not support this article, but it is logically consistent with the way this late modern worldview values humanity.
Authority – Once upon a time in human history, monarchical forms of government were the most common. The people who lived under monarchs believed that the king had the right to determine their own life choices. This was largely seen as the course of human events directed through the monarch by the hand of God. With the rise of “democracy,” (which ironically is actually “Republicanism,” but that’s another point entirely) the philosophical shift began to move toward the idea that choice was in the hands of the people. Now in the late modern era a common perception is that “no one should tell me what to do.” As a pastor I have had people leave our church when I tried to counsel them that the choices they were making were not wise, healthy, or good. So now, not only is the individual the highest good, but also the highest authority.
There are other facts at play in our worldview differences, but some things become clear rather quickly which those of us who long for abortion to end must understand.
The people we oppose are not wicked, evil, or disgusting. They are made in the image of God and should be treated that way. They are only thinking and acting out of a worldview that is different from our own. And this worldview is held by many of us sitting in the pews of churches as well as preaching from the front of them.
Should we battle abortion then? Yes, by all means! But the more important battle is the one of our own worldview. We need to root out and kill these false elements of worldview in ourselves. We need to begin thinking and living from a more biblical worldview all the way around. This will be noticeable when we frame the debate differently. When we treat our opponents with the respect that all human persons deserve simply because they are created in the image of God. When that happens we might popularize a different worldview instead of communicating different beliefs from the same worldview.