Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

God’s People Defending Life

Since God’s people are clearly called to treasure and defend life, and since abortion is not a sin confined to the modern era, it is right to ask what role the Church has taken in the past in defending those who are most innocent and vulnerable.  Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have waged a battle against pagan practices that treated life as cheap.  Abortion, infanticide, exposure, and abandonment were all common and not even seen as wrong.  In fact, historian George Grant writes, “None of the great minds of the ancient world – from Plato and Aristotle to Livy and Cicero, from Herodotus and Thucydides to Plutarch and Euripides – disparaged child-killing in any way.  In fact, most of them actually recommended it.”  However, the early Church spoke out against these injustices.  The Didache, one of the earliest non-canonical Christian documents, includes a call to cherish and defend life.  Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Bishop Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine were vocal in their defense of life, calling the Church to action.  Augustine also spoke on the moral responsibility that men carried in abortion.

In the eighth chapter of John Ensor’s book, he writes about Basil of Caesarea, a pastor in the fourth century whose actions for the sake of the unborn have been model for the Church, followed with more or less fervor, through the centuries.  Here they are in John Ensor’s words:

1.) He gave a series of sermons, using Scripture to affirm the sanctity of human life and the humanity of preborn children.
2.) He called upon the Christian community to stop aborting their own babies, and he called them to actively defend innocent life by helping mothers in pregnancy distress find the help they needed to give life.  In other words, he inspired the church to do the work and ministry of crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes.
3.) He launched a legislative battle using his power and influence to criminalize abortion.
4.) He launched an education program to teach the entire city about the value of human life and to stigmatize and denounce abortion among the general population.

And we must continue in that manner until the day when abortion is unthinkable.

The Foundation for Cherishing and Defending Life

A couple weeks ago I asserted that the foremost reason we cherish and defend life is that God does.  This week I’d like to explore that topic a bit more, with the aid again of John Ensor’s book, Answering the Call: Saving Innocent Lives, One Woman at a Time.  (The line of argument in the following paragraph comes directly from this book in the chapter entitled “The Foundation for Cherishing and Defending Life.)

Ensor writes, “God is Life, and in giving us Himself, He gives us life itself.”  He spoke into being a creation teeming with life, but the among all those living, created things in which he delights, he especially cherishes human life.  It is on humanity that he stamped his image, as I wrote about last week.  Among all human life, God especially cherishes innocent human life.  Because God is just, he calls on us to defend the innocent.  Ensor brings up these references, “Do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty” (Ex. 23:7), “When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty”  (Deut. 25:1), “It is not good to punish an innocent man” (Prov. 17:26), “Woe to those who. . .deny justice to the innocent” (Isaiah 55:22-23).  Many times the prophets’ indictments against Israel were precisely because they had not cared for the innocent.  Among all forms of innocent human life God especially cherishes children.  Think to when Jesus said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).  This is one of the sternest warnings from our Lord – surely it shows his deep love for children.  Finally, Ensor says, “Among all the innocent children, God sees the preborn child as his unique work of fashioning personhood.”  In this final section of the chapter, he touches on several different passages where scripture makes it clear that “our lives as persons begin in the womb.”  One example that I had not considered before is found in Job 3:3 when he says, “Let the day perish on which I was to be born, and the night which said, ‘A boy is conceived.'”  Job considered that his personhood began at conception – when a boy was conceived, not just the potential for a boy.  To consider the pre-born anything but an innocent life cherished by God is utterly unbiblical and ungodly.

Imago Dei

Let’s explore what it means that God made humanity in His image, and how that impacts the way we view human life.

I cracked open my copy of Grudem’s Systematic Theology for a little help with this one.  He offered this as a working definition: The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God. Grudem points out that a complete understanding of the ways in which man is like God would demand a complete understanding of who God is and who man is.  The more we study Scripture, the more we’ll know, though our understanding will never be full.  But at least it can be said that any way in which men and women are like God is an aspect of their being in the image of God.  There are moral, spiritual, mental, relational, even physical aspects of being made in the image of God, but it must be made clear that humans bear the image of God by virtue of being the kind of thing they are, not from any acquired property (such as the ability to make choices, experience things, perceive things, demonstrate self-awareness, etc).

Since God created us in His image, we are more like our Creator than any aspect of creation – more like Him than the starry skies that leave us breathless, or snow capped mountain ranges that are so awe-inspiring.  Our being in the image of God gives us a dignity and significance that other aspects of creation do not have in the same fullness.  And even though our image bearing is marred by sin or some disability,every human “must be treated wit the dignity and respect that is due to God’s image-bearer.”  Abortion is an egregious offense against God that destroys that part of His creation with which He has most chosen to identify Himself and from which He receives the most delight and glory.  Abortion is stealing God’s glory.