Monthly Archives: January 2013

Middletown’s Pro-Life Affirmations and Denials

In this morning’s National Sanctity of Human Life reflection, I read the following statement to the gathered at Middletown Springs Community Church:

We have, as part of our official church statement of faith, an affirmation of the biblical and biological truth that life begins at conception. Article 13 of our doctrinal statement reads as follows:

We believe that children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord and that parents are to demonstrate and teach them God’s pattern for life.

Because of this belief we will make the following affirmations and denials:

1. We affirm that all human beings are made in the image of God and therefore equal to each other and sacred in and of themselves and that therefore abortion is not a health care issue or a family planning issue but first and foremost a “God issue.”

2. We deny that one’s imaging of God and inherent sacredness is contingent upon their usefulness or convenience to their family or society, their religious heritage, their physical health or mental capabilities, their race, or their social or economic class. In other words, no unborn child is less human because he or she is mentally or physically disabled, poor, non-white, or unwanted by his or her family.

3. We affirm that the Roe v. Wade ruling officially codified the systematic killing of innocent human beings, and that therefore it legalized systemic injustice in our nation making abortion not just a “God issue” but a human rights and civil rights issue.

4. We deny that national laws …

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Away With Utilitarian Arguments Against Abortion

You have likely heard this line of reasoning from earnest pro-lifers before. Snopes.com even has an example listed as “glurge”. (Definition of glurge here.) The logic goes something like this: You should be pro-life because you never know if you’ve aborted the next Einstein, the next Beethoven, the next Martin Luther King, Jr., the next Pasteur or Salk, etc. What if you aborted the curer of cancer or AIDS? The motivation is understandable and the underlying reasoning is sound: abortion, which does immediate harm to unborn children and many of their mothers, does unseen future harm to families, communities, and the world.

But I hate this argument against abortion, and here’s why: It assigns value based on (presumed) accomplishments. It is a utilitarian argument — assigning intrinsic value based on one’s “utility” — and it is utilitarian arguments that are best suited for pro-choice arguments, not pro-life. And those seeking abortions are already employing utilitarianism in their thinking. e.g. “This child will have a poor life, so it is best to prevent him from experiencing it.” “This child will interfere with my plans for the future, so it is best to terminate my pregnancy until I am really ready.”

The reasoning also fails to consider that we are actually right now perilously close to abortion based on predictive value. In America, it is dangerous to be an unborn African American. In China, it is dangerous to be an unborn girl. As fertility treatments become more advanced, parents have potential some …

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Nominally Christian Community Like Adding Up Zeros

What is the sum when you add up zeros?

“There will be little meaning concerning Christian community until we understand what Christian means, and who can make up a Christian community.

“The liberal theologians in their stress on community speak and act as though we become Christians when we enter the horizontal relationship of community, but this is a totally wrong starting point. If this were so, Christianity would have no more final value than the humanistic community, and that is just the trouble with modern man. He can find no sufficient value for humanistic community for he can find no sufficient value for the men who make it up. If the individual man is a zero, then community is only adding zeros.”

– Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the 20th Century (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity, 1970), 45.

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As It Gets Worse, It Cannot Get Desperate

For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
– Mark 6:18-20

We have been tracking the shift for some time. To simply say what the Bible says — as one who believes what it says, of course, not as some gawker agog at its impoliteness — is defamatory, thought crime, hate speech, what have you.

Let’s first be cautious. No one’s being burnt at the stake for their faith. No one’s even being thrown in prison. No one in these parts, anyway.

Now let’s be honest. The trend is downward. These things are actual crimes in quote-unquote “civilized” nations, and we would be arrogant to act like laws like that could never be enacted here. Every unfree nation got unfree while making great assurances to its people.

But let’s be realistic. The kingdom of God is so much bigger than empires of the world. Let’s be cautious and let’s be honest — let’s not get into histrionics but let’s not put our head in the sand — but let’s remember exactly who’s in charge here. The Western world may be moving from Herod (a disbelieving openness to our voice) to Herodias (a hostile calling …

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To Assume the Gospel is to Lose Grip of It

The conclusion to an excellent and important piece by Fred Zaspel on “How to Preach the Gospel from Every Part of the Bible”:

let us remember at all times to keep the gospel prominent and explicit. Far too many “expository” sermons go week after week without any real gospel proclamation. It’s “out there” somewhere in the atmosphere — from the hymns we sing, perhaps. But it is seldom prominent in the preaching. It is assumed, perhaps, but not explicit. But if we only assume it in our preaching, we have no ground to think that our hearers will assume it also. And, as Warfield so insightfully cautions us, to leave the gospel in the shadows is to let Christianity itself slip from our grasp. To preach the Scriptures rightly we must be careful to maintain its own redemptive focus, a focus that rivets our attention, from first to last, on our glorious Redeemer.

He is, after all, the one about whom the book was written.

Go read the whole thing.

Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
– Philippians 3:16

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The Trinitarian Gospel Deeps

First, from Octavius Winslow’s Morning Thoughts:

The doctrine of the Trinity is to the Christian the key of the Bible. The Spirit imparting skill to use it, and the power, when used, it unlocks this divine arcade of mysteries, and throws open every door in the blest sanctuary of truth. But it is in the light of salvation that its fitness and beauty most distinctly appear — salvation in which Jehovah appears so inimitably glorious — so like Himself. The Father’s love appears in “sending” His Son; the Son’s love in “undertaking” the work; the Holy Spirit’s love in “applying” the work. Oh, it is delightful to see how, in working out the mighty problem of man’s redemption, the Divine Three were thus deeply engaged. With which of these could we have dispensed? All were needed; and had one been lacking, our salvation would have been incomplete, and we would have been eternally lost. In bringing to glory the church they thus have saved, the sacred Three are solemnly pledged.

And now from my Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus:

Do you see how the Trinity hems us in? We have no defense against this brilliant triangle offense. Praise Jesus! “The salvation that was planned by the Father has been procured by the Son and is now presented and protected by the Spirit” (Ryken and LeFebvre, Our Triune God).

The glory of God is exponentially and eternally magnified by God’s triune self. “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was …

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An Explosion of Joy

“There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of ‘the missionary mandate.’ This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel. If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.”

– Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (p. 116)

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How to Almost Guarantee Your Children Will Run in the Opposite Direction from the Faith

Do we want to guarantee that our children will run in the opposite direction of our most cherished biblical convictions? All we have to do is sterilize our churches. Make them rigid, unresponsive, grim. Require of our ministers that they play the role of scolding, scowling Reverend Eat-Your-Peas. Treat the gospel as a theological system only, rather than also as a personal remedy. Use the Bible as ammunition for “culture wars” rather than as food for life. Withdraw from the historical situation in which God has placed us. Build up the walls, reinforce the barriers, and make certain that no experience gets in here. Ignore the fact that “doctrine only” is not itself a biblical doctrine.

– Ray Ortlund, When God Comes to Church (p.17)

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