WHY SOUTHERN BAPTISTS ARE WRONG TO NEGLECT THE DEFENSE OF THE UNBORN
In response to my killing Dr. Britton in July of 1994, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention issued "The Nashville Statement of Conscience: Why The Killing of Abortion Doctors Is Wrong." Each of the six points in the "Abstract" of that document has been responded to in the preceding text. This appendix quotes the entire 12-page document issued by the Commission in September 1994, and provides a point-by-point response.
The original title of this Commission's document, that is still retained in its publication, is "The Struggle Against Abortion: Why the Use of Lethal Force Is Not Morally Justifiable: A Statement of Conscience."
Although this Commission asserts that "...the use of lethal force is not morally justifiable..." in defense of the unborn, it is certain that lethal force is morally justifiable in defense of born people. All the discerning readers must do, in order to see through the numerous objections this Commission raises, is to apply the objection to defending born people. The position paper presented by this Commission demonstrates the lengths people will resort to in order to obscure and deny this duty; it also shows that their denunciations of this duty are the product of human invention, and lack biblical proof. Those interested in examining the efforts of this Commission, and testing them in the light of God’s word, have both sides laid out before them.
Every biblical duty can be presented in a clear and compact manner and held in sharp contrast to its opposing error. But those seeking to obscure the truth avoid such sharp and searching contrasts. As the reader will notice, rather than exposing my alleged error, and asserting the contrasting truth, this Commission clouds and confuses both sides of this debate. Rather than draining the swamp, this piece drowns the reader with confusing rhetoric.
1.1 Acts of lethal violence recently have been used in an attempt to stop abortion doctors from performing abortions. Such violence has been perpetrated, in some cases, by those who seek to justify their acts on the basis of Christian moral principles. Dozens of violent incidents of other sorts have also occurred in and near abortion clinics over the past fifteen years.
The semantics used by this Commission reflect the same perspective adopted by Herod toward the slaughter of the innocents (Matthew 2:16-18). He did not view the soldiers who killed the male children as murderers. From Herod's perspective, these soldiers were upholding the law of the land. If a citizen had resisted these soldiers with force, Herod would have considered him a "violent" offender. This Commission similarly reserves the term "violent" for those who defend the unborn; abortion providers are never cast in this light. They never describe abortion as murder-much less do they call abortionists murderers, but they refer to the killing of abortion providers as "vigilante murders." The deference with which they treat those who abort the unborn is so great that they call them "abortion doctors" in this piece-never "abortionists."
This inverted perspective, which they strive to maintain throughout this piece, must be adopted for their arguments to gain a semblance of cogency. Since their perspective is false, and in denial of reality, the conclusions that they infer from it are also false. All that is needed to view their arguments, throughout this piece, in their true light is to put both those who murder the unborn, and those who defend them, in their proper and biblical context.
If defending the unborn with lethal force is murderous aggression, rather than faithful defense, then Abraham's defense of Lot (Genesis 14) should be characterized as murderous rather than defensive. The Jews who slew their Persian enemies, in the book of Esther, should similarly be condemned as radical, violent men.
1.2 The aftermath of these violent acts has made it clear that the views of the perpetrators are not merely idiosyncratic, but instead reflect the perspective of a small number of Americans, some of them Christians, who are strongly opposed to abortion.
The men on this Commission rightly oppose abortion, but their eyes are not yet fully open to all the radical and far-reaching implications of government-sanctioned murder. Under the current circumstances, it is hardly surprising that only a "...small number of Americans..." relatively speaking, understand the practical implications of defending born and unborn people similarly. In time, no doubt, these things will become clear to the masses, but as yet, most people's eyes have not adjusted to the darkness that descends when the government so radically departs from the light of the Moral Law. This radical reversal in the law must necessarily result in a similar reversal in the Christian's relation to the law, and the government that enforces it. To encourage submission to the government in this respect, as this Commission does, is to encourage obedience to men, rather than God.
1.3 Representatives of a wide range of "pro-choice," "pro-abortion," and "pro-life" positions have offered public statements condemning such use of deadly force and the moral justification of such acts. It has been a rare instance of agreement. We join in condemning these killings.
These men say they are pro-life, but when forced to choose between protecting abortionists and protecting the unborn, they joined forces with those who are pro-choice. This is no great honor.
1.4 However, the divergent reasons that pro-choice and pro-life groups have offered for this moral rejection of such acts as the Pensacola shootings, and of the moral claims that undergird such acts, bear witness to the continuing and seemingly unbridgeable gulf between these polarized parties to the abortion conflict.
1.5 We who offer this statement speak from a Christian pro-life perspective. Even though we share the moral condemnation of the killings that pro-choice groups and leaders have expressed, we have yet to read a statement from such persons that reflects our point of view concerning why such killings are not morally justifiable.
They claim to speak from a "Christian pro-life perspective," but they not only annul the biblical duty to defend the innocent with the means necessary, they also directly contradict the Scriptures in this matter.
1.6 In particular, some claim that unborn life is not fully human life, and thus that it is wrong to use lethal force in an attempt to prevent abortion. We strongly disagree with the claim that an unborn child is not fully human life, deserving of full protection. We will reject the killing of abortion doctors on other grounds.
This Commission believes that the unborn are fully human, and that they deserve full protection but, as we shall see, they fail to consistently maintain this position.
1.7 At the same time, we find the response thus far from the pro-life community deserves more elaboration and depth. We are glad to see that all responsible pro-life groups and leaders have condemned such killings, as do we. We believe that the point of view of persons advocating violence against abortion doctors requires serious moral reflection and engagement, more serious than has thus far publicly occurred. A number of profound questions of Christian morality and Christian citizenship are at stake.
1.8 As pro-life Christians, we are concerned about the possibility that some of our fellow pro-life Christian friends and colleagues will drift into an embrace of violence directed against abortion providers. Lack of serious engagement with the views of persons who advocate the use of violence will only increase the risk that this drift will occur. We are equally concerned that such violence will lead pro-life Christians to withdraw from morally legitimate forms of action to prevent abortion.
1.9 This statement, therefore, is intended as a moral analysis and rejection of the killing of abortion doctors, offered from a Christian pro-life perspective. It is at the same time intended as an urgent plea for intensified Christian involvement in all morally permissible forms of anti-abortion activities. We offer this statement in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, to any who will listen, and especially to our fellow laborers in the protection of the unborn.
Considering the untold millions of lives at stake, this Commission's willingness to seriously engage this issue is commendable.
2. Murder in Christian Perspective
2.1 Murder, the culpable killing of a human being, is an extraordinarily grave offense against civil law as well as against the moral law of God (Ex. 20:13) on which all morally legitimate civil law is ultimately based.
Since they assert that murder is a "...grave offense against civil law...," this Commission must not have abortion in view, since murder by abortion is legal.
2.2 The Bible teaches that each human life is sacred, for every human being is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). For this reason, each human life bears divinely granted and immeasurable value. Human beings are not free to take the lives of others, for those lives belong to God, their Creator. This is the meaning of the divine prohibition of murder in the Ten Commandments. "Thou shalt not kill" means that God prohibits the unjustified taking, and mandates the protection, of human life.
2.3 In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:21ff.), Jesus affirmed the prohibition against murder. Indeed, He warned of God’s judgment even on intense expressions of anger and contempt for others, while calling His hearers to seek reconciliation with any persons from whom they might be estranged, even their enemies (Matt. 5:43-44). Jesus also proclaimed God’s special favor upon those who make peace (Matt. 5:9). While wholeheartedly committed to the spread of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 6:10, 6:33), Jesus personally rejected the use of violence to accomplish even this holy aim.
Jesus did not condone the use of force under all circumstances (John 18:11), but as God, and the One who inspired all Scripture, Christ did condone lethal force under some circumstances (Genesis 14, Jeremiah 48:10, & Deuteronomy 20). Christians should work to end violence, but in our fallen world force or the threat of force is often necessary to prevent unjust aggression. Peace comes after unjust aggression has been stopped, not by tolerating this violence. Peace and true liberty must often be purchased at a high price.
2.4 The Apostle Paul frequently reaffirmed the centrality of peacemaking and reconciliation, even describing God’s saving act in Jesus Christ as an act of divine peacemaking between those who had once been enemies-an act that not only reconciled God to humanity but also reconciled estranged human beings to each other (Eph. 2:11-22).
2.5 Paul also argued that the governing authorities of this world have been established by God. Their mandate in a world deeply marred by sin is to serve God by deterring wrongdoing and bringing punishment on wrongdoers, thus protecting the innocent (Rom. 13:1 -7). In this work, Paul writes, the authorities do "not bear the sword in vain" (Rom. 13:4). Most Christians have understood this to be a divine authorization of the use of force by governing authorities, even deadly force at times, when such force is finally required to accomplish government's divinely mandated purposes. Through the centuries, strict criteria have been developed for the just employment of such force.
2.6 In Christian theology a historic split has existed between those who believe that the witness of Scripture prohibits any taking of human life under any circumstance by any person or institution, and those who believe that under the conditions of sin the taking of human life is in a very small number of tragic circumstances morally justifiable and thus morally permissible.
2.7 Those taking the former position could ground a rejection of the killing of abortion doctors in their uniform and absolute rejection of any killing of any human being under any circumstances by any person or institution. This point of view would be coherent and consistent, and no further argument would need to be made.
This Commission knows full well that the pacifist position is to be rejected since the Scriptures so clearly teach the moral necessity of using defensive force. The Commission admits that it rejects this position, but it nevertheless raises it as a possible option. The effect is to muddy the waters. Rather than clearing obviously unbiblical objections to the defensive duties of the Moral Law, this Commission, time and again, throughout this paper, does all it can to obscure this essential and well-known duty. It does this by raising objections that are either invalid, or do not negate the defensive duties of the Moral Law, but appear to do so. The modus operandi of this Commission is to cloud, rather than clear, the vital issues at stake.
2.8 While respectful of this position, we believe that the overall witness of Scripture, including Romans 13, leads to the latter conclusion- that there are indeed a small number of tragic and exceptional circumstances in a fallen world in which the taking of human life can be morally justifiable.
One of the most remarkable things about this "Statement of Conscience," and the particular paragraph before us, is what it does not say: it neglects to uphold the clear and overwhelming moral obligation to defend the unborn with the immediate means necessary. This Commission boldly asserts that "the killing of abortion doctors is wrong," and tries to support this position by claiming that is it wrong to intentionally kill an abortionist. They also acknowledge that nonviolent civil disobedience "...may be seen as morally permissible" but they do not even address the many various degrees of defensive force that exist between these two extreme ends of the spectrum. The obvious question is, "What about all the other forceful means commonly used to protect the innocent?" Considering all the abortion clinics that have been bombed and burned, and the abortion providers who have been threatened and harmed-but not killed-this Commission's focus on intentionally killing abortion providers, while overlooking the numerous lesser degrees of force most commonly used, speaks volumes. Their silence on this subject is deafening. Considering the compelling moral obligation to defend these children with the immediate means necessary, their neglecting to maintain and proclaim this duty of the Moral Law is a sinful omission of immense proportions!
2.9 However, from our perspective, the Bible established a profound presumption in favor of preserving life rather than ending it. God wills that human beings should make peace with each other, should be reconciled, and should treat every life with the respect its divine origin and ownership demands. There is at the very least a prima facie moral obligation to refrain from killing. This means that an extraordinarily stringent burden of proof is imposed upon any who would seek to justify the taking of a human life.
2.10 To the extent that United States civil law reflects the divine moral law, it likewise is structured both to deter and to punish severely the unjustifiable taking of a human life. Civil law does generally recognize that under certain unusual circumstances normally involving defense of self or third persons against deadly force, the taking of another human life by a private citizen might be justified. A stringent burden of proof in every case rests on those who would justify any taking of life.
To say there is a "...prima facie moral obligation to refrain from killing" is misleading. This is true of murder but not of all killing. Under circumstances where it is necessary to kill a murderer in order to protect his intended victims, there is a prima facie moral obligation to do so. If someone is about to murder numerous helpless people, this places a stringent burden on those concerned to save the intended victims, even if, in order to do so, the assailant must be killed. When someone kills an assailant under these circumstances, he should be considered innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent. The burden of proof falls on the accuser.
It is obvious that you should not kill people-except under extraordinary circumstances. The question concerns the killing of known and habitual murderers who are protected by the police. There is a strong prima facie moral obligation to use the means necessary, including lethal force, to prevent these murderers from continuing to kill. There is a profound presumption in favor of saving the lives of the innocent, rather than their assailant. Under these circumstances, the burden does not rest on the one who spares innocent people, at the cost of the life of their assailant, but on those who would save the assailant if it results in the deaths of large numbers of innocent people.
Since this Commission has taken it upon itself to assert that "the killing of abortion doctors is wrong," it is reasonable to expect them to at least attempt to prove this assertion from the Scriptures. But, as we shall see, they fail to do so. They make plenty of bold assertions, and quote Scripture on peripheral matters, but when it comes to proving their fundamental point from the Bible, they do not even attempt to do so.
2.11 United States civil law is also structured to recognize the broader mandate of government to use force and the threat of force, judiciously and carefully, to deter and punish evil and to protect the innocent from wrongdoing. The government protects its citizenry from domestic wrongdoers through the law enforcement and criminal justice systems, and from foreign wrongdoers through the armed forces. Private citizens rightly are barred from authorizing themselves to perform these functions.
God’s law requires the individual and corporate means necessary for protecting the innocent (Exodus 20:13 and Genesis 14). The individual's inalienable duty to defend himself is the basis for individuals joining together in corporate civil defense. When the government, thus, protects individuals with the police, or the entire nation through the military, it does so on the people's behalf. If the government neglects these duties they necessarily revert to the people-otherwise the people will be left undefended. Thus, you do not need the government's permission before defending your own or your neighbor's child; this duty is inalienable, and cannot be removed by the government.
2.12 Those advocating acts of lethal force against abortion doctors claim that such acts qualify as morally justifiable homicide, despite the current status of civil law in the United States.
When the government requires sin, either by omission or commission, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29b). This is especially true when mass murder has been legalized, and helpless people are being slaughtered. Since we would defend ourselves, and our families, under these circumstances, with the immediate means necessary, the Second Great Commandment requires us to similarly defend our unborn neighbors (Matthew 22:39).
2.13 This assertion requires Christian consideration of the moral and legal status of the act of elective abortion, as well as the moral obligations of Christians living in a democratic society that by statute permits elective abortion under most circumstances.
3. The Moral and Legal Status of the Act of Elective Abortion
3.1 Since 1973, the United States Supreme Court has interpreted the United States Constitution in such a way as to create a right of a woman to choose to secure the services of a physician who is paid to “terminate her pregnancy”-that is, deliberately to end the existence of that life which is developing within her body. This state of affairs is justly called “abortion on demand” in that abortion is permitted on the basis of no criteria other than a pregnant woman's demand for an abortion. The abortion workers who have been killed or injured have been relying on this decisional law to justify their conduct legally.
3.2 The moral status of the act of elective abortion is arguably the most bitterly contested moral and, consequently legal, social, cultural, religious, and political question of our time. This is not the place in which to offer a rehearsal of the arguments that pertain to this question. We will instead simply state our position in the following way.
3.3. As indicated above (2.2), we believe that each human life bears a divinely granted sacredness. We believe that its sacredness begins at conception, when biological life begins. We believe that gestational life-life in the womb from conception to birth-must be understood as human life in its earliest stages rather than as pre-human, non human, potential, or any other less-than-fully-sacred kind of human life. We know that, if allowed to continuing developing without hindrance through a normal pregnancy, a gestating human life becomes a newborn baby. Thus, we are compelled to consider elective abortion the killing of a human being.
3.4 We have already argued that, given the sacredness of human life, the burden of proof is on any who would morally justify its deliberate extinguishing. The terrible flaw at the heart of federal abortion law is that abortions are currently permitted while requiring a woman to meet only a minimal burden of proof which may be imposed by state laws. In terms of gestational life, the federal government has wrongfully abdicated its responsibility to protect the innocent and to establish and enforce stringent criteria for the justifiable taking of human life.
Unjust laws should be replaced with just and biblical laws. It is not enough to call for laws that are more stringent; the Jews in Christ's day had laws based on human tradition that were so stringent that they abrogated weighty provisions of morality (Matthew 15:1-9).
3.5 We recognize that for a woman (or for a couple), an unwanted pregnancy may well be a crisis pregnancy. We acknowledge that women seek abortions for a wide range of reasons. Tragically, these range from the most serious and justifiable (i.e., a threat to the physical life of the mother) to the least serious and justifiable (i.e., gender preference, interruption of vacation plans, and so on). The effect of current abortion law is that any reason for an abortion, or no particular reason, is as good as any other. The great majority of abortions in the United States are performed for what can best be described as reasons of convenience.
3.6 We recall the biblical principle that it is morally forbidden for a private citizen to end a human life except in the act of self-defense. Only in cases when gestational life poses a serious threat to the physical life of the mother, in our view, does elective abortion clearly meet this self-defense criterion. A significant number of pro-life Christians are willing to grant the possibility that abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and/or radical fetal deformity also ought to be included among those exceptions to the general prohibition of abortion that should be recognized by law. We disagree. But we recognize that rewritten abortion laws framed along those lines would still disallow all but a very small percentage of abortions in this country.
They say. "We recall the biblical principle that it is morally forbidden for a private citizen to end a human life except in the act of self-defense," but how can they recall a principle from the Bible that does not exist in the Bible? They offer no support for this assertion for good reason: no biblical support for it exists. The Second Great Commandment requires us to defend our neighbors as we would ourselves, and forbids the neglect of this defense (Matthew 22:39). They recall a nonexistent principle, but seem to have forgotten that they have already conceded that civil law permits individuals to use lethal force in defense of third persons (2.10).
3.7 Instead, our nation continues to operate under a law that requires no significant burden of proof for abortion. This represents a fundamental assault on the sanctity of human life. Human beings are not at liberty to lower the threshold for the taking of human life, but that is precisely what abortion laws have done. Lowering that threshold is one of humanity's greatest temptations-one to which human beings have succumbed all too frequently, especially in our own century of world war and genocide.
Our standards must be biblical. There is not only a danger of people lowering God’s standard, so they can murder as they please, there is also a danger that when murder has been legalized, and mass murder is taking place, that God’s people will add human tradition to God’s law in an effort to exclude themselves from the duty to protect their neighbors (Matthew 15:1-9).
3.8 But we need not look elsewhere for examples. Our own violence-wracked nation bears witness each day to the devastating consequences of disrespect for the sacredness of human life. Truly the blood of the murdered cries out from the ground (Gen. 4:10; Lev. 18:28). We believe that abortion on demand is the leading, but not the only, example of a broader national moral and social crisis of disrespect for human life.
Not only is it disrespectful to murder the unborn, refusing to use the means necessary to defend those children demonstrates profound disrespect, both for the unborn who bear the image of God, and ultimately for God Himself. This clears the way for the legalization of both lesser and more heinous atrocities. If we should passively submit to the murder of the unborn, should we not similarly submit to legalized rape, and the murder of born minorities as well?
3.9 From our perspective, then, the overwhelming majority of abortions represent a morally unjustifiable form of killing. It is a unique form of killing, involving several parties. An abortion is undertaken by a physician who performs abortions, at the request of an unborn child's mother. Often, a woman is pressured by the child's father to have an abortion. Pressure may also come from family members, friends, and others. Her decision is then permitted by the civil law of the United States. Each participant in this act of unjustifiable killing, including the government of the United States (and ultimately “we the people,” who are the sovereign of this government and have elected its officials), bears a share of the responsibility.
Individual citizens certainly do bear responsibility for submitting to the murder of the unborn. Rather than continuing to shirk this responsibility, we must uphold, in both word and deed, the inalienable duty to defend the unborn with the means necessary. If we expect our fellow citizens, and the government, to recognize this responsibility, we must assert that it exists.
3.10 For twenty-one years, since the 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions, abortion on demand has been the controlling interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. In that time over thirty million abortions have been performed in this country. We believe that this state of affairs can only be called a moral outrage.
It is outrageous for the government to sanction mass murder. But it is an even greater outrage for educated and informed believers, in leadership positions, to neglect and even deny the duty to defend the unborn with the means necessary (as we would ourselves).
3.11 We share the intense frustration of tens of millions of this nation’s citizens who grieve each of the lives lost, the futures never realized, the human beings who unjustly have been prevented from ever “seeing the light of day” (Job 3:16, NIV). We also grieve for the many mothers and fathers who spend much of their lives profoundly regretting their choice to have an abortion, mourning the children they never had the chance to love and enjoy.
The "... intense frustration..." these men feel would be greatly relieved if they were to uphold, rather than neglect, the defensive duties of the Moral Law.
4. Legitimate Forms of Christian Response
4.1 Most Christians who believe, as we do, that the overwhelming majority of abortions are morally unjustifiable acts of killing, rightly feel the need to offer significant moral response. Indeed, millions of American Christians even today are engaged in activities that constitute such a response; most of these activities, in our view, are fully and morally justifiable and quite constructive. They are aimed at saving lives, and are directed at each of the participants in the abortion decision.
4.2 For example, many Christians are involved in supporting abstinence and values-based sex education programs in schools, civic institutions, and churches. The Southern Baptists Convention's “True Love Waits” program is an effective example. Such programs are rooted in the biblical moral norm that sexual intimacy is designed by God to be reserved for marriage (I Cor. 6:9-20; 7:9, etc.). It is obvious, but important to point out nonetheless, that the demand for abortion would decrease radically if God’s intentions for sexuality were heeded. Abortions happen because unwanted pregnancies happen; unwanted pregnancies happen, most of the time, because of sexual activity outside of marriage. It is important to note again that it takes both a man and a woman to engage in such sexual activity, and both are responsible for the consequences.
4.3 Christians are also involved in helping pregnant women “choose life,” that they and their children “may live” (Deut. 30:10). Christians have led the way in establishing crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes. In such places pregnant women are cared for and prepared either to raise their children themselves or to give their children to others who can do so via adoption. This is a noble form of Christian ministry to women and their children. We give thanks to God for those women who avail themselves of these ministries and thus save their children's lives.
4.4 Pro-life Christians, especially those in the health care professions, are also on the front lines in the struggle over abortion as an aspect of medical practice. Such health care professionals bear witness to their convictions by refusing to “regularize” abortion as an aspect of medical care. They remind fellow health care providers of the “first, do no harm” provision of the Hippocratic Oath. This kind of witness-a witness of winsome moral persuasion and example, rather than invective and violence-is an important and appropriate part of the struggle against abortion. It is one of the reasons why very few physicians are willing to perform elective abortions.
4.5 Abortion on demand became law in our democratic society by the decision of persons who attained their office by legitimate processes, and remains lawful through the same processes. Christians, anguished at this state of affairs, are rightfully involved in the wide-ranging kinds of political engagement afforded us within the democratic process.
4.6 Such involvement includes voting, lobbying, campaigning for pro-life candidates, drafting legislation, writing letters to government officials, getting involved in political party platform drafting, running for office, initiating boycotts, and so on. We believe that there is no doubt whatsoever that such activity is our right as citizens and our obligation as Christians.
4.7 Some pro-life Christians are involved in lawful public witness in the vicinity of abortion clinics, such as the handing out of printed materials and the organizing of prayer vigils. We believe the public witness of this type is morally justifiable.
All of the legal means mentioned in 4.1 through 4.7 are in no way abrogated, but are rather confirmed and given added impetus, by maintaining the defensive duties required by the Moral Law. The "need" these men feel "...to offer significant moral response" would, no doubt, be met if they were to uphold, rather than neglect, this vitally significant aspect of the Moral Law.
4.8 Some Christians have engaged in various forms of nonviolent, public, civil disobedience in the vicinity of abortion clinics as an aspect of their protest against legal abortion on demand. This kind of activity has been a matter of considerable debate in pro-life circles and concern in the broader society.
4.9 From a biblical perspective, Christians clearly are required to submit to and obey the governing authorities of the lands in which they live. This responsibility flows from the divinely authorized nature of these government authorities (see 2.5).
4.10 Scripture does recognize, however, that governments sometimes violate their God-given purposes, even to the extent of enacting laws and policies that are in direct and specific conflict with the divine moral law. History bears frequent tragic witness to the same reality. The Bible teaches that Christians are morally permitted, and sometimes even obligated, to violate a civil law that is in direct, specific conflict with the law of God (cf. Ex. 1:16-2:10; Dan. 6; Acts 4:1-13, 5:12-42).
Not only were the Hebrew midwives, Daniel, and the apostles "...morally permitted..." to obey God rather than men, they were under an overwhelming moral imperative to do so. There is a similar moral imperative to protect the unborn.
4.11 The burden of proof for justifying civil disobedience rests with those considering it. Besides being intended as a challenge to a morally illegitimate law or policy, such non-violent disobedience should follow the failure of a range of other, less radical forms of action; should have some likelihood of effectiveness; and should have positive consequences that are likely to outweigh negative consequences.
The burden of proof no more falls on those who intervene in defense of the unborn than it did the Hebrew midwives, Daniel, or the apostles. Under these circumstances, if anyone bears the burden of proof, it is not those who observe the Moral Law, but those who, for one reason or another, fail to do so.
In all the above-mentioned biblical cases, their violation of the unjust law in question was immediate and absolute. Their obedience to God was not contingent on this Commission's man-made rules: "...such non-violent civil disobedience should follow the failure of a range of other, less radical forms of action; should have some likelihood of effectiveness; and should have positive consequences that are likely to outweigh negative consequences." If we had responded to the legalization of murder in a biblical manner, rather than following the pattern this Commission suggests, people would view abortion in a very different light than it is seen in today. Imagine the consequences if Daniel, the midwives, or the apostles had obeyed this Commission's advice, rather than determining to immediately
"... obey God rather than men." Based on the principles this Commission advocates, Christians could continue to obey men rather than God indefinitely-regardless of the atrocity that has been legalized.
4.12 Christians living in a democratic society who make the grave judgment to engage in public, nonviolent, civil disobedience must willingly submit to the consequences of their actions. Thus, Christians involved in civil disobedience related to abortion should expect to be prosecuted. To break a morally illegitimate law, and to submit willingly to the consequences of doing so, is in fact an attempt to change civil law via moral witness-and thus, to affirm all morally legitimate civil law.
4.13 We believe that laws concerning access to abortion clinics and protests around abortion clinics function as a fence around the immoral law that permits legalized abortion on demand. Because the abortion law is a permission for private citizens to have and to perform abortions, rather than a mandate requiring behavior of one type or another, it is impossible to perform direct civil disobedience in the matter of legalized abortion on demand. This means that nonviolent civil disobedience, if it occurs, can only be directed at subsidiary laws.
4.14 We have outlined several lawful ways in which Christians can offer constructive moral response to the morally illegitimate law permitting abortion on demand. These can by no means be described as having been exhausted. There is much more to be done. This raises the question of whether nonviolent civil disobedience is justified.
4.15 On balance, we believe that acts of nonviolent civil disobedience related to abortion, thought not morally obligatory for Christians, may be seen as morally permissible. This is ultimately a matter of individual conscience before God.
This Commission has clouded and confused the relation between defending the unborn with passive civil disobedience, and defending these children with all the various means necessary. But this matter is actually easy to understand. The biblical foundation for both passive civil disobedience, and all the means used in forceful civil disobedience, is the same: The Sixth Commandment requires direct intervention with the means necessary, as required to save the innocent. To limit this intervention to passive means is consistent with unbiblical pacifism. To not merely accept passive intervention, but to also endorse all the forceful means necessary for defending the innocent is consistent with the just force position presented in the Scriptures. But it is inconsistent for those who believe in using all the means necessary for defending born children to deny a similar defense to the unborn, as this Commission has done. We are no more limited to passive means in our defense of the unborn than the Jews in Esther's day were limited to defending themselves with these means.
Not only does the Moral Law permit the illegal means necessary for defending the innocent, it positive requires the use of these means, and forbids their neglect. There is a compelling moral imperative to use the means necessary to prevent murder. But not everyone is called to discharge this duty at all times. As with all the other continually obligatory duties of the Moral Law, they are not to be performed by all persons at all times. But, as a general rule, everyone is required to proclaim and maintain the duties of the Moral Law (this is especially true when mass murder has been legalized).
Not only does this Commission fail to uphold the duty to defend the unborn with the means necessary, it even obscures and qualifies the duty to use passive means, so that it leaves the use of these means in question. Far from asserting the moral imperative to use all the means necessary for defending the unborn, they are only willing to state that the use of passive means "...may be seen as morally permissible." This falls far short of the duty required by the Moral Law, as exemplified in the book of Esther.
4.16 Legalized abortion on demand has become deeply entrenched in our society. What many Christians once hoped would be a temporary aberration has become an institutionalized reality. We must acknowledge that this has occurred because significant portions of our society have wanted it to occur. The tragic and abhorrent legal reality reflects an equally tragic and abhorrent social, cultural, and moral reality.
4.17 Pro-life Christians should work to change these social, cultural, and moral realities in which legalized abortion on demand is rooted. It is a heart-by-heart, home-by-home, city-by-city, state-by-state struggle. We must greatly intensify our efforts in the morally justifiable anti-abortion activities described above. It is our moral obligation.
I concur that people must be won to the anti-abortion position on a heart-by-heart basis. The biblical way to accomplish this is to proclaim, in both word and deed, that the law of God forbids murder by abortion, and requires the means necessary for protecting the unborn. Using the law to thus convict people of their sinful negligence of the unborn paves the way for pointing them to Christ for pardon and transformation. This regeneration of heart, through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, is God’s way of transforming individuals, and thus affecting every area of life through these renewed individuals-including civic life. To neglect or deny this aspect of God’s law is to neglect an essential and relevant element of the gospel.
5. Why Lethal Force Is Not Morally Justified
5.1 The killing of abortion doctors by private citizens raises the important question of whether such an action is a morally legitimate Christian response to legalized abortion on demand. We strongly contend that killing abortion doctors is not a moral option for Christians, and respond to the various arguments as follows:
The Commission rightly emphasizes the weighty nature of this matter. It is nearly impossible to overstate the importance of examining both sides of this issue so we can be certain that our response to an atrocity of these proportions is consistently biblical. Considering the lives at stake, if we fail to fully understand or perform God’s revealed will in this matter, our degree of bloodguilt will be immeasurably great.
5.2 First, we reject the argument some have made that such killings are valid as an act of defending the innocent from harm. We reply that according to both civil law and divine moral law private citizens are permitted to use lethal force against another human being only if this occurs as an unintended effect of the act of defending oneself or another against an assailant's unjust attack. Private citizens are not allowed to intend to kill another human being and are not allowed to engage in premeditated acts of deadly force in order to accomplish what they intend. In other words, a private citizen can intend to stop, but not to kill, an assailant regardless of the final result. Attacks on abortion doctors fail this test.
These assertions sound convincing since they are presented in such a bold and straightforward manner, but they lack any support of any kind. They claim both civil and divine law support their position, but they do not reference a single item of support from either civil or biblical law. This position is found in The Catechism of The Catholic Church. but it reflects the Catholic tradition of unbiblical pacifism. This is why neither The Catechism of the Catholic Church nor this Commission even attempts to prove this position from the Scriptures. (The Scriptures condone killings that were almost certainly intended, but nowhere condemn such killings [Genesis 14].)
I assert the exact opposite of what this Commission asserts, but I provide Scriptural basis and logical proof of my assertions. The Sixth Commandment requires the means necessary for defending the innocent-under the circumstances. Intending to inflict a lethal wound is, under some circumstances, a necessary means for defending the innocent. Therefore, intending to inflict a lethal wound is, under circumstances where it is necessary, required by the Sixth Commandment.
This Commission, in its "Abstract" of this document, concedes that agents of the government may intend to use lethal force, but they make no attempt to show why citizens may not similarly defend themselves or others. But since this is a duty of the Moral Law that comes directly from God, it is inalienable. In most instances, the government performs this duly on the people's behalf, but when it cannot or will not do so, the duty necessarily reverts to the people; otherwise, the people will be left without a means necessary for their defense. It is, thus, false and unscriptural to assert that this particular means of defense is reserved to the government.
Under circumstances where it is likely that merely wounding someone, rather than killing him, will result in that person later returning to murder numerous people, the intentional use of lethal force may be necessary, and therefore justified. Genesis 14 records an incident in which Abraham, and his men, attacked and killed a group of men who had taken Abraham's nephew, Lot, captive. God later blessed this slaughter through Melchizedek (a type of Christ), who declared that God had delivered Abraham's enemies into his hand. Under these circumstances, the intentional use of lethal force was necessary. It certainly prevented those killed from later regrouping and returning to threaten Abraham's family. A similar use of force against abortion providers prevents them from returning to their bloody work. No one should take it upon himself to deny this defense to individuals lest he be guilty of annulling the commandments of God with man-made inventions, and thereby bring the guilt of innocent blood upon himself.
5.3 Furthermore, an act of homicide is unjustifiable if the attacker's victim could have been adequately defended in any way other than causing the attacker's death. We believe that the many pro-life measures outlined in Section 4 do offer a range of constructive (even if not fully adequate) forms of defense of the lives of the unborn, and thus, the killing of abortion doctors is unjustifiable.
This bald assertion is not only patently false, it flies in the face, not only of common assumption, and civil law, it also contradicts the Scriptures. The Bible does not annul force that is reasonable, under very pressing circumstances, and condemn anything but the absolute minimum force that can be conceived by someone in a distant armchair. Rather, the Bible justifies, and in Abraham's case, blesses the use of lethal force in circumstances where lesser degrees of force could have conceivably been employed.
By claiming that "...an act of homicide is unjustifiable if that attacker's victim could have been adequately defended in any other way than causing the attacker's death," this Commission has condemned the overwhelming majority of defensive responses, whether personal or collective, that have taken place throughout the centuries, that have previously been considered justified. They condemn David for killing Goliath when the giant could have been restrained from harming the Israelites by merely wounding him, and then placing him in chains-as the Philistines did to Samson. They also contradict God as He justified lethal defense in Exodus 22.2, and blessed Abraham after the "...slaughter of the kings..." (Hebrews 7. 1). (In each of these instances, a lesser degree of force could have possibly been used.)
To reject anything but the minimum degree of force that could conceivably be used places an unreasonable burden on the defender that may endanger both his own life, and the lives of those he is defending. If one fails to use the means necessary to defend the innocent, for fear of harming the attacker more than necessary, this may amount to culpable negligence, as it may result in the death of the innocent-even though the assailant's life may be spared. This is one reason why the police do not operate on this assumption.
When someone attempts to kill an innocent person, he thereby subordinates his right to be protected to the rights of his intended victims to be defended. When an innocent person's life is threatened, the primary goal should be to prevent the intended harm. Saving the life of a murderer should not be given priority over saving the lives of his intended victims. This Commission's position spares the lives of abortionists, but it spells death to the unborn.
Under circumstances where it is likely that merely wounding an assailant, rather than killing him, will result in that person later returning to murder numerous people, lethal force is justified; as with Abraham's defense of Lot (Genesis 14). If killing, rather than wounding, an abortionist kept him from dismembering even one child, it would justify his death. If a wounded abortionist later returns to work for even a single day, he can be expected to kill between 10 and 35 people (depending on the type of practice).
Does this Commission believe that if the government were to sanction the murder of a born minority (as occurred in the book of Esther), and forbid them to protect themselves (unlike what happened in Esther's day) that these people's defense would be limited to legal and passive remedies? The very idea is absurd. All the means necessary for defending these people would be justified-including intentional lethal force. To say that we must limit ourselves to legal and passive remedies, when thousands of people are being slaughtered each day, is outrageous and blatantly immoral! Surely, this Commission would change its position if the minority being murdered were the Southern Baptists, rather than the unborn.
It is hard to understand how this Commission, which is supposed to maintain the truth, could assert such obvious error in this life-and-death controversy. But it is not surprising that they made no effort to support or prove their error: it cannot be proven with either reason or the Scriptures, since it is both unreasonable and unbiblical.
5.4 We believe, further, that the killing of an abortion doctor in actuality does not constitute a meaningful defense of unborn life. This is the case because an abortion doctor is only one of the participants in the act of elective abortion, and not the most important one. It is the woman seeking an abortion who drives the process. The killing of an abortion doctor does nothing in itself to diminish a woman's demand for an abortion. If abortion is legal, and she perceives no alternatives to abortion, she will find another abortion provider. As long as abortion is legal, if we wish to save the lives of unborn children, we must influence the actions of women who are considering abortion. The best and most Christ-like way to do so is to lovingly provide her with viable alternatives to abortion. This does not absolve others, especially the baby's father, who may be exerting enormous pressure on the child's mother.
I doubt they would assert that "...the killing of an abortion doctor actually does not constitute a meaningful defense of unborn life" if their lives were the ones in question. Their assertion could hardly be more contrary to fact. Upholding the duty to defend the unborn with the means necessary is absolutely essential to providing a meaningful defense for these children. This enables us to see abortion in a consistent and realistic light, and understand how it relates to all the other truths and duties of the Bible. This puts pro-life rhetoric about defending born and unborn children equally into practice. It also bears witness to the full humanity of the unborn as nothing else can. It opens people's eyes to the enormous consequences of abortion-not only for the unborn, but also for the government that has sanctioned it, and those required to resist it. This convicts millions of people of their past neglect, and should spur them to future obedience. It also helps people to decide whether to join this battle on the side of those defending abortionists, or the side of those defending the unborn. Without an understanding of this duty of the Moral Law, it is impossible to understand abortion in a biblical manner.
The most powerful weapon, thus, for overcoming the world's apathetic response to legal abortion is to uphold the means necessary for resisting this atrocity-as required by God’s law. Neither the world nor the worldly Christian want the searchlight of God’s law focused on their neglect of the unborn, but these are the means God uses to produce genuine repentance.
Without a lofty ethic there can be no hearty repentance; without a sight of sin there is no need of a Savior. How can you expect to convict people of neglecting the unborn, and point them to Christ for pardon, unless the requirements of God’s law are being applied to the abortion holocaust?
5.5 Second, we reject the argument that the killing of an abortion doctor is justifiable as a form of capital punishment. We reply that the moral legitimacy of capital punishment in contemporary American society is a point of dispute among pro-life Christians. More germane to the argument is the fact that whatever right there may be to execute a criminal is reserved exclusively to governing authorities, and is never the prerogative of a private citizen. A peaceful and orderly society can have no place for self-appointed executioners.
I agree. The goal should not be to punish abortion providers, but to prevent them from continuing their bloody business.
5.6 Third, we reject the argument that killing an abortion doctor is an act of violent civil disobedience made necessary by the gravity of the moral evil of abortion on demand. It is our conviction that no act of lethal force can be properly ascribed to the rubric of civil disobedience. Moreover, the contradiction between the use of lethal force and civil disobedience is especially glaring in a democracy in which so many alternative forms of activism for social and legal change are permitted. We contend that such an act is better described as an act of revolution than an act of civil disobedience intended to accomplish reform.
They contend that killing an abortionist should be described as "...an act of revolution..." Would the same be true if someone had shot and killed a Nazi concentration camp "doctor?"
In spite of their rhetoric to the contrary, when the government has legalized the murder of a minority, these people must be defended with the immediate means necessary. Democratic governments are based on the people asserting their God-given rights, especially when it comes to defending the innocent, not denying these rights exist.
Governments that sanction mass murder are revolting against God. Those who advocate submission to such atrocities have joined the rebellion. It is not necessarily revolutionary, thus, to protect your neighbor from being murdered, but even if it were, wouldn't it be better to revolt against mass murder than to submit to it? Does not God require us to resist sin-even unto death?
When a government legalizes mass murder, the population must be willing to go to war, if it is wise and necessary, to stop the bloodshed. The Sixth Commandment requires the means necessary for protecting the innocent, including defensive wars (Jeremiah 48:1O and Deuteronomy 20). The unborn are innocent people who should be protected with the means necessary. Thus, the Sixth Commandment requires the use of defensive war, if it is wise and necessary for protecting the unborn. A people's willingness to take this sort of costly action is essential to the defense of those threatened, and to ending an injustice of this magnitude.
It is illegal to advocate the overthrow of the government, but it is legal to discuss just war, just revolutions, and consider when such actions would be morally justified. The crying need is for people with the courage to affirm that it would be just to go to war against, or otherwise overthrow, any government that legalizes abortion-even though war may not currently be wise. Since we should proclaim the duties of the Moral Law, even when the government forbids it (Acts 5:29), what excuse is there for remaining silent about these duties when the government sanctions their propagation?
The problem is not that those who apply the defensive duties of the Moral Law to the abortion holocaust are revolutionaries, or anarchists. The problem is that legalized murder is an atrocity of such magnitude that it demands the most absolute, courageous, and unequivocal resistance that can possibly be mustered; yet, most people are afraid to even think consistently about this problem-much less take consistent action to stop it.
It would certainly be just to go to war to stop the abortion holocaust. For unknown reasons this Commission has not asserted this biblical duty, and has rather fallen into obvious ethical error.
Passive civil disobedience is widely understood and accepted as a permissible response to unjust laws. This Commission is trying to prevent the mantle that covers the use of passive means from extending itself to cover the use of more forceful means. People commonly associate the term "civil disobedience" with relatively petty infractions of the law: like going limp in front of abortion clinics. But there is no logical basis for asserting that more forceful and serious infractions of the law should not also fall under the concept of civil disobedience. People use forceful means to defend the unborn, in violation of the law, just as surely as they use passive means. Over the years, people have employed all types of illegal and forceful means in defense of the unborn, including gluing abortion clinic doors, burning these doors (as well as the entire building), and using force against abortion providers. If these are not acts of civil disobedience, then why does the government prosecute them as such? In almost all these incidents, the object was not to overthrow the government, but to defend the unborn.
What degree of illegal force would this Commission exclude from the rubric of civil disobedience? They exclude lethal force from this category, but say nothing about all the lesser degrees of force that are commonly used.
5.7 Fourth, we reject the argument that a government that allows legalized abortion on demand has of necessity lost its legitimacy, and that in such a circumstance private citizens are free to resist it "by any means necessary. "
5.8 To this we reply that we accept the legitimacy of the government of the United States, despite its failure to protect the lives of the unborn and its sanction of access to abortion on demand. It is the people of the United States who have, in fair and free elections, selected the leaders of our government, and it is these duly elected leaders who have appointed judges to the Supreme Court and other federal courts. The actions and inaction of persons in all three branches of the federal government over more than twenty years are responsible for legalized abortion on demand. In turn, their decisions have reflected the pressures brought to bear on them by citizens of the United States, functioning through the democratic process.
5.9 From this we conclude that it is the people of the United States, acting through legitimate governmental institutions, who are responsible and ultimately accountable for immoral laws permitting and protecting the taking of unborn human lives. We do not believe that laws permitting abortion on demand remove the legitimacy of our government. Rather, the authority of our legitimate government has been perverted to allow and protect abortion on demand.
5.10 To us, legalized abortion on demand is the single gravest failure of American democracy in our generation. But we recognize it as a failure of a legitimate democracy rather than as the imposition or decree of an illegitimate regime. For this reason, we reject what can only be described as the logic of revolution that some have articulated. Instead, among our other pro-life efforts, we pledge intensified commitment to change the law through the democratic processes of the United States of America.
5.11 Fifth, we reject the claim that private individuals have a right to circumvent the processes of democratic government by using deadly force where the law sanctions abortion on demand. We realize that what is legal and what is moral are not always identical. Where they diverge, Christians bear a dual responsibility, first to act in accordance with the moral law, and second to respect and obey the legitimate authority of government. So long as a government retains legitimacy, and so long as opportunities for reform remain, individuals and groups must work within the democratic process and must resist the temptation to take the law into their own hands.
In 5.7-5.11, this Commission stresses the authority and "legitimacy" of America's current government, urges submission to its laws (even though they require sin by omission), and characterizes those who obey God in this matter as "revolutionaries." They urge submission to and maintenance of the status quo even though the government is protecting those who murder thousands of people each day.
Their argument is that as long as America's government is legitimate, and does not become so oppressive as to become illegitimate, that people should submit to its laws. This raises two questions: (1) What makes a government legitimate or illegitimate? (2) When should people disobey unjust laws?
If, by asserting the legitimacy of America's government, this Commission means that the government conforms to the commonly established rules or principles of civil government, they are correct. America's current government is just as legitimate as its previous government under British rule, and the other established governments of the world. A government's "legitimacy," thus understood, is not removed if it sanctions gross injustices. America did not lose its legitimacy by legalizing murder any more than Rome lost its legitimacy by making Christianity illegal. Civil governments may be more or less just, but even grossly unjust governments, that sanction mass murder, may be considered "legitimate," so long as they conform to the commonly established rules of civil government.
But this does not mean that such "legitimate" governments should be obeyed if they require sin by omission or commission. Regardless of whether a government is defined as being legitimate or illegitimate, when it requires its citizens to sin against God, and violate the Moral Law, obedience to God is imperative.
5.12 We believe that a government may lose its legitimacy as it sets itself against divine law and loses the popular support of its people. Should such circumstances arise, and should that government preclude all opportunities for reform, then Christians, for sake of conscience, may be forced to consider more drastic measures. We deny that our nation is nearing or has reached such a crisis. Our goal must be reform, not revolution.
This paragraph shows where this Commission's true allegiance lies. Notice the degree of tyrannical and gross injustice they believe is required before Christians "...may be forced to consider more drastic measures." In addition to setting itself against divine law, and losing popular support, the government must have precluded all "...opportunities for reform..." This position is in blatant contradiction to God’s word.
When the government requires sin of its people, by omission or commission, they must remain true to the Moral Law. This is not only true if the government forbids us to save our neighbors' souls, it also applies to saving lives. The appropriate response to an immediate threat is an immediate defense. This is an inalienable duty that cannot be removed by the government.
This Commission views those who defend the unborn with force to be violent individuals who are taking the law into their own hands to revolutionize a legitimate government. From a biblical perspective, these people are risking themselves to prevent the violence of abortion, in spite of the government's decision to revolt against God by legalizing mass murder.
Rather than maintaining the biblical duty to obey God rather than men when the government requires sin, this Commission has adopted a man-made invention that requires people to submit to unjust laws so long as the government does not "...preclude all opportunities for reform..." They disregard the inalienable duty to uphold the rights of the unborn as though this is contrary to the democratic process, and stress submission to the "powers that be." This radical subversion of God’s word is both immoral and destructive to human life. If this Commission is correct, then regardless of the atrocity that has been sanctioned, the number of people being murdered, or the duration of the slaughter, no one may use any defensive means other than passive resistance, so long as the government has not precluded "...all opportunities for reform..." But this is obviously wrong.
If you reject or ignore God’s standard for disobeying the civil government, as this Commission has done, who is to say where the line should be drawn? This opens the door to everyone doing what is right in his own eyes (the right thing in this Commission's eyes is to encourage submission to the government). This shows that the practical alternative to submitting to the God of the Bible in every area of life is to trust the government for everything. The alternative, thus, to submitting to God’s law is suffering Satanic lawlessness.
5.13 We understand that no government can allow laws against the taking of human life to become a matter of private interpretation without placing its own existence and legitimacy in jeopardy. A private citizen who makes the decision to use lethal force against human life contrary to established law is not merely breaking the law against murder, he or she is also assaulting and undermining the authority of the government itself. Thus, any private decision to break the law against murder-even where there is an intention to do good-is an act of rebellion that threatens the existing government authority, contrary to the will of God (Rom. 13:2). It is not simply an act of civil disobedience. It is certainly not an act of legal reform.
The Scriptures teach that God does not make obedience to the Moral Law contingent on the approval of any man or human government. Governments that rule contrary to the Moral Law set themselves against God and will suffer the consequences. Under these circumstances, private citizens must determine where their true allegiance lies. To deny and neglect God’s law, in order to comply with the laws of men, is sinful rebellion against God (Acts 5:29).
5.14 The distinction between nonviolent civil disobedience and the private use of lethal force can be illustrated from American history. Many Christians felt compelled during the 1850s to violate the fugitive slave laws by participating in the Underground Railroad, which illegally assisted slaves in escaping to freedom. That was nonviolent civil disobedience. On the other hand, John Brown and his supporters fomented slave insurrection and rebellion against the state by lethal force. That was the advocacy and exercise of lethal force by private citizens and is beyond the prerogative of individuals, Christian or non-Christian.
I did not attack a National Guard Armory, and try to equip an army. Since the Moral Law requires the means necessary to protect the innocent, if John Brown had killed someone who was murdering dozens of slaves each day, his actions would have been justified, as were mine.
5.15 We wish to call attention to the fundamental difference between nonviolent and violent forms of action for social and legal change. We believe that the witness both of Scripture and of history affirms that a social movement's crossing over from nonviolence to violence is a most perilous, and almost always unjustifiable, step. One consequence of such a transition is that resistance to certain deeds, such as abortion, is often transformed into attacks on certain persons, such as those who perform abortions.
5.16 When the distinction between the wrong and the wrongdoer is obliterated, social change or resistance movements tend to focus on doing away with the wrongdoer rather than taking concrete steps against the wrong. The morally worthy original goal of the movement is replaced by one that is new and unworthy. Any possibility of reconciliation with the wrongdoer, of conversion of that wrongdoer, and of peacemaking, possibilities at the heart of the life and ministry of Jesus, is eviscerated. Instead, efforts focus on how to kill rather than on how to make change occur. The people who are the intended recipients of this violence respond in kind. The devastating cycle of violence is intensified.
In these assertions, this Commission has abandoned both the pro-life perspective, and the Moral Law. If they had put a similar spin on the Jews’ defense of themselves in the book of Esther, they would have ignored the threat the Persians posed to the Jews, and portrayed the Jews as having taken a violent "...and almost always unjustifiable, step." But if the Jews had neglected this defense, it would have resulted in violence rather than peace.
5.17 Once the bloodshed escalates, social movements embracing violence tend to slide rapidly along the continuum from violent resistance limited to specified targets toward unlimited violence directed at an ever wider range of persons (are judges and politicians going to be the next targeted?). Even at the first stage, innocent bystanders often are injured. One reason God wisely prohibits murder is precisely because of the incendiary effect of bloodshed on the minds and hearts of sinful human beings.
When millions of people are being murdered, the solution is not to downplay this bloodshed, and portray defensive force as "violence"-thereby confusing just and unjust force. Rather, it is essential that the duty to resist murderous force with defensive force be asserted.
One reason Satan promotes murder, and God requires the means necessary to prevent it, is if legalized murder is tolerated, then no atrocity can consistently be resisted. If legalized mass murder is tolerable, then what, may I ask, is intolerable? The position adopted by this Commission opens the floodgate to the even more precipitous downward cycle of unqualified submission to the state.
If we should submit to legalized murder so long as the government has not precluded "...all opportunities for reform..." should we not similarly submit if the government were to legalize rape and slavery? Absolutely not! God’s law nowhere teaches that you must limit yourselves to legal and passive remedies when people are being legally enslaved, raped, or murdered. Under these circumstances, immediate and effective action is required.
6.1 Our conclusion is that the killing of abortion doctors is not a morally justifiable or permissible Christian response to abortion. We utterly reject such conduct as inconsistent with Scripture and call on all Christian people to join us in this stance.
They claim their position is based on Scripture but, as we have seen, this claim is false. Their position paper directly contradicts the Scriptures. The word of the Lord says, “Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy” (Proverbs 31:8 & 9). Rather than asserting the right of the unborn to the full protection of the Sixth Commandment, they have advocated principles that result in unbiblical and unjust protection for their assailants. God Almighty has declared. "Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow..." (Deuteronomy 27:19a). Since God’s curse rests on those who distort the justice due an orphan or widow, this curse must similarly abide on those who deny the justice due to the unborn.
In order to maintain their position in support of the status quo, they have trampled underfoot the duties of morality required by the Son of God, and cleared the way for the continued slaughter of Christ's "little ones." Therefore, what they term "A Statement of Conscience" is better described as an unconscionable statement, since it allows this desolating abomination to continue.
6.2 We believe that Christians are, nevertheless, morally obligated to oppose legalized abortion on demand and to reduce the number of abortions through other, morally legitimate, channels. We must do so more actively and faithfully than ever before.
Rather than redoubling our efforts, while denying the moral imperative to defend these children with the means necessary, we should maintain, in both word and deed, God’s means for resisting lethal force, and trust Him to produce good results.
There is a close relationship between maintaining the duty to intervene in defense of the unborn and moving people to allocate the time and resources necessary to stop this holocaust. People must become willing to sacrifice all that they are and have (in obedience to the Moral Law) in order to end this outrage. If we should be willing to die in defense of the unborn, how much more should we give our time and property to this cause? Apart from this perspective, it is impossible to think practically and consistently about legal abortion-much less call people to make the sacrifices necessary to stop it.
6.3 Pro-life Christians must act quickly and vigorously to prevent a small but vocal band of militant activists from destroying the credibility, effectiveness, and witness of the mainstream Christian pro-life movement. We pray earnestly that God will bless the efforts of all who employ morally legitimate means in order to save the lives of the most vulnerable among us, the unborn children. We are persuaded that this reflects the mind of Christ.
The battle over abortion is primarily spiritual. The question is whether we will respond to the legalization of abortion with what the whole Bible teaches on this subject (even though it is contrary to popular opinion, and will likely result in persecution), or whether we will water down our response lest people take offense. This Commission may have succeeded in staying within the bounds of "...the mainstream Christian pro-life movement," but they have strayed from the straight and absolute ethic revealed in God’s word. They thus, need not fear that a "...small but vocal band..." will destroy their witness; no one can destroy their credibility any more effectively than they have by publishing this incredible statement.
They are persuaded that "...this reflects the mind of Christ." But their statements contradict an essential aspect of God’s law and replace it with man-made traditions. In so doing, they have eviscerated the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by obstructing its convicting and converting power.
Any remaining objections or uncertainty raised by this Commission can be cleared by asking a simple question in accord with the Golden Rule:
"Would this objection to defensive action be valid if the government were to similarly sanction the murder of a born minority-such as the Southern Baptists?" I think not. Under such circumstances, this "statement of conscience" would appear in its true light, and people would begin defending themselves and their needy neighbors. We should maintain the duty to similarly defend the unborn.
List of Appendices
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