Friday, February 27, 2009

Does the Life of the Mother Justify Having an Abortion?


Introduction: Our church passionately and unapologetically preaches the gospel in an open-air fashion, prays, and performs sidewalk counseling outside a local abortion clinic two to three times monthly. While we believe that graphic images of aborted human persons have their place in anti-abortion outreach, education, and ministry, we have not decided to use such measures to deter people from murdering their pre-born children because such measures, while effective, do not immediately answer to the source of the outward societal problem of abortion, an outward problem which serves as the symptom of the foundational problem, namely, a cold, God-hating, unregenerate heart. Thus, while we truly appreciate many of our dear brothers and sisters in the Lord who use graphic images of aborted human persons as a means to stop abortion, we believe that the gospel (not graphic images) is the power of God unto salvation, and if you have an opportunity to preach the gospel in the hearing of murderous people, then that is always the primary means by which you should seek to stop the atrocity of abortion (Rom. 1:16).

As you can imagine, preaching the gospel outside of one of our local clinics has created no small stir since unregenerate people naturally hate the offensive message of the cross. We try to go out of our way to not add to the offensiveness of the cross by being courteous, loving, and respectful to those going in and out of the clinic. We never block traffic into the clinic, whether by foot or car. We always seek to greet these troubled sinners with a smile and remind them that we are there because we love them and that we are very concerned about their situation.
I cannot emphasize it enough that we go out of our way to avoid being personally offensive. As a matter of fact, we always try to figure out a way to quickly let these abortive mothers, fathers, doctors, and clinic workers know that we truly love them and that our love for them is the great motivation for us being there (Matthew 22:39). We self-sacrificially love those who are killing their pre-born children to such an extent, that if necessary, we are willing to suffer the consequences associated with persecution in order to bring the gospel to them (i.e., legal repercussions such as jail time, court fines, physical harm, etc.). We also desire to help them not only in word but also in deed through our willingness to provide food, clothing, and shelter for them if necessary and we also offer to adopt their baby should they be unable or unwilling to care for it (James 1:27). The bottom line is that we must obey God rather than men and we love lost sinners enough to bring the gospel to them even if it costs us physically or financially (Acts 4:18-20; 5:27-29).

Discussion
:
During our Saturday morning outreach at a local abortion clinic in the Summer of 2008, a man angrily shouted at me, “My wife has a 90% chance of dying if we don’t have this abortion” to which I immediately responded, “Sir, that still doesn’t justify having an abortion!” When I got home later that morning, providentially, I was sent an e-mail link to an excellent article written by the evangelical and Calvinistic Christian Philosopher Doug Groothuis titled “Recovering from Fetus Fatigue”. Dr. Groothuis said something in his article that caught my attention immediately: “The vast majority of these abortions were not done to save the life of the mother, a provision I take to be justified.[1] Since he didn’t specify in his article, I do not know whether Dr. Groothuis is speaking of elective, 2nd and 3rd trimester late-term abortions to save the mother’s life (which the church has always historically opposed), or of ectopic tubular pregnancies, molar (abdominal) pregnancies, and other similar situations. Dr. Groothuis’s statement encouraged me to write about this particular issue in some detail, starting with a discussion about the common justifications of abortion to save the life of the mother that depend upon explaining the differences between elective and medical abortions. This view says that with any type of elective abortion, the murder of the child is intentional and premeditated. With a medical abortion however, the loss of the child’s life is unintentional and always unavoidable and usually occurs when the intention is to save the life of the mother. According to this view, there is an ethical difference between the two that is based upon the intention of the person having the medical procedure. Is the procedure designed to kill the child for the sake of the mother or is it designed to save the mother with the unintended and unavoidable result that the child dies? For example, with tubal ectopic pregnancies it is often argued that there is a 100% certainty that the embryo will die and should the pregnancy remain viable and allowed to continue growing, there is a high probability that it will kill the mother as well due to a ruptured fallopian tube with subsequent internal hemorrhaging. Many pro-life supporters take this type of situation to be the only ethical justification for having what could rightly be deemed a medical abortion. In their well-written position statement titled “Are There Rare Cases When an Abortion Is Justified?”, the Association of Pro-Life Physicians essentially confirms this position when it states the following regarding tubular ectopic pregnancies,
The abortion exception for the life of the mother is the exception that most commonly seduces the sincere pro-lifer. The scenario in which this exception is most frequently packaged is an ectopic pregnancy, which is when the embryo attaches somewhere inside the mother’s body in a place other than the inner lining of the uterus. It is argued that in an ectopic pregnancy, an abortion must be performed in order to save the mother’s life.

What is rarely realized is that there are several cases in the medical literature where abdominal ectopic pregnancies have survived!
There are no cases of ectopic pregnancies in a fallopian tube surviving, but several large studies have confirmed that time and patience will allow for spontaneous regression of the tubal ectopic pregnancy the vast majority of the time. So chemical or surgical removal of an ectopic pregnancy is not always necessary to save the mother’s life after all.

However, if through careful follow-up it is determined that the ectopic pregnancy does not spontaneously resolve and the mother’s symptoms worsen, surgery may become necessary to save the mother’s life. The procedure to remove the ectopic pregnancy may not kill the unborn child at all, because the unborn child has likely already deceased by the time surgery because necessary. But even if not, the procedure is necessary to save the mother’s life, and the death of the unborn baby is unavoidable and unintentional.


A chemical abortion with a medicine called methotrexate is often recommended by physicians to patients with early tubal ectopic pregnancies, when the baby may still be alive, to decrease the chances of a surgical alternative being necessary later, but we have found this to be an unnecessary risk to human life. We offer the following true case to demonstrate this point.


One patient was diagnosed with a tubal ectopic pregnancy by her obstetrician, and he informed her that they were fortunate to have made the diagnosis early and that she should have a methotrexate abortion. The patient was pro-life, and did not want to take the medicine, but the physician insisted. The baby was not going to survive, he argued, and a chemical abortion now could prevent the need for a surgical procedure later. The chemical abortion would lessen her chances of a rupture of her fallopian tube and subsequent life-threatening hemorrhage. The chemical abortion was also better at preserving future fertility than surgical removal of the ectopic pregnancy later.


Feeling like she had no other reasonable alternative, she took the methotrexate. However, there was a complication. Two weeks later, she still had vaginal bleeding and pelvic discomfort. A repeat ultrasound confirmed the physician’s worst fears: his patient was pregnant with twins - one in the fallopian tube, and one in the uterus! He missed the uterine pregnancy in his ultrasound examination, and that baby was dying from his prescription. Holding off surgery and watchful waiting in this case might have resulted in spontaneous resolution of the tubal pregnancy or would have required surgical removal of the tubal pregnancy when the embryo was likely to be dead, but in both cases the uterine pregnancy would probably have survived. Unfortunately, the chemical abortion killed both babies, much to the dismay of this young pro-life woman.


It is only ethical to remove the tubal pregnancy if spontaneous resolution does not occur after watchful waiting and if the physician is 100% certain that there are no twins. At this point, the embryo in the fallopian tube is likely to be dead and, even if not, the death is unavoidable and unintentional, and the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mothe
r.
In conclusion, there are no occasions in which the intentional killing of the pre-born child is justified. Scientific fact and divine law are clear: life begins at conception, and there are no exceptions to the prohibition of intentionally killing an innocent human being. We must stand true to these foundational principles through every emotional appeal and in every tragic scenario if we are to have any principles at all for which to stand.[2]
So, we read from this group of pro-life physicians that the life of the baby in the case of the tubular pregnancy will usually die on its own, the situation will spontaneously resolve, and so in most cases will not need chemical or surgical interventions. However, if such an abortion is suggested and the unborn is still alive, before the surgery is performed the following question needs to be asked: What is the unborn? Scripture and medical science affirms that a human person begins at the moment of fertilization and an act of taking that life of that unborn human person constitutes murder, whether the pregnancy is ectopic or not. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Although the subject of this verse is not the beginning of human personhood at the moment of conception/fertilization per se, King David assumes such by using the first person singular pronouns “I”, and “my” to refer to himself as a fully constituted human person existing in his mother’s womb from the moment of conception/fertilization. David says later in Psalm 139:13-16,
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.

The mother and her unborn child were protected under Old Testament Law, thus indicating their equal worth before God as His image bearers,
If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. 23 "But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot . . . Exodus 21:22-24

When he wrote the God-breathed book of Matthew, the apostle recognized that Jesus was fully constituted as a human person before His birth,
“But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’” [Matthew 1:20-21]
When he wrote the God-breathed book of Galatians, Paul the apostle recognized that he was fully constituted as a human person before he was born when he said, “But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood.” [Galatians 1:15-16]


There are many other Scriptures that I could turn to in order to demonstrate that the Bible assumes the personhood of the unborn from the moment of conception/fertilization onward, but before we move on with our argument, we first need to present a few medical facts about the embryo.

Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.

A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).[3]
Development begins with fertilization, the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the female gamete, the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote.[4]

[The zygote], formed by the union of an oocyte and a sperm, is the beginning of a new human being.[5]

Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.[6]

Human embryos begin development following the fusion of definitive male and female gametes during fertilization... This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development.[7]

Every baby begins life within the tiny globe of the mother’s egg... It is beautifully translucent and fragile and it encompasses the vital links in which life is carried from one generation to the next. Within this tiny sphere great events take place. When one of the father's sperm cells, like the ones gathered here around the egg, succeeds in penetrating the egg and becomes united with it, a new life can begin.[8]

Biologically speaking, human development begins at fertilization.[9]

The two cells gradually and gracefully become one. This is the moment of conception, when an individual's unique set of DNA is created, a human signature that never existed before and will never be repeated.[10]
Faye Wattleton, the former long-time president of the largest abortion provider in the world, Planned Parenthood, argued as far back as 1997 that well-informed pro-choice adherents already know that abortion kills people. She said so in an interview with Ms. Magazine:
I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don't know that abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say yes, it kills a fetus.
Naomi Wolf, a prominent feminist author and ardent pro-choice supporter, makes a similar admission when she writes:

Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions. And we risk becoming precisely what our critics charge us with being: callous, selfish and casually destructive men and women who share a cheapened view of human life...we need to contextualize the fight to defend abortion rights within a moral framework that admits that the death of a fetus is a real death.[11]
Pro-choice philosopher David Boonin makes this startling admission,
In the top drawer of my desk, I keep [a picture of my son]. This picture was taken on September 7, 1993, 24 weeks before he was born. The sonogram image is murky, but it reveals clear enough a small head tilted back slightly, and an arm raised up and bent, with the hand pointing back toward the face and the thumb extended out toward the mouth. There is no doubt in my mind that this picture, too, shows [my son] at a very early stage in his physical development. And there is no question that the position I defend in this book entails that it would have been morally permissible to end his life at this point.[12]

Remember that our key question was: “What is the unborn? According to the combined testimony of the Bible, standard medical embryology textbooks, and even the most ardent pro-choice supporters, from the moment of fertilization, the unborn is a fully constituted human person worthy of full recognition as an image bearer of God and such warrants our utmost care and protection. In light of this evidence, I want to offer the following logical argument:
Premise 1 - If the unborn is an innocent and defenseless human person, then abortion is murder.

Premise 2 - Taking the life of an innocent and defenseless human person in order to save the life of another innocent human person is unjustified and constitutes murder.

Premise 3 - According to the Bible and medical science, the living unborn is an innocent and defenseless human person.

Conclusion - Therefore, abortion performed to save the life of the mother constitutes murder.
I realize that there are some very difficult medical circumstances that can make the above logical argument appear insensitive and unloving to the dire situation that the mother is in. Nevertheless, if we truly believe that (1) the mother and the unborn are both human persons that are of equal value and worth before God, and (2) we also believe that they both deserve equal protection under the law, and (3) we understand that God orchestrates all things by His perfect sovereign decree and that the unborn child is part of that perfect plan, then we cannot justify killing one innocent person in order to save the life of another innocent person unless the former consciously chooses to lay down his life for the latter. If you allow for abortion in some extreme circumstances where the mother is told by a physician that there is a high degree of certainty that she will die if she carries the pregnancy further than he recommends, then you are being inconsistent with your position on the unborn and you are giving in to a situation ethics mentality popularized by the atheist Joseph Fletcher. I have thought about this particular issue for quite some time and all of the various complexities that can arise from it and I have come to the conclusion that we simply cannot take the lives of innocent human persons under any circumstances whatsoever, whether those persons are 1 day old or 10,000 days old. If the intent is not to murder the child but to save the life of the mother then you hospitalize the mother until the baby is old enough to be removed via Ceasarean section and in so doing, both lives are maintained. If the situation is that of an ectopic (tubular) pregnancy, then we are still not justified in surgically removing (hence, killing) the unborn to save the life of the mother even if the physicians have stated that the death of the child is inevitable and unavoidable and the mother has a high probability of death herself due to internal hemorrhaging should the pregnancy continue to grow so as to rupture the fallopian tube. For the Christian, God has sovereignly orchestrated all events for His glory and the good of His people, including things like ectopic pregnancies [Psalm 135:6; Romans 11:33-36]. The Christian mother should be carefully monitored by a Christian physician for fallopian tube rupture and emergency surgery should it ever be warranted; but all the while it must be emphasized that according to Scripture, we are never justified in taking the life of the innocent unborn human person, no matter how difficult the situation may be [1 Corinthians 10:13].

Insofar as 2nd and 3rd trimester uterine pregnancies are concerned, I have sought to read and access the best material dealing with answering the question of what to do when the life of the mother is threatened by the continuing life of the middle to late-term pre-born child. As a result of my own studies, I can find no biblical or consistently logical reason to use the life of the mother as an excuse to justify having an abortion. I completely understand that given our immersion into the American cultural milieu of democracy, that “personal rights”, “autonomy”, and “choice” are the supreme ideals that trump all others and that as a result, there are many reading this article who will not agree with my conclusions. However, if you hold that the murder of a late-term, pre-born child is justified in order to preserve the life of the mother, then I challenge you to take your conclusions to their logical end, and seek to develop a Biblically consistent answer to this question from the laws of Scripture and not from man’s oft tainted and unbiblical theories. With all due respect, this position assumes (1) that the life of the mother is inherently more valuable than the life of the pre-born child, and (2) that this type of abortion is justified because it is a type of medical “self-defense” for the mother since her life is being physically threatened by the pre-born child. Thus, this type of logic teaches that aborting a 2nd to 3rd trimester pre-born child is absolutely necessary to save the life of the mother so as to promote the greater good and well-being of the mother and the rest of the family.

The refutation for (1) is that if some people’s lives are more valuable than others, then it follows that the criteria for determining who is inherently more valuable than anybody else is ultimately determined by man and not God. Thus, the criteria for determining who gets to live or not is usually rooted in the size of the person in question, the level of development of the person, the location/environment of the person, and/or the degree of dependency of said person(s). We will briefly examine each of these proposed criteria, and then offer a brief refutation.

Size:
If a person is more valuable and worthy of protection because they are larger or smaller than others, then why should we stop with pre-born children? Why not protect the lives of those adults who are smaller in stature because they generally eat less, have less medical problems, and as a result, are less of a drain on U.S. tax dollars via Medicare? Would it not serve the greater good to sacrifice the lives of the larger stature people because they are ultimately a burden on the Medicare/Medicaid system and thus are an impediment to our nation's socioeconomic well-being? This is essentially the same tact that Hitler used to rid Germany of the Jews.

Level of Development:
If people are more valuable than others because of their level of development, why not rid the world of all geriatric patients since, in general, they are a greater socioeconomic burden upon American families and the healthcare system and also are usually non-productive consumers of society versus contributing to it due to their level of human development? After all, it sure is expensive, inconvenient, and takes a lot of work to actually honor your 84 year old mom and dad by cleaning their house, mowing their lawn, taking them to their doctor's appointments and praying for them when they are in a coma or on a respirator. It is terribly expensive for tax-payers to fund granny’s respirator services while she’s in a coma via the Medicare system. Why not just automatically create a mandatory termination date for all people at or beyond a certain age/level of development since they can't contribute to society but are actually a burden to it? It sure would be more "economical", "convenient", and "safe".

Environment:
If we can legally murder a pre-born child because it is located in its mother's womb and threatens her continued existence, then we are surely justified in murdering others because of their location. After all, why not kill all the German Jews during WWII because they threatened the well-being of the German economy and society due to their location in that nation?

Degree of Dependency:
If we say that it we are justified in sacrificing the life of the child in order to save the life of the mother because the family is obviously more dependent upon the mother than the pre-born child, then we can also say that we are justified in taking the life of granny since the time and money I'll spend on her is obviously better utilized caring for the immediate needs of myself and my family.

As you can see in all the arguments above, the choice is ultimately left to man's opinion as to what constitutes a “right to live”. This is autonomy, something that is at the root of all sin because it questions God's authority from the start and considers the opinions and theories of man to be justified in and of themselves apart from reference to God and usually in direct opposition to God (cf. Gen. 3:1).

The refutation for (2) is that if self-defense is the justification for taking the life of the pre-born child, then paramedics are justified in killing one dying patient in a car wreck by cutting them in half in order to get to and render care to the other dying patient who is trapped below them in the badly mangled wreckage, especially since it is warranted in this case to use lethal measures to take the life of the one in order to preserve the life of the other. After all, if you don't kill the one the other won't live and then you'll potentially have two deaths to deal with instead of one. So, “the greater good” of situation ethics would dictate that you kill the one in order to defensively save the life of the other versus having both dead. No secular paramedic worth his weight in salt would ever consider killing one patient in order to save another. Instead, he would follow ethical protocol and seek to save both lives, regardless of the outcome. Why does the Christian’s inconsistent ethic seem worse than the secular ethic of the paramedic? It’s because the secular paramedic recognizes the inherent value of the life of both people (at least on this point), whereas the Christian has been so brainwashed by secularism that the pre-born child is somehow deemed of lesser worth and value. Thus, the Christian thinks he has justification in believing that it’s okay to take the life of the child if the continued life of that child jeopardizes the life of the mother. This directly contradicts the paramedic’s secular ethic. God help us.

Conclusion
:
In summary, Scripture never teaches that any person’s life is more valuable than another’s since all human persons are equal image-bearers of God at conception (Gen. 1:26; Psa. 51:5).
Although this is a hard truth, we conclude that (1) the mother should be willing to sacrifice her life for the lives of her children if necessary [John 15:13], and (2) we should try to save both lives and if one or both dies, then we trust the sovereignty and providence of the One who is the giver, sustainer, and taker of all life [Job 1:21; 42:1-6].

Questions:


1. Do you agree with the basic position I have presented here? If so, why? If not, why?


2. If you are a Christian, do you have any suggestions as to how to improve the content and logical argumentation of this article?


[1] Bolding mine for emphasis.

[2] http://www.prolifephysicians.org/rarecases.htm Italics and underlined portions are mine for emphasis.

[3] Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition, (Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003), 16, 2.

[4] T.W. Sadler, Langman's Medical Embryology, 10th edition, (Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006), 11.

[5]Keith L. Moore, Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology, 7th edition, (Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2008), 2.

[6] Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition, (New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001), 8.

[7] William J. Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology, (New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998), 1, 14.

[8] Geraldine Lux Flanagan, Beginning Life, (New York: DK, 1996), 13.

[9] The Biology of Prenatal Develpment, National Geographic, 2006.

[10] In the Womb, National Geographic, 2005.

[11] Italics mine for emphasis.

[12] David Boonin, A Defense of Abortion, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), xiv.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Love


I think my timing on this blog is a little bit off; I should have aimed to publish it closer to Valentine's Day. Oh, well; that doesn't make it any less important.

The first fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is love. What is love? Why is it important? The first clue to its importance is in its placement: love is listed first.

Also, Jesus said that love is the most important command.
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'

The reason Jesus gives two commandments when he was only asked to give one is this: the two are inextricably linked; the second flows from the first. People have said before the Christianity can't be lived out in a vaccuum. This is so true! Our love for God must be expressed through our love for people, and our love for people must be informed by and founded on our love for God and our desire to see him glorified. The inspiration for our love is that God loved us first.
"This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

"We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

" By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35)

From this we could argue that without love, we are not even recognizable as Jesus' disciples. As Christians, we should reflect the nature and character of Jesus, because he has put his Spirit within us.
"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." (Exodus 36:25-27)

And "God is love" (1 John 4:8). Paul says in the famous passage about love, 1 Corinthians 13, that without love, we are nothing.
"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

But why is love so important? It is because love encompasses all the other fruits of the Spirit. The Spirit is God. God is love. Therefore the Spirit is love. So, in a way, all the other fruits of the Spirit are also fruits of love. Love should be the motive behind everything we do (the glory of God being our first motive, and whatever gives God the most glory is also the most loving thing to do). If we are patient, gentle, faithful to the end--it matters not if we do not have love. Without love, springing out from our hearts because God first loved us, we are just a bunch of do-gooders, trying to be justified by our works.

So what is the nature of this love?
"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." (1 John 5:1-3)

Voddie Baucham defines it this way: "Love is an act of the will, accompanied by emotion, that leads to action on behalf of its object."

Love is putting someone else's needs above your own needs, feelings, hope, and wants.
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4)

"We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." (1 John 3:16-18)

One who loves will always sacrifice himself/herself for the beloved. Isn't that the core of what Jesus did on the cross?
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

We often focus on how it was necessary to justify sinful man before a holy and righteous God, but it was motivated by love. The miraculous thing about God's love is that he pours it out on the seemingly unloveable--wretched, filthy sinners.

Biblical love is not like Hollywood love. It has nothing to do with warm, fuzzy feelings. It is characterized by action. It's not about how you feel. it's about how you act: selflessly, in the best interest of the other person, focused on whatwillbring God the most glory. Some of you may remember in my blog about preaching the Gospel, I said that telling someone the Gospel is the most loving thing you can do because sin is the biggest problem they have, and the Gospel is the only way it can be fixed. Anything else is like putting a Band-Aid on someone who just got hit by a log truck; it is a nice gesture, but it is not really helping them.

(Not this)

(This)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Shepherd's Fellowship Baptist Church Abortion Counseling


The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Solution to Abortion

At Shepherd's Fellowship Baptist Church we understand that the sole solution to the problem of the murder of unborn human beings through abortion is the grace of God in salvation received only through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. All people are born in a state of spiritual deadness and therefore are morally bankrupt before God, and thus need to be born again in order to respond appropriately to the gospel in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:3-5; Ephesians 2:1-5; Titus 3:5-7). The unbeliever is described appropriately in the following paragraph:
The unbeliever, though possessing intellectual knowledge of God, suppresses this truth, and in its place substitutes his own presuppositions: There is no God; man is autonomous (sets his own rules); the universe is ruled by chance. Based on these errors, he surmises that his mind operates independently and is capable of perceiving truth all by itself. He needs no revelation from God and wishes to bring his own interpretation to every fact of his existence. A life lived according to this world view is characterized by depravity and the fruit of it is summarized in Romans 1:28-32."[1]
The decision making process of the spiritually dead is based upon an autonomous sinful mind that serves the self and ultimately ignores the effects of that sinful behavior on other human beings, especially the unborn. With the moral issue of abortion, the father, mother, and physician serve their own sinful desires by choosing to benefit from the murder of the unborn human child (Psalm 119:36; James 3:14-16).
The believer in Christ holds presuppositions grounded in the Word of God concerning God, man, and the universe that he lives in. He understands that his mind is part of creation, and therefore is dependent on revelation from God in order to function properly. He allows Scripture to interpret and bring meaning to his entire life. The fruit of a life lived this way is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2).[2]
There is only one true and permanent method for saving the life of the unborn human; the salvation of the parent's souls through the preaching of the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16). Our goal is to save the lives of unborn human beings, but this is not our only goal. If you seek to change the hearts of the parents, the clinic workers, and the abortionists through the preaching of the gospel, then the problem of abortion will go away (Ephesians 2:3-5; Titus 2:11-12). This is because abortion is the outward symptom of a greater problem; a spiritual problem that begins with a wicked, unregenerate heart (Mark 7:21-23; Titus 3:3-5). The wicked, autonomous heart/mind of man seeks to solve his own problems apart from God because he hates God and His word (Romans 8:7-8; Ephesians 2:3).

Trying to stop abortion through making mere emotional and intellectual appeals through the use of factual information and graphic images of aborted human beings are not able to save the souls of those committing these crimes against God (Luke 16:31). When an unbeliever hears these facts and sees these images without having the proper biblical worldview through which to understand and interpret those facts and images, they will often develop a temporary emotional response that may stop an abortion for a day, but it will never save their souls from Hell. They need a word from God and a renewed mind to rightly understand and repent of the evil they are committing. This is the reason that we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the parents, clinic workers and the physicians. Their only hope for having correct reasoning and properly grounded ethics as it pertains to the unborn is through being given a renewed, reborn mind/heart that comes as a gift of God's grace by the power of the Holy Spirit through regeneration (Titus 3:3-5).

All the elect being loved of God with an everlasting love, are redeemed, quickened, and saved, not by themselves, nor their own works, lest any man should boast, but, only and wholly by God, of His own free grace and mercy, through Jesus Christ, who is made unto us by God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, and all in all, that he that rejoiceth, might rejoice in the Lord. Jer. 31:2; Eph. 1:3, 7, 2:8, 9; 1 Thess. 5:9, Acts 13:48; 2 Cor. 5:21; Jer. 9:23, 24; 1 Cor. 1:30, 31; Jer. 23:6. 1646 London Confession of Faith, Section VI.

Our prayer ministry is a key element in our efforts at the abortion clinic. Without the prayer ministry of our church, our preaching ministry cannot be properly grounded since we recognize the importance of acknowledging the power of God in the salvation of souls (Acts 4:31; Romans 1:16). We call out warnings to the lost parents, clinic workers, and abortionists while praying for the regeneration of their souls as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached. We recognize that because abortion is a clear violation of the Law of God as written in the Scriptures; it is then imperative that the parents, physicians, and clinic workers who are complicit with the act of murder must repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ to escape the wrath of God and the wages of their sin. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

In conclusion, the essential thrust of our anti-abortion outreach ministry is to see abortion eliminated through changing people's hearts by the power of the gospel. In light of that fact, it is important to note that because we are a Biblically faithful church that desires to be historically grounded in the fundamental teachings of the Protestant Reformation (i.e., the Five Solas), we purposefully avoid ecumenical cooperation with any group that does not preach the Biblical gospel. For the word of God clearly says in 2nd Corinthians 6:14-18,

"Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 17 Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,' says the Lord. 'AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. 18 'And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' Says the Lord Almighty."


[1] Don Craig; “Caution - Depraved Minds at Work” – Part 2 of a 2 part series: http://www.tkc.com/resources/resources-pages/caution2.html

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Abortion: Out of the Mouth of Babes

The following YouTube video is a speech that was given by a 12 year old girl during a speech competition. She was asked to choose a different topic due to the controversial nature of it but was adamant to speak on this subject. When she was told that she would not be able to continue in the competition due to the topic and content of her speech, she went on to give her speech anyway, choosing to speak the hard truth about abortion instead of enjoying temporary success. May God give us many more like her!



HT: Alpha and Omega Ministries

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Fruit of the Spirit

At some point in his life, every child who grows up in church has to memorize the "fruits of the Spirit," found listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Most of the time, these fruits are presented as though Scripture gave us a bulleted list to go on:

*love
*joy
*peace
*patience
*kindness
*goodness
*faithfulness
*gentleness
*self-control

But often the lesson stops there, and these 9 fruits are never explained--what does it look like to be biblically kind, or biblically peaceful, or biblically loving? These might sound like "duh" questions to you, but the biblical version of these qualities can be significantly different from the worldly versions of these qualities, which is something I will delve into in more depth over this coming series.

Something else of great importance to note is this: Galatians 5:22-23 doesn't stand on its own. It is part of the larger context of a paragraph, within Paul's letter to the church in Galatia. Paul doesn't write to the Galatians and only tell them that if the Spirit of God dwells in them, they will increasingly display these 9 qualities (for all Christians should bear fruit; there should be significant changes in their character and behavior as they mature in the faith. This is sanctification, one of the acts of the Holy Spirit). Paul also tells them qualities that they will not exhibit (or rather, should not) as children of God, namely:

*sexual immorality
*impurity
*sensuality
*idolatry
*sorcery
*enmity
*strife
*jealousy
*fits of anger
*rivalries
*dissensions
*divisions
*envy
*drunkenness
*orgies

Paul says in Galatians 5:21 "that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." The things on this list can be considered "fruit" of an unregenerate heart, the antithesis of the Holy Spirit and the fruit it produces. If your habitual pattern of life includes attitudes and activities in this second list, it is evident that you haven't experienced the saving work of regeneration, namely, the replacing of your heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

The basic idea of the entire passage (Galatians 5:16-25) is the contrast of a life lived by the Spirit and one lived to satisfy the desires of the flesh. It isn't merely a laundry list of good & bad behaviors & attitudes. It is a guide that reveals to us the very nature and attributes of God: the Spirit, being God, produces in us fruit that is of God. This is what sanctification is--the process of becoming holier and holier (set apart) and therefore more and more like God.

"What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, 'I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord almighty.'" (2 Corinthians 6:16-18 ESV)

Whatever God's specific will for your life, His will for all believers is that they be sanctified. So, in the interest of holiness, this article series is going to focus on the fruits of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22-23. What is our motivation for holiness? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 7:1 "Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God."

In context, the "promises" Paul talks about are those listed in 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, cited above. God has promised to make His dwelling among us, to walk among us, and be our God, and to claim US to be His people. He will be our father, and He will adopt us as daughters and sons. This is remarkable, that a holy and righteous God would adopt sinners to be His children! This should inspire us, not to try and earn His love (for we can't!), but to strive to be like Him and to show Him that we are grateful.

God calls us to obey His commandments, do good works, and walk in holiness. We are to align our lives with biblical standards, not for the sake of doing good works or producing good fruit, as though that would earn us anything. The works and the fruit do not save us. But if God has given us a heart that loves Him, the natural outpouring of that new heart is going to be holiness, good works, fruit, and a life that is pleasing to God. "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace." (Romans 8:5-6, ESV)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Pastors leaving Churches


In this Time Magazine article, it is reported that rural churches are closing their doors because they can't keep or get pastors and younger pastors are staying away from rural churches because they cannot be supported full-time by only 20 people. The article says,
Why are the pastors disappearing? Mainline churches (as well as some Evangelical) prefer their ministers seminary trained. But the starting salary for debt-burdened seminary grads now runs to $35,000 a year. That can break a poor and aging congregation, says Elizabeth Rickert Dowdy, pastor of the Tar Wallet Baptist Church in Cumberland, Va., who recently helped disband her other church: "When you have a congregation that's historically been able to survive at 20 members and loses 12, they close." And for the first time in American history, the majority of seminarians don't come from rural areas. Shannon Jung, a rural-church expert in Kansas City, Mo., says of young pastors, "A town without a Starbucks scares them." Wolpert recalls a professor's warning to a promising seminarian to shun a rural call: "Don't go. You're too creative for that."
This is a huge problem indeed. Churches need faithful pastors. I have spoken with men who have suffered a loss of income because their congregation can no longer pay them what they previously received due to layoffs occurring amongst the members of a congregation or a reduction of overall income due to a loss of members. However, I think that the problems involved with this type of issue are related to a few common wrong ideas about what a church is and must be:

1. Some churches think they must have a seminary-trained pastor.

2. Some churches believe that if you don't have a full-time pastor, you can't be a real church.

3. Some churches believe that each congregation should have only one "Pastor" and that the "lay" people do not have the ability to minister to the rest of the congregation.

4. Some Christians automatically assume that "the church" is a physical structure.

Lets discuss each of these beginning with number one.

1. Must each church have a seminary-trained pastor? Please understand that with what I am about to say, I am not knocking seminary-trained pastors nor am I discouraging higher learning in the original Biblical languages, systematic theology, church history, etc. However, I am encouraging congregations to realize that a seminary education is not one of the qualifications listed for a elder/pastor/overseer in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:1-9. I think that it would be wise to have a "ministerial-training" program shared by several local churches that is apprenticeship based instead of almost solely academically based like most modern seminaries. In the apprenticeship model, men with a desire to be an elder would learn the practical and doctrinal aspects of pastoral ministry while shadowing and learning from an experienced elder. This seems to be the model that Timothy and Titus followed in the New Testament; why not give it a try today?

There is another aspect to this problem as well. If an unfamiliar man is brought in from outside the congregation, how can that congregation determine whether that man meets the character qualifications in a few short weeks before "voting" on him if they have not spent significant time with him before the pastoral candidacy process so that they could watch his life? I think that it would be better and even biblical to watch God raise up men from their own congregations whose character qualifications they are familiar with and are able to examine by watching their lives. Or, if they do have a seminary graduate they are interested in, why not have him spend some time with that particular congregation for a while, getting to know the people, so that his life can be a testimony to his character and God-given abilities?

2. Must each church have a full-time pastor to be a real church? I hope not! If that is the case then our church isn't really a church since both of our pastors work an outside job. As far as scholars can tell, most elders in the New Testament era worked regular jobs just like the rest of the men in their communities. Paul the Apostle even had outside employment and used it as an example to show the Ephesian elders that they can work in order to give money to the church instead of always getting money from it (Acts 18:8; 20:33-35). My own personal view is that pastors ought to have some outside skill that makes them employable in some field other than full-time ministry. After all, if you serve in a smaller church, you don't know when five families may move away causing your church's monthly income to change overnight and you might have to get an outside job. However, this doesn't mean that you can't have full-time church workers, quite the contrary, for 1 Timothy 5:17-18 says that the elders that work hard at preaching and teaching are worthy of double honor and material support so that their church work will not be hindered. Thankfully, Acts 20:33-35 tells us that pastors can work if their congregation cannot support them full-time and it demonstrates that an elder's ability to give to the church materially through wages earned from outside employment is considered a blessing and not a curse!

3. Must each local church have only one pastor and can the "lay" people be involved in teaching and serving if qualified? There is no such thing in the New Testament as "the" pastor of a church. References to New Testament elders are generally in the plural. Most scholars think that there were probably several elders serving each city-wide church which was composed of several smaller house churches. Exactly how this plurality of elders was distributed among the various house churches is unknown, but the principle of plural leadership remains. The general sense one gathers from the New Testament is that if a man is is qualified per 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:1-9, then that man can serve as an elder in a local church if he so desires. See Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 5:17.

As far as the idea that "lay" people cannot be involved in the work of the ministry, this directly contradicts the New Testament too. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that "Pastor-Teachers" are given to the church for the purpose of equipping the saints (that means all Christians) for the work of the ministry. While it is true that only mature males can be elders/pastors/overseers, 1 Corinthians 14:26 and Hebrews 10:24-25 assumes that when the entire congregation gathers together for the weekly meeting, that all the Christians in that gathering have the ability to encourage one another in some way. Paul says,
NAU 1 Corinthians 14:26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
The writer of Hebrews states very clearly regarding the weekly church meeting,
NAU Hebrews 10:24-25 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
As far as a "clergy-laity" distinction is concerned, according to Scripture there is no such thing! I'll explain why. 1 Peter 5:3 says,
NAU 1 Peter 5:3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
The phrase "those allotted to your charge" comes from the Greek word kleros, from which we get the English word "clergy." The word "laity" comes from the Greek word laos, which is translated many times in the New Testament to describe the "people" of God (i.e., 1 Peter 2:9). Peter is says in 5:3 that these "allotted" people are also known as "the flock" or what we would call the congregation. Peter calls the entire congregation of Christians the kleros, or the "clergy". This is totally appropriate because earlier in 1 Peter 2:5, 9 he says that all Christians are priests before God, not just pastors. All Christians are God's people as well as God's priests. This means that nobody has exclusive access to God under the New Covenant but instead, all of God's people have full access to Him night and day because they all are part of the royal New Covenant priesthood. This is great news!

Also, it is also important to mention that if two or three local Bible-believing churches have congregations that are so small that they cannot each have a full-time church worker but they can and do minister to each other effectively, why can't they have one Pastor-Teacher travel from church to church on a rotating basis to spread out his ministry over several congregations on a full-time basis? After all, the typical New Testament house church was no bigger than a first-century living room and would have been unable to support a full-time worker due to insufficient financial resources. Therefore, from a practical perspective, why not have an intinerant traveling "Pastor-Teacher" to care for these congregations, appoint elders as needed, and receive financial support from two or three congregations at a time instead of only one? If Titus and Timothy did it during the first century, surely it could be done today.

4. Some Christians automatically assume that "the church" is a physical structure. The church is not a physical building, it is the regenerated people of God. The word church in the Bible comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which is sometimes translated as "assembly" or "congregation". The early Church didn't have physical houses of worship for hundreds of years. Instead, they met in their homes (Acts 2:46), in rented rooms (Acts 19:9-10), and other places (Acts 2:46).

There is much to be learned from the New Testament about how to have a more effective and productive pastoral ministry. Sometimes our own unbiblical ideas get in the way and this prevents us from thinking outside the box of traditional Christianity. Sometimes Christians act as if they must have a seminary-trained man or the Holy Spirit cannot do His work in people. Some Christians seem to think that they cannot do anything without a pastor because after all, they are the "laity". Some think that each church must have a full-time pastor or else it's not really a church. Oh, that people would turn to the Bible for their ideas of pastoral ministry and how to do church, for it could save them alot of headaches, money, and hassle.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"Get past your own discomfort and think"




















"The reason I go to the abortion clinic to pray is because I believe that babies, that are still in their mothers womb, are just that, they are babies. They are alive and they are humans. Not just a blob of tissue. I go to speak out for those babies because they can't speak for themselves."



"The things that I've seen when I go there; are mothers that are choosing to murder their children. Many of these people are deaf to the truth, because they choose not to hear it. Although it may be freezing cold outside sometimes, and it may be 7:30 on a Saturday morning. You have to get past your own discomfort and think about the babies that are being killed. It truly is a life changing experience, and I would encourage all of you, to go at least once to speak out for those babies. Because if we don't speak out for them, who will?"

Lane (16 year old)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Exhortation: Preach The WORD

While we're examining video exhortation, we can be reminded of the end of all things for Pastors and for all Christians: The Gospel must be proclaimed!

Thank you Dr. MacArthur for 40 years of faithful service celebrated Feb 2009!

Jesus is Lord - Pastor Tim Conway


Jesus is Lord from I'll Be Honest on Vimeo.