I sometimes scratch my head about the life issue. Why? We live in a wealthy, secure and advanced society (unless you live in Hawaii and have been startled lately by a text notifying you of impending nuclear doom). Compared to just about any other society and any other time in history (check out the Mongol invasion of China for a stark contrast), we enjoy a unique measure of peace and tranquility.
Yet, the life issue remains a critical one in 2018. The unborn, the disabled and the elderly-the most innocent and helpless among us-are in real danger. Therefore, the Church must remain a vigilant “life”guard in our brave new world.
As I have engaged this issue, I have encountered three foundation-level ideas that need to be addressed if we are to successfully fulfill the role of lifeguard in the coming years:
#1 A THERMOSTAT NOT A THERMOMETER
There is much discussion these days about confining our faith to our homes, hearts, pews and pulpits. But, this discussion misses an important (and Biblical) role of the Church. If the Church is not salt and light—if the Church does not act as the moral conscience of its community—it is truly good for nothing. (Matthew 5:13). People can find humor, social connections, great music and charitable causes elsewhere. But, the “big C” Church is uniquely equipped to explain God’s plan and will for our lives and to remind such forces as science and government about the consequences of moral decisions.
Science is great at explaining “how” (for example, explaining quarks and DNA) but is incompetent to explain “why” (for example, why we exist). Government, too, is useful for carrying out policy and programs, but it is not equipped to identify which cause is moral and which is not. Both science and government rely on some ideology to inform these judgments, and the Church should embrace rather than shrink from the role of being a conscience to the nation.
The big “C” Church has failed, at times, to maintain its moral voice. This resulted in catastrophe for the church and its community. For example, Germany was 75% Protestant before World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust, but the German church was largely silent and allowed itself to be co-opted by the Third Reich. The church in the American south (and to some extent, the larger American church) similarly remained silent in the face of slavery and racism.
Martin Luther King, Jr. called the church to its proper role in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” He stated: “The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.” For these reasons, the Church is called to be a moral voice in our communities, and the Church cannot remain silent on the issue of life.
#2 AN IDEA WITH SPLIT PERSONALITIES
A close reading of Roe v. Wade shows that the landmark decision highlights the “right to privacy” as the core justification for its ultimate holding. Therefore, the Roe decision notes the importance of personal autonomy (that each person must look inside himself or herself to find his or her identity, fulfillment and success) in current American jurisprudence. This is in stark contrast to the original (and more Biblical view) of freedom. The more historic or at least Christian view of freedom (that we look to God to find Him and to understand the best way to live and order society) is in retreat even in many Christian circles, and the idea of personal autonomy has become supreme. Therefore, any law or effort that constrains that personal freedom is now opposed or silenced.
In sum, freedom is now an ambiguous term, and we should point out that the view of freedom we hardwire into our society has serious implications. Unbridled human autonomy (and not just abortion) is at the heart of Roe, and we will not defeat abortion without addressing autonomy.
#2 A HACK WITH A FATAL FLAW
I often think in terms of a “cosmic” code or a “creation” code. This assumes a Christian worldview and basically states that God created the universe to operate in a specific way (similar to coding complicated computer software). God then gave us a user’s manual of sorts (Scripture) to understand how best to flourish in that universe. If this is true, individuals and societies that follow this manual will truly flourish. In contrast, a secular worldview assumes that there is no cosmic code and, therefore, that Homo Sapiens can create their own code for how the world works. If this is true, then a brave new world that designs its own future (i.e., hacks the original code) should truly flourish.
The life issue is an interesting “wisdom test” for worldviews. Modern man has declared that the cosmic code is corrupted and has replaced it new and “progressive” ideas in the areas of human sexuality and reproduction. How has this worked? Is there evidence that this hack is failing? Consider the following headlines:
- Netherlands Pushing a “Moral Duty to Abort” Down Syndrome Babies
- Sex-Selective Abortion Will Make Armenia a Society of Single Men (by 2060, some 100,000 girls will be aborted)
- New Fertility Procedure May Lead to Embryo Farming (i.e., create embryos, choose the one that has the highest desirable characteristics (such as potential intelligence and health) and destroy the rest)
- Netherlands Push to Euthanize Children
- China Lifts One Child Policy Amid Worries Over Graying Population (the greatest population control experiment in history has apparently failed).
So, the early evidence is in, and it suggests that the hack has a fatal error. As Steve Garber has observed, some ideas go with “the grain of the universe”, and others clearly do not. Our efforts to disregard the truths about Biblical sexuality and the sanctity of human life has created a set of unprecedented crises. We would do well as a society to consider these crises and change some guiding principles.
In summary, though advanced modernity comes with technological marvels, it has also produced many moral dilemmas. Science will not stand in its own way to protect the weakest among us. Government may bow to the demand of “progress” without considering the consequences. Therefore, the “big C” Church must embrace its role as a lifeguard for the unborn, the disabled and the elderly. I wish the following statement was hyperbole, but it is not: millions of lives depend on our willingness to do just that.