Monday, February 19, 2007

Gospel and Pro-Life Apologetics [SK]

A commenter named Jim asks where the gospel fits into my pro-life apologetic.

Answer: I sometimes do and sometimes don't present the gospel in my pro-life apologetic talks. It depends on the context of where I'm presenting my case. When speaking to secular audiences, I usually don't mention the gospel specifically. I'm not there to do that. Rather, I stick to a scientific and philosophical case for the pro-life view (as I will when I debate the head of the ACLU in Grand Rapids in April). I reject the notion that one must quote Scripture or cite the gospel when making a case for the lives of the unborn. We don't demand that Christains cite Scripture when making an insurance presentation, so why must pro-lifers do it when making abortion presentations?

Truth is, secular people think religious truth claims don't count as real knowledge. If I make my case with Scripture, they dismiss me out of hand. So, I'll engage them with arguments they cannot easily dismiss and then politely say, "Where am I mistaken?"

That's not to say I'll run away from addressing my Christian worldview (or the gospel) when asked or when it's otherwise appropriate. But my primary purpose in that secular environment is to make a case for the lives of the unborn.

In Christian schools and churches, I almost always link the two (gospel and pro-life). And I do it joyfully. I use persuasive pro-life apologetics to convince listeners that abortion is wrong and a cross-centered gospel to point them to Christ. (You can hear a sample of that if you listen to my presentation at Cedarville University last month. Or, you can hear my pro-life sermon from St. John's First Baptist Church.) But sometimes--even in secular contexts--I use pro-life apologetics to get people moving toward the gospel. Specifically, I've found that discussions on abortion help reawaken people's moral intuitions. A skilled Christian apologist knows how to exploit this for the sake of the gospel. For example, once the guy seated next to me on the plane concedes that right and wrong on issues like abortion are real things and not just matters of personal taste, he’s now ready for me to ask, "So where do these moral rules come from?" They can’t just exist in a vacuum. If objective morals exist so does an objective moral lawgiver. Ergo, theism. At this point, it’s very easy to follow Greg Koukl’s lead and ask, "Have you ever committed moral crimes? And do you think that people who commit moral crimes deserve to be punished?" Now we are off to the races. I may not close the deal, but I will get my listener thinking about his moral culpability within the context of a Christian worldview.

Allow me to share a final anecdote. When I made a case for the pro-life view at the University of North Carolina Law School in October 2004, a young female professor responded (in front of her students): “I did not come to this talk with the same pro-life views you hold. In fact, I came here today expecting an emotionally charged religious presentation. Instead, you gave one of the most compelling arguments I have ever heard. Thank you.” True, she didn’t fall on her knees and confess Christ on the spot. But now she’s begun wrestling with Biblical truth. To use a baseball example, you don’t have to hit a home run with every conversation. Sometimes just getting on base is enough. Or, to cite Greg Koukl yet again, try dropping a pebble in their shoe. Give 'em something to think about that will wear on them for a while. You'll certainly do that whenever you clarify the moral logic of the pro-life view.

But again, let me clear. I don't believe I'm required to present the gospel everytime I speak. The pupose of pro-life advocacy is not saving souls eternally, but saving innocent human beings from the butcher's knife.

But I do take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

1 comment:

  1. Scott,

    Thank you for your post.

    Whereas I do think some of the most convincing arguments against abortion are rooted in God's will and Biblical truth, I also will generally start with secular arguments, and often leave it at just that.

    As a former atheist, I understand what will and will not speak to a secular audience. Christian ethics are meaningless to secularists. Christian ethics, to my experience, are often meaningless to people who claim to be Christians!

    This is one reason why I find your SLED argument so useful in opening secular minds to pro-life viewpoints.

    I also enjoy shocking people with unanticipated arguments -- if they think they know what you're going to say, and are ready for it, you can often get around their armor and into their heart by coming at it from a completely different direction.

    I know secular arguments can work to support a pro-life viewpoint among secularists because I was pro-life as an atheist.

    I was not consistently pro-life, and I was wishy-washy on some issues. But I was pro-life nonetheless, and -- more importantly -- I was open-minded on more solid pro-life arguments.

    In fact, I was a no-compromise pro-lifer for part of my time as an atheist. Once I understood the argument of personhood, as it related to abortion, I also understood that there should be no exceptions for "rape or incest" -- why would there be? There aren't exceptions for slavery -- not even in case of hardship.

    Thanks again!

    Ed Hanks


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