Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Preaching the Gospel to End Abortion: The Fool's Errand

It is a common idea spread among Christians—particularly those that have little to no involvement in the pro-life movement—that we ought not to directly oppose abortion (apart from saying we’re against it), but rather we should just share the gospel and that will produce the same effect. This can be applied to any injustice. The problem is that this view is inconsistent with scripture, inconsistent with historical movements, and inconsistent with logic in light of what the Bible teaches.

We will never end abortion by only sharing the gospel, and it is a fool’s errand to attempt it. Please understand: spreading the gospel is the most important task given to Christians. I do not downplay its importance. And I agree that the gospel does change hearts. Those who are born again will learn from the Bible and the conviction of the Holy Spirit that abortion is wrong. But, I do not believe that our job ends there. Christianity has been the driving force behind positive social change for centuries, and that is rooted in the Bible.

When slavery was ended, there were plenty of people that hated the occasion. The abolitionist president was assassinated in the aftermath. The former Confederacy instituted Jim Crow laws as soon as it could. But, despite not converting masses of people to Christianity (true Christianity that stands against owning other human beings), slavery was ended. Likewise, de jure segregation was ended despite fierce opposition in the Deep South. Most of the racists in the United States were not converted to true Christianity, yet segregation stopped.

This was an acceptable and realistic scenario. Martin Luther King, Jr. remarked, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important.”

Slavery and segregation ended not because the gospel was spread, but because gospel-motivated individuals, and those with similar morals, campaigned specifically against the injustice. King was a minister, and he spread the gospel, but his speeches did not stop at sharing the gospel. The boycotts and passive resistance were not gospel campaigns. They specifically targeted the injustice.

William Wilberforce was a Christian who fought to end the slave trade in England. He stated that our Christianity serves as a means to keep evil in check:

Is it not the great end of religion, and, in particular, the glory of Christianity, to extinguish the malignant passions; to curb the violence, to control the appetites, and to smooth the asperities of man; to make us compassionate and kind, and forgiving one to another; to make us good husbands, good fathers, good friends; and to render us active and useful in the discharge of the relative social and civil duties?
This viewpoint comes from scripture. Paul in II Thessalonians speaks of the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit:
And you know what is restraining him now so that [the Antichrist] may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed… –II Thessalonians 2:6-8a
“He” speaks of the Holy Spirit. Verse 3 says there must be a “falling away” before the Antichrist is revealed. Paul knows what this means to his readers. The “falling away” occurs only when Christians are taken out of the world. This is why Paul makes the jump that the church knows what is restraining the evil.

When is the Holy Spirit out of the way? When Christians are removed from the world. The Holy Spirit dwells in Christians. So when Christians are removed, that is when evil loses its restraint and the awful things of the Tribulation take place.

Conclusion: One purpose of Christianity is to restrain evil.

The biggest issue with trying to end abortion by only sharing the gospel is that Christians will never be the majority. The majority of a country like the United States might be “culturally Christian,” but not truly.
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. –Matthew 7:13-14
Jesus tells us that many people go through the gate to destruction, but few find the way that leads to life.
Created Equal is an organization whose goal is to change minds about abortion,
and encourages its members to share the gospel at the same time.

I hope you aren’t holding your breath for us to convert enough people to change public opinion.

If we’re only relying on bringing people to Christ to end an injustice, it will never happen because we won’t come close to converting even the majority, as Christ says. But it is possible, and I have personally seen it over and over, to change people’s minds about abortion while not converting them. The goal should always be to do both, and pro-life public activism offers ample opportunity to share the gospel. But there are plenty of people who are not born again or don’t even identify as Christians who are against abortion.

I don’t particularly care if I sway everyone when it comes to abortion. I care that I sway enough people. Like King said, if we can make the law prevent the injustice, that is sufficient, even if there are a lot of people unhappy about it.

Share the gospel. It is the most important thing we can and must do. But don’t fall prey to the delusion that sharing the gospel is enough to end abortion. Whether you actually care about that is another question. But the method of operation to ending injustice has not been and is not simply sharing the gospel.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dumb Arguments Against the Death Penalty

The title is a little misleading, because I don’t think there are any good arguments against the death penalty. I take some flack from Christians who consider it unloving, pro-life people who believe it is inconsistent (as if murderers and helpless preborn babies are morally the same) and from liberals who think killing murderers is wrong but killing babies is fine. But I find capital punishment not just okay, but necessary, and I don’t think there are any rational and consistent arguments against it. I want to examine five common ones I hear.

“It’s too expensive.”

It’s true, kind of. Lethal injection can be very expensive. A couple years ago, Virginia’s jumped to $16,500 per execution. So why is this a bad argument?

Two reasons. The first is that the alternative, life in prison, is exponentially more expensive. The average annual cost to incarcerate a person in the United States is over $31,000. Super-maximum-security prisons can run over $60,000 a year. Obviously, we shouldn’t execute people to save costs, but these numbers completely destroy the argument that we shouldn’t execute people because of the expense. If executions were done after appeals fail instead of 20 or more years later, that would be much less expensive.

The second reason is that there are many cheaper ways to execute people. Gallows don’t cost nearly as much as drugs. Firing squads are pretty cheap. There’s no reason to throw so much money at an execution. The problem people have with these methods is the next dumb argument against the death penalty.

“They might feel pain.”

This is an argument against even lethal injection, which is designed to avoid pain. But I don’t even think that it doesn’t matter if pain is felt—I think it should be felt.

It might seem to be a barbaric statement, but what is the point of capital punishment? I believe its primary purpose is to justly punish a criminal. In most circumstances, the victim of the murder (or rape, as I believe should also be a capital offense) felt pain, so why should the perpetrator get a painless death? The just reward for a violent murder or rape is a violent death.

A secondary benefit of the death penalty is deterrence. While a consistent application of the death penalty (instead of a system where less than two percent of murderers are executed) would be the greatest deterrent, an added deterrent would be the assurance that the execution will not be painless.

“It might kill innocent people.”

This was a relevant argument in the past, and it still may be for people that were sentenced to death years ago. The first criminal conviction from DNA testing occurred in 1987. The Justice for All Act in 2004 strengthens the right of convicted felons to obtain post-conviction testing. The regular use of DNA testing today and the availability of post-conviction testing make this no longer a problem.

“It’s not our place to decide who lives or dies.”

With due process, yes, it is. This isn’t an arbitrary system where we just grab people off the street and decide to execute them. There must be an arraignment, a trial by jury if they choose, and a unanimous conviction. There are many technological and forensic tools at the disposal of courts when it comes to something so serious. Our laws lay out what actions are illegal and what their punishment can be. Violent criminals know their actions are wrong and they know the consequences, and it is a high burden of proof to convict them. We feel it is our place to decide whether someone’s freedom is taken away for the rest of his life. We clearly think we have a wide liberty to choose someone’s fate. This argument is not made because its maker believes it wrong to drastically affect someone’s life to punish him. It is made because someone makes up her mind that capital punishment is wrong and then scrambles to find a justification.

“God would forgive them.”

This winner of the “Worst Public Policy in Recorded History” award was famously posited by Mother Teresa, the internationally-repudiated politician and sociologist.

The logical conclusion of this policy would be to pardon anyone for any crime because, well, “God would forgive them.”
Good heavens, it's an epidemic.

These are the people who think criminals will follow gun laws.

It’s true. God will forgive murderers and rapists and any other criminal because His forgiveness knows no limits. But that doesn’t mean that we avoid the consequences of our actions. Allowing people to do so would open up Pandora’s Box, as criminals would know they can get away with anything and not be punished for their wrongdoing.

God did not have a problem with punishing people for their crimes, nor did He have a problem with capital punishment. In fact, He commanded it.

And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. –Genesis 9:5-6

This was before the Law, part of the Noahic Covenant.

You see, we don’t bend God to align with our beliefs. We must align with His. We don’t get to decide that God doesn’t like capital punishment because we don’t like capital punishment.

Nor should we shun justice because we don’t like what it demands.