THE SUPREME COURT AND ABORTION
All our readers are, no doubt, aware of the fact by this time that the United States Supreme Court has overthrown the abortion statutes of the State of Texas, and, in effect, of all the states who still have anti-abortion laws on their books.
There were some peculiar features of the Supreme Court ruling which are worth noting.
The Court ruled that a state may not regulate abortion at all during the first three months of pregnancy; during the second three months, abortion is allowed to protect the health of the mother. At this point, so the court ruled, the fetus becomes viable, i.e., capable of meaningful life. From this time on, that is, during the last three months of pregnancy, the Court ruled that “if the State is interested in protecting fetal life . . . it may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” But the hitch is that the court specifically said that it meant the mental health of the mother as well as her physical health. In effect, therefore, abortion is permissible during any period of pregnancy under the right circumstances.
This ruling of the court was based upon the right of privacy. Apparently the meaning is that the constitutionally guaranteed right of privacy gives to a pregnant woman the right to determine whether or not she shall carry her child to birth or have it aborted. We fail to see what the right of privacy has to do with this whole matter.
There are a few remarks which ought to be made in connection with this ruling.
The court made the ruling that it did on the grounds that there has not, up to this point, been any agreement among doctors, theologians, or any one else interested in the matter on the question of when the life of the fetus actually begins. After having stated this, however, the court itself proceeds to settle this very question. It declares a fetus viable when it is capable of meaningful life; i.e., when it reaches the approximate age of six months. Since when does the court have the right to determine this question?
When the court bases its decision on the right of privacy, it evidently considers the whole matter of a pregnancy a personal matter of the pregnant woman. No one else may interfere with her decision on whether the pregnant woman shall carry the child full term or have it aborted. But this is strange and evil. There are others who are necessarily involved in the decision whether the court will recognize this or not. For one thing, certainly the father is involved. He is responsible for that unborn child. But the court evidently forbids him to have any word in the matter. He may not enter into the decision which will affect his own child. A family is involved. But these, too, do not count in the eyes of the law any more. The State certainly is involved, for the State has the calling before God to protect the life of the citizens of the State. But with this decision, the State has abrogated its responsibility before God. But a private matter it is not.
It is also strange and ominous that the court defined “viable life” as being “‘meaningful life.” It is hard to say what precisely this means. It certainly ought to be clear to anyone in his right mind that an unborn child has “meaningful life.” It certainly is a life with meaning. And if by this expression the court means only meaningful life outside the mother’s womb, then one wonders about a lot of people who are not normal. There are many children born who are retarded or handicapped. There are many people in this world who, because of illness, old age, crippling diseases, or other sufferings can hardly be characterized as living meaningful lives according to the court’s definition. If the ability to live a meaningful life is to be a criterion for saving a life or ending a life, then one can easily see that presently the court could very well order the “mercy-killing” of all kinds of undesirables.
There is a point here which is worth emphasizing. Who is to determine whether a life is “meaningful” or not? Even children of God have often stood at the side of the bed of a loved one who is very aged, perhaps has been in a coma for a number of months or even years, has a terminal disease which is beyond treatment, and wondered in his own soul why the Lord does not take such a loved one out of this life. The fact of the matter is that no man is in any position to determine the purpose why God puts someone into the world, why that person remains in the world, and when that person has finished his God-assigned work and is ready to leave this world. That is solely the determination of the Most High. And that is true not only of the retarded and handicapped, not only of the ill and aged, but also of the unborn infant whose life is in the hands of the Most High Who gave it.
The court has spoken of the “right” of abortion, and has granted this right to pregnant mothers. The court has not (yet?) ruled on the obligation of abortion. It has not yet made abortion under certain circumstances obligatory. We may be thankful for this. For we still have the right under the law to determine for ourselves whether we shall abort a child or not. And a child of God may, therefore, still live in obedience to His God in this matter without legal penalty or enforced abortion. But even this is a precarious “right.” It is not difficult to envision the possibility of a later ruling of the court which will make abortion mandatory under certain circumstances. And this is not difficult to imagine because there really is a very close relationship between right and obligation. It is emphasized, e.g., even in this country that a citizen has the “right” to vote; but this right is also an obligation. It is something he .owes to his country as a citizen. The same thing is true in all our relationships to God. Bight and obligation are inseparable. The Christian has the right to pray, but also the obligation. He has the right before God to go to Church, but also the obligation. He has the right to worship, but this is no less a calling. In the whole sphere of Christian ethics, right and obligation go together. Is it not possible that the court may think this true also in the whole area of abortion? You can almost predict the reasoning. A mother is pregnant whose physical and/or mental health is precarious. She now has the right to an abortion. It is not a big step to go on and say: for the sake of herself, her family and society at large, she also has the obligation to abort her child. Or perhaps the argument will go something like this: a pregnant mother is ready to be delivered of a child whom she does not want because of the financial, social, and economic stress which such a child will bring. She will add to a world already overburdened with a population which is too great for this planet to support. She has the right of abortion. If the argument is valid, however, it almost has to follow that this right is also an obligation. She ought to, no, she must, abort her child for the sake of humanity at large, etc.
Above all, however, the court has abandoned any semblance of determining these matters in the light of the law of God. This ought not strike us as strange. It has been a long time since the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government have made decisions which are reflections: of the will of God. And in this country, increasingly paganized and secularized, it is not surprising that this trend should continue. But it is a serious matter for all that. The magistrate is called, in Scripture, to be a servant of the Lord Christ. Every magistrate has the solemn obligation before God to rule in Christ’s name and according to His will. That will is recorded in the Holy Scriptures. So real is this that every magistrate shall some day have to render account before the judgment seat of Christ for all that he did as servant of Christ in his position of authority in the State. When, therefore, the State not only ignores the Scriptures in matters of law, but enacts legislation and makes rulings which are directly opposed to the Scriptures, the State becomes Antichrist. And that is the situation which is fast developing in this country.
What must the believer do? Certainly the child of God who subjects the whole of his life to the Word of God may never, in spite of the ruling of the Supreme Court, take advantage of this weakness of the laws of the land. There may, indeed, be temptation to do exactly that. So often it happens that terrible sins be co me so customary that we ourselves scarcely consider such deeds to be sins at all, simply permitting the generally accepted customs of the day to rule our life. This we must never do. In fact, even if the Supreme Court should make abortion obligatory under certain circumstances, the child of God may not obey for conscience sake.
But the question arises whether or not we should voice our objections against this monstrous evil. The answer is, undoubtedly, yes—in whatever way it is possible for us to do that. But there is a warning that is in order in this connection. There are many organizations about the country who make it their business to fight legalized abortion. From time to time various church groups also join these organizations and give out statements condemning abortion and fighting for the rights of the unborn. Many times, however, these organizations base their arguments on issues other than the directives and principles of Scripture. They may, e.g., argue from a legal point of view that the law ought to defend the rights of the unborn: for the law is instituted to protect life. They may argue on the basis of natural law by pointing out that the murder of infants is against even natural feeling and against the laws of nature; that it violates even the instinctive feelings of man. They may argue that historically the Judaeo-Christian ethic has forbidden abortion, and that abortion has been always a pagan practice. These and many other arguments are raised against abortion.
There is, of course, an element of truth in these arguments. No one can deny them. But it is, after all, the Scriptures, and the Scriptures alone, which determine decisively the truth in these matters. The argument against abortion which is not based upon the Scriptures is an argument which will eventually fail. And therefore the Christian is called to protest this evil; but he is called to do so on the basis of the Word of God. For He is a servant of the Word, and before that Word alone he bows. Let his testimony be therefore, based only upon the Scriptures.
If the objection is raised that the wicked will not listen to the Scriptures, that an argument must be brought to their attention which is more readily acceptable to them, the answer must be that Scripture alone is our guide and authority. We must make our testimony on the basis of God’s Word—whether they will hear or whether they will forbear. This only is our calling.
Let us in the meantime prepare ourselves for evil days which are ahead. The storm clouds gather on the distant horizon and the rolling of the thunder already reaches our ears. If we expect the storm to come and prepare ourselves beforetime, then we will not be caught unprepared when that day is here.
SOME THOUGHTS ON DIALOGUING
To hold a dialogue is the “in thing” in the area of ecumenical relations. The caption is not a grammatical error. Today, in modem parlance, people “dialogue.” There was a time when the word was only a noun. Today it has become a verb. A recent news headline reads: “WCC dialogues with Buddhists.”
Everybody who is interested in church unity “dialogues.” Not only does the WCC dialogue with Buddhists, but churches within the Protestant tradition dialogue with each other; Protestantism dialogues with Roman Catholicism, the Christian religious leaders dialogue with pagan religious leaders. Dialogue is really the thing. You just are not with it today unless you are, somewhere along the line, carrying on a dialogue.
This is not a Scriptural concept. So one must turn to the Dictionary to find out what it means. My Unabridged Dictionary tells me that, among various other meanings, the word can also mean: “an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue, with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement.” My Dictionary is a few years old, and does not designate the word as a verb. This is of more recent vintage.
The goal of dialogue, as is evident also from the definition quoted above, is agreement and settlement of issues; hence, when dialoguing is carried on within the Church, the goal is the settlement of issues with a view to some sort of church union.
Apart from the whole question of the rightness or wrongness of the ecumenical movement, is it correct to engage in efforts to resolve differences by engaging in dialogue? or by dialoguing?
It is well to think through the matter for a moment, because these words which so easily become a part of the ecclesiastical jargon can often win a place in our speech without our realizing the implications involved.
If talks aimed at church merger are defined or characterized as a dialogue, there is implicit in the word a hidden assumption which is very evil. That hidden assumption is there; just think about it for a moment. If the definition which the Dictionary offers is the correct usage in this instance, then it is clear that church leaders who engage in dialogue begin their conversations with the admission on both sides that both sides are, in a measure, right concerning their ideas and opinions. Though they may violently disagree, though their ecclesiastical positions are directly at odds with each other, they both are right in some measure. And the real truth of the matter can be ascertained by both sides discussing the issue until they find a common ground on which both can stand without materially altering their position. Hence, the assumption is that no one is really right, and no one is really wrong. The truth is a relative thing. Union can be reached between denominations by means of both merging their positions into a position common enough to both so that both can accept it. So the goal of dialogue is not to find out what the Scriptures teach; the goal of dialogue is rather to find that common ground upon which both can comfortably stand.
The Scriptures do not admonish us to “dialogue.” Jesus did not carry on dialogues with the Scribes and Pharisees. The apostles knew nothing of this either. Paul did not invite the Judaizers in the Galatian Churches to sit down for a dialogue. Jesus said: “Woe unto you, scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites.” And Paul said: “If any one preach any other gospel than that which I have preached, let him be anathema.”
To sit down together to search the Scriptures is one thing. This is our calling. It can, indeed, only be done where all concerned are willing to bow before the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and life. But this is not dialogue. To preach the truth, witness to the truth, and speak the truth in love is our calling. Nothing else will do, for we are enjoined by the Scriptures to do this. But this is not dialogue either.
Let dialoguing be accursed. There is no place for it in the life of the Church.