[In late 1983, I founded the New England Christian Action Council (NECAC) when I lived outside Boston, completing my M.Div. at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The motto of the NECAC was “biblically committed to protecting the unborn” and my initial newsletters were entitled “Contrabortion,” written for grass-roots pro-life Christians. I started my engagement with the subject in a reactive posture, that is, defining and critiquing it. But being committed to the biblical foundations in Genesis 1-3, I grew consistently more proactive across the years. So here are the original unvarnished articles, as my thinking was at the time.]
Contrabortion, Vol. 2, No. 3 Fall, 1985
An Unimpeachable Thesis Opposing Abortion
John C. Rankin
The abortion controversy is indeed a religious war, and the credibility of the Gospel may well hinge on how effectively we as Christians address it. Advocates of legalized abortion often succeed in thwarting the pro-life message by exposing certain reprehensible acts or attitudes on the part of various pro-life leaders. And they will continue to do so unless we demonstrate our cause in a manner that is above reproach.
One arena where this is necessary is in public debate. As Christians, our calling is to “silence the foe and avenger” of the Gospel (Ps. 8:2), and to put to “silence the ignorant talk of foolish men” (1 Pet. 2:15). Unless we silence the noisy static of biased opposition to the Gospel, we will be handicapped severely in our mission. And Scripture provides us with an arsenal of “childlike strength” to accomplish this in a blameless fashion in the midst of a pluralistic society.
Accordingly, the thesis below has been developed for use in public forums and debates. Since it is difficult to find willing opponents for formal debate, I have designed Street Level Forums on Abortion to be conducted on college campuses and other public spots. It is our initiative, and accordingly we are defining the agenda. The idea of the Forum is to advertise and so challenge advocates of legalized abortion to hear me present this thesis in the middle of a given campus at the busiest time of the class day, and then to enter into dialogue with them. Our first such forum was held at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and attracted several hundred people, with as many as 200 people present at one time. Nobody was able to challenge the integrity of the thesis despite many vehement opponents. Rather, the whole controversy consistently demonstrated the opposition of world-views present — Christian vs. non-Christian. And this is precisely the point of the thesis. Accordingly, the Gospel was preached effectively. Also, in terms of the ethics and manner of presentation, local Christians who sponsored the Forum remarked how civil the audience was in comparison to other times the Gospel or any social issue is addressed in similar fashion at UMass. The civility was a result of silencing false reasons for opposition by a loving attitude, while maintaining a firm biblical call to accountability, thus reducing the “noisy static” to allow people to really consider the claims of Jesus Christ, and the Christian duty to protect the unborn.
The thesis is termed “unimpeachable” because it is simply six definitions of terms and facts which truly define the abortion issue, thus paving the way to address the real question of the value of human life in the womb, and how that is determined by what world-view one subscribes to. It focuses on the claims of Jesus Christ, which are the point of controversy. Many abortion advocates are fearful of having their world views exposed (tacitly aligned with a brand of social Darwinism, crass utilitarianism, and promiscuous hedonism), and they therefore throw many lies and half-truths up as a smokescreen. This thesis is designed to blow away the smoke so the real issue may be seen clearly.
Also important to understand, is the nature of this thesis. Its language is chosen so as to appeal to those who are not necessarily pro-life. Thus, where I might say abortion is killing, or it is murder, I have instead chosen language that carries less emotional force. This is for a purpose, to make an understatement in the conviction that more ears will listen, and more hearts will be touched. In one public forum I held at the University of New Hampshire (Durham) last spring, I was able to have several of my challengers agree to my definition, and nobody thereafter challenged it. As one college woman agreed, and as the dialogue progressed, she suddenly saw abortion as killing with a force she had not seen before. Whereas she started as vehemently pro-abortion, she left the lecture hall 45 minutes after the close of the forum, going out of her way to thank me, with a smile. I learned from some Christians who had talked to her personally, that she had converted 90% in her thoughts about abortion, and was moreover open to the Gospel. For that I praise God, for it is the love of Jesus Christ that compels us to protect the unborn.
- Definition of liberal arts inquiry: “The Socratic commitment to investigate every aspect of an issue with an open mind, willing always to be instructed by the facts as they emerge.” Accordingly, I embrace liberal arts inquiry, and freely profess my philosophical presuppositions as an evangelical Christian, convinced that all truth is God’s truth.
- Definition of conception: “Prior to it, the sperm and egg are haploid life with no future apart from fertilization, whereupon they unite to form a one-celled zygote which is genetically whole human life. This is our common biological origin. Human life is defined by essence, not achievement.”
- Definition of abortion debate: “The deliberate cutting off of life in the human womb” (Latin: ab- + oriri = to stop from rising).
- Definition of abortion as the ultimate male chauvinism: “A man often flees responsibility by leaving a woman whom he had impregnated. She is alone and often feels no choice but abortion. But in so doing, she merely passes along the chauvinism by treating her child as a piece of disposable property, much as the man treated her. She is twice traumatized: once a victim, once a victimizer. And the man trots along his merry way.”
- Definition of the abortion debate: “A religious war, and nothing less – the conflict between Christian and non-Christian world-views. It is not a question of when life begins, but rather what value we place on embryonic life.” No believer in Jesus Christ can allow for abortion (save the very rare case where a mother’s life is truly in jeopardy).
- Definition of Christian ethics in a pluralistic society: “Our purpose is to participate in the political process as citizens who are also Christian. We will strive to inform and persuade, never to coerce or manipulate. We renounce “holier than thou” attitudes, and have no desire for theocratic rule n this society. We expect no more political freedom than we gladly affirm for citizens of all ideological persuasions who also honor the U.S. Constitution. On this basis, we labor to protect the unborn and their families, convinced it is in society’s best interest. Only on the prior sanctity of human life ethic are we able to address other issues of social justice. And only in Christ can forgiveness be found for those who have had an abortion.”
> A challenge to those who favor legalized abortion: 1) embrace liberal arts inquiry; 2) profess your own philosophical presuppositions; and 3) cite any objections to the above thesis. Then we can truly dialogue and learn.