Emmaus News

August 1998
 

A Friendly Word

Greetings in the Lord,

I was asked to write an article on abortion, which I have reprinted for Emmaus News, somewhat expanded, below.  I am using the abortion issue to get at other deeper issues behind our present failure to uphold and sustain our Godly American heritage.

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The school year is beginning again, and our Ambridge "Year of the Constitution" program hopefully will be adopted by our school system.  A group of Ambridge citizens have suggested to the school superintendent that this school year be declared "the Year of the Constitution", and that K through 12 make a special effort to do special assignments on the nature of our constitutional democratic republic.

The superintendent has agreed that this would be an excellent idea, and will present it to the school board hopefully this month.  He has already done some preparation with his teaching staff.

Our hope is that there will be essays, poster contests, speeches, etc., not only in the school system, but also among the citizens, with town organizations participating.

And, hopefully, discussions and debates will deal with the real issues of the meaning of our constitution, its historic roots, church/state relations, the purpose of separation of powers, the meaning of honest (and dishonest) pluralism, etc.

If they do an honest survey of history, they will run smack into that which we have progressively buried for over a century.  the Biblical foundations upon which America was built.
 
Faithfully in Christ,
Earle Fox
 

Our Reasonable God

Winning for God in the Public Arena

- 1. Into the Public Arena  -

We Christians have been in a losing battle for over 150 years because we have allowed ourselves to be bullied into no longer presenting the claims of Jesus Christ in public.  Or when we do it, we act like we do not know how to make a logical and compelling argument, or as though God did not have such a case.  So we have earned ourselves the reputation for being intellectually deficient, and not really interested in the truth of a matter, only in "getting our way".

We have too often deserved that reputation, and have thereby disgraced the name of God.  God is quite capable of presenting the evidence for His case.  And as He informed Moses at the burning bush, "If you follow Me to Egypt, I will do it through you...."

There are growing signs that Christians are waking up to the disaster we have allowed to happen.  But we have a long way to go to see that we, not the secularists, have been the main problem.  If we use the equipment He has given, we will see remarkable changes all around us.

Winning a spiritual war requires getting our feet on solid Godly ground.  If we let the enemy define our presuppositions for us, we will always be manipulated into a losing position.

That does not mean we should define things "our way" so that "we" can win, but rather that we should insist on the neutral rules of honest debate, just as a football team should insist on the neutrals rule designed for football and a neutral referee to discipline the game.

Christians fighting our current spiritual warfare seldom take seriously the basic rules of honest debate, let alone the basic presuppositions of the Biblical worldview.   We have allowed the enemy (and our own apathy and ignorance) to persuade us to adopt his ground rules for discussion of public policy.

For example, hardly a Christian leader bases his arguments (whether on abortion, education,  government, or sexuality) on the sovereignty of God over all things.  Rather, we hear about "family values" or "traditional values" as the platform on which to stand, perhaps because we think we will attract a larger following, or because we have been cowed and secularized to believe that Christians ought not to bring their religious beliefs into the public fray.

The early Christians had one original creed: "Jesus is Lord!"  God put the Roman Empire into their hands because they stood on that creed.  They did it without lifting a sword, and they did it, just like their Lord, at any cost to themselves.  Can Christians do that today without seeming silly and irrelevant?

Our task is, with spiritual and intellectual integrity, to present what we believe to be the truth.  Sheer honesty requires that we tell people "where we are coming from".  Neither God nor common sense allow for stealth Christians.  We ought to be willing to share at every opportunity the basis for our moral stands, whether in politics, education, or abortion issues.  And the ultimate reason is that "Jesus is Lord."

Republicans and Democrats make speeches sharing their hopes, dreams, and values, yet no one accuses them of "forcing your politics down my throat!" -- even though we know that they are making their speeches to gain the authority of civil law to do precisely that.

God has a political agenda.  God has a specific plan for how the coercive force of civil government will be carried out.  America was founded on the law and grace of God specifically to implement that plan.  Christians thus have an overriding obligation gracefully and honestly to present the plan of God in the public arena.
 

- 2. Abortion: a Case in Point -

Abortion, like education, is a good issue with which to illustrate these principles because both show where the deepest constitutional issues intersect with the opposition between Biblical and secular/pagan worldviews.
Our religious/political values were forcefully spelled out in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men...."

The overriding purpose of  civil government is to secure the rights already granted by God. Thomas Jefferson often reiterated that these rights are beyond the capacity of civil government to abridge or curtail.  Any government which attempts to do so becomes thereby an outlaw government.  William Blackstone, the preeminent English juror of Colonial times, said that any law which violates the law of God is no law at all -- a commonly accepted principle.

Roe v. Wade in 1973, pretending to legitimize abortion, stands therefore contentiously in contradiction to our Constitution, and more important, to the law of God upon which our Constitution stands.  It is thus, as Blackstone said, no law at all.  A government which enforces such laws becomes an outlaw government -- as the government of George III became an outlaw government by tyrannizing over the colonists -- and as has our own, with lethal force tyrannizing over 4000 little lives per day.  Christians should routinely be making this defense of precious life, standing, not cautiously on "family values", but firmly on the law of God.

On paper, we are a constitutional democratic republic.  But, as of 1962 with a previous Court decision, Engel v. Vitale (rejecting the sovereignty of God over our schools and government), America ceased in practical fact to be a constitutional government.  That unhappy fact was illustrated graphically in an abortion-related trial held a year or so ago in Pittsburgh.  The judge agreed with the defendant, Joan Andrews, a pro-life demonstrator, that the fetus was a person, but then said that the law of the land allowed the killing of fetuses, and that he was bound by the law of the land.

If we grant that the judge was sincere, we must still insist that he was incredibly ignorant of the most basic legal principles.  1. The higher law always trumps the lower law.  2. The law of God is higher than any law on earth.
The judge was wrongly defending an outlaw practice.  Congress has passed criminal laws, and the Supreme Court has consistently and vigorously upheld criminal activity.  The law of God trumps the laws of the United States, or any other civil government.  Every government operates under a law higher than itself.
One can admire the courage of Lee McDougal, a Florida officer who replied to an abortionist's request for protection from pro-life demonstrators:

I let him know in no uncertain terms that the only reason he was not prosecuted or arrested for killing babies is because the Supreme Court... has made a decision that baby-killing would be legal in the abortion arena.

McDougal wrote to the abortionist that he would carry out his legal obligations and the anti-abortion protests would be kept within the limits of the law.

MacDougal's was an inadequate and misleading response because it gives away the central point:  Neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has the capacity to remove the right to live from little babies in the womb, nor the capacity to excuse mothers and fathers from their duty to care for their children, even at great cost to themselves.  They do not have the capacity to declare killing babies legal, in the abortion or any other arena.
The judgments of Congress and of the Supreme Court have been  (provably dishonest) acts of treason against God, and acts of brutal tyranny, carried out 4000 times per day, against one third of our pre-born population.

One in three babies in the womb never make it to the light of day because of some specific person's "choice".  The mother's womb has become statistically the most dangerous place in the world for a child to be.  If you make it past the gamut of your mother's "right" to kill you, your chances of survival to old age mount dramatically.

To secure these rights, not to trash them, governments are instituted among men.  To secure the rights already granted by God, and thus untouchable by any human government.

Officer McDougall would have done better to reply with the unimpeachable defense offered by Paul Hill, who is on death row for shooting an abortionist and his body guard:

The unborn child deserves the same protection as a born child.
 

- 3. Winning for God -

The arena where public policy is decided is precisely where the law and grace of God must be put forth as a candidate for public acceptance.  "Family values" will not win the battle.  The law and grace of God, and persons courageous enough to stand on that law and grace, will win the battle.  We lost the battle without a fight when we agreed not to bring our "religious values" into the debate.  We simply cleared the field for secularists to bring in their religious values unopposed.

Christians must never retreat from public expression of Godly viewpoints.  But how do we do that in the present difficult climate?  Every Christian should memorize the following lines in order to discuss volatile issues such as abortion:

You and I are on the opposite sides of the abortion (or whatever) issue.  If the evidence shows that abortion is approved by God, and that it is a healthy kind of activity, then I will stand with you.  But if the evidence shows that God does not approve, or that it is destructive to human life, would you not be willing to reconsider your position?

Elijah challenged his own people on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18): "If baal be God then worship him.  If the Lord be God then worship Him.  Now, let's have an up or down test to see who really is God."  He was willing to put his whole case on whether God could come through.  We need to be Elijahs, willing to let God objectively prove His own case in the contests of our present time.

The pro-abortion person will probably respond that abortion is not a threat to life because the fetus is not a person.  But both the weight of Biblical testimony and the empirical, biological evidence shows precisely the opposite, but one cannot always prove that case in a short spontaneous conversation.  Nevertheless, one can bring the matter quickly to a head by responding:

You, of course, could be correct on that.  And if that proves to be the case, then we should let you folks go about your business because then abortion would not be baby-killing.  But if the evidence should show that the fetus is indeed a person, would that make any difference to your position?

His answer to that question will tell whether you are in an honest discussion.  If evidence and truth will make no difference to him, the discussion is a waste of time, in which case, you might ask: "Why are we having this discussion?  Is it to find the truth? or for some other reason?

Very few people want it to be known that they are not interested in the truth, for they know that they will soon lose support.  So the issue of truth-seeking and the rules for honest discussion ought to be  paramount issue in any contentious discussion.

To present the Lord's case that way, we must be willing to put our position at risk to the evidence just as we would want the "other side" to open up to the possibility that they could be wrong.  Only then do we have the right to ask them to put their position at open risk to the truth.  Only then can truth and the Lord of truth fight to free us from error, whomever's side the error might be on.  We will then no longer be fighting alone and "in the flesh".

The little speech above takes the discussion out the arena of innuendo and manipulation,  and puts it back on the evidence.  It disarms the other side by making oneself vulnerable.  I have used it in abortion and homosexuality discussions, not once without some visibly measurable success in creating honest interchange. It is a major victory just to get the other side to agree to look at the evidence on the matter.

And it relieves Christians of the often well-earned charge of mindlessness and personal bias.

But we must do it first.  Opening up oneself to honest discussion in that manner is the way of the cross -- giving up the right "to be right", and letting truth speak for itself.  If we are wrong, we want to know.

I was once asked whether I thought abortion was "OK".  I replied, "Yes, of course, if it is OK to take someone else's life to solve your problem."  He wanted me to say "yes" without the qualification, and pushed it a little harder: "What if it is a case of rape or incest?"  I replied again, "Yes, if it is OK to take someone else's life to solve your problem."  He looked blank and puzzled, and walked away.

It is a non-hostile way to respond, and puts the burden on the pro-abortionist of justifying what is obviously murder.  It leads him to face his own conscience rather than trying to convert yours.  Responding that way takes a certain kind of "letting go", like Elijah.  The person rarely has a negative response, and usually goes away very pensive.

We can do the same thing with constitutional issues:

I am on the other side of the fence from you on the nature of the constitution and its relation to the Christian faith, but if the evidence shows that your view is more true or righteous or loving than mine, I will stand with you.  On the other hand, if the evidence shows that the Biblical view is more true, righteous, and loving, would you not be willing to reconsider your position?

There are ways of bringing the law and grace of God into the public arena if we are bold enough to insist on honest rules of discussion -- one of which is that all viewpoints have equal opportunity to be tested in the public arena, including the viewpoint of Jesus Christ.
 

- 4. Getting It Together -

Two errors haunt our efforts to be faithful witnesses.

First, we think we have to change someone else's mind, but we (rightly) do not believe that we can.  "Oh, but they will not listen. They will just say....!"

Let them say it.  We are not called to change anyone's mind, only to tell the truth as best we can -- to set people free to change their own minds should they wish to.  We are to set people free to make honest choices, not make up their minds for them.  We do not win by changing peoples' minds, we win by speaking the truth in love as best we can.  The rest is up to God.

Secondly, we think that we are bound by someone else's conscience.  Because someone else thinks it is bad manners to talk about Jesus in public, we believe we should think so also.  Christians have been petrified at the thought of offending someone else's bad conscience about sharing our faith in public.

However, we must act by our own hearing of the voice of God, not someone else's.  If someone else thinks we are silly or out of date, we need to let that be his problem.

Brainwashing, in both the literal and figurative sense, works on our incapacity to stand on our own ground in the Lord, and our need therefore to buy someone else's respect in order to feel secure.  We then become vulnerable to the "spirit of the age", public opinion, and the loudest mouth in earshot.

A large majority of the human race, including Christians, are not capable of standing squarely on truth or for the Lord of truth. We are typically so compromised by our fear of "being wrong" and looking bad, and by our dependency on others for our security, reputation, and sense of worth, that few can stand against the inevitable fallen-world drift toward spiritual, moral, and intellectual insanity.

Christians are bound to behave truthfully, righteously, and lovingly above all persons on earth.  Only in that way can we present the case for the Lord of truth, righteousness, and love.  But on no account should Christians ever fail to present the case that Jesus is Lord.  Christians who have learned how to live the humble way of the cross will have little trouble finding creative ways to present the life-affirming claims of Jesus in the public arena.
 

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Quote of the Month
 
"We are not to attribute this [First Amendment]
prohibition of a national religious establishment to
an indifference to religion in general, and especially to
Christianity (which none could hold in more reverence than
the framers of the Constitution).  Probably... the general, if
not the universal, sentiment in America was that Christianity
ought to receive encouragement from the State."
 
- Joseph Story - 1779-1845
founder of Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice -

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Copyright, Earle Fox 1998