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Directed Force,
Responsible Action,
& Grace,
the Abortionist

F. Earle Fox


A. A Symposium

B. Presuppositions

C. Judicial Vigilantism

D. Violence: Begetting or Begotten?

E. The Logic of Personal Worth

F. Just Deserts

G. Living by Grace

H. The "Right" vs. the "Obligation"

I. What if...?

J. Trusting and Obeying

K. Vigilance, Law, and Grace

L. Reflections


[This article, as with Homosexuality: Good & Right in the Eyes of God?, and many others, is a theology-in-the-trenches piece.  The principles given here for arguing the case can be adapted to almost any discussion, especially those about politics.  E. Fox]

- A -

a Symposium

        The shooting of an abortionist and his body guard in Florida, 1994, by Paul Hill acting, as he believed, on Christian principles, inspired a symposium in First Things magazine(Dec. 94). The topic badly needs clear and righteous thinking, but the discussion, all by pro-life leaders, was, to put it kindly, disappointing -- as most veered away from the confronting issue --
Hill stated his defense for the killing:

"Whatever force is legitimate in defending a born
child is legitimate in defending an unborn child."

     Very few would quarrel with the principle that an attack on a born child merits whatever reasonable and effective coercive force is necessary to protect that child. Hill offered a basis upon which he could be challenged and shown to be wrong (a rare bit of courtesy). It did not appear that anyone successfully disproved his principle.  Most in the symposium did not even seriously attempt to do so.  (A fairly common bit of discourtesy.)   Here was a fellow Christian on trial for his life, and First Things would not give his primary defense the courtesy of an honest engagement. 

     This essay is about the taking of life: the lives of millions of innocent babies in the womb, the lives of the abortionists who kill the babies, and the lives of those who kill abortionists. 

     Understanding such issues requires being undergirded with a knowledge and an ability to give one's life.  Knowing how to kill well requires knowing how to live (to grow, to heal, and to nurture) well and how to die well.  They all three go together.  They are all part of our life in Christ.  Issues such as those raised by Paul Hill and First Things force us to these concerns.  We will face them openly and honestly, or they will force us to compromise our own selfhood in Christ. 

- B -


The following five principles I believe to be the basis for clarity of thought on the matter of killing abortionists.

(1) Only God can establish an obligation, an "ought", or a morality -- a fact which has consequences largely unnoticed even by Christians.  It entails that all law not based on the law of God is devoid of obligation to be obeyed -- because only God can obligate another being.  Only with God can right make might.  Laws not based on the law of God are only arbitrary rules enforced by the "strong man", not by moral obligation.  And then the reverse -- might pretends to make right, producing the illusion of obligation.

If we are to obey unrighteous laws of unrighteous rulers, it is not because the unrighteous ruler has himself a right to be obeyed, but only because (and to the extent that) God requires obedience for the common safety.  No law of God can be superseded by any law of man.  (See William Blackstone.)

(2) Coercive law, both civil and criminal, is established (1) to limit, tame, and make reasonable the use of coercion by individuals or groups within the whole, and (2) to distinguish between those moral obligations which ought to be coercively enforced and those moral obligations which are best left to personal, public, moral, and religious persuasion to enforce, or, as some put it, obligations which God Himself will enforce.

Because only God can establish an obligation, proper law is always legislation of morality, an application and administration of the obligations first given to us by God. Some of those obligations are not properly enforced coercively (the obligation to be polite, to feed the hungry, to worship God, etc.).  Others are (the obligation not to murder, to honor contracts, pay our bills, etc.).  We generally hold those to be coercively enforceable which deal with the preservation of the basic fabric of life and society, that is, which protect life, justice, and the common ground of equal opportunity.

Civil and criminal law are therefore logically subsections of a prior, higher, and wider moral law, that is, the general will of God.  Administration of the law of God relies on a covenant relationship among "self-governing" individuals, those who have first submitted themselves to God because only such people are objectively under a moral bond. Human law not based on the law of God, and having thus no authority of moral obligation for obedience, is cast back solely onto force or threat of force for its sanctions.

(3) Civil government is inherently (and rightly) coercive, i.e. (in a sense) violent. Civil government has by nature a near monopoly on coercive force. It is not, as commonly assumed, a friendly "Uncle Sam" who by nature looks out for our welfare.

We install government precisely to enforce compliance of those moral principles which we deem rightly so enforced. The compliance is enforced, as it were, at gunpoint (threat of fines, imprisonment, death). The violence does not often become obvious because most of us, especially in a democratic republic, already agree to the laws and their enforcement -- because we had a part in writing the laws.  So the gun is not normally drawn.

This understanding of the violent nature of civil government prompted the American founding fathers to severely limit and tie down the federal government with the chains of the Constitution, primarily by a division of powers through checks, balances, and dispersion. Any institution which is invested with coercive power will attract persons driven by lust for power -- concerning which God made note long before the American founding fathers (I Samuel 8).

(4) There are three fundamental jurisdictions: family, church, and civil. This tripartite form of government is not expressed in Scripture as political theory because the Hebrews expressed very little at all theoretically.  But it is there in practice, and represents the beginnings of the dispersion and division of powers which centuries later would become the basis of democratic-republican government under God.

Each of these jurisdictions is independent from the other in the sense that it receives its authority from God, not from one of the others. None of the three may intrude on the other's domain excepting for overriding reasons, that is, unless the safety and protection of a person or of the whole is threatened by mismanagement in the other. Each of the three is independent of the other, but all three are under the higher sovereignty of God, and obliged in that manner to work together for the common good.

 Because government has a practical monopoly on coercive force, the effective sovereignty of the people over government will survive if and only if the people themselves stand on the higher authority of God and elect only those who themselves are submitted to the law of God.

(5) There is no substantial evidence that life begins at any point other than conception. Taken as a whole, the evidence is clear and unambiguous. The fetus in the womb is a person in the ontological and legal sense referred to by the Declaration of Independence, possessing "unalienable" rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are unalienable because they are endowed by their Creator, not by any jurisdiction on earth. All earthly jurisdictions are obliged to protect and uphold those rights.

The primary duty of coercive government is to maintain equality before the law in the public arena and to protect the freedom to equal access and equal opportunity for all citizens. For that purpose coercive force is rightly directed.  It is right to use coercive force to protect the opportunity and freedom of the unborn baby to see the light of day. But coercive law must be severely limited to those moral obligations appropriate to coercive enforcement: protection of life, equal opportunity, and justice (there may be others).

* * *

These principles were generally the basis of law as understood by our founding fathers. The founding fathers relied in part upon certain philosophers from the early (and only mildly radical) Enlightenment period who supported similar ideas, i.e., Montesquieu, Locke, and Pufendorf. These three were the contemporary authorities most often quoted by the founding fathers from their writings on political theory, comprising among them about 16% of the founders' total references to "outside" thinkers on political theory. These principles lie therefore at the foundation of American common law.

It is worth noting that the total Enlightenment references comprised 22% of the total, garnering only 6% more from the later more radical writers. And many of those references were to disapprove of, not to find support from. The Enlightenment, insofar as that was a Godless or humanist enterprise, did not contribute significantly to the thinking of the American War for Independence or to the establishing of a new constitution.  The aspect of the Enlightenment which did attract the American thinkers was the (very Biblical) attempt to give reason its proper place.

The overall authority most appealed to by the founding fathers was Scripture, in particular the book of Deuteronomy.  A remarkable 34% of all their references on political theory were to Scriptural sources.  That fact solidly supports Scripture as a part of American common law -- that is, it points to and supports the sovereignty of God as the constitutional basis of American law.

- C -

Judicial Vigilantism

It is asserted that Paul Hill's vigilante action violates the integrity of America as a law-abiding, due-process-following nation. Let us consider the substance of such a statement.

In 1962 (Engle v. Vitale), the US Supreme Court told God that He could no longer talk to our children in tax-funded schools, and our children that they could no longer talk to Him. Prayer in government-run schools was (illegally) declared illegal.  The Court thereby in an official act of government dismissed God as our sovereign, violating the covenant constitution which the people of the United States understood themselves in 1789 to be approving between themselves, the government, and God.  As a nation we are no longer His people, He is no longer our God (our government tells us).  

That was an act of legal and spiritual violence against the American people, divesting them, without a shot being fired, of the legitimacy of their government (see What is Biblical Government).  

Most of us, including myself, stood around and said nothing -- not in the name of truth, but in ignorance, or worse, the name of an irrational pseudo-pluralism.  We could not look eleven years down the road to Roe v. Wade and the consequent silent holocaust -- which is now (inevitably) becoming unsilent.

We no longer consider ourselves under the only sovereign which can give any government its authority to obligate other human beings to obedience.  That makes the government of the United States an outlaw government which has lost its right to rule.  That rebel status has been reasserted and confirmed over and again by further Court decisions, e.g., forbidding the reading (or the display) of the Ten Commandments.  Engle v. Vitale was not about prayer, it was about the sovereignty of God and the Supreme Court wanting to usurp the God-role.  It was soon coming.

When in 1973 the Court gave us Roe v. Wade, it established itself in a tyrannical manner as the decider between life and death of a class of persons, all those in the womb, implicitly telling us that it, the Court, has in itself the authority of God to decide who is a person and who is not.  A whole class of human beings were declared non-persons and therefore disposable at will.  We have, it must be said, a vigilante, renegade, and outlaw Supreme Court.

It was not that the justices asked God and misunderstood His answer.  They felt neither need nor obligation to ask at all.  The justices thought they could become creators of morality rather than discerners of it, or at least wanted the rest of us to believe they could.  They dismissed God and took His role for themselves.

Since that time, we have been systematically killing at will by brutal dismemberment or poisoning approximately 1.5 million babies a year, 4000 a day.  Nearly one third of our babies die painfully in their mother's wombs, making the mother's womb, the archetypal symbol of comfort and safety, the most dangerous place in the world for a child to be.

Never before in human history has the merciless slaughter of human life proceeded at such a pace.  America has the highest infant mortality rate in the world, with the major cause of death being violent abuse by fathers, mothers, and doctors.  The figures are so staggering that we retreat into denial: "This cannot mean what it seems to mean."  And all this is done with the sanction of a government which, outside of ancient Israel, began as the most self-consciously Biblically based nation at any time in human history.  One must assume that America has been targeted by Satan himself. 

This loss of Godly moral objectivity has led to the collapse of moral sanction into coercive force, so that inherently coercive government takes over by default the Godly role of Moral-Decider.  Unchecked might has decided that it makes right.  The distinction collapses between general morality and those special moral obligations in need of coercive enforcement.  The tyranny of Big Brother is the inevitable consequence.  Coercive force becomes increasingly wedded to all morality, precisely what a socialist state tends toward in its effort to produce, not equal opportunity, but equal results.

We are no longer a nation under God, and, as a result, we are no longer a nation of due process.  A whole class of persons who have no audible voice is denied the due process we pretend to follow.  The baby in the womb will receive no protection of constitutional law in our courts.  We are therefore not a nation of due process, we are a tyranny.  The fact that the institutions of due process limp along pretending only helps maintain our self-deception.

The Supreme Court, nevertheless, is constitutionally (both legally and logically) incapable of deciding what is legitimate and what is not.  The first step therefore in sorting out what is legitimate directed force is the restoration of God to His rightful sovereignty in our political thinking and action.

One asks, then: How bad do things have to get before we declare our government to be out of order, that it has tyrannically usurped power, and that it must either repent or be itself dismissed from sovereignty over us?

This, the reader no doubt will recall, was the basis of King George's dismissal via the Declaration of Independence.  He had, the Continental Congress "declared", broken the covenant of rulership between himself, the colonials, and God.  The government of the United States is not a law-abiding government, it is an illegal and renegade government.  It has deceitfully tampered with our Constitution, it has declared a class of people to be non-human, and it has in effect declared itself to be above the law, not abiding by it.  As one justice said, "The Constitution means what the Supreme Court says it means."  The public must conclude that the justice in question was either monumentally ignorant, or he was lying.  

Or as another court put it, an abortion is indeed the killing of a person, but -- it is nevertheless a "legal execution".

Any legal mind knows that there is no such thing as a "legal" (i.e., legitimate) execution without due process for the person at risk.  A baby who is convicted of no crime is summarily executed.  If that is not tyranny, what else needs to be added to make it so?  No court, no executive, no legislature in the world can grant the right of summary execution without due process.  We, the people of the United States, could fall into such an illusion only because we no longer listen to God on the subject.  The force of law is now set to allow murder at will. 

And, what recourse is there, then, for a man who sees a paid assassin on his way to do his work?

- D -

Violence: Begetting or Begotten...?

Violence begets violence.  It will be rightly said that those who take the law into their own hands are often the imbalanced, deranged, and paranoid -- who feel their pathological drive toward violence has now been given justification by the evil they see.  It will be rightly said that there may be a spate of killings by persons who have no serious interest in justice for the baby, but who operate out of their own sin or sickness.  That is precisely how violence begets violence.  Those who are deranged spiritually, morally, and psychologically react irrationally, sometimes to real evils.

What, then, can one conclude from that?  Precisely what has already been said: violence begets violence. Criminal behavior by the courts and others entrusted with maintaining justice outrages the conscience of the people, prompting them to take back their sovereignty from the government, to take the law back into the very hands which originally bestowed it.

Vigilante violence, in other words, is already being promoted on a scale diminishing any action of Mr. Hill's into insignificance.  Is not declaring "open season" on pre-born babies a license to vigilante violence? Government runs by threat of (and if necessary, actual) violence.  That is the nature of government.  But when government turns legitimately directed violence to unGodly ends, it is the right and duty of citizens to resist a clear and present evil.

The violence of the Paul Hills is thus as much the begettee as the begetter.  Paul Hill's violence was begotten by the prior violence of the Supreme Court, the abortionist, and the men and women who choose to have their babies killed.  It is profoundly dishonest to treat the recent abortionist killings as though they were unprovoked. The Hill's of the world cannot be relieved of their own moral accountability for their behavior (and the honest ones would not want to), but the begetting of violence needs to be put in its proper historical perspective.

We rightly note the instability of some abortionist killers.  But if we were to run a spiritual, moral, and emotional check on abortionists themselves, on fathers and mothers who get abortions, or indeed on Supreme Court justices, the results would surely be disturbing.  But these pathologies, whatever they may be, have found their justification -- under cover of law.

It may be that Hill and others are acting out of sinful or pathological traits.  But the legal issue remains: it was certainly homicide, was it justifiable homicide?  Is Hill's defense true that, "Whatever force is legitimate in defending a born child is legitimate in defending an unborn child"?  The moral and legal issues need to be faced independently of alleged personal pathologies.

Tragically, war has been declared on the government of the United States.  We may be past the time when abortion clinics can be closed down peacefully, because those who consider themselves more rational and compassionate and law-abiding than Hill will not risk discomfort to put, if not their bodies, at least their words, votes, and letters-to-editors between the abortionist and the babies.  Outrageous behavior begetting outraged consciences may have catapulted us into trial by combat -- unless Godly law and order is soon restored to government.

- E -

The Logic of Personal Worth

All the pro-life writers in the First Things symposium acknowledged the baby in the womb to be a person, not undifferentiated protoplasm waiting to be a person.  But few were willing to follow that fact to its logical conclusion, suggesting reservations in their minds about the full personhood of those babies slated for death that day.

If that abortionist had been on his way, uzzi in hand, to take the lives of all the children in a given school building rather than in a given womb, every righteous person in town would have set out to intercept that man, armed with whatever weapon they could lay hands on.  Why was not every able-bodied man in the city standing shoulder to shoulder outside the abortion clinic?  Were there not ten righteous men in the city?

It is empty for us to say that, because the Supreme Court has said so, the children in the womb deserve no protection of law, and if necessary, of the combined volunteer citizenry, as do the children in the school.  The Supreme Court has ruled in contradiction to, and in rebellion against, the law of God, which stands above any human law.

If there was no other effective way to preserve the life of those children than to take the life of the would-be assassin, then by the above reasoning, Mr. Hill is not guilty of any crime punishable by law.  He acted in defense of other persons whom he and everyone else had overwhelming and substantial reason to believe were going to be killed that day by the abortionist.

Mr. Hill, assuming his motives were righteous, was not acting as judge, jury, and executioner, as is said, any more than I would be if I killed an intruder coming at my children with butcher knives and poison.  Talk about waiting for a trial is irrelevant when the criminal is in the act of performing his deed.  The issue was not the guilt or innocence of the abortionist, that is known.  It was about protecting the lives of pre-born babies.  The issue was not about punishing the abortionist for his past killings (which were never in doubt), it was about his clear and stated intention to continue taking more lives.  The issue is the overriding duty to preserve innocent and defenseless life.

Our courts have "established" the principle that it is right for one person to take the life of another for his or her own convenience.  How, then, can the courts not allow Mr. Hill the same right to abort the abortionist -- on the abortionist's own grounds that the abortionist presents a problem in Mr. Hill's life, causing extreme anxiety, etc., etc.?

The logic of those who deny personhood to a fetus assumes the fetus to be only "potentially" a person, something waiting to become a person, e.g., on the grounds that the fetus is not "viable", i.e., cannot survive on its own outside the mother's womb.

From God's point of view, viability is attained, not when we are born, i.e., not the first time, but the second time. We are not capable of becoming adults (free and independent in the world) until our dependency and obedience are invested in God, that is, we become children of God. Our lives then become "viable", i.e. eternal -- independent of the circumstances around us because they are in the hand of the Lord of the circumstances.  We have been, as we say, "born again".  To become a viable adult (independent in the world), we must first, as a matter of logic, become children of (dependent on) God.

So, the abortionist, unless he was indeed trusting and obeying God, was not yet viable, and still unable to survive apart from the circumstances of the world around him.  He, supporters of abortion must therefore argue, would not qualify for protection under the constitution.  He is merely a bit of protoplasm waiting to become a person, and therefore dispensable.  And, being a cause of anxiety and distress to Hill, was rightly "aborted".

Michael Kinsley writes in TIME magazine that "The logic of Paul Hill... may be insane, but it is more consistent than the logic of those who share all of Hill's premises but reject his conclusions."  That is precisely the issue I raise in this article concerning our pro-life leadership.  So we ask, Whose logic is indeed insane?

We have become callous to the massive abortion figures because we do not hear the cries of the babies in the womb.  One audible cry would change every heart that heard it -- or at least every mind and heart that was still open to the possibility of love, compassion, and truth.

Do two evils make a good?  Of course not.  But taking a life is not in every instance evil, certainly not in Scripture.  We are with largely becalmed consciences freely taking the lives of 4000 innocent babies a day.  Why, then, does taking the life of a man who clearly deserves to die become an outrage to our sense of due process and vigilantism?

We are, of course, afraid of the supposed chaos which killing abortionists would bring upon us.  But the chaos is already upon us.  We already have a chaotic civil government, routinely trashing the document it swears to defend and uphold, routinely manipulating the economy for its own power and greed, routinely subverting Biblical faith wherever it can find it.  We already have chaos in the all-but-destroyed consciences of the public which can no longer reason its way out of a wet paper bag, nor stand up and defend its own faith.  We already have a chaotic Body of Christ which can speak with a single voice on no issue of substance at all.  That already-chaos is why we already have abortion today. 

- F -

Just Deserts

The abortionist deserves to die.  We Christians posture with quotations about how we all fall short of the glory of God and how in the sight of God we deserve the death that we gave Jesus.  But we really do not believe that. If we did, when any person got shot, we would remember -- he only got what he deserved.  Instead we react, often enough, "This good person did not deserve that...!" 

The abortionist deserves to die, not because of any "spiritualized" theory of human guilt.  He is daily making his living by acts which are as guilty as any human being can perform -- the deliberate killing for hire of innocent and defenseless human lives.  Is anyone seriously debating those facts?  Yet we find ourselves paralyzed by a "legal" decision from a judicial system that is itself lawless because it no longer considers itself under any law higher than itself.

How one deals with the fact of the abortionist's deserts may be debated, but we ought to be saying very clearly and as loudly as need be, that he deserves to die.  He is unrepentantly for personal gain pursuing despicable deeds. We ought not to soften that message in the least on the grounds that someone might wrongly take it into his own hands to take the life of a dedicated assassin.  We lose our moral voice because we are afraid of the consequences of speaking the truth.

A man who deserves to die ought indeed to live in fear that someone, maybe even God, might take that fact seriously.  He ought to be thinking, "Someone might shoot me if I do this!"  It might lead him to repent.  That is part of the fear of the Lord which is just the beginning of wisdom.  How have we come to the conclusion that a man should have peace of mind about committing murder?  A man who deserves to die has lost the right to protection against those who seek vengeance.  That is the meaning of "deserves to die".   If he will not change his wicked behavior out of honest repentance, it is better that he change it out of fear than not change it at all.

- G -

Living by Grace

If the abortionist deserves to die, then he ought to remain living by the grace of God and of ourselves, not by our cowardice in dealing with the truth of the matter openly and frankly.  If he lives, it ought to be because we love him, not because we fear speaking truth.  If we love both him and the baby, we will speak truth to him, put our bodies between him and the victim, and force him to deal with the consequences of his behavior.

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, understands ultimate punishment and death.  He will say to some, who will certainly feel violently misused, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire..., for as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me."  4000 per day of the least of these.

Capital punishment is wrong, I believe, because it is wrong to take the life of one who has been captured and subdued.  But I do not believe it wrong, it is not murder, to take the life of a man on his way to murder innocent persons when there is no other reasonable means by which those lives might be saved.  Godly government is not a rejection of violence, it is bringing violence under the direction and control of God and for His purposes.

We do not then call it violence, we call it directed force.  That is why we have the police and military, into whose hand God has put the sword.  In a Godly democratic republic, coercive force is under the authority and control of God through the people and through their elected representatives.  That is why the commander-in-chief of the military is a civilian, not himself a military man.  As well as a civilian, he ought also to be a Godly man.

Therefore when the government itself unjustly directs the use of force, violating rather than protecting the lives and freedom of citizens, it is the right and duty of the citizens to respond to protect the innocent and to change the government -- if necessary by Godly directed force, as per our Declaration of Independence.  Coercive force of government must be brought back under the authority and purpose of God.  The last resort of that is Godly directed force by the people.  

That is the issue currently being fought out concerning the Second Amendment establishing the right of citizens to bear arms, the primary constitutional purpose of which was not to protect the right to target-shoot or hunt, or even to defend against robbers, but to protect against an unjustly coercive government.  Arms among the citizenry is part of the dispersal and separation of powers required for the preservation of a democratic republic and the rebuke of tyranny.  Coercive force is rightly in the hands of the citizen because total government monopoly on coercive force would be a sure magnet for the power-hungry in any society.

Bringing government back to justice is also the point of "jury nullification" (just recently - August 2012 - clarified as legal in New Hampshire), the right of a trial jury to judge both the facts of a case (guilty or not guilty?) and the laws under which the accused is brought to trial (are these laws appropriate to promote justice in this case?).  The jury at Hill's trial, for example, could possibly have ruled that the laws under which he was being prosecuted did not lead to justice in the given situation, and on those grounds acquitted him, as happened prior to the War Between the States in cases tried under the Dred Scott decision.

It is reported that the judge forbade Hill to give as a defense his intent to protect the lives of other human beings.  If true, that is additional evidence that Americans can no longer count on due process when accused.  The jury should then have voted to free Hill on the grounds of mistrial and reprimanded the judge for interference with a defendant's right to give his testimony.

The trial by a jury of peers and the right of citizens to be bear arms are both a last and final constitutional protection against usurpation of authority by an unjust and unGodly government.  But they will work only if the citizens, with all of the appropriate precautions, are willing to take responsible action under God as sovereign judges of right and wrong when those with civil jurisdiction persistently abuse their authority.

- H -

The "Right" vs. the "Obligation"

It is one thing to say that Hill was not guilty of murder, that he had the legal right to do what he did.  It is quite another to say that he ought to have killed the abortionist.  Those are two different issues.  Murder is a matter to be judged under coercive law, whereas the "oughtness" is to be judged also in the wider framework which includes the non-coercive will of God.  Even though justifiable homicide is not a crime, it may be not what God wanted Hill to do.  It may be that Paul Hill should have put his own body, not a bullet, in the way between the abortionist and the baby.  It may be that God was asking Hill, not to kill the abortionist, but to make his own body a living sacrifice.  And in killing the abortionist he may be guilty of sin, with which he will have to reckon before God.

But that is a matter which neither I can decide, nor which can be made the subject of criminal, i.e., coercive, law.  Hill was violating no right the abortionist had not already forfeited by his own openly declared, impending, unrepentant, violent, mercenary action against innocent life.  The abortionist deserves under coercive law to die, so, given the breakdown of due process to protect the innocent, no one who takes the life of the intentional murderer, seeking to protect the intended victims, can be legitimately punished for taking it.

But the way of grace, the cross life, can lay down, when appropriate, what it has a right to do under coercive law.   The way of grace might say to the murderers, I love you as well as your intended victim.   In that sense, mercy might be thought to triumph over judgment.  The cross life thus cannot be required by coercive law, even though it may be required by God.  Because self-sacrifice is a freewill offering, Hill thus cannot be legally convicted of not sacrificing himself.

Furthermore, it might be that taking the life of the murderer is in fact the merciful thing to do, given the overall situation.  Punishment can be more merciful than an unwise soft-heartedness. 

Maundy Thursday is so-called because at the Last Supper Jesus gave His disciples a "new commandment" (to "love one another as I have loved you"), thus updating the second great commandment (to love our neighbor as ourselves).  The new commandment is in the fullest sense a commandment, but under non-coercive law.  We rightfully coerce people to yield to others in the public arena equal opportunity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (a behavior), but we cannot coerce them to love the others (a motive).  Coercive law brings order out of chaos, creating the framework within which love and grace can flourish.  Yet it does not coerce that love or grace. 

But the disciples of Jesus do not have a morally unrestricted choice in the matter because the commandment and hence obligation to love hold even without coercive sanctions for disobedience.

In taking the life of the abortionist, Hill is therefore guilty of no crime punishable by civil or criminal law.  Whether he was obedient to God in the higher sense is a another matter not under the jurisdiction of civil or criminal courts.

The choice for obedient children of God, when confronted with the raw evil of impending assassination, may lie between putting a bullet or our bodies between the assassin and his victim.  Or there might be other right choices to which God is leading us.  In all cases the true children of God will say, as in every age, "Jesus, not civil government, is Lord, and we will, at any cost to ourselves, conform our actions to that fact."

But the Godly option will never be the one most of us are taking, to ignore what is happening all around us.  "In as much as you failed to protect one of the least of these...., you have done it to Me."

- I -

What if...?

Public reaction against Paul Hill and others who have taken the lives of abortionists rests largely on the assumption that due process is being thereby violated, and that therefore such vigilante action will only promote further violence.  That assertion has a strong plausibility at first hearing, but in reality little substantial reasoning is offered to justify such a statement.

Violence indeed tends to beget violence.  But if the above reasoning is valid, then the problem is not violence per se, but violence not under the rule of Godly law, that is, violence that detracts from rather than adds to the ultimate purpose of God -- to create a kingdom in which we love Him and one another. Godly directed violence is like a surgeon's scalpel.  What would appear to damage may in fact be healing.  Rightly directed force. 

This writer suspects that the almost instant concern and sometimes horror encountered at the suggestion that it might not be wrong to kill abortionists has more to do with the hearer not having grappled with his or her own untamed violence, not having submitted the decision of life and death fully to God, and not having understood the real connection between law and grace -- than it does with the facts or logic of the case.

What if, for example, Paul Hill had been acquitted rather than sentenced to die twice in the electric chair? What would have been the consequences?

There might have indeed been more killings of abortionists.  But there would certainly be a sudden dearth of practicing abortionists to kill.  And there would be thousands of babies alive that would have been scheduled for merciless and inhumane slaughter.  A small number of people perhaps dead who deserve to be, and a very large number of babies alive who have the God-given right to be.

Consequences from there on would depend on how our spiritual leaders, government, and media handled the situation.  If they would interpret the matter as I have suggested, if they would repent and seek to return our government to the rule of God, the consequences from there on would be a massive decline in violence of all sorts.  When we take responsibility for something like violence rather than excuse ourselves and have someone else take care of it, we look at it very differently.  If we were to say, "We will not tolerate the killing of innocent life!" and if we were to put our voices, our votes, and our bodies in a place that said we meant business, there would be kindled a spiritual renewal far more charismatic than anything of the last decades, a renewal rooted in open, honest, and public obedience to God.

On the other hand, if our public spokesmen continue to avoid truth and talk about everything but the real issues (the sovereignty of God and the protection of life), if they continue to foment rebellion against God by treating Him as a public non-entity, if they yet again fall victim to someone's "victim" syndrome, then there will surely be an escalation of ugly and unGodly violence.

The breakdown of the legitimate sovereignty of the people, through their own ignorance of the law of God, is the original "violence" that is begetting further violence.  The breakdown may unhappily deteriorate to the point where the only cure for unGodly violence is Godly directed force.  We have sown the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.

But the responsibility falls first to those who know that Jesus is indeed Lord, for only under His sovereignty will life really be protected.  It is believers who have the least excuse from responsible action, and it is therefore to us that God will first come in judgment.

- J -

Trusting and Obeying

What if it could be shown that God really had told Paul Hill to kill the abortionist?  Would we be willing to submit to that decision?  Or would we still keep that decision for ourselves?

American culture can hardly imagine such a possibility, and perhaps considers even the imagining of such a thing as a sign of derangement.  We can ask equally whether God told the judge to sentence Hill to die twice in the electric chair. Would God say such a thing?  And if not, is not the judge as guilty of murder as Hill?

We will tolerate almost any level of evil if we can buffer ourselves from responsibility for it by giving it the cloak of government approval.  But we quiver when the responsibility for an unpleasant action knocks on our own door.

The primary and basic question is not whether to kill abortionists.  The question is: Who makes that determination and judgment?  Letting God make the decision is the issue at stake.  Only then will a righteous judgment be made.  We take over from God when we do not trust (or agree with) His judgment.  We want to lock God into a legalism that we control, and then disclaim responsibility by saying that government said it was OK.

We have stopped listening to God for direction because those who said they spoke for God have so often been unable to agree on what He said.  So at the political and judicial level we no longer consider what God says to be relevant.

But the alternative to seeking the will of God is to be submitted to the will of someone who wants to play the role of God, i.e., submitted to tyranny, in the present case of the judicial system.  If one has to choose for reliability and clarity on the nature of justice and mercy -- between what God has said in Christ and what the Supreme Court has given us, is there any question?

It may on occasion be difficult to discern what God is saying, but that is nevertheless the task before us.  It is better to mistake the will of God than to ignore it.  One is at least, as they say, in the ballpark, leaving open the possibility of justice.  To ignore God is to condemn ourselves to sure and certain incapacity for justice.

God is speaking to all of us.  Whenever God speaks, He does so with absolute sovereign authority.  His present word to us is no less sovereign than His past word to Moses.  But we each hear at our own level.  Those who are deranged or in rebellion hear one way, those who are still at the level of law hear another, and those who have chosen to pick up their crosses and follow Jesus will hear a third way.  Why is it surprising that some hear God saying to do violent acts when justice from every other quarter is failing for 3000+ babies a day?

Our confusion of hearing forces us to lean on abstract, general laws rather than specific words from God. We try to discern general and objective principles by which to judge particular claims to having heard God.  We use Scripture and the Christian "common law" tradition to help discern whether or not a word is from God.  But whatever God is in fact saying carries the total sovereign authority of God.  The question is not whether God is speaking to us, the question is how in our community responsibilities we can distinguish between true and false prophets.

It is possible, when government rebels against God, when due process has been perverted, when the people have retreated into privatism or pietism, when God's own people have deserted the way of the cross for the way of comfort so justice cannot happen peacefully, that God might indeed tell someone to take violent action.  The killers of abortionists may not be at the pinnacle of spiritual life, but they may be far ahead of the many who do nothing at all, hiding behind the facade of a collapsed and tyrannical "due process".  It is possible that God would prefer a lesser justice to be had than no justice at all, or for injustice to continue unchecked.  It may be that we have to climb the spiritual ladder out of the chaos into which we have fallen, back into law, and then into grace -- all over again.

The task of civil law is to implement, administer, and interpret the law of God for His people insofar as that is under coercive sanction.  If God cannot speak to us in an intelligible way such that public policy can be based on His word, then the sovereignty of God is a myth.  The ability of secular/pagan forces to convince Christians of the unreliability of God's speaking has been the monumental coup of the last four centuries.

The task of Christians then is first to listen to God for what we are to do, and then to submit to God our decisions, especially and above all the decision of life and death.  God will not require any act that is unjust or unloving.  We are to testify unceasingly that Jesus is Lord, and that He alone is able show justice in a seamless union with mercy.  Violence comes for the most part when the law, which is the backbone of love, collapses in rebellion and in failure of nerve.  Both the backbone and the love are a gift of grace.

It is our independent judgment that cannot be trusted, not God's. If God really is God, then the only rational response is to trust and obey what we hear Him saying, remaining open to correction as we go.  In the light of Biblical revelation and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is not irrational or irreverent to raise hard and honest questions, as did Job and just about everybody else of note in Scripture, but it is irrational, irreverent, and fatally stupid to declare our personal judgments on those questions superior to His.

- K -

Vigilance, Law, & Grace

For several generations most Americans have not been directly exposed to raw violence so that we are easily tempted to rationalize away its presence and live in denial of harsh reality.  Our moral perception has become addicted to a comfortable and riskless lifestyle so that we cannot see evil for what it is and are paralyzed from dealing with it. 

We purchase that illusion of comfort and safety only at the cost of putting all coercive force into the hands of that institution which, by a large margin, has violated the norms of civilization more than any other -- centralized civil government, i.e., tyranny in one of its many forms (see www.hawaii.edu/powerkills ).  No institution has created more havoc among human beings, and no institution has been more clever at reinventing itself as the savior of us all.  As noted by G. K. Chesterton, "Once abolish God, and the government becomes the god."  Civil government becomes a god unchecked by the law and grace of God. 

It is proper to create margins of safety against danger to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  But we have erected margins of safety against responsible action.  We want not only to be safe from evil, we want also, and wrongly, to be safe from having to deal with it -- two different things.  We want someone else to pull the switch on the electric chair, we want someone else to kill the animals we enjoy eating, to circumcise our children, to operate surgically -- not merely because we appreciate their skills, but, sometimes, because we do not want to be saddled with responsible action.

Yet the eternal vigilance required for the preservation of freedom is precisely an instant willingness to confront evil and to defend good, a willingness to wield the sword of the Spirit, and sometimes the sword of steel.  In this age of pseudo-feminization, we find it difficult to imagine ourselves wielding that sword of the original sovereignty of the children of God.  Our personal sovereignty under God implies also our personal responsibility for action.  When civil authorities violate their responsibilities, then that original personal sovereignty, partially yielded to civil government, must be asserted (as indicated by our Declaration of Independence).

Big Government, ruled by persons playing God, is happy to step in and take that role for an America which has lost its moral backbone because we no longer consider the voice of God publicly significant.  So we now expect Big Government both to supply our morality and to enforce it for us.  In God's version, He supplies the morality, and we, the people, enforce the civil and criminal law aspects of it through a covenant Constitution with elected representatives.

We have a "practicing universalism" which tells us that no one is to be cut off (unless they are so small as not yet to be capable of the now popular "victim" act).  God, in whom there is no split between justice and mercy, tells us that there is a final decree -- a division of the sheep and the goats which is both just and loving, because in the final analysis we get precisely what we ask for (described in C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce).

But taking our part in the responsibility for just judgment is what we as a people have been persuaded to abandon.  In a democratic republic, the original jurisdiction falls on "we the people", not on the Supreme Court.  And when the Court, or any part of civil government, violates the covenant under which it functions, it is the right and duty of the citizens under God to set the government straight, and to ensure that justice is done, especially the protection of the weak and helpless.

"We, the people of the United States" have failed in our vigilance "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity...."  We the people are killing one fourth of our Posterity.  We the people have failed largely because the Church has failed in its constitutional role to teach the public responsibilities of Christians, so well understood by the founding fathers and taught by the Presbyterians (chiefly) during the War for Independence.

For our contemporary "feel good" Christianity, living by grace means "being nice" to one another.  "Collegiality precedes truth", we hear said.  That can never be true.   Truth-seeking precedes everything else, so that we can have a true collegiality. 

We have little Godly sense of grace because we have little Godly sense of law and responsibility.  Grace apart from law and responsibility is fraudulent sentimentality.  Law is not the ladder by which we mount the wall of grace, which we can then kick away once on top.  Law is the essential foundation upon which grace stands.  Grace has no meaning apart from law.  (See Law & Grace in Imago Dei. )  Mercy is required only where justice has been violated.

How can we, in the perverseness of our legal system, and of our compromised moral attitude, kill the two innocent parties, the babies and their protectors -- yet allow and protect the guilty to continue their butchery.  When truth becomes "relative" (and therefore able to be manipulated), truth will soon become forbidden.  Truth was forbidden in the trial of Paul Hill.   We speak against and arrest those who protect the smallest of the innocent as though they were creating a violent society.  We already have a violent society -- and we protect that violence.  We just hide the violence politely behind abortionist walls.  Any citizen can go and stand within a hundred feet or so from the place where human beings are being mercilessly slaughtered, as though that were different from the gas chambers of Buchenwald or Auschwitz. 

The violence in our society will not stop without a counter violence, hopefully by our civil government enforcing just laws to protect all life, or by individuals who step in to stop the murderers.  The shutting down of righteous violence (rightly directed force) protects only the criminals -- just as does subversion of the 2nd Amendment. 

In the Paul Hill saga is hidden a parable of the self-destructive, chaotic world vs. the order imposed by Godly law and the ultimate gift of grace.  If we do not submit to the law and justice of God, His right to give and to take life, we will deny the law, and to that degree never experience the meaning of grace, neither receiving nor giving.  But if we do submit in the reasonable and rational way that God requires, we might be blessed with a renewal of life in America such as the world has never seen.


Addendum - June 11, 2013:  I cannot say whether or not God spoke to Paul Hill.  I cannot say that God would not or could not speak in such a way.  But what concerns me far more pointedly and deeply is that God is telling His Church and His pastors to end abortion in America.  I was one of the disobedient in 1973, and did nothing.   If the pastors, priests, bishops, deacons, preachers, elders of our churches had stood up and said, "Not with American children you won't!"  and made it stick by appropriate sermons and leadership, abortion instead of the babies would have died a early life.   The Church and its leaders are more responsible than any other group for not only the plague of abortion, but for the violence that is mounted against it.  Dare we clergy let it remain that way?

- L -

Personal Reflections

Coming to the above conclusions has been a profound and painful revolution in my life, but a struggle which I gladly recommend to the esteemed readers of this article.  I had spent most of my adult life thinking myself a pacifist, yet knowing somewhere in the back of my mind that there could be circumstances in which I would take the life of another person.  I had nevertheless made it a rule that one does not take life.  I could not imagine Jesus "pulling the trigger".

Death again has made cowards of us all -- or most of us.  My pacifism was, at least in part, an unwillingness to trust God with the decision of justice and mercy, and an attempt to bind Him in a legalism of universalism to protect myself from the consequences of His ultimate sovereignty, that over life and death.

Forced by the Hill incident to the moral confrontation, I found myself frightened by the possibility of being put in his situation, and saying (in effect) to God, "I do not trust You with this decision.  I have already made it, I will not kill."  I found God replying, "Life and death is My decision, not yours. Are you not willing to trust Me with it?"

It took some weeks of knots in my stomach finally to yield on the matter, to understand at that deep level of fear that God will not ask of us anything that is evil or unjust, that both His love and authority must be yielded to completely, and that, as with Job, "Where were you when...."  And, I learned, Jesus does pull the trigger -- when He says, "Depart from Me, you cursed..." (Matthew 25:41).  No appeal, no reprieve, the end.  There is a final judgement.

One hopes that our recent 1994 political turnaround will lead to honest repentance and to the government of the United States submitted once again under the law of God, rather than to just another slap in the face for God as we proceed in a "conservative" way to do it on our own.  


[NOTE: It has been 17 years since I wrote this piece.  The pseudo-conservative 1994 political turnaround turned around to be a bit of fluff.  So today, we lack in every direction dedicated Godly leaders.  One can count on one hand those who can be trusted at almost any level of society.  That is true in the pro-life movement itself, I learned, just a few years ago. 

Rereading my article, substantially unchanged from what I first put it up on the website, I find myself still in complete agreement (April 2003 - and again, re-editing in September 2011, and now August 2012). 

I have been accused of supporting violence.  I suppose that is true.  But only in the sense that every other person also supports violence, i.e., supports the coercive force of civil government.  All government is about coercive force.  That is its nature.   Sadly, government has by a huge margin created more havoc, pain, and death than any other source ( www.hawaii.edu/powerkills) -- because it refused to put itself under the law and grace of God. 

But Godly government is good and right -- 'Godly' meaning submitting the use of coercion to the law and grace of God.  Except for total pacifists, we all support violence.  But we call legitimate violence directed force.  My belief is that we will demonstrably and overwhelmingly have less unGodly violence when we support righteous personal use of directed force -- as argued above.  If what I am saying is true, following it would greatly lessen, not increase, violence.   It is foolishness to accuse me (or Hill) of supporting violence when the alternative is the continuing of vastly more violence in abortion clinics and at home with chemical abortifacients.   As in every local police action, and in two world wars, it sometimes takes violence (directed force) to quell violence. 

The voting citizens, taken as a whole, are the highest Officer of the State.  We, the people under God, are sovereign, not the civil government.  But that can be realistic only if coercive force is sufficiently dispersed among the citizens to remind the centralized government who is boss.  That is the principle set forth in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, and written into the Constitution in the principles of separation of powers (legislative, executive, and judicial) and federalism (the dispersion of powers to lower levels - state, county, city). 

The bottom of that dispersion is the individual voting citizen under God.  The implications of the 2nd Amendment, then, are that much of that responsibility rests in the hands of individual citizens, banding together where they can under local government when they need to resist a higher level.  It rarely happens coercively, but if the citizens do not regularly practice their sovereignty politically, it will come to the need for force.  A tyrannical central government will always work to destroy the effectiveness of the lowest level, individuals and families under God, without which the next higher levels (city, county, state) will collapse under subversion from the federal level. 

Moreover, the individual has no choice but to be his/her own first line of defense against violent attack on his person, family, and other loved ones.  The police are almost never available.  And, the babies in the womb cannot do that for themselves, so we must do it for them. 

I do not believe that God is asking me to take the action which Hill did, and that my ministry is much more valuable to the Kingdom at this time doing what I do well, Christian apologetics.  But if I were on a jury with a case such as Paul Hill's, unless there were some overriding reason to do otherwise, I would vote for him to be acquitted -- for all the reasons given above.  I hope many others will stand their righteous ground against centralized tyranny.  

We have continued to kill babies at will, for any reason or no reason at all, though the rate has dropped mercifully from about 4000 per day (1/3 of all births) to "only" 3000 (1/4 of all births).....  That rate is much higher among the deliberately targeted black population.  Ugly racism is alive and well in America. 

Changing our attitude toward abortion is not a primary goal of clergy in America.  That is betrayal of the Lord of mercy.  On just about any issue one can name, the current cohort of spiritual, political, and educational leaders is mostly no threat to the kingdom of Satan and of little use to the kingdom of God. 

But God is raising up more and more of His people who mean business.  There are, despite cowardly clergy and lay people who seem to prefer them, signs of significant spiritual renewal -- little green shoots cropping up.  See, for example, news on homeschooling and growing numbers of pro-life organizations - such as www.crusadeforlife.org, www.pastorsprolife.org, and www.americanrtl.org/ , ministries such as www.summit.org, and schools such as www.hillsdale.edu.  

And for that we can all be thankful.   E. Fox] 

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