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“Ideas have consequences. Bad ideas have victims.” – John Stonestreet

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun. 

In 2018, I wrote a response to a viral New York Times article by Presbyterian Pastor Tim Keller regarding how Christians should approach the political trends in modern America. In the piece, Keller argued that Christ-followers don’t neatly fit into either the Democratic or Republican parties, but could and should seek balance and find Biblical policies in the platforms of both parties. 

In my previous response, I attempted to point out that while Keller’s piece is well-written and there is much I agree with, it is badly reasoned. Keller arrived at his conclusion that Christians can find policies to support in both dominant political parties by ignoring the most controversial issues the parties are divided by in the first place. The most noticeably absent issue in Keller’s piece was abortion. 

In my previous response, I pointed out it is impossible to teach a Biblical worldview of modern politics while at the same time ignoring the political issues which most concern Christ-followers. Given that abortion is the driving issue of concern when it comes to how Christians vote, it’s irresponsible to craft Biblical teaching while ignoring the dominant political concerns of believers. 

Matters have not exactly improved in the past four years. 

In a recent series of tweets (tap here to read the thread), Pastor Keller talked about Christian unity and how churches should strive not to divide over petty issues that distract from the Gospel.

There are things here I can agree with. Disagreement within the church over Biblical matters which do not directly have to do with our salvation from the spiritual outcome of sin or our relationship to God shouldn’t divide churches, and it’s unwise to unite around similarities that ultimately distract us from sharing the Gospel with others.

Keller’s remark about destroying unity over political differences is a bit of a different matter because politics is ultimately concerned with both the moral and spiritual realities of our life in this world. A wise Biblical approach would be to see how the Gospel can address the dominant issues of our day. However, this isn’t the end of the story. 

A couple of days later, Keller expanded on his comment regarding political differences in a Twitter thread:

“I recently wrote about how churches should not destroy unity or fellowship over political differences. The replies show that many American Evangelicals have no coherent understanding of how to relate the Bible to politics…”

Starting with him? 

Keller goes on to write:

These are pretty stupid comments to make. The reason pro-life Christians want abortion prohibited by law is the same reason we want people to be prohibited from killing toddlers, adolescents, and adults: It’s wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings. Worshiping a false god, while a major spiritual problem, typically doesn’t involve killing anyone. Additionally, the purpose of civil government is not to confront false gods or doctrines which contradict the gospel (that is the job of the church); it is to restrain evil and promote an environment where good can flourish – combating false ideas about God is not the job of civil government, it is the job of the church. 

Bringing it back to the issue at hand, let’s review the pro-life argument:

  1. It’s wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
  2. Elective abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. 
  3. Therefore, elective abortion is wrong.

Pro-lifers contend abortion is wrong for the same reason any other form of unjustified homicide is wrong: You don’t get to intentionally kill innocent human beings. There’s no essential difference between human beings inside the womb and those outside it – which justifies killing human beings inside the womb. We should not be able to arbitrarily pick and choose who lives and who dies. This principle is one which should be reflected in written law. You don’t need a degree in theology to grasp this.

We know what abortion is and what it does. Abortionists and those who defend abortion tend to be honest about the nature of abortion. Consider the following quote from Warren Hern, an abortion doctor in Boulder, Colorado:

We have reached a point in this particular technology where there is no possibility of denying an act of destruction. It is before one’s eyes. The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current.”(emphasis mine)

Pro-life Christians oppose abortion because it is the unjust, intentional killing of an innocent human being. Keller admits he knows abortion is wrong but fails to explain why he believes it to be a sin in the first place. Instead, he waxes eloquently to change the subject.

Keller insinuates that Christians are behaving hypocritically for focusing exclusively on abortion when it comes to politics but are ignoring idolatry. This assumes abortion itself is not a form of idolatry. If anything, abortion serves as a form of human sacrifice in service to the idol of sex.

Abortion exists solely to serve the sexual lifestyle choices of adults. When we replace the moral statutes God has provided human beings regarding our sexuality, we in turn say that our ways are better than God’s ways and instead worship ourselves rather than our Creator. We tell God, “I know better, and you’re not going to stop me from doing what I desire.” 

Abortion is a form of worship of this idol of sexual autonomy where another human being (our own son or daughter) is sacrificed in the service of our desires. Another human being inconveniences our quest for sexual autonomy, so we have them killed. In a way, our society today is no better than the ancient near-eastern societies where parents sacrificed their children to pagan deities such as Molech. Christians who oppose abortion are not being hypocrites by ignoring idolatry; they are leading the war against it. We are doing what followers of God have done since the beginning of recorded history: Speaking out against evil, and rescuing those who are led away to the slaughter. 

Keller goes on to make a further point about abortion:

“I know abortion is a sin, but the Bible doesn’t tell me the best political policy to decrease or end abortion in this country, nor which political or legal policies are most effective to that end. The current political parties will say that their policy most

aligns morally with the Bible, but we are allowed to debate that and so our churches should not have disunity over debatable political differences!”

It’s inexcusable for a leader in the church to promote this level of intellectual and moral laziness. 

The Bible doesn’t tell us how to vote in order to decrease abortion for a very simple reason: It doesn’t have to. The matter is one of common sense.

If you want to stop any evil from occurring within a society, the most blatantly obvious first step is to prohibit said behavior with the passage of laws by civil government. This in turn means the resources and authority of the civil government will be directed towards the restraint, prevention, and punishment of the exercise of evil. The Bible doesn’t give us an example of which policies we must pursue in order to oppose a whole host of moral evils such as spousal abuse, rape, or slavery because it doesn’t need to. God gave us minds for a reason. He wants us to use them to solve problems – using the basic moral principles he has already given us.

The issue only becomes complicated when we want to excuse our own inaction in the face of evil. At that point, it’s no longer a matter of one’s intellectual rigor: it’s a matter of one’s integrity. For a pastor to claim he can’t possibly know the right answer about how to stop the intentional destruction of fellow innocent human beings is inexcusable and indefensible. 

There will be some who still may not see the problem here, so let’s consider the following: 

What would we think of a pastor who talked the same way as those Christians who fought against the slave trade? Suppose historians researching the writings of religious leaders in the Antebellum era found this remark in the writings of an American theologian from the period:

“I know chattel slavery is a sin, but the Bible doesn’t tell me the best political policy to decrease or end slavery in this country, nor which political or legal policies are most effective to that end. The current political parties will say that their policy most

aligns morally with the Bible, but we are allowed to debate that and so our churches should not have disunity over debatable political differences!”

We would be appalled by such sentiments today, but what gives us the right to act as if we’re somehow better when it comes to abortion? 

If you’re still not convinced, here’s another example:

Imagine you are awakened in the middle of the night by screams coming from your neighbor’s house. You look through the window and see a burglar chasing your neighbor in the living room trying to kill them.

So, what do you do? Do you call the police and maybe attempt to intervene yourself if you are able and equipped to do so? Or, do you stand by because the Bible doesn’t tell you exactly how to best prevent your neighbor from being murdered?

Hopefully, now you see the problem. Saying the Bible doesn’t give you an answer about how to stop abortion is not a good answer. It’s an excuse for inaction.

God gave us mental faculties for a reason. He gave us the ability to figure out right from wrong and how to go about doing what’s right based on Biblical principles without the need to spell out every single ethical issue which may arise. 

The Bible is pretty idiot-proof when it comes to basic moral principles. The downside is that we human beings tend to be idiots, which is why we needed a Savior in the first place to make sense of matters we deliberately confuse ourselves over. 

With that said, it doesn’t take a degree in theology to understand that the most important step towards stopping great evil is to change the law, which is a predicate to changing society for the better. Every good social reformer of consequence knew this. No social reformer of consequence ever stopped evil by giving greater political power to those who defended it. That’s downright stupid, no matter how nuanced and Biblical you try to make it sound. 

With these remarks out of the way, let’s return to the overall point Keller is making: Christian unity should not be broken over political differences. 

It’s important to look at where both political parties stand when it comes to abortion. With few exceptions, the American Democratic party has committed itself wholesale not only to protecting abortion but also expanding it. This means a growing class of human beings may be purposely destroyed based on arbitrary differences in size, growth, location, and degree of dependency. Democratic candidates, from the lowest level lawmaker to the President of the United States, have embraced this commitment, have used their platforms to both protect this killing, and have used their platforms to expand it both domestically and abroad. In my home state of California, Democratic lawmakers have not only tried to expand the funds given to abortion clinics but are also attempting to make California itself into an “abortion sanctuary” should Roe v. Wade be overturned. Their efforts have been opposed by the few Republican lawmakers who currently hold office in California. In addition, California is on the verge of passing the most extreme abortion law in the country, with AB 2223 not only allowing for abortion during all nine months of pregnancy but also removing criminal and civil penalties for the deaths of newborns up to several days after birth. This means for all intents and purposes the killing of newborns could be legal in California. How is this not a matter Christians should make front and center when it comes to politics? 

Christians need to ask themselves: Is this a political party Christ wants us aligning with? At the end of our lives, we are going to be called on to give an account for our time on earth, and it seems very hard to fathom Jesus will look fondly on our cooperation with a political movement committed to protecting evil. Christians are told to “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness.” (Ephesians 5:11). Voting for the people who will permit and uphold the intentional dismemberment of fellow human beings sounds pretty dark and pretty fruitless. 

This doesn’t mean Christians have to become card-carrying members of the Republican party, but it does mean we need to stop playing stupid when it comes to what platforms we’re comfortable voting into power. 

Christian unity is not the most important aspect of the Christian life. Some things are worth dividing over if it means doing what is right. If certain members of the church are willing to look past the unjust killing of an entire class of fellow human beings, then it’s time to find other Christ-followers to associate with who aren’t so morally weak. Christian unity is meaningless to dead children.

In a way, the sort of Christian unity being offered by Keller is itself a form of idolatry. It portrays tolerance of evil for the sake of unity as a more noble goal than the lives of fellow human beings – beings who bear the image of their Maker. It means we are willing to indirectly sacrifice the lives of preborn children for the sake of a unified body. 

The Bible is unequivocal about opposing wrongdoing. The Bible actually does give us an answer about how to stop abortion: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?” (Proverbs 24:11-12) 

It’s a matter of common sense to conclude rescuing others from being killed means you don’t vote for the people or party which enables the killing in the first place.

Those who suggest Christ-followers may justly vote into power people who will use their platforms to allow for the deaths of innocent human beings are not teaching a Biblical worldview of politics. They are teaching a message of destruction, one they will account to God Himself for. 

And that is something no Christian should ever want to be unified by. 

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Nathan is a staff apologist for the Life Training Institute, equipping pro-life advocates to make the case for life. Also a contributing writer at The Millenial Review and CampusReform

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.