On Friday June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization. An unprecedented leak at the Supreme Court earlier this year anticipated the ruling that recently came down. Abortion has divided the United States politically like few other issues have ever done.

That division is unsurprising. Many who are pro-life believe that life begins at conception. The life in the womb is unique with his/her own set of DNA, heartbeat, brain activity, and ability to feel pain. If life occurs at conception, then life should be defended and protected regardless of developmental stage.

Many who are pro-choice do not believe that the fetus in the womb is a life, but rather a part of a woman’s body. As a part of her body, the woman should have a right to want or not want the “potential” life she carries.

These two competing viewpoints highlight the division present in our nation. There is no real middle ground or room for compromise between these positions. Since 1973, this division has been growing with each advance in technology that furthers the case that the infant in the womb is alive. The ruling from the Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade is being celebrated by those who are pro-life. The ruling is also being castigated by those who are pro-choice. The recent ruling has only increased the division.

I don’t pretend that this blogpost will heal the division, nor convince many who have a different view than me. I do hope that this post informs and encourages followers of Jesus to think biblically about this issue. Here are some questions that I’m going to try to address. What does the Bible have to say about life and abortion? What should be a Christian response to the recent ruling?

It is important to know that the Bible explicitly addresses life and a biblical view of life, but only implicitly addresses the issue of abortion. A biblical worldview of life must consider the following verses:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

Genesis 9:6

You shall not murder.

Exodus 20:13

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Jeremiah 1:5

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:13-16

Because the Bible serves as our authority for life and practice, it must govern our worldview. The biblical worldview is one that credits God as the giver of life. The Bible affirms the view that life occurs at conception. If it is a life in the womb, then it is to be defended and protected.

A culture of life is indelibly present in the biblical worldview is one. This culture of life informs how one should interpret a law in the OT that regards an unintentional miscarriage.

There is a law from Exodus that relates to causing a miscarriage that has been used to justify abortion. Here it is:

“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.Note miscarriage law. Note culture of protecting life.

Exodus 21:22-25

In short, if an unintentional blow caused a miscarriage, but not death to the mother, the offender would be fined. The act was not treated as murder. There is a great difference between an accident that causes miscarriage and the intentional abortion of a baby. Here is a link to a paper discussing this topic for further review.

It is apparent to me that the biblical worldview surrounding conception and humanity is one that values life. While it is true that “abortion” is not specifically addressed in the Bible, it is addressed implicitly. The Bible clearly depicts a culture of life. For the Jews in the Old Testament and Christians in the New Testament, children are a gift from God. Abortion was unthinkable among God’s people in the history of the Bible.

Furthermore, early Christians reflected these biblical values of life over and against a Roman culture that could be described as a culture of death.

Christianity in the first three centuries did not have a political voice within its culture. Even so, early Christians did recognize prevalent Roman practices such as abortion, infanticide, and child abandonment as murder. History shows that as Christianity was legalized, believers were empowered to institute Christian values in the social arena. For example, in A.D. 374 under Christian emperor Valentinian, Rome formally outlawed the practice of infanticide. Christians also sought to restore a high view of marriage and marital fidelity. Furthermore, Christians recognized the evil of pederasty and pedophilia, which were common in the Greco-Roman world. Although centuries passed before women gained equal status with men, nations influenced by the biblical worldview gave women have their highest value and sense of equality. As Christianity developed through the centuries, believers compassionately recognized the need for orphan care, showed concern for the poor and lower classes, and aided the sick.66 Christians may also be credited with building the first hospital. Christian views of humanity differed significantly from the prevailing Greco-Roman values of the day. Followers of Jesus accepted the biblical value of human life, and as they had opportunity, sought to apply biblical principles to social issues.

Chris Hefner, Dissertation: “Analysis of John Stott’s Understanding of Evangelism and Social Responsibility.” Source information for this paragraph came from Alvin Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World.

In short, Christians have almost always practiced a culture of life that flowed out of a biblical worldview. Today’s pro-life view is historically Christian.

A follow up question to the biblical worldview of life concerns what should Christians do now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.

Here are some practical considerations for the days ahead.

Christians must be thankful. It is appropriate for Christians to applaud this Supreme Court decision that will no doubt save the lives of the unborn. We must be thankful for the political work done leading to this moment and for the perseverance of the justices to issue this ruling. We must also be thankful to our Lord who cares about life and has heard the prayers of his people on the issue of abortion.

Christians must be realistic. This decision does not “outlaw” abortion. The justices merely stated that a right to abortion was not found in the Constitution. In this sense, the ruling was about as middle ground as one can get. Abortion laws will now be set by each state. Many states will codify abortion much more liberally than now. Other states will limit our outlaw abortion almost altogether. Much work is left to be done.

Christians must be mindful. We would be foolish to think this ruling is a sign that the tides are turning in the culture war in our country. The division, antagonism, dishonesty, and vehemence surrounding this issue reflects that we still live in Babylon. Our nation does not reflect biblical values. We must remain vigilant in prayer, lament, and evangelism seeking God’s intervention in human hearts.

Christians must be gracious. We dare not flaunt in pride and hubris this ruling. More than 64 million babies have been aborted since 1973. We are in no position to parade. There is work to do. On a personal level, there are many around us who disagree with this ruling. There are many around us who far from God. If we want to change people’s minds on this issue or the more important issue of the gospel, then we as followers of Christ must reflect the graciousness of our Lord. Only God can change a human heart. And he uses those who are gracious more effectively than those who are prideful.

Christians must be active. As noted above, Christians have historically cared for the poor and marginalized. Mother Theresa stated regarding the impoverished masses of outcast children in India that “being unwanted” was a most terrible human disease. Based on the way God views us and our world, there are no truly unwanted children. He desires all babies, children, and people to come to himself. And while we may not be able to adopt and rescue the masses, we can care for the individual lives of those around us. Christians must not be content with a mere political voice where we vote “pro-life.” We must actively pursue the provision and rescue of life: in the womb, in an orphanage, in the foster-care system, in nursing facilities, in hospitals, in refugee camps, or any other marginalized place across the world.

In being active, all of us need to pray. Most of us need to give our resources and time to organizations that defend and rescue life. Some of us need to foster, adopt, or give ourselves to mission work that rescues boys and girls, women and men across the world.

We need to be active in embracing the character of our loving Shepherd. We should embody the life-giving love of Jesus, our Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). We should leave our security to seek after those who are lost and marginalized (Luke 15:1-7).

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

Here are some of my observations from the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. For those readers who attend Wilkesboro Baptist, I’ll be giving a more thorough report on Wednesday evening June 29 at 6:00 PM. We will have childcare and would love for you to attend in person. We will record that report and make available on our podcast channel as well.

Congregational, bottom up polity is both good and interesting. The SBC Annual Meeting functions a little like a church with congregational government. Decision-making authority rests with the messengers who attend. This means that the annual meeting each year is the time when decisions are made. This also means that any one of the messengers can speak to the body at a microphone. The benefit of this model is that the messengers can overrule the platform (moderator) with sufficient desire (majority). Our polity provides opportunity for interesting moments. Some pastors/messengers will take advantage of the microphone with little or nothing helpful to say. One pastor took about a minute to preach. We are a denomination where decisions are made during one big business meeting. In reality, the only time decisions are made regarding our denomination is in the two days we meet annually for the convention of messengers.

The quote of the week came from Dr. Al Mohler, President at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, regarding our polity: “When Southern Baptists are stupid, they get to be stupid for a year.”

It appears to me at least that the messengers got the big decisions right. The most significant issue going into this annual meeting had to do with the Sexual Abuse Task Force. The SATF was appointed at the annual meeting 2021. For context, here are my reflections from last year and a recent post regarding the investigation’s findings.

The SATF presented two motions to the messengers. The first motion recognized their inability to adequately address the long term solutions needed by recommending an implementation task force:
“That the messengers to the 2022 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention approve the creation of an Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF), authorized to operate for one year, to be renewable by each subsequent annual convention as needed.”

The second motion addressed the need for a ‘Ministry Check’ website:
“That the messengers to the 2022 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention authorizes the ARITF, in coordination with the Executive Committee, to create a ‘Ministry Check’ website and process for maintaining a record of pastors, denominational workers, ministry employees, and volunteers who have at any time been credibly accused of sexual abuse and who have been or are associated with a cooperating Southern Baptist church or entity.”

You can read the full text of the motions here. Both motions passed overwhelmingly by the messengers. While it was disheartening to read the investigative report, it is always the right thing for followers of Jesus to seek the truth. I believe the SATF motions are motivated by a right and righteous response and a desire for Southern Baptists (followers of Jesus) to do better with regard to handling sexual abuse.

Southern Baptists remain conservative and Bible-believing. One of the areas of disagreement within our denomination relates to the view of some that the SBC is in a theological drift toward liberalism. I don’t believe the evidence supports this view at all. Theologically speaking, conservative and Bible-believing go hand in hand. Around a half century ago Southern Baptists were dealing with a liberal theological drift where seminary professors questioned the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. Those days appear to be gone. The leadership of SBC entities are all theologically conservative and Bible believing. One of the more interesting tensions at this year’s annual meeting came from the Credentials Committee. Tasked with handling a motion from last year’s annual meeting addressing Saddleback Community Church who ordained women as pastors, the Credentials Committee recommended further study to discern what the Baptist Faith and Message intended with the word “pastor.” Two seminary presidents (as messengers) addressed this issue. First, Dr. Al Mohler (SBTS), spoke against the recommendation on the grounds that it was untenable for a study committee to be formed to study the usage of words in the Baptist Faith and Message, especially the word “pastor.” Afterward, Dr. Adam Greenway (SWBTS), recommended an amendment to the Credentials Committee motion giving them the opportunity to study to what extent a church had to agree with the Baptist Faith and Message to be considered in cooperation with the SBC. Greenway rightly pointed out in a subsequent post on social media that the SBC is confessional (BFAM), but not creedal (we don’t have to affirm a specific creed to be considered in cooperation with the SBC). Ultimately, Greenway’s amendment failed and the Credentials Committee withdrew the original motion. Essentially, this issue reflects the current tension in the denomination. I don’t believe our tension is between conservative and liberal factions, but rather between conservative (Bible-believing, but open to a broad and inclusive stances on churches that cooperate) and fundamentalist (Bible-believing, but more narrow in defining churches that cooperate) factions.

We have a long way to go. We have a long way to go in several areas. First, with regard to the implementation task force, the next year will be important in the life of our denomination. Pray that this task force to be appointed will be faithful to the task of implementing ongoing strategies to guide our denomination in dealing with issues of sexual abuse. Second, with regard to differences of opinion, disagreements, and social media, it is one thing to disagree. It is another thing to be disagreeable and dishonest. Pray that we will seek and speak the truth in love and consider the best about one another rather than the worst. Third, with regard to our ongoing mission, we did commission 52 new IMB missionaries! We must ever be grateful for the cooperating partnerships that spread the gospel to our nation and to the nations. But there are still more than six thousand unreached people groups who have never heard the gospel. Pray that our continued cooperation will advance the gospel throughout the world.