Apropos of recent discussions (which I stopped trying to keep up with weeks ago), here is what OHS DVD has to say on the topic of abortion. This is from his lecture “Christ and the State,” from WSCAL’s annual conference, this year on the topic of Christ & Culture.
I want to focus upon abortion. I don’t have time to focus on more than one concrete issue and I think that abortion works as well as any, and it’s one about which I’m sure many of you have strong opinions, and have been involved with over the years. I would suggest that Christians must agree about abortion as a basic moral issue. I believe that given what Scripture says on a number of points that we as Christians are obligated to believe
- that human life begins early;
- that even from the earliest days in the womb that is a human person that is worthy of protection (and that has profound implications for the question of abortion);
- that the church should teach this;
- that we should encourage one another to be living in accord with this basic moral conviction.
And yet I would also say that as Christians deal with this as a political issue that we must always deal with it with that conviction in mind. In our political involvement in abortion, we are convinced that abortion should not be considered a just action.
But I would also suggest that Christians can disagree about things for which scripture is silent. Specific issues like,
- How exactly do I vote on this issue?
- How exactly might I legislate if I was in congress or a state legislature?
- How exactly should I carry out my strategy of seeking to make abortion practiced no longer, or at least more rarely, in wherever it is that we live?
Here I think is a basic issue of Christian liberty, is that Christians are bound in conscience with everything that scripture says. But certainly in the Reformed tradition, for really good reason we believe that we as Christians, and particularly ministers and elders, may not burden other peoples’ consciences on issues that scripture does not address; on issues that scripture does lay out a clear course of action — that we all have to be making certain judgments about how we conduct ourselves on these issues, and that we should be very careful not to trample the conscience and the liberty of other believers.
The above quote starts at 36:20 of the linked Vimeo. If you continue listening past this point, you will hear DVD defend Christian liberty on those three questions: citizens voting for or against pro-choice candidates; legislators voting for or against a bill that would reduce, but not eliminate abortion; or Christians participating in this or that pro-life/anti-choice activity (writing, picketing, volunteering, etc).
So when Paul insists that there is a simple core to the issue (abortion should be legally classified as murder), I would agree, but in the real world, things are very rarely that simple. Prop 8 I think was a rare counterexample. DVD didn’t address the question of a bill that would completely eliminate abortion; maybe he would insist that Christians must support such a bill. But still there are questions of what does/should “completely eliminate” mean? Christians may in good conscience differ about the usual marginal cases of rape, incest, and safety of the mother.
As I recently heard somebody (DVD? I can’t remember) very well state, politics is by definition about compromise, and the church cannot be in the business of compromise. So in whatever matters undiluted, biblical truth is clear, the church should insist on that truth. But it doesn’t take long to cross into territory of politics and compromise, where the church may not bind the conscience (or exercise discipline) in favor of one form of compromise over another.