A somewhat unhelpful article that is making the rounds and is being keenly promoted by some folks who really should know better is worth spending a bit of time on. Of course these sorts of articles appear all the time, but it is always grievous to encounter folks who claim to be Christians who seem to be biblically illiterate and morally confused.
One US Baptist pastor has written a piece in which he is trying to make one main point: “unwed pregnancy is not a sin”. Anyone who can put together a sensible argument or see the impact of fuzzy reasoning will immediately see some real mental and moral confusion here.
Let me cut to the quick: of course being pregnant is not a sin. But how you get to be pregnant may well be sinful. By unhelpfully conflating these two different issues, or trying to subsume the latter under the former, this pastor is simply engaging in mischief and recklessness.
Indeed, you know a piece is hardly worth reading when it begins by blissfully announcing that Jesus was conceived out of wedlock, as if that changes everything. But we know that the first reaction of Joseph was to put Mary away: he knew full well that sex outside of marriage was clearly wrong, as would have all good Jews back then.
It was only when he discovered that she had not been promiscuous or engaging in fornication or adultery, but had an altogether unique and one-off encounter with the Holy Spirit that he changed course. The biblical account is found in Matthew 1:18-23:
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
That this was a never to be repeated event, and not one we can try to use to make excuses for other ways to get pregnant, should be obvious. So let’s go back to basics here. I repeat: the state of being with child is not sinful. But how a person becomes pregnant certainly can be sinful. The idea that it is so neat that someone has an unborn baby growing within that we can just forget about how that came to be is not very helpful or biblical.
In Scripture only one sort of human sexuality is ever seen to be morally acceptable: that done in a heterosexual marriage. Everything else is sinful, be it fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and so on. If a person gets pregnant outside of marriage, the sex act engaged in was sinful and needs to be confessed and repented of.
The child of course should be allowed to go to term, and the various options available need to be discussed. How all that specifically plays out may well depend on the situation in which it takes place. If it is happening to Christians in a church setting, one can discuss with the couple involved the option of marriage.
If a secular person is being counselled in a more or less secular centre, then various other options can be looked at as well: whether the woman can manage as a single mother if marriage is not possible, whether adoption might have to be considered, and so on.
But since this was a pastor talking about the church scene, let’s stick to that. The right to life of the baby is of course paramount, but so too, where and when possible, is it to be raised by his or her biological parents, preferably who are married.
I know of Christian couples where that took place. Pregnancy occurred because of sinful actions, confession and repentance took place, marriage was entered into, and the baby was born. That may not always be the way such things work out, but it is the ideal where possible.
Thankfully the Baptist pastor did discuss the confession of sin and some related issues in his article. But he may be moving in rather different church circles than I am. Far too many churches I know of today would not bat an eyelash over a member who is pregnant yet not married. That is because too many churches today hardly ever preach on sin.
But you will hear a whole lot about how loving and accepting and gracious God is. He is all that to be sure – but he is also holy, righteous and too pure to look on sin. This pastor seems to think we are being far too hard on such women who find themselves pregnant.
It seems to me that most churches are being far too soft. Are there times when some churches do not welcome a pregnant woman into their midst? Yes of course. But the way to deal with this is not to pretend that it makes no difference at all as to how she became pregnant.
Yes we celebrate the new life growing within, but we pastorally deal with how the baby was conceived, if outside of marriage. So both sides of the issue must be addressed. I have been saying for years that our churches must be better equipped to offer alternatives for abortion.
But sadly I have seen his piece promoted by others, and some of them have said some rather worrying things about it. For example, some folks seem to think that being pregnant is such a terrific thing that it really matters little how such a pregnancy came about.
A new life is always wonderful, but of course not all roads to getting there are. A rape is not wonderful. A one night stand is not wonderful. Many of the new Assisted Reproductive Technologies are morally questionable. So the fact that a new life has come about is good indeed, but not so all the ways in which he or she did come into being.
Some of these folks said that Christians need to stop being so “judgmental” and just show more grace. Well, yes and no of course. As stated, we must help the mum and the baby growing inside. But we do not help the mum by pretending any sinful actions which preceded the pregnancy are of no concern, or should just be watered down or ignored.
The truth is, sin has consequences. Sure, a baby is a gift of God, but he or she still comes about either in a right way or a wrong way. All human life is sacred, but we dare not confuse that with all means to bring about human life. Some acts are inherently sinful.
One simply has to reread the story of David and Bathsheba and see the consequences of that sin. A baby was conceived in a quite sinful fashion, was born, and we read about how things panned out afterwards, all the way through to the Divided Kingdom.
Yes each life is special and a gift, but sinful actions always have consequences. So we need to affirm and promote the whole counsel of God. We need to be biblical and affirm moral absolutes. We are not moral relativists. We don’t argue that some sins are OK and some are not.
That means we believe that abortion is morally wrong, but so too are sexual sins such as adultery or fornication. Playing one off against the other will do no good here. We must deal with all sin as sin. So yes, by all means provide a safe space for pregnant single women. But also affirm the seriousness of all sin, be it abortion or fornication or what have you.