CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Unplanned, Abortion and the Gospel

Apr 3, 2019

I believe that the abortion debate is a gospel issue. It is vitally important to our Lord, and it should be vitally important to us. In the same way Christian abolitionist William Wilberforce believed that slavery was a gospel issue. Sure, both are moral, social and legal issues that are distinct from how a person gets right with God through Christ, but they are something all Christians should be deeply concerned about and involved in nonetheless.

I say this because already we have some Christians complaining about the pro-life film Unplanned for various reasons. I have already heard a bunch of things said by some believers who dislike the film and/or do not plan to see it, including:
-It does not glorify God
-A guy from Bethel is in it(!)
-Oh, but Abby Johnson is a Catholic
-It does not preach the gospel

Good grief. One of the most important prolife films yet made which is having such a profound impact on the culture of death, yet some Christians want nothing to do with it. Instead of rejoicing that even prochoicers are being deeply impacted by this film, they join with other armchair critics, blasting the film.

One American pastor for example basically trashed the film, claiming it was not a Christian film, and thus more or less a waste of time. A quick look at his website reveals that he is clearly no friend of Catholics and seems to be a bit of a heresy hunter. He wrote:

The second thing I want to be upfront about is this—the gospel is not in this movie. This is a pro-life film more than it is a Christian film, and those two things are not synonymous. The God-fearing Christian cherishes all human life as sacred from conception to natural death. But not all who call themselves pro-life are Christians. While the movie might win some people to the pro-life side of the political aisle, no one will leave the theater a Christian because no one will have heard the gospel.

Um, guess what: that was NOT the intention of the film! If it were, it would have been done differently. And it always must be said that every single film – or book, or article, or poem, or song, or piece of art – does NOT need to include John 3:16 somewhere in it on every single occasion. I do not include it in every article or book that I write. Does that mean I am really the devil in disguise, a false prophet, likely the antichrist, or ashamed of the gospel?

Indeed, one person commenting in the thread under a social media post of that article made that very claim – at least generically – by quoting Romans 1:16. Oh dear. The purpose of the film was NOT to preach a clear message of how lost sinners find salvation. That is always vitally important of course, but I am sure that even this particular pastor does not do it every single time he opens his mouth or puts pen to paper.

The film was the story of one person who was deeply involved in Planned Parenthood, and then left and became an active prolifer. That was the reason the film was made. When we judge something for not doing what we want it to do, even though those behind it did not have that intention, then we are shooting down straw men.

If the makers of the film had said that their clear intention was to outline the plan of salvation so sinners could get right with God through Christ, then yes, we could maybe then slam the film and the filmmakers for not delivering on what they said they wanted to do.

But of course they never said that was their intention. So slamming them for not doing what we may have wanted them to do is really quite silly. Indeed, the movie was directed and co-produced by two Catholic filmmakers. If it were made by some solid evangelicals, we might have had a bit more reason to make a stink.

But even then, as I say, one need not have a clear gospel presentation in every single thing we do or say. Standing up for the unborn IS in itself a tremendously important thing for all Christians to be involved in. We of course have plenty of biblical injunctions to do this very thing.

Sure, the ideal would always be to both save life – be they unborn babies or those at the end of life being bumped off prematurely, etc. – and see them come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. But some things are important in themselves. When people like Corrie ten Boom helped to save Jews from the Nazis in WWII, that was a good thing in and of itself.

I am sure she would sometimes share the gospel with these folks, and some may have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. But even if not, what she did was good, and right, and important – she was living out her Christianity in very real ways.

In the same way when Wilberforce worked to free the slaves, that was a good thing in itself. Undoubtedly he may have shared the gospel with some of them along the way. But it was a good thing – a Christian thing – to be involved in the work of abolition.

The strange thing is, some of these critics who are dumping on the film seem to be part of the Reformed faith. If so, they of all people should know that the Lordship of Christ should extend to every area of life. Thus making prolife films which may or may not have John 3:16 uttered ten times throughout would be a fully Christian endeavour.

Let me remind you of a few things: I AM an evangelical Christian. I think it is vitally important to evangelise and share the gospel with others. But I do NOT do this in everything I do or everything I say. Sometimes just writing a good article on the importance of the sanctity of life is in itself an important Christian witness. It is a key biblical imperative.

In my nearly 5000 articles on my website you will often find me explaining the gospel of Jesus Christ – that he died for sinners so that by faith and repentance we can get right with God. But I do not have it in all my articles – not even close. And I make no apology for that.

If these critics of Unplanned think therefore that I am a false prophet and an apostate because of this, well, so be it. I will keep doing what God has called me to do. I will heed Paul’s advice that in everything I do, I seek to bring glory to God. So, being a good writer can bring glory to God.

Being a good artist can do that as well. Being a good filmmaker, or a good house painter, or a good auto mechanic, or a good waitress, or a good janitor, or a good baker can do it. “Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

As I said, I am so very thankful that Unplanned has been made and is having such a powerful impact. As but one example, we had a review in a Florida newspaper by one pro-choicer who saw the film and it impacted her deeply. As she wrote:

“By the end of the film, I was completely distraught, questioning everything I had ever believed about what abortion really was. I was hungry for more information, I went to Google, I talked with friends and I prayed.”
www.centralfloridapost.com/2019/03/28/a-pro-choice-review-of-pro-life-film-unplanned/

Does this mean she became a born-again Christian as a result of seeing the film? I don’t know, but I am thankful nonetheless that one more person has come to a more prolife point of view. Yes, we should pray that she becomes a Christian, if she is not already one.

So I will keep promoting the film. Is it perfect? No – nothing in this life is perfect. But to be honest with you, I really do tire of all the armchair critics out there, and all the heresy hunters. They often do as much harm as good in their constant criticisms.

Yes, I DO believe in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I also believe that standing up for the sanctity of life is another very important part of my Christian witness. I will NOT foolishly let critics try to force me to choose between one or the other. I will continue to do both, for the glory of God.

[1447 words]

22 Responses to Unplanned, Abortion and the Gospel

  • I believe that abortion is one of the most important issues of our time. It is a life-or-death issue! Also I have noticed that there has been a change in how abortion is looked at. In the past people said that it was sad or tragic but it was necessary. They argued for it but they did acknowledge that it was not all good. I saw a newspaper article which described it as a “necessary evil”. That has all changed dramatically. Now they is group for women where they are told to “Shout your abortion!”. I have heard that there was a writer who called abortion “a positive good”. There is even a video I saw by Michelle Wolf. In this video she is celebrating abortion in a bizarre, joyous way! It is truly shocking. People say that abortion is necessary for women’s “empowerment”. There has been a dramatic change in attitude. This film is important. It has come at a good time. This film may help to change people’s minds and hearts. I think that we should promote this film and ask people to see it. I think that we should spend less time arguing about the film and just be grateful for the good that will come of it.

  • Well written Bill and most of your readers know that you don’t need to defend your approach. Some critics are professional critics and believe they have to criticise virtually everything that other Christians and non-Christians do or say. Leaders will never please everyone!
    By the way, did I miss something? Who was the guy from Bethel and why Bethel?

  • Thanks Graham. Not quite sure who the Bethel guy is in the film, but some Christians have various problems with aspects of the theology and practices of Bethel Church in California.

  • I agree Bill, please keep on, keeping on! We do not know if those who are moved or changed by the film, find it leads them to God in spirit + truth, but if it plants the seed, and/or saves the lives of the unborn, that is good, all glory to God! Blessings to you, love your articles.

  • Well said Bill. In this day and age where there is significant community hostility toward Christianity, it is unfortunately the case that if a film such as this was overtly Christian, it would turn off a lot of potential viewers, and thus the message would be lost. It would only be preaching to the choir as the saying goes.

    By first teaching correct principles, without the overt religiousness, it opens doors that would otherwise be closed, and then over time as hearts are softened, they will become more receptive to Christ’s message.

    Of course the method also varies based on the target audience. If you are preaching to people who believe themselves to be Christian, but who are justifying sin, then it is very appropriate to mostly use scriptural arguments. But in this case, when the audience is the the world at large, many of whom reject God and the scriptures, those scriptural arguments don’t strengthen the case, and can in fact weaken it.

  • I wish that this film was available in Australia to watch the movie on the big screen. It is really disappointing how very little movement there is in the halls of power for anti-abortion change in Australian abortion laws.

  • Thanks Colin. There may be moves being made about this, but in the meantime there is a petition you can sign to see it come to Australia:

    https://www.change.org/p/reading-cinemas-bring-the-movie-unplanned-to-australian-cinemas

  • That guy saying Christians are meant to cherish as sacred all human life from conception to natural death, emphasis on “natural death,” sums his take pretty well. After all, in states where capital punishment is legal and actually put into practice, that kind of ends the convicted person’s life in a rather unnatural way. So, that guy is a lefty, warm and feely, “get with the times” kind of ‘believer’ to begin with. I can’t take someone seriously when they start off by saying or implying that we should ignore God’s word on murderers and the like forfeiting their own lives.

    Besides, Francis Schaeffer explained that the defence of life within the womb really IS a single issue thing. He said if you won’t stand for life at its most vulnerable, you won’t stand for anything….you’ll eventually go all in for euthanasia, infanticide, etc. (I know you already know all this, Bill, so I wasn’t trying to lecture you).

    I think some of these people who write you these hateful things or at the very least are always contrary to you are just doing so to be ornery. Their goal is to be a perpetual thorn in your side. They live to be nitpicky as demonstrated by their persistent jabs and lack of presentation of any reasonable, well thought out arguments. Just keep on keeping on, brother. Like Paul said, “If I [you] still wanted to please men, I [you] would not serve Christ.”

  • Thanks Marissa. I know next to nothing about the guy who said that, so I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here. Often when prolifers speak of ‘from birth to natural death’ they mean we should oppose both abortion and euthanasia. Whether he also means the death penalty I am not sure. If he does, I would beg to differ.

  • If the film saves just 1 life – it was worth it.
    How many lives have the critics saved?

  • Yes I am with you Rob. Some of these critics are using theological and doctrinal concerns to keep people from seeing the film. Anyone who knows me knows that I do believe that sound doctrine is important, and we need to be careful with what we believe. But there is always a very fine line between being concerned about proper doctrine, being discerning, etc., and being a purist who seeks to be ‘uncontaminated’. The former is what we should carefully and prayerfully strive for – the latter we should avoid, as such folks really do look and act just like the Pharisees did. Sadly some of these critics just do not want to be seen to be ‘impure’ or ‘contaminated’ in any way, so they seem to prefer business as usual when it comes to 45-50 million babies a year being slaughtered. It is quite sad actually.

  • I don’t think that peoples claim to Christianity has much to do with their decision – I think it’s a moral issue. I cannot fathom how a morally stable person can feel good about murdering a person ( yes, person) with a heartbeat !!

  • Excellent movie. Excellent analysis!

  • I agree with you Rob – I have heard of testimonies of people who have come to know and believe in Jesus Christ after seeing movies like Jesus Christ Superstar , indeed one life is worth it.

  • Thanks Bill, a very balanced view , especially in raising issues and saving the unborn. God will be glorified, keep doing what your doing .
    God bless you.

  • Whatever one may think about Abby Johnson’s personal journey from being raised a Southern Baptist to winding up a Roman Catholic, the tragedy was that her being brought up a Southern Baptist didn’t make her immune to the enticements of the Pro-Choice movement and the laissez-faire approach to romance and sexual intimacy which is often associated with the ethos of the pro-abortion lobby. She also encountered church-goers who saw their involvement in the abortion business as, somehow, a service to God and society.

  • That was real good mister. I was pro-choice until I met a christian girl at our school she talks on here lots. whenever I mentioned the word pro-choice she would always respond with “no choice for the baby right?” she is a bible basher but she didn’t say the bible said pro-choice was wrong she just said murder was wrong, as I got to know her beta I thought what she said was from her special book and her church but she didn’t need her book or church to talk about pro-life. Once she told me pro-choice was no choice and I thought that was right then she told me about Jesus who was aborted by the ppl in the world. I asked her why she didn’t tell me about Jesus first and her response was “I didn’t want you in my camp if you didn’t value life over death”. I am new to all this and it’s really confusing as the naughtiest girl in school is the nicest kindest girl you could ever meet and she is christian but not a catholic christian like Molly who is our friend and they both love babies and don’t want them killed so that man in your story may not be a Christian but pretending to be a Christian as sar would go after him if he was a bible person, she goes after the ppl who come into our school who tell us about sex so she would go after him.

    I have my own bible now and I go to church with sar and katie. there are some real nice boys there but sar said we don’t go to church to see the boys I think she is shy but with a smart mouth on her. if I have said the wrong christian thing just delete it as I do not know what is the right or wrong thing to say until I have read my bible which is hard as sar told me not to start at the beginning but read what John said. I think that is the way christiains read the bible as sar and katie are proper christiain girls and I want to be to.

  • Mr M, I completely agree. This film is about what goes on in the most developed nations on earth and what goes on is shocking. We are living in barbaric nations every bit as bad as what went on in Jeremiah, worse, in fact, as we claim to be civilised.

    There is no reason whatsoever why Christians of all denominations (including Catholics) can’t link up with atheists, Muslims and any other religion for that matter. We should all come together since we all value life and should protect the most vulnerable of life, an innocent baby. We as Christians plainly understand that each strand of our DNA has paid for with the blood of Jesus stamped on it, but even if you are not a Christian you are just as likely to value babies, as they are the future. This film isn’t about bringing the good news, it’s about bringing the bad news that we all need to hear and then, many will need to hear how their sinful ways may be forgiven and that can be a film that we may all enjoy, to celebrate the ending of the murder of the innocent babies, but first, we must turn away from our sinful murderous ways.

    I don’t know if unplanned will come to the UK, but if it doesn’t I am hoping I may be able to watch it online or purchase the video. I think every church should go as a church family to watch it and take a friend along who is confused over what actually takes place In fact, I think we should pay for their ticket.

    Us girls read your article at our dining table today and it really captured the interest of many of the girls Mr M.

    We, as Christians have the opportunity to do to abortion what we did to slavery, which was to bring it to an end. We have the best arguments and a God who is just waiting to pour his grace of forgiveness onto those who will have to live as once being part of, Moloch’s lot.

    Thanks for another great article Mr M, be assured your words do not fall on the deaf, sometimes on the dead perhaps, but the dead just need awakening from their slumber.
    S. xx

  • ‘I have already heard a bunch of things said by some believers who dislike the film and/or do not plan to see it.’ Then I shall be sure to see Unplanned several times, as well as encourage others to see it, whether Christians or not, in an attempt to counter-balance these nay-saying knuckle-heads.

  • Kept saying “Amen” throughout my reading of this Bill.
    I think one of the things that seems to be happening in various churches that I visit with various family members is that your garden variety Christian doesn’t get to hear a lot about being a “Christian witness” – that is, putting into practice – the Lordship of Christ in daily life – attitudes that reflect the attitudes of Christ – words that might be spoken by Christ in given situations we encounter – in other words making things matter in our lives that matter to Christ, etc.
    The message and manner of sanctification that proceed from the message of justification.is probably not as strong today as it has been in the past.
    The problem with that can be that we can preaching conversion to converted people who now need to go on to maturity in Christ-like living.
    There is a new and living way to be shown even to unbelievers, so that they may hunger for something more than is being dished out to them by the world.

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