CultureWatch

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

America, Australia and Abortion

May 16, 2019

Cultural decline is always around us. Those people seeking to preserve the good and withstand the bad are always surrounded by forces and folks ever at work to tear down and destroy. There is always darkness and destruction all around us, and those seeking to maintain light and life are routinely in an uphill battle.

It is always a battle, and it is always a spiritual battle, as all Christians should know. I am reminded of a great quote by J. I. Packer concerning the Puritans in this regard: “Spiritual warfare made the Puritans what they were. They accepted conflict as their calling, seeing themselves as their Lord’s soldier-pilgrims, just as in Bunyan’s allegory, and not expecting to be able to advance a single step without opposition of one sort or another.”

Those battles are occurring all over the West. I am in the middle of a brief visit to America, and at the moment back in my smallish home town. While much of this sleepy town remains the same, even after many decades of being away, there are also some things that are quite different.

One concerns the matter of abortion. I was driving along yesterday on a main street and noticed someone walking along with a sign. As we got closer I could see words like “Pray for the unborn” on the placard carried by this young woman.

I had been told the day before that a baby-killing mill had opened here. Planned Parenthood – or more accurately, Planned Barrenhood, or Planned Extermination – had just in the past half year or so opened an abortion mill here, and groups of concerned prolifers have been having a peaceful presence there.

Thankfully they do not yet seem to have those notorious exclusion zones in place, preventing prolifers from getting anywhere near such a house of death like we do in so many parts of Australia now. But they will likely come to this small town soon enough.

Speaking of Australia, in a day or so the federal election will take place. One of the defining issues of this crucial election will be how we treat the unborn. The Labor Party has been perfectly clear on what they intend to do. They basically want open slather, with free (taxpayer-funded) abortion for everyone.

As Opposition Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said several months ago, if elected, Labor will offer free abortions in public hospitals, and make various abortion devices, including the abortion pill RU486, much cheaper.
www.tanyaplibersek.com/media_release_labor_s_plan_to_support_women_s_reproductive_rights_wednesday_6_march_2019

As Pastor Mark Powell put it, “With the Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek, aggressively pursuing such a comprehensive pro-abortion policy, a Rubicon has finally been crossed. Because voting for Labor is no longer a matter of conscience but quite literally, a matter of life and death.”
www.spectator.com.au/2019/03/labors-new-abortion-stance-merciless-unjustified-and-simply-wrong/

The return to paganism

Imagine that: ‘Free Abortion For Everyone!’ If that is what you want to be known for as a political party, we are all toast. This is the end of civilisation as we know it. This is simply a return to paganism, clear and simple. Labor is now the official Pagan Party.

Abortion, child abandonment, infanticide and a general disrespect for human life were all hallmarks of the older pagan societies. Christianity came on the scene and slowly – over many hundreds of years – pro-death paganism gave way to pro-life Christianity.

Nowhere was the civilising, humanitarian and liberating effect of Christianity more pronounced. The difference between godless, anti-life paganism and caring, life-affirming Christianity could not be more pronounced. As I have written elsewhere:

Radical social implications of the gospel have been there from day one. In the dark, pagan days after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the light of the gospel resulted in a complete turnaround of society. The condition of women and children, the poor, slaves, and other marginalised groups all improved remarkably under the rise of Christianity.

As but one important source on this, consider Rodney Stark’s 1996 volume, The Rise of Christianity. There he documents how Christian compassion and social concern saw the faith grow rapidly, and change the world it found itself in. Looking after the sick and needy, and treating victims of epidemics and pestilence, while the pagans fled, resulted in the conversion of many. The respect for the sanctity of life, and the rejection of common practices like abortion and infanticide also were noteworthy.

Infant abandonment, which was widespread back then, was another action radically turned around by the new faith. Christians looked after these abandoned babies, and changed the culture from a culture of death to a culture of life. Thus Christianity really did create Western civilisation, taking the world out of a bloody and uncaring pagan past.
billmuehlenberg.com/2013/05/29/baby-abandonment-and-the-new-paganism/

Recently Australian biblical studies lecturer Louise Gosbell penned a lengthy article on these matters. Here she mentions three things the early church did about such wanton disregard for human life:

First, the early church openly condemned the practices of infanticide and exposure, despite the fact it was a socially acceptable practice throughout the Graeco-Roman world. While they did not specifically address the plight of infants with physical deformities, they did vehemently oppose the general practices of infanticide and exposure based on the belief that God created all people in his image, and thus each human is imbued with an inherent value. In comparison to the Graeco-Roman world, which generally considered one’s worth to be based on the value of the contribution one could make to the greater community, the early Christians promoted the idea of inherent value that came from being created in the image of God. As Gary Ferngren summarises, “In their blanket condemnation of exposure the Christians implicitly affirmed the right of even the defective to live.”

Second, the church responded to the practices of infanticide and exposure through their care of exposed infants. From the earliest days of the Christian church, Christians collected funds for distribution to the poor and sick. As part of their concern for the vulnerable members in their community, the early Christians acted to protect exposed infants. This was done through the development of hospitals with designated sections for foundlings and through the later development of orphanages that would house and care for foundlings as well as for infants whose parents had died. Indeed, the Christian church gained such a reputation for their care of exposed infants that churches became the established site for abandoning infants.

Finally, the response of the early church can also be seen from a political and legal perspective. Whereas imperial law “neither penalized nor promoted the abandonment of newborn infants,” in 331 CE the Christian Roman emperor Constantine revoked the ruling that allowed exposed infants to be reclaimed by their parents as a means of deterring those who were exposing their infants and reclaiming them at a later stage. Exposure continued to be an issue throughout the empire, however, and in 374 CE Constantine’s successor, Valentinian I, passed down the first law requiring parents to rear their children. Valentinian I also decreed that the killing of an infant was a capital offence. Eventually, in 529 CE, another Christian Roman emperor, Justinian I, “overturned all previous regulations on the status of expositi.” Henceforth, “all abandoned infants, whatever their status at birth, were to be considered freeborn” and could no longer be kept as slaves.
www.abc.net.au/religion/early-christianitys-resistance-to-infanticide-and-exposure/10898016

Christians have always had a deep and abiding respect for human life – especially for our youngest members of the human race. And that profound love and care of our most vulnerable continues right up till today. Think of that brave, lone young woman on the streets with a sign outside of an extermination centre.

God bless that woman. We leave my hometown today, but if we had stayed longer, I would like to go back and see if others are there today. If so, I would go to them and thank them from the bottom of my heart. And I would pray for them and bless them.

But Australians also have a very important thing they can do about life as well in the next 40 hours or so. They can vote carefully and prayerfully in the national election. One party has unambiguously proclaimed itself to be the Party of Death. I fail to see how any person who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ can even contemplate voting for this pro-death party.

And if they do, they will have to one day stand before our life-giving Lord and give an account.

[1411 words]

17 Responses to America, Australia and Abortion

  • Abortion. Australia. “Father of the Year”.
    Extract from an ABC tribute
    (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-16/bob-hawke-obituary-labor-party-23rd-prime-minister/11095968):

    But Hazel fell unexpectedly pregnant before they had married and just as Hawke was about to embark on his Oxford adventure.

    The couple decided that a baby would compromise Hawke’s Rhodes scholarship which was conferred only to unmarried candidates.

    The pregnancy was terminated, illegal at the time, and the experience caused Hazel great distress. It was not until Hawke returned from Oxford in 1956 — where he had researched Australia’s arbitration system — that the two were married at last.

    But family life continued to come second to Hawke’s career. He joked in the media about his sleep deprivation, not from child rearing but from late nights at work and was famously filmed signing ACTU documents while recovering in bed from a back injury. He raised eyebrows, and infuriated Hazel, when he inexplicably won a father of the year award in 1971.

  • Extremely good article Bill. Such a contrast to John MacArthur who recently stated that he couldn’t care less about the culture wars. He, and many other church leaders, have adopted what Nancy Pearcey describes as a Platonic dualistic worldview. This worldview is more like Gnosticism than Christianity because it overspiritualizes the Gospel. Jesus stated in the Great Commission (Mathew 28) that all authority in both heaven and earth has been given to him. MacArthur would correct Jesus and insist that he is mistaken and that his authority over the earth must wait until the millenium. MacArthur would insist that Satan has all authority now and we can only wait to be raptured out of here before the real persecution starts. In the mean time he sees cultural redemption as a waste of time when we should solely be sharing the gospel. I call this the “half-way” gospel of John MacArthur and the other pietistic dualists that relegate Christianity solely to the spiritual domain and hand the culture over to Satan. This is NOT the theology of the early church Christians nor the Reformers that shook Europe and transformed it. Before we can get the real cultural change you described in this article the half-way gospel, which Francis Schaeffer also addressed, must be challenged. The real problem lies within our own church leadership! We have the blind leading the blind who undermine the Gospel and undermine the total lordship of Jesus in all the earth!

  • Dear Bill,
    Your second last sentence above says it all. Australians have the opportunity to remain relatively a free society this Saturday. Your articles particularly April 30, May 1 May 2, May 3, May 12 & May 14, to my mind are marking a line in the sand. A -those who are not for me are against me – time. There are so many pasty Christians willing to embrace everything both in the media and the pulpit. Is it to encourage more ears to listen? If so when does the Truth emerge? Your Culture Watch is one place I find the Truth.
    When Revelation talks about a remnant being saved, I find it tragic for those who fail to seek out Truth. May you always be able to declare what so few are, Bill. Saturday will show their numbers.
    May our Lord Jesus Christ protect us if those numbers are huge.
    God Bless you, Bill and may He Bless all of us also.
    Mark Bryant

  • I hope, Bill, that you have been refreshed and blessed by your visit to your hometown in Wisconsin.

    How sad it is, however, that Planned Barrenhood has opened another abortion mill there.

    Your readers should take to heart J.I. Packer’s stirring message that you quoted above (second paragraph):

    “Spiritual warfare made the Puritans what they were. They accepted conflict as their calling, seeing themselves as their Lord’s soldier-pilgrims, just as in Bunyan’s allegory, and not expecting to be able to advance a single step without opposition of one sort or another.”

    For the benefit of your readers, these words from J.I. Packer’s 1990 book, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life.

    A large excerpt from this book (including the quotation) may be found at the Puritan and Reformed Christian website, A Puritan’s Mind (APM):
    URL: http://www.apuritansmind.com/the-puritan-era/why-we-need-the-puritans-by-dr-j-i-packer/

  • Thank you for revisiting our forgotten history.
    Pagan times, Dark Ages & Medieval Days. There would be 2-3 Generations of students who have sadly not learnt about this history, (I think). —-….. Learnt that civilised society stepped out of these Dark Ages.
    It appears that now larger and larger sections of society wants to actually revisit the dark times rather than just learn about them. Taboo topics and practices are becoming more visible all around us……crude and rude advertising, repulsive movies and TV shows, crystals, tarot cards, ungodly law changes right in front of us, promotion of sick ideologies as normal, sin as good and good as sin/evil. Seems nothing is ever new under the sun.
    May God bless our nation greatly tomorrow.
    ????????????

  • The Todpolitik of the “progressive” class of politicians is very depressing: What?! The champions of the downtrodden proletariat see it as their sacred duty to enshrine in law the “before-birth elimination” of a huge number of the future workforce?…

    The same champions of the oppressed offer the compassion of the Grim Reaper as the ultimate exodus from prolonged earthly pain and suffering. Do these same misanthropic, soi-disants philanthropists secretly hope that abortions and euthanasia will prove the magic bullet to dissolve our burgeoning health services budget crisis?…

  • Hector,
    I feel somewhat divided when it comes to the Pietist approach to social transformation and the present sovereignty of Christ over the kingdoms of this present world: The spread of deeply-held personal devotion to God and His Christ is surely the best chance of social moral transformation of a society from the grass-roots upwards. To merely attempt to impose Biblical ethics and justice upon society from the top down by fiats of the three arms of government is no guarantee of anything more than a superficial, short-lived lip-service to the rightful claims of Christ to authority over the human race He created and died to redeem. The reforming kings of ancient Judah had no lasting successes because they were unable to change the hearts of their subjects – no matter how many just and pious measures they decreed into law…

    However, courageous, godly leadership does have every chance of turning the rising tide of evil in our nation, simply because God is a God of miracles.

  • I saw a good meme yesterday that went like this — “Yes. of course I’m pro choice. I’ve had two abortions myself. I didn’t feel like having kids, Yes. of course I’m vegan. I do it for the animals. I Just don’t like the idea of taking an innocent life for our own selfish reasons.”

  • I searched for the policies on abortion of the Liberals, Nationals, One Nation and even Australian Conservatives and found… nada, zilch!

  • To Michael,

    Whilst it seems difficult to politically address abortion for now, here’s another cause to fight for:
    https://www.binary.org.au/parties_willing_to_protect_our_kids_this_election

    I’m not saying to abandon the abortion fight but ‘play with the cards dealt with’ for now.

  • too many conservatives, including christians, in America want to still take the incremental approach chipping away at abortion rather than ban it. they are afraid of losing at the ballot box. HOW MUCH more more blood will be on OUR HAND using this approach??? HOW MANY more MILLIONS will die while we slowly walk back abortion???(when the number reaches 100 million we we then decide to act perhaps 150 million?? are we prepared to look at all we let die during our incremental approach and say why we let them die rather than act???)

    we are afraid to risk ANYTHING for our lord though he sacrificed ALL for us!!!! We are scared of being called names and being unfriended. We are wanting the path a LEAST resistance. that is the WIDE path and we all know where IT leads! If the apostles and church fathers were as squeamish as us christianity would still only be in Galilee if it still existed at all!!

    Too many want us to LOVE our enemies to the truth. if we show them how much we LOVE them they will change there minds. yeah and donkeys will fart rainbows, camels will spit diamonds and bill Clinton will promote chastity! You can’t hug a demon to get him to change sides! THIS is a spiritual WAR and most of christianity is not fighting with anything but platitude and christian words and phases that sound make us sound oh so holy but do NOTHING. WARFARE requires fighting spiritual warfare required not just prayer but action. we can’t spend all day in our prayer closets. Satan knows this is war and his followers are ready we still treat this as a discussion to be had over tea and crumpets. No wonder we get our buts kicked so often. I don’t advocate violence but they will turn violent and saying ‘I love you’ or ‘Jesus loves you’ isn’t going to prevent you from being being to a bloody pulp.

    The last civil war in America started when we tried to take leftest slaves away anther sacred cow of theirs. will the next start over this sacred cow?? If we aren’t willing to fight for the unborn those who can not fight for themselves who will we fight for. Are we going to be the church under Nazi Germany and just sing louder???? They drowned out the cries of the Jews on the train cars by singing. will we drown out the cries of 60 million the same way?? It is said Nero fiddled while Rome burned. What will we do while hundreds of thousands are burned with saline in the womb??? If we in America will not fight for life let God destroy us now and save babies in that way. babies still won’t be born but at least it will be because they were never conceived.

  • Profoundly and beautifully written

  • Hi Bill,
    Good article. How do you respond to people who believe abortion should not be made illegal untill poverty, welfare system etc are fixed? Their logic is that abortion is high in countries where abortion is illegal and people are poor, so no point in making it illegal here, but rather issues of poverty should be addressed. Sadly it has been Christians’ that have argued with this opinion. Thank you.

  • Thanks Allison. Two things can be said in reply. First, their claim is false. Most abortions are taking place in wealthy Western countries where it is legal. Second, just follow their reasoning: they should then claim we should not make murder illegal until all poverty is eliminated. After all, if there is a lot of poverty, we should have the right to murder toddlers or teens or old folks to deal with the crisis. Most folks do not think that way thankfully, nor should we think that way when it comes to unborn babies.

  • Paul Wilson – I agree that abortion is completely evil and that we need to do all we can to end it all together, but as you mentioned, it is a spiritual war. Wars generally are won through many battles and taking ground bit by bit. In a perfect world we could just pass a single law and have it banned overnight, but the real world doesn’t work that way and the reason the baby killers have managed to get so far is because they’ve been slowly but surely desensitising the world with their incremental pushes towards open slather child murder, whilst making the other side look like extremists by pushing the rape and incest pro-abortion sob stories.

    If incremental laws can be passed at the very least firstly reducing the number of abortions, then at least many little lives can be saved, and with a continual promotion of the truth of the horror of abortion, perhaps the hearts and minds of the majority of people can be won so that we can truly see it ended completely.

    Imagine if laws were passed stating that abortion were only legal in the case of proven rape or incest. That alone would be enough to prevent the deaths of more than 90 percent of the babies currently being killed, whilst taking away one of the biggest excuses many people have in order to argue for abortion being legal. After such a law we’re passed, the next battle could then begin to have it completely made illegal, then also strongly punishable.

  • I recently had the thought that if there were an “End Abortion” party on the ballot paper whose sole aim was to get votes to preference the parties that would be most likely to restrict or ban abortion, then they would get my vote. It also made me wonder, how many others would be willing to put such a party first?

    It’s such a discouragement that in this country this topic is avoided like the plague by nearly all of the political parties. If someone would stand up and be unapologetically pro-life, they would attract a lot of hatred, but also a lot of voters I think.

  • Ernesto we have been doing this for year and the courts keep striking them down. It is time for D-day style attack in this spiritual war a massive attack on the enemy using un precedented force. we can not afford to keep fighting this war with small attacks it is time for one massive strike. We cannot allow more innocents to die. if we don’t strike now it could take decades or over a century to get this stopped. how many millions will die in that time. how much more blood will we allow to be given to Moloch??? How many more mothers will be permanently scared in that time.

    As has been said by others “Here I stand I can do no other”.

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