|A Firm Foundation: Christian Theology and Abortion|
At their meeting in October, 1995 the PPL Board of Directors adopted a theological statement on abortion.
The vision to which Presbyterians Pro-Life calls the church is founded upon the central doctrines of the biblical faith of the church universal for two thousand years. We have not introduced something new into the theology of the church by opposing abortion and calling the church to be a community in which the love of God is demonstrated in concrete ways. Rather we speak and act on the basis of the theology which the church has claimed as its own for centuries.
We Claim the Doctrine of Creation
The Christian Church has always confessed that the triune God is the Maker of heaven and earth (Isa. 45:18; John 1:3), and that all that exists has been made by him (Acts 4:24). We all have been fearfully and wonderfully formed by God--knit together with bones and sinews in our mothers' wombs by the loving hands of our Creator (Job 10:11; Ps. 139:13-14). We are not just chance happenings of the universe. We were made by our Lord. We were intended by him (Ps. 139:16; Jer. 1:5). And we, as human beings, are distinct from the rest of creation by being made in God's very image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27; Gen. 9:6).
The conception of a child is a sure sign that God has stretched out his arm and has begun the life of a new and unique human being created by God to enjoy fellowship with him. Will the mother and father as the family, as well as the church as the community to whom this new creation of God has been entrusted, accept God's gracious gift of a human life or will they violate God's commands and brush aside his arm, refusing the gift because the circumstances are adverse or because the pregnancy seems untimely? With the church throughout history, we affirm that God is the Creator of all that exists, and the creator of each human life.
We Proclaim God's Ownership of Life
The Christian Church also has always affirmed that because God is the Creator of all things, all life belongs to him. Its creed is that of the Psalmist: The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. (Ps. 24:1; 1 Cor. 10:26).
"The world and all that is in it is mine," God says (Ps. 50:11). Thus, when we bring our offering, we often sing,
We give thee but thine own,
The church's affirmation is in direct conflict with the abortion-affirming claim that, "It's my own body." In confessing our faith, Christians cannot properly claim that our bodies are our own property, to do with as we choose. Neither our own bodies nor our unborn children belong to us, according to the Christian faith. They belong to God, "for it is he that made us, and we are his" (Ps. 100:3), and we do not have the freedom to do with our bodies as we like or to rob God of those unborn children whom he is creating and to whom he has already given life.
We Claim the Gifts of Baptism and Redemption
The Christian Church emphasizes that we are not our own by its sacrament of baptism. When a child or an adult is baptized, the church affirms, with the Scriptures, that believers and their children are in God's covenant and partakers of his promises (John 1:12-13; Gal. 4:4-7; I Cor. 7:14). The promise of baptism is that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39). Do we then want to turn away from that marvelous love as if God has no interest or say in our children and what we do in regard to abortion? Baptism is never a private act, and it never concerns only the individual being baptized. Baptism is the church's family affair, in which we welcome believers and their children into the Christian community as brothers and sisters of Christ and children of our heavenly Father. At every baptismal ceremony, therefore, the whole congregation accepts that familial responsibility for one another (cf. 1 Cor. 12:25-26; Gal. 6:2).
The Apostle Paul spoke of our belonging to God. "You are not your own; you were bought with a price," he wrote (1 Cor. 6:23; 7:23). That is, we were bought with the redemption price of the death of Christ on the cross. And so, admonished Paul, "do not become slaves again," slaves to the powers of darkness. By his death and resurrection, Christ has freed us from our bondage to sin and death, and we are warned not to become captive again to the destroying, deadly ways of the world. We are no longer earthbound victims of circumstances, but overcomers by his grace. Now we have the freedom to live as obedient disciples of Christ and as faithful parents of those unborn children who are God's children, created and loved by him.
The church knows that God creates human life for a purpose. In the Reformed faith, that purpose has been summed up in the first two sentences of The Shorter Catechism (Book of Confessions, 7.001). The chief purpose of our lives, it says, is "to glorify God and enjoy him forever." We exist, our church confesses, to praise God in all that we are and do and to find our joy in fellowship with him. All human beings, no matter what their condition, are capable of living out that purpose through Jesus Christ. The Christian Church throughout the ages has sought life and healing, and not death for all God's children. God creates the unborn to raise their voices with us in praise of God, and to enter into communion with him. We invite God's judgment by destroying those children in the womb. The clear claim of belonging implicit in the sacrament of baptism is a rejection both of the claim of autonomy and the claim that any child is unwanted or unintended and therefore may be killed with the sanction of the church.
We Claim the Gift of the Holy Spirit
The church has always proclaimed that we are enabled to live as faithful disciples of Christ by the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are no longer dependent upon our own powers, or captive to our own desires and wills, but rather we are enabled to live by God's will and to walk in his ways by the Spirit of Christ living in us. It is the Spirit who enables us to pray, "Our Father..." and who himself prays for us (Rom. 8:15, 26-27). It is the Spirit who makes it possible for us to confess Jesus Christ as our Lord (1 Cor. 12:3). And it is the Spirit who gives us the fruit of love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and goodness, faithfulness and gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). In the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we sinful human beings are able to do the good that God wills for us, and not to do evil. Indeed, Paul tells us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19).
The Christian Gospel rejects the notion that we are the victims of complicated and insolvable circumstances and declares us more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Rom. 8:37). By the power of the Spirit we are able to overcome those things that confront us and are able to live victoriously in obedience to God, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
We Claim the Doctrine of the Church
Presbyterians Pro-Life believes that the message and the life of the church are God's answer to problem pregnancies in our time. Our culture's claim is that some children already conceived should not be born into poverty or abuse or rejection or a difficult life. But as members of one another in the family of God, we believe that the problem of the poverty-stricken, of the abused, of the unwanted, or of those needing special care is the anguished call to the church in every community to get to work. The family of God cannot support or aid in the deaths of children in such circumstances as our culture does. Instead, the response of the faithful church must be, in Mother Teresa's words, "If you do not want the child, give him to me; I want him." That surely is the readiness of faith with which the Body of Christ must gird itself in this age of unrestricted abortion.
God's Word recognizes our propensity toward sin. Scripture is clear in separating right from wrong, vigilant in warning us away from sexual impurity and doing harm to the innocent, and careful in teaching holiness and obedience to God's commands. The church must be faithful in teaching all of God's Word. That Word also reveals God's provision for rescuing us from our sin. It teaches us the healing and restoration that God promises when we confess and turn from sin and turn to him through faith in Jesus Christ. God knows us through and through and wants to forgive us and restore us to fellowship with himself. And he calls his people to demonstrate their faith through concrete acts of love for one another, to "be doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22).
It follows that God's claim on us as community means we must not say to the pregnant 15-year-old teenager in our midst, "Your pregnancy is your problem," or to the family with a member needing special care, "Caring for that person is your problem." We are responsible for one another, and now problem pregnancies and those needing special care are our shared responsibility before God. The faithful church, we believe, gathers round the pregnant mother in its midst--whoever she may be and however she became pregnant--and gathers around every person and family with special needs. It supports and provides for them in accordance with God's commands, and it cherishes every life that God has entrusted to their care.
It is the Church that knows that message and it is the Church that has been entrusted with the task of faithfully proclaiming the whole of the Gospel to the community of believers; and for extending the loving care of her Lord to all people. The faithful church tries to be the kind of community which will enable all of its members to become faithful disciples of our Lord.
We Proclaim the Forgiveness of Sins
It is, above all, at the Lord's Supper that the church gathers together as one. There at the Lord's Table, by the sacrifice of Jesus' body broken for us and his blood shed for us, symbolized in the bread and wine, Christ renews our covenant and our communion with our God and with one another. The Table is the sign of God's enabling our confession and repentance which is met by the forgiving grace extended through Christ's death on the cross. At the Table we discover that no sin exceeds God's grace to forgive; at the Table we find ourselves accepted by our Lord, and at the Table we are restored and joined together as one Body, with Christ as our Head. All persons can be forgiven and made new in Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 5:17).
The Christian Church is called to hold out that invitation of the Gospel, with its forgiveness and acceptance and communal oneness to all persons. It is through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, administered by his body, the Church, that the old life of sin and death, which is the end of every abortion decision, can be done away with. The new life in Christ of faithfulness and goodness can begin.
Abortion is commonplace in our society. Many in our congregations have participated in abortion decisions in some way and are bearing a heavy burden of unresolved guilt. At our Lord's Table we are assured again and again that because we have come to Jesus in repentance and faith, our Redeemer surely has taken upon himself the full burden and penalty of all our sin, and has removed them from us forever. We are freed to start anew, assured that we are fully accepted and deeply loved by our Savior. The message of the Church is the joyful news of the mercy of God: "Friends, believe the good news of the gospel: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven."
We Proclaim the Resurrection
Presbyterians Pro-Life affirms and proclaims the good news of the Scriptures and of the Christian Church, throughout its history, that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ wills for us and for our children--born and unborn--life and not death. "You shall not kill," he has commanded us. God has no pleasure in the death of anyone. And when God raised his Son Jesus Christ from the dead he broke the power of death and willed life for us--eternal life, abundant life, in the joy of his company.
We rejoice in the resurrection. God's risen Son now abides in our midst as our forgiving host every time we celebrate the Lord's Supper. We know that he is present as Lord whenever two or three are gathered together in his name. And we live by his promise that he will be with us to the end of the age (Matt.28:20). In his Son, God has willed life for every person he creates in the womb. Presbyterians Pro-Life calls the modern church to reaffirm, with the ministry of its voice and actions, the central doctrines of the biblical faith of the church universal for two thousand years as we proclaim and live out the joyful good news.