A Simple Strategy for Revival

We have done what we can to uproot the lie that England is a secular country, by more positively attempting to demonstrate that England is a Christian kingdom and has been since King Alfred the Great. Nevertheless, although the historic structures of the English nation are inextricably bound up with Christian faith the reality is that only a minority of people in contemporary England would regularly worship with other believers (‘attend church’), let alone have real, transformative, saving faith in the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Which means that to simply argue that Christian morality should influence the laws of the land is clearly insufficient — and on its own risks being nothing more than oppressive religious hypocrisy.

So what we need is a revival. But simply saying that we need revival is not enough. We need a strategy that will enable each person who recognises the need for revival to proactively do something towards that desired end. Luckily for England, I have such a strategy 😉


Everyone must hear the gospel
I’m not ashamed of the gospel, for is the power of God unto salvation.
(Romans 1:16)

It all starts with the gospel. If you are a Christian, you must know this. If you don’t know this, you’re not a Christian. The gospel has been described as being “so simple a child can understand it, and so deep an elephant could drown in it”. My favourite simple summary of the gospel is the outline described in the four points pictured above.

The first picture (the heart) explains the context of the gospel: “God so loved the world…” (Jn. 3:16); “God created the heavens and the earth… and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1); “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you…”. The second (the cross on the left) explains the problem exposed by the gospel: “Your iniquities have separated you from God” (Is. 59:2); “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23); “All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). The third (the Cross of Calvary) explains the solution proclaimed by the gospel: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and he was buried, and He rose again the third day…” (1 Cor. 15:3); “the Son of Man [came] to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45); “He was wounded for our transgressions… and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:5-6). The fourth (the question mark) explains the response required by the gospel: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead then you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9); “Whoever desires to come after Me [said Jesus], let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mk. 8:34).

Now before you start complaining that the gospel is a beautiful diamond that glitters in unique and unpredictable ways in different contexts and so can’t be reduced to four bullet points, let me point out that one of the things I really like about this pictoral way of summarizing the gospel is the flexibility it gives to be easily and immediately adapted according to your audience. You can explain the pictures in terms of personal relationship with God, or in terms of God’s plan for a fair and merciful society.

Secondly, we can observe that it is common to find people claiming with great enthusiasm that one or other of these points constitutes ‘the gospel’. In a sense this is true for the third point: specifically and technically, the gospel is the good news that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. But without explaining the context of God’s eternal love, and the problem of sin which keeps us from experiencing that love, the facts of Jesus death and resurrection are not necessarily obvious. And without a call to a costly response of whole-hearted faith that, if accepted, invites the person responding into a community of accountable discipleship, we have not finished the task of sharing the gospel.

Which brings us to our next step…

Every believer must know the basics of Christian faith
Leaving aside the discussion of elementary principles, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation…
(Hebrew 6:1-2)

Once a person has believed, they need to be efficiently discipled so that they can quickly go from the point of never having heard anything about Jesus to being a mature believer able to effectively discern and work towards the coming of God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven”. In a perfect world, every local church would know exactly how to go about discipling a new believer. But this is not a perfect world–that is why we need revival. Now there are already a few discipleship courses that are widely used: the Alpha Course, Christianity Explored, perhaps others. They’re probably quite good, but I might as well throw into the mix my suggestion for a reproducible short discipleship course, based on “the foundation” of “elementary principles” named in Hebrews 6:1-2.

1. The Gospel
2. The Great Commission
3. Baptism in water
4. Baptism in the Spirit
5. Prayer
6. Nature of God
7. Character of the Father
8. Incarnation of the Word
9. Gift of the Spirit
10. Reality of Hell
11. Inevitability of Persecution
12. Simplicity of the Church
+ Transition to long-term Bible-based discipleship.

In due course I will try and get round to explaining what I think should be explained in each part. But since Scripture alone is authoritative and I’m not, if this seems to you like a helpful list of basic Christian doctrines, then I would encourage you to consider how you would unpack the biblical truth of each, and then immediately begin using it as a basic discipleship tool.

Once a person has been taught these basics of the Christian faith, the process of discipleship is not complete, but should then be based not on short-term courses, but on long-term (in fact, life-long!) and comprehensive immersion in the promises and commands of the Bible.

Every believer must be accountable to obey as much as they know
Do you want to know, o foolish man, that faith without works is dead!
(James 2:20)

Lest I gave the wrong impression by my list of doctrinal truths that a basic discipleship course should cover, let me say very clearly that discipleship is by no means just a matter of gaining intellectual knowledge.

The Great Commission (Matt. 28:20) gives all Christians the responsibility of “teaching” everyone they meet–but this teaching isn’t intended to result in mere knowledge. No! We must be “teaching them to obey everything” that Jesus has commanded.

And so our discipleship (both short- and long-term) should be in the context of accountable communities (‘church’) of people all together trying to put into practice the commands of Jesus. Which will result in communities that gather regularly, baptize new believers, break bread together as Jesus commanded at the Last Supper, have fellowship with each other, obey the commands of the Scriptures, pray for the fulfilment of the promises of God, serve the poor… And all sorts of other things.

But in particular, as a consequence of the Great Commission, each person is not only accountable to obey what they have been taught, but to “teach others to obey”. And this must begin at the very start of the process of discipleship, so that as soon as someone has heard the gospel and been taught to obey the command to “Repent and believe”, they are immediately released to share the gospel with whoever they know, and then themselves to continue discipling those who respond. And as this happens at every level, in the fashion Paul encourages in 2 Timothy 2:2, a viral gospel movement should be the natural result.

This must be sustained by continual prayer and worship
Missions exists because worship doesn’t.

In asking God to revive and reform England, we are asking for something that, humanly speaking, is utterly impossible. But the Bible gives us a promise: “Ask of me, and I will give you the nations” (Ps.2). And God is faithful, and the impossibility of God not keeping his promises is greater than the impossibility of there being revival in England. And so we must ask, and keep on asking, until we find ourselves “praying without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5).

But all too often revivals begin with prayer and then fizzle out in over-realized eschatology. Which is to say, we do not want revival not so that when it comes we can pat ourselves on the back and go back to life as usual. We want revival because we were made to glorify God by enjoying Him forever, and by the power of the reviving Spirit of God we can begin even now to do this. So as flickers of revival fire begin to emerge, we need to persevere in prayer and worship. For worship is not just the fuel but also the goal of missions.

This must begin immediately!
Today is the day of salvation!
(2 Corinthians 6:2)

If you’re convinced of the need for revival and reformation in England today, and you think that what I’m saying makes some semblance of sense, then you don’t need to wait for God to audibly speak to your from heaven or for an archbishop to come and lay hands on you. Jesus has commanded everyone who believes to go into all the earth “teaching them [that is, everybody!] to obey everything” that he has commanded.

Now, I don’t believe it’s possible to obey everything Jesus has commanded as isolated individuals, and have specifically mentioned the need for us to be part of an accountable community (a ‘church’). And I’ve mentioned some of the things that a faithful gospel community should be doing.

But at its most basic, if “two or three” (a Hebraism meaning “at least two”) gather in the name of Jesus, the Faithful Witness of the True God, and are themselves committed to being obedient faithful witnesses, then in that place are all the necessary elements (in embryonic form, admittedly) of a biblical ‘church’.

So, whoever you are who might be reading, I end by commissioning you reminding you that you have already been commissioned by the One who has “all authority” to share the gospel with everyone you know. And as you do that, meet regularly with all those who respond to the gospel invitation to learn together what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to keep each other accountable.

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Any wisdom here is the result of my reading the book, T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution, based on the experience of church-planter Ying Kai who in 8 months saw three hundred churches planted by putting into practise these principles. I highly recommend the book to you.

This strategy is at the heart of the Circuit Riders school that I am part of this July. The motto is Save the lost, revive the saved, train them all.

Not Secular Democracy But Christian Kingdom

Having tried to sketch a biblical defense of constitutional monarchy, thus laying the foundations for us to resist the Zeitgeist of hyper-democratic zeal that fills our world, the second step is to trace the history of England to see how it is that this country has an Established Church which has the unique privilege of being catholic, evangelical, liberal (tolerant, reasonable), and even increasingly pentecostal (experiential).


The mythical St George, patron saint of England

Catholic History
Although there is already evidence of British Christianity by the third century, the Church of England generally marks the beginning of its formal history in AD 597 with Pope Gregory sending the missionary Augustine (no relation to the theological genius Augustine of Hippo) to help the Britons evangelize the Anglo-Saxons. He became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

The next character worthy of mention is King Alfred, rightly called The Great. It is said that he was anointed by the Pope to be King while still a child (at which point he was not even heir apparent to the throne). As King he then drafts a Doom Book (law code), circa AD 890, which very deliberately frames English law in biblical perspective. Only after beginning with an introduction which includes the Ten Commandments, a translation of “several chapters of Exodus”, and the Apostolic Letter of Acts 15:23-29 does he then offer an account of English law.

Fast-forward to Henry VIII and we see Catholic England reaching its zenith as the king is awarded the title of Defender of the Faith in 1521 by the Pope. This comes as reward for Henry’s attempts to counter Luther’s reforming zeal with a tract that argued contra Luther that there were indeed seven sacraments, in keeping with Catholic dogma.

And to this day the English monarch continues to hold that title.

Evangelical Reformation
Something bizarre then happens. Being an unstable character with an uncontrollable desire for a male heir, no sooner has Henry VIII been commended by the Pope for his faithful Catholicism than he is getting in a strop because the Pope won’t let him divorce (or rather, annul his marriage to) his wife. And so in 1532 he declares himself head of the Church of England, thus breaking off all relationship between the Church of England and the Church of Rome.

Into this somewhat messy situation comes Thomas Cranmer, a somewhat equivocating character (who ultimately dies as a courageous martyr) who is faced with the challenging task of putting together an English liturgy. And after several revisions he finally succeeds in putting together a Book of Common Prayer that manages to hold true to Biblical (‘Evangelical’, ‘Reformed’) doctrine, while also managing to retain the best of Catholic tradition (frequent communion, liturgical drama).

Political Liberality
Holding together a respect for Catholic tradition with an obedience to Evangelical doctrine is no easy thing, and for a few years the nation swings back and forth between bloody Catholicism (Queen Mary had nearly 300 Evangelicals put to death in less than four years) and oppressive Puritanism (Cromwell notoriously tried to ban Christmas).

When the monarchy is restored after Cromwell, the “ideal of encompassing all the people of England in one religious organization, taken for granted by the Tudors, had to be abandoned” (ref.) and since then England has had an established church which, in theory at least, is both Catholic and Reformed whilst being politically tolerant of unorthodox (‘Non-Conformist’) views.

Pentecostal Openness
Much could be said about Wesley and Whitefield and the missions movement by which the English Church blessed the world, but we’ll skip past that to the twentieth century, and the second wave of the Charismatic Movement that began in the 1960. Without going into any detail, we note only that this was the beginning of what is now perhaps the most influential stream of the Anglican church. And if you think that’s an exaggeration, consider that the well-known Alpha Course developed by charismatic Anglican Nicky Gumbel is probably the world’s best known basic discipleship course, and has been attended by over 15 million people worldwide.

Need for Revival
So then, we see that today’s English Christian (‘Anglican’) can justly see himself as being part of a Christian tradition that is simultaneously catholic, evangelical, liberal and pentecostal (which, I will at some point have time to argue in writing, are the four essential epistemic pillars of the Christian imagination). And thus I boldly suggest that England has a Christian heritage which is perhaps richer than that of any other nation, and which means that the English church is uniquely poised to be used by God to bless the nations and prepare the globe for the long-awaited return of the Messiah.

But unfortunately the situation is not all rosy. For although the Anglican church as a whole is all of those things, it is rare to find any one Anglican who embodies even two of these characteristics. Too few of the Charismatics have a deep and robust confidence in the authority of Scripture, too many of the Evangelicals are quenching the Spirit by their cessationist fear of the unknown, too many of the Catholics would rather be in the Roman Church than the Anglican, and too many of the liberals seem unconvinced of the rational reasonableness of orthodox Christian truth.

Yet there is hope. And so we end with that word of Smith Wigglesworth (a confirmed Anglican!) that “When the Word and the Spirit come together, there will be the biggest movement of the Holy Spirit that the nation, and indeed, the world, has ever seen. It will mark the beginning of a revival that will eclipse anything that has been witnessed within these shores, even the Wesleyan and the Welsh revivals of former years. The outpouring of God’s Spirit will flow over from the United Kingdom to the mainland of Europe, and from there, will begin a missionary move to the ends of the earth.

Will you join me in praying that God would revive and reform Christian England?

God Save The Queen : A Defense of Monarchy

A few people have suggested that my attempt to translate my convictions about the true definition of marriage into political involvement (signing the C4M petition) is mistaken because “The fact is that Britain is a secular country”. To which I must respond by pointing out that I (unlike whatever Americans might be readers of this blog) am not in a secular democracy, but rather a Christian kingdom.

In fact, I would even suggest that England has a Christian heritage which is perhaps richer than that of any other nation, and which means that in spite of the urgent need for revival and reformation in England today, the English church is nevertheless uniquely poised to be used by God to bless the nations and prepare the globe for the long-awaited return of the Messiah. I realize this is no modest suggestion, and so must be shown with at least some argument.

Because we live in an age of hyper-democratic sensibilities, I will therefore begin by trying to give a (biblical) defense of (constitutional) monarchy, and the blessing of being ‘one nation under God’.


Royal Coat of Arms

Foundations for a Godly Kingdom
Samuel does not criticize monarchy per se
But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us’. (1 Samuel 8:5-22)

It is common among Christians of antimonarchical inclination to claim that the Bible itself is critical of monarchy as a governmental system. They would argue that Israel’s monarchy comes into existence solely as the result of human sin, and suggest that this is confirmed by the prophet Samuel’s view of the situation.

However, a closer examination of the text will show three things:
i) Samuel’s displeasure is specifically in reaction to the people’s desire to be “like all the nations”, thus attempting to cast off their God-given uniqueness.
ii) While Samuel himself may be straightforwardly against the idea of monarchy, the LORD does not seem to share this sentiment, thrice (1 Sam. 8:7,9,22) instructing Samuel to heed the people’s voice and give them a king.
iii) Samuel’s final word of warning to the people is a warning about “the behaviour of the king”, rather than simply about monarchs in general.

Having established that Samuel’s negative view of monarchy is not categorical and final, we must then ask whether there is anywhere else in the Bible where we might find a foundation for a more positive view.

Deuteronomy gives principles for good kingship
You shall surely set a king over you… (Deuteronomy 17:14-20)

We find this foundation in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. In brief, this passage:
i) predicts desire to emulate other nations (v.14)
ii) permits monarchy (v.15)
iii) specifies that the king should be the one God chooses (v.15)
iv) specifies that the king must not be a foreigner (v.15)
We could note here that while monarchy is thus in line with biblical principles, imperialism is not.
v) forbids royal greed (“he shall not multiply horses for himself” v.16)
In view of this, the irony of of Solomon’s wealth (as described in 1 Kings 10,11) becomes apparent.
vi) forbids royal polygamy (“he shall not multiply wives for himself” v.17)
Again, Solomon in particular comes to mind, but we could also name David.
vii) exhorts the monarch to read the Bible! (v.18-19)

Israel’s history shows the need for a king
Moses commanded a law for us… and he was King in Jeshurun (Deut. 33:5)

As well as Deuteronomy’s foundational principles for godly monarchy, we can also construct an argument for monarchy by contrasting the orderly state of affairs under Moses’ leadership with the chaos described in the book of Judges.

While Moses was “King in Jeshurun”, the people of Israel were kept in some semblance of order, in spite of a lack of heart-felt love for God and obedience to His commandments. When Moses died, he was succeeded by Joshua, who had been personally appointed to the task by Moses (Deut. 34:9) having served as his assistant (Numbers 11:28) presumably since the start of Israel’s wilderness wanderings, when he was noted for lingering in the presence of God (Ex. 33:11). Under Joshua, Israel continues to serve the Lord (Josh. 24:31) — and indeed, they continue to do so for as long as “the elders who outlived Joshua” were alive. But after that, there being no clearly appointed successor, the nation descends into chaos and anarchy. In spite of Moses’ warning to Israel that when they enter the Promised Land they must not merely do “what was right in their own eyes” (Deuteronomy 12:8), this is exactly what happens (Judges 17:6, 21:25). Which means idolatry, gang rape, and civil war.

It is in this context that the people of Israel realize their need for a king.

The Reality of Family Privilege

But someone will say that while Moses might in some sense have been functioning as a ‘king’ over Israel, Joshua wasn’t his son, and what we have said so far only demonstrates the orderliness of having one recognised leader.

The Privilege of Good Parents
So then we must continue by pointing out that family privilege is a spiritual reality. By this I’m not saying that inheritance tax is Satanic, or anything like that–I’m merely pointing out that to have good parents filled with the fruit of the Spirit is (clearly!) a blessing, and to have parents that are liars and thieves is a curse. As Christians we are not fatalists, and we do not believe that the character of the parents will absolutely determine the character of the children. But it will have some influence, and where this influence is good this should be recognised as a privilege.

Divine Promises to Families
We can go further than this, though, and show that God actually makes specific promises to families. Most importantly God makes a promise to Abraham (Gen.12:2-3):

I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

More obsurely, we could note God’s promise made to the nomadic teetotalers descended from Rechab (Jer. 35:18-19); or, less comfortably, the promise of judgment upon the family of Amalek (Exodus 17:16). Specifically regarding monarchy, there is of course the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 6) in which God seals the rule of the house of David with divine approval.

Jesus then is not a president, but a king. And as such he inherits the family privilege of God’s promise (as the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel painstakingly demonstrates) and has an inherent authority that is not given but merely acknowledged by the people.

Blessings of Democracy

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Being a royalist doesn’t mean I am utterly authoritarian and anti-democratic.

Representative Government
We can note first that representative government is also in accordance with biblical principle. Our text here is Deut. 1:13-15, in which Moses reminds the Israelites of the way that he instructed the various tribes, clans and families to “choose wise, understanding and knowledgeable men” to lead them.

Prophetic Critique
Second, when we look with a biblical lens at the ‘right to free speech’ that most contemporary Westerners assume they have, then we see that the reality underlying this ‘right’ is the responsibility of prophetic critique. By this I mean the duty that we have as the people of God to honor those in authority by keeping them accountable to biblical truth and bringing whatever word of rebuke God might instruct us to deliver without being afraid of the reaction. An example of someone exercising this responsibility would be Elijah coming before Ahab in 1 Kings 17:1.

I refrain from describing this responsibility as a ‘right’, for two reasons. First, I think Western Christians tend to take free speech for granted, when in fact we should expect persecution for publicly proclaiming the challenging truths of the gospel. Second, I’m aware that it is common for those who profit from pornography to defend their evil trade by appealing to their supposed ‘right’ to free speech. And this is clearly absurd.

Nevertheless, something like a ‘right to free speech’ does emerge from the fact that a wise ruler, realizing their own imperfection and their subsequent need to hear prophetic critique, would create a culture where people feel free to share truth and wisdom without fear of retribution. And thus we see (in 2 Samuel 16:5-12) that the wise king David endures even the cursing and stone-throwing of one of his subjects.

_____________

Her Majesty the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee this year. God save the Queen!

I should probably note that my views should not be taken as representative of YWAM, which includes Egyptian Secularists and American Anabaptists, as well as English Royalists like myself.

I realize that I haven’t yet said anything that shows that Britain is a Christian–and not secular–nation. That is the next step. Be patient with me!

‘How Dare They Tell Youngsters Abortion Is Bad!’

Download this essay as a PDF

I used to refrain from saying very much about abortion for fear of getting myself embroiled in an argument regarding an issue about which I don’t know very much. Which is to say, that I don’t know enough to guarantee that I will be able to respond to all the objections I might come against. And so cannot guarantee that I will win the argument.

But as a Christian, we are not called to win arguments. We are called to be witnesses–to testify to as much truth as we know. And in the process of stepping out beyond our comfort zones to speak boldly in defence of the little truth we know, we will find ourselves being confronted with questions to which we don’t yet know the answers–which will then push us to search for more answers, to understand more of the truth.


So, I am repenting of my fear of man and resolving to not let my lack of comprehensive knowledge keep me silent.

In particular, this week I present to you some thoughts cobbled together in belated response to the recent uproar over a Cambridge Year 10 Religious Studies class having a debate on the issue of abortion, in which the pro-choice Feminist Action Cambridge and the pro-life Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) each presented their case.

What happened to our proud tradition of free speech?
One might think that in a city which has the oldest debating society in the world, to have a controversial issue discussed by two parties of opposite opinions wouldn’t be anything to speak of. But details of the presentation were “disclosed to the Guardian”, which then published an article with the provocative title, ‘Revealed: what children are being told about abortion‘. Stephen Munday, principal of the school in question, then had to send out a letter to parents explaining that, contrary to the impression given by the Guardian’s slant on the story, it was not the case that the only information students were being given about abortion was coming from pro-life campaigners, but rather that this was part of a balanced dialogue in which both points of view were represented.

But what was it that students had been told? Well, according to the details obtained by the Guardian, students had been told “abortions are linked to a raised risk of breast cancer”.

Is this really about breast cancer?
“The causes of breast cancer are not fully understood” (NHS Website)

This SPUC document explains in measured tones that “Whether breast cancer risk is elevated by abortion is a controversial question that has been the subject of numerous studies, several showing increased risk and some showing none”. But goes on to point out that since it is a “well established fact that carrying a first pregnancy to birth is protective against breast cancer… this means that a woman [who is pregnant and considering abortion] will have higher breast cancer risk if she undergoes an abortion compared to carrying to term”.

But before we start arguing about whether the above argument is valid or not, we should probably step back and point out that whether or not abortion is linked to breast cancer has no bearing at all on the essential moral question of abortion–which is this: is the unborn child (the foetus) a real human being entitled to the same rights and privileges that anyone gains simply by virtue of being a mere human? Or is there something more than being biologically human that is required to gain ‘human rights’?

How you answer this question should immediately decide the question of whether you are pro-life or pro-choice. It will also have some obvious effects on how you talk about the consequences of abortion.

The reason for this is simple. If you think that there is nothing morally problematic about abortion in itself–and are therefore pro-choice–then when you hear horrible stories about backstreet abortions with horrendous consequences, then you will conclude that abortion should be made safer so that those who choose to abort their unborn babies will not have to suffer in such ways. Whereas if you think that unborn babies are still human babies entitled to the same human rights as you or me, then you will see in such horrible backstreet abortion stories a vivid picture of the suffering that abortion causes, and you will conclude that we must work harder to provide support to women so that they do not feel like abortion is their only option.

Now before we go on, let’s just say–
It isn’t just evangelical Christians who are anti-abortion.
“Children were shown a video by a Christian campaigner from the USA who calls for abortion to be made ‘unthinkable’.” (Guardian article)

One sometimes gets the impression that in the minds of the British public, to be against abortion is almost synonymous with being “a Christian campaigner from the USA”.

So it is worth pointing out that this is not the case.

There are pro-life Hindus who argue that abortion runs contrary to the principle of ahimsa, non-violence. There are pro-life Jews, who argue that condoning abortion “promotes the eugenics movement which historically has targeted Jews for extinction”. As “Al Qur’an and the sayings (ahadith/sunnah) teach that it is prohibited to intentionally end the life of any unborn child (abortion) or to kill oneself or assist someone to end their life”, there are pro-life Muslims.

But this isn’t a religious issue–there are also pro-life atheists, such as this progressive liberal who argues that: “From this leftist viewpoint, opposition to abortion is not an aberration, but a natural, organic and logical outgrowth of one’s leftist whole. In other words, we oppose abortion for the same reasons we oppose violence against women, gays and lesbians, or ethnic minorities. Our anti-abortionism is the only response possible with our dedication to and demand for social justice.”

Or perhaps a better example would be the late Christopher Hitchens: “As a materialist, I think it has been demonstrated that an embryo is a separate body and entity, and not merely (as some really did used to argue) a growth on or in the female body. There used to be feminists who would say that it was more like an appendix or even—this was seriously maintained—a tumor. That nonsense seems to have stopped. Of the considerations that have stopped it, one is the fascinating and moving view provided by the sonogram, and another is the survival of ‘premature’ babies of feather-like weight, who have achieved ‘viability’ outside the womb. … The words ‘unborn child,’ even when used in a politicized manner, describe a material reality.” (God is Not Great pp. 220-21)

So then, rather than writing sensationalist articles about secondary issues, let’s consider the real question. Which, to repeat, is this: Is the unborn child (the foetus) a real human being entitled to the same rights and privileges that anyone gains simply by virtue of being a mere human? Or is there something more than being biologically human that is required to gain ‘human rights’?

Both sides agree–abortion and infanticide are logically identical
Now, it is a biological fact that new life begins at conception. And from the moment of fertilization the foetal life has a full set of human DNA–making the foetus a human being. This isn’t even disputed by those who think that it is acceptable to kill the unborn foetus.

Instead they argue that we must distinguish what it means to be a ‘person’ from what it means to be a mere human. But to this we say, if it’s wrong to kill a developing human being after birth (which legally it still is), why is it permissible to kill the developing human before birth?

Now this is meant to be a proof by contradiction. But a pair of pro-choice medical ethicists were recently in the news for openly embracing the logical conclusion of such an argument that abortion is logically indistinguishable from infanticide. That is, if killing a baby is acceptable before its birth, then there is no reason why it should become unacceptable after the baby’s birth.

They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual. Rather than being ‘actual persons’, newborns were ‘potential persons’…Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.” But how do we know what another person would consider a loss? Surely we can only know this if they are able to effectively communicate this to us.

But what about disabled people? I spent an all-too-brief week or two before I came to university volunteering with Bethany Home, a school for disabled children and adults. And a large source of frustration for those struggling with disability was that although they often knew exactly what they wanted, they struggled to communicate this to others.

Indeed, what about a sleeping person? If you were to try and wake me up in the morning, would I be able to coherently ‘attribute to my own existence some basic value’? My wife and my mother could probably both testify that most mornings I’m not able to attribute value to anything very much at all–but I think that in spite of that they wouldn’t deny me the right to live.

I do believe that good can come out of evil
“For some people who’ve been raped and had the baby, even if they don’t keep it, something positive comes out of that whole rape experience,” pupils aged 14 and 15 were told. (Guardian article)

This comment drew a furious response by one of the student’s parents–who also happened to be a stem cell research scientist. It was published in the print edition of the Cambridge News but was strangely missing from the online version, so I can’t quote him exactly. But (if someone finds the old newspaper in their recycled paper box, then please let me know the exact quote) it was something along the lines of ‘How dare they suggest that something good could come out of rape!’

But it shouldn’t be so difficult to see that to say that something positive can come out of something evil is not to justify evil, let alone advocate it.

As Christians we unashamedly do believe that good can come out of evil. This is most evident in the death of Jesus, who was betrayed by a friend and then unfairly condemned to death, but who had to die in order that the sins of the world might be forgiven. But the principle that God can make “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28) is one that we believe applies to every situation.

And I would argue that this means that as Christians we can offer real hope to a victim of rape–or of any other evil.

I do believe abortion is a sin — but also that sinners can be forgiven!
“God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”

Statistically in the UK there are about 18 abortions per thousand women each year. So there are doubtless at least a few people who will come across this who have had an abortion.

If you are one of those people, my desire is not to make you feel condemned. My desire is to tell you that “In Christ there is no condemnation” (Rom.8:1)–not because God doesn’t name and judge sin, but because “if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us” (1 Jn. 1:9).

I speak to you as someone who is certainly guilty of what the Bible calls ‘sin’. But I speak also as one who has experienced the transforming mercy of Jesus. And I enthusiastically recommend it to you–and to everyone else I know.

‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die? (Ez. 33:11)

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On a related note, highly respected pro-life spokesperson Phyllis Bowman died this past Monday. May God raise up more prophetic voices like her who would speak out with wisdom and courage in defense of the vulnerably voiceless.

If you’re interested in further exploring the arguments against abortion then Abort73.com is a useful resource.

You can find out about the the history of the iconic image of a mouth sealed shut with red tape inscribed with the word LIFE at the Bound4Life website.