Ethics


“Abortion is the defining experience of this generation. It is an experience involving the shedding of innocent blood, a sin of bloodguilt, a sin that can only be addressed by a forthright, compassionate, and unapologetic gospel.” In his new book Innocent Blood, John Ensor makes a passionate plea for the church to “prevent the death of innocents and the bloodguilt that results.” Ensor grounds this plea in Deuteronomy 19:7-10:

Therefore I command you, You shall set apart three cities. And if the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he has sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land that he promised to give to your fathers…then you shall add three other cities to these three, lest innocent blood be shed in your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, and so the guilt of bloodshed be upon you.

The numbers are staggering:

  1. There are 42 million induced abortions performed worldwide very year.
  2. At the current rate, one-third of all American women has or will have had an abortion by the age of 45.
  3. Women who have an abortion are at an elevated risk of death caused by many things such as suicide and depression.
  4. China alone is responsible for over 400 million deaths by abortion which is 25% more than America.
  5. 56% of the world’s female suicides occur in China which is five times the world average.

Ensor’s aim is simple, to present a biblical case for why believers should not partake in the shedding of innocent blood and do what they can to stop it from happening. This is a call to protect the innocent among us.

Who are the innocent among us?

They are

The harmless, pure, or free from guilt before our fellow man or the laws of man. Babies and little children come to mind first when we speak of the innocent in this sense; they are harmless and without guile. But adults, too, are called innocent when they have done nothing wrong toward their neighbor. To punish them without due process, or on the basis of a false report, or because they are poor and have no proper defenders, or to please the wealthy or powerful, is to harm the innocent.

Why should we care for the innocent and vulnerable among us?

Christ cared for them and they have value because He made them. Being made in the image of God gives value to every person despite the color of their skin or the stage of their human development. Because the innocent Christ shed His blood to save us we should seek to save the innocent among us. God shows His value for our lives through Christ’s shedding of blood and so we should value the life of others.

Who is guilty of shedding innocent blood?

The answer may shock you. Ensor rightly points out that it is not just those who have a direct hand in the killing of the innocent but those who can do something to prevent it and don’t. This second category joins more of us into it than we may want to think and the weight of our responsibility is heavy. Ensor is clear that God will exact justice and judgment on those who shed innocent blood and it goes for both parties – the active and passive participants.

So what is the hope of the bloodguilty?

The hope of the bloodguilty is nothing other than the shedding of blood in the atonement of Christ. Ironically, it is the shedding of the innocent Christ’s blood that provides the atoning covering for the bloodguilty. Innocence for guilt. Ensor masterfully points out that Satan tried to attack baby Jesus as an infant. Jesus Himself as a baby was the target of innocent killing. Herod tried to take his life as a baby and Pilate succeeded while he was a man. The first attempt on his life would have stopped the gospel from becoming a reality. The second attempt resulted in his death and made the gospel a reality.

Innocent Blood: Challenging the Powers of Death with the Life of the Gospel is a jolt to the conscience of anyone who reads it. It is a much needed gut check on how truly pro-life one is. It will challenge your heart and make you ask yourself if you are doing your part to stop the shedding of innocent blood. You will finish the book asking yourself one question – do I have the blood of the innocent on my hands?

NOTE: I received this book for free and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

When it comes to discussing the relevance and continuity of the Ten Commandments for the Christian, the dividing line seems to rest on the application of the fifth commandment – the command to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. If obedience to the Ten Commandments is still in effect for the Christian then we must keep the Sabbath. If it is not in effect for the Christian then we do not have to keep the Sabbath. This of course is tied to the NT teaching on the law which is the seedbed of much of the controversy.

Perspectives on the Sabbath: 4 Views presents four views on Sabbath keeping for the Christian. It covers from the Seventh-Day Adventist view which is the strictest view to the Fulfillment view which is the most lenient.

The first view presented is the Seventh-Day Adventist view by Skip McCarty. There is much that McCarty rightly uses in defense of the Sabbath-Day view. He rightly starts in Genesis 2:2 and utilizes the Ten Commandments as given in Exodus and Deuteronomy. McCarty clearly holds a continuationist view of the Ten Commandments so much so that he believes the Sabbath rest is still to be held on what our calendars still call Saturday. Texts like Isaiah 56:5-6 & 66:22-23 are used to claim that the Saturday Sabbath rest is universal for all time. However, as Pipa points out, McCarty does not follow his application through since he does not believe we need to obey the other ceremonial observances (p. 76). What makes the Seventh-Day view stand out is that it does not recognize the resurrection event as having any bearing on when the day in which the Sabbath is held – changing from Saturday to Sunday. McCarty concludes his defense with this statement:

For us, Jesus’ fulfillment of the Sabbath doesn’t make Sabbath observance obsolete; rather, it infuses it with even richer meaning than the most devout OT believer had the privilege of understanding or experiencing (p. 70).

The second view is that of the Christian Sabbath as defended by Joseph A. Pipa. Like McCarty, Pipa begins in Genesis and uses some of the same texts to ground the nature of the Sabbath command. As a continuationist for the Ten Commandments, Pipa sees a moral grounding, as opposed to ceremonial grounding, for the Sabbath command and therefore believes it is binding on the NT believer. Pipa holds that since the Ten Commandments are not ceremonial law, having their grounding in creation and the law, provide the basis for the rest of the Mosaic law and are repeated in the NT they are still applicable for the NT believer. Pipa believes that the command to the keep the Sabbath is about the seventh day of the week and not necessarily tied to Saturday. Since the Ten Commandments are not ceremonial or judicial they are not fulfilled in the sense of abrogating their use or applicability for the Christian. Christ does fulfill them but does not end them. Pipa rightly contends that the resurrection of Christ is the defining event that the NT church recognized as shifting the Sabbath rest from Saturday to Sunday. Before the resurrection the basis for Saturday Sabbath was creation and the Exodus. Since the resurrection, Sabbath is remembered in celebration of and on the day of the resurrection event – Sunday. When it comes to observing the Sabbath Pipa argues that the believer is to rest short of works of necessity (preparing food or feeding animals) and mercy (tending to medical emergencies, helping a neighbor fix their car so they can get to work the next day or certain types of businesses that cannot shut down on Sunday). Admittedly, this leaves room for much “work” to be done in Sunday. I personally find this view to be the most convincing.

The third view is the Lutheran view as presented by Charles Arand and the fourth is the Fulfillment view as defended by Craig Blomberg. Though Blomberg believes there is enough difference between the two to separate them, readers will have a hard time seeing the net difference. The most notable difference is the evidence and method of defense each uses to support their view. Arand depends heavily on Luther’s works while Blomberg rests more on Scripture and history. In the end they both come to the same conclusion that the NT believer is not bound to the Ten Commandments the same way the OT Jew was. Therefore, we are not bound to the Sabbath command with the same guidelines. Yes we are to observe the Sabbath but we are free in Christ to do with our time as we see fit once we have worshiped with God’s people in our local church.

There is much to commend this perspectives book for. Overall it is clear. The challenging remarks are respectful. It was good to see that each contributor had the opportunity to respond to the criticisms of the others. Each contributor had a deep respect for the authority of Scripture and sought to show how their view supported that belief the best. Three of the four chapters presenting the respective view were a bit long and I think some could have been cut out and still been satisfying to the reader and the writer.

Perspectives on the Sabbath: 4 Views is a great place to start in mapping out the various views of the Sabbath command.

You can find Perspectives on the Sabbath at these retailers: WTS Books and Amazon.

NOTE: I did not receive and compensation for reviewing this book nor was I under any obligation to provide a favorable review.

I remember seeing Russell Moore’s Facebook status the night before he posted his controversial post on Christian romance novels. It read, “Wondering whether posting my blog in the morning is worth all the hate mail it will bring!” While I don’t know how much hate mail he received I am sure it was a lot.

Moore’s post created a fire storm of responses from across the board (just google them). Notably is the response of Caryn Rivadeneria over at the her.meneutics blog on the Christianity Today web site.

The basis for Moore’s post stems from the findings of Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam in their recent book A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire. While the authors are primarily going after the porn industry they do make comments, conclusions and parallels between the marketing and commercializing of porn and romance novels. Moore states,

The research explores further what the commercialized romance industry tells us about what it means to be a woman (at least in a fallen world). Women are much less likely to be drawn to visual pornography (although more do so than one might think), but are quite likely to be involved in such media as Internet romantic fiction or the old-fashioned romance novel.

The romance novel follows, the researchers argue, a typical pattern. The hero is almost never, they say, a blue collar worker, a bureaucrat, or someone in the traditionally feminine occupations (hairdresser, kindergarten teacher, etc.). He is competent, confident, and usually wealthy. He is, in short, an alpha male.

But, they argue, this alpha male is typically a rough character who learns to be tamed into kindness, kindness to her. Thus, you wind up with not only the strong silent cowboys with the soft interior life, but also these days vampires and werewolves and Vikings.

Moore’s greatest concern with romance novels, more specifically Christian romance novels, is that they seem to draw women out of the reality of their marriage into the world of another. Moore concludes,

How many disappointed middle-aged women in our congregations are reading these novels as a means of comparing the “strong spiritual leaders” depicted there with what by comparison must seem to be underachieving lumps lying next to them on the couch?

This is not to equate morally “romance novels” with the grave soul destruction of pornography. But it is worth asking, “Is what I’m consuming leading me toward contentment with my spouse (or future spouse) or away from it? Is it pointing me to the other in one-flesh union or to an eroticized embodiment of my own desires? Is this the mystery or a mirage?

It is in response to the claim that women compare their “real” marriages to these imaginary marriages that Caryn writes her response. Caryn states that even after reading two of these type novels she “wasn’t compelled to rush out and buy more. I may be hooked on reading, but not on romance, per se.” Caryn interviewed Allie Pieter, a Christian romance novelist, about how she as a writer and other women who read her books view romance novels. Allie states,

Most women are smart enough to know that real life has no violins swelling behind the drop-dead-gorgeous hero professing love in a dramatic sunset. They can be entertained by the ideal of the story without turning it into some kind of impossible relational checklist.

Caryn agrees and even cites some Scripture to support her point:

Of course, some might try this logic with porn: that pornography viewers (or readers) understand it’s not real. But there’s a difference still, and it lies in Scripture. Philippians 4:8 says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.”

Simply put: romance is lovely, among other things — or at least can be. Romance can and does get corrupted in our fallen world, but even God uses romance in his Word as an image to help us understand his love for us and what our love for him might be. God never uses images of lust and degrading sex to do the same.

I strongly encourage you to read the rest here.

I still have some more thinking to do on this but after talking with my wife about it last night I find myself backing away from some of my original thinking. After all, my wife is level headed, wise and well she loves me and not the men portrayed in the books she reads.

In light of the recent events with the death of Osama bin Laden, D.A. Carson’s timely book Love In Hard Places is being offered as a free PDF download or you can purchase it at Westminster Books or Amazon. Love In Hard Places was born out of four lectures given in 2001. This book is a follow up to his previous book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God which fleshes out the many ways in which God does and does not show His love to people.

Andy Naselli points out that after Carson’s book was published 9/11 happened which prompted Carson to add a 35 pg. section titled “Hard Case Two: Osama bin Laden”.  As you can see from the title and the added section, this book is very relevant to the events of the weekend so I strongly encourage you to download the book or buy it.

Naselli gives us a summary of the added section:

  1. It may be helpful, first of all, to reflect on pacifism and “just war” theory in the light of the biblical commands to love and forgive.
  2. On the other hand, all war, even just war, is never more than rough justice. Even the just war is prosecuted by sinners, and so injustices will occur.
  3. Several other factors are often thrown into the debate about how we should respond to Osama bin Laden and other terrorists.
  4. Historically, wars have changed their form from time to time, generating fresh discussion about just war theory. It is time to begin this process again.
  5. As with racism, so here: Christians need to reflect on how some of the fundamentals of the faith bear on just war.
  6. One more theological reflection is relevant to the concerns of these lectures. Complex discussions about justice, forgiveness, enemies, and just war theory may entice us to forget that they were all precipitated by the effort to think exegetically and theologically about love.

Naselli applies the summary to the present situation:

Therefore, in the present struggle, even while we must try to prevent the terrorists from doing more violence, we must eschew a vendetta mentality. Love demands that we do not demonize Osama bin Laden. He is a human being made in the image of God. He is an evil man, and he must be stopped, but he is a man, and we should take no pleasure in destroying him. Vengeance is the Lord’s alone. Do not offer the alternative, “Should we weep for Osama bin Laden or hold him to account for his genocide and prevent him from carrying out his violent intentions?” The right answer is yes.

“Is it morally right to celebrate bin Laden’s death?”

This is the question John Blake on CNN’s Belief Blog asks in relation to how people should respond to bin Laden’s death.

To say that there will be mixed emotions about the death of Osama bin Laden is an understatement. Those who supported him and his family are weeping and morning over his death. On the other hand, much of the world, America especially, will be rejoicing that a bit of due justice has been served thanks to the American Navy Seals team.

As a Christian I have to ask myself how I should respond. You might wonder why I would even have to ask that question. After all, bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in NY and has been the leader of one of histories most hardened terrorist groups.

I have to ask myself this question because I realize that if it were not for the grace of God seeking me out through His Spirit and applying the atoning shed blood of Christ on my heart I would suffer the same fate as bin Laden – spending eternity in hell separated from fellowship with God because of my sin. And yes we can know that he is there.

I will not go so far as to dance in the streets shouting “Ding dong bin Ladens dead, bin Ladens dead, bin Ladens dead, ding dong the wicked bin Laden is dead”, as I picture myself as one of the Munchkins from Munchkin Land in the Wizard of OZ. At the same time I cannot suppress the inner desire to rejoice in some way that justice has been served and God has brought it to be through the government He has put in place (Rom. 13).

While there are many Christians offering suggestions for how Christians should respond to bin Ladens death, I thought I would point you one from Christopher Morgan. I have just finished reading two books co-edited by Christopher Morgan on the Biblical doctrine of hell: What is Hell? and Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment.

I think Morgan clearly and rightly communicates to Christians how we can faithfully and in a God glorify way respond to Bin Ladens death. He starts and ends with these words:

As I watched the news reports, various passages came to mind–everything from Jesus’ teaching on loving and praying for enemies, to James’ forceful picture of a future slaughterhouse coming upon oppressors of God’s people. The more I reflect on it, the more I realize that my internal tension is similar to another one I have felt many times before–a tension related to the biblical doctrine of hell……..

Though the comparison is by no means perfect, and though it is on a much smaller scale, I tend to think that we can rightly grieve that Osama bin Laden opposed the true and living God and will be punished accordingly. But we also can rightly rejoice in the defeat and judgment upon people who are evil–and he was clearly evil and deserving of every punishment earth can give. The dancing in the streets may not merely be American nationalism, but an appropriate response to the partial display of human justice as we await the final and perfect display of divine justice in the coming age.

In my own words I would summarize Morgan’s words as such: Let our rejoicing over bin Laden’s death be tempered by the sobering reminder that he will experience eternal separation from God in hell forever and so would I but not for the grace of God in Christ Jesus towards me. Let this be an opportunity to turn our hearts to praise for our salvation which we do not deserve, drive us to our knees in prayer for our neighbor and prod us to me more vigilant to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ – a friend of sinners and their only hope of salvation from the eternal consequences of their sins.

You can read the whole thing here.

You can also read some other reflections in a similar vein from the following:

Justin Buzzard

Zack Neilsen

Denny Burke

Kevin DeYoung

Resurgence

John Piper

D.A. Carson

Doug Wilson

Al Mohler

Tom Gilson @ Evangel Blog

Peacemaker Ministries is dedicated to helping and equipping churches and believers deal with conflict resolution. They provide a much needed ministry for churches and organizations. They are offering 2 complete sets of their Resolving Everyday Conflict series on their blog!

They have 9 foundational principles for peacemaking:

  • Getting to the Heart of Conflict – Conflict starts in the heart. Therefore, if we fail to address the heart in a conflict, then any solution will fall short of true reconciliation.
  • The Four G’s – The biblical system for resolving conflict is captured by “The Four G’s”: Glorify God, Get the log out of your own eye, Gently Restore, and Go and be reconciled.
  • The Slippery Slope – A visual tool for understanding the ways people tend to and ought to respond to conflict.
  • The Seven A’s of Confession – A guide to making a sincere and complete confession.
  • The PAUSE Principle – A biblical approach to negotiation.
  • The Four Promises of Forgiveness – A great way to remember what you are really saying (and committing to) when you say “I forgive you.”
  • The Peacemaker’s Pledge – Complete summary of biblical peacemaking, suitable for churches or organizations to commit to together.
  • Relational Commitments – A way for a church to make a mutual commitment to work together to pursue unity, maintain friendships, preserve marriages, and build relationships that reflect the love of Christ.
  • The Gospel of Peace Mirrored Through Peacemaking – A summary statement of how the gospel of Jesus Christ is at the core of biblical peacemaking.

You can read more about these principles here as well as learn more about their ministry here.

Westminster Bookstore also has their foundational book Resolving Everyday Conflict if you don’t win the drawing!

There are few subjects in American cultural and religious discussion that give us a more accurate reading of our moral temperature than the issue of abortion. At the heart of this issue is this – When can the life inside a mothers womb be defined as a human being? How you answer this question is dependent upon how you define human being?

This question has two parts and therefore two questions to answer. First, the question is not merely when does life begin? Even if you believe that what is inside a mothers womb is just a clump of cells and tissue, it is still living because cells and tissue are a form of living existence. It is living no matter what you call it. Second, this naturally leads to ask the question – is this life a human being? There is no question that at some point the life inside a mother can eventually be defined as a human being. The question is, when can it be defined so and how do we make the determination that this life has crossed over that bridge?

I firmly believe that not only does life begin at conception but human life begins at conception. Since this life is human it has the status and deserves the care that a newborn baby, a 40 yr old mother and a 90 year old father has.

This week I ran across two short videos that speak to the heart of this issue and help answer these questions.

This first video sets up the heat of the issue. It can be viewed here.

The second video seeks to answer the fundamental question – Is this living organism a human being?

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If you would like to read a good book that gives the best defense of life beginning at conception and therefore why abortion is wrong read Scott Klusendorf’s book The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture. I also recommend R. C. Sproul’s republished book Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue.

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