Abortion, Conscience, and the Church

I recently read an editorial page piece in my local newspaper, reprinted from The Washington Post.  Titled “When I Needed It, Abortions Weren’t Illegal,” the author shares, “I had an abortion in Alabama when I was 14.  If the state’s laws had been the same then as they are now, my whole life would be different.”  The article was written in response to recent pro-life legislation in that state and at least two others.  The author relates her story of that abortion experience, aided by her mother and an aunt who “wanted to inform and empower me,” although it was opposed by her father.  Of the abortion experience, she notes, “The doctor was kind. While taking the ultrasound, he said that I could look at the screen if I wanted to – that, in fact, it might make me feel better. I’d had little in the way of sex education and could barely conceptualize what was happening in my own body. Was there really a baby inside me?  What I saw was gray and cloudy, a barely perceptible swirl of cells. That simple encouragement has stayed with me to this day. The doctor knew that an abortion was a routine medical procedure — he wanted to reassure me, to give me a sense of normalcy, to inform me about what was happening in my own body.”

What really caught my attention were two statements later in the article.  She goes on to note, “Today, I live in Texas with my three children, where in my spare time, I volunteer to drive people seeking an abortion to and from their appointments,” and later, “From my own experience, having two more abortions after I became a mother, and from my volunteering, I know the reality of the procedure.”  Although I know that this attitude is commonplace, I was stunned at the almost celebratory and militant attitude toward the subject.  The article, obviously, remained in my mind, enough so that I was moved to pray for this woman, and her living children, when I prayed the next few mornings, rather than being merely angered.

Later, I happened across a piece entitled “The Epidemic of a Seared Conscience” on the internet site News With Views, authored by Dr. Mark Spaulding, a Calvary Chapel pastor, a portion of which reads,

“What has happened to a great number of men and women in America is that their conscience has become seared. Their mind is in a state of depreciating ability to grasp morality personally and interpersonally. They have become incapable of moral reasoning and logical analysis that lead to guilt or shame related to their thinking and behavior. They are being turned over to the darkness they crave and prostitute themselves to and on behalf of.

Depending on the severity of the behavior, psychologists call this psychopathic or sociopathic behavior. The difference between the two is that a psychopath has no conscience remaining. The psychopath’s conscience is completely seared and devoid of any emotion of shame or guilt associated with their behavior. Ironically, Hollywood glamorizes this behavior, giving tacit approval to the violent and murderous results of psychopathic people.

The sociopath has a small amount of conscience remaining. This person might still feel a twinge of guilt but not enough to stop their evil behavior. Both the psychopath and sociopath are dangerous to others with which they interact and especially those with whom they disagree.  Courtrooms across this nation are filled with cases involving the egregious behavior of people with little to no functioning conscience.

All of the examples above demonstrate varying states of the inability to reason morally. America is well down the path of being wrested from its moral foundations by psychopaths and sociopaths whose faculties have been impaired by evil. What can be done to correct this development? We must first understand what we are dealing with.

The late J.I. Packer said concerning conscience that:

“An educated, sensitive conscience is God’s monitor.  It alerts us to the moral quality of what we do or plan to do, forbids lawlessness and irresponsibility, and makes us feel guilt, shame, and fear of the future retribution that it tells us we deserve, when we have allowed ourselves to deny its restraints…Satan’s strategy is to corrupt, desensitize, and if possible kill our consciences.  The relativism, materialism, narcissism, secularism, and hedonism of today’s Western world help him mightily toward his goal.  His task is made yet simpler by the way in which the world’s moral weaknesses have been taken into the contemporary church.”  (J.I. Packer, Rediscovering Holiness)

Packer identified the real crux of the issue. Conscience is a God-given warning system that has been deliberately turned off today in a large number of Americans. An alarm cannot warn of danger if it is not connected to a power source.

Slowly and over time the innate ability of Americans to determine right from wrong has been strategically and with malice corrupted. The constant drive to remove and even erase Christianity from the public mind and memory has borne the rottenest of fruit culturally speaking.

How can a culture sustain moral uprightness from generation to generation when even the Church, that instrument of God meant to inform and when necessary, correct culture, begins to emulate the culture? When a society becomes seared in conscience, when a critical mass of people begin to think and advocate for evil under the guise of good, and exchange light for darkness, their minds become seared as with a branding iron and the resultant scar tissue renders them incapable of returning to correct thinking and behavior absent a radical surgery.

The Church is meant to be God’s scalpel, guided by His hand to make perfect incisions to remove the cancer of evil, the scar tissue of a seared conscience, and in so doing, restore right thinking and behavior to all individuals. When the Church refuses to do that mass deception is allowed to congeal and that environment creates hostility toward the truth of man’s precarious condition and toward the only solution to his dilemma.”

The woman in the editorial is a demonstration of the observation that “When a society becomes seared in conscience, when a critical mass of people begin to think and advocate for evil under the guise of good, and exchange light for darkness, their minds become seared as with a branding iron and the resultant scar tissue renders them incapable of returning to correct thinking and behavior absent a radical surgery.”  Again, I was moved to pray for her after reading her story.  She needs to believe the Gospel and come to Christ by faith and repentance, just as all humans do.  She needs to realize her true guilt, as we all do as part of the human race in rebellion against God, and find freedom from that guilt and sin at the Cross where Jesus died as the One Perfect Sacrifice in atonement for the sin of all who would believe.

There is no moral social consensus currently concerning abortion.  Some states have recently passed legislation to make abortion legal at any stage of pregnancy, even suggesting that if a late-term abortion results in a live birth, it is permissible to let the child die without medical attempt to save the child.  The Empire State Building was lit up in celebration of the passage of New York’s extreme abortion bill.  Statistics tell us that repeat abortions, abortions after a mother has already had an abortion, are common.  It is regarded merely as a form of birth control, a minor medical procedure, almost akin to having a tooth pulled.  The New York legislature is, meanwhile, considering legislation to stop the declawing of cats.  The ancient prophet Isaiah wrote, in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness: Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

I am ardently pro-life, and perhaps only somewhat comprehend the complexity of the issue.  We have two adopted children whose birth mothers could have, I suppose, chosen to abort them.  We were recently blessed by the birth of a granddaughter, who we saw for the first time via ultrasound before her birth.  I understand that situations are different, and many women with unplanned pregnancies agonize over their situation.  An unplanned and unwanted pregnancy can be devastating.  Recent legislation in at least three states is solidly pro-life; I have no doubt that the progressive left judiciary will not allow these laws to stand.  Without a societal consensus, legal restrictions on abortion will have only minimal effect.

The American religious community in many ways fails to effectively address this issue.  Some pro-lifers do not realize that threats of violence and hateful rhetoric do not aid their cause.   Liberal progressive denominations not only do not oppose abortion but in many cases support it.  The Evangelical community broadly is ineffective in addressing moral issues as well, sometimes through silence, but perhaps more importantly by diverting away from emphasizing the need for believers to grow in their faith and develop a truly Christian perspective so they can effectively live out the Gospel.

Evangelical churches in twenty-first century America often seem to be caught up in post-modernism and focus on attracting adherents through motivational speeches and pop psychology and prosperity theology and trendy contemporary entertainment and love and acceptance without mentioning sin and forgiveness.  But when the Church fails to rigidly adhere to Scripture and the consistent teaching of the Gospel and its ramifications for all of life, it will not have an impact.  Churches must be committed to the job of “equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12)” so those mature believers can effectively minister to people and have an impact on their communities.  Again quoting Dr. Spaulding, “The Church is meant to be God’s scalpel, guided by His hand to make perfect incisions to remove the cancer of evil, the scar tissue of a seared conscience, and in so doing, restore right thinking and behavior to all individuals. When the Church refuses to do that mass deception is allowed to congeal and that environment creates hostility toward the truth of man’s precarious condition and toward the only solution to his dilemma.”

 

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