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The Sanctity of Life Versus the Sanctity of Law

By P. Andrew Sandlin
Published May 1, 2008

While they often do not possess a carefully articulated and principled theological approach to their opposition to abortion, the evangelicals have apparently picked up by osmosis the Roman Catholic idea of the repudiation of abortion on the grounds of “sanctity of life.” According to this theory, we deduce abortion is wrong because the church historically has opposed it and because “abortion of the human fetus [is] murder of the innocent.” 1 Man was created in God’s image and abortion has little “regard for the dignity and rights of the individual which is basic to the entire Judeo-Christian theology and tradition.” 2 The Roman Catholic view specifically founds its opposition to abortion on the abstract “right to life,” and even justified inasmuch as it is spelled out in the American Declaration of Independence.3 This appeal seems to imply a connection with the natural law theory pervasive among the Founders and, of course, endorsed by one of the principal doctors of the Roman church, Thomas Aquinas.

Grounded as it is in natural law theory, the pro-life position appeals to a supposed objective neutrality among humanity that, if it sees the issue aright, would, it is assumed, logically oppose abortion. It does not-cannot-employing Roman Catholic rationale take the depravity of mankind and the harmful effects of that depravity on man’s moral views seriously.4 Christians who support the pro-life position must recognize that in giving the unregenerate individual the opportunity to adjudicate on the issue of abortion on the basis of natural law, they are compromising the message of Scripture which depicts the unconverted as spiritually dead and unable to so adjudicate. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

It is time for the evangelicals to rethink and, I assert, revise their commitment to the opposition to abortion by a “pro-life” rationale, which, I am convinced, is theologically defective and practically deleterious.

1. The “pro-life” position shifts the opposition to abortion from specifically Biblical to non-Biblical grounds. Abortion is opposed because it is a violation not of the law of God,5 but of the value of human life. The locus of objection is transferred from the propositional revelation of God to the value-estimate of humanity. It is anthropocentric (man-centered) rather than theocentric (God-centered) and therefore idolatrous. According to the pro-life position, abortion is opposed fundamentally because of the havoc it wreaks on humanity, not because of the havoc it wreaks on the law of God. If we oppose abortion primarily because of our high regard for humanity, it is hard to perceive how we can criticize supporters of homosexuality and opponents of capital punishment who employ the value of human life as the rationale for their misguided causes. More importantly, if we oppose abortion primarily because of our high regard for humanity, we come dangerously close to committing the sin of idolatry, the worship of man and his temporal life.

Losing the war by denying sola Scriptura

2. The “pro-life” position opens wide the door to other antinomian views and policies that in the log run will undermine opposition to abortion. In the case of Romanism, the activism opposing abortion must ultimately be subject to the ex cathedra pronouncements of the Pontiff; and if the Roman church were to alter her position on abortion, it would be difficult for consistent anti-abortionists within her bosom not to alter their activism, devoted as the Roman Church is to the subordination of Scripture to tradition. Similarly, formerly fervent activists of charismatic orientation have been paralyzed and muted by the specious “prophecies” of noted charismatic leaders, who declare God has revealed to them by direct revelation that Christian activism is dangerous. Devoted as many charismatics are to the validity of “advanced prophetic revelation,” they are paralized by such “revelations.” It is critical to note that in both cases Christian opposition to abortion may suffer immeasurably when authority for that opposition is redirected from the objective revelation of God in Scripture to some subjective standard, be it human tradition or be it experience. Similarly, it provides no bulwark against evangelicals like Ron Sider who, employing the rhetoric of pro-life, support “Christian” varieties of both socialism and feminism,6 or those who oppose capital punishment on precisely pro-life grounds.

3. The Protestant or evangelical “pro-life” position cannot survive indefinitely because its lack of sound Biblical theology and social theory cannot generate a sustained activism. For example, most of the evangelical wing of the pro-life movement is premillennial, while most of the Roman wing is amillennial. Neither of these eschatological views harmonizes with a long-term theory and strategy of Christian activism for each espouses a philosophy of history antithetical to the advancement of the Christian faith in the social and political spheres.7 The endorsement of postmillennialism, however, the view that the kingdom of God in all spheres of life is destined to advance in time and history by means of the operation of the Spirit of God, the preaching of the word of God, and the faithfulness of the church of God, provides the framework and impetus on which to ground a potent social theory. Postmillennialism cannot, nonetheless, provide the content for that social theory, but neither is modern evangelicalism equipped with a workable social theory, because its uniformly dispensational ethics either denies the need for such a theory, or abandons the applicability in the present age of those portions of Scripture (most notably the Old Testament law) that serve a blueprint for a Christian social theory. If evangelicals were to embrace some form of theonomy,8 however, they would have at their disposal a concrete pattern on which to develop a sound and potent social theory that includes a rationale for a principled opposition to, and alternative for, abortion. As it stands, the pro-life sector of evangelicalism is floundering because its eschatology cannot sustain its enthusiasm, and its social theory cannot inform its program.

The solution to this problem is the adoption of a principled, objective, explicitly Biblical approach-a pro-law approach-like that found in the Reformed faith. Indeed, it is difficult to envision an explicitly Biblical approach to the issue of abortion that is not in some way Reformed or influenced by Reformed tenets. In any case, if the evangelical anti-abortionists hope to expect sustained, eventual success, they must replace their “pro-life” position with “pro-law.”



1 Thomas J. O’Donnell, “A Traditional Catholic’s View,” in ed., Patricia Beattie Jung and Thomas A. Shannon, Abortion and Catholicism: The American Debate (New York: Crossroad, 1988), 44.
2 ibid., 47.
3 ibid.
4 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1967 ed.).
5 R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (no location: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1973), 263-269.
6 Ronald J. Sider, Completely Pro-Life (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1987).
7 Gary North, Millennialism and Social Theory (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990).
8 Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1984 ed.).


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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.

The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.

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Freedom: The Model of Christian Liberty (DVD)

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The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

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Abortion Clinic 911 Calls (DVD)

Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!

These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.

Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.

Watch these pro-life videos on-line.

“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California

“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
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The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

Foundations in Biblical Eschatology

By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.

All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?

These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.

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A Revival Account: Asbury 1970 (DVD)

What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?

Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!

“This simple video does a wonderful job of conveying something of God’s heart and power, Everyone we have ever shown this to has received an immediate impartation of faith for revival and the power of prayer.”
— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l

Running Time: 40 minutes

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