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A Response to Pro-Life Principles

  • Stephen Hays,
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Dear Chalcedon,

This is in reply to Terrell's appalling article on Pro-Life principles.

1. Let's start with a few things we can all agree on. Yes, the rule of faith (sola scriptura) should also be the rule of the state. Yes, gov't should be limited. Yes, 90% of what the modern state does is unscriptural and unconstitutional. Yes, the prolife movement is a loose coalition in which many different and divergent ideological and/or pragmatic opinions are represented.

2. However, it is Terrell who systematically confounds process with principle. The prohibition of murder is the principle at stake, and not any particular process by which that prohibition is effected. A political process is a means to an end, not an end it itself. So it is Terrell who is guilty of unwittingly absolutizing the purity of a merely pragmatic process at the expense of the purity of the high moral principle.

3. Certitude is not a Scriptural standard of judicial evidence. When the Bible requires the testimony of two witnesses, that doesn't ensure the guilt of the accused. Both judges and witnesses could be bribed, as the Bible often acknowledges and denounces. Only the Final Judgment rises to the standard of certitude in matters of guilt and innocence.

4. The appeal to gun-ownership is a flawed analogy on several grounds: (i) to begin with, this is an express constitutional right, whereas the abortion pill is not; (ii) as a practical matter, guns can be used for either good or ill, whereas Terrell admits that the abortion pill will only be used for evil.

5. Terrell insinuates that there is no Scriptural warrant for taking preventative measures. Here are two counterexamples: (i) Holy War. One rationale for OT holy war was that the heathen nations would otherwise corrupt the Israelites (e.g., Deut 20:17-18). This rationale is preventative and pragmatic. (ii) Burglary. In Exod 22:2, the householder is authorized to kill a nighttime intruder. Why? Presumably because he poses a potential threat to the life and well-being of the family. Could the householder determine for certain that he posed such a threat? No. But the burglar had already taken an action that forfeited the benefit of the doubt. In both cases, prevention is not merely a side effect, but a main objective.

6. Terrell uses this article as a pretext to take a tacit swipe at Ashcroft. That is really a separate debate. I would just note the irony of Terrell's expansionist, Warren-court style extension of the 6th amendment to resident foreign national belligerents What justification does this have in terms of original intent and strict construction? The Constitution was written by and for the people of the United States. He takes an amendment that was meant to forbid redcoats from busting down the door of colonists, and instead upturns it to prevent the colonists from fending off the redcoats.

7. The issue is not about sin and salvation, but crime. Not all sins are crimes. But, in Scripture, murder is both.

8. By the same token, this is not about discipline. Once again, it is Terrell who is now confounding categories. Murder doesn't fall under the jurisdiction of church discipline.

9. Terrell is worried about setting a bad precedent. But his appeal to the domino theory is in direct tension with his objection to preventative measures. Which is it? We shouldn't ban the abortion pill because Scripture (supposedly) doesn't endorse preventative action? Or we shouldn't ban the abortion pill to *prevent* setting a bad precedent? Isn't Terrell now resorting to considerations of raw expediency?

10. Even on pragmatic grounds, his appeal is naive. Terrell is assuming that if godly people play by the rules, then the ungodly will play fair-and-square as well. Terrell knows better than that.

Yours in Christ,

Steve Hays

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  • Stephen Hays

Stephen Hays doubled-majored in history and classics at Seattle Pacific University and is currently both a student and teacher's assistant at Reformed Theological Seminary. He resides in Charleston, SC.

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