Monday, April 10, 2017

Book Review: Abortion

Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue. R.C. Sproul. 1990/2010. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: A single issue rarely divides the American people. The few that have include slavery, the civil-rights movement, and the war in Vietnam. Yet another such issue is roiling in the present, an issue of such magnitude that our national solidarity is threatened. To many citizens, it is a matter of life and death, and may be the most serious ethical dilemma ever faced by the United States. The issue is abortion.

Premise/plot: R.C. Sproul carefully and rationally explores both sides of the abortion debate. In the first chapter he sums it up rather well: "At the heart of the abortion issue rests one overarching question: Is abortion a form of murder? In other words, does abortion involve the willful destruction of a living human person?"
He concludes, "The abortion debate is not over whether or not murder should be legalized; it is a debate over whether or not abortion is a kind of murder. There is something wrong, however, with even using the word murder in this discussion. The word itself is highly charged. At times it is used as a virtual synonym for homicide. The law, however, distinguishes between types of homicide. There is a difference between voluntary and involuntary homicide. A further category is manslaughter, both voluntary and involuntary. A clear delineation in the levels of the severity of these crimes exists under the law."
When does life begin? At what point in the continuum of human development do we have a living human person? Does life begin at conception? Does it begin at birth? Or does it begin at some point between these poles of progress, such as at quickening or viability? The answer a person chooses to this question often determines his or her position on the abortion issue.
Sproul has one specific audience in mind: "This book is addressed primarily to those who are not sure about the ethics of abortion. If you remain uncertain, I urge you again not to engage in abortion unless you are absolutely certain for clear and sound reasons (which I'm not aware of) that abortion is an ethically justifiable action. The simple adage of common wisdom applies to you: "When in doubt, don't."

My thoughts: What a great book! I thought it was clearly written--and passionately written too! He's writing to the 'neutral' and 'undecided' crowd of people. Or he says he is. I'm not sure who is most likely to pick up this book and read it cover to cover. I imagine plenty of Christians who are already pro-life will pick it up and read it. I do think it would make for a good book discussion.

Favorite quotes:
  • The irony of the United States debate on abortion is that it is a battle over "rights" in a nation that is sharply divided over how to determine what is right about anything.
  • In human societies, unjust laws may be passed. People may be given the legal right to do what is morally wrong or may be legally prohibited from doing what is either morally permissible or morally required. Thus, moral rights may be made illegal and immoral activities may become legal. 
  • Whatever happens in the United States, however, will not change the nature of truth. Although the perception of reality may change from generation to generation, that does not change reality itself.
  • The sanctity of life touches the abortion question when a person has real doubts about whether a fetus is a living human. Here's my reasoning: If we are in doubt at any point about whether or not we are dealing with human life in relation to abortion, the overarching principle of the sanctity of life stimulates us to think carefully and avoid rash judgments. The sanctity-of-life principle underscores the gravity of the question of when human life begins.
  • It is precisely because the Bible has such a high view of human dignity that Christians take human sin so seriously.
  • When the destruction or the disposal of even potential human life is done cheaply and easily, a shadow darkens the whole landscape of the sanctity of life and human dignity. 
  • People are precious. Their lives are of inestimable value. They are gifts. They must never be taken for granted. Things can be replaced-but there is no replacement for a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, an aunt, an uncle, a friend, or a neighbor. Civil societies always recognize this vital principle and build their cultural institutions upon it. They do anything and everything they possibly can to protect the dignity, integrity, and sanctity of life. Because there are no expendable or disposable people, every life is worth honoring, protecting, and saving. Ultimately, the rule of law depends on an absolute respect for the value of people. Why do we display this kind of concern for living individuals but not for the multitude of unborn who die each day and become mere statistics? Perhaps the reason is that people outside the womb are not nameless, abstract statistics.
  • If we regard the embryo or fetus as a living human person, then the moral implications of destroying that person prior to birth are enormous. As long as we can convince ourselves that a fetus is not human until birth, we are relieved of those difficulties. 
  • There is a strong tendency among people of any nation to take their direction as to what is ethically right from what the law allows or what the society condones. The unspoken assumption is that if it is legal, it is therefore moral. Sadly, this conclusion does not reflect much sober thinking or ethical analysis, yet the syndrome is repeated in culture after culture.
  • Once a decision has been reached in a nation's highest court, that decision's subsequent influence on the shaping of public opinion is enormous.
  • We can sin mightily while thinking we are acting in perfect virtue.
  • For a society to be just, its laws must be just. If an unjust law is passed and enforced, anyone who is coerced to comply with the law is a victim of injustice. 
  • No government ever has the moral right to be unjust.
  • The most fundamental expression of love is care for, concern for, and protection of human life. The foundational obligation of all government is to protect, sustain, and maintain human life. This is the very reason for the existence of government.
  • The unborn have no voting rights and no physical power to avert their destruction. If their interests are to be served and protected, it must be by adults in general and by government in particular. The Supreme Court decided that the state has no compelling interest in the fetus until viability. (One wonders at what point the fetus has a compelling interest in the state.) By denying the unborn the fundamental right to live, the state has reneged on its solemn duty.
  • At what line must freedom of choice end? I believe it ends where my freedom of choice steps on another person's inalienable rights of life and liberty. No unborn baby has ever had the right to choose or deny its own destruction. Indeed, as others have said, the most dangerous place in the United States for a human being is inside the womb of a woman.
  • For millions of unborn babies, the womb has become a cell on death row.
  • You and I are real human beings. We were once helpless to exercise our own precious right to choose. We were once totally dependent on somebody else's choice for our very existence.
  • When God forgives us, we are forgiven. When God cleanses us, we are made clean. That is a cause for great celebration.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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