Friday, May 08, 2015

"Be warmed and filled "

I'll comment on Alan's reply:

Interestingly, as far as I can tell, Steve blogs or talks (in his capacity as employed by a seminary) an amazingly high amount of time. 

Not that it's any of Alan's business, but I generally write in the morning, then do other things in the afternoon. Sometimes I do a bit of writing at night, but oftentimes not. So I don't spend an "amazingly high" amount of time at this.

It's not as if he's in the thick of the fight, actually loving his preborn neighbors who are being ripped apart in his own locality.

Several issues here:

i) It's revealing how abolitionists think their agitation gives them bragging rights. That's precisely the attitude which Jesus warned against (Mt 6:1-18).

ii) Abortion isn't the only important issue that Christians need to be involved with. Other issues include euthanasia, parental rights, the Bill of Rights (esp. 1st, 2nd, 4th amendments), the queer/transgender mafia, school choice, &c. These are interrelated. We need to resist secular totalitarianism in its various manifestations. 

iii) Alan has a deficient ecclesiology. As Paul explains, the church has different body parts. Different members have different gifts. All Christians don't have the same duties or calling. 

There's a need for Bible scholars, ethicists, and apologists.  

There's a need for Christian lawyers to defend religious liberty. 

There's a need for Christian physicians and Christian civil magistrates (e.g. lawmakers, judges, governors, mayors).

Anti-abortion activism isn't the only way of loving your neighbor. Visiting shut-ins and nursing home residents is a godly activity. Or caring for enfeebled parents.  

Moreover, it's very time-consuming just to be a breadwinner, as well as a husband and father. But that's a godly Christian vocation. 

You actually have no idea whether it does.

Sure we do. Restrictions on abortion save babies covered by those restrictions. 

The astute reader will note I never made that positive claim. I'm responding to Steve and other incrementalists on their own grounds - the claim that immediatists abandon babies and that they save more. I ask for evidence that this claim is true. They respond with "You can't show that YOUR way saves more EITHER!"
Thus proving my point.

In the nature of the case, legal restrictions on abortion save babies who'd otherwise be aborted absent those restrictions–just as the legal drinking age reduces the number of alcohol related accidents by minors. It doesn't prevent some people from breaking the law, but you'd still have a worse situation absent a legal drinking age. 

Alan's intellectual evasiveness on this point is telling. 

Moreover, if Alan doesn't think legal restrictions on abortion reduce abortion, how would a legal ban on abortion reduce abortion? It's a matter of degree. If he's that skeptical about what the law can prevent, then that's a tacit admission that the goal of abolitionism would fail even if it succeeded.

Hmmm, I don't see why it's "utterly irrelevant". It might not map automatically onto what we do now, but then again it might. Does God change His prescriptions for how people are to deal with individual or corporate sin based on how many years have passed?

This is an example of arguing in bad faith. I was responding to Alan's own argument, as he chose to frame the argument. Now he's changing the subject. Yet the question at issue, as he originally cast the issue, was the claim that "Incrementalists have no idea how many babies would have been saved if they had pushed for immediate abolition from the beginning."

That involves a counterfactual claim: how many babies would be saved had abolitionist methods been deployed from the start. And I explain why appealing to an alternate history scenario is irrelevant to how we should act at present, given our real historical situation. In his response, Alan ditches his own framework, ignores my supporting argument, and shifts ground.

Disanalogous for the same reason the burning building analogy is.

Once again, Alan isn't paying attention to the argument–which is ironic, considering the fact that he's not paying attention to his own argument. The issue I was responding to this time is not whether it's better to same some lives rather than let everyone die if you can't save everyone. 

Rather, the issue goes back to Alan's alternate historical scenario, viz. incrementalists aren't really saving babies, because, for all they know, more babies would have been saved if, on some alternate timeline, abortion opponents practiced abolitionism all along. Therefore, that counterfactual consideration should affect what we do now. So Alan's link is irrelevant.

We have also already dealt with this. 

Once more, Alan isn't paying attention. I'm using Wallenberg this time to illustrate a different principle. The question at issue this time around isn't whether to save as many as you can, but whether incrementalism actually saves lives, in contrast to a hypothetical past. 

Why does Alan fail to engage the actual argument–especially when I'm responding to him on his own terms? Perhaps because abolitionists are poor listeners. So convinced are they of their own rectitude that they can't believe their critics have anything worthwhile to say. 

However, it was of such poor quality that we decided ignoring it would be a better use of our time. It breaks no new ground, responds substantively to none of our points, and trades on numerous strawmen, the likes of which Steve has repeated over and over in talking about AHA and immediatism, sadly.

So we're treated to Alan's triumphalist rhetorical bravado. It's fine with me if that's the best that AHA has to offer. 

That's what we keep saying!

It's true that AHA keeps repeating the same push button buzzwords. This despite the fact that it's been corrected on its deceptive terminology. AHA doesn't feel any obligation to be truthful when representing its critics.

"effective" - Pragmatism again, relying on human action and will rather than trusting in the providence of God.

i) Now we're treated to a tendentiously lopsided appeal to divine providence. So doubting the efficacy of abolitionist methods betrays a lack of faith in divine providence, but denying the efficacy of prolife methods is consistent with faith in divine providence. Alan's special pleading is flagrant.

ii) This also illustrates the shell-game that abolitionists constantly play. On the one hand, they disdain the prolife movement for its allegedly ineffectual efforts. And they contrast that with the more successful methods of abolitionism.

On the other hand, when you dare to question the efficacy of abolitionist methods, they do an about-face and say that's "pragmatic" and worldly. They constantly careen back and forth between these two opposing principles. They judge the prolife movement by "pragmatic" standards (has it succeeded?), but refuse to apply the same metric to themselves. 

PROVE that rather than asserting it.

That's a disingenuous question. Abolitionists demand evidence, but when their demands are met, they brush it away. To take the most recent example, in his debate with Russell Hunter, Cunningham cited studies by Prof. Michael New, documenting the fact that incremental laws are indeed saving lives everywhere they are passed. 

But abolitionists don't want to hear that. They aren't open to the possibility that that's true, for they can't afford to admit it. That concession would be too damaging to their own position. Hence, the preemptive dismissal ("studies of men"). 

That's why Hunter kept ducking the question: "Would you let these babies die?" That's the AHA dilemma. 

And again, Steve and Jill need to prove they're saving a significant number of babies, not just assert it. 

A "significant number of babies." That's a very telling phrase. Suppose incremental legislation only saves an "insignificant number of babies." That doesn't meet Alan's threshold. Life is cheap. You must have enough babies before it becomes worthwhile endeavor to save any. Tough luck for those who didn't make the abolitionist cut.

Duty belongs to us; results belong to God.

As if abolitionists hold the copyright on that motto. But, of course, prolifers can say the same thing. 

If by "wishful thinking", Steve means that I believe…

When we compare prolife activism to abolitionist activism, we're comparing something to nothing. Prolife activism saves lives here and now.

By contrast, abolitionism issues I.O.U's. Abolitionism is the poker player who begs off his bookie by assuring him that he will pay it all back after he wins big in the next game. Problem is…it's aways the next game, never the last game. Abolitionism is betting on the future. Abolitionists only save babies right now by imitating long-standing prolife methods. 

Why is it bad to remain morally pure?

Few things are more spiritually perilous than fake moral purity.

It's not "alleged". It's ACTUAL.
Also James 1:27Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Actually, AHA is more like this verse:

15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (Jas 2:15-17).
AHA sees babies who could be saved, but refuses to do what's possible and necessary to save them. It merely says, "Best wishes!" then leaves them to die. 
AHA might object that they do turn away some mothers from abortion clinics. But, of course, that's not an AHA distinctive. Prolifers have done that for decades. 


  1. Excellent series, Steve. For what it's worth, AHA always reminds of this verse when I see them complain about incrementalists (after John saw someone who was not a follower of Jesus casting out demons):

    "But Jesus said to him, 'Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:50)

  2. Wasn't Alan a T-blogger at one time? I appreciate his zeal, but his reasoning has gone off the tracks.

  3. From what I've seen of his behavior, Alan, or Rhology, or whatever his name is, displays sociopathic tendencies. An example of this is when he showed little to no empathy for Caner when his son committed suicide (I'm no defender of Caner, by the way). The icing on the cake was when Alan said that only people who called for Caner's repentance could legitimately offer condolences. Alan is off his rocker. He's nuts.

  4. I didn't realize "visit(ing) orphans and widows in their distress" was a plank of AHA's mission. It doesn't seem to get much press on their website. Are they visiting orphanages and nursing homes in between their agitation events at local churches?

  5. I've had the misfortune of coming under Rhology's ire. I'm glad Steve has the patience to deal with him, because I don't.