Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Is incrementalism incompatible with Scripture?

I'm going to comment on Reasnor's opening statement:

Abortion is sin. Everywhere and always sin. 

That's largely true, although I think there are rare exceptions like ectopic pregnancies.

And as sin, the answer to abortion is The Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why it is of utmost importance to soberly and clearly look to Scripture to see how God views sin, and corporate repentance of sin. We must not be fooled into thinking we can go about this however we see fit. If the Gospel is the answer to abortion, which it emphatically is, then how we seek corporate repentance from this sin is vital. 

That's unbiblically reductionistic. Just as laws are no substitute for evangelism, evangelism is no substitute for laws. We need both. As Paul says:

 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine (1 Tim 1:9-10).

Even if you could evangelize everybody, everybody won't believe the Gospel. So that's not the answer. That's not the answer for people who know and despise the Gospel. 

The context of this debate is important. We are not talking simply about laws or ideas changing over time versus change happening over night. We are not talking about changes of ANY sort of laws. 

Both on its own terms as well as in connection with the previous statement, that sounds anarchistic. As if the objective of AHA is not a national ban on abortion, but convincing everyone to refrain from abortion by spreading the Gospel. 

Does AHA seek a legal remedy or not? Is it the goal of AHA to outlaw abortion? Or is this about persuading people not to perform or undergo abortions by converting them to Christianity? 

Immediatists supported state based total abolition as well as national based total abolition.

After Roe v. Wade, prolifers attempted a national ban on abortion. But lacking the votes, they had to fall back on less ambitious measures. 

By these examples it is clearly shown that one significant difference between immediatists and incrementalists is the type of legislation they support, not that one supports legislation and one does not. 

So what's the answer? The Gospel? Or legislation? Reasoner seems to talk out of both sides of his mouth. 

Laws supported and written by immediatists call for the total abolition of abortion in whichever jurisdiction the law is written for. 

i) That's stated in the present indicative as if that's happening as of now. But to my knowledge, no abolitionist bills have been sponsored in state legislatures, much less Congress, since AHA was founded.

ii) In addition, there's a crucial difference between "laws" and "bills." Even if abolitionists succeed in getting a state lawmaker or Congressman to sponsor a "bill" calling for the abolition of abortion, that's a worthless piece of paper unless it is passed and signed into law. 

Incrementalists of abortion are epitomized by those that support laws that only protect some of the unborn, laws regulating the facilities where abortions are conducted in, laws banning specific procedures, and laws requiring waiting time periods.

Roughly speaking, there are two ways to win a war. If you have overwhelming force at your disposal, you can defeat the opposition by a swift imposition of the rule of law. 

If, however, you are outgunned, then you fight a war of attrition. You resort to guerilla tactics to wear down the opposition. That's what the prolife movement is doing. 

Simply put, incrementalism supports unjust laws as a means towards justice…Scripture says a great deal about partial obedience and justifying your means by your ends. 

i) To begin with, that's simplistic. Sometimes the ends do justify the means. Not always, but sometimes. 

For instance, is it wrong to break into someone's house when the homeowners are away, and snatch a baby from the upstairs nursery?

Well, under normal circumstances, trespassing on private property, breaking and entering, and kidnapping are wrong.

But what if you notice the second floor is on fire, and you hear a baby crying from an open window? Well, in that case it would be wrong for you not to bust the door down and snatch the baby from the nursery. 

ii) As I also discuss in a recent post of mine, this is like a human shield situation:

Does God command advocating for incremental regulation of sin in order to maybe someday pass a just law, or does God command the immediate and uncompromising repentance of sin?  

Let's take a few examples:

i)  What about this?

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent (Act 17:30).

Looks "incrementalistic" to me. 

ii) Or this?

Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so (Mt 19:8).

Looks "incrementalistic" to me.

iii) Although the OT clearly regards prostitution as immoral, it doesn't ban prostitution across the board. It forbids cultic prostitution (Lev 21; Deut 23:17-18). It forbids a Jewess from becoming a prostitute (Lev 19:29). It forbids the use of proceeds from prostitution to support the religious establishment (Deut 23:19). In addition, prohibitions against sodomy  overlap with one form of prostitution. 

Yet there's a legal loophole. Ancient Israel had a number of resident foreign nationals. Although it was immortal, it was not illegal for a Jewish bachelor to pay for the sexual services of a (female) pagan prostitute. That's sinful, but not unlawful. 

Likewise, to my knowledge, is wasn't illegal for a Jewish husband to pay for the sexual services of a (female) pagan prostitute. That's sinful, but not unlawful. 

That's because the Mosaic law typically defines adultery in terms of extramarital relations where both parties are members of the covenant community. 

In the Mosaic law, not all sins are crimes. Even though prostitution is evil, the Mosaic law doesn't criminalize all forms of prostitution. Rather, it greatly curtails that particular evil. It limits the evil of prostitution, but doesn't abolish prostitution in toto.

iv) The Mosaic law permits the purchase of foreign slaves (Lev 22:44-46). Although the slave trade was an evil, that evil preexisted the state of Israel. Israel didn't introduce that evil into the ANE. Given that foreign slaves will be sold anyway, they are better off with Jewish masters, since they enjoy legal protections under the Mosaic law which would not be afforded to them under pagan ANE law codes. 

That's another case of the Mosaic law mitigating evil rather than abolishing evil. 

v) By the same token, even though the Pentateuch regards polygamy as a moral aberration, the Mosaic law doesn't ban polygamy. Once again, not all sins are crimes.  

Did Moses take what he could get? The political reality was that Pharaoh was an autocrat with all temporal power. Moses most certainly did not have the votes. It is safe to say that Moses had less than no votes. Moses would not compromise justice, he would not compromise God’s commandments. 

That's a preposterous comparison. Moses had overwhelming military might at his disposal. The 10 plagues. If God empowered prolifers with that kind of clout, we could easily  ban abortion. But we don't have that kind of leverage at our fingertips. 

In Amos, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, and other books, the call for total repentance is obvious. This theme can be followed throughout all the Prophets. They called for repentance and obedience, and not just for a decrease of sin.

As I pointed out in another post, that appeal is misguided, for the prophets call wayward Israel to obey the law of Moses. However, as I just noted, the law of Moses frequently limits or mitigates evil rather than banning all forms of misconduct. 

Some incrementalists today have taken to calling themselves “moral absolutists”, but “incremental strategists”. They hold what appears to be a righteous standard personally, but their bills, actions, and oftentimes even their rhetoric abandon those conceived in rape, abandon those too young, and abandon those that can be murdered less gruesomely.

On the one hand, prolifers can't "abandon" babies they were never in a position to save in the first place.

On the other hand, abolitionists abandon babies who are legally savable right here and now. 

1 comment:

  1. I think you touched on the conundrum early in the post. Is it law, or gospel, or both? Does AHA expect to convert the culture? Are they universalists? I asked this question in another combox, are AHA advocates theonomists?

    If not, if they're in favor of legislation, where is their absolutist / immediatist legislation? Who is drafting it, which politicians do they support? Which politicians support them?

    Rhetoric is a good start, but a lousy place to pitch camp.