Monday, February 13, 2012

Michael Horton, Abortion and R2K

Michael Horton states here : “Let me offer an example. I hold a pro-life stance as a Christian, on the basis of the biblical truths of creation, fall, redemption, and the consummation—as well as explicit commands for extending love to neighbors. I make those convictions explicit even in talking to non-Christians. However, because they are made in God’s image and cannot suppress everything at the same time, and the Spirit is also at work restraining evil in common grace, I can appeal to what I know they know even as they suppress its logical conclusions. As Calvin reminds us, “The moral law is nothing other than the natural law that is written on the conscience of all.” Of all people, Christians should not remain passive in the face of slavery, abortion, racism, exploitation, injustice, and failures to be stewards of God’s good creation. However, they can work alongside non-Christians in these callings without having the church bind their consciences about specific policies or agendas that are not authorized by God’s Word.”
I can say much about this: "I can appeal to what I know they know even as they suppress its logical conclusions" but I'll refrain other than to make just a couple of brief comments. What logical conclusions about abortion (that presumably would indict the unbeliever) can be derived based upon what man knows in conscience through natural law? Can it be derived from natural law when life becomes a human soul? Even granting that we can know from natural law that abortion violates a moral absolute, how does one deduce by any absolute standard that abortion is a crime? After all, are all transgressions criminal? At the very least, knowing x and justifying one's knowledge of x are two different matters. Isn't the latter consideration of any relevance in a discussion that pertains to how things ought to be? In fact, and ironically so, wouldn't it be to bind man's conscience in an inappropriate way to suggest sin in general and moral crimes in particular apart from an appeal to God's law (even natural law) - yet how do we justify natural law apart from Scripture? Or is arbitrariness permissible? Where is the Christian's defense to terminate other than God's word? Again, knowing x and justifying x are two different matters and the latter must have its place at the table lest we forgo any rigorous claim on the former. Finally, how helpful or relevant is it that God restrains evil through "common grace" when trying to determine and justify appropriate moral codes for society? Again, much could be said but I'll pass.

Certainly, the church should never bind consciences regarding “policies or agendas that are not authorized by God’s Word,” but has that ever been in dispute? What is being implied here anyway? In any case, the question at hand is whether God’s Word speaks to any public policy and if so, is it ever appropriate for believers in their sphere of influence to put forth the Word to the nations? To do that is not to bind consciences from an aberrant view of the church's mission but rather to hold the nations accountable to King Jesus.

Regarding how this discussion often proceeds, it is hasty to reason that since Scripture does not inform us on every matter of public life that it is silent or irrelevant on all matters of public life. Moreover, to recognize that God's word speaks to public policy in general and some policies more specifically does not imply a lack of appreciation for the church's primary focus in the world, redemption. So, maybe we might finally get down to brass tacks and get rid of all the false disjunctions that have often clouded any meaningful dialogue. (I am referring more to some of the R2K proponents that frequent GreenBaggins and not to Dr. Horton whom I'm less familiar with in this regard. I'm referring to those who would argue from the observation that plumbing and baking can be done apart from a Christian worldview to the grand conclusion that the Bible is not relevant to civil government.)

At the very least, I'm glad to see that Dr. Horton gave at least some response to Professor Frame. Maybe more will follow in a spirit of humility, charity and grace, befitting of these men.

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