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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Chuck Wiese said...

The metaphysical debate over ensoulment is irrelevant to the debate over civil laws regarding abortion. This is the same mistake Obama made in his debate with McCain at Saddleback. Constitutionally it is the president's responsibility to protect human life. When people receive a soul or even if they have a soul is completely irrelevant. Scientifically speaking, human life begins at conception and so it is murder to take that human life. God has written His law on the hearts of all men and so every society has similar laws against stealing, murder, etc. In a religiously pluralistic society there is little point in beating people over the head with the Bible when discussing law. The only thing you will convince them is that your position is completely tied to your religion and since they are not part of your religion they don't need to listen to you. But natural law and reason are common to all societies. It's rather easy to argue just based on natural law that abortion ought to be regarded as a crime. Of course, natural law cannot save anyone because the law always accuses. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. If a situation existed where society as a whole were Christian then we could start having debates about what laws in the Scripture that are not part of natural law should be enforced, but I don't see the point until that happens and I really don't see that happening.

Reformed Apologist said...

You say it's i irrelevant if there is a soul or when one receives a soul because we're to protect human life yet *human* life presupposes a soul. Consequently, you presuppose as relevant that which call irrelevant.

Chuck Wiese said...

Human life doesn't necessarily presuppose a soul. You can scientifically determine whether or not someone is genetically human. You cannot scientifically determine if that same person has a soul. Because of the special revelation given to us by God we know that people have souls. But just based on natural law we can determine when human life begins. You could find lots of people who believe there is such a thing as a human being but don't believe human beings have souls. You could find lots of societies throughout history with differing views on what a soul is or even with no concept of a "soul" that recognize that there are human beings and that it is wrong to murder them.

Reformed Apologist said...

It's truly sad to me that a professing Christian can say that having a human soul is not a necessary condition for being human. If such were the case, then Christ could have become human without assuming a "reasonable soul," a direct contradiction of the implication of WSC Q&A 22, not that I have reason to believe you concern yourself with such things. I don't have reason to believe you do, in other words. What is it to be human without a soul after all? How do you determine apart from Scripture when human life begins - not life mind you but human life? In other words, what is it to be human without a soul? Chuck, please defend your thesis and don't just assert it again.

Looney tunes?

Chuck Wiese said...

My point is not that a soul is irrelevant in general. My point is that it is not necessary to prove that someone has a soul in order to legislate against murdering them. My point is proven by all the laws passed throughout history in pagan, heathen, and anti-Christian cultures. There are varying degrees as to who consistent people are in carrying out their beliefs that man should not be murdered but it's agreed upon by everyone regardless of their beliefs about the soul.

Reformed Apologist said...


That's an entirely different claim than what you originally set out to establish. Of course societies can legislate laws without justifying the presuppositions that govern their reasoning. That's precisely why abortion is legal.

Chuck Wiese said...

It's not an entirely different claim. The Scriptures say that God wrote His law on the hearts of all men. Because of this all societies have laws against murder of human beings. Sceintifcally speaking human life begins at conception. This even seems to be admitted by pro-abortion folks who keep making the claim that they are trying to make abortion safe, legal, and rare. There would be no reason to try to make abortion rare if it were a morally neutral activity. None of the above requires anyone to argue for ensoulment.

Reformed Apologist said...

Your comments are becoming a bit scattered.

"The Scriptures say that God wrote His law on the hearts of all men. Because of this all societies have laws against murder of human beings."

Not true. This society has no law against abortion. In any case, that God has written the moral law on man's heart does not mean that God constitutes all sins as civil crimes. Accordingly, your premise about the law written on man's heart begs the question of which sins are crimes. Consequently, your implication is fallacious: that we know by the law written on man's heart that x-sin should be considered criminal.

"Scientifcally speaking human life begins at conception."

Again, you have yet to show that natural law informs men that a living cell that grows to be a human contains a soul at conception. I believe it does, but Scripture doesn't inform me that natural law discloses that premise.

I'm afraid you are not grasping the gravity of your assertions let alone the critique of them.

Best of providence,

Anonymous said...

Another great exchange that only goes to show once again that Escondido is all wet.

Reformed Apologist said...

Mr. Wiese does not speak for WSC though the arguments he employs are on par with many of the arguments offered by those who defend the position the seminary subscribes to.

Anonymous said...

It is remarkable that Horton lists many things but doesn't invoke God's command not to murder. He is a NT Klinian.