Collegiate Reformed Fellowship is the campus ministry of Christ Church and Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow, Idaho. Our goal is to teach and exhort young men and women to serve, to witness, to stand fast, and to mature in their Christian Faith. We desire to see students get established in a godly lifestyle and a trajectory toward maturity. We also desire to proclaim the Christian worldview to the university population and the surrounding communities.
Those Christians who have spent much time in conservative Christian circles know that we are pro-life. That almost goes without saying. And we often have some of the basic arguments down, but we need to make sure that we have the true foundational issues down as well. That means, as you should instinctively know, that we have to ground our convictions on the Scriptures that have been given to us by God.
“If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Ex. 21:22–25).
Summary of the Text
In this law that the children of Israel were given, we can quickly see the parity of the law. This is part of the Israel’s case law system, and so a particular scenario is described, from which we are called to derive the principle of justice so that we might apply it in other comparable situations. So two men are fighting, and if they careen into a pregnant woman such that she gives birth prematurely, but the child is all right, then the guilty party is fined what the husband determines and the judges allow (v. 22). But if there is harm (“if mischief follow”) then the penalty that is exacted is precisely the same as the penalty that is exacted when harm is done to fully grown adults (Lev. 24:17-20; Deut. 19:17-21; Matt. 5:38).
Some might want to argue that this is talking about possible harm done to the woman, but this is not consistent with the language of the law at all. If it were dealing with whatever harm the woman suffered, then the fact of her being pregnant would be entirely irrelevant. The law is plainly talking about harm to the baby.
This is not something that we find in one odd corner of the Old Testament. No, God’s word is consistent on this.When a child is being mysteriously formed in the womb, God is the one doing it (Ps. 139:13; Jer. 1:5; Job 31:15). The children of the covenant are the children of the Lord from the moment they began to exist (Ps. 22:10). When Mary came to visit Elizabeth, John the Baptist rejoiced over it in utero (Luke 1: 41-44). This was not a quaint superstition from the hill country of Judea, but was rather what Elizabeth said when she was filled with the Holy Spirit. And so we come to the fundamental pro-life passage—“Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17).
The Mere Fact of Scripture
And so we see there are a number of Scripture passages that outline the Christian position on this issue. But there is an underlying issue, a deeper issue. And that is the mere fact of Scripture, the mere fact of an authoritative Word from outside the human race, a Word that we cannot alter, abolish, modify, amend, or repeal. God speaks to us, and He speaks to us from the Heaven of Heavens. His Word simply is. We may accept it or reject it. If we accept it, we shall be saved by it (because His Word includes the central message of Jesus crucified and risen). If we reject it, then we shall be judged by that Word we rejected. Not on the menu is the option of getting the Word to go away and bother somebody else. This fact of a transcendental Word leads directly to the next point.
What Is a Person?
As we are talking to non-believers, whether friends, family, co-workers, and so on, and we come to discuss this issue, we soon discover that we differ on what should be done. We believe that all human abortion needs to be outlawed. They want to keep abortion legal, although different unbelievers might go for various restrictions on abortion. This is the content of our disagreement. But let us go a step further and we will see where the real difference lies. When we ask what is a person?these two groups do give different answers. But why? The different answers arise from the fact that we are appealing to the legal codes of two different religions. One is the religion of man, and the god is Demos. The other is the religion of Christianity, and the God is Jehovah, Father of the Lord Jesus.
For the non-believer, a human being need not be a person. For the believer, the unborn child began to bear the image of his or her Creator God the moment the sperm penetrated the cellular wall of the egg.
Who defines a person? When we define according to the law of a particular God or god, then the definition is going to reflect the character of the god of the system. Because Jehovah is holy and immutable, this means that laws based on His Word are also going to be holy and unchanging. At this point of comparison, Demos the fickle god of the people, is unholy and is changing all the time—from one kind of unholiness to another. This shiftiness with regard to character is why secularism wants its authority over definitions to be kept murky and in the background. Remember what Chesterton said in this regard: “Definitions are very dreadful things: they do the two things that most men, especially comfortable men, cannot endure. They fight, and they fight fair.”
A Modest Suggestion
Pro-lifers are accustomed to speak of the sanctity of human life. But I would like to offer a way for us to improve this, and to make our meaning more clear. Rather, we should talk about the sanctity of God’s law, and the consequent dignity of human life. Human life does not provide the standard. Human life is what the standard—given to Moses on Mount Sinai—protects.
If we make human life the standard, then we have to spend time explaining why we are against abortion but support capital punishment. This objection canbe answered (we oppose executing innocents who have not been given a trial, which is not inconsistent with support the execution of guilty people who have), but it is cleaner to side-step it.
The Image of God in Man
Unbelieving man cannot reach God in order to fight Him, but would if he could. But failing that, like a rebel who cannot overthrow a hated king in a distant castle, he burns the king’s effigy in his own village—an image of the king that he canreach. Small children bear that image, and they are defenseless. We love the image of God in even the most helpless of our fellow men, and this is how we show our love for Christ, who is the ultimate image of the ultimate God.
As we read Scripture carefully, we should note that there are many differences between the status of the Jews in Isaiah’s day, for example, and our condition. At the same time, we have to realize that God gave the Scriptures to us for an example, so that we would be able to learn from their failures. We see this in multiple places (e.g. 1 Cor. 10:6, 11; Jude 7; Rom. 15:4). And this means that there are strong elements of continuity, and not just discontinuity. If there is no continuity, there are no lessons.
“Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, And their works are in the dark, And they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?” (Is. 29:15).
Summary of the Text:
There are different kinds of blindness. There is natural blindness—a rock is blind, for example. Rocks can’t see at all. There is unnatural physical blindness—as a man may be blind through no fault of his own. He belongs to a race of seeing creatures, but he cannot see. And then there is the peculiar kind of blindness that believes that the God of all omniscience is blind. This kind of blindness is the result of a judicial stupor—when God strikes a people for their rank hypocrisy.
In just such a context, Israel was blind because they had blinded themselves (v. 9). They were drunk, but not with wine. The Lord had poured a spirit of stupor over their heads (v. 10). What was happening was to them a sealed book, or an unsealed book in the hands of an illiterate (vv. 11-12). The cause of all this was their formalism and hypocrisy (v. 13). God was therefore going to do something amazing (v.14). Then we have our text—woe to those who want to outsmart God (v. 15). Surely, Isaiah says, you have everything inverted—clay does not shape the potter (v. 16). Clay does not have the right, or the power, to do any such thing. Clay that attempts to aspire to the role of potter can only achieve the status of being messed-up clay.
The Father of Lies:
The issue is lies, always lies (John 8:44). In political life, the foundational issue is honesty. What do I mean? If someone were to maintain that God did not know the location of a particular river in Montana, and someone were to contradict him, their resultant debate would not be a debate over geography. We have to recognize that when two armies meet in a particular place, fighting over the control of a continent, the actual turf where they are fighting need not be that important—whether it be Waterloo, or Gettysburg. When the serpent lied to Eve, the death was in the forbidden fruit, but the poison was in the words “hath God said?”
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:3).
So for example, if someone were to tell you that Jesus never went to Capernaum, the issue is not how important it was in the abstract for Him to ever visit that place. The issue is what God has told us—whether through conscience, nature, right reason, or Scripture. And the central, foundational warning must be this matter of simple intellectual honesty. As Emerson once put it, “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” When dealing with liars, you must always define your terms. Defining terms is how you count the spoons.
All of our current woes are a function of idolatry. Either we are living under the blessing of the true and living God, or we are living under the faux-blessings of the false gods, faux-blessings that will always reveal their anemic nature at some point. Consider some of the following:
What’s Wrong With Human Rights?
Human rights are given by the god of the system. If the God is the true God, then the rights are true rights. If the gods are false, then the gifts they give (including “rights”) will be false gifts. Moreover, they are false because they will reflect the nature of the giver. In a secular society, where the god is Demos, the people, the gifts will reflect the nature of the giver—and so they will be both sinful and mutable.
For instance, if you have a right to affordable housing, this means that someone else has an obligation to provide you with it. This is the kind of thumb-on-the-scale-cheating that idols do all the time. But when you have the right to speak your mind, no one else need do anything. So always remember that false gods offer a false gospel.
It is a matter of great importance whether Moses or Jeroboam writes the history books. We might be able to agree on the phrase “this is the God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” The disagreement comes when we examine the referent of “this.” What God are you pointing to?
You have been told, ad nauseam, that the United States was founded as a secular republic, breaking with the older order of Christendom. Secularism, formal religious neutrality, saved us all from endless religious strife and blood-letting. But this is almost entirely false. False gods write false salvation narratives.
One of the more common idols on the right is the notion of American exceptionalism. False gods offer a false doctrine of election. But look where this hubris has gotten us.
What Cultural Engagement Actually Is:
Some Christians run away from culture. This is the separatist move. Others approach culture, hoping for some kind of amalgamation or compromise. This is the syncretistic move. Others go over to the secular culture in order to surrender to it. This is the “convert me” move. The only appropriate option for us as Christians is to recognize the ultimate authority of Christ, and to disciple all the nations, including this one, baptizing and teaching obedience.
Has It Come to That?
We have to choose from one of the two main candidates, it is said. But why? If someone says that we have to vote for Trump because Hillary is far worse, then wouldn’t that require voting for Hillary at some point if she were running against someone far worse?
What do Christians do when there are no elections where they live? Well, they have to trust God. But we don’t want to have to do that. Trust God? Has it come to that?
In a world gone mad, sanity is always thought to be some form of extremism. When people are wound tight in their scruples, the preaching of free grace is thought to be antinomian license (Rom. 6:1ff). When the early Christians refused to acknowledge the pantheon of gods, they were not accused of monotheism, but rather of atheism. In the same way, because we are living in the era dominated by the gargantuan state, any assertion that we must return to biblical norms will be thought to be anarchy. It is not anarchy, for reasons to be explained shortly, but for the modern statist, it might as well be. Try to think of it as theocratic libertarianism.
“Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Deut. 5:16).
Summary of the Text:
When you honor your father and mother as you ought to do, you are honoring your immediate parents, those who establish what we call the nuclear family. But the honor due to our parents is not something that lasts for eighteen years and then poof, it is gone. Dependent children are told to render honor to their parents through obedience (Eph. 6:1-2). But when the children are grown up, and simple obedience is no longer required, the honor is still required, now in the form of financial support (Mark 7:10-13). And it does not stop there. The principle is that this particular kind of honor grows, develops, and changes. The duty to honor does not evaporate. The movement is from “my father,” to “our father,” to “our fathers.”
Politics Is Personal:
As we read Scripture carefully, we see how what we call political power grows up from the family. There is an organic connection between the nuclear family, the extended family, the clan, the tribe, the tribes, and the nation. When Saul is established as the king over Israel, an important institutional development has occurred, but it did not arrive de novo.
Atoms and Molecules:
The central difficulty with atheistic libertarianism and anarchism is that it challenges the right foe, the state, but is attacking an Abrams tank with a peashooter. The individual is an atomistic challenger to corporate man, and corporate man This is why pot-smoking libertarianism is such a joke. The lotus-eaters have never stormed any castle.
In order to resist the artificial swollenness of the modern state, the answer must be the true answer of molecular connectedness—the family and the church. But as soon as you have the family, and people worshiping together in the same language, you have the beginnings of nationhood. As long as Christians are honoring their fathers and mothers (Ex. 20: ), and honoring their leaders in the church (Heb. 13:7,17;
In the Meantime:
The Roman Empire was a hot mess. But even so, Christians were commanded—as far as conscience allowed—to render honor to the agents of it (Rom. 13:7). They absolutely refused to worship the emperor, but this refusal was all the more striking because they were commanded to honor the emperor (1 Pet. 2:17). This is the approach we must take when the state is a disordered one, needing to be raised from its mat, like Aeneas was. Honoring rulers in a diseased state is not compromise; it is obedience to God. “I think myself happy, king Agrippa . . .” (Acts 26:2). Paul walked back what he said about Ananias (Acts 23:5). And Jesus said to “render to Caesar” that which belongs to him (Mark 12:17), which means that something does.
But at different times, in different ways, the political order is not disordered.
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Prov. 29:2).
“Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, And the man who was raised up on high, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, And his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, Even a morning without clouds; As the tender grass springing out of the earth By clear shining after rain” (2 Samuel 23:1–4).
“It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: For the throne is established by righteousness” (Prov. 16:12).
“Take away the wicked from before the king, And his throne shall be established in righteousness” (Prov. 25:5).
Whatever era you live in, whatever political economy has been established—a republic, or a monarchy, whatever—righteousness at the top matters.
Now remember that history begins as a garden and ends as a garden city. That city is, in effect, the Christian church, the New Jerusalem, the mother of us all. The kings of the earth do not lose their glory and honor, but rather their glory and honor are placed in true perspective.
“Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame”” (Is. 49:23, ESV).
“And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it” (Rev. 21:24).
Church and Kingdom:
In a rightly ordered society, the church is the cathedral at the center of town. It is the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. All families come to worship the Lord there, but they do not live their lives there. In Christ, through Christ, all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Gen. 12:3), but they live their lives out in the parish, out in the kingdom. They are the Ministry of Health, Education, and Welfare. As they cluster in towns, they have to organize their practical affairs in some kind of order, and that would be the cause of the civil order—the mayor, the governor, the king, the president, the father. This is the Ministry of Justice.
This short series of messages can be considered as what used to be called “artillery sermons.” In the colonial period, ministers used to preach sermons prior to elections, in order to instruct and exhort their people in the duties of a Christian citizen. This kind of instruction is always necessary, for politics is always complicated. But it is especially needed in this particular pig’s breakfast of an election cycle.
“And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. And there he found a certain man named AEneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. And Peter said unto him, AEneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord” (Acts 9:32–35).
Summary of the Text:
Many miracles are recorded in the book of Acts, and usually the people who are the recipients of the miraculous power are unnamed (Acts 5:12-16; 19:11-12). On the occasions when the recipient is named, they are part of the Christian community, like Tabitha (9:36-41) or Eutychus (20:9-12), or an opponent of the gospel like Elymas (13:6-11), or both, like Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-10). In short, this incident with Aeneas really stands out, along with the use of his name.
Aeneas was the name of the legendary founder of Rome. The Aeneid, a book exalting him, and Caesar Augustus through him, was written somewhere between 29 and 19 B.C. This was (roughly) just fifty years prior to this incident in Lydda. The immediate successor to Augustus was Tiberius, and he was reigning during this incident. Try to read it like this—“And there he found a certain man named George Washington, who had been a paralytic for 8 years . . .” Would any of you think that something was up? Of course you would, but you wouldn’t be so foolish as to think it was “the same one.” But you would think a point was being made.
This is a deft Lucan jab at the pride and insolence of Rome. This was the empire that could treat the Mediterranean as an internal lake, and which was the glory of that world. And the apostle Peter—who would later be crucified upside down by Rome—came along and raised the crippled Aeneas to full health. What you have in this incident is a glorious foreshadowing of the next four hundred years. The paralysis of Rome was not yet evident to everyone, but it soon enough would be.
Politics Is Personal:
Policies don’t develop themselves, and people don’t give themselves to disembodied causes. Leadership is personal. Kingship is personal. This being the case, always beware of “the tactical vote.” We are not moving inanimate chess pieces around on an impersonal political board. And this is why your two candidates really need to be “Sackcloth & Ashes 2016.”
“It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: For the throne is established by righteousness” (Prov. 16:12).
No Other Name:
Pagan politics and Christian theology necessarily collide because they are two rival plans of salvation. Here is something that Peter once said after having had healed another cripple.
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Why is this important? This statement by Peter is a challenge to the saving authority of Rome.
Who was Caesar Augustus? Why does Luke bring him into the Christmas story (Luke 2:1)? Much more was involved in all of this than a simple indication of chronology. Octavius as a young man had been adopted by Julius Caesar, and he was the heir apparent. By the birth of Jesus he was the long-established emperor. In fact, as early as 40 B.C. a blasphemous coin had been struck in Gaul which showed the two-headed god Janus. Julius was on one side and Octavius was on the other, which an inscription that said, “The divine Caesar-and the Son of God.” In addition, there was an Egyptian inscription which said that Octavius was a marvelous star, “shining with the brilliance of the great heavenly Savior.” Then, in 17 B.C. when a strange star appeared in the heavens, Augustus commanded a twelve-day Advent celebration, as a ceremonial embrace of Virgil’s statement: “The turning point of the ages has come!” During the reign of Augustus, the cult of explicit emperor worship took firm root, especially in Asia Minor. This region was to become the center of persecution of Christians—and for precisely this reason.
Even his assumed name for his rule indicates the problem. The ruling title Augustus was taken up by him, and the name means “worthy of reverence and worship.” He was, in short, homo imperiosus. Caesar Augustus was simply the last in a long line of ancient men who believed in humanistic empire. But God was sending another kind of emperor, and another kind of empire entirely. God sent another way of salvation. (For more, see Christ and the Caesars by Stauffer)
Jesus Christ Makes Thee Whole:
Whatever you do, however you vote, you must vote against secularism. In other words, you must repudiate in your heart and mind the notion that religious neutrality in the public square is even a remote possibility. Your reasoning must be something like this: “Because secularism is utterly bankrupt, and because my responsibility as a Christian citizen is to hasten the day when that is evident to all, I will do thus and such.” If that is your pursuit, then you answer to God in how you conduct it. If it is not your pursuit, then it needs to be.
Peter healed Aeneas in the name of Jesus. There is no salvation apart from a Savior. There is no healing apart from a healer. There is no deliverance apart from a deliverer. And so—as should be plain—all we have to do to make sure Aeneas remains on his mat is . . . nothing. The pretensions of humanistic man are not just impotent, but they are also—as politics in our era make plain—ridiculous.
It is Christ or chaos, Christ or nothing, Christ or the abyss.