3 ways churches can respond to the Whole Woman’s Health ruling

June 28, 2016

Yesterday the United States Supreme Court has ruled in the case Whole Woman’s Health vs Hellerstedt, and the implications go far beyond the fact that Texas is denied the right to make certain that surgical abortions are as safe as other surgical procedures. In this case the Court has privileged abortion cases with a judicial doctrine that is, as Associate Justice Clarence Thomas demonstrates, “something…akin to strict scrutiny.” Lawyers like to say that strict scrutiny reviews are “strict in theory; fatal in fact”—in other words, that once a subject matter gains strict scrutiny as a standard for review, little can be done to restrict or regulate it. The Supreme Court has drawn a bright line and has chastised Americans who love life, saying, “No further!”

But we must go further. We cannot stop here. The ministry of reconciliation and the fruit of the Spirit and the task of being a neighbor and the love of Christ all compel us never to grow weary in the good cause of calling our nation to recognize all people as people. The legislators of the State of Texas have done what they can do, but most of us are not legislators. The pro-life lawyers who bravely pursued this case all the way to the highest court of the land have done what they can do, but most of us are not constitutional lawyers. The experts who have filed amicus curiae briefs on the side of life have done what they can do, but most of us will never have an opportunity to try to persuade the Supreme Court.

We, the people of the United States of America—the people of the churches of the United States of America—must find our own way to go further. Perhaps you are wondering whether you can do anything that makes a difference. I would suggest to you that there are several things that you can do, all of which can make an important difference. As a starting point, here are three simple changes we all can make that will make a difference.

First, please don’t scare pregnant women. Give them courage instead. Most women who seek abortions seek them because they are afraid. Sometimes that fear comes from us. I serve a conservative Southern Baptist church in one of the reddest counties of one of the reddest states in the nation. Nevertheless, I’ve counseled pregnant teens who have told me, “Members of your church have told me that having this baby will ruin my life and have suggested that I should just get an abortion.” Nothing I’ve ever heard has so broken my heart as that. Both as a pastor and as an adoptive father I’ve seen the way that boyfriends, family members, friends, and in one case, even a hospital janitor can bully and ostracize young women who want to do the right thing for their babies. Who is going to stand by these young women and give them courage? Why not us?

One great way to give them courage is to minister to them by meeting their needs. If their parents kick them out of their homes, give them a place to live. If they can’t or won’t raise the baby, make adoption an easier choice for them. Help them to know for certain that choosing life will not ruin their lives, because they won’t face the future alone. I’m so thankful to know that, even if there have sometimes been members of my church in the shadows scaring pregnant women, my church has a lot of members in it who have been ministering in the ways that I have mentioned and in even more ways than those. Let’s all stand together to give courage to young women who are trying to do the right thing.

Second, prioritize the cause of life. Judge the character of politicians based upon the stance they take with regard to abortion. Unfortunately, both parties have nominated candidates for President who have not demonstrated a commitment to the dignity of unborn human life.  How do we face this decision? Because evangelical Christians decided that the pro-life cause is not that important. It was more important to them to support candidates who they thought would be more effective at making a statement than making a difference. I submit to you that if boorishness is a higher priority than saving the lives of babies, then saving the lives of babies is not really that high of a priority to us after all.

We can do better. Our priorities are shown in what we are willing to compromise in order to build coalitions. We can build pro-life coalitions with people who may disagree with us on some economic policies or other social policies. Instead we build coalitions with people who agree with us about fiscal conservatism but disagree with us about life. That’s all you need to know about where our priorities have really lain. I believe that is the wrong set of priorities, and so long as we approach the pro-life cause in this way, we’ll continue to get presidential choices like the one we face this year and court decisions like Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt.

Finally, champion the champions of life. In Exodus 17 we read the story of a time in the life of Moses when the tide of a battle miraculously turned in favor of Israel whenever Moses was lifting up his arms. Over the course of the day, his arms grew tired. Determined to have victory and feeling compassion toward Moses’ fatigue, Aaron and Hur found Moses a stone to sit on while each stood beside him and lifted up an arm for him. The legislators, lawyers, activists, columnists, and non-profit leaders who tirelessly serve the pro-life cause have suffered a defeat this week. They need your support.

They need your support in prayer. This is a spiritual battle against spiritual wickedness in high places. They need your support in what you say. Be boldly and consistently (and winsomely!) pro-life in social media and in your social circle. They need your financial support, because cases like this one are costly.

We lost a battle this week, but we did not sign an armistice. Doing the right thing is often difficult. Do not let this verdict discourage you. Rather, let us all recommit ourselves to the cause of defending the most vulnerable people around us. Let us recommit ourselves to the idea of a nation in which the law treats all people as real people and offers them the protection they deserve.

Bart Barber

Bart Barber has served as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, since 1999. He is married to Tracy (Brady) Barber. Bart has a B.A. from Baylor University in their University Scholars program, an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and a Ph.D. in … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24