How we answer abortion advocates matters

A call for compassionate pro-life engagement


This is the word many women use to describe their day-to-day experience after having an abortion. Their haunting includes fear, guilt, shame, confusion, but most of all, the memory of the life that was—and could have been. 

Countless women bury these memories deep within. One woman, Elizabeth, recalls being young and poor, with two small children. As a single mom, she worked night and day just to feed her little ones. When she found herself with another positive pregnancy test, fear and insecurity welled up within her as she prepared to tell her then-boyfriend. She expected him to show support and to commit to being there, both for her and for their baby. She hoped he would marry her, that he would father her three children, and that they would live happily ever after. Instead, he rationalized: “Now is not really a good time. I think you should have an abortion.” After seeing her through the procedure, he abruptly ended the relationship. She was devastated and left to mourn her losses. 

Another woman, Lydia, shared her story of teenage pregnancy. Lydia’s family was church-going, but not a Christ-centered household. Alcohol consumed her father, and her mother was emotionally absent, so Lydia began looking to young men for love and attention. At 16, she found herself pregnant, and thankfully, her son is with her today. But when she became pregnant a second, and then a third time, Lydia’s mother forced her to abort. She still weeps over the loss of her beloved babies.

Stories like these echo the accounts of many of the million or so women in America per year who receive an abortion. Though their backgrounds differ, their cries resound with the same grief, the same remorse, the same guilt and shame. Many hope deep down that someone will affirm what they know to be true in their hearts—that abortion is taking the life of another person. They long for someone to reassure them that there is another way forward. And if they did not feel this way before the abortion, they certainly do afterward. 

While political campaigners and lobbyists tout the tagline that a woman has a right to choose to do with her body whatever she wants, arguments abound against such an appeal. Not only is abortion a death sentence for the unborn, it also leaves scars on the woman that last a lifetime—some physical, others emotional. For many women, it takes several years before they are able to tell their stories. Each of the women above has experienced redemption—indeed God forgives all things [through Christ] (1 John 1:9). But they openly admit that their pain has remained with them. It never goes away—not entirely. If only we could save the lives of these millions of unborn children. But an equally important mission is to rescue women in crisis, to help prevent the nights of tears and sleeplessness, and to spare them from the path of shame and guilt.

The culture war

If abortion is distressing to the lives of individual women, it has wreaked similar havoc on our contemporary public discourse. Abortion has been and remains a hotly contested issue in American society, such that simply discussing the morality of abortion elicits passionate opinions on all sides of the social and political spectrum. This is due, on the one hand, to the very personal nature of the issue. Freedoms hang in the balance, and people will fight tooth and nail for the lives and liberties they seek to preserve. Still, abortion in America has become far more than a stand-alone issue. Our country is caught up in a contest between ideologies, in what some have called a culture war, and the abortion debate lies squarely at the center of the conflict.

How can Christians who believe that Jesus became human in order to redeem [humanity] relativize the worth of the most vulnerable to the point where it is “morally acceptable” to terminate unborn lives? How should those who believe the biblical teaching on the sanctity of life answer the claims of their pro-choice peers? And how should believers in Jesus respond to the overwhelming political and societal pressure that progressive culture is mounting against evangelical Christianity?

A call to action 

In a Jan. 31, 2021, Wall Street Journal op-ed, Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics & Public Policy Center, issued a simple call to action worth considering. Anderson advised cultural conservatives to respond directly yet intelligently to the pressures of their ideological opponents. “Americans need to figure out how to coexist peacefully on these issues,” Anderson insisted. “But the answer isn’t for our side to forfeit the fight about the truth by pleading only to be left alone. . . . We’ll have the best shot at winning fights over abortion restrictions,” Anderson argued, “when conservatives are willing to assert that their beliefs are true, not merely protected in law.” 

According to Anderson, what is needed is for morally conservative thinkers to engage abortion defenders and other progressive ideologues, and to do so armed with cogent and rational argumentation—that which can’t be easily dismissed on the basis of religion. “If we fail to fight back in the court of public opinion against the claim that our beliefs are ‘bigoted,’ we will ultimately lose even in courts of law, where the soundness of our beliefs is supposedly irrelevant. If basic truths of human nature are redefined as religious bigotry, they will be excised from society, in court and out.” 

Anderson’s call for peaceful, intellectual engagement on the matter of abortion is right on target for anyone who shares his convictions about the Bible’s pro-life message and its teachings on how to engage one’s ideological “other.” “For the weapons of our warfare,” announced the apostle Paul, “are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:4–5). 

Yet the manner of our engagement is as equally important as the method. If we wish for American society ever again to respect—much less reflect—our cherished biblical values, then Christians must embody not only the boldness but the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must engage, but do so peaceably (Rom. 12:18). We must speak the truth, but do so in love (Eph. 4:15). We must bear with the assaults of our critics, but do so with “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). This is all the more important when we step out from behind our mobile devices and social media pseudonyms and have real-life, enfleshed conversations with people we know and love. Indeed, if we ever wish to see our sister, daughter, niece, or neighbor choose life in the wake of an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, we must arm ourselves with answers as well as empathy.

Excerpt adapted from Choose Life: Answering Key Claims of Abortion Defenders with Compassion by Jeanette Hagen Pifer and John K. Goodrich (©2022). Published by Moody Publishers. Used with permission.

Jeanette Hagen Pifer

JEANETTE HAGEN PIFER (B.A., Biola University, M.A. Talbot School of Theology, Ph.D., University of Durham) is Professor of New Testament at Biola University, where she has taught since 2016. Her focus in research and teaching is on the New Testament, especially the Pauline literature. She has served in a variety … Read More

John K. Goodrich

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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