Pastors, speak up for the unborn

January 18, 2017

Like many churches on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (January 22), our church will remember the dignity, beauty and goodness of human life and the horror of abortion that continues to afflict millions across our country. And for the seventh time in as many years, I plan to preach for the voiceless millions who are being taken away to the slaughter. As Proverbs 24:11–12 instructs,

Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?  

We know that millions of babies are being slaughtered every year. We knew that before the Planned Parenthood videos were released in 2014. But even more graphically, we know that thousands of children are being aborted every day—being ripped apart, sold for parts and sacrificed on the altar of sexual liberty and personal autonomy.

With such knowledge, we are accountable to weep, pray, work, march and speak out for the unborn. This is true for all Christians, but even more for pastors. And so, it’s to my brother-pastors I speak to today.

An apologia for preaching Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

Since the beginning of my preaching ministry, the month of January has always included a sermon on the sanctity of life. And I would challenge every pastor—if you are not already committed to preaching against abortion and for the sanctity of life—to ask yourself a question: Why not? What is keeping me from giving voice to the voiceless? Do I think it’s a deviation from the gospel? A betrayal of expositional preaching? A distraction from the work of the church? A detour into politics?

Brother, let me challenge you: the sanctity of human life is anything but tangential to the gospel. It stands at the center of what it means to be human, and abortion’s grip on America (not to mention the world) is one of the greatest lies Satan uses to deceive people to kill innocents. Therefore, we are called to address this national scourge with the full weight of scripture and the full power of the gospel—grace to forgive those deceived into having an abortion, and grace to stand against all those who lead others to death.

With that in mind, let me offer three reasons why gospel preachers should make it an annual habit to preach about the sanctify of human life.

1. Scripture is replete with texts speaking of God's abomination of child sacrifice.

Moses writes, "You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord" (Leviticus 18:21; cf. 20:2–5; Deuteronomy 18:10). In ancient Israel, Molech was the pagan god that promised fertile fields. In our day, Planned Parenthood has assumed Molech's mantle, sacrificing children so that their parents can pursue any number of other idols. While the Bible regularly extols the blessedness of children (see Ps. 127–28), our country treats them as inconveniences to prosperity and hindrances to sexual liberation.

Steeped in this culture, we cannot assume Jesus' disciples will naturally see these things in scripture. So, we must show from the Bible how God hates the execution of the innocent and the sacrifice of children.

2. Preaching the whole counsel of God doesn't stop with a presentation of the gospel.

Christian discipleship includes forming Christ in the life of our congregations. Therefore, discipleship in our current context must include a broken-heartedness toward abortion and the women (and men) who have been ravished by it.

Fifty-seven million abortions mean that ten's of millions of people have succumbed to this evil. They are in your churches. And they need the gospel to lift them from the depths. Ignoring this sin will not serve them; only bringing the gospel to this sin will give hope. Indeed, only the gospel has the power to give hope and help. Therefore, addressing this evil head on is not a deviation from the gospel; it is the gospel herald’s mission.

3. The gospel of the kingdom is a political message. 

The rule of Christ reaches into every area of life. Therefore, to announce Christ's Lordship cannot be restricted to individual decisions; it must impact how Christians think and act in public. Therefore, preaching on this topic is not a detour into politics; it speaks a vital message of life into a culture of death. We must not only tell people how they can be saved as individuals, but how the Lordship of Christ shapes every sphere of life.

4. If you don't teach your people about abortion, someone else will.

The worst case scenario is a people who loathe abortion, but who take no vocal stance against it because no one has shown them how. If abortion is going to be made illegal in our country, it must first become unthinkable. And the only way it will become unthinkable is for the church to winsomely and courageously and continually speak up for the unborn.

Pastor, this is your calling—to equip the saints for their works of service.

An example and exhortation to preach ethically

Last year, shortly after Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, a gentlemen from our church reported the way he spoke up at his workplace. After touring the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., discussion arose about whether such a "holocaust" could be repeated today. With spiritual cunning and the equipping of information given at a previous youth meeting, he addressed his peers, explaining how our country has legally put 57 million innocents to death since 1973. This assertion is both true and controversial; it was received with anger and awkwardness. But the truth was proclaimed; the abomination of abortion was exposed.

May God increase this man's tribe. And may we as pastors work and pray and encourage our people to stand and speak in their various places of influence and occupation with such boldness. Only as we take our faith public will we see the salt and light of the church have its preserving and saving effect.

Personally, I did not come to this conviction about preaching against abortion without the influence of another pastor. During his 34 years of pastoral ministry, John Piper preached over 24 sermons on the sanctity of life. His chapter "Brothers, Blow the Trumpet for the Unborn" and his model of preaching deeply shaped my thinking. May his model and the urgency of the hour exhort us to do the same.

I close with another pastor who has been influenced by Piper's preaching. Hear Jason Meyer's words (included in his recently published Sanctity of Human Life sermon on In Vitro Fertilization).

I would commend to every pastor the practice of preaching a Sanctity of Human Life sermon every year. At Bethlehem Baptist Church, our practice is to have a sermon on ethnic harmony for Martin Luther King, Jr. day. The next weekend is a sermon on Sanctity of Life (the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision). By pairing these two sermons together every January, we send a unified message. Owning a person because of the color of their skin (slavery) is today unthinkable, but it was once acceptable. We long for the day when killing a baby in the womb is as unthinkable as slavery. We will look back on abortion and the slaughter of innocent lives someday and say the same thing we say about slavery today, “what were we thinking? Why did we as a society ever allow that to happen?” (Jason Meyer, “Children are a Divine Gift Not a Human Right: Biblical Clarity and Gospel Comfort for Those Contemplating In Vitro Fertilization (IVF),” JBMW 20.2 (Fall): 49, n1)

Meyer's words remind us that expositional preaching does not avoid ethical preaching. Indeed, it cannot avoid topics that continue to plague us. Scripture speaks ethically, and we need to help our ethics-starved people understand how to think biblically about all matters of life. More personally, Meyer's  words challenge me, because to date I haven't preached a message of racial reconciliation. I need to. And this year, after preaching a message on the sanctity of human life, I have planned a sermon on racial reconciliation.  

For all of us who herald the Word, may we remember that expositional preaching must address contemporary issues. While the biblical text always dictates the shape and structure of our message, we cannot forget the pressing needs of our culture. Standing between two horizons, may God give us wisdom and boldness to proclaim the whole counsel of God—equipping saints to withstand the sins of our age, refusing to hide behind exposition as an excuse for not addressing the thorny issue of our day. Rather, let us bring the full power of biblical exposition to the subject of abortion.

Brother-pastors, let us speak up for the unborn. 

David Schrock

David Schrock David Schrock is the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Seymour, Indiana and the assistant editor for the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He is the husband of Wendy and the father of two energetic boys. Read More by this Author

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