The Sin of Silence

a message to American pastors and their congregations
Dr. Laurence White 

(excerpts from an address delivered September 6, 2000)

Gazing intently into the eyes of the young people in front of him, he began.  “For you,” he said, “today is a day like any other day but it is an extremely important and painful day for me.” Silence fell over the room and the students noticed that as the old gentleman spoke, tears were streaming down his face. This uncharacteristic display of emotion stunned the student body and riveted their attention.

“Today is November the 9th” he continued “the 50th anniversary of “Kristal Nacht,” the Night of the Broken Glass. On this day in 1938, Nazi thugs moved through the cities of Germany smashing the windows of German homes and shops, burning the synagogues. Innocent people; men, women and children were beaten and killed simply because they were Jews.

“I was there as a young man,” he sobbed, “and I can still hear the sound of the shattering glass. Continue reading

Abortion and the Value of Human Life (parts I & II)

Abortion and the Value of Human Life, Part I
(a series of articles by Vicar Eric Phillips, Ebenezer Lutheran Church, Spring 2013)

marchforlife13The last weekend of January saw the 40th March for Life in Washington, D.C. It’s been that long since the U.S. Supreme Courtdeclared laws banning abortion to be “unconstitutional,” and in the intervening time, over fifty million abortions have been performed in the United States. Some of these have been deemed medically necessary-as a response to-an ectopic pregnancy, for instance, where the baby is sure to die anyway and the mother’s life is seriously threatened in addition-but such cases account for only a tiny percentage of all abortions. The vast majority are elective, usually performed because the mother fears a baby would interfere with her schooling or career, or that she doesn’t have the money to take care of a child, or that she will end up as a single parent-or some combination of those factors. All three are compelling fears, and would adequately explain a host of other decisions, but they fall far short as justifications in this case. What is the greater evil? Having to drop out of school, or killing an innocent human being? If we’re talking about an already-born baby, almost no one has any doubts about it. People who leave their newborns in a dumpster for such reasons are not only prosecuted for murder, but regarded with horror by society. What makes abortion different? Continue reading

Abortion and the Value of Human Life (part III)

Abortion and the Value of Human Life, Part III
(a series of articles by Vicar Eric Phillips, Ebenezer Lutheran Church, Spring 2013)

ebenezerIn the previous columns, I’ve argued that the moral debate over abortion boils down to the question of whether human life is sacred, or just human personhood. Those who support a right to abortion-on-demand end up arguing the latter, that although a fetus is biologically human it is not yet a person, and therefore can be destroyed at will, without moral outrage. Those who seriously maintain the former, on the other hand, must conclude that abortion is the taking of an innocent human life, and thus something that must be permitted only in those rare cases when it can be expected to prevent an equal or greater evil from occurring (e.g. the death of both the mother and the baby). In part II, then, I demonstrated from a few foundational biblical passages that the former is the position taught by the Christian faith. A human being is made in the image of God, and is transcendently valuable for that objective reason, before we consider all the wonderful ways in which this image manifests itself through the development of human personhood. But there’s more. If we continue looking at the biblical witness, we will see that even if we were to allow the morality of abortion to be judged on the basis of human personhood rather than human life, it would fail that test too. Continue reading

Abortion and the Value of Human Life (part IV-conclusion)

Abortion and the Value of Human Life, Part IV (Conclusion)
(a series of articles by Vicar Eric Phillips, Ebenezer Lutheran Church, Spring 2013)

In the past three articles, I have made two kinds of arguments in this column. The first kind is simply logical, and forms a chain that can be summarized as follows:
1) In the legalization of abortion on demand, our culture has denied that human life has intrinsic worth, and moved all that value over to human personhood, that is, the ability of human beings to recognize themselves as persons, have relationships, and build their own identity.
2) This position cannot explain why born babies should be protected by the law, at least until they begin to show signs of psychological personhood.
3) Therefore babies (up to about one year old at least) are protected by our laws only because their parents (and to a lesser degree, society in general) value them and treat them as persons.
The second kind is theological, and forms this complementary chain: Continue reading