Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Abolish Human Abortion Coalition: Clarity and Some Final Considerations

Some arguments are dreadfully opaque. Sometimes, we argue poorly and end up inadvertently affirming things we really had no intention of affirming. This is a consequent of the fall. Humans are imperfect beings and as such, we argue imperfectly. Yes, all of us at times, argue fallaciously. There is no shame in admitting that. To the contrary, the shame exists in those who think they argue so soundly all of the time that one can hardly find them ever admitting they were wrong about something or that they stated their position with less precision than they should have. There have been times I thought this to be true of those from the AHA coalition. However, after responding to their criticism of my initial thoughts on the practices and positions of AHA, and then seeing T. Russell Hunter’s response to my criticism and then interacting a little more with him on the infamously rude Triablogue threads, I have concluded that AHA is arguing exactly as they intend to argue, even if those arguments are invalid and unsound. However, after several discussion on the subject, I thought it best to make my views clear, yet one more time and then move on. There is nothing more left to say on the matter, and when that happens in a discussion you run the risk of engaging in endless debate. And to engage in endless debate is sinful, therefore I wish to avoid it where I can.
 
My objection to AHA is not very complicated. In fact, it is really quite simple. First, I object to the implication that all Christians have to engage in opposition to the sin of abortion in the same way in order for that objection to rise to the level of Christian virtue. AHA would respond that they have wiggle room in their system so that the implications of my statement are not accurate. However, AHA misses the point that the principle of getting into the ballpark, since it is narrowly defined, is really the same even if there are lots of different places for one to stand inside that ballpark. In other words, if AHA says that a Church must do “P” in order to exist inside the ballpark of abolition, even if “P” is multifaceted, they are still making the same argument. In other words Church A preaches and teaches against abortion. But “P” requires not only preaching and teaching against abortion, it also requires a form of activism or volunteering at CPCs or what have you, then it follows that Church C is not in P. Here it is in a syllogism:
 
All X (godly churches) is P (engaging in a list of minimum actions against abortion)
Some C (churches) is not P (engaging in a list of minimum actions against abortion)
Therefore, some C (churches) is not X (godly churches)
This is a valid argument known as AOO-2 (Baroko).
 
However, valid arguments are not necessarily sound arguments. An argument’s propositions must be true propositions that support the conclusion in order to be sound. The problem with the soundness of this argument is located in P. I have said this all along, even if Hunter has for the most part ignored it. The argument that Hunter has to make goes to the necessary components required to make P, P. You see, no one in this discussion has argued that Christians should not promote the abolition of human abortion. I believe we should. I believe we must. That is not the issue. What is at issue is precisely a question of tactics, which is what “P” addresses. Hunter has accused me of not offering an alternative approach. However, this reveals that Hunter, as he has in so many other places, ignored that part of my initial concern about AHA from the beginning. I have said that preaching against the sin of abortion, teaching against the practice, encouraging people to speak out on the matter when the opportunity presents itself, talking to family, friends, and neighbors about the subject, etc. are all ways we can take a stand. Indeed, being available to counsel young women who may be considering abortion as a viable option is another way to be promote abolition. So when Hunter says that I do not offer any alternatives; that is simply not true. What Hunter does not like is the consequence of my position and more than anything else, that is what troubles him. If I am correct and doing these things satisfies “P” in the argument above, AHA becomes far less significant because of how it has positioned itself within the Christian marketplace of movements and ideas. If I am right, then there are a lot more churches who are godly churches and who are doing what they can to abolish abortion. In other words, if the essential components of P are fewer or less specific than Hunter wants, and if it is precisely those additional components that make AHA what it is, then AHA suffers the tragedy of being just one more movement based on a few people’s preferences and not a biblical mandate.
 
Secondly, AHA presumes that the methods it uses to oppose abortion are the most effective methods. Yet, AHA has never proved this to be the case. Where is the data supporting the assertion that going down to abortion clinics and preaching, carrying signs of babies ripped to shreds openly for even little children to see, is the best way to persuade women not to kill their unborn babies? AHA provides nothing to support their view. In fact, one must ask the question is the argument even strong enough to rightfully be called a working hypothesis. I have serious doubts. Can we even compare AHA’s methods with other methods to see what the difference might be? We simply have no data. It becomes a baseless and speculative presupposition. Again, we must ask if it is wise to engage in activities that are built off conjecture and speculation. AHA may respond that they are obeying God by going to abortion clinics and carrying signs and preaching the gospel. However, if it is true that obedience can be achieved by the pastor who preaches behind the pulpit Sunday morning or by the other activities I mentioned above, AHA is wrong. They are not obeying God by going to an abortion clinic and preaching. If going to abortion clinics is obeying God, then not going to them is disobeying God! Rather, AHA is doing what it "prefers" to do in opposition to abortion. In other words, they are engaging in their own preferred way of obeying God in this instance. There are other ways to obey God in opposing abortion. I have argued this all along. Will AHA admit this? If they do, then their very existence is threatened unless they frame their argument differently and change their approach with churches. Note, I have never said that they are necessarily wrong in their tactics at abortion clinics per se. I have said that I wonder if this is a good approach. I have my doubts. However, I strenuously object to the view that it is a divine command.
 
My last objection to AHA is that it is NOT a ministry that flows from the local church. T. Russell Hunter has stated openly and unapologetically that AHA comes under the sole authority of Jesus Christ. When asked if AHA is under a local elder board or a local church, he ignores the question. I have tried to find a local church associated with AHA on their website and their Facebook page. I have also tried to convince Russell to share with me privately the Church that he is affiliated with and he has consistently stiff-armed me at every turn. AHA is a national ministry that is also very controversial. The perception it creates in the mind of many will be transferred to everyone who names the name of Christ. No national ministry or movement is legitimate unless that ministry has been organized and authorized by the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ. In addition, integrity would demand absolute and complete transparency. Russell refuses to talk about the issue in any way, shape or form. Refusal to come clean on this issue in terms of Russell’s relationship with the local church raises red flags that should be cause for concern with anyone who cares about the name of Christ and the reputation of the Christian community. Not surprisingly, the rude crew at Triablogue has decided to support the idea that parachurch ministries do NOT require authorization from the local body. They have made such straw man arguments, as “one does not need their elder’s permission to rescue a child from a busy intersection about to get hit by an automobile.” Others have said that you don’t need your elder’s permission to hand out tracks. It is impossible to take such arguments seriously. In fact, it has become more and more difficult to take many if not most of the young bloggers at Triablogue seriously.
 
In summary, my specific agreements with AHA are:
  • Christians must oppose abortion
  • Christians must see abortion as murder
  • Christians must hope for and seek the abolition of abortion
  • Churches must actively oppose abortion in their teaching, preaching, and discipleship
  • Churches must encourage their members to stand against abolition where they can
 
My specific objections to AHA are:
  • Christians do not have to oppose abortion the way AHA opposes abortion in order to oppose abortion
  • Parachurch ministries have no authority to rebuke or correct local churches
  • AHA has no right to protest in front of local churches
  • It is highly unwise and objectionable to carry pictures of mutilated babies especially in front of other children
  • Abortion clinic activities are not wrong, but in my view, are not the best approach to address abortion
  • AHA is does not flow from a local church because it was not organized and authorized by a local, establish church
  • AHA apparently refuses to submit to a local church, asserting that its only authority is Jesus Christ - given every opportunity to identify his ministerial authority, Hunter refuses
  • AHA’s ecclesiology is defective, creates confusion in the body and is divisive
  • AHA’s leaders who refuse to come under authority are schismatics in the body and should repent and submit to local elders and pastors
  • Finally, it would be rank hypocrisy for anyone to openly reject God's command for submission to your elders in the local Church while pointing your fingers at other Churches who don't oppose abortion strenuously enough to someone else's personal standards 
In short, AHA has the following dilemma:

If it is true that we don't need to "oppose abortion" using specific AHA methods, then their methods are reduced to preferences. No one should set up their preferences as commands or even contend they are superior to all other options unless they can prove this to be true. Moreover, this means that AHA's specific message to other churches and pastors that we all must oppose abortion in a very specific manner is specious because who is to say that my method is not superior to their method. Either the Church is in great sin by not adopting the AHA methods or she is not. If she is, then AHA's existence proves necessary and the Church should repent. If she is not, then AHA's existence is reduced to the preference of men regarding the matter of methodology for opposing abortion. The preferences of men are not the commandments of God. The burden of proof is squarely on the shoulders of AHA. The final kicker is that all this is only true, and should only be considered if AHA were a legitimate work of the Church, having been formerly authorized by the Church and currently under the supervision of the Church. In addition, this authorization and supervision should be true of each chapter and all activities in all locations. Moreover, the project should move from one church to another church. In other words, one group of elders should share the ideas with other groups of elders and so on and so forth. In addition, materials and activities should be under constant scrutiny so as to avoid foolishness and scandal. Our hearts are prone to foolishness and scandal because we are all sinners in need of grace and of one another.
 
I hope that this final piece on the overall issue of abolish human abortion has clarified my position on the coalition. I realize that some things have been stated rather firmly and I make no apologies for that. I do not see Mr. Russell as an enemy in any sense of the word and it is not my intent to be disrespectful in any way. I have not made any disparaging remarks at all about Russell or the people of AHA. I do not believe they are bad people, stupid people, lazy people, or anything like that at all. I appreciate the idea of abolishing abortion as any Christian would. I respect all the hard work that they have done. I am sure they have accomplished some good along the way. My comments are entirely directed at views and positions that I believe are outside the limits of Scripture. It is my hope that this perspective will clear up any confusion and perhaps help others make a better decision regarding the tactics of AHA.

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