Is Complete Passivity Toward Issues (Such as Abortion) Sin?

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by psycheives, Aug 21, 2015.

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  1. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Optimism is good, especially where the great commission is concerned. But there is an order of discipleship in the great commission, one which ensures Christ is acknowledged the head over all things and which safeguards against a moralism devoid of true value and virtue; in Scriptural terms, a form of godliness which denies the power thereof. Christ is the substance of goodness, righteousness, and truth in this fallen world. Without Him all is death.
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    It seems we have much cause for optimism:

  3. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    Of course, Perg. The Church was given the task to evangelize and disciple. And the discipleship is comprehensive: teaching them to obey whatsoever the Lord has commanded. And that's what we seek to do, as a part of which we oppose sin in a number of ways, in thought, word, and deed.

    I refuse, however, to allow Dietrich Bonhoeffer or anyone else demand that our opposition to evil must take certain forms and that everyone must engage in such. Was it wrong for Christians in Germany to compromise the truth and fail to oppose the evil of Hitler? Yes. Does that mean either that what Bonhoeffer did was, necessarily, justified and/or that all who failed to join him in attempting to kill Hitler were refusing to speak or act "in the face of evil?" No. Not only does Bonhoeffer's attempt require justification (bracketing for the moment its rectitude) but far more warrant is required to say that's what people must do.

    Again, Christians must act in accordance with the marching orders of our Savior and the call to preach the gospel and teach the nations is just that: it's not a call to particular political action, never mind it not being a call to engage in violent overthrow of even a corrupt government. So let me be clear: "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship" (WCF 20.2).

    I understand the impulse to "do something" about societal evils, particularly abortion. I have marched on Washington, written letters to the editor, spoken to various of my elected officials, engaged in "sidewalk counseling" and protesting at abortion clinics, engaged in public debate at a university and on the radio, etc. I do not think that any of that was wrong (though all of it was not arguably always the wisest and done in the best way). I think that Christians can appropriately do that.

    I will not, however, stand-by while it is proclaimed as a "thus sayeth the Lord," that Christians must act in any of these particular ways. I think that the chief way that Christians oppose abortion and what it stands for is by being godly parents who rear their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And then speak and act against abortion as God gives them opportunity and as they see themselves gifted and fitted to do.

    Preaching the gospel and discipling the nations does not in itself entail any particular political action(s). Must Christians be marching against Planned Parenthood or the like? No, they must not. There simply is no such requirement and to say that there is is to accuse many lambs of sin. And you must be prepared to answer to God for such.

    It is noteworthy, it often seems, that the more one expresses "action," the more one denigrates prayer. When I was involved in the pro-life movement as I described above, I saw plenty of "religious flesh" in some of the most ardent opponents of abortion. Prayer is the only thing that keeps us doing and saying all that we do and say for Christ's glory alone. I cannot be silent when the means of grace that God has appointed seem to take a back seat to a demand for particular political action that God has not appointed as a means of grace.

    I do not denigrate Christians protesting this--not at all--but I will not stand by while such is made paramount over, or even equal to, the appointed means of grace, which is that of which the Great Commission consists.

  4. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    There is something deeply deficient about our religion if tens of millions of the unborn have been murdered in the last 4 decades and the Church argues that there is no obligation for action beyond prayer.

    In one sentence we state that the Church is not obligated to do anything about abortion or take action to defend our unborn neighbors, even as we purport to believe that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.

    To make disciples as per the Great Commission means that we disciple folks not to kill their babies and not to turn a blind eye to injustice.

    The Bible seems to require action by the Church. Not everyone in the Church must take action to oppose every wrong. But the Church as a whole seems required to be active.

    Abortion is not primarily a "political issue."
  5. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    What is this "church?" Please define it. Let's begin with instrumentality. The church uses the word. The State uses the sword. What instrumentality is the church to utilise? Let's move to appeal. To what is the church to appeal? To the "moral decency" of the society? Right there the church has overturned its gospel. Now let's move on to the leadership. Who is to take the lead? the pastors and elders of the church? Are they to be expected to join with Atheists, Mohametans, Romanists, and others whom they would not join with in communion? Should they commence a movement which does not have at its heart the mediatorial virtue of the Saviour of sinners? Perhaps it is thought that others should take the leadership. Will we have pseudo-leadership of the church and a pseudo-church?

    Social issues are moral; they are not distinctively Christian. Citizens have every reason to espouse moral issues because there is a civil decency they are expected to exercise. Christians are not the only ones with moral responsibilities. Non-Christians are expected to be morally decent as well. The moral law binds all. By all means, let the social issue be pressed along moral lines. Certainly, show how Christianity alone upholds true morality in a fallen world. But we cannot make social causes the responsibility of the church without turning the church upside-down and inside-out.
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Abortion is not merely a "social issue." If the Church is to make disciples and to preach repentance and to explain the 6th Commandment, it must teach on abortion.
  7. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    That is definitely within its commission. It can and should declare its position to the State and overture for redress. But any political activity will by definition be a wielding of the sword. The democratic State gives its citizens the right to a bloodless revolution by a democratic process, but that revolution is still supported by the power of the sword.
  8. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    You are not counting preaching and speaking as political actions?
  9. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    No. Preaching the word is a distinctly ecclesiastical function. Presbyterianism has developed very clear guidelines by which to distinguish the exercise of civil and ecclesiastical power. See, for example, WCF 23 or George Gillespie's 111 Propositions.
  10. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior


    You said:
    And then you said,

    And finally you said,
    These statements are at odds. You say that abortion is not primarily political or social. Right--it's at heart a moral issue that has social and political consequences. All of us in this conversation agree that abortion is murder and thus is wrong (sin, evil). We all believe that its moral repugnance should be proclaimed from the pulpit and that all of us should neither do it ourselves, countenance it, or in any way otherwise encourage it. We should preach against it, in other words. You are right that preaching that abortion is sin is not primarily political or social.

    But then you, confusedly, say, is not "preaching" a political action? Well, it certainly has possible political consequences, because the result of widespread repentance would likely mean a change in the laws: abortion would go from being allowed to being banned. But preaching itself is not a political action, unless such "preaching" or speaking would involve prescribing what it is that Christians must do about abortion.

    To be perfectly clear, the pulpit must condemn abortion as sin, while it may not, at the same time, claim warrant to say, "And this means that we must all go down to the abortion clinic and protest, we must march on Washington, and so forth." I think the pulpit may rightly acknowledge, "there may be many ways that individual Christians may oppose abortion" and even list some as appropriate for Christians. But the pulpit may not command people to take certain political actions. That is what a number of us are attempting to say: we oppose the pulpit preaching things like, "you must all call your congressmen tomorrow and support this bill." Christians may urge other Christians to do so but the pulpit may not without a "thus saith the Lord" and it does not have such for particular pieces of legislation.

    Yes, we must condemn abortion. No, we may not dictate what Christians are to do in opposing it. What about this is unclear? Do you believe that the church may dictate what we must do about this beyond "don't have one and discourage all others from having one?" The church preaches the gospel and teaches obedience to all of Christ's commands. But we cannot say that his commands are "March on Planned Parenthood." That's simply not the calling of the church as the church, even if individual Christians believe themselves constrained to do so. Again, what about this is unclear?

  11. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you brothers for this edifying discussion. I appreciate what Pergamum wrote about preaching being "political" and what Alan wrote about "praying being action." May we please remember to be gentle, patient and gracious with one another? This is a tough issue that I don't think it is "at all clear" and that's why we are asking about it and seeking answers from our wiser brothers. I've asked a number of Christians about these questions and they are very divided and unsure, with some changing their minds back and forth on these questions.

    Dear Alan, you wrote, "But preaching itself is not a political action, unless such "preaching" or speaking would involve prescribing what it is that Christians must do about abortion." And thus I think Pergamum has a point - I believe the Pastor MUST tell Christians what they are to do about it - whether he gives one option or five options. The Pastor tells us the Law and tells us to obey the Law. It seems that he must not stop here. He must do exactly what I understand you to say makes him preach "political action" - he must prescribe a Christian to act in SOME specific way. Alan, you wrote "I think the pulpit may rightly acknowledge, "there may be many ways that individual Christians may oppose abortion" and even list some as appropriate for Christians." And right there, haven't you just made this whole thing "political" per your definition above? The Pastor has just "prescribing what it is that Christians must do about abortion" (your definition of "political"). He has just told the Christian he must act and he listed some appropriate actions. So now the Christian is to do 1 or more of the 5 things suggested. Have I misunderstood? Or isn't this good that the Pastor was "political?"

    At first, we might think that offering a list of 5 might not fit "political" because the Christian is given a choice among some choices. But still the choices are limited. He isn't left to "do absolutely nothing." He isn't given the choice of complete passivity. So the Christian is still bound to some sort of action. And sometimes the "some way" will be 5 choices but other times it will be one specific choice only. If a single bill that would end abortion were up for a vote, a Pastor would tell Christians to vote for this. This certainly seems "political." It seems a pastor preaching against murder/abortion would certainly be right to command his people to such action. And if the Christian were aware and able and yet refused to vote, would this be sin? I don't understand why a Pastor giving "political advice or instruction" could be unbiblical?

    For most bills, we would agree on this. If it comes down to the environment, the building of a new road etc. But when it comes down to murder, isn't it sin to refuse to vote for an anti-abortion when you are fully aware and "reasonably able"? Isn't this actually "thus saith the Lord, you must take 30 minutes of your life to end legalized abortion to save millions of lives?" Yes, we should always leave room for gray areas that leave one "unable reasonably to do so" and be careful not to be harsh with our congregations. But how is refusing to vote different from refusing to help a baby being kicked in the head by a little 5 year old? Isn't the Christian in sin for refusing to help the helpless when it was completely within his reasonable ability to do so and he and his family aren't even in danger?

    Back to the example. The Pastor tells us the Law and tells us to obey the law. Certainly after hearing the law against murder, the question from the people is, "How should I obey the law in real life?" And so it seems very necessary that the pastor offer some ways that a Christian can consistently live this out - do not hate your neighbor, do not carelessly put others' lives at risk through negligence, and be against abortion. Then perhaps he will offer 5 ways of action against abortion: 1) Prayer, 2) Spread information (Tweet, Speak), 3) Protest, 4) Write your Congressman or 5) Vote. Now, of course, we would all agree that it is NOT sin to not protest. Or not to write a congressman. These are clear to us all. But the answer isn't so clear. Is it sin not to pray regarding abortion? Is it sin not to do any of the 5 and also nothing else at all?

    The question is NOT "Is a Christian in sin for not voting or protesting against abortion?" I'm not asking that question because it's clear that there are many ways to combat abortion. I think I'm asking a much harder and pointed question. The question is "Is it sin to not take ANY action whatsoever?" And if we say "yes" then, "Is it sin not to pray?" and "Is it sin not to vote for an anti-abortion bill?" IF a bill were available that would end abortion, is it sin not to exercise our right/freedom/obligation to vote? And if so, how is it wrong for a pastor to tell you to vote for that abortion bill if doing so would keep you from sin?

    I appreciate my brothers protecting the gray areas. We don't want to call sin what is not sin. We don't want to tell people they are sinning if they vote for gray area issue or vote for certain gray area candidates. Or call them sinful when they don't show up at the abortion protest. I get this. But at the same time, don't we actually agree with Bonhoeffer that "to not speak is to speak; to not act is to act"? And don't we believe the Pastor is called to tell Christians not just what God's law says in the abstract but tell Christians how to specifically live out that law? We can all read "thou shall not murder." But Christians will have different ideas of what constitutes "murder." We do need to be taught specifics and what we should do about it. Our pastors should not be encouraging us to passivity but to action - to put our hands and feet where our mouths are. Otherwise, isn't there some clear point where a great many of us are just hypocrites claiming "I'm anti-abortion" but I don't actually care one single bit?

    These people do exist - everywhere! I admit that I was one of them before these videos came out. I considered myself "pro-life" but I wasn't going to do one thing about it - no prayers about abortion, no vote, no tweet even. I was completely disinterested in the subject except to state "I'm pro-life." I know many people exactly like me. And we are told by some pastors and brothers that "you are totally free to do nothing and be passive. It's not sin." So we never give it another thought. We play games, watch tv, read books as millions are murdered. How is this not sin of indifference, selfishness, and failure to protect the defenseless? And why are pastors so unsure what is or isn't sin and what they can and can't speak about that they aren't telling us this?
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2015
  12. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    Although we could quote Gillepsie from a number of areas which he rightly determines that God's Judicial laws are binding, lets look at WCF 23 and a specific phrase:

    I agree there is a separation of church and state. However, there is no separation from God and state. Killing children is not lawful although it might be legal in our country. Who's Law holds more weight? The creator of the universe, or man? As Bahnsen continually asked, "By what standard"? Although there is a separation of church and state, this does not mean the state is free from the forever binding Law of God. Thus, it would not only be right, but in our best interest to preach from the pulpit that abortion must be stopped! It is both the duty of the minister and the state to obey God's Law.

  13. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I think that this is a somewhat complex area, but what is a sin of omission for one brother or sister, in their place and calling and with the conviction that God has given to them, may not be a sin of omission for another brother or sister.

    If we start saying things like people are in sin for not writing a letter or joining an organsation we're going beyond what Scripture says. The issue of abortion particularly impinges on our consciences because it involves murder, but there is possible social action regarding the other Ten Commandments. Are we to say that e.g. people are sinning who are involved in the anti-abortion movement but who are not involved in political and social movements regarding the recognition of Christ's Lordship by the civil government, criminalisation of public and flagrant blasphemy, civil protection of the Lord's Day, etc, etc, are sinning or sometimes sinning ?

    I have been recently convicted of the need for me to support an anti-abortion charity financially, but I would never say that my brother was in sin for not having the same conviction.

    I say these things as someone who rejects the modern R2K perspective.
  14. zsmcd

    zsmcd Puritan Board Freshman

    My brother, I must respectfully disagree. We are not here speaking of the idea that we should abandon the Gospel for a social cause. Indeed, if you abandon the Gospel to try and end abortion than yes we have missed the responsibility of the church. But, if the responsibility of the church is to 1. make disciples and 2. teach them to obey all that Jesus has commanded than this includes the second greatest commandment. Abortion is murder, murder is sin, and 70 million of my American neighbors have been murdered since 1973 with a stamp of approval from my government. If abortion is murder, and murder is sin, than the only answer to abortion in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The only way that the nation will repent of it's hatred for the unborn is when the church brings the Gospel into conflict with the sin of abortion.

    Also I will remind you of James' words
    When the church believes that they have loved their neighbor simply because we have given money to a local pregnancy help center and voted pro-life I believe we have missed the point. We have dumped our responsibility as the church onto the government and parachurch ministries. The local church should be the place where a women can repent of her sins, be reconciled to God, and find help raising her child as she is being disciple. As I mentioned previously, prayer is the most powerful tool we have indeed, but if we just tell folks "be blessed, and don't murder your child, I am praying for you." than what use is that? We must pray, preach, disciple, and give generously. I am not arguing for one way of doing this.
  15. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't agree with John Frame on a number of things, including his ridiculous attempt to deconstruct the Regulative Principle of Worship, but I think he what he says on ethical priorities is relevant to this thread, on pp 111-114 (that's pp 227-230 of the book, under "Existential Priorities" ) of this pdf from his book on Christian ethics.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2015
  16. zsmcd

    zsmcd Puritan Board Freshman

    Again, I believe we are all missing what Psyche is asking. Is indifference a sin? Of course indifference looks different for different people. I don't believe she is asking this because she wants to start going around to all the members of her congregation and testing them to see if they are indifferent. I do not believe that is her purpose in asking this and I don't think that is they way we should address this problem.

    It seems that she simply wants to know "is it a sin to be indifferent to the massive injustice happening in your city." The answer I believe is, of course it is. The Levite and Priest were indifferent to the suffering of their fellow image bearer, they just walked right by without a thought. The question, I believe, is meant to cause us to inspect our own hearts.

    I know that there are about four different abortion clinics within a thirty minutes drive of my home. There are two that are just minutes away from my home. Children are being murdered in those building on a daily basis (besides Sunday, ironically) and I can't tell you how many times I must have driven by those clinics without being even slightly moved by the fact that a human being would be 'lawfully' murdered there.

    Humans are made in the image of God, and that image is being destroyed in our cities and protected under the law. If this doesn't stir up our hearts and cause us to pray, preach, and to act than I believe we (I include myself) need to repent.
  17. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    It is a mark of all of God's true people that they are not indifferent to abortion and other sins.
  18. kainos01

    kainos01 Puritan Board Senior


    As you quoted Micah 6:8 - to "do justly" certainly seems to imply action, doesn't it?

    It is.
  19. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Things Christians can do against evils such as abortion:

    -Pray about it.
    -Speak against it.
    -Vote against it.
    -March against it.
    -Inform others and distribute info.
    -Help the victims.

    In the very least, it would seem that prayer (which is action) is something all Christians can do. Speaking against it is also very easy to do.

    In the context of the Church's discipleship of its members, it appears that skipping over these issues is not an option since we must address sin, especially the 6th commandment. Therefore, for the Church considered as a whole, not only CAN we do some of the things in the list above, but we MUST do at least one of them - teach disciples to obey all things Christ has commanded. Therefore, complete passivity in the face of abortion is, indeed, sin for the Church as a whole.

    The Gospel will have social implications. The discipleship of Church members will include discipleship with reference to social ills and the prevalent evils of a culture surrounding the Church. I cannot imagine teaching on the 6th commandment and totally glossing over abortion.
  20. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I would add adoption to that list.
  21. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    This is why politics gets so murky.... We should not play by these rules. 'Social Issues'? What exactly is such a thing..... We have to teach sin and depravity loud and proud..... We have to teach God's perfect law and the King of kings.... Clarity on all matters proceed thus..... But the separation of Church & State continues to place us further on the outside.... Which is fine, its the way they want it tragically.... Cheap gospels and man's natural resistance are the main culprits but there's enough blame to go around and Satan doesn't rest.... We plug one hole and he finds another
  22. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    It is the Sixth Commandment, and that makes it particularly egregious.

    But the OP asked about issues "such as abortion". What other issues is passivity sinful on?

    Personally, I don't think true Christians are completely passive about any sin - as much as they even call on God for His kingdom to come - but on the other hand some of them will be more active on some fronts than others, and it won't always be to do with sin, although some of it will be.

    Sent from my HTC Wildfire using Tapatalk 2
  23. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I expect our legislators to be less complacent on the abortion issue for it is their duty to fight against it....even if I did not vote for them. As a member of the church I shall voice my opinion and not vote for any person who promotes abortion in any way. In other words, my lack of voting, if need be, is saying something In my most humble opinion and my brothers and sisters in Christ are not happy with what I believe is sin on this subject.
  24. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    I think as long as we are not fearfully silent we are remaining faithful.... Just because we implore doesn't mean they will listen..... It's unsuprising and tragic when they don't, but thus the heart of man....
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2015
  25. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    There is no separation of God and State, but God has separated Church and State so far as their foundations and functions are concerned. While the two have a connection which enables them to work for the mutual good of society, it is only by keeping the two distinct that they will be able to function for that mutual good. Make the Church function like the State, put the weapons of this world in its hands, and it will cease to be effective in the one thing in which it can be uniquely beneficial to the world, which is to bear witness to the grace and truth that has come by Jesus Christ.
  26. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The church has a specific instrumentality given to her -- word, sacraments, discipline. It comes by positive institution from the head of the church. Any political action of individual Christians is subject to the moral law of God. There is much that an individual Christian can do which "the church" as "the church" simply cannot do.
  27. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    yes, thanks.
  28. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, precisely. What exactly is a "social issue" or a "political issue" that the Church should be silent about, versus a moral/biblical issue that the Church should preach on? I was just reading about the failure of the Lutheran churches in 1930's Germany and their own inaction, even when war was approaching.
  29. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I still find your undefined use of the term "church" to be unhelpful. Ministers preach. They preach to people. What is this "church" that you envisage preaching against the evils of the times?

    People find it difficult to be active where the action is improperly and vaguely defined. Deliberate action requires careful deliberation.
  30. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Here is an article about John Piper's preaching on abortion:

    It is not as if ALL that the Church can do is MERELY preach the Word and speak the truth....this preaching and speaking is very powerful.

    I also believe that the Church can also create Creeds and Confessions. And just as those Reformation-era Creeds and Confessions were written to address the errors of their own day and reflects that time-period, churches now may also put out position papers and publish such position papers to the world.
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