Entries for February 2013

Post-abortion ministry occupies a large space in the pro-life community, partly because so many women who've had abortions find validation in it. Here's a community that agrees with them that abortion is bad and should be stopped. Here's a community that understands why it hurts and has given them voice. It makes them feel at home, while the pro-choice movement denies them a place.

Everyone in the pro-life movement knows abortion does something irreparable to the unborn baby. For that reason, we also know it's something a person can come to look back on with deep regret. Yet, it's also something from which a person can recover. On that basis, most pro-life ministries reach out to post-abortive people with open arms, offering support groups to women as well as men. 

Not all methods for dealing with past abortions are created equal, however. If the question is, "What should a person do with the pain or guilt of abortion?" we can understand there'd be quite a wide divergence of answers because there are various assumptions or beliefs concerning sin and redemption.

Some in the pro-life movement deny the reality of guilt and a God who demands an accounting for actions. They deal with post-abortion pain solely on the basis of psychology. Because the psychological risks and complications of abortion have been well documented, it's helpful for therapists to inquire about a woman's abortion history and watch for adverse reactions. It helps if counselors affirm the difficulties associated with abortion, but this may not go far enough.

Other approaches deal with the problem spiritually, but tend to "specialize" abortion by emphasizing it over other sins. To be sure, abortion is special in the way it often compounds sins -- from sexual immorality to secrecy and the taking of an innocent human life. Post-abortion "syndrome" or "trauma" also manifests itself in an array of powerful emotions -- anger, grief, despair -- that may not be involved in the aftermath of other sins. Nevertheless, pastors and other Christian counselors should be able to talk about forgiveness from abortion in much the same way as they would deal with someone over any sin.

Several post-abortion books suffer from sloppy, or non-existent, editing. Post-abortion suffering ought not to be so special that books or Bible studies about it are exempt from theological review. Indeed, because abortion is such a pervasive problem -- with something like 43% of US women having an abortion in their lifetimes -- it deserves serious attention from pastors and theologians.

Sloppy theology yields these extra-biblical recommendations:

  • Visualizing the aborted baby alive in heaven, in the arms of a loving Jesus.
  • Asking God to reveal the aborted baby's name so that forgiveness can be sought and obtained from the baby. 
  • Forgiving oneself when bad feelings persist.

Nowhere in Scripture do we find a basis for these practices. On the contrary, Christ died to pay the penalty for our sin. If God's word says Christ's work on the cross is the basis for justification, then we must accept it as fact, no matter what it is we've done. Faith like this honors God. Our feelings will follow.

As we've evaluated various methods of post-abortion ministry, we've found other things to watch out for:

  • Making the cross of Jesus more about our pain, particularly the pain of abortion, than about satisfying the holiness of God. Christ died for the pain that our sin caused God. The best post-abortion books and Bible studies will put God's holiness first.
  • Failing to use biblical terms -- exchanging a weighty concept such as "being reconciled to God" with "healing." Sin is not a sickness and "health" is not an adequate substitution for "justification." 
  • Similarly, many programs urge people to "embrace God's love" rather than "believing" Christ or "receiving" His forgiveness.
  • Speaking of forgiveness for an abortion apart from salvation in Christ, as though that were possible.

Here are some resources that are God-centered and deliberately careful in their explanations of sin and redemption:

  • Living in His Forgiveness, by Sandy Day (Caleb Ministries)
  • Forgiven and Set Free, by Linda Cochrane
  • Binding Up the Brokenhearted, from Healing Hearts 
  • Healing a Father's Heart (for men), by Linda Cochrane and Kathy Jones
  • Reconciled, an online course for men

Some post-abortion ministries prefer to draw women in who aren't ready for talk of God or participation in a Bible study. Surrendering the Secret, by Pat Layton (Lifeway) starts out focusing on women's pain in abortion but is faithful in its closing message about God's holiness and her need of forgiveness for sin.

Other reliable resources:

I've been "chatting" via Facebook with a friend in Kenya this morning. He opened the conversation thanking me for my posts, and said he enjoys emailing them to others. He wishes he could share them with even more people, but faces some limitations that are almost unimaginable to Americans.

In my musing yesterday I listed four challenges that overseas pro-life ministry must overcome in comparison to what we face. Here's a fifth: lack of electricity. 

Most people in places like Kenya don't have consistent, available electric power. Many also lack computers, cell phones, and Internet access. If they were able to download pro-life resources, they might lack the laser printers and paper to print them off, or the money to have copies made.

I asked what communication methods are available to him and he replied, "holding workshops."

When you think about it, that isn't a bad method. It's similar to the way the Gospel spread in the 1st century. Even here in the States, where everybody has multiple means of communication, one-on-one conversation is still the best way to share compassion and attempt to persuade. 

Please pray for Stephen, and others like him, who urgently desire to spread the message about the sanctity of human life and the dangers of abortion, but lack even the most basic resources that we take for granted.

Follow-up 8/8/14: We're highlighting this post from over a year ago as a response to columnist Ann Coulter's diatribe against American missionaries going to other lands (see Ebola Doc's Condition Downgraded to 'Idiotic' c/o Townhall.com). All the points we made then apply now.

Indeed, would any of us have heard the Gospel if it weren't for the missionary journeys of Paul, Dr. Luke, Silas, Timothy, Titus, etc.? Were they wrong to risk their lives in the cause of Christ? Did they "waste" resources, or was the salvation of souls worth it? Didn't Christ say, "whoever loses his life for My sake will save it?" (Luke 9:24)

Another worthy response: Are Christian Missionaries Narcissistic Idiots? by Albert Mohler

This week Tom Lothamer, president of Life Matters Worldwide, will fly to the Philippines with Ray Paget, our former executive director, and John McCastle, a new board member and the president of Ultrasounds for Life.

They'll be meeting with our partners in pro-life ministry, including Melisa Serata (who does abstinence education in schools) and Dr. Mae Corvera (who leads LIFT ministries at her church and others in Manila).

The trip will be costly -- both in terms of time and money. Some might wonder, why not concentrate on needs here in the U.S. Aren't they pressing enough? Why be "worldwide"?

Indeed the need for pro-life ministry in the U.S. is great, and we must continue to develop and promote alternatives to abortion and euthanasia. Many resources are already devoted to this cause.

In fact, Kurt Dillinger of LIFE International has said that something like 90 percent of U.S. pro-life dollars are spent in this country while 90 percent of the world's abortions occur elsewhere.

That's a sobering thought. Even more difficult to swallow is the responsibility America bears, because we have exported abortion to the world.

How is that possible? Consider two countries: Romania and South Africa. They both achieved new levels of democratic freedoms in the 1990s, and both looked to the U.S. for a model to follow. What did they see? Among other things, legalized abortion on demand. Sadly, as they threw off an old bondage they replaced it with a new one. Today Romania has one of the world's highest rates of abortion.

Life Matters Worldwide has been to both countries to help missionaries and nationals respond to the crises created by sexual immorality and its consequences: abortion and sexually transmitted diseases. In Romania, we helped establish the Clinica ProVita group of pregnancy care centers; in South Africa we trained church members to offer LIFT services to people dying of AIDS.

If you think passing pro-life laws is an uphill battle in the U.S., consider that the task of pro-life ministry in other countries is even more Sisyphean. Depending on the administration in power, the U.S. often ties foreign aid to a recipient country's liberalization of abortion laws. We Christians, therefore, owe an even greater debt to Christians in other countries to help them fight abortion.

Pro-lifers in other countries face added challenges, such as:

  • A lack of biblical teaching on the sanctity of human life, even in churches
  • A lack of understanding about human development and what abortion does to the unborn
  • A lack of respect for women
  • A lack of resources*

Life Matters Worldwide is positioned to help people overseas overcome the first three hurdles, but the last is most difficult. We want to avoid making Third World ministries dependent on the so-called First World for support. Nevertheless, many people in other parts of the world who have a great desire to do pro-life ministry must spend a good share of their day simply surviving.

I think of Bentina Alusi who runs the Kibera Community Counselling and Pregnancy Crisis Centre in the world's largest slum (outside Nairobi, Kenya). By our standards she has very little but, like the poor woman of Luke 21:1-4, she gives all she has.

At one point soon after the center opened in 2009, Bentina was counseling with 15 girls a day, two days a week. Missionaries reported that the church that her husband pastors grew because of her ministry through the center. From a small seed comes great harvest! Similar results have been had through PCC ministry in Lima, Peru.

Volunteering at a pregnancy center or AIDS hospice is a luxury that few in developing nations can afford, therefore ministries in these parts of the world are well served if we help them devise strategies for sustaining pro-life work. A few years ago, for instance, we were blessed to be able to give one center in South Asia a grant toward the establishment of a pharmacy to generate income.

God has given Life Matters both the desire and the opportunity to join with others in pro-life ministry overseas. So far He's also supplied resources to enable us to help in small but significant ways. Please pray for Tom, Ray, and John as they make this trip, for Mae and Melisa as they organize the visit, and for the people in the Philippines who will be trained.

We receive new requests every week. Today there was one from a person in Kenya. Ask God to give us wisdom and grace as we steward both funds and opportunities, and as we respond to people.

Truly, life matters worldwide.

*Read about a fifth challenge here.


In last Monday's "What's wrong with 'choice'?" we noted the abortion establishment's recent abandonment of the "pro-choice" label, and that it seems to indicate their inability to come to terms with the consequences of choice. That inability results in a stunted vocabulary.

Because advocates refuse to think about abortion as something for which we're answerable to a holy God, they imagine there's nothing to "repent," nothing to be "forgiven." These terms are foreign to them. "Right" and "wrong," "good" and "bad" are, therefore, purely self-oriented. The only question is, "Will abortion help me in my present circumstance?"

They fall into the trap of thinking the experience of sin teaches whether it is, indeed, sin. Their thinking goes something like this: "If, after I've done it, I have negative feelings, it may have been the wrong decision for me at that time. But it may be okay for you, or for me at another time. Who am I to judge?" Abortion decisions are perfect test-cases for the post-modern worldview.

The Bible, however, tells us why we're incapable of recognizing sin or its effects, and why we're never better off  having experienced it. God not only expects us to avoid sin by learning from the experiences of others, but implores us by special revelation to submit solely to His explanation of what sin is and does.

In one enigmatic statement, Jesus told His disciples to be "shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves." This finds its parallel in Jeremiah 4:22, to the negative effect --

My people are foolish, they know Me not;
They are stupid children and have no understanding.
They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know.

In Romans 16:19, Paul recasts Jesus' words: "I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil." He says it another way in 1 Corinthians 14:20: "Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature."

As we learn in Proverbs, it is possible for the "simple" (young or inexperienced person) to avoid becoming a "fool" or  "scoffer" and instead move on toward "wisdom"  and "maturity" through "prudence" and "understanding." Such terms are sorely lacking in the language of choice. 

According to the Bible, how do we become wise and mature? The lesson begins with fearing the Lord, and often is reinforced through rote obedience. We make further progress by rigorously keeping to the well-lit but narrow way and avoiding the paths of violent men and wanton women. How many abortions would have been avoided if the warning of Proverbs 1 had been heeded?

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood,
Let us ambush the innocent without cause;
Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
Even whole, as those who go down to the pit;

. . . My son, do not walk in the way with them.
Keep your feet from their path,
For their feet run to evil and they hasten to shed blood.

. . . But they lie in wait for their own blood; they ambush their own lives.
So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence;
It takes away the life of its possessors.

We do have a choice to make about abortion. Choose now, and choose rightly.

A lot has been written lately about abortion advocates dropping the "pro-choice" label.

While I can understand why they don't want to be "pro-abortion," I'm not all that clear on why they're suddenly anti-"choice." It seems they regret not nabbing "pro-life" before we did. Of course, I think "pro-death" seems more appropriate, but I was willing to give them "choice."

This very public shrugging-off of a label (which they, ironically, chose) is like a gawky teenager who can't quite find comfortable clothes. Why are our opponents having such a hard time?

I think it's because they've always been unwilling to come to terms with the consequences of choice. They have habitually wanted to have their cake without calories.

Some do admit abortion ends life, but instead of taking that to heart and saying, "You know what, some choices aren't worth the pain caused" or "This is a bad choice," they persist in upholding the freedom to choose abortion at all costs. In the language of Proverbs, that would be the definition of foolishness.

Religious abortion advocates argue from the free will angle. God made us with a mind and a will, they reason, therefore we have the right to choose.

Well, yes, but from Eden on we've seen where that's taken us. As Isaiah 53:6 shows, we have all exercised freedom of choice and to that God has attached His own label: "iniquity." 

The end of choice

So what's the point of abandoning "pro-choice"? Is it an admission that the exercise of choice isn't an end in itself? I don't think they're there yet, but maybe it's an opening. If only they could bring themselves to make a good confession, starting with the words of Jeremiah 8:6 -- "What have I done?" If only they wouldn't continue headlong on a reckless path.

Choices have consequences. They either make God smile or frown. That's Theology 101.

Abortion rights advocates often say, "Although I'd never have one, I'll fight for your right to abortion." But why never have one if abortion is morally neutral? Why are they so like the Fonz, never able to admit, "It's w-w-w-wr-wrong"?

They emphasize the agony of the process of choosing abortion over any physical agony the aborted child might experience. It's as though the pain of the abortion decision will validate its choice, mitigate any "wrongness," and temper any future pangs of remorse the woman might feel.

Abortion advocates say, "Abortion may not be a good choice, but it's less bad than others," (i.e., living in poverty due to having this child, being unable to cope with a disabled child, having less to give my children already born, etc.). Such excuses may help justify abortion to themselves, but can they do so successfully with God? Have they consulted Him or sought His help avoiding abortion? Have they actually found Him wanting, or just assumed He doesn't care and can't help?

When a woman is pregnant, she has three options: give birth and parent, give birth and release the child for adoption, or have the child aborted. Each choice has permanent consequences. No responsible pro-life person would ever say carrying a child and giving birth is without pain and hardship, or that parenting is always joyful. Adoption is its own kind of hard. But abortion is a whole other thing altogether.

Abortion means a child is dead. A unique human life is gone from us into eternity. In more ways than one, abortion is the end of choice.

In an NPR interview Friday, an author identified her book's main character as a "bad choicer." She goes on to describe him:

I don't think he's an irredeemable bad person. I think he's a bad, bad choicer. Part of what's wonderful about writing, and reading too, is you can see yourself on the same continuum, you know, to wonder, 'What would I do, if I were more desperate than I am? Or am I three or four mistakes away from doing something like this, something unimaginable to me right now?' 

Some choices are bad; some people choose badly. Abortion is, or ought to be, in the category of "unimaginable choices."

Many women today look back on their abortions with deep regret. Yet, like the character in the book, they are not irredeemably bad. Having examined abortion and the thought-process that led them to it, they've repented before God and accepted His forgiveness in Christ. They now warn others away from the brink.

The consequences of our choice

What about the consequences of being pro-life? Have each of us reckoned with how it obligates us to help pregnant women? Do we expect them to make hard choices without our lending a hand or an ear? Are we trusting God with them for help avoiding temptation?Are we living by the faith we say we have?

Related: A Christian appeals to his pro-choice neighbor

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