Archives For sanctity of life

The Briefing

Court rules against bakers
Sweet Cakes by Melissa shut down after a heavy fine was levied against its owners for not participating in a same-sex wedding ceremony. Aaron and Melissa Klein took their case to court, but on Dec. 29, the bakers lost in the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Former fire chief gets partial court victory
Kelvin Cochran, the former Atlanta fire chief terminated for writing a devotional book in which he advocated a biblical view of marriage and sexuality, won a partial victory in court Dec. 20, when a judge decided the city rules under which he was fired are unconstitutional. In other religious liberty issues related to the case, however, the judge ruled against Cochran, Baptist Press reports.

Kasich approves Down syndrome abortion ban
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a law Dec. 22 prohibiting abortions in cases where prenatal tests reveal Down syndrome or if there’s “any other reason to believe” the genetic condition exists. North Dakota and Indiana have similar laws, although the Indiana measure has been blocked by a federal judge, CNN reports.

New data explores evangelical diversity
One in three people who identify as evangelical is nonwhite, according to 2017 research. The numbers rises to four in 10 of those who are evangelical by belief, reports Christianity Today in its analysis of research on diversity and the church.

The year’s most popular passages
The most popular Bible verse around the world in 2017 was a command to be strong and courageous, according to Bible app YouVersion. Joshua 1:9 was the most shared, bookmarked, and highlighted verse by the global YouVersion community, The Christian Post reports, while in the U.S., Romans 8:28 topped the list.

Supreme Court will hear pregnancy center case
The Supreme Court announced this month it will rule on a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to inform clients of abortion options available elsewhere.

The FACT Act, passed in 2015, shares some similarities with an Illinois law that requires pregnancy centers and pro-life physicians to discuss abortion as a legal treatment option and, if asked, to refer clients to abortion providers. Multiple pregnancy centers in Illinois sued Gov. Bruce Rauner earlier this year over the law, and were granted a preliminary injunction.

Dockery elected to lead theologian group
The annual meeting of the Evangelical Theology Society focused on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The group also elected David Dockery, a Southern Baptist and president of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, as president.

Zimbabwe’s Christian leaders see unrest as ‘opportunity’
The conflict between Zimbabwe’s president and its military could be resolved by a “winner-takes-all-mentality,” many of the country’s religious leaders wrote in a letter following President Robert Mugabe’s military arrest. But it doesn’t have to, they said, calling the the situation an opportunity for “permanent healing” in Zimbabwe.

Hillsong pastor won’t change marriage views, despite Australian vote
While Australian voters decided in November to legalize same-sex marriage, Brian Houston, who pastors Sydney megachurch Hillsong, said his view of marriage as between a man and a woman “will not change.”

Coming to the big screen: Apostle Paul
A silver screen version of Paul’s life is set for release next Easter. “Paul, Apostle of Christ” tells the story of a persecutor of Christians who became the world’s most famous missionary and martyr. James Faulkner stars as Paul, and “Passion of the Christ” actor Jim Caviezel is Gospel-writer Luke.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The_Briefing

A bill to remove federal funding from Planned Parenthood failed to get the 60 votes it needed in the U.S. Senate Monday, but the issue likely to be back in the fall, USA Today reports.

The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission announced last week its endorsement the bill, which was introduced following the release of several videos showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of body parts from aborted babies.

And in this interview, Christianity Today senior news editor Bob Smietana talks to David Daleiden, the executive director of the pro-life organization behind the recent Planned Parenthood videos.


IRS address tax-exempt status in light of marriage ruling
The Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service testified last week that Christian schools will not lose their tax-exempt status if they opposed same-sex marriages. But at least one U.S. Senator is skeptical of Commissioner John Koskinen’s use of the phrase “at this time.” Read the full story at ChristianPost.com.


Kasich’s faith rooted in tragedy
As the field for U.S. President grows more and more crowded, Americans are getting a look at the candidates’ personal faiths. Cathy Lynn Grossman of Religion News Service has compiled “5 Faith Facts” about several of those in the running, including Ohio Governor John Kasich, who told religious conservatives meeting in June that his faith was a “rabbit’s foot,” until his parents were killed by a drunk driver in 1987.

“I tore it all apart,” he said, according to the Columbus Dispatch, and re-built his faith. Kasich belongs to a congregation affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America.


Missionary doc details Ebola fight in book
Kent Brantly
, the doctor who contracted the Ebola virus last year while working as a missionary in Liberia, said he and his wife “didn’t have regrets” about serving overseas. “That’s what God called us to,” Brantly told The Christian Post. He and his wife, Amber, tell their story in the new book “Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us Into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic.”


LifeWay relocation moves forward
While finalizing the sale of its facility, LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention is purchasing land to build a smaller building in downtown Nashville, Tenn. The organization’s offer to buy 1.5 acres one mile from its current location was accepted last month, Baptist Press reported. President Thom Rainer said the organization hopes to close on the new property early this fall, and complete the new building by late 2017.

When the organization began mulling the sale last year, spokesman Marty King said nearly one-third of the current facility was vacant or leased.


Christian critic picks 2015’s worthiest films (so far)
While there hasn’t yet been much to celebrate, movie-wise, says critic Phil Boatwright, he picks four relative bright spots (including recent Pixar blockbuster “Inside Out”).

Editor’s note: This piece is reprinted from Baptist Press (BPNews.net). Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is January 18. For resources, go to ERLC.com/life.

COMMENTARY | The claim of some pro-choice groups that Scripture does not address abortion would have surprised both Jews and Christians living in the first century. That’s because they were virtually unanimous that the Bible implicitly—though clearly—prohibited the killing of unborn children.

David_Roach_calloutAbortion advocates today tend either to deny this fact or remain gladly ignorant of it. For example, Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, issued a “pastoral letter to patients” last spring stating, “Many people wrongly assume that all religious leaders disapprove of abortion. The truth is that abortion is not even mentioned in the Scriptures—Jewish or Christian—and there are clergy and people of faith from all denominations who support women making this complex decision.”

Of course, the Bible does not contain the direct commandment, “Thou shalt not have an abortion.” But based on passages like Psalm 139:14-16, Jeremiah 1:4-5, Amos 1:13 and others, ancient Jews and Christians believed it was clear that God cared for the unborn and regarded abortion as a sin.

Some may be surprised to learn that abortion existed more than 2,000 years ago, with surgical and chemical abortions performed in pagan cultures hundreds of years before Christ’s birth. The Greeks were among the first Ancient Near Eastern people to permit abortion, with Plato arguing in “The Republic” that pregnant women over 40 should be required to have abortions. In contrast to pagan cultures, Judaism emphasized the value of unborn and pre-born life dating back at least to the time of Moses, when God’s people protected infant males from being slaughtered at birth as Pharaoh ordered (Exodus 1:15-21).

In fact, some scholars believe Pharaoh’s command to kill Hebrew boys “on the birthstool” (Exodus 1:16) was actually a command to commit partial birth abortion, with “birth stool” functioning as a Hebrew euphemism for “birth canal.”

Either way, the Jewish culture of life was evident, and the Jews of Jesus’ time expressed their anti-abortion convictions. The Jewish work Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides, written between 50 B.C. and A.D. 50, taught that “a woman should not destroy the unborn in her belly.” First Enoch, which was written in the first or second century B.C., said it was evil to “smash the embryo in the womb.”

Josephus, a Jewish historian born in A.D. 37, summarized, “The Law orders all offspring to be brought up, and forbids women either to cause abortion or to make away with the fetus.”

Early Christians agreed. The Didache, a first-century document that some church fathers argued should have been included in the New Testament, taught, “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born.” Another Christian writing considered for inclusion in the New Testament, the Epistle of Barnabas, said, “You shall not abort a child nor, again, commit infanticide.” Both of these documents were read aloud in some churches.

When Spanish bishops convened a council in approximately 305 in the city of Elvira, they voted unanimously to decree eternal excommunication for women who had abortions—a decision that reflected their just condemnation of the practice though it failed to reflect the biblical promise of forgiveness to post-abortive women who confess their sin and trust Christ as their Lord and Savior.

“If a woman conceives in adultery and then has an abortion, she may not commune again…because she has sinned twice,” the council decreed.

Among other early church leaders whose writings condemned abortion explicitly were Tertullian (c. 150-c. 229), Clement of Alexandria (c. 153-c. 215), Basil of Caesarea (c. 329-379), Jerome (c. 347-419) and John Chrysostom (c. 349-407).

Perhaps one reason the New Testament writers did not address abortion was that they did not need to. For the first 500 years of Christianity, there was a strong and practically unanimous consensus among believers that terminating a pregnancy violated Scripture’s doctrine of the sanctity of human life.

A thousand years later, John Calvin demonstrated that the Christian tradition of opposing abortion was still alive and well. Commenting on Exodus 21:22-23, Calvin wrote, “The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.”

In the strictest sense, abortion advocates are correct: The Bible does not speak explicitly to abortion. But that should not leave believers in a state of moral confusion any more than the Bible’s failure to explicitly address money laundering or internet pornography. For more than 2,000 years, the Lord’s followers have extrapolated from biblical principles that some behaviors are obviously sinful. The united witness of Jews and Christians regarding abortion is a case in point.

Basil, Jerome, Chrysostom, Calvin and a host of other believers from every nation, tribe, people and tongue would scoff at the claim that Scripture is silent and that God’s people historically have been divided regarding abortion.

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, deciding that the companies do not have to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, deciding that the companies do not have to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans.

COMMENTARY | Lisa Sergent

The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case allows employers with religious objections to opt out of providing contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. On the surface, one could read that sentence and assume that Hobby Lobby will not provide any contraception coverage to its employees. In talking with friends who only get their news from mainstream media, I found this is what they actually believe.

I will admit that as a self-described “news junkie” I may be better informed on the issue than they are. I read the daily newspaper as an elementary school student, was an early viewer of CNN, read Time and Newsweek magazines in the school library, and became a fan of talk radio in college. The advent of the Internet opened up a whole new world of news for me, beyond the big three networks.

This exposure to a wider variety of news and opinions widened my worldview. As the years have passed, I’ve become less trusting of the old news sources and prefer to investigate more myself.

In this case, I knew from sources I trusted, including the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Baptist Press, that the Food and Drug Administration has approved 20 contraceptives that are required to be covered under the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate. Four of these are considered abortifacients. These four drugs are the only “contraceptives” Hobby Lobby was refusing to provide for its employees.

So, when the high court’s ruling was announced, I understood what it meant and explained it to a couple of friends in an animated discussion: Hobby Lobby and similar “closely held companies” would continue to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees, but would not pay for abortion-causing drugs.

My friends, who rely on the old guard media, were outraged by the ruling.

None of the mainstream media really explained what the ruling means, or that it is a victory for religious liberty. Instead, the Christians in these cases have been portrayed as bigots who want to deny women their rights and are surprisingly finding new allies in the male justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Is this inaccurate portrayal purposeful? I know what I think, but I’ll let you decide. In the meantime, I’m putting on my earbuds. I have a podcast to listen to.

Lisa Sergent is director of communications for IBSA and contributing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

NEWS | The U.S. Supreme Court has issued additional protection to Wheaton College as it fights a mandate in the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to cover drugs like the morning-after pill in their employee health plans.

Wheaton, a Christian college in a western Chicago suburb, already qualified for an exemption from the Affordable Care Act offered to faith-based non-profit organizations. But many have said the government’s plan – to let non-profits sign a form allowing insurers to pay for the drugs, rather than the organization itself – isn’t enough. As the Associated Press reported July 3, “Wheaton and dozens of other non-profits have sued over the form, which they say violates their religious beliefs because it forces them to participate in a system to subsidize and distribute the contraception.”
The Supreme Court’s unsigned opinion July 3 says that during its court case, Wheaton doesn’t have to sign the form but can write a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explaining its objection to the requirements.

The Court’s three female justices – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor – disagreed with the temporary injunction. Sotomayor wrote that the Court’s action “undermines confidence in this institution.”

On June 30, the justices ruled 5-4 that “closely held,” for-profit businesses Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties don’t have to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee plans. ChristianityToday.com has a helpful infographic from The Becket Fund forecasting next steps in court cases against the mandate.

Baptists almost ‘dance for joy’ over religious freedom ruling

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, deciding that the companies do not have to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans.

The 5-4 decision sets an important precedent for “closely held” companies (those owned by individuals or families) that object to what has become known as the abortion-contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

In the opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that under the standard set by Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, “the HHS contraceptive mandate is unlawful.”

The_BriefingSouthern Baptist leaders responded quickly to the ruling. “It is an absolute victory for the proponents of religious liberty,” said SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page. “I am thankful that both common sense and conscience have seen a victory in a day where such victories are rare.”

Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called the ruling an “exhilarating victory for religious freedom.” During the SBC Annual Meeting in Baltimore earlier this month, Moore presented an award to the Green family, who owns Hobby Lobby.

“As a Baptist, I am encouraged that our ancestors’ struggle for the First Amendment has been vindicated,” Moore said after the Court’s decision.

“This is as close as a Southern Baptist gets to dancing in the streets with joy.”

Read more at BPNews.net.

Court also rules on abortion clinic buffer zones
The Supreme Court struck down a 2007 Massachusetts law restricting pro-life advocates from congregating within 35-foot zones around abortion center entrances and driveways, Tom Strode of Baptist Press reports. Justices issued a 9-0 opinion on the matter, and Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the law “imposed serious burdens” on free speech.

Marriage in limbo in several Upper Midwest states
Indiana has joined a list of states in which the definition of marriage is pending an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling. After Judge Richard Young struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban June 25, a federal appeals court issued a stay two days later. Michigan and Wisconsin are in a similar situation, as seen in this map from USA Today (which doesn’t reflect the Indiana appeal). Same-sex marriage officially became legal in Illinois June 1, although some counties began issuing marriage licenses in the spring.

LifeWay survey: Domestic violence rarely preached about in church
Nearly three-fourths of Protestant pastors say domestic or sexual violence is a problem in their community, but 42% rarely or never preach on the topic. The survey, conducted by LifeWay Research and sponsored by Sojourners and IMA World Health, also found 74% of pastors know someone who has experienced domestic violence. Read more at LifeWayResearch.com.

Thief-turned-pastor shares testimony
George Aguilar, once an enemy of churches in Oklahoma, is now a pastor in his home country of El Salvador. After robbing from and vandalizing 11 churches in the Tulsa area, Aguilar came to Christ after one of the churches he stole from took him in. Read his story from The Baptist Messenger.