Archives For sanctity of life

Former missionary charged with sexual assault
Mark Aderholt, a former International Mission Board missionary and associate executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, was arrested July 3 on charges of sexual assault of a child under 17. The charges stem from alleged incidents in 1997, when Aderholt was a student at Southwestern Seminary. He later served as an IMB missionary in Europe, and since 2017, with the South Carolina Convention. He resigned his post there in June.

Gary Hollingsworth, executive director-treasurer of the convention, said July 10, “Our hearts are grieved, but we are trusting the authorities.” Aderholt’s arrest comes amid investigations of assault charges against other Southern Baptist and Christian leaders, leading Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler in May to label this season the SBC’s “horrifying #MeToo moment.”

Supreme Court in the spotlight after Kavanaugh nomination
The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court encouraged many Christians and conservatives, but the pick is troubling for black Christians, writes Wheaton College’s John C. Richards. “The truth is that many Black Christians aren’t so much looking for a more conservative court as they are looking for a more fair and neutral court—devoid of political influence.”

Should Kavanaugh be confirmed, a conservative Supreme Court could reconsider the implications of 1973’s Roe v. Wade, which lifted state restrictions on abortion. Abortion rights group Center for Reproductive Rights reported which 22 states are likely to ban abortion, should Roe be overturned by the Court.

New research: Americans and the Bible
About half of all Americans count themselves as “Bible users” who engage with Scripture at least three to four times a year, according to the 2018 State of the Bible survey by Barna and the American Bible Society. A larger percentage, researchers found, are curious about what the Bible says.

Most Christians invite their friends to church
Almost two-thirds of churchgoers have invited someone to church in the last six months, according to new data by LifeWay Research. But 17% say they don’t know anyone to invite.

Sources: Baptist Press, Baptist Courier, AlbertMohler.com, Christianity Today, Christian Post, Barna Research, LifeWay Research

Petition aims for Billy Graham holiday
A North Carolina man has garnered more than 115,000 signatures to an online petition effort to name a holiday in honor of evangelist Billy Graham. Kyle Siler addressed his Change.org petition to President Donald Trump and other lawmakers, noting that Graham, who died Feb. 21, “preached the gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history.”

Mississippi poised to enact nation’s earliest abortion ban
Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to sign legislation approving a ban on abortions in Mississippi after 15 weeks gestation. The ban would be the earliest in the U.S., lowering the state’s current ban by five weeks.

Pastors challenge housing allowance ruling
A group of pastors and religious leaders have filed an appeal to protect the minister’s housing allowance, which was declared unconstitutional last year. Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin ruled last year that the housing allowance violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause—which bans government-established religion.

Mohler answers ‘ask anything’ questions on campuses
Southern Seminary President Al Mohler’s dialogue with university students is based on two overarching questions: Does God exist?, and Does he speak? “If I didn’t have that assurance, I wouldn’t dare stand up in front of an audience…to talk about how we can ask and answer the biggest questions of life,” Mohler said at UCLA during the second stop on his Ask Anything Tour of college campuses.

MLB team hosts anti-porn seminar
The Kansas City Royals took a break from on-the-field spring training to hear from Fight the New Drug, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the harmful effects of pornography.

Jonathan DavisSeptember 2013 will forever be seared in my mind as when I received the phone call every seminarian hopes for: God had called me to my first pastorate.

Recognizing the weightiness of it all, one thing became quite apparent: I was going to need major help. In God’s providence, that help came in a multitude of ways. One in particular was John Piper’s book, “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.”

With a passion and precision that he is known for, God used this veteran pastor to help shape my understanding of what it means to shepherd the flock of God. His thoughts on preaching were priceless, especially knowing I was to be responsible for the weekly preaching of God’s Word.

Within the wisdom of that book, one practical thought on preaching still reverberates in my ministry today. Piper made sure he preached on abortion at least once a year in his church.

“Pastors should put their lives and ministries on the line in this issue,” he writes. He was appalled at the “cowardice of some pastors when it comes to preaching against abortion.”

“If anyone should take up the cause of the unborn, it is the man of God in the pulpit.”

The gauntlet was thrown, and I felt the challenge deeply. I can’t fully explain it, but for me, reading those words was one of those moments when a truth concretized in an instant. I was resolved. There would be no cowardice on this issue on my watch.

Tony Merida (an author and pastor in North Carolina) said, “At its most basic level, expository preaching is preaching in such a way that the listeners get wet with God’s Word after the sermon.” Of this I was convinced. But it was Piper who convinced me that if I was going to discharge my pastoral duty faithfully, then I must make a point to preach the truth of God’s Word on the matter of abortion. He persuaded me that some topics are worthy of deliberate considering because they are just that important. The sanctity of human life is one of those topics.

God’s people are immersed in a culture of death. Whether it’s through the world at large, the onslaught of social media posts, or the inescapable daily news cycle, the spiritual forces of evil work overtime to diminish the value of life.

The cosmic powers over this present darkness are crafty in their attacks against the imago dei. They don’t care how they devalue life.

God’s ordained counter-offensive against this attack is preachers who lead their people by their preaching—empowered by the Spirit of God and armed with his Word. If anyone should take up the cause of the unborn, it is the man of God in the pulpit.

That’s not to say everyone else in the church is off the hook on this matter. But it is to say that if everyone else were to remain silent, there ought to be at least one champion for God’s image-bearers in the womb (and out of the womb, for that matter). That’s you, pastor.

In my own pastoral ministry, I have sought to lead in this way. Over the years, my definition of what I mean by “sanctity of life” has broadened. We generally think of it only being about abortion. But a legitimate category under sanctity of life is the desire for the flourishing of life.

This means in my preaching I’ve not only tried to expose the evil of abortion, but I’ve also sought to bear the gospel on racial reconciliation, proclaim the goodness of God’s design in gender, uphold the roles of men and women in the church and home, and lead God’s people in how to think through issues of euthanasia/suicide.

Now you might be thinking, “Why sanctity of life? Why this issue? Surely there are other matters to fight for as well.” If you think this, you’re right.

The sanctity of life is not the only issue. But it is worthy of a pastor’s prophetic voice in a world full of ears itching for teachers to suit their own passions.

My encouragement to you is the same mandate from Piper that fell on me: “Brothers, blow the trumpet for the unborn.”

Jonathan Davis is pastor of Delta Church in Springfield.

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.