Why Evangelicals For Life is a Bad Move for Southern Baptists
Evangelicals for Life (EFL) is the Southern Baptist counterpart to the largely Roman Catholic March for Life. The March for Life began as a small protest in 1973 in Washington D.C. as a response to the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which ruled in favor of those who support widespread abortion on demand. Evangelicals for Life was founded by Russell Moore’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC) as an evangelical ‘response’ to the March for Life. While it is admirable that those involved in the movement strongly oppose abortion, the movement itself is replete with problems.
According to Evangelicals for Life’s website, Russell Moore writes:
At first glance, it might look like the Evangelicals For Life conference is just another Christian gathering, talking about contentious cultural issues with an aim to rallying believers to a just cause. While we certainly do hope to encourage and strengthen Christians to stand for life in their communities, Evangelicals For Life represents something much larger than politics–in fact, something eternally larger.
But here’s the thing: it is just another gathering that talks about contentious cultural issues. You bring in big name speakers from across the evangelical spectrum, they stand up for a few minutes and give a half-witted speech with a sprinkling of biblical appeal, rile up people’s emotions with some sappy worship music, and then move on to the next speaker. Moore goes on to say:
The gospel tells us that human life is of infinite value and importance. Human beings are created in the image of God himself. (Gen. 1:27). Not only that, but human life was joined to God forever in the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ….The value of human life isn’t just an issue for Congress or activists or ethics professors. It’s an issue for every single Christian and every single local church….The church must speak a prophetic, gospel word to our culture of death.
No argument here. In fact, the point he’s making in this statement is of utmost importance. Abortion is none other than a direct attack on the Imago Dei–the Image of God. When you kill, abort, slaughter, sacrifice one of God’s innocent created human beings, you stand to face the judgment of God. Proverbs 6:17 makes it abundantly clear that God hates those who shed innocent blood. Hates it! He finds it absolutely detestable.
Further, Russell Moore is correct in asserting that the human right to life is not just a political or activist issue–it’s a spiritual issue. Abortion is sin against our Creator in the highest degree. There is but one answer for sin, and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So all this sound great then. What’s the problem?
The problem isn’t with the orthodoxy of the message presented here, rather it’s in the orthopraxy–that is, the actual conduct and practice of the sentiments presented here. It’s commendable that Russell Moore and the EFL movement desire an end to abortion, but the movement contradicts its own stated purpose with its associations.
First, EFL has partnered with the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) in this goal. The EFL Conference takes place during the March for Life in Washington D.C. annually. While historically the Roman Catholic Church has had a strong presence in the pro-life movement, they have been very pragmatic in their approach. If EFL is true to its belief that the Gospel is the answer to sin, then one must raise the question: why would we partner with an organization that does not have the gospel? The Church of Rome is the ancient enemy of the gospel–an apostate hierarchical system of popes and priests, that holds to a works-based salvation and actually forbids one from believing the true Gospel. (More about that here.)
God forbids such partnerships of believers and unbelievers, for good reason.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? – 2nd Corinthians 6:14-15 (ESV)
When you begin to mix the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a false gospel, it creates confusion and division.
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. – Romans 16:17 (ESV)
Further, Russell Moore himself has affirmed that Roman Catholics are worthy partners in the movement:
I don’t want to see any fewer rosary beads at the March for Life, but I want to see more evangelicals here also at the March for Life…And so we don’t need any less ‘Ave Maria,’ but we need some more ‘Amazing Grace’ in the mix as well.
Russell Moore calls them “allies” in this article he pens at Christianity.com. Clearly, we cannot be Gospel allies with those who do not have the Gospel. God does not save lost souls or restore nations under judgment through a false Jesus.
But this isn’t the only problem or contradiction to the stated purpose and goals of Evangelicals for Life. Russell Moore does not believe that mothers who murder their children should face any civil or criminal penalties, even if it were made illegal. He writes:
…all pro-life Americans need to make this issue clear: Protecting unborn babies is not about punishing women, but punishing an industry and a culture that dehumanizes human beings.
Pro-life Christians understand that abortion isn’t just a physical attack on a baby; it’s a spiritual assault on a mother too. The well-known billboard that says “Abortion stops a beating heart” would be more accurate if it said, “Abortion stops two beating hearts.” Abortion is sin against God and child, and it is also sin against women, one that assaults and deadens the moral conscience.
While the saving mercy and grace offered in Jesus Christ in the Gospel should be offered to all mothers who murder their children, this certainly cannot be done without conviction. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Cor 7:10 ESV)” If we remove and oppose the temporal penalties for sin, we are effectively making the statement that this sin isn’t worthy of punishment. Further, we are devaluing the innocent unborn life in the mother’s womb by implying that the murdered child is not important enough for the perpetrators involved to face penalties. While there is certainly an aspect of coercion by others pressed upon many abortive mothers, this is caused in part by the laws put in place protecting the mothers from the penalties of their crime. In other words, we have led mothers to believe that abortion is acceptable because we don’t want to see them punished for their crimes. This message is anti-Gospel.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and featured speaker at the Evangelicals for Life Conference affirms this sentiment, and wants to make it clear that the pro-life movement has no intention of criminalizing mothers who choose to murder their children. This sentiment is shared with the current Roman Catholic president, Jeanne Mancini, of the March for Life:
No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion. We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment.
This is not a Gospel approach to abortion. Women are moral agents just as the men are, and just as the aborticians and their staff are. While the appeal to mercy and grace towards women may seem commendable on the surface, in reality, it does a disservice to the Gospel and the message of the Gospel. What’s ultimately being said in deed by the EFL movement is that mothers are not guilty of a crime against humanity or a crime against God. If there is no guilt or conviction for their crime, there can be no repentance–a necessary component of salvation.
Abortion is sin–and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This is crucial, for if a mother does not realize that the wages for her crimes are spiritual death because we have removed the sting of punishment from our own civil government, then we cannot expect her conscience to be guilty. It’s understandable that we would want to treat mothers with love and compassion, including those who commit one of the most egregious sins that the Scriptures describe. For Christ’s sacrifice is powerful enough to save even the chiefest of sinners (1 Tim 1:15) and it has the power to save abortive mothers too. But it does not work only partially–the law must be presented fully with conviction before grace can be received. Concealing her transgressions will not lead to repentance and salvation.
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. – Proverbs 28:13
So while there is a commendable aspect to EFL that desires to see abortion removed from our society, the methodology is unbiblical. It leads to a corrupt way of thinking about the Gospel, and how God works. Partnering with those who hold a false Gospel will serve to only weaken our goal as Christians to change the hearts and minds of the lost with the saving grace of the true message of Jesus.
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” – 1 Cor 15:33
Weakening the gospel with a pragmatic, Roman Catholic style approach to sin is not going to advance the Gospel, and this movement does exactly that.
[Contributed by Jeff Maples]