Douglas Wilson has asked us to do a thought experiment with him in an attempt to persuade us to be incrementalists on the abortion issue. He invokes my name and American Vision and provides certain peculiar admonitions. I’ll address the experiment first, then the peculiar admonitions.
Douglas has branded a new thing he calls “smashmouth incrementalism.” Yet every example he has given so far has done nothing more than repeat the same incrementalism on abortion that the mainstream pro-life movement has urged for four decades. I see the incrementalism. I don’t see the smashmouth, except in some of Douglas’s rhetoric. He is a top-notch rhetorician.
The thought experiment
For his experiment, Douglas asks what we hard-core no compromise guys would do if we held the governor’s pen and the legislature passed to us a bill that would stop 10 percent of the abortions in the state, while sustaining 90 percent of them (all abortions pre-20 weeks, like the bill he supports now).
What would we do? Would we sign such a compromise bill?
I have to admit this question gives me a little pause. I am a little divided between two answers. I am a little divided between the answers “No” and “Hell No.”
No Christian should hesitate with this answer. Murder is murder. This is not an issue of pragmatism, but of ethics. As one preacher said, This is not an issue of right and left; this is an issue of right and wrong.
If it is wrong for a Christian to support the murder of infants, then no Christian governor should approve a codification of law that allows a single murder of a single infant.
I agree with the preacher who said, Just as John the Baptist told Herod he could not have the wives of others, we are saying that our government cannot have the lives of others.
Like on the issue of theft: Scripture does not say, “Thou shalt not steal, unless it clears both chambers and the president signs it with a large number of pens.” Some people believe that it is not theft if you have to fill out a form, but we are not among that number.
Similarly, Scripture does not say, “Thou shalt not murder, unless the legislature says it is a fetus prior to the twentieth week.” Some people believe they will be exonerated from codifying murder because they codified it for only 95 percent of abortions, not all of them. We must not be among that number.
Christians must in all cases uphold God’s law without compromise. This is a call for moral clarity. It’s like the preacher who said that when governments depart from God’s boundaries for government, then every act of legislation is a grasping after the serpent’s promise, and are therefore anti-Christian in principle long before any decisions are made, whether those decisions are good or bad.
“Whether those decisions be good or bad.” Think about that! You can’t justify a half-way law for what pragmatic good it may accomplish when the moral principle behind that law defies God’s limits, for example, exonerates murder.
This is wisdom: do not support a partially “good” law unequally yoked to a wicked foundation. It’s like when one preacher said that even if a law had been a wise law, fully paid for, judicious and full of sunshine, and the Supreme Court had upheld it on these same grounds, we should all be just as appalled. . . . It is the same kind of thing here—we ought to care far more about the ground of the decision than the decision itself.
We should, therefore, look at the bill Douglas asks us to sign and be appalled by it. We should be far more concerned about the moral principles we are destroying through compromise to begin with.
Governments’ claims that set aside God’s law are a fatal conceit, and to acquiesce in them is cowardice in the face of such conceit.
We cannot settle for any law that codifies murder in any way. As one preacher said in regard to Obamacare, for example, Simply repealing Obamacare as a policy matter is no longer enough. Obamacare must be rejected because it is inconsistent with the moral obligation of limited government. . . .
Such radical faithfulness produces radical demands on government. It should formally reject Obamacare in its entirety, and to do so on biblical, moral, and constitutional grounds. As the preacher said, I do not call you to something small, or to perform some sort of gesture, such as opting out of a mere portion of Obamacare, but rather to a root and branch rejection of the whole thing.
Amen! (I wish we could find more preachers like this today.) If this applies to theft and Obamacare, how much more does it apply to murder and abortion? Governments must formally reject abortion in its entirety, on biblical, moral, and constitutional grounds. We must not call for something small, or perform some sort of gesture, such as ending only a portion of abortions, but rather must completely abolish it, root and branch.
Taking such an uncompromised stand may not be easy, but it is easier to bear than the results of compromise. As the preacher said, If you fail to intervene, if you fail to stand up to this bully, then at some point you will have joined forces with the bully. . . . To fail in this regard is both immoral and criminal.
I cannot think of a better analogy when compromising for legislation that codifies murder: it is joining forces with the murderers. (I wish we had more preachers like this!)
I have to admit, on the face of it, and in light of 44 years of the failures of pro-life compromises, that a strategy of the complete and total abolition of abortion without compromise now may seem impossible. It is very tempting to join forces with murderers and accomplices to murder and agree, “We’ll say you can murder before 20 weeks if you’ll just say we can’t do it after 20 weeks.”
We may even make such a compromise, then write a lot and gripe real hard about “bad” compromise, because we’re not incrementalists, but smashmouth incrementalists. We’re hard core.
No, rather, I agree with the preacher who rejected this approach, and said instead, [H]istory is filled with restorations and reformations that seemed impossible at the time. That is why we remember them. No grateful descendants are going to build a monument for us because we called for, and got, “mild improvements.”
“Mild improvements” based on political “reasonableness” and “caution” are deceptive failures. It is not time for reasonableness and caution. Like the preacher said, Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished by men who were prepared to be reasonable. The voices of prudence and caution have always whispered to the reformers that their cause was hopeless.
Eve was particularly cautious, reasonable, and prudent. Her constituency agreed. They both fell.
But reformers don’t balk at the voices of such constituencies. Instead, it is a time for prophetic fire, and radical faithfulness. Like one preacher said, Desperate times call for faithful men, and not for the careful men. The careful men come later, and write the biographies of the faithful men, lauding them for their courage.
Amen. But that is not what we hear today.
Instead, today we get Douglas Wilson, urging me precisely to this, “caution,” because of my joining faithful men, and because a refusal to compromise may alienate some fancied constituency.
Douglas says he’s afraid I am in theonomic mission drift. Theonomy’s mission is God’s law in the land. God’s law does not allow murdering babies, not one, and certainly not 90 percent. American Vision’s mission is “To restore America to its biblical foundations.” We have never drifted from this, and won’t. We preach to Christians who are ethically adrift in compromise, even when they think they’re not, and try to teach them radical faithfulness to God’s law.
Like King Asa, we don’t always succeed fully in reaching the high places, but also like him, we would not sign a compromise saying it is legal to sacrifice children in the high places as long as the murderers would agree to do so only after 12pm on Sundays. Failure to achieve one’s goals may leave some damage, but compromise ensures it. Failure is out of one’s control. Compromise gives consent. Asa did not give consent.
Douglas thinks my uncompromising stand will land me “between two stools.”
What? I had a stool?
People, I’m not here to get a stool. I’m here to kick them over. Too many big talkers have been sitting on stools for too long anyway.
I’m not here to please a constituency. I’m here to turn over the tables of the Christian moneychangers and, on this issue, to take a whip to the Christian accomplices of codified murder. Is this not what all Christ’s disciples should want? We need more preachers who see this.
The bold preacher I kept quoting above is the kind we need today. He was not cautious, not compromising, not incrementalist, and not a “careful man.” Root and branch, he said. “Axe to the Root,” you might say. We need more who preach this way today. And if you do not already know or have not realized it, every one of those quotations above came from a preacher named Douglas Wilson.
Every italicized word above came from Douglas Wilson from five years ago. In 2012, he was making demands on his governor and state legislators to reject, without compromise, in total and not in part, the federal mandates of Obamacare. Reject it in total, nullify, and resist the federal government. To do anything less was cowardice, immoral, and criminal.
I agree with Douglas Wilson ’12. But resisting Obamacare was a completely safe issue for a conservative constituency. It’s easy to be faithful man and not careful man then. But here we are now in ’17 and the issue is not a safe issue. It’s a divisive one. Being faithful and not careful means real risk, not just rhetoric. When we ask him to join us in calling his governor and legislators to the same standard for abortion in his state, he instead backs legislation for a “mild improvement,” in part, with great compromise, while maintaining 95 percent of abortion-murders as legal.
When the issue was safe for the constituency, we were boldly urged to faithfulness not caution; when it’s divisive, I am suddenly urged to caution. That’s not smashmouth; that’s mushmouth.
The standard here is not political. It is ethical. A bearer of theonomic ethics does not stand with his finger to the wind trying to gauge a constituency to determine what degree of murder he must legally tolerate. He doesn’t tolerate any, and he says so.
You put your name on murder, and you own murder, no matter what you label it.