Someone posted a 30-second video clip by Dr. Arturo Azurdia III from the 2018 Shepherds’ Conference with the title “You Are Not Here to Change the Culture.” (I’m not sure if it’s Todd Friel’s title or Dr. Azurdia’s.) The clip is posted on the “Wretched” Youtube channel. Dr. Azurdia says,
Advance the cause of Right Wing politics. Advance the homeschool agenda. Shut down all the Planned Parenthood clinics. Clean up the elementary school playgrounds in your neighborhood. All of which are fine for a person to engage in as a Christian individual but none of these reflect the agenda assigned to us by the Lord who has determined our principle means of influence as the church.
I tried to find the entire talk but was unable to do so. If I misrepresent the speaker, I apologize in advance. Todd Friel of “Wretched” offers a brief commentary on Dr. Azurdia’s comments and holds a similar opinion. Friel says that “we have not been given the mandate by Jesus” to work to stop abortion, deal with education issues, or be involved politically. Really?
Dr. Azurdia makes the good point in his message that in our dealings with the world that we should neither be consumed by the world or feast on the world.
How do Christians avoid either trap?
If Dr. Azurdia and Friel say that the above actions by Christians “are fine things for a person to engage in as a Christian individual,” how does the Christian individual know in what way or ways he should be involved so he doesn’t fall into either of the two traps?
This is where the church comes in. If “all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17), then the church should address “every good work” by the study of Scripture.
This means pastors should deal with education because the Bible deals with education (Deut. 6:1–2; Eph. 6:4). What Israelite would send his children to the Canaanites or the Babylonians to be educated? It would be unthinkable. The Bible is filled with politics and its effects on a nation.
An abortion example
The same is true of abortion. Pastors can teach directly from the Bible to prepare Christians “as individuals” to handle the abortion issue biblically and practically. Here’s an example:
First, Exodus 21:22–25 deals with a particular judicial case where two men struggle (fight) with one another. We are not told why they are fighting. A pregnant woman is standing near enough that she is affected by the altercation. She goes into premature labor. This particular case law covers all the “cases,” everything from no harm to the mother and her prematurely born children to harm resulting in death to the mother and one or more of her children.
Second, the woman is not deciding to have an abortion. At one level, it’s an accident that she goes into labor. At another level, however, the men should not have been fighting, so there is some liability.
Third, the text is clear, she is pregnant with at least one child: “And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child. . . .” (Ex. 21:22). The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon defines hareh as a pregnant woman with child. It’s clear that she is not carrying around a mass of undefined tissue that suddenly becomes a human being only when he or she exits the sanctuary of the womb.
Fourth, the Bible attributes self-consciousness to preborn babies, something that modern medicine has studied and acknowledged. Jacob and Esau “struggled together within” their mother’s womb (Gen. 25:22). The New Testament offers a similar glimpse into prenatal consciousness: “And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41). “Struggling” and “leaping” are the result of consciousness. Jacob and Esau fighting inside the womb are indicative of their continued fighting outside the womb. John leaps in reaction to Mary’s pregnancy.
Some commentators claim that in Exodus 21:22, killing an unborn “fetus” is nothing more than a property crime rather than the killing of a human being. This is absurd. Their operating premise is that a preborn baby is not defined as a person. The Bible teaches otherwise. The original Hebrew reads: “And if men struggle with each other and strike a pregnant woman so that her children [yeled] come out. . . .”
Notice that the text uses the word “children,” not “products of conception.” The Hebrew word for “children” in this verse is used in other contexts to designate a child already born. For example, in Exodus 2:6, we read, “When Pharaoh’s daughter opened [the basket], she saw the child [yeled], and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children [yeled].’” Since in the Exodus case these are “children that come out,” they are persons, not body parts like an appendix or a kidney.
If there is no injury to these individuals—the mother and her prematurely delivered child or children—then there is no penalty. If there is injury, then the judges must decide on an appropriate penalty based on the extent of the injury to the mother and/or her children because both are persons in terms of the Bible.
Some translations have “so that she has a miscarriage.” The 1977 edition of the New American Standard Version translated the text using “miscarriage.” The 1995 translation is better (“she gives birth prematurely”), but it still does not capture the literal rendering. In a marginal note, the NASB translators recognize that the literal rendering of the text is “her children come out.” It’s frustrating to read translations that include marginal notes telling us what it really says literally. Translate it literally, and then use the margin to offer an explanation if needed. Other translations have a more word-for-word translation. Here’s one example:
“When men get in a fight and hit a pregnant woman so that her children are born [prematurely] but there is no injury, the one who hit her must be fined as the woman’s husband demands from him, and he must pay according to judicial assessment” (Holman Christian Standard Bible).
Notice that it’s “so that her children are born.”
An aborted mission
What if Todd Friel and Dr. Azurdia were pastoring churches in Ireland? There was a recent referendum on the abortion issue. Would they have preached on the topic, or would they have said, “We have not been given the mandate by Jesus” to address such an issue?
Politicians have the power of life and death in their decisions. Laws they make and judges they appoint can be used to take our money, imprison people, and put criminals to death, and they get to define what constitutes criminal behavior. How can Christians remain silent through the process that is supposed to tell the whole land what justice is?
There is no debate that the gospel comes first. But changed hearts result in “the renewing of” the Christian’s mind, that he “may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). Killing unborn babies, sending covenant children to government schools, and politics becoming the de facto savior of Christians and non-Christians alike, are not “good and acceptable and perfect.”
If pastors are telling Christians that it’s not the church’s job to address these and many more issues, then what are churches to teach? Try teaching through the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings without addressing politics from the pulpit. Try preaching through the prophets and not touch on these matters.