Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue by R.C. Sproul. Twentieth Anniversary Edition. Reformation Trust Publishing. 207 pages. 2010
I first read this important book when it was published in 1990. Since that time I’ve heard Dr. Sproul mention several times that it’s one of the worst- selling of his 90-plus books. It was updated in 2010, and features an extended Foreword from George Grant, who helped to update the book due to changes over the past twenty years. In light of the recent Planned Parenthood videos, and the fact that over a million babies are killed every year in the United States alone, I decided to read the book again.
Sproul examines the ethical implications of abortion, looking at the issue from the perspectives of biblical law, natural law, and positive judicial law. He makes it clear that while he will examine arguments from both sides of the debate, he is convinced that abortion on demand is evil. He shows that abortion is against the law of God, against the laws of nature, and against reason. He states that the book is addressed primarily to those who are not sure about the ethics of abortion. He addresses the issue in a biblical and logical manner, not using inflammatory language.
Sproul writes that many if not the majority of those who oppose abortion are driven by religious convictions. He states that at the heart of the abortion issue rests one overarching question: Is abortion a form of murder? Or, to say it another way, does abortion involve the willful destruction of a living human person?
Sproul states that he is convinced that if it could be proven that the destruction of unborn babies is in fact the willful destruction of living human beings, the debate on abortion would be all but over, and the law of the land would as clearly prohibit abortion as it does all forms of homicide. He addresses the important question of when life begins and states that the answer a person chooses to that question often determines his or her position on the abortion issue.
He discusses the issue of the sanctity of life, stating that in biblical terms the sanctity of human life is rooted and grounded in creation. He states that the Bible clearly indicates that unborn babies are considered living human beings before they are born, and that the weight of the biblical evidence is that life begins at conception. Sproul writes that the fear of divine judgment governs his actions regarding abortion. He is firmly convinced that God hates abortion and will judge it thoroughly.
He states that before we ever pick up any surgical instrument to destroy a developing human fetus, we must be certain we are acting justly, and asks the following helpful questions:
- What is your conscience telling you on abortion?
- Why do you hold the position you hold?
- How did you arrive at your conclusions?”
He addresses the role of government, stating that the foundational obligation of all government is to protect, sustain, and maintain human life. The protection of human life is at the heart of the role of government.
He addresses many of the common objections to the elimination of legalized abortion on demand. He talks about the effective strategy of using the language of pro-choice, rather than pro-abortion. Sproul’s purpose is to convince the undecided that the pro-life view is the proper ethical option, stating that the evidence is overwhelming that an embryo or fetus is a living human being. He states that for those who are uncomfortable with the pro-life, pro-abortion, or pro-choice positions, there is another possibility: undecided.
He states that only a small number of abortions involve rape or incest, and abortions performed to save the lives of women are exceedingly rare. The real issue is abortion for convenience or because the child is simply not wanted. He discusses the obvious alternative to abortion is to put the baby up for adoption, stating that families who adopt children provide a model for pro-life activists.
Helpful summaries of the major points of each chapter and discussion questions suitable for group study are included at the end of each chapter. Two appendices are included:
Appendix A: A lengthy testimony on the beginning of human life.
Appendix B: Helpful pro-life resources.
I highly recommend that you read this well-reasoned book on a very emotional issue in our country.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a great preacher who was best known for his time at London’s Westminster Chapel. Although he died in 1981, more than 1,600 of his sermons are available online for free download at the MLK Recordings Trust. A few podcasts of his sermons are also available on iTunes. In addition, many of his sermons are also available in book form, including Spiritual Depression, which I recently read.
This well-made documentary about the life and ministry of Lloyd-Jones is directed by Matthew Robinson. It contains three DVD’s:
- Disc 1: Feature Film, which is comprised primarily of interviews with family members, pastors and theologians shot in historic locations across Wales, England, Scotland, and the United States. The disc also includes three extras, including fascinating recollections from Iain Murray and others about the 1966 National Assembly of Evangelicals organized by the Evangelical Alliance when he called evangelical pastors to leave denominations that contained both liberal and evangelical congregations and his dispute with John Stott.
- Disc 2: Six additional special features.
- Disc 3: One section (on Lloyd-Jones) from Behold Your God: Thinking Biblically, a new 13 DVD series on discipleship.
Also included is a beautiful 128-page book, which includes biographic information about each of the 42 interview participants in the film, including daughters Elizabeth and Ann, Lloyd-Jones’ grandchildren, pastors and theologians such as Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Ian Hamilton, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Paul Washer, and Donald S. Whitney. Iain Murray’s reflections were particularly interesting due to his close relationship with “The Doctor”, serving as his assistant.
The book also features a director’s statement from Robinson, thoughts on the music score from Gregory Wilbur (I’ve previously enjoyed his album My Cry Ascends: New Parish Psalms), and the transcript of four sermons used in the film
I particularly enjoyed the footage filmed inside of Westminster Chapel and the recollections of his daughter and grandchildren.
I thoroughly enjoyed this package, which includes a wealth of information about Lloyd-Jones, and is very well-done. This will be most appreciated by pastors who respect Lloyd-Jones. I recommend that pastors find time to watch at least the feature film, if not more, with their leadership teams.
Free Audiobook on Abortion. Christianaudio is making Compelling Interest: The Real Story Behind Roe vs. Wade by Roger Resler free.
The Biggest Story. Kevin DeYoung writes about his new (and first) children’s book The Biggest Story, due out August 31.
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount Book Club – Won’t you read along with us?
This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London.
The obvious question with which to start is this: Why should we consider the Sermon on the Mount at all? Why should I call your attention to it and to its teaching? I suppose fundamentally, therefore, my main reason for preaching on the Sermon on the Mount was that I had felt this persuasion, this compulsion, this leading of the Spirit. I feel the particular reason for doing so is the peculiar condition of the life of the Christian Church in general at the present time.
- I do not think it is a harsh judgment to say that the most obvious feature of the life of the Christian Church today is, alas, its superficiality.
- I am thinking not only of modern evangelistic activities as compared and contrasted with the great evangelistic efforts of the Church in the past-the present-day tendency to boisterousness, for example, and the use of means which would have horrified and shocked our fathers; but I also have in mind the life of the Church in general where the same thing is true, even in such matters as her conception of holiness and her whole approach to the doctrine of sanctification. The important thing for us is to discover the causes of this.
- I would suggest that one main cause is our attitude to the Bible, our failure to take it seriously, our failure to take it as it is and to allow it to speak to us. Coupled with that, perhaps, is our invariable tendency to go from one extreme to the other. But the main thing, I feel, is our attitude towards the Scriptures.
- Our approach to the Bible is something which is of vital importance.
- The commonest cause of all this is our tendency so often to approach the Bible with a theory. We go to our Bibles with this theory, and everything we read is controlled by it.
- There is nothing so dangerous as to come to the Bible with a theory, with preconceived ideas, with some pet idea of our own, because the moment we do so, we shall be tempted to overemphasize one aspect and under-emphasize another.
- This particular danger tends chiefly to manifest itself in the matter of the relationship between law and grace. That has always been true in the Church from the very beginning and it is still true today.
- Is it not true to say of many of us that in actual practice our view of the doctrine of grace is such that we scarcely ever take the plain teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ seriously?
- What does the Sermon on the Mount mean to us? Where does it come in our lives and what is its place in our thinking and outlook? What is our relationship to this extraordinary Sermon that has such a prominent position in these three chapters in the Gospel according to St. Matthew?
- For whom is the Sermon on the Mount intended? To whom does it apply? What is really the purpose of this Sermon; what is its relevance?
- There was once the so-called `social gospel’ view of the Sermon on the Mount.
- But of course the real answer to this view of the Sermon on the Mount is that it has always ignored the Beatitudes,
- Another view, which is perhaps a little more serious for us, is that which regards the Sermon on the Mount as nothing but an elaboration or an exposition of the Mosaic Law. I feel it is totally inadequate if for no other reason than that it, also, fails to take account of the Beatitudes.
- Then the next view I want to mention is what we may call the `dispensational’ view of the Sermon on the Mount. A dispensational view of the Sermon on the Mount, saying that it has nothing whatsoever to do with modern Christians. It is meant `for the kingdom age’.
- Another very important consideration is that there is no teaching to be found in the Sermon on the Mount which is not also found in the various New Testament Epistles.
- The Sermon on the Mount is nothing but a great and grand and perfect elaboration of what our Lord called His `new commandment’. His new commandment was that we love one another even as He has loved us. The Sermon on the Mount is nothing but a grand elaboration of that.
- The dispensational view is based on a wrong conception of the kingdom of God.
- There is nothing, therefore, so dangerous as to say that the Sermon on the Mount has nothing to do with modern Christians. Indeed, I will put it like this: it is something which is meant for all Christian people. It is a perfect picture of the life of the kingdom of God.
- The great purpose of this Sermon is to give an exposition of the kingdom as something which is essentially spiritual. The kingdom is primarily something `within you’. It is that which governs and controls the heart and mind and outlook.
- This is how Christians ought to live; this is how Christians are meant to live.
- The man who is truly forgiven and knows it, is a man who forgives. That is the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount at this point.
- Why should we study it? Why should we try to live it?
- He died in order that I might now live the Sermon on the Mount. He has made this possible for me.
- The second reason for studying it is that nothing shows me the absolute need of the new birth, and of the Holy Spirit and His work within, so much as the Sermon on the Mount.
- There is nothing that so leads to the gospel and its grace as the Sermon on the Mount.
- Another reason is this. The more we live and try to practice this Sermon on the Mount, the more shall we experience blessing.
- I suggest to you it is the best means of evangelism.
- If you read the history of the Church you will find it has always been when men and women have taken this Sermon seriously and faced themselves in the light of it, that true revival has come.