Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Abortion is the 'Slavery' of our Time

Slavery is an abominable practice that scars the history of our nation. Sadly there was a time when Americans actually supported the practice of importing and selling human beings as though they were property. Today, perhaps, we have overcome this troubling part of America's past as we witness this week the swearing in of the first African American to the Presidency. Is this then a new and more civilized age, when all persons are treated as equals and each human being is afforded the dignity they deserve as a child of God? Are we now at a time and place when all men are treated as brothers?

Unfortunately, not.

Ironically, President Obama, the man who
to many symbolizes America's triumph over the brutality of slavery and racism, is the current champion of the gruesome practice of abortion. It is difficult to imagine that in this "more civilized" age something as equally cruel and dehumanizing as slavery could exist in our nation and remain protected by our laws. Yet in many respects abortion possesses an uncanny resemblance to the slave trade of more than 150 years ago. We have exchanged one barbaric practice for another. Below I have listed a few arguments frequently used by pro-abortionists today which were also popular among supporters of slavery in years past. The similarities are striking.

1) “It is not really a human being.”
How many times do we hear this line from those who are pro-choice? They produce charts and diagrams and panels of experts that “prove” that the fetus is not a person. It is a "scientific" fact, they tell us.
Similarly the pro-slavery crowd had charts and graphs and expert testimony. There was a whole branch of science that measured skull size, placement of facial features, and other physical attributes to prove that blacks were less than human and therefore not worthy of the same rights as whites. It strikes me as rather frightening that the definition of “human” continues to be up for grabs, even according to the supposed “experts.”

2) “It is better for them this way than to be thrust out into the cruel world.”
Many slave owners genuinely felt they were doing their slaves a favor by keeping them in bondage, shielding them from the harsh cruelty of the outside world. Of course this is ludicrous. The real cruelty is to deny a person the right to experience the world with the freedom that God intended.
Yet abortion advocates argue along much the same line as the slaveholders. “How can I bring a child into this world when there is so much hate and violence and evil?” or “Some birth defects and deformities are simply so severe that the child would not have a good quality of life. It is more merciful to terminate the pregnancy” Just as slave masters pretended that they were protecting slaves from a harsh reality, so too pro-abortionists claim that some babies are just better off not being born.

3) “To end this practice now would devastate the people who so depend on it.”
The end of slavery was a severe blow to white Southerners who profited so greatly from this evil practice. It meant rethinking how their agrarian society operated. It meant reconfiguring Southern social structures and institutions (which took another hundred years and a civil rights movement). With the end of slavery, slaveholders saw their whole world crashing down around them.
With similar fears in mind, the left paints a picture of life without legalized abortion that includes “back alley” procedures with dirty instruments and botched abortions, causing the deaths of countless women and young girls. They also claim abortion benefits society by ridding us of unwanted children and children who would otherwise grow up in poverty or single parent homes. In short abortion supposedly makes our society function better and without it we would all suffer. But in the case of both slavery and abortion, the oppression of a whole race of people and the slaughter of innocent life somehow both fail to persuade me of their benefits.

4) “It is an ancient practice that has served humanity well.”
According to the Planned Parenthood website, “Women have turned to abortion to end unwanted pregnancies throughout the ages. In the U.S., induced abortion was common among Native Americans, and it was legal from colonial times to the middle of the 19th century.” Likewise slavery was an institution that many cultures around the world utilized throughout the centuries.
But this does NOT make either practice morally justifiable! History can teach us a lot of good and valuable lessons. And there are many traditions and longstanding institutions that we would all do well to preserve. But simply appealing to history without giving context to your argument can cause us to falsely justify many evils that are in reality quite barbaric.

5) “My rights are being violated.”
The “Underground Railroad,” that secret network of safe houses created by abolitionists that successfully liberated slaves in the pre-Civil War South by bringing them into the North, was loathed by the white slave masters. They saw the runaway slave as private property and anyone assisting a slave to escape was a common criminal trampling his rights of ownership.
The pro-life protesters of today form a new Underground Railroad of sorts on the sidewalks outside abortion clinics across America. Saving unborn infants and their mothers, they too offer “safe houses” and shelters and roads leading to the freedom of choosing life. And in performing this duty they are accused of infringing on the rights of women, and the rights of the clinic and of its employees. This new Underground Railroad is fighting a whole system that is dependant on more and more women choosing death. It is their "Constitutional right" and the pro-lifers are attacking that "right."
But the right to LIFE of the unborn child is never mentioned, just as the slave’s right to LIBERTY was always ignored.

Now, slavery and abortion are not alike in every way. I do not mean to draw such a bold conclusion. There are many issues that set the two apart. But one thing that makes both so devastating is the permanence of their effects. A slave who has been freed cannot get back the years lost in captivity, nor can we restore the life of a child once torn from her mother’s womb.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Christ-centered Church, Part V of V

Jesus said to Peter, “You are Rock, and upon this rock I will build my Church.” He gave to Peter “the keys to the kingdom,” so that whatever Peter bound on earth would be bound in heaven, and whatever he loosed would be loosed. Jesus gave similar authority to the other Apostles - the power to loose and bind - but to Peter alone He gave the “keys.” As such, Peter is the chief steward who exercises authority in the absence of the king. This authority, granted to Peter and exercised through the Church, is binding on all Christians. As we have seen, the Church that Jesus built on the “Rock” possesses even the power to forgive sins and to cut off from the fold those Christians who do not repent (Matthew 18:15-18). In short, Jesus established His Church with real authority and power, and entrusted its governance to mortal men.

Notice that Jesus did not say, “I give to you the Bible, and on this Bible I will build my Church.” He did not say that the power to loose and bind would reside in a book. Yet there are many Christians who turn to the Bible to construct their own version of the church. They form “Bible-based” churches, when it is clear from Christ’s own words that the true Church of Christ rests on the authority given to Peter and the Apostles as a living institution. The true Church is not built on a book, but is a living Body of believers – the Body of Christ, empowered with the Spirit.

Then where is this living Church today? Where is the Church that Christ established so many years ago?

Only one church has maintained the teaching authority first granted to Peter. Only one church can trace itself back to the Church of the Apostles, through a steady succession of bishops, back to the First Century. Only one church can truly claim to be established by Jesus Himself upon the “Rock,” upon Peter, to whom was given the keys of the kingdom.

The Catholic Church has been governed by the successors to Peter (the popes) for nearly 2000 years. Meanwhile, Bible-based churches are at best only a few centuries old, or (more often) a few decades. None of these “Bible churches” have a tangible, historic link to the Apostles. Nor can they claim any real authority. The fact is, anyone can pick up a Bible and “claim” to know what it teaches, but only the Catholic Church was granted the power to loose and bind, an authority granted by Jesus Himself. Only the successors to Peter have passed on the keys to the kingdom as the stewards of God’s people until the King returns.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, would not leave his flock to wander untended. And so, before He ascended to the Father, Jesus commanded Peter, “Feed my lambs…tend my sheep” (John 21:15-19). He appointed Peter as shepherd in His stead. The Church has been lead ever since by Peter’s successors. All Christians who wish to be truly Christ-centered in their obedience must turn to the authority which Christ left us, the authority of His Church, the power of the keys, which the Catholic Church alone possesses.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Christ-centered Church, Part IV of V

Christ established His Church on earth to exercise authority in His absence, saying “…whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18) Each individual must submit to this moral authority of the Church or else find himself cut off from the body of believers: “…if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:17) The Church draws this authority from Jesus Christ through the power of the Spirit breathed into her at Pentecost. “…He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” (John 20:22-23) It is a power that is binding on every Christian soul.

Since this is true, since we must obey the Church or else be cut off from the Body of Christ, then we must ask: Which church is the true Church? To which body do I owe my allegiance? There are many competing denominations and sects within Christianity, each claiming to be the true Church that Christ founded in the First Century. How can we know which is in actual fact the very same Church granted authority over all believers? If we can discover this, then we have no alternative than to obey.

Twice Jesus stated that His Church would have this power to “loose and bind.” One of these passages has been cited above in Matthew 18:18. The other occurs two chapters earlier in the same Gospel. And to this passage we now turn, for in this verse we see, quite literally, the “key” to the Church’s authority: "I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19)

These words were spoken by Jesus to Simon, whom Jesus gave the name Peter (which means “rock”). Peter was to be the “rock” on which Jesus would build His Church. And to Peter was given the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” While the other Apostles were later addressed (in chapter 18) as sharing this same power to loose and bind, it was Peter alone who was given the “keys.” But what are these “keys”?

In our day the meaning of the “keys” may be lost or obscured, but Scripture provides the answer. For the Jews of Jesus’ time the image of the “key” would immediately conjure up the royal household and the power given to the steward of the kingdom. Isaiah 22:20-23 speaks of this authority: “On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family…”

The power of the key, the authority to “shut and open” (or “loose and bind”) is the authority given to the chief steward of the kingdom of Israel - the “steward” being second in command to the king. In the king’s absence, the steward exercised decision-making authority until the king’s return. Jesus is King of kings, and Lord of lords. Peter was given power to exercise authority over the Church until Jesus’ return in glory. Now we must ask, how does this authority continue until our present time? Where do we find the keys of the kingdom of heaven?