Culpable Ignorance: You have no excuse for not knowing what abortion is.

The third video exposing Planned Parenthood was just released today (see below). It is the worst one yet as it depicts the actual carnage of abortion. It is difficult to watch, but everyone who supports the legality of this barbarism is morally obligated to watch it. It is clearly a human being that has been torn apart and killed in utero. If you did not know that before, you will know after seeing this video. The images don’t lie.

If you support this kind of thing being legal and don’t watch the video, your ignorance of the horror will not absolve your indifference. One of Jesus’ last utterances from the cross helps us to understand our responsibility in light of these videos. Unfortunately, the connection is often missed because his words are widely misunderstood.

The remarks I have in mind are Jesus’ prayer from the cross: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). People often misread this statement to imply that there is no guilt when people are unaware that what they are doing is wrong. Because neither the Jews nor the Romans recognized Jesus as the Christ, they do not bear the weight of guilt for their part in killing the Son of God. At least that is how Jesus’ prayer is sometimes misunderstood.

But is that really what Jesus’ prayer means? A careful reading reveals that it is not. Here’s why:

(1) Jesus’ Request: Jesus’ request indicates that the people were guilty of sin and needed that guilt removed. There would have been no need for forgiveness if there had been no guilt. Likewise, there would have been no need for the prayer had there been no guilt. The very fact of the prayer shows us that Jesus believed them to be guilty.

(2) Moses’ Law: But how could they be guilty if they transgressed unintentionally? After all, Jesus says that they did not know what they were doing, right? The question betrays an unbiblical assumption about the nature of sin. Sin is not defined as intentional transgression of God’s law but as any transgression of God’s law. That is why the Law of Moses requires sacrifices even for sins committed unintentionally (Lev. 4:1-5:13). Falling short of God’s righteous standard is sinful whether we realize it or not. That is why Jesus prays as he does.

(3) The People’s Ignorance: Even if Jesus’ killers didn’t know that they were crucifying the Son of God, they should have known. Look carefully at Jesus’ words: “Forgive them because they do not know…” The prayer suggests that they need forgiveness not only for their killing but also for their ignorance. In other words, they need mercy for not knowing what they should have known. They had the witness of scripture, John the Baptist, God’s voice from heaven, Jesus’ miracles, and Jesus’ teaching. And yet they closed their eyes to these disclosures and missed the true identity of Jesus. They may not have recognized Jesus as their Messiah, but they should have.

Perhaps abortion supporters have closed their eyes to the images that have been released in recent days, but turning away does not render them innocent. Any and every transgression of God’s law is sinful, whether we realize it or not. Our ignorance of transgression does not excuse sin. God’s law says that it is a sin to destroy innocent human life (Exod. 20:13). Killing babies in utero certainly falls short of that standard.

Moreover, we have the ultrasound images—the images that Planned Parenthood does not want mothers to see before their abortion but that abortionists use during the abortion in order to sell body parts after the abortion. We now have this third video bearing witness to the whole bloody business. If we haven’t seen the images or heard the grisly stories, it’s not because we had no opportunity. It’s because we are choosing not to look. Or to use the biblical phrase, we are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).

We are proving ourselves to be a people who need Jesus’ prayer as much as anyone ever has: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And in some cases—God, help us—we know exactly what we are doing.

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†For those wondering about the authenticity of Jesus’ saying in Luke 23:34, I recommend the commentaries of I. Howard Marshall and Leon Morris. I agree with them.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Morning Mashup 07/29 | Grace Satisfies - July 29, 2015

    […] Culpable Ignorance – With the release of the videos showing Planned Parenthood’s practices and abortion for what they are. With that in mind, Denny Burk writes, “If we haven’t seen the images or heard the grisly stories, it’s not because we had no opportunity. It’s because we are choosing not to look.” […]

  2. THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week | Coram Deo ~ - August 5, 2015

    […] Culpable Ignorance: You Have No Excuse for Not Knowing What Abortion Is. Denny Burk writes “The third video exposing Planned Parenthood was just released today (see below). It is the worst one yet as it depicts the actual carnage of abortion. It is difficult to watch, but everyone who supports the legality of this barbarism is morally obligated to watch it.” […]

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