The infamy comes to Louisville

The Courier-Journal is reporting that Louisville’s Planned Parenthood moved to a new office in December. Planned Parenthood has been in Louisville for a long time, but its Louisville office did not offer abortions. That all changed this week. According to the report:

Planned Parenthood has begun offering abortions for the first time in Kentucky at a new health center it opened last month on South Seventh Street in downtown Louisville.

Operating as Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, or PPINK, the group on Jan. 21 began offering surgical and non-surgical abortion services at the health center, which replaced its former Louisville clinic on South Second Street…

The move to provide abortions is sure to be controversial in Kentucky’s political climate as several bills aimed at curbing abortion are pending in the current session of the General Assembly. Gov. Matt Bevin also has included in his proposed budget language that would bar any organization that provides abortions from receiving state funds.

And anti-abortion protests are a regular event at Louisville’s only other abortion provider, a private clinic downtown.

Downtown Louisville already has one abortion clinic. Unless that old clinic closes, we will now have two clinics performing abortions within about a mile of one another.

Planned Parenthood has fenced-in their new facility, likely making it impossible for “Speak for the Unborn” volunteers to interact with the women entering the clinic. I’m told that Planned Parenthood will be offering their services at a lower cost than the current abortion clinic. In other words, they are being shrewd and are making sure that mothers face no opposition to the decision to take the life of their unborn children. It is grotesque.

Fellow pro-lifers in Louisville, this is a call to action. We are going to need for pro-lifers to step up their support for “A Woman’s Choice/Necole’s Place” crisis pregnancy center.

Planned Parenthood is the leading provider of abortions in America. They kill over 300,000 unborn children in America every year. Now they have decided to double the infamy of abortion in Louisville. We have to respond.

UPDATE #1: In December, Planned Parenthood claimed that they had no plans to offer abortions at the new facility. Here’s how Insider Louisville reported it:

Just as the case was with their previous location, the clinic does not provide abortion services besides referrals, and Manier said they have no immediate plans to begin doing so.

Planned Parenthood had no plans a month ago to offer surgical abortions? That seems very unlikely. Why were they denying just last month that they would begin offering abortions?

UPDATE #2: This may explain why Planned Parenthood was trying to add abortion services on the quiet. The Courier-Journal reports that Governor Matt Bevin says this new service is unlicensed and illegal.

The news drew immediate fire from Gov. Matt Bevin, an anti-abortion Republican.

“They are openly and knowingly operating an unlicensed abortion facility in clear violation of the law,” Bevin said in a statement. “We will use the full force of the commonwealth to put a stop to this. There is no room in Kentucky for this kind of blatant disregard for proper legal procedure.”

A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman responded that the organization “applied for an abortion facility license and commenced services under the guidance of the Office of the Inspector General, the state office that is responsible for licensing health facilities.”

That office is housed within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, part of state government. Planned Parenthood didn’t say whether it had yet received the license, only that it followed the guidance of the licensing agency in beginning abortion services.

Governor Matt Bevin is a strong adovocate of the pro-life cause. I can’t overstate how thankful I am that he is on the job.

Update #3: Yesterday, the Bevin adminisration ordered Planned Parenthood to “cease and desist” performing abortions at their new facility. Planned Parenthood says  it has stopped offering abortions until they clear up their conflict with the State of Kentucky. Read about it here.

The “Rubio or Bust” Theory

Readers of this blog know what I regard to be the transcendent moral issues of our time–the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and religious liberty. I have views on national security, the economy, etc., but those first three items are the biggies as far as I’m concerned. And there is more than one presidential candidate in the field who would do reasonably well on each of those issues. 

So please do not construe what follows as an endorsement, because it’s not. I am not going to endorse a candidate–mainly because I’m a pastor and I don’t want to give the impression that you have to vote for candidate “X” in order to be a good Christian. So what follows is not an endorsement. Nor is it meant to imply that someone is falling short if they disagree.

It is, however, a sober analysis of likely outcomes given a certain set of electoral circumstances (HT to Justin Taylor). David Wasserman predicts that it’s “Rubio or bust” for the Republicans at this point. Wasserman explains:

There are a lot of complex analyses of the 2016 election floating around. My own theory is quite straightforward: If Hillary Clinton is the nominee — and she remains a heavy favorite over Bernie Sanders — her fate largely rests with Republican voters’ decisions over the next few months.

If Republicans nominate Rubio, they would have an excellent chance to beat Clinton by broadening their party’s appeal with moderates, millennials and Latinos. The GOP would also have an excellent chance to keep the Senate, hold onto a wide margin in the House and enjoy more control of federal government than they have in over a decade.

If they nominate Ted Cruz, Clinton would probably win, the GOP Senate majority would also be in peril and GOP House losses could climb well into the double digits. A Donald Trump nomination would not only make Clinton’s election very likely and raise the odds of a Democratic Senate; it could force down-ballot Republicans to repudiate Trump to survive, increase pressure on a center-right candidate to mount an independent bid and split the GOP asunder.

In other words, if you’re a member of the Republican Party who wants to win in November, it’s basically Rubio or bust. The “Rubio or bust” theory relies on a process of elimination rather than an assessment of his biography, skills or ground game.

Feel free to disagree with this analysis below, but I think this sounds about right. Read the rest of Wasserman’s essay here.

A younger generation will rightly sit in judgment on ours

Your must-read piece on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade is from Frederica Mathewes-Greene. It is stunning, tragic, and wonderful. I give you just the conclusion here, but you must read the whole thing. She writes:

The pro-life cause is perennially unpopular, and pro-lifers get used to being misrepresented and wrongly accused. There are only a limited number of people who are going to be brave enough to stand up on the side of an unpopular cause. But sometimes a cause is so urgent, is so dramatically clear, that it’s worth it. What cause could be more outrageous than violence — fatal violence — against the most helpless members of our human community? If that doesn’t move us, how hard are our hearts? If that doesn’t move us, what will ever move us? 

In time, it’s going to be impossible to deny that abortion is violence against children. Future generations, as they look back, are not necessarily going to go easy on ours. Our bland acceptance of abortion is not going to look like an understandable goof. In fact, the kind of hatred that people now level at Nazis and slave-owners may well fall upon our era. Future generations can accurately say, “It’s not like they didn’t know.” They can say, “After all, they had sonograms.” They may consider this bloodshed to be a form of genocide. They might judge our generation to be monsters. 

One day, the tide is going to turn. With that Supreme Court decision 43 years ago, one of the sides in the abortion debate won the day. But sooner or later, that day will end. No generation can rule from the grave. The time is coming when a younger generation will sit in judgment of ours. And they are not obligated to be kind.

Hold Them Back

imageToday is the 43rd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision–a decision that has presided over the legal killing of over 57 million human beings since 1973. Abortion-on-demand is without question the greatest human rights crisis of our time.

Proverbs 24:10-12 tells us that we cannot be indifferent to this horror. It calls us not to turn away but to “hold them back.” Below is a message I delivered at my church on this text. My hope and prayer is that the Lord would use it to awaken consciences. Download here or listen below.

The message has three verses and three points:

  1. Protecting Life Requires Resolve (24:10).
  2. Protecting Life Requires Action (24:11).
  3. Protecting Life Requires Responsibility (24:12).

I close with five exhortations based on this text:

  1. Pray for an awakening in our churches that will spill over into our culture. The conscience of our culture has been seared.
  2. Submit yourself to God and resist the self-centeredness of this age that drives the abortion mindset.
  3. Support alternatives to abortion with your money and time and prayers.
  4. Use your democratic privileges to press for the protection of the unborn.
  5. Offer the Gospel to anyone who has been broken by abortion.

Four reflections on the film “13 Hours”

Last night, I saw the movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.” And let me just say, it was very well done. Viewers should be advised that this is not a movie for children as it contains all the grit and profanity of soldier life. It also depicts some pretty gruesome wartime violence. Nevertheless, it does tell the story of what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 when a terrorist assault killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. It is compelling material to say the very least. I am not going to render a full review of the movie in this space but would offer four brief reflections: Continue Reading →

What was wrong with Trump’s appearance at Liberty

Perhaps the best way to explain what went wrong with Donald Trump’s appearance at Liberty University earlier today is to clarify what wasn’t wrong with it (watch above).

There’s nothing wrong per se with a Christian university hosting a presidential candidate for a speech on their campus. In a university setting—even in a Christian one—a speech need not equal an endorsement. If other candidates are given equal access and if it is clear how such a visit might contribute to robust Christian thinking and conviction, there is no necessary offense in this. In fact, it could be a win.

There’s nothing wrong per se with a Christian university hosting a non-Christian for a speech or a lecture on campus. We should encourage a robust exchange of ideas—even with voices we might otherwise disagree with. And there is no necessary violation of principle to have, for example, an atheist participate in a symposium on the plausibility of belief. In fact, in that setting it would be profoundly beneficial to have an actual atheist come and make his case alongside that of Christians and to hear each side hash the issues out in reasoned debate. We can imagine any number of scenarios in which it might be helpful to hear from a non-Christian on a Christian campus. And I can even imagine a setting in which hearing from a non-Christian politician might actually be helpful and in keeping with a school’s mission.

There is, however, something deeply wrong about a Christian university hosting a person who shows little evidence of being a Christian and then treating him as if he were a Christian. That is what happened at Liberty University today, and that is the main thing that was wrong. Trump spoke at Liberty University’s convocation—a meeting that resembles a Christian chapel service. It began with the students singing together songs of praise—the kind that you might sing at your average evangelical church. The pastor leading the service then led the congregation in prayer and reported on local mission activities of Liberty students.

Then the President of the University—Jerry Falwell, Jr.—took the stage to introduce Trump. Even though Falwell clarified that the University wasn’t endorsing Trump for President and that other candidates had also been invited, Falwell went on to give what could only be construed as a personal endorsement of Trump [UPDATE: Falwell has since added his personal endorsement.]. He said that he admired Trump’s candor and willingness to be politically incorrect, even comparing Trump to his own late father Jerry Falwell, Sr. Falwell even said that Trump had born “fruit” through a life of love and charity to others. In every way, Liberty framed Trump’s appearance as if it were a Christian message from a Christian person. The only problem with this is that it was not clearly either one of those things. Here’s why.

Trump has given little to no evidence of actually being a Christian–at least in the way that Liberty has heretofore defined it. That is not to say that Trump doesn’t claim to be a Christian. Indeed, in his speech he claimed to be a protestant and a Presbyterian. Shouldn’t we just take him at his word? For the moment, let us set aside whether we think his policy proposals are consistently Christian. Just consider how Trump has described in his own words his Christian commitment. Trump has said that he has never asked God for forgiveness. Why? Because he says he doesn’t need it. Trump has said that he only goes to church at Christmas and Easter. His many divorces are also well-known. What kind of Christian is it that feels no need for forgiveness from his sins? That only gathers with God’s people twice a year for worship? That is involved in what is at best serial monogamy? It may be a “Christian” that is Christian in name only, not in reality.

None of these items is an unforgivable error, but they do appear to be un-repented of error. If he were applying for membership in the church where I pastor, he would not be allowed to join while having these errors in tow. If he were already a member and persisted in these errors, we would excommunicate him. In short, we would treat him as if he were not a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus. What we would not do is put him on a platform and tell everyone that he has born the “fruit” of authentic Christianity—much less invite him to give a speech in a slot that is typically reserved for Christian preaching. To do such a thing would be to call light darkness and darkness light (Isaiah 5:20). To put him before the people, to endorse his message, and to treat him as a fruit-bearing Christian is to “participate in his evil deeds” (2 John 11).

Also, it doesn’t serve Trump to leave the truth of the gospel in obscurity. What Trump needs is what all of us have needed. We need to know that we are sinners and are in desperate need of reconciliation with a holy God. If there is one thing we need in this life, it’s forgiveness from our offended Maker. The good news is that our Maker loves us and his sent his Son Jesus to die for our sins. He has resurrected Jesus from the dead to give us eternal life. Anyone who repents of their sin and believes in this Savior will taste real forgiveness and the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit. That message is for any and everyone who will have it, and it is totally free. It may advance a political agenda to leave these things in obscurity, but it doesn’t advance the kingdom of God.

Donald Trump doesn’t have to be a Christian in order to run for president or to speak at Liberty University. But Liberty University—as a Christian institution of higher learning—has a responsibility not to confuse people about what Christianity is. And today they fell short of that in a big way.

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Related Posts:

“Trump tells voters he’s a ‘great Christian'” (October 28, 2016)

“Glenn Beck at Liberty University” (May 1, 2014)

Leader Nancy Pelosi is not morally serious

Melinda Henneberger published an interview with Leader Nancy Pelosi two days ago in which Henneberger actually presses Pelosi about funding for Planned Parenthood. In response, Pelosi committs a number of howlers.

1. Pelosi indicates that she has never taken the time to actually watch the undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress (see above). I’m sorry. But if you haven’t taken the time to watch the videos by now, you have forfeited your right to criticize them.

2. Pelosi also claims that the videos were “doctored” (see above). When Henneberger presents Pelosi with evidence that the integrity of the videos have been verified by Planned Parenthood’s own investigators, Pelosi digs her heels in (see below). In spite of the evidence, Pelosi says that she still believes they were “doctored.” But there is an irony in her insistence that the videos were doctored. It’s a tacit admission that the videos portray something terribly wrong. So all sides agree that the videos portray something very wrong, but the sides disagree whether they were doctored. Just remember that only one side has the evidence on their side about the integrity of the videos.

3. Pelosi says that she does not believe in abortion-on-demand. Nevertheless, she reaffirms her unqualified support for Roe v. Wade, which in conjunction with Doe v. Bolton actually establishes the right to abortion-on-demand. Furthermore, when asked whether she would support any limits on abortion rights after 20 weeks, she refuses to name any acceptable limits. If that seems self-contradictory and non-sensical to you, that’s because it is. You cannot credibly claim to be against abortion-on-demand while supporting Roe. Those positions are mutually exclusive. This can only be either moral confusion or moral evasion–neither of which comprise a credible defense of funding for Planned Parenthood.

Over 57 million people have been killed by abortion since it became legal in 1973. In the United States, legal abortion-on-demand is without question the greatest human rights crisis of our time. As the nation’s leading abortion provider–killing over 300,000 human beings a year–Planned Parenthood is the chief purveyor of this horror. Those who would defend this ugly status quo are grasping at straws, and when that fails they descend into irrationality. And that is what is on display in this interview.

How confessional rigor promotes academic freedom

Wheaton faculty member Timothy Larsen weighs-in on the controversy swirling around his campus. In the midst of it, he makes an observation about academic freedom that might be counter-intuitive to some readers but that demonstrates the deep need for Christian institutions of higher learning. Larsen is spot-on when he writes:

Indeed, for some of our most thoroughgoing critics it means that we are not at all like the University of Illinois. A statement of faith, they assert, prohibits academic freedom and thus disqualifies us from being a genuine institution of higher education.

It feels differently from the inside. The vast majority of the professors Wheaton hires come either straight from a Ph.D. program at a major, secular school or from teaching at a secular university. Again and again they revel in the luxurious, newfound academic freedom that Wheaton has granted them: For the first time in their careers they can think aloud in the classroom about the meaning of life and the nature of the human condition without worrying about being accused of violating the separation of church and state or transgressing the taboo against allowing spiritual reflections to wander into a conversation about death or ethics or hope.

Just like no Catholic wants everyone to join a monastery, so I would not want every institution of higher education to be like Wheaton. Still, I have no doubt that the intellectual life of the entire nation is stronger because places like Wheaton exist than it would be if all higher education had its academic freedom curtailed by prohibiting theological lines of inquiry.

Your average secular university believes in academic freedom so long as Christian ethics and worldview are excluded from the mix. Were it not for committed Christian institutions of higher learning, we as a people would indeed be impoverished.

Seven reasons why you shouldn’t read 1 Timothy 6:1-2 as an endorsement of slavery

Have you ever faced a skeptic—maybe a family member or a friend at work—who threw slavery at you as evidence that the Bible can’t be trusted? They argue that if you are using the Bible as your authority on what is right and wrong, then you are basing your deeply held beliefs on a morally deficient revelation. If the Bible is wrong about something as elementary as slavery, how can it be trusted in its central claims about Jesus?

And so the issue of slavery often comes up when people wish to discredit the Bible—to show that it is not worth your admiration and trust. Sometimes these criticisms really sting. And sometimes, Christians don’t know how to answer—especially when the text in view is one like 1 Timothy 6:1-2:

1 Let all who are under the yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine may not be spoken against. 2 And let those who have believers as their masters not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but let them serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.

Some people read this text and think that because Paul tells slaves to honor their masters, he must also be endorsing slavery. But is it really true that telling these Christian slaves to submit to their masters is the equivalent of approving slavery? The answer is no for several reasons:

1. Telling someone to submit to an authority does not imply that the authority is morally approved.

God told the Israelites to seek the good of the city while they lived under the authority of Babylon, all the while God planned to destroy Babylon for its wickedness. Peter tells wives to submit to a husband’s authority, even those who are “disobedient to the word” (1 Pet. 3:1-2). Peter tells Christians to submit to governing authorities, even though those authorities were persecuting them (1 Pet. 2). No, God condemns any exercise of authority that is contrary to His holy will. And there are many elements of both Roman slavery and American slavery that were against God’s law. Treating a person as property without recognizing their dignity as image-bearers of Almighty God is sinful and condemned everywhere in the Bible. And yet that feature was endemic to both Roman and American slavery. So telling someone to submit to an authority is not an endorsement of the one wielding that authority.

2. The Bible Often Condemns the Means by Which Slaves Were Taken as Slaves.

In the first century, slavery wasn’t race-based like it was in the American South. People were taken as slaves through a number of means: warfare, piracy, highway robbery, infant exposure, and punishment of criminals. In all of this, there was always prevalent the issue of kidnapping people in order to enslave them. What does the Bible say about kidnapping?

In 1 Timothy 1:10, the apostle Paul says that kidnapping or man-stealing is against God’s law. Most interpreters recognize that this man-stealing was for the purpose of slavery. That is why the ESV has it as “enslavers” and the NIV as “slave traders.” Certainly, the background for Paul’s command is the Old Testament law:

Exodus 21:16 “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death” (ESV).

Who is to be put to death? The one who takes the man and the one who holds him. This is significant because some people have made the case that while the Bible does condemn slave-trading it does not condemn slave-holding (e.g., Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, 56). If this view were correct, there would not necessarily have been any moral problem with Christians owning slaves in the American South during and before the Civil War.

But Exodus 21:16 says that both the kidnapping and the enslavement are punishable by death. And this is the background for Paul’s own thinking about the matter in 1 Timothy. The entire system of Southern slavery was based on kidnapping people from Africa. The slave-traders stuffed these Africans into ship holds where they suffered and died by the thousands. That slave-trade was an abomination. And it is fallacious to suggest that the slave-holders are not morally implicated in the slave-trade. You cannot defend those who participated in the slave trade, nor can you defend those slave owners who created the market for man-stealing.

So the Bible definitely condemns the means by which slaves were taken as slaves—especially kidnapping, which was punishable by death.

3. The New Testament forbids Christians from coercive violence against slaves.

Ephesians 6:9 “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.”

Yes, there were Christian slave owners in the New Testament. But no, they were not allowed to threaten their slaves with violence. And obviously, if they weren’t allowed to threaten with violence, they weren’t allowed to actually do violence against their slaves. It may have been allowable under Roman law for a master to abuse or even kill his slave. But it was not allowable under God’s law to do such things. You might call that slavery in some sense, but what kind of slavery is it that doesn’t allow the master to coerce his slave through violence? It’s certainly not Roman slavery. It’s certainly not like slavery in the American South. This is something so different one wonders if you can call it slavery at all.

4. The New Testament commands Christians to treat slaves like brothers.

When Paul wrote to the slave-owner Philemon about his run-away slave Onesimus, Paul told Philemon to receive Onesimus “no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother… If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me” (Phlm 16-17).

What kind of slavery is it that tells a master to give up threatening and to treat his slaves like his brother? Again, it’s not Roman slavery. It’s nothing like slavery in the American South. So the Bible isn’t endorsing either one of those. This is something else entirely. And that is why slavery cannot continue where the Kingdom of God holds sway. The Bible completely undermines all the defining features of slavery: kidnapping, coercive violence, treating people like property rather like brothers created in the image of God.

5. The Bible encourages slaves to get out of slavery if they can.

1 Corinthians 7:21 “Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that.”

If the Bible were endorsing slavery, then it wouldn’t be telling slaves to take opportunities to become free. And yet that is exactly what Paul does.

6. The Bible forbids Christians from voluntarily entering into slavery.

1 Corinthians 7:23 “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.”

The command couldn’t be clearer: “Do not become slaves of men.” If the Bible were endorsing slavery, then it wouldn’t be forbidding Christians from becoming slaves.

7. The Bible condemns racism.

As I mentioned earlier, slavery in the New Testament was not race-based. But slavery in the American South was. The Bible forbids treating someone else as less than human because of their race. God created man in his own image—all men—not just white ones or black ones or red ones or yellow ones. Because of that, every person—not just some people—every person has inherent dignity and worth as image-bearers of almighty God. For this reason, the diversity of races is not an evil to be abolished but a glory to be celebrated. God intends to gather worshipers for Himself from every “tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev 5:9). And we know that in Christ “there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:11).

So no, the Bible does not endorse slavery nor the evils inherent in slavery. On the contrary, it abolishes them in the name of Jesus. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not command us to take up arms in violent revolution to abolish slavery. It does, however, introduce a new kingdom in the world that will one day overthrow all unjust authorities. And we are called as the church to be an outpost of that coming kingdom. And wherever the church goes, slavery must flee because the Kingdom of Christ will not abide unjust authorities.

When the critics assail scripture, they often make confident assertions about things they know very little about (1 Tim. 1:7). In this case, when they rail against the Bible’s alleged endorsement of slavery, they are misrepresenting what the Bible actually teaches. Every word of God is pure and good and wise and right and good for us–including what it says to us about those under the yoke.

“Your word is very pure,
Therefore Your servant loves it.” –Psalm 119:140

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*I’m in the midst of a series on the pastoral epistles at my church, and this post is an excerpt adapted from the message on 1 Timothy 6:1-2. You can download the audio here or listen below.

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