The Murder of an Infamous Abortionist

An infamous abortion doctor, Dr. George Tiller, was murdered today in his church in Wichita, Kansas. The murder suspect is now in custody, and reports say that the alleged shooter is “fanatically” opposed to abortion and believes in “justifiable homicide.” Obviously, the investigation has just begun, but many already suspect that the motive for the shooting was related to Dr. Tiller’s medical practice, which provides late-term abortions.

I agree with the sentiments expressed by Dr. Albert Mohler, who writes:

‘Violence in the name of protesting abortion is immoral, unjustified, and horribly harmful to the pro-life cause.  Now, the premeditated murder of Dr. George Tiller in the foyer of his church is the headline scandal — not the abortions he performed and the cause he represented.

‘We have no right to take the law into our own hands in an act of criminal violence.  We are not given the right to take this power into our own hands, for God has granted this power to governing authorities.  The horror of abortion cannot be rightly confronted, much less corrected, by means of violence and acts outside the law and lawful means of remedy.  This is not merely a legal technicality — it is a vital test of the morality of the pro-life movement. . .

‘Murder is murder.  The law rightly affirms that the killing of Dr. George Tiller is murder.  In this we must agree.  We cannot rest until the law also recognizes the killing of the unborn as murder.  The killing of Dr. George Tiller makes that challenge all the more difficult.’

Robert George‘s comments are also apt:

‘Whoever murdered George Tiller has done a gravely wicked thing. The evil of this action is in no way diminished by the blood George Tiller had on his own hands. No private individual had the right to execute judgment against him. We are a nation of laws. Lawless violence breeds only more lawless violence. Rightly or wrongly, George Tilller was acquitted by a jury of his peers. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” For the sake of justice and right, the perpetrator of this evil deed must be prosecuted, convicted, and punished. By word and deed, let us teach that violence against abortionists is not the answer to the violence of abortion. Every human life is precious. George Tiller’s life was precious. We do not teach the wrongness of taking human life by wrongfully taking a human life. Let our “weapons” in the fight to defend the lives of abortion’s tiny victims, be chaste weapons of the spirit.’

37 Responses to The Murder of an Infamous Abortionist

  1. Deek Dubberly June 1, 2009 at 6:38 am #

    It’s just awful. A great and tragic loss for this doctor’s friends and family. And definitely, like you indicated, a gigantic smear on the cause of the pro-life movement. Classic example of two wrongs not making a right.

  2. jeff miller June 1, 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    But what are the “chaste weapons of the spirit”?

  3. Micah June 1, 2009 at 2:12 pm #

    Here is Dr. Tiller in his own words on why he performed abortions:

  4. Derek Taylor June 1, 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    Beyond the wicked actions of this murderer, he has done more damage to the life cause than Dr. Tiller has, because pro-abortionists can use this horrid action as exhibit A in their public relations campaign to paint anti-abortionists as wing nuts.

  5. Nathan June 1, 2009 at 2:59 pm #

    “he has done more damage to the life cause than Dr. Tiller has”

    Please… This man killed one (Tiller) Tiller has been murdering since 1973, no telling how many thousands he murdered.

    There can be legitimate scorn against Tiller’s murderer, but don’t kid yourself. Pro-abortionists already have plenty in their arsenal and they already consider anti-abortionists as nuts.

  6. Derek Taylor June 1, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    The timing of this is really bad, from a policy standpoint – Obama and Nancy Pelosi will seize this opportunity to push through legislation and judges who will set the pro-life movement a series of setbacks. It is my belief that this will ultimately result in the taking of many more lives than “Dr.” Tiller has taken or could take over the course of his bloody career.

    I definitely hope you’re right and I’m wrong, though.

  7. Nathan June 1, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    So you thought Obama has been pro-life in his legislation and appointments to the bench so far? There hasn’t been one “pro-life” moment in his presidency yet. Obama had already promised to go far beyond Tiller and has been keeping his word since Day One of his presidency (Stem-Cell, Use of Frozen Embryos, etc). Obama has already signed into legislation more than Tiller could have continued to do.

  8. Derek Taylor June 1, 2009 at 3:41 pm #

    Nathan, Obama has not played his “nuclear” card yet, the perversely named “Freedom of Choice Act”. This executive order would effectively invalidate virtually all state laws that limit abortion groups (e.g. parental notification laws, partial birth abortion laws). Of course, this would set up a series of court challenges in courts across the nation, but Obama is already well on his way to reshaping the judiciary not only in the Supreme Court, but across the land.

    Obama has not done everything he has promised or that he wants to do because he waits until these kinds of incidents to take advantage of public anger at pro-lifers.

  9. Nathan June 1, 2009 at 4:55 pm #

    I guess I am more the cynic. His entire legislative record over his entire year shows absolutely no hint of a pro-life anything. I don’t see how this changes anything. He was the worst pro-abortionist before and he will continue to be the worst pro-abortionist in the future, unless the Lord gets a hold of him.

  10. Nathan June 1, 2009 at 4:55 pm #

    I meant career not year

  11. Derek Taylor June 1, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    Totally agree that he hasn’t had a pro-life moment yet- might never have one either, as his 100% pro-abortion record in Congress would indicate. However,

    I don’t think most people understand the looming “Freedom of Choice Act” – if he does enact this, everything ever done by any president (on the issue of abortion) will look small. This is the nuclear option and is a button he will only push when people aren’t paying attention OR when public sentiment against pro-lifers is at high tide. Which it is going to be now.

  12. Matt Svoboda June 2, 2009 at 12:35 am #

    I honestly dont see there being terrible backlash from this for the pro-life movement. People will forget in a couple of weeks. Except those looking for a late-term abortion. They might stay a little bitter.

  13. RonK June 2, 2009 at 4:19 pm #

    Denny, have you read the article quoting Wiley Drake in the ABP? What are your thoughts on SBC pastors who take a similar attitude?

  14. Stephen June 2, 2009 at 5:05 pm #

    Denny, I’m curious how someone who holds to Just War doctrine and believes that abortion is murder can truly condemn this action. The attempt to throw the responsibility back onto the state falls very short.

    If you were in a public square and a man started shooting and killing people, I believe that you would feel justified in killing them to prevent more deaths. You wouldn’t just sit idly by and say that it’s the job of the government. In this case it is a natural extension of Just War doctrine to kill the abortionist, in order to “protect the innocent”.

    How do you reconcile the cognitive dissonance?

    IF human life begins at conception
    IF killing innocent human life is murder
    THEN abortion is murder

    IF defending innocent human life by killing is virtuous
    IF killing an abortionist defends innocent human life
    THEN killing an abortionist is virtuous

    Just so you know, I’m a pacifist, so I don’t agree that defending innocent life by killing is virtuous. But from what I’ve read, you should follow that syllogism. IF you are consistent.

  15. Darius T June 2, 2009 at 9:30 pm #

    Stephen, for some answers to your questions, see Doug Wilson’s blog post today:

    You can also find some discussion on this matter here:

  16. Derek Taylor June 2, 2009 at 9:31 pm #

    The just war doctrine applies to government, not to individuals. Scripture has not delegated to individuals the authority to administer justice, settle legal arguments, punish criminals or protect a nation’s citizens. It’s that simple.

  17. Darius T June 2, 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    Denny, my last comment is awaiting moderation for some reason. Stephen, when it becomes unmoderated, let me know what you think.

  18. Matt Svoboda June 3, 2009 at 1:03 am #


    The Bible, and so we must, distinguishes between individual action and civil. We have no right to murder for any reason but the government holds the authority to ‘bear the sword.’

  19. Stephen June 3, 2009 at 3:17 am #

    If you adopt an ethic that allows for the use of lethal violence as a preventative method against other violence, then it is highly inconsistent to delegate the sole use of that violence to the state, despite what some of you are claiming. 4 (highly abbreviated) points:

    1. I reject your abrogation of ethical authority and responsibility to the state. I don’t have time to properly argue this point in this forum. Let it suffice to say that I think we all agree that civil disobedience against an evil state is justified. Therefore if abortion is evil, it is immoral not to commit some kind of civil disobedience against the state that condones it. Your ethic calls on defense of the innocent through violence, mine does not.

    2. Derek and Matt, the Bible distinguishes between the Kingdom of God (represented at this time in history by the catholic {little c} Church) and the kingdoms of this world. Your contrast of the individual vs. the state is not found in the Bible.

    3. Darius, the utilitarian argument about the effectiveness of the action has no bearing on it’s ethicality per se.

    4. Even if you hold to this anachronistic notion of complete abrogation of ethical responsibility to state authority, I still firmly doubt your consistency in that position. If someone comes into your home with a gun and says they are going to kill your children, everyone of you would feel justified in killing that person to ‘protect innocent life.’ You would feel that it was incumbent upon you to take lethal action and you would in fact be guilty of omission if you did not do so. If in this scenario you still choose to give over your ethical responsibility to the state, then we can have a discourse. Any takers?

  20. Nathan June 3, 2009 at 8:39 am #

    Our founders rebelled when individuals were tired of the British government’s slow response to their issues and they went to war to create the nation we live in. I think we need to be careful about making unilateral declarations stating that only the government has been given authority by God to decide all matters of justice.

    What if this country were to institute policy that would require women to be sterilized after one-child or to be forced to terminate all pregnancies after one child (See China currently). Would those of you who say government rules tolerate this practice? Would you subject you wife to the practice and allow your children (in utero) to be murdered, simply because the government rules with the sword?

    Maybe this is the broader question. At what point does the Christian community finally say “enough” and refuse to submit to the governemnt (Caeser) regardless of the consequences that would follow?

    I must admit that this issue has caused me consternation over my desire to submit to the ruling authorities as a believer, yet by doing so having complicity in the murder of over 50,000,000 babies. Complicity comes in a variety of forms. 36 years of ineffective efforts to change this government being one of them.

  21. Darius T June 3, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    Your contrast of the individual vs. the state is not found in the Bible.

    Wrong, but you probably already knew that. See Romans 13 and Matthew 5 for the difference.

  22. Nathan June 3, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    My point was this government’s founding was against a staunch view of Romans 13. It was not a government that opposed the Brits, it was a compilation of individuals.

  23. Derek Taylor June 3, 2009 at 9:47 am #

    Darius, you beat me to the punch with your passages for Stephen – let me add I Peter 2:13-14 as well:

    Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

    To Nathan’s questions/dilemma: Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one example of a prominent Christian pastor and theologian who did advocate the overthrow of illegitimate governing authorities (ironically, he considered himself a pacifist). In his view, the Nazis had perverted justice and had abdicated moral authority. This was the argument he used to justify his participation in an assassination attempt against Hitler.

    Christians have always debated where this line gets crossed. Many Christians did not participate in America’s Revolutionary War because they disagreed with the assertion that King George’s authority was illegitimate.

    And of course, we have King David, who dared not take the sword against King Saul, a tortured soul and despot who had abdicated his moral authority in many ways.

    We are wise to follow Peter and David’s thinking here – leave it to God to deal with unjust leaders and authorities. Respect and honor those who are in authority over you, not for their sake, but for God’s. It is their responsibility to do justice and protect citizens, and they will be held accountable to God for how they exercise this authority. That includes you, Barack Obama.

  24. Nathan June 3, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    Derek, Bonhoeffer is a classic example. My problem is that many who abdicate a passive role in this situation have spoke of their acceptance of the founding of this country. I am referring to high profile theologians, pastors around the country. And they are using Romans 13 as their legitimization of their position.

    I find that somewhat spurious.

    Also, while David did not take the sword against Saul specifically, he had no problem taking it against others, so I don’t believe he is a quality example to use to back your point. Saul did not authorize every situation where he took the sword. And David even said that he wished he had taken the sword to spare lives – 1 Samuel 22 in reference to Doeg the Edomite who killed all of the priests and the residents of Nob.

  25. Darius T June 3, 2009 at 10:21 am #

    Nathan (and others), see Doug Wilson’s posts on this topic over at Blog and Mablog. Also, I believe you meant “advocate” instead of “abdicate,” just to make sure I’m understanding you.

  26. Darius T June 3, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    Here is a comment I made on my blog which are my general thoughts on the matter…

    First, we have to clarify if we’re talking about what is good before God or good for a society. In other words, is vigilante justice possibly sanctioned from time to time by God while it is not good for the rule of law and health of a society? I’m willing to leave open that possibility… God could call a man to bring His judgment on another person or people group and the man might not be sinning to do so, but he should be willing to face the consequences of his actions in this world and no society should ever allow for vigilantes.

    That said, murder committed purely as justice is wrong, ALWAYS. It is not for an individual man to kill someone for their wrongdoing. God will judge. Murder as protection of innocent lives, on the other hand, can be quite moral.

    Motives are important. So for those who wanted to kill Hitler to save their own skin or to (re)gain political power had bad and unbiblical motives. Similarly, killing Tiller as purely a means to exact judgment on him would be wrong. But killing either of those lunatics to save lives could be right and moral…

    If there is a reasonable expectation that killing someone will save innocent life, I’m not sure I have a problem with that. Assassinating Hitler would have likely saved lives, but killing one or two prison guards would have done nothing. Enemy love would have been more useful in the latter case. With Tiller, it’s possible that his death will save lives (since few doctors have enough of a broken moral compass to do what he did), but I would have to have more information about his practice to know if he is expendable or not to the existence of the clinic. On the flip side, it does seem quite possible that some lives could be lost (due to political ramifications) because of Tiller’s death [see Wilson’s most recent post for more on this].

    Justice should not be in view here, only the saving of lives.

  27. Nathan June 3, 2009 at 10:39 am #


    Thanks for the grammar check!

    “Motives are important. So for those who wanted to kill Hitler to save their own skin or to (re)gain political power had bad and unbiblical motives. Similarly, killing Tiller as purely a means to exact judgment on him would be wrong. But killing either of those lunatics to save lives could be right and moral…”

    I agree with your premise here. I do not know the motive of this man who killed Tiller. What has been troubling to me (at verious levels) is how everyone in the pro-life community seems to want to run from even discussing that there may come a point where we reach the edge and have to choose.

    Mohler, on his radio program, when asked about Bonhoeffer, said that he agreed with Bonhoeffer’s motives, but said that any violence against abortion is wrong. And, as you said, if the issue is saving lives, Hitler killed far less than the abortion mills of America.

    I wanted to hear Mohler and other leaders at least acknowledge there might come a day when Christians have to put their lives on the line for the sake of saving innocent lives being lost. And what the form of that looks like.

    The rhetoric (surrounding Tiller’s death) seems to revolve around the perceived setback to the pro-life community. Part of my response earlier was, “What setback?” There are still over 1,000,000 innocent lives lost each year.

    The questions I asked concerning sterilization or one child polity would change their rhetoric (at least I think it would). Perhaps not.

  28. Darius T June 3, 2009 at 10:47 am #

    Mohler, on his radio program, when asked about Bonhoeffer, said that he agreed with Bonhoeffer’s motives, but said that any violence against abortion is wrong. And, as you said, if the issue is saving lives, Hitler killed far less than the abortion mills of America.

    I wanted to hear Mohler and other leaders at least acknowledge there might come a day when Christians have to put their lives on the line for the sake of saving innocent lives being lost. And what the form of that looks like.

    The rhetoric (surrounding Tiller’s death) seems to revolve around the perceived setback to the pro-life community. Part of my response earlier was, “What setback?” There are still over 1,000,000 innocent lives lost each year.

    From Doug Wilson: “The scenario usually runs like this: if you were walking down the street, and saw someone about to murder a child, would you intervene? And since the answer is always “of course,” we don’t know what to do with the apparently inexorable logic of someone like Tiller’s assailant. That’s what he is doing, right?

    No, that’s not what he is doing. In the first scenario, you are dealing with a lone criminal, and if you successfully save the child, the society in which you live will acclaim your bravery, and throw their hats in the air. With the abortion evil, to declare war on the abortionist is to declare war on the whole society, which has sided with the abortionist, and has defined his gruesome practice as somebody’s “choice.”

    So the issue is not whether you would step in to save a kid. The question is whether you would be willing to reduce a society to anarchy for the sake of saving that kid, when you (should) know that the anarchy you introduce is going to be responsible for the deaths of far more children than you managed to save. Generals in warfare have to deal with this kind of triage all the time, and we cannot indulge in the rhetoric of war without learning what war actually involves.

    Is abortion evil? Yes. Does America deserve the wrath of God because of it? Yes. Could the Lord destroy us all for it and no injustice done? Yes. Am I the Lord? No.

    The American War for Independence was conducted by men who fought for liberty in full submission to the governments their grandfathers had grown up under. The modern connotations of “revolution” notwithstanding, the American Revolution was not a revolution in the sense that the French Revolution was. It differed for precisely the reasons being discussed here.”

  29. Darius T June 3, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    To paraphrase, what is your end goal? Is it truly to save lives? Then killing an abortionist (and thus, undermining the rule of law) or all abortionists doesn’t do much to save lives. For one, more abortionists will spring up (though probably less if they perceive that they might be the next victim in a nationwide Whack-an-Abortionist war). Two, undermining the legal system reaps some horrible unintended consequences…

  30. Nathan June 3, 2009 at 11:06 am #

    Oh, I agree with you. And I think your point about the difference between the American Revolution and the French Revolution is one of the better analogies.

    My larger question is more from the standpoint of when it hits “us” in the face, what we will do. The reality is that abortion doesn’t hit us in the face. We have the choice not to participate. What I want to know is should the government enact a one child rule, will the response of the crowd now bemoaning this violence submit their wives and their unborn babies to the government’s decree and the violence that is no longer outside their door.

    I for one would not. Subsequently, I find myself distressed that I tolerate so much today.

  31. Darius T June 3, 2009 at 11:14 am #

    And I think your point about the difference between the American Revolution and the French Revolution is one of the better analogies.

    Not mine, Wilson’s. 🙂

    Hmm… regarding government-forced infanticide, I would treat that issue just like Christians did the issue of Jews being rounded up in Germany: speak out against it in public, and hide babies/pregnancies in private. I’m not sure that it would require violence (thought it could).

  32. Stephen June 3, 2009 at 11:38 am #

    1. Before you start misquoting Bonhoeffer you should know that he emphatically and scathingly DISapproved of the founding of America in general and American churches especially.

    2. I was specifically contrasting the ethics of the Kingdom of God with the ethics of the kingdoms of this world. Romans 13 has no bearing on that issue. Your reading of Romans 13 legitimizes Saddam Hussein, Hitler and Nero. You do realize that Paul was writing about Rome? I don’t think he was approving of the actions of that government, which killed his saviour and later him. Once again, I don’t have the time to fully argue this point here. If you are really interested in a proper view of the state, read The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder.

    3. Darius, here you go again with the utilitarian defense. It doesn’t work. Wilson’s and your argument questions the effectiveness of killing an abortionist, not morality of it. The only critique you can offer is that the abortionist killer has bad tactics. According to your ethic you CANNOT say that his killing is wrong.

    4. You still haven’t dealt with my 1st or 4th points above. I won’t be responding anymore unless you deal with those points.

  33. Derek Taylor June 3, 2009 at 12:03 pm #

    Your point #4 is spurious. It is based on false premises. You also fail to understand that all legitimate jurisprudence recognizes the obvious differences between pre-meditated manslaughter and an act of self-defense to one’s person or especially against one’s family. No court, judge or jury is going to treat these situations the same way.

    Scripture does not validate the view that one must sit by passively and watch their family get butchered by a home invader.

    With your question, I cannot help but think of the Pharisees who asked Jesus absurd questions (like the one about seven brothers) in an effort to trap him. At the end of the day, Jesus didn’t make a habit of answering these questions, because they weren’t serious questions and they had malicious intent. Perhaps no one responded to your satisfaction because you are being antagonistic and ornery, not helpful or elucidating.

  34. Darius T June 3, 2009 at 12:11 pm #

    Stephen, how do you read Romans 13 then? If Paul wasn’t talking about Rome, then who? The original reader of his letters would have immediately thought about the Roman soldiers walking around, (largely) keeping the peace.

    The “utilatarian” defense DOES indeed speak to the morality of it, just as self-defense makes killing legal (if not also moral). Effectiveness and motives are critical in assessing any plan of attack, especially for a Christian, since God judges the heart more than the means.

    Suppose an group of Nazi soldiers are coming down the street, going from house to house searching for Jews. Is it not more moral to hide the Jew rather than go out into the street and shoot one or two of the soldiers? Doing the former may save a life, but doing the latter will lose both your life and the life of the Jew (not to mention the life of the soldier).

  35. Darius T June 3, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    Pretty much what Derek said is what I would say in response to point 4, Stephen. You don’t recognize the nuance involved and thus rely on false premises to support your argument.

    As for point 1, I didn’t realize you were expecting a response. My Biblical ethic allows for violence to protect innocent life.

  36. Stephen June 3, 2009 at 12:21 pm #

    Does legitimate jurisprudence recognize the slaughter of millions of innocent babies?

  37. Stephen June 4, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    Halden Doerge says it better than me:

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