Letter to A Certain Mainer about Abortion

Below is a reply to this 2017 letter from Donald J. Rudalevige of Portland Maine: https://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/letter-to-the-editor-christian-faith-is-not-monolithic-on-abortion/#

Dear Donald J. Rudalevige,

I would like to offer some loving responses to your ‘Letter to the Editor.’ I am praying for you – praying to our heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

You wrote, “Virginia Cowperthwaite is very decided in her knowledge of what is God’s will. I suggest that such certainty is usually derived from a person’s already-formed opinion, which then looks to Scripture to support it.”

That could very well be the case. But could it not also be the case that Miss Cowperthwaite is “very decided” because she is following Paul’s words in Romans 12:1? (Please forgive me; I am quoting the Bible because you were quoting the Bible. I want to meet the terms of your argument.) There Paul commands, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Could it not be that Miss Cowperthwaite is in fact “testing” and “discerning” something true about the will of God? Could it perhaps be that she is taking the Scriptures to be clear enough for us to read them intelligently, clear enough for us to know and follow God’s will from them?

I appreciate that you quote from Micah 6:8. You write, “The prophet Micah says that it is God’s will ‘to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.’” But I must ask: did you not discern something clear about God’s will in that verse? Or is your perception of God’s will here just as opinion-ridden as Miss Cowperthwaite’s?

I don’t know whom to trust!

If you did discern something intelligible about God’s will in Micah 6:8, do you believe that such a beautiful text stands alone? Or would you allow for the thought that Micah’s terms find further definition elsewhere in the Word of God?

In a word, what do you think about how Paul and the Bereans teach us to ‘compare spiritual things with spiritual’ (1 Corinthians 2:13), to ‘search the Scriptures’ (Acts 17:11)?

Don’t you love the other parts of the Bible where those things Micah promotes – justice, a love of kindness, and walking humbly – are further defined?

Is the “justice” you read of in Micah divorced from the enjoinment of Proverbs 24:11: “Deliver those who are being taken away to death, And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back”?

Is the “love” part of God’s will – which you clearly discerned in your reading of Micah 6:8, didn’t you? – at all connected with what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:6? There Paul tells us that true love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” What do you think of such love? Or do you find that “the truth” is better left as a matter of opinion? Surely the truth could never “require agreement,” or lead Miss Cowperthwaite to do so, could it?

Does your love “rejoice with the truth,” or does your love find the truth foggier than the Portland Head Light?

Does your “love of kindness” also love the kindness of God? For the kindness of God leads you to repentance (Romans 2:4), if Paul was speaking clearly. But repentance from what? Surely we’d have to have a modicum of agreement – some semblance of truth – if we were to speak of an actual repentance from an actual…something, no?

But the part of Micah 6:8 that really speaks clearly to you is the part about “walking humbly.” You write, “For me, that humility suggests that we not try to judge the personal faith decisions of others on the basis of our beliefs and biases, but allow them the choice of their understanding of God, faith and circumstance.”

I guess you are entitled to your opinion, just as Miss Cowperthwaite is to hers. But what you “may not do, yet seek to do, is require others of us who identify as Christian” to agree with you.

You assume agreement, as you must be aware, when you tell us what it means to be “fully human.” You seek agreement when you tell us that “In such a context, abortion can be a morally justified and ethically correct option.”

And I hope you realize that at that point in your Letter you have laid down your Bible, so I will put mine down too for a moment – if only to try to meet the terms of your argument.

You believe that “To be fully human means to make choices based on one’s own understanding of faith, their personal circumstances and their relationship to others.”

My fully human choice-making faculties are telling me that either a) you are right in your stance on abortion, b) Miss Cowperthwaite is right, or c) you’re both wrong.

With an issue as serious as abortion, I quite respectfully would not want to follow a mere “matter of opinion” from either of you. The stakes are just too high!

Either “babies are being murdered” or “abortion can be a morally justified and ethically correct option.”

Or…maybe it’s all just a matter of opinion, and the God who called Himself “the Truth” (John 14:6) does not require agreement from His followers on something as insignificant as a few million human lives. Because after all, those lives are not “fully human” on your definition, are they?

I like that phrase of yours, “to be fully human.” If only someone could define it in a more humane way.

David, how did you define the “fully human” in Psalm 139:13-16?

“For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.”

David’s approach seems just a bit more “just and kind and humble.” But it also seems to promote justice for the one “woven in his mother’s womb.” What do you think?

In Christ, 
-Sam Caldwell
sam.caldwell@utoronto.ca

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