Practicing What We Preach on the Value of All People

She was a colourful woman, outspoken, honest, never mincing her words, and this only became more apparent as her Alzheimer’s progressed. I vividly remember visiting my mother’s aunt in a seniors’ home up to the last days of her life. She would beam as we sang psalms but soon snap back into her sharp and critical moods, sometimes saying the most painful things. Once, when hearing the names of two of my cousins, she sat up and remarked, “Those kids? Their parents paid a lot of money for them. They better be thankful for having such a good life!” She was referring to adoption, of course.

Many years have passed but the attitude of many remains similar to that of my mom’s aunt. In her regressing mental state, the dear woman shared a thought few may dare to express, but think all the same. She revealed a way of thinking in which we distinguish between children added to families in a natural way and children who came about differently. We secretly or subconsciously classify children into those who entered the world through conception and birth from a married father and mother, and those who don’t fit that standard. And with that, we create categories of human beings based on the decisions of their parents.

Let me be clear—the intention of this article is not to condone every way in which humans are created. God’s word gives clear direction and boundaries, also in terms of sexuality and procreation. This is why we are to oppose practices that violate the standard that not we, but God gave, with His honour and our best interest in mind. Yet, when adults ignore this and mess around instead, in God’s providence children may be conceived as a result. The intention of this article, therefore, is to highlight that the value of persons is based on the fact that they came about bearing the image, not only of sinful parents like myself, but in the first place of someone far greater than our minds can comprehend—of the Creator of heaven and earth.

The creation of humankind wasn’t an invention of people after all, but started with the Triune God. In Genesis 1, we read of the beginning of Adam and Eve, when the Holy Trinity proclaimed, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (vs. 26). Verse 27 confirms that God carried out His will, as He always does, and “created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him: male and female created he them.” These verses leave no doubt as to the image and likeness human beings are created in—that of God! Genesis 5:1 and 9:6, among other texts, confirm this, but what does it really mean?

First, it means that humans are created to mirror and live in communion with their Creator. Every single human being therefore bears a dignity that cannot be erased or enhanced by one’s family history, personal achievements, or societal recognition—a dignity that is to exemplify and glorify God. As the apostle John exclaims in Revelations 4 verse 11, “Thou art worthy oh Lord, to receive honor and glory and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

Second, it means that each of us is created with a specific purpose. We learn in Genesis that God existed before the creation of the universe and the human race and that He made both out of nothing, but not without a cause. God was its cause. He willed to create and “it was.” This, precisely, is why the universe has meaning because it—and we!–were created purposefully. There are no words to express the significance this has for our understanding of the meaning of life.

Third, it means that we are all of one blood, of the same human race. There is therefore no Biblical foundation to hold superiority over any other human for we all go back to the same source, which is God. Francis A. Schaeffer sums it up as follows: “Unlike the evolutionary concept of an impersonal beginning plus time plus chance, the Bible gives an account of man’s origin as a finite person made in God’s image, that is, like God. We see then how man can have personality and dignity and value.”

But, someone might ask, what about Genesis 3? Didn’t the fall change everything? No question about it—we wouldn’t be discussing this topic if sin had not entered the world. The Bible tells us that we are flawed from our original design, though this has not destroyed our God-given uniqueness and dignity. Due to the evil Adam and Eve freely chose in Paradise, there is now a broken line when we look back to creation. Sin, in its deepest form, means that we no longer want to image God. In our sinful state, we either tear down our own dignity to the level of animals with no accountability or power other than one’s instinct, or we exalt ourselves to the level of gods and create images that resemble ourselves to give glory to (Romans 1). Either way, we refuse to acknowledge our Creator’s Lordship over our lives and our dependence on Him.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. To borrow John Calvin’s words, “In the gospel, God declares that he delights to adopt us as his children, and in doing so, he frees us from Satan’s snare and from the tyranny of sin.” The promise to provide a solution to our revolt against God was first given in Genesis 3 and fulfilled when Jesus Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem, as the embodiment of the invisible God, the Image we are patterned after.

That is why, when there is an assault on human beings, there is an assault on God Himself. To use an analogy—when someone purposely burns a picture of the person you love, it’s not just a piece of paper that is destroyed. Instead, it’s the image of your loved one, and that hurts. Much more so, when the dignity of human beings is denied and attacked, this is a denial of the Creator. Our minds understandably wander to rape, slavery, and abortion as examples, but what to think of when we define people by their origin or choices?

“Abortion is the result of a changed view on the value of humans,” B.J. Zijl wrote in 1982. This view is one we continually need to counter with the truth that all humans are created in the image of God. But we need to practice what we preach. If this is true for the children we need to save from abortion, it is equally true for their mothers and fathers. If it is true for the children in our churches born to happily married couples, it is also true for those fostered or adopted, created in labs, conceived during rape, born to teenage moms, or raised by single dads. It is true because “children are a heritage of the LORD, and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalm 127:3).

Finally, let’s not forget this applies to all people. It is therefore also true for straight and gay, handicapped and homeless, the terminally ill and all of those who are seen as a burden. It is true for anyone rejected by church or society, for any reason whatsoever. And it is mostly true because our value and dignity starts with Genesis 1.

A Fundamental Flaw with “Abolish Human Abortion”

Editor’s Note: Many pro-lifers, especially conservative Protestants, have noticed the emergence on social media of a new organization referring to itself as “Abolish Human Abortion.” Many of us were initially enthusiastic about the quality and conciseness of the message they put out. However, AHA has shown itself to be intentionally insulting, misguided, and wilfully divisive. As such, we are publishing an article by an American pro-life advocate explaining just a few of the many problems with their “ideology.”

I wish I didn’t have to write this article, but the reality is I believe that AHA does more harm to the pro-life movement than good. I do want to start off by saying that I appreciate their passion to see abortion done away with and unborn children saved. I believe that much of their views come out of a frustration with abortion having become legalized and remaining so for 40-plus years in the first place, which was due in large part to Christians not taking a stand against this horrible practice, a frustration which I share. However, they are far too divisive (and many of their views are simply skewed and not well-reasoned). What the pro-life movement needs now, more than ever, is unity among its supporters and proponents, even ones who disagree with us on spiritual issues. You can find another such article here. I have decided to add my voice to the fray. I would just like to ask that you hear my heart on this, and not just my words. I am not saying that pro-life Christians should leave the Gospel out of all their conversations; I am merely arguing that it is not necessary to make the pro-life case.

Specifically, I’ll be addressing their article “The Difference between Pro-Lifers and Abolitionists,” which you can find here.

Their first section has the heading “‘Abolitionist’ is not a synonym for ‘pro-lifer.'” That’s a pretty obvious statement. There is nothing in the term “abolitionist” that specifically indicates the abortion issue. William Wilberforce was a slavery abolitionist. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a racial discrimination abolitionist. So my response here is “of course not.” The problem is that they are making here a distinction without a difference. There is no difference between “abortion abolitionist” and “pro-life advocate,” as will be made clear in the rest of this article.

AHA makes the claim that pro-life is the expression of a moral opinion, abolitionist is the expression of a moral action. This statement is very problematic, especially coming from a group that considers themselves Christian. Christians believe in objective morality. Thoughtful Christians don’t deny that Atheists can live moral lives and recognize moral truths. Pro-life is not a moral opinion, but an expression of the moral reality that one ought to not intentionally kill an innocent human being without strong moral justification. Of course, one can be pro-life and not seek to do anything about it, but then their stance becomes meaningless. You can make the case that one becomes an abolitionist when one seeks to put your pro-life views into action (but that’s also the definition of “pro-life advocate”). Even if this is your stance, then nothing about this stance indicates that the non-religious or members of another religion can’t also be abolitionists.

Their next heading states: “Pro-lifers prefer gradual, over immediate, abolition.” This is simply a straw man argument of what many pro-life people believe (a straw man argument is when you attack a similar argument to the one presented that is weaker and easier to defeat). Pro-life advocates actually do prefer immediate abolition. We would love it if our government would stop sanctioning the killing of unborn children, and if Planned Parenthood would stop doing it. What pro-life people realize, and which is supported by history, is that it simply doesn’t work out that way. Gradually is the way to enact a change like this. It took William Wilberforce twenty years to abolish the slave trade in England. He made it his life’s mission to see this done. He worked incrementally; voting for legislation that kept slavery legal yet made conditions safer for slaves. He knew that the way his culture was, he couldn’t pass all or nothing laws. He worked to change the culture’s perception of slavery while working to pass incrementally better legislation until he was finally able to abolish it altogether. It sucks, but that’s the way it’s going to have to get done. Pro-life advocates don’t prefer this, but we’re also willing to work strategically to save as many lives as we possibly can in the meantime. So by AHA’s own definition, William Wilberforce was not an abolitionist.

They make the claim that abolitionism has historically been wed to the doctrine of immediatism, but they offer no supporting evidence for this claim. I’d be interested to know at what point in history a societal evil was recognized, decided that it needed to be done away with, and then made illegal immediately without having to resort to incremental steps.

Their next heading states, “You can be a secular pro-lifer. You can’t be a secular abolitionist.” Really? Says who? Why should we accept your definition of abolitionist? Are you saying there were no secular people who helped abolish slavery or racial discrimination? They are making an ad hoc argument, using their own made-up definition of abolitionist. There is nothing inherent in the word “abolitionist” that one must believe in a higher law or deity. And again, their statements are distressing because one does not need to be a Christian to recognize an objective moral law (just look at the numerous secular ethicists who, almost across the board, reject moral relativism). In fact, the dictionary definition of “abolitionist” is: “a person who advocated or supported the abolition of slavery in the U.S.,” “a person who advocates the abolition of any law or practice deemed harmful to society.”

Their final heading states, “Pro-lifers prefer common ground. Abolitionists prefer to proclaim the gospel.” Another straw man argument. I wonder what AHA would say of someone like me, a conservative Protestant Christian who seeks to abolish abortion in the United States, but also believes these things (like finding common ground and that incrementalism is the wisest maneuver) that apparently true abolitionists don’t look for (and by the way, some of the greatest opponents of abortion has always been the Catholic church, whom AHA would probably write off as not being true abolitionists since they’re “not true Christians”). Anyway, it’s a straw man because a Christian like me seeks to find common ground as a springboard to a good discussion, whereas I am also not afraid of sharing the Gospel with people I talk to. Many of my conversations naturally lead in to where morality comes from and whether or not God exists. But in my conversations on abortion, this is not my main focus. Christianity has a long, proud history of using natural, non-theological arguments to make their case. That’s because if the Christian worldview is true, it is true for all of reality. Abortion would be immoral whether or not you could support that argument Biblically (but more on this in a future article).

I would like AHA to come to one of our Justice for All seminars. We use methods that Greg Koukl talks about in his book Tactics in order to help make our case, to help people see that our views are rational and can be supported through reason and evidence. I am a mentor and speaker for JFA, and we teach good conversation techniques, like listening to understand the person’s viewpoint (rather than simply assuming it), asking questions for clarification and to see why they believe what they believe, and, yes, to find common ground as a way of keeping the conversation going (because believe it or not, we can find common ground with pro-choice people.

This attitude that Atheists can’t be true abolitionists is even more bizarre, considering that on a post in their blog called Atheist Ethics Are Impossible, they state the following to pro-life Atheists: “I admire your desire to abolish the practice of human abortion. I believe your fight against this abominable practice is praiseworthy. I think you are right in believing this practice is a great atrocity and violation of civil rights…” So…what? An Atheist can want and actively work to abolish abortion but can’t be an abolitionist? You believe their fight is praiseworthy and you repay them by saying “you’re not one of us”

I’m not saying that we can’t disagree with Atheists, or that we should act like we agree with them on everything. I have these discussions with my colleagues in SPL (as long as they’re willing — I don’t force it on them). We can work with people we disagree with on other issues against a common enemy, namely legalized abortion.

AHA has this grand idea that they’re “engaging the culture” by refusing to use secular arguments alone, refusing to make arguments apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ. While I commend their passion to see souls saved, this actually presents a complete ignorance of their culture. People are not going to be convinced by Biblical arguments (in fact, arguing that God exists because the Bible says so is a logical fallacy, circular reasoning — you need to have secular arguments as to how you know God exists in the first place). You can have a spiritual discussion, all the while leaving the arguments against abortion behind. If you make the argument that abortion is wrong because God has made us in his image and he says that murder is wrong, that’s true, of course. But it’s not going to be convincing to atheists. And by the sheer number of religious pro-choice people, converting them to Christianity doesn’t guarantee a convert to the pro-life position. If you’re going to use religious arguments, you’re going to have to prove that your religion is the true one. While that’s certainly do-able, it’s an unnecessary step in changing peoples’ minds on abortion. I appreciate you if that’s how you feel it is best done, I do it myself. But claiming that Atheistic pro-life advocates (or other pro-life advocates) can’t make pro-life converts apart from the gospel is just plain incorrect. I’ve convinced people to become pro-life by simply presenting them with the scientific evidence of human development.

So again, my purpose here is not to belittle a group of pro-life advocates, and I hope that they prayerfully consider my words. I welcome further discussion, and if someone from AHA would like to respond I would be more than happy to continue the dialogue. One need not constantly bring up the gospel in order to convince someone to be pro-life, especially if that person is hostile to the gospel but open to hearing arguments for the pro-life position. You have to tailor your arguments to your audience.

Originally posted on

One Reformed Youth to Another

In today’s world, it is proving to be more and more difficult for people, especially teenagers, to dare to explore their full potential and use this to influence others and make a difference in the world around them. It is so tempting to take the safe road through life, to sit back comfortably and go about the same repetitive tasks of eating, sleeping, and socializing. It has become normal, when you hear of an issue, to absorb and accept the information the media and people in our lives feed to us without giving it a second thought. Putting thought into something is seen by most teenagers as an unnecessary and difficult task to be avoided by all costs. Asking questions and inquiring about the “facts” to see if they are completely accurate is almost unheard of, and acting contrary to this results in being labelled as “nerd.” It is uncool to have a stance of your own in political or ethical issues because of the degrading ideology that sweeps like wildfire through countless minds every day.

This ideology is one that is seen as cool and empowering, the idea that one must follow the other and if you don’t agree, you are shunned to the bottom of the “social hierarchy.” It is the fear of being despised that leads people to believing what the “cool” people say without even putting thought into doing so. It is the mindless desire to fit in to the mould, to be accepted by the popular ones. When something is said that goes against their “rules” of how life should proceed, you are rebuked and mocked. Your knees may start to shake and your palms may start to sweat as you hopelessly probe for the right words to justify what you said, to portray yourself once again as socially acceptable.

It sometimes seems as if all teenagers are this way, senseless idiots following even more senseless idiots. Disney’s widespread propaganda of “being yourself” is mindlessly accepted, putting us at rest as we are comforted that we are perfect and beautiful just the way we are. Our friends and family comfort us by saying that somebody loves us, so the “haters” don’t matter. We are told that we are unique; that we do not have to fit into anyone’s expectations because this is who we are and what others think will never matter. Society at large has conformed to the idea of individuality. Yet, we mostly conform to everyone else’s standards and rarely use our brilliant minds. I can’t help but wonder—who placed the idea into high schools that all that matters is the clothes you wear and the truck you drive?

We may think that we are perfect and beautiful the way we are, but we must realize that if we are not striving to do our best and fulfill our purpose in this world, we are next to nothing. What value does our life have when we only try to fit the criteria of humans? Shouldn’t we be fitting into someone else’s criteria? Shouldn’t we be following God’s example and scrutinizing our own heart and mind before we judge others? When we are questioned on judgement day, it won’t matter how popular we were, or how many friends we had. It is so clearly stated by the apostle John in Revelation 20:12, “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works”. What will matter at the end of our life how we used the time given to us.

Once self-confidence and trust in God is established, it is never lost. Once we discover who we are and what we stand for, it won’t matter what the alpha dogs think. Other people’s narrow-minded judgements about who we are won’t affect us nearly as much. As long as we know we are standing up for something morally just and using the power of our own magnificent brains to influence and change the world around us, there is little that can shake the spirit that defines us.

As soon as you realize this, the devaluing of human life (abortion, bullying, slave trade–to name a few) will make you want to revolt. Watching the “stronger” people mercilessly destroy the “weaker” ones will make you want to “stuff all their heads down toilets,” as one of my very insightful friends would say. It bewilders me that this is so backwards; that the unwritten rule that we must all try to fit in dominates our choices. If we fail to see the value in being like everyone else, we are seen as a meaningless outcast when actually, the ones who conform to the same ideas simply for the sake of “fitting in” should rethink what they are trying to fit into. Even if you claim to be individual, you never will be if you merrily sit back and accept things the way they are. As Martin Luther King Jr. would say, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

If you are going to proclaim yourself as an individual and “be yourself,” be the best self you can be. Try to live by the guidelines of Colossians 3:23: “whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” Do more than simply conform to the cool idea of individuality, because if it does not go deeper than merely wanting to be an individual, it is shallow enough not to count. Recognize and value living to your full potential as a necessity. Try to see yourself for who you are and what you were given, and realize that with it you can change the world. That isn’t always easy. As Jodi Picoult wrote, “When you’re different, sometimes you don’t see the millions of people who accept you for what you are. All you notice is the person who doesn’t.”

Keep in mind that while this is true, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. are also true: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Being courageous and confident enough to rise above all this is truly one of the greatest things that will ever happen to you. In case you have wondered, this isn’t just a theory of mine. I say this because it’s exactly what has happened to me.

Knowing that you have changed a mind, or that you have influenced another person’s thoughts in something they otherwise wouldn’t have thought about will make you realize that there is more to life than simply living. Standing on a sidewalk while exposing the gruesome truth of abortion to the public and seeing the reaction of various people will give you an idea of the wounded culture and why this has to be fought against. The fact that people don’t know leads to the fact that people don’t care. And they deserve to know, because the smaller, weaker, more dependent people of this nation deserve to be cared for. God commands us in Romans 12:2, “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

By now you may be asking: if the ones who label themselves as cool aren’t cool, then who are the cool people? The cool people are the ones fighting for justice. The cool people are the ones living not only for themselves, but for those around them who are much more vulnerable. The cool people are the ones who don’t accept the age, size and gender discrimination happening in our country today. The cool people are the ones who realize that all humans, no matter how big or small, contribute something valuable to our society. They are the ones who at least try to live by the commandment written in Mark 12:30-31: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandments greater than these.”

The cool people, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., have a dream that “children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I think we should all have a dream. We should all have a dream that one day, helpless, tiny humans will not have their limbs torn apart before having a chance to see daylight.

I have a dream that one day everyone will see it as morally unjust and realize that something is terribly fallacious with the fact that human lives are being cruelly tortured and destroyed simply because they cannot speak and are not wanted. I have a dream that one day we will all have the self-confidence to shrug off the judgments and criticism of others and realize how guilty we are to simply sit back when we know of this inhumane genocide that is happening right now. I can see a future in which everybody lives by the standards of Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”

I dream that one day, these defenseless human beings will have a voice because of you.

A Rainbow Over Destruction

Last week, I was in Calgary to give the interns of the anti-abortion organization I work for training and workshop seminars on pro-life strategy and the history of abortion law in Canada. I was planning to do a week of on-the-street activism with them, as well having several meetings and presentations. Unfortunately, several days after my arrival, the pounding rain that had hammered Calgary ceaselessly for weeks rose back up over the river banks, and the Great Calgary Flood of 2013 began in earnest.

The flood, of course, changed everything. Several of our interns were evacuated from the downtown. Meetings and presentations got cancelled as people were trapped in their homes or in different parts of the city. The police and the army evacuated and then cordoned off huge sections of the city to prevent looting. I drove with one of my friends down to High River, hit the worst by the flood, and saw water levels creeping almost half way up the sides of houses, military vehicles blocking the entrance to the city, and a minivan floating almost completely submerged down a flooded street. It was Alberta, but it looked like something out of National Geographic.

The day before I left Calgary, I was working on my laptop and happened to glance out the window as the rain slowed for a moment and the sun broke through the clouds, highlighting a beautiful rainbow, shimmering magnificently over a city battling to regain control over nature. I thought instantly of a Bible verse that my kindergarten teacher had me memorize when I was five years old, from Genesis 9:12-16:

12. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:

13. I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

14. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:

15. And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

In my work, you often get to see the worst of human nature put on display—selfishness of such heights that people become willing to sacrifice their own children for their desires and their plans. As one writer noted, the abortion message is precisely the opposite of the Gospel message—the Lord Jesus died so that His people could live, while we kill our children so that we can live as we please. Our nation has fallen very, very far—we permit abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, and celebrate the man who helped create this bloody status quo as a national hero, giving him the Order of Canada. It should make us tremble when we think of what God says in the Old Testament about child sacrifice, and how He punished those nations in the past.

This is not simply an exaggeration. In Texas this week, abortion supporters were caught screaming “Hail Satan!” at pro-lifers who were singing that beautiful hymn of an old slave trader saved by Christ, Amazing Grace. It was a revealing moment. Every so often, the Enemy lets his mask slip. Every abortion, after all, is an event that must thrill him—the gruesome destruction of a child created in the image of Almighty God, and the hardening of all those involved in the procedure. It is, for the Prince of Darkness, the perfect crime.

But—the Old Testament shows us that God is a God of first, second, and third chances. Time and time again, when Israel strayed from Him and pursued false gods, He forgave them when they repented. His patience and longsuffering cannot be understood, only recognized with utmost thankfulness. Even when God sent the prophet Jonah to Ninevah to tell them that their city would be destroyed in forty days, He responded to their repentance by saving the city, having mercy on the men, women, children—and even, the Bible tells us, the cattle. Even outward repentance, the abandonment of long-held evils, can result in God’s blessing.

For as the rainbow tells us, God will never again wipe out the whole world with a flood. And there is still time for our nation to abandon the evil we perpetrate and celebrate.

Let us not test His patience further.