Sex is powerful… and dangerous

A few years ago, a professor named Chap Clark decided to do a study of adolescent high school students to find out what they thought about sex. Since close to half of high school students are reportedly sexually active, Chap Clark wanted to find out what the stories behind the statistics were. What he found shocked him.

“I was surprised to realize that for most mid-adolescents the issue of sex had lost its mystique and has become almost commonplace. They have been conditioned to expect so much from sex and have been so tainted by overexposure… as one student told me, ‘sex is a game and a toy, nothing more.'”

Because of how our culture treats sex, this attitude has become a reality across North America.

Sex sells and pop culture sells sex

In today’s culture, it is extremely difficult for a Christian to adhere to Christian values. Our popular culture is working against us – the music industry, Hollywood and television all use sex and extremely explicit material to sell their products.

Music genres such as hip hop and rock glorify sex as something that everyone should be doing, a casual activity to be pursued and celebrated. There’s a reason rock music accompanied the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s with the symptomatic tagline “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” The message is simple: do whatever makes you feel good. The world is full of pleasures. Go out and get your share. The title of a song by the Canadian band Nickelback sums it all up: Sex is always the Answer.

Hollywood and television sell the same message, with movies increasingly showing sex as glamorous, casual – and most importantly – something that doesn’t have any consequences. In fact, when I was attending Simon Fraser University, one classmate said to me, “Guys these days don’t have any excuse for not having sex. Music and TV have done half the job for us.”

Is sex worth protecting?

For many young Christians, that is the essential question. Is sex actually a big deal?

Christian young people are some times inclined to look at extramarital sex as yet one more thing we are not allowed to do in a long list of demands given to us by God in the Bible. So yes, we know that technically we are not allowed to have sex outside of marriage. But, we can rationalize, we’re not allowed to lie, be lazy, disobey our parents, or be disrespectful of authority either. So extramarital sex is wrong, sure, but is it any bigger deal than any other sin?

That answer is, yes. And in many ways.

Having sex outside of marriage can impact our entire lives in ways we don’t even comprehend.

What Christians often do not realize about the laws given to us by God in the Bible is that He did not give us these rules purely to restrict us. We might sometimes think these rules are simply a long, seemingly arbitrary list, that limits are possibilities for fun. But the truth is, in many cases, God gave us these rules to protect us from ourselves. Because God created human beings in His image, God also knows infinitely better than we do what lifestyle is best for us, physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

Just to give you a quick example to illustrate what I mean, the dietary laws God gave in the Old Testament included a number of prohibitions about certain foods. We now know that many of these restrictions were also quite helpful from a health perspective. With the limited cooking technology of that day, including the lack of refrigeration, and lack of knowledge concerning bacteria, many of the foods on the prohibited list would have poisoned the eaters. In essence, God gave His people the first health codes.

The same concept applies to sex. Sex in and of itself is not a bad thing—in fact, it is quite the opposite. It is a beautiful creation of God given to mankind in the Garden of Eden. Sex was one of God’s great gifts to men and women, and one that He gave for them to enjoy and cherish. However, if sex is used outside of the context in which God created it, it can have devastating and poisonous consequences.

The consequences of sex outside of marriage can be placed into three categories: physical consequences, psychological consequences, and spiritual consequences.

1. Physical consequences

Before 1960, there were only two Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) that were widespread enough for people to worry about: syphilis and gonorrhea. Only two diseases! However, when people started to ignore the limits that God had placed on sex, the consequences were not just spiritual. Because humans ignored the natural order that God created, the consequences were very physical.

Today, there are twenty-five categories of STDs. Not twenty-five new STD’s, twenty-five new categories.

For example, you may have heard of herpes. Herpes is an incurable sexual disease. You can get herpes from one sexual encounter, and you will have it for the rest of your life. One in five Americans over the age of twelve has this disease. Herpes comes in eight different strains, and you can contract anywhere between one and all eight strains at the same time. You also may have heard of the STD hepatitis. Well, there isn’t just hepatitis B, the one you most likely have heard of. Hepatitis comes in strains A through G.

Approximately one in four high school students will graduate with an STD. Most of them have no idea that they have contracted one. In fact, one half of sexually active single adults has, or will have, at least one STD. Four out of ten girls will contract an STD the very first time they have sex.

Let me put the enormity of this problem in perspective for you.

Every day in the United States, 1,500 people die from cancer. Another 2,600 die from a heart-related illness like a heart attack or a stroke. And every day, more than 50,000 people will contract a sexually transmitted disease. That’s 19 million people every year! There are only 300 million people in the entire United States. From an economic perspective, direct medical costs associated with sexually transmitted diseases in the United States are estimated to be thirteen billion dollars annually. There truly is no such thing as a free lunch – or “free love.”

Some of you would immediately point to the fact that there’s medication to control even the incurable STDs.

Yes, you can control diseases like herpes with medication. But if a woman has a herpes outbreak during childbirth, there is a significant chance that her child will die.

And there are STDs that are lethal. I’m sure you’ve all heard of AIDS. While AIDS does happen more often in homosexuals (once again an example of contravening God’s natural order) it is increasingly common in heterosexuals as well. Men and women have been arrested and put in jail for sleeping with people and not first informing them that they were HIV positive – the reason this is a crime is because, as a result, their “casual sex partners” may die of AIDS.

Incidentally, condoms rarely prevent STDs. This is according to a man known as the “Condom King,” Dr. Thomas Fitch of the Center for Disease Control.

Sexually transmitted diseases, even the curable ones, are no picnic either. Here is how abstinence speaker Lakita Garth describes a very common STD, genital warts:

“If you get genital warts, you’re going to start growing warts in your genital area. They grow on top of each other, and they’ll begin to form nodules and clusters that look like broccoli. They’re called condyloma. They make it painful to sit and painful to walk. And they’re most painful when they’re being removed.”

Now if someone thinks that an STD is unlikely because they are only having sex with one person, Dr. Everette Koop, the former U.S. Surgeon General warns otherwise:

“When you have sex with someone, you are having sex with everyone they have had sex with for the last ten years, and everyone they and their partners have had sex with for the last ten years.”

The bedroom could end up pretty crowded.

The final physical consequence of casual sex is one that should seem so obvious that I shouldn’t even have to point out, but many in today’s culture seem to have forgotten it: pregnancy. For some strange reason, when people decided that sex could be “recreational,” they forgot the very simple fact that sex creates babies. It’s why your genitalia are called “reproductive organs,” not “recreational organs.”

Anyone having sex outside of marriage is clearly not ready for a child – children need responsible committed parents. So sex before marriage has, in our culture, led to two devastating circumstances.

One, the baby gets raised without the benefit of having a father around.

Two, the baby is not raised at all; it is aborted. Every year in Canada, over 100,000 unborn children are brutally destroyed. In the United States, it is over a million.

When people around you are casually talking about their sexual conquests, remember that millions of tiny children are being horrifically destroyed so that our culture can engage in “recreational sex.” Millions of babies have been sacrificed on the altar of our lust and ultimate selfishness. Phrases such as “casual sex” and “recreational sex” are merely a flimsy facade attempting to shield a mass grave containing millions of dismembered pre-born corpses: our very own sacrifice to the Molech.

2. Psychological and Emotional Consequences

Aside from physical consequences, there are also psychological and emotional consequences to having sex outside of marriage. Many people today think that they can have casual sex with a number of different people, especially during their college years, and then settle down and marry their dream partner without any real impact on the relationship they hope will last a lifetime.

The fact actually is that since God created humans to be monogamous – one man and one woman, just as God created Adam and Eve – sex outside of marriage has a huge impact on future relationships.

Many readers have probably heard of the concept of “never being able to forget your first love.” This is a common theme in both literature and poetry, where everyone seems to agree that forgetting your first love is always the hardest, if even possible.

There is actually a biological and psychological explanation behind this phenomenon. Sexual contact releases powerful chemicals into the brain called neurotransmitters. These chemicals trigger immediate sensations – but they do far more. In their book Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children, authors Dr. Joe McIlhaney Jr. and Dr. Freda McKissic Bush write:

“When two people touch each other in a warm, meaningful and intimate way, oxytocin is released into the woman’s brain. The oxytocin then does two things: increases a woman’s desire for more touch and causes bonding of the woman to the man she has been spending time in physical contact with.”

The bonding agent most active in the male brain is called vasopressin. As McIlhaney and Bush explain:

“Vasopressin seems to have two primary functions related to relationships – bonding of the man to his mate and attachment to his offspring… vasopressin seems to be the primary cause of men attaching to women with whom they have close and intimate physical contact.”

However, when men and women decide to have sex with multiple partners, they begin to lose their ability to bond with a partner, which is why promiscuous people have a far harder time staying in a long-term relationship. There is a simple example to illustrate this: try putting masking tape on your arm. The first time you pull it off, it will be painful. The second time you pull it off, it will hurt less. If you keep doing it, there will be no bonding between the adhesive and your skin at all.

God created men and women to be monogamous, and when He told us in the Bible to avoid sex outside of marriage, He wasn’t simply giving us a restriction — He was informing us how our biology and psychology function, and telling us what would lead to the healthiest, most fulfilling relationships.

Since we have ignored this, statistics tell us that sexually active teens are three times as likely to face depression if they are female, and twice as likely if they are male. They are three times more likely to attempt suicide if they are female and seven times more likely if they are male, and far more likely to divorce if they marry. As Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll puts it, today’s pattern is “hook up, shack up, break up.”

3. Spiritual Consequences

Obviously, all sin has spiritual consequences because it is rebellion against God. Because having sex outside of marriage has such a power to affect lifelong relationships, it is more likely to affect men and women in this area as well.

God created sex to be shared between a husband and a wife. God, by the rules set out in the Bible, warned us of the power of sex and the impact it could have outside the natural order. Sex is extremely powerful, and can enslave those who become obsessed or addicted with it. Unhealthy and sinful obsessions have obvious consequences for one’s church and spiritual life.

For example, pornography is a $60 billion a year industry. One thousand dollars is spent in the United States every second on pornography, and a new porn film is made every hour. Pornography, because people are so visual, actually triggers a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing what are known as “erototoxins.” These erototoxins literally rewire your brain, and the images are often burned into one’s memory, inerasable.

Sex in its true form is one man and one woman, giving themselves to each other. Sex is not intended to be a biological activity to stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers; sex, according to the Bible, is two “becoming one flesh.” While today sex is characterized as “getting some,” it is supposed to be about giving yourself to your spouse.

Abstinence speaker Lakita Garth relates an interesting story. When she told her college roommate that she wasn’t having sex, her roommate looked at her aghast. “Don’t you feel like you’re missing out on anything?” she asked.

Lakita replied:

“I have missed out. I have missed out on the thrill of waking up wondering if my early pregnancy test will turn blue. I missed out on not getting to walk into a clinic with my best friend holding my hand because my boyfriend isn’t going with me unless he’s dragging me in. I missed out on sharing the same joy as my ex-roommate, who has pinpointed the day her child would have been born if she had not aborted, and who cries herself to sleep every year because she’s named him and celebrates his birthday. I’m even more saddened that five years from now I’ll miss out on waking up to stare at the ceiling of an AIDS hospice like my cousin Ricky and my friend Rod before they died…You’re right. I’ve missed out… on all the wonderful opportunities you’ve opened yourself up for.”

In a spiritual sense, sex is a powerful action that can take over your mind, destroy your relationships, and ruin your chances to have a healthy church life. Getting involved with sex outside of marriage has the chance of numbing or destroying your conscience. That is not fire we should be playing with.


So, we looked at all the horrible consequences of sex outside of marriage. And we’ve also looked at how God has tried to protect us from these consequences by telling us, in his Word, how sex should be treated. We’ve gone over STDs, abortion, the destruction of emotional bonding, and how porn addiction can change you forever.

But the good news about sex is that the Bible has it one hundred percent right. Even the secular, sex-obsessed culture has noticed that Christians have it right when it comes to sex. Sure, they make fun of us and call us prudes. But statistics everywhere show that married people have the most satisfying sex lives. The statistics even show that married people have far better sex lives than those who just live together, because of the commitment shared by those who have dedicated themselves to each other in marriage. In all polls taken, the simple fact is that married people have more sex, and better sex lives.

Sex is not a negative thing. Sex is an extremely positive thing – when it is enjoyed in the context of God’s plan and the natural order He has created. Christians who wait for sex, unlike many in the outside culture, have something actually fulfilling to look forward to. This is not about Christians demonizing sex – it is about Christians enjoying sex in the way God intended.

Why We Protest

Feeling tired and drained because of ongoing criticism from both pro-lifers and abortion advocates, I was not looking forward to another “Choice” Chain. I wondered if our efforts were making a difference and whether students would come to see the signs, let alone talk with us in -30 degree weather. However, being the “Choice” Chain coordinator I had no other choice but to bundle up and head over to the high school to meet our faithful volunteers. On my way there I silently prayed for guidance. I asked that if this is a way through which God wants to move to reach our culture (as I had previously believed), that today’s “Choice” Chain would be a clear sign.

It was quiet at the high school. We saw students walking around inside, some of them glancing at the signs but none caring enough to come out. Then we noticed groups of students exiting through another door in order to get to the public library, situated right beside the school. And so we moved, positioning ourselves in between the school door and the library entrance.

I approached the first student who walked by. What do you think about abortion?” He must have been 12 or 13 years old, took a close look at the sign I was holding and said, “That’s pretty gross.” I agreed with him, adding that is precisely what happens to pre-born children every single day. His response: “Oh, you mean abortion? Yeah, that’s pretty bad but it’s still a woman’s choice.”

In the ten to fifteen minutes that followed we engaged in a discussion that gently challenged his notion that just because abortion is a woman’s choice, it must be right. I was able to explain that human life begins at fertilization, and that all of us -both born and pre-born- have value, regardless of the circumstances in which one is conceived. The teen seemed open to these ideas, then thoughtfully brought up abortion in case of rape. “What about that, though?” After expressing my sympathy for victims of such a horrible crime I asked him whether that would change the fact that abortion ends the life of a child, as depicted on the sign. “I’ve never thought about it like that before,” he said. “I guess human life starts right at the beginning. That makes a lot of sense. So, I’m not sure why we say it’s okay to kill them.”

In the mean time, not far from the building, a group of smokers had noticed us as well and started shouting colourful names and phrases at us. They responded to a volunteer’s invitation to come talk by yelling, “No! You come here!” and so she did. Since the group was big another volunteer soon joined her. After fielding the usual arguments for awhile, one tall young man turned to them and said, “I’m sorry for yelling at you guys earlier. What you’re saying makes a lot of sense. You’ve completely changed my mind.” We were amazed by the students’ honesty and maturity. It doesn’t happen often that we talk to people who are mature enough to openly admit it when we’ve given them something to think about!

After about an hour we went into the library to warm up and were soon approached by next door’s principal. So far educators have either ignored or opposed “Choice” Chain, some going as far as physically preventing students from seeing the signs. But this principal was different. He shook our hands, asked how the conversations were, and expressed his appreciation. “I couldn’t show these pictures in my school.” He chuckled. “Could you imagine the response from parents? But I think students should see both sides of the issue and so I’m glad you guys are here!”

When we ordered coffee, the lady behind the counter also thanked us for coming. “I’m a new Christian, I’m pro-life, and I think it’s really great that students get to see this and talk with you.” At the same time several students approached us and asked for pamphlets. And as we sought for a place to sit down, a young man asked us to come over to his table because he had some questions.

A long discussion ensued in which he argued that consciousness should be the point when human beings receive the right to life. When this was hard to maintain, he switched his position and said morality should not be imposed on others and that we just cannot be sure when life begins. When a volunteer kindly pointed out that this conviction was inconsistent with science, he admitted, “I guess so, but that’s what I believe.”

Several students followed this dialogue and interjected here and there. A young woman asked if we think that those who have abortions after rape are murderers. We explained that we judge the action of abortion because it ends the life of a child. She responded, “Well, ’cause that’s what you’d call me then.” I expressed how sorry I was that this happened to her but someone else fired a question at us, and the conversation went on from there.

When we wrapped up, one of our volunteers stayed behind and asked the girl, “Are you okay? May I give you a hug?” With her permission, the volunteer held her and told her how brave she was. The young woman then shared her account of this awful experience with someone whom she had never met before but simply showed she cared. Perhaps she didn’t become pro-life that day, but the volunteer recognized and affirmed her value and dignity as a human person. And hopefully, one day, this hurting young woman will also recognize the value and dignity of pre-born people.

On my way home I phoned one of my friends and asked what she thought about today’s “Choice” Chain. She shared with me that she too had felt worn-down, even nervous, but had hoped and prayed that we would be used to change minds and to bring a message of truth and love to these teens. “And that’s what happened,” she said. That’s when it suddenly hit me: God answered our prayers!

From the conversation with the principal and the lady at the cafeteria, to students asking for information and changing their minds, to the young woman confiding in a volunteer about her pain, “Choice” Chain had clearly been blessed in a way that we couldn’t have imagined. And God was gracious to show it to us too.

That’s why I continue to do “Choice” Chain, despite criticism, cold, or discomfort. It may not always be easy, but let us then remember what is at stake for pre-born children and their mothers. And let us be humbled by the fact that ordinary people are often used to bring about great change.

Corrie ten Boom once said, “In darkness God’s truth shines most clear.” So today, in the darkness of a society that legally and systematically kills its own offspring, let us courageously and compassionately show forth the truth, a truth that will eventually set free.”

The Destruction of Innocence

The Devil is a gentleman, and asks you down to stay
At his little place at What’sitsname (it isn’t far away).
They say the sport is splendid; there is always something new,
And fairy scenes, and fearful feats that none but he can do.

–The Aristocrat, 1912

It is clear to all those of a socially conservative bent in today’s society that from a Christian point of view, things are going drastically wrong. Abortion on demand is legal and prevalent. Pornography addiction is at staggering highs. The concept of marriage and family is constantly being twisted and “revised” to include unnatural sexual relationships, which are then publicly celebrated. Promiscuity is rampant and promoted by most of mainstream culture. And news sites straight-facedly publish headlines such as “Amsterdam Decriminalizes Public Sex in Famous Park.”

These problems are often viewed as separate issues, although with more than a few similarities. There are groups dedicated to ending abortion, protecting traditional marriage, fighting pornography and promoting abstinence. But the question remains: besides the fact that these practices and lifestyles are sinful and in opposition to God’s plan for mankind, are there any common denominators between the various public sins creeping—or sprinting—into Western society today?

There is one: The systematic destruction of innocence.

“Innocence” has a number of definitions, all of them meaning more or less the same thing—”freedom from sin or moral wrong,” “guiltlessness,” and “lack of knowledge or understanding.” Innocence was once prized in traditional cultures—fathers protected their children, and for the most part it was agreed that the darker demons of human nature should be kept harnessed and out of sight to avoid the corruption of society at large. The concept of “public indecency” or “public lewdness”—which would now be referred to as “Tuesday in San Francisco” or “the Gay Pride Parade”—was still one that was held in healthy contempt.

Of course, Christians would trace the very concept of sin itself back to the destruction of innocence: when Satan appeared as a serpent in the Garden of Eden, he promised them knowledge and the ability to be like God, knowing right from wrong. Instead, when their innocence was destroyed by their adherence to Satan’s suggestions, they realized that they were naked—and they were ashamed. Instead of being able to discern right from wrong, mankind learned how to do wrong. And humans have been perfecting that skill—if I may be briefly paradoxical—ever since.

Carefully consider each of todays most public and prevalent evils and the destruction of innocence can be found at the very heart of each. Abortion is the brutal decapitation, dismemberment, and disembowelment of a tiny, helpless child. Pornography wrenches the concept of love and sex away from the institution of commitment and marriage and sells the bodies of girls and women as commodities to be abused for one-sided pleasure. The gay liberation movement flaunts their “pride” in the streets, showing off their bodies and their fantasies and broadcasting their sexual proclivities to the public at large, regardless of age or willingness. And everywhere, the promotion of sex. Dripping from billboards and movie posters, blasting from speakers in malls, stores and vehicles. Taking a child downtown in the city for a day is like setting out into a moral minefield—a full scale frontal assault on what John Bunyan called “the eye-gate.” Satan doesn’t need to disguise himself as a serpent anymore. He can put on a suit and stroll down the street.

This is why the forces of secularism are trying to force the ideals of hedonism and relativism on children first and foremost—destroy innocence at its earliest and purest point, and you will create citizens ready to settle into the brave new world. California dictates that children must learn about “gay heroes.” Quebec forces school children to take a relativistic religion course even if the parents oppose it. New York proposes sex education that details the most vile and deviant sexual practices. “Children’s entertainment” becomes increasingly awash with crude sexual innuendo. And everywhere in our schools—the promotion of sexual promiscuity. No discussion of why preserving sex for a meaningful marriage relationship is genuinely healthiest, but simply a presenting of the various “options,” handing out free condoms and telling them to have fun. Every relationship must have a sexual aspect. There is no such thing as “innocence” in the society that is being created.

This has progressed to the point where even defending the concept of innocence and purity is considered bigoted, intolerant and close-minded. Do you oppose the gay pride parade, especially for its public lewdness? Bigot! Do you want the children in your family to learn about sex at an age-appropriate time and in the context of God’s plan for mankind? Prude! Do you and your family oppose abortion and the sex slave industry of pornography? Intolerant misogynists!

A friend of mine even had to comment in a university class recently on the proposed notion of Anne of Green Gables and her friend Diana in the much-loved classic Canadian series having a lesbian relationship—the rebuttal of which caused the theorist to accuse her critics of being hetero-centrist. However, my friend’s response puts it perfectly: “She fails to understand that perhaps what readers found troubling was not the possibility of a homosexual character, but rather the implication that a perfectly innocent and beautiful friendship between children is being described as sexual. While it is true that homosexuality remains a taboo topic in certain social circles, in Anne’s case, the outrage is directed not at homosexuality, but at the perverse need to make the chaste appear sensual.”

While the forces of hedonism and relativism and the cacophony of their leaders attempt to destroy “the innocence of a child” and whatever innocence the rest of society has left, it is important to fight back against these insidious practices and worldviews. We must fight to stop the destruction of pre-born children. We must fight against access to pornography, which reduces the women of our society to a saleable “item” and rewires the brains of countless youth. We must preserve the Christian institution of marriage, with all its benefits and all its security. And we must not allow the concepts of innocence and purity to be lost forever. We already lost Paradise. Let us not lose the future of our children.

Odessa’s Story

I would like to share this story with you because it shows that miracles do happen and that God does hear and answer prayer.

In late June, Lethbridge and District Pro-life received a call from a young, single mom of two who was very upset. She had just found out she was pregnant again. Although she loved both her children very much she didn’t see how it was possible to care for another child alone. She was already working two jobs to support her and her children. She felt stuck, alone, and scared. She felt that abortion was her only option. She agreed to talk with our social worker, my friend Maaike. Several phone calls followed throughout that week; she was very emotional, unsure of what to do, and not open to meeting. Maaike asked if she would talk to me since I had been in a somewhat similar situation and was adopted myself but she declined this as well. All of us were very concerned, hoping and praying for a positive turnout.

After about a week of contact the young woman, whom I will call Odessa, called Maaike and said her mind was made up. “I know I will regret it,” she said, “but I have decided to have an abortion.” We were hurting for Odessa and her pre-born child and felt so helpless. What to do now? We kept praying for guidance, though it was hard to not be discouraged.

A few days later, on my way into Lethbridge, I felt the overwhelming need go to a store that was completely out of the way. I had prayed for direction but it made no sense. I knew that Odessa worked at one of these stores in town but I had no idea which one—there are about seven of them in town. I walked in with my kids, feeling foolish and doubting my former thoughts. I looked closely at every girl working, wondering “Is this her?” Then I heard, “Odessa to cash” ring over the loudspeaker. From the corner of my eye I saw the girl I had just passed walk to the front of the store! Shaking, I headed to the front counter but when we got there, the girl was gone. Purchases in hand, we headed out to the van. I sat there for about 10 minutes feeling helpless. This was clearly an answer to prayer… but now what? Confused, I finished my errands and went home with a racing mind. I guess I was being taught to stop thinking that I could solve this on my own, and being shown that I was merely being used as a tool. And so I prayed for more direction.

Shortly after arriving home my mom stopped by unexpectedly with a grocery gift card. She knew nothing about what was going on but now I not only had a reason to go back to the store, but also a gift to show our support.

The next afternoon we had a wedding to attend but left early to first stop by the store.  Once again doubt filled my heart. Would she even be there? And what was I going to say? As we drove up I immediately saw her on till with another woman. There was a large number of customers in line. Despite my shaking legs I walked in and headed to the card department to try think of what to say. My heart pounded in my ears and all I could think was “What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee” (Psalm 56:3).  As I walked to the counter, everyone was gone except Odessa.  I put down the gift card and tried not to panic. “Just the card?” she asked. My hands were also shaking now. “Actually no,” I replied and asked her if her name was Odessa. I went on to tell her I was friends with Maaike and that we had been praying for her and how I had heard her name called the day before. Tears came to her eyes and she stared at me like I wasn’t real. I handed her the gift card and said we would do anything we could to help her. “I believe everything happens for a reason,” I concluded. She was nearly speechless. “So do I,” she managed to say and thanked me. I turned and left. I got in the van and cried with amazement. Once again, God answered prayer and now there was nothing to do but wait and pray more.

For almost a month I heard nothing and it felt as though I was carrying around a large weight, until I received a voice message on my phone: “This is Odessa. I am just calling to say thank you. Please call me.”  I immediately called her back… to hear the best news imaginable. She was keeping her baby! Odessa explained that she had an abortion booked and then I had come into the store. Also, a couple days later her sister had a miscarriage. “How could I possibly do this to my baby?” she said. I was overjoyed and thankful, and reassured her that we were going to be there for her every step of the way. Soon afterwards we met again and have many times since. We quickly became friends and I was thrilled when I got to attend the ultrasound appointments. How amazing to see an ultrasound of a living baby who was scheduled to be killed!

At the time of writing Odessa’s baby boy is due in a week… Nothing short of a miracle!”

Saving Some is not Compromise

Why is it that this year alone over 80 laws have been passed in the United States restricting abortion and yet in Canada we have not been able to pass one law in over 20 years?

It is easy to dish out the blame: It’s our secular society! The Supreme Court! Our gutless politicians! Pierre Trudeau! Stephen Harper! The evil mainstream media! … and so on. But an honest analysis will reveal that at least part of the problem lies with us – the pro-life movement in Canada.

That’s a statement liable to raise both eyebrows and blood pressure, but it is also a truth that is verified time and time again by those who are most intimately involved in this battle, including MPs, pro-life leaders, and even radical pro-abortion activists. It is also something that more people are finding the courage to openly admit, knowing full well they will be challenged for it by the pro-life community itself.

But if part of the problem is with ourselves, that is actually very encouraging. It means that the appalling reality of 100,000+ abortions every year in Canada can be changed. There are a lot of people and institutions that we may not be able to change. But we can definitely change ourselves, including our strategies

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing

Abortion legislation could be advanced in Canada if the pro-life community can move beyond a hidden and long-standing dispute that has mired our efforts for over twenty years. Key leaders and organizations within the pro-life movement have been opposing many efforts for abortion laws on the grounds that we may not support or advance laws that do not give equal protection to all unborn children, even if it is a step in that direction. So, for example, they would oppose legislation that would make abortion illegal only in the third trimester, because they would view such a bill as legitimizing abortion in the first two trimesters.

This position sounds convincing because we know that it is wrong to compromise our conviction that all human life must be protected. But there is no reason why we would have to compromise this conviction when supporting laws that limit the evil of abortion as much as is humanly possible in this sin-filled world.

That’s the great news – that we can, in good conscience, proactively fight against abortion in our Parliament and Legislatures and see real successes in the coming decade. We can do this by closing the gap between public opinion and the current status quo which legally permits abortion throughout all 9 months of pregnancy. One step at a time, we can expose and limit the ongoing injustice of abortion that our society is trying so desperately to hide. And we can do this together, as a united pro-life movement. There is much reason for optimism and hope.

How can I be so sure we can start seeing real successes? This is one of those issues that take more than a few facts, Bible texts, or talking points to build a case. In fact, it has taken me years to study this issue and discuss it with pro-life leaders, pastors, MPs, and friends. Although this may be a longer than usual read, the issue is of critical importance if we are serious about making progress in the abortion fight. So please, read on!

#1 – Understanding the pro-life movement

Stephanie Gray from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform has done a good job explaining how there are three arms of the pro-life movement in Canada; she labels them the pastoral, prophetic, and political arms. Understanding these three arms and their unique responsibilities is key to understanding how we should move forward.

The pastoral arm

There are over 135 pregnancy care centres in Canada that come alongside pregnant women with the help they need to choose life and then have their child. They provide a range of services including pregnancy-related information, crisis phone lines, counselling, pregnancy tests, maternity clothes, and even financial help.

The prophetic arm

Abortion needs to be exposed for the injustice that it is. The prophetic arm is responsible for bringing this message to our society, so that the choice becomes unthinkable. Education is critical because a large majority of Canadians support legalized abortion even though they refuse to consider what abortion really is. That explains how about 90% of Canadians wrongly think that there are some restrictions already in place. As the Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical reform states:

The political arm cannot change the law until the prophetic arm changes the minds of voters. The pastoral arm cannot reach all abortion-minded women until the prophetic arm helps these women understand that abortion is an unthinkable choice.”

Examples of the prophetic arm include billboards, marches, LifeChain, bumper stickers, the Genocide Awareness Project, TV ads, and word-of-mouth.

The political arm

After decades of work by the prophetic and pastoral arms, as well as the inescapable impact of abortion on the health and lives of millions of Canadians, the reality is that a significant majority of Canadians disagree with the status quo – the lack of any restrictions on abortion – even if many may consider themselves pro-choice. The Canadian public want either a complete ban, or at least some restrictions on abortion. This should not surprise us. Canada is the only country in the Western world without any legal restrictions on abortion.

Our Supreme Court has made it clear that it is looking to Parliament to change that. This has to be done by our Parliament and Legislatures and it is the political arm of the pro-life movement that needs to work towards this goal. Examples of laws that could be proposed include gestational limits (e.g. a ban on abortion after 12 weeks) and requiring the informed consent of the mother. In the US, Americans United for Life produces a large book every year detailing the many different pro-life laws enacted in each state.

Canada’s pro-life movement has for the most part avoided this realm. Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) identifies itself as the political arm of the movement in Canada, though the reality is that most of its efforts fall within the prophetic arm (its annual March for Life in Ottawa, its national pro-life newspaper Interim, etc). Although it speaks about many political issues, it does so from the sidelines rather than assisting MPs, MPPs, and MLAs with actual legislative efforts.

The same is true for most pro-life organizations in Canada. They follow political developments, but the reality is that very little effort is directed towards advancing laws. Their work has value, but it has to be understood as fulfilling the role of a prophet more than a king.

Although there are pockets of political activity happening in various parts of the country (e.g. defunding campaigns in some provinces) most of what is done comes from the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, made up of MPs and Senators, who meet monthly with this goal. But their work is limited by time and resources. They have busy lives doing the work of an MP and can’t organize a grassroots campaign to support a bill. On the provincial level, even less is being done in the political arm. Most provincial pro-life organizations are geared towards education and coordination, not advancing pro-life legislation.

The bottom line is that Canadians would be shocked at how few people there are working in the genuinely political realm. There is very little strategy or long-term vision.

#2 – Understanding the different roles

It is crucial that while these arms share a common heart to defend life from conception to natural death they each have different roles, strategies, and players. For example, with good reason we don’t put graphic pictures of aborted babies on the walls of a pregnancy care centre. In that context they would most likely hurt, rather than help, the effort to counsel a woman to not have an abortion, or to heal after having one. And yet an educational group – the prophetic arm – might use these same images on a university campus, to prompt debate.

But just because the pastoral arm – the pregnancy care center – uses a different method than the prophetic arm, it does not mean it is “compromising” the pro-life stance. The arms have to know their respective audiences, opportunities, and limits.

The focus of this article is the political realm. What is the role of the political arm and how should it function? Pro-lifers with a biblical foundation recognize from Romans 13 that our government officials have been put there by God, with the purpose of promoting order and the common good and restraining evil. But note carefully that the Bible does not say that the state has the task of eradicating evil. There is the assumption that it is impossible for the state to do this. Human nature is such that we are sin-filled people. That can’t be changed – in Psalm 51:5 David goes so far as to say that he was even conceived in sin. The state is not God (though it is more and more lifted up as a god). It cannot get rid of all evil in society. But it has been commanded by God to restrain it and has been given the authority to do so.

Abortion is yet another expression of our fallen humanity. As long as we live on this earth, no government is going to be able to end abortion, even if it was outlawed. The point is that government can only do what it is able to do. And in a sin-filled world, that means limiting evil.

So one reason why the political arm of the pro-life movement in Canada is so sparse is because Christians don’t like to work in a realm where evil can only be limited. Politics takes on a dirty connotation because it necessarily involves doing only what is possible. As intimidating as it can be to participate in a pro-life demonstration, holding up a graphic picture of what abortion does, many Christians would rather participate in these activities than direct their efforts to pass laws that would “merely” limit the number of abortions.

Given that politics is the art of what is possible, it means that politicians have to work with the sad reality that our society will not ban abortion today. At least two thirds of Canadians would oppose a ban on abortion, and some polls have the figure much higher than that. The political will to address the issue is even weaker than the public will. However, polls do show that at least 60% of Canadians would support some legal protection for the unborn (increasing protection with longer gestation). Given this reality, and given also the fact that every other country in the Western world has been able to pass abortion laws and restrictions, there is room for our Parliament to get rid of the gap between what Canadians would support and the status quo (no legal protection for unborn children).

When pro-life politicians in this country have tried to do what is possible by advancing legislation, they are given very little support by the key organizations representing the political arm of the pro-life movement. These politicians are often singled out as “compromisers.” With immense opposition from pro-abortion activists, the media, and even their own party, is it any wonder that after 20 years of this, most MPs, even pro-life MPs, are hesitant to touch the issue?

The pro-abortion camp is thrilled with this. Joyce Arthur, from the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, has shared Canada’s story with the rest of the world, encouraging them to learn from us. She explains:

“Because we have virtually no restrictions against abortion, we’ve been able to spend our time working on access and funding issues, instead of fighting oppressive laws, which is what our American friends must do. Restrictions such as consent laws, waiting periods, and the like are simply cruel and unnecessary obstacles that impede a woman’s ability to get a safe, early abortion. There is no question that the absence of restrictive laws against abortion places the struggle for abortion rights on the fast track to success” [emphasis added].

#3 – Understanding the controversy within the political arm of the pro-life movement

Ever since Canada’s abortion laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1988 there has been a strong division within the political arm of Canada’s pro-life movement. On the one side of the divide are those who argue that we ought to work to end abortion by enacting laws that restrict it as much as possible. If we can restrict access and increase awareness of what abortion really is then the number of abortions will drop and society will be more aware of just how evil it is. For example, if society is willing to criminalize abortion after 12 weeks gestation then we should work towards a law that does that. If it is successful, we move on to the next step and restrict it even further. Though gestational limits were not previously considered an option in the United States (because of their constitution), they have successfully applied this strategy to the point that over 80 laws restricting abortion in one way or another have already been passed this year alone.
On the other side are those who oppose many of these efforts because they view them as compromising the pro-life position and as an assault on the principle that all innocent human life is sacred. For example, Campaign Life Coalition defines “compromise legislation” as:

“any type of legislation that would explicitly or implicitly accept or admit that killing any category or class of unborn children is lawful, or that unborn children may be lawfully killed in any specified circumstances, whether or not the existing law already permits abortion in these cases.”

As one pro-life leader told me, “We can’t decide who will live and who will die. That’s what you do when you advocate for a gestational (abortion) law. We decree that all human life up to x weeks may be killed.”

It must be noted that those in this camp are clear that they welcome laws that would chip away at abortion, as long as they meet the requirement noted above. But it isn’t just gestational limits that fail the test. As has been evident from recent attempts to introduce pro-life legislation in Parliament, logical consistency means many more pro-life bills become unethical. Does supporting informed consent legislation (where a mother has to be told about the level of development of her child, or what is involved with the abortion procedure before she can have an abortion) mean that we are supporting the abortions that occur once a woman has been informed and still decides to kill her child? Doesn’t that implicitly accept the killing of unborn children? Does banning coerced abortion (as MP Rod Bruinooge attempted to do with Roxanne’s Law last year) mean that we are implicitly tolerating abortions that have not been coerced?

On the one hand they state that they are in favour of incremental legislation. Yet the reality is that over the past twenty years they have done very little to support the private member’s bills introduced by brave MPs. In some circumstances they have outright opposed them. Both options are a far cry from proactively advancing and building public support for abortion legislation.

As a side note, although many who oppose a step-by-step approach to limiting abortion come from the Roman Catholic faith, by no means is that the rule. Some time ago ARPA Canada received a formal letter from a committee of a Reformed church urging us to rethink our political efforts on abortion. They wrote

“We understand the thought process behind this [step-by-step] approach but we cannot endorse or support it because it leads inevitably to an unbiblical compromise of God’s command: ‘Thou shalt not kill.'”

#4 – Refuting the misunderstandings & errors

The key issue of debate between the two sides hovers around whether it is immoral or unbiblical to promote legislation that would have the effect of saving some, but not all unborn children. To put it another way, is it compromising to support a law that would ban abortion after 20 weeks? As one pro-life leader stated to me “Abortion is evil and if you say it’s ok that we allow some evil (abortion) in order to save some of the children then you are going against the moral order.” Those who hold to this view have admirable intentions, but they have flawed conclusions. And these conclusions are costly. Dispelling the flawed conclusions will reveal that we can, in good conscience and in harmony with our faith, limit the evil of abortion in the political realm.

Argument 1 – This logic ignores the reality of our sin-filled society, which currently allows the killing of all unborn children, at all stages, for all reasons, and at taxpayer’s expense.

There is a huge moral difference between advancing an abortion law when there is, and when there isn’t already an abortion ban in place. If the current law was a complete ban on abortion and a majority in society wanted to change that to a ban after 12 weeks or 20 weeks gestation, it would be immoral for government to pass this legislation. All human life should be protected and it is government’s responsibility to ensure that. The effect would be to increase the amount of evil, a direct assault on the role of government. However, if the current law allowed for the killing of all unborn children (as it does in Canada today), then a new law that would ban abortion after 12 or 20 weeks would reduce the evil.

There is a substantial difference. That difference is called context. Reformed believers should be the first to understand the importance of applying our belief about human nature to our daily work.

A classic philosophical dilemma that is posed to university students goes like this: “A trolley (i.e. a train) is running out of control down a track. In its path are five people who have been tied to the track by a mad philosopher. Fortunately, you could flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. Should you flip the switch or do nothing?” Some would argue that those who advance incremental strategies against abortion are trying to demand a similar answer. However, the scenario does not reflect the reality of what is going on with abortion in Canada. The more accurate scenario goes this way:

“A train is running out of control down a track. 100,000 + children are tied to that track by their mothers and fathers. You can untie as many children as you possibly can, or you can stand on the sideline and hurl accusations of compromise against those who are untying the children, for saving some and not others; for making a value judgement about one over another.”

We may not like the out of control train, and we may disagree with the thousands of parents who tie their children to the track, and we might only be able to save a selection of the babies, but that does not mean that we should not do what we can to save some.

Argument 2 – Supporting incremental legislation is not condoning the death of the children who are not protected by the new law. Society is condoning abortion – government must try to limit the evil.

By supporting incremental legislation, we are not in any way compromising. We are working to abolish all abortion by taking the steps humanly possible in this sin-filled and limited world. By promoting a law that bans abortion after 18 weeks, for example, we are not in any way condoning abortion up till 18 weeks. The pro-life leader quoted earlier who opposed gestational limits wrongly believes that such a law would mean we are allowing some evil to save some children. But we aren’t allowing the evil. Our society has chosen the evil. The train is hurtling down the tracks whether we like it or not. Our sin-filled human hearts have chosen the evil. Our government has the responsibility to limit that evil as much as possible. If a ban on abortion is not humanly possible in such an evil society but restrictions on abortion are possible, it is the moral duty of government to enact those restrictions, to begin to engage the brakes on the train. We may not be able to stop the train dead in its tracks, but we should begin to apply the brake.

This does not stop after a law is put in place. The restrictions have to keep increasing, as we see in the United States. Abortion clinics are closing their doors south of the border, not because all abortion is illegal, but because there are so many restrictions they can no longer justify operating. The Lord willing, some day we may get to the point where there is a complete ban on abortion.

Argument 3 – Arguing against incremental legislation flies in the face of how we understand politics and the role of government on every other issue.

Those who are convinced by the “compromise” arguments have to answer some questions themselves. For starters, how can we justify such a different standard when it comes to every other political issue that we engage with? With their logic, anyone who supports a bill that would increase the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 is condoning or supporting all sexual activity after age 16. The reality is that the government has virtually no control on sexual activity, but it can try to prevent the exploitation of youth. Increasing the age of consent is a very important step towards accomplishing this. By no means does it mean that they are compromising on sexual purity.

To take this a step further, every piece of legislation that crosses Parliament’s floor has problematic elements. But it would be much more problematic if MPs were unable to pass any laws, leaving society in a state of anarchy. For a society to function, our politicians have to tolerate things that we as Christians may not tolerate. But tolerate does not mean condone. It is easy for people to point at politicians from the sidelines and accuse them of being unjust. But it is the reality of working in a sin-filled world that has limits on what is possible. We can’t force people to be moral. But we can do our best to restrain evil. Perhaps this explains why the Canadian pro-life community has almost abandoned the political realm. We simply don’t like working in such a nasty, but real, world.

Over the past 15 years we have seen smoking dramatically decrease in Canada. How was this accomplished? A wise strategy was employed. Education was a component, but government also enacted many laws and policies, such as health warnings on cigarette packages, increased taxes, banning advertising of public functions, and even hiding tobacco products behind curtains. The combination of the educational and political arm has reduced smoking to the lowest level ever, even among teens. What would have happened if our government tried to ban smoking 15 years ago? Or, to follow the logic used by some pro-life leaders, does making a law that requires these dangers to be shown on tobacco packages etc, mean that we implicitly condone tobacco use? It is well known that those behind the law are working towards a much bigger goal. The same applies to abortion. We should never stop with one bill that limits it or exposes the evil nature of it – we have to work toward a total ban. But that does not mean that we can’t try to get what is possible currently and work towards a ban one step at a time.

The argument is made that the difference between abortion and other issues is that human life is at stake. Again, although that sounds noble, it is misled. Many other political issues also have lives at stake. The Canadian government does not devote 100% of its efforts to fighting starvation in Somalia because it recognizes that even its best efforts would have limited impact. Further, doing so would come at the cost of the many other issues and people that need attention. Once again, it comes down to recognizing that the role and power of government is limited. It can only do so much. The question we have to answer is, will we do what we can, or will we walk away?

Argument 4 – Limiting evil is not the same as “playing God.”

This talk of saving lives can turn us off. As one person who wrote me said “We can’t play God as lay people or as politicians.  We can’t decide who will live and who will die.” But does supporting incremental legislation mean that we are “playing God?” God has made it clear that he gives the responsibility to our governments to exercise authority. They have a moral responsibility, from God, to limit evil. They are called to represent God’s standard on earth. Although “playing God” is not the proper way to describe it, it is correct in reminding us of their (and our) God-given responsibility to “do justice.”

The “playing God” argument is a convenient means for us to avoid the responsibilities that God has given us. In a country like Canada, God uses citizens to govern. He calls us to make difficult, but important, decisions about how we will live. Because we are in a democracy, Romans 13 applies to each of us because we all have a hand in governing this nation. We can’t absolve ourselves of all blame. There is a reason why pro-life MPs are hesitant to put forward pro-life laws – almost nobody is standing behind them. That proves that citizens have a direct effect on our leaders and on the civil government’s responsibility to apply God’s truths to earth. If we did stand behind them, they would be much more likely to do something. We may not like the responsibility that comes with democracy, but by no means may we shy away from it.

Argument 5 – Acknowledging the status quo does not mean we are condoning it.Map of gestational limits across Europe

Last year some key pro-life leaders refused to support Member of Parliament Rod Bruinooge’s bill (Roxanne’s Law), which would have made it a crime to coerce a woman to have an abortion. Section 4 of that bill stated that it did not apply to physicians who tried to convince a pregnant woman to have an abortion if the abortion is necessary to “prevent serious threat to the female person’s physical health.” These pro-life leaders argued that the bill condoned the evil of abortion for the sake of the mother’s health.

However, the reality is that abortion is already legal for any and every reason, including for the protection of the life of the mother. This bill simply acknowledged it because Bruinooge thought that was what was necessary to have the bill passed. Even if that was a poor decision or completely unnecessary, it does not negate the point that it reflected what the law already states. The process of chipping away at abortion will mean that we have to continually remind Canadians just how wide-open the laws currently are.

Argument 6 – The fact that there are some options that most pro-lifers can agree on does not mean that they are the only options we should pursue.

Just because part of the pro-life community does not support many pro-life laws does not mean that we should avoid those laws and concentrate on those they do support. Although it sounds considerate, we end up trying to be nice rather than do what is really best for the unborn. Prudence requires the right law at a specific time and in a specific context. We have to be wise in those situations and boldly advance abortion legislation that would be effective in limiting evil. With lives at stake we can’t devote all of our time to talking to ourselves. There are some foundational differences within the pro-life community (our view of human nature, the role of government, the end times, etc) that we will debate as long as we live. That debate should happen, but we can’t put aside our political responsibility while doing so.

There are some laws that most pro-life groups should be able to agree to. We thought that was the case with Roxanne’s Law, but we were sad to see some prominent leaders in the pro-life community opposing that as well. Even if we can agree to a bill, it does not mean that it is the appropriate bill for our Parliament today. In Canada it has become easy for MPs to write off pro-life bills with very weak arguments. Rather than acknowledging that no woman should ever be coerced to have an abortion (even though Roxanne’s Law really was a pro-woman bill that every MP could support), they stated that there are already laws dealing with coercion so this bill was redundant. Although the argument could be disproved in two sentences, they get away with it because neither the politicians nor the media have any appetite to acknowledge the truth. [As an aside, it became even easier for them to vote against the bill when they were informed that even pro-life leaders opposed it.]

But if they have to vote on a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks, for example, they are forced to address the issue head on and can’t skirt the issue. Even Henry Morgentaler opposed abortion after 24 weeks. He has stated, “We don’t abort babies, we want to abort foetuses before they become babies… Around 24 weeks I have ethical problems doing [late-term abortions].” It would be hard for many MPs to defend it. And there is no way that they can argue that the bill is redundant, or that no abortions happen after 20 weeks anyways. A bill like that would make sense and could actually accomplish something, even if it did not pass the first time. Let’s not forfeit these options because we are trying to be nice.

Argument 7 – This issue is not minor. Hundreds, even thousands of lives can be saved.

In the face of controversy we can be tempted to just walk away. Indeed, that is what many of us have done. We don’t like to argue among fellow pro-lifers so we leave the political realm and move on to a different arm or a different cause. But the issue is not just another squabble. If we did boldly advance abortion legislation that is in keeping with public opinion today, well over 500 lives could be saved every year. Abortion takes the life of over 100,000 children every year (the specific numbers are unknown because many abortion providers don’t report what they are doing). In 2008, of the 24,087 abortions that were actually reported with gestational details to the Canadian Institute of Health Information, 1,028 occurred from 17-20 weeks gestation and 556 occurred 21 weeks and later. That does not include all of the abortions where no details were provided (let alone gestation), nor does it include the numerous abortions that are not reported at all. A law against abortion after 20 weeks saves real lives every year.

Americans United for Life has been working with similar goals for a long time in that country. One example they provide of the success of working in the political arm is in Mississippi.

“Over the past 15 years, Mississippi has adopted 15 pro-life laws. As a result, abortions in the state have decreased by nearly 60% and six out of seven abortion clinics have closed – leaving only one embattled abortion clinic in the entire state.”

There are many other benefits to introducing laws like these. First, the debate in Parliament and the media will open the eyes of Canadians to the ongoing reality of abortion. The less abortion remains hidden, the less it can be justified. Second, if a law like this were to pass it would have many spin-off consequences. For example, although many abortion-providers don’t keep statistics (even though it is tax-funded and deemed “medically necessary”) a ban on abortion after a specific age should force them to reveal the age of the child.

It would also be a huge blessing to the disabled community. After all, many of the late-term abortions are done to kill children who have a disability.

Finally, think of the impact this would have on the huge adoption wait-list! There are so many homes waiting for the gift of a child to adopt into their family.

Argument 8 – Canada is the exception, not the norm.

European nations that are as secular as Canada, if not more so, all have laws against abortion. Where it is available on demand, most countries limit it to a maximum of 12 weeks gestation. In other countries, including Spain, Portugal, and Poland, abortion is only allowed for specific reasons, such as the health of the mother, even if the pregnancy is less than 12 weeks gestation. In Holland abortion is allowed on demand up until 13 weeks, but a 5-day waiting period is required. In Greece abortion is illegal after 12 weeks gestation (24 weeks for cases of fetal abnormality). Abortion is illegal in Ireland, though about 7,000 women travel to Great Britain each year to get an abortion. In that country it is allowed until 24 weeks. And in Sweden, a country often held up as an example of progressivism, abortion is illegal after 18 weeks except to save the life or physical health of the mother.

Canada is the one country in the West where this evil act is completely unrestricted. The only way to change that will be by boldly, and publicly, declaring the truth about abortion while at the same time introducing laws that would limit it.

Argument 9 – If you don’t make a concession, you don’t compromise.

After reading all of these arguments, some will still want to label this proposal for advancing abortion legislation a type of compromise. But that is wrong. Compromise involves a mutual concession to reach an agreement. Nowhere in this argument am I proposing that we should concede anything. To put it even stronger, from a legal and political perspective it would be hard to make the case that we could even concede anything because we have nothing to concede – unborn children have no legal protection. We can fight to change that without making concessions. (In the sidebar accompanying this article, “When it is compromise,” I warn against conceding our foundation, by avoiding any language that suggests that some children are more worthy of legal protection.) Let’s not put stumbling blocks on our own path.

A path forward: taking steps together

All pro-life Canadians are committed to protecting life from conception to natural death. It is time to point our swords away from each other and direct them towards the evil of abortion. The three arms of the pro-life movement are each critical, and must work together to end abortion. Now, after more than 20 years of effective work by the pastoral and prophetic arms of the movement, Canada has become increasingly pro-life. It is time for the political arm of the pro-life movement to advance laws that reflect where Canada really is on the abortion issue. There is no need for us to fight within the pro-life community. If we are uncomfortable working in the political arm, we can move to the prophetic or pastoral arms and still be an effective voice. What matters is that we encourage each other with our respective roles. We can also hold each other accountable. It is good for those outside of the political arm to remind those in it to never allow compromise in their words or deeds.

By this point some might say, “But our leaders refuse to touch the issue. There is no way that we can advance anything.” Fortunately that is not true. Our Members of Parliament can introduce private member’s legislation (PMBs). Although such bills used to be rather ineffective, that is not the case today. All PMBs that are declared constitutional may advance to a vote. So if there is a courageous MP that is willing to put forward a bill that restricts abortion, it will likely come to a vote. But it takes more than one MP or Senator to introduce and pass a bill. A large base of grassroots and professional support is needed to carry it through Parliament and respond to the challenges of the pro-abortion activists who will fight tooth and nail against it. Each of us has a responsibility to help with this. We can:

  • Pray for unity within the pro-life movement
  • Pray that God raises up courageous leaders who take on this issue
  • Encourage our MPs via phone, email, and in person to advance abortion legislation
  • When an MP does put something forward, get behind it 100%
  • Give continual encouragement to all who work in the pro-life movement. Satan is pushing hard from every direction and would love us to move away from the issue. Sadly, many churches and Christians have.
  • At the same time, let’s challenge our pro-life community to make progress in the political realm. A new generation of leaders is emerging, many of whom are unfamiliar with the divide that has held us back for over 20 years. The Lord willing, we can look forward to some encouraging victories in the years ahead.

Mark Penninga is the executive director of ARPA Canada (



When saving some is all we can do we should never pretend it’s all we hope to do

by Mark Penninga

Fighting abortion bit by bit, one legislative restriction after another doesn’t mean compromising on our conviction that all of the unborn are precious human beings. This step-by-step approach recognizes the reality that today, in our current political climate, we simply can’t save all these children, and that in these circumstances saving some is better than saving none.

But even as we acknowledge the status quo, and the limitations on what is possible politically, it is vital that we in no way suggest that we are happy with the way things are. It is very important that everyone in the pro-life community, including those in the political arm, be forthright that all abortions are wrong and be clear that our goal is to end the atrocity.

Unfortunately, a common mistake of those advocating limits on abortion is to suggest that a wrong would be made right if we adopted a specific law. The temptation is to try to sell a law by making arguments that would appeal to someone in the middle, but which actually undermine our core belief about the intrinsic value of all human life.

For example, the fact that the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) defines viability at 20 weeks gestation and/or 500 grams is not the reason why we think a law restricting abortion to 20 weeks is necessary, even if it is an argument that would convince someone who does not believe that all human life is sacred.

If we use that argument as the reason for the bill, we undermine our foundation. The truth is we oppose abortion at 12 weeks, 8 weeks, and 18 days gestation and we may not mislead the public to think otherwise. We know that the fact that unborn children older than 20 weeks may feel pain does not mean that abortion before 20 weeks is OK. We have to state very clearly that all unborn children should be protected so a law that would ban abortion after 12 or 20 weeks would help limit the evil, but it is just one step towards the end we are looking for.

So how do we use appropriate language to defend these laws to a secular society? We can say boldly and firmly that we believe abortion is wrong and that we are proposing/defending/supporting this legislation because it is a step in the right direction. We can also say that our society may not agree with all our reasons, but they should be convinced by their own reasons, including the fact that the CMA would call these children viable and that the medical community agrees that they feel pain.

In other words, we must never obscure God’s Truth on this issue and must never talk or argue in a way that gives the impression some of the unborn aren’t precious human beings. We may only be able to save some right now, but we must always be clear that saving all is our end goal.

Editor’s NoteThis article originally appeared in Reformed Perspective Magazine and has been reprinted with the permission of the author.

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

In a culture saturated with relativism, the concept that there is no objective right and wrong, it is quite common to be reminded that the Bible forbids us to judge. After all, being ‘judgmental’ or accusing someone of wrongdoing is about as bad as it can get and it seems that many Christians have accepted this notion as well.

As a result, many are opposed to passing, or at least hesitant to pass, judgement on other people’s choices, including the choice of abortion. This begs an important question: what did Jesus really mean when he said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”?

As with any text we must first look at its context to discern the meaning. Using only Matthew 7:1 or Luke 6:37a gives an incomplete picture. The context shows that this passage is not an absolute prohibition from judging but instead is intended to address unfair and hypocritical judgment. “Judge not” warns against backbiting, slandering, and being overly critical, while “that ye may not be judged” indicates what will happen to those who follow Christ’s command; generally, they will be treated kindly and spared unjust judgement as well. John Calvin remarks about these texts in his commentary, “It is not necessary that believers should become blind, and perceive nothing, but only that they should refrain from an undue eagerness to judge” (p. 346).

Additionally, we ought to take into account the entire Bible message rather than interpret a verse in isolation. If the explanation of a passage contradicts the overall Gospel this should tell us something is wrong. In the case of Matthew 7:1, it is important to note that the word ‘judge’ in its various forms is found over 700 times in God’s Word so to base our entire approach to judging on one verse would be foolish. Psalm 119:13, Proverbs 3:21, Jeremiah 22:3, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3, and Philippians 1:10, to name a few, show we are not only allowed but even bound to judge. We must speak and act in accordance with the revealed will of God and therefore condemn sin. In fact, failing to do so would be rebellion by reversing God’s will through our actions or lack of them.

At the same time, the Lord gives guidelines for how to judge. We must always begin with examining ourselves, lest we ignore the ‘beam’ in our own eye (Matthew 7:4-5). Moreover, we read in John 7:24, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” There Jesus tells us to judge but to do so righteously, using God’s Word to discern sin and not by appearances or our own standards. We must do so lovingly and modestly, with God’s honour and our neighbour’s welfare in mind, realizing that God is the only Lawgiver and Judge (Isaiah 33:22).

What does this mean regarding life issues? J.C. Ryle, when warning against dealing deceitfully with the Word of God, points out that we corrupt the truth when we make a wrong application of it or avoid speaking about it when it may give offence. In the case of abortion, we corrupt the truth and misapply God’s Word when we do not condemn a procedure that intentionally and directly ends the life of a preborn child.

Our Reformed heritage has much to say about this as well. Christian apologist Francis A. Schaeffer, when describing the Reformers, explains that they took seriously the Bible’s own claims for itself: that it is the only final authority. They believed that we need the answers given by God in the Bible not only for how to be in a relationship with Him but also for how we must live and distinguish between right and wrong. Thus, when God’s Word tells us that each individual has unique value and that ending an innocent life is wrong, we consistently ought to live according to and lovingly act upon that truth.

This can be difficult, even painful at times, but there can be no compassion without truth. When we refrain from judging a behaviour that is harmful to our neighbour, we are actually negligent and disobey the commandment to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Telling a loved one that their choices are wrong can be upsetting but not doing so would be much more uncompassionate. Since we know that abortion disobeys God’s law, ends a child’s life, as well as harms people spiritually, emotionally and even physically, speaking out against it is both truthful and compassionate.

So what must we do? On the basis of an unweakened Bible, with the aid of properly conducted science and strategies, we should teach and act to influence society as much as we can. We are not excused from being the salt of the earth, just because the culture no longer rests as much as it once did on Christian thinking. We are not excused from speaking the truth, just because our society holds the belief that there is no absolute truth.

If we have compassion for those around us we must not compromise the truth or hide behind a faulty interpretation of a text about judging, whether to spare people’s feelings or our own reputation. Instead, we must do all that we can to stand against the loss of humanness in all its forms and to help people see the truth that, with God’s blessing, will set them free.

Are Graphic Abortion Images Like Pornography?

It has come to the attention of a number of my colleagues and I that there are not only a number of people outside the pro-life camp but also some who consider themselves part of it who feel that graphic abortion imagery is wrong because it is comparable to pornography. I was at first tempted to ignore the comparison because I felt it ludicrous and unfounded. Obviously, abortion imagery depicts an injustice while with pornography, the images themselves are the injustice—abortion imagery exposes a travesty, while pornographic images are a travesty. However, since the accusation is persisting, it warrants a careful analysis and response.

In considering this comparison, it is important to note how pornography is defined. According to one online dictionary, pornography or porn is the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual arousal and erotic satisfaction.” I think it is clear to all that abortion imagery—evidence of the violence abortion does to the pre-born child—is not in any way comparable to pornography, which consists of images of an explicitly sexual nature. Abortion imagery is not used for even remotely sexual purposes, but rather to decry the inhumanity of this barbaric procedure and to point out what the results of recreational sex—so glorified by pornography—can bring about. Pornography is part of the culture of promiscuity that has contributed to abortion so greatly.

In this instance graphic abortion imagery, which displays the tiny victims of abortion, is analogous to Holocaust imagery, which show older victims of systematic violence. However, I am sure that we can agree that pictures of the Holocaust are not analogous to pornography—and that this would be an offensive claim to make—just as attending the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC would not be analogous to visiting a Playboy Club or pornography store. When thoughtfully considered, the pornography comparison reveals itself to be an extremely offensive comparison to make—both to the victims and those who stand to reveal their fate.

After searching through past critiques of graphic abortion imagery, I found that abortion advocates have often used this accusation, and that there have been detailed responses given. So as not to reinvent the wheel, I would like to share one succinct rebuttal to this notion:

John Jansen of the Pro-Life Action League:

“The difference between graphic abortion pictures and pornography can be seen in their respective reasons for existence.

“The clear and obvious purpose of pornography is to elicit sexual arousal in the viewer. In so doing, pornographic images distort the reality about the human body, and about God’s plan for human sexuality.

“Pornography takes the truth and twists it into a lie — namely, that sex is primarily about individual gratification — and as a result, its psychological, emotional, and moral damage is devastating.

“Graphic abortion pictures, however, have precisely the opposite effect. Showing images of aborted babies presents the truth of what abortion really is, and the reason for displaying them is to elicit sympathy for unborn children and awaken consciences about the gravely evil nature of abortion.”

Because the charge that graphic abortion imagery is comparable to pornography is a serious one—the implication being that showing graphic images is immoral—we have decided to respond on this website, as we plan to discuss pro-life issues from a religious and moral perspective as opposed to a pragmatic, strategy oriented perspective. We believe that this charge is completely baseless to the point of being offensive, as the implications of the accusation is that all photographic evidence of murder victims, including injustices of the past regularly shown in our classrooms, can be characterized as “pornographic.” To compare documentation of the fate of so many of our pre-born neighbours to imagery designed to incur sexual arousal is one that has no intellectual foundation, and one that should be discarded due to lack of coherence and credibility.”

The Reformed Case for Pro-Life Action

We live in a culture where openly sinful behaviours are increasingly becoming the norm while opposing them is labelled “judgemental.” It is therefore good to consider whether or not those who hold to objective Christian principles are morally obligated to act out in defence of Christian beliefs. Of the many public sins that plague North America, abortion, the decapitation, dismemberment and disembowelment of unborn children throughout all nine months of pregnancy by the millions is undoubtedly the most horrific—and the most prevalent. (Example: At least 25 percent of unborn children are slaughtered every single year.)

The idea of public pro-life action, however, seems foreign and somehow “un-Reformed” to many. While it can safely be assumed that none of us would at least openly claim to be pro-abortion, many find themselves ill at ease with decisive action on behalf of the unborn. Here I do not refer to good pro-life events such as “Walks for Life” etc., but rather witnessing on behalf of the unborn children to the public at large—actions that will directly save the lives of children and will also involve contact with non-Christians. After examining the Bible and our Reformed heritage, however, it becomes very clear that speaking out to defend the Christian idea that all life is sacred is one that is not only encouraged, but demanded.

What does the Bible Say?

Reformed people are generally quite familiar with the Bible verses confirming the child in the womb as a human created in God’s image. (See Isaiah 46:3-5, Psalm 127:3-5, Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 119: 73, Luke 1:41-42 etc.) In contrast, consider how God speaks in Scripture of the sin of child sacrifice, of which abortion is a clear form. While ancient people sacrificed their children to Molech, we sacrifice our children on the altar of our own lusts, ambitions, pleasure, or convenience. In Jeremiah 7:31, after decrying the wickedness of the people, the prophet writes: “And they have built the high places of Tophet…to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came into my heart.” The act of child sacrifice, whether in ancient or modern times, is so evil that it never even entered God’s mind that people could do this to their offspring. God further condemns this sin in many places in the Bible—see Deuteronomy 12:31, Ezekiel 16:20-43, Psalm 106:37-42 and Jeremiah 19:3-11.

The Bible clearly confirms the unborn child as a human being requiring protection, and condemns child sacrifice in the harshest terms. At the same time it demands that we intervene on the behalf of the helpless. Jesus commanded His followers to love their neighbour, which by the biblical definition of human life unquestionably includes unborn children. Consider also the Good Samaritan, who helped the wounded man regardless of the sacrifice and inconvenience towards himself, while the religious people of the day walked on by. The most explicit command God gives us to intervene on behalf of the helpless is found in Proverbs 24:11-12. There He states: “If thou forebear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? Doth he not know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?

These texts from Scripture show us that abortion is not only evil, but also that sacrificing children to the idol of one’s own lust is considered to be an especially grave evil, and one which God is not willing to tolerate. It is impossible to deny that children are being brutally slaughtered in North America. It is equally true that we cannot pretend that we are ignorant of this fact. The Bible clearly states that we have a duty to protect our unborn neighbours—and that God will judge nations and peoples who “forbear” from this duty. The question is: are we willing to do so publicly?

What does our Reformed Heritage say?

Both John Calvin and Martin Luther, who were unquestionably the “radicals” of their day, spoke out against abortion specifically. Luther commented on the greatness of “the wickedness of human nature” that would cause people to “kill and expel tender fetuses, although procreation is the work of God.” John Calvin stated in his commentary on Exodus that “If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.”

Is there, however, precedent among our forefathers for action which takes us into contact with the world at large, using avenues that fall outside of the Christian community? The answer to this question is an emphatic yes. While a careful examination of our past reveals that the majority of our most esteemed forefathers were willing to face the outside culture—Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, to name the most obvious ones–the writings and actions of our forebears also show that taking action against worldly public sins is not only right, but required. The idea that speaking out publicly against murder is somehow “un-Reformed” would have been very foreign to these men.

Reverend John Newton was a proponent of public advocacy as well. After his conversion, the former slave trader wrote many hymns such as “Amazing Grace” and an autobiography entitled Out of the Depths, but also encouraged others to take action against sinful injustices against the weakest members of society in the public sphere. William Wilberforce, the British Parliamentarian who spent his whole life crusading against (and eventually abolishing) slavery, was one of them. He approached Rev. Newton at the age of 26 to explain that he had undergone a religious conversion and felt he should perhaps leave politics. Instead of giving his blessing, John Newton urged him not to leave politics—but rather to use his position in Parliament to fight against evil. It was Rev. Newton who urged Wilberforce to take up the fight against slavery, and even assisted him by testifying against the slave trade in front of Parliament. Both Newton and Wilberforce knew it as a Christian’s duty to take decisive action, against all opposition, on behalf of the weakest members of society.

The founder of the NRC denomination, Rev. G.H Kersten, also advocated against ‘putting our candle under a bushel,’ but rather to fight for Christian principles in the public square. He said that “there is a withdrawal from the world, non-involvement in politics, and a lack of Christian schools. Thus we are going further and further astray.” His well-known biography by Rev. Golverdingen states that Rev. Kersten himself felt drawn into politics because “he could not resign himself to the passivity he observed in the congregations.” Rev. Golverdingen notes that “Rev. Kersten also berated the indecisiveness and indifference toward national interest by some members of his own circles,” even preaching a sermon where he compared those who refused to defend Christian principles in the public square to the tribe of Reuben refusing to join Deborah in going to battle against Sisera and the Canaanites. As we know, Rev. Kersten himself eventually became a politician in order to defend Reformed principles in the public sphere.

To close, I note how J.C Ryle deals with Christian interaction with the world in his well-read work Practical Religion. Ryle states: “When St. Paul said, ‘Come out and be separate’, he did not mean that Christians ought to decline all intercourse with unconverted people, and refuse to go into their society. There is not warrant for such conduct in the New Testament.” He further noted: “To know nothing about what is going on among mankind, and never to look at a newspaper,–to care nothing about the government of one’s country, and to be utterly indifferent as to the persons who guide its counsels and make its laws—all this may seem very right and proper in the eyes of some people. But I take leave to think that is an idle, selfish neglect of duty…Christians who plume themselves on their ignorance of secular things are precisely the Christians who bring religion into contempt.”

Defending the Sanctity of Life

It seems that there is an increasingly prevalent attitude among Christians that it is somehow wrong to ‘offend’ people, and that since pro-life activism will inevitably offend people, it should therefore be avoided. First, I must point out that a message that involves telling the culture at large that they are murdering their children isn’t going to be popular. If it was, we wouldn’t have the problem. Second, it is an extremely un-Christian and un-Reformed idea that just because our message of truth might not be welcomed by the world, and thus persecution may result, that we should avoid it. If Christians are so at peace with those who believe that killing unborn children is permissible that offending them is “un-Reformed”, it is perhaps necessary to take a second look at this unholy alliance and consider whether or not it is right in the eyes of God who values all life created in His image. If churches are indeed the consciences of nations, and those consciences have fallen silent, we can scarcely be surprised that things have gone horribly wrong.

The Bible demands that we protect our unborn neighbours. Our Reformed heritage shows us that our forbearers did not feel that it was in any way sinful to oppose evil in the public square. Abortion is the greatest evil in our society, an evil where the innocent blood of millions cries out for justice. We cannot withdraw ourselves from our biblical mandate laid out with such clarity in Scripture to protect unborn children with weak excuses that ignore the demands of Scripture and the examples and writings of our forefathers. Hence, Christian pro-life advocates should not have to defend their action. Apathetic Christians should have to defend their inaction.