Why the Pro-Life Cause Is Important: An Interview with Reverend Cornelius Sonnevelt

What do you feel the Christian’s duty towards the pre-born are?

I cannot express this better than with the words of Psalm 82 (the rhymed version):

         “Do justice for the helpless,
          The orphans cause maintain;
          Defend the poor and needy,
          Oppressed for wrong and gain.”

What made you so pro-life?

1. I was brought up with a strong sense for justice and injustice.  My dad, in particular, was a man who always chose the side of the underdog even when that got him into trouble at times.

2. When I was 17 years old, the Lord came into my life.  From that moment on, God’s Word became the standard for my outlook on issues of life and death.  Especially Psalm 139 had a powerful influence on how I began to see the pre-born.

3. When abortion was about to be legalized in the country of my birth, I attended a huge rally organized by leaders of various churches including the Roman Catholics.  The late Rev. A. Vergunst (by no means a man who preached salvation by works) accepted the invitation to attend this public meeting.  His example and address during that large gathering made a very deep impression on me.

How has being pro-life and the recognition that abortion is happening affected you?

After returning from the mission field in Nigeria, I have always tried to lay these needs before the Lord in my private life and in public.  Sometimes, when posting in front of abortion clinics in the Netherlands, I took my children along.  My wife and I realized that the abortion issue could be shocking for them, but we did not want them to grow up in a vacuum.  Additionally, the fact that the legalized child murder continued unabatedly has often made me depressed.  Will God not avenge the blood of all those helpless children?  Is the hardening mentality in our western societies not a sign of His judgment?  It seems we’re living under a cloud.

What are the biggest obstacles pro-life activists face from religious communities?

1. Indifference.  Many assert that, “of course,” they are pro-life (who is not?), but how many are really wrestling with this in prayer?  How many send letters to the responsible people?  How many go out of their way to make a difference?

2. Complacency.  We tend to think that, no matter what we do, the abortion caravan cannot be stopped.  We get used to the horrible practices that occur in hospitals and clinics.  And so we carry on with our life, our careers, our vacations, and you name it.

3. Active opposition.  There are Reformed people who regard all activism as a kind of good-works religion or, even worse, as outright wrong because “we are not supposed to demonstrate or to protest in the first place.”  This is hard for me to understand.  In my younger years, when I was a member of a communist youth group, I participated in demonstrations, in strikes and sit-ins, and in street battles with the police.  But our methods were totally different (they were often violent), and so was our goal.  We did not fight so much for others but primarily for our own rights, for more freedom, for higher wages, and so on.  Reformed people who actively oppose the work of organizations such as CCBR are either confused or influenced by an Anabaptist, a-political way of thinking.  Of course, they are entitled to their own opinion, but by portraying pro-life activism in a negative way, they undermine the good cause.

Can you think of other obstacles?

Yes, I have come across the idea that a pre-born child does not have a soul until it is a few months old or even until it is born.  This weird idea, cherished by a few ministers in former times, is potentially dangerous today as it plays directly into the hands of the abortion movement.  After all, if a pre-born child has no soul, what is it?  Just a cluster of cells?  A handful of tissue?  A blob?  You may still call it human life, but if it is not a human person, abortion loses much of its pervasive, sinful, and criminal character.  Then there is the innate fear to be seen as a radical, either by the outside world or by the members of your own church community.  And finally, many prefer to have a paid job to being involved with volunteer work that earns you little more than flak and spittle.  Suppose you have the choice between a teaching position with a fat salary and a job with a pro life organization where you must live from gifts―what would you do?

What words of advice do you have for those within our communities who seek to do pro-life work?

1. Pray for a deep compassion with the pre-born and their mothers.

2. Have a little patience with those who oppose you.

3. Go out and do the work with God’s help!

2 Replies to “Why the Pro-Life Cause Is Important: An Interview with Reverend Cornelius Sonnevelt”

  1. Appreciate this review Rev. Sonnevelt. I have to honestly say that the real truth about abortion has only become so clear to me since I became involved with our Pro Life group this year (2012). It has opened my eyes to the sad fact that I am guilty of such horrible complacency. And now that I know more, I no longer have an excuse to sit back and let others fight against this and not become involved in some way. You see, in Psalm 94: 16 God asks “who will rise up for Me against the evildoers; who will stand up for Me against the workers of iniquity.”

    Revs. Kersten, Heerschap, den Boer etc., as did à Brakel, all believed that they did not know when the soul entered into an unborn child. I suspect that this belief only changed in the last 20 to 30 years when abortion became legalized.

    1. Eye-opening interview. May we all feel that guilt and become active in prayer, word and deed more.

      At least of two of the ministers mentioned above I know they said they didn’t know when a child gets a soul but then I came across this in the IVF article by Rev. Sonnevelt on this website, in the piece about ‘Man: a unity of body and soul’:

      “Although Rev. G.H. Kersten says in his Reformed Dogmatics that it cannot be known with certainty when the soul enters the body, he writes in his explanation of the Heidelberg Catechism, “From the hour of our conception until we draw our last breath, our sins cry out for the just penalty of death” (page 5). Additionally, the Heidelberg Catechism, when speaking about the profit of “Christ’s holy conception and nativity” says “That He is our Mediator, and with His innocence and perfect holiness, covers in the sight of God, my sins, wherein I was conceived and brought forth” (Lord’s Day 14, Question and Answer 36).

      While it is hard to prove the soul’s presence at conception, this is true at any time. We know that all genetic material is present at conception; nothing is added later. And Scripture passages overwhelmingly suggest that human beings have a soul from the very moment of conception.”

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