Dr Joe Boot: The cosmology of killing - Part 3
In the final part of his abortion series, Wilberforce Director Dr Joe Boot writes of the message of life throughout the gospel message, and how this affects our worldview as believers.
We have a cosmology of compassion, rather than killing, he writes – "we are pro-life because God is life and the author of life". He urges us to be the "alternative to death" in our families and churches, and meet the needs of those in crisis.
In contrast to the pagan cosmology of death, Christians have a cosmology of life and compassion. We are pro-life because God is life and the author of life. God’s very being and nature is defined by begetting. The incarnation reminds us that the Son, though born into the world at a certain point in history, is the eternally begotten of the Father. The wonder here is that the unity of the Trinity is a self-giving familial community of love. In the incarnation, where "veiled in flesh the godhead see," we discover this divine community. As creatures made in God’s image, his familial nature is reflected in the human family, where out of the union of male and female, made in the image of God, begetting takes place and generation occurs and brings life. To abort begetting is thus contrary to the very nature of God who has revealed himself in the familial categories of Father and Son. In the antithetical view, the cosmology of killing, there is no eternal begetting. Ultimate reality is not the triune God, a personal divine community, but only an impersonal, empty and lifeless unity of being or non-being. Hence death and annihilation is the goal of existence in pagan thought. Consequently abortion becomes logical in an anti-Christian worldview. We can see from this that when opposing abortion we are not moralising, we are applying theological reality by describing the true God and the nature of the world he has made.
A further dimension to this must be added with regard to the nature of the gospel; an aspect that the incarnation of Christ so clearly sets forth. Christ is born into the world as a human being, as the second Adam and head of a new race, a new humanity. God’s people would be ‘born again’ by the Spirit of God and become representatives of the new creation. The character of our salvation is therefore one of birth and generation. Human birth, in Scripture, becomes a type of the new birth – we must be born again. We are re-generated through the work of the Holy Spirit, by the imperishable seed of the word of God. By this we are given life and brought into the family of God (1 Pt. 1:23). Thus to deny birth is to reject the new birth; to deny creation is reject the new creation; and to deny the fruition of family is to reject the family of God. So, not only God’s own being and nature, but the plan of salvation itself militates, theologically, against abortion and contradicts the practice.
In the cosmology of compassion, God is at work in all history by his providential and salvific work to bring about his purpose of life. Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life, and life in all its fullness" (Jn. 10:10). John’s prologue tells us, "In him was life and the life was the light of men." This reminds us that the creation of life is God’s work, not man’s, and as such it is solely in his hands so that life is always on his terms. God’s terms are set out in his word. The Sixth Commandment, by prohibiting murder, brings with it the positive duty to promote life and protect the innocent – in so doing we are fulfilling the law and working with God’s purposes for creation.
King David, who meditated constantly on God’s law-order (cosmology) in Psalm 119, was taken up with the cosmology of life and compassion when he considered the mercy of God in his inscrutable care for the unborn child:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
The womb itself is God’s studio, poetically described as "the depths of the earth," a place totally hidden (v. 15). From conception through gestation, David recognises that God knitted him together in his mother’s womb. It is particularly marvellous to notice that the Hebrew word for mercy derives from the word womb, which helps us understand David’s exalted praise, ‘wonderful are your works.’ In verse 16 the Hebrew literally reads, ‘My embryo (golmi) your eyes saw.’ This phrase means an incomplete vessel; the life is young and unfinished. The rest of the verse then goes on to beautifully relate the active creation of the human embryo, in terms of God’s predestination of the totality of life. The sovereign Lord has ordained our days and our steps: "in your book were written every one of them, the days formed for me, when as yet there was none of them" (v. 16). As if to reinforce this marvellous truth, the word ‘formed’ means the forming of a plan prior to its enactment. God then is not just numbering our days in his secret work, he is forming the future before our hearts begin to beat, giving meaning to every breath. Every person is thus fashioned in terms of God’s holy purposes. Both the Old and New Testaments provide specific examples of this wonder. Consider for example Jeremiah 1:5: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you," or St Paul in Galatians 1:15-16: "he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his son to me." As the Christmas season reminds us, this Son was himself incarnate and born of a virgin’s womb – this was the manifest mercy of God. Mary carried salvation in her womb. It was not her choice that reigned (though she rejoiced in God’s choosing), it was not her will that prevailed, but God’s, and her soul magnified the Lord.
The womb is thus the creator’s studio for sculpting the future. The Lord of life ordains life – that is the cosmology of the Bible. We worship and serve the creator when we honour God and his will (not ours) and serve his purpose for all creation. It is only when we have considered the womb as the mercy of God that we can begin to appreciate the full evil of abortion. Nothing sets forth that mercy more powerfully than the virgin birth and the reality of the incarnation.
Given the cosmology of the Bible so prescient in the Christmas message, the wickedness of abortion should be obvious to all Christians. But it is not sufficient to hold pro-life principles, we must live the cosmology of compassion amidst a cosmology of killing. John Calvin noted regarding Psalm 119, "Our attachment to godliness must be inwardly defective if it does not generate an abhorrence of sin." We must hate what is evil, according to St Paul, and cling to what is good! And we will show our faith according to St James by what we do. We must speak out against a culture of death and declare the gospel of life. Moreover, we must serve life in our families and churches by being the alternative to death and meeting the needs of those in crisis. The cosmology of compassion demands that we reveal the love and mercy of the triune God. A love manifest, not only in his eternal begetting and the incarnation of the Son of God, but also by the gift of life in every womb. Could there be a more wonderful gift this Christmas than such a revelation and the saving of a life?
(Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3)