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Dr Joe Boot: The cosmology of killing - Part 1

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As we continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ this Advent season, Wilberforce Director Joe Boot offers a sobering reminder that thousands of babies are being robbed of their chance at life, as society increasingly rejects Christian ethics.

In the first of this three part series, he urges us to make our case for Christ "cosmologically" - understanding God's creation order. Social norms and practices (including abortion) "manifest our religious commitments", he says.
 

There is no time more appropriate to remember life in the womb than the advent season. Christmas is almost upon us when we will celebrate the Incarnation; the marvel that God the Son, the maker of heaven and earth, took flesh. Tiny and vulnerable, the saviour was carried in the womb of a virgin and was born a helpless baby in need of his mother’s love, nurture and protection. As the lights, tinsel, and Christmas trees go up to ostensibly celebrate this reality, thousands of abortions are taking place across the world every day. 

In a time when the ethical standards of Christianity are increasingly rejected, objections to the immorality of this scourge upon our culture are typically seen as mere moralising - the outdated values of social or political conservatives; little more than background noise. As such, Christian morality is often seen as judgmental, self-righteous, or even an expression of hatred. In such a context we need to re-learn to understand our faith and make our case as the early apologists did amongst the pagans - cosmologically, not simply pragmatically. Cosmology simply refers to order or structure. It is the way in which we look at and understand the order of our world. It considers the big picture of reality and the implications which flow from it. The one who ordered all reality, who called it into existence, hallowed the womb by his incarnation, and the implications which flow from this fact are profound indeed.

Typically, those of us deeply concerned with the preservation of innocent life in the womb, reflecting the compassion and concern of our maker, start by coming at the issues the way most do, with pragmatic considerations. We speak of the negative health consequences of abortion, or reason scientifically by showing that the unborn child is a human life from conception and that killing the child is merely a form of murder. Important and significant as these arguments are (and they must be made) many modern pro-abortion intellectuals increasingly do not attempt to deny these charges and are unconcerned by them. For example, Camille Paglia, a social commentator and pro-abortion writer has stated: "I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue." [1] For such people there is a new cosmology, a new order - the autonomy of choice and the absoluteness of man’s will and desire that is beyond good and evil (which is to say it is a denial of transcendent law). Such a perspective of absolute autonomy for man is informed by essentially religious considerations. It is insufficient then for us to approach the issues and argue them only pragmatically (and be accused of mere moralism). We must begin theologically and philosophically. This is the way in which we can show that abortion is not simply a war of words or wills, it is a dispute about the nature of all reality itself.    

In recently reading articles from a massive offering on Religion and Ecology published by Oxford University Press, I was reminded of two things that are clear in Scripture. First, there really are only two religions in which all people of necessity participate - the worship and service of the creator or of the creation. And second, that as a consequence, we are in a cosmic spiritual conflict that manifests itself in the ideas and practices of every social order. Social and cultural norms and practices are not neutral, coincidental or peripheral to fundamental beliefs (cosmology); rather they manifest our religious commitments.

Over the last fifty years in particular the religious sensibilities of the modern Western world have turned eastward to inform our self-understanding. Today the all-pervasive message conveyed in the culture is that mother-nature is all there is and all we have. There is no infinite, personal, transcendent God separate from the universe, rendering the Incarnation an impossible myth. The human person is insubstantial and socially constructed. We occupy a shared biosphere that is characterized by a finely-balanced interdependency rooted in the foundational oneness of all things. Tragically, we are told that today human beings constitute a threat to that balance as they reproduce.  In all classical Eastern thought (once called paganism, and which also dominated the West prior to Christianity), the first premise of cosmology is the fundamental unity or oneness of everything that exists - that unity has many names in paganism.

For the Chinese religions all things are constituted of ch’i; in Hinduism everything participates in Brahman; in Buddhism Anatta (no-soul or self) is reality and Nirvana is that realization, and so on.  In this oneist world of illusions there is no transcendent God separate from the world (being in general), so we must live harmoniously with all things as our kith and kin and maintain the right balances, karma and order.  We do not look then to the Incarnation for salvation, but to ourselves and our ideas. Thus, in all forms of paganism, abortion is basically pragmatics, to be tolerated and at times even promoted depending on the needs of nature or those of the state expressing the divine will. For example, in Buddhism, abortion is not a termination (there is no self) but a waiting room - life returned to nebulous sacred realms to bide time before another rebirth.

Currently in the West the dominant thinking is that human numbers are a threat to the delicate balance and unity of all things. It is suggested that the earth can only sustain 4-16 billion depending on our consumption patterns - obviously meaning that for some intellectuals the earth is already overpopulated. Such people invariably do not see their own departure as part of the solution. Harold Dorn has put it: "There are two biological checks upon a rapid increase in numbers – a high mortality and a low fertility. Unlike other biological organisms [humans] can choose which of these checks shall be applied, but one of them must be." [2] In short, one way or another, the human population, only one minor part of the great cosmic chain of being, must be culled for the sake of nature’s well-being. As a result, abortion is now promoted as a matter of human rights and autonomous choice, and a responsible one at that, contributing to the well-being of the planet and preserving ‘freedom’ for the self-realizing new god – man himself. In such a world, the virgin birth is not a sign of hope, life and salvation, but a further harbinger of doom and an impediment to freedom.

(Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3)



Footnotes:

[1] Camille Paglia,"Fresh Blood for the Vampire," Salon, last modified September 10, 2008, http://www.salon.com/2008/09/10/palin_10/.
[2] Cited in Daniel C. Maguire, "Population, Religion and Ecology," in Roger S. Gottlieb (ed.), Religion and Ecology, (Oxford University Press: New York, 2006), 315. 
 

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