Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reasoned Pro-Life Apologetics Meets Raving Atheist

I think it is unfortunate that many well-meaning pro-lifers defend their position by leading with the Bible. They attempt to ground their view in the authority of the Bible and expect their opponents to respect that authority because it is the Word of God. While I share their high view of Scripture and its unarguable support for all things pro-life, there are a couple tactical problems with this approach. For one, the Bible doesn't have much to say about the particulars of abortion itself. Though this "silence" in no way equals consent, it becomes difficult to make the case when you are left having to defend what opponents might call "tangential" evidence that the Bible finds the act of abortion deplorable. You end up in a debate about biblical inerrancy, or the proper translation of some specific word, or the cultural context of a passage -- instead of defending the plain facts about the unborn's value as a full-fledged member of the human family.

Secondly, and for more tactically important reasons, most of those who would justify abortion couldn't really care less what the Bible says about anything anyway. They dismiss your argument with the wave of a hand and avoid even engaging it because they categorize your position as just another religious claim that has no bearing on reality.

For these reasons it is tactically advisable to first ask the question -- "What is the unborn?" -- and then offer scientific, philosophical and moral reasoning to answer it. That is what we do at LTI and that is why we do it.

But beyond the obvious obligation we have as thinking human beings to clarify the status, and defend the value, of innocent, unborn human life, engaging in the pro-life project is also a way to make the case for the truth of Christianity in general. It stands to reason that if the scientific, philosophical, and moral arguments we offer in defense of the humanity of the unborn also happen to align exactly with the biblical notion of what it means to be a human being made "in the image of God," then the Bible might also have something to say about other things of importance.

This is a point Scott Klusendorf makes repeatedly but it was recently driven home in a very concrete way by, of all people, a hard core atheist in the most recent issue of Salvo magazine. A secular skeptic, law school professor, renowned blogger, and mocker of deluded "Godiots," the "Raving Atheist" attended a blogger party where he serendipitously sat next to a Catholic blogger named Benjamin. As the "Raving Atheist" explains:
At one point the conversation turned to abortion, and I asked Benjamin's opinion of the practice. I was stunned. Here was a kind, affable, and cogently reasonable human being who nonetheless believed that abortion was murder. To the limited extent I had previously considered the issue, I believed abortion to be completely acceptable, the mere disposal of a lump of cells, perhaps akin to clipping fingernails.
This unsettling exchange spurred me to further investigate the issue on Benjamin's blog. I noticed that pro-choice Christians did not employ scientific or rational arguments but relied on a confused set of "spiritual" platitudes. More significantly, the pro-choice atheistic blogosphere also fell short in its analysis of abortion. The supposedly "reality-based" community either dismissed abortion as a "religious issue" or paradoxically claimed that pro-life principles were contrary to religious doctrine. Having formerly equated atheism with reason, I was slowly growing uncertain of the value of godlessness in the search for truth.
Though the "Raving Atheist" continued to rave, there was now a stone in his God-rejecting shoe, placed there by a reasoned defense of the pro-life view. He couldn't disconnect himself from it and later admitted that the "selfless dedication [of pro-life advocates] to their cause moved [him] deeply." Later, he met a woman named Ashli whose work in pregnancy care drew him to further consider the pro-life position. Soon thereafter, the "Raving Atheist" became, in part, a pro-life blogsite ...
[This] stirred an angry mutiny among my readers. But I had become convinced that the secular world had it wrong on the very foundational issue of life ... The tangible expression of pro-life work was life itself. It was becoming clear to me that people who lived out their Christian faith were happier and better people as a result ... In June 2006 I saw [a] woman's sonogram ripen into a baby. In honor of Ashli's efforts, I vowed that the birth of the child would be the death of atheism on my blog. Late that month I announced that I would no longer mock God on my site.
And the rest, as they say, is history. The hard-core atheist became open to considering theism because of his encounters with reasoned pro-life thought. Today he is a Christian theist.

To be sure, there were other factors that contributed to the "Raving Atheist's" conversion but the simple fact remains that it was the cogency of the Case For Life and the concrete reality of the injustice of abortion that led him to doubt his atheism and consider a worldview that offered a better explanation for the world as we know and experience it.


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For those who are interested in an eclectic approach to a defense of the Christian worldview that is far from the usual dry, stodgy material most people associate with topics like philosophy and Christian apologetics, I would highly recommend at least checking out an issue of Salvo -- a magazine produced by The Fellowship of St. James, which also publishes Touchstone. For what it's worth, I subscribe to both magazines and read every issue cover-to-cover. Salvo is targeted for a younger, more culturally connected audience. It is very well-written and often very, very clever.