Is Complete Passivity Toward Issues (Such as Abortion) Sin?

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by psycheives, Aug 21, 2015.

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  1. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."

    View 1: Quotes like this seem to suggest that all humans who are able and aware are under a command of God to act in some way (even if it be as quick as re-Tweeting anti-abortion posts or praying) and that those who do not act in any way are guilty, responsible and in sin. In such a case, it seems that Christians who are completely passive would be considered to be "in sin" and possibly be subject to church discipline. By "Completely passive," I mean someone who doesn't pray, speak on the issue to others, retweet, etc. This view would say that Christians who are completely inactive are "part of the problem" and their inaction shows that they aren't actually anti-abortion because they don't put their "fingers/feet where their mouth is." Then you will eventually get into the gray area of how much action is required? Is simply spreading information enough?

    This view would hold the Germans who stood by and did nothing to stop the Nazi massacres were guilty of sin, as Bonhoeffer suggests above.

    This group might not judge individual Christians for lack of activity but say in general "Local Christians don't care about abortion" because only 10 out of 5,000 showed up to protest the local Planned Parenthood. They might say this in order to spur on renewed efforts to reach Christians with information but is this sort of dialogue ever harmful?

    I believe this view would fall along the lines of those who say Christians are under a moral responsibility to be politically involved in making changes for the good and to vote. I seem to recall our writings saying this somewhere? That Christians are obligated to be politically active/vote?

    View 2: Christians who believe complete passivity is not sin would contend that just their Christian lives are effecting a change in the world that subtly and indirectly influences others toward a better world. They may be completely inactive on the abortion issue but share the gospel with a neighbor who ends up being very active. This view would suggest there are way too many gray areas to declare complete inactivity a sin. The person may be busy elsewhere and just not very passionate about the issue. They may not feel like watching the 7 abortion views because of their grotesque nature. Or perhaps they are more passionate about missions and don't bother acting against abortion. Such a view seems to lead to many Christians who will be inactive in living out their faith in very tangible ways, saying, "I am anti-abortion, I just am busy, tired or don't care to act." Some might take this view to an extreme to say that Christians aren't obligated to protect the aborted babies. Or people living in other countries. Or in other states. Or in the next town. Or down the street. Or the house next door. Where do we draw lines considering the scriptures below?

    This view would hold the Germans who stood by and did nothing to stop the Nazi massacres were not in sin.

    Will you please consider these views and lay out your thoughts as to what is Biblical?

    Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11–12)

    "Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." Ps 82:4

    When the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it approved, because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to help him. Job 29:11-12

    So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. - Matthew 7:12

    Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. - Isaiah 1:17

    And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
  2. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    How in the world would any church judge whether someone prays, speaks, or 'retweets' about things. (I am not sure what 'retweet' means but it has something to do with social media, right?)
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I think Proverbs 24:12 can have an application to abortion:

    But I don't agree that churches ought to be in the business of hunting down and investigating all their church members for possible sins to prosecute by way of church discipline. Where would it stop?

    The primary discipline is through the teaching of the Word. Religious news agencies are rife with tales of abuse of church discipline. On some matters, God may judge, but the church may not be able to judge or enforce.
  4. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Church discipline is broader than church sanctions. In a sense all the members of a church are under church discipline all of the time.

    Excommunication (hopefully temporary) is not always immediately administered to scandalous sins - e.g. the "presumptuous sins" of the Old Testament that were dealt with by the judicial law - but is applied in the light of a lack of repentance. See Matthew 18.

    Church members should be encouraged to contribute financially - maybe the congregation herself regularly gives some of the tithes and offerings to an anti-abortion charity(?) - and pray regarding anti-abortion work, as well as other work, but not everyone is called by God to be directly involved.

    I think, in the light of the OT judicial law and the NT, church sanctions e.g. taking away the Lord's Supper from a church member for six months, a year, or longer, should be reserved for the grossest breaches of each of the Ten Commandments. In some other cases the minister or the session can speak privately with the individual.

    In the case of the Sixth Commandment that would include murder, assault, persistently badmouthing and backbiting fellow believers, etc.

    Not picketing an abortion clinic is at best a sin of omission (i.e. passive) and is not even that if it is not what God has given you to do.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
  5. R Harris

    R Harris Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think the real concern is whether teaching or ruling elders are actively teaching that believers do not "have" to be involved in social or political issues. If the church is in a presbytery, the presbytery can and should take action. Unfortunately, in broad evangelical land, presbyterianism is held in contempt, so no action can really be taken against these men and churches - at least, humanly speaking. GOD can certainly take action, either now or in the next life.

    Let's face it - abortion has and always will be a POLITICAL matter. When courts and legislatures allow the practice, no legal force can therefore stop it.

    So, going after elders, pastors, and other assorted Christian leaders over the past 40 years who have said "stay out of politics", for either eschatological or non-eschatological reasons, would produce a very long list.

    The fruits of Christianity not having a full orbed Reformed world and life view over the past 150+ years should be beyond evident to anyone even contemplating the state of current affairs.
  6. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    Brothers, thank you for your input. I really want to focus the discussion on what is moral. What is right behavior for a Christian? What is sin? How can we rightly understand these Biblical verses as they relate to abortion and political inactivity? In Bonhoeffer right or wrong?

    Can we please for the most part, avoid the topic of church discipline and gray areas? Keeping in mind that agreeing with View 1 that this might happen, but I don't want this to be a discussion of how ministers should be careful in how they exercise discipline. I want to know what is the proper Biblical application about protecting the defenseless and if and when and how inactivity would be considered sinful. Thanks! :)

    I appreciate Randy's comment "whether teaching or ruling elders are actively teaching that believers do not "have" to be involved in social or political issues." This is very key to the question. I've been hearing a lot of people say "Christians are under no obligation to live out their Christian morals in a political way" and by "a political way" they seem to really mean "in any way" with regard to so-and-so topic (abortion). They declare that they have no obligation to "act in an anti-abortion manner." Is this Biblical? Does this violate our commands to protect the defenseless or to love our neighbors as ourselves?
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I believe we must be political, because, at the root of politics, is worldview.
  8. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    When you say "must" do you mean "should" or "must or it can be sin"? Would you agree with Bonhoeffer? "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." Is it evil not to speak and act?
  9. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior


    Let me ask you this: Is supporting same-sex mirage something Christians should do? If so, why? If not why? Is same-sex mirage in itself evil? If not, why does God require death for such a thing (Lev. 18:21)?

    I think we have to look at what Paul states in Romans 1:
    To answer your question bluntly, yes. If you say nothing, you are participating in sin. I think the issue is multi-faceted but this could go on for days. When one knows "the ordinance of God" and says nothing they are giving "hearty approval" to their evil practices. We are light and salt.
  10. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't believe it's sin not to be actively involved in the anti-abortion movement, anymore than it's sin not to belong to the Lord's Day Observance Society, but it will be the calling of some/many Christians.

    In our own place and calling and way, we will give prayerful, verbal and financial support to things such as the Society for the Proection of the Unborn Child and pro-life generally, and also re the Lord's Day and many other flagrant societal sins.

    The nature of a positive command is that we can't always be fulfilling it, and God doesn't expect us to. E.g. while I'm worshipping God in a service of worship, he doesn't expect me to give alms to the poor.
  11. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior


    I think the nature of the question is in regards to "doing" anything against such evils, e.g. giving of time, money, or resources. Not everyone is called to stand outside of planned parenthood and protest those places. However, everyone is commanded to oppose such evils because they are against the very Nature of God. When God says "Thou shall not commit adultery" do you think that only Israel is commanded to NOT commit adultery? Or if God says that homosexuality is evil and should not be done, was Israel the only one commanded to not do such a thing? If so, then why did God punish gentile Sodom?

    If you saw a man come up to a young child, pull out a gun, and shoot this young child in the head would you not call the police or even try to stop this man from killing more children? Why would you be active? If not would you walk away?
  12. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I agree that the Church collectively should be active in speaking out against and opposing societal evils, but individual Christians according to their place and calling and gifts will have different roles to play in that.

    Sent from my HTC Wildfire using Tapatalk 2
  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, I believe to be silent in the face of evil is evil. Not to act is to act. It is a sin of omission.

    While every Christian need not do everything to address every evil, all of us can do something towards some of the evils. We could certainly do more than we are, now, presently doing towards abortion.
  14. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    It seems that the issue is not so much, "Should we do something?" but rather, "What should we do?". I honestly do not believe that absolute passivity can be defended from Scripture, nor do I think that anyone here would promote absolute passivity. Most of us would agree that if we were to see someone get raped, murdered, or robbed, and we did nothing to help our neighbor, then we would be culpable in some way. So with that said, the question now is: Do we call the cops (slightly more passive) or do we charge in and tackle the criminal (slightly more active)? A lot of variables would go into whether we call for help or be the one to take out the bad guys.

    In the case of abortion, since it is, by definition, murder, then it would seem that Christians do need to respond to it. This does not mean that every Christian is called to setup camp around every planned parenthood clinic and try to intercept every woman who walks in. Yet one example where a person could be more "active" is if they actually know someone who is thinking of having an abortion. In that case, an "intervention" would seem to be an appropriate course of action. Being "less active" might involve simply standing for truth and morality in those discussions at the family get-together, or in the work place. Another option might be writing letters to those government representatives above us, calling them to action in defense of those who cannot defend themselves.

    Regardless, it would seem that the Church, as a whole, and believers, as individuals, need to be active against wickedness in the surrounding culture (we are to be salt and light). How that plays out, or manifests itself, will be different for each believer based on the situation that the Lord puts them in and calls them to.
  15. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    There are evils we condemn as evils but are powerless to restrain or remove. Besides the inward suffering that entails, there is often a social stigma associated with standing morally removed from the society at large. I would not call this "complete passivity" or "evil." What is said of Lot? "For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds."
  16. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    If the Christian has their choice to just pray about these matters instead of tweeting or FB'ing or picketing, then I believe every Christian prays for God's kingdom to come (regeneration and sanctification and in the end his return)in order to obviate such sins which in essence is conforming to the first point making it a mute matter.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2015
  17. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    Why are we powerless? I would disagree with this. We are only powerless in that as a church we aren't doing anything about social issues because the mindset IS that we CAN'T do anything. I would not only suggest that we are commanded to cry out against these evils but to take action.
  18. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior


    I appreciate your point and will take it to mean that we ought to do what is reasonably within our power to do to address such evils, though even then every Christian is not obliged to address such evils in the same way.

    Otherwise, I think that this thread has come to a more fruitful place in the more recent posts, the ones by Eric, Matthew and Sarah. With respect to Sarah's comment, prayer is the first order of business in this matter. I take Matthew to mean that neither single Christians nor Christians acting in the aggregate can bring an end to all evils. I don't think that such a recognition necessarily entails passivity but the truth that in this age we will suffer tribulation and as American evangelical as it might be, we cannot simply "act" and eliminate all evils, though this does not mean that we should merely passively resign ourselves to such (Scripture and Confession would call us to do what is within our power to do, in our lives and those around us as we have power to impact them, e.g., inferiors).

    Eric seems to urge that we take a reasonable path with respect to all of this. As he said, the question is what to do and there is not only Christian liberty with respect to this but the need to recall that we are not to judge one another as if we were each other's master. No, Romans 14:1-12 makes it quite clear that we all are servant of One Master to Whom we answer and before Whom we shall all give account.

  19. zsmcd

    zsmcd Puritan Board Freshman

    On the contrary, I would argue (and I think Bonhoeffer would do the same) that tweeting and praying are not the fullness of the Christian response to injustice. Tweeting is not action, most of the time it is just a means for us to vent. Prayer is by far the most powerful tool in the world; for who is like our God that we could ask for help? However, in the same way that “faith without works is dead” I think the person who thinks they have fulfilled their duty to love their neighbor by simply ‘blessing’ the poor and praying for babies being led to the slaughter, is entirely confused. Indeed, we should pray, we should pray a lot and we should pray confidently knowing that God is mighty, but tweeting and praying are not the fullness of what it means to love your neighbor and the least of these.
    I’m not arguing that every Christian should do x,y, and z. I am just saying that I don’t think we can truly believe that we have obeyed the second greatest commandment if all we do is pray, tweet, and complain to our neighbors. Think about the local churches in Nazi Germany. Consider what it would have meant to be a faithful Christian in that country during that time of enormous injustice. Would it have simply been to complain to our other Christian neighbors, pray, and carry on with our day? Or would it have looked more like calling the government to repent, helping to protect those suffering by any means able, and praying harder and harder all the while?
    Also, being “politically” active and voting is great. But again, I don’t think this is what it looks like to love your neighbor in a city that murders 50 children a week under the protection of the law.
    To be blunt, I genuinely believe that in regards to abortion, even most Christians have dehumanized the unborn. Here is why I believe this. I honestly believe that if instead of the unborn, 50 toddlers a week were being butchered in medical clinics in our cities than a lot more Christians would feel ‘called’ to stop it. Instead of hundreds gathering once a year to protest abortion clinics, I believe hundreds would be gathered weekly if not daily to preach the Gospel and offer help to raise children. I sincerely believe our response would be different. I sincerely believe that even most Christians (including myself at times) dehumanize the unborn and don’t take what is going on seriously.

    I don’t think this is a question of which view is better. I think we are called to obey the great commission by 1. Preaching the Gospel (at home, at work, at abortion clinics, at Walmart, at high schools, everywhere), because only the Gospel can change the hearts of men and women who desire to murder children. 2. Obeying all that Jesus commanded, which includes loving our neighbor as ourselves and being reminded that whatever we do for the least of these we do for Jesus. Of course this looks different for everyone, we all have different gifts, however in a country that has murdered close to 70 million children, I don’t think we can find an excuse to do nothing more than press retweet. Preach the Gospel and love the unborn.
  20. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Millions of believers worldwide are not powerless.
  21. zsmcd

    zsmcd Puritan Board Freshman

  22. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Replace "believers" with "workers." Lifted right out of the Marxist playbook.

    Millions always need the focused leadership of a few, the passionately motivated ideologues, the cadre elites.

    Do we need to "get organized" into our political armies, and get our Christian policies enacted? Do we really trust any man or group of men to know just how to maneuver the levers of social institution for "the good of all" (so altruistic they are!)? It would take the mind of God...

    Does nature obey God? Are his laws still in effect? Can we patiently trust non-directed (by man) forces, and the salt-like presence of the church to do an invisible work that, in the end, is vastly more effectual than any of our proud towers?

    Does answering the above questions with "yes" mean that no one should or may do anything now? No, but it also means that we will be doing a LOT of things unorganized, and leaving the results to Christ the Overseer. And we shouldn't castigate our fellow believers for not joining voluntarily our chosen venture, or blaming its failure on their lack of faith.

    Promoters of "truth" seldom find themselves at fault for lacking persuasive power to gain adherents to their "movement."

    Prayer, despite all that is said disparagingly about it--even by those who should know better--is the mightiest tool in the box.
  23. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    OUTSTANDING post, Zach. Thank you for this edifying message and for calling us to more than prayers and retweets! I did put "prayer and tweeting" as the minimum time-taking exercise that can be exerted because this can count as spreading the message, informing others and organizing protests but I fully agree with you that "I don’t think we can truly believe that we have obeyed the second greatest commandment if all we do is pray, tweet, and complain to our neighbors." We are so lazy and selfish that we want to settle for the least we can do to obey God's commands to protect the defenseless. This should not be our attitude.

    And I think you nailed it right here: "I honestly believe that if instead of the unborn, 50 toddlers a week were being butchered in medical clinics in our cities than a lot more Christians would feel ‘called’ to stop it. Instead of hundreds gathering once a year to protest abortion clinics, I believe hundreds would be gathered weekly if not daily to preach the Gospel and offer help to raise children." In America, we have millions of professing Christians but only a very small minority are involved in actively fighting abortion. This is pathetic and I think it goes to show that we (in general) do not really care all that much that millions of babies are being killed. Pro-abortionists are constantly arguing that we are hypocritical pro-lifers because we want them to have the children and put them up for adoption rather than kill them, but we won't provide for these needy unwanted children who are being put up for adoption by adopting them! They have a point.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2015
  24. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree and recognize my own sinfulness in my attitude of "indifference." I have always been anti-abortion in my head. But since I'm not a mother and I'm not "a baby person" and I didn't visually see what was going on, I could be indifferent. I had even previously forced myself to watch abortion videos where the babies were torn apart and still I never acted. UGGHHH!!! The sinfulness within me. :( How could I be so "dead" and "indifferent?" Now, finally, after watching the 8 videos, I have begun to feel something and act. But I do still feel that lazy selfishness that just wants to be indifferent at the door, always trying to creep in. And so I force myself to watch the next video, so that I won't be "indifferent." I realize that there are serious gray areas everywhere on this topic but I do believe our indifference is sin and even if we don't go to the next protest, we must at least acknowledge this and pray about it.
  25. zsmcd

    zsmcd Puritan Board Freshman

    Agreed, and I don't think our churches need to become places of legalism nor do I believe every Christian is called to sell all of their possessions and give to the poor. But if we would consider the amount of money we spend on worthless pleasures and think of the number of diapers we could give to a woman to help her raise her baby... or time we spend watching television that could be used to help an abortive minded father find a job when he repents, believes the Gospel, and decides to love his child.

    Also, I am all about adoption. My wife and I plan to adopt ourselves. But I think we have also hurt our witness by automatically resorting to the idea of adoption when we witness abortive men and women. I think as Christians we have so much more to offer. We have the Gospel! We have the good news that these men and women can be reconciled to God AND raise their children faithfully, and the local church is the perfect place to disciple a man and woman in godly parenthood. I think we need people to adopt but I also think we need to preach the Gospel and make disciples of these folks who are abortive minded. The Gospel has the power to the change the heart of a man or woman who wants to kill their child and make them desire to love their child instead, and we should encourage that even more than we encourage putting children into the adoption system.

    I think that is what it means to love your neighbor.
  26. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    Quite right, Bruce!

    And to imagine that prayer is any sense passive is utterly to mistake its true nature.

    Prayer, offered in the Spirit and in the name of Christ, is anything but passive and is the basis for all true Christian action of any sort, which must be done in a resting mode: we must, in all that we think, say, and do, rest and trust in Christ alone and that is done only in and by an active prayer life.

    The notion that true biblical prayer would even be inadvertently disparaged on this Board is most lamentable to me.

  27. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree that no organized political effort would ever solve such spiritual conflict..... I do believe now is a good time to stand taller than we have however.... Evidences of evil abounds, we should be speaking louder, not retreating..... But the greatest thing we can do is pray and repent on behalf of our nation and our world
  28. AJ Castellitto

    AJ Castellitto Puritan Board Freshman

    I do think this nation needs more reformed doctrine.... I fear the reformed have too often been banished to the Christian fringes
  29. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Prayer is good. But there is additional action required by the church as well...per Matthew 28. We need not replace believers with workers or make these statements sound Marxist. The Church was given a mission beyond merely praying.
  30. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    Christ is not powerless. This was my point.

    I think it is sad that the "we are exiles" mentality has made it to the forefront of theological thought. Instead, we should listen to the voice of our redeemer:

    If we confess that Christ is King and that He has all authority in heaven and on earth, then the only conclusion is that we as Christians do not really believe that He has All authority. If Christ has defeated Satan; If He has given us boundless advancement for the spread of His kingdom; then what is the issue? We in ourselves are powerless but this is why Christ is King and not us. It is His Gospel, by the power of His Spirit, that will go forth and thus our prayers will truly reflect His when we pray "Thy Kingdom come, on earth.... as it is in heaven".

    Maybe I'm too optimistic.

    Dr. Strange,

    Thank you for your reply. I do think what we should do is reasonable i.e. Proclaim the Gospel. Christ will advance His kingdom, with His sword and strike down the nations. This world can only be transformed through the proclamation of Christ! Then again... I'm postmil.. :p
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