A Comprehensive Analysis of Incrementalism or Gradualism vs. Immediatism
One of the five tenets of abolitionists is that abortion abolition ought to be immediate. We call for the immediate abolition of human abortion. The reason this is one of the tenets is because there is a contrast between this position and the efforts of the pro-life movement over the last 42 years.
Over 42 years, the pro-life movement has attempted, through legislation, not in one fell swoop to abolish all human abortion, but rather to nibble away at the edges of the culturally accepted practice of abortion. Examples include making abortion clinics more regulated, under the assumption that some abortion clinics will not be able to comply with the regulations, and so instead will close, and another example is to ban abortions of babies who feel pain. As defined by the pain bills proposed and passed in some states, abortions on babies that are past 22 weeks of a traditionally measured pregnancy would be banned.
This legislative approach of the pro-life movement can be termed incrementalism or gradualism, since the idea is that abortion needs to be banished in incremental steps or gradually. We are certain there are a number of pro-lifers who would love to ban all abortion immediately but embrace incrementalism because they reason that since there is so much support for abortion, it will not be possible legislatively to ban it outright in one fell swoop.
On the surface, to many, an incremental approach seems reasonable, especially if they consider that at the outset abortion is decriminalized and allowed in the land, and so if they can implement some restrictive measures, they will effectively ban some abortions, and presumably some babies lives will be saved. And saving a life is a good thing. But, in this article, we are going to argue against incrementalism and for immediatism as the only moral and Biblical option.
Before we proceed, let’s briefly examine the question of the legality of abortion. The definition of legal is “appointed, established, or authorized by law; deriving authority from law”. A good article on the legality of abortion can be read here. Since law actually derives from God’s standard alone, abortion is not technically “legal”, but it has been decriminalized. The efforts of the pro-life movement have been to re-criminalize abortion incrementally.
It is worth looking at another abolitionist movement in history where the very ideas of this Immediatism versus Incrementalism debate took place, but on another subject.
Incrementalism versus Immediatism in the Emancipation of Black Slaves
An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, passed by the Pennsylvania legislature on March 1, 1780, was the first attempt by a government in the Western Hemisphere to begin an abolition of slavery. The Act prohibited further importation of slaves into the state, required Pennsylvania slaveholders to annually register their slaves (with forfeiture for noncompliance, and manumission for the enslaved), and established that all children born in Pennsylvania were free persons regardless of the condition or race of their parents. Those enslaved in Pennsylvania before the 1780 law went into effect remained enslaved for life. Another act of the Pennsylvania legislature freed them in 1847. (Source: Boundless. “From Gradualism to Abolition.” Boundless U.S. History.)
Pennsylvania’s gradual abolition became a model for other state legislatures to free slaves. In Pennsylvania’s legislative act, there are curbs put in place against slavery, but there is not an immediate emancipation of all slaves. In the late 1700’s to early 1800’s, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey all took similar steps to the gradual abolition of slavery. In fact, they more liberally did so, their laws freeing children of slaves at birth and all slaves at some future date. New Jersey’s law of 1804 freed children of slaves at birth, but all slaves at the time of the law’s enactment would remain slaves for life.
Incrementalism not only took place within Northern states but also represented the majority of the movement of Northern antislavery forces against slavery in the south. The main ideas put forth were for gradual and compensated emancipation of southern slaves. The efforts of these moderate anti-slavery forces can be summarized as attempting to limit the spread of slavery (the extension of slavery, especially into new states and American territories) and to reform the institution of slavery.
Some of the well-known adherents to the gradual reform of slavery were Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant. There was even a significant anti-slavery society called the American Colonization Society that proposed emancipating and then exporting freed slaves to a new colony in Liberia, even though most of the slaves had no origins in Liberia. This colonization was a pragmatic measure aimed to export the problem of suddenly having millions of black freed persons in this country who were unaccustomed to freedom.
Another driver of an incremental approach to the abolition of slavery was the economic impact emancipation was anticipated to have. The south dominated the cotton industry, and at the time, cultivation of cotton was a labor intensive process. The black slaves were the cheap labor that drove the significant southern economic engine. If they were suddenly freed based on human rights necessity, there was great fear about how that could wreck the southern economy.
Mainly in the 1820’s, there arose a more radical approach to slavery of the immediatists. Immediatists tended to call slavery sin and to be concerned not only about the institution of slavery but also for black civil rights. In fact, as late as the 1960’s and 1970’s, scholars finally decided on the definition of an abolitionist as being a person whose opposition to slavery was based on moral principles, who advocated for the immediate emancipation of slaves and for equal rights of freed persons, and who opposed colonization of freed persons outside of the borders of the United States. Historians have now narrowly defined abolitionists as those persons who were members of abolitionist societies, religious and political organizations who were dedicated to immediate emancipation and equal rights.
One of immediatism’s best known spokespersons was William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison, in a speech given on July 4, 1829 actually advocated for the GRADUAL abolition of slavery by saying “If it be still objected, that it would be dangerous to liberate the present race of blacks; I answer—the emancipation of all the slaves of this generation is most assuredly out of the question. The fabric, which now towers above the Alps, must be taken away brick by brick, and foot by foot, till it is reduced so low that it may be overturned without burying the nation in its ruins. Years may elapse before the completion of the achievement; generations of blacks may go down to the grave, manacled and lacerated, without a hope for their children; the philanthropists who are now pleading in behalf of the oppressed, may not live to witness the dawn which will precede the glorious day of universal emancipation; but the work will go on—laborers in the cause will multiply—new resources will be discovered—the victory will be obtained, worth the desperate struggle of a thousand years.”
This was in the same speech in which Garrison declared rightly “Sirs, I am not come to tell you that slavery is a curse, debasing in its effect, cruel in its operation, fatal in its continuance. The day and the occasion require no such revelation. I do not claim the discovery as my own, that ‘all men are born equal,’ and that among their inalienable rights are ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Were I addressing any other than a free and Christian assembly, the enforcement of this truth might be pertinent. Neither do I intend to analyze the horrors of slavery for your inspection, nor to freeze your blood with authentic recitals of savage cruelty. Nor will time allow me to explore even a furlong of that immense wilderness of suffering which remains unsubdued in our land. I take it for granted that the existence of these evils is acknowledged, if not rightly understood. My object is to define and enforce our duty, as Christians and Philanthropists.”
He continued in the same speech “Suppose that, by a miracle, the slaves should suddenly become white. Would you shut your eyes upon their sufferings, and calmly talk of Constitutional limitations? No; your voice would peal in the ears of the taskmasters like deep thunder; you would carry the Constitution by force, if it could not be taken by treaty; patriotic assemblies would congregate at the corners of every street; the old Cradle of Liberty would rock to a deeper tone than ever echoed therein at British aggression; the pulpit would acquire new and unusual eloquence from our holy religion. The argument, that these white slaves are degraded, would not then obtain. You would say, it is enough that they are white, and in bondage, and they ought immediately to be set free.”
These last comments sound immediatist, whereas the former “brick by brick” comment was gradualist. Garrison would go on speedily to REPENT of his gradualism, as by the first publication of his newspaper, The Liberator, on January 1, 1831, he wrote “Assenting to the ‘self evident truth’ maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, ‘that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In Park Street Church on the fourth of July, 1829, in an address on slavery, I unreflectingly assented to the popular but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this opportunity to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice and absurdity.”
The Abolition of Human Abortion and Immediatism versus Incrementalism
Let’s now return to the present subject of human abortion and let us set forth to demonstrate the past course of the pro-life movement to attempt to resolve human abortion. We will use as the standard by which to define righteousness, the Holy Bible.
First, presently 80% of Americans support decriminalized abortion for the cases of rape, incest and the life and health of the mother. Fully 61% of Americans support decriminalized abortion for any cause in the first trimester. Whereas, that support drops to 27% in the second trimester and only 14% in the third trimester. Americans’ opinions about decriminalization do not correlate to their opinion on the morality of abortion as 48% think abortion is morally wrong. It should be here noted that this has been the case since the advent of the Roe v. Wade opinion, and continues even now.
Clearly, these results from Gallup teach us that the American people are ageist – that is that they do not view as fully human, babies in the womb in the first trimester. As well, considering 80% support for decriminalized abortion access for cases of rape and incest and life and health of the mother, they devalue the life of the baby in relation to the mother’s circumstances. So, in order to abolish all human abortion, there appears to be a mountain of ice to melt and a massive hill to climb.
This is why the incremental strategy has been pursued for 42 years. Looking at these numbers, it would appear that legislation crafted to abolish human abortion in the third trimester, allowing for exceptions for rape and incest and life and health of the mother, may be politically attainable. Those wishing to gain a political victory and consider that victory establishes momentum, might consider legislation like that a viable strategy. The argument would then continue that after we have “saved some babies”, we can attempt to move the bar, say to the second trimester, moving eventually toward total abortion abolition.
Statistics on Abortion in America
21% of all pregnancies are terminated by abortion. In their reproductive years through age 45, 30% of American women will get an abortion. There are about 1.1 million abortions per year, and 89% of them happen in the first trimester of a pregnancy. 1.4% happen after 21 weeks gestation. Abortions because of rape account for only 0.3% of abortions, while incest cases account for 0.03% and life and health of the mother causation is less than 1% of total abortions. Fully 98% of abortions are for socio-economic and other, elective reasons. Abortions by medication now comprise at least 36% of abortions versus abortions by surgical method. This number is increasing rapidly.
After all of that data, we as Christians always must believe that every baby conceived in the fallopian tube, a petri dish or in the womb is fully human and is made in the image of God and has a human spirit dwelling in the body, regardless of how small the body. We get this primarily from two points in scripture. James 2:26 confirms that if a body is alive, that a spirit dwells in the body, and Luke 1 shows that the baby Jesus, when only a few days from conception, was fully Jesus in the fallopian tube or womb of Mary.
So, to abort a baby, regardless of reason, is a human rights violation and a violation of the laws of God. It violates the 6th commandment of God and Genesis 9:6 and sheds innocent blood, and it violates the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as documented in the Declaration of Independence.
So, now, let’s examine some of the incremental approaches to abortion and examine them against scripture to determine if they are acceptable for the Christian or not. Are they sin?
Pain Capable Bills
A common strategy of the pro-life movement in recent years are bills introduced to state legislatures that aim to make abortion a criminal act if the abortion occurs after the baby is capable of feeling pain. Anytime a Christian considers whether or not they should support a bill, that Christian should it in light of scripture. This is the first step, examining the text of a legislative bill and holding it up to the light of scripture. We will begin with House Bill 2, introduced to the Texas legislature in 2013 and passed on July 18, 2013. This bill was hailed as a legislative success by pro-life incrementalists. It includes the following text that was codified into law:
- An Act relating to the regulation of abortion procedures, providers, and facilities; providing penalties.BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:(3) the compelling state interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that an unborn child is capable of feeling pain is intended to be separate from and independent of the compelling state interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage of viability, and neither state interest is intended to replace the other; and
SECTION 2. Subchapter A, Chapter 171, Health and Safety Code, is amended by adding Section 171.0031 to read as follows:
Sec. 171.0031. REQUIREMENTS OF PHYSICIAN; OFFENSE. (a) A physician performing or inducing an abortion: (1) must, on the date the abortion is performed or induced, have active admitting privileges at a hospital that: (A) is located not further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced; and (B) provides obstetrical or gynecological health care services; and (2) shall provide the pregnant woman with: (A) a telephone number by which the pregnant woman may reach the physician
Let’s examine the above against scripture. Remembering our statistics, even though this bill is called a 20 week bill, it is actually 20 weeks from fertilization, or 22 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period. That means it seeks to protect less than 1% of abortion occurrences if we recall that 1.4% of current abortions are obtained after 21 weeks gestation. The Texas legislature sets out to protect from abortion those babies that feel pain. However, it includes in the text noted above other requirements, namely that a physician who performs an abortion before 22 weeks must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the location of the abortion and must provide the aborting mother with his phone number.
This language amounts to an affirmative declaration that a physician may kill the baby as long as he meets these conditions. Remember, God’s law states that no human may kill another human. So, categorically this bill text would be considered unrighteous by a Holy God. The bill text further declares that:
- (c) The prohibitions and requirements under Sections 171.043, 171.044, and 171.045(b) do not apply to an abortion performed on an unborn child who has a severe fetal abnormality.
Severe fetal abnormality is then defined by section 285.202: (a-1) In Subsection (a), a “severe fetal abnormality” means a life threatening physical condition that, in reasonable medical judgment, regardless of the provision of life saving medical treatment, is incompatible with life outside the womb.
We believe two scriptures that are highly relevant to examining this particular incremental legislation are Isaiah 10:1-2 – Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; 2 to turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!
Another relevant scripture would be Psalm 94:20-21 – Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law? 21 They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood.
These two scriptures suggest that framing laws that are unrighteous is unrighteousness. The woe is to them that decree unrighteous decrees. The framing of mischief by law in Psalm 94 specifically addresses condemning innocent blood. Is it not condemnation of innocent blood to frame a law like Texas HB2 that declares that a baby MAY be killed as long as a physician has hospital admitting privileges within a certain distance? It also affirmatively declares that a baby may be killed if it has a ‘severe fetal abnormality’. We don’t find this exclusion in the 6th commandment. Therefore, on its face HB2 appears to be an unrighteous decree, and scripture condemns supporting it.
Let’s examine another example of an incrementalist bill of the last several years. HB36, the national Pain Capable Bill was introduced to the US Congress in January 2015. A portion of the text of the bill is as follows:
- 114 TH CONGRESS 1ST SESSIONH. R. 36 To amend title 18, United States Code, to protect pain-capable unborn children, and for other purposes.IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES JANUARY 6, 2015
Mr. FRANKS of Arizona (for himself and Mrs. BLACKBURN ) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
A BILL To amend title 18, United States Code, to protect pain- capable unborn children, and for other purposes. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled § 1532. Pain-capable unborn child protection
- (a) UNLAWFUL CONDUCT.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, it shall be unlawful for any person to perform an abortion or attempt to do so, unless in conformity with the requirements set forth in subsection (b).(b) REQUIREMENTS FOR ABORTIONS.—(B) Subject to subparagraph (C), subparagraph (A) does not apply if— (ii) the pregnancy is the result of rape, or the result of incest against a minor, if the rape has been reported at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency, or if the incest against a minor has been reported at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency or to a government agency legally authorized to act on reports of child abuse or neglect.
A righteous decree would state that all humans are made in the image of God, and to kill any of them at any time is murder. The decree doesn’t have to mention the image of God, but the murder standard should be present. This H.R.36 bill includes the language of sin when it includes exceptions for rape and incest. Babies conceived in rape and incest are still made in the image of God, and the baby should not have to pay for the crimes of the father. On the face, the text of H.R.36 violates the 6th commandment but also the scriptures of Psalm 94 and Isaiah 10 against making unrighteous decrees.
Other Arguments against Incrementalism
Now, granted, immediatists also argue against bills like HB2 for other moral reasons. Ask yourself, in a culture that consists of less than 9% of Americans having a biblical worldview, and with Jesus declaring that only few find the strait gate and the narrow way that leads to life, shouldn’t born again Christians have mercy on the unsaved and not alter the law of God for the unsaved, since it is His law that acts as a schoolmaster that leads the unsaved to Christ?
Much evidence confirms that in the absence of biblical teaching, the unsaved derive their morality from the culture and from law. When God’s elect choose to hold to a lesser standard of His law, they are dulling the power of the moral law over the lost. The righteous standard that thou shall not kill in any circumstance is powerful salt and light to the unconverted. It is a strong black and white message as to the value of human life. It is declared in the Holy Scripture. If God’s people undermine that standard with a lesser standard codified into law, that only those who feel pain should be protected, or that as long as a licensed physician is doing the killing, then all is well, we are dulling the sharpness of God’s law. We are no longer presenting a gold standard of righteousness to the world, but we have now brought our bronze, iron, or plastic standard. Not a standard founded on the rock of Christ, but rather a pragmatic standard founded on the wisdom of man.
These legislative efforts are sin because they lack faith that God can accomplish the impossible through the faithful. When David faced Goliath, even the King’s armorer suggested the pragmatic approach would be to better equip David with the world’s weaponry. When David declined and opted instead for faith, he gained a great victory that gave all of the glory to God.
In Romans, the Bible confirms that whatever is not of faith is SIN (Romans 14:23). It also declares that believers are not to be conformed to the world (and its ways), but are to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2). We are to renew our minds in the Word of God. Jesus declared that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, they are spiritual. And that with them we would cast down strong holds. In Hebrews 11:33-34, it is affirmed that against long odds, those who walked by faith “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”
Immediatism is bold to declare that all human beings are made in the image of God, and as such, they may never be murdered. The incrementalists will argue that when abolitionists reject the above cited bills, that we are allowing the destruction of babies that would be otherwise saved by the bills. Now, statistically, none of these bills even targeted more than 1.4% of abortion victims for salvation. And worse, there are two easy work arounds that may mean no baby gets saved – 1) The mother could kill her baby before 22 weeks gestation. That is a lot of time in which to secure an abortion, especially when one is readily available at the local Wal Mart or Kroger for less than $50. 2) The abortionist could lie about the gestational age. We hate to break the news – but it seems a small step for a murderer to also lie. Their consciences are already seared enough to murder FOR A LIVING. What harm is there in a lie? Also, lest we point out the obvious – who is going to enforce these bills and make sure no baby being murdered exceeds the outlawed gestational age? Was there a proposal to add a large state or federal government enforcement agency to autopsy every aborted baby and confirm gestational age?
Regardless, the Christian’s conscience is subject to God, and on the face, a Christian should not support these bills because of the authorization TO MURDER if certain conditions are met. In the case of HB2, affirmative authorization was made to murder if the murdering physician met certain conditions. In the case of H.R.36, authorization to murder was made in the cases of rape and incest. That text alone made the bill unrighteous, besides the obvious fact that any bill that sets about to regulate the practice of abortion is unrighteous even before reading the text.
The incrementalist will now cry out – well then, what is the immediatist going to do? And the answer is simple. Rather than waiting for the next election cycle, the immediatist is going to seek the immediate abolition of human abortion through constant efforts of moral persuasion. Since 80% of Americans support and have supported legal abortion for 40 years, the immediatist will set out to change those numbers through arguments and persuasion. They will hold forth the gold standard of the Word of God and will pray and expect that the Holy Spirit will convict the hearers, and that people will change their minds.
And so, the immediatist is a type of incrementalist. The incremental steps that are acceptable to God are the few things done daily to persuade people with the Word of God to change their minds. Maybe a few people hear the message on Monday, and a few more read it on Tuesday. That is acceptable incrementalism.
The immediatist, the abolitionist, does not wait for the next election cycle to treat abortion like it is a 4 year political issue. They proclaim the Word of God in a culture that practices child sacrifice. They bring about a clash of absolutes. As William Lloyd Garrison said in his speech on July 4, 1829 “If any man believes that slavery can be abolished without a struggle with the worst passions of human nature, quietly, harmoniously, he cherishes a delusion. It can never be done, unless the age of miracles return. No; we must expect a collision, full of sharp asperities and bitterness. We shall have to contend with the insolence, and pride, and selfishness, of many a heartless being. But these can be easily conquered by meekness, and perseverance, and prayer.”
We repeat: If any man believes that abortion can be abolished without a struggle with the worst passions of human nature, quietly, harmoniously, he cherishes a delusion.
Let therefore every Christian put their hands to the plow as abolitionists.
We call upon the churches of the living God to lead in this great enterprise. If the soul be immortal, priceless, save it from remediless woe. Let them combine their energies, and systematize their plans, for the rescue of suffering humanity. Let them pour out their supplications to heaven in behalf of the preborn. Prayer is omnipotent: its breath can melt adamantine rocks—its touch can break the stoutest chains. Let anti-abortion charity-boxes stand uppermost among those for missionary, tract and educational purposes. On this subject, Christians have been asleep; let them shake off their slumbers, and arm for the holy contest.
We were tempted to leave out this argument in the great debate on this subject, but are obliged to include it. Immediatists have said that when you pass a statute that criminalizes a type of abortion, the same statute implicitly sanctions all other abortions not criminalized. To that, the incrementalists cry foul. However, let us consider the following two situations.
Here is the state of Idaho’s statute that relates to what age people may consume alcohol:
- 23-604. Minors — Purchase, consumption or possession prohibited. Any person under twenty-one (21) years of age who shall purchase, attempt to purchase, or otherwise consume or possess any alcohol beverage, including any distilled spirits, beer or wine, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished according to the schedule set out in section 18-1502, Idaho Code.
Notice this code is written to say that those under a certain age who purchase alcohol shall be subject to a misdemeanor. It does NOT say that those over a certain age may purchase alcohol. It is written in the negative. Yet, the culture knows these statutes, and by them, widely understands that it is then PERMISSIBLE to consume alcohol when you reach the age of 21. So, many people, when they reach the age of 21, go out and, without criminal risk, purchase an alcoholic beverage.
Here is the Idaho criminal code regarding rape, and more specifically what many call statutory rape:
- 18-6101. Rape defined. Rape is defined as…(1) Where the female is under the age of sixteen (16) years and the perpetrator is eighteen (18) years of age or older.
When understanding this statute in the culture, while it says that a boy aged 18 may not have sex with a girl under the age of 16, that same code is understood to say (it implies) that if the girl has achieved the age of 16, an 18 year old may have sex with her without the rape criminal penalty being applied. Worse, it not only sends the message that the sex, as long as the girl is old enough, is not only decriminalized but is also okay, or moral.
So, these are just two cases where the statute is written to criminalize one thing, but the culture then discerns that the opposite thing is then DEcriminalized and PERMISSIBLE. Since that is the standard in cultural understanding, we can discern that this same understanding will be applied to any abortion restrictions codified into statute.
Therefore, we may conclude that when we criminalize one aspect of abortion, we are at the same time sending a message to the culture that the opposite is permissible. That opposite violates the laws of God, and as ambassadors of Christ, who are supposed to represent righteousness, which, defined, means morally right and pure, we violate that when we lead others to accept something that is actually unrighteous.
Every Christian has limits on their time and financial resources. When we expend either, those particular resources are gone forever and cannot be retrieved. As well, we sometimes only have one opportunity with certain individuals in which to deliver a message.
Jesus said to Christians “Ye are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
In Amos chapter 5, God’s people are told to “hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate (Amos 5:15). Let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24).
Since these are the instructions of our Lord and since we are His ambassadors, we should seek to expend our finite time, words and financial resources achieving the Lord’s commands and purposes. Every minute, word and dollar spent pursuing incremental legislation that falls short of righteousness and lacks light and salt, is a minute, word or dollar that is lost and could have been expended pursuing righteousness. Worse, if along the way of incremental legislation, we teach that humans only have value because they have a heartbeat or because they feel pain, we later have to expend greater resources undoing that falsehood and re-educating that humans actually have value for some greater reason. Perhaps we won’t even get that opportunity with that audience any longer since we damaged trust with them by changing our message.
Also, if we achieve an ends through pragmatism exercising the wisdom of man, we discount and preclude the mighty working of power by God, which power is activated when we set out to do the impossible by our faith. How much better to pursue an impossible goal because it is the right goal, and by faith to watch God move hearts and minds through the working of His Holy Spirit, because we eschewed pragmatism and stepped out boldly to achieve righteousness in faith.
The Burning Building
Incrementalists have used an illustration of a burning building to discredit immediatists. In their illustration in which there is a burning building with many people inside, they claim that they (the incrementalists) would rush into the burning building to save as many as can be saved. They then claim that the immediatist abolitionists, knowing that not everyone could be saved in the time left before the building is consumed, would not do anything and not save anybody.
However, the burning building analogy is hardly analogous to the legislative efforts to abolish human abortion. Here are just some of the differences:
1) There is not just one fire. In abortion, every home is a potential abortion clinic due to the use of chemical abortion obtained at the local Wal Mart. The fires are starting every minute of every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
2) When a building is burning unexpectedly, there is little time to consider strategic thinking. An unexpected emergency is at hand, and time is of the essence. There is a point of no return for the imminent demise of the whole building. In contrast, there is room for strategic thinking as relates to the abolition of human abortion. The problem is so epidemic, but we know all of the risk factors, all of the constituents, are familiar with the motivations and have thoroughly studied the Word of God on the subject. We have had 42 years to strategize, consider and develop an action plan. The time for triage is far past.
3) With 42 years of preparation, wouldn’t it be better to not respond to an outbreak of fires in the city but rather to seek and capture the arsonist who is regularly setting those fires? With 42 years of preparation, it seems rather timid to be putting forth proposals that only have an opportunity to save 1% of the people in the burning building. It seems like 42 years of time for preparation could be better utilized to develop an action plan that would save 100% of the people in the building.
Here is a reality – no abolitionist is going to abandon a person to destruction if it can be helped, but neither is an abolitionist going to disobey Christ. And THIS is the key point. Christ CONDEMNS unrighteous legislation in Isaiah 10:1 and Psalm 94:20-21.
Also, thinking strategically, if legislation passed that saved 2% of the victims, let’s say 2,000 people per year out of 100,000, but that legislation also served to teach the culture that the other 98% were expendable, then it may delay ultimate abolition for 10 years or much longer, since you will have to re-educate the culture on the value of human life, and they may not trust you, since you apparently lied to them last time. So, let’s say there is a 10 year delay caused by your incremental strategy now. In that ten years, 20,000 are saved, but since total abolition was delayed those ten years, 980,000 lives were actually lost due to the incremental strategy, that otherwise could have been saved if abortion abolition was sought at the outset.
Also remember, in your incremental approach, Christ did not step in with power because you did not step out in faith. Rather, he sat back and considered that if you wanted to operate in your own wisdom and power, He would let you see the end of that.
It is good to remember that elevating the “saving of babies” can lead us to compromise. There actually is a little bit of idolatry associated with “saving some babies” at any cost. If the cost is that you ignore the clear commands of Jesus to be salt and light, to establish righteousness, to rescue the oppressed, to not compromise with evil, then in the end you have not only idolized “saving the babies”, but you have also disobeyed the commands of your Lord, who said “if you love me, obey my commands”.
Ultimately, the abolitionist goal is not to “save babies”. Rather, it is to be a good ambassador of Jesus Christ. By being a good ambassador, it is likely that many babies will be saved when human abortion is abolished.
If These Were Our Born Neighbors Being Slaughtered
Let’s go back to the words of William Lloyd Garrison in his July 4, 1829 speech at Park Street Church. You will recall that this was the speech in which he advocated an incrementalist solution to human slavery. Yet, he also declared that “Suppose that, by a miracle, the slaves should suddenly become white. Would you shut your eyes upon their sufferings, and calmly talk of Constitutional limitations? No; your voice would peal in the ears of the taskmasters like deep thunder; you would carry the Constitution by force, if it could not be taken by treaty; patriotic assemblies would congregate at the corners of every street; the old Cradle of Liberty would rock to a deeper tone than ever echoed therein at British aggression; the pulpit would acquire new and unusual eloquence from our holy religion… You would say, it is enough that they are white, and in bondage, and they ought immediately to be set free.”
Suppose these preborn, invisible human beings being aborted were visible. Suppose they were not preborn, but that they were 2 years old. Suppose it was suddenly decriminalized for parents to have their two year olds terminated because they could not afford them or because of the “terrible two” tantrums. Would we even be having an immediatism versus incrementalism debate? Would we suggest that we have to nibble away at the outer edges of the 2 year old slaughter, attempting to save only 1% of them, or would we then demand outright the total abolition of two year old sacrifice effective immediately? Would we compromise some two year olds in order to save others?
Would we consider it a righteous act to pass legislation that saves two year olds who have a certain IQ while abandoning to destruction the remainder? Would we consider it a victory to save 2% of the two year olds, those who were incorrigible only 5 minutes a day versus 98% of the others?
We suspect that your answer reader is that none of that is righteous and that the only reasonable and righteous approach would be to demand the immediate end to two year old sacrifice. In fact, we hope and suspect that good people everywhere would stop their daily business until this insane slaughter was outlawed and banned from the land. So, why have we not done the same for the preborn slaughter?
There is frankly ONLY ONE ANSWER. It is that God’s own people are guilty of AGEISM. We have discriminated in our own minds against the least of all humans on the planet. While they are invisible to us in the wombs of their mothers, while their slaughter is hidden from public view, we have accepted their dehumanization. We have surrendered to the forces of evil and accepted as a normal fact of life the tyranny demanded by the people, given them by the courts, and enforced by governing authorities and law enforcement agencies of our land. We have not been a voice of the defenseless and have not been a conscience to the nation. We have not made declarations of justice and righteousness for those who cannot help themselves.
The ONLY explanation available for our lack of care, for our apathy, is that the Church of Jesus Christ has surrendered righteousness. We have surrendered justice. We have surrendered to the devil. We have abandoned to destruction the small, the voiceless, the weakest, the helpless.
The most pathetic excuse of Christians heard is “well, at least these babies are going to heaven!” As if that justifies our inaction! Did God create these image bearers to be dismembered in the wombs of their mother? Does their dismemberment give him glory? NO! It is a shame and a disgrace on His Church that we do not demand an immediate abolition of human abortion. It is a shame and a disgrace that we accept as part of daily life the destruction of thousands of our neighbors with the sanctimonious and pathetic excuse that “they are at least in heaven”. God created them to live life here on earth. He alone reserves the right to take that life away. And we are to be His voice to declare His righteousness and protect the very lives of the innocent.
There is only one option for the pathetic condition of Christ’s Church in regards to the wholesale destruction around us and our reaction to it – REPENTANCE. We need to repent of our apathy, repent of our lack of action, repent of our compromise with evil, repent of our lack of love and care, repent of our lack of delivering from death, repent of our lack of demanding justice and righteousness. We need to repent toward Christ, humbly and on our face before Holy God. Then, we need to demand the total abolition of human abortion, and we need to put our hands to the plow and seek this very righteousness. IMMEDIATELY.