Friday, February 19, 2016

Nature Speaks to Us, “Choose Life!”

Two of the most amazing relationships on Earth are sexual reproduction and the subsequent maternal nurturing of offspring.  Both processes involve complex coordination of form and function in both animals and seed plants.  To date, evolutionary biologists have been unable to provide a plausible explanation for the origin of sexual reproduction by time, chance, and random mutations.

Human sexuality is unique according to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures because it has both moral and biological significance. Moral commitment to marriage and responsible parenting within the family unit determine the character of each subsequent generation.  Indeed, many scholars argue that human civilizations have risen and fallen in accordance with their respect for the institutions of heterosexual marriage and family.

Shortly after conception, the developing embryo begins
sending a hormonal message as if to say, "I'm here mom."
Today, the foundation of heterosexual marriage and the family is being undermined by a growing disregard for the moral teachings of the Bible.  Our pluralistic society has increasingly viewed Christianity as only one  among many “religions” from which to choose.  Moral relativism has made it very easy for traditional marriage and family to become marginalized.  As a result, some scholars have pointed to the order and purpose within the natural world as a basis for establishing moral and ethical values and human choices apart from “religion” per se.  For example, the fruitfulness of the host of different species of vertebrate animals owes its success generally to the faithful nurturing of offspring by the parent generation.  Those who know this fact, regardless on their “religion,” conclude there is something inherently very wrong with wanton abuse or killing of animals or their young.

Natural law ethics is based on the belief that by observing the order, harmony, and beauty in nature, we can intuitively reason that we have a moral and ethical obligation to respond properly to it.  It follows that senseless abuse or killing of an animal or human being is a moral and ethical violation of natural law because such acts disrupt a purposeful, forward progression in nature.

In a previous Oikonomia, entitled Stewardship of Creation and “Natural Law” we emphasized that natural law ethics are consistent with what we learn in Genesis when it claims that there is order and purpose in the natural world, and that mankind is both capable and responsible for discerning this order and purpose.  There we also affirmed that application of natural law ethics can inform the biblical mandate for stewardship of God's creation (Genesis 2: 15) through transformation of our character. The steward who takes time to discern the order and purpose in nature (creation) will strive to learn more about her surroundings and how her actions will influence that order and purposeful progression.  Therefore, we believe that a robust environmental stewardship ethic can arise from a merger of natural law ethics and Judeo-Christian ethics.

Like Genesis 1-2, Romans 1: 16-22 emphasizes mankind's responsibility as stewards of God's truth and righteousness (v. 16-18).  Here, we also learn that God has given us the ability to know Him personally (v. 19), to understand and be in awe of His great power in creation (v. 20), and to live with thankfulness and reverence toward Him (v. 21).  Instead, mankind suppressed the truth revealed through the order and unity of creation (v. 18) and followed futile speculations and false reasoning (v. 21-22).   This suppression of truth describes the actions of those who, in spite of the evidence of order and purpose in creation and what their conscience tells them, choose to defy and act contrary to both natural law and God’s divine revelation in Scripture.  In other words, mankind’s rebellion is demonstrated by his rejection of “two books of revelation”—the natural revelation and the divine revelation in Scripture.

Most agree that the divine revelation in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures clearly supports laws against murder.  But, even apart from the biblical teaching, we see that natural law ethics provide a strong moral argument against murder. Murder brings a crashing halt to the intricate order of life processes in the human body and smashes the purposes, hopes, and dreams of a precious, living being.  Unless his sensibility, reason, and conscience are seared, mankind's reaction to senseless killing of human and animal alike is to feel deeply the wrongness of it. Because of an innate sense of right and wrong, the one who kills needlessly may live in misery and regret even without knowledge of the Bible's command, "Thou shall not murder (Matthew 5: 21-22)."

Today, slightly more than half of Americans polled oppose the practice of abortion under most or all circumstances.  Opponents of the pro-life position argue that abortion is not murder because human life does not begin until some point in late-term or at birth. However, this argument is strongly opposed on the basis of natural law ethics.  Here, one can argue that it is wrong to interrupt the orderly and purposeful progression of human development which normally advances in a seamless fashion from fertilized ovum to a fully formed human in the mother’s womb.  There is literally no identifiable stage in human development other than conception to mark as the beginning of an individual human life.

Those who accuse pro-lifers of causing the guilt and misery in women who have chosen abortion often want to silence Christians and their moral stand.  But, if it is true that natural law ethics provides a strong case against abortion, then emotional and physical consequences may be expected even if Christianity could be erased from our culture.  In support of this notion, recent scientific findings are uncovering more subtle and unexpected consequences of the abuse of the natural order of human reproduction.

First, there is growing evidence that abortion tends to diminish and even jeopardize the life of the mother.  Lynn Vincent in “The Mourning After” (WORLD Magazine, April 14, 2007),  refers to U.S. House Bill RH 1457, the Post-Abortion Depression Research and Care Act of 2007 which cites evidence of "severe and long-term effects" of abortion on women, including depression, eating disorders, suicide attempts, intense grief, emotional numbness, rage, sexual dysfunction, and relationship difficulties.”  Another study reports similar emotional disruptions in the fathers of aborted children.

Those who blame the emotional consequences of abortion on pro-lifers who create a moral stigma against abortion cannot be totally disregarded.  After all, history reveals that voices of moral opposition have in at least some instances served to keep cultures from drifting into immoral practices.   However, scientific research from Scandinavia where there is even less social opposition to abortion than in America nonetheless reports that the suicide rate is 40 percent higher in the first year after an abortion (WORLD, July 19, 2016).  There are both emotional and biological consequences to interrupting the natural progression of human development.  Commenting on the same study, Dr. Camilla Hersh, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, adds “For every abortion a woman has, her risk of having a premature baby goes up 30 percent. It’s 30 percent higher with the first one, 60 percent with the second.” 

What is the take-home message of these statistics?  It seems that when human development within the woman’s body is interrupted with an abortion, we encounter consequences that are deeply rooted in the natural order, design, and purposes for sexuality and reproduction in the female body.  When these processes are thwarted in their purpose, the consequences play out in the form of not only emotional imbalances but also biological disruptions as expressed in the tendency of premature births.  As ethically wrong as it is to take the life of an unborn child, we must also consider the apparently unavoidable biological consequences produced in the mother.  But first, I want to address some words of comfort and admonition to those who have chosen to abort a child.

Readers who have chosen to abort one or more unborn children may be experiencing emotional or biological effects right now.  If so, I do not want to add to your grief.  Nor do I want to treat you as a statistic.  Although I believe abortion is a violation of both natural law and divinely revealed moral law, there is comfort and forgiveness to be found in God’s mercy as revealed in the Bible.  I pray that you will read Psalm 139 and pursue God to find His answer for bondage to sin and guilt.  Christ will cleanse even your conscience from sin (Hebrews 9: 11-14) as you surrender to Him. Then you will recognize your sin as the cause of your anguish, and stop blaming Christians and their "moral hangups" for your guilt and unrest.  I would encourage you to visit Oikonomia, August 30, 2015.  Near the end of that article, start reading with How About It?  where you will find an invitation to consider the “Good News” (Gospel) of Christ.  There is also a link to a helpful outline, called “What Are the Four Spiritual Laws?” This resource presents the Gospel and invites you to consider the salvation and forgiveness of Christ that is available to all of us sinners.  You are also welcome to e-mail me if you have particular questions (silviusj@cedarville.edu).


Scientists are discovering a "beautiful cooperation" between
mother and the unborn child that lasts long after birth.
We have seen that interruption of the natural order of human sexual reproduction by abortion can have serious negative effects.  But, on a more positive note, science is discovering even more evidence of amazing benefits to mothers who “choose life” and do not disrupt the natural order of the processes of prenatal development.  Rheumatologist J. Lee Nelson, of the University of Washington, speaking to NPR Radio, explained findings from her laboratory that an unborn baby’s cells can move through the placenta and into the mother’s bloodstream where they can enter her heart, brain, liver, and other organs.  These cells can act like stem cells and transform into other cell types that can form collagen, participate in wound healing, and even reduce the risk the mother will develop cancer or rheumatoid arthritis.  The mother’s cells, including cells from previous pregnancies, can also cross through the placenta and into her baby, thus providing a biological linkage among siblings.  Dr. Nelson calls it “a beautiful cooperation” between a mother and her unborn child.

I close with two points for your consideration.  First, even if one doesn’t recognize the authority of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures that defend the sanctity of human life, there is reason to consider the claims of natural law ethics.  Natural law ethics offer a robust defense of sanctity of human life and this ethic is strengthened as science continues to reveal the marvelous array of intricate relationships involved in prenatal human development. By providing both disincentives and incentives, nature  apart from the Bible calls out to us, "Choose Life!"

Second, we should take more seriously every aspect of our stewardship of the natural world.  The notion of “natural law” should humble us to realize our part in an amazing order of creation which speaks of order, design, and purpose.  We should avoid actions that thwart obvious purposes at work in nature, especially to needlessly jeopardize our own life or the life of another human or creature.  However, natural law ethics alone cannot inform us of the Great Cause of the order and design of creation.  Only the divine revelation of Scriptures can explain our moral depravity and our need for salvation through faith in Christ Who died as our atoning sacrifice (e.g. John 3: 16).  Creation displays an order, pattern, and purpose that points to God as Creator.  And this is the Creator Who is affirmed in the divine revelation of Scripture as the God Whose invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1: 20).   

God is forever seeking to speak Himself out to His creation. The whole Bible supports the idea. God is speaking. Not God spoke, but God is speaking. He is by His nature continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking Voice.  (From:  A.W. Tozer,  “The Speaking Voice”, in The Pursuit of God (Regal)

How About You?

Are you sensitive to God speaking to you as you observe the "book of nature" with its display of the order and purpose of life all around you?  Do you also sense God's invitation for you to consider the "book of His inspired Word," the Bible, which assures you of His love and victorious life when you seek out and follow His plan and purposes?   Want to share your thoughts or a question?   I’d love to hear from you.  Just use the “Comment” box below.

2 comments:

Herb Gillis said...

Hi Dr John. Did you get my email on the incoherent reasoning of a certain famous scientist?

John said...

Sorry, Herb. I didn't see your comment here until now. Don't recall that e-mail. Would you resend it, please? Thanks, John