Book Review: The Gospel and Abortion

“…every life – born and unborn – has intrinsic dignity…”

About the Author/Editor

The “Gospel for Life” series is a collection of books that has been commissioned and edited by Dr. Russell Moore and Andrew Walker in an attempt to educate churches how to engage with certain ethical and culturally relevant issues.  Dr. Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  He has a PhD from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an MDiv from New Orleans Theological Baptist Seminary.  He has been a professor and dean at the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Walker is an associate professor of Christian Ethics and Apologetics and associate dean of the School of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the former director of policy studies at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  He has a MDiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is a PhD from Southern Seminary.  His primary field of studies relates to Christian ethics and equipping churches is this discipline.  Based on the background of both editors, they are well equipped for this book and the entire series.  

Summary of Contents

This book is a collection of essays written by various authors on the subject of abortion and how it impacts the culture and how Christians ought to respond.  Additionally, the essays cover how the church and Christian leaders can become equipped to engage in the debate on abortion and understand the importance of strategy in becoming involved on a social, political, and personal level.  Dr. Walker best summarizes the book in the introduction when he writes, “This book is intended to be an introductory look at how Christians should engage this controversial topic from every angle of the Christian life – their place in culture, their engagement as everyday Christians, and their role in the body of Christ – the church.” (Moore, pg. 2)  It is clear from this introduction that this book is not just intended for information, but for practical application in one’s life.  These applications are brought forth through five essays covering the rest of the book, each written by a different author.  The essays are all framed around a question the authors then address through discussion around abortion and a Gospel-centered theology.  Each author brings in relevant history, data, or political concepts throughout the book. 

The first essay is written by Jim Hamilton, who answers the question, “What Are We Here For?”  This essay focuses primarily on the Biblical truth that all human life is sacred and offers a summary of how Christians arrive at this doctrine.  There is rich theology to be found in answering this essay that would support a pro-life ethic.  Hamilton explores various Biblical passages that affirm these theological concepts, specifically around the value of life and the beginning of life at conception. With this theology agreed on, there can be no argument that a fetus is anything less human, and as such, there can be no argument that an abortion is anything but the murder of children, as Hamilton will present.  This should be a convicting truth for Christians as “To keep a baby from being born is to rob God of the glory He deserves from that child.” (Moore, pg. 22)  Hamilton also answers questions to several pro-choice arguments that are posed by those in favor of abortion.  Each answer is supported by Biblical truth, primarily the truth that God loves His creation and His creation has intrinsic value.

 The second essay is written by Matt Chandler and looks to answer the question of “What Does the Gospel Say?”  Chandler begins his essay with an explanation of the Imago Dei and how that is special and exclusive to humans.  This is a theological concept that is explicitly in the text and as such, should be affirmed by all Christians. The Genesis narrative of creation clearly states,  “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NRSV, Gen 1:26-27). Only humanity has this designation of being “image bearers” and that alone should be compelling enough to argue against abortion.  Following this, Chandler explains how the worldview of abortion since the Roe v. Wade case has led to a reality where “our consciences have been seared.” (Moore, pg. 37)  In light of the overwhelming Gospel and scientific evidence that should lead people away from abortion, it is still rampant in our culture.  Chandler concludes with a call to Christians and churches to engage in active ministry in adoption, support of pregnant women, and prayer for change.

The third essay is written by Karen Prior and answers the question “How Should the Christian Live?”  Prior explores the historical and social ideologies that have affected the abortion argument, particularly how women and children have been regarded. While intentional abortion permeates our history and society at different times, Prior notes how this is not the case in Scripture.  She writes that, “It’s as though such as thing is unimaginable in God’s Kingdom.” (Moore, pg. 52) The theological relevance of this is again tied to humanity holding inherent value by virtue of being created in the image of God. Because of this, God would never will or wish for the practice of abortion to take place. It was sin, which fractured the creative order that God had established, that led to the perversion of life in a way where abortion can prosper as it has. Prior also explains how at times, women who have had an abortion and now struggle with guilt afterwards, are often disregarded by those who are pro-choice.  She then calls for Christians to let their voice, resources, and vote speak for those affected by abortion. This call to action is related to the theology of being a good steward. Peter offers a succinct lesson on stewardship when he writes, “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” (NRSV, 1 Pe 4:10–11) Here we see how all that we have been given charge of should be put forward for the glory of God. Prior’s call in her essay is for Christians to give of what God has provided them to a worthy cause of fighting against abortion. 

The fourth essay is written by Charmaine Yoest and answers the question “How Should the Church Engage?”  She spends the majority of the essay exploring the sorrow and loss associated with abortion, particularly to the women involved.  There are several excerpts of poems, song lyrics, and notes from other women that highlight the emotional toll that abortion has.  Yoest then challenges local churches to step up their efforts in ministry towards women when it comes to sexual ethics, pregnancy, and those who have experienced abortion. A ministry of hospitality, especially towards women, is found throughout the Bible. Christ offered mercy and protection to the woman who had committed adultery. He broke social, economic, and gender barriers by ministering to the Samaritan woman at the well. Paul calls the church to care for orphans and for the older women to disciple the younger women. And of course, we are to remember that the church is called the “bride of Christ”, which is a symbol for beauty, chastity, and honor. The Bible is rich with a theology that would call the church to love and care for women. This theology is directly connected to the topic of abortion because it most affects and impacts women. 

The final essay is written by C. Ben Mitchell and answers the question “What Does the Culture Say?”  Mitchell looks at the impact that abortion and contraceptive culture has made on society and family.  He argues that “Abortion on demand and voluntary childlessness through contraception are signs of a culture in the throes of death.” (Moore, pg. 104)  The theology of family is tied into his argument here. The Bible teaches what a family is supposed to look like, how it should function, and how it is related to the Gospel. There are roles carved out for Godly husband and fathers, mothers and wives, and children. The cultural acceptance and prevalence of abortion is evidence that a proper theology of family has become less and less accepted.  Apart from a Biblical ethic and understanding of how that should shape family, the culture has normalized a genocide of the unborn, and it only took a couple of generations to get to this point. Mitchell is pointing to this decline in cultural ethics as it directly relates to abortion. There is also a call to increased Christian hospitality towards those affected by abortion as a response to the current cultural climate.

Critical Evaluation

“The Gospel and Abortion” is a book that offers a comprehensive and Gospel centered view on abortion.  Each individual essay takes great strides to fully explore the facts behind abortion and the call on churches and Christian leaders to engage.  Upon completion of the book, one will find themselves informed and able to take part in the abortion discussion with powerful Scriptural and scientific evidence.  Dr. Moore and Dr. Walker did a thorough job of cultivating a group of individuals that could interact with the abortion crisis and also provide clear guidance in how Christians should respond.  The overall tone of the book shifts between that of compassion for those affected by abortion, to a tone of righteous anger at the indifference to the plight of the unborn and women.  One can clearly feel the emotional weight and impact this discussion carries with it.  Each word reflects a sense of passion behind it, which is appropriate for such a controversial topic.  The message is clear:  Christians should be fighting against the systematic murder of children.  They should be called into action and engaged on a social and political level.  There is a sense of urgency that is presented in each call for Christians and the church to act.  This type of boldness in calling out not only for Christians to do more, but the perceived lack of compassion in the church at times, can be abrasive to some; however, this accountability for churches and Christian leaders is necessary.  This book also does a great job of warning against the tendency to simply commit to not supporting or partake in abortion as “making a difference.”  Matt Chandler captures this sentiment great in his essay when he writes, “We must get involved.  Involvement isn’t all you think it is.  When all’s said and done, involvement must not shake its fist at the darkness, but be like light in darkness.” (Moore, pg. 41)  One can only conclude he is calling back to John’s Gospel in His description of Christ:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (NRSV, John 1:1-5)

When confronting the issue of abortion, the church has to move beyond merely being outspoken. We must herald the light that pushes back the darkness, because the darkness will not overcome it. The light that we bring is Christ. Christ alone will stop the plight of abortion. Christ alone will redeem those affected back to Himself. There is no more critical theology than this: the saving, redeeming, and transforming Gospel of Christ.  

What is so unique about this book is that the reader is able to take in various approaches to the abortion issue, but all with the same viewpoint.  That viewpoint is “that God is the Creator, and that every life – born and unborn – has intrinsic dignity because of God’s imprint of His image upon them.”  (Moore, pg. 3)  Every essay in the book makes an argument for the sanctity of life.  Additionally, each essay argues that life is sacred because of God.  This is how the narrative of the book is connected by the Gospel.  The Gospel has overreaching implications for all of humanity, but it all starts at creation.  Man and woman were created in the image of God, to glorify God, and to have community with Him.  This means that his image is present at conception.  The content of the book hits on this point again and again.  Abortion is not just a social or political issue, it is a Gospel issue.  Because of this, the reader is challenged to rethink what they might have thought about abortion in the past.  It is no longer sufficient to simply decry it and hold a conviction that it is wrong.  The Gospel must be considered as well.  If one does this, the book argues that radical change will occur in how abortion is perceived.  This conclusion is both logical and Biblical.  The Gospel brings about change in one’s very soul, so it should bring about change in how the church and Christians engage the issue of abortion.  When the way Christians think about abortion changes, that is what causes action inside the church and out in the communities.              This book should be considered a great tool and resource for those in Christian leadership.  One of the most difficult things to do as a Christian leader is understanding how to approach controversial subjects.  Homosexuality, race, politics, and abortion are all very significant in culture today.  The church has to stay ahead of these issues and be well informed about them.  The worst thing a Christian leader could do is ignore an issue like abortion and find themselves with an equally uniformed or unequipped church at their feet.  A church such as this is not ready to fully engage in an issue like abortion and can often do more harm than good.  Just as this book navigates between being bold and compassionate, so too must the church walk this path.  The Gospel and Abortion” offers a great example of how to be loving and firm at the same time.  This book also does a great job of bringing together systematic theology and practical ministry.  What someone believes about the image of God, the creation of man, and grace of God will inform how one engages a subject like abortion.  An incorrect or misinformed theology can lead to a misunderstanding of how the church should engage with such a difficult topic.  “The Gospel and Abortion” is well written, well informed, Scripturally sound, and unashamedly bold in its call to action.  For those who have been impacted by abortion or those looking to understand how Christians should view abortion, this book would be a wise choice. 

Written by Zach Stallings

Moore, Russell D., and Andrew T. Walker, eds. The Gospel for Life Series: The Gospel and Abortion. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2017.

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