You may have considered all of these questions before. You may not have ever considered any of these questions before, but they are certainly worth considering before condemning the position the church of Jesus Christ has held for a couple millennia.
For many evangelicals, the leaked draft decision last month felt like the culmination of many prayers, tears, hard conversations, and difficult decisions at the voting polls. Now that Roe has fallen, the most vulnerable will now have a chance to be legally protected in some states and the pro-life movement will have some headway into the culture.
For many of our neighbors, the overturning of Roe and Casey is a sign of an upcoming theocratic takeover filled with fundamentalist extremism. A woman’s fundamental right to choose, which we have been told is paramount, is now under assault.
As Jonathan Haidt has pointed out, we are not getting better at debating and we have little to no tolerance when it comes to embracing tough conversations. Social media, institutional overreach into politics, and polarization are all factors, but I wonder if another contribution is something we have lost along the way.
Jesus asked over 300 questions to his friends, disciples, adversaries. He was fully God, fully man and knew full well the answers, yet he asked many questions.
With that I have 60 questions for any Christian who identifies as pro-choice. These are not meant to be dismissive, snarky, or rhetorical. They are much more helpful than calling an entire segment of people “bigots” or “baby murderers.”
- Are all humans made in the image of God?
- How do you think Genesis 1:27 can speak into the abortion discussion?
—And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him, male and
female He created them.
- Is a fetus a “potential human life” or a “human life with potential” (if you don’t intentionally end it)
- Is the life that is being ended through abortion worthy of protections?
- How can Proverbs 6:17 help us think about abortion?
—“The LORD hates those who shed innocent blood.”
- Is life within the womb innocent?
- What do you think of the fact that there is entirely new, separate human DNA in the fetus at the moment of conception?
- What do you think of Jeremiah 1:5 telling us that a person exists even before that person’s birth
- Is the life within the womb human?
- When does a person deserve rights?
- What is an abortion?
- Have you ever seen an abortion?
- Do you think the pro-choice / pro-abortion position aligns more closely to a Biblical worldview than the pro-life / anti-abortion position?
- In America, it is illegal to kill a bald eagle, carrying a maximum fine of $250,000 or two years in prison. And the law extends to the eggs of the bald eagle, making no differentiation between a living bald eagle and a pre-born bald eagle. Why should a bald eagle egg have more protection than an unborn baby?
- Does the Bible provide us reliable wisdom on how to think about abortion?
- Did you know that followers of Jesus have been distinctly pro-life and anti-abortion since the 1st century A.D.?
—Justin Taylor’s Did the Early Church Oppose Abortion?
—For instance, the Didache 2.2 (c. A.D. 85–110) commands, “thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born.”
—Another non-canonical early Christian text, the Letter of Barnabas 19.5 (c. A.D. 130),
said: “You shall not abort a child nor, again, commit infanticide.”
- How do you think God is most glorified through the various abortion methods? (Vacuum Aspiration, Abortion poison pill, Dilation & Evacuation)
- What do you think your view on abortion testifies to how God views children?
- How does God view children?
- When should abortion be legally allowed?
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By William Boekestein — 1 year ago
It is right to critique unbelief as an incoherent, unsustainable worldview. But we must also offer an alternative. Apologists don’t merely answer questions or defend against accusations. They proclaim and invite.
Apologetic conversations aren’t about hypothetical truths, but about life’s most important matters. We mustn’t simply stick to the scripts of critics; we must see ourselves as God’s prophets “anointed to confess his name” and reveal the mysterious “counsel and will of God concerning our deliverance.” Apologists aim to disrupt the status quo of the critic. Why? Because “as an outsider I don’t need reasons to dismiss something. My ignorance of the subject is already doing a good job of that. I need reasons to take seriously something that I would otherwise dismiss.”
How can we do that? Apologists answer that question differently. For example, “The Van Tillian methodology was negative, to reduce the opponent to absurdity. The Lewisian methodology was affirmative, to persuade the opponent that they actually needed and wanted the Foundation and Anchor of Truth.”  Folks might favor one approach over the other—but aren’t they both needed?
This was Paul’s plan. Apologists must “destroy arguments” (2 Cor. 10:5). They also must “entreat…by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (1). And before doing either we can help our friends better understand their unbelief.
Because you believe God’s Word, you know more about the unbelief of your friends than they do. The woman at the well was amazed because of the personal things Jesus knew about her (John 4:29). His analysis of her life got her wondering about the claims of Christ’s lordship. We don’t have to be omniscient to understand important truths about unbelief.
Unbelief Is Always Moral, Not Merely Intellectual
Intellectually unbelievers know there is a God, but find it morally intolerable to honor him as God (Rom. 1:21). They stumble over Jesus’ claim of Lordship (1 Peter 2:8) despite his promise of gentleness (Matt. 11:29).
To truly receive Christ, we have to disown everything we thought was to our advantage (Phil. 3:7–8). The gospel offends us because it “deprives us of all credit for wisdom, virtue, and righteousness.” Some people use intellectual arguments to excuse their refusal to trust Jesus. Others use less sophisticated methods. J. H. Bavinck puts it like this: “fear of the future, fear of the pitiless discovery of his own insignificance, fear of death, and fear of God—all that dark and somber fear which lives and hides in the inner man is covered with a pattern of banter and lightheartedness.” Either way, refusal to trust in Jesus is always a matter of the heart; it is never simply about mental hurdles.
Unbelief Is Contrary to Our Deepest Desires
Unbelief is dissatisfying because we are wired to know God. The teenager who rebels against her parents violates deeper desires. She wants acceptance, security, and love. Rejecting her parents drives her further from what she truly wants and needs. So it is with unbelief. The peace and healing God promises, and which everyone desires, cannot be experienced by unbelievers. Here’s how Isaiah put it: “‘Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” (57:20–21). Truly, “Our restless spirits yearn for thee, where’er our changeful lot is cast.” No matter how intelligent, competent, and lovely unbelievers are, because they reject God they are “wandering through life aimlessly, not knowing the right perspective on the simplest things of life.” That is contrary to our deeper desires. Paul describes non-Christians in terms of homelessness. As aliens and strangers they have “no hope” and are “without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). I’ve never been homeless, but I’ve been away from home—where I belong—for too long. Unbelief keeps people from being where they belong.
Don’t fear telling unbelieving friends what the Bible says about their unbelief.
By Tom Hervey — 5 months ago
In other words, faith justifies, and the various “other saving graces” that accompany it come into view in sanctification with its operation of the Spirit in which he “infuses grace” per Larger Catechism Q. 77. It is not an accurate summary to say that there is an infused habit of faith that is first passive in justification but then subsequently active in sanctification, when the confessions appealed to actually distinguish between the saving grace of justifying faith (Q. 72) and the other saving graces that accompany it (Q. 73; Conf. 11.2).
Credo, the organ of the movement to normalize scholasticism among evangelicals, has pursued an interesting career as of late. When it has not been praising the alleged glories of Platonism, giving space to people who regard the Reformation as a tragedy to be lamented, or interviewing the presidents of organizations whose faculty and contributors include female pastors, it has found time to cast aspersions at contemporary evangelicals for “cutting ourselves off from Thomas” and suffering, as a consequence, “from a theology that looks more modern than orthodox.”
Of particular interest is an article by J.V. Fesko asserting that the acceptance of Thomas Aquinas is a sort of litmus test for whether one may be deemed a bona fide Protestant. To be told that we are under obligation to embrace any Romanist in order to be considered Protestant is intriguing enough, but to hear that we must do so concerning the preeminent medieval scholastic and the man whom Protestants have historically understood to be among the foremost expositors of those ideas which so corrupted the Western church that she fell into that ‘Babylonian captivity’ from whence part of Christendom escaped only with great suffering – well, that makes for quite a large pill to swallow. To think that those who have justified our murder and commended the religious veneration of images of Christ and of his cross should be rejected as false teachers is, on Prof. Fesko’s view, only enough to make us “self-professed Protestants,” and such assertions are only so much “noisy din” and engaging in “cancel culture theology.”
Central to Prof. Fesko’s assertions is his belief that previous generations of Protestants employed a “nuanced approach to the thought of Aquinas” in which, for example, they “excised the problematic teachings of infused righteousness as it relates to justification but retained Thomas’ teaching on infused habits for the doctrine of sanctification.” As evidence Prof. Fesko says that John Owen “took a nuanced approach to Aquinas’s doctrine of justification,” especially as regards the concept of an infused habit of righteousness. He quotes Owen’s The Doctrine of Justification by Faith as proof when it speaks of “an habitual infused habit of Grace which is the formal cause of our personal inherent Righteousness,” but which is yet distinct from the “formal cause” of our justification, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.
The edition Prof. Fesko has quoted is available here. Owen mentions Thomas a single time and says this:
It is therefore to no purpose to handle the mysteries of the Gospel, as if Holcot and Bricot, Thomas and Gabriel, with all the Sententiarists, Summists, and Quodlibetarians of the old Roman Peripatetical School, were to be raked out of their Graves to be our guides. Especially will they be of no use unto us, in this Doctrine of Justification. For whereas they pertinaciously adhered unto the Philosophy of Aristotle, who knew nothing of any Righteousness, but what is an habit inherent in our selves, and the Acts of it, they wrested the whole Doctrine of Justification unto a compliance therewithall.
Such strong language and complete rejection can hardly be called taking a “nuanced approach to Aquinas’s doctrine of justification.” When Prof. Fesko, commenting upon the passage he had quoted, then asks:
How does Owen hold the concepts of imputed and infused righteousness together? How does he blend this Thomist category of the infused habit of righteousness together with the Reformation teaching of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ?
We may fairly reply that he doesn’t: the passage from Justification by Faith Fesko quotes proves that Owen and other Protestant theologians vigorously distinguish between imputed and infused righteousness. It is noteworthy as well that the word “infused” appears a mere two times among Justification by Faith’s approximately 208,000 words. “Imputed” appears 305 times and “imputation” some 429 times. The notion of an infused habit is not prominent, then, by any stretch of the imagination; if anything, it is, as the context of the excerpt Fesko quoted also shows, a mere passing thought, at least in this particular work.
Curiously, Fesko does not answer his own question with a further appeal to Owen’s works but by shifting to the position of the Westminster Assembly (which Owen did not attend). To this end he appeals to the Westminster Confession (11.1-2, 14.2) and Larger Catechism (Q. 77), and he believes he finds in them “the language of infused habits” which “the divines continue to employ” in Q. 75 of the Larger Catechism, which speaks of the sanctified as “having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.” Prof. Fesko believes that the description of Questions 75 and 77 (“in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace”) “sounds a lot like Aquinas’s doctrine of justification as the believer increases in righteousness, but the difference here is that this growth does not factor in justification, which rests entirely upon Christ’s imputed righteousness.”
Before proceeding to Prof. Fesko’s other remarks in this section, let it be noted that in B.B. Warfield’s analysis of the Westminster Assembly and its products there is a single reference to Aquinas, and even there on a point of logic and regarding the completeness of Scripture. That work is not an absolute catalogue of the minutes, admittedly, but if Aquinas were such a large presence in the thought of the Westminster divines we might expect that to show in a work such as Warfield’s. In addition, note that the phrase “habit” appears nowhere in the Westminster Confession or Catechisms and that “infuse” (in its various forms) appears in the Westminster Confession a single time in 11.1, cited by Prof. Fesko, in which it is said that “Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins” (emphasis mine). Returning to Prof. Fesko’s remarks, he ends the paragraph in question by saying this:
In justification the infused habit of faith is passive but in sanctification it is active. What Aquinas conflates Owen and the Westminster divines distinguish. Even though they distinguish justification and sanctification, they nevertheless maintain they are inseparably joined together.
While we are on the topic of conflation, note carefully Prof. Fesko’s words (especially his first sentence) and how they compare to those of the passages he cites and his earlier statements. Larger Catechism Question 77, the only Westminster statement to positively employ the language of infusion, says that in sanctification the Spirit infuses grace, not a “habit of faith.” Sanctification follows justification, so the grace that the Spirit is said to infuse then is distinct from the faith which factors in justification.
This is proved as well by Westminster Confession 11.2, quoted previously by Fesko, which says that “Faith . . . is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces.” In other words, faith justifies, and the various “other saving graces” that accompany it come into view in sanctification with its operation of the Spirit in which he “infuses grace” per Larger Catechism Q. 77. It is not an accurate summary to say that there is an infused habit of faith that is first passive in justification but then subsequently active in sanctification, when the confessions appealed to actually distinguish between the saving grace of justifying faith (Q. 72) and the other saving graces that accompany it (Q. 73; Conf. 11.2). (The question of when, and to what extent, faith is best described as passive or active is one we will not engage here.)
And as for the fact that the Westminster divines and Owen distinguish what Aquinas conflates, it may be asked how exactly that proves anything for Fesko’s case. That the respective parties have different perspectives upon sanctification and justification has nothing to do with the question of whether the former got a concept of infused habits from the latter.
Fesko also appeals to the Canons of Dort’s explicit mention of faith as being infused. Yet here too the question arises as to whether the similarity in terms between Aquinas and Protestants arises because the latter are borrowing from the former: perhaps Dort’s divines borrowed the concept of infused faith unknowingly or got it from other sources? That is an academic question which we have neither the space nor the inclination to answer here, but whether or not Fesko’s basic assertion is correct, he fails to make the case in this article. Such evidence as he provides is circumstantial at best and can be sufficiently explained by other theories absent further evidence. Mere coincidence or reception from other sources is at least as probable on the thin evidence (if such it is) that Fesko gives here. When he states that Owen, Dort, and Westminster “plied Aquinas’s insights” he is therefore coming to a conclusion that is not warranted and which other material in his sources makes seem highly doubtful. Consider again Owen’s mention of Aquinas above, as well as the fact that the Synod of Dort also rebuked the Franeker professor Maccovius for his use of the Romanist scholastics Suarez and Bellarmine.
Fesko asserts two benefits of “the concept of an infused habit.” First, “infused habits help us distinguish between natural human ability from [sic] those abilities given by the grace of God in salvation.” But one can do such a thing without the concept of infused habits, for example by saying that natural morality is a result of God’s common grace, whereas sanctification comes from his saving grace. It is not clear that the language of infused habits does anything that cannot be done just as well otherwise. When Fesko states that “acknowledging that a capacity for holiness and righteousness is infused is another way of saying that it is the gift of God” we can reply: ‘why not just say that a capacity for righteousness is the gift of God, then, and spare your readers the scholastic terminology and the confusion it is likely to engender?’
Second, Fesko claims that “the infused habit of faith establishes a conceptual context for a theology of virtue,” to which the same objections apply. One can simply say that true virtue pleasing to God is his own gift and arises because of our new nature in Christ and the operations of the Spirit in us as we work out our salvation.
In conclusion, consider the sheer absurdity of Fesko’s position. He belittles his living brethren for the sake of trying to lay claim to the heritage of a dead Romanist who would regard him as a heretic who should be put to death. In this we see a fine example of how theologians have a bad tendency to get carried away in their speculations and researches, and how they tend to lose sight of the practical matters entailed in serving Christ. Be very careful whom you read, dear reader, for “bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33) and “much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecc. 12:12). You do not need to tackle Aquinas’s many words (the Summa Theologica in PDF is over 9,400 pages) or his excruciating prose, nor sift through his various erroneous doctrines in order to be a faithful servant of Christ, whose yoke is by contrast light and easy (Matt. 11:28-30), and whose word is sufficient for all you need in order to know him and to abound in virtue (Ps. 19; 119; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:5-8).
Tom Hervey is a member of Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Simpsonville, S.C.
 Summa Theologica, IIaIIae Q.11, Art. 3
Summa Theologica, IIIa, Q. 25, Art. 3 and 4
 “Infusion” appears 25 times, but often while discussing the position of Rome.
 The Westminster Assembly and Its Work by B.B. Warfield, p. 206, quoting the position of George Gillespie expressed in one of his writings.
H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. I, p. 181
By Bruce Lowe — 1 week ago
It is Satan who would have Jesus to be something other than the king he is really meant to be. And straight away we can begin to see what is at stake in Mark 8. This passage is incredibly relevant today because it gives us a picture of the issues that have always been at stake when it comes to the son of man. People have always wanted to make him into the king that they want, the king who stands in direct parallel and therefore opposition to earthly kings. But what must be realized over and over again throughout history is that while Jesus is parallel to earthly kings, he is not the same as any earthly king. He is absolutely different, and it is satanic to suggest that he can simply be like an earthly king using earthly powers.
This is a somber article to write, simply because its issues are very close to home. January 6th has just passed, a second anniversary of when rioters stormed our nation’s Capitol building, something that continues to be a highly politically charged issue, still being investigated today. Nor is the issue limited to the United States, as Brazil suddenly attests.
Why is this relevant in an article about Mark 8:27-38? Why is this important? It is important because Jesus’s words, his exchange with Peter in this passage, speak to the issues of how Christians should see ourselves in the midst of revolutionary situations when we possess of limited human powers, the questions of what we should do and think about Jesus and his kingdom in its relationship to kingdoms of this world. Of course, Mark 8 will not be the final and exclusive word on these questions—other passages must be brought into the mix as well. Nor is this article at all intended to be the final word on how Mark 8 is understood. But what I hope to do is at least alert readers to some things Jesus says here, very relevant to us, as we ponder how Christians should think and act when it comes to the power of governments and the way Christians respond.
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:27–38, ESV)
Here Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. Here he makes his famous grand statement about who Jesus is. But what comes next exposes Peter’s misunderstanding of what his own confession actually means. To the extent that we may share Peter’s misunderstanding, this passage powerfully challenges us to reflect further.
Note the way Jesus responds to Peter. He affirms the good part of what Peter has to say. And this is an affirmation we must hear too. But he also challenges Peter, a challenge that must be heard loud and clear, a challenge to the wrong ways of thinking about Messiah and kingdom. Only as we fully understand who Jesus is, not just potential “political revolutionary” but as the true king, can we understand all this in its fullness, appreciating what we must do also.
A strong case can be made that the whole of Mark’s Gospel is about the identity of Jesus. This book is written to suffering Christians living through Nero’s persecutions in the 1st century, Christians having to wrestle with how they will respond not just to the general vague suffering that surrounds them, but also to the suffering that occurs via the power of the political regime over them. Even as the Christians suffered under the hands of this great tyrant, they were wrestling to understand how their leader, their ruler Jesus, would be greater than Nero and yet not like him at all.
Our story begins all the way back at the beginning of Mark with a discussion of how Jesus will be the king envisioned by the prophet Isaiah, a king who does not rule over simply a worldly Kingdom, but instead a king who rules over an eternal Kingdom, yet paradoxically an eternal kingdom that is already here. But Jesus rules this already-present kingdom not with an iron fist but with gentleness. Isaiah 41 says he will not break a bruised reed, not snuff out a smoldering wick. This is Jesus the powerful and yet compassionate king. Isaiah 40 indicates he leads captives back gently, leading those who carry their young quietly, close to his breast.
The picture of Jesus is the picture of a great and yet compassionate king, unlike Nero in every way. But as well as being great and compassionate, he is also a king who suffers. The disciples had been trying to understand and needed to understand that Jesus is all of these things – and therefore the kingdom that he rules must be like this as well.
As we reach Mark 8:27-38, we have come to the climax of Mark’s gospel. This exchange is the middle of the book, not just spatially, but conceptually, the place where everything comes to a head. Immediately preceding this passage, Jesus heals a blind man, something that will recur in 10:45.