The beliefs of Dr. Peter Singer, an ethics professor at Princeton University, are anathema to those of us who believe in the sanctity of human life. Yet, unlike some in the abortion movement, Dr. Singer is, though offensive in speech and philosophy, honest and straightforward about what he believes and why he believes it.
When articulating his support for legalized abortion, Peter Singer admits his valuation of human life is based on a person’s capacities instead of it being measured on the Christian belief that life is made in God’s image, and thus worthy of protection. In other words, if a person has little or no capacity to think, walk, speak or write, his or her life, according to Dr. Singer, is inferior, and thus dispensable.
He realizes his perspective is radical, but still believes it’s right. In talking about his campaign to change people’s minds on this topic he said, “We are trying to overturn 2,000 years of Christian tradition.”
Interestingly enough, the mainstream pro-abortion movement is very uncomfortable with Dr. Singer’s blunt line of reasoning. But as Dr. Tim Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, has said, Dr. Singer’s reasoning presents a logical crisis for those who support abortion rights:
If you don’t believe in the image of God, what are you going to ground human rights in? You’re going to ground it in capacities. If you can’t protect the unborn you can’t protect the newly born, you can’t protect the mentally handicapped, you can’t protect old people. It’s a fact. It’s logical. If you go back to the beginning of the Christian church, here’s what you saw: they came into a Greco-Roman world that also grounded the idea of rights on capacities. Aristotle said that some races are too emotional, they couldn’t reason because they didn’t have the capacity for higher reason. They deserved to be slaves. And in the Greco-Roman world you had slavery, you had terrible poverty, you had lots of abortion, you had infanticide. It was perfectly legal…girl babies died of exposure. And you took the elderly and sick poor people and just let them die. And that was all legal; and it was done all the time.
But the Christians came along and they believed in the Imago Dei. And because they believed in the image of God, from the beginning they were champions [of life] … they were totally against abortion, from the beginning. Because if you believe in the image of God you have to be… if human life is good, then nascent human life has got to be good. But they were also against infanticide. They were not one-issue people. They cared for the poor… They were champions of women; they were champions of orphans; they were champions of the weak; they were champions of the poor. And they were against abortion. And they put the rest of the culture to shame because of their belief in the sanctity of life.
So that eventually, the whole Western world adopted the idea of the image of God. Because when you believe in the image of God, the circle of protected life expands. But if you don’t believe in the image of God, if you only believe in capacities or some other trumped up approach to why we believe in human rights, the circle will continually contract. It will get smaller and smaller, and fewer and fewer people will be protected. You see how incredible, crucial, important, the image of God teaching is.
Pivoting off Dr. Keller’s powerful analysis, I’m excited to tell you about a conference here in Colorado Springs. Focus on the Family is a co-sponsor of the first annual Life and Justice Conference on Saturday, January 22nd at New Life Church. You can also join live via simulcast by clicking here.
It is a beautiful thing when Christians unite and collaborate behind such a critically important cause. I have enormous admiration, respect and appreciation for the millions of people who have long defended the rights of the pre-born child, including some of the movement’s most prominent leaders. From Focus on the Family’s founder Dr. James Dobson and Focus’ Tom Minnery to Phyllis Schlafly and Gary Bauer to Father Frank Pavone and Wendy Wright, the roll of faithful pro-life stalwarts is long and admirable.
Next Saturday, I’m excited to hear from those who will add to this storied history of pro-life advocacy. Our own Kelly Rosati and Katie Porter along with Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan and New Life pastor Brady Boyd will be speaking, among others. This conference will help to call attention to our strong support of the sanctity, dignity and worth of each and every human life. As Dr. Keller so eloquently articulated, if the preborn child is at risk, so are the elderly, the orphans and those with special needs.
As Christians, we must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. There is a glorious history in the church of believers running in to help the vulnerable and those without capacity – just as everyone else is running out. Jesus’ two-thousand year-old command to care for “the least of these” remains as relevant as ever today.
I hope you’ll tune in online or attend in person on Saturday. Either way, please continue to pray for those in our midst who are most in need of our help and those serving them.