Egyptian Christians are typically pro-life. Many, however, struggle with being consistent, especially in the case of rape. This is a vexing problem in any part of the world, but it becomes more complex in Egypt. Part of the problem is the unique circumstances created by Islam, particularly in some rural areas of Upper Egypt (far south of Cairo).
For example, if a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, she is faced with a dilemma. Adoption is not allowed in Islam, so she can’t carry the child to term and then ask a loving couple to raise her son or daughter. Orphanages exist in Egypt, but my contacts there tell me the conditions are horrendous. The other option – to parent the child – is also problematic because both a raped woman and her child are treated like trash. Many times people try to kill her if she doesn’t have an abortion. If they succeed, both mother and child lose their life.
It’s this situation that troubles many pro-life, Arab Christians. Shouldn’t a pregnant woman have an abortion when her life and the life of her unborn child is in jeopardy? If she doesn’t have an abortion, both she and her child die. If she has an abortion, then only the child loses his life. It’s a greater good that one lives than two die.
In the past (although I can’t find the specific post), I think I conceded that abortion could be allowed in such a scenario. I mistakenly compared this situation to an ectopic pregnancy. In this life-threatening condition, the child is growing in a location (e.g. fallopian tube) not suitable to gestate a child. If the pregnancy is not stopped, the growing child will rupture the fallopian tube, cause bleeding, infection, and the death of the mother. Both mother and child lose their life. The alternative is to terminate the pregnancy (resulting in the death of the child) to save the life of the mother.
Typically, pro-lifers agree that medical action is morally appropriate in an ectopic pregnancy. The reasoning is based on the greater good. It’s better that one person should live (the mother) than two persons should die (both mother and child). The child is going to die no matter what course of action is taken (indeed, the child often dies even before medical action is taken because its life can't be sustained without implanting in the endometrial lining). There’s currently no medical procedure where we can transplant a child from the fallopian tube to the uterus. Therefore, it’s a greater good to preserve one life when it’s impossible to preserve two.
While I agree with the moral reasoning of taking medical action in an ectopic pregnancy, I think I was wrong to compare it to the situation women face in Egypt when they are raped and become pregnant. Admittedly, there is some similarity. In both cases, having an abortion would result in one person surviving, and doing nothing likely results in two persons dying. That’s where the parallels end, though.
There are some key differences. In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, the child is going to die as a result of a medical problem. His or her death is certain. The child conceived through rape, though, has the possibility of living. Although wicked people might attempt to kill the mother and child, this is not an inevitable outcome. The would-be killers might not find out about the pregnancy, may not care enough to kill, or the mother might run to seek help from people who would care for her and her child.
There’s a second difference. No one is morally culpable when a child dies as a result of an ectopic pregnancy. However, intentionally killing a healthy child (albeit under dire circumstances) is morally problematic.
Consider the following hypothetical situation (this is the “Trot Out the Toddler” tactic for those familiar with this approach). A terrorist breaks into your home and demands you murder a two-year-old child sitting on your sofa. If you don’t, he will kill you and the child. Would you do it? Are you justified in murdering an innocent child to save your life? I submit it would be immoral to use a child as a shield to protect yourself.
The woman facing pressure from Muslim culture to abort or be killed faces a similar moral dilemma. I don’t think abortion would be the right thing to do.
I’m not saying I would come down hard on a woman who chose abortion under such a circumstance. I think I would understand if a woman made that choice. But I believe the consistent pro-life view would be to not abort. Perhaps she could flee and seek Christians who would take her in and provide her with shelter. That would give her and the child a chance to live.
Besides, trying to preserve your life at all costs (especially by killing an innocent child) doesn't reflect a Christian worldview. It presumes that this life (this side of the grave) is the only life that matters and that the afterlife is not real. The Christian worldview, though, rejects that notion. Yes, our earthly lives matter, but they are merely a precursor of more significant things to come.
Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). After all, Jesus reminds us 10 verses later, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39). Difficult words, to be sure, but true nonetheless.
If you haven’t read our most recent issue of Solid Ground (that I co-wrote with Greg), I encourage you to read it now. You need to understand a challenge the Church is facing and will continue to face in the foreseeable future. It will be tough for Christians who want to remain faithful to Christ and Scripture.
With the recent SCOTUS decision legalizing same-sex marriage, we will be increasingly living in a culture that is supportive of homosexuality. That will exert external pressure on Christians. We’ll also have internal pressure from Christians who want the Church to be gay-affirming. Given both of these forces, we’ll have our hands full. It will be tempting to want to compromise our convictions. We’ll need to stand firm and not conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2).
Even if you’re not the least bit persuaded by The Reformation Project (TRP) and their revisionist interpretation, you might need to become familiar with the material Greg and I present because a believer you might know will need your help. If you don’t read it for yourself, read it so you can help them when and if they’re beguiled by TRP’s revisionist interpretation of Scripture.
Right now I’m working on Part II of this Solid Ground series, but in the meantime I want you to consider what TRP, the Gay Christian Network, and others like them think. They believe that Judaism and Christianity have, since their inception, been permissive of loving and consensual homosexual sex acts. In other words, they believe the Bible does condemn some homosexual acts, but only abusive or exploitive ones. It’s hard to imagine Moses, the prophets, Jesus, and the disciples all affirming some forms of homosexual behavior, but that’s TRP’s incredible view.
As Greg and I clarify in part I (and will again in part II) of this Solid Ground series, the Bible's prohibition of homosexual behavior is a categorical rejection of all male-male or female-female sex acts, not just abusive or exploitive ones.
Even the Jewish historian Josephus based his condemnation of homosexual intercourse on the Mosaic Law by stating, “The law recognizes only sexual intercourse that is according to nature, that which is with a woman…But it abhors the intercourse of males with males.”[i] Notice he mentions sex that is "according to nature," which is heterosexual, in contrast to that which is against nature (homosexual). There’s nothing here to narrow the type of sinful homosexual sex acts to merely exploitive forms.
Don’t get me started! There’s so much wrong with TRP’s assessment of the Bible and homosexuality, but I’ll save it for part II of Solid Ground that comes out in September. Be sure to keep it and part I together as a handy tool to see through TRP’s case.
[i]Against Apion 2.199 as cited in Robert Gagnon, Horizons in Biblical Theology, Vol. 25 (2003), 232.
Sometimes the best remedy for a moral/theological controversy is simply a good old-fashioned, down to earth, nothing buttery, search-the-Scriptures to-see-if-it’s-so, Bible study. Of course, because of ambiguities in the text, not every challenging, contentious biblical dispute can be settled this easily. Frequently, though, a careful, close look at the Scripture is all that’s required to resolve what might seem at first to be a difficult dispute.
That’s the approach Alan Shlemon and Greg Koukl take to respond to one of the most severe challenges to Christian orthodoxy the church faces today. The question: What does God really think about homosexuality? This isn't only a dispute over morality. It's a question of what God teaches us in the Bible and its authority over how Christians live and what we teach. Some Christians, such as Matthew Vines, suggest that the church has misunderstood the Bible's teaching on homosexuality for 2000 years. In this first part of a two-part series, Alan and Greg show how these claims are not what the Bible teaches.
I believe parents are responsible for their children’s spiritual training. Of course, pastors, youth leaders, and Sunday school teachers can help. But parents have to do most of the work. Frankly, that makes me nervous. I’m still going to try my best, though.
Last month, I took my son to the center of UCLA’s campus during an abortion protest and had him engage abortion-choice advocates that were twice his age. I know that sounds a little crazy, but I’m a firm believer in the principle of inoculation.
Inoculation against false ideas works similarly to the way we inoculate against a virus. To vaccinate against polio, for example, you ingest an attenuated (weakened, but alive) virus. Your immune system responds by producing antibodies, killer cells that seek and destroy the virus. That way, when your body is exposed to polio in the real world, your immune system isn’t caught off guard. It neutralizes the threat with its army of antibodies.
Inoculating young believers against a false idea works the same way. You teach them the errant view, why people believe it, and what’s wrong with those reasons. That way, when they come across someone who holds the view, they’re not surprised by the person’s arguments. The young believer easily recognizes their reasoning and is ready to respond.
That’s what I did when I found out former Stand to Reason speaker (and my good friend) Steve Wagner was bringing the Justice for All exhibit to UCLA. Their ministry uses graphic images of abortion to spark conversations about abortion on university campuses. In anticipation of their arrival, I spent three days teaching my son the basics of embryology, some arguments for abortion, and a few pro-life tactics of persuasion. Then, I role-played an abortion-choice advocate to get him familiar with how the material is applied in conversations.
After he was comfortable arguing with me, I asked my wife to make a case for abortion to him. That way, he was exposed to a different person’s thinking. He struggled a little because she thinks and responds differently than I do. I gave him feedback on his performance, and we prepared for the next stage.
Justice for All provided an all-day training for pro-lifers who wanted to become better equipped or were planning on attending the campus protest. I took him so he’d learn pro-life training from different people. This would solidify material he was familiar with, provide nuances to training he knew, and expose him to new arguments. More importantly, he got to role-play with strangers (both students and adults) who thought even more differently than my wife.
Field training was next. Our two-hour road trip to UCLA gave us time to reflect on his training and pray for the upcoming hostile encounters with real people who would disagree with him.
My son’s first encounter with an abortion-choice advocate occurred while he stood next to Steve during a conversation. Although he got to mostly see Steve model the pro-life tactics he learned days before, he also contributed a little to the conversation. His second encounter was with me. My son saw a college student nearby and, without any prompting, approached him and started talking to him. I stayed completely out of the conversation, allowing my son to wrestle with the man’s arguments and formulate responses.
After a few conversations, his confidence increased. While I was talking to a couple of other students, I heard some girls laughing behind me. I turned around and noticed my son who, on his own, had started talking to two abortion-choice advocates. They were disagreeing with him, but having fun in the process. He had about a dozen conversations that day.
To be honest, I was a little skeptical he’d be able to traffic with college-aged students, but he handled himself nicely. He was able to identify tangents and prompt the abortion-choice advocate to focus on the question of whether the unborn was human (which is what he was taught to do).
The process of inoculating against an idea is a progression. For my son, I taught him content first. Then, I had him role-play with me, my wife, and strangers who were pro-life. Then, he watched experienced pro-lifers model the tactics with people who disagree. Finally, he engaged abortion-choice advocates himself. I gave him feedback at every step and helped him process every encounter.
I’m not saying every parent needs to do the same thing with their 10-year-old. I’m not even saying at what age they should start or with what topic. My point is to give you an example of inoculation. Parents (AKA youth leaders) can apply the same principle with other ideas their kids will encounter.
I’ve made a video explaining a similar point about inoculation. Also, I recommend these quick-reference guides (here, here, and here) as good starting places to become familiar with opposing ideas. Plus, they're only one page (double-sided), and so they're very accessible.