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April 09, 2008


It's a shame Pastor Hamilton's views were misconstrued in Newsweek and I'm thankful for his careful clarification.

I do think it's unfortunate, though, that he's titled his book as he has. When someone talks about shades of gray rather than black and white, usually there is a lot of moral confusion in that gray. Seeing things in black and white doesn't mean seeing things simplistically. Black and white can take into consideration the multitude of factors and complications that go into making a correct moral decision. And it seems to me that is what Pastor Hamilton is trying to capture.

Pastor Hamilton's writing about abortion is actually quite morally specific and clear, and so is his proper attention to the personal elements in specific cases of pregnancy and abortion that he deals with as a pastor. He actually doesn't see shades of gray at all. What he asks us to do is remember another moral value that is relevant to the abortion debate, and that's the people in addition to the baby that we should also be concerned for. I think he's right that that is sometimes lacking in the intensity of the abortion debate.

I disagree with some of his assessments about rare instances when abortion should be an option, but I respect his careful and clear reasoning.

I appreciate the tone of this blog and comments. I agree with the above poster that there are some issues I have with Adam's thinking, but I can tell after having read the chapter that his actual heart is reducing the number of Abortions, and That is common ground we should all occupy!!

Thanks for this thoughtful discussion. Another great resource is Adam's most recent sermon about abortion here:

Haven't read the whole thing yet, but in the first few paragraphs, he gives these justifications for abortion:

1. "I believe abortion is ethically justifiable when carrying a child to viability could pose a significant danger to the life of the mother."

2. "I also believe that abortion could be morally justifiable in cases of rape and incest when the psychological affects upon the woman of carrying the child to term could be devastating."

3. "Finally, I believe it could be argued that, in cases of the most severe kind of fetal abnormalities, where it is known with certainty that the fetus cannot survive apart from the mother, abortion might be justifiable (again, these are rare instances)."

He then goes on to say:

"These situations are rare - interpreted most liberally, perhaps 25%. According to others, less than 5%."

There are over a million abortions a year, right? Using the 25% figure, are there really 250,000 instances a year of pregnancies by rape/incest, severe fetal deformations, and/or significant endangerment to the mother? That seems awfully high to me. For example, the US DOJ reported 150,000 rapes in 2005 (see http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/cvusst.htm and Wikipedia). Only a small percentage of these will result in pregnancy. There's still a long way to go to get to 250,000.

The rape/incest and fetal deformation figures are probably reasonably settled. I'm wondering what Mr. Hamilton's assessment of "significant endangerment to the mother" might be. To be fair, he only uses the 25% figure as an upper bound. But I'd still like to know what standard he is using even for this limited purpose.

The idea running throughout the chapeter is that society is the final decider if it is OK to kill the unborn. I guess it is a question of how many devout Christians can hold their noses at the stench of this concept and join the middle ground to reduce the number of abortions abortions.

My initial response to what the pastor says while defending his position is that he's doing what is right in his own eyes. I dont know the situation personally, but I'd venture to guess that this "pastor" has no overseer, nor is he seeking godly counsel from men gifted at serving the body of believers when it comes to making decisions of life and death.

I couldn't have said it better than Louis above [I just read what you posted], and I think this is along the same lines I'm coming from, what is the final authority we should appeal to as Christians? Society? No way. The pastor seems to me to be unqualified to hold his position. Like I said, I dont know the situation personally, so I may be wrong about him, but I'm very wary [after reading his blog] none the less.

Brad B

Yesterday morning I read this post, and the referenced materials on Adam Hamilton's pursuit of common ground, and I responded in a blog post here:


My response addresses Adam's understanding about "color theory" in relation to the spiritual dimension of the abortion debate.

I'm curious to see if you agree that there's more to gray than meets the eye.

Please let me know what you think.

2. "I also believe that abortion could be morally justifiable in cases of rape and incest when the psychological affects upon the woman of carrying the child to term could be devastating."

=> If the child the woman is carry is a human being, then psychological effects cannot be a reason to abort. Project this to a mother who has already delivered: the psychological effects of being a single mother, financial burden, etc. are too much and hence abort.

3. "Finally, I believe it could be argued that, in cases of the most severe kind of fetal abnormalities, where it is known with certainty that the fetus cannot survive apart from the mother, abortion might be justifiable (again, these are rare instances)."

The question is who determines and certifies that there are severe abnormalities. Dr. Tiller would be more than happy to get fake certifications. A friend was told at 12 weeks that her baby was fully deformed (intestines growing outside the child) and hence should abort. At 24 weeks, the sonogram was absolutely normal!

I read the whole chapter, and there is much that is problematic. On page 7, Hamilton says that the "most extreme pro-choice position" is when the fetus does not gain rights until after it is born. However, this is demonstrably false...Peter Singer of Princeton advocates the right to kill some infants up to 30 days after birth. If Hamilton were to acknowledge this, it would change everything else about his arguments.

He also spends far more time analyzing polling data than applying moral reasoning.

And finally, he acknowledges that he is ALIVE BECAUSE OF PRO-LIFE legislation. This type of hypocrisy blows me away. He would deny the unborn the very protections that kept him alive when he was conceived under rather unhappy circumstances.

I think that most of us agree that Hamilton is not the go-to-guy for moral guidance when it comes to the topic of abortion. The question is this: Does a lack of moral clarity disqualify someone from a role of leadership in a cause in which morality is central?
I believe that this is just another example of someone who has more ambition than ability for a particular goal. Personally, I place more weight on ability than ambition. I think we can find many examples of failed movements that were full of ambition without a proper foundation of ability to hold it up.

While I, like most others who have posted, have problems with Hamilton's moral reasoning, I commend him for what appears to be genuine compassion and a true understanding of the pro-life position. Too often pro-choice advocates claim they are "pro-life too and want to reduce abortions" but they only pay lip service to the idea of reducing abortions, the phrase is treated as a platitude to appease pro-lifers and moderates.

Hamilton appears to be in the movement like Saletan that wants to end abortion without removing the legal option to have abortions. If they are serious and want to accomplish the goal of ending abortion except in really hard cases (which would reduce over 1 million abortions annually), I see no reason why pro-lifers shouldn't support their efforts.

I found the article troubling. I've never really understood someone who would claim to be "pro-life" and then counsel that abortion in the case of rape was acceptable. It evidences the muddiest of thinking.

I mean seriously, what kind of moral incompetent would advocate that it is right and proper to capitally punish the victim of a crime ? I would wager money that Pastor Hamilton would be justly horrified at the idea of executing a woman who has been raped (as is done in some places) yet he advocates it as an option for the most innocent victim in the whole thing.

Frankly I can't believe someone can claim to "pro-life" and believe in the humanity and moral worth of the unborn and yet advocate such a position.

Given he has claimed to have thought the position through carefully I find it difficult to conclude anything other than that he is lying to us (and perhaps also to himself) or that he is seriously mentally impaired. Which is harsh, but what other options are there ?

An additional thought while I think about it. It strikes me that if people were serious about ending abortion except for the "hard cases" then they would speak about it differently.

I think abortion kills an unborn human being and is a great moral wrong, but I would be willing to compromise on it and allow abortions in the case of rape with certain provisions, essentially to keep the cases honest.

So, something to the effect of, if an abortion was sought in the case of a rape then a statement would need to be made to police and the crime reported and then the aborted child used to obtain forensic evidence and the like in an effort to find the rapist.

Plus of course, the expectation that the women seeking to obtain such an abortion, if making a false charge of rape, would find her self charged with premeditated murder, which is after all what she would have done.

I suspect with caveats like that, the number of abortions sought after rapes would be negligible.

And of course, I think there is something to the OT idea of capitally punishing rapists, and also to the idea of making the rapist responsible for the financial security of their victims.

But I suspect either of those ideas would be unworkable in our sexually permissive societies today :(

When I read Hamilton’s post and the chapter in the book, I think it is fair to say that he is in fact attempting to create an atmosphere of winning a few battles – which is not by itself a bad strategy when it comes to saving lives. I don’t think what he wrote is a manifesto for either the pro-life or the pro-choice positions and I certainly don’t share the same view of the desired outcome of the “war”. However, no war is won without winning battles and it is certainly desirable to save as many lives along the way as possible.

The one thing that struck me when I read his chapter was that it took a conscious effort on my part not to “dig my heals in” and reject out of hand some of the points he was making. In itself, that was a good exercise for me. However, I must say that I was more then a little confused between what I saw as a very moderate position on when is abortion morally acceptable (the first two thirds of his chapter) and his mothers testimony (last third) that would lead me to think that his position would have been further to the right then the left. – Just my observation.

Let me be clear – As a Christian, I am to the extreme right on this topic. If Hamilton’s position is a snap-shot of the desired outcome of “war”, then I take issue with it because I find it very inconsistent. For example, there is much “compassionate” discussion about the value of the life of the mother and how it is at varying degree of risk; from inconvenience to life threatening. But, there is little if any discussion on the value of the life of the unborn child.

When I consider Hamilton’s presentation in his chapter in light of Jesus’ teaching using the parable of the dishonest manager in Luke 16, I’m wondering if there is some shrewdness to Hamilton’s approach that may in fact save lives.

Finally, I’m convicted by a couple of points that he made and I think we all should consider as Christians, aside from taking a strong Pro-Life position: What are we doing to lead lives of purity and holiness and teach the same to our sons and daughters and their friends? Once a child is conceived in these situations, what are we doing to provide an environment where the mother, father, and child are well cared for? Do we place the same value on human life in all situations that we do when we discuss abortion?

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