You can listen to this in podcast form over at Reconstructionist Radio.
Welcome to Setting the Record Straight, a podcast of Reconstructionist Radio. I’m Jason Garwood, teaching pastor of Cross & Crown Church in Northern Virginia, and today I want to talk about abolition, and, specifically, those who would adhere to the principles of abolition to the degree that they associate with various societies around the world known as AHA: Abolish Human Abortion. So, let’s begin.
I want to start by confessing some things up front. I’m a fallen sinner whose only standing before God is the imputed righteousness of Christ Jesus my Lord. Because I have not yet fully put to death all the sin that lurks in the shadows of my regenerated heart, I sometimes succumb to those sins and they manifest themselves in ugly ways. Up until this point I trust that you, too, have had similar feelings on the matter and can relate to my experience.
One of the ways sin can manifest itself is through improper judgment. What I don’t mean is that we shouldn’t judge—the Bible says that’s what it means to be spiritual in 1 Corinthians 2:15. That’s not the issue at hand. Nor is that the point of Matthew 7:1 when Jesus told his disciples to “judge not.” He was encouraging them to judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24), and not unrighteous, or self-righteous judgment, as was the case of the Pharisees. In short: Christian’s are supposed to be the most judgmental people on the planet.
The improper judgment that I’m speaking of is our uncanny ability to quickly dismiss something without thoughtful, judicious inquiry. This has become especially problematic as of late because of some of the cultural conditions we’ve precipitated. In other words, someone sees a news headline and they click “share” on facebook, either not realizing that it was probably a sarcastic piece of satire from Babylon Bee, or it was a phony website whose sole purpose is to tantalize their constituents. Shrewdness is severely lacking for the fool who won’t judge all things properly.
Improper judgment can manifest itself on many levels: assumptions of racism, preconceived ideas based on appearances, or even conceptualized straw men that are fashioned by people who can’t think for themselves—they would rather emote and call you names. For the most part, those who choose the straw man are carefully making said straw man in their own image—it says more about the person doing it than the person on the receiving end of the fallacious reasoning.
At the core of improper judgment is the failure of the modern church to adhere to the law of God. Because antinomianism still runs rampant, and because the name it and claim it brigade is still at large, we have no proper grid to judge things appropriately. In other words, the standard becomes something as subjective as “my feelings got hurt,” and the objectivity of the law-word of God is reduced to choice “D,” which is “None of the above.” If you adamantly choose not to judge with the objective standard of God’s law, then you are sawing off the branch your little judicial inquisition sits upon.
If it is true that the foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice, and Psalm 89:14 says this very thing, then we must come to the point where we realize that God is very much interested in using said foundation as the very means through which he establishes justice in the world. Said differently, God’s people are to have an ethical/judicial lens for everything that comes to pass, even if it is the Church herself who is receiving the judgment. I’ll talk more about this in a moment.
Back to me for a second. My subtle antinomianism came to a crashing halt several years ago after Greg Bahnsen slapped me around in his book By This Standard. It was here when my life was forever altered. Bahnsen had finally straightened out my subtle antinomian proclivities. It was also during this time that I saw the abolish human abortion website. I had never heard of AHA, nor did I know anything about them. As I started to investigate some of the like-minded folks who adhere to AHA’s ideology, I was somewhat perturbed. While Bahnsen messed with my understanding of the law—for which I am ever so grateful for!—my ecclesiology was still super-authoritarian (at least in view, not so much practice), and the whole church repent thing didn’t sit well with me. Why in the world would these people stand out front and protest a solid biblical church!? These people are crazy! Shouldn’t they be “in church” anyway?
Had I ever encountered an abolitionist with a sign, I might have said the very same things that everyone always says to them: “What church are you a part of?” “Who are your elders?” “What are the names of the elders who you submit to?” And so on.
If you’re tracking up to this point, it should be fairly obvious: My reaction was one of improper judgment. The people who are constantly trying to slander, demean, and continue their scandalmongering, you know, the folks like Pulpit & Pen who are the Baptist version of TMZ, they simply do not have proper judgment. The elites of evangelicalism—the James Whites, Todd Friels, John MacArthurs, and the Pulpit & Pen bunglers—their sensationalism and clear lack of proper judgment furthers the slander.
Instead of judging something by the Scriptures (you remember the sola scriptura thing, right)—they judge it by local church membership alone, as if that was the sixth sola recently discovered. What we don’t need is more mudslinging and false narratives perpetuated by ignorant people who have never once actually sought to use proper judgment and shrewd investigation. Instead of actually sitting down and discussing the tactics used by my friends, they would rather throw stones from their precious ivory towers. And honestly, it’s getting stupid anymore.
Perhaps you saw the video coverage of a woman and her children trying to use the bathroom at the conference they were ministering outside of, and how they weren’t allowed in. Fellow Christians laboring to awaken the church, and they can’t use the bathroom. There were, apparently, no good samaritans in attendance.
Stories like this abound. Pastors swearing at abolitionists, church members giving them the middle finger. Abolitionists being cursed at, spat upon, and defamed, not by ISIS and enthused Planned Parenthood feminists, (though the latter category happens, too), but by fellow Christians. Think about that for a moment. The most hostility that abolitionists receive comes from their very own brothers and sisters. Staggering, isn’t it? You see why the Church Repent project exists?
And yet this is precisely why abolitionists are doing it. Instead of comfortably calling the church to repent from the echo chamber of the pulpit and conference podium, how about we actually call the church to repent for apathy? Actually “go” to the “church,” (which is, of course, the people of God), and call for their repentance? Given the response to abolitionists who are simply trying to prod the conscience of the church through prophetic witness, one would think by said responses of the evangelical Gestapo, that a holocaust doesn’t really exist. That abolitionists are crazy for thinking that the situation is so dire to merit this sort of behavior.
Now, I by no means believe that folks like James White, Todd Friel and so on are ignorant of the atrocities that are happening in our midst. I also by no means believe that they don’t care about it. I know they care about the holocaust, and I know they hate it. And I know to some extent, they are trying, at least in their own conscience, to do something about it.
But why in the world would they criticize the Christians who are on the streets proclaiming the gospel and bringing the law and gospel of God into conflict with the current status quo? Why is it that Paul Washer can stand in the pulpit at John MacArthur’s church and talk about the need for more street preaches, but others say, “No, not like that.”
And why is it suddenly about local church membership and authoritarian nonsense? The same stuff you would expect from Rome? No wonder we have a growing police state built on fascist ideology. We have churches who are organized the same way!
Why can’t something be judged on the basis of Scripture alone, which is where proper judgment is found, and not on the basis of Romanism?
Tell me, Mr. Reformed bossy pants…if they were lining up 2 year old children at the public school to execute them, and abolitionists came to your church or conference to sound the alarm and exhort you to do something about it, would you honestly come out and say, “Which church do you belong to?” As if your repentance is conditioned by your subjective approval of one’s particular fellowship?
Here’s what my improper judgment was fueled by: envy. For me, I was complacent in the midst of the holocaust. I was the one who said, “I sure wish we could do something about this, but I have a sermon to prepare about God’s grace, and I can’t do anything anyway.” I was the one who was comfortably in my 501(c)3 job, sitting behind my comfortable desk, doing my comfortable things. When my apathy was called out, suddenly my heart filled with envy because I was wrong, and I was jealous of the fact that they were doing something and I wasn’t. I had gotten to the place where my apathy was brought into conflict with the gospel.
“You say you believe abortion is murder, and you admit that the holocaust is continuing, but you aren’t doing anything about it.” You’re right. I’m not. And not only am I not doing anything about it, I’m working against the people of God because I’m choosing to bury my head in the sand. In fact, I’m so willing to bury my head, that I’ll criticize you, dear brother in Christ, along the way.
There are two ways to respond to the Christian who is enthused about the kingdom of God: either you repent and join the enthusiasm, or you harden your heart and fight against him. The former becomes an ally, the latter becomes filled with envy because his complacency is now exposed.
That’s where I was. Instead of hearing the message of abolition, and judging the efforts made by my brothers and sisters in Christ by Scripture, my heart hardened and I wrote them off. I judged improperly. You know what changed for me? Going to the mill and talking with people. Getting to know their story. Hearing them articulate the same gospel I articulate each Sunday and in my home.
This past February I was able to spend time with many abolitionists who I had gotten to know through Facebook over the years. I was able to preach at the Texas Capital building and actually do the work of Kingdom living in a way I hadn’t before. We marched through Austin proclaiming the gospel and demonstrating our displeasure with child sacrifice (to put it mildly). We petitioned the civil magistrates of Texas to seek justice and do righteousness. The best thing for me, however, was talking with these brothers and sisters. We shared meals together, hit the streets together, and spent the whole weekend together. And you know what?
These abolitionists—the AHA Christians—they are the most amazing people. They have the audacity to be a part of a local fellowship AND call the church and nation to repentance. The common theme that whole weekend was this: We are the Church, and we hate child sacrifice. All of these scandalmongering fools who want to slander AHA are ignoramuses whose hearts are full of envy. That’s the only thing it can be. How else can you constantly slam people who are actually part of local fellowships, who actually have elders and pastors, who actually want to awaken the church—how can you continue to slander, misrepresent, and mischaracterize them? How can you do it? I’m baffled. It honestly leaves me in a state of flummoxed curiosity and perturbed vexation.
Why is it always, “Who are your elders?” I’m a pastor. I’m an elder. And I don’t go around like some agent from the NSA sneaking around managing my people. I don’t need to give the people under my care permission to preach the gospel. I don’t need to constantly assert my authority—finger waving and all. I don’t need to live like that, and I refuse to live like that.
If people were to actually take the time to exercise proper biblical judgment, these types of problems wouldn’t exist. They just wouldn’t. Instead of sound-bites on Facebook, calling AHA’ers “Jihadists,” and all sorts of stupid things like this, perhaps you could talk to an abolitionist? The folks I know, and I met tons of them in Texas, are warm, loving people. They love Jesus Christ, and love His bride enough to warn her of impending judgment. So, what gives? What’s your excuse for slandering brothers and sisters in Christ? What’s your excuse for constantly shaming and defaming the people Jesus bled for? What’s your excuse for refusing to dialogue and instead write a sensationalized piece of fake news on your alleged “discernment blog”? What’s your excuse?
I know what they are. Isaiah heard them. Amos heard them. Jeremiah and Ezekiel heard them. Daniel received the same pushback, and even Jesus himself received the same stinking treatment. Jesus was asked who his elders were, his teachers, his rabbi’s: “By what authority are you doing this?” was the question he received. Might I submit to you that if those are the things you say, that you’re on the wrong side of this?
Some even oblige us and say, “I agree with what you’re saying, but how you’re going about it is wrong…these are Bible believing churches!” Really? Because they hold to the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation, they believe the Bible? And their simple profession of doctrine is the standard for all of this? Could we not find ourselves in a situation where someone can have sound doctrine and not do anything about justice? Is it possible to have all the right doctrines, do all the right local church membership things, and do all the right rituals in all the right ways, and still be apathetic about the abortion holocaust? It’s obvious, isn’t it.
Besides, these aren’t protests and they aren’t hate groups. AHAers are people who love the church enough to tell her the truth. That’s what Christians who seek for Christ’s Kingdom and Righteousness do. That’s why John MacArthur can say from the pulpit that the church needs to repent. It’s the same for abolitionists who are trying to awaken the sleepy Bride of Christ nationwide.
That said, I thought I’d give some advice on how to properly respond to AHA, and I, a pastor, am numbered among their army as an abolitionist, not a member of the group (which, incidentally, isn’t a group anyway, despite our critics who can’t seem to get this straight.)
Number 1— Be quiet for a second and listen. James 1:19 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” From what I’ve witnessed firsthand, and from what I’ve seen on various videos, this is not the approach of AHA’s critics. It’s usually reversed: quick to anger, quick to speak, slow to listen. Paul Washer is the only person I’ve witnessed on video with an abolitionist who obeyed this verse. Most others would rather emote like a snowflake at a liberal university. So, to start, just listen. Listen to what’s being said, engage in a kind manner, and try to actually see the person you are talking to as a brother or sister in Christ. He is. She is. (One small caveat: I’m not saying that abolitionists have always followed this wisdom from James, either. Abolitionists are just as prone to sinful behavior as the next person!)
Number 2 — Judge what you hear based upon the Scriptures. Instead of throwing out your authoritarian ideologies about mandatory local church membership, which, as it turns out, there are scant verses to stretch even refer to, try hearing the context of what’s being said by abolitionists. They, too, love the Bible, and they, too, are trying to obey it. But don’t play the Popish card, play the Scriptural card. Nathan rebuked David, a magistrate, and a Christian, so don’t act like you or any other church is above rebuke. Also, in that same vein, please do try and understand where they are coming from as it pertains to Scripture. You’d be surprised at how well-versed my abolitionist brothers and sisters are. They’ve studied up. Don’t write them off.
Number 3 — Join us. Instead of refusing to dialogue, or worse yet, throwing things like saliva and Bibles, join us. Repent of your apathy, and join us. We’re not recruiting you to an organization, AHA is not an organization. It’s simply a manner of describing what it looks like to be a Christain in the midst of a holocaust. Seriously. There is no organization—there is no tax write off for your “seed money” to AHA, and while we’re on the subject, there is no place to send your check. So don’t do it. Fund missionaries to do this work instead of sending it to the Pro-Life executive who drives a Ferrari. Or something like that.
Now, along this line of thinking, I need to make sure you understand something. We’re not lone-ranger Christians who hate the church. I’m pretty sure the king of Israel said the same thing to Jeremiah anyway.
We’re not church haters. We’re not even local church haters. We believe in the universal church and the priesthood of all believers. But we also believe in the fellowship of the saints. No 501(c)3 badge with a fancy name like “Super-Awesome Fun Church” is going to deter us from fellowshipping or rebuking someone who names the name of Christ. I don’t need a formal local church man-made covenant to be a part of Christ’s bride, and I don’t need permission to call someone to repentance. Neither do you if you want to call me to repentance.
But please know that these are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Abolitionists are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Do you hear me? Treat them that way. This is what Christ demands of you.
Thanks for reading. Soli Deo Gloria.