Estimated reading time: 24 minutes
It would be an understatement to call this year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting turbulent. It was marked by the departure of a key leader, moral failures of many leaders who remained, a contentious presidential election, another leader threatening to leave if he didn’t get his way (always the hallmark of a good relationship), and the decision to finally address sexual abuse by clergy.
None of the believable mistakes surprised me, even if they disappointed me. But the unbelievable mistake, an unbiblical error which will likely cost the lives of unborn children, was that this divided convention passed a resolution condemning pro-life incrementalism and supporting nothing but immediate, exceptionless abolition of abortion.
In the first section, I will print the SBC’s resolution in its entirety, though without scriptural proof texts and with added emphasis. I will then proceed to show that the SBC is aiding and abetting a group of misguided radicals whose foolish actions will result in more death, not less.
Southern Baptist Convention 2021 Resolution: “On Abolishing Abortion”
WHEREAS, from the moment of fertilization, all humans are created in God’s image by, through, and for Jesus to the glory of God, and all souls belong to Him, and
WHEREAS, as God’s image-bearers, all humans both display His divine worth, power, and attributes, and possess equal, objective worth before God, not varying based on incidental characteristics; such as ethnicity, age, size, means of conception, mental development, physical development, gender, potential, or contribution to society, and
WHEREAS, to murder any preborn image-bearer is a sin, violating both the natural law of retributive justice as set forth in the Noahic covenant, as well as the sixth commandment forbidding murder, and as such, is ultimately an assault on God’s image, seeking to usurp God’s sovereignty as Creator, and
WHEREAS, God’s Word declares that all human life is a sacred gift and that His Law is supreme over man’s life and man’s law, and
WHEREAS, God commands His people to “rescue those who are being taken away to death” and holds them responsible and without excuse when they fail to do so, and
WHEREAS, God establishes all governing authorities as His avenging servants to carry out His wrath on the evildoer, and commands these authorities to judge justly, neither showing partiality to the wicked, nor using unequal standards, which are abominations, and
WHEREAS, in 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered an iniquitous decision on Roe v. Wade, and in doing so deprived the innocent of their rights, and usurped God, who sovereignly ordained their authority, and
WHEREAS, in the Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court of the United States subverted the U.S. Constitution namely, the Preamble, as well as the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments without any legal authority (Article 6, Clause 2 “Supremacy Clause”), and
WHEREAS, governing authorities at every level have a duty before God to uphold justice asserting their God-ordained and constitutional authority to establish equal protection under the law for all, born and preborn, by intervening, ignoring, or nullifying iniquitous decisions when other authorities, such as the Supreme Court, condone such injustices as the legal taking of innocent life, and
WHEREAS, over the past 48 years with 60+ million abortions, traditional Pro-life laws, though well intended, have not established equal protection and justice for the preborn, but on the contrary, appallingly have established incremental, regulatory guidelines for when, where, why, and how to obtain legal abortion of innocent preborn children, thereby legally sanctioning abortion, and
WHEREAS, since 1980, the SBC has passed many resolutions reaffirming the importance of human life at all stages of development, but we have yet to call for the immediate abolition of abortion without exception or compromise, and
WHEREAS, our confessional statement, The Baptist Faith and Message, according to Article XV, affirms that children “from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord”; and further affirms that Southern Baptists are mandated by Scripture to “speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death,” now, be it therefore
RESOLVED, that the messengers of the SBC meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, June 15-16, 2021, do state unequivocally that abortion is murder, and we reject any position that allows for any exceptions to the legal protection of our preborn neighbors, compromises God’s holy standard of justice, or promotes any God-hating partiality, and be it further
RESOLVED, that we will not embrace an incremental approach alone to ending abortion because it challenges God’s Lordship over the heart and the conscience, and rejects His call to repent of sin completely and immediately, and be it further
RESOLVED, that we affirm that the murder of preborn children is a crime against humanity that must be punished equally under the law, and be it further
RESOLVED, that we humbly confess and lament any complicity in recognizing exceptions that legitimize or regulate abortion, and of any apathy, in not laboring with the power and influence we have to abolish abortion, and be it further
RESOLVED, that as Southern Baptists we will engage, with God’s help, in establishing equal justice and protection for the preborn according to the authority of God’s Word as well as local and federal law, and call upon pastors and leaders to use their God-given gifts of preaching, teaching, and leading with one unified, principled, prophetic voice to abolish abortion, and be it finally
RESOLVED, that, because abolishing abortion is a Great Commission issue, we must call upon governing authorities at all levels to repent and “obey everything that [Christ] has commanded,” exhorting them to bear fruit in keeping with repentance by faithfully executing their responsibilities as God’s servants of justice, and working with all urgency to enact legislation using the full weight of their office to interpose on behalf of the preborn, abolishing abortion immediately, without exception or compromise.
The Abolitionists’ Successful Rearguard Maneuver
In some ways, I hate to be talking about Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) and their friends right after we released two podcasts about their history and nonsensical ideas. But people raised the question when we published the podcasts: why talk about AHA? Why give them more airtime when they seem like they’re still licking their wounds from the confrontation with the pro-life movement in 2014?
Well, this is why. AHA has been building a presence, for example in southern states like Oklahoma, and they know how to abuse processes and manipulate Christians in order to overcome the fact that they are a tiny minority. When the SBC refused to refer their resolution from committee to the general meeting, they called for a forced reading and convinced the majority to support the resolution with a single insignificant amendment.
Because the nature of the SBC meeting does not allow time for a real deliberative process, convention delegates voted with only a small amount of debate for such a significant resolution. Many supporters probably just saw “abolishing abortion immediately” and thought, “yeah, that’s a good idea.” The nature of the abolitionist position is that it plays nicely with low-grade proof-texting and looks appealing as long as you don’t think about it for too long. That makes it a relatively easy sell for rank-and-file Southern Baptists who aren’t given time to think.
Several leaders in the SBC, especially the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and apparently anyone who’s ever studied ethics, opposed the resolution; we shared an article by some of them earlier. Regardless of what you think of SBC leaders as a whole, this isn’t on them. The masses were led astray by the soothing words of a host of fools
One more note on the convention itself: the only amendment to this resolution, proposed and accepted, was the addition of the italicized word “alone” above. I don’t know why David French hails this as a meaningful limitation on the resolution’s condemnation of incrementalism. The resolution says incrementalism is complicit in murder, legitimates abortion, and a sinful rejection of God’s sovereignty. The change from “we reject incrementalism completely” to “it’s always sinful to use incrementalism alone” makes no real difference. There is no generosity of spirit in declaring, “you can do your bad, sinful incrementalism as long as you also pay fealty to abolitionism.” If anything, “alone” is a foreign word to the document, showing its meaninglessness by how out of place it is.
The Pro-Life Movement Isn’t Complicit in Abortion, But the Abolitionists Will Be
There’s so much to dismantle in this resolution, so we may as well start with the charge—again, approved by a majority of SBC delegates—that the pro-life movement is complicit in abortion.
How on earth do they reach that conclusion? They consider any exceptions to legitimize all abortions, and they believe that pro-life restrictions are actually regulatory approval for the abortion industry.
I’d say that the logic of the abolitionist position doesn’t hold, but there would have to be some attempt at logic in their position. Let’s take their opposition to exceptions, by which they must mean primarily the life of the mother exception, as that is the only one featured in SBC resolutions for the last several years. If a state passed a law against murder, but with an exception that they would not prosecute a woman who killed her abusive husband, did that state just secretly approve of all murders? No!
What if the state passed that law when, previously, murder was allowed in all times and places? Such a law would not be complicit in more murder, but would actually be the most significant restriction of it.
Now imagine a different scenario in this imaginary state. The outlaws hold political power, and they will prevent you from banning murder. However, you can chip away at their power by restricting a little bit here and there, by proposing legal snares to trip them up, and the minimal restrictions result in saving the lives of some percentage of those people who would have been murdered. If you’re an abolitionist, you believe that the anti-murder advocate is really just an outlaw trying to grift off of sympathy.
Regulations save lives. Restrictions shut down abortion facilities. That’s why Planned Parenthood spends millions on legal fees to go after any pro-life legislator who so much as glances in their general direction. It hurts their bottom line, and pro-life leaders know that their bottom line is more or less synonymous with the number of abortions they perform.
Restrictions and regulations try to save as many people as possible. It’s like a firefighter running into a burning building and carrying one or two people out on his shoulders. He saved lives; but bizarro abolitionist logic would accuse the firefighter of complicity in the deaths of those he didn’t carry out. To them, a firefighter who is incapable of saving everyone really supports everyone dying in burning buildings.
But the problem with abolitionists is that they seem incapable of critical thought. It seems never to have occurred to them that the vitriol with which the abortion industry attacks the pro-life movement isn’t just a cover up so we can hug it out behind the scenes. For a variety of complex reasons, the abortion rate is nearly half what it was at its peak, and pro-life efforts in law and health care are part of why.
So when abolitionists want to repeal and replace pro-life legislation with their wishful blanket ban, what they’re doing is breaking down the barricade we’ve put between Planned Parenthood and babies who would be killed. We’ve put in obstacles and blockades, and they just want to tear them all down in the name of purity.
Sure, AHA thinks the abortion ban will last more than two seconds and all previous laws will be superfluous—because they don’t think critically. Remember the heartbeat bills? Laws functionally banning most abortions in a half-dozen states? Do you know how many of them were enforced? Zero. The abortion industry and its well-funded legal allies immediately obtained injunctions against every single one. And as long as Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood are the law of the land, judges who aren’t in open rebellion against jurisprudence are more or less constrained to issue and uphold those injunctions.
Don’t get me wrong: I would love to just make abortion illegal tomorrow. I understand the appeal of the abolitionists; 50 years of work haven’t given us the victory, so let’s just throw it out the window and try something simple and forceful to make it all go away. I wish I could say that AHA’s strategy had a snowball’s chance in Georgia of working. But not only will their strategy utterly fail, it will actually strengthen the laws upholding abortion access.
Here’s the most likely scenario, then, when AHA or Free the States or some other act-now-think-later group gets an abolitionist bill passed. Planned Parenthood seeks an injunction against the bill, but only part of the bill. They argue that the only part of the abolitionist bill which is legally problematic is the total ban against abortions, which clearly defies Roe. And so, making this severability argument, they get the court to overturn the ban while leaving in place the part that repealed all prior restrictions on abortion. An abolitionist bill would be the greatest gift to the abortion industry since Casey v. Planned Parenthood.
The result of all the abolitionist bluster? The barricades are dismantled and the blanket ban is destroyed, leaving nothing in the way of the abortion industry. More babies will die because a bunch of fringe radicals decided that we didn’t try to protect enough babies on their schedule.
So let’s talk about complicity. The pro-life movement isn’t complicit in abortion, because we’re trying to restrain it as much as possible in each moment, and hopefully more is possible every day. We’re not complicit, because our efforts have life-saving results, and the abortion industry hates us for it. (Seriously, when facility escorts yell that sidewalk counselors are “taking money out of my pocket,” as has happened to Jacob, you’re doing something right.)
Abolitionists, on the other hand, exist to fight the pro-life movement and promote legislation that will result in fewer babies being protected from abortion. To the extent they ever pass the laws they promote, the abolitionists will be complicit in expanded access to legal abortion. If AHA gets their way, they’ll turn Oklahoma into New York overnight.
Exceptionless Abolitionist Language by SBC Will Kill Mothers
I mentioned earlier that, when abolitionists promote an exceptionless ban on abortion, specifically in the context of an SBC resolution, what they’re talking about is an exception for the life of the mother. In general, exceptions for rape, incest, or lethal fetal anomaly exist to get bills passed if they couldn’t be otherwise, but we’re actually in agreement with the abolitionists that those exceptions aren’t ideal. The difference being, of course, that I’d happily see incremental legislation with those exceptions that saves hundreds of thousands of lives, and the abolitionists would leave the 99 sheep to fend for themselves because they couldn’t save all 100.
But the life of the mother “exception” is different. That needs to be in any good law against abortion. Without such a provision, there will be several cases where two people will die when we could have saved one.
There are multiple possible conditions that lead to a situation in which the life of the mother is highly jeopardized, but the most notable example is ectopic pregnancy. Contrary to what a few pro-lifers teach, no, the embryo isn’t going to just detach from the fallopian tube, float down to the uterus, and reattach. That isn’t a thing that happens. The embryo will often grow, rupture the tube, and die; the mother won’t be far behind if she doesn’t get immediate medical attention.
Pro-life people are split on the ethically appropriate way to address ectopic pregnancy. Some think only indirect action, like removing the fallopian tube, is permitted; others think direct action is ethically the same as indirect action in a triage situation like this. Furthermore, there is much disagreement on the definition of “abortion” in this context. Some think that indirect actions such as removing the fallopian tube do not quality as “abortions” because the death of the fetus is foreseen but not intended; this defintion leads to a circularity problem, in which abortions are “never medically necessary” because they’ve defined the medically necessary procedure where the embryo dies as not being an abortion. Others use a more generic and arguably less confusing definition: “abortion” is any action which results in the death of the fetus regardless of the directness or intent. This definition requires pro-life advocates to treat life-of-the-mother cases as exceptions to the general ban on abortion in order to preserve the most life possible. The latter approach was utilized in all previous SBC resolutions, which is why they had never proposed an exceptionless ban before. But no matter your approach to ectopic pregnancy cases, it would be considered an “exception” to an abortion ban by AHA, so they would stop it as far as it was in their power.
It’s not hard to see the problem with this. Without medical intervention, not only will the embryo die, but the mother will as well. They are denying triage that would save a life. But also, abolitionists seem ignorant of basic biology. After all, they seem to think that it’s somehow life-saving legislation to prevent abortions in life-of-the-mother cases. But where, exactly, do they think the fetus will gestate if the mother dies? Life-of-the-mother cases, by and large, address this kind of situation, where you can only save one or let both die. Abolitionists don’t live in reality. They’re not trying to save as many lives as possible, they’re just imposing a deadly purity test.
The abolitionist refusal of a life of the mother exception will result in the deaths of women in these legitimately tragic situations.
AHA and Friends Don’t Understand Incrementalism or History
The lack of understanding by abolitionists might seem overwhelming, but that’s because it is. They take aim at incrementalism, their bogeyman made of straw, without any sort of attempt to understand it for what it is.
As an aside, I consider myself a reluctant incrementalist. As Freddie Mercury so eloquently put it, “I want it all, and I want it now.” Because the law is a moral teacher, I want good laws, and I think it’s harder for people to do right when the laws teach wrong. But I recognize the good of a law being less wrong than it was before; abolitionists only recognize a law as good when it’s been copy-pasted from their model legislation.
Here’s a thing you may not have realized about incrementalism: when abolition of an evil is possible, incrementalism and abolitionism look the same. It’s only when total abolition is not presently possible that the other increments of incrementalism come into play. Incrementalism takes everything it can get, but doesn’t try to take what it can’t get; it does lay the groundwork today to get tomorrow what had been out of reach.
Abolitionists will prattle on at this point about how they’re the true heirs of Wilberforce and incrementalists tried to stop the abolition of the slave trade, Wilberforce called for immediate abolition, so on and so forth. Unfortunately, AHA has about the same level of understanding of Wilberforce and the abolition of the British slave trade as they do of incrementalists in general.
First of all, as Jonathon Van Maren pointed out on our podcast, it is itself an incrementalist decision to aim for the abolition of the slave trade before, and separately from, the abolition of slavery. Second, if the modern-day cosplay abolitionists had actually read the history of British abolitionism, they would know that the MPs using the language of incrementalism were doing so dishonestly. They proposed “gradual abolition” when total abolition was possible—and, indeed, on the horizon—so they could milk the profits from their evil for a few more years. They weren’t incrementalists, they were obstructionists—much like current Facebook abolitionists doing their live-action role play of Garrisonian fantasies.
Abolitionists Want to Prosecute Women for Murder, Right Now
The SBC abolition resolution contains this particularly dangerous line: “the murder of preborn children is a crime against humanity that must be punished equally under the law.” Leaving aside the issue of how one would punish a “crime against humanity” differently than a run-of-the-mill murder, this statement makes it clear that AHA seeks immediate, full prosecution of women who get abortions.
Don’t give the abolitionists quarter with a charitable interpretation that, when they say it must be punished, they must just be talking about the abortion practitioner. That’s not what that language means. That language may as well say the pregnant woman is hiring a hitman to kill as a hate crime. Do you think the people who drafted that language think only the hitman is guilty?
No, this is a blind attempt to bring about a vision of justice which doesn’t map onto reality. As I’ve written before, most women who get abortions right now don’t have full moral culpability for that action. They’ve been systematically lied to by people who profit off of ignorance and death; of course people don’t think abortion kills a child when they’ve been told it’s a clump of cells for the first 20 years of their life.
Abolitionists don’t want to admit that. They don’t want justice to be (shudder) incremental. But the fact of the matter is that it would not be just to prosecute women for murder immediately after an abortion ban. The law would only have begun to be a moral teacher, and it will take time to undo 50 years of propaganda. Abortion practitioners know exactly what they’re doing; they have no excuse, so go ahead and prosecute them in full. But it’s morally insane to prosecute women for murder when they don’t know or believe that what died was a child.
Abolitionism is Unbiblical
Now we get to maybe the crux of the abolitionist argument, and the secret of why it could quickly slip into the SBC vote. Abolitionists fancy themselves the true Christians, and they believe that their position is fundamentally one in accordance with the Bible. That’s why they went out of their way to paint incrementalists as in rebellion against God. They view the pro-life movement as greedy tax collectors; I suppose that leaves AHA as the upstanding Pharisees.
The quickest way to get a Southern Baptist to seriously consider a position is to proof-text it from Scripture. This can be a good thing, but it’s also an exploitable Achilles heel. After all, not every bit of Christian truth admits of a simple chapter-and-verse citation. (For example, Christian opposition to abortion.) But they piled up verses in their resolution to mask the total depravity of their position.
Jesus Himself says, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). “Wise as serpents” doesn’t mean to be a snake-in-the-grass like whoever proposed the resolution, or to strike at people’s heels like the heels with megaphones screaming at women outside abortion facilities. It means to weigh one’s actions, to think before you strike; you’re responsible for planning, for considering the results of your actions, not merely for doing the “right” thing and letting God do the rest, as the abolitionists maintain.
So when abolitionists dismantle legislative protections for the unborn or cause women to run faster into the abortion facility to get away from their abuse, they should consider well the words of Christ: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).
Do incrementalists inherently deny the lordship of Christ? Of course not! And because political strategy, except where contrary to Scripture, is not an issue of doctrine that should be made a test of fellowship, Paul’s advice to the early Christians is controlling: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13). Abolitionists must deny either that we are saved, that God works in us other than for our destruction; or that we are capable of working out our salvation, by which it is meant the requirements of our faith and conscience to render obedience to God as we best know how.
That they would likely be quick to do one or the other is a final testament against them. For Paul, who AHA and I must agree was a divinely inspired author, spoke strongly against those who stir up division in the church: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). It is fitting to note that many abolitionists have been put out of churches for exactly this offense.
There Can Be No Peace With Abolitionists
Let it be perfectly clear: I charge that abolitionists and their organizations act in a manner contrary to the Gospel; that they are unreflective and misguided, blind teachers leading others astray; that their actions, if ever successful, threaten the lives of thousands of women and children; that they want to unjustly prosecute women for abortion the moment they can; and that they refuse to learn from history or rebukes to their sinful mistakes.
I also am well aware of their habits and strategies. Some may challenge me to a debate for attacking them; others will probably threaten, deface, or defame me specifically, as their resolution castigated all pro-life people whose labors I, as a late-comer, have partnered with. But, at the end of the day, there is no room to engage the abolitionists constructively.
The SBC resolution was a bold power play. Southern Baptists are the nation’s second-largest denomination, and they’re the largest Protestant denomination. AHA and like-minded organizations, such as Southern Baptists for Abolishing Abortion, have gotten a democratic vote representing 14 million Christians to condemn incrementalism and support a wild gambit which will likely cause more children to die and will, if successful, absolutely result in the unnecessary deaths of women who have done no wrong. For reasons stated above, I don’t believe the delegates deserve full blame for what they approved, but the fact is that they approved it and there’s no going back in time to fix it.
The question becomes, what is to be done? How do you confront an enemy that appropriates the language of your Savior, infiltrates your churches, and aims to destroy the small, but real, progress you’ve made in turning the tables on abortion rights?
This much is clear: I will not be one who says “‘Peace!’ when there is no peace” (Ezek. 13:10). I’m not going to waste attempts at good-faith dialogue on bad-faith actors, especially those who have repeatedly responded to dialogue with scorn. I’m not interested in tolerating those whose recklessness threatens children, who refuse to engage in good faith, who fight and lie and slander.
Far be it from me to tell all churches how they should handle this. Having spent six years in Southern Baptist churches, I won’t pretend I could even tell the whole SBC how to act, given the hyper-congregational nature of decision making. I will merely suggest that there is a biblical template for dealing with false teachers who cause strife and division. Paul speaks of putting Alexander and Hymenaeus out of the church, of handing them over to Satan for a while “that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:20). While I do not accuse AHA of blasphemy, the template here is that one can be excommunicated for a time with the purpose of repentance and reconciliation with Christ. That seems harsh, but it is much more harsh to allow fellow Christians to sin unabated and without a call to repentance, especially given what Peter writes at length about false teachers (2 Pet. 2).
For all of the anger on display in this article, for all of the arguments I’ve advanced as to why the abolitionists are in the wrong and why this resolution is harmful, I really do wish that they were right. I wish that, if we all just demanded it hard enough, abortion would go away for all time. I wish that their wrong-headed legislation would hit on the one-in-a-million chance that it doesn’t fail spectacularly, that it actually succeeded in bloodlessly stopping bloodshed. They may not get this, but I would rather eat crow for the rest of my life because they were right and no one else died to legal abortion.
It’s just not what’s going to happen. The abolitionists aim for something good, but their foolishness makes their motives irrelevant. The pro-life movement will continue working, as fast as we can, towards the abolition of abortion. We have to make progress towards a world without abortion, because the abolitionists aren’t going to.
Please tweet this article!
- Tweet: Abolitionists Are Going to Get People Killed, and the SBC Just Helped Them
- Tweet: An abolitionist bill would be the greatest gift to the abortion industry since Casey v. Planned Parenthood.
- Tweet: The abolitionist refusal of a life of the mother exception will result in the deaths of women in these legitimately tragic situations.
The post Abolitionists Are Going to Get People Killed, and the SBC Just Helped Them originally appeared at the Equal Rights Institute blog. Subscribe to our email list with the form below and get a FREE gift. Click here to learn more about our pro-life apologetics course, “Equipped for Life: A Fresh Approach to Conversations About Abortion.”