15 July 2008

Abortion, psychobabble, and the Gospel

by Dan Phillips

I haven't read this book about "silent sufferers of abortion" (the women, not the children) and, on the strength of the writeup, am unlikely to.

The writeup is titled "Encouragement to Embrace and Empower Silent Sufferers of Abortion." It is about women who have had abortions, and their spiritual problems. Among many other things, it says the book touts their "need to forgive themselves and realize that they are not alone...." The book will also explain (we are told)
  • Why even pro-life women feel forced into abortions
  • Why Christians should have compassion for those suffering from past abortions
Three thoughts push themselves forward:

First, fault me if you like, but I have deep care and regard for women who have repented after an abortion. I have in mind unbelievers who come to Christ, and look back on that sin, and see it for what it is. Equally, I think of ill-taught Christian women, who had been misled into thinking that aborting an inconvenient or imperfect child is a moral option, and then have come to grips with what the Bible teaches regarding abortion.

Some may barbecue me for this, but do you know how easy it is for a woman to rationalize this act, today? It takes clear-eyed moral courage to look at this act as God would, to shun the myriad of seductive rationalizations our lost culture (— and, God help us, some "evangelicals") offer, and to take responsibility for this sin as sin. I find myself at a loss to describe what I imagine that process must be like, emotionally and mentally — going from rationalization to realization, to repentance.

Second, I affirm with all my heart that there is absolute and full and free forgiveness in Jesus Christ for all women who have had, and have repented of, an abortion. I cannot imagine that I have forgiveness myself for my countless sins, but some other category of repentant sinner is denied forgiveness. After all, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), and his blood secures redemption and forgiveness from sin (Ephesians 1:7), and His death wipes all repentant, believing sinners' slates absolutely clean (Colossians 2:13-15). Sin is sin is sin.

My sins deserved an eternity in Hell. My autonomy, my rebellion, my arrogance, my disbelief, my blasphemy, my idolatry, the innumerable sins I committed in my mind and affections and imagination... all of them merited nothing but the raging hot wrath of God. None of them was excusable. None of them was someone else's fault. Every one of them was mine.

And Christ died to redeem me from every one of them.

Each sin is unique, and each sin is the same. Fatuous self-absorption is sin, no less than abortion nor any other. I think asking whether {Sin X} "can be forgiven" is less useful than asking whether sin can be forgiven. In that case, the Christian answer must be an unhesitating "Yes." Period.


My third thought is that I am extremely uncomfortable with the language of this article. My need, as a sinner, is never "to forgive myself." I am not the offended party in my sin, ever! The offended party is God, in any and every sin. It is His forgiveness I need; and I need the forgiveness of any human being I have wronged. But my forgiveness...? I think the very question puts me right back where sin started me: usurping the place of God. Speaking of the need for me to seek and find my own forgiveness for my sin puts me where God alone belongs.

Now, doubtless what people mean when they speak thus is often that I need to receive, accept, believe God's forgiveness. With that, I agree. But say so. Say that. Don't psychobabble.

Further, I'm uncomfortable with the "here's why {anyone} sinned, so feel compassion" line, as if a rationale for sin enables pity for the sinner.

Let me explain why, by shifting the discussion. I'm sure many readers are thinking, "How convenient for you, Phillips. How easy! You know you're not even biologically capable of being in this situation, so what a tidy, safe little target it makes for you." Understood.

So, suppose instead of a woman having an abortion, we were talking about adultery. No, I haven't done, and the very notion is a moral horror to me — but (unlike abortion) I am biologically capable. Can we use adultery, then?

So, we're talking about a man who has committed adultery. Should he forgive himself for it? Are you interested in a discussion of why he did it, so you can feel more compassion for him? Do you want to hear about how cold, distant, and disrespectful his wife was? Do you want to hear about how she shamed him publicly, and shunned him privately? Do you want to hear about our society, the pressure it puts on men, the allurements to infidelity, and so on?

No, I'm sure you don't. I don't, either! In fact, I'd bet cash money that the percentage of readers ready to sympathize with Sinner A dropped dramatically when I shifted to Sinner B.

But why? Is sin sin, or is it not? Are some sins special sins?

Now, let me be up-front as to why I belabor this.

First and briefest, this topic cries out for moral clarity.

Second, I am concerned whenever any sin is made more attractive by being made less repellent.

But third, I am concerned for the women themselves. The road of psychobabble and amelioration ("Sure-I-sinned-but...") is never the road to real healing and restoration.

Get this and get it good: rationalizations can't be forgiven. Mistakes can't be forgiven. Regrettable-but-understandable choices can't be forgiven.

But SIN can be forgiven through Christ, and is forgiven through Christ.

So what makes a sin a sin? What are the characteristics of sin?
  • Sin is primarily committed against God
  • Sin is always inexcusable
  • Sin is always ugly
  • Sin is always unnecessary
  • Sin is so always so wasting and devastating and repellent to God that only the death of the Son of God could deal with it fully and finally
So you see, anything that dulls or pretties up any of those factors tends to un-sin sin; and if it isn't really sin, then it can't really be forgiven — and a sinner can't really be freed.

The paths of rationalization or amelioration are not the paths of real healing — for any sinner. By trying to improve on the Gospel, we end up doing actual disservice to sinners.

The book (we're told) is concerned with relief for the guilt of women who have had an abortion. Should they feel guilty? I would re-word the question: should a sinner feel guilty?

Yes. And that guilt should drive him to the Cross of Jesus Christ, where his or her guilt will find its one and only real, full, sufficient, objective, subjective, everlasting solution.

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

AFTERWORD: I'll add one last thought to an already-too-long post. To whatever degree the author's concern is born of any Christian tendency to treat repentant women who've had an abortion as if they're a special class of unclean pariah — I would share that concern. No redeemed sinner has the right to treat any other repentant, redeemed sinner with condescending, condemning disdain, as if your sin is more disgusting than my sin.

But that is perhaps a thought for another post.

POST-AFTERWORD: I just stumbled on a post from the start of the year that expands on some of the themes here.

Dan Phillips's signature


Anonymous said...

Well said Dan. Why is it we have such a tendency to categorize individual sins, based on their perceived moral repugnancy? And have more compassion, more person to person acceptance, for those that we (wrongly) deem to be victimizing sins? None of us are victims of sin, we willfully choose to engage in it. As you said so well, we are not the offended party, there is no need to "forgive ourselves." This is another example of the therapeutic worldview of our culture being co-opted by "evangelicals" in am effort to be...well, I'm not sure what. Therapeutic I guess.

Randy said...

Great post Dan. Our deprave hearts always justify or rationalize our sin(s) except our greatest perceived sin which, for each person, is the one we don’t do. “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked….”

The thought of viewing other’s sin(s) in light of our own hit the nail on the head. We have this human tendency to evaluate our actions in reference to others sins we wouldn’t do and falsely say to ourselves, “I’m okay, at least I don’t or haven’t done that!”

By the grace of God go I.

PS: love the word “ameliorate” had to look it up.

John T. Meche III said...

With this sweet hope of ultimate acceptance with God, I have always enjoyed much cheerfulness before men; but I have at the same time laboured incessantly to cultivate the deepest humiliation before God. I have never thought that the circumstance of God's having forgiven me was any reason why I should forgive myself; on the contrary, I have always judged it better to loathe myself the more, in proportion as I was assured that God was pacified towards me (Ezekiel 16:63). . . . There are but two objects that I have ever desired for these forty years to behold; the one is my own vileness; and the other is, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: and I have always thought that they should be viewed together; just as Aaron confessed all the sins of all Israel whilst he put them on the head of the scapegoat. The disease did not keep him from applying to the remedy, nor did the remedy keep him from feeling the disease. By this I seek to be, not only humbled and thankful, but humbled in thankfulness, before my God and Saviour continually. (Carus, 518f.)

-Charles Simeon (quoted by John Piper)

DJP said...

That's very apposite, John. Whence in Piper?

Quintin said...

"Sin is sin is sin"

Amen brother! So often during evangelism my friends want to get on the topic of homosexuality (I hope they are not trying to tell me something), but they don't realize that Christ died for sinners.

Beautifully said. I thank God for your continued dedication and well spoken topics.

Lee Shelton said...

Excellent post, Dan, and I think this could easily tie in with Phil and Frank's earlier posts on the church and politics.

DJP said...

Not intended to in any way, Lee, but thanks.

timb said...

Great post Dan. I was just saying the other day to someone in my congregation that we've lost sight of the sinfulness of sin. We don't see our sin--even our sin as Christians--as a great offense before God. We lose sight of His great holiness and then when we turn to ponder ourselves 'things aren't really that bad'.

DJP said...

Thanks, Tim. It's a real irony, isn't it, that our efforts at lessening sin's awfulness actually result in tightening sin's grip on us and worsening its effects?

Tommy Augustine said...

You make it impossible to use the answers I worked so hard to learn in grad school (ph.d. psy) Thank you. I wish I'd found you earlier.

Don Fields said...

Hammer. Nail. [Connection!]

greglong said...

Very good, Dan.

It reminds of a sermon by C.J. Mahaney I was listening to just yesterday entitled "Enjoying Grace and Detecting Legalism".

In it C.J. uses an illustration (fast forward to about 23:45) from the book Hope Has Its Reasons by Rebekah Pippert. The author tells the story of a time she counseled another Christian woman who had had an abortion, after her conversion and when she and her fiance were on staff at a conservative church. Daily she felt the shame, guilt, and condemnation of that decision even though she had confessed the sin many times. She was constantly reminded that she had murdered an innocent baby.

The woman told Rebekah, "How can I murder an innocent life?" Rebekah told this woman, after hearing her story, "I don't know why you are so surpised. This isn't the first time your sin has led to death. It's the second."

The woman looked at Rebekah in utter amazement.

"My dear friend," she continued, "when you look at the cross, all of us show up as crucifiers--religious or non-religious, good or bad, aborters or non-aborters. All of us are responsible for the death of the only innocent who ever lived. Jesus died for all our sins, past, present, and future. Do you think there are any sins of yours that Jesus didn't have to die for? The very sin of pride that caused you to destroy your child is what caused you to kill Christ as well. It does not matter that you were not there 2000 years ago. We all sent him there. Luther said that we carry His very nails in our pockets. So, if you have done it before, then why couldn't you do it again?"

The woman stopped crying, looked at Rebekah, and said, "You're absolutely right! I have done something even worse than killing my baby. My sin is what drove Jesus to the cross. It doesn't matter that I wasn't there pounding in the nails; I'm still responsible for His death. Do you realize the significance of what you are telling me, Becky? I came to you saying that I had done the worse thing imaginable, and you tell me that I have done something even worse than that! Becky, if the cross shows me that I am far WORSE than I ever imagined, it also shows me that my evil has been absorbed and forgiven. If the worse thing any human can do is to kill God's son, and THAT can be forgiven, then how can anything else, even my abortion, NOT be forgiven! Talk about amazing grace!"

DJP said...

Thanks, Greg. Great contribution.

Anonymous said...

Per "forgiving oneself", that's a product of the "self-esteem" movement over the last few decades and a focus on self.

AND - a twisted definition of "forgiveness". I didn't understand that until I read Jay Adams, "From Forgiven to Forgiving" - again and again.

DJP said...

Thank you, Ellen. Good point.

As I think about what gives rise to this "forgive yourself" line... I think about times I've sinned, when I'm mortified and shocked, and keep beating myself up.

And then I think of something Lewis said somewhere (sorry), to the effect that this really, itself, reveals a greater depth of pride. It amounts to saying, "How could I do that? How could such a wonderful, righteous and holy person as I do such a thing? I'm so much better than that!"

And so what feels like humility is really just (surprise!) more pride, incognito.

Rhology said...

I agree 100% and agree 100% that we focus too much in this culture on forgiving oneself that it makes me sick.

I'd just add that Paul tells us that sexual sin is a sin committed against one's own body. In a sense, one WOULD have to forgive himself for adultery, since he is the offended party. Of course, he's not the primary offended party, as you said.

DJP said...

Fair enough, Rhology; and (though it doesn't count to say it now) that was in the back of my mind as a sole exception. BUT notice that Scripture never takes that step, never suggests that I should "forgive myself" for wronging myself. Further, the very next verse (1 Corinthians 6:19) immediately points out that my body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit. Is it not that that makes it a sin, not that I am wronging myself?

Anonymous said...

Would it be fair to say of a repenting Christian who insists on continuing to count the debt that the issue is not "forgiving oneself", but rather "accepting the forgiveness that we already have"?

Just as Adams points out the difference between "apology" and "asking for forgiveness", and "that's okay" and true forgiveness, is there also a difference between "forgiving oneself" and "accepting the forgiveness of Christ?"

DJP said...

That's how I would see it, Ellen.

To oversimplify, the Father looks at Christ and tells me, "I forgive you." But I say, "I still feel guilty, I don't feel forgiven." The issue then is: do I take the Father at His word, or do I look for something else?

This whole look-for-something-else describes the last century of experiential Christianity, I think.

Anonymous said...

I think I need to go to the Jay Adams library and say "give me one of each". "From Forgiven to Forgiving" is a book that I usually keeps extras of and give them away.

He explains the difference so well.

Chris said...

So where did the idea about people needing to "forgive themselves" originate? It sounds like when some preachers say that we must first learn to "love ourselves" before we love others. That's completely backwards! That is our problem. We love ourselves too much. Then again isn't the forgiveness of self consistent with a "self-centered" lifestyle? If you sin against self then you look to self for mercy and forgiveness. You end up atoning for sinning against you (a god). This may be putting it harshly, but isn't it consistent with the narcissistic condition of our culture? Thanks for letting me comment.

Unknown said...

do you know how easy it is for a woman to rationalize this act, today?

Prior to salvation, in college, I thought I might be pregnant one time. I was raised in church, albeit a rather dead one, and was a "good" girl, at least on the outside. But as I waited on test results, I seriously contemplated abortion. The rationalizations I made sound preposterous, now. At the moment, though, I was far more afraid of my parents than I was of offending a holy God. My parents overlooked numerous other sins of mine, but promiscuity/pregnancy would have been harshly judged, so I lied and covered up. Had I been pregnant (I wasn't) and aborted, the responsibility for my sin would have been squarely my own; but I want to point out that as we hear about younger and younger kids becoming sexually active, the role of parents is critical. Parents, we need to work diligently to insure that our kids have a biblical understanding of sexuality, purity, sin, and forgiveness from well before puberty. We moms and dads must model forgiveness, not condemnation, and we must openly and frankly discuss sexuality from a biblical perspective. Otherwise our kids might do what I did, and what I imagine leads many young women into abortion: because it's cool to be sexy but not cool to be a tramp, young women secretly experiment with sexuality and then become willing to commit even a heinous act to cover it up.

UinenMaia said...

Thank you so much for this eloquent explanation. This is the thing we always come back to in my 7-8th grade confirmation classes. It does not matter what topic it is, they want to know is "X" a sin and can "X" be forgiven. In these cases "X" equals everything from stealing bread to feed starving family members to euthanasia to abortion to sex outside of marriage to suicide to sleeping during church. My answer always starts with the same refrain: "Sin is sin is sin."

Now, thanks to your excellent expansion, I'll be able to add that list rather than explaining it fresh every time. What a wonderful resource Pyro has been and often your posts in particular for the age that I teach.

On a small side note, I find it sad that I am part of one of those denominations hurtling towards justifying all kinds of sin because of social ills or upbringing or God "doing a new thing" or because the sinner has felt guilty and feeling guilty is bad, yet the youth have a crystal clear sense of right and wrong. I guess we don't really drum that out of them until they get really involved in youth group or head off to college. Hopefully the counter-worldly message they get in confirmation sustains that sense through the bombardment they will get. That's really the only reason I am still there - kind of a stand-in-the-gap mentality.

It is sickening that the “church” is so determined to stamp out the kind of erroneous thinking that Dan has highlighted here. I pray that the youth will begin to influence this branch of the church and not that the church continues to distort God's truth in our young people.

Chris said...

I know of a situation in which a christian woman recieved a bad report about her baby while she was pregnant. The baby had some genetic defect and the doctors presented abortion as an option. The husband denied and emphasized to the doctors that that was not an option and to not bring it up again. The husband went and looked to their pastor for prayer and support only to find out the he too suggested abortion. He said, "sometimes God understands and gives mercy." The husband was hurt. The babay passed away 4 days before the due date and so they delivered a still born. They had a funeral service in the same church. The baby was in a little casket for all to see even though the casket was closed. The husband spoke of the resuurection to all who were present and left the church after I was all over.

timb said...


Given that you started a label 'psychobabble' do you think there will be a series on it?

Your CS Lewis quote alone would be a worth a post.

This area of psychobabble in the church seems to be more deaper rooted in card-carrying evangelical churches than we realize.

Chris: your 'love ourselves' example is a great illustration of psychobabble in the pulpit.

DJP said...

UinenMaia —

Dan Phillips: Writing Theology For 13-Year-Olds Since 2004!

(Just having a chuckle; thanks, glad to be useful.)

DJP said...

Chris, that is so sad on so many levels. Doubtless, there has been a lot of pastoral malpractice on this very difficult issue. Wretched counsel born of misdirected compassion is wretched counsel all the same.

Chris said...

Yes "youth have a crystal clear sense of right and wrong." I've heard ministers often speak to parents needing to teach the children between right and wrong, but I don't believe so. Parents need to nourish their kid's existing knowledge of right and wrong. they need to provide reasons why they believe that way. If not they grow up and some professor tells them they were "conditioned" to believe what they believe about right and wrong. I am not sure if that makes sense.

CSB said...

Good thoughts here. I think that whenever we discuss the issue of abortion we need to discuss it in terms of a human rights issue. This gets to the core of why we beleive in human rights. God grants rights (as the founding fathers understood) and he does so not just to the the big, the strong, the fit, and the capable. He grants rights to all humans as equals (or as the un PC Declaration of Independance puts it 'all men are created equal'). If we frame it this way, we have to understand that God has given the human baby (regardless of size or location) equal rights to the mother.

Rhology said...

Agreed. Far be it from me to further psychobabble.

Mike Westfall said...

A lot of the Christians I know don't seem to be very aware of sin. They are too busy being obsessed with seeking sensational Holy Spirit experiences, getting the Word of Knowledge (concerning someone else in the congregation, natch), having visions about Jesus-wanting-to-give-me-His-heart, that kind of stuff.

Sin, if it is ever discussed, seems to always have its cause external to the believer. Perhaps it's due to a "generational curse" (you can blame your great-grandaddy; See? There are Masonic markings on his gravestone!) Or, there is demonic oppression (you have a "spirit of ${X}" (where X is some unsavory behavior)). Or perhaps you inadvertantly cursed yourself by something you said, thereby giving the Devil "legal authority" to vex you.

In general, the way to deal with sin (if we admit that we need to) is to find the right deliverance ministry, and go through the prescribed program.

Or go to Lakeland and have Todd Bently kick you in the gut really hard.

Andy Dollahite said...

"I have deep care and regard for women who have repented after an abortion...I think of ill-taught Christian women, who had been misled into thinking that aborting an inconvenient or imperfect child is a moral option, and then have come to grips with what the Bible teaches."

Am I misreading you here to say that you only have compassion for these women after they've realize and repented of their sin, but not before?

DJP said...

Andy, you read correctly that that is the only sort of person on whom I am commenting. Unrepentant sinners of any sort are, in every way, beyond the scope of the subject of this post.

Solameanie said...

Excellent post, as always.

And I find it provoking me to post this.

In terms of "forgiving ourselves," I often wonder if that's actually disguised pride. I can't help but think of the tragic case of my own sister, who has often said that she couldn't respect God if He forgave her for what she's done in her past. Nothing I say seems to ever get through. I suspect it's because she really doesn't want to change her life.

Solameanie said...


How's Osse these days? ;)

Chris said...

Mesa Mike,

I know that topic here is abortion, but as we all may know abortion is symptomatic of a larger cultural problem (sin at large) and the failure of preachers and pastors to speak clearly and with conviction on the matter.
For example in my observation of many of the feel good preachers like Joel Osteen is that when they speak of sin i.e. “making mistakes” they speak of sin more as an obstacle rather than a transgression. Sin is not so much an offense before a mighty and holy God, but rather something that is keeping you from living a “victorious life.” You see, God wants the best for you like “health and wealth”, but the problem is that we need to learn how to master principles before we get there and so therefore sin is a thing that causes self harm and regress in this journey to greatness. Consequently we’re not too much sorry that we sinned against God, but more sorry that we sinned against self. This is why we must begin with “forgiving ourselves” and start reading our Bibles so that we can minimize these set backs on the way to reaching our full potential. We do not need a savior and much as a life coach. Jesus is seen as the ultimate coach and guru. Look to him to learn all of the secrets to life. That’s kind of how it goes.

Tim said...

Rhology said:
I'd just add that Paul tells us that sexual sin is a sin committed against one's own body. In a sense, one WOULD have to forgive himself for adultery, since he is the offended party.

The material body is the offended party (not the immaterial "self"), and so the material body is supposed to do the forgiving. Not sure how that works out (akin to your bedroom wall forgiving you for kicking a hole in it), but it does seem clear that this is something completely different from the psychological concept of forgiving oneself.

CR said...

Here's what I don't like about the "You have to forgive yourself crowd":

It draws attention away the ugliness of the sin of abortion and therefore it draws attention away from God's grace. Abortion is an ugly sin and the fact that it is a forgiveable sin tells you something about God's grace! It tells you how gracious the Lord is! It tells you about the the depth of Christ who in his own body bore those very sins and that He is a God of mercy and grace.

I believe this, "you must forgive yourself" draws attention away (notwithstanding the Bible doesn't say anywhere you must forgive yourself) from Christ. The attention should be drawn to the great great depths of Christ and that He forgives your sins.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I am a mother of six living children, and I am a grandmother. I am also a post-abortive mother. In the early 1970’s, I suffered one involuntary and one voluntary abortion.

My involuntary abortion was performed just prior to Roe v. Wade by my private physician without my consent. I had gone to the doctor to ask why my cycle had not resumed after the birth of my son. I did not ask for and did not want an abortion. The doctor said, “You don’t need to be pregnant, let’s see.” He proceeded to perform a painful examination which resulted in a gush of blood and tissue emanating from my womb. He explained that he had performed a “local D and C.”

Soon after the Roe v. Wade decision, I became pregnant again. There was adverse pressure and threat of violence from the baby’s father. The ease and convenience provided through Roe v. Wade made it too easy for me to make the fateful and fatal decision to abort our child.

I went to a doctor and was advised that the procedure would hurt no more than “having a tooth removed.” The next day, I was admitted to the hospital, and our baby was aborted. My medical insurance paid for the procedure. As soon as I woke up, I knew that something was very wrong. I felt very ill, and very empty. I tried to talk to the doctor and nurses about it. They assured me that “it will all go away in a few days. You will be fine.” They lied.

My children have all suffered from knowing that they have a brother or sister that their mother chose to abort. Often they ask if I ever thought about aborting them and have said, “You killed our baby.” This is very painful for all of us.

And truly, for me, and countless abortive mothers, nothing on earth can fully restore what has been lost, only Jesus can.

I am very grateful to God for the Spirit of Repentance that is sweeping our land. In Repentance there is healing. In the name of Jesus, we must humble ourselves and pray, and turn from our wicked ways, then God will hear from Heaven and Heal Our Land."

Read all of what Dr. Alveda King , granddaughter of Martin Luther King, has written about her abortions and her deeply repentant heart.

P.S. Great post DJP.

BTW, to be perfectly transparent, I think it's psychobabble rationalization on the part of those Christians who will be voting for Obama and other pro-abortion politicians. But perhaps that's the topic of a future post, eh?

Chris said...

The reason that Paul says the we sin against our body is because it is the tempe of the Holy Spirit so sinning against the body is therefore sin against God. Forgiveness comes from asking the one who abides in the temple not from the temple itself. The reasoning is kind of along the lines of Jesus in which he rebuked the Pahrisees for not making the distinction between the temple and the one makes the temple holy. Sorry if I am not articulating it very well. I don't have a Bible and I am in a rush somewhere. I can articulate it better later, but that's the idea I think.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Very, very good. I can't forgive myself, I gave up on trying to long ago. I have to trust in God's forgiveness. My forgiveness does nothing for me, and God's forgiveness does everything for me.

DJP said...

Thanks, well-put. Not only does my forgiveness do nothing for me, but it derails the process. Looking to myself isn't the answer; looking to Jesus, looking to the Cross, is the answer.

I love these touching words:

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin

Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

The Interface said...

Well said! Psychobabble states the problems quite nicely, and your application of Scripture is offers clarity theological and moral. It is too bad we don't read more of the Puritans these days. Were more people familiar with, e.g., Jeremiah Burrough's The Evil of Evils: The Exceeding Sinfulness of Sin, the less likely would be falling into this psychoquicksand.

donsands said...

"Generally speaking, we have yet to compassionately embrace the men and women - the mothers, fathers, family members, friends, and medical personnel - whose lives have been devastated by abortion."

The author says "generally". I'm not so sure.

The offense is against God, as you say: "..all of them merited nothing but the raging hot wrath of God."

I know two sisters in Christ who have had abortions prior to their conversion.
They still become grieved at times over their sin, and yet know the grace of Christ, and His forgiving love.
Their testimonies are such a sweet fragrance of the Gospel.

Wonderful post. Very encouraging comments as well.
Especially those verses of 'Before the Throne'. What a great hymn. Gives me goose-bumps.

Kim said...

Timely post for me, Dan, in light of the fact that here in Canada, a man famous for his abortion clinics is going to be receiving an honorary award for his contribution to Canada. Yes, here in Canada, we honor people who kill Canadians.

Re the "forgive yourself" thing. Better to say that we must accept the forgiveness extended to us and realize that we don't have the power to forgive ourselves.

Stefan Ewing said...

This is a first-class post. I have nothing more to say.

Stefan Ewing said...

Okay, I have one more thing to say.

Dan: You may not have consciously set out to do this, but what you've written is a complete sermon. Granted, it was topical and not exegetical, but it was Gospel-centered through and through. And it has general application to all of us, regardless of what our particular sins are.

Casey said...

BTW, the earlier Simeon quote from John, quoted by Piper, is from the book "The Roots of Endurance," pg. 108.

Also, great post.

Hadassah said...

Just last night I saw part of a documentary about China's "One Child" policy. Something like 40 million baby girls have been aborted as a direct result (I could have the number off, but it was a LOT of baby girls.)

That kind of flies in the face of "women's rights" doesn't it?

Susan said...

Thanks, Dan, for another good post. You said:

"To oversimplify, the Father looks at Christ and tells me, "I forgive you." But I say, "I still feel guilty, I don't feel forgiven." The issue then is: do I take the Father at His word, or do I look for something else?"

R.C. Sproul once related a similar anecdote in his radio program, "Renewing Your Mind". To paraphrase, he was talking with a woman who said that she asked God for forgiveness over and over again for the same sin. To her bewilderment, R.C. asked her to get on her knees and ask God for forgiveness one more time. "For what??" She wanted to know. His answer? "For being so arrogant." His point was that God sticks to his word; to ask him again and again to forgive the same sin implies that we don't really trust his faithfulness in keeping his promise to forgive us.

The comments on this post are great; several comments gave me particular insight into my own spiritual life, although it has nothing to do with abortion. Greg's excellent recounting of Rebekah Pippert's story puts my sins into perspective: Why should I be shocked by the heinousness and the frequencies of my sins when I have ALREADY DONE SOMETHING WORSE BY NAILING CHRIST TO THE CROSS!? And Dan's attribution to Lewis nails it: it is a form of pride. (For the record, I don't think Lewis talked about it in Mere Christianity, but then again I only looked under Chapters 7 and 8 ["Forgiveness" and "The Great Sin", respectively].)Moreover, Chris's comment about the effects from Joel Osteen's teaching (and others' like him) makes me see my own situation more clearing. Chris said:

"Consequently we’re not too much sorry that we sinned against God, but more sorry that we sinned against self."

Having suffered tangibly and tremendously from my own sins and by others' hand, I could hardly focus on anything else except my temporal circumstances; i.e., "If I had only done this or that, others wouldn't have hurt me like this and things wouldn't turn out THIS badly for me." My focus should instead be on Jesus and the gospel: that HE should condescend to SAVE A WRETCH LIKE ME, the chief of all sinners.

I will end my long comment with a link to Spurgeon. The Faith's Checkbook entry for today (7/15) befits our discussion today, I think--it's on Mt. 5:4 ("Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.").

Susan said...

Sorry, poor proofreading. I meant:

"Moreover, Chris's comment about the effects from Joel Osteen's teaching (and others' like his) makes me see my own situation more clearly."

Mike Riccardi said...


Phenomenal post.

The only substantive thing I have to say at the moment is that you happened to quote Before the Throne of God Above, the "Special Music" section of my wedding this Saturday. Kinda cool.

Wish you could be here to sing it with us.

Yankeerev said...


A good article and an issue that is not often talked about. It is my experience that this is one of the "silent sins" that, if not handled Biblically and carefully will continue to plague our sisters and allow them to wallow rather than embrace the forgiveness they have received.

We need the gospel every day to remind us that we are sinful and that we are forgiven.

Anonymous said...

Before the Throne of God has to be the favorite Hymn in our church over the past couple of years...

DJP said...

When I first heard it, I was amazed I'd never heard it before, and that it was an old song, not a brand-new.

Susan said...

Now that's interesting...it IS an old hymn! (WARNING: when you click on the link, the music will come on immediately, and it won't be what you're expecting!)

donsands said...

"the "Special Music" section of my wedding this Saturday." -Mike R.

A hearty early Felicitations to you!

UinenMaia said...

Solameanie - after countless posts on forums, you are the first to ask after my turbulent husband. He's fine, churning things up as usual, thank you very much! I just keep picking up those poor sailors and helping them get where they want to go. :)

Chris – You were making perfect sense there. I guess it should not surprise me. After all, God has written the law on our hearts (Jer 31:33), so we should have SOME innate recognition of it, even if we just want to ignore it. But it still stuns me when I can have a more reasonable conversation about sin, repentance, forgiveness, and personal responsibility with a junior high student than I can with my pastor.

Dan - Thank heavens somebody is! :) And keep it up. After all, there is a little bit of 13 in all of us, no matter how old we are on the outside.

You have too much truth for it ever to be a paying gig in the mainline churches like TUAD and I are/were a part of, unfortunately. (They may not have the same name, but they have exactly the same goal - to "un-sin sin".) Our groups offer great benefits and pensions at the minor cost of your conscience and your soul. Not a bargain anyone should make.

Michelle said...

Kim already mentioned this, but this is a timely post for me because Dr Henry Morgentaler, the Hitler of our abortion holocaust in Canada, has just been awarded the country's highest civilian honour (the Order of Canada) for his "contribution to women's health".

Where I live, the government will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law if you kill a bald eagle. If you want to kill your unborn baby, however, they'll gladly vacuum him or her out of your womb and cover all expenses. And now they call this unfathomable evil good.

I have to find rest in the fact that the blood of Christ is sufficient to cover every sin of every one whom the Father will draw and that the day is coming when He, the righteous Judge, will settle every injustice. Maranatha! - come quickly Lord Jesus!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

UinenMaia: "You have too much truth for it ever to be a paying gig in the mainline churches like TUAD and I are/were a part of, unfortunately."

Sigh. At the time I didn't know it was a mainline church denomination. I thought if a church was part of a Baptist denomination, it had to be pretty decent in terms of its doctrine and practice.

Yeah, right. Aborting orthodoxy and orthopraxy; psychobabble to rationalize the self-delusion and to deceive the sheep; and water down and dilute the Gospel so much... that that is a mainline denom. And if folks are saved in a mainline denomination, it's truly the work of the Holy Spirit.

Lockheed said...

all this forgets that it takes two to make a child... the responsibility is shared.

Stefan Ewing said...

For the record (the other Canucks here know this), recipients of the Order of Canada are nominated by an independent committee. Our Conservative Prime Minister stated his opposition (diplomatically) to giving the OC to this particular nominee, but his government was more or less powerless to do much about it.

(Not to mention that the Tories are pretty much walking on eggshells all of the time anyhow, since the mainstream media and opposition parties are ready to pounce on any opportunity to portray the Conservatives as Bad for Canada(TM)....)

Stefan Ewing said...

(Correction: not all of the mainstream media—that's a lazy generalization. But those media outlets, like the CBC, that coalesce around the left-of-centre "consensus" viewpoint that controls the national discourse in this country.)

Michelle said...

Thank you, Stefan, for setting the record straight. I stand corrected. I do appreciate our Conservative Prime Minister.

I should add that there has been a backlash and a lot of expression of disappointment and even disgust. The whole abortion issue is not quite as "settled" as some would like to believe and I'm thankful for this.

Solameanie said...


I'm a bit surprised, too. I'm certain there are other Tolkien fans out there, although The Silmarillion probably isn't as widely read as Lord of the Rings.

I was tempted to ask Dan if he named his sword Narsil, but thought better of it. I personally think he snagged it from the Lady of the Lake.

On topic now, I think psychobabble has indeed help rot our society's view of sin. Look at the way some things that were once considered sins are now reclassified as diseases. Other things such as homosexuality -- once considered a perversion -- was redefined out of perversion by the psychologists and psychiatrists. It's now supposed to be innate and perfectly acceptable.

I'm beginning to think it's not just the Emergent folks who have imbibed too deeply of Lewis Carroll. To alter his Alice in Wonderland line a bit, sins are whatever we want them to be. No more, no less.

Gilbert said...


I wanted to say thank you for that very edifying post. You brought it from abortion, to pride, to the base of it all---sin. Every woman needs to read this, regenerate or not.

Early in my walk, I was persuaded that an abortion was OK for only the cases of incest or rape. But then a brother came aside to me, showed me a video of an abortion, and simply told me: "I hope that you can see there are two victims. One, the woman who bore the child, and second, the baby itself." Even though a child can be conceived in hate, it can be born with love, and can become God's chosen vessel as a believer. And then both child and mother are blessed!

As vile as I am, and uncomfortable as I was reading your post, knowing how much damage I've done to my Savior in my life because of my sin, it is indeed amazing grace and great encouragement that he saved a wretch like me!

Dave .... said...

DJP, quoting "Before The Throne Of God Above" iced it for me. I have been in sack cloth and ashes since I read your post this morning. What a Savior has loved us! What grace! I can barely type. Thank you.

Chris said...

To answer the question about where all of the "forgiving ourselves" rhetoric came from, I believe it started with the chap who took over the pulpit of the great Dr. Lloyd-Jones and author of a highly popular book by that title (or something close to it), followed by a sequel. As I undertand it, the late Dr. Lloyd-Jones was most unhappy about the reality that such a man would assume his role and do such harm to the gospel message. I wish I could recall the name of this man, but it has escaped me.

Chris said...

Ahh...I've got it; the name is RT Kendall.

Rob said...

A very good post, but something else to consider, not mentioned here, is the fact that many pro-lifers consider the birth control pill to be abortifacient, in that this prevents the implantation of an embryo in the uterus. And in light of this (as well as countless other medical reasons it should be avoided) most evangelical churches seem to be quite silent about this pernicious drug. Abortion, it seems that our churches maintain, are only the surgical variety performed in clinic. But how many abortions are the result of Christian women taking what they perceive to be an innocuous contraceptive?

The issue is one of the few things that our Roman Catholic friends have correct.

DJP said...

Except that really is beside the point of the post. I'm not really scolding you at this point; I've been very impressed with how on-topic the comments have been. The subject surely tempts readers to go in a thousand different directions, and I understand that.

But the point of the post isn't abortion per se, how bad women or men are or are not, Row vs. Wade, politics, or anything. The title (which went through several changes) is the real point of the post, and abortion is taken as simply one emblematic sin, albeit one which too often is treated badly from at least two directions.

Ben N said...

Good post Dan.
Chesterton said once: "Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable."

Sin has no excuse. That's why we call it sin. True repentance does not make excuses for its sins.
Thanks for bringing us the truth today, Dan! We're all in need of a savior, not a PR.

DJP said...

Thanks Benjamin. As someone at all concerned about the care of souls, I see diagnosis as critical. A doctor who calls malignant tumors "benign cysts" will initially be very popular but, on the long run, bitterly execrated. And rightly so.

As such, when I hear a Christian speaking of his sin as sin, I feel hope. When (s)he adds a "but," the hope wavers.

David A. Carlson said...

I think you have fundamentally chosen the wrong starting point for your post.

You have picked a target, set your thesis, and proved your thesis.

Your thesis and proofs are correct. But applied to the wrong target.

By not reading the book, and by (apparently) not even reading their website (which is linked in the press release), you may have fundamentally misunderstand the book and the author/organization behind it.

Indeed, it appears the major target of the organization is indeed the church and their response to those who have had abortions. To quote their website

Although the evangelical Church has worked diligently over the past three decades to save the lives of the unborn, we have yet to establish ourselves as a safe place for those that have been hurt by abortion to find hope and healing in Jesus Christ. Generally speaking, we have yet to compassionately embrace the men and women - the mothers, fathers, family members, friends, and medical personnel - whose lives have been devastated by abortion. Abortion, as with other issues in the past, is still "in the closet" where the Church is concerned.

Is using a press release as your pin cushion instead of the actual writings of the author really a reasonable starting point?

DJP said...

That's so funny; I was expecting someone to throw down that red herring earlier, and thought it just wasn't going to happen.

If you can find where I say I am critiquing anything other than the writeup, and the ideas I target, you have a point, and I'll admit it.

If not, you don't, and really should admit it.

If you find that you don't have a point, but insist that you do have a point anyway (on the grounds you stated), you will be guilty of The NT Wright Fallacy, and I will pray for you.

David A. Carlson said...

Just an observation Dan - you lead with a target that has nothing to do with your post.

Why lead with that target? Why use that press release- by it's use, you imply that the source material is suspect, or deficient.It seems to me be very much a straw man type argument.

Why use a press release when other material is so easy to find, material which would lead a reader to a different conclusion than you make? It's not like you would have to actually purchase the book, or conduct some google research to track down the author, their organization, or any other fact. I mean, just click on the link in the press release, and you can get every answer you would want.

But perhaps that is just me. I guess when I see a reference to a book leading a post, i assume that the rest of the post might actually have something to do with the book or the author. Silly me.

DJP said...


We have a repetition of your still-unsubstantiated accusation.

Then we have a complaint that I didn't write a different post. Not just a post different from the post I wrote, but different from the post I said I was going to write.

Meanwhile, here's my post, which is about exactly what it set out to be about, and said it would be about.

And there's you, still complaining, and not admitting your error.

Now, that's silly.

Jesus Is Coming Soon said...

I agree with your post and the fact of Abortion is Terrible Sin,almost mass murder(sometimes is)with each Abortion. The minor child that is aided to get an abortion against parental approval, the father who cannot save His child,Some of Our Government leaders who approve,support,and have and want to again pay for Abortions with our tax money.Not to mention the Innocent Child slaughtered.
It is against God Yes.And if Adultery were as deadly and final as Abortion I suspect it may be less frequent or maybe not?

Pro 6:16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
Pro 6:17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,

Elizabeth said...

I'M SORRY but I hear from you the old Catholic (because that was the choice of my upbringing don't know where yours came from) "You're nothing but a sinner!... hang your head in guilt and shame YOU DID IT!"...

BUT we now KNOW we are righteous IN CHRIST... HE FORGAVE our sins even before we committed them... when we as women (duped by abortion "freedom") finally pick our heads up and proudly wear His robe of righteousness and stop putting on the scarlet A for "had an abortion(s)" (that we "feel" we wear in God's sight) only then will we be able to help our sisters get out of the rut they are in... the rut of selfish pity and shame, "Oh woe is me", that keeps us from enjoying the freedom He has given us to walk in the Light...

WHY should we?...

BECAUSE we are called to invite others into the Light of purification of all our sins... because there are no stains on Christ's robe of righteousness... BECAUSE He covers ALL His daughters with that same robe of righteousness, past abortion(s) or not... BECAUSE we sisters need to spread that Word to one another so we can stand firm in that righteousness, strong in Christ to help others on the way to choosing "death" instead of Life... BECAUSE IF WE DON'T stop grieving over our mistake(s) isn't that just the ideal plot of the devil to keep us in the HEAVINESS of DARKNESS and SHAME which keeps us from how God wants to turn that MISERY we experienced into a glorious mission for strength in unity for change for good?

DJP said...

1. Who are you talking to?

2. Did you read the article, all of the way through, start to finish?

3. If so, with what in the article are you specifically agreeing or disagreeing?

No need to shout, thanks.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

(My husband recommended I read this post, and it's taken me a couple of days to read the comments, so I apologize for the tardiness in my response. I began to write some comments but decided to use more discretion in what was shared.)

I re-read the link to the write up about the book (did we even LOOK carefully at the title/subtitle of it?), and the comment in the first paragraph really jumped out at me, in light of the title of your post:

"Despite the church's view on this controversial topic, more than 70 percent of these women consider themselves religious or Christian."

THAT is probably the one direction this comment thread should have headed but didn't. There are young men and women in our congregations who consider themselves religious or Christian, and yet struggle privately(?) with promiscuity, immoral behavior, and yes, even murder in the legal form.

Sadly, I (we) tend to go (psychobabble) soft on the issue when I'm face to face with someone who fits this category (which I recently was). WHY IS THAT? I know that they need to experience forgiveness and healing, but I tend to NOT realize that what they need is the gospel. Without genuine guilt and genuine repentance, forgiveness will only be a temporary relief until they go back to their old habits.

The reality seems to be that the gospel needs to be preached even to those in the fellowship hall with whom we drink coffee and tea. Perhaps even to the young man/woman who we assume is saved because of their parents' important role in our congregation.

(I apologize for my own inability to use HTML tags for emphasis--I, too, resort to CAPS instead when leaving comments.)

Jesus Is Coming Soon said...

I have a honest question that I can not answer, but have to ask my self...Where are all the Repentant Forgiven Christians that were invovled in Abortion? male or female.If they do not agree with a one hour public prayer vigil like like National LifeChain
www.nationallifechain/org (sunday oct.5 2:30-3:30 this year)(I understand their numbers have been dropping.)
Then where are they?do many churches have in church prayer vigils for the American holocaust of over 50,000,000 where you live I know of none here.If a person is truly forgiven by Christ isn't restitution or trying to save the Innocent(obedience to Gods Word) who are slaughtered in their own blood each day a part of the result of that free forgiveness from Jesus Christ,Our Redeemer?
The death count remains at 3,000-4,000 per day Church.

lawrence said...

the reason most people don't know "Before the Throne of God Above" is actually an old song is because the old melody was...less then stellar. Then the new melody was written by Vikki Cook and it became super popular.

Very good post, btw. Good stuff.

DJP said...

I think you're quite right in all or almost all you say, Merilee.

If you mean the thread should have discussed more whether abortion is a sin, or why people don't think it is a sin, or professed Christians do it anyway — these are good questions, but would have been beside the point. I tried to be pretty focused. The writeup takes the "Okay, you've sinned, now what?" approach, giving responses such as "forgive yourself" and "let's understand why you did it so we can feel compassion."

But yeah, in dealing pastorally with sin, my feelings are to go for the "there-there," in many cases. Which is like a doctor looking at a nasty, hidden, infected splinter, not wanting to cause pain, and prescribing a topical and a band-aid. So I make myself go for identifying and dealing with it seriously as what it is: sin.

Only way to real healing and restoration.

Barbara said...

I thought it was wonderful.

Finally finished reading through the comments and I clicked on the link to "Before the Throne of God" (which I hadn't been familiar with) and heard the chords of an old hymn that I have been very familiar with and grew up with - and in hearing it again, it stood out to me as never before: Sweet Hour of Prayer. Not sweet minute of prayer, not sweet 5-minute span before I fall asleep, sweet Hour. Now there's a topic for a post. :)

Susan said...

Quite right, Barbara. The moment I heard the melody, "Sweet Hour of Prayer" came into my head. Must be a Southern Baptist thing--well, at least for me! :)

Phil Johnson said...

Todd Friel mentioned this post on the 22 July 1st-hour WOtM radio broadcast. Have a listen about 22 minutes or so into the program.

DJP said...

...then returns to it in hour 2, starting about 11 minutes. "...or, is Dan Phillips being an insensitive jerk?"