Albert Mohler is the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and the author of numerous books, including Atheism Remix and He is Not Silent. The following are my notes from Dr. Mohler’s second session at the BOLD Church Conference in Columbus, Nebraska on October 1, 2012 (paraphrased).
[Just as a baby comes out of his mother’s womb with a robust package of medical immunizations, culturally,] we received as a birthright an enormous set of immunization—an immune system that by our birthright was healthy. And instead of passing strength, we’re passing along one that became weaker and weaker.
What caused this? Sociologically speaking, it’s secularization. That gradually over time the belief in God will push further and further into the background. . . . My program Thinking in Public deals with these kinds of questions and a couple seasons ago, I was able to speak with Peter Berger, one of the leading figures in the secularization movement. And he’s lived long enough to retract it, although not completely.
He wrote an article explaining how the theory is exactly wrong—that while the secularization pattern is exactly right for Europe and the American university, but there’s been a resurgence of belief in God. . . . But Peter Berger had an amazing insight that’s amazing to me as a Christian about what happened in America, and it’s pluralization. It’s not the abandonment of belief, but the creation of a God who is more palatable.
The exchange of the God of the Bible for a “in case of emergency break glass” kind of God.
There’s been a massive moral and cultural shift in America, but before that happened there had to have been a massive theological shift—because these shifts would be impossible if you believe in the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is not the God that most Americans believe in when 90 percent say they believe in God.
It’s theologically incorrect to overstate how “Christian” America is. It’s not that our founding fathers were all Christians—many were not—but they inherited a Christian worldview that made sense. Their basic ideas of truth and morality… the liberties we enjoy—all were informed by this worldview.
When I was a boy in 1972, we lived in a world where it made sense that a 13-year-old boy would not know the term “homosexual” and to not get an answer. But today, we’ve got 5-year-olds learning about how Sally’s got two moms… we’re reaping the eclipse of the Christian worldview.
But as Christians, our job is not to convince others of the Christian worldview. That’s not evangelism. There are many people who are going to be in Hell who hold to a “Christian worldview”… But this eclipse is like the weakening of the immune system, where it’s just becoming weaker and weaker and weaker.
This morning, we’re looking at the defense of life. And this is just an amazing thing, where in the beginning of the great American experiment, there was this great value placed upon life, the individual… And yet today, we’re not even sure what “life” means.
We need a biblical framework for answering this question. To do that, we’ll look at Psalm 139.
You come to the 139th Psalm, and you find this symphonic declaration of God’s omnipresence. David begins with the personal knowledge of God – “you have searched me and known me.” And the internal knowledge —“you discern my thoughts from afar.” And David declares that there’s nowhere where God is not there.
We now live in a surveillance society. If you live in London (UK), you’re under constant surveillance if you’re outside of a private residence. . . . It’s harder and harder to get away with something, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But David knew this thousands of years ago.
God has such knowledge that He knows what David will say before David does! God knows us better than we do—He knows our hearts, what we’re going to say and why we’re going to say it better than we do.
In verse 13, we see this transition where we see that the Creator’s knowledge did not come post-partum. It comes in the womb. It comes before David’s mother even knew she was carrying him.
The Psalm goes on to say that David’s security comes from the Creator who knows him, but not only knows him but knitted him together, and made promises to him in the womb, and would fulfill those promises… and David’s biblical testimony is central our understanding of life—because David’s not just talking about himself, he’s talking about every person who has ever lived.
We again, have to turn back to the beginning, to see how God created mankind in a way that they are completely different from every other creature on the planet. . . .
We saw last night the creation of man and the creation of woman out of man, and the creation of social order and complementary roles… and you have this picture of perfection where they’re in the garden, naked and unashamed.
But we’re a long way east of Eden, and it brings about a confusion in sexuality and marriage, but in how we view life. Christians need to hold fast to this understanding and teach it because no one else has this truth. No other worldview can carry the weight of the dignity of human life—we’ve seen how secularization can’t carry the weight, and when we see the eclipse of the worldview that gave David such security, it’s not hard to see the horror.
We don’t have to look far; we only have to look as far back as the 20th century.
But first some biblical affirmations:
1. Humanity was given a certain status among creation. We did not achieve it. We were created in this status for the glory of God. God created all the flora and fauna… all of creation to bring Him glory. But they only do what they’re to do.
But when you look at creation, you realize we’re made differently. We’re the only ones addressed by name, we’re addressed with words, he made us for covenant… he knows we’re moral creatures because we’re made that way and he knows we need to hear from our Creator because he made us that way.
But we’re increasingly living in a time where the average person lacks any sort of theological defense for why humans are different from any other animal. You have Peter Singer who says that some pigs have more dignity and value than some people do. He also says that mothers should have the right to murder their children up to the age of two because they’ve not developed sufficient language and relational skills.
But this is the fruit of secularization and Darwinism. We’re living among people who are deadly—deadly to the unborn and increasingly to the infirm.
2. There is no gradation of human dignity in Scripture. America celebrates and commemorates many days for our need for repentance. All of humanity is made of the image and likeness of God. Race is evidence of one of the ways God has made us to glorify Himself. Notice in the great throne room scene in Revelation that people from every tongue, tribe and nation… But it’s not only every race, but every person at every stage of life equally has dignity and value as image bearers of God.
So how do we pervert the dignity and value of human life? The first way is to change the meaning of terms.
Take “contraception” for example. Previously contraception means “prevent conception”, but now it’s been redefined to mean preventing a fertilized egg from implantation on the uterine wall.
But we not only have this issue, but we’ve become confused about the rights of the fertilized embryo. We have to remember that every one of us started out as an embryo. It’s very easy to convince your neighbor that his child is worthy of life, but it’s much harder to convince him of the same of an embryo.
Only the Christian worldview has this view of life. David places this value on humanity in Psalm 139. He had value before his mother even knew he was there…
But you go further along the gestational path and you move along to abortion, which has been essentially legal on demand for 40 years… and it’s not that we’re not having any successes in the battle, in part thanks to the ultrasound generation… but in some states, abortion far outstrips live births. It’s become a routinized way of dealing with unwanted pregnancies.
But it is not just abortion, which is becoming so much more complicated through in vitro fertilization and “selective reductionism,” assisted reproduction and so forth…
In Germany, long before Hitler and the Nazi medical experiments, there was a movement to describe people in two categories—those who are worthy of life, and those who are not. In America, while we’re not about to become Nazis, we do have to realize that because of prenatal testing, about 90 percent of children who test as [possibly] having Downs Syndrome are aborted.
The idea of life being unworthy of life is extended out further, you’ve got PETA who say that a pig is a boy—they have the same right to life. While ridiculous, we’re surrounded by many who believe such things.
While we do not achieve our status as humans, we’re given it as a birthright, but increasingly life is described in terms of achievement. So this again comes back to Peter Singer’s arguments about children being put to death if they fail to achieve sufficient linguistic and relational skills.
But you move forward from early life to the end of life and you have “euthanasia,” which means “a good death.” In the Netherlands, it started as a chronically ill person choosing to end his life. And then it’s moved to family members and on and on till now a 12 or 13 year old can go to a doctor and have a doctor assist him in ending his life.
And only the Christian worldview has an argument against these things—David didn’t say, you’ve planned all my days until I’ve had enough.
What are our defenses against all this? It’s not sharing the Christian worldview; we can’t evangelize the dead. We must recognize that it’s the Christian’s responsibility to speak up for the dignity of human life from conception, through the womb, through all stages of life and through a natural death. We either believe what David believed or we do not.