I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10. We are grateful that as Christians, Evangelicals and Catholics together, we can speak with one voice on a matter of paramount urgency for our society and the world. We address this statement to all who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to all people of goodwill who share our concern for a more just and humane social order.
Recent years have witnessed a new pattern of convergence and cooperation between Evangelicals and Catholics. We are grateful that the project known as Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) has played a part in this developmenta development that has occasioned both controversy and high hopes within our respective communities. In the public life of our country, the changing relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics has also occasioned curiosity, anxiety, and even alarm.
This convergence has implications for our culture and civil order. In the present statement we intend, however briefly and inadequately, to make the case for what is commonly called a culture of lifeand to do so in a way that invites public deliberation and engages questions of public policy. Our primary purpose, however, is to explain to our communities why we believe that support for a culture of life is an integral part of Christian faith and therefore a morally unavoidable imperative of Christian discipleship.
To those who do not identify with our communities, or with any Christian community, we respectfully suggest that it is in our mutual interest that they try to understand better the reasons and convictions that have recruited so many millions of their fellow citizens to the cause of the culture of life. Greater understanding does not necessarily lead to agreement, but it at least makes possible a more civil engagement of our disagreements.
The present moment in American public life is frequently described in terms of culture wars, and there is some merit in that description. We need not and must not, however, resign ourselves to unremitting warfare. A culture is composed of many parts, but different cultures are distinguished by different understandings of reality, of the meaning of life and death, of rights and duties, of rights and wrongs.
There is what is called a Judeo-Christian worldview, a worldview that was crucial to the formation of our civilization and is, we believe, clearly reflected in the convictions that inspired the American founding. To speak of American culture today is to speak of a culture marked by different worldviews in conflict. So severe is the conflict, also in the political realm, that many despair of finding any commonalities by which warfare can be replaced, or at least tempered, by civil discourse.
We refuse to join in that despair. We refuse to despair because we share with those who oppose us a common humanity. We also share a common interest in sustaining the American experiment in its aspiration to be a free, just, and virtuous society. In our common humanity, we share a Godgiven capacity to reason, to argue, to deliberate, to persuade, and to discover moral truths regarding questions related to the right ordering of our life together. As members of the community of Christians, we are obliged to bear an uncompromising witness to our faith. As members of this civil order, we are also obliged to engage respectfully those who do not share our faith. In this statement, we intend to do both.
Between Evangelicals and Catholics there have been long-standing differences on the capacities of human reason. To put it too briefly, Evangelicals (and the Protestant traditions more generally) have accented that human reason has been deeply corrupted by sin. Catholics, on the other hand, while recognizing that human reason has been severely wounded by sin and is in need of healing, have held a higher estimate of reason's capacity to discern truth, including moral truth. We, as Evangelicals and Catholics together, affirm that the knowledge of God necessary for eternal salvation cannot be attained by human reason alone apart from Divine revelation and the Holy Spirit's gift of faith's response to Jesus Christ the only Savior. (These questions are addressed in more detail in our 1998 statement, The Gift of Salvation.)
We also affirm together that human reason, despite the consequences of sin, has the capacity for discerning, deliberating, and deciding the questions pertinent to the civil order. Some Evangelicals attribute this capacity of reason to common grace, as distinct from saving grace. Catholics typically speak of the natural law, meaning moral law that is knowable in principle by all human beings, even if it is denied by many (Romans 1 and 2). Thus do we, as Evangelicals and Catholics together, firmly reject the claim that disagreements over the culture of life represent a conflict between faith and reason. Both faith and reason are the gift of the one God. Since all truth has its source in Him, all truth is ultimately one, although our human perception of the fullness of truth is partial and inadequate (1 Corinthians 13:12). Thus do we invite those who disagree, including those who do not share the gift of faith in Christ, to join with us in attempting to move beyond culture wars to a reasonable deliberation of the right ordering of our life together.
As Christians, we are informed, inspired, and sustained by our faith in a commitment to a culture of life, which includes the protection and care of the unborn, the severely disabled, the dependent elderly, and the dying. The culture of life encompasses also the poor, the marginalized, and those who, for whatever reason, are vulnerable to neglect or exploitation by others. This is not a uniquely Christian commitment. Disagreement on our obligations to those in need should not be viewed as a conflict between Christians and non-Christians.
We are sadly aware that many who identify themselves as Christians do not share our understanding of a culture of life. It is not the case that we wish to impose our moral convictions on our fellow citizens or, as some recklessly charge, to establish a theocracy. Our intention is not to impose but to propose, educate, and persuade, in the hope that, through free deliberation and decision, our society will be turned toward a more consistent respect for the inestimable gift that is human life.
This statement and the questions addressed are emphatically public in nature. Christianityits scriptures, doctrine, intellectual tradition, and institutions of communal allegiance and missionare part of our common history. Christianity claims at least the nominal adherence of the great majority in our society. To be a Christian is a personal but not a private decision. To be a Christian is to be associated with a historical movement bearing public witness to universal moral truths.
Such truths are not accepted by all in our society, nor is there complete agreement about their meaning and implications among all who do accept them. But the assertion of these truths, including their significance for public policy, is part of, and in no way to be excluded from, genuinely public discourse. Whatever is meant by the separation of church and state, it cannot mean the separation of public life and public policy from the deepest convictions, including moral convictions, of the great majority of a nation's citizens.
As Christian truth claims are public, so also are the questions pertinent to a culture of life. There is no more inescapably public and political question than who belongs to the polis of which we are part. The contention over abortion, for instance, is not about when human life begins. That is a biological and medical question about which there is no reasonable dispute. The moral and political dispute is over which human beings, at whatever state of development or decline, possess rights that we are bound to respect. The question is this: Who belongs to the community for which we accept public responsibility?
In what follows we hope to make the case that the defense of the humanum is made imperative by the Christian understanding of reality. Our position with respect to questions such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the creation and destruction of 19 embryos for research purposes is integral to that understanding of reality. Every human life is, from conception, created by God and is infinitely precious in His sight. The fulfillment of human life is, by the grace of God, life and life abundant through faith in Jesus Christ, who said, I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
We believe it is of utmost importance that everyone involved in the public discussion of these questions understand the unbreakable connection between a Christian worldview and the defense of human life. We can no more abandon our contention for a culture of life than we can abandon our allegiance to the lordship of Christ, for our contention is inseparably part of that allegiance.
At the same time, we contend that the public policies pertinent to the defense of the humanum are supported by reasons that are accessible to all and should be convincing to all. The term humanism is frequently employed in opposition to Christian faith, as in the phrase secular humanism. We propose a deeper and richer humanism that is firmly grounded in the bedrock of scriptural truth, that is elaborated in the history of Christian thought, that is in accord with clear reason, that honors the best in our civilization's tradition, and that holds the promise of a future more worthy of the dignity of the human person who is the object of God's infinite love and care. This more authentic humanism is in no way alien to Christianity. There is in world history no teaching more radically humanistic than the claim that God became a human being in order that human beings might participate in the life of God, now and forever.
Our contention for a culture of life is made possible and imperative by the gospel of life. The word gospel is used in different ways. Gospel (from the Greek euangelion) means good news" The Apostle Paul writes: Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fastunless you believed in vain (I Corinthians 15:1-2). The good news is centered in Jesus Christhis birth, teaching, healing ministry, holiness of life, redemptive suffering and death, his resurrection victory over sin and death, his present reign, his abiding presence with his disciples, and his promised coming in glory to restore all things to God. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19). The good news is that, despite all the evil for which we human beings are responsible, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17).
The gospel of life includes the very creation. All that exists is brought into being and sustained in being by love and for love, for God is love (1 John 4:8). The whole of creation is a gift and constitutes an order graced by the love of God. In that same love, God bestowed upon humanity a unique dignity. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ?Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it' (Genesis 1:27-28). Of life in all its created forms we are told, And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31).
God did not recant that judgment even when man turned against God and, as a consequence, against his brother. To Cain, the first murderer, God says, The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground (Genesis 4:10). The cry of innocent blood did not go unheeded but began the long gospel story of restoration, including the covenant with Abraham and the people of Israel that prophetically points toward the culmination of God's self-revelation and redemptive work in Jesus Christ. Thus humanity is called to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:24). In Christ the dignity and eternal destiny of humanity is restored. St. Paul declares, For as by a man came death, by man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
The radical humanism of Christianity was and is a new thing in history. Irenaeus, the second-century Church Father, declared, The glory of God is man fully alive. From the earliest noncanonical Christian writing, the Didache (probably written in the latter half of the first century), we learn how Christians confronted the pagan culture of the time:
There are two ways, a way of life and a way of death; there is a great difference between them. . . . In accordance with the precept of the teaching You shall not kill, you shall not put a child to death by abortion or kill it once it is born. . . . The way of death is this: They show no compassion for the poor, they do not suffer with the suffering, they do not acknowledge their Creator, they kill their children and by abortion cause God's creatures to perish; they drive away the needy, oppress the suffering, they are advocates of the rich and unjust judges of the poor; they are filled with every sin. May you be ever guiltless of all these sins!
There are many ways in which the dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God, is violated. Both historically and at present there is genocide, unjust war, innocent victims of just wars, economic exploitation, the neglect and abuse of children, the disrespect and mistreatment of women, the abandonment of the aged, racial oppression and discrimination, the persecution of religious believers, and religious and ideological fanaticisms that are the declared enemies of freedom. The depressing list goes on and on. We have no delusions that such evils will be entirely eliminated before Christ returns in glory to set all things right. But, as in the apostolic era, so also in our time, Christian witness and life is to stand in clear contrast and opposition to such evils, for we are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14).
While we cannot remedy all the evils in the world, we canif we are prepared to suffer and even die rather than to do evilalways refuse to willingly participate in, support, or condone the doing of evil. The way of the gospel of life is in the keeping of God's commandments, which are summarized in this: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said, Do this and you will live (Luke 10:28).
The love of neighbor takes many forms. In Matthew 25 the righteous are rewarded and the wicked condemned by the measures of whether they fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited those who are sick or in prison. By these and other measures of love for our neighbor, we all fall short. Love for the neighbor begins, however, with respect for the neighbor's right to be, by honoring the gift of God that is the neighbor's life. Thus the most basic commandment of neighbor-love is You shall not kill (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17). You shall not kill is rightly understood as You shall not murder.
Recognizing the honorable exception of those who embrace absolute pacifism, Christians believe that there are moral duties to protect life that may entail the taking of life, as in defense against lethal aggression. Most Christians, past and present, have also considered capital punishment to be morally permissible, citing the words of St. Paul that the ruler does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer (Romans 13:4). Some hold that capital punishment is not necessary to protect society and therefore is not morally permissible, while others hold that it is both permissible and necessary.
Our differences on capital punishment are not differences between Evangelicals and Catholics, but are based on different judgments regarding the need for capital punishment, at least in developed societies, and on the widespread perception that capital punishment is in tension, if not conflict, with a consistent ethic of life. At the same time, we are in firm agreement on the critical moral difference between killing the innocent and punishing those who are guilty of killing the innocent.
The ominous, and still recent, development in our society and others is the addition of new justifications for killing. Beyond self-defense, just war, and capital punishment, the principle is now asserted and supported by appeal to law that we are justified in killing human beings who are, for whatever reason, unwanted or deemed to be an excessive burden to others.
There is today no rational disagreement that the child in the womb is, from conception, a living being that is undeniably a human being. Barring natural tragedy, as in miscarriage, or lethal intervention, as in abortion, this being will become what everyone recognizes as a human baby. It is false and pernicious to claim that the unborn child is, at early stages of development, only a potential human being. No life that is not a human being has the potential of becoming a human being, and no life that has the potential of becoming a human being is not a human being.
Every human life is intended by God from eternity for eternity. Human life is sacred because it is the creation of God, the Lord of life. For you did form my inward parts, you knit me together in my mother's womb (Psalm 139:13). Nature shares in the consequences of sin and innumerable lives are lost before they have an opportunity to develop in the womb, as many die in disasters such as famine, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Mortality is the common denominator of all life on earth. We are morally responsible, however, for the protection and care of life created in the image and likeness of God. The commandment You shall not kill is the negatively stated minimum of what we owe to our fellow human beings.
The direct and intentional taking of innocent human life in abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and embryonic research is rightly understood as murder. In the exceedingly rare instance of direct threat to the life of the mother, saving her life may entail the death of the unborn child. Such rare and tragic instances are in sharpest contrast to the unlimited abortion license created by the Supreme Court, resulting in more than forty million deaths since 1973.
The blindness of so many to this moral atrocity has many sources but is finally to be traced to the seductive ways of evil advanced by Satan. Jesus says, He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).
The direct and intentional taking of innocent human life may be attended by what is believed to be compassion, especially in the case of the dependent and debilitated aged. While we can sympathize with those who view their own life or the life of another as a burden and not a gift, and while, by the grace of God, there can be repentance and forgiveness for those who are guilty of committing great evil, there can be no moral justification for murder. We are determined to employ every legal means available to protect, in law and in life, the innocent and vulnerable members of the human community.
We plead also with our fellow citizens who do not accept the authority of God's commandments or the good news that is the gospel of life to consider the consequences of having created a license to kill. In the present state of our tragically disordered law, citizens are given, in the case of abortion, a private right to kill those who are too young, too small, too handicapped, too burdensome, or, for whatever reason, not wanted. When this right and the lethal logic that supports it is established in law, there is no principled reason why it should not be applied to the unwanted at any point along life's way, as advocates of eugenics, euthanasia, and assisted suicide logically contend.
The inescapably public question posed is whether we as a political community adhere to the founding proposition articulated in the Declaration of Independence that all people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, beginning with the right to life. The course of progress in our political history has been one of inclusion rather than exclusion. Most notable has been the inclusion of slaves and their descendants, and the recognition of the political rights of women. The foundational moral claim on which our polity rests is the claim that all human beings are created equal and are the bearers of rights that we are obliged to respect.
Among the most encouraging developments of recent decades, in our society and the world, is the increased interest in the defense of human rights. This has occurred in large part in reaction to the unspeakable horror of ideologically driven mass murder under the regimes of Nazism and Communism, which denied the equal rights of all. Especially heartening is the growing involvement of Christian communities in the defense of religious, political, and civil rights around the world. Such concern is premised upon the conviction that all human beings are created equal with respect to God-given rights that we are bound to respect. That is the premise attacked by the current abortion regime and related aggressions against the gift of life. Rights are not to be confused with individual desires or felt needs. Rights are joined to duties. Those who cannot assert their rights depend upon others doing their duty. The right to be protected entails our duty to protect.
The inescapable question is this: Why should we care about those who are weak, dependent, burdensome, unproductive, and undeveloped or gravely diminished in their capacity for the interactions we associate with being human? If we are unable to give a morally principled answer to that question, the very concept of human rights is emptied of obliging force and reduced to utilitarian calculation or arbitrary sentiment. The lethal logic invoked in support of the abortion license imperils the lives and well-being of millions who are severely handicapped or who are cared for in the many thousands of facilities for the aged and radically dependent.
Those most in need of defense are those who cannot defend themselves. We are called to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. Among the most defenseless are the unborn child, the severely disabled, and the dependent elderly. There are today legal protections of the disabled and elderly, but the unborn are totally dependent and totally vulnerable to the will of others. Once fully born, they are deemed to have rights that are protected in law, even though they are at that point no more human beings and no less dependent than they were hours, weeks, or months before. Yet before birth, and even in the very process of being born, they are now deemed not to have rights that society is obliged to respect. This perverse view of human rights is irrational and incoherent. Its result is the unjust killing of many millions of those who are indisputably human beings and the undoing of the very concept of human rights.
We recognize that, short of Our Lord's return in glory, there will always be great evil in the world. Human history is the drama of conflict between truth and falsehood, light and darkness, life and death. The witness to the gospel of life echoes today the words of Moses to the children of Israel: I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life that you and your children may live (Deuteronomy 30:19). With the apostle Paul, we contend, and call others to contend, against the principalities and powers of the present darkness (Ephesians 6:12).
There will likely always be abortions, as there will be other great evils. In the words of Jesus, Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come (Luke 17:1). While sin and temptations to sin are constant, the notion that the killing of the innocent is a right in law is relatively recent and has thrown our society into legal, political, and moral confusion and conflict. The way to justice and restored civility is a firm commitment to the goal of a society in which every vulnerable human being, including every unborn child, is protected in law and welcomed in life.
The healing professions in our society have been deeply corrupted by the culture of death. Not only in abortion but also in practices such as doctor-assisted suicide, the noble calling of medicine has been grievously debased. In medical education, we witness the ominous abandonment of the Hippocratic Oath and its prohibition of killing.
We earnestly plead with medical practitioners to recover the moral integrity of their profession. With specific reference to the aged, the debilitated, and the dying, it is often the case that restoration to health is not possible. But no life is without value or is unworthy of life. While there is no obligation to prolong the process of imminent death, the intentional hastening of death is morally prohibited. The healing profession is also the caring profession. We cannot always heal, but we can always care. Also in the most difficult of cases, it is a perverse and twisted idea of compassion that seduces medical practitioners into violating the imperative always to care and never to kill. We gratefully acknowledge and prayerfully encourage medical practitioners who strive to restore their profession to the unqualified service of life.
We are keenly aware of the burden of guilt borne, and often painfully experienced, by those who have been complicit in the culture of death. Women beyond numbering mourn for their children whom they denied the living of the life that was theirs. As with King Herod's killing of the innocents, so also now: A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she could not be consoled, because they were no more (Matthew 2:18). A striking feature of the movement against abortion is the leadership of women who have experienced the horror and heartbreak of abortion and plead with their sisters to choose life. They and many others work selflessly in helping women with crisis pregnancies and also in assisting with adoptions.
Men beyond numbering are complicit in the culture of death. The legal abortion license has made it easier to exploit women sexually; to abandon them or refuse to support them in the bearing of the new life for which men are equally responsible; and even to coerce them into having the child killed. This is a wickedness of unspeakable proportions and is only compounded by men who self-servingly construe the abortion license as a form of liberation for the women they exploit.
As the sin is great, so is God's mercy greater. In this God shows his love for us, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we saved by him from the wrath of God (Romans 5:8-9). As the psalm declares:
For as the heavens are high above the earth
We thank God for the women and men who, having been complicit in the evil of abortion, have been led to contrition, repentance, and newness of life; for abortionists who have abandoned their trafficking in death; for those who have established thousands of crisis-pregnancy centers to assist women in troubled circumstances to welcome the gift of new life; and for all who have over the years sustained a growing prolife movement for change toward a culture of life. This is a movement for change that, more than any in American history, claims the allegiance of millions who have no personal stake in the cause other than the protection of the innocent. It is most particularly gratifying that the leadership of this movement is now passing to a younger generation that views with horrified repugnance an abortion regime to which so many of their elders had become morally numbed.
Even as the dark years of the unlimited abortion license may be coming to an end, the culture of death insinuates itself into the sciences and most particularly into the field of biotechnology. The creation and destruction of human life for research, cloning, and related purposes underscore the truth that the pro-life movement is for the duration, meaning until Our Lord returns in glory.
Our churches do not simply support the pro-life movement as a social cause. Because the gospel of life is integral to God's loving purpose for his creation, the Church of Jesus Christ, comprehensively understood, is a pro-life movement continuing God's mission until the end of time. In the light of this truth, we plead with Christians who support the legal license to kill the innocent to consider whether they have not set themselves against the will of God and, to that extent, separated themselves from the company of Christian discipleship.
There are no doubt many reasons for our society's perilous drift toward a culture of death. One major cause is the abortion regime established by the Supreme Court by the Roe v. Wade decision of January 22, 1973. That decision is rightly described as an act of raw judicial power that eliminated in all fifty states existing legal protections of unborn children. It is an encouraging measure of the moral health of our society that the abortion license decreed by Roe has not been accepted by the great majority of Americans. It now seems possible that this question will be returned to the process of democratic deliberation and decision in the several states. In that process, we as Evangelicals and Catholics together pledge our relentless efforts to persuade our fellow citizens to secure justice in law for the most vulnerable among us.
While political and legal developments are important, they are not of paramount importance. Deeper and of greater consequence is the moral and cultural impoverishment in our understanding of the gift of life, of our duties to othersespecially to those who are most dependentand of individual freedom that finds its true fulfillment not in license but in love.
Our public culture is debased by distortions of sexuality that are antithetical to the flourishing of marriage, fidelity, and parenthood. The indispensable institution of the family, which is the sanctuary of life, is widely devalued and weakened by divorce. Moreover, while we are not agreed on the moral permissibility of artificial contraception, we recognize the sad effects of a widespread contraceptive mentality that divorces sexual love from procreation and views children as a burden to be avoided rather than as a gift to be cherished. We plead with the members of our communities, Evangelical and Catholic, to consider anew the call to be open to new life, and the meaning of that call for the relationship between unitive and procreative sexual love within the bond of marriage.
Finally, our society's drift toward a culture of death will not be arrested and reversed without a bolder and more persuasive witness to the gospel of life centered in Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life. Whatever our cultural circumstance, whatever the ebb and flow of political and legal fortunes, our first duty is evangelization: to share in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2) the good news of the unsurpassable gift of eternal life, beginning now, in knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
To know him is to serve him, also in contending for a more just social order that defends the gift of life wherever it is threatened. As did the early Christians to the society of their time, so we propose to our fellow citizens a new humanism. This biblical humanism is deeply grounded in the dignity of the human person at every stage of development, disadvantage, or decline; it is supportive of the founding convictions of our nation; and it holds the promise of keeping at bay the barbaric devaluations of human life to which history is so manifestly prone.
We cannot and would not impose this vision of a culture of life upon others. We do propose to our fellow Christians and to all Americans that they join with us in a process of deliberation and decision that holds the promise of a more just and humane society committed, in life and law, to honoring the inestimable dignity of every human being created in the image and likeness of God. For our part, as Evangelicals and Catholics together, we refuse to despair of the power of public witness and persuasion in the service of every member of the human community, for whom Christ came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Hva syns du om disse tankene? Send meg dine tanker, meninger og reaksjoner.