By Dr. E Cal Beisner
Senior Teaching Fellow
In my years as a seminary professor of ethics, I saw few things more sinister and devious than the seemingly innocuous statement, “a biblically shaped commitment to the sanctity of human life compels us to a consistent ethic of life that affirms the sanctity of human life from beginning to end.” That’s not because life isn’t sacred from beginning to end, but because those who use it do so consistently to hide a serious ethical confusion.
Recently a group calling itself “Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden,” spearheaded by long-time leaders of the evangelical Left Ronald Sider and Richard Mouw, released a statement that begins,
“As Pro-life evangelicals, we disagree with Vice President Biden and the Democratic platform on the issue of abortion. But we believe a Biblically shaped commitment to the sanctity of human life compels us to a consistent ethic of life that affirms the sanctity of human life from beginning to end.”
“Poverty kills millions every year. So does lack of healthcare and smoking. Racism kills. Unless we quickly make major changes, devastating climate change will kill tens of millions. Poverty, lack of accessible health care services, smoking, racism and climate change are all pro-life issues.”
What many people won’t recognize is that this statement twists the meaning of “pro-life.”
As I demonstrated in my booklet “How Does the Creation Care Movement Threaten the Pro-Life Movement,” this use of the term “pro-life” runs directly contrary to standard dictionary definitions, all which define “pro-life” as opposition to abortion—not opposition to hunger, not opposition to poverty, not opposition to practices that lead to poor health—opposition to abortion.
Far worse, the new statement demonstrates serious ethical failures: the failure to distinguish between intentional and accidental harm, and the failure to distinguish between life and death, on the one hand, and better and worse health, on the other.
By so doing, it obscures the meaning of “pro-life” and undermines the pro-life movement. In abortion, every “successful” procedure intentionally kills a human being.
Poverty, lack of health care, and smoking often lead to poor health and sometimes to death, but none of them involves someone intentionally killing another person—and neither does climate change.
And while racial bigotry does involve unjust intent, it rarely leads to intentional killing. Another serious ethical failure in this statement is confusing negative rights (against harm) with positive rights (to benefits). As I demonstrate in my booklet Social Justice vs. Biblical Justice: How Good Intentions Undermine Justice and Gospel, negative rights are consistent and enforceable, but positive rights are inherently self-contradictory and unenforceable. Negative rights are the implication of true, Biblical justice; positive rights are the expression of Marxist/socialist egalitarianism.
This Article is used with permission. For more resources from the Cornwall Alliance, please visit https://cornwallalliance.org/