Essay / Culture

The Apostles Creed and Abortion

Presbyterians Pro-Life is an organization which is fighting the good fight within the Presbyterian Church USA. PPL is speaking out in defense of the unborn and addressing the whole host of sexuality issues that are rocking that denomination. It’s hard to keep up with the little renewal groups within all the mainline denominations, but it does my heart good to know that they’re out there, thinking and planning and praying and trying to turn their churches back to the historic paths long since abandoned by denominational bureaucrats. God bless these groups and may their tribe increase in the coming years.

The latest issue of Presbyterian Pro-Life News is out, and it includes something of interest even to those who don’t care to monitor PCUSA politics: the final installment of a very well done series of articles. Back in 2002 the editors started a series called “Christian faith and the issues of life: Abortion considered in the context of the Apostles’ Creed.” They were eloquent about their goals for the series:

Modern views about abortion in the Christian Church tend to be shaped by beliefs that dominate the culture. Even the language the church uses to talk about abortion–when it has the courage to talk–is the language of the culture and not of the church. Hence, many in the church have developed the conviction that abortion is not an issue suitable for discussion in the church. It is a social and public policy issue and will be resolved–if it is ever resolved–in that arena. The church, many assume, has nothing significant to contribute to the discussion.

John Calvin wrote of the Apostle’s Creed that it is the summary of what is essential to Christian Faith. Many of us repeat the words of that creed every Sunday as part of our worship of God. The purpose of this series is to demonstrate that essential beliefs of Christian faith have application to the most critical social issue of our time. The series also is an attempt to approach the subject of abortion with the language and the faith of the Church and to see the conflict that exists between the Church’s faith and the culture’s faith on this important matter.

The articles were written alternately by two accomplished public intellectuals, Terry Schlossberg and Gerrit Dawson. I don’t know if PPL is planning to publish the collection in any form now that it’s complete, but the whole series is available online at the links below. The series is so well written that it deserves much wider circulation than it got in the PPL News. A series like this could have been a disaster, confining essential doctrines within the straitjacket of a current hot topic. Worse than single-issue voters: single-issue creedalists! But Schlossberg and Dawson handle it perfectly, setting an unavoidable contemporary issue in its proper place within the fullness of Christian faith.

Click on through to get a healthy dose of the language of Christian thought as it relates to one of the crucial issues of our age.

1. Introduction, and the First Article of the Creed (Terry Schlossberg, Fall 2002)

“The world visible to our eyes deceives us; it is what is unseen—the invisible Creator and Ruler actively at work in our world—that makes the universe entirely free from unalterable destiny.”

2. God the Father, Almighty (Gerrit Dawson, Winter 2003)

“God the Father Almighty is the founding safeguard of all human life.”

3. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord (Terry Schlossberg, Spring/Summer 2003)

“As Jesus is the image of the invisible God, so we are told in Genesis that each of us is created in God’s image.”

4. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary (Gerrit Dawson, Fall 2003)

“God the eternal Son laid aside his glory to such a degree that he undertook the dangerous journey as a fertilized egg through the fallopian tubes of Mary until he was implanted in her uterus.”

5. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell (Terry Schlossberg, Winter 2004)

Suffering is neither intrinsically good nor evil. It isn’t wrong to seek relief from suffering. But relief from suffering does not justify any means to obtain it.

ADOBE ALERT! The remaining files are in .pdf form! If you click on these and your system crashes, don’t blame me or the Presbyterians Pro-Life. If the series has hooked you, then go ahead and click on the remaining installments, go brew yourself some coffee while the Acrobat files load, and come on back to read some of the patent notices on the software before the article finally appears.

6. The third day he rose again from the dead (Gerrit Dawson, Fall 2004)

“His return to life in our flesh and in this world directs us to the field of our obedience. Heaven is our goal, but earth is our sphere of faithfulness.”

7. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty (Terry Schlossberg, Winter 2005)

“The promise of Jesus is that he himself is with those babies, and with us as well –to the end. Those who live out their profession of the Ascension in the tough decisions are those able to experience the active work of Christ’s Spirit in their lives.”

8. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead (Gerrit Dawson, Spring/Summer 2005)

“We human beings are not the final arbiters of the meaning of our lives. Our choices are not unbounded, nor are they without consequence. We are not the top of the evolutionary heap, with nothing higher than our collective will to govern us. There is a judge and there is a day when the judge will call for a reckoning. Ultimately, then, we do not belong to ourselves. We are not our own.”

9. I believe in the Holy Ghost (Terry Schlossberg, Fall 2005)

“The Holy Spirit is not only the link between Christ and his Church. He also is the link between us and our unborn children. He is the One who creates and fashions those children. He is the same One who will help us avoid the deaths of those little ones. And he is the same One who will resurrect the lives of those who have fallen by taking the life of an unborn child or by encouraging someone else to do that. The whole Church today is in need of this resurrecting power.”

10. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints (Gerrit Dawson, Winter 2006)

“Abortion is a stab against the communion of the saints. It is an act of isolation and despair, with long-lasting consequences. The church that professes to be one universal church in a communion that crosses time and space feels the pain of absorbing such wounds. We bear the grief. But we do not despair. Our Lord to whom we are joined has conquered sin and death. So this doctrine calls us to love at a deeper level, to offer our lives in such a way that people are loved out of the despair of choosing abortion.”

11. The forgiveness of sins (Terry Schlossberg, Spring 2006)

“God is very clear about wanting to free us from sin—every sin.”

12. The resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting (Gerrit Dawson, Winter 2007)

“We do not consider that bodies worn out with age and disease are discardable because they are drains on our resources. We pour concern and attention even into “losing causes” of broken or unwanted bodies because of the Triune God’s valuation of our embodied life.”


(While you’re at the site of these good people, don’t miss the T. F. Torrance article, “The Being and Nature of the Unborn Child.” It’s html here and pdf here.)

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