Abortion can be an emotionally stirring topic for many people, especially Christians. Many times people will appeal to emotionally charged insults or victimize a certain individual(or individuals) in the debate. But is there a way to limit the role emotions play in how Christians interact with those who are for abortion? I believe there is and I base it on two factors. First, by the nature of the people involved, people don’t have to strictly rely on their emotional reactions for this issue. People have emotions, but they also have heads. They can think and arrive at rational conclusions. Can our emotions affect our thinking abilities? Absolutely. But we are not required to just stick with our feelings if we’re to make a successful case for our pro-life position. Second, in my experiences with different people, I have discovered that if I am calm and resolute in defending the pro-life position, the person listening to me most likely will also be calm and composed. I think that sometimes people – on both sides – get too emotionally tangled up because at least one of them have a difficult time sustaining their emotional filters. I don’t think the abortion issue is unique in this case. I think the same principle applies even to counseling situations or giving advice to someone who might be on the verge of making a tragic mistake.
So what can pro-lifers do in this discussion? There are two things that are simple and yet compelling if presented the right way. First, it is absolutely critical that the issue dividing the pro-life and pro-abortion advocates be clarified and not muddled by irrelevancies. As apologist Scott Klusendorf points out in The Case for Life, “If you think a particular argument for elective abortion begs the question regarding the status of the unborn, here’s how to clarify things: Ask if this particular justification for abortion also works as a justification for killing toddlers. If not, the argument assumes that the unborn are not fully human.” (The Case for Life, P. 25, Para. 1). With that being said, the issue needs to be about the humanity or personhood status of the unborn. Since hardly anybody appeals to bodily rights, economic conveniences, or rights to privacy to justify killing infants and toddlers, to appeal to those circumstances in the case of abortion is to assume the unborn are not human persons. Second, when defending the claim that the unborn are human persons, and hence deserving of the right to life and legal protection, use the acronym S.L.E.D. That word stands for Size, Level of Development, Environment, & Degree of Dependency. A simple and clear way to use this to defend the personhood of the unborn is by claiming the following:
o Unborns, infants, and toddlers have different sizes, levels of development, come from different environments, and have different degrees of dependency.
o Hardly anybody thinks that one is morally justified in killing someone based on a difference reflected in SLED.
o Since the unborn undergoes those changes just as infants and toddlers do, it follows that those changes cannot be used to justify killing the unborn but sparing the infants and toddlers.
In a nutshell, peoples’ value and personhood do not depend on their sizes, levels of development, environments, and degrees of dependency.
So if you are for the pro-life position and want to be adequately prepared to defend it, then first gather your emotions and set them apart in the debate as best you can. Second, be calm and have your thoughts together. People are more apt to listen to you if you are not coming off as aggressive or hostile. Third, clarify the issue and refuse to be distracted by side issues. Fourth, get familiar with the acronym S.L.E.D. and practice it before you begin talking with people about it. And last, spend some time in prayer and ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit so that you will not only be a powerful communicator of an important truth but bringing glory and honor to Him. Since we are born again, we must take care to represent Christ as he actually is. I’d like to end this with a verse from Colossians 4:6: Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.
Ben Williamson is very interested in philosophy, theology, and New Testament studies. He studies frequently the NT-era evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as important cultural and ethical issues such as abortion and homosexual marriage.
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