Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Tale of Two Arguments

I've been thinking about this argument against abortion that is usually held by certain pro-choice candidates. It goes something like this:

Abortion should be permitted by law, but we should enact programs that give benefits to people who choose not to have them. We ought to offer incentives to people and present adoption and life with the child as more economically beneficial than life without. Hence, we will cut down on abortions without standing against it through the law.

I find this to be a fascinating argument. I think it says much to how we view the importance of this issue. Let me try to explain why I have a problem with it. What this argument essentially is saying is that one ought to bribe individuals into doing what is right without requiring what is right from them. Let me give an example:

Imagine if I were to be a king of a post-apocalyptic society, where savages wished to rape and murder as many people as they saw fit. I could do one of two things to counter this trend. I could argue that it was wrong and outlaw it, or I could say to them, "Look, you're free to rape and murder as you see fit. No one is going to throw you in jail for it, and no one is going to judge you for it. But I will make a deal with you. I will give you $50,000.00 each for every year that you do not rape or murder anyone."

Now, I guarantee that there will be less rape and murder if I enact the second method rather than the first. Hence, many would think that it was the better option, as do the pro-choice advocates who think the end result of reducing abortion justifies non-action against it directly through law and morality. But what have I really done? Haven't I simply fed into a depraved culture and guaranteed to make it even more depraved in the future by letting them think it was acceptable to rape and murder, but personally beneficial to refrain from it? In other words, in the first option (the one where I condemn the act and move to rid the land of it by force), I make a harsh statement of its absolute evil and the intolerance with which it will be met in society, and by doing so, call humanity to a higher thought of itself and its children. In the second option, however, I simply accept depravity as the status quo, and ensure that I corrupt it further by making no authoritative statement and action against it, as well as by feeding into corrupt humanity's selfishness and apathy toward others (since I confirm and further train individuals to think only of themselves in terms of what they should do when confronted with a moral decision). In one option, I have saved more people physically in the short term, but have further aided their falling away from being created beings who were meant to be life-bearers in the world. In other words, I have contributed to the loss of humanity's soul and purpose in the process. In the other option, I have lost more in the short term, or so it seems, because fewer listen to me, and more crime is committed; but I have stood firmly against what is evil and given a strong witness to what humanity should be. In other words, I have condemned depravity and called humanity to believe something higher about itself and its purpose in the world.

The question, for me at least, becomes, Which does God prefer? Does He prefer that I just save as many people as possible in the physical sense, but lose humanity as a whole in the long run; or does He prefer that I seek to give witness to humanity's purpose and role in the world as God's life-giving, image-bearers, but due to the corruption of humanity and its unwillingness to believe or live up to that role, have less people listen and more crimes take place as a result?

I think it becomes clear from the Bible that it is the latter. God would have us stand in the midst of corruption and condemn it. If we are in power, He would have us force its hand by law (I'm speaking in terms of actions that are anti-creational and work against the preservation of innocent human life). It becomes clear in Scripture that God wipes out children Himself when He knows the past, present, and possible future corruption of a culture (e.g., the Canaanites). In other words, He is willing to sacrifice those who are corrupt and will not listen, as well as their children, who would also grow up and continue the murderous actions and rebellion of their parents, in order to give witness to humanity's divinely-destined role in the world.

Some may say that this doesn't work as well, but that is precisely what evil would have us believe. Challenging evil, not winning against it every battle fought, in the short term, is what is required of righteous men, precisely because good is being accomplished in the challenge, and not in the acceptance of,  fallen humanity's selfishness. There is a great line in the movie, "The Return of the King," where the men of Rohan surround the king and declare that too few have come to fight and that they cannot win the battle. The king admittedly replies, "No we cannot. But we will meet them in battle nonetheless." The fact of the matter is that those who take the route where depravity is an acceptable means to accomplish a better society (i.e., used to accomplish what is perceived as the good) is doing no such thing in the long run, precisely because the "good" to which humanity must be accountable and to which it should aspire is the life-loving role to which God has called it. Apart from this, there is no good to be done. We are simply saving murderers to train other murderers in the future. And that is exactly what these particular people who argue that the means justifies the ends don't get---what the ends are supposed to be.

1 comment:

  1. BTW, I'm thinking of a two kingdom view here, where I'm asking the question what God wants for the state. Obviously, I don't believe people can be changed internally by law, and the church has the obligation to call people to fulfill their humanity through the gospel. However, the church also uses law to show what humanity ought to be. It is the gospel that brings it there, and that is not the State's responsibility. The State's responsibility is to govern against anti-creational/disorderly evils that enact physical injury, whether directly or through one's possessions and livelihood, upon another person.