January 17, 2015

WAIT, WE'RE ABORTING WHITE KIDS TOO?:

How Southern Baptists became pro-life (David Roach, January 16, 2015, Baptist Press)


In 1970, a poll conducted by the Baptist Sunday School Board found that 70 percent of Southern Baptist pastors supported abortion to protect the mental or physical health of the mother, 64 percent supported abortion in cases of fetal deformity and 71 percent in cases of rape.

Three years later, a poll conducted by the Baptist Standard newsjournal found that 90 percent of Texas Baptists believed their state's abortion laws were too restrictive. [...]

Not all Southern Baptists supported abortion rights, however. Lewis became strongly pro-life in the late 1960s when he and his wife sought to adopt a child, believing they were unable to have biological children. The Lewises -- who eventually had three biological children -- were told they had to wait five years to adopt due to a shortage of children.

"To me it was incongruous that people would be destroying their babies when there were [couples] who were desperately wanting children," Lewis said.

For Land, a high school science class drove home the reality that unborn babies were humans worthy of protection. A classmate whose father was an obstetrician brought a fetus to school in a jar of formaldehyde as a prop for a presentation and stored it beside Land's desk. When Land told the teacher he was disturbed by the fetus, he was sent to the principal's office, where a school administrator asked, "You're not Catholic, are you?"

A few months later, Land's mother told him doctors had urged her to abort him, believing he would be born with severe abnormalities.

"From that moment forward, I really felt an obligation to speak up for unborn children who couldn't speak for themselves, because I had been in danger," Land, who was president of the CLC/ERLC for 25 years and now serves as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, said.

As the 1970s progressed, Land, Lewis and thousands of individual Southern Baptists -- including the organization Southern Baptists for Life -- argued for protecting unborn life in all cases except to save the physical life of the mother. Among non-Southern Baptists, apologist Francis Schaeffer and future U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop argued that abortion was immoral and gained increased support for the pro-life cause.

Southern Baptists as prominent as W.A. Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, began to shift from a qualified pro-choice view to fully embrace the pro-life position.

Following the Roe v. Wade decision, news sources reported that Criswell said, "I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had life separate from its mother that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed."

But, according to Land, Criswell "listened intently" to pro-life arguments during the ensuing years, including arguments Land made while teaching at Criswell College beginning in 1975. When the "Criswell Study Bible" was published in 1979, Criswell included "overtly pro-life" study notes, Land said.

Mirroring Criswell's change of mind were similar changes in the broader evangelical world. Theologians Carl Henry and Norman Geisler, for example, both became ardently pro-life.

"Some of our pastors in those years hadn't really studied what Scripture said about abortion," Jerry Vines, former SBC president and retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., told BP. "But I think the carnage [of increased abortion following Roe v. Wade] drove them back to their Bibles to take a further look at it."

Studying a Greek word from the New Testament "really nailed down the abortion issue for me," Vines said.

The word "brephos," translated as "baby," is used eight times in the New Testament, Vines said. Six of those occurrences refer to children who have already been born, but two speak of John the Baptist in his mother's womb.

"That's pretty convincing evidence that Scripture looks on a baby in its mother's womb as a baby," said Vines, who also noted Jeremiah 1 and Psalm 139 as convincing pro-life passages.

Posted by at January 17, 2015 7:18 AM
  

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