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Hemphill: Sanctity of life extends from conception to evangelism

AUSTIN, Texas (BP)–Christians have an ethical mandate from Scripture to move beyond simply the “right to truth” to a more comprehensive issue of “right to life,” the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said March 2 at the annual conference of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“We must provide the radical community relationships that provide refuge for the disenfranchised,” said Ken Hemphill of the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary, “We must respond to the issues surrounding abortion with more than rhetoric.” The Christian community “must embrace, love and provide resources for all those mothers who choose life. We have not finished the task if we think it is right to be born and then forgotten,” he said.
All human life is sacred, yet “nowhere is our national schizophrenia more visible than in our treatment of life in the mother’s womb,” he said. The facts substantiate this claim. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, there have been more than 40 million deaths due to abortion in America. This translates into about 1.5 million abortions per year or 4,000 a day.
“Abortion is the most common surgical procedure in the U.S. I believe it is a national emergency; it is a crisis,” Hemphill said.
Christians can become discouraged in the face of this moral crisis, especially when no one seems to be listening, he said. “But we evangelical Christians have a distinct advantage. In a postmodern world of ambiguities and relativism, where national leaders can wrangle over the meaning of ‘is,’ we believe that there is a revealed and knowable truth — the perfect Word of God,” Hemphill said.
Hemphill said the sanctity of human life is grounded in Scripture and is introduced in the very first chapter of the Bible (Genesis 1:27): “And God created man in his own image.” The concept is expanded in Psalm 139, he said, where man is described as “fearfully and wonderfully made.” The psalmist affirms God’s handiwork when he declares, “Thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb” (v. 13).
“This single passage calls into question any who would attempt to use Scripture to argue that God somehow cares less for the small person being formed in the womb than those already alive. He knows our unformed substance and cares for us from embryo to the grave, and he makes no distinction,” Hemphill said.
Citing the Creator’s pre-natal commissioning of both Isaiah and Jeremiah (Isaiah 49:1, Jeremiah 1:4-5), Hemphill said, “We cannot pretend to know what is his purpose for the life he has placed in them (the womb).”
Interestingly, enrollments at Southwestern Seminary and in seminaries all across America took a dip in the mid-1990’s, Hemphill noted. Why? “One reason is that we aborted a great number of the men and women commissioned by God” for full-time vocational ministry, he said.
Euphemisms and compassionate-sounding slogans often lull Americans into acceptance of abortion, Hemphill said. “After all, every child deserves to be wanted.” We quote that and point to an abusive home and suggest that abortion may be a caring alternative. “The point is every child is wanted … by the approximately 1 million hopeful parents who are wanting to adopt,” he said.
“If we are truly concerned about the sanctity of human life,” Hemphill added, “we cannot ignore the critical issue where people will spend eternity. We must be positively involved in the ministry of evangelism.”
What can Christians do on a broader scale in this fight for life? Hemphill listed these suggestions:
— Pray.
— Write elected officials and cast an informed vote. “Christians need to follow normal convictions and not party-line politics.”
— Stand against sin, but stand with the sinner. In this, Jesus is the model.
— Be prepared to help mothers who want to give birth but have no financial resources or support.
— Teach children about the holiness of sexual relationships.

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  • King Sanders