Sometimes Not Sharing Is a Good Thing

Scan“In recent days the pro-life, anti-abortion movement has become divided and distracted.

That is why, in my capacity as president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), I am hoping to lead our churches toward unifying around two policy measures that would protect life, with the intent of ending abortion in Oklahoma.” (emphasis mine) —Blake Gideon, “Protecting the Life of the Unborn, Ending Abortion” in the August 1st, 2019 edition of The Baptist Messenger

[DISCLAIMER: The “you” addressed below isn’t merely Blake Gideon in particular but the leadership of the BGCO in general. In some of this I’m reading between the lines, but I think I’m doing so with great warrant and am open to reproof if I’m wrong.]

Remember that childhood friend that when it was your toy they spoke of the virtues of you sharing, but when it was their toy they spoke of the evils of your selfishness? Is something like that going on here? Why is it that when you like the bill we should be unified, but when we like the bill and raise concerns over your disapproval of it, we’re being divisive?

A bill that would have ended abortion altogether in our state was spoken against. Now we’re to be gung-ho about a couple of bills that would still allow for abortion (the first in the case of children younger than approximately 6 weeks, the second under the vague category of “the health of the mother”). Pardon? If I speak for abolition, against your recommendation, I’m being divisive. If I don’t wholly support the bills you endorse, I’m being divisive. Am I missing something?

toothbrushes-1424728-1599x1123.jpgLet’s say that it is me who is sowing division, the real question is should I be? Rather than hash things out on the level of accusations of not sharing or being selfish (meaning unity and divisiveness), let’s talk about what may be and what shouldn’t be shared. Toothbrushes shouldn’t be shared; candy, necessitating said toothbrushes, may be shared. Rather than calls for unity, let’s find out if we’re unified. Yes, we all agree abortion is evil. Yes, if we can run the ball down the field for five more yards I’m ok with that so long as you’re playing to win (and a gain of about five yards is the most I’d expect from such a play). But I’m left wondering if you really want to win this game or just run the clock into overtime again and again so as to pull in more at the concessions.

Forgive me, I do believe the BGCO has good intentions, but I am scratching my noggin trying to figure out how that is so. The reasons for not supporting a bill to end abortion coupled with the reasons for supporting bills that limit abortion don’t add up in my mind. Let’s have the conversation there. If at the end of the debate we disagree, that will prove illuminating and helpful.

Instead of shouting “Share!” when it’s convenient for your toy and “Selfishness!” when it’s ours, let’s vigorously argue for when we should share and when we’re being selfish. Paul and Barnabas departed ways over John Mark. Who was right? I don’t think there was a “right,” but it was ok for them to amiably part ways. Concerning abortion, we’re not dealing with something so innocuous. If Paul and Barnabas could argue and part over Mark, then we should certainly be able to do so concerning abortion. I believe there is a clear right and wrong here. Calls for unity are then a call for silence; a call for one party to sear their conscience. I’m not eager for a parting, but I would like a conversation (here you’ll find a series of posts with questions I’d like answers to). If we can’t come to an agreement, we might not be able to play together anymore, but we can walk away from each other like men.

Let Jezebel Fall, Let Justice Flow: A Response to the BGCO Letter Concerning SB 13 (Part 6/Conclusion)

[This post slightly expands on my remarks made at the Baptist Rally to Support SB 13 on February 25]

“The BGCO is categorically opposed to abortion, and it is our prayer and goal to see lives saved and an end to abortion in Oklahoma and beyond. Through the years, Oklahoma Baptists have championed numerous bills designed to protect life and fight abortion.” —Open Letter from the BGCO to Oklahoma Baptists

“So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem” (1 Kings 11:6–7).

“And he [King Josiah] defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech” (2 Kings 23:10).

Sometimes a wise man can be a fool. When the king was a fool, God sent a prophet. I hope I’m Nathan speaking to David. I pray that my motives are loving and that my brothers are repentant. At this time, I do not wish to be seen as an Elijah rebuking Ahab. As far as I can see, we all hate Jezebel and her idolatries. I think we’re debating whether or not she should be thrown down from the wall now, by whom, and how.

If the streets are clear below, let Jezebel be cast down! BGCO leaders, the time has come. The time is now. I don’t care who. I don’t care how.* Let her be cast down; let her be cast down now!

When God has spoken, let us tremble at His Word. As Jeremiah Burroughs said, “True fear and trembling at the Word is that which will settle the heart and strengthen the heart against all other fears. It will swallow up other fears that are greater.” If we fear God, we will be bold before men. I long for a Josiah, trembling at the word, zealous to extinguish the worship of Molech. I long for a Wilberforce, spending his own life, tenacious for the lives of others. I’m thankful for the kings of old whose hearts were right to the Lord yet failed to purge the land of idolatry (i.e. 1 Kings 15:4), but I want to see all the high places taken down and I’m not looking for the world to do so. If Molech is to be defiled, the church must be sanctified.

May God grant us repentance and reformation.

If you are a member or a pastor of an Oklahoma Southern Baptist Church and disagree with the BGCO, consider signing this letter and requesting to join the Facebook group Oklahoma Baptists for SB 13.

*The emphatic if that begins this paragraph is meant to indicate that justice and righteousness are assumed regarding the how.

Using the Hammer of a Co-belligerent: A Response to the BGCO Letter Concerning SB 13 (Part 5)

“In recent days, you may have read discussions about Oklahoma State Senate Bill 13, the ‘Abolition of Abortion Act.’ Regarding SB 13, after considerable prayer and careful study of the proposed policy, including direct conversations with the bill’s principle author, we have several concerns.”  —Open Letter from the BGCO to Oklahoma Baptists

I’m trying to be a faithful prophet here, but not that kind of a prophet. I do not posses any knowledge of the several unnamed concerns. I would like to hear them. I hope they are more substantial than those given. To the best of my knowledge, the particular leaders whose signatures are applied to the letter haven’t explicitly disclosed any further rational. But in the smorgasbord of the interwebs I do keep seeing two staple reasons from some Southern Baptists pastors as to why we shouldn’t support SB 13 and should support the leadership of the BGCO.

The first staple I’m hearing we must have a healthy helping of is unity and peace. I do want to fight for unity, but I also want to contend for the faith. These two battles are not at odds. The fight for true Christian unity is a fight for the truth of Christ. Unity by itself is not a virtue. D.A. Carson explains, “The Bible itself recognizes that unity is not an intrinsic good. There is good unity, and there is bad unity. Bad unity occurs in Genesis 11 when rebellious humankind unites to build a tower to heaven to defy God.”

Disagreement is not division. Uniformity is not unity. Let’s hash this out and not kill all discussion with demands for peace. If we must part ways here, as did Paul and Barnabas, I will pray both for your repentance and for your fruitfulness in preaching the gospel of Christ.

The leaders have expressed their conscience. Are we not allowed to express our own without being accused of causing division? If so, this is an easy flip. It is the expression of their conscience, as representatives of our churches, that has sown division.

If that’s the meat, here are the potatoes:* some don’t want to get behind this legislation because of radicals who may be involved with it. This is the genetic fallacy. A prophecy concerning our Lord came through pagan Balaam and was true nonetheless. I don’t care if Hitler wrote this legislation, if it would end this holocaust and do no injustice otherwise, I’m voting for it.

Protestants owe much to Francis Schaeffer for the fact that we’re fighting for life. Initially Schaeffer faced kickback for his efforts against abortion by Evangelicals who said the life of the unborn was a Catholic agenda. Schaeffer used the language of “co-belligerents” in reference to Catholics in this war. We are certain to face this battle with both allies and co-belligerents. The presence of co-belligerents with whom we have disagreements should not cause us to falter.

hammer-1187752-640x480It is naive to think that once any good legislation is put forward other persons more radical than we won’t get wrapped up in it as well. I wouldn’t fault an American soldier for using a foreign weapon. Others may be offering up this meat to an idol. We need not participate in their worship and we are free to buy their meat from the market. Meat is meat. Truth is truth. Man’s hands may dirty the surface, but if there’s truth, it’s God’s. A good hammer shouldn’t be trashed because of whose fingerprints are on it. If it is being used as a murder weapon, bring forth the evidence. Otherwise, let’s build.

Is our concern God’s justice or man’s justification? Am I hitting the nail on the head?

If you are a member or a pastor of an Oklahoma Southern Baptist Church and disagree with the BGCO, consider signing this letter and requesting to join the Facebook group Oklahoma Baptists for SB 13.

*The meat and potatoes are often served with the gray gravy of “this bill isn’t worded well.” I take this to refer to the previous concerns I’ve dealt with. If not, I haven’t found any words telling me what isn’t worded well.

The Cheese Puff Argument: A Response to the BGCO Letter Concerning SB 13 (Part 4)

“The bill even goes so far to repeal original Oklahoma laws already on the books that allows abortion only to save a mother’s life.” —Open Letter from the BGCO to Oklahoma Baptists

ad hominem: marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made

This isn’t so much an argument against a straw man as it is an argument of straw against the man. Methinks it is a bit like complaining that your doctor doesn’t have the smallpox vaccine on hand anymore. This is no severe measure because the need for such severe measures are an anomaly. When such anomalies do occur, we don’t need legislation that can then be twisted to kill a child for the “health” of the mother. This very play was just run with abortion legislation in New York and celebrated with applause.

Doctors are trained to preserve life. They don’t need laws for that. This bill is not about killing mothers instead of babies. There is no draconian angle here that I’m aware of. The ambition is simply for life all around. Let’s go for all the life we can every time.

It’s this simple, no mothers or babies are to be harmed in the implementation of this bill. If the fire alarm goes off, our ambition should be to save as many lives as possible. If the fireman can’t save them all, we’ll cry both with him and the family for their loss and blame no one. But let’s not talk about legislation that could be used to validate arbitrary decisions not to try to save some. If we do, we’ll likely see arsonists signing up to be firemen. As we don’t wish to legislate for firemen when negligent homicide is permissible, neither should we tell doctors when they can get away with murder.


This objection is built like a cheese puff: there’s an initial flavor explosion, but it’s really mostly air with little substance. Whatever nutritional value can be gained from this puff supports very little life. You can’t argue against a heavy block of cheddar with a cheese puff. You can’t argue against the saving of thousands of lives with the saving of a few lives that would have been saved anyway.

If you are a member or a pastor of an Oklahoma Southern Baptist Church and disagree with the BGCO, consider signing this letter and requesting to join the Facebook group Oklahoma Baptists for SB 13.

The Wisdom of Replacing Three-Sided Fences: A Response to the BGCO Letter Concerning SB 13 (Part 3)

“SB 13, as proposed, unnecessarily and purposely repeals hard-earned pro-life laws that have helped significantly reduce Oklahoma’s abortion rate, including repealing our state’s ban on partial birth abortion, parental notification requirements, the unborn child protection from dismemberment abortion, among numerous other life-saving laws.” —Open Letter from the BGCO to Oklahoma Baptists

non sequitur: a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement.

scaffolding-1463583-1279x1608It’s as though we’re afraid to build the skyscraper because that would mean the scaffolding would have to come down. I mean, the scaffolding was expensive and took a lot of work. It’s still shiny and has our name on it. Yes the work was hard, but what has the work ultimately been for?

When a farmer is only able to build a fence around his chicken coup a bit at a time, he knows that in the end three sides won’t do. A three-sided fence may keep the less wile varmints out, but some isn’t the end goal. Babies are more precious than chickens and we’re dealing with sly foxes. Replacing a partial fence with a whole one sounds good to me.

Sometimes Berlin is completely untenable, so you take Normandy. But the point of Normandy remains to get Berlin. Once you can strategically launch a volley at Hitler’s Holocaust, it is certain not to be taken by retreating. There may be legitimate reasons not to push the launch button, civilian casualties and such. If there are such repercussions, please, tell me what they are.

I reckon the greatest fear of many is that this bill would be chopped up by the courts, keeping the repeals and trashing the rest. I don’t believe this is a valid concern. The bill states, “The provisions, words, phrases and clauses of this act are declared to be inseverable.” In other words, this legislation is all or nothing. Appended to this post you’ll find the technicalities worked out by an attorney smarter than I.*

This is a jump you have to make without a safety net, because the safety net itself is a liability. If a bill is passed to kill abortion, conflicting pro-life laws will keep the culture of death on life support.** The nets meant to save lives will then be strangling them. Besides, if we make the jump and death is certain, then the safety net remains in place. Pretty cool, huh?

There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose. Coach, correct my play if I’m wrong, but this isn’t a high risk Hail Mary they can run for a return. We’re already loosing. We’re down by two and we can kick a field goal for the win. Why not kick?

If you are a member or a pastor of an Oklahoma Southern Baptist Church and disagree with the BGCO, consider signing this letter and requesting to join the Facebook group Oklahoma Baptists for SB 13.

* “…[T]here is a fear being stoked by some that a court considering SB 13 could strike down the part of the bill outlawing abortion but uphold the part of the bill repealing what would become obsolete, unnecessary, and redundant provisions regulating abortion (i.e. dismemberment ban, partial-birth abortion ban, etc.). I have previously provided a brief answer to this objection, but here is a more lengthy one.

Regarding federal courts, the bill explicitly provides that the State of Oklahoma will not appear in federal court if sued there (pg. 24, line 24, et seq). The bill makes this statement because of the clause immediately preceding it, which finds, ‘Any federal statute, regulation, executive order or court decision which purports to supersede, stay or overrule this Act is in violation of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma and the Constitution of the United States of America and is therefore void.’ In other words, as applied to this question, any federal court decision that purports to supersede, stay, or overrule any of SB 13 is going to be ignored by Oklahoma. Consequently, it would not matter whether a federal court struck down parts of the bill and not others because any federal action striking down any of it would be deemed void by Oklahoma.

That still leaves unanswered the issue of what state courts could do, so let’s consider that.

The provisions of every Oklahoma act (i.e. bill) are presumed severable ‘unless there is a provision in the act that the act or any portion thereof or the application of the act shall not be severable.’ 75 Okl. St. § 11a. SB 13 has a provision stating, ‘The provisions, words, phrases and clauses of this act are declared to be inseverable.’ (SB13 Introduced, Section 34, Page 25, Lines 3-6). Therefore, the sections of the act that repeal obsolete, unnecessary, and redundant provisions are not severable from the rest of the bill. In other words, the provisions of the entire bill must stand or fall together—they are all or nothing.

Is it possible that an Oklahoma court could ignore the law? Yes, it is. Dealing with courts which have ignored the law is why SB 13 is needed. But if an Oklahoma court did ignore the law, the members of the executive and legislative branches of Oklahoma government could and should refuse to go along with such violation.

But this concern is quite unfounded. In fact, after conducting a search, I could find no instance in the history of Oklahoma cases where a court ever ignored a non-severability clause.” —Bradly Pierce, Attorney

**That’s why SB 195 just made it to the floor. It makes the same repeals, but only if the Supreme Court gives permission. The Supreme Judge has spoken; thus, the lesser magistrates should pursue justice. The state of Oklahoma is currently defying federal law concerning marijuana. Why not babies?

When Justices Opens an Eye: A Response to the BGCO Letter Concerning SB 13 (Part 2)

“Credible expert legal/policy analysis indicates SB 13 will be invalidated immediately by the courts, if it passes at all, and we cannot save lives with legislation that never goes into effect.” —Open Letter from the BGCO to Oklahoma Baptists

reductio ad absurdum: a method of proving the falsity of a premise by showing that its logical consequence is absurd or contradictory.

It is this first concern that most concerns me. Unless my eyes deceive me, and I do wear corrective lenses, I fear this is a pragmatic approach to justice, which is to say, it is unjust.

Pragmatism is the one philosophy grown in American soil. Home grown is not always better. We Americans have grown our redwoods, but we also have poison ivy. Pragmatism is a weed. Pragmatism conceives of truth in terms of success. The end justifies the means, even if the means are unjustifiable.

Pragmatism’s vines entangled evangelicalism long ago. Numbers are used to justify nonsense. If it draws a crowd, it draws an “Amen!” As servants of the Lord of the harvest it is not our job to engineer a crop, but to faithfully obey our Lord. Some sow. Others water. God gives the growth. Once upon a time the regulative principle regulated the church. Now, we’re irregular. Scripture doesn’t control; “success” does.

joel-jasmin-forestbird-595547-unsplash.jpgPragmatism cannot be justified. She cannot be baptized, not even by baptists. In contrast to the whore of pragmatism with her wanton eyes, Lady Justice is blind. She doesn’t determine how the scales should fall by how they will fall in human courts.

Concerning what our play should be, it means nothing to me that courts which have validated abortion would invalidate this bill. I expect this bill to be challenged tooth and nail. If the opposition is for tearing babies I don’t doubt they’ll tear some paper.

William Wilberforce fought for four decades to end the slave trade in the British empire. His legislation was struck down eleven times before he succeeded. His failures were as glorious as his successes, for both were done in faithfulness. In faith, let us trust our God and defy Nebuchadnezzar. If we perish we perish. We are sure to face the fire. I am just as sure we will not face it alone.

The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ should be shared, not because we are assured a particular soul will believe, but because our Lord has commanded it. Further, it is through the preached gospel that our God calls sinners out of darkness and into light. It is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation, not our ingenuity. Likewise, justice should be sought, not because we are assured she will be recognized, but because she is beautiful. If we want her beauty to be praised, let us lift her up.

If I’m in a battle and I’ve only got one bullet and my only prayer of taking out the enemy is a seemingly impossible long shot, I’m going to use that bullet and pray that God will give me more ammo.* Impossibility cannot justify surrender.

Brothers, perhaps I’m being injudicious. And yes, my rebuke may have grown to a roar. Know I’m roaring as a comrade in the trench pleading that you take the shot. I cannot conceive of any reason why we shouldn’t. Yes, we might miss, but by God’s grace, we might just hit something, even though we’re firing with the blinders of justice.

*This is a metaphor, it is only a metaphor. The enemy is abortion; legislation is the bullet.

If you are a member or a pastor of an Oklahoma Southern Baptist Church and disagree with the BGCO, consider signing this letter and requesting to join the Facebook group Oklahoma Baptists for SB 13.


An Attempt to Do Justice and Walk Humbly: A Response to the BGCO Letter Concerning SB 13 (Part 1/Introduction)

Senate Bill 13, if passed, would end abortion in Oklahoma. On February 21st the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma released a letter listing three concerns, among unstated others, which they have with the bill. They then conclude that they cannot in good conscience get behind SB 13 as it is proposed.

In a series of posts this week I want explain why I think each of these concerns fall flat. Because they are baseless, unless better reasons are provided, I believe our consciences should be bound in the other direction. Normally you lead with your best arguments. If this is the best they’ve got, I fear the worst.

Even so, I believe these men to be brothers in Christ. But as Paul’s rebuke of Peter demonstrates, a brother can be seriously wrong (Galatians 2:11). When a brother is in sin we should neither pull our punches nor flail wildly without reserve. We should call it both as it is and as we hope it to be. We should allow neither our love to eclipse the truth, nor the truth to eclipse our love. So again, I believe these men are brothers and I believe they are dead wrong.

I don’t doubt that these brothers have faced as much slander and vitriol as they have loving rebuke. That ain’t me. I hate that sin too. Nevertheless, being the victim of injustice does not guarantee that your stance is just. Victimhood is no marker of virtue.

I also believe the men who wrote this letter, and many who support their sentiments, hate abortion. I doubt not their love for the unborn and their desire to save lives. What I want to address are the lame concerns they use to prop up what I believe is a dreadful conclusion.

I could be wrong. Of these things I am certain: abortion is an abomination and abortion should be abolished. Of this I am also certain, I am a fallible human being reading a fallible piece of human legislation. There could be legit reasons not to support SB 13, but I’m unaware of any. I am open to correction and instruction. I pray I take as well as I give. When seeking to do justice, we must also love kindness and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

If you are a member or a pastor of an Oklahoma Southern Baptist Church and disagree with the BGCO, consider signing this letter and requesting to join the Facebook group Oklahoma Baptists for SB 13.