“Is Abortion a Sin?”
A Response to Chaplain Norris Burkes as published in syndication, June, 2016
During one of his campaigns, President Lincoln was asked about slavery. He was aware of the strong feelings on all sides. He knew that no matter how he responded someone would be alienated and offended. But he was also aware of the need to confront this great question of right and wrong. His reply? “If slavery is not wrong then nothing is wrong.” His point, of course, was that depriving human beings of their freedom and basic human rights must be morally wicked… but if it is not wrong then how can anything ever be called wrong? I believe he would say today “If abortion is not wrong then nothing is wrong.” Depriving an innocent living human being of their right to life must be wrong if anything is wrong. To be more precise: it must be sinful. That which falls short of God’s righteous requirements is sin. Yet, in a recent column, Chaplain Norris Burkes refused to give sound Biblical guidance to a young woman who came to him for counsel with the question “Is abortion a sin?”
My sense is that Norris Burkes is a caring and decent man and that he meant well. But his response to the young woman asking about abortion was morally scandalous and indicative of a God-shaped vacuum in his theology. That is my view.
In thirty eight years of ministry, I have counselled dozens of women facing challenging pregnancies. Unplanned and unanticipated. Very stressful. Sometimes they have come alone to seek guidance. Sometimes with the child’s father. But always with a measure of anxiety because God has hardwired mothers to protect their children. They come because they know that abortion is sinful-that it cannot please God who creates all life. It does not help to avoid the hard truth when they ask “Is abortion a sin?” Yes. It is always a sin to take innocent life. The Fifth Commandment condemns murder.
Chaplain Norris explains the anxious mother’s dilemma this way: “She wanted to go to school. She wanted to date without having a baby in tow. She couldn’t handle the perceived embarrassment to her family.” He then says that no matter what she decided “nothing would separate her from the love of God.” Yes, God is gracious but the preceding justifications for having her child put to death were tragic. Will this gentleman really suggest to God on Judgment Day that the young woman’s personal plans and family concerns justified crushing a child’s skull or ripping off its arms or burning off its skin? It is clergy like this that make Heaven shutter. Such people are not helpful to young women who will, in their souls, regret the choice they made for the rest of their lives.
Finally, what if she had come asking a similar question about a one month old baby outside of the womb? Inconvenient? An impediment to dating? To education? Family comfort level? Would he counsel her to put the child to death? Of course not. So, for this man a sin against God and the child is not a sin if the location of the killing is inside of the womb? The young woman needs to hear that God requires a Holy choice…and that help is available to help her make that right choice. And I would say to this gentleman: “Count on it Chaplain: it’s a sin!”